Monday, April 30, 2007

With Pen, Write Ten

Ten Things for the Poets

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

1. The Bonsai Story Generator, one of my favorite online tools to twist prose into (something like) verse, has moved; here's the new link. Also good for generating phrases out of your prose that you can use as titles.

2. The University of Toronto has an excellent online Glossary of Poetic Terms.

3. Forget the blank verse and try Bryan H. McGill's McGill English Dictionary of Rhyme freeware.

4. Inspiration from a master: Poet Pablo Neruda's brilliant and beautiful 1971 Nobel Lecture, Towards the Splendid City (also available in audio and in Spanish text.)

5. has an online rhyming dictionary and thesaurus you can use to find rhymes, synonyms, homophones, similar sounding words and more. Sadly, they still have not come up with an online "how to keep your villanelle from sucking" option, but I live in hope.

6. Looking to sell some poetry? Try perusing the paying listings over at's Poetry Market Page. Income-seekers, also see #7.

7. One very valuable online resource for poets is Poets & Writers Magazine's Grants & Awards deadline page. The mag keeps a running listing of the competitions for grants and contest awards whose deadlines are ending soon. They also only list competitions that will benefit a writer's career and only those (with a few exceptions for prizes of stature) that offer $1,000 or more, so no scams or pay-for antho publishers make it onto here.

8. Writing poetry helps improve your prose -- Lisa Janice Cohen will tell you how in her article, Punch Up Your Prose with Poetry (LJ, your article was the first thing that came up when I did a search on this topic; very cool to see you there.)

9.'s rhyming poem generator produces some very (cough) literary-sounding verse. Stuff like "moaning structure insistently defecates" and "wailing mystic lethargically cannibalises aggregate" -- plus it all rhymes. Amaze your mom and impress your friends! (I got dibs on that moaning structure line, though.)

10. If your muse needs a kick in the pants, the Poetry Resource page has a nice collection of poetry writing exercises here.

Finally, one for the e-book readers out there -- while putting together this list, I came across a freeware designed to catalog e-book collections -- My EBook Library (for Windows XP.) I'll try this one myself when I get caught up and see if it can do something with my rather messy e-library.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


I have to go and do something very tough today: pay my final respects to someone who was a good, decent man, and my friend for almost twenty years. It's not my dad, and pardon me for not being more specific, but I'd rather not receive any media attention or "I'm glad So-and-So died" e-mails.

I don't like funerals. I've been to too many, I guess; lost too many people that I've loved. If the contents of my will are respected, and they had better be, there won't be one for me when it's my time. No grave or memorial, either. I'd rather those who care to remember me only have memories of me while I was alive. But I go to funerals, because other people I love think they're important, and if you cared for the deceased, you really can't not go.

I have different ways of paying my respects. I plant a tree in a park every year for my grandmother on her birthday, and I've worn her birthstone instead of my own since she passed away. I talk to her sometimes when I'm alone, because as irrational as it sounds, I feel that she's out there somewhere, listening. I tell her stories and read her poems to my children, who never met her, and show them her pictures. It took me a long time to accept her death, but once I had grieved enough, I began trying to celebrate the things she loved rather than suffer over her loss. That way I think she lives on as a part of my life.

Trees are also a reminder of my friend, who loved gardening and in particular bonsai trees. At one point he had a half dozen he had lovingly cultivated over a period of many years, and would show them off like a proud papa. I've given bonsai trees as gifts to friends, but they were purchased, and I've never tried cultivating them myself. He told me a lot of the secrets of how to do them, so I think I'll start one this year with the kids. It'll be a constant reminder of what I want to remember: some of the beauty he brought into my life and the world.

I'll be back on Monday. Have a good weekend

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday 20

Answer the Anonymous E-mail
(A multiple-choice game)

How to play: Read the e-mail, then choose the best response.

I. The Confrontational Copycat

Dear Blog Owner:

I am writing this to inform you that I have started a new blog named Paperback Seller/Paperback Reviewer/Paperback Collector/Paperback Basher/Paperback Copy-Editor/Paperback Critic. I love the Beatles, I have been thinking about using this name for two/four/six/twenty years and it's my Constitutional right to use it. This has nothing to do with the traffic you get at PBW that you really don't deserve, because I think your blog is terrible. But since the names are conflicting you should change yours, because I'm not changing mine.

Anonymous Blogger

P.S. Henceforth I shall be known as PBS/PBR/PBC/PBB/PBC-E/PBC, so you should also stop using the acronym PBW.

Your response:

A) Ignore
B) Change the name of your blog
C) Respond with a refusal that is very polite, but will piss off the recipient anyway, who will write her next post about you being an angry, hateful jerk out to ruin her new blog.
D) Other: [fill in your answer]

II. I Am a Complete Stranger to You, But I Read All Your Books, Therefore We Have A Close, Personal Relationship

Dear Writer:

I read your blog every day, and I know you hate me....

Anonymous Person You Don't Know

Your response:

A) Ignore
B) Respond with an honest, polite denial and hope the stalking doesn't escalate
C) Remember every scene from Swim Fan as you're changing your name, dyeing your hair, and packing to move to another city
D) Other: [fill in your answer]

III. Stalker Type B: The Paranoid Writer You've Never Heard of Who Believes You're Badmouthing Her/Him

You Witch:

You think I don't know you were writing about me last week? You thought you were being clever by referring to me only as THE ROOKIE, but my novel has the word AND in the title, so I KNEW you were bashing me. You're out to get me now, is that it? Well, it isn't going to work. You're just jealous because you know I'm the BETTER WRITER. I know it, too, although I'd never STOOP to read any of the DRECK you write. I'm going to badmouth you to your editor, my editor, everyone I know and at every conference I go to for the rest of my life. You might as well QUIT writing now, because your career is OVER.

Florid Pseudonym

Your response:

A) Ignore
B) Respond with an honest, polite denial that the rookie will misquote to their advantage forever
C) Remember every scene from Disclosure and take an Excedrin as you dust off your old CV and wonder if the Pentagon will consider novel-writing a real profession
D) Other: [fill in your answer]

How to win Answer the Anonymous E-mail game: You can't.

