Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Last Post

Much happened while I was on hiatus. I've lost eight more pounds with a healthier diet and exercise regime. I moved my college kid to a new/safer place for the fall semester. I also outlined a big project for my job, and sewed and quilted a bunch of stuff. My next creative challenge is to make a quilt completely out of recycled and vintage linen. Since I think linen hates me, that should be interesting.

While staying off the internet I also figured out a few things. Such as how well I work when I stay off the internet. Without realizing it I've been gravitating back to how I used to write, in peaceful isolation. It's not that I dislike being social, but that I've become ill-equipped to deal with what now constitutes online social interaction.

Which brings me to the blog, which I've been neglecting for a while now. I've been so busy with my job that I don't have time to post anymore, fix the photo problems or otherwise keep PBW up to date. I've been writing about writing since 2004, and after fourteen years and 4,480 posts I think I've covered the basics, right? Ha. Never did answer that one burning question of the ages for writers, though: Courier New, Or Times New Roman?

For some reason time refuses to go backward, and the reality of that is the blog and I have aged quite a bit. I started PBW when I was an energetic 43, and I'm a tired 57 now. When we lost Gerard from The Presurfer so suddenly in 2017 it really hit home. He wasn't that much older than me, and I'm certainly not immortal. To avoid the same thing happening here I actually wrote up a goodbye post and have been scheduling it to publish if I don't put anything new on PBW for six months. It's depressing to reschedule that post every month, and I'd much rather say so long while I'm still kicking.

So for those reasons, and a bunch of others, I've decided to do that today. I dislike long good-byes, and it feels like the right time and place to wrap it up.

In hopes of continuing to help writers I will leave the blog and content up for as long as Google allows that, no one messes with the blog*, and I'm still around to check on it (which I will.) Right now the Blogger help forums say Admin doesn't ever delete inactive blogs, but of course that policy can change whenever Google likes. My heirs can do whatever they want with this stuff when I'm gone. My wish is that it stays free and accessible to everyone, as I've always intended.

My thanks to all of you for being part of Paperback Writer. Every one of you blogging writers who visited were part of my online family, and it was a privilege to be a part of your community. To all of my readers -- what can I say to you to describe what an honor it's been, to write for you? You made my greatest dream come true. All of you -- writers, readers, book lovers and bloggers -- you made my time here at PBW simply joyous.

Please don't be sad about this. Be happy for me. I'm in a wonderful place in my life, and I've finally got the job I've always wanted. Every day is a gift and an adventure for me. Ending PBW is simply me passing the torch to the next generation of writers.

Your turn, folks. Have fun with it. Farewell.

P.S. My last bit of advice? Courier New for WIPs, Times New Roman for final copy.

Added 3/1/21: Since SPAMmers are messing with the comments here now I'm closing them for good.

Sunday, July 29, 2018


Although I threatened to stay away until August I thought I'd post another update on my hiatus in case I get wrapped up in work and forget.

Summer is my favorite time of year, and it's not disappointing this time around at Casa PBW. We have lots of rain, but we also have lots of green (everywhere), bask-worthy sunshine (mornings) and nice, breezy evenings when we walk to soak up all the splendor down by the lake (3-4 times a week.) I took this shot of a park fountain on one of those occasions and I think it's the prettiest pic I've taken all year.

Still busy with work and family stuff, but who isn't? I've also shed eight more pounds over the last couple of months. I might just reach my ultimate weight-loss goal to take off fifty pounds total before 2019. We'll see.

I've figured out some things, too. I finally discovered something about the work and me that I never realized, and it's shed new light on so many things that have puzzled me over the last twenty years. Sadly, not why Times New Roman is suddenly easier for me to read. Was it the laser surgery? Am I more focused? Did someone change the font to easier-reading and not send me the memo? Alas, I have no answers. Anyway, what that revelation has done is put to rest my concerns over things I never understood anyway, but assumed I should. Makes my writing life much simpler, always a desirable thing.

If you follow my Tumblr blog you've likely seen these pics of my finished Zen garden quilt:

Eight weeks of hand-quilting in circles every night, and yes, it still looks like Minecraft. But I'm quite happy that I conquered my doubts and fears and made it. Now I know, and knowing is so much better than wondering.

I'll be back to posting in mid-to-late August. Until then, enjoy your summer.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Checking In

I'm going to keep the blog on hiatus for a while longer -- probably until August or thereabouts -- but with all the recent personal drama I thought I should check in and let you all know I'm okay. My eyes are still working great. I have a lot of family stuff going on at the moment, and work is also keeping me very busy.

