Tuesday, October 31, 2006

PBW's E-book Challenge

Here it is, the list of books and authors who took my E-book Challenge. This is one of the largest collections of free e-books by a group of writers as diverse as we are, so there is probably something here for every type of reader.

If you find any links that don't work, please report them in comments to this post. If you sent me an entry and it's not listed here, please e-mail me at PBWChallenge@aol.com and we'll get you on the list.

Congratulations to everyone who contributed; you all did a fantastic job with this challenge.

Happy reading and Happy Halloween!

Free E-books by Our Challengers

Going Back by Jenny Aspin
Something snaps and you make choices that will turn your life upside down. New experiences await, now you're living and there's no going back.

One on One by Sandra Barret
In a competition between conscience and libido, will anyone get the girl in the end? (Romance)

Pelican Point by Rachel Brown
Contemporary Christian romance set on the Australian Central Coast. (Christian Romance)

The Horse Master by Joely Sue Burkhart
The Horse Master leaves the stables to tame his High Queen. (Fantasy Romance)

The Office Mercenary by Molly Burkhart
A dark satire about the perils of office work and the depths to which we stoop to survive it.

To See You With by Zoe Cannon
A woman breaks free of her family’s curse… or does she? (Horror)

The Weaveling, by Dean Cochrane
Olivia has killed her husband. To escape the hangman, she must enter a dark world, and things take a turn for the weird. (Dark Western Fantasy)

Stroke It by Cassandra Curtis
Erotic romance writer recouperates at luxury hotel after grueling book tour and gets the massage of a lifetime by handsome massuer with a secret technique. (Erotic Paranormal Romance Short Story)

Collected Tales from the Second Saturday Psychos (sent in by Paul Darcy)
A collection of ten tales by diverse Canadian hands inspired by life, death, candy and once a month events . . . but not those events. (Horror, Humour & Heartbreaks)

A Matter of Tradition by Andria Davis
Bryane spent five years in exile before the King's death drew her home - into the hands of a murderer. (Fantasy)

The Familiar’s Witch by A.E. Dillings
Unsuspecting young woman helps friends, finds true destiny, studies witchcraft, fights hell hounds, while trying to break curse. (Urban Fantasy)

At the Foot of the Throne, by Noel Lynne Figart
Rags to riches and finding True Love is not always all that the fairy tales say. As two countries stand on the brink of war, a young villager finds herself thrown into the center of the conflict.

Moonlit Desire Anthology by Becca Furrow
Escape into the dark with three short paranormal romances. (Erotic Paranormal Romance)

Cooper's Promise by Susan Gibb
When everything goes wrong, look to God...and something you did in your past when you thought no one was either listening or watching. (Literary Fiction)

PSI by Lazette Gifford
Two strangers join forces to stop a madman from creating chaos on Terra Nova...but can they keep their own dangerous secrets hidden? (Science Fiction)

Trick or Treat by Rachel Gossett
Even though Aidan was born into a family of magic, he denies its existence. That is, until it becomes too hard to deny. (Fantasy)

Left Turn, by Samantha Gossett
Left turn: Technique for successfully negotiating a maze, no matter who or what is in there with you. (Fantasy)

Jasfoup's Dribbles by Rachel Green
100 collected drabbles that examine the lives and loves, and sardonic humour, of the demon Jasfoup and his almost-mortal friend Harold. (Satire, Humour, Dark Fantasy)

The Trial by Mervi Hämäläinen
A girl of 16 is accused of murdering a nobleman and a Knight of justice and peace has to find out the truth. (Fantasy, Crime Fiction)

Octoberland by Cynthia Harrison
Small business owner Laura hones her telepathic powers to help her family survive in a town beseiged by an unseen evil. (Paranormal)

Postpartum Euphoria by Bethany Hiitola
With a sip of morning brew, Leslie does what every corporate employee dreams--climbs atop her desk shouting obscenities. Has she all but lost it? (Women's Fiction)

Fire by Tamara Siler Jones
Lars Hargrove has his first case. (Coming of Age/Crime)

Maybe Forever by May K

Unforgiven Pleasure by Tempest Knight
In the war between the Sentinels and the night creatures, the unforgiven pleasure will start with a kiss. (Erotic Paranormal Romance)

Demon Rescuer by Racy Li
A touch telepath whose ability fades the more she trusts. Only strangers can be trusted...Still, there's something odd about this mystery man... (Erotic Paranormal Romance)

A Half Life of One by Bill Liversidge
How far would you go to save your family from ruin? Nick Dowty went all the way...

Kelsey's Secret by Jennifer Macaire
After a car accident that cost her life, a woman wakes up in a little girl's body. (Science Fiction)

Dark of the Day by Selah March
She's dying, and wants to take the easy way out. His mission is to convince her to her keep fighting. Can he do it? Or will she choose death over love? (Erotic Paranormal Romance)

My Lucky Charmer by Patrice Michelle
An unlucky woman’s life turns around the day after she ditches her sexy blind date. (Romance)

Ingeld's Daughter by Carla Nayland
An heiress and a mysterious swordsman set out to free her lands from her evil husband. (Historical)

Body and Soul by Carter Nipper (Speculative Fiction)

DayStrider by Jaye Patrick
Preternatural hunter and the human cop who hates her, hunt a serial killer monster... who is waiting for her. (Dark Fantasy)

Testimonies 1910 & Elementary, My Dear Twain by Bill Peschel
Two short stories; one about a supernatural form of revenge, while Mark Twain calls on Sherlock Holmes to unravel a knotty problem. (Crime Fiction)

Stories from the Back Forty by E. M. Phelan
A compilation of short horror taradiddles from the homestead. (Horror)

Vampire Mom to the Rescue by Victoria L. Pierce
A soccer mom becomes Vampire Mom then tries to save her family from being murdered with the help of the man who turned her. (Paranormal Romance)

Three and a Half Lines by Megan Powell
An Edo woman longing for divorce is spurred to action by a strange friendship. (Fantasy)

The Betrayed by Joanie Raisovich
Four strangers find themselves accused of morality crimes and face a lifetime of living on the fringe of society. (Speculative Fiction)

Freeing Miha by Jodi Ralston (Dark Fantasy)

Beginnings by Nat Rogers

Yellow Brick Roadkill by Michelle Rowen
Girl meets boy in a magical land. She also meets a talking mouse, a snobby robot, and an evil beeyotch who wants to kill her. (Fantasy)

The Frain Legacy by Darlene Ryan
Reid Frain got the family charm, talent, and great hair genes. Will he have to commit murder to get the rest of The Frain Legacy? (Mystery)

Museum Rendezvous by Lia Sebastian
When Olivia attends a museum opening, she isn't expecting to meet a man...or to enjoy an evening rendezvous. (Erotic Romance)

Little Girl on the Beach by Tracy Sharp
A young couple happens upon a quaint bed and breakfast during a Saturday drive and decide to stay for the weekend. They check in, but will they ever check out? (Horror)

While We Wait by J.M. Snyder
A brief encounter with a gay couple in a doctor's office waiting room causes Jason to take an uncomfortable look at his own lonely, promiscuous lifestyle. (Gay Fiction)

Jungle Heat by Sydney Somers
When a hunt for a priceless medallion turns deadly, the only person Calypso Reed can count on is the one man she wants to forget. (Adventure/Romantic Suspense)

Night Rhythm by Charlene Teglia
Valentine waited centuries for his lost love to be reborn. But now that he's found her, can he persuade her to love him again? (Erotic Romance ~ Vampire)

Exposed by J.A. Terry
A gripping tale of what happens when two souls collide and their worlds explode. (Romantic Suspense)

Midnight Blues by Lynn Viehl
Lonely vampire cop fights to save human nun from immortal sadist who wants them both. (Dark Fantasy)

The White Room: Control by Sasha White(scroll down Past Travel Stories, Writing Articles to Erotic Fiction)
Two erotic short shorts to tease and please those who find control, or the loss of it, exciting. Includes excerpts for coming works. (Erotica)

Under A Midnight Moon by Cora Zane
After their two Werekind packs merge into one, Chase Tillman spots Betsey at a party and learns territory isn't the only thing worth fighting over. (Erotic Paranormal Romance, Shapeshifter, Werewolf Fiction, Adult)

Monday, October 30, 2006

E-Minus 9 Hours

One last nudge on PBW E-book Challenge:

The Final Update Post has links to useful info and links about cover art, content and other stuff from the other challenge update posts.

