Monday, December 31, 2007

Adieu, 2007

"The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant party, but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Over the weekend I went through archives and looked for what might constitute the best posts of 2007 here at the blog. It's hard for me to say what is the best, as I like writing all of it, from the biz posts, the Friday 20 and the summer's virtual workshops to The Monday 10 and the ongoing John and Marcia novel crash test series.

I guess the most fun for me is writing the parodies and humor posts. If I can make you laugh at me, the biz or yourself, then I feel I've written something worthwhile. Plus most of these posts have regularly offended people with no sense of humor, which is of course my other writing mission in life.

I will take this opportunity to thank you all for sticking with me through 2007. You are the gifts that every day brings to me.

Without further adieu:

The Best of PBW 2007

January: The Last Samurai Agent, Mary Sue Anonymous, Filtered.

February: Ten Things I Hate About Your Protagonist, Dictionary: Impossible.

March: Atypical Brain Mush, Authors and Slogans.

April: Answer the Anonymous E-Mail, Ten Reasons to be Happy You're not at the RT Convention, John and Marcia: The Escapist Artist.

May: The Mercy Read,

June: Ten Signs that You've Attended Too Many Writing Workshops, Ten Things People Say When They Meet Writers.

July: John and Marcia: Darlingalingus, Friday 20 -- using humor to promote a novel.

August: Ten Things Editors Say, and What They Really Mean, John and Marcia: The Synopsis, Ten Things for Those Who SPAM Me.

September: Lost and Found, Pub Stickers.

October: Character Quotes.

November: Plot Fix, Inc., Here We Go Again, John and Marcia: Flawopathy, Ten Things That May Indicate That You're Writing a McNovel.

December: My Fish Pledge (my daughter gets the credit for this one), Writerisms, PW'd.

My #1 favorite post of 2007 was a quick, two-part parody I wrote back in January, based on the work of one of my favorite writers, Ambrose Bierce. It definitely offended as much as it entertained, and caused such a ruckus among the Collective that the most popular weblog in the world linked to it (my fifteen minutes of real blog fame): The Devil's Publishing Dictionary Part I & Part II.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

What's in Your Jacket?

While out picking up some OOP books, I found an old Random House Modern Library edition of Swinburne's poems, no copyright or pub date, but probably circa 1940's.*

I have to read Algernon in small doses, as he tends to howl in my head for days afterward, but I bought the book because I don't own a copy of this particular collection -- best described as everything he wrote that really pissed off the Victorian critics -- and it had an intact, largely undamaged cover jacket with it.

In the olden days of selling paperback-size hardcovers for ninety-five cents, Modern Library also did one more neat thing. They printed their complete title list on the inside of their cover jackets. I'm not kidding. The top line printed on the inside the cover jacket reads Which of these 316 outstanding books do you want to read? (great selling tag line) and the inside of the right end flap states This is a complete list of Modern Library books.

Today I'm not seeing publishers printing anything on the inside of cover jackets for hardcovers. Advertising generally ends up in the back of the mass market editions, which some readers find convenient and others find annoying. I mostly skip mm back page advertising, although I do read Harlequin's upcoming title lists and short synopses on the inside of back covers for Presents; that gives me a heads-up on titles by three authors I buy regularly.

I know some of the printing processes (metallicizing, embossing, plasticizing, etc.) involved with producing cover jackets today might make it difficult for publishers to take advantage of the inside of the front cover jacket. But if publishers would be willing to give up the fancy special effects stuff, their title lists (or the author's backlist, for that matter) could be printed on the inside of a cover jacket.

If you were going to use the inside of a cover jacket for some other purpose, what would you put on it? Or should we keep the inside blank?

*Added: I did a little research, and for once I nailed the date -- 1942, according to this ML collector's page.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Year of Writing Dangerously

One unexpected Christmas gift I received this year was from a SF writer friend, who sent me the first two seasons of Battlestar Galactica, the updated series (technically it was a swap; I sent him my P.D. James/BBC movie collection. The idea was to give each other something we loved that we knew the other person hadn't watched.)

I admit, I had serious reservations on my end, but he convinced me to give it a go. I think my hesitancy came from remembering what I didn't like about the original series with Lorne Greene. Back then the Cylons were pretty cool, but the rest of it was very family-oriented, made-for-TV stuff.

Not so with the updated BG series. It's probably, no, it is the best SF I've seen since the Sci-Fi channel updated The Children of Dune. I rarely recommend watching anything on TV because I think too much of it rots your brain, but this series is actually worth the potential cell damage.

Whoever took on Battlestar Galactica and decided to update it did some dangerous things. Starbuck is now played by a woman, Katee Sackoff, who blows the lid off the role in just about every episode. Richard Hatch, the original Apollo from the old series, now plays a cagey criminal dissident. Adama is played by the not-very-pretty Edward James Olmos (who is beyond brilliant, btw.) Even the Cylons, who were the ultimate tin-can villains of TV back in the eighties, have been updated in a very scary way. The most audacious change is the storytelling, which is no longer humans-good Cylons-bad black and white. You see the fairy dust and the warts on both sides, in all the shades of gray you can imagine.