On questions this week: I'm going to be out most of the day, so my answers will probably be delayed until this evening, or I may have to carry it over into Saturday. But I will answer what I can, so ask away.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Left Behind Ten

Ten Reasons to Be Happy You're Not at the RT Convention
(dedicated to Miss Kate, who requested it)

1. Do the math: thousands of con goers, nine hundred seventy-seven rooms, no vacancies, and exactly eight elevators.*

2. Free from being obligated to eat at McDonald's, Burger King or Checkers because you couldn't get a table and/or afford a meal at the Spindletop, the Whistler's Walk or Ducks & Company.

3. Missing all the fangirls who, no matter how many books you've published, have never heard of you or your novels, which don't really look all that interesting, btw, and shouldn't be published in their favorite genre, which is written SO much better by the author they're semi-stalking, and it's their God-given fangirl duty to loudly inform you of this, preferably when you're in the middle of giving a workshop or a signing.

4. Not having to acquire, lose, then look for the no-tickets-required badge they're giving at registration this year, which you MUST have as your PASSPORT into ALL events at the convention.

4a. Hey, Kate, we really doan need no stinkin' batches.

5. Not having to attend the Book Fair.

5a. Because if you do, you know you're going to end up standing behind the adorable, white-haired octogenarian, who simply must tell Jayne Ann Krentz her entire life story, by day, starting at the initiation of World War I.

5b. Or the garage bookseller who gushes over Jayne while having her sign all 350 copies of her used Amanda Quick stock, which she plans to take home in her mini-van and sell for triple price on eBay.

5c. Or you'll forget which radio stations you must mention in order to get in for free.

6. Not getting plastered on whiskey sours at the Park Bar, or yielding to the subsequent temptation to go up to Kathryn Falk, breathe whiskey sour fumes in her face, and tell her what you really think of her and her rag, or share with her that extremely funny wheelbarrow joke you heard in Suffolk last year.

7. Not having to witness 55-year-old Botoxed Babes trying to grope the Mr. Romance winner: usually a gorgeous, bored 24-year-old male god whose significant other is an interior decorator named Harold.

8. Refraining from being caught in line for coffee between an erotica author wearing a satin merry widow, a great leather skirt and fishnet stockings, and an inspirational chicklit author in Laura Ashley buttoned to her chin, because you know the latter is going to tell the former how long she's going to burn in hell for the books she writes, and the former is going to give the latter the finger, and then you'll have to duck as the Starbucks starts to fly.

9. Skipping Psychic Sunday, and not pretending to explore your spiritual pathways and psychic skills, which you know don't exist. Also, remaining ignorant of which authors actually believe that they are energy healers, channelers, and psychic mediums.

10. Vampires of the Wild, Wild West Dinner Theatre and Dance. A shame you'll miss that, too, because you know there were TONS of gunslinger vampires who acted and danced back in those days. And the Medieval Faery Ball . . . am I reading that right, is it the Medieval Faery Ball?

I need an aspirin.

*Two of which will be out of service for the duration of the convention.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

RW: Past and Future

It was insanely hard to judge the Name This Ship contest, as you all came up with some fabulous names for Cherijo and Reever's scout. To avoid any subconscious bias, I put all the entries on a spread sheet, shuffled them around and then went through a process of elimination based on the name only.

It came down to fifteen semi-finalists, and me seriously wishing I could write a little scout fleet into the book so I could use all of them (this is why I hate contests. I want everyone to win.) There could be only one, though, so after a few more days of dithering, I found I kept coming back to one name over and over. It really resonated with me as a fitting and beautiful name for the ship. So the winning name is:

MoonFire submitted by Joely Sue Burkhart

Congratulations, Joely (e-mail me at when you get a chance), and thanks to everyone who joined in.

This week I have another giveaway for the readers, this time for a new novel by one of my favorite writers. Years ago I picked up one of this author's category romances at random during a church rummage sale. I'd never read any of her work before then, but after I finished the novel I went out immediately, hunted down and bought everything she'd written to date.

Linda Howard's new Nocturne novelRaintree: Inferno by Linda Howard is the first book in a paranormal trilogy being written by Linda Howard, Linda Winstead Jones and Beverly Barton. Finding this book on the shelves (I had not heard that Linda was writing a paranormal) delighted me, as it took me back to some of my happiest book-hunting days. When you discover a talented, unique author, they always grab your imagination from page one, and you just can't get enough of their work. For me that's Linda Howard.

If you'd like a chance to read Linda's latest novel along with me for free, in comments to this post name an author who sets your imagination on fire by midnight EST on Tuesday, May 1, 2007. I'll draw ten names at random from everyone who participates, and send the winners an unsigned copy of Raintree: Inferno by Linda Howard. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sub Ops

I'll be over at Vamps and Scamps today, doing the author thing (answer questions, give away some books, demonstrate the secret handshake, expose all the publishing secrets I know, model my new Victoria's Secret lingerie, etc.)

While I'm gone, I expect everyone to keep working. Remember, I can always come back here and do the author thing.

Some markets and contests for your consideration:

Afterburn SF has changed hands; looking for action-oriented SF, Fantasy and Horror, pays $30.00 via Paypal, submission guidelines here, electronic submissions only.

Dark Wisdom, the "magazine of dark fiction" wants short fiction, poetry, artwork, nonfic (reviews), "strange happenings", pay varies, pays by check or by PayPal, next submission reading period September 1 through November 1st, 2007, submission guidelines here, electronic and snail mail submissions okay.

Drollerie Press is interested in "fiction works of all lengths that examine fairytales in unique and unusual ways. We are also interested in re-tellings of, or stories using characters from, Native American myth and legend." Publishes e-books and print titles, pay varies, submission guidelines here, electronic submissions only.

Electric Velocipede is now open submission from April 1st to June 30th; wants fiction, poetry, nonfic (reviews); SF, fantasy, cross-genre okay, but not looking for horror; pays one cent per word (see guidelines for details) submission guidelines here, prefers electronic submissions but snail mail okay.