The rest you know because you're also dealing with the evil and dark out there. I wish I knew what to tell you. All I can suggest is that however you can, be kind to yourself and those you love. Be the light.

As creative therapy I've been taking a couple of hours each night to work on the Zen Garden/Demon Quilt project. As you can see in the pic it's slowly progressing. Still looks like Minecraft, but there you go. I hope to have it finished by the time I start posting again.

Have a good summer, and see you once I sort out everything.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Ducking Out

I have a deadline to meet, and Tropical Storm Alberto to deal with, so I'm going to unplug for a bit. See you once things settle down.

Friday, May 25, 2018


No matter how skilled you are, building a new universe in any genre is challenging. I've relied heavily on history, sciences and the arts to inspire mine. Music used to be my first jumping-off point, but since I've become hearing impaired that's one I had to let go. Once I get hearing aids that hopefully stop all music from sounding like white noise to me, that may change. Until then I have to draw on other sources of inspiration.

History and its mysteries always rev my imagination's engine. I just finished watching Ken Burns' The Civil War on DVD (I highly recommend for any history buff). I invested when I heard PBS put out a 25th anniversary edition. I loved the documentary series when it first debuted, so I was just revisiting an old favorite. I didn't expect to get flooded with new ideas for an upcoming project (not, as it happens, about the Civil War).

The ideas came anyway. What happens in a conflict where both sides believe God is on their side, and they see their reasons and causes as completely righteous, and the enemy's as deplorable? What motivates people to choose their side? What are the consequences when all the players are fighting for their world's survival -- and it's the same world? What happens when a third party enters the conflict with their own, different motivations and concerns -- also for the same world?

Building essentially three universes in this project, which is also a continuation of an already-established universe with many other sides, factions and conflicts, is when I shift into multiversing. To do that, I have to maintain a strong core universe that doesn't change, which is the hub. Think of it as the center of a spiderweb. That's what you build on, the world and the rules that always remain intact. Your hub can be anything: the city, country, planet, time period, whatever, but it should be able to serve as the foundation for anything you build on it.

As an example, let's imagine multiversing during the Civil War. You have North and South, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, and Jefferson Davis. You know the war lasts for four years. You have two armies: the Union and the Confederacy. You know Succession was the official reason for starting the war, and ending slavery was the finishing of it. That's your hub.

All of the elements of the Civil War make great inspiration for multiversing. You can tell stories from the POV of any player, as long as you remain true to your hub (as in, Robert E. Lee doesn't defect to the Union in year two, unless you're writing Alternate History, in which case you can do whatever you like, as long as you carry the change through the entire conflict.) You can introduce all manner of conflicts behind the scenes of the battles, as long as the battles remain the same. You can even offer different, plausible spins on what did happen during the war, such as why Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain ordered the 20th Maine to fix bayonets and carry out a simultaneous frontal and flanking maneuver when their ammunition was running low at Gettysburg. For his heroism Chamberlain was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Some years later one of Chamberlain's subordinates claimed that he never issued that order. So let's imagine that guy was telling the truth. So, who did give the order? Why? What happened to him? Why did they cover it up by saying Chamberlain gave the order? Answering those questions builds a new universe atop the hub.

Now extend the same logic to other, significant events during the battles. What if one of the commanders of the Union army was a Confederate sympathizer? You can tailor your universes to your genre, too. Mystery writers, what if he was being blackmailed? Paranormal writers, what if he was a vampire, a werewolf, or a seer? Romance writers, what if he was in love with a female Confederate spy? Or a runaway slave who had just been captured by the other side? The possibilities are literally endless.

One final bit of advice: the more universes you layer atop a hub world, the more details you have to carry over into the next installment. So create a universe bible or running timeline to keep track of the details that have to stay true. If in the first universe you make all the soldiers carry silver bayonets to kill werewolf opponents, for example, then silver bayonets have to become standard equipment in every successive universe you build on the same hub. What changes has to be carried through, so consider carefully what you want to alter. If you have Robert E. Lee defect to the Union halfway through the war, then obviously he's not going to lead the Confederacy into any more battles. Unless they send him back to work as a Union spy. See, there's always a way to top a universe with another one.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Quilt Update

In my One Thing post I showed you a pile of fabric that scared me; here's the pieced quilt top I made out of it. I cut all of the pieces on an 18" cutting mat and sewed it freehand on my Singer. I faced the demon and stitched it into submission. It took me almost a week.

