Sunday, December 31, 2006

Should Auld Acquaintance

Few people know this, but my mom is a pretty awesome writer. She's been published by Crossings as well as innumerable magazines and newspapers. These days she writes mostly to compete in contests, which she frequently wins. Two of her inspirational essays won her gift certificates that paid for her Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners this year. You'll never read about writers like her in Publisher's Lunch, but when you're seventy years old and on a fixed income, every little contest win means a hell of a lot.

Mom also keeps in touch with her favorite authors. She's not a pest, but she does write to them about their books, and sends Christmas cards to them. I never see the letters or cards, but I'm sure she mentions my books (I try not to think about this part too much.) Nearly all of them send personal, very kind responses every time. I can't tell you how much that means to her, or to me.

I'm not as decent or regular a correspondent as my mom. I've actually lost touch with 99.9% of the authors I met when I first started in the business. Leaving all the writer orgs and groups and the con circuit eliminated the only opportunities I had to see or talk with these folks, and moving my household several times after that didn't help. Then there was always my desire not to intrude on other writers' lives. I'm not sorry I got away from the hoopla, because I wasn't any good at it, but I do miss the writers who were especially kind or friendly to me during my season in hell.

I didn't know it, but my mom has been writing for years to one of those authors I lost touch with. Last year Mom finally showed me a Christmas card she'd received in response. In it, the writer asked how I was and if I was still writing (I'd just hit the USA Today BSL a month earlier; so much for my little blip of fame.) This year the same author wrote back again to Mom, asked if I would get in touch, and sent a private e-mail address.

That's not the kind of message someone sends when they're only being polite to a sweet old lady.

So here is my chance to mend one bridge and maybe become reacquainted with an old acquaintance. I don't know what the other author expects to hear, but I'm guessing it's not what I've got to tell. It's not as if I can condense what's happened to me over the last couple of years into some cheerful anecdotes. I really dread stuff like this. But, if for no other reason than to return some of the kindness shown to my mom, I will write back. That much I owe to the author.

If you're going out tonight, please be safe and make sure you've got a designated driver for the evening. No party or celebration is worth your life.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Future Creations

The New Year is right around the corner, so I've been going over my plans for 2007. I'm not going to make any new resolutions, but continue with the gradual changes I've been making for the last couple of years: stay on a heart-healthy diet, exercise daily, eliminate material things I don't need, and keep things simple and minimal.

One of the arty stuff catalogs I get in the mail had a plaque in it with a quote from artist and author Sandra Magsamen: "The best way to predict your future is to create it." I liked that so much that I taped those words to my work monitor for the new year.

What words, plans or goals are you taking with you into 2007? Share them with us in comments to this post by midnight EST on Sunday, December 31st, 2006. I will draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner a signed copy of my January release Plague of Memory by S.L. Viehl, along with unsigned copies of some of my favorite novels of 2006: Closer by Jo Leigh, Tied to the Tracks by Rosina Lippi, Talyn by Holly Lisle, Shadow Touch by Marjorie M. Liu, Tripping to Somewhere by Kristopher Reisz, and Bound by Sasha White. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday 20

This is the last Q&A of the year. Ever since I started the Friday 20 back in January, we've gotten together almost every week to talk shop. You guys have asked some great questions, and I hope that some of my answers have helped a little. You've kept me on my toes for sure.

I don't know about you all, but the holidays wore me out, and I'm trying to recharge my physical and mental batteries. An orange a day, a long hot bubble bath every night, and doubling up on my morning meditation time have helped a bit.

The weather has railroaded my long afternoon walk all week, and cabin fever was starting to set in, so I took the kids to the mall yesterday to walk off some of the claustraphobia. One cheerful discovery while we were there: despite the January laydown date, Plague of Memory is already out on the shelves at Waldenbooks and BAM here, and evidently B& is shipping it out now, too.

Cooking Light magazine has put out a cool 20th anniversary issue for January/February, the print version of which came in the mail today. Lots of recipes I want to try, and also some good ideas on how to improve your health by making small food and fitness changes instead of big ones.

One item in that article made me laugh: they suggest cooking at home more often, and starting out by making dinner at home once a week and working your way up slowly from there. Do people really eat out that much now? Except for anniversaries, birthdays and rare special occasions, I make dinner at home seven nights a week; I don't have to change a thing in that department. We won't talk about increasing the amount of whole grains and nuts in my diet; squirrels are already starting to look at me with lust in their beady little eyes.

So what's up with you guys? Recovered from the holidays yet? Got any final questions for me before we head into 2007?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Match Game

Let's play a game: see if you can match the writer to the fact:

1. Wrote one very popular novel in nine days on a rented typewriter.

2. Chose "Pansy" as the original title for their debut novel.

3. Penned this first book in an infamous series to stop from thinking about an upcoming marriage.

4. Quit working as general manager of a $30 million dollar company after a mid-life crisis in order to write.

5. Wrote in longhand while standing up at a tall desk.

6. Worked for several years as art editor for a national award-winning literary magazine.

7. Paid an editor to take off six months to collaborate on their debut novel.

8. Had a spouse who packed up and subsequently lost the only copies of unpublished manuscripts for eleven stories, one novel, and a number of poems.

9. Wrote with a quill pen dipped in ink.

10. After writing a first novel with a 5K first print run, wrote a second novel that spent 47 weeks on the New York Times besteller list.

A. Margaret Mitchell
B. Ian Fleming
C. Ernest Hemingway
E. Shelby Foote
F. John Grisham
G. Harper Lee
H. George Pelecanos
I. Ray Bradbury
J. Eugene O'Neill

No Googling, now -- and answers will be provided later today in comments.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ten for Sale

Ten Things About Book Sales

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

1. The Internet Public Library's page on All-Time Bestselling Books and Authors.

2. Nearly one hundred years in the making:'s Bestseller Lists 1900-1995.

3. [Note up front: the service is extremely overpriced, in my opinion, but it's your money if you want to spend it this way]: The Book Standard "offers look-ups for single titles, and provides both weekly and year-to-date sales figures for any edition of any book from January 2004 to present . . .Look-ups start at $85 for one ISBN, $145 for two, $340 for five and $600 for ten." I'd wager that the best time to use this service is right before January 1st to get the most accurate year-to-date sales figure.

4. The number to call Ingram and check on book supply, demand, and YTD sales from the indies: 1-615-213-6803 (free, limited to 5 titles per call, and you will need the title's ISBN number to use this service.)

5. Making Books ~ The Bestseller Lists: Totting up book sales is not as simple as one, two, three By Marina Krakovsky.

6. Track your book sales and that of your competition on using Sales Rank Watcher freeware.

7. Sales Tracking: New Ways to Drive Yourself Absolutely Crazy by Karyn Langhorne

8. Track sales ranking and run comparisons online with the still-free-with-registration serviceTitle-Z.

9. The Book Industry's Best-Seller Lists: What are they, and why do they matter so much? by Eliza Truitt.

10. What do those rank numbers mean, exactly? Read Rampant Techpress's article Understanding Amazon Sales Rank.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


In less than a week we'll be saying bye to 2006, and the "Best of" lists are already making the rounds. I don't pay much attention to the book biz lists, as those who prepare them won't offer anything beyond the usual ballot box and shirt stuffers. Often "best" serves as a synonym for "most-hyped," too; not very helpful.

I'm more interested in favorite lists. I want to know what novels people really read and enjoy, not what they buy and leave out on their coffee tables to impress their friends. I like learning what readers are putting on their keeper shelves, even those whose reading preferences are completely opposite of my own. Finding new and interesting books to expand my horizons as a reader is one of my endless quests. As a writer, it helps me to track trends and see how genre is changing, so I can figure out how what I write fits into that equation.

This week I'm finalizing my 2006 list for an end-of-the-year giveaway (stayed tuned to PBW for more details.) How about you guys? What were some of your favorite novels of 2006, and (if you don't mind sharing) what made them so special?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Wishing You

Detail from Nativity (Holy Night) by Correggio, 1528-30, Oil on canvas, 256,5 x 188 cm, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Now That They're Home

Ten Things to Keep the Kids Entertained

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

1. For your older kid gamer, download and let them build their own adventure games with the freeware version of AdventureMaker, or download one of the already-created games for Windows or PSP.

2. Sneak a bit of science into their online fun over at Greg Egan's Applets Gallery.

3. Get paper patterns the kids can color, cutout and make into critter models over at Download-A-Dinosaur or Download-A-Dragon.

4. Have the kids e-mail Santa; submit an e-mail address to get a reply.

5. Kaleidoscope Painter is a fun, simple Java art maker easy enough for even the little ones to use.

6. Let the kids express themselves -- and print out a copy of the results for mailing to Grandma -- over at The Museum of Modern Art's Make Your Own Art center or The National Gallery of Art's NGA Kids Zone.

7. A totally fun, kid-safe online short movie for Christmas: Ornaments.

8. Rooney Designs has an entire page of great online flash games for kids of all ages; lots of cool Christmas ones here.

9. My favorite Christmas e-card of all time: The Snowdog.

10. Remember SpiroGraph? You or your kid can play with one online here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday 20

I have seen some user-unfriendly promo around the book biz, but the process of learning the title J.K. Rowling picked for her next (and last?) Harry Potter book is so complicated that it has to be explained step-by-step:

"...go to the author's official web site*, click on the eraser and you will be taken to a room — you'll see a window, a door and a mirror.

