Wednesday, September 30, 2015

PBW's Book of the Month

I did not get a lot of reading done in September, but I did manage to reread the first two novels in author Anne Frasier's Elise Sandburg series and her newly-released third installment, Pretty Dead, which is also my pick for book of the month.

As the first two books in the series were among my favorite reads of 2014 it was no surprise how much I liked this one. Set in my favorite U.S. city, Savannah, Ga. Pretty Dead continues following Homicide detective Elise and her partner, former FBI profiler David Gould as they try to find a particularly crafty serial killer. As they do, they both have to face people from their past who have done major damage to them, deal with the changes in their relationship on and off the job, and navigate the political tides in the department and city government that are threatening to destroy both their careers.

Besides being beautifully written and tightly plotted, this book was that sort of great read you need on a regular basis to restore your faith in a genre. There are some terrific crime fiction books out there, and this is one of them. I really liked that I never knew what to expect, not even when I finally arrived with Elise and David to the unmasking of the killer and the final chase. The ending made me angry (for the characters) but also made perfect sense. I also love how Anne Frasier keeps all the books connected through her characterizations and artful back story weavings without overburdening the narrative with a lot of flashbacks or as-you-remember-Bob introspects.

Even if you haven't read the first two book (and I feel sorry for you if you haven't) you can easily follow along with this one. You do need to read the other pair, though. Yep. She's that good.

Here's where you can buy your own copy of Pretty Dead:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Indy Planning

Now that I've taken the first giant step toward indy publishing by ending things with the agent I am working out a plan for the first byline title I intend to publish. I've decided that will be the third novel in my steampunk Disenchanted & Co. series, for which the working title is Her Majesty's Deathmage.

The first task is, of course, to write the novel. Since I'm working full-time as a ghost writer I will have to fit that in with my professional obligations, which at present are rather hefty. I am sending out inquiries to the people I want to work on the book production, so that I have a team in place once I'm ready to publish. For promotional purposes I'll probably resurrect the Toriana blog (although I'm not entirely decided on that yet.) Scheduling everything is also important for me, as I like to set deadlines for myself to keep the process rolling along smoothly.

While all this is going on I'll also have to take a harder look at all the indy publishing options available and decide which direction I want to take with HMD. I am grateful to all of you who have offered to help, and I will probably be asking plenty of questions in the future. That said, it's important to me to learn and be able to the majority of the grunt work myself. As always I'll pass along whatever I learn in the process that I think may be helpful to other writers taking or considering the same path.

Readers, I will keep you updated here at the blog. I know I can't write the book fast enough for some of you, but I hope you will keep in mind that I now have a day job. I must give my clients top priority (and since they pay me for the privilege, I'm sure you understand that.) I'm also likely to be a bit slower than most writers at leaping into the indy publishing waters, but this is so I can swim instead of sink the first time out. My ultimate goal is to provide you with the best possible reading experience that I can once the book does hit the shelves, so your patience will be greatly appreciated.

Indy authors, if there was one bit of advice you now would give to yourself back when you started, what would it be? Let us know in comments.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sub Op

I spotted this open call for Valentine's Day-themed LGBTQA+ fiction over in the paying markets forum at AbsoluteWrite.com:

"Special call for Valentine’s Day 2016 stories!

NineStar Press is currently on the lookout for romance stories for the Valentine’s Day period. These stories must be LGBTQA+ and have a Valentine’s Day theme. Any genre, any category, and within the word count length parameters stipulated in our general guidelines. Submit to submissions@ninestarpress.com. Please put “Valentine Submission: [Title], [Author Name]” in the subject line and follow all other guidelines as stated on our website.

Our general submissions call also remains open. For more information, visit: http://ninestarpress.com/submissions/

We're a full-service publisher of LGBTQA+ fiction, currently accepting most genres and lengths, paying 40% royalty. Full details and a breakdown of our terms can be found on our website: www.ninestarpress.com."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Done



I've been hand-stitching this almost every night since mid-April, so I have to show off the finished piece -- my tropical-themed quilt, which was promptly claimed by our rescue pup Skye.

The kaleidoscope quilt blocks are actually a vintage set I purchased them from Kathy's Strange Notions shop on Etsy. The original maker had put them together in all slightly different sizes, which due to the patchwork could not be trimmed down. As a result I had to finesse the piecing quite a bit. I used Sulky Holoshimmer (holographic) thread to accent the blocks, and G├╝termann quilting thread for the rest of the quilt, all of which I did by hand (which is why it took almost six months.)

