Saturday, May 31, 2014

Fantasy Contest

Baen is holding a fantasy story contest: "Write a short story of no more than 8,000 words. It must be a work of fantasy, though all fantasy genres are open, e.g. epic fantasy, heroic fantasy, sword and sorcery, contemporary fantasy, etc." What they want to see: "Adventure fantasy with heroes you want to root for. Warriors either modern or medieval, who solve problems with their wits or with their sword--and we have nothing against dragons, elves, dwarves, castles under siege, urban fantasy, damsels in distress, or damsels who can’t be bothered to be distressed." What they don't want to see: "Political drama with no action, angst-ridden teens pining over vampire lovers, religious allegory, novel segments, your gaming adventure transcript, anything set in any universe not your own, “it was all a dream” endings, or screenplays." Prizes: "The Grand Prize winner will be published as the featured story on the Baen Books main website and paid at industry-standard rates for professional story submittals. The author will also receive an handsome engraved award and a prize package containing various Baen Books. Second and Third place winners will receive a prize package containing various Baen Books." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see contest page for more details. Deadline: June 30th, 2014.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Courage & Love

This for a beautiful dreamer who forever changed my life, and the lives of so many others -- safe journey, Dr. Maya Angelou.

Maya Angelou - Courage & Love from Daomay on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Just Write

Everyone can come up with a reason not to write: family obligations, the day job, writers block, the Internet, or life in general. Porfessional writers can add another hundred or so excuses revolving around the biz, promo, production work, wrangling contracts, etc. Writing is easy to put off, too. We make bargains with the work: Next month I'll have more time or I need to take this class/go to this conference/study this how-to so I can be a better writer or the ever-popular, one-size-fits-all Let me deal with this more important thing and then I'll get back to you.

Those bargains work because the writing can't talk back, or send us a text, or encourage us to give it another go, or even remind us of the empty promise we made. Writing simply waits in silence wherever we abandoned it, stuffed in a file, stowed on a hard drive or tucked in a notebook. It always waits, even when we completely forget about it.

I thought I'd toss out a challenge on the blog to see if any of you want to join in. Starting today I'm going to devote my Thursdays to writing something new -- flash, poetry, a scene, a short story, or whatever appeals to me -- and then post the results online before midnight. In other words, just write something new once a week and put it out there for the readers. The length will be whatever I can write in 24 hours.

Why do this? I have a couple of reasons, but the primary idea came to me when I read Anne Frasier's Blood Moon, a short fiction piece that she posted on her blog. I thought it was exceedingly cool, and it reminded me of how as a rookie I used to post a new short story on my old web site every month. Some of those stories turned into novels and novel series, but that wasn't the point -- having fun and trying something new was.

No matter how lame, silly, unprofessional or otherwise flawed it is, I will post whatever I write today online in my Google Docs account, and add a link to it to this post, before midnight EST tonight. I invite you to do the same, and if you do take up my Just Write challenge and want to share your results when you're ready please post a link to your Thursday fiction in comments.

My link: Click here to read.

Image credit: Ivalin Radkov/

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Erotic Steampunk Sub Op

Via's paying markets forum, House of Erotica has an open call for their upcoming erotic steampunk antho, and the editor is looking for ". . . stories set in a might-have-been Victorian setting filled with clockwork machines and airships. Think Jules Verne or League of Extraordinary Gentleman, think Sherlock Holmes with clockwork machines and the film Wild, Wild West. The stories do not have to be focused in the Victorian era they could be modern day stories but still with the Victorian clockwork style. They could even be off world – think spaceships powered by nothing but steam, or mighty metal boats propelled by sails powered by the rays of the sun. Be as inventive as you can but please don't forget the story line and the relationships! Since this is an erotic anthology there should be on the page sex scenes however don't forget the interaction between the characters and the relationship they have" Length: 5-15K; Payment: 40% of net profits split between contributors; no reprints, electronic submissions only, see post for more details. Deadline: August 31st, 2014.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dreaming Up Story

Writers often find inspiration for their work while they're sleeping. Authors like Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, Jack Keroauc and Stephen King have written entire books based on their dreams (or in Poe's case, nightmares.) According to this article, even Stephenie Meyer's mega-bestselling series Twilight was inspired by a dream. This isn't surprising when you consider that creative people seem to be more prone to vivid dreams and better dream recall:

There is a fundamental continuity between how people experience the world during the day and at night. People who are prone to daydreaming and fantasy have less of a barrier between states of sleep and wakefulness and seem to more easily pass between them. -- David Watson, Professor of Psychology, Univerity of Iowa

Researchers believe we all dream at least four to six times every night. There are many theories on why we don't remember most of those dreams, but the consensus seems to be that we're simply not paying attention. Fortunately there are also techniques like meditation or keeping a dream journal to help improve one's recall of dreams.