In the mirror, you'll see a hallway. Click on the farthest doorknob and look for the Christmas tree. Then click on the center of the door next to the mirror and a wreath appears. Then click on the top of the mirror and you'll see a garland.

Look for a cobweb next to the door. Click on it, and it will disappear. Now, look at the chimes in the window. Click on the second chime to the right, and hold it down. The chime will turn into the key, which opens the door. Click on the wrapped gift behind the door, then click on it again and figure out the title yourself by playing a game of hangman."
-- (instructions swiped from

I only got it to work as far as clicking on the second chime to the right, but I freely admit that I'm hopeless at these gamer things. If you are, too, get a kid to do it; they'll probably have the title in under a minute.

Here at Casa PBW, we've wrapped up 99.9% of the prep for Christmas. The kids and I are baking the last of the cookies for our Christmas Eve party today, but that's about it. Santa, bring it on.

Other than what the heck was J.K. thinking, any questions out there for me this week?

*Added: Enter the UK version of the web site in order to get this game to work -- and thanks to Alphabeter for the tip.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Assess and Respond

Devoted fans of Robert Heinlein and folks who only want to read holiday posts should probably skip my blog today.

There's something that has been bugging me, no pun intended, since I saw the movie adaptation of Heinlein's Starship Troopers back in '98. Now I understand from reading comparisons made by serious fans that the book and the movie aren't the same. Nor would I dare suggest otherwise since I haven't read the book and have no plans to. But (evidently) both the book and the movie have the same basic plot: future humans enter the military, train, go into space to find and fight giant alien bugs using long-range attacks to wipe out earth.

In the movie soldiers were sent across space to fight these bugs with fairly traditional air and ground forces; the same response humans use to combat other humans. And the troopers are slaughtered wholesale for most of the movie. So here's my question: in the future, there's no imiprothrin or cypermethrin*? Because you know, you drop some planetary-size nukes loaded to deliver those two active ingredients, and they'd kill the bugs on contact. And keep killing for up to four weeks after you bombed. Other than building the nukes and shooting them into space, no troop involvement would be required. NASA could handle it with a couple of Titan IVs.

How this relates to writing (because, of course, everything relates to writing): if you don't assess a problem correctly, you can't respond to it adequately. To kill a bug, you need a bug killer. Whatever problem you're having with your WIP or your work or your career, sending in the Marines won't work. You have to look at the problem then tailor a response that has the best chance of solving it.

Here's a recent industry example: The author vs. selling a debut novel. Author A writes a kickass debut novel with a fresh approach to an old genre standard, gets major pre-order buzz, wows the readers and ends up an overnight success. A year later, Author B publishes a knockoff of Author A's novel, is given a huge promotional push by the publisher in hopes of artificially generating the major pre-order buzz Author A got, drives off the readers with the hard sell and poor imitation, and ends up tanking badly.

They both did virtually the same thing -- and Author B got a multimillion-dollar book campaign that Author A was never given, so B should have actually done better. Where did Author B go wrong or, more correctly, where did Author A go right?

Two words say it all about Author A: fresh approach. What made A's novel kickass? The fresh approach. What got the pre-order buzz? The fresh approach. What wowed the readers? The fresh approach. What did B do? The exact opposite of what worked for A.

It's not always as simple as the situation with Author A and B. You may not have the means to give the best response to your problem. Or, however carefully you tailor your response, it may not solve it. That's when you reassess and tailor another response modified by the information you gather from the failure of the first attempt. It's like directions on shampoo bottles: Lather, rinse, repeat if necessary.

Okay, now you can yell at me for dissing Heinlein.

*the active ingredients in Raid Ant & Roach Killer

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Blurb Translations

Ten Cover Quotes, And What They Really Mean

1. "A very sweet, wholesome story."

If this book were any more PC, it could run as the Republican presidential candidate.

2. "An interesting male spin on a love story."

Is it okay to send the author's wife a sympathy card before he's dead?

3. "Fast-paced and pithy."

I've read more engrossing bumperstickers.

4. "I want all my readers to buy this book."

My editor wants all my readers to buy this book.

5. "I'm so excited by this author's promising new talent."

Less competition! Hooray!

6. "Say hello to the next great literary mind."

(yawn) Next time, send me the Cliff Notes.

7. "This novel is a non-stop wild romp!"

You know, I think I've had less fun on some of my honeymoons.

8. "This one is a blockbuster in the making."

Tell me when I die that I can come back as this author's heir.

9. "Unbelievably wonderful -- the best book of the year."

I quoted what? How drunk did I get at that conference, anyway?

10. "You won't regret buying this novel."

Until after you read it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What Counts

To date I've written one Christmas novel, Home for the Holidays, in which five strangers become stranded by bad weather at a bed & breakfast in the country. The innkeepers, three sisters, have to sacrifice the quiet family Christmas they had planned in order to shelter, feed and entertain the group. Everyone is initially depressed over having their Christmas ruined, and then as people in a bad situation usually do, they make the best of it.

When I was putting the story together, I thought about things that often get overlooked during the normal commercial holiday blitzkrieg: homemade gifts, special meals, true surprises, and revisiting one's childhood. In the book the sisters and their guests end up recreating some of their favorite memories from childhood, which become the gifts they give each other: cookies, handmade candy, a gingerbread house, knitted stockings, etc. In the end I think I nailed some of the elusive meaning behind that old gift-giving standard "it's the thought that counts."

On my desk in the office, for example, is a little hand-painted plaster Victorian house. My best friend made it for me eight years ago as a Christmas gift, and it's been on my desk ever since. It's so perfectly painted and detailed that it looks real, down to wee shaded bricks and tiny beribboned evergreen wreath on the front door. Journey diamonds or a PS3 would be probably worth more in monetary terms, but those things are just stuff anyone can buy. I think of my friend every time I look at this little house, so to me it's priceless.

You don't have to be a gifted artist to make a neat homemade gift. Since my hands aren't being cooperative enough to quilt this year, I've been burning some CDs with mixes of my favorite songs, putting together home movies and rifling through the junk shops for interesting antique books and vintage garments. I found a wonderful old sewing bag filled with a snarl of floss, embroidery wools and satin ribbon and detangled the lot for a friend who restores antique embroidery. I'm planning to make up some fruit and nut baskets for the family for when we go visiting, and I thought I'd see if I could do something more interesting with them (a bit like flower arranging; I'll have to experiment and see what I come up with.)

How about you guys? Are any of you hand-making gifts this year? Do you have any favorite handmade gifts you've received over the years? Or should we give it up and just stick with stuff?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Deck the Halls Ten

Ten Things Free for the Holidays

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

1. Four freeware screensaver downloads from feature Frosty the Snowman skiing, a snowy winter wonderland, a 3D cube on which you can display your holiday photos, and one nutty Santa.

2. Celebrating Christmas magazine is offering their 2006 Holiday issue free for download in .pdf format.

3. Need a direct line to the man himself? Kids can talk to Santa online over at Chat With Santa.

4. Download some holiday music for free from's MP3 collection.

5. has a decent link list to several collections of free Christmas graphics and clipart.

6. To help you cope with holiday depression, family-related stress, or those astronomical credit card bills, ministries is offering to send a free print copy of Why? by Anne Graham Lotz to residents in the U.S. and Canada (scroll down to the right side of the page and click on the cover image under Free This Month.)

7. Mac users can snag some Christmas freeware from, courtesy of, which offers a bunch of other Mac freeware programs at their site.

8. For the kids (and us when the kids are busy) Skyline Software offers Prezzie Hunt, a Christmas game freeware.

9. Movavi's VideoMessage freeware allows you to create, e-mail and blog your own videos for the holidays.

10. Get all the Christmas-related shareware and freeware you need at's free Xmas downloads page.

Finally, a freebie for readers: SF author Peter Watts has made his latest novel release, Blindsight, available for free download in zipped html or .pdf format, as he has with his backlist. If you'd like to discover a hard SF writer's take on vampires, go, download, and read. If you enjoy Peter's work, you can repay the author's generosity by spreading the word and/or buying a print copy of the novel.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Signed and Filtered

The winner of the Twelve Reasons giveaway is Cora Zane, who should e-mail me at with your full name and ship-to info so I can get these books out to you. Thanks again to everyone who joined in to help me celebrate the twelve very cool books of December.

While we were having fun here, I got a few e-mails on some of the hullabaloo regarding Thomas Nelson Publishers and their new "content filter" for their authors (Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt blogs his side of the story here.)

Let's see, I'm a writer of Christian fiction. If I understand Mr. Hyatt correctly, and I really lived according to biblical standards, I wouldn't be a writer -- women generally didn't hold down jobs in the Bible. They did walk around swaddled in a veil and robes made of homespun wool while being stuck in an arranged marriage raising twenty-one kids (if they hadn't already died in childbirth.) Or, if their family had kicked them out for not agreeing to the arranged marriage or whatever, they became hookers, enslaved, or died of starvation.