Tales from the Moonlit Path Magazine has a "Love Bites" short story contest, story should be no more than 2500 words, $25 first prize plus a copy of You Suck by Christopher Moore, open for entries until May 12, 2007, no entry fee, contest guidelines here, contestants are asked to first subscribe to Tales from the Moonlit Path by e-mail (I'm not seeing a subscription fee listed anywhere), electronic entries only.

BBI Media and Llewellyn Publications have launched the Pagan Fiction Award with a short story contest, three prizes (1st - $500, 2nd - $250, and 3rd - $100) plus publication of first place story in PanGaia magazine, entry period March 1 through June 24, 2007, no entry fee, contest guidelines here, electronic entries only.

Triskelion Publishing publishes 12 e-book and 4 print titles per month, looking for erotica, SF, Fantasy, Futuristic, Horror, Paranormal, Goth, YA and Graphic Novels; pay varies, submission guidelines here; electronic submission only.

Wicked Hollow seeks submissions of dark literature, poetry, and potential cover illustrations, pays a quarter cent per word for fiction and $2 for poetry (not great, but they get a lot of attention from the Stoker folks, so figure it's more for the prestige) submission guidelines here (note: annoying flashing masthead on web page), electronic and snail mail submissions okay.

Most of the above sub ops were found while rifling through the wonderful new market and contest listings over at

Monday, April 23, 2007

Lost My Library Card Ten

Ten Things that Offer Free E-Books

1. 5000 e-books in a bunch of categories are free for download at

2. Baen's free library has a nice collection of interesting titles in it.

3. David Bain put together a links page to free e-books with potential literary merit (Doug Clegg is on there, so it must be true.)

4. Get free Christian e-books from

5. has a nice free online library of computer books.

6. Links to Australian & New Zealand digital libraries can be had over at

7. not only has plenty of free e-books in many different categories; you can also submit yours to them.

8. Marketing book junkies should check out the free downloads at

9. Regina Paul's article here lists links to 64 free romance e-books online.

10. Need poetry? Check out the poetry e-books at

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Friday 20

No Bark All Bite
Immortal Studmuffin
Your Coffin or Mine?

I've been doing a little market research for an article I'm writing about genre trends. And I don't know about you guys, but I am now, officially, sick to death of vampire romances with cute pun titles.

Before anyone blows a gasket, I'm not pointing fingers at any author in particular. Have you seen the number of pun titles out there? I don't own that many fingers. Neither does the National Guard.

I'm also know I'm being unreasonable. I admit it. I'm well aware that half the time authors don't even get to pick out the titles for our books. Remember whose novel got slapped with The Kissing Blades? Believe me, I feel your pain.

But for the love of Vlad, I simply CANNOT DEAL WITH IT ANY MORE.

I hate stereotyping anything, so I tried to figure out why I'm having such a strong negative reaction to vampire romance pun titles. I didn't mind it when the chicklit writers started the pun title trend. I thought they were cute and content-appropriate.

I guess the subject matter is the problem. Vampires were my personal bogeymen when I was very young (thanks to Bela Lugosi movies), and then I became entranced by their mythology as a preteen (watching Dark Shadows after school.) I didn't grow up with more humorous spins on the vampire mythology like Buffy or Love at First Bite. The first vampire novels I read were by Anne Rice and Stephen King, and you know what a laugh-a-minute those two are.

To me, vampires were always the ultimate in dark, mysterious, tragic, poetic, doomed characters. Puns just never entered into that equation, which is probably why I find them so jolting as titles.

A reader's personal history and preferences, just like mine with vampire mythology, tends to heavily influence their opinions of a novel. No doubt a lot of the Buffy generation of writers think serious vampire fiction is old, stodgy and boring because there are no cute little blondes running around kicking vampire ass all through the book. Just as plenty of the old, stodgy and boring vampire writers think that Buffy is silly and trite.

The thing that is so cool about genre is that there is more than enough room for any sort of title, any type of writer, and any kind of story. If your next vampire romance novel is titled The Story of O Positive, there are plenty of readers out there who will think it's a hoot.

Just don't tell me about it for a while. Please. I need a rest.

That's all from my corner of the writing world this week. What's up with you guys? Any questions out there for me?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

RW: Name This Ship

First, the big announcement:

I've accepted an offer from Ace/Roc to publish Drednoc (StarDoc book #8) and Crystal Healer (StarDoc book #9.) No firm pub dates yet, but I expect Drednoc will hit the shelves sometime in 2008 and Crystal Healer in 2009. Thanks to Shiloh Walker for nagging motivating me, Cathy G. for your thoughtful e-mails, and all my SF readers for keeping the faith and continuing to support the StarDoc series.

I have a HouseClan Torin scout ship in Drednoc that Cherijo and Reever are going to be flying around, but it doesn't have a name yet. I thought you guys might enjoy a contest to christen it (btw, Enterprise and Millennium Falcon? Are taken.)

To give you an idea of what I'm looking for, all of my previous Jorenian ship names combine two words that are related to nature, sky, flight, or the journey, i.e.:


In comments to this post, tell me what you'd name the Torin scout ship by midnight EST on Tuesday, April 24, 2007. I will select the name that I like best out of all the entries, announce my choice on Reader Wednesday (April 25) next week, and use the name in my novel Drednoc.

The commenter who has the winning name will receive a personal thank-you from me in the acknowledgments for Drednoc, my original artwork for the ship you've named (created and signed by me), a complete signed set of all seven StarDoc novels in print, and the very first copy of the final print edition of Drednoc that I get when it's published next year (also signed.)

The fine print: the name you post must be original, as in your own creation, and not copied from any other source or named ship. To keep things fair, please only post one name. This contest is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I appreciate your patience while I've been away as well as the terrific feedback for my poll last week. The winner for Reader Poll Giveaway is:

Mark Siegal

Mark, please send your book wish and your ship-to address to so I can wave the magic PBWand and get your winnings out to you, and thanks to everyone for joining in.

