Monday, November 30, 2015

Final NaNoNag

Today is the last day of National Novel Writing Month, and hopefully everyone has or will make it to the 50k finish line. If you have already, congratulations -- I am there, too, partying with you in spirit. Although I couldn't officially participate in NaNoWriMo this year I managed to knock out 56,123 words in November while working on two clients' projects, and finishing Ghost Writer, and beginning Twenty-One.

There's still plenty of work to be done. I need to finish one client's project this week; I have another new project due in three weeks. Somewhere in there I'd like to edit Ghost Writer and get it in shape, and continue with Twenty-One while keeping that one on a tight leash so it doesn't become my latest writing obsession (which it wants to. Badly.) And because I obviously don't have enough to do, I'm also working on Her Majesty's Deathmage. In December I'll probably be spending eight to twelve hours a day writing and editing. It sounds like a lot, but we don't call it the writing life because we spent all our time watching television.

This time last year I had just ended an eight-month hiatus from writing to deal with my eye issues, and I'd started my first job as a freelance writer. I remember only too well how nervous I felt; my brain was barraged by the usual what-if doubts: What if I'd picked the wrong client? What if I messed it up and ruined my chance to get another job? What if my mojo had evaporated? What if by striking out on my own I'd made a horrible mistake? I might have talked myself out of the whole deal if not for the work.

As always writing saved the day. It told me to forget about the what-ifs and get on with it. I'd done my research, and I'd chosen a reliable client with a great project. I'd outlined a terrific story. More than anything, I wanted to do this and make it work so I could get my career going again. I couldn't ignore everything -- doubt is like having a gigantic wasp nest dangling by a thread over your head; no one can honestly pretend it's not there -- but I could choose to focus on the thing over which I had the most control. The thing I loved and I was pretty good at doing, too. Which I did, and here I am.

Here we are. Now what are you going to focus on?

Sunday, November 29, 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 Twenty-One (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 6.

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

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

LT Secret Santa

Library Thing is holding their annual SantaThing, a secret Santa book-giving event for LT members, and here are some of the details:


You pay into the SantaThing system (choose from $15–$50). You play Santa to a LibraryThing member we pick for you, by selecting books for them. Another Santa does the same for you, in secret. LibraryThing does the ordering, and you get the joy of giving AND receiving books!

Sign up once or thrice, for yourself or someone else. If you sign up for someone without a LibraryThing account, make sure to mention what kinds of books they like, so their Santa can choose wisely.

Even if you don’t want to be a Santa, you can help by suggesting books for others.


Sign-ups close MONDAY, December 7th at 5pm Eastern. By Tuesday morning, we’ll notify you via profile comment who your Santee is, and you can start picking books.

Picking closes FRIDAY, December 11th at 5pm Eastern. As soon as the picking ends, the ordering begins, and we’ll get all the books out to you as soon as we can."

It's wonderful fun, and I'm participating again this year, so who knows - if you join in maybe I'll be your Secret Santa. For more information on what to do and how it works, check out the LT blog post here.

Friday, November 27, 2015


While you're recovering from turkey day, here's a lovely short video on the beauty of Autumn (with background music, for those of you like my guy who have to work today):

Autumn Glory from Paul Frederick on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wishing You

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Dear Starbucks:

I'm on a strict, sugar-free diet, but every year I allow myself a couple of treats, like a hot fudge sundae on my birthday in the summer, and one of your cranberry bliss bars while I'm out shopping for the holidays. For the bliss, I always go to the Starbucks counter at my local Target store. The kids who work there are cheerful, they never mess up my order, and they usually have one or two bliss bars left in the treats case (they're very popular with tired shoppers.)

I look forward to my cranberry bliss bar because it's one of my just-for-me holiday traditions. Also, it's delicious. I bring it home and sit on my porch while I nibble away and enjoy every bite. I also have a vanilla latte with it, as that's my favorite Starbucks drink, and the two go great together. Having this treat always gets me in the spirit of things. I don't know why; maybe it's the cranberries. I don't feel guilty for this one little indulgence every winter, either (if you don't understand why, give up sugar for seven years.)