It feels great to finish a big project, and I really enjoyed this one, but now I think I'll make some totes. Little totes. :)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sub Op

Here's an open call for a furry/legend-themed genre fic antho: "We're looking for excellent general audience furry stories on the theme "legend." Submissions should be under 12,000 words, no lower limit. If you have an excellent story, but you're not sure it fits the theme, give it a try. We can be flexible on "legend," but all stories have to be furry. That means an anthropomorphic animal figure should be significantly featured in your story -- it could be anthropomorphic in body or only intelligence. We'll consider any type of furry fiction from secret life of animals to fox in Starbucks -- as long as it's excellent.

Please send submissions as an attached .doc, .docx, or .rtf file in Standard Manuscript Format to ROARanthology(at)gmail.com with a subject line that reads: SUBMISSION: "Story Title" - word count.

Multiple submissions -- Keep it reasonable; two or three stories at a time is probably okay; ten isn't.

Reprints -- Yes, but include information about where the story was previously published. We're more interested in stories that will be new to the majority of our audience.

Simultaneous submissions -- No. If you send a story to us, please don't send it anywhere else until you hear back from us.

Response time -- Most final decisions won't be made until after the deadline, but all stories should receive a response by March 1st.

Paymet -- 1/2 cent per word and one contributor's copy on publication.

Deadline -- February 1st, 2016"

For more info, see the guidelines page.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Running Late (Again!)

Sorry I'm late posting. It's been a heck of a week here, work-wise. Here's a neat video about the miniature art of sculptor Thomas Doyle, who isn't just building dollhouses (with narration and background music, for those of you at work):

Cool Hunting Video: Thomas Doyle from Cool Hunting on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Just Write



Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: A bit more on Ghost Writer (click on the title to go to the .pdf) with new material beginning on page 128.

For more details on Just Write Thursdays, click here to go to the original post.

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Whoopee!



I wasn't sure I could get the freelance career going smoothly in less than a year, but as of yesterday I have steady weekly and monthly work (and both jobs are really fun), plus I'm booked full-time through April of 2016 on series projects. The really nice part is building my own list of clients who are terrific to work for and offer consistently interesting assignments. I'm so much happier and relaxed, too. I'm not going to say I should have done this years ago, but I'm glad I was at the point to make the transition without regrets (because now I have zero, lol.)

So what's going on with you all? Let us know in comments.

Image credit: natamc

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sub Op

One of the very few entry-fee contests I endorse, the 5th Annual Friends of Merril Short Story Contest, is now open for entries, and here are all the details:

"Entry (Periods and Fees)

Contest Period: The reading period for the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is noon EST on Friday, September 18th 2015 to 11:59:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, December 20th, 2015. Any entries received after the contest closes will not be eligible for entry.

Entry Fee: All stories submitted to the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest must be accompanied by a $5.00 (CDN) entry fee. This fee is used to fund the winners’ purse and all funds raised in excess of that amount are used by the Friends of the Merril Collection to support the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy at the Toronto Public Library. We will not read a submitted story until we have received an entry fee for it. We recommend that you pay your entry fee first and then submit your story so that you can include your proof of payment in your submission cover letter. The entry fee must be paid by PayPal via the button on the Pay Entry Fee(s) page (the PayPal button will be available September 18th, 2015. Please pay before you submit your story and include your Transaction ID (17 characters, letters and #s) in your cover letter as proof of payment. We will cross-reference this number with the contest PayPal account to corroborate payment of the entry fee.

Submissions

Content: All entries submitted to the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest must have a speculative fiction element (see the FAQ page for our definition). As we are no longer posting the winning stories on the website, there are no restrictions on content or subject matter. All entries must be previously unpublished.

Eligibility: The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is open to all writers of all levels (published, unpublished, emerging, etc.), without restriction. The contest is international, so writers of any nation may enter.

Number of Submissions: There is no longer any restriction on the number of entries you may submit to the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest, but each entry must be accompanied by a separate entry fee. So, for example, you may submit three stories, as long as you pay $15 in entry fees.

Simultaneous Submissions: This year, simultaneous submissions WILL be allowed.

Submission Type and Length: Your entries must be stories, and must be a maximum of 6,000 words in length. The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest does not accept poetry or creative non-fiction.