Sure, I'm going to do that for a publishing contract.

I do find this story ironic, as just last month I finished reading Nathaniel Philbrick's excellent book, Mayflower, in which he describes the enormous struggle and many deprivations our ancestors suffered in order to get away from people in England who imprisoned, ostracized and otherwise discriminated against them for their religious beliefs. Religious freedom is one of the fundamental reasons we founded, you know, America.

Assuming that Thomas Nelson Publishing will start a new content filter trend among publishers, and we'll all be forced to sign papers, what will other publishers require us to swear that we believe in or will adhere to in order to work for them?

Five Genre Content Filter Agreements of Tomorrow

Romance: I swear that I believe in true love, marriage, and happily ever afters. I will wait for my true love, and save myself for the honeymoon, unless: 1) I am coerced into having sex by a boy in high school or college, in which case it will be date rape or a fumbling quickie, during which I will not orgasm; 2) I find myself in serious financial trouble involving a beloved parent with no medical insurance but in desperate need of an organ transplant, which will force me to marry for money, in which case I will only marry a much older man who is unable to consummate our marriage due to closet homosexuality, an unspecified health problem, or a kindly paternal, protective nature (if possible, all three); or 3) I have sex with my true love before we are wed, in which case I will assure that I hit my head and develop sudden, total amnesia about the event that will only clear up after we are married. If I have babies with my true love before marriage, I will runaway and assure that the first is kept secret from him until baby is out of diapers and I get my figure back. If I have difficulties in my relationship with my true love, I will not dump him, but treat our problems as mere black moment preludes to our pending, unending happiness.

Science Fiction: I attest to these facts : I am an atheist and I believe in nothing but technology, logic, intelligence, physics, or anything else that highlights the sterile perfection of pure science. If I must have gods, they will be Heinlein and Vinge. I will write at least one novel about the singularity. I will have no meaningful personal relationships, and will not kiss, fall in love, have sex or do any of that mushy stuff with chicks. I will worship talking computers, NASA missions, outer space vistas, planets my species could never travel to, much less live on, and other cool futuristic things that make me feel as suave and powerful as Captain Kirk from Star Trek. I will never actually admit that I watched Star Trek.

Fantasy: I vow I shall do what'ere I can to emulate those fine manly lords of science fiction, only I shall substitute magic, dragons, Middle Earth, Tolkien and Lord of the Rings for technology, chastity, NASA, Kirk and Star Trek. Instead of tattered garments, I shall dress in period costumes which I shall purchase from the nearest SFCA merchant. I shall, as often as possible, be manly among many men of my ilk, but I shall elevate fine women to the status of faerie queens on pedestals, where they cannot meddle in my manly business. I shall hang at least one blunted, scale replica sword on the wall in every hall of my castle. I shall refer to my castle by a grand name with "dragon" in the title, even if it be only a single-wide trailer.

Erotica: I promise that when I'm not writing, I will personally test all the positions, partners and playthings that I write in my novel. I agree that I'll be too tired and happy to do anything else.

Mystery: I am signing this document as proof of my agreement to write the truth and nothing but the truth, at least before I tweak it. I will name my protagonist after an obscure 13th century Dutch painter, an obscure 13th century English poet, or an 80's porn star. No character of mine will ever have a successful or happy personal relationship, although they will frequently get laid offstage. I will write in every story at least one threatening ethnic sidekick with excellent underworld connections and a heart of gold whose main purpose will be to serve as a walking deus ex machina. (Male author) At cons I will sport an interesting beard, wear an interesting hat, or walk around in a cloud of Lagerfeld. (Female author) At cons I will maintain perfectly groomed helmet hair, wear navy or black suits that disguise my breasts, and never be seen without my thick red lipstick.

What do you guys think about this? Would you sign any sort of content filter agreement to land a publishing contract? Would you be okay with signing one even if you were lying about what you believed?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Twelve Reasons

The winner of the PBW's Eleven giveaway is Joyce, whose comment started with Patti O'Shea - read her first then got into her blog... and who should e-mail me at with your full name and ship-to info so I can get these books out to you.

Tonight my dining room table is stacked with books I must ship, wrap, shelve, or sign and send to Mom. This will be daily duty for another couple of days, and a happy one. One more stop to make at the bookstore for some gift cards, and then I'll have finished my shopping for now. I'm already thinking what books I can buy for my daughter's upcoming birthday. I'm pretty sure that Kate DiCamillo has a new book out, and I think she'd enjoy some of Judy Blume's titles.

Some folks have asked why I give away so many books. Aside from the fact that it's fun, books are what we writers read, enjoy, anticipate, search for, collect, appreciate, ponder, pass along, discuss, analyze, fight for, and believe in. To us and our readers, books are like dreams we can hold in our hands. They're constant, uncomplaining companions who will go practically anywhere with us. To be able to write them is a privilege. So is sharing them.

I give books to everyone in my life. Under the tree this year will be novels by Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson, P. L. Travers and Laura Ingalls Wilder, a guitar how-to guide, a collection of e.e.cummings, some art history books (my idea) and some guides on how to draw Manga (my teenager's idea.) While none of the books I buy as gifts have buttons, can be plugged in, make sound or come with their own collectible action figures, my kids still ask for them -- often by title -- every year. Take that, Nintendo.

I've had a blast over the last twelve days, and I thank all of you for joining in and posting so many great comments.

I have one more author/book story to tell you. The very first erotica book I ever read was one I picked up on a whim while out Christmas shopping. I bought it to see what the genre was all about, and picked the title because the author's name was Emma Holly (which sounded appropriately seasonal.) I have fairly decent luck finding good authors with this method, but Emma Holly's work proved to be so exceptional that it blew me away. Based on the strength of that one novel, I bought up her entire backlist. I've also bought everything she's written since.

From paranormal historicals to steampunk romantica to contemporary erotica, Emma Holly's range keeps expanding and providing readers with a terrific variety of novels every year. She's got a very distinct voice and style that stands out whatever she writes. I also can't think of a better author to warm up someone on a cold night, so I'm making All U Can Eat by Emma Holly the twelfth very cool hot book of December.

For a chance to win today's giveaway, in comments to this post name a favorite author you found by happy accident (or, if you're not accident-prone, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on December 16, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner unsigned copies of All U Can Eat, The Demon's Daughter and Prince of Ice by Emma Holly and Talyn by Holly Lisle. I will also send you the very first print copy of my January '07 release, Plague of Memory (and thanks again to my very kind editor for providing the early copy for the giveaway.) Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Friday, December 15, 2006

PBW's Eleven

The winner of the No Thanks Ten giveaway is Paula, whose comment read Porcelain or whatnot figurines. I don't have enough shelf space as it is, I'm too lazy to dust them, and I'm not fond of them anyway (a woman after my own heart.) Paula, please e-mail me at with your full name and ship-to info so I can get these books out to you.

Writers who blog were once rare creatures. I got started back in 2001, when weblogs in general were just beginning to snowball. In those days web sites, newsgroups and discussion boards were considered much more the thing for an author to do. I did the web site and had some fun with that, but I've been keeping journals since 1974, and a blog appealed to me as fun and a steady writing challenge. I've been blogging almost daily ever since (even when I retreated to my ivory tower in 2003 to sulk for eleven months, I still kept an online journal. I just moved and renamed it and didn't tell anyone about it.)

I try to read as many new or new-to-me writers as I can every year, but because I read all genres it's impossible to keep up with everyone out there. Luckily weblogs have introduced me to folks whom I might have otherwise missed. Many of these have added great books to my shelves, inspired me to work harder on my own novels, and have motivated me, entertained me and got me in gear when I felt depressed or apathetic.

Among the many, some shining examples:

1. I think I missed reading Douglas Clegg because his books were probably shelved either in horror or literary, two places I usually avoid at the book store. Since he now takes up a good chunk of my keeper shelf, I am pathetically grateful I found him via blogging.

2. & 3. I discovered Donna Hill via Monica Jackson. Monica talked openly about disturbing things that for years I'd been watching RWA sweep under the carpet or pretend wasn't happening. Donna's work was a cache of jewels in a puzzle box. Monica was an epiphany online and in print.

4. I finally met another author who quilted when I ran into Tamara Siler Jones online, and then discovered the nice quilting lady also wrote dark, intense mysteries with the most unique setting and cast of characters I'd seen in a long time.

5. & 6. Alison Kent had one of the most energetic and polished blogs I'd ever read, and in turn led me to Jo Leigh, who is truly one of the nicest authors I've (virtually) met, and who got me back to reading category romance. So where were you guys when I belonged to RWA?

7. Marjorie M. Liu I had seen on the lists, but the down-to-earth fun contained in her journal convinced me to overcome my aversion to Clarion alumni and give her books a go. She not only turned me into a fangirl, but now I have to take back all the bad things I've said about Clarion.

8. Kristopher Reisz's weblog has made me laugh so hard I almost dislocated a rib, multiple times. Given his blog, how could I resist his work in print?

9. I don't think Shannon Stacey knows it, but her weblog is the reason I enabled comments on PBW (now she'll drive herself crazy wondering why.) She reminded me daily that it's okay to be who you are and not to sweat the small stuff. She's also one hell of a writer.