I've been an intense dreamer since childhood, and while I don't always love my dreams (my nightmares tend to be regular, lengthy and terrifying) I do draw inspiration from those that are particularly vivid or that generate an intense emotion reaction from me. At first I used ideas and themes from my dreams as writing prompts, and then gradually began incorporating imagery, people and dialogue from them into my stories. The first time I wrote an entire, actual dream of mine into a story was in my novel If Angels Burn (pages 65-70 of Chapter Six, if anyone is interested in reading it.) Channeling all that into the story worked wonderfully, not only as a significant building block for my universe and the series but as a way to settle how I felt about the dream, too.

Since I remember in part at least one dream I have every night I got into the habit of keeping a dream journal on my nightstand. I discovered that jotting down a quick outline about the dream as soon as I wake up helps me recall details later in the day. Sometimes I only wake with a few images or fragments from a dream, and when that happens I'll write those down in list-fashion, like so:

Dali cows

Those words were all I could remember from a nightmare I had, and I think I forgot most of that particular dream because of the cows (they were severely emaciated and had spindle legs like some of the creatures from Dali's surrealist works, and they really upset me.) Using them as and outline and inspiration for a dream scene in my novel Private Demon also helped me make peace with the nightmare and move on from it, which I've learned is the best way to keep any nightmare from recurring.

You won't find instructions anywhere on how to translate actual dreams into fiction, so how you work your nightly adventures in slumber into your work is up to you. I try to use dreams that directly relate in several ways to my story elements versus dropping in something random that has no connection, and I always try to first think about the dream and what might have triggered it before I use it as story material. My cow dream, for example, was likely a symbolic narrative of most of my major fears when I had it; at the time I was undergoing cancer treatment. After I thought about it I realized who the milkmaid was, and the barn, and what the cows, the pier and the boat meant to me personally. When I began working Jema and Thierry's story in Private Demon, those dream elements went into the very first scene I outlined in detail, because they fit perfectly.

Have you ever used a dream to inspire one of your stories, or something else you've created? Let us know in comments.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Sunday, May 25, 2014

21 Tips

I'm still offline dealing, but since I'm not here to write I wanted to share a link to a very blunt, helpful list by The DIY Couturier of ways to cope when you're struggling with depression. As someone who has wrestled this (and continues to climb into the ring with it on a regular basis) I give it a huge gold star for honesty, realism and practicality. If I could add anything it would be to start a gratitude journal that you write in once a day about something (anything) for which you are thankful, and why -- that can help shift your perspective in another direction than down/out.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Off to Deal

I am bailing on you guys again to deal with some work-related things this weekend. So your stop here was not a total waste, I direct you to go and play with this story plot generator, which based on your input or random fills generates a short synopsis for a variety of stories (and cover art, too.) Here's what I got by just going with the random button:

Friday, May 23, 2014


How do you make sense of all the other things that someone leaves behind, the things nobody sees, boxes full of photographs, and bits of string? That's what Gemma Green-Hope asked, and how she did so in the most beautiful way for her grandmother Elizabeth, also known as Gan-Gan:

Gan-Gan from Gemma Green-Hope on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Challenge Your Traditions

Every Spring I make new herbal sachets to put in the closets and drawers around the house. It's one of my favorite annual creative projects, and it keeps our small spaces pleasantly fragrant, so I pretty much do the same thing every year: make up little bundles of herbs and spices, sew them into little decorative pillows and bead or beribbon them to death. It's riveting stuff, I know. Next week I'll tell you what I do to get grass stains out of jeans.

This year I started out the same way I usually do, but after I made a couple of sachets I felt a little frustrated with myself. Traditions are great but they can also get really boring. My sachets might be pretty, but after a year they lose their scent and are basically rendered useless, so I always have to replace them. Problem is, there is really only one way to make a sachet. What I needed to do was change my sachet design to be more green.

I like to challenge myself to change things up, even with my best beloved creative traditions, so I went to JoAnn to get some ideas. While I was debating between putting button flaps or zippers in the back of my sachets I spotted this bundle in the bargain bin:

Six canvas mini-totes for ninety-seven cents was a nice bargain, although they were so small they wouldn't be practical for anything but maybe a tiny gift bag, or a doll purse, or a gift card holder, or . . .

Yep, I made them into sachet totes. Inside each one is a little lace packet of herbs and spices:

Thanks to the tote handles, I can also hang them in different places:

The open top of the sachet tote allows the fragrance to permeat the space where I put them. I love to make totes so that's not a problem, and next year, when it's time to replace my sachets, all I have to do is empty and then refill the lace packets. Nothing wasted, nothing thrown away, and since I used scraps from other sewing projects to make the totes this half-dozen cost exactly ninety-seven cents to make -- you can't even buy them for that little.