A few of you writers out there have been pursuing publication or have worked in the biz as long if not longer than I have. I was shocked the first time someone referred to me as "being around forever" -- how is ten years forever? -- but in the released-today remaindered-tomorrow world of publishing, I guess I have been.

We dusty old-timers may not be as glam or exciting as the latest flavor of the month, but we do gain an advantage. We are around long enough to see how the industry adapts, shifts and changes, both in the short-term and long-term. Those of us who survive what my friend Holly Lisle calls "the three-book death spiral" do so only because we adapt, shift and change with it.

I do have one more resolution for 2008, other than that list of things I'm not going to do. Along with the work I have already sold, I'm going to write one dangerous book this year.

I've done this a few times before, but never when something I'd already written was working well on the market. It's not a safe thing to do. This book has such a strong, demanding concept that I'm not sure I can do it justice. I'm also fairly certain it may not sell because, like other dangerous books I've pitched in the past, it has nothing to do with I've already done (and when what you're doing is selling like hot cakes, the last thing publishers want to see is something that won't fit on the griddle.)

I need to do this. Because the only thing worse than failing to sell is to sell oneself into complacency. And if it doesn't work, I'll blame it on Battlestar Galactica.

What do you guys think of writing dangerously? Is it worth the time, effort and trouble, or is it better to play it safe?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

4-3-2 Winners

I hope everyone is having a great time enjoying their holidays. To add a little extra to some stockings, we stole Santa's hat and drew the names for the remaining giveaways.

Winners of the Galley Four giveaway are:

Shawn Hansen

D. (whose comment read Squilyp. He's the best rounded secondary character I've seen in years.)

Anne (via Angela James's entry)

Bill Peschel

Shawn, D., Angela and Bill, please e-mail a full name and ship-to address to (Angela, I will need Anne's) and I will get your books & surprises out to you.

Winners of the Three Bookwishes giveaway are:


Kerry (whose comment read a GAME card. That is, a gift card for a gaming shop for the gamers in my life.)

Carol Burge

Cat-willows, Kerry and Carol, please e-mail the title/author of the book you would like along with a full name and ship-to address to, and I will grant your bookwishes.

Winners of the K-2 for Two giveaway are:

Robin Bayne


Robin and tetewa, please e-mail a full name and ship-to address to and I will get these books out to you.

Thanks to everyone for joining in and helping us celebrate 12 days of Christmas Freebies here at PBW.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

One E-Story

On Christmas Day, PBW gave to me:

The Sequel to Worthy

Willing by Lynn Viehl (.pdf format, click on link to download)

Merry Christmas to everyone.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

K-2 for Two

On the second day before Christmas, PBW gave away:

Two novels of K-2

In comments to this post, name your favorite holiday cookie, dish or treat (or, if you can't choose only one, just drop your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Tuesday, December 25, 2007. I will draw two names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners signed hardcover copies of BioRescue and Afterburn (these first editions are now out of print, so they're hard to find.) This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Three Wishes

On the third day before Christmas, PBW gave away:

Three BookWishes

In comments to this post, tell us what you think is a good, last-minute holiday gift (or, if you can't think of one, just drop your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Monday, December 24, 2007. I will draw three names at random from everyone who participates and grant the winners a BookWish*. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*A BookWish is any book of your choice that is available for order from an online bookseller, up to maximum cost of $30.00 U.S. I will throw in any applicable shipping charges involved.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Galley Four

On the fourth day before Christmas, PBW gave away:

Four galley copies of Omega Games Plus ?*

In comments to this post, name your favorite StarDoc character and why (or, if you don't have a favorite or haven't read the series, just drop your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Sunday, December 23, 2007. I will draw four names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners a signed galley copy** of my eighth StarDoc novel, Omega Games, which will be published in August 2008. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*The ? is a surprise, and no, I'm not telling you what it is.

**I don't have the official publisher galleys yet, so these will be galleys that I format and print out myself from the final manuscript.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Five Writer Things

Rather tardily on the fifth day before Christmas, PBW found for me:

Five Freewares for Writers

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

1. Matt Neuberg's Diary (scroll down on page) is a simple daily journaling app (OS: Mac OS X.)

2. ExpressScribe transcription playback software is "a professional audio player software for PC, Mac or Linux designed to assist the transcription of audio recordings. It is installed on the typist's computer and can be controlled using a transcription foot pedal or using the keyboard (with 'hot' keys). This computer transcriber application also offers valuable features for typists including variable speed playback, multi-channel control, file management and more" (OS: Windows - 95/98/NT/2000/Me/XP/2003/Vista; Mac OS - 10.1 or above; Linux.)