I've always liked Starbucks. Your employees are great; I've never seen someone grumpy behind your counters. You offer delicious products, and you do it with style. There's always interesting music playing in your cafes. Every other customer I see there is working on a laptop, and I'm pretty sure at least half of them are writers. After work even my twenty-something daughter and her friends regularly hang out at one of your cafes near our house, which gives them a chance to talk and relax in a safe place. I don't understand their love of iced coffee -- not something my generation drank much of -- but hey, it's coffee (as opposed to liquor, weed, or something worse.)

I wish you'd been around when I was their age. I probably would have lived at a Starbucks.

Since this is the season to be grateful for our blessings big and small, thank you for all that you do to make the holidays brighter for your customers. Especially my cranberry bliss bar. I had it yesterday and it was wonderful, as always.



P.S. Love the cup design this year. Makes your logo look very festive.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Before I Get 500 E-mails

I get a pile of requests for this recipe every year around the holidays, so I'm going to save some time and post it now. It's for those of us who want to make fudge but can't be trusted with a candy thermometer (I have broken like a thousand):

PBW's Famous No-Brainer Fudge

3 cups Nestle Toll House semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 can 14 oz. sweet condensed milk
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
dash of salt
[optional add-ins: chopped nuts, mini marshmallows, raisins, M&Ms etc.]

Put morsels, milk, extract and salt in a sauce pan and melt over low heat. Stir frequently to blend. When it looks like fudge -- after about 5 to 10 minutes -- remove from heat, stir in your favorite chopped nuts, marshmallows, M&Ms or whatever. Pour into pan (I use an 8" pie pan), spread out, cover with foil or plastic wrap and put in refrigerator. Chill for two hours, take out, cut into squares, enjoy.

Note on fancy toppings: Before you put in the fridge, you can also top the fudge with coconut, maraschino cherries, pecan halves etc.

Monday, November 23, 2015

SF Sub Op

Here's an open call from World Weaver Press for SF stories for their upcoming Last Outpost antho:

"Last Outpost
Submission Period: September 15 - December 15, 2015
Anthologist: Bascomb James

Third volume in the Far Orbit anthology series edited by Bascomb James. Series includes Far Orbit (volume one) and Far Orbit Apogee (volume two); Far Orbit Perigee (volume four, accepting submissions starting January 1, 2016.)

To protect from all enemies… World Weaver Press is expanding the Far Orbit anthology series with a new a new military science fiction anthology, Last Outpost. Last Outpost will be published in 2016. As the name implies, we’re looking for military adventure stories, page-turners that keep us on the edge of our seats. We’re not looking for mindless mayhem; we want compelling science fiction stories with a military theme.

Send us stories about grunts, space fleets, espionage, alien invasion (even if we are the aliens), hostage recovery, battle bots, drones and droids, cyber wars, special ops, inciting rebellions, or quelling them. Anything in the military action adventure genera is fair game. We’ll entertain biopunk, cyberpunk, solarpunk, and other punkish motifs but the story has to be a rip-roaring adventure. Please stay away from fantasy elements (wizards, magic, gods, etc.). Fan fiction is a definite no-no. Fantasy-like adventures (John Carter of Mars) have to be really special to be included in the anthology. Gore is OK but it has to advance the plot.

Please remember that this is a science fiction anthology. The action can take place on far off worlds or on Earth, in the far future or the day after tomorrow; so long as it’s a military themed science fiction adventure. If you can write a military space opera in under 10,000 words, go for it. We’ll be happy to read it.

Here are some submission tips from Bascomb James, the series anthologist.

I’m not a fan of the “everyone dies horribly” ending unless you can really move me.
I’m looking for subject diversity in the anthology. If you’ve written something different in this genera, I want to read it.
I love escapist adventures, mind candy, and thoughtful integration of technologies and aliens.
Read Far Orbit or Apogee to see my definitions of these concepts in action.

Previously published stories are acceptable but we will not publish stories that have been previously anthologized.

Rights and compensation: Payment: $0.01/word. All contributors will receive a paperback copy of the anthology. For previously unpublished works: Seeking first world rights in English and exclusive rights to publish in print and electronic format for twelve months after publication date after which publisher retains nonexclusive right to continue to publish for a term. For reprints: Seeking non-exclusive right to publish in print and electronic formats for a term. Previously unpublished stories preferred; reprints will be considered. No previously anthologized stories.