I have a gazillion things to do to catch up, including the Laundry Pile from Hell. If all goes well and the washing machine doesn't explode, tomorrow I'll be posting some very good news. If the washing machine does explode, make sure they spell my name right in the papers. It's . . . okay, does anyone remember what my name is now?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Get it Together Ten

Ten Things to Help Get You Organized

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

1. Keep all your contacts, e-mails and URLs tidy with Lone Wolf's @ddress Book freeware.

2. 1-4-All Account freeware helps you keep your books, manage your writing business and more.

3. Nail down your character details with these Character Questionnaires.

4. Make your writing space work for you with tips from eHow's article How to Organize Your Home Office.

5. Organize your notes, data, and other info with Incollector freeware.

6. Kim Kay's article The Novelist's Bible: Creating a Project File can help you put together a novel notebook.

7. Find new ways to beat the clock with tips from Katherine Low's article How to Maximize Your Time.

8. MyBookLib Organizer freeware can help you finally get your book collection catalogued and keep it that way.

9. Get some common sense tips on time management with AstroNutrition's post Stop! Slow Down! And Learn to Better Manage Your Time.

10. Outline your novel with Writer's Digest Novel Idea Summary Sheet.

Also -- just something I noticed while out link cruising -- the folks who host #8 on today's ten list also give away free copies of commercial software every day -- stop by Giveaway of the Day for more details.

Friday, April 13, 2007

On the Road Again

I'm going to be out of town for a few days, and the hotel wireless where I am is a bit iffy, so no Friday 20 this week (we do have a handicapped-friendly shower, though. No tub, no things to trip over, just multiple shower heads with many interesting nozzles, a floor-to-ceiling curtain, and a floor that drains. Or maybe I'm in the BDSM suite. Either way, very cool.)

I always check to see if the Gideons have placed a Bible in every American hotel room I've stayed in, and it's always there. Our room has a beautiful brand-new edition bound in blue and gold-stamped. We should be taking lessons from the Gideons; these guys know how to distribute books.

While the Gideons may own the drawer of every hotel nightstand in the U.S., I think the lobby of a hotel would be a cool place for our friends the publishers to put a complimentary fiction book rack. I didn't have time to pack any for this trip, but I usually bring some books with me and leave them on the tables and lounge chairs around the pool (if you want to try doing this, either hand the copies to people or put a sticker that says "Complimentary Copy from the Author" on it so the hotel guests don't assume the books belong to another guest.)

I'll post the winner of Reader Wednesday as soon as I get back to use the magic hat, and I'll try to check in from the road with you guys as the wireless permits. In the meantime, have a good weekend.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

April: Weblogs

To blog or not to blog, that's always a big biz question for writers.

Unless your publisher puts it as a requirement in your contract, you're not obligated to create and maintain a weblog when you get published. Many publishers encourage their authors to keep a weblog, but some discourage it, and someday I'm sure they'll figure out a way to filter our content.

I've been doing this in one form or another for going on seven years now, and every other author I know has a weblog. I also know plenty who don't, or who have tried blogging and found it wasn't for them. Not every writer is comfortable with the idea of having an online journal, and not everyone has the spare time to keep one rolling. Unless you sell space on your weblog or content to advertisers (which you must now disclose), no one pays you to blog. If you're not a big name author with fans who will happily read your grocery list, and/or you can't create consistently interesting content, blogging soon becomes a virtual form of talking to yourself. If you expect every one of your visitors to respect your personal privacy, your professional accomplishments, and/or your opinion, then blogging is not for you.

Now that I've rained all over the blogging parade, the upside: blogging can be fun, a daily form of writing practice, a solid means of self-promotion, and a way to connect and network with the online publishing community. You can set up and update a blog with very little effort; I work offline so posting to mine take about one minute of cut and pasting and clicking the publishing button. Blogs can make your stories and insights available to the entire planet at little or no cost to you. Blogs sell books -- I do very little self-promo here, and yet my sales on new releases and my backlist have skyrocketed since PBW went public. By blogging, you can join a vast community of professionals in the industry and discuss issues that are important to all of you. Collectively speaking, author weblogs have become the largest online source of free, up-to-date information about the publishing industry. For pros, blogging about the biz is a great way to pay it forward and help the next generation of writers.

Probably the most common mistake writers make with their first weblog is going public with them from day one, before they know if it's going to work for them. I did this, too. There is no law that says you have to announce your weblog to the world the minute you start one. Consider keeping it private or anonymous for a couple of weeks. See how it feels to blog for a while, and find out if you really do have the time to devote to the project. Once you've worked out your layout and built up some content, invite friends you trust to have a look and give you feedback.

The trial method helped me a lot after I closed down my first weblog. I created another and kept it private for a year, gradually opening it up to friends while I debated on whether I wanted to go public again. I also wrote another blog just for myself where I experimented with writing outside my comfort zone. PBW was the result of all that I learned from those experiments. When a weblog doesn't work out, you don't have to dump it, either.

If you're a niche blogger, your content will likely reflect whatever you're passionate about. If you're only interested in promoting your own work, you'll focus mainly on yourself and your books (the most common type of author blog.) If you're into the industry, you'll get more into the buzz about the biz. If you're a political hound or a cause junkie, you'll be all about the protests and the pundits. If you're obsessed with craft, you'll talk shop. If you enjoy flame wars and pissing contests, you'll pick fights with other bloggers, etc. Niche blogs generally have limited appeal, but the reader always knows what to expect.

If you're a spectrum blogger, your content will be more varied and unpredictable. I've noticed that organic writers often become spectrum bloggers. You'll write about anything and everything that interests you. It can be incredibly freeing, but a hell of a lot of work to take the spectrum approach, as you never know what you're going to write. The spectrum approach can create some inconsistency of content, and make a blog harder to nail down in the mind of the visitor, but when done well can appeal to a wider range of readers than the niche blog.

I used to prefer spectrum blogs over niche blogs, but now I think incorporating elements from both types results in the most interesting content. A blog that has regular features as well as a variety of content in between has a little something for everyone. The best melding of the niche and spectrum I've seen out there is the weekly creative meme The Thursday Thirteen that so many bloggers do. It's a nicely structured feature that still allows a lot of individuality.