Trace's book blog note: "If anyone wants to set up a blog for their book, the link on blogger is here. They describe how to post a book on blogger. It's pretty easy."

The deadline is midnight EST tonight, but if you have problems uploading or something goes boom and you need a bit more time (time in this context meaning a couple of hours, not days, weeks, months, etc.) just e-mail me and let me know. I will add you into the list tomorrow.

This is it, guys. See you all here tomorrow. :)

PBW's E-book Challenge Instructions:

E-mail me at PBWChallenge@aol.com with the following by midnight EST on Monday, October 30, 2006:

The title and byline for your e-book

Example: Midnight Blues by Lynn Viehl

The URL for your e-book download file, or the URL for where your e-book can be read online.

Example: http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com

Optional (this will be included with your link listing on PBW):

A short (25 words or less) premise, teaser or description of your e-book.

Example: Lonely vampire cop fights to save human nun from immortal sadist who wants them both.

What genre, if any, your e-book is written in.

Examples: Dark Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, Crime Fiction, etc.

Note: Do not send me the file for your e-book or any attachments.

Image Ten

Ten Things To Do With Images

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

1. Check out the instructions over at Cursor Images to make a static or animated cursor image for your website.

2. Create lots of cool stuff with images and fd's flickr toys.

3. Uticasoft offers Image Browser Arctic, a multi-functional graphics viewer freeware for Windows.

4. The extremely cool Mosaic Image Generator* will turn any pic you upload into a high-quality mosaic.

5. Become a Digital Image Processing Wizard with PaintStar freeware.

6. Retouch your pics and more with Photobie freeware.

7. Dan Ritchie provides a freeware version of the uniquely-named Project DogWaffle for folks who like to paint and animate.

8. Make your own sliding puzzle and send it to friends with an image you upload to SlidingPuzzle.com.

9. Like concrete poetry, only better: Text-Image.com will convert online any image you have into pictoral text.

10. Create interesting headers with The Online Logo Generator.

*Link swiped from The Generator Blog

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Our blog pal Trace sent me a helpful note and link for challengers who may not have a host site for their entry:

"If anyone wants to set up a blog for their book, the link on blogger is here. They describe how to post a book on blogger. It's pretty easy."

Just in time for Halloween, Trace also has some posts on spooky experiences and seeing evil over at her place this week.

Time-related nag: Folks affected by Daylight Savings Time, do remember to set your clocks back 1 hour.

Health/Time-related nag: It's also traditional in the U.S. to change the batteries in home and business smoke detectors when we reset our clocks, but this year I'd like to remind folks up north to also change the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors, or to consider getting some if you don't have them for your home.

Carbon monoxide (CO) remains the most common type of accidental poisoning in the U.S., averaging in 40,000 emergency cases each year. Although death rates due to CO poisoning have dropped, thanks largely to a better-educated public, even non-fatal CO poisoning cases may result in the victim's early death due to heart damage.

CO originates from incomplete combustion from any flame-fueled (not electric) appliances like stoves, fireplaces, heaters, or anything that produces an open flame, especially if they're not vented properly. CO detectors have to be placed in specific areas in order for them to function correctly, so if you do invest in one, please be sure to read the instructions.

PBW's E-book Challenge Instructions:

E-mail me at PBWChallenge@aol.com with the following by midnight EST on Monday, October 30, 2006:

The title and byline for your e-book

Example: Midnight Blues by Lynn Viehl

The URL for your e-book download file, or the URL for where your e-book can be read online.

Example: http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com

Optional (this will be included with your link listing on PBW):

A short (25 words or less) premise, teaser or description of your e-book.

Example: Lonely vampire cop fights to save human nun from immortal sadist who wants them both.

What genre, if any, your e-book is written in.

Examples: Dark Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, Crime Fiction, etc.

Note: Do not send me the file for your e-book or any attachments.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Really excellent comments this week. Surprising, thoughtful, emotional, the whole rollercoaster. We never forget those reckless dreams, do we?

One of mine was to go looking for Kim, a boy I met via an international penpal program through my school. He was extremely cute when we were ten, and although we lost touch I never got over him. Sometimes I wonder if there's a middle-aged Korean man out there somewhere who occasionally wishes he'd come to America in search of me. I was pretty cute, too.

Anyway, time to give away some books.

The winner for the Friday 20/Afterburn mm edition giveaway is Blogeois.

The winners for the Reiszing the Bar giveaway for a copy of Tripping to Somewhere are:

Kate R
Cynthia Bagley
Valerie Comer

All winners, please e-mail your full name and ship-to address to LynnViehl@aol.com so I can get these books out to you. My thanks to everyone who joined in and made it fun.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday 20

I'm going to be self-centered and post a couple of personal updates this week:

Got approval for Darkyn book #5, which will be a story about Jayr, Byrne and Locksley. They liked my choice for the title, too, so this one is hereby permanently dubbed Evermore.

I'm finalizing plans for the next two StarDoc novels, tentatively titled Drednoc (book #8) and Crystal Healer (book #9) for my editor's approval. From there I turn it over to the agent and they hopefully hash out a deal. Nothing is absolute yet, but at present it's looking very good.

New cover art for Night Lost, Gabriel Seran's story and Darkyn book #4, is imminent. I'll also be including a brand-new, exclusive excerpt from NL in Midnight Blues my e-book for the challenge next week (which is a ham-handed hint for the rest of you pubbed folks joining in the challenge to do the same.)

I also promised to give away a copy of the mass market edition of Afterburn this week, so I will pick one name at random from everyone who leaves a comment to this post (you can ask a question as usual, or just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST tonight (Friday, October 27, 2006.) I'll send the winner a signed copy of Afterburn the paperback, along with a signed mass market edition of Bio Rescue so you have a matching pair.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Final E-book Challenge Update

We've come a long way since August, when I originally posted the E-book challenge. Since then, we've talked about maintaining story quality, making your own cover art, getting the word out and interesting readers, types of fonts to use, and finishing what we start. Halloween, the challenge deadline, is five days away.

For the challengers: you've accomplished a lot in eight weeks. You've written or buffed up a story from start to finish. You've gone through most of the steps all professional writers, editors, cover artists and publishers do with producing print books -- and you've probably done most or all of it alone. You've created a marketing tool, but you're also adding to the free content on the internet, something we all love. Bravo.

For those of you who for whatever reason couldn't join in: don't beat yourself up over it. Let me! Seriously, I understand that day jobs, families and life's other-than-writing responsibilities have to come first, so don't sweat it. This challenge has been so much fun that I'll definitely be having another one in 2007.

Editors and agents: you're always on the hunt for new talent, right? Here's an easy, non-postal, no pressure way to find it. Please take a few moments when you can and stop by to have a look at our challengers.

Readers: This is all free, and all for you. If you like what you read, please check out any other work the authors have available in print or online. If you find some stories that you think a friend would enjoy, please pass along the links. If you've got a blog and want to link to the challenge or any of the individual entries, please do -- these writers have worked hard, and anything you can do to help promote the results will be greatly appreciated.

Challenge Instructions (which will be posted again over the weekend and on Monday):

E-mail me at PBWChallenge@aol.com with the following by midnight EST on Monday, October 30, 2006:

The title and byline for your e-book

Example: Midnight Blues by Lynn Viehl

The URL for your e-book download file, or the URL for where your e-book can be read online.

Example: http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com

Optional (this will be included with your link listing on PBW):

A short (25 words or less) premise, teaser or description of your e-book.

Example: Lonely vampire cop fights to save human nun from immortal sadist who wants them both.

What genre, if any, your e-book is written in.

Examples: Dark Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, Crime Fiction, etc.

Note: Do not send me the file for your e-book or any attachments.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reiszing the Bar

Being a teen was not bliss for me. The only good times I had were the years I spent reading through libraries and serving in the military. By the time I was nineteen, I could field-strip an M-16, recite Shakespeare's plays from memory and jumpstart a heart -- and yet adults still treated me like a student in need of a lecture, a puppy off the leash, or a cute chick with a nice rack.

Author Kristopher Reisz's Debut Novel I don't read a huge amount of books about teens because I'd rather not revisit those years, even vicariously, but I do keep my eye out for new writers of great interest in any genre. That's why when Kristopher Reisz's first novel, Tripping to Somewhere, hit the shelves I went out immediately to grab it.