10. Sasha White's blog reminded me of my nefarious youth (among other things, I once moonlighted as a bartender.) In the south we'd describe Sasha's books by fanning ourselves and uttering two words: Have mercy.

11. Last but not least, James R. Winter snagged my attention with a comment on another blog (a comment that I wished I'd made); I tracked him down to see what else he had to say. Not one to suffer fools, is our pal James. I like that attitude in the fiction I read, and when I bought his book I wasn't disappointed for a moment.

I know for a fact how much work goes into being a writer who blogs, and how little that effort is recognized and appreciated. For the many hours of reading pleasure off and online that the above named writers have given me, I'm making them the eleven very cool writers of December.

For a chance to win today's giveaway, in comments to this post name an author/blogger you enjoy reading in print, and whether you discovered their books or weblog first (or, if you don't read any author/bloggers, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on December 15, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner one book by each of my eleven very cool authors: unsigned copies of Mordred, Bastard Son by Douglas Clegg, Getting Hers by Donna Hill, Mr. Right Now by Monica Jackson, Valley of the Soul by Tamara Siler Jones, Beyond a Shadow by Alison Kent, Closer by Jo Leigh, Eye of Heaven by Marjorie M. Liu, Tripping to Somewhere by Kristopher Reisz, Forever Again by Shannon Stacey, Gypsy Heart by Sasha White, Northcoast Shakedown by James R. Winter and Talyn by Holly Lisle. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

No Thanks Ten

The winner of the Nine Lives giveaway is Maureen, whose comment read I would say Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (and I agree, wholeheartedly.) Maureen, please e-mail me at with your full name and ship-to info so I can get these books out to you.

After moving my household four times over the last three years, I discovered that I had become a repository for every sort of junk collectible known to man. My mother, the main culprit, initiated things by passing along to me my grandmother's button collection. That wasn't enough, so because I liked to quilt she started a thimble collection for me.

Then a friend got into giving me those pretty ornamental dinner plates you can't eat off but must hang on the wall like art, and a sibling sent me cutesy Christmas ornament series with the numbered boxes, and an aunt decided I could not live without the bug-eyed angel statues that look like albino children with an extra 21st chromosome. Not to mention the bells, spoons, designer-dressed Barbies, salt and pepper shakers, wine glasses and tumblers you get one at a time from a drive-through, etc.

What's bizarre is that the only thing I've ever cared to collect -- books -- no one would give me. By the time I was thirty, though, I could have opened my own Hallmark gift shop and not have needed to buy stock for it.

Finally (purely out of self-defense) I made a gift rule: if I can't eat it, burn it or bathe in it, don't give it to me. This has saved me countless new collections of things someone else just knows I would love to spend days and days boxing up and moving to my next house. But just in case someone has forgotten that rule this year:

Ten More Things I Don't Want for Christmas

1. Anything Made Out of Molded Resin: I already own 72% of all molded resin gift industry products made in the United States, thanks.

2. Champagne and Caviar: I don't drink. Ever. I had caviar once; that was enough. Forever.

3. Cookie Jars: Sorry, but cookies do not survive long enough in this house to make it into storage.

4. Desk Signs: I don't have the desk space to display little stand-up plaques with such witty sayings "Genius in Action!" "Do Not Disturb!" or "Woman at Work!" My new bazooka takes up a lot of room.

5. Diamond Jewelry: I don't like diamonds anyway, but have you seen the latest jewelry being pushed by all the diamond chain companies? This squiggle and a big O are supposed to represent "the journey of love." Yeah? So the fact they look exactly like sperm and ovum is just...coincidence?

6. Gift Certificates to Beauty Salons: I'm silver now. Deal with it.

7. The Purpose-Driven Life: I've actually had three people give me this book already, which I finding rather insulting. Am I running around aimless here?

8. Scrapbooking Kits: Please. What's next, paint-by-numbers? Loop potholders? The Play-Doh Fun Factory? 1001 Things to Make Out of Your Own Drool?

9. TShirts With Pictures of People Taken at Mall Kiosks; I find these moderately creepy, especially when the cheap decal material starts cracking and peeling after so many washes. Then your best friend's smiling six year old looks like Amy The Child Zombie From Hell.

10. Wine: Again, I don't drink, and I read too much Peter Mayle. Any wine that comes into the house goes down the disposal to sanitize it. Think about that before you spend $30 on what will be my new bottle of drain deodorizer.

One thing I did want for myself this year was Stuart MacBride's latest novel, Dying Light. I haven't been able to find a UK bookseller willing to deal with American credit cards and shipping across the pond, and none of my Eurofamily have been over to England to shop for me, so I had to wait until it hit the shelves over here before I could get my hands on it. It's on the top of my TBR pile for after I finish reading the e-book challengers' stories, but I did sneak a peek at the first chapter, which instantly made it the tenth very cool book of December.

For a chance to win today's giveaway, in comments to this post name something you would rather not receive as a gift (or, if you love everything you're given, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on December 14, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner unsigned copies of Dying Light in hardcover by Stuart MacBride and Talyn by Holly Lisle. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nine Lives

The winner of the Eight Characters giveaway is xmaggiexjanex, who should e-mail me at with your full name and ship-to info so I can get these books out to you.

It's assumed that the average life cycle of a book begins when it's created and written by an author, then printed by a publisher, sold by a bookseller and finally either bought by a reader or stripped and destroyed. Given the ever-decreasing shelf life and sales of books, people outside the industry often wonder why we writers even bother.

They don't know it, but books, like babies, bees and the brain have secret lives. Being written and sold is only the beginning for a book. Like cats with nine lives, books are hard to get rid of or control once they're set free. Readers rarely destroy them, so a sold book can expect to join personal collection, become part of a public library or be passed along to another reader. Books are carried around the world by folks on airplanes and ships, into combat by soldiers, imported and exported and smuggled across borders, and are routinely passed down through generations.

Books are no longer confined to print or brick-and-mortar libraries, either. On the internet, works in the public domain are being made available to the public via electronic collections of literature like Project Guttenberg and You've seen how willing writers are to publish their own works as free e-books. The ease of electronic publishing -- not to mention the infinite number of downloads -- allows any author to go global.

The author rarely if ever knows where their books will go or how many lives they'll have. Lord Byron, for example, had no idea that a collection of his poetry published back in 1860 in England would end up in the collection of a 21st century housewife/novelist. It took 124 years from the day it was printed to make it to the junk shop in California where I found it; there were at least three other owners, judging by the names written on the inside cover. If only the book could talk, imagine the stories it would have to tell.

I send as many books as I can out into the wilderness of the world because, well, I'm obnoxious that way. Along with what I give away here at the blog, I send out books every month to American soldiers stationed in combat zones. One novel that I've been putting in every box of books that I send to Iraq is Tied to the Tracks by Rosina Lippi. Not only because I think it's brilliant, funny and a great story, but because it's a book about home, and what home means. I've been a soldier who was far from home, so I know how important it is to be reminded of that. This and the many secret lives that I think Tied to the Tracks will have is why I'm making it the ninth very cool book of December.

For a chance to win today's giveaway, in comments to this post name the title of a book that you think will have many secret lives (or, if you can't think of any titles, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on December 13, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner unsigned copies of Tied to the Tracks by Rosina Lippi, Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati (Rosina's alter-ego) and Talyn by Holly Lisle. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Eight Characters

The winner of the Seven by George giveaway is leatherdykeuk, who should e-mail me at with your full name and ship-to info so I can get these books out to you.

Before I wrote my fourth Darkyn novel, Night Lost, I spent some time creating character journals for eight of the characters in the novel. Writing a journal in character may sound slightly demented, but it's a good way to get into the character's head and get to know them a little better. I have a lot in common soul-wise with Gabriel, the protagonist of the book, and Alexandra, the protagonist of the series, so their personas were the easiest to slip on.

From Alex's character journal: If Michael doesn't show up soon and get me out of here I swear to GOD I am going to kick some immortal high lord ass. Richard is out of his mind if he thinks I'll help him stop what's happening to him. Or maybe I should fix him. I could start feeding him hamster blood. Watch the high lord of the Darkyn run circles in the wheel for the damn portcullis. Michael, where the hell are you?

Gabriel only wanted to write bad poetry in his journal, and I let him. He tended to doodle when the verse got truly pathetic. Michael and Nicola, both veteran schemers, used their pages to outline plans and timelines and stuff. Likewise with Richard and Elizabeth, but they were more on the scary side and I think that's probably the last time I let Richard set up house in my brain for any longer than ten minutes.

The most fun character journals were those I wrote to flesh out suzerain Aedan mac Byrne and his seneschal, Jayr. Although these two only make a cameo appearance in Night Lost, they have a lot of history with each other and the Kyn. I was finally able to get them fully realized in their journals, which helped me a lot with writing the synopsis for their novel, Evermore. All eight of these characters are the reason I'm going to be a total self-promo slut today and deem my upcoming May '07 release Night Lost as the eighth very cool book of December.