If you'd like to test drive writing a weblog, you don't have to invest a lot of money in paying for a hosting service or a blog designer. I've never paid a dime for PBW, thanks to Blogger, so that I could do it myself and to kind of make a point: you can use a free service and still have a nice-looking blog. Blogger has its problems, but I've been with them seven years now and they've gotten a lot better over time. It's easy, too. Although my pal Tom did upgrade the blog (I was too terrified I'd lose the archives if I tried to do it) I've done absolutely everything else here by myself, and you all know how techno-challenged I am.

There are tons of other free blog host sites out there; here's the list of just what I found with a five-minute search:

Digital Expressions
Greatest Journal
Live Journal
Windows Live Spaces

Before you use any free service, always check out the terms of service, restrictions, and see if there are any hidden costs or archive storage limitations.

Blogging is not for every writer, but any writer can blog. It doesn't matter who you know or where you are in your career; no one controls the online writing community. What counts here is how well you write, what you can contribute to the blogosphere, and how much you enjoy blogging. Look at the most popular author blogs out there, and you'll notice they all have one thing in common -- they're having a good time doing this.

Related links:

Authors' Blogs

Dave Pollard's post How to Increase Your Readership, with five ways on how to improve your weblog, and five ways on how to attract more attention to it.

PBW on podcasting, and Ten Things for the Webloggers.

7 Secrets to Successful Blogging

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Reader Poll

As Reader Wednesday is still under construction, I've got some questions for you guys this week:

1. If I started posting free stories online regularly again, would you rather read a new short story every month, or a chapter of a new novel every week?

2. Of the following genres, which is your favorite: alternate history, biblical fiction, christian fiction, dark fantasy, historical fiction, nonfiction, romantic suspense, or science fiction?

3. Other than books, what sort of giveaway/contest prizes do you most enjoy winning?

Share your answers to any or all of these questions in comments to this post by midnight EST on Thursday, April 12, 2007. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and grant the winner a Bookwish* as well as a surprise. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*A Bookwish is any book by any author of your choice, provided that 1) the book is currently available for order from an online bookseller and 2) the book is priced up to a maximum of $25.00 US dollars. I will throw in whatever shipping costs are involved for free.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Escapist Artist

"I won't let you go," Marcia shrieked, slamming her fists against John's chest. Blood from his soaked jacket spattered her face. "He'll cut your heart out of your chest, and then he'll steal your soul!"

John cradled her face between his hands. "If that's what it costs to send that murdering bastard back to the abyss, I'll pay it." He kissed her as if their lips would never again meet, and then slid his hands under her bottom. "Just one more time," he muttered as he lifted her onto the edge of the desk and pushed her skirt up, tearing at her panties. "One more time, I have to f--"


John drew his service revolver and hauled Marcia off the desk, shoving her behind him as he faced the stranger. The man wore a beautifully tailored white suit, a salmon-colored shirt, and a pale blue tie. In his right hand he carried a white-flowered mauve briefcase. "Who the hell are you?"

"Cantwrighthat," the man said as he held out a pink business card. "Concerned friends of the author sent me. I see I'm just in the nick of time."

John snatched the card and read the pretty italic printing on it aloud. "Euwell Cantwrighthat the third, Escapist Artist?"

"C'est moi. I've been sent to redecorate the story. Call me Euwie." As Marcia peered over John's shoulder at him, he gasped. "Dear girl, there's blood smeared all over your cheeks. Did John do that? Haven't you people heard of AIDs?" He whipped out a snowy handkerchief and tossed it to her. "Run along to the little girl's room and have a wash while I talk to your hero."

"Don't let him summon the demon," Marcia said as she hurried out of the room.

John shrugged out of his jacket. "Look, this isn't a good time--"

"No, it's not, which is why I'm here," Euwie said, taking a can of freesia-scented air freshener out of his briefcase and spraying the air around John. "This scene has become far too realistic and graphic for the delicate sensibilities of your readers, who, by the way, don't appreciate the way you've been handling the heroine. She's a lady, remember? Not a slab of meat."

John watched Euwie use rhinestone-studded tongs to pick up his blood-soaked jacket and drop it in a lemon-scented pastel garbage bag. "I love Marcia. I'm going to die for her."

"So that makes it okay to brutalize her first?" Euwie shook his head. "You were about to use the eff word when I came in here, too. Is that your idea of true romance, my boy?"

John blinked. "I . . . I didn't think about it."

"Of course not. You alpha types never do. Too busy thinking with that." The escapist artist sniffed as he gave John's crotch a contemptuous look. "Now, go get changed out of those disgusting clothes while I check on your lady. Use some deodorant, too. You smell."

"That's because I'm sweating."

Euwie shook his head. "You never sweat around the heroine, or tear at her clothes, or force her to have sex on a desk. When you make love, it has to be in a bed with candles burning and moonlight pouring through the window. Preferably initiated by her, after you're married and you've had a good long shower." He strolled out of the room and followed the smell of sweat and blood to the little bathroom down the hall. Through the door he could hear a distinctive tinkling sound.

"Marcia?" He tapped on the door. "That's water running in the sink, isn't it?"

"No, I'm peeing."

"Don't tell me that!" Euwie winced as the tinkling ended and a muffled fart erupted inside the bathroom. "Oh, for heaven's sake. Can't you wait until the scene ends?"

"Sorry. I had broccoli salad for lunch." The toilet flushed. "Euwie, John is going to battle a demon to save me from certain death. I just know he'll be killed."

"That's what you're supposed to think, dear." Euwie took out his copy of the first draft manuscript and thumbed through it. "Oh, no. No, he can't do that. All this blood and gore. We'll have to think of something else."

The door opened, and Marcia came out, her face freshly washed clean of every scrap of makeup. "I'm ready."

"For sixth grade, maybe." Euwie pulled out his emergency makeup kit and began fixing her shiny face. "I can't say I'm happy about this John person. You'd do so much better with a beta hero in this story, darling. They're too pussy-whipped to mess you up like this."

"But I love John!" Marcia wailed.

"Is that why you were slamming your fists against his chest, and about to let him schtup you on top of the monthly planner?" Euwie whisked sheer rose blusher over the apples of her cheeks. "Is that how a lady behaves?"