Open submission period: September 15 – December 15, 2015.

Length: Under 10,000 words

Submission method: Paste the story into the body of the e-mail message. Include the approximate word count. Subject line: Outpost – [Story Title]. Send submission to: farorbit[at]worldweaverpress[dot]com.

Simultaneous submissions = okay. Sending us many submissions at once = no.

Most submissions receive an initial reply (decline or shortlist) within a week. Final decisions in 2016. Anthology publication planned for summer 2016."

Sunday, November 22, 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: As promised, the beginning of Twenty-One (click on the title to go to the .pdf)

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

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

NaNoNag #3

My college kid is working on a story this semester for her writing class. I haven't seen it yet and I get the feeling I'm not going to until after she's turned it in. We've talked about the plot, and at the time I made some suggestions, but she probably ignored them and did exactly she wanted. Creatively speaking she is very determined, focused, and not at all interested in my approval or input. Since she was a baby she's always wanted to do things on her own, in her own way. She might be a female copy of her dad on the outside, but that ornery creative independence definitely comes from my DNA.

She's also struggling with the amount of work involved, but she's not a writer. Don't get me wrong, the kid can write, and she could be a writer if she chose to be, but she has no passion for it. She pours all of hers into her art, which she will do happily for hours and hours without ever noticing how much effort she puts into it. Here's one of the little chibi she did last year (and she's even better now):

I don't think I'm being an overly-proud mom by saying she's got talent; the work says it all. But art wasn't always like this for her. When she first got serious about her drawing she had to work at it. She struggled, too; I think she erased as much as she drew. That is part of the creative process.

For most people National Novel Writing Month is a huge thing that they only do once a year because it's too much and takes up all their time and by this point they're exhausted, etc. You may feel that way now, and it's okay. It's like that for all of us when we first start. But when writing becomes your passion none of that matters. Your life is going to be National Novel Writing Month.

Should it be? That's a question you have to answer, and one way to find out is to write your November novel, and keep writing after NaNoWriMo ends.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Snow Birds

Watching this rather breathtaking video confirms my secret suspicion that all snow boarders are a little crazy; in the good, wish-I-was way (with background music and sound effects, for those of you at work):

NORTHERN EXPOSURE from Nitro Snowboards on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Off to Finish

I'm taking off today to finish a project for a client. See you tomorrow.

Image credit: Me!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Resurrecting SL

Back in June I mentioned that I had a SF story idea set (sorta) in the StarDoc universe that I've let percolate in my head for the last couple of years. While I still have ten million excellent reasons to never revisit StarDoc in any way shape or form, I want to write this story. No, honestly, I just want to stop thinking about it, and the only way to do that is to get it on the page.

So now that I've finished Ghost Writer the next Just Write story will be:

I haven't written any science fiction since I finished Dream Called Time in October of 2009, so this should be interesting, if not outright entertaining.

Image Credit: Molodec

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


The other day I spotted a new idea-ology product from Tim Holtz, a mini deck of flash cards:

I bought them because I love all things idea-ology, and I thought they might be useful as story prompts, too. The deck contains 72 1.5" X 2.5" cards with thematic words on both sides:

Each word could be a prompt on its own, but with 104 words to play with you can come up with an infinite number of combinations, too. Here are four I drew at random:

And here are the words that were on the back of those four:

I got them for $4.99, which makes them a very affordable mini deck of inspiration. I think they'd make an excellent stocking stuffer for a writer pal, too.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Year of the Ghost

It's been one year since I decided to start ghost writing full-time on my own. Over the last twelve months I've learned a lot about freelancing, how to find work, and the best ways to avoid some of the problems that come along with writing for hire. Since I still write for the very first client I acquired on my own, I think I've done a decent job of it. It helps that I've been very fortunate in landing jobs with clients who are excellent to work with, and who respect and value me as a freelancer.