Prepped as I was by Kris's blog to be caught up by his prose, Tripping to Somewhere still short-sheeted me. Be warned, ye Soccer Moms and Little League Dads, The Princess Diaries it's not. Kris didn't pen the usual Ditzney teen girl fantasy composed to reassure us grownups that sugarplums, Prince Charming and Saving It For the Honeymoon are the only things dancing in those pretty little heads. Instead, he gives us a dark and often harrowing urban fantasy about two quite authentic teen girls who do what most of us wished we could back when we were dousing ourselves in Ten-O-Six Lotion: go reckless, damn the consequences, escape our lives and chase the dream we were almost sure was out there.

The magic in this novel isn't only the Witches' Carnival (although it is surreal, hip and very intriguing) or a road trip in search of them and everything (which is dark, scary and so real you feel like you're riding shotgun); it's Kris Reisz's story wizardry and shining honesty on the page. By the time you get to the ending, which I think Rilke himself would have called beautiful and brave, you might catch a glimpse of your teen years in this novel, and whatever was your personal Witches' Carnival.

I am saved from performing the established author coo about how promising Kristopher Reisz is as a writer. Is there anything more insulting than that condescending crap? But even if I was that snotty, I wouldn't have to; he's already made good on the promise with his debut novel.

But as always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, tell us about one wild, reckless or magical thing that you wanted to do at some point in your life. Post no later than midnight EST on Friday, 10/27/06. I'll draw ten names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned copy of Tripping to Somewhere by Kristopher Reisz. Giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Only Good Writer

Failure Magazine touts itself as "the online publication full of humankind's boldest missteps." Nothing to make you feel better about yourself than to read about how badly the other guy screwed up, eh? Anyway, Failure's Julia M. Klein names author Louis L'Amour as one of these missteppers in the mag's arts & entertainment section, evidently justifying the honor because one-third of his sales have happened after his death.

I think we should figure out just where Louis L'Amour screwed up so that we don't make the same mistake. Of course the only good writer is a dead writer, but while he was alive, Louis was mainly a working writer. That rules out him being an unemployed deadbeat. Bummer. He was a self-educated dude, and the lack of a pedigree does make him seem a bit scruffy. We all know how stupid people who don't attend college are. His attitude, geez, what can I say. He thought of himself as just another guy telling stories around the campfire. Does that not shriek loser?

Louis L'Amour's existence is easily classified as a total waste. First, ignore the fact that he published 130 books, and countless articles, short stories and myriad other works. Editors must have felt bad for the poor slob. Don't ask people to name a classic Western author, because they'll probably say Louis L'Amour. I'm sure it's out of sheer pity. Some cowboy movies were made based on his books -- thirty of them? -- which obviously underlines what a big ZERO he was. Maybe. Somehow. Give me a minute here.

All right, I can't think of a reason off the top of my head. But Louis L'Amour had to know how utterly worthless a human being he was because he missed out on all that lovely cash. After all, cash IS cash. I bet you that when he died of cancer at age 80, he thought, "Gee, I wish I'd held out for some bigger advance checks."

This pathetic man lived his life doing what he loved, and he left behind an embarrassingly large body of work in print, and Hollywood loved him, but he didn't make billions, so he sucked. If you aren't in this gig for the Almighty Buck pile, babe, you're nobody and nothing. Everybody knows that.

But thank you, Failure magazine, for reminding us not to follow the same sorry sadass career dirt road as Louis L'Amour. Instead we'll devote ourselves to becoming more like the brilliant chick who wrote this valuable cautionary tale.

Uh, what was her name again?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Proposition Ten

Ten Things About Novel Proposals, Queries and Synopses

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

1. CVitae freeware is mainly for resume writing and submission, but it has a cover letter section that might be helpful when you're putting together simultaneous submissions, or prefer to use/store the same query letter for your proposal. For a freeware program just for letter writing, check out The Form Letter Machine.

2. Shery Ma Belle Arrieta over at AbsoluteWrite.com offers Don't Fall Into The Query Letter Quandary!, an interview with John Wood, author of How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query & Cover Letters.

3. Absolute Write.com's Kelly James-Enger's article, Make the Perfect Pitch: The Novel Query.

4. Joe Nassise's post on Storytellers Unplugged, Novel Proposals.

5. Phrase Express is a clipboard utility freeware that allows you to organize, store and cut-n-paste frequently used text (like headers, openers, paragraphs and sig blocks from your query letter) into any application.

6. Beth Amos' article Query and Synopsis.

7. Fiction Connections' article on the do's and don'ts of Query Letters.

8. Terry Irene Blain's online free course, Basics of Writing the Romance Novel, includes lessons on the synopsis, query and proposal.

9. Jessica Page Morrell's article Tips on Writing a Synopsis.

10. Priscilla Y. Huff's article, What Publishers Want to See Most in a Book Proposal.

Also, Preditor and Editors has a sample novel query letter here that is nice and short (my favorite kind of query) and includes comments from Kerry Hanslits on why it's an effective letter.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Behind the Lines

Ten Writers' Opening Lines, and What They Were Thinking When They Wrote Them

1. "Call me Ishmael."

Yeah, good name. Not like Herman, you know. Herman. Oy. What am I, a Munster? What kind of mother names her kid that, anyway? I swear, that woman hated me from the minute I was born. I'm never going to write about women. Men only. Big, manly men. Big, manly men who piss off whales, and who aren't named Herman.

2. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so."

How do I start this book off then? Go with the positive claptrap, or the negative claptrap? Oh, ballocks, I'll write both. A big long useless paragraph of both. Let them think it was the dichotomy of my literary genius instead of this bloody damn bipolar disorder.

3. "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink."

I'm writing this sitting in the kitchen sink. Cool.

4. "Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick."

Decent quote opener. Not as much fun as the thinly-veiled anecdote about the colonel, the misplaced hot dog and how I almost got court martialed for laughing my ass off in a trauma room, but not like this is ever going to get published.

5. "Over the weekend the vultures got into the presidential palace by pecking through the screens on the balcony windows and the flapping of their wings stirred up the stagnant time inside, and at dawn on Monday the city awoke out of its lethargy of centuries with the warm, soft breeze of a great man dead and rotting grandeur."

Hello, my name is Gabriel, and I have period phobia, so I make my English translator, Sancho, use mostly commas to keep my beautiful prose from being interrupted by that sort of crude punctuation and allow me to drift into endless descriptions of my beautiful vultures which remind me of the prostitutes I ogled as a boy in Cadiz . . . or was it Madrid . . . [margin note: Sancho! My God! Not ellipses! They spawn!]

6. "Shortly before being shot in the back with a tranquilizer dart and dumped half-dazed on a stretcher, right before being stolen from the hospital by silent men in white coats, Elena Baxter stood at the end of a dying child's bed, her hand on a small bare foot, and attempted to perform a miracle."

Baby, you just got backstory-opening-line whomped.

7. "...so then the guy sits up on the stretcher, says 'I don't feel so good,' and turns this incredible shade of blue."

Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has just turned on the fasten your seatbelts sign. So buckle up. Right now.

8. "The day broke gray and dull."

Take that, you dark and stormy night writers.

9. "The last camel collapsed at noon."

What will remind my editor that he hasn't sent me my advance check for this novel yet? Last straw . . . camel . . . got it.

10. "The story that follows is one I never intended to commit to paper."

I got a big book deal and you didn't, neener neener neener.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The New CSI

Senior Editor Horatio Caine strode into his office, eyeing two stacks of unread manuscripts and his beautiful but unattainable assistant, who stood waiting with notepad in hand. "You okay?"

Yelena gave him a hostile but smoldering look.

"The next time you want to take a swing at someone, start with me." He tossed his shades onto the desk and dropped into his chair, swiveling around to contemplate the upper Manhattan skyline. "Be on the lookout for an Eastern European male with bad teeth who may have access to an ape."

"Porque -- uh, why?"

"He's my new science fiction author." Horatio chucked the new issue of Publishers Weekly into the trash can beside his desk and punched his intercom button. "Calleigh," he said, letting his voice drop to an intimate rasp. "I need you."

A moment later, copy editor Calleigh Duquesne marched in, trailed by production designer John Hagen. Her china doll features reflected the light with all the depth and animation of cheap imported stoneware. "Yes, sir?"

Yelena tossed her long dark mane, gave Horatio a contemptuous but smoldering glance, and stalked out.

"We are being detoured into the land of make-believe," Horatio announced.

A tiny wrinkle chased itself across Calleigh's brow. "But sir, isn't that our . . . job?"

"Tomorrow's what you make of it. John." His gaze slashed over to the production designer. "I have cover art here with a cartoon dolphin on it. You know how I feel about cartoon dolphin art. Tell me about the cartoon dolphin, John."