Marcia pursed her lips for the gloss wand. "I'm not a virgin, you know."

"You had a single, dismal experience in college that lasted three point six minutes in the back of a Gremlin with the boy who jilted you the next morning for the Homecoming Queen, and then quick, emotionally unsatisfying sex with John in Chapter Seven. All very forgivable. I wouldn't be surprised if it grew back before the honeymoon." Euwie's upper lip curled. "Now, repeat after me: I am not a slut."

"I am not a slut."

"Sluts do it with blood-soaked boyfriends on the desk. Ladies do the college thing to take care of the pain and bleeding prior to meeting the hero, have one brief encounter with the hero to establish physical chemistry, but then save it for the wedding night." After Marcia dully repeated the words, he nodded. "Right, that's the best I can do without a hair stylist or Botox. Back to the library."

Euwie and Marcia joined John, who had changed into faded jeans and a skin-tight black T-shirt.

"Why are you dressed like you live in a barn?" the escapist artist demanded. "Is this a cowboy novel now? And what demented creature picked out this godawful wallpaper?" He pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers. "I'm getting such a migraine. Both of you, sit down while I try to sort this out."

John and Marcia sat and held hands as they watched Euwie straighten the desk and use stain remover on the crimson spots John had dripped on the beige rug.

"We have a demon problem that won't wait," John reminded him. "He has to die before midnight or he'll use the diamond to fully restore his powers--"

"And he'll take over the world and make Marcia into his unholy bride, yes, yes," Euwie snapped. "I read the synopsis." He went to his briefcase. "I despise paranormals, they're beyond gruesome. At least there aren't any of those icky undead vampires running about biting everyone."

"But Euwie, our author couldn't sell the story as a romantic suspense," Marcia protested.

"I don't want to hear it. Ah, here we are." Euwie drew out a glass vial filled with a sparkling lavender liquid. "Make the demon drink this, grab the diamond, and then run away."

John took the vial and held it up to the light. "What does this do?"

"It won't kill him, but it gives him a very bad tummy ache. He'll double over, drop the diamond, and you'll take it away from him. No blood, no swords, no hearts being hacked out of chests, just some nice, tidy shadow beings emerging from the depths to whisk him back to Satan. Remember, like what happened to Tony Goldwyn at the end of Ghost? Mix it in some Tab and he'll never taste it." Euwie checked his watch and then took the vial from John and handed it to Marcia. "You'd better hurry, dear."

"What?" John stood up. "Marcia can't go!"

"Oh, please, do you really think a demon would drink a Tab for you?" Euwie sighed as he went over and retrieved the iron poker from the stand by the fireplace. "By allowing Marcia to square her shoulders, take control of her destiny and defeat the demon, she becomes empowered and superior to you. That's what true romance is all about, my boy. Fictional compensation for the fact that in the real world, we men have all the power, make the best salaries, and own everything."

Marcia squared her shoulders. "I'll be all right, sweetheart."

John frowned as Marcia grabbed her car keys and fled the room. "But what will I do while she's gone?"

Euwie hit him over the head with the poker, sending John crashing to the floor. "You'll be unconscious." He smiled as he took off his jacket and went to lock the library doors. "And, just for the homoerotic thrill of it all, completely at my mercy."

[Can Marcia retrieve the mystic diamond without wrinkling her twinset? Will John wake up before Euwie has his wicked way with him? How bad will the demon's tummy ache be? Stay tuned . . . ]

Monday, April 09, 2007

Take 'Em Ten

Ten Things for the Freeware Lovers

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

1. Edit your images with Moor Software's 2Pic freeware.

2. Banana Accounting offers a free version of its accounting software that can serve as an expense ledger (see screen shots of the cash book here.)

3. The CoffeeCup Free HTML Editor has all sorts of bells and whistles, what I thought looked interesting was the split screen preview window.

4. Created as a task scheduler for college students, but looks just as useful for writers, Cyberdemics' Collegiate Daily Planner.

5. Also from Moor Software, a bookkeeping freeware geared for beginners: Easy Cash Manager.

6. Organize your head with Mind Graph freeware.

7. Spine Page 07 freeware is a stripped-down word processor; Spine also has a virtual sticky notes freeware (scroll down.)

8. TaxAct offers free tax software and more; I'm a bit leery about this one because filing taxes is nothing to fool with, be sure to check it out thoroughly.

9. Put your ideas to work with the free trial download of ThoughtOffice.

10. Critique partners, collaborators and other writing groups may want to check out the benefits of the open source, web-based Virtual Project.

Finally, for the HTML-impaired out there like me, Robert Duncan has made his A Simple Guide to HTML available free to read online or to download.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Now that FTP is working....

Sunrise from Casa PBW

Six Essentials

For the last couple of months I've been slowly reading and re-reading Wabi Sabi for Writers by Richard R. Powell. It's the first writing how-to book based on eastern philosophies I've found that doesn't make me think the author is simply rewording the Tao. Actually half the time I don't know if I'm reading it as much as contemplating it. If books were pottery, this one would be enigmatic, Japanese and on display at the Morikami Museum.

Powell also (loosely) defines wabi sabi, a Japanese phrase which originally meant "poverty" (wabi) + "loneliness" (sabi) but now seems to mean something more like "simple stuff found and appreciated during beneficial solitude." I actually like the original phrase better, because writing for most folks is a poor, lonely business, but there you go.

In Motivation, the sixth section of the book, Powell cites six of artist Vincent Van Gogh's life traits that he believes writers should cultivate for themselves:

1. Perseverance
2. Wabi Sabi
3. Simplicity
4. Expressiveness
5. Independence
6. Courage

I noticed that Vincent's insanity and the self-mutilation didn't make the list, and those traits are also worth considering, in the don't-even-go-there sense of things. Van Gogh's life sucked too much for me to personally endorse as a role model, and probably started all this nonsense about suffering for one's art.