As writers we develop traditions with how we work, and this is not a bad thing. Having a routine process generally helps consistency and productivity. Yet no matter how much you love that process, every now and then it's a good idea to take a step back and evaluate not only what you're doing but how you're doing it. Challenging yourself to change may feel scary at first, but the only way to grow is to try something new. Your traditions won't go anywhere, so if you want something better, you have to.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lovecraft for the Ladies Sub Op

Innsmouth Free Press has an open call for female writers only to submit stories for She Walks in Shadows, their first all-female Lovecraft antho: "Submit short stories inspired by the work of Lovecraft that focus on a woman or female deity. It may be a character from Lovecraft’s work or someone of your own creation. You are not restricted to the 1920s as a setting. Steampunk, dieselpunk, noir, and any other sub-genre you can imagine are fine with us. Give us your best and most polished work. And yes, you must be a woman to submit. Women only. To avoid the Asenath effect (that means every character in the anthology would be Asenath Waite), we asked the authors who are contributing stories to pick a different character from a Lovecraft story. While you are not bound to these restrictions, we suggest that if you use a character from Lovecraft’s fiction, you avoid the usual suspects (Asenath and Lavinia). Consider interesting and novel settings for your stories. Surely, strange Lovecraftian entities haunt contemporary Nunavut or the Inca fought strange webbed monstrosities centuries ago. Anne Boleyn, evil sorceress or woman fighting the good fight against the Mi-Go? We may never know. Or maybe we will. POCs are highly encouraged to send stories. Transgender writers: same thing. Stories may be sent in French, English, or Spanish. We can read all three languages." Length and Payment: "Story length is up to 4,000 words with a pay rate of 6 cents a word (Canadian $, eh)." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: "open submissions period from November 15, 2014 to December 15, 2014. DO NOT SEND STUFF BEFORE THAT DATE."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Center Will Not Hold

While writers obsess over beginnings and endings, to the point that we'll rewrite them five hundred times to perfect them, story middles rarely get such attention. On the contrary, middles are frequently regarded by writers as the Sargasso Sea of storytelling, aka a part of the work that has to be slogged through from the hook of the beginning to the big finish of the end. The problem with this attitude is that it shows in the work; I can't even count how many books I've read that started out well and ended even better, once I waded through 200+ middle pages of filler.

The middle of any story should offer more to readers than characters doing basically nothing but killing time and wordcount. If you find your crew standing around chatting in housekeeping dialogue, thinking extensively in backstory, being served obvious red herrings, or yawning their way through a series of remarkably similar sex/action/suspense scenes, you've likely got a problem. To avoid boring anyone to the point that they give up and chuck the book in the library donation box, writers need to craft the story center to hold onto the reader's attention. Here are some ideas on how to do that:

Conflict Development: Rather than regarding your main conflict as a big problem introduced in the first chapter and resolved only in the last, see it as a stream that runs through the length of your story. Plotters, you can work out a timeline of events that chronicle the development of the conflict to give yourself a map of that stream to refer to when you're writing. Pantsers, look for opportunities to do the same with your stream as you write your way through the story.

Character entrances: Just as we don't meet everyone significant in our lives on the day we're born, there is no rule that says every character in the book has to be introduced in Chapter One (and if there is, someone should put it out of its misery.) Using your story center to introduce some members of your crew adds dimension and interest, and is more logical anyway.

Mid-story twist: The big twist at the end of any book is classic and much beloved, but as a writer you don't have to be exclusive to it. Why not have two (or more) twists, with one (or more) occuring in the story center?

Multiple goals: I think one of the downsides to the Goal/Motivation/Conflict school of storytelling is it turns characters into little goalies incapable of anything but motivationally dancing around in front of that big conflict net. You have more than one goal in your life, yes? So should your characters. And while you can reserve the big goal score for the end of the story, why not give them other, shorter-term goals to work on as well? These can add great interest to your mid-story.

One final thought on writing the middle of your story: if you're not excited about it, it may come through in the quality of your writing. Giving yourself something important, exciting and satisfying to write about in the story before you get into the final chapters will help hold onto your attention, which increases your chance of doing the same with your reader's.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dollar Store Ten

Ten Things I Found at the Dollar Store

1. 6-count 9" X 12" Brown Kraft clasp envelopes

2. 2-count 8-1/2" X 11" bubble mailing envelopes

3. 2-count 6" X 9" bubble mailing envelopes

4. 240-count Premium 2-1/8" X 1/2" Inkjet Mailing Labels

5. 10-count letter-size manila file folders

6. 154-count 9/16" X 2-3/4" file folder labels

7. School composition notebook, 100 ruled sheets

8. 10-count heavy duty binder clips

9. 12-count small/medium/large binder clips

10. Remaindered Books: Burning Tigress in mm paperback, The Recipe Club in trade paperback, and The Actor and the Housewife in hardcover

All of the above items were purchased at my local Dollar Tree store on 5/5/14.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sub Op