Hagen swallowed and shifted on his feet. "Well."

Horatio nodded. "Why didn't you tell me about this earlier?"

Hagen's shoulders moved. "I didn't think it'd look too good."

"Well, it doesn't look too good right now." Horatio tossed the sketch across the desk. "Do it again. Do it right. Do it and get it back to me and make it the best job you've ever done and John?" He shot to his feet, lunged forward, and dragged John forward by the tie until their faces were only an inch apart. "I don't want to see another cartoon dolphin for as long as you work for me," Horatio whispered. "Are we clear?"

Hagen's head drooped forward. "Yeah."

Horatio released the tie and waved them both out. As they left, he heard Hagen mumble, "That's one hell of a lonely road he's walking" and Calleigh murmur, "I know. That's why I'm walking it with him."

Yelena sauntered in. "The publicity budget reports." She tossed a file across the desk at him, and planted her hands on her hips. "My mother called. Ray Jr. didn't come home from school. She thinks he's at the bookstore reading manga again." She gave him a sorrowful but smoldering look. "Do something, Horatio."

"You lie down with the Devil," Horatio reminded her, "you wake up in Publishing. Don't say anything to anyone at any time until I say so. I'll take care of it on my lunch hour." He smiled as a dark, sultry woman shoved Yelena aside. "Alexx."

"Horatio. Someday you're going to have to tell me what idiot spelled my name with two X's. Girl, don't you be looking at me like that. I'll kick your Latina ass." As Yelena stomped out, Alexx produced a brilliant smile and a heavily marked-up galley. "Finished the work up on this one. Typesetter slaughtered the poor thing. I found 363 mistaken spellings of the protagonist's name alone."

"363." Horatio sat down and swiveled a little in his chair.

"Yeah." Alexx's voice softened. "Real shame to see such a pretty story end up like this. It's going to kill the author."

"I will get whoever did this to her," Horatio said, leaning forward. "I promise you that. Do you know why?"

Alexx sighed. "Because this is CSI: Editing."

"Exactly." Horatio folded his hands behind his head and leaned back. "And. We. Never. Close."

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday 20

All is well at Casa PBW. Family and pets are healthy, writing rolling along, current deadlines met, latest proposal approved, problematic cover art being fixed, new pitches well-received, way overdue letters to loved ones written and sent, house clean, shopping finished, laundry done, blog updated (we will not discuss e-mail) and I got an early copy of the mass market edition of Afterburn from my very kind SF editor, which I think I'll do a little giveaway for next week. The book, not the editor. You can't have her.

I may be a nice boss and give myself half a day off this weekend to take the kids and the pup to the big dog park on the other side of town. We love the dog park. Plus we won't be here when the flaming meteor crashes into the house and levels it or burns it down. Stuff like that always happens any time I get things running this smoothly.

So what's up in your corner of the writing world? Has it been a dog park or fiery meteor week? Any questions for me?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

E-book Challenge Update

Writers are strange creatures when we're under the WIP. Sometimes the pressure makes us doers, achievers and innovators. Other times it turns us into wafflers, procrastinators and fraidy-cats. Add in a rapidly-evaporating deadline, and writers turn into word slingers juggling story dynamite that's oozing rewrite nitro. One wrong move on the page and BOOM, it all falls to pieces.

Folks, we've got less than two weeks left. It's Tough Love time.

I wanted to use this post to assure the self-doubters out there that you don't have to finish anything. The easiest thing in the world to do with a WIP is to shove it in a drawer and make the usual excuses: "I didn't have time to polish/finish/do it right, but I'll get back to it/try again/give it an overhaul another time." No one will bitch at you for missing this challenge, not even me. The world is very understanding about the artist's struggle. Nothing bad will ever be said about a half-finished manuscript in a drawer that no one will ever see. Win/win/win.

Actually I think it's a very smart way to write. You can do whatever you want and you don't have to follow through or finish it. You'll never have to go out on a limb, or be subjected to ridicule, or risk rejection. Your suffering and struggle will snag you lots of sympathy. You'll never get published, and me and the other published writers out here will never have to compete on the shelf with you, but you'll be safe. Maybe after you're dead someone will discover all those partials and do something with them. Litter boxes and bird cages always need liners, right?

If I happen to think you're better than that, that you have more spine than that, then I could just be wrong. Sometimes I am. Not often, but sometimes.

I know a lot of you have already finished and have your links ready for me, so now for the all-important link e-mail instructions (which will be repeated again next week and in the days just before October 31st):

E-mail me at PBWChallenge@aol.com with the following:

The title and byline for your e-book

Example: Midnight Blues by Lynn Viehl

The URL for your e-book download file, or the URL for where your e-book can be read online.

Example: http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com

Optional (this will be included with your link listing on PBW):

A short (25 words or less) premise, teaser or description of your e-book.

Example: Lonely vampire cop fights to save human nun from immortal sadist who wants them both.

What genre, if any, your e-book is written in.

Examples: Dark Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, Crime Fiction, etc.

Note: Do not send me the file for your e-book or any attachments.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

RenFaire Odds/Ends

I meant to do a ten things list on this topic but never got around to finishing it, and as the first item will go out of print soon, I thought I'd better post it now:

One of my favorite print magazines, Renaissance, is celebrating their 50th issue by featuring biography articles on the top 50 mystics, schemers, visionaries, scoundrels and bizarre men and women of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This is a neat issue for anyone, especially if you write in or about those time periods.

For some insight on what it was like to live in Tudor-era England, Renaissance -- The Elizabethan World features an online and .pdf download of Life in Elizabethan England: A Compendium of Common Knowledge 1558-1603.

Daniel Traister has put together one of the most comprehensive links pages out there to online Renaissance Literature texts and studies, including a lot of Shakespeare-related links.

VoS, a website for humanities research, has pages of excellent links for Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Lit, Renaissance & 17th Century Lit and a lot more.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


With the exception of Shannon Stacey, writers are very hot to put up FAQ pages about themselves. So are publishers. I'm FAQ-challenged, I guess. Or maybe it's because I can answer most questions with two basic responses: Just shut up and write or Wear some bunny slippers.

There's also that deja vu feeling I get when I read some FAQ pages; I flash back to reading all those job resumes from people who weren't qualified for a position I'd advertised. Or finding a Wikipedia bio that goes on and on and on for an author who only has two books in print; beautifully worded but complete B.S.

No one ever lists the real FAQs authors receive, like from:

Reviewers: Will you send me an ARC?

eBay Seller-Reviewers: I'm a huge fan -- will you send me a signed ARC?

Nonwriters: I have a great idea for a book -- will you write it for me, and let me publish it under my name, and I'll give you half of the royalties?

Yet to be Published Writers: Would you recommend me to your editor/agent?

Yet to be Published Paranoid Writers: Did you tell your editor/agent to reject me because you hate me?

Yet to be Published Egotistical Writers: Did you tell your editor/agent to reject me because you're jealous of me?

Colleagues: Can I get a quote from you? (always tagged with: My editor needs it next week so you don't have to actually read my manuscript.)

Single Colleague at Con: Will you have a drink with me?

Single Alcoholic Colleague at Con: Ayyyyy, buy me a widdle drink, shweetie?

Married Colleague at a Con: Pssstt! Would you stop by my room after 4 a.m., and use the stairs instead of the elevator?

New colleague: Did you know I read your books in middle school? (or) Wow, do you know you look SO much older in person?

Parent: When are you going to get a job?

Spouse: When are you going to get a REAL job?

Rookie Agent: Are you happy with how badly you're being represented?

Your New Editor: Can you come to my sixteenth birthday party?

If you're going to create an FAQ page and lie your ass off in the process, at least make the questions more entertaining, i.e.:

Weren't you the one who really broke up Brad and Jen?

Is it true that J.K. Rowling calls you when she hits a plot snarl?

Why did you turn down that huge recording contract with Def Jam?

How did you make your first billion?

I like hateful questions myself, so for fun I made up a PBW FAQs page with a few of those. To generate one of your own, stop by The Javascript Source's FAQs Maker.