Submission Format (Electronic): This year, we are ONLY accepting electronic entries. Entries should be e-mailed to us at fomsscontest@gmail.com with the words “Submission: Story Title” in the Subject line. All entries must use Standard Manuscript Format and be attached to your e-mail as a .doc or .rtf file. Include a brief cover letter in your e-mail with your Contact Info (name, address, telephone number and e-mail address), story title and word count. Remember to include your payment information as well. You can include a bio or publication history if you like, but it’s not necessary.

Response Time for Submissions: We try to acknowledge all submissions within one week of their arrival, but if you have not heard from us within two weeks of having submitted your entry please query us at the contest e-mail address (fomsscontest@gmail.com) with the words “Query: Receipt – Story Title” in the Subject line. Please provide the date sent.

Adjudication of Entries

Preliminary Judging: All stories are judged blind. During the three month reading period (September 18th, 2015 – December 20th, 2015) all stories will be read by a team of slush readers. Our slush readers will choose the finalists two weeks after the end of the reading period (December 31st, 2015). Once this two week period is over, rejections and notification of progression to finalist status will be sent out via e-mail. The finalists are handed over to the Final Panel Judges for consideration and voting. At that time the story titles of the finalist entries will be posted to the contest website, and we ask that if your story if chosen for the shortlist that you please refrain from mentioning which story is yours anywhere online. You can absolutely feel free to mention that a story of yours is a finalist in the contest, we just don’t want to prejudice the judges by having them know who wrote which story on the shortlist.

Final Judging: The judges will select one winner and two runners up from the finalist stories. Final selections as to the winning story and honourable mentions will be made no later than January 28th, 2016 at which time all the finalists will be notified via e-mail to inform them of the results. The winners will be announced at the annual AGM of the Friends of the Merril Collection.

Prizes and Payment

This year’s prize pool is a grand total of $600.00 (CDN), and the funds will be awarded on the following basis:

First Place: $500.00 (CDN)
Honourable Mentions (2): $50.00 (CDN) each

Posting of Names and Story Titles to the Contest Website: The titles and authors of the winning stories will be posted to the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest website after the winners have been notified. This information is left online indefinitely to provide exposure to both current and past finalists and winners of the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest.

Payment and Prize Distribution: Monetary payment will be made to the winners once we have contacted them and received information as to their preferred method of payment.

Rights

At no time do you relinquish any right, copyright, or ownership of your story to us, either during the reading period, during consideration for finalist status, or in the case of your story being selected as a winner.

Conditions

All entries submitted to the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest must be previously unpublished, original (plagiarism or fraudulent entries will result in disqualification) work. The exception to this rule is fiction not previously published in English: material previously published in another language and translated into English is acceptable.

The Big Why (And How You Can Help Whether You Enter Or Not)

We know that for many writers the idea of entry fee based contests is a touchy subject, both because of the fraudulent practices that choke the field like the risen dead clawing their way free from rotting loam, and because of the idea of the fees themselves.

We, the Friends of the Merril Collection, would like to make very clear the fact that we are not charging “reading fees”. We are running a contest to raise funds to aid the Merril Collection, and to raise awareness of the Collection. We hope you will visit the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy website, or better still, join us at The Lillian H. Smith Branch of the Toronto Public Library for readings, exhibits, discussions and other special events! Your entry fees and donations will help the Friends continue to offer great programming throughout the year.

We hope to do vastly more than simply raise the sum we need to meet the prize monies guaranteed. We are looking to engage good old fashioned barn-raising, put-on-a-show, shoot-for-the-moon fundraising. Some organizations run bake sales. We work with fiction. And what better way to work with fiction than by encouraging lovers and practitioners, amateurs and professionals, enthusiasts and connoisseurs of that craft to write and try for some cash prizes?

We hope you’ll help. You don’t even have to enter to do it. Help us spread the word. Tell a friend. Tell five. Tell ten. Blog about the contest. Tweet about it. Whatever you can and are willing to do to help, know that we appreciate it more than we can say. Because at its heart, the Merril Collection is about the love of fiction, be it science fiction, fantasy, horror, or any of the other less easily defined branches of speculative fiction, and the wide world of mainstream literature lying just beyond our doorstep. It is about discovery and change and imagination. It is about the power of the written word to motivate and move and foment and catalyze and crystallize and inspire.

It is about wonder.