For a chance to win today's giveaway, in comments to this post name something you do to get to know your characters better (or, if you don't do anything in particular, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on December 12, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner a signed unbound galley copy of Night Lost, an exclusive sneak preview of Evermore, and Talyn by Holly Lisle. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday Ten, Seven by George

The winner of the Six by Six giveaway is Lis, who should e-mail me at with your full name and ship-to info so I can get these books out to you.

Ten Things For Holiday Fun

1. Stop three ghosts from scaring the nice kid by playing Casper's Haunted Christmas.

2. Cooking Light magazine's annual cookie countdown is in full swing now, and will even deliver 25 different recipes to your inbox to satisfy your inner cookie monster.

3. Snowdays Create Your Own Snowflake is having a Flake-A-Thon this year; the more snowflakes you create, the more money will donate to the Salvation Army.

4. Play with's Chanukah Concentration or Dreidel Spin game.

5. Can't figure out what to give Old Uncle Harry, who already has everything? Get some expert advice from's Gift Wizard.

6. For those of you who can't bear to throw them away, Abigail A. Beal's article How to Make Craft Projects Out of Your Christmas Cards.

7. can help you through those gift-wrapping woes with the tips from their article How to Wrap Anything.

8. East meets west when you play Santa Mah Jong.

9. Barkley Evergreen & Partners's Make-A-Flake is another place to exercise your flake-making skills.

10. On Christmas Eve, watch the big guy in the red suit circle the globe with his reindeer over at NORAD Tracks Santa 2006.

Speaking of fun, I have adored George Carlin since I first heard his Seven Dirty Words routine, which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978 during FCC vs. Pacifica Foundation. Tragically the justices decided once again to stomp all over the Constitution to support the government's censorship of George's routine. Some people have no sense of humor whatsoever.

Over the last couple of years George Carlin has also become an author, hitting the New York Times Bestseller list as hard as he does his audiences with Napalm & Silly Putty and Brain Droppings. God knows we need a little humor during the holidays, so I'm making George's most recent book, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?, the seventh very cool book of December.

For a chance to win today's giveaway, in comments to this post name something about the holidays that makes you laugh (or, if you find nothing amusing, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on December 11, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner unsigned copies of When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops by George Carlin and Talyn by Holly Lisle. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Six by Six

The winner of the Five for Jeanne giveaway is Caroline, whose comment read: Thanks so much for this and for the story of Jeanne. May the holidays land and equally lovely surprise or three on your doorstep, and who should e-mail me at with your full name, ship-to info and title of the book you'd like for your bookwish so I can get these all out to you.

Six is a very creative number. A perfect number, when you consider that it is both the sum (1 + 2 + 3) and the product (1 ´ 2 ´ 3) of the first three numbers. The sixth element on the Periodic Table is carbon, without which life as we know it would not exist. There are six spectral colors: red, yellow, orange, green, blue, and violet; and six sides to a cube. Even God was reported to have created Adam on the sixth day (well, nobody's perfect.)

There are always new voices coming out in any genre, but 2006 was a very cool year (because it ends with a six, no doubt):

1. Around this time last December I wrote about one of my favorite authors, Patricia Briggs and her debut urban fantasy Moon Called, which really took off when it was released a few months later. See? I'm not gloating. Much.

2. The beautiful cover art for Marjorie M. Liu's Shadow Touch grabbed my attention in February, but the story delivered so much more, as did the sequels. That and I think Marjorie is just getting warmed up.

3. I was wowed by the great copy for Stephanie Rowe's Date Me, Baby, One More Time in May -- a novel lives up to its copy, too. Delightful.

4. Shiloh Walker, who is always trying to drag me away from the joys of doing laundry, railroaded me with her novel Hunting the Hunter in July. This book is so hot it should burn your fingers when you read it.

5. Nalini Singh got folks all around the blogosphere talking about her September release Slave to Sensation. Beautiful writing, elegant flow, great story.

6. In October I had the pleasure of virtually meeting author Michelle Rowen when she joined in with the e-book challenge, which prompted me track down a copy of her terrific January release Bitten & Smitten. Another reason to love Canada: they have Michelle Rowen.

I enjoyed these books so much that I couldn't choose between them, so the sixth very cool book of December is actually six very cool books.

For a chance to win today's giveaway, in comments to this post tell us the name of an author that you discovered and enjoyed this year (or, if you've not found anyone new to read, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on December 10, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner unsigned copies of Moon Called by Patricia Briggs, Shadow Touch by Marjorie M. Liu, Date Me, Baby, One More Time by Stephanie Rowe, Hunting the Hunter by Shiloh Walker, Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh, Bitten & Smitten by Michelle Rowen, and Talyn by Holly Lisle. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Five for Jeanne

The winner of the Four Score & Friday 20 giveaway is Amy S., who should e-mail me at with your full name and ship-to info so I can get these books out to you.

Something I've always liked about the holidays are surprises. My sister-in-law Jeanne was the mother of five children, and one of the most generous people I've ever known. She loved to throw parties for her kids, grandkids and the rest of the family. Because she worked in hotel catering and was used to cooking for a small army at home, she made even the most ordinary get-together into a banquet.

Twelve years ago this week, Jeanne pulled off the granddaddy of all surprises for me and my husband. She asked me to bring my husband over for his surprise birthday party (and swore me to secrecy), and asked my husband to bring me over for my surprise baby shower (and swore him to secrecy.) We walked into a small riot of his, mine and our friends and family yelling Surprise! Jeanne kept her word to both of us and held two parties simultaneously on either side of the house.

We lost Jeanne to heart disease a few years ago, but I catch a glimpse of her whenever my daughter is happy (she has her aunt's big smile.) Jeanne inspired me to be more giving in my own life, and I never have a party without feeling her there with us, celebrating in spirit. To honor my sister-in-law, and the love and happiness she brought into the lives of so many others, I'm making the fifth very cool book of December the winner's choice.

For a chance to win today's giveaway, in comments to this post tell us the title of the book you most want (or, if you can't think of a title, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on December 9, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and give the winner a bookwish* and Talyn by Holly Lisle. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*A bookwish is any book of the winner's choice available for order online and that costs up to a maximum of $30.00 U.S. dollars (I'll cover any additional shipping costs involved.)

Friday, December 08, 2006


This is a note for Melissa, as my e-mails to you keep bouncing and I don't want to bury the answer back in the comments to the original post. I finally found my old web site backups and have added the e-book version of Night of the Chameleon to the freebie books on the sidebar.

Four Score & Friday 20

The winner of the Three Wise Women giveaway is Joely Sue Burkhart, who should e-mail me at with your ship-to info so I can get these books out to you.

Having family and friends on both sides of the Atlantic makes the holidays a bit hectic, especially when we try to juggle airport dropoffs and pickups with the seasonal school, church, and neighborhood functions. Then there are the translation duties (Ou sont les toilettes?) the minor culture clashes (your children eat breaded fish with cheese and tartar sauce on a bun? Yes? And they do not puke after? No?) and the occasional wardrobe malfunction (Why can't I sunbathe topless in the yard? Don't Americans like tanned breasts?)

I've celebrated my holidays in a lot of different places, including Lackland AFB during basic training. I'd rather be home with the family than anywhere else, but if I had to spend Christmas elsewhere, it would be near Yosemite National Park in California. Ansel Adams got me hooked on the place with his photographs, and when at last I was able to visit, I saw things that my beach-girl brain almost refused to grasp: waterfalls frozen into ten story-tall crystal sculptures, eternities of trees and silence, and mountains so towering that clouds floated below them.

One of my favorite authors, Peter Mayle, shares that same kind of love for Provence in his books, and has a reprint of A Good Year out this month in the stores. You might notice it because it shows Russell Crowe laughing on the cover; he's playing Max Skinner in the Ridley Scott film based on the Peter's book. I'm sure there will be plenty of hoopla about it because of the movie, but I think the book itself is one of the author's best, which is why it's the fourth very cool book of December.

We're going to do the regular Friday 20 today, so if you'd like a chance to win today's giveaway, in comments to this post ask a writing or publishing-related question as usual (or, if you have none for me today, just name a place other than home where you'd like to spend the holidays) by midnight EST on December 8, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner unsigned copies of A Good Year by Peter Mayle and Talyn by Holly Lisle. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Three Wise Women

The winner of the Two 2 Tango giveaway is Anmada (whose comment started with: Taking a whole weekend to make different kinds of holiday cookies...), and who should e-mail me at with your ship-to info so I can get these books out to you.

I was going to write a little post today about the three wise women and their gifts who have helped me most as a writer: my grandmother and her poetry, my mother and her self-discipline, and author Holly Lisle, who has been my friend and mentor since I got into this game. But some interesting e-mail came in about Holly Lisle, Talyn and me, and I thought I should talk about that.

Only on the internet could I be accused of having ulterior motives in giving away another writer's books for free. Yes, rumor has it that my holiday giveaways are all part of a master plan to help Holly Lisle's career. Evidently when you winners get the free copy of Talyn, nanites sprayed on the pages will take over your brain, force you to go out and buy all of Holly Lisle's books, and continue buying Holly Lisle's books forever.