Your turn: As a writer, what question are you most frequently asked? Be honest.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Notable Ten

Ten Things to Help with Your Writing Notes

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

1. BrainBox Pro is not just a flow chart maker and mind mapper freeware, but offers a set of writer's templates.

2. Mind-map your notes with Correlate Personal 2.5.

3. Freeware that gives you an endless digital scroll on which to capture, store and access all your notes, Evernote.

4. Another virtual sticky notes freeware, Hott Notes.

5. Replace your NotePad with the turbo-charged, multi-featured Notepad++.

6. PrestoNotes freeware takes virtual sticky notes to a whole new level.

7. Organize your notes, images and objects with Remlap KnowledgeBASE.

8. Another NotePad replacement freeware "designed to offer smoother and faster operation with comparable or more features at a file size of 32k or less", SavageEd.

9. The multi-purpose freeware Swizztool from SpecOp can serve as your virtual alarm clock, reminder, countdown timer, launcher and more.

10. Skynergy's TaskPrompt stores your to-do list and reminds you about it.

Also, a very kind note was left in comments on the Freeware and Online Tools Collection post by Anderson, author of Mobysaurus Thesaurus:

"If you are writing in ANY way helping society, just drop me an email, mentioning one of your published works (either online or offline), I'll be very happy to send you a life-time universal license (of course free) to all existing and future versions of Mobysaurus Thesaurus. (No fee or donation required) Also, free life-time universal site license is available to any educational, non-profit, charity (and alike) organization. (No fee or donation required)"

My sincere thanks to Anderson, as well as all the other hard-working programmers and software designers who donate so much of their time, talent and work to make freeware available on the internet.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


This one is for the NaNoWriMo'ers out there who are in need of a laptop or AlphaSmart but don't want to invest in buying one, and please note that the deadline for applying is October 16th (that's tomorrow):

"NaNoWriMo has a small lending library of AlphaSmart Neos and a variety of laptop computers for use by NaNoWriMo participants. The Neos are all brand-new and fully portable. The laptops not so much; their batteries have mostly died (so you'll be tethered to an outlet), and they're too pokey to get on the internet. But they do come with top-quality word processors, and have a long track record for churning out high-speed novels.

There is no fee to check out an AlphaSmart Neo or laptop from our library. NaNoWriMo will cover the costs of shipping the computer to you, but you will be responsible for paying the costs of shipping the computer back to us (typically about $25) by December 15th. Borrowers will be required to provide a $300 deposit for their unit, and send us a copy of their driver's license, passport, or other documentation."

To apply for one of NaNoWriMo's loaners, check out the details over at their loaner information page.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Inscription No-Nos

Ten Things You Probably Shouldn't Inscribe in Your Novel
(dedicated to Miss Kate)

1. Being a bestselling author and the next great voice in American Literature does not make me your free therapist. Next time, tell your silly sob story about working two jobs just so you can afford to buy my books to the other low-income losers like you standing in line. Coldly, Ona Highhorse

2. Thanks for loving me, babe. Stop by Howard Johnson's tonight after the booksigning -- room 678. Bring some wine, silk stockings and condoms, and be ready to tie and spank. Lustfully, Dick Everhard

3. If you were really my devoted fan, you'd be buying more than one copy of this. So where's the love? Huh? Huh? Hotly, Dee Manding

4. My editor made me change like every other word in this book, and I can't stand the bitch, so if you don't enjoy it, would you write to my publisher and complain about the editing? Maybe they'll fire her this time. Gratefully, Don Touchmaprose

5. Nice free ARC, cheapskate. Stick a crowbar in your wallet next time and pay to buy a real book, and maybe then I'll sign it. And if I catch it on eBay? I'm going to sue your pants off. (Unsigned)

6. Please note that this is the first thing I've published since I caught my pond-scum ex cheating on me with my best friend. What a joke. That judge practically ordered him to be publicly stripped and flogged. He thought he could destroy my career as thoroughly as he did our marriage, but as you can see, I won. The house, the car, the tiumeshare in Epcott and the joint checking. And my best friend? You must read my review of her latest novel, hahahahahaha. Oooooh, and remember to pick up my next book, The Diseased Cowboy and the Runaway Bride Who Shoots Him in the Crotch, which got FIVE STARS at RomanceDitzes.com. Not that I gave them to myself. The initials J.D. are just a coincidence. Sincerely, Jess Divorced

7. Sorry I sneezed on this, but I did wipe the boogers off. Have you had a flu shot? Yours Truly, Rosie Nose

8. Spending $7.99 on this does not entitle you to have personal contact with me. Anywhere. Comprende? Stiffly, Hannah-Sandy Tizer

9. To the most boring person of indeterminate IQ whom I have ever encountered: I admire you for setting your sights so high, but I don't think you should attempt anything else of mine until you can read without moving your lips. Unaffectionately, Ima Snobb

10. You'll like this so much better than the last awful, clunky, ridiculous piece of trash which that drooling fat idiot cow who has the audacity to call herself a professional writer, Bertha Bigbucks, just published. And did you know she stole that plot from me? Righteously Yours, Vera Green

Friday, October 13, 2006

Off to Write

I have to bail on you guys again to sort out a proposal in the works, so there will be no Friday 20 this week, and I may end up missing in action over the weekend.

To make it up to you, I got a nice tip on a very cool promotion being done for No Plot? No Problem!, a novel-writing kit by NaNoWriMo's founder, Chris Baty. Stop by Chronicle Book's contest page and enter for free to win a pretty-much-all-expenses-paid trip to the San Francisco Writer's Conference, February 16-18, 2007 (Deadlines -- contest ends Dec. 15th 2006 at midnight; the Winner will be notified on Mon. Dec. 18th. No purchase necessary, but if you win, you have to tell me and I get to gloat.)

If I don't emerge from the abyss of rewrites, have a good weekend.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

E-Book Challenge Update

This week, let's talk about the type of font to use for your e-book. According to Shlomo Perets' article, Fonts Can Make or Break PDFs, "intelligent use determines display and/or printing success." I totally agree. Some fonts are way better than others for electronic documents, especially for those of us who have eye problems, wear corrective lenses or spend a great deal of time on the computer.

Often if I like the layout and fonts in an e-book, I'll check the Document Properties to see what the author used. To do this with Adobe Reader 7.0, I click on File, then Document Properties, and then click on the Fonts tab to get the list. That's how I know that Times New Roman fonts were exclusively used for Sasha White's novel, Abduction, which has a nice cohesive look to it and is quite easy on the eyes.

How much difference does the font style make? Since PBW is also an electronic document of sorts, let's have a look at a couple right here*.

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs.

Comic Sans MS:
The lazy dogs went after the quick brown fox.

Copperplate Gothic Bold:
The quick brown fox's fine bod attracted the attention of an alien.

Courier New:
(All Sasha White's fault, naturally.)

The interested alien abducted the quick brown fox.

The dogs were now lazy, pissed, and out one fox.

Lucida Sans Unicode:
But there you have it. Aliens 1, Dogs 0.

MS Reference Sans Serif:
Thus the quick brown fox became gorgeous mammal specimen #989, destined to be auctioned off as a pleasure slave on a fem-dominated world.

Times New Roman:
Now you'll never be able to type the quick brown fox sentence without thinking of erotic alien abduction.

I've been mostly using Arial, Eurostile or Courier with my stuff, but I'm also experimenting with this e-book, so I'm going to try some new fonts. Would be nice to get a bit of an antique look to my text. A font like Copperplate Gothic Bold or Enviro, however, can be hard on a reader's eyes, so lately I've limited using fonts like them strictly as accent fonts (good for short things like titles, bylines, chapter headers, URL linkage, etc.)

What's your favorite e-book font? Least favorite?

*Note: If you'd like to learn the html code to mess with the fonts on your weblog or web site, take the online tutorial here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Let's play a game. You be the naïve twit.

Once upon a time when you were younger and stupider, you trusted someone who used your naïveté to play you and sabotage you for their own amusement. You of course never saw it coming, and it broke your heart. Bad. Yet you walked away without doing anything about it because despite the cardiac damage, you sincerely believed that shutting up and forgiving (or at least forgetting) was the right thing to do.

Time, as it so often does, passes. Then one day out of the blue, Fate plays Bad Santa and presents you with a secret, sterling, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to settle the score between you and the one who abused your trust. As to the amount of damage you could cause with this opportunity . . . remember that bus/cargo plane explosion in Speed? On that scale.

P.S., all you have to do for the payback is tell the truth.