And if that isn’t something to get behind we don’t know what is."

Monday, September 21, 2015

Color Week #5: Color Collection Notebook

Creating, collecting and keeping handy all your color-related stuff for stories is a lot easier if you have a notebook in which you can work and store your reference materials.

For this you'll need:

a good size, sturdy three-ring binder
a three-hole punch
a package of top-loading sheet protectors
ruled notebook paper or a spiral-bound notebook with binder holes
dividers in the basic color spectrum (optional)
ziplock bags (optional)

How you set up your notebook should be what works best for you, but I generally go with dividing sections into the color spectrum first, then keep particular color combinations in a palette section, and put my notebook paper in the very back of the binder (I also use a spiral-bound notebook that I can remove from the binder and take with me for trips to the home improvement store or wherever when I'm hunting new color ideas.)

If you collect or make color charts, store them in your sheet protectors so you can reference them without having to remove them from the notebook:



For smaller items like paint chips, swatches and other bits can go inside your sheet protectors, too. Since they're cheaper than sheet protectors I like to use ziplock bags to hold the little stuff, and punch holes in the bottom of mine like so:



My ideas, word list charts, particular story placements and all the other writing-related work I do go in my spiral-bound notebook:



If you like to be super organized you can also use color dividers (the kind with pockets can also hold your little bits, too):



Your color notebook is also a great self-teaching tool. Once a week take it out and go color hunting, as I do, to find new words, shades and descriptors to add to one particular color section. Make a habit of this, and in no time you'll have a wonderful collection of colors to use whenever you're writing.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Color Week #4: Color Words

Bearded Iris. Ectoplasm. Zephyr. These are three of the lovely words Chandi at Expression Fiber Arts uses to describe the colors of her beautiful yarns. I found her site when I started watching tutorials on how spin art yarn (and she has an adorable video here on that.) I've also been rather awed by the wide range and inventive creativity of the words she uses to name her products.

For writers, describing color is both an everyday task and a perpetual challenge. Basically everything we create ends up being black (print) on white (page), so the words we choose to communicate the colors of anything contained in a story are particularly vital. We need to invoke imagery in a reader's mind as they read, and we can't do that if we never share with them what we see in ours as we write.

Employing the basic words for every color -- red, green, blue, yellow, orange, black, white, brown, purple -- are the easiest way to communicate what you want someone to see in a story. Sometimes that may be all you need, too: A red roof. A green door. A purple crayon. But if you use only basic color words, you'll end up with a story that reads like a pile of LEGO blocks looks.

The other end of the color word writing spectrum is using color words that are so elaborate or obscure that they colorblind the reader. I was reading a story last week in which the author described a color using only the word hopniss. I had no idea what that was, so I not only had to look up what the word meant, I then had to go search for an image of it before I saw the color. I don't mind doing this once, as there is no way in the world I can know what every plant on the planet looks like. If I have to do it ten times before I read the end of the first chapter, however, I'm probably not going to read the rest of the book.

So how do you avoid using color words that are too simple or too obscure to keep the reader engaged? One way is to exercise and beef up your own color vocabulary by creating charts and word lists. Haul out your basic color words, and begin collecting paint chips, fabric swatches and other visual samples for one of the words. Pay attention to how others name them as inspiration, and then begin a list with your own descriptors. Keep in mind terms that are universal enough for others to imagine. While not everyone knows what hopniss is, I'll bet nearly every reader you reach will recognize something you describe as the color of elephant hide, a fresh bruise, or a sunset cloud.

Tomorrow we'll wrap up color week by putting together a color notebook in which you can keep your charts, word lists and color ideas for future reference. In the meantime, what's the most interesting color description you've ever encountered? Let us know in comments.

Images credit: oksixx

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Off to Write



I'm unplugging today to finish up a deadline for a client. See you tomorrow.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Yep

I should tattoo the lovely narration for this advertising video somewhere on my body, only Mom would kill me (with background music, too, for those of you at work):

Field Notes "Write." from N O R T H on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Just Write



I have two deadlines to knock out before Friday, and we're getting socked with bad weather, so I was going to cancel Just Write today. I hate doing that, though, so today I will write something new -- which will probably only be a couple of pages in between assignments and thunderstorms, I'll warn you -- and post it online before midnight. If lightning permits. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me. Hopefully you write more than I do.