Independent quarterly lit mag Bop Dead City has a contest for flash fic and poetry: "For Issue 8, the theme for the contest is the first time. It’s a pretty loose theme — first job, first house, first kiss, first break-up, and of course, the sex. Prizes: $20 to the winner of the flash fiction category, $20 to the winner of the poetry category, and publication for both. Rules: Just make sure it relates, at least to you, to the idea of the first time for someone or something. Plus, do everything that the usual submission guidelines say. Everything submitted until July 1 that follows these guidelines will be considered for the contest. And of course, even if it’s not the winner, we’ll still consider it for publication as usual." According to their submission guidelines they also accept fiction stories up to 3K -- no mention on payment, so you might query on that. No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Online Color Thesaurus

HP has an online color thesaurus which does a couple of neat things when you search the name of a color, like blue:

Aside from the helpfulness of providing those color codes, it shows you a swatch of the color, four close matches, and four that are opposing.

This color searcher could be particularly useful when you need to see the color that goes with the word, like chestnut:

Or celadon:

You can also find out if what you think the color looks like is correct; I've always assumed citron meant strong/citrusy-yellow with a slight greenish tinge, when HP tells me it's actually strong citrusy-green with a slight yellow tinge:

Friday, May 16, 2014

For Kindness and For Love

Instead of the usual Friday video I have a slideshow of a Victorian American scrapbook and poetry journal I recently acquired for pretty much a song off eBay. The poems, written by Rose Bremermann on the last handful of pages, date back to 1889, and are written in that glorious old copperplate calligraphic style.

Rose likely never imagined that her sweet verses -- written for kindness and for love, according to one of them -- would survive 125 years to give hope to another devoted journaler, but they did. Thanks, Miss Rose.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dark Sub Op

UK E-publisher Ghostwoods Books would like to see "new and interesting dark fiction novels or cleverly interlinked short stories. Dark fantasy, gothic fiction, dark historical, creepy (but not mindless) horror. No slasher novels, no zombies, probably no YA. Let it be sinister and clever or enchanting yet creepy. Examples of books we would have taken for this call: Frankenstein, Dracula, An Interview with the Vampire, The Night Circus, The Throne of Bones. Note that historical novels must be somewhat updated in writing style to accommodate the tastes of modern readers. (No lengthy, needless exposition or purple prose.)" Length: "mostly between 70,000 and 100,000 words." Payment: 50% royalties. See submissions page for more details.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Other Than Writing

I should have mentioned last week that I finally finished my Picasso project. Here's how it came out:

I must admit, it's not perfect by any means, but when you experiment you take risks not only to try things and grow but to make mistakes and learn from them. Which this project did for me pretty much every time I worked on it, but that was part of the fun. I also said I'd give it away here on the blog if it came out well, but I have to welsh on that. Picasso's lady had her own ideas about where and to whom she wanted to go (and I never argue with my projects, especially when it turns out they were right and their timing was eerily perfect.)

I've started on another for-fun quilt project, and I've also been making an effort to shoot some birds (with the camera, of course.) I bagged all of these on the same day:

I also finally got a shot of a bunny, plus the bunny's Mom, which any shutterbug will tell you is almost impossible to do:

So what are you doing creatively that isn't about writing? Let us know in comments.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


According to their website, Visuwords™ is an "online graphical dictionary — Look up words to find their meanings and associations with other words and concepts. Produce diagrams reminiscent of a neural net. Learn how words associate. Enter words into the search box to look them up or double-click a node to expand the tree. Click and drag the background to pan around and use the mouse wheel to zoom. Hover over nodes to see the definition and click and drag individual nodes to move them around to help clarify connections."

I gave it a whirl by entering the word blue, and it immediately built a nice big web of associations:

The service is also free for use by anyone with an internet connection; no membership or other access fee involved. I also noted this on the website -- "Visuwords™ uses Princeton University’s WordNet, an opensource database built by University students and language researchers" -- so that's a fairly respectable source.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sub Op Ten

Ten Things About Submission Opportunities

Apex Magazine wants to see dark spec fic that is "sheer, unvarnished awesomeness. We want the stories it scared you to write. We want stories full of marrow and passion, stories that are twisted, strange, and beautiful. We want science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mash-ups of all three—the dark, weird stuff down at the bottom of your little literary heart. This magazine is not a publication credit, it is a place to put your secret places and dreams on display. Just so long as they have a dark speculative fiction element—we aren’t here for the quotidian. Keep in mind that the search for awesome stories is as difficult as writing them. If you are rejected, don’t get angry—instead, become more awesome. Write something better, and better, until we have to accept you, because we have been laid low by your tale. It really is that simple" Length: up to 7.5K (firm); Payment: $.06 per word; no unsolicited reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details.