Do you:

a) Haul out the revenge C-4 and wire up those detonators.

b) Shut up and work harder on the forgetting thing you thought you had nailed.

c) Turn the whole unpleasant experience into a television show script -- sort of your personal version of Veronica Mars -- and sell it, and ask the casting director to let Charisma Carpenter or Harry Hamlin play the part of the jackass.

d) Check to see if the production team for Veronica Mars is hiring outside writers.

e) Remember that you don't write for television and that revenge is a dish best served frosty.

f) Plow your way through three pints of Häagen-Dazs creme brulee ice cream while imagining a bus smashing into a cargo plane.

g) Suffer acute brain freeze and pop an extra 10 mg of Lipitor because you're not allowed to have that much ice cream on your diet.

h) Ponder the frequency with which moral dilemmas like this get dumped into your lap.

i) Check the freezer to see if the kids ate that last popsicle you stashed behind the frozen peas.

j) Write a blog entry about your dilemma.

k) Write a blog entry about your dilemma worded in such a way as to make any number of jackasses from your past squirm.

l) Pray for strength.

m) Suspect that God has caller ID and He's dodging you again.

n) Go to the store and pace back and forth in front of the ice cream freezer while calling your pharmacist to see if it is possible to overdose on Lipitor or Häagen-Dazs.

o) Leave the ice cream, go home and clean the bathrooms. Not that they need it.

p) Admire the sparkling porcelain while asking yourself, Now what would Veronica Mars do?

q) Wish you were Kristen Bell, because she would at least have a script and Jason Dohring to work with. And brood.

r) Recall the philosophies of Sun Tzu and Ivana Trump, and brood a little more.

s) Discard Tzu and Trump, move on to Machiavelli and John Peter Zenger, and really get into the brooding in a big way.

t) Come to the conclusion that as sweet and satisfying as a big heaping dish of ice-cold revenge might be, it's still hitting back. Whatever that jackass has done, your rules say that you can't hit back. Ever. No matter how absolutely beautiful the roundhouse punch would feel.

u) Decide that you're still stupid, and that your rules suck, but they are the rules and idiocy has its own weird charm. Lucky for the jackass, eh?

v) Content -- if not particularly happy -- with yourself, the universe, etc., take an aspirin for the ice cream headache and get back to work.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Poddering Around

The first thing I used to do when I set up a new computer was to rip out or unplug and throw away the speakers. The assorted internet bells/whistles as well as unsolicited music on web sites were annoying and distracting, and I covet peace and quiet. Computer programs tend to make a lot of jarring sounds, too. If I want that much racket, I'll serve my kids red Kool-aid and Double-Stuff Oreos and then give them Nerf guns.

With this new era of audio everything, I leave the speakers plugged in but turned off. I still haven't caved into buying an Ipod, and I'm not a big fan of podcasting, but I will listen to bits of one online now and then if the speaker and/or the subject interests me. The voice makes or breaks it for me, though, and there are authors who should not read their work because they don't have a proper speaking voice for it (I should know, I'm one of them.)

Mech Muse, one of the newest online SF/F e-zines, offers twelve hours of audio fiction to listen to online or download into your Ipod (login/registration appears to be free at the moment but the submission guidelines seem to indicate there are subscription fees involved.) Mech Muse is also looking for short stories and performers to read for them and offer authors royalties of 40% and advances up to $400.00. If you're into podcasting, definitely worth a look.

There are also audio file sites out there like American Public Media, which offers a full page of free podcasts, with a link to Audible's excerpts from Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegone radio show, A Prairie Home Companion. Other podcasts include podcasts or links to talks about business, faith, finance, kitchen help, marketing, GK's Writer's Almanac and more. I think if you're going to get into podcasting, you should listen to a variety of them to get a feel for what makes a good podcast.

Related links:

If you'd like to try one of the online audio service sites, Audioblog (now called Hipcast) offers a 7-day free trial period to their service, which allows you to create videos, audios, podcasts and post them to your weblog.

The online community for podcasters, PodcastPickle.

Create, find and share podcasts over at PodOMatic.

Talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere online for free via Skype

Monday, October 09, 2006

Starry Ten

Ten Things that are Out of This World

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

1. Spin doctor your planet with Felix Golubov's Fractal Planet Generator.

2. Fractal Planet and Terrain freeware will build planets and terraform them for you.

3. Another planet-builder freeware, Fractal World.

4. Random Planet Generator was designed to quickly whip up planets for Star Wars RPGers, but the descriptions and combos can spark some ideas for SF/F writers.

5. Demonweb's Random SF Adventure Generator is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it demonstrates a good quick outline method for plotting the SF novel.

6. Got a space ship but don't know what to christen it? Try Gareth Tamplin's Ship Name Generator.

7. Dire Press has a couple of cool online generators: the SF World Generator and the Star System Generator.

8. Generate star systems and lots of helpful details about them with Star or Jim Burrows' StarGen.

9. Starship Builder.com is an entire web site devoted to discussing, designing, building and modeling your own space vessels.

10. Stellarium is a free, open source planetarium for your computer.

For more on planet creation, check out this ten list on world building.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Query Nation

The perfect query letter -- is it a myth or reality? Hard to say. It's like manuscripts; I've known writers who spend years going to query workshops and buying query how-to books and perfecting their queries with no luck, and others who land an agent and a contract with the first query letter they write. I've had a mixed bag of results with mine; ten years of novel query letters did zip for me; the very first non-fiction query letter I wrote landed my first nonfic sale:

February 1, 1999

Writer's Digest
1507 Dana Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45207

Re: Submission for Chronicle Article

Dear Ms. Smith:

What could go wrong when an interested editor calls and asks you to send a manuscript overnight? Everything!

I've enclosed my article, "Nothing can Possibly Go Wrong Now" for your consideration. It is 770 words in length, and takes a humorous look at what happens when a writer isn't prepared for that particular phone call.

If you have any questions, please contact me at (123)456-7890 or at the e-mail address above. Thanks for reading this and I look forward to hearing from you.


S.L. Viehl

(BTW, you can read the article I sold with this query in the Aug '99 issue of Writer's Digest.)

It's always interesting to see how other writers compose query letters. I try to work a little humor into mine. Nicholas Sparks writes an extremely earnest, wordy query letter; I got a terrible urge to edit it while I was reading it. Lynn Flewelling goes more for neat and friendly. Personally I like Carolyn Jewel's query examples, which may be a bit too storytellerish for some but gave me a nice sample of her voice without making me think she was twelve.

I feel really terse compared to these folks, but short works better for me. How about you guys? Do you shoot for detailed query letters, brief/concise, or something else?

Related links:

Agent Query.com's How to Write a Query.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

What's Your Line? Winners

Let me say that What's Your Line? was the hardest contest I've ever had to judge, period. The talent you folks hit me with was mind-boggling, and it took me a full day to narrow it down to the finalists. Then I couldn't decide between two writers for one category, so we have a tie.

But there must be winners, so here we go:

Winners for the Most Intriguing Line (Tie):

"While the most powerful nation in the world guarded its borders against dark men with explosives hidden on their bodies, death arrived in the form of a little girl with big brown eyes - and a slight cough." -- Samantha Gossett, Twilight

Samantha, your line was beautifully written, well-balanced, lyrical, timely -- and absolutely chilling. As I hit those last four words, I swear the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. You've also created a line to grab the attention of any type of reader, which makes editors drool. Go hug your kid, she was right on the money with this one.

"Being a mortician meant my relationship with each client lasted approximately 3 days, they didn't communicate with me during their stay in my establishment and they didn't come back to visit once our business was concluded." -- Claudia Moore

I liked the sophistication of your line, Claudia, as well as your word choices. It's exactly the sort of language I'd expect a dignified mortician to use, and it delivers the hook with a elegant wallop. I've even got a mental picture of the narrator, which given the total lack of descriptive words makes you something of a magician.

Winner for the Most Humorous Line:

"There are two types of people living in North Hampton; those who believe Andy Vick is guilty of murder, and Andy Vick."-- Arthur

Arthur, you've got a lot going here with this one: a strong intro to your story, a friendly, conversational tone, and a stand-up comedian zinger of a punchline. I also laughed out loud reading it, the litmus test of all humorous lines.

And the Winner for the Best Line in Contest:

"Now that I was actually in a dungeon with a dragon, the whole idea seemed a lot less appealing." -- Birthday Pirate

Above all, a great opening line should make me want to read the story, and even as anti-dragon as I am at the moment, Birthday Pirate grabbed and owned my attention with this line. It's simple, intriguing, and laugh-out-loud funny. It's also a rock-solid hook; of all the lines in the contest, this was the one I kept coming back to read. Well done.

Our four winners should e-mail LynnViehl@aol.com with your book wish, your full name and ship-to address so I can get your prizes out to you. My thanks to Gabriele for coming up with the idea for this contest, and to all the talented writers who participated.