My link: Got this knocked out ahead of the storm, so here's a bit more on Ghost Writer (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 124 (brace yourselves for a major character revelation, too.)

For more details on Just Write Thursdays, click here to go to the original post.

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Color Week #3: Character Color Tags

You may not know this about me, but I'm a green. As a kid I was a blue, then went all Goth-black during my high school poetry days, and then faded back to a blue again. I had a couple years when I bounced between being an orange and a plum, and a couple other duos, but about ten years ago I finally settled on being a green. A dark green -- pine, hunter, shadowed emerald, that end of the scale -- but definitely green.

Why? Well, it's not because I'm green with envy, or greedy for the cash variety of green, or even ready-to-puke green. Green has always been a color symbol of creation to me. As colors go it's fresh, cool, and soothing. It's always growing. That's what I want to be -- and to remind myself to be -- so I embraced being a green.

I assign color tags to characters in the same way. Most of the time I use character palettes, but I've assigned single color tags to many of my characters, too. Cherijo from the StarDoc books was always a silver from the minute she popped up on the page. For me character colors can change, too -- Alexandra from the Darkyn novels began as angry scarlet and changed to lavender when she became an immortal and got tangled up with Michael, who I'd tagged as a lovely sky blue (which was also the reason I chose that scent for her.) Some character colors are so strong in my head I doubt they will ever change (for reasons that will ruin some books I haven't yet written, Dredmore from the Disenchanted & Co. series will forever be a gray to me. Since that color is now associated with all things naughty it also annoys me immensely, but I can't change it.)

Using color association with your characters is another of those creative things you can do to enhance them. You don't have to use a single color, or resort to a huge palette, either. Make a list of your character names, and beside them write the first color(s) you think of when they're in your thoughts. This can be something you draw from their physical description (Cherijo being a silver came from the sheen of her hair) or something you associate with them (Jessa Bellamy from the Kindred novels was a sapphire blue thanks to the original paint on the house she grew up in.) If you have nothing you associate with the character that gives you a color tag for them, pick a random color.

Once you have your color tag list, you have some visual mojo to work with in developing your character. Let's say your female protagonist is a pink: a bright, bubblegum shade of pink. Okay, not my favorite color, but I'm working on rehabbing my negative attitude toward pink. Meanwhile, you're already forming your own opinions about this gal based on that color tag, right? Is she girly, childish, pretty, naive, shy? Or is she hot, sexy, daring, electric? Pink is the symbolic color of hope for the victims of breast cancer, so it has a more thoughtful/wishful association, too. Pink can be a power color as well -- if you're wondering how a pink-tagged protagonist can be kick-ass, you should read Karen Marie Moning's MacKayla Lane novels. That chick is ferociously pink.

If the first tag you choose for your character doesn't inspire you, trash it and pick another color based on why the first color didn't work. Let's say your protagonist doesn't feel like a pink because she's dark-mooded and has a mean streak. So what is the color of dark/moody/mean? For me it's the purple-red of a fresh bruise, but your association will probably be different.

Choosing color tags for your characters won't solve all your development issues, but it can help you think in different directions as you build your story people. Too often writers construct their characterizations based solely on appearance, which while convenient is really lazy writing. Try tagging your crew, and see what assigning colors can do to inspire how you bring them to life on the page.

Image credit: Audrey_Kuzmin

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Color Week #2: Color Mood

Sorry I'm late posting this morning; I misplaced my camera, and I wanted to take some pics to go with this post, starting with this one:



I put the final hand stitch in my tropical-themed quilt last night, and once I bind it it'll be ready to use. Working on this quilt reminded me of so many things that surrounded me as a kid in the tropics: the red hibiscus growing outside our house, all the birds who come to south Florida for the winter, the beauty of the ocean, the year-round green everywhere. A few times I could almost smell sun tan lotion and hear the endless rush-crash of the waves on the beach.

These are the colors of my childhood, and if you asked me to name them based on those memories then I'd call them jungle green, mango orange, hibiscus scarlet, and sunlit Atlantic blue.

For contrast, here are two sides of a crazy quilt tote I made, which was the first thing I sewed after my eye surgery last year:



Not quite as joyful as the quilt, right? That's because at the time I was coming out of a long and dark period of absolute dread. These colors, these blues and purples and grays, all reflect how I felt during my recovery. Relief, peace, some lingering fear over the healing process. Darker feelings about what was for me the indescribable experience of being conscious (and helpless) while my surgeon cut into my eye with a scalpel. A different kind of joy at being able to see clearly again. Definitely somber, but not depressed -- recovering. For me these are the colors of hope and dreams.