Cohesion Press has an open call for their upcoming horror antho: "Blurring the Line (working title) is seeking to blur the line between what is fiction and what is non-fiction. We want horror stories, tales that are serious and frightening, hard-hitting and imaginative. We want monsters; vampires and zombies and werewolves and the mummy and creatures from the Black Lagoon and giant killer plants and mutated ants and demons and devils and Mothmen and everything else you can think of or that hasn’t been thought of yet. But we also want your serial killers and demented and depraved humanity. We want it all. Push your imagination and take us into the far reaches of your darkness, without letting go of reality. Make us believe. BUT, we want to be scared, made to feel uneasy and uncomfortable. We do not want to be shocked for no reason; if you’re going to eviscerate someone, there needs to be a good reason for doing so. We want style over shock value. We do not want supernatural romance, or weird fiction. We’re not looking for tales about a monster hunter or a covert monster hunting team (we love these stories but they’re not what we’re looking for here)" Length: up to 5K; Payment: 8¢/word; no reprints, electronic submission preferred, see guidelines for more details. Submission period opens August 1st, 2014; Deadline: October 31st, 2014. has a whole page of mag sub ops here, including one for romance: "Reflect on Traditions; Challenge Convetions
Love, lust or heartache, we want it all! We aim to capture the diversity of romantic experience, be it modern or dated, unconventional or relatable, or something entirely new. Tell us a story; how do we connect, how do we feel love? Fiction, poetry and book reviews accepted. Pieces will be chosen by the editor with consideration of reader responses and voting processes." [PBW notes: I'd check into that mention of voting process and get more details before submitting.] Length: up to 10K; Payment: lifetime royalty of 50%, no reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Ghostwoods Books is looking for dark fiction novel submissions: "Ghostwoods Books, a small fair-trade press located in London, UK, would like to see new and interesting dark fiction novels or cleverly connected short-story collections. Dark fantasy, gothic fiction, dark historical, creepy (but not mindless) horror. No slasher novels, no zombies, probably no YA. Let it be sinister and clever or enchanting yet creepy. We'll know it when we see it. Examples of books we would have taken for this call: Frankenstein, Dracula, An Interview with the Vampire, The Night Circus, The Throne of Bones. Note that historical novels must be somewhat updated in writing style to accommodate the tastes of modern readers. (No lengthy, needless exposition or purple prose.)" Pays 50% royalties; see guidelines for more details.

Ghostwoods Books is also looking for romance novel submissions: "Ghostwoods Books is planning a new romance imprint. We'd like to start with a slate of books. Books must be complete and in a finished state, meaning that the book has been revised and errors removed to the best of the writer's ability before submission. If possible, writers should enlist the aid of beta readers or an editor. Think of this like submitting to a literary agent. Impress us. Length will be between 60,000 and 90,000. We're looking for well-written books that evoke true romance. Other aspects of the work may vary. The key to a good romance is romantic tension." Pays 50% royalties; see guidelines for more details.

Simian Publishing has an open call for their upcoming Apotheosis antho: "Stories of human survival and defiance in a world subjugated by the return of the Elder Gods. Humanity struggled to grow and evolve as a species for thousands of years forever caught in the shadow of a dread threat known only to a devoted few. When the stars are right, the Old Ones will return to claim utter dominion of the world. Lovecraft Mythos stories often climax at the moment of the fateful return of the Elder Gods and the audience is left to ponder what might happen next. This anthology features stories about humanity under the reign of the Elder Gods and ancient terrors. We’re looking for stories inspired by the stories of H.P. Lovecraft and associated writers such as August Derleth, Clark Ashton Smit , Robert E. Howard , Robert Bloch , Henry Kuttner, and Frank Belknap Long. We’re also interested in writers that inspired Lovecraft such as Edgar Allan Poe, Algernon Blackwood and Lord Dunsany. We’re interested in classic mythos gods and monsters and originals that have inspired by the mythos" Length: 2-7K; Payment: "3 cents per word (or 1 cent per word for reprints)" Reprints okay, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Submissions open November 1st, 2014. Deadline: December 31st, 2014.

Sekhmet Press has an open call for their upcoming third Wrapped antho, which appears to be witches and occult-themed, but the only mention of what they want to see on the guidelines page is this: "We are not looking for stories reflecting religious dogma." Length: 2.5-5K; Payment: $0.01 per word + contributor copy; no reprints, electronic submissions only. Submissions period open May 18th, 2014; Deadline: June 8th, 2014.