"Marcia," John said, glancing respectfully at her womanly curves. "I think we've reached the point in our special time together that it would be acceptable for you and I to consensually agree to reach for the apex of our love and merge our hearts, minds, souls, and engage our other parts into a symphony of such sweetness as to be beyond my power to describe appropriately."

John's personal suggestions usually thrilled Marcia in that special way that utterly transcended all other pleasures yet did not leave any embarrassing moisture on her underclothing, but this time she was somewhat puzzled. She also had other, delicate needs demanding timely attention. "Beg pardon?"

"You know." He gathered her into his arms so that discreet contact points could be created between them. "We've discovered that we are perfect soulmates, haven't we?"

John had torn down the unpleasant infant expulsion-colored wallpaper in his library purely as a most welcomed but not expected salve for her sensibilities, so Marcia knew he was the gentleman for her. No one else had ever worshipped her femininity with such tactful tenderness. As for her other needs, perhaps if she placed one ankle over the
other . . .

"Marcia?" John seemed to desire rather than demand a response.

"Yes, you are my soulmate." She shifted so that one of her lower limb joints pressed into another. "May I please be excused?"

"Not now, darling. Haven't we also rearranged our personal relationships to create closure for those ties which did not benefit either party involved in order to liberate ourselves, each for the other?" When she nodded, John smiled and kissed the place between her nose and chin. "I know we're ready to better explore our unique and possibly life-changing emotional connection. By coming together in this singular and indescribably uplifting--"

"I apologize for interrupting," Marcia said, her eyes bulging slightly, "but I must leave you so that I may briefly visit the smallest room on this floor and powder my nose."

"Your nose is perfect," John assured her. "As I was saying, by coming together in that edifying and greatly stimulating --"

Marcia's eyes began to water. "John, I apologize again, but if I don't powder my nose right this minute, I'm afraid something humiliating will happen, our relationship will crumble and your lovely carpet will end up stained." She withdrew emphatically from his gentle embrace and departed with haste.

Now it was John's turn to be baffled. "I don't understand, Darling." He followed her to the smallest room on that floor and found the door locked. "What are you doing? What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I'm relieving myself."

"Of what?"

"Urine. For God's sake, John. I'm peeing in here."

"I beg your pardon?" John winced as he heard the activation of the waste removal system. "Sweetheart, you do know that this isn't that sort of novel. Our author holds herself above that sort of base, tawdry, vulgar, inappropriate and offensive dialogue. Always remember, what you're doing is one of the unmentionables."

The door opened with unusual speed. "One of the what?"

"The unmentionables. I'm sorry; I assumed you were given the list. Here." John removed a paper from his jacket pocket and handed it to Marcia, who began to read.

"So we can't use the common terms for alcoholism, alternative lifestyles, bathroom functions, bdsm, childbirth, death, drug addiction, environmental issues, gay or lesbian persons, handicaps, hookers, masturbation, my breasts, my vagina, persons of African, Asian or other-than-American origin, politics, religion, sex of any kind, the anal area, violence or your penis?" As John inclined his head, Marcia sighed. "What about that time you and your cousin Rocky got drunk and compared weenie sizes in the men's room at the Hoe Down?"

John shook his head. "You mustn't use the "w" word, Darling. We only refer to that area in total indirectly, as 'manly parts.' And that incident, while amusing, is far too suggestive and homoerotic -- here, just let me write it in." John produced a pen and added "weenie comparison, Cuz R." to the list.

Marcia had a lot of memorizing to do. "So what were you asking me before I had to run and p -- relieve myself? Is it on here?"

John turned over the list and pointed to a phrase on the back. "That. I'd like to do that with you. As soon as it's convenient."

Marcia nodded and ran her finger down the list. "That sounds good. And that. I really like that. Never tried that, but -- oooooh, can you do that?"

"Hmmmmm." John peered at the list. "We'll need vegetable oil, bungee cords, Toll House Morsels, Kevin Sorbo and lots of dry ice, but okay, sure."

Marcia grinned and allowed the back of her hand to accidentally graze over John's manly parts. "I knew there was a reason that you were my soulmate."

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday 20

I need a full day to read over and decide among the many terrific entries for the What's Your Line? contest, so the winners' names will be posted sometime tomorrow morning. Thanks to everyone for participating and for your patience.

And because it's been a bleak week news-wise, some fun today: Did you know that somewhere on this earth is walking someone uniquely destined for you? Neither did I, but the evil minds over at The Generator Blog sucked me into trying out the Secret Lover Generator.

Come on, who wouldn't want to find out who their secret lover is? So I put in my name, and met the man of my destiny:


Destiny appears to be about twenty-five years too young for me, and I'm taken anyway, but to borrow a line from Vanessa Jaye, Dayum.

Maybe in the next life, handsome. Onward: any questions for me this week?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

E-Book Challenge Update

I think e-books are terrific marketing tools, and I've been self-publishing my own since 2001. Anyone can write and self-publish an e-book, but to make it work as a marketing tool, the author has to 1) get the word out to readers, and 2) hook readers and make them want to read it. For you challengers out there, that means two more things to think about in the weeks ahead.

I. Get the Word Out to Readers

Links: You can count on one link: right here, at PBW. If you write it and put it online by the challenge deadline, I'm going to link to it. If you have writer, editor and/or reader friends willing to post links on their weblogs or web sites, ask them to link to your e-book as well. The more links you get out there, the better chance you have of attracting readers.

Writing-related sites, discussion boards, newsgroups and newsletters: The most unobtrusive way to spread the word at places like these (unless it's specifically against the rules) is to add a link to your e-book to your signature line. Keep it simple, i.e. "Read my free Darkyn novella, Midnight Blues" with a URL link. If you're sending out a newsletter for the month of October and/or November, definitely do a write-up and link for your e-book (if you have writer friends with newsletters who would be willing to do the same, ask them.)

E-mails: If you have a reader e-mailing list, or just want to get the word out to friends and family, e-mail an informal announcement. Ask the folks on your list to pass the word about your e-book along to others they think would be interested. Definitely don't SPAM people or do a mass mailing to people you don't know.

Meetings and Conferences: If you plan to attend a writer's organization meeting or conference in upcoming months, you can print up some flyers, bookmarks or business cards with a short description and/or cover art for your e-book along with the URL (if your local library allows it, drop some off there as well.) If your meeting is small, and you have the time and budget to do it, you can make and hand out free CD copies of your e-book.

II. Hook Readers and Make Them Want to Read It

In my experience, and from feedback you all have given me over the years, these are the best hooks to attract readers:

Provocative Title: Provocative titles need not be explicit, but they should provoke interest, curiosity and/or temptation in your potential reader. I chose Midnight Blues as a title because two vampire cops who work the night shift are a central part of my story; it's also a play off two cop show titles (Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue.) Robert Gregory Browne's Kiss Her Goodbye, Rosina Lippi's Tied to the Tracks, Holly Lisle's Last Girl Dancing, and Sasha White's Bound are excellent examples of provocative titles.

Hot Premise: Write one or two lines about your e-book's story that give the potential reader a taste of what's in it, i.e. Can a lonely vampire cop protect a lovely human nun against an immortal sadist who intends to have both of them?

Eye-catching Cover Art

Copy or Teaser: When possible, give your potential reader a taste of the e-book via copy (those blurbs you read on the back cover of a book) or a teaser (an actual excerpt from your story.) I recommend keeping copy to 250 words or less, and a teaser to 500 words or less. Again, think provocative.

One more note, this one for published authors with books coming out in print after the challenge deadline: think about including a short excerpt from your print book in your e-book, and use that as part of your hook. Anyone who reads my e-book Midnight Blues can look forward to reading an exclusive excerpt from Night Lost, book four in my Darkyn series.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Fashionable Sub Op

Elle magazine is running an essay contest: write an essay of 500 words or less about "The _______ that changed my life." They're interested in a fashion item to fill in the blank (a dress, shoes, bag, coat, necklace etc.) that "made an ordinary moment sublime, rocked your world or someone else's, that changed how you see yourself (or how others see you.)"

I'm not making this up. They're serious, and it's a real contest. Evidently fashion can change someone's life. We shouldn't make any jokes about that, either. One must respect people whose moments, image and world can be magically transformed by a pair of nifty designer shoes, or a cute little pink skirt, or --

Look, just shut up and read the rest of the post, okay?