Although psychologists would have it otherwise, I don't think the moods colors bring out in us are all universal. Our personal associations influence how we feel when we see a color, or a combination of colors, and the same should be true of our characters. If you haven't given this a lot of thought, consider your favorite color, and ask yourself some questions about it: why is it your favorite? What do you think of the moment you see it? How do you work it into your life? Is it on your walls, in your wardrobe? Once you've analyzed your favorite, do the same with a color you hate. All of these things you discover about your color moods can be then worked into your characters, your story elements, your settings -- and they don't have to reflect your own feelings (in fact, it's better for your writing range if they don't.)

You don't have to mention color moods in your story directly, either. Just as colors affect you, working them into a story will do the same for the work and the reader. A character who dresses in dull colors or paints her bedroom gray isn't a happy kid from the tropics, obviously. A guy who wears a loud yellow tie -- what I think of as a wardrobe exclamation point -- obviously wants attention. The adult antagonist who sleeps in a candy-pink room filled with toys (that he keeps locked at all times) has some serious, creepy issues.

Now it's your turn: What's your favorite color, and what is the first thing you think of whenever you see it?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Color Week #1: Collections

I was at the home improvement store last week when I spotted these new paint sample folders from Sherwin Williams, who teamed up with HGTV to put together some neat color collections. I especially fell for the individual color paint chips, which are shaped like fat bookmarks and have a punch in one corner which you might use with a binder ring to keep a stack together.

Collecting colors in some fashion can help you improve your own descriptions when you're writing. Paint manufacturers invent some terrific names for their products that invoke a sensory connection to the shade, i.e. Brookside, Mint Sprig, Cabin Plank. You can almost hear the rushing water, taste the cool sharpness, feel the weathered wood of those colors -- not something that may happen when you default to the standard blue, green or brown. I find that when I study colors with inventive names I become more creative with describing them myself, too.

I think exploring color wakes up more of your storytelling side. I've talked about creating palettes for characters and stories, but I also use them for working out and enhancing my settings, and even creating a particular mood in a scene or a chapter. Learning more about color psychology can help you understand how assigning a particular color or palette to a story element can affect the element, but I think once you start working with color and storytelling this tends to evolve naturally as well.

This week I'll be showing you various ways to think about color, use it to inspire your creativity, and incorporate more of it in your writing. I'm also putting together a color collection notebook to help anyone create, find and save color combinations for future reference, so stop in when you have a chance.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sub Op

Mystery and Horror LLC has an open call for their upcoming humorous paranormal antho: "Strangely Funny III - It's baaaaaaaaaaaaack! Our annual collection of funny paranormal stories. Story must be funny and have supernatural/paranormal elements. Previous published stories include a farting contest with the Boogeyman, a Shriner who becomes a weregoat, and a hoarding intervention at the home of a wizard. Story length should be 2000-6000 words. If you sub something longer than that, it'd better be really funny or you need to be Stephen King. Our submission window is October 1-31, 2015. Please do not sub sooner because there's a 90% chance it won't get read till October anyway and could get buried under other emails. Publication of SF3 should be in spring 2016 (note the use of 'should' here)." Payment according to Ralan.com is "$5 advance, shared 35% net royalty, POD copy" Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Free Pics (Weekly!)



I delete most of the unsolicited newsletterish e-mails I receive without reading them, but there is one I do look at every week from DepositPhotos.com, which features links to a few pics that are free to download that week. Mr. Parakeet here was one back in August; here are a couple more (the text is mine, btw):





The terms of use are limited, obviously, but most of the images are quite nice, and could be fun to incorporate in a blog post or use as inspiration. I've made some of the free images into note cards to send to friends (the floral quilt threat got raves) and I might use Mr. Parakeet for some bookmarks. Thanks to Maria for letting me know about DepositPhotos, too, back when I was looking for cover art inspiration for In the Leaves.

Image credits:

Bird: panuruangjan

Barcelona: El_Camino

Floral Pattern: Depiano

Friday, September 11, 2015

Delicate

As this lovely film shows us, making a silk painting in the Chinese Gongbi style requires a discerning eye, lots of patience and absolutely steady hands:

Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700 - 1900: How a Chinese Gongbi Silk Painting was Made from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Just Write



Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: Due to work plus a vicious headache I only had time to write a couple pages this week, but here's a little more on Ghost Writer (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 122.