3. The closest thing to a virtual notepad out there is JC & MB QuickNote (multi-lingual; OS: Windows 95/98/ME/NT4/2000/XP/2003/Vista)

4. Sveinbjorn Thordarson's Vox Machina is a speech synthesizer program that reads text out loud and saves spoken text as audio files, either as uncompressed AIFF or MP3-encoded audio (OS: MacOS X 10.3.9 or later.)

5. "Organize your writing projects, from manuscripts to characters to overdue submissions" with the free 30 day trial download of Writers Project Organizer -- "ideal for novels, works of nonfiction, short stories and screenplays, from first draft to polished product" (OS: Windows with Microsoft's .Net Framework 2.0 installed.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Freebie Sidebar

Back in September, I started getting a lot of Romantic Times-generated flack because of an RT article accusing me of undercutting the advances of other writers by my practice of giving away free e-books for my readers. I believe Melanie Lynne Hauser was the other author who was attacked for the same thing (note to self: go check out her free content.)

At the time I chose not to respond to the attack for two reasons: 1) I never actually saw the article in question and 2) it is quite possibly the stupidest thing I've ever heard. But like most publishing conspiracy theories, this one evidently refuses to die. After I recently talked about free content over on Tobias's blog, I got a few e-mails from unhappy people who actually believe this nonsense.

Here's my take: free e-books are an an excellent way to promote the work and give something back to the readers. Feedback from my free e-books usually tells me what works for my readers and what doesn't, which helps me decide what to pitch to publishers. Free e-books kept my StarDoc series alive and convinced me to re-pitch the Darkyn series.

And you know something? I get a kick out of writing them, putting them together, making the cover art, all that stuff. I like having complete creative control over the final product. And I love knowing anyone can read them whenever they like.

There will always be writers who expect readers to pay for the privilege of reading every single word they write. Alas, I'm not one of them. To suggest that my freebies are a determining factor in how much other writers are paid makes me feel really powerful, though.

So okay, I give up. I'll take the blame.

I did it. I'm the reason you have a day job. I'm the reason your advance sucks. I'm the reason your genius continues to be ignored. Forget about Melanie, it was 100% my fault. Yes, it was all, all me. You authors out there, be warned: mess with me and I'll write more free stories!

Oh, and while we're on the subject, global warming? My bad, too.

Snowy Six

On the sixth day before Christmas, PBW found for me:

Six No-Shovel Snow Things

1. The Classic Create Your Own Snowflake

2. Free Snow Scene Screensaver "fills your screen with large snowflakes. High resolution, high quality winter snow scene images. You will either want to get out of the snow or in the snow after seeing this one." (OS: Windows 95-XP - works best with 800 X 600 screen resolution.)

3. For the Javanuts out there, check out this online tutorial on how to mix water and snow applets.

4. Jacquie Lawson's animated holiday e-card, The Snow Dog (still the best e-card ever.)

5. Play's free Snow Boarder XS online game or's free Snowman Salvage online game.

6. Pepsi will donate up to $50,000.00 to America's Second Harvest -- The Nation's Food Bank Network -- to help fight hunger this holiday season; all you have to do is register with Pepsi World (free) and create a virtual snow globe.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Read Seven

On the seventh day before Christmas, PBW found for me:

Seven Freebies for the Readers

1. Storynory has a page of free Christmas audio stories for children to download.

2. Billy gives away free inspirational books in print each month to their online visitors; this month they're offering Letters From Ruth’s Attic by Ruth Bell Graham

3. Celebrating Christmas is offering a free .pdf download of their 2007 Christmas issue.

4. has an entire page of free Christmas stories (my favorite is The Legend of the Christmas Spider.)

5. has a page of free Christmas mystery stories.

6. Over at StoryTelling, author Rosina Lippi is having a very cool LibraryThing giveaway, which includes a lifetime membership to LibraryThing, a cue-cat, a LibraryThing t-shirt and a couple books to get a lucky reader started with cataloging.

7. NaturalReader is a text-to-speech freeware that reads your text to you in natural voices, and converts any written text into audio files such as MP3 or WAV for your CD player or iPod (OS: Windows.)

We also put the magic hat to work, and the winners for the tenth day Evermore giveaway are:

Amie Stuart










Winners, please send your full name and ship-to address to, and I'll get your books out to you. Thanks to everyone for joining in and leaving so many lovely greetings and wishes.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Late 8-8-8

One of our regulars (you know who you are) very tactfully informed me that it is actually the eighth, not the ninth, day before Christmas. Which simply confirms what we all know: I cannot count. Here's the catch up post to get me back on track:

On the eighth day before Christmas, PBW gave to me:

The first chapter of Omega Games

(This is StarDoc book eight, to be published in August 2008. Be warned, it contains quite a few series spoilers)

Nine Helps

On the ninth day before Christmas, PBW found for me:

Nine Holiday Helpers

1. God Bless Us, Everyone -- if you're feeling Scroogish, you might try reading Project Gutenberg's free download of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

2. FaLaLaLaLa -- Christmas Caroler is a free Christmas carols e-book with printable song sheets, links to sheet music for each song and midi files.