Makes sense. I mean, why else would I give away copies of Talyn? Not because this is happens to be the month that the novel was finally released in mass market, or because I loved it so much I gave away a stack of copies over a year ago when it came out in hardcover, or that the book is dedicated to Sheila Kelly (hey, isn't that my name?), or that I was one of if not the first person who read the book the minute Holly Lisle finished writing it in 2003.

You're right. It has to be the nanite thing.

Anyway, to get back to brainwashing you people, in A Hand to Guide Me, Denzel Washington and 73 other famous folks give credit to the people who have helped and influenced them along the way. Disclaimer: I also have another ulterior motive in giving away this book; the author is donating his proceeds from the book to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. So you're not just getting a free book, you'll be involved in a hideous plot to donate money to a charity organization for children. That and Denzel Washington's gorgeous face on the cover are what make A Hand to Guide Me my third very cool book of December.

For a chance to win today's giveaway, and have your brain totally under my power, in comments to this post name a person who has had a hand in guiding you (or, if you haven't met that person yet, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on December 7, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner unsigned copies of Denzel Washington's hardcover debut A Hand to Guide Me and Talyn by Holly Lisle. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here and been subjected to mind control by PBW in the past.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Two 2 Tango

The winner of the One Very Cool Book giveaway is Bethany K. Warner, who should e-mail me at with your ship-to info so I can get this book out to you.

Today I'd like to talk about Alison Kent, one of the hardest-working writers in publishing. Not only does she write a gazillion books a year, but she blogs pretty much daily, designs web sites and blogs for other writers, is active all around the online writing community, teaches online classes, conducts innovative marketing experiments and now she's talking about starting up her AK bookclub again.

I know. I get tired just watching her.

This past September Alison also shared her genre expertise with the very cool TCI Guide to Writing Erotic Romance. What surprised me is how enormously practical and useful the information in the book is, not only for writing in this specific slice of the market, but for writing any type of romance. It's as if she wrote two books in one, which is why this is the second very cool book of December.

For a chance to win today's giveaway, in comments to this post tell us one of your holiday guilty pleasures (or, if you're driven-snow pure, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on December 6, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner unsigned copies of Alison Kent's TCI Guide to Writing Erotic Romance and Talyn by Holly Lisle. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

One Very Cool Book

I've gushed before about how much I love Holly Lisle's novel Talyn. It is a masterpiece of world building, writing, and storytelling, and remains the #1 book on my keeper shelf. Let's put it this way: if I were into shrines, I'd build one around this novel.

I wanted to do something a little different for the holidays, so I'm going to borrow the theme from The Twelve Days of Christmas and do it with books instead of birds, pipers, ladies dancing and golden rings. As in, "For the first very cool book of December, PBW gave to me: Talyn by Holly Lisle."

Okay, so the words don't exactly fit the tune. Listen, be grateful I didn't make this a podcast. People pay me not to sing.

For a chance to win today's giveaway, in comments to this post tell us the name of your favorite winter holiday song (or if you don't celebrate a holiday this month, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on December 5, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner an unsigned mass market edition of Talyn by Holly Lisle. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

I also have eleven more copies of Talyn to give away in the days ahead, along with some other very cool novels and holiday surprises, so stop in if you get the chance.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Contest Ten

Ten Things to Enter and Win for the Holidays

1. Access Romance is having a whopping 31 straight days of giveaways during the month of December; see contest schedule page for prizes and more details, various deadlines.

2. Author Anna Campbell is giving away an ARC of her next release, Claiming the Courtesan, on her web site contest page. To win, you have to e-mail her the names of the hero and heroine from the book by December 31st (answer is on her books page.)

3. Our blogpal Jean at Rantings and Ravings of an Insane Writer is once more generously giving away a stack of very cool books. And one by me, too. To enter, make up a brief story using words from the titles of the giveaway books and post in comments (read complete details at her place.) Deadline to enter is 8 pm Central US time on Wednesday, December 6th.

4. Over at her newly redesigned, ultraslinky, anything-but-Blah blog, Alison Kent is giving away four of her interlinked novels. To win, leave a comment about your Christmas decorations. Alison will pick her winner on Wednesday, December 6th, at 8:00 p.m.ish central.

5. The Literary Chicks are giving away a prize basket worth $200. Looks like you have to e-mail answers to a list of blog-related questions to enter; winner's name will be drawn on December 20th.

6. Takin' Chances for the Holidays is only one of the books author Monica Jackson is giving away over at her web site. To enter, send her a letter that rings her holiday bells on the linked form with the subject line of Holiday Contest Entry (I love that.) Deadline: not specified, probably December 31st (but I will e-mail and ask and update the post.)

7. For the next twelve days, Paperback Writer (why, that would be me) is giving away The 12 Very Cool Books for December, starting with the mass market release of Talyn by Holly Lisle. To win, all you have to do is leave a comment to giveaway post as usual. For more details, stop in back here tomorrow.

8. Angel with Attitude author Michelle Rowen is giving the winner of her December contest a $50 gift certificate to either B& or; to enter simply fill in the form here to sign up for the contest and her newsletter by midnight EST on December 31st.

9. Mary Stella is putting her money where her mouth is by giving away five copies of Lori G. Armstrong's Hallowed Ground. All you need do to win is leave your e-mail in comments to the post (or e-mail your addy to Mary); she'll be picking her winners on December 8th.

10. The ladies over at WriteMinded are having twelve days of daily giveaways from December 4-15; see blog for details and deadlines.

If you are holding a book giveaway at your web site or blog for the holidays and want to post a link in comments, please do.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Winners & Done & Outta Here

As I have enough author copies on hand, and I want to kick off December on a high note, everyone who participated in the Afterburners giveaway wins. You folks who participated, please e-mail me at with your full name and ship-to address, and I'll get these books out to you.

The writing of Evermore is finished, but no *done-thunk* just yet. I'm going to skip our usual Friday Q&A and also take off this weekend so I can rewrite some scenes that are not making me a happy girl. Congratulations to all you NaNoWriMo'ers out there -- I bet you guys are glad to hit the finish line.

That's all from Casa PBW for now. Have a good weekend and see you on Monday.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


At the Fiction Freedom Force's modest beachfront cottage headquarters, Captain Conflict and his workout partner, Major Action, started the day by sparring together on the beach.

The major, tanned and toned to a tee, avoided his mighty leader's headlock by feinting left before throwing a classic right hook. "Eat fist!"

"Is that the best you can do?" the silver-haired captain snarled as he easily avoided the punch and kicked sand into the major's face. "Where's the build-up? Where's the finesse? If you knock me out, what are you going to do for the rest of the morning?"

"I dunno." The major knuckled his eyes. "Your wife busy?"

"You're going to lose a tooth for that," the captain promised just before he lunged.

In a parallel scene, Captain Conflict's wife, Dame Dialogue, stood in the cottage's kitchen having a talk with Setting Son about his compulsive redecorating. From just outside the door, the ever-meddling Plot Twister eavesdropped.

"Sweetheart, please understand, it's not that I don't like your little pink restrooms," Dame told her son. "I think they're adorable. It's just that your father . . . ."

"I know, I know." Set scowled down at his plate of heart-shaped waffles. "He thinks they're sissyboy stuff."

This talk was not going as Dame had planned. Her rough-and-tumble husband and sensitive, artistic son rarely agreed on anything these days. "I'm sure that your father realizes that you're doing your best, dear--"

"Oh, H-E-double toothpicks, Mom," Set said, pushing his plate away. "All Dad wants me to do are stupid war-torn battlezones and ridiculous chrome-and-glass situation rooms. He said if I use pink in one more scene he's going to send me to work for Tom Clancy."

"Oh, no, not Tom. All he uses is camouflage and interior Russian sub scenarios." Dame sighed. "Look, honey, I'll talk to your father, but in the meantime just stick to outside nature scenes." She smiled. "Your father can't complain if the sky happens to be robin's eggshell blue, or the grass a minty green, can he?"

Set grinned. "Thanks, Mom. You're the best." He jumped up and kissed her cheek before hurrying out the back door.

"You can talk anyone into anything." Plot Twister came up behind Dame and rested his thin, cold hands on her shoulders as he added in a whisper, "Even me."

"Stop it." Dame glanced through the window at the beach where her husband and the major were still wrestling on the dunes. "I told you before, it's over between us. Didn't I speak plainly enough? Or are you deaf as well as manipulative, transparent and pointless?"

"How quickly she forgets." Twist ran his palms down the sides of her arms. "You needed someone to really talk to, remember? So who was it that put in enough twists in the last story to keep both of those grunts chasing red herrings for six months?"

Dame turned in Twister's arms. "We have no future together, Twist. You're too unpredictable, you never say what you mean and I don't like the way you look at Set when you think I'm not watching."

"Just doing my job." He tried to kiss her. "If you don't play along, baby, I might have to throw a wrench in your happy, boring little marriage."

"You wouldn't," she flared. "You couldn't."

Twist patted her stomach. "Set could use a little brother who doesn't resemble the captain in the least." He looked up as the door slammed and narrowed his eyes. "Who the hell are you?"

"Not saying." The large, bland-face man glanced at the watch strapped to his thick wrist. "Yep, it's time." He pointed at Twist. "You. Outside."