Despite my grumbling, I agree with the list for the most part. All six things are traits writers should think about developing, especially #5 and #6. I wish the author had put camaraderie or friendship with other writers as #7, though. Vincent definitely could have used some friends, and so can most writers. It's a lot of trial-and-error at first, and not all the friendships will stand the test of time and career direction, but the one or two writers you befriend and keep as friends can enhance your writing life. I don't think you have to sacrifice the sacred writer solitude for them, either. Writer friends understand when you need space and quiet time, usually better than your family.

Do you agree with the Van Gogh list, or would you add or change something on it?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Taking a Header

"Never marry for money; ye can borrow it cheaper." -- Liz Carlyle, Three Little Secrets, Chapter Four

"To: Patricia C. Walker {} From Angeline Mangiamele {} Re: follow up (2)..." -- Rosina Lippi, Tied to the Tracks, Chapter Fifteen

"The path changes, so too must the traveller. -- Tarek Varena, ClanJoren" -- Yours Truly, Blade Dancer, Chapter One

Writing a chapter header, or beginning a chapter in a novel with a quotation, summary or something other than the text of the chapter itself, is the sort of detailing most novelists skip these days. It's a quaint custom, dating back to the days when every popular novel chapter started with a summary line:

Chapter One
In Which I Introduce Myself

Chapter Seven
A trip to town; Mrs. Fullahotair confides in Prudence

Chapter Fourteen
Jane Receives Her Richly Deserved Come-Uppance in the Form of Boils, Bed Bugs and a Bad Marriage

Sometimes when I find chapter headers in old books, I wonder if the practice started as a pre-emptive reader strike or as shorthand for what the writer needed to accomplish: In this chapter, I must ruin Mr. Rochester's nuptials, kill the mad wife and set fire to the place.

I rarely write chapter headers because they can be tricky. When I was putting together the outline for Blade Dancer, I wanted to work in a little about one of Kol's ancestors, Tarek Varena, whose philosophies changed Joren's ancient war faring culture. At the same time, I didn't want to drop in an infodump about a messianic figure who had been dead for five centuries. Then I wanted to tag the chapters with something other than numbers or titles. Using Tarek's philosophies (the prime influence on modern Jorenian culture from my worldbuilding) as chapter headers solved all of those problems.

Anyone can toss in a real or made-up quotation to create a chapter header; really inventive headers that contribute something solid to the novel are more rare (and that's mainly why I find them so tricky.) Two novels that I think have the most original, effective chapter headers I've found are in Rosina Lippi's Tied to the Tracks and Frank Herbert's Dune.

How do you guys feel about chapter headers? Do they add to the reading experience, or distract you from it? What would be an appropriate header for the chapter you're working on right now?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Winners & Friday 20

Getting a bit of a late start today -- first up, the winners of the For the Readers giveaway are:

Ann -- Into the Fire

Julie Doe -- Dark Need

Winners, please send your full name and ship-to address to so I can get your winnings out to you. Thanks to everyone for the congrats on Plague of Memory, too.

For the benefit of new visitors and lurking media, every Friday (when I'm not having a domestic crisis, a tantrum, or a power outtage) I open up the blog for a Q&A session until midnight EST. You ask a writing- or publishing-related question, I try to answer or point you in the right direction. Originally I limited the number of questions to twenty, which over time we've pretty much ignored. If you don't have a question this week, feel free to post advice or answers for any of the other commenters.

I don't moderate or censor comments, and while we've had a few disagreements here and there, flame wars don't happen. Occasionally a disgruntled writer or reviewer shows up to shriek at me, but they usually slither off after venting, and I'm sure they feel better for it (can I claim that as a public service?) As always, I reserve the right to delete SPAM, and ignore the media and people who come here for any reason other than to hang out with my regular visitors and talk about books, writing and publishing.

That's it -- any questions out there?

Thursday, April 05, 2007


A writer pal (you know who you are) recently suggested that I put warning labels on some of my novels. Nothing uptight or mean, but more along the lines of Do not drink beverage while reading Alexandra's dialogue, or have a copy of Endurance within reach before finishing reading final scene of Beyond Varallan.

I had to give it a whirl, of course, so:

1. Author is not responsible for impact damage to any walls because reader skimmed over or missed the puzzle clues.

2. Be advised that the seraglio scene in Evermore is highly flammable and was written while I was channeling Sasha White (this should drive her crazy until January.)

3. Don't try any of this at home. Especially don't try any of this on the back of a motorcycle going eighty on the freeway.

4. No real aliens were possessed, eviscerated or otherwise harmed during the pitching of Drednoc. One baking chicken was skinned, but we ate it for dinner.

5. Plot twists may be larger than they first appear.

And finally, the one everyone wants: Warning: this novel has a realistic ending.

If you had to put a warning label on one of your stories, what would it say?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

For the Readers

Plague of Memory, StarDoc book seven, made #10 on the Locus SF bestseller list. To my knowledge, my publisher didn't do anything to promote the book (and other than a couple of copies I gave away, neither did I.) All this means is that my readers get 100% of the credit for putting it there. Thank you. Patricia Briggs's second Mercy Thompson novel, Blood Bound (which I did promote) came in at #4, and I know a lot of you helped spread the word, so thank you again.

I'm still waiting to hear from my SF editor on the revised proposals for StarDoc books eight and nine, Drednoc and Crystal Healer. I'll pass along whatever news I receive as soon as it comes in.

Links from around the publishing blogosphere:

Romance author Ann Christopher is giving away three ARCs she found while cleaning her office (see, I'm not the only one who does that); details can be found over at her April contest page.

Our tireless blog pal Alison Kent is always finding giveaways and contests as well as holding her own for both readers and writers.

Vampire Genre's April News page has a long list of reader giveaways and contests (scroll down), including chances to win a signed set of seven of Michelle Rowen's novels and a $100 gift card from Jenna Black.

I'm going to copycat Ann Christopher's idea and give away two ARCs I found when I was cleaning out some gratis copy boxes yesterday: Into the Fire by Jessica Hall and Dark Need by Lynn Viehl. In comments to this post, list which one you'd prefer to win (or, if you have no preference, just throw your name in the hat and you'll be entered into both drawings) by midnight EST on Thursday, April 5, 2007. I'll draw two names at random and send the winners the ARCs, signed, along with a surprise. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I gave up on using my old AOL photo album sharing thing, which half the people I know could never access no matter how I sent the links. Now I'm giving Flickr a whirl, and it seems to be working pretty well.