3. Festive Food -- Get delicious holiday recipes, hints and more over at's Christmas Collection page.

4. Listen & Help the Hungry -- offers a free mp3 Christmas song download by Dean Martin, Nat King Cole or Corinne Bailey Rae (registration required, but each song downloaded generates $1 to fight hunger.)

5. Get Crafty -- if you're into handmade gifts, find something to make for everyone on your list over at's free Christmas craft projects page.

6. Got yarn? -- Craftown also has a nice page of free Christmas crochet patterns, many with photos.

7. Choose Your Romantic Christmas Adventure -- (and write new chapters) with's online interactive Christmas romance (fun idea, actually.)

8. Sing to Me -- The has a free collection of Hanukkah music for download.

9. Free Reads -- Tonto Press UK has a free 92 page e-book of Christmas short stories by a number of their authors; to download in .pdf format click here (I thought this was an excellent way for a publisher to give something to the readers that's free and showcases new talent.)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ten Books

On the tenth day before Christmas, PBW gave away:

Ten Copies of Evermore

The new novel of the Darkyn

In comments to this post, leave a holiday greeting, wish or message by midnight EST on Monday, December 17, 1007. I will draw ten names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners a signed first edition copy of my new Darkyn novel, Evermore. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Eleven Widgets

On the eleventh day before Christmas, PBW found for me:

Eleven Widgets for Widgeting

1. offers four widgets for your blog or web page: LoveScope, Dashtrology (Mac only), Horoscope, and On This Day in History.

2. offers a free bookmarking widget to help promote your blog.

3. Forgot to mail out cards? Try the online Christmas card generator.

4. Put your blog visitors to work with's holiday widget, Decorate the Christmas Tree.

5. A free online lineage chart generator to keep track of your series/story characters and their relationships.

6. FreePhotoCalendar will help you put together and print out your own customized 2008 calendar (note: you do need a .pdf reader to view the finished product.)

7. MagMyPic will put your photo on the cover of one of twelve different magazines (finally, I can be on the cover of Vogue!)

What do you mean, I'm too fat for Elle?

8. Lunapic's photo-spread tool can make your uploaded image into a neat pile o' Polaroids.

9. Show off your prezzies with a photo slide show for your blog from Flickr.

10. Get 29,000+ more widgets for your weblog over at

11. Mac users, add a daily horoscope to your blog or web page with The Zodiac Widget.

Most of the above links were found over at the ultimate source for web widgets, The Generator Blog

Friday, December 14, 2007

12 Days of Freebies Christmas

On the twelfth day before Christmas, PBW found for me:

Twelve Cool Contests for Entering:

1. Access Romance has a new giveaway for every day of December (they're currently on day #13)

2. Subscribe to's newsletter and win free books.

3. Take a chance on author Alison Kent's $100 gift certificate.

4. Circuit City is giving away one of the hottest (and hardest to find) video game systems this season, the Wii. This one ends 12/21/07.

5. Disney and Pixar are giving away a dream vacation for four to France.

6. Duracell wants to recharge your holiday shopping with $5,000.00 and more from their Holiday Shopping Sweepstakes.

7. Win a KitchenAid dream kitchen worth up to $10,0000.00.

8. Kohl's is giving away $15,000.00 plus other prizes.

9. Contest for $175 in gift certificates from Love is an Exploding Cigar

10. Win two identical prizes by using your MasterCard this month or by entering their sweepstakes online (and just a note for anyone who sneers at the chances of winning credit card sweepstakes, I won $500.00 plus an entire set of YA books for my kids from the Visa/Borders sweepstakes a few years ago. All I did was use my Visa to buy Christmas-gift books at Borders and they entered me automatically.)

11. Subscribe to Motormint's newsletter for a shot at an authentic 1964-1/2 Ford Mustang or $20,000.00 in cash.

12. Pepperidge Farm has $25,000.00 plus other cool stuff to win in their Fred Claus Sweepstakes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Fish Pledge

When she wants something, my twelve-year-old can be very persuasive.

This year she's set her heart on getting a fish. I was not so crazy about the idea for a couple of reasons. We tried fish when she was younger, and she got bored with them pretty fast. I think we have enough pets (three cats, a dog and all the snakes, birds, squirrels, spiders and strays that have now figured out that our yard is the safest place for them in the neighborhood.) And while my daughter loves animals and wants her own "personal" pets, she often forgets to regularly feed and care for them, so they all eventually end up becoming my pets.