Storm Moon Press has several open calls for upcoming unusually-themed anthos, and among them is one for bisexual steampunk: "Advanced technology is essential in good cyberpunk, but what really sets it apart is the way it showcases that technological achievement while also exposing the seedy underbelly of society. Has technology polarized society, created an underground counter-culture? There is infinite potential for adventure, especially when you have a bisexual hero/heroine in the cyberpunk setting. Are they jacked into virtual reality to express themselves, or do they have some other way of blazing a trail through high society or the downtrodden? For our Surfing the Aether anthology, we want to see what makes your bisexual characters stand out from the world they inhabit. Cyberpunk protagonists are often misfits and anti-heroes, so we'd love to see where your characters fit in the hierarchy. How do they use the technology at their fingertips rather than letting the technology use them? Have the advanced tools changed the sexual climate, and if so, how does it impact your hero/heroine's identity and expression as a bisexual? We want to discover the darker consequences of the time's industrial successes through your characters' eyes" Length: 10-20K; Payment: .0075 per word [PBW notes: this is flat free; no royalties offered]; no reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Whippleshield Books has an open call for their upcoming Venus-themed antho: "To put it bluntly, if you think your story is a good match for a science fiction magazine, it may not be for me. I’m looking for stories that are realistic, but that doesn’t mean they have to be science/space fiction. However, the planet Venus has to feature in there somewhere. Your story could be about the first attempt to land on Venus, or life in a habitat on the surface. It might describe a present-day group of engineers and scientists controlling a probe on the surface of Venus; or perhaps a journalist discovering evidence of a past secret mission to the planet. There are plenty of tales that can be told about Venus. Surprise me. I’m big on realism, so I’ll be looking for that. And good literary prose too." Length: up to 6K; Payment: 0.03£/word (>5¢/word); no reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: May 31st, 2014.

World Weaver Press has three upcoming antho open calls for 2014 that have not yet opened, but include themes of dragons, corvids and scarecrows -- stay tuned to their guidelines page for more details and opening dates.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Wishing You

(Please note: I'll be out of town for a couple of days, and (probably) not able to access the internet, so comments may not be posted until I get back to moderate them.)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Floating Comma Hidden SPAM

I always reserve the right to make fun of anyone who SPAMs me, even when English is obviously not their first language:

Dear Sir ,

So this is already starting out well. What?

This is [Kindness Duct Tape] from [Kindness Duct Tape] and thanks for your time to read this email.

Eh. I needed a blog post for today.

[Kindness Duct Tape] is [yada yada yada] and we have more than 100 million users all over the world.

Counting people who read your SPAM is cheating, you know. Hey, how did you get that comma after Sir to do that?

Our main products are about [yada], [yada], [yada], [yada], and more [yada].

They just kind of float, don't they? Like little balloon commas.

Now our targets are as below :

Lo siento, pero no hablo estupido.

1. Is it available that we make advertisement on your websites and we pay for your nice working?

Alas, have no websites. Is nice working that thing we do when we say "No problem" to a client when we really mean "You're an unpleasant demanding ass who can't edit or write your way out of a paper bag, but I'd like to get paid so I don't have to sell a kidney to pay for my medical insurance premium"? If so I can nice work all day long. I should add that to my resume: Nice worker +15 years.

2. Is it available that we post on your websites and we pay for your nice working?

Okay, so that's not it. Maybe you mean networking? You should really stop using Babel Fish, you know. It's hardly ever right.

We make very high diacount of our products ,and put it in your websites or put it in your newsletter part, and we share the total sales.

I love the floating commas, but I'll be honest: I'm afraid you'll infect me with your crap spelling and your inability to hit the space bar at the correct moment.

any suggestion, kindly let me know.

Hire someone whose first language is English. You'll never regret the investment. Trust me.

Looking forward to hear you soon.

Turn your ear to the south. I should be shrieking any minute now.

Thanks Sincerely,

I want one of those commas!!!!!!!

Friday, May 09, 2014


This whimsical video shows some of the sights of London as if in miniature, thanks to the tilt shift effect (with background music, for those of you at work):

Tiny London from Mario Muth on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Catching Threads

Last week I finally started on my annual Spring project of making sachets for our drawers and closets. One nifty little helpful widget I picked up at this year's county quilt show is a thread catcher, which you can see there in the photo on the left (the white and black cup-like thing.) When you sew you are forever snipping threads, and having a little bin in which to deposit them prevents them from clinging to you, your project, your hair, your pincushion, your fabric, your rug, your sewing machine, being sewn back into your project, etc. The neat thing about this widget is that when I'm finished I can empty it and collapse it into the size of a Ring Ding, which also makes it very portable. It was so cool I bought a second one for a friend.

Would that we had such handy widgets for catching our story threads. Writers use everything from index cards and Post-It notes to whiteboards and outline trees to keep our threads mapped out, organized and contained, and still we drop them, lose them, forget about them and/or wake up at 2 a.m. in a panic after we send off the last round of revisions to our editor because we forgot about that thread we left dangling unfinished in chapter seventeen (I'm still really sorry about that, Adam.)