Naturally there have been some downsides to leaving traditional publishing to strike out on my own. I had to rebuild my income from scratch, and freelancing does not pay as well, so at first it was definitely a financial struggle. Only a few of my pro writer friends have bothered to stay in touch with me, but I expected that (and I never had a lot of them to begin with anyway.) I should also take some of the blame for losing the connections, as I can't talk about my work anymore due to NDAs, and I've never been particularly social. PBW initially suffered about a 50% loss of traffic in my first months of ghosting, which actually did surprise me -- but I think a big chunk may have dropped off because I stopped doing giveaways. I decided to end a seventeen-year-old contract with my agent, which was terribly difficult for me, but she understood and was gracious about it.

There are so many positives, however, I hardly know where to start. I'm so happy. I wish I could describe how it feels. Finally, finally, I'm able to simply write for a living. I don't have to deal with how it's published. I don't have to promote it. I never have to objectify myself in any way, shape or form for it. I just write, all day long, and I turn it in, and I'm done. After seventeen years of dealing with all the non-writing responsibilities involved in traditional publishing, it's been like a year-long vacation. I decide who I want to work with, and since I only take on projects that interest me, I'm never bored. I think the biggest shocker was when I tallied up all that I've written since last November. I've produced more work in these past twelve months than I have during any other year since I embarked on this career.

The greatest gift of all has been the chance to see what I could do. Last year I was in a bad place, with serious doubts about my ability to forge ahead. I think it was the two eye surgeries combined with the Toriana series being dropped; I wrestled with serious depression for months. My cure for the blues has always been writing, and striking out on my own as a freelancer at least gave me some work to do. It's now become what I think will be my second writing career. If you'd asked me a year ago if I'd still be a professional writer now, I probably would have said no. That I am instead writing for hire every day, and I'm happier than I've ever been since turning pro, says it all.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Just Write Sunday Edition

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: The conclusion to Ghost Writer (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material starting on page 156.

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

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

NaNoNag #2

Before I get to my second National Novel Writing Month nag I want to celebrate a little quilting finish line I just crossed:

I've been working for a few weeks now on this tote, which will be a holiday gift for the mother of a family friend who admired my needlework. When I began this project all I really had to go on was the mom's favorite color (purple), fabrics, laces and ribbons I bought from FancyCrazys, RavioleeDreams, and AbbyandEllie on Etsy, and some vague ideas on what I wanted to do.

I gave myself permission to do whatever I liked without worrying about rules, traditions, or what I've seen others do with their crazy quilting. Some of my ideas came out well and added to the experience library in my head. Others didn't translate the way I envisioned them, but that also helped me learn. I don't think I'll ever master a perfectly even herringbone stitch, or make a seed-beaded cretan stitch look like anything but an ornate zipper, but I will keep practicing and trying new approaches.

Part of being a creative person is the opportunity to learn and grow by doing. I can (and have) talk about my needlework all day long, but I'm not really a quilter until I'm actually doing it. That's why I go from one project to the next. Each day I spend a couple of hours being a quilter. It's not everything I am, but it's a big part of who I want to be.

Now change the quilting to writing, and consider yourself nagged.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Mmmma Petite

What the world's smallest chef goes through to prepare a bowl of soup (with music and background noise effects, for those of you at work):

Le Petit Chef - Bouillabaisse from Skullmapping on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Story Haunts

Someday I'm going to write a story with this house as the setting. I've visited it about a hundred times and walked through nearly all of its rooms more than once. I've stood inside and sketched some of the remarkable features, and photographed every inch I was allowed to (the tour people frown on interior pics.) I once sat in the back garden and wrote a poem. Every time I visit Savannah I have to go see it, even if we just drive past the place.

The Owens-Thomas House may not be as pretty or popular as some of the other fabulous homes in the city, but it's haunted me since the first time I saw it. Why? I don't know. It's just one of those places where place + person = mystery connection.

While settings aren't my favorite story element, I always try to make mine interesting, and often invest them with some sort of personal connection. The twin staircases in the front of the Owens-Thomas House also lead up to the front entry of Walsh's Folly in Disenchanted & Company. Julian's house in Ghost Writer is based on one we rented some years back while looking for a home of our own. Even Lucan's nightclub in Dark Need from the Darkyn series once existed in real life; in my twenties I worked as a bartender in a place exactly like it.