So when my daughter brought up the subject of getting a fish this year, I instantly vetoed the idea. I discussed my reasons with her, and I thought she'd accepted it, but a week later this is what she wrote at the bottom of her Christmas wish list:

My Fish Pledge:


I promise to forever care and accommodate any fish that I am to get. I promise to buy the supplies like fish food and any accessories I want to buy for my fish with my own money. I also promise to feed it every day and if the tank needs cleaning, I will clean it. The only thing I ask of you to do is to buy the fish(es), tank, water, tank gravel, 1 bottle of fish food, a guide on how to take care of fish, and the usual water treatment stuff to purify the water or whatever it does and the normal care things for the fish that I need like a filter. I also need you to take me to the pet store AT LEAST once a month to buy supplies. If I do get a fish, I promise that I will try to make it stay alive for the usual age that the species lives in captivity, and I promise to make that fish have the best life in the world. I promise to always feed it, and if I forget to, you don’t have to feed it. And if it dies, it’s MY responsibility and fault.

The only time I will ask you to feed it is if I go on a trip and I will not be there to feed it. But the only thing I expect out of you is that it will be MY fish, and I get to pick out the food I want, the fish I want, the tank I want (if I’m getting another one), and the accessories I want; none of this “This one is cheaper though!” crap.* I AM PAYING FOR THE STUFF. (Except for the stuff in the beginning that I mentioned) That fish will have the greatest life in the world. I promise to always take care of it, if you buy it for me. I will do WHATEVER you want for 1 month and I will promise not to go into babysitting until I become a mother’s helper, clean my room and keep it clean forever or the fish gets taken away, and I will not get anything else for Christmas. (Except for the fish and I realllllllllyyyyyy want the phoenix puppet for my b-day)

Note: It took me like 3 hours to write that… please don’t say no… :’(

Note2: I really am begging now, please…

Note3: If you still think no, then please consider the following if you did not read it:


“I promise to buy the supplies like fish food and any accessories I want to buy for my fish with my own money. But the only thing I expect out of you is that it will be MY fish, and I get to pick out the food I want, the fish I want, the tank I want (if I’m getting another one), and the accessories I want; none of this “This one is cheaper though!” crap. I AM PAYING FOR THE STUFF. (Except for the stuff in the beginning that I mentioned)” “I will also do WHATEVER you want for 1 month and I will promise not to go into babysitting until I become a mother’s helper, clean my room and keep it clean forever or the fish gets taken away, and I promist to be a great child.

(I hope that you will reconsider now if you still think no…)

Note4: I have already researched some fish at

This is the list of things I want for Christmas for my fish and the basic stuff you need to run a fish tank with:

The Type of fish I want:

1 betta (female and I want to pick it out)

The equipment I need for my fish and want for Christmas:

1 2-5 Gal. Aquarium

1 pack of Blue Gravel ( I like blue J but any color will do.)

A Sponge Filter

1 Aquarium Light and top

Some Test kits (pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate) (nitrite and nitrate are not the same, look at the spelling!!!)

Food, Nets, Scrapers and other equipment (like water conditioners)

(I specifically need beta food)

and also at least 1 plant and 1 rock.

Please, please, think about this, I really am serious this time, I promise to god that I will take care of these fish, and they will have the best life in the world. I’ve been thinking about getting fish for a long time, since at least a month after my hamster** died. I know now the responsibility of taking care of pets and I promise that these fish will not die because of my laziness, but instead of old age or disease from unknown or known (but not from me) sources. I promise that if I do not treat these fish nicely and take care of them for as long as they live, or if I get board with them, then I know that you will take them from me and give them back to the pet store.

If I am not clear enough yet, please consider that I have done much research about fish and I understand how much responsibility goes into taking care of just one fish and that it requires lots of work, and I am eagerly willing to do that work this time for I now believe that I am mature enough to try once more and start over the way I started, by fish. If I become lazy about these fish, I know that you will never, ever, EVER, let me have pets again, but this time, I’m serious, and I know that I will take care of these fish. So please, please reconsider if you still think no.


The kid knows how to make an argument, and no, I don't have a heart of stone, so I am reconsidering. After all that, how could I not? And I wonder if I can get her to write a New Heated Swimming Pool Pledge for me to add onto the bottom of my Christmas wish list. . .

*I like how I'm portrayed as a cheapskate here, all because I won't let her buy whatever she sees at the pet store without first making some price comparisons.

** Sweetie Pie passed away peacefully in his sleep of old age after two years of being my hamster.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Buyer Incentives

Randy Ingermanson, author and creator of How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, also publishes a free monthly e-zine for writers. In the December '07 issue he has an interesting article on launching your novel by building an e-mail database (includes an interview with indy Christian SF publisher Jeff Gerke.) I have some reservations about the e-mail database approach to novel launching and marketing, as I've been around that block before, but Randy makes a good argument for it.