If you're into software solutions, excellent novel organizer services like Hiveword can help you keep track of your story threads (and it's still free, and there's nothing to download; you work online with it.) But let's say you want a low-tech solution that is simple and easy to update while you're working offline on your story -- this is why I invented PBW's Story Thread Catcher:

Okay, I know, it's just a blank writing pad. But you're going to turn it into a story thread catcher -- like this:

At the top of your writing pad, write Chapter One/Scene One or however you want to divvy up the work, and write a short line on each of the threads you start in this section (if you're a plotter, you can do this before you write the chapter; if you're a pantser, do this after you write the chapter.) This is your thread catcher section. Now on the bottom half of the page, make notes about any work you need to do on the threads in the next chapter (pantsers, if you want you can just write lalalala on this part.)

Tear off the bottom section of the page and remember to review it before or after you write the next chapter so you do or have done the thread work necessary. The work you do on the threads then becomes the entries for the top catcher section of the next page. Then all you do is repeat the process for each chapter. As you progress with your story, you will build up a flippable series of tops with your thread notes, so that's the catcher part:

See how simple? If you need to look back at a particular thread and how it went, all you have to do is flip through the top part. Keeping track of the threads is as simple as lettering or numbering them in sequence (and yes, you can add more threads as you go along, just remember to keep adding them to and tracking them on your subsequent thread notes.) When you finish your story, all you have to do is make sure you wrapped up each thread, and you do that by reading through your catcher section.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Eureka! (and Sub Op)

I think I've figured out how that Good Reads reviewer was able to rate my story Forget-Me-Knot: she must have borrowed it from someone on Library Thing! You can see a copy of it in the LT member's library right here:

Now I can't say how this person got a copy of a story I haven't written yet, but we're not going to rule out mind reading, psychic transference, time travel or any sort of retrieval method that wouldn't cause a literary/temporal paradox. Hold on, since I'm also a member of Library Thing, maybe I can borrow it from her! Wouldn't that be completely awesome? Then I can just copy it and save myself all that time I would waste, you know, actually writing the damn thing.

While I'm working that out, here's a sub op for all you SF erotica scribes:

House of Erotica editor Nicole Gestalt has an open call for Cosmic Encounters, an upcoming erotic SF antho, and would like to see: "Science Fiction but any sub-genre is welcome be it steamunk, BDSM, Fantasy, alternative-historical, action, comedy, crime or any other! Pairings: Any Heat: Any level from romance to burning the pages of the book!" Specifics on what she's looking for: ". . . stories with a science fiction feel. These stories do not have to be focused on the far future or even the near future, they could be alternative histories or stories from far away worlds. Be as inventive as you can but please don't forget the story line and the relationships! Since this is an erotic anthology there should be on the page sex scenes however don't forget the interaction between the characters and the relationship they have. The stories should either end with a Happy-For-Now or a Happy-Ever-After it would have to be a amazingly good story for me to select it if it didn't (but I am well prepared to have my opinion changed on that)." Also: ". . . stories that stand out so please don't just set your stories on Earth, they can be set anywhere in the solar system – or even outside of our galaxy. Don't be afraid to experiment." Length: 5-15K; Payment: "Royalties will be split 40% of the net profits with contributing authors, exact values will be given once we know how many stories will be in the final anthology." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: June 30th 2014

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Lovely Dark

Here's a look at some new cover art for the German edition of Nightshine:

I don't think I've ever had brown cover art, which I know can be a tough color to make look appealing. Unless you're wizards like my German publishers. I have no idea how they made it this gorgeous -- I'm really thinking magic might be involved. I believe the title translates to Look in the Dark, which is pretty canny, considering.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Freely 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.

Attach! is a handy little utility that scans your outgoing e-mail for mention of an attachment, checks to see if you've attached anything, and if you haven't warns you with a little pop-up screen prompter. If you're forever forgetting to actually attach your attachments, this might be worth a test drive (OS: Microsoft Outlook add-on for 2000, 2002; Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP)

Bytescout Watermarking Freeware "protect copyrights for your images with professional looking watermarks" (OS: Windows 2000, XP, 7)

Flip Page Book Maker allows you to "build stunning flippingbook publications in minutes! 100% freeware to to create the effect of turning or flipping the pages of your digital book or document; create digital flip page book from text book in seconds; interactive experience for your readers (Ease to Use); support for iPhone/iPad and Android for mobile viewing, and many more; control your flash page flip bookmark . TOC (Table of contents); download all files and publish: Your WEB server, CD / DVD, or USB device; customize and design to your brand identity" (OS: Windows 98, Me, NT, 2000, XP, 2003, 7)

FocusWriter is a "simple, distraction-free writing environment. It utilizes a hide-away interface that you access by moving your mouse to the edges of the screen, allowing the program to have a familiar look and feel to it while still getting out of the way so that you can immerse yourself in your work" (OS: Designer notes "It's available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X, and has been translated into many different languages")

The free trial version of Idea Tracker offers "an easy, customizable and effective method to organize, sort, filter, and print your ideas, thoughts and/or notes. Ready to run immediately after installing or customizable to allow the user to decide how to display their ideas. It allows the organization of ideas (with up to two levels of categorization) and offers the choice of fields in which to save data. Thanks to customizable databases, the user is free to track ideas in many different ways. Ideas can be kept in one database or broken into logical groupings, such as notes on a single project" (OS: Win 95, 98, ME, 2000, NT 4.0, or XP)