For more details on Just Write Thursdays, click here to go to the original post.

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

FYI

As of August 26th, 2015 I have terminated my agreement for representation by agent Robin Rue of Writers House. Since we've worked together since 1998 this was a very tough decision, but our contract prevents me from indy publishing, or taking on certain projects my freelance clients would like me to do. Also, as I am comfortable getting jobs and vetting contracts on my own now, I will not be acquiring a new agent.

There are lots of articles online about how to terminate an agent; Miss Snark has the simplest and most direct one here. It's not something you want to do on the phone, in my opinion, but if you're on good personal terms with your agent and want to have a dialogue about your reasons before you send the official letter you certainly can. No one likes being fired, but agents have to deal with it probably more often than any of us. Be professional, be honest but keep your emotions out of it, and you'll probably receive the same in return.

It can be depressing, especially when you've had only one agent as long as I have, but once you're ready to move on there's no point in dithering. It's best to make a clean break and get on with your career.

As for me, this was the first step to take toward indy publishing, so now I can move forward with my plans to pursue that. If all goes well with budgeting, and finding the right people to work with, I should be able to start publishing books under my byline in a few months.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

PBW's Book of the Month

My pick for book of the month for August is Running Wild by Susan Andersen, a lovely jungle romp of a contemporary romance that I grabbed the minute I saw it at the market. I will grab any book this author writes, as she's one of the most fun and reliable romance writers in the biz (I also own every novel she's has ever written, and reread all of them regularly.) As a writer Susan has a marvelous ability to take your mind off your troubles, make you laugh and sigh over her quirky characters and delightful plots; she's also a terrific storyteller who delivers a lovely reading experience every time.

For this novel the author takes us off to South America, where make-up artist Magdalene Deluca has traveled to look for her missing missionary parents. After a run-in with a local drug lord's leg-breaker, she's rescued by handsome Finn Kavanagh, who can't resist a gorgeous lady who seems to be even more free-spirited than he is. Begin the chase, play hide-and-seek in little charming towns with the leg-breaker and his buddies, add in lots of jungle, river rafting and adventurous romance and you've got everyone running wild.

There was so much to like about this novel, but I really enjoyed the characters, neither of whom were the usual default jungle-rom pair (brainy/scientific chick, mercenary/adventurer/wastrel dude.) I also appreciated that Magdalene's skills weren't presented as backstory or to make her seem more dimensional, and she actually used her expertise as a make-up artist on them both to get them out of some sticky situations. Although I didn't really find plausible her giving up her job and using her savings to rush down and save the uptight missionary parents who basically abandoned her when she was a kid, it was a necessary plot point, and the author didn't beat me over the head with it every other page, so I let it pass.

As any romance lover will tell you, it's always a pleasure to read a genuinely fun romantic romp, and Running Wild is the real deal. This book is also part of a series, but since it's only connected by characters you don't need to buy anything else to get up to speed.


Here's why you can buy a copy:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Monday, September 07, 2015

Sub Op

Here's a rare open call for Christian-themed spec fiction anthology: "We're looking for speculative stories--science fiction, fantasy, horror--with Christian themes, characters, or cosmology. The story must have a speculative element. It needs something beyond the everyday. We love science fiction and fantasy, enjoy good ghost stories, and think there's great fiction material hidden in the mysteries of Christian theology--cherubim, leviathan, nephilim, visions, prophecy, and more. The story must engage with Christianity. We want stories with Christian characters whose faith affects their actions, with Christian themes such as grace and redemption, or with a Christian view of the supernatural. Note that we're not saying that you must be a Christian. We are not in a position to judge your faith, and won't try. Nor does your story need to be unambiguously pro-Christian. If you can tell a good story that meaningfully engages with Christianity, we want to read it." Length: up to 10K; Payment: 6¢/word (3¢/word for reprints), electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Submission period opens October 15th, 2015 (do not submit before this date); Deadline: December 25th, 2015.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Off to Write



My final deadline of the week is due today (I had three on top of Erika since last weekend) so I am going to bail on you guys to get it done.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Foot Shot Ten

Ten Ways Writers Sabotage Themselves and Their Work
(with possible solution suggestions)

1. Death by Critique: Your first chapter must be thoroughly critiqued by your best writer friend, your crit group, your mom and her friends, and anyone else you can think of who speaks English and isn't dyslexic; this so you can keep improving the same chapter over and over until you get sick of it and start writing the first chapter of your next story idea; lather, rinse, repeat for the rest of your life.