For an incentive to tempt a book buyer, it has to be effective, personal and yet non-intrusive. To quote from Randy's article: Your goal is get e-mail addresses of people who are genuinely interested in what you are writing and who are willing to receive e-mail from you whenever you write a new book. I can honestly say that I've never bought a book because I received an e-mail from the author, the author's publisher, the author's marketing team, or a chain bookseller. But then, I've never signed up for any that I've received; they came in the form of SPAM which at the most I glanced at before deleting.

As incentives go, I lean more toward providing online free, original content that is available nowhere else. What writers do best is write, so why not use the greatest asset we have? It's also the type of marketing/launching strategy that any writer can afford -- all you have to do is write the story, turn it into an e-book, and park it on the internet. If the content is made available in those arid stretches between novel releases, loyal readers are more likely to click on the download link. Keeping free content available also creates a stock of stories for potential new readers to check out before they make a purchase.

The next hurdle is to find an effective, non-intrusive way to make a writer's free story stock more widely available, and I'm working on that.

What author-generated incentive(s) convinces you to buy a book? If you've got any good examples, tell us about them in comments.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Index of Freeware & Online Tools for Writers

This is the first update/renovation of my master list of links to freeware, free trial software, tools and generators available online that may be useful to writers. It's not yet complete -- I have to check links, code and add about another hundred of them, and so forth -- but I thought you might like to see the list in progress.

Also, because I'm constantly adding new links, correcting broken links and removing dead links from it, the list will be perpetually under construction, but I think the indexing will render it more user-friendly. As before, you can park your cursor over each link and a box will pop up with a short description of the item or more details about its function.

Before you use any link to download freeware, please remember the standard freeware caution: always download free programs onto a disk and scan them for viruses or other threats before you put them on your hard drive.

Accounting: Accounting Express 2008 * Personal Finance Manager

Art: ArtPad * Browzer Books Art Pac * Chaos Pro * Desktop Graffitist * Desktop Messager * Digital Snowglobes * Dreamlines * Fractal Wallpaper * Litha:Paint * Photo-to-Sketch * Project DogWaffle * Segmation * Twisted Brush

Calendars: 1 year * Calendar.exe * Calendar Magic * Calendars & Planners * Chandler * Digital Calendar * Easy HR Popup Calendar * MiniMinder * Multi-Reminders * pAgenda * Rainlendar * Remind Me Please * Sunbird * TaskPrompt * TimeLeft * Time Sentry * TimeTool * TKexe Kalendar * ToDo

Clocks: 3D Matrix Clock * Banshee Screamer Alarm * Claudio * ClickClock * Clock! * ClockLink * ClocX * Cursor Clock * Custom Skin Clock * Free Atomic Clock * Floating Clock * Kaleidoscope Clock * MicroEggTimer * MultiLingual Speaking Clock * Talking Alarm Clock * Topmost Clock * yTimer

Color and Color Pickers: Anry Color Picker * Cheap as Free Color Picker * Color Cop * Color Palette Generator * Instant Eyedropper * PagePainter * Paint Chips * Peacock Color Picker * SwatchBook * VMN Toolbox

Database: BiblioExpress * Book DB * List * Margaret Fisk's Writing Links

E-books & PDFs: EBook Compiler * Paperless Printer * PDF995 * PDF Factory * PDF Machine * PDF Maker DLL * * PDF Text Reader * Primo PDF * rheaDER * Tiny PDF * TweakPDF * WordPod * yBook

Freeware Resources: * * Freeware World Team * Spacejock Software

Games & Game Creation: 7 Wonders * 8 Kingdoms * AdventureMaker * GameMaker * Legendary Tales * PCGen 5.13.4 Beta * Spice Trade

Graphics: Alice * AndreaMosaic * Art of Illusion * BezierDraw * Capture-A-Screenshot * EZThumbnails * Faststone * FreeSerifSoftware * Free Photo Station * Irfanview * Mosaizer * Nature's Mosaic * 93 Photo Street * * Photo2Web and Photo View * PhotoGadget * Photopolis * PhotoShape * Seasidesoft Book Manager * The Gimp * Wax * WinMorph * WPClipArt

Handicapped Writer Aids: Click-N-Type Virtual Keyboard * RapidKeys

HTML Editor: Alleycode

Inspiration: Bonsai Story Generator * E-muse * The Hero Machine * Ink * Papel * Said * Serendipity * 7th Novel * Seventh Sanctum *'s free trial versions of Story Weaver, Dramatic Pro, and Movie Magic * The Story Starter * WriteThis * yWriter

Journaling: Diary Book * eJournal * iDailyDiary *Life As I See It

Mac Freeware: 63 Great Mac Programs That Won't Cost You a Bundle * Applejack * Butler * iBackup * Inkscape * NeoOffice * Nvu * Scrivener Gold * TextExpander * TextWrangler 2 * XShelf