Instant Writing Resources Tool Bar provides "instant access to free writing resources and writing links. Developed by Rowdy Rhodes its primary use is to provide access to the massive writing resource site Freelance Writing Organization - Int'l. which was established in 1999. The Tool Bar Includes Thousands of Resources, Freelance Writing Jobs, Job Search, Global Sponsors, RSS Feeds, Online Text Formatter and Character Counter, Dictionary, How-To-Write Library, Encyclopedia, Chat, Software, Writing Courses, over 55 Online Games and Gadgets, a Writers Radio Station by Writers for Writers, Forums, a Writers Store with Over 50,000+ Writing Products from Four Separate Suppliers, Writers Site News Archives, Windows Tray Alerts Announcing New Resources and Jobs, POP3 Email Notifier for All Your Email Accounts and a Help Desk" (OS: Windows, and designer notes "This software works with Internet Explorer, FireFox, and Safari")

The free trial version of PDF to Word Converter allows you to "effectively convert a PDF file to Doc file in just a matter of a few seconds. Such utility provides the simplest method to carry out the tedious and time taking conversion. Using such software all that you got to do is just make a selection and right-click the source file and then carry out the conversion to get the desired Doc file" (OS: Windows 98, 2000, XP, X32,7 X64, WinServer, WinVista, WinVista X64)

TreeSheets is "the ultimate replacement for spreadsheets, mind mappers, outliners, PIMs, text editors and small databases. Suitable for any kind of data organization, such as Todo lists, calendars, project management, brainstorming, organizing ideas, planning, requirements gathering, presentation of information, etc. It's like a spreadsheet, immediately familiar, but much more suitable for complex data because it's hierarchical. It's like a mind mapper, but more organized and compact. It's like an outliner, but in more than one dimension. It's like a text editor, but with structure" (OS: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X)

The free trial version of WhizFolders allows you to "Write up your notes in pieces and outline them in a hierarchy with a powerful outlining list. See the difference it makes in any kind of note taking, research and study" (OS: Windows 8 desktop, Windows 7, Windows Vista, XP, 20XX)

WriteMonkey is a "Windows zenware* writing application with an extremely stripped down user interface, leaving you alone with your thoughts and your words. It is light, fast and free. With an array of innovative tools under the hood and full Markdown* support, it helps you write better" (OS: Windows)

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Off to Deal

I'm taking the weekend off to write and deal with some work-related stuff. So that your stop here was not a complete waste of clicking, here is not one but two brilliant videos that discuss why so many geniuses are/were, in fact, complete losers -- and what that means to everyone else in the creative world:

The Long Game Part 1: Why Leonardo DaVinci was no genius from Delve on Vimeo.

The Long Game Part 2: the missing chapter from Delve on Vimeo.

See you on Monday.

Friday, May 02, 2014

No Pain No Gain

When the first shoe flew I knew how this charming and uplifting video would end. See if you can guess how, too (dialogue, background sounds and some music, for those of you at work):

ONE MAN'S LOSS from Philip Sansom on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Motorcycle Story Sub Op

Elektrik Milk Bath Press has an open call for their upcoming motorcycle-themed antho: "We are looking for unusual, original stories that, in some way, shape, or form involve motorcycles and/or their riders, surroundings, etc. Perhaps the entire story revolves around a particular motorcycle and/or its rider. Maybe a motorcycle is important to the setting or the background, maybe it’s just passing through... While motorcycles or their elements must figure into the piece, the actual degree of involvement in the story… well, we’ll leave that up to you. If you want an idea of what we like, check out one of our favorite motorcycle-themed stories, Julio Cortazar’s “The Night Face Up.” The above mentioned stories are just ideas. We want to see what you come up with, so show us your creative best. Stories can be dark fantasy, horror, magic realism, literary, etc. Humor is okay, too. What we want, more than anything, is a good, solid story—stores that touch us, as readers, in some way. We love stories that are written from an unusual perspective, contain unusual but believable characters, or show us something we’ve never seen before. We don’t mind sex or blood—not even a bit—but we are not huge fans of excessive gore. If it is necessary to the story, no problem at all—we get that. Gore for gore’s sake... not so much." Length: "We are accepting stories from 1000—5000 words, with the majority of stories probably falling in 2000-5000 word range. We are pretty flexible with word count as long as it’s a great story. Impress us and even if you are a little over or a little under, we will sneak you in." Payment: $30 plus contributor's copy. On reprints: "We much prefer original stories but if you have a reprint you feel is exceptional, query us. We are usually more than happy to give reprints a read, although preference is given to original pieces." Electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: May 16th, 2014.