Naturally your story settings don't have to be based on actual locations (would have been tough for me to do that with StarDoc), but it helps to have some knowledge of a real-world counterpart when you're working in a fictional location. This map I drew of the warehouse I used for a few scenes in Nightborn was not entirely invented; many of the interior features came from my memories of a warehouse belonging to a paper distributor that I once worked for about twenty years ago. That knowledge of the physical features helped me better choreograph the scene because I remembered what was inside, how the shelving and equipment looked, the sort of obstacles they'd create, etc.

As for the story I'm going to someday write about the Owens-Thomas House, I'm waiting for the right inspiration -- and in that setting can help, too. Since the house haunts me for reasons I don't know, it would work great as the setting for a paranormal story.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gated Away

While out of town last week I had the chance to spend a day in Savannah, and because I'm not crazy I carried my camera with me wherever we went. I always notice new things about my favorite American city whenever I visit, and on this trip it was all about gated spaces:

Sometimes when you see a bunch of stuff like this one little thing captivates you.

Like this little guy.

Some gated places seem to whisper of secret lives, trysts, and other things that happen once the rest of the city goes to sleep. I have a huge story brewing now just from this one pic.

Others definitely say not for you -- keep out.

My favorite spots still remain open to the public; right there for you to walk up and sit by and admire. So while I enjoying peeking over a gate now and then, I'm much more in love with where I can roam freely.

The next time you travel, take your camera with you when you're walking and snap whatever fascinates you. You never know where you might find some story.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Blockbuster Ten

Ten Things You Can Do to Bust Writer's Block

Break It Promise: Make this deal with yourself: if you write for the next thirty minutes, you can take thirty minutes off to do something fun. If thirty minutes seems too long, try fifteen or ten.

Celebrate: Throw yourself a Writer's Block party with your real-life people. Order in Chinese or Pizza. Ask everyone for suggestions on how to beat your block. Offer silly prizes for the best suggestions.

Change POV: Switch the POV to another character. Try telling your story from the point of view of other-than-protagonist characters, too, like a secondary, a hidden character, or the antagonist.

Clean: This is my favorite method for getting back on track with writing -- I tidy a room, vacuum the carpet, dust, or do some other housework for an hour. Cleaning always works out my frustrations and makes me feel better. By the time I'm finished I always feel like I've gotten rid of the internal cobwebs and dust bunnies, too.

End it: Stop writing whatever you're working on and write the very last chapter of that story.

Move On: Often a block is caused by a difficult-to-write scene. If that's the case, tag the place for the scene with a short reminder (i.e. [write fight scene between A and B]) and move on to the next.

Musical: Stop writing and listen to some inspiring music for fifteen minutes. Or take a break and put together a playlist for your story, and then listen to the piece you choose for the place where you stopped in the story and use the music to help you better visualize your scene.

Relocate: Take your writing and go somewhere else to write. Try different and new locations like a park, a library, or a cafe you've never visited. See where you're most productive and write there for a week.

Shutdown: If you can't write because your story seems trite, you've lost interest in it, you can't figure a way out of a plot problem, your characters have turned into wallpaper or any of a thousand other causes for your writer's block, why bother? Shelve the story and start a new one. You can always go back to the story you shelve if you want to have another go at it.

Timely: This is a way to start short and build on what you can do. Begin by writing five words. Take a short break. When you come back, write ten more words. Take a short break. When you come back, write twenty more words. Take a short break. Continue on by doubling your wordcount every time you come back from a break until you're back writing at your optimum rate.

Monday, November 09, 2015

PBW's Book of the Month

Now that I'm home I can catch up on my blog posts, like my pick for book of the month for October, which is Only a Kiss by Mary Balogh.

Only a Kiss is the sixth novel in the Survivors' Club series, and tells the story of Lady Imogene Barclay, the only female member. To give you a short version of the series premise, the club is formed of seven people who were injured either physically or emotionally (sometimes both) during the Napoleonic Wars and came together afterward to heal and help each other. Imogene is the only female Survivor, and since she was captured by the French along with her husband, the Earl of Hardford, I thought I had her story figured out before I began reading the book. All you really know about Imogene from the previous books, however, is that she witnessed her husband's death, and that she never talks about it. When she's not meeting up with the other Survivors Imogene lives very quietly on her husband's estate in Cornwall, at least until the new Earl, Percival Hayes, decides to finally come and see what he'd inherited.