Solution: finish writing the story before you show it to anyone, even Mom.

2. Excuses, Excuses: You have more than ten valid reasons as to why you're not writing that you can recite on demand.

Solution: Oh, sweetie, we all do (I have at least twenty. Really good ones, too.) So you've got two options: 1) shut up, sit your ass down, and write, or 2) stop calling yourself a writer.

3. Heart Bookworms: You have been working on one vitally, important-to-you story that is all you can think about, may be your greatest accomplishment, and will take at least another year or two to finish.

Solution: Sadly there is no cure for Book of Your Heart disease, but to prevent your obsession from eating your brain, you can devote one day a week to writing something else -- anything else -- purely for fun.

4. Lit Churra, Sure: You are crafting a fiction experience that already you know very few people other than your Lit professor and that weird girl in the third row of your Advanced Eng Lit 3 class who never plucks her eyebrows can even begin to comprehend.

Solution: Write for your own pleasure, not profit. You'll be much happier. Trust me on this.

5. Me, Myself and My Ex: Every story you write is revenge for your break-up or divorce, cleverly disguised as fiction that features a protagonist who looks exactly like you, and with whom everyone in the book wants to have sex. Everyone.

Solution: The disguise? Not that clever. Separate yourself from the post-divorce vanity gangbangs, and write a story about non-human creatures, like dragons. And don't let anyone have sex with the dragons, okay?

6. Only By Committee Writing: A more virulent version of Death by Critique, which renders you incapable of making a story decision without first consulting your writer friends, your blog visitors, your online crit group, your Facebook friends, etc.

Solution: Disbanding committee writing is tough, but one way you can start is by unplugging from and staying off the internet while you're writing.

7. Perfect Muse Alignment: You can write only when your muse, whom you are convinced is the reincarnated essence/second coming/parallel universe projection of some long dead writer (usually Austen, Kafka, or Lovecraft), inspires you to write, which means you write for about fifteen minutes a month between crystal energy workshops, chakra conferences and past life readings.

Solution: Write a book about your muse. Seriously. Bet s/he'll show up more often.

8. Plotty Pants: You alternate between thinking of yourself as a plotter or a pantser (or both) which prevents you from developing a routine, working out your writing process or getting anything finished.

Solution: Pick one, and be that writer for a month. Then switch and write the other way for a month. Whichever one produces the best work, be that writer.

9. Workshopathetic: You are happy with your work until you attend the monthly writing workshop given by [insert writer organization], during which you realize all you've produced is badly-written crap that must be edited to death according to workshop presenter's opinions.

Solution: You are too easily influenced by the opinions of others who don't know you and have nothing to do with your writing. Stop going to the damn workshops and get on with it.

10. Zone Deprived: You only want to write when you are "in the zone" but you can't figure out how to get there, or how to stay there once you are.

Solution: Pretend you're in the zone. Nine times out of ten, working like you are will help you finish the story. We won't tell anyone you were faking.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Oh, Man

This lovely video reminds me of how much I miss my old trusty Royal Academy (with narration and wonderful typing sounds, for those of you at work):

Typewriter Man from Daniel Lovering on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Just Write



Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: More on Ghost Writer (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 117 (yes, I got up extra early to knock out some pages so you all wouldn't have to wait so long this week.)

For more details on Just Write Thursdays, click here to go to the original post.

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Back & Books

I'm back from my catch-up hiatus, and the first news I got was that I scored this ARC from Library Thing's Early Reviewers program:



Since I'm a history buff who grew up in Florida, and loves the 1920s, I'm really looking forward to reading it.

I've also picked my book of the month for August, which was Running Wild by Susan Andersen. To give you the short version, this is a very well-written romantic suspense/romp through the South American jungle with lots of imagination and adventure, and I thought both the male and female protagonists were unusual and fun. I'll have more to say about this later on in the week once I get back up to blogging speed.

Finally, the book I've been waiting all year (and some of 2014, too) to read just released:



If you enjoyed author Anne Frasier's first two Elise Sandberg novels -- which were amazing -- you will definitely want to jump on this new installment.

So that's my news. What's up with you all?