Mind Mapping & Project Management: Aviz Thought Mapper * Axon * ConceptDraw * Diagram Designer * FreeMind * IDEA! * The Literary Machine * MindGenius * MindManager * MindPad * NovaMind * Project Engine * Visual Mind * Vizual Einstein ME * Voodoopad

Miscellaneous: Dirk Paehl's Web Site * Editor's Choice Free Software * Electronic Piano * FAQ Genie * FastReader * FractMus * FreeMusicZilla * FreeWare Book * * FreewareWiki *Garden with Insight * George's MySpace Editor * GroupMail * Help4J * Jan Verhoeven's Web Site * Magic Speed Reading * MouseCam * ProBoards * SmartBee * SuperMemo * TV.exe * UserHealth * Video DVD Maker * VLC media client (formerly VideoLANclient) * VRML Beans * Weather Watcher *

Names: Blueman's Name Generators * Fake Name Generator * Kleimo's Random Name Generator * HippoName * Name Generator

Notepad, Notes and Notebooks: AM-Notebook * DocPad * ExCopy * Floating Notes * Fuzzy Duck Note Tab * Keynote * The Magic Notebook * MemoirsLite * MikkoMatrix * The Novel Notebook by PBW * Notebook 2000 * Notebox Disorganizer * Notes * Printable Notebook * Scrapbook * Scribe * Shirusupad * SnipIts * SquareNotes * StickIt * TextBlockWriter * Whiteboard PS * WikidPad 1.9beta12 * Win32Pad * Xint * ZuluPad

Organizers & Planners: Active Tree Notes * Acute Notes * Agenda * BiblioExpress * Chaos Manager * Data Crow * EasyNoter * eQit * Idea Tracker * KPlan Personal * Manuscript Tracking * My Things * NotesBrowser * Personal Info Managers * PlanWare * Pooter4 * Quick2Do * Simple TODO * SlimList * Sonar * Total Organizer * What to Do

Printing/Formatting: BookFormat * Book Reader * Flipbook Printer * Jordi's Handwriting Fonts * Larabie Fonts * PosteRazor * Posteriza * QuickEnvelopes * Text2Web

Reference: Bible Gateway * Convert * Earth's Core * Everest Dictionary * The Form Letter Machine * Fredal's Dictionary * Kwik Facts * MB Free Psychic Dictionary 1.25 Mobysaurus * Rhyme * ScholarCite * Visual Thesaurus * Vocabula * WordWeb

Security: Best Privacy Pack * Secure Notepad


Text Editor: AkelPad * Angel Writer * Cliche Cleaner * ClipboardDoc * Elfima * eTextReader * Fun4Word * Handwriter * MoonEdit * NotesPad Text Editor *
Paddy *Textplorer * Text Split * TXTCollector * Zdocj

Text to Speech: Alien Speech * DSpeech * SpeakOut * yRead

Titles: The Abstract Art Title Generator

Toolbars: A-Toolbar * WebSearchBar

Utilities: Chaos Crystal * Coffee Cup Zip Wizard * Dead Disk Doctor * DocScrubber * Emsa Save My Work * ForeWords * GlobalSpellChecker * HTML-Help Toy * JR Directory Printer * Laptop Battery Power Monitor * LaunchOnFly * Link Collector * Natural Word * Phrase Express * ReadPal * ReadThemAll * Send 2 Notepad * Smart CutNPaste * SpeedMenus * Spell Magic * Stay Connected * Text Crawler * Text Mining Tool * Textalyser * Title Scroller * TypeItIn * UserClone * Word Index Builder * Word Sorter * Wordcounter * yGen * yLaunch * ySync * Unstoppable Copier

Widgets: The Generator Blog *

Word Processing & Office Suites: AbiWord * AbiWord v. 2.4.5 * Book Writer * Budgie 1.6 * Jarte * Open Office 2.3.1 RC1 * Open Office Portable * Page Four * Polar Office * tejpWriter 3.50 * Writers Block

World Building: Artificial Planet * Carabao * Celestia * Chris Pound's Language Machines * Design-A-Room * Furnish * Google Earth * Interlex * Random Terrain Generator * Schmap * StarStrider * Sweet Home 3D * Textanz * WordMorph * Your Sky

Writing: John and Marcia, The Novel Crash Test Dummies* PBW's Left Behind & Loving It 2007 Virtual Workshops

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Release Counter

Gerard over at The Generator Blog posted a link to a free customizable countdown timer generator, the sort bloggers use for days left until Christmas or New Year's. I thought authors could use as a sidebar widget for their upcoming releases, i.e.:

The generator host does tack on a code for an online dating ad link at the end, so if you'd rather not have that on your blog, delete everything after the right pointy bracket after /object.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


You know you're a writer when:

1. "After I Make it Big in Publishing" is the title of your most important wish list.