Mary Balogh is our generation's Jane Austen, and this novel showcases why. In addition to being extremely well-written and deviously plotted, it offers a bit of a role-reversal, with a heroine struggling to deal with her past while being haunted by it, and a lovely, happy hero who shows up to help and change everything in the process. Don't make assumptions about Imogene, either, because when you do finally discover exactly why she's a Survivor it will stun you. I found this story a beautiful read, as well as one that made me cry (the revelation is a heart-wrencher) but that's all part of the very real magic Mary instills in her work. All of the novels in this series are basically standalones, so you don't have to read the previous five to keep up.

Here's where you can buy a copy:

Barnes & Noble


Sunday, November 08, 2015

Just Write Sunday Edition

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 151.

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

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, November 07, 2015

NaNoNag #1

Today wraps up the first week of National Novel Writing Month, much of which I actually spent on the road and rubbing shoulders with other creative types while sorting out what we need for the daughter's college transfer. At one point we went on a tour that allowed us to walk through several classrooms filled with working students, and the one thing I noticed nearly all of them had was that lovely determined focus; some didn't even seem to realize a dozen strangers were traipsing through their work space.

I envy that, particular now that I'm back home and dealing with my own distractions. Today we had the annual pre-holiday carpet cleaning, and half my house is in shambles, and everyone is also home and underfoot. I love these people, and I will get my house in order again, but I also need to write. So I've locked myself in the office (for now) and if things don't quiet down later I will pack up the laptop and head over to the library.

I'll do this because I must. Yes, I am mom and housewife and domestic crisis manager, but I'm also a writer. No one else in the family is a writer, and while they say they understand that I can't magically produce two thousand words by snapping my fingers, they actually don't.

It's all in how they measure my work time. It will only take fifteen seconds for them to ask me where they left their car keys, and then two minutes for me to help them look for them. Never mind that the two minutes and fifteen seconds disrupts an entire hour of work, and breaks my concentration, and takes my brain and my bod away from the work. Surely I can put the work aside for an hour to cook a meal for them; they're hungry, and after all I'm just writing. And of course I can always go back and start again once I've fed them or found their misplaced thing or done whatever else they want.

This, after seventeen years of me writing professionally, seems ludicrous -- but it is what they really think, and that is what will never change unless someone else in this family decides to become a pro writer (not holding my breath for that.)

While you're trying to write your NaNo novel you'll probably have something similar happen (if it hasn't already.) It's easy to get flustered and frustrated and even angry with unwanted distractions. Don't let them rattle you or throw you off course. Be patient and explain -- one time -- that you're working. Ask for their support. If they can't respect that, or they are unable or unwilling to support you, pack up your writing and relocate to a place where you can get some work done.

Stay at home parents, I know you can't always pick up and go, so you might have to resort to the alternative of waiting until they're at school or down for a nap or the night. Or you may have to get a sitter, or just write in ten- and fifteen-minute snatches while they're quiet. With two in diapers I penned my first published book during half-hour writing sessions at their nap time and one hour after they were in bed, so believe me, I understand.

Part of the reason writing is hard work is that sometimes it's hard to work. Keep your focus on what you can do, and let go of what you can't. Create new opportunities to write: give up television, get up an hour earlier, write during your lunch hour, etc. Hang on to your focus, and your determination. You can't snap your fingers and make that two thousand words appear out of thin air, but you can find the time and chance to write them in peace.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Dream Pursuit

This gorgeous short film reminds us that the chase is often as wonderful as the prize (with background music, for those of you at work):

Viridian from Harshit Desai on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Off to be Mom

My daughter asked me to spend a couple days with her to sort out some college-related stuff, so I'm unplugging today and tomorrow to do that. See you on Friday.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Lost in the Details

I'm nearly finished a holiday gift project that I started when I finished the tropical quilt, and for once I'm trying to edit myself a little more with the embellishments. Curbing my enthusiasm for beading and lace helps prevent the stitchwork from getting buried. For example, one panel ready for embellishment started out looking like this:

And now is looking like this:

I originally had lace motifs all over the blocks, on the intersecting corners of the ribbons, etc. It looked very fancy -- and very crowded. More is not always better; sometimes it's just more. So I limited myself to two lovely motifs so my embroidery wouldn't get lost in the details.