Twist released Dame. "I think I'll call for the Captain. Hey." As the big intruder grabbed him, he paled. "You can't do this to me. You want her husband. Hey!"

The large man tucked Twist under his meaty right arm and nodded to Dame. "Ma'am, I'm sure we'll meet again in the next book." He strode out of the cottage carrying the writhing Twist and abruptly vanished out of sight.

"Wow." Set, who had come in to quietly redo the kitchen curtains, put his arm around Dame. "Gee, Mom. How come you never told me that you knew Cliff Hanger?"

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Guest Blogger: Ms. Romance

[Today PBW is hosting the latest essay penned by Ms. Romance, genre expert and author of the nationally sydicated romance-writing advice column, "Ask Ms. Romance"]

Hi there, lovebirds,

Have you noticed lately how so many big gun guy writers seem to be getting in touch with their inner romance writer? Stephen King's written a "love" story (according to Nicholas Sparks, anyway), Carl Hiassen's written what's being touted in the press as a romance (not sure if this is the truth or an insult aimed at Carl), and James Patterson has evidently joined RWA (Jim, good luck with wrestling that best contemp RITA away from Susan Elizabeth Phillips. She may be short and cute, but she's a lot tougher than she looks.)

Personally I think this is wonderful. We should have more men writing romance. After all, they often make up one half of romantic relationships. The problem is, I don't think the big guns have any sort of genre guidelines being made available to them. Here are the ones I post every year for my special Valentine's Day column:

Ten Things You Absolutely Must Have To Write A Romance

1. A hero who is still breathing: You may be heavy into the necrophilia, my friend, but the romance hero has to have, you know, a pulse. He should also stay alive for the duration of the novel, otherwise the HEA is just not going to seem as plausible. [Exception: heroes who are ghosts, vampires, shape shifters or interdimensional beings may or may not breathe, have a pulse, be considered alive, etc. Of course these are not "real" romances, but hopefully the paranormal trend will be over soon.]

2. A heroine who does not commit federal offenses: I agree that kidnapping is a very exciting plot element, but your heroine should be the victim of, not the perpetrator of, any kidnapping. This is so she doesn't get caught, convicted and sent to jail for the rest of her life. This kind of thing also spoils the HEA and insults the reader, who by now thinks your heroine is nothing but a worthless skank.

3. Antagonists Who Can Be Turned Away From the Dark Side: Yes, I know you want someone really horrific, someone who can be sent to alternate dimension where he'll be sucked like a Slurpee into the maw of an unimaginable monster (and deserve that fate tenfold.) Well, romance readers don't want this. They want antagonists who can be reformed to become heroes in later sequels or series novels. In fact, it's a well-known fact in romance that former antagonists who are brought to their knees by the love of a good woman are some of the most beloved heroes in the genre. We call this the "Bad Boy Effect."

4. Appropriate Titles: Romance titles should sound romantic, which means you can't call your book things like Multicolor Memories of My Manic-Depressive Hookers. In fact, don't use the word hooker or anything demeaning to women, ever. Always shoot for the two-word classic title: Misty Memories (sweet romance), Hook Me (sensual romance), or Man, Impressive (erotic romance.)

5. Easy to Comprehend Dialogue: I know you're into soliloquies, monologues and stirring speeches. Romance readers aren't. Think of the last conversation you had with your teenage daughter. Make that level of conversation your dialogue intensity cap. Or, if you'd rather not sacrifice your artistic integrity, write the entire dialogue in authentic medieval English. No one will understand it but, you know, it sounds so pretty.

6. Nice Settings: This works a bit like when you're dating women. You know how the nicer the place you take your date to, the more you'll impress her? Same thing with romance readers. Save the dripping, scummy, malodorous underground abandoned sewer system in which man-eating rats roam the pipes as a setting for your next horror novel.

7. No Abusing the Heroine: I don't care if your hero is a WWF champion on steroids going through a hallucinatory psychotic episode, and his favorite form of self-expression is smashing beer cans against his unibrow: if they're not having sex, keep his paws and mouth off the heroine. He should also not lose his temper with her, yell at her, insult her, call her names or in any way shape or form threaten her. Think talking Ken doll. As for what he's allowed to do during sex, see #8.

8. Realistic Amounts of Sex: I'm sure your dream girl would happily spend months in bed with you in a foreign country doing nothing but catering to your genitals, giving you marathon sex and worrying about you when you subsequently left the house in (amazingly) a bad mood while not making any friends or having any sort of life. Romance readers, on the other hand, would be in the emergency room after a week getting treatment for friction abrasions on various orifices. They'd also fly back to the states and divorce your sex-obsessed ass. Break it up by having your hero take her out for a meal or a nice walk in the park once in a while.

9. The Black Moment: Because every woman in a romance has a black moment when her love is tested by some idiocy on the part of the hero. This moment takes place on page 175 and lasts exactly long enough for the hero to have to grovel before the heroine afterward. The groveling is important, too, so don't forget that.

10. The Happy Ending: With the divorce rate in this country being as high as it is, we all know love does not often have a happy ending. Time to develop temporary amnesia, boys. Readers would like it if you would allow the hero and heroine to have some solid prospect of happiness ahead of them -- preferably with each other -- by the end of the book.

Follow these guidelines, guys, and you can't go wrong. Or if you're still confused, just imagine everything you like that your wife or girlfriend doesn't. Make a list of those things, and keep them out of the novel, and you'll be walking up the stage to accept that RITA in no time.

Ms. Romance

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Out There

There is nothing wrong with your computer. Do not attempt to adjust the screen. We are now controlling PBW. We control the horizontal slant and the vertical limit, whatever they are. We can deluge you with a thousand parodies or expand one single sarcastic post to painful clarity and beyond. We can shape your vision of the industry to anything our imagination can conceive.

No, we are not Publishers Weekly. Good guess, though.

For the next four days we will control all that you see and hear here. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the deepest inner mind of an author to . . .

The Outer Limits of Publishing

[Today please welcome Dr. Karla "Karlie" Knutchazer, eminent and acclaimed damaged-writer psychologist and author of the upcoming self-help guide to healthier self-image for self-conscious storytellers, My Book's Okay, Your Book's Okay, So Please Don't Worry Or Feel Insecure Or Unhappy If Mine Sells And Yours Doesn't, It's Not A Reflection On Your Talent, You Dear Person.]

Greetings to all you dear people,

Please allow me to re-introduce myself as your new friend, Karlie. It's important for you to view me as a friend, not an enemy. I can only guess how intimidating it must be for fragile, impressionable souls like yourselves to encounter someone much more educated, well-adjusted and successful. Yet you can allow my expertise and insights help you evolve into the writer you were meant to be. Yes, dear friends, someday you can quit working in that unhealthy trans-fat-saturated environment and have the dignified profession that you've always dreamed of.

I'm so deeply, truly happy to be here for you today. First, let me mention the perfect means with which to help you overcome whatever is blocking your muse and assist you in releasing those stories that remain trapped inside your poignant, poverty-tempered souls: My Book's Okay, Your Book's Okay, So Please Don't Worry Or Feel Insecure Or Unhappy If Mine Sells And Yours Doesn't, It's Not A Reflection On Your Talent, You Dear Person. Yes, as a special gift for communing with me here at PBW, I'm going to make available to you for three easy payments of $99.95 the exclusive, full pre-release 20-hour audio version of my guide to writer self-image awareness and improvement, narrated by myself, so it will be as if I were visiting you in your very own home.

My research has shown me how painful and difficult it has been for all of you to pursue the writing life, but I am not here to patronize you. Oh, no! Instead, I want to explore every nuance of your pain, every degree of your personal struggle so that you and other unfortunates like you can open the inner windows that rejection and your totally understandable inadequacies have painted shut over time. Unfortunately my time today is limited, so perhaps a few of you could post comments here to give me a brief synopsis of your suffering. Ten words or less should do nicely.

Yes, we can work together through this tormenting period in your career to achieve for you something like a modest sale to a conference chapbook or fan magazine that pays in contributor copies. Such a monumental achievement will invigorate your muse (and if the three very easy payments of $99.95 prove to be too much at this time, I will send you the first 10 hours of the audio version of My Book's Okay, Your Book's Okay, So Please Don't Worry Or Feel Insecure Or Unhappy If Mine Sells And Yours Doesn't, It's Not A Reflection On Your Talent, You Dear Person for two ridiculously easy payments of $99.95, and reserve the second 10 hours of this book that could be so helpful to you until you work a few double shifts at the fryalator and can make up the outrageously easy balance of $99.95.)

Gather around me in a virtual circle now. In your thoughts, imagine yourself joining hands with thousands of other writers who, like you, have nothing better to do and so may fully benefit from the wisdom and power emanating from my center (which I am giving you at no extra charge here today.) When you feel comfortable with your surroundings and your company, please draw on your writing spirit or higher power to show the proper gratitude by investing in my MBOYBOSPDWOFIOUIMSAYDINAROYTYDP audio tapes (please note that I only accept PayPal for the very affordable and laughably easy three payments of $99.95, and the tapes will not ship until after the third payment has cleared.)