I'm not a great photographer; I'm not even a fair one. I have the digital camera they sell to people who can push a button but not much else. I forget to center and sometimes my hand shakes and the pic blurs. I do my fair share of pictorial decapitations, too. Luckily, I don't take a lot of photos. Mine are 95% personal: the kids, the family, the pup, my guy when he's not looking, vacation stuff, a few sunrises and sunsets, the lake, whatever slithers into the backyard, and quilts.

My first photoset, County Quilt Show, is from a show in the area that I try to attend every year. It's not a huge gathering, with miles upon miles of quilts on display, but I prefer small shows. You get a chance to really talk to people and see the local talent. My daughter went with me this year and after buying a ton of fabric for our stashes from the quilt shop booths, we went out into this marvelous little atrium area to sit by a wall-length stone fountain and share a box lunch (remember those?)

Flickr has some good features (I know, aside from the Amish I'm probably the last person in the country to try it.) You can upload plenty of photos, and make them public, private, or accessible only to family or friends. You can add little descriptions, sort them (haven't figured out all the organizer stuff yet) and make sets and slide shows. If I can do it without the kids helping me, you know it's easy. Best of all, it's free.

If you've got photos on Flickr or another service that you'd like to share with us, post a link and details in comments (and please note if they're not work-safe.)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Dic Ten Ary

Ten Things for the Dictionary Lovers

1. The Biographical Dictionary contains the names and short biographies of "more than 33,000 notable men and women who have shaped our world from ancient times to the present day."

2. Author Craig Conley offers a number of unusual dictionaries online, including ones with All-Vowel Words and All-Consonant Words.

3. If you need a specific type of dictionary but can't find it, check out -- they collect links to different dictionaries, glossaries and such on the web.

4. When a stun gun just won't do: the Gun Dictionary, the Knife Glossary, the Japanese Sword Visual Glossary and (sort of) a dictionary/encyclopedia of explosives, Flash! Bang! Whiz! - An introduction to propellants, explosives, pyrotechnics and fireworks.

5. Dragging 9,000 obscure English words kicking and screaming into the light of day: Luciferous Logolepsy.

6. The Phrontistery's collection of word lists includes some obscure ones over at the International House of Logorrhea.

7. There are a ton of quotation dictionaries out there, but I like Mark Fryer's Quotez.

8. Get your slang on with the Urban Dictionary

9. Words = art: The Visual Dictionary.

10. The last word in words,, has a great page of links to specialty dictionaries.

Finally, if you'd like to simultaneously search 931 dictionaries with a total of 7,563,812 words, try the dictionary search engine OneLook.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Modest Proposal

For Preventing Unemployed Novel Writers From Being A Burden, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Publishing

By Jon Athan-Swift

It is beyond melancholy for those of us who conduct publishing business on the internet to be bombarded with web sites, blogs, and pages written by beggars of the unpublished or unemployed novel-writer persuasion. Having written three, four, or six book proposals, all soundly rejected, they still importune every editor, agent or critic with queries. These failures, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time begging consideration for their unpublishable manuscripts, until they are reduced to soliciting PayPal donations or are forced to sell them for a buck advance to PublishAmerica.

I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of unwanted manuscripts and utterly worthless writers is in the present deplorable state of Publishing a very great additional grievance; and, therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these writers better serve our society, would deserve so well of those of us who actually should be in print as to have his statue set up for a preserver of Publishing (and after reading this should you deem that to be me, you may contact my personal assistant for an appointment with a suitable sculptor.)

The number of souls in these dire straits being usually reckoned one million and a half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand who have lucrative daily employment or reluctant but ample support of a long-suffering spouse. I again subtract fifty thousand for those who will give up on their own or do away with themselves in suitably tragic fashion within the year. There only remains one million, two hundred fifty thousand to be rid of. We can neither employ them nor do they wish to earn an honest living, so I consulted with my friends as to what should be done with them.

I have been assured by a very knowing American reviewer of my acquaintance in New York that an unemployed writer is a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout. Then, too, the unemployed writer's diet allows for the accumulation of very little body fat, which will require some caution with preparation and basting but should result in minimal cholesterol content. A fully dressed writer will make two dozen dishes worthy as an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

Editors who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may flay the writer carcass; the skin of which artificially dressed and cured will make admirable substitutes for traditional hardcover bindings (with the added bonus of getting the PETA people off our backs about using leather), and cut into strips splendid bookmarks ready for embossing. Several editors of my acquaintance are in need of new upholstery for their office furnishings and would be delighted to have the buttery-soft hide of a writer cushioning their nether regions. As you know writer blood, properly reduced and thickened, will readily serve as ink for the red or maroon parts of illustrations or those passages in Bibles when Our Savior actually speaks. I do recommend buying the writers alive, and dressing them hot from the knife, as we do roasting pigs.

Finally, after the flesh and skin has been stripped and used, the very bones of the unemployed writer (thin and pitted by starvation as they may be) at very little cost may be transported to the nearest Top-Flite plant, where they will be bleached, ground up and added to the polymers used to make golf balls. Certainly attached to this will be the pleasure and satisfaction we can expect to feel each time we tee off and drive the last bit of a wannabe down the fairway.

Some persons of a desponding spirit would wish to be more charitable to the vast number of unemployed writers, and will take offense at my suggestions. But I am not the least concerned about their ire, because it is very well known that these wretches are every day dying and rotting by cold and famine, and filth and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected. Those we can help along more quickly to the inevitable end will only bless us for relieving their misery. We should also nip in the bud any hopes of public school children before they become literate enough to be a nuisance; thus the industry and ourselves are happily delivered from the evils to come, and our beloved sons and daughters will never again have to change their names to avoid claims by these scum of unfair favoritism, or rub elbows with them at industry conferences.

As to myself, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real, of no expense and little trouble to us. Indeed, I expect the golf ball aspect to greatly improve my own game.