Here's another example of less versus more:

When you're telling a story, you're giving a reader a lot to remember just with the people, places and plot you create. So when you do get into the details, remember to choose carefully what you embellish, and make sure all your other elements don't end up eclipsed by the fripperies.

I tend to write like I quilt, too -- bare bones first, establishing a solid foundation by focusing on the dialogue and characters and action. Later during my daily edit I'll add the embellishments (although not always; sometimes a scene comes out on the page with all the sensory bells and whistles from the get-go.)

How do you handle writing all the little details? Share your wisdom in comments.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Flash Sub Op

Spotted this no-free open call/competition for extremely short flash submissions over in the Paying Markets forum on

"Haunted Waters Press seeks exceptionally small works of flash fiction to be showcased in Penny Fiction, a regular feature of the literary journal, From the Depths. Stories will also appear in the Penny Fiction Poster Collection.

The Penny Fiction Flash Fiction Competition will be held in three rounds.
Round One: November 1, 2015 - December 31, 2015
Round Two - January 1, 2016 - February 29, 2016
Round Three - June 1, 2016 - July 31, 2016
We seek flash fiction stories told in exactly 16 words. No. more. No less.
One entry per author, per round. Multiple stories per entry encouraged.
Winning Entries announced within 14 days of the close of each round.
No entry or reading fees.
See full Contest Rules below.

One Grand Prize Winner Per Round
$25 and publication in the 2016 issue of From the Depths plus online Featured Author Interview

Publication in the 2016 issue of From the Depths plus Author promotion via Facebook, Twitter and HWP News.

Thank you for considering Haunted Waters Press! We look forward to reading your work."

For more info, see their guidelines page here.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Just Write & NaNoWriMo

Today we officially kick off National Novel Writing Month, the annual writing event during which scribes around the world spend the next thirty days working on a novel. To win, participants must write fifty thousand words in one month (no easy task) while cheering and being cheered on by their writer pals. It's utter madness, too, but that's kind of the point.

Work prevents me from officially joining in this year, but I will be writing 51K during November for my clients, so consider me on board in spirit, anyway. Throughout the month I'll be offering what links, resources, ideas and words of wisdom I can to help out. As I do every NaNoWriMo I've also put up my writing how-to e-book, Way of the Cheetah (click on the title to go to the .pdf), which will be available to download, print and share for free until December 1st.

Today I'll tell you the most important bit of writing advice I ever got via romance author Susan Elizabeth Phillips: whatever you do, protect the work. That doesn't just apply to NaNoWriMo, but everything you do on the page whenever you do it. While you are the creator of your stories, and the curator, you're also the guardian. So how do you protect the work? I think the first step is to recognize that they have value -- and I'm not talking about financial, although if you someday sell your stories, that's definitely a possibility.

The work is your treasure, imagined and crafted and brought into existence by you. No one else can tell a story in your words but you, which makes each one you write priceless. If you've never regarded your writing in that light, maybe it's time you should. Stop whining about the work involved. Make time for it. Ask others to respect your writing space and sessions. Don't ask for critiques until the work is ready to be read by others -- and pick carefully who you consult with for writing advice. Finally, get it done before you show it or shop it around. If you were in a workshop creating a diamond necklace, do you think you'd invite random strangers to come in and lean over your shoulder and critique your efforts while you were setting the stones? Why should writing be any different?

It's not going to be easy to write 50K in 30 days, but nothing worthwhile ever simply drops in your lap. That's why we call it the work, and writing can be a lot of hard work over long hours for what seems like little or no reward. Even when you do get something finished and put it out in the world for others to experience, most of the time you won't get back what you put into it.

That said, I think the work itself should be the primary reward. It can also be amazing, incredible, thrilling, flat-out fun. So there's the bit I'll add to the advice pile: Whenever possible, let this be fun for you in any and every way. Have a good time with it. Enjoy!

Since today is not only the start of NaNoWriMo but Sunday, 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 147.

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

Images credit: Me and my kid. :)