Hmmmmmm. I do sense some genuinely determined writerly spirits out there, but unfortunately no new payments have been received by my PayPal account. Oh, my, look at the time! I completely forgot about the pre-order book talk I agreed to give at's writer chat this morning. (A note to PBW: I assumed that at the very least you would invest in my My Book's Okay, Your Book's Okay, So Please Don't Worry Or Feel Insecure Or Unhappy If Mine Sells And Yours Doesn't, It's Not A Reflection On Your Talent, You Dear Person guide to becoming a writer with a healthier self-image. Not to be unkind, but I feel you of all writers desperately need this help. That and these rather bizarre-looking beings who took over your blog aren't paying me a dime for my guest post.)

As for you dear, dear people, I feel certain that you will do the right thing for your future by purchasing as soon as possible what can help you as no other writing self-help resource (for three insanely easy payments of $99.95, my MBOYBOSPDWOFIOUIMSAYDINAROYTYDP guide.)

In the meantime, try to work a few more double shifts, won't you?


We now return control of your computer to you, until tomorrow, at the same time when We Who Control PBW will take you to...

The Outer Limits of Publishing

Monday, November 27, 2006

Snap Ten

Ten Things for Writers in a Hurry

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

1.'s Daily Writing Prompts will give you as many swift kicks in the muse as you'd like.

2. Create quick floor plans, interior layouts and 3D models of your setting with Cadsoft's Envisioneer Express freeware.

3.'s Fiery Love Poem Generator, for those times when you or your novel need a hot love poem but you aren't in the mood to compose one.

4. Fifty Writing Tools: Quick List from Poynter Online is just what the title says (I'm a big fan of #34.)

5. Desperately seeking a title for your novel? Find one in a click with's Instant Title Generator.

6. Opera 9 free web browser claims to be superfast and works on Windows, Mac and Linux systems.

7. Find that perfect pseudonym in a blink with the Pen Name Generator.

8. Save time checking your various e-mail accounts by having Pop Peeper freeware alert you when new e-mail arrives.

9. Someday one keyword will launch a thousand applications; for now launch your apps faster with Quick Start freeware.

10. Inet 2 Inet's World Creator v. 1.5 freeware creates graphics and artwork; aimed at gamers and RPGers but could be of use to writers looking to work up images of their fictional settings.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


As we're in the last days of NaNoWriMo, and Bryon has pulled into the lead in his manuscript race against Dave, and I'm about 72 hours away from finishing my last book of the year, I think we should share whatever we do or use that helps us make it to the finish line.

My never-fail five:

1. Nice big reward: When I finish this book, I get to take off an entire month to enjoy my family and the holidays. There's not a better form of motivation than pending vacation.

2. Daily motivators: If I make my target quota for the day, I'm allowed an hour of reading for pleasure or a long hot bubble bath. If I surpass my daily quota, I get the bath or the book plus my guy gives me a back rub (his way of helping out.)

3. Serious breaktime: The pace of working during a deadline week is relentless and grinding; the last couple of days are spent in different levels of hell. I always work eighteen hour days, but I combat exhaustion by actually working only twelve of those hours, and breaking them up into three sessions of four hours on, two hours off.

4. Nutrition: I live on salads, fresh fruit and whole-grain English muffins, in small portions, for the duration of deadline week. I stay away from sugar, caffeine and meat. So far I've already killed two half-gallons of orange juice and God knows how much chilled water. I never eat before I work, only after when I take a break (also a nice side motivator to get me through a session.)

5. Well Refills: I listen to a lot of music during deadline week, usually in the car as I'm making school rounds but I also have my CD player close at hand. This book has me listening to a lot of Shelley Phillips, Branford Marsalis and Bach's Masses and Magnificats.

So what do you guys do to make it through crunch time? Tell us in comments to this post by midnight EST on Thursday, 11/30/06. I'll draw ten names from everyone who participates, and send the winners a signed copy of the mass market edition of Afterburn. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

100 Huhs

The New York Times has released its annual list of 100 Notable Books of the Year, one I usually peer at to see if there's anything on it that I read and/or liked. Hold onto your hats; I've actually read two on the list: one I loved, and one I loathed -- but other than that, zilch.

After last year's mess, I was hoping that someone in the editorial department would have said, "Hey, guys, maybe we should write blurbs that HELP sell more copies of these books." Something happened; they've reverted from babelesque hip-speak of last year to their standard snot-speak, which of course has made the New York Times the veritable stanchion of unimaginative elitism.

Honestly, I don't think you could drive the average book buyer away from these books any faster than if you jumped in front of the shelves and waved an open vial of anthrax. For example:

1. "....unsettling and blackly funny vignettes" -- Last time I checked, unsettling was not funny, even blackly. Vignette must be the latest trope, whatever the hell a trope is.

2. ".... A hefty, brilliant volume" -- Does no one at the Times listen to Clapton anymore? With a story, like a penis, it's not about size but in the way that you use it. Although (call me psychic) I'm sure this one holds open the laundry room door with no problem.

3. "....Old grievances drive the plot of this novel" -- That's the answer to Literary Meanings for $500. The question: "What is a transparent ax-grinder, Alex?"

4. "....A structurally experimental road-trip novel" -- Experiment on your own dime, pal. Better yet, use it to hire a therapist and get over writing badly-disguised Kerouac fanfic.

5. "....two exquisitely shaped novellas" -- So, shouldn't that make this list 101 Notable Books of the Year, then? Or 99 Notable Books and 2 Novellas?

6. "....this dark-humored novel" -- Since they already used blackly funny and don't want to repeat themselves. Up next: Murkily mirthsome, duskily tittery and low-light laughable.

7. "....The third volume, remarkable for its breadth and detail" -- I'm betting the writer for #6 had to read it for a quote, right? That's what put her into the bad mood.

8. "....a schoolboy's story." -- I'm sorry, but maybe you boys in editorial didn't get that memo from the Author's Gild. We only use "schoolboy's story" as a deadly insult to another writer, i.e.: I cannot believe they actually paid money for this stupid little schoolboy's story.

9. "....a moral framework" -- I have no idea what this means. The original outline for the ten commandments? Ted Haggard's ministry? Catholic scaffolding? What? (Also, why are we using the word "moral" so much? If you want to lure the hard red right into the stores, try substituting purpose-driven or inspirational and decorate it with little doves and burning Bushes. Well, okay, that last part was for my personal amusement, but still.)

10. "....The Nobel laureate tells her life story" -- I won't listen to this from drunks at writer conferences, so why would I pay $26.95 for it?

11. "....complicated sexual algebra" -- No. I know you guys are trying to be clever, but NO. You are not allowed to pair something as wonderful as sex with freaking algebra.

12. "....How to read with writerly sensitivity" -- Obviously, not written by me.

13. "....An artful journalist cross-dresses" -- but still can't get her pretend domestic partner on her medical insurance plan. Then she takes off the penis suit and mourns the life she never lived. Oh, the suffering. (Waitress? Check please.)

14. "....A panoramic moral analysis" -- Panoramic immediately makes me think of those 4" tall 48" wide photos of Grand Canyon vacations that camera nuts are always giving you. "Look, you can see the entire Snake River from start to finish!" Please. I've faked orgasms that were more thrilling. And there's that moral word again. Why not tag it as immoral? I'd buy an immoral analysis in a heartbeat, wouldn't you?

15. "....In her effectively elliptical novel" -- Does that mean...the novel is...filled with...these stupid...things...? Or is it shaped like this: ()

16. "....this parablelike novel" -- Excuse me, parablelike? You're the New York Times, for God's sake. Stop using words that don't exist.

17. "....Stories of understated realism" -- As story collections went, it was sort of real, but not so you'd notice. It was, you see, many brave paddles secretly angled to propel literature's fine boat up the mighty river of How It Should Be into LaLaLand, where the upstanding overly-educated people run things, because they alone know that physical objects are impermanent representations of unchanging ideas, and that ideas alone give true knowledge. And we the inferior dumbasses, being so caught up with playing with our physical objects and doing the actual gruntwork in the world and all, should let them. Uh-huh.

17a. Somebody IM Matt Cheney, he'll want to be all over this one.

18. ".... in this debut novel of global misunderstanding." -- So who is going to understand it? Extra-terrestrials?

19. ".... this nimble, satirically chiding novel." -- Only the Brits are allowed to use the words like nimble and chiding, as they're the only ones who can say them without sounding like effete dorks.

20. "....This novel's hero, a ghost, looks back ruefully on his suicide" -- Suggested subtitle: The Lovely Slitted Wrists. Oooooo, how original.

20a. It's also now official: I am tired of dead protagonists.

20b. I mean it. No more of this Sebolderdash. You want me to purchase your book, it has to have a living, breathing protagonist in it. Or a vampire protagonist. Undead okay, dead not okay.

20c. This is non-negotiable.

and finally, the ultimate in boring blurbs:

"A nameless protagonist grapples with aging, physical decline and impending death in this slender, elegant novel.": The Old Man and Medicare Part C!

Anyway, I will recommend one novel from this esteemed list as deserving of the recognition: Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick. That's the one I loved, and may it nab the author another NBA.