The winner's essay will be published in Elle, and the winner will also "have dibs on" a Paige Large Convertible Tote from Cole Haan's fall collection (I have no idea what the latter is, so if you're wondering, best you consult with a chick-lit writer.)

To submit essays and get the contest rules, log on to Elle.com/Contest. Entry period is Oct. 5th to Nov. 25th, 2006.

(As for my own personal essays involving fashion, all of which would likely get me burned in effigy in front of Elle's headquarters, take a look at Moms, The Suit, and Unfashionable.)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Place Names

Let's say you've created a fictitious tavern, hamlet, village, town, city, realm, kingdom or planet for your story but you can't think of what to name it. Or the name you came up with for your fictitious tavern, hamlet, village, town city, realm, kingdom or planet makes your critique partner snort coffee out of her nose. Either way, you're in trouble.

Let's cruise around some of the online place name generators, see how they can help, and grade them accordingly.

1. Trying out The English Place Name Generator produced Broad Croft Manor, Little Sex Plain (Freudian slip from a frustrated male?), Under Shaw on Sea, Sall Farm, Under Croft Edge, Broad Bottom Wood (is that like fat bottomed girls?), Burn Heath, Nether in the Vale (I really like that one), Westwich Down, and Shot Wood (another gem.)

Generator Grade: Okay to good. Some repeats, some interesting combos. Better for ideas than actual names.

2. Emily Tuzson's German-sounding Place Name Generator has a list of component words in German which you're supposed to recombine manually, or use the generator link option to automatically do it for you to create "Your (Totally Fake) German-Sounding Place Name." Since I'm lazy, I hit the auto link and generated: Leinenzingermarkt, Günterhelmstadt, Leinenwaldgarten, Schlosszingersee, Schlossmeisterberg, Kaisermeistermarkt, Klosterweilermarkt, Hirschweilermarkt, Freihalleberg and Günterhallegasse.

Generator Grade Range: Eh to okay. This one seems limited and is probably only good for the amusement of German speakers (I'm imagining Gabriele rolling on the floor right about now) but the theory of taking common nouns from a different language and combining them is interesting. Just make sure you know what those words mean before you start mixing them, or you may end up with a place name that means "City of Girly Men and Thimble-Brained Women."

3. Manon's Place Name Generator gave me: Acterya, Albevona, Asopica, Bythennius, Engand (which begs to be at war with Ireand and Scotand), Euluarova, Inderum, Spararceos, Tasmibeos, and Utysum.

Generator Grade Range: Okay to good. Some squicky spellings. Not really my cup of tea, but the names sound appropriately fantasyish.

4. The Rancor Pit's Planet Generator mot only generates a planet name for you, but function, government, terrain, gravity, atmosphere, population and a bunch of other neat random details to help you world build. Using it I generated Kashousha, a mining world under a dictatorship with a population of sixty million, dry, temperate climate, and a 240 day calendar.

Generator Grade Range: Okay to good. Only one planet can be generated at a time, and the range of details seems limited. I started hearing Led Zepplin's Kashmir when I saw the name pop up, but the details are interesting and I could definitely run with something like this for a short story.

5. The Pseudo-Elizabethan Place Name Generator is one of my online favorites, as it generates an entire page of names to choose from, and nearly all have an appealing sound (at least, to me.) Here are ten from the long list I got there: Ensorcellporte, Cobhamnock, Gullston, Brodnaxley, Millsteeple, Faeriewife (that begs to be made into a fantasy story), Melmersthicket, Featherlea (God, drooling now) Bainsbush, and Deerheath .

Generator Grade Range: Great to excellent. Turns me into a gushy fan girl every time I visit it. Definitely play with this one.

6. I generated Iceberry, (pretty) Poundtol, Wednesford, Potters River, Runegrove, (begs for a Viking burial site to be found there) Stratdown, Mount Jonastol, Greengrove, Fire Grotto, (should sound hokey but I actually like it), and Port Yellowshine with the The Random Town Name Generator.

Generator Grade Range: Okay to good. Some repeats in the name combos, and seems a bit limited, but a few startling combos. Definitely an imagination sparker.

Seventh Sanctum offers some different place name generators:

      7. The Planet Name Generator gave me Iyaneu XII, Gux-Dew, Aqyp VII, Ewalae, Adie Decimus, Ot'Muuxxeu Tertius, Goyesowu XI, Iwpoaz Sextus, Ipoaz-Jyak 9 and Rutara IV.

Generator Grade Range: Eh to okay. I'm a bit burned out on the Star Trekish planetary name methodology. I'd like to visit a planet named Bob or Lungfish or that is represented by a non-verbal arcane symbol now.

      8. The Realm Name Generator gave me Barony of the Nomad's Hell, Duchy of the Hare's Spice, Earldom of the Sandflies, Low Land, New State, Ring Empire, State of the Conception, (Is that where the Sisters of the Immaculate Love Scene Live?), State of the Spice, Unholy Firey Cyclops' Realm, and Windy Duchy.

Generator Grade Range: Okay to good. Amusing if applied to something other than Realms (I know a writer who should be the Earl of Sandflies.) Probably better for ideas than actual names.

      9. The Tavern Name Generator gave me The Courier and Fish, The Dragon's Tavern, The Elegant Club Saloon, The Emperess' Mug, The Mad Emperess Inn (like that one a lot), The Minotaur's Bar, The Morose Highwayman (begs for a ballade), The Soldier and Queen, The Wolf's Flask (wonderful) and The Zestful Militaman Inn.

Generator Grade Range: Good to great. Bar names are usually author in-jokes, so to get a few normal-sounding ones appeals to me. Also, some interesting combos.

10. Harbor Hills: Narrative: The word harbor appears to shield us from the trials of life. While hills is used describe the surroundings of the area. -- name & narrative generated over at the Suburban Name Generator.

Generator Grade Range: Eh to okay. Probably better for real estate agents and suburb builders than writers, but I like the little narrative that goes with the name -- explains why there are so many "Harbors" around my region.

I tend to invent names out of the blue or use anagrams of common words. With Wordsmith.org's Anagram Server you can input a word or words of your choice and generate a pretty hefty list of anagrams. Thus common words like Paperback Writer can be transformed into Brace Wrapper Kit (have a few of those), Paper Water Brick (a variation of rock, paper scissors, I presume) and Pap Wrap Biker Crew (let's just not go there.)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Comp Ten

Ten Things to Get for No Cost

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

1. Find dead links or duplicates in your Browser Bookmarks with AM-Deadlink.

2. Get a system in which digital information can be created, stored, managed, controlled and published from a single source to print, online and help formats with the free trial of Author-It.

3. An alternative word processing freeware, CopyWriter.

4. KGP Software has a whole page of freeware downloads, including a mass mailer (not to be used for SPAM) and a compact multi-document editor.

5. PWEditor freeware has a bunch of features that allow users to design, edit and maintain web pages on or offline.

6. Yet another simple NotePad replacement freeware, QText.

7. "One of the most advanced HTML editors on the planet", Selida.

8. Get as wordy as you want with Sequence Publishing's TheSage Dictionary and Thesaurus freeware.

9. Grab a free site map generated online for your web site at XML-Sitemaps.

10. Xterm Medical Dictionary is a free downloadable dictionary of medical terms that can be updated twice a month with the latest add-ins from the project web site.

Two sites to see for fun: the creative minds at Amautalab go right for the kid in all of us (roll over objects for animation and sound; click on the amautalab logo in the upper corner for company detail cloud), while The Leo Burnett Agency displays the power of a mere pencil -- click on it and prepare to be dazzled (both links found in Web Designer Magazine, Issue 121.)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

What's Your Line?

Yesterday in comments our pal Gabriele proposed I hold an opening line contest. I think it's a great writing exercise, and you know how much I like cracking the whip and making you people work. So let's do it.

In comments to this post, give us your finest opening line. The line can be something you come up with just for the contest, from your work in progress, or from a story or novel you've published.

Da Contest Rules:

1. The line can be of any length, but it must be a single sentence.

2. The line must be your original work.

I'll be the contest judge and will pick three winning lines; one in each of the following categories:

Best Line in Contest
Most Humorous Line
Most Intriguing Line

The three winners of the contest will be lavished with much praise by me and will also be granted a book wish.* The deadline to enter your best opening line is midnight EST on Thursday, October 5, 2006, and the contest is open to everyone on the planet except Elizabeth Kostova, who already had her chance with me and blew it.

*Book wish = one book of your choice that is available for order online and is priced at $30.00 U.S. dollars or less. I will throw in any/all shipping cost.