1. Buy Porsche. 2. Get tummy tuck. 3. Acquire mute Swedish mistress.

2. Anyone who screws up the title of your novel is immediately labeled an idiot, pretty much forever.

It's StarDoc. Not Space Doc, not Starbuck, not Star Rock, and certainly not Space Balls. Moron.

2a. You have screwed up the title of another writer's novel.

Douglas Clegg and Kris Reisz were very nice about it, though.

3. At some point in your relationship you've called your significant other by a character name.

Oh, yes, Jack, yes, oh God, that's so good baby I love you so much Jack I need y-- hey, Harold honey, where are you going?

4. Every member of your family has at least one manuscript copy of your first finished novel. Your mother still brings it out like a newborn grandchild to show relatives visiting from out of town.

Here, be careful when you hold it -- it weighs seven pounds, can you believe that? And there's typing on every single one of those pages!

5. People who don't own any books confuse you.

And you mean you're really not blind, dyslexic, or allergic to spine glue?

6. Sean Lindsay can't piss you off.

Oh, he's talking about all those poser writers, not me, heh heh heh.

6a. Sean Lindsay has pissed you off.

I know he's talking about me this time. Bastard.

7. You use character and plot problems as an excuse for messing up in real life.

Darling, I know that I burned dinner, but Alexandra had to perform a major reattachment surgery with a pocket sewing kit, a bottle of Merlot and a couple of votive candles while she told Michael the big you-know-what.

8. Your favorite joke is the one about Dan Brown, Stephen King, James Patterson or J.K. Rowling.

Okay, so Dan Brown is stranded in the desert, and the camel dealer won't take credit cards, so he trades a copy of The DaVinci Code for his cheapest camel, and then . . .

9. Your office trash can is overflowing with crumpled-ball versions of the following: the bestseller lists from the last six Sunday papers, nineteen drafts of your latest query letter, and forty-two copies of the first page of your WIP, all of which have three lines or less printed on them.

One more time. Okay. It was a dark and stormy . . . Gaaaa!

10. You've no problem adding something to this list in comments.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Free Range Freebie

A couple of years ago I wrote A Matter of Consultation, an AH piece for Ring of Fire, a Baen anthology (short story, long story.) The antho came out in hardcover; I got a nice check and a contributor's copy, and I never heard any more about it after that.

Today I was commenting over at Tobias's blog about freebies, and went over to the Baen free library to see if I'd downloaded anything from there. Turns out my story is there, free to download in various formats or to read online, along with the entire antho.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Tag Me

Coming up with a great tag line for your novel is tough, especially for those novels that don't want to be tagged.

I decided to pick a couple of books at random from my shelves, see what tag lines the publishers put on the covers, and what I thought of them:

"When obsession turns DEADLY." (Exposure, Susan Andersen)

This is classic Susan Andersen, one of the best books she's ever written, and this one-size-fits-all tag line doesn't do it an ounce of justice. And as I write that, I have no idea what I would offer as a replacement, except maybe "Elvis!"

"Desire is the sweetest sin of all." (Slightly Sinful, Mary Balogh)

Great book, eh tag line. Desire isn't a sin, it's a natural body function, but that's another post.

"With this much heart, body, and soul, you're bound to find . . ." (A Whole Lotta Love, Donna Hill, Brenda Jackson, Monica Jackson and Francis Ray)

This is a themed anthology, but I would have preferred to see something about the stories, which are terrific, not about how much the heroines in them tip the scales. Disclaimer: I'm a big girl so it's definitely a personal sore spot.

"Sometimes forbidden pleasures are the sweetest of all. . ." (Beyond Innocence, Emma Holly)

I'm flashing back to the Mary Balogh tag line. This makes me want to eat a pound of M&Ms, too, not read a book. Pass.

"It brings out the animal in everyone." (Moonshine, Rob Thurman)

This one is probably the best of the random lot. I like it, it's clever and it suits the novel, and it's not one of those annoying pun tag lines.

I looked at some of my older paperbacks, and back then it seems like the publishers used little story synopses or themes as cover tag lines:

"A voice in the night, a haunted island, and a hideous legacy from the past." (Circle of Secrets, Claudette Nicole, 1972)

"Man is the dreaming animal -- with the courage to aim higher than gods . . ." (Son of Man, Robert Silverberg, 1971)

"Scandal, intrigue, and romance at a lively weekend party. . . " (The Houseparty, Anne Stuart, 1985)

I find it interesting to compare tag lines from today to the ones that were used twenty or thirty years ago. The old ones are definitely longer and more detailed, maybe because readers were more interested in content versus flash? Not sure.

I never did come up with a great line for Evermore, so I held a tag line contest for students during my last talk at a local high school. Here's the winner, submitted by Debby G.:

She's bringing sexy back.

What sort of tag line, if any, would you like to see on the cover of a book? If you've got great examples or ideas of your own, post them in comments.