And it's lovely, and fulfilling, and looks a lot like Minecraft, am I right? Yeah, that was my first thought, too. Oh well.

I make one big quilt every year, and this will definitely be that. It's huge. At one point I had the whole thing in my lap while adding the last rows because it's too large for my work table, and I was almost buried in fabric. I still worried the whole time I was stitching, but the making of a quilt brings on this calming determination in me that let me get through the nervous jitters.

There's always good and bad in every project. Like too many light- and medium-gray spaces in this, despite my adding some prints. Some of my piecing is off-kilter, for which I have to blame my inability to cut fabric straight. When you're trying to cut a 27-1/2" rectangle on an 18" mat, things get crooked. I also had to fudge some seams. But that's okay. I'm planning to do a little embroidery work in the big blank areas. My piecing is always a little skewed, and my seams are never perfectly matched. I still love all the green, and the fish, wood and stone panels make me very happy. It's not too far from the quilt I saw in my head.

I'm proud of myself for trying. I won't let this quilt go until it's finished, even if it ends up looking like an advertisement for Minecraft, because that's how stubborn I am.

I'm not afraid of this quilt anymore. It actually made me laugh when I spread the finished top out for the first time, and saw nothing but Minecraft. My daughter loves that game, as it happens. And it's funny that it resembles it. If it still does when I finished quilting and binding it, so be it.

I'll enjoy the process. I'll finish what I've started. And I will learn from this quilt, just as I have all the others I've made.

No one can give you creative freedom; you have to pursue it. Fear and doubt will try to stop you from attaining your goals, always. We don't want what we do to end up being a bad joke. But sometimes it does anyway. Nothing ventured etc.

I'll keep you all updated as I continue to work on it, and let you see the end results.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Whatcha Reading

I haven't had much time lately for pleasure reading, but I have knocked out a couple of books by two of my favorite authors this month.

The first is Someone to Care by Mary Balogh, the newest novel in her Westcott series. This one tells the story of Viola Kingsley, the former Countess of Riverdale, who is the mother of many of the characters in the series. Throughout the saga Viola has been the most interesting character to me, as she was the primary victim of her dead husband's bigamy. The revelation of that in the first book instantly made all her kids illegitimate, took away all their titles, ruined their futures, destroyed her and her family's standing among the ton, etc. If anyone should be beyond pissed by the lying bastard's duplicity, it's Viola.

She's managed to hold onto her dignity, but finally breaks at the very beginning of this story and takes off, leaving her troubled family behind to finally get some alone time. I sent up a silent cheer, chapter one. Lord, what this woman has been through in the other books. Soon temporarily stranded at an inn in the middle of nowhere, Viola meets Marcel Lamarr, a cynical and dedicated womanizer who tempted and tried to seduce her two decades ago (she was married and told him to go away, and he went.) As you might guess the flame's still there, but this time Viola has no wedding ring or legit reason to resist it.

I won't spoil things by getting into the nuts and bolts, but it's already my favorite book of the series. I rarely use the term star-crossed lovers to refer to characters, but oy, Viola and Marc are definitely that. It also features older protagonists, which as an older real person I appreciate. Romance in later years is usually more interesting than the young stuff. The first chance at love in what is only very loosely a second chance at love plot is fun, too. There's lots of emotional turmoil, and in that regard I think it's some of her best writing. Highly recommend.

I had to read Heartless by Anne Stuart on the Kindle my guy got for me for free by redeeming some gift points so I could read another, Kindle-only title by Anne Stuart. Actually the only reason I will ever use a Kindle is for Anne Stuart, which should illustrate how devoted I am to her books. Anyone else and I wait for the paperback or read something else.

Heartless is an indy-published continuation of the author's very wicked House of Rohan series. It tells the story of two very damaged characters from those books, Brandon Rohan and Emma Cadbury, whom you might remember as secondaries from the cast of Shameless. They've both been through hell, so it's nice to see them get the chance to heal each other. You don't need to read the other books to follow their story, but you'll want to read them after you do. After I finished Heartless I got out the other four Rohan books and reread them just so I could revisit the old stories.

The House of Rohan series is not for everyone, especially readers who don't want sex in their romances. I do, but I mainly read Anne Stuart for the characters and the impossible situations she puts them in. She's the master of dark romantic conflict. Also, I like the dark aspects -- it's a nice change to see a terribly flawed protag who generally isn't the stuff of heroes. I get tired of the ones who seem to do nothing but suck up to the heroine. The sweet, loving perfect dude never appears in this author's work, and most definitely not in this series.

So whatcha reading? Let us know in comments.