Friday, October 31, 2008

Wishing You

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Past Perfection

My guy's mother, who passed away many years ago, had eight kids. When she wasn't cleaning or doing laundry, she practically lived in the kitchen. She had no microwave, no food processor, and no training as a cook except what her mother had taught her. Like most women of her generation, she did it all by hand, and all from scratch.

Fortunately she loved to cook, and over the years built up an impressive repertoire of dishes, one of which was an Italian pasta sauce made with two kinds of sausage. This sauce also happens to be my guy's favorite dish. Like his mom, I love to cook, and after hearing him sing a thousand praises of this pasta sauce, I had to ask for the recipe.

I realized how cherished this sauce was from the moment my guy's sister bestowed the recipe on me. I received a photocopy of the original, handwritten by his mom. With that I got not one but two stories that illustrated how much everyone in the family loved the sauce. Evidently one time the smell of it roused some uncle out of a coma or something along those lines. Before the recipe was handed to me, I had to promise not to give it to anyone else without asking the family. Given the reverence for it, I'm surprised a priest wasn't brought in to shake holy water over the pages and recite a few Hail Marys.

So for the first time I made Mom's Italian Sausage Sauce for my guy. It took all day to cook, I had to stand over it practically the entire time to add things at different intervals, check this, adjust the heat up and down and sideways, stir, fold, check that, etc. It might be perfection to eat, but JM&J, it was a towering pain in the ass to prepare.

On the subject of perfection, while I was cooking I sampled Mom's sauce a couple of times. I knew everyone worshipped it, and it probably was a cure for cancer or whatever, but to be truthful? I thought it tasted horribly oily (probably because one of the ingredients was eight full ounces of extra virgin olive oil.) I later discovered that if you let the sauce sit undisturbed for a minute -- something that does not occur during the cooking process -- a two-inch layer of red-colored olive oil would rise to the top. Combined with the fat from the sausage (which was added raw and cooked in the sauce itself), I thought this stuff could have easily doubled as homemade napalm.

The final blow was when I served it to my guy, who did love it, and assured me that it was "almost as good as Mom's."

Almost? What the hell? I'd followed the recipe to the letter. I'd spent eight wretched hours in the kitchen, making it. I'm not a chef, but I'm the daughter of one, and I damn well know how to cook. It should have been as good as if not better than Mom's.

I didn't give up. There had to be something I was doing wrong, so I tried making it again, and again, and again. I used a timer so I could add in the onions precisely two hours into the cooking time. It still tasted the same. I found the exact brand of crushed tomatoes his mother had used (cheap, watery tomatoes, I'll have you know.) Didn't change his reaction. I had my sister-in-law show me how finely her mother had chopped the vegetables. Had no effect. I even borrowed the beat up, black-bottomed cauldron the old witch had made the stuff in. Made no difference.

I tried and tried and tried, and every time I served it, my guy would say, "It's almost as good as hers was, honey" or "You got pretty close this time."

After the fifth or sixth time, finally, it sank in. I was never going to be able to make this oily gunk as well as his mother, The Patron Saint of Pasta Sauce, ever. Not because I'd messed it up. Not because I'd done something different. I could never make anything that tasted as wonderful as Mom's because I'm not his Mother. When he was a kid, he never raced home from school to find me slaving over a hot stove to make his favorite dish. I'd never admonished him to eat every bit so he'd grow up big and strong. I'd never sent a frozen vat of the stuff with him when he moved into his first apartment. I hadn't even been born yet.

Freed from the self-imposed prison of trying to duplicate that past, "perfect" pasta sauce, I turned my attention on the recipe itself. At first I just wanted to make some changes so that I didn't have to spend my life in the kitchen (and so that I could eat it without gagging.) So silently, surreptitiously, without petitioning the Pope or getting legislation passed or asking anyone's permission, I began to trim down the recipe.

The first thing that went was that whole bottle of oil olive she put in it. Two tablespoons, in my opinion, were more than enough, and the next time I made it I think I lost thirty pounds from the calories I was able to cut.

My guy, oddly enough, didn't notice.

Encouraged by this, I gradually made more changes. I ditched Mom's ingredients one by one and replaced them with products that I preferred. I substituted turkey sausage for the fatty bulk pork stuff she used, and eliminated altogether the small mountain of salt she put in it. I whittled down the eight different bottled seasonings she employed to three fresh herbs that I grew myself. I added some new ingredients I liked, too, like a little red pepper to give it a nice tingle, and some roasted garlic for more depth. I stopped worrying about Mom's nine thousand different cooking stages and restructured the preparation to three simple steps.

My guy never complained, and never realized I was changing it. P.S., that is the secret to improving a cherished family recipe: don't tell anyone, and don't do it all at once. Over time, they forget what the original was like and get used to your version.

By the time I was done overhauling the recipe -- it took about two years of slow trial and error -- I'd replaced nearly all of the ingredients, cut the cooking time down to an hour and the cost of the dish by 65%. But I never told my guy or (until now) anyone what I'd done to the sauce. I'd made it healthier, cheaper, faster and, in my opinion, a lot more appealing and appetizing. I could actually enjoy it as much as my guy did. But I didn't think of it as his Mom's sauce anymore. It wasn't her sauce anymore. It was mine.

Would his mom approve of what I did to her recipe? Hard to say. Some cooks have very high opinions of themselves, and are quite possessive of their recipes. Some even believe no one can equal their skills. But the fact remains that anyone can make pasta sauce if they really want to. You can buy it in jars. You can get it in restaurants. A lot of people love Italian food.

From the stories my guy has told me about her, I think Mom would be okay with it. She loved to cook because she loved her kids. What made them happy, made her happy. And while I might be a bitch in the kitchen, I make her boy and her grandkids pretty happy.

I still make the sauce a couple of times a year, and every time I serve it my guy loves it, eats three platefuls of pasta and asks if we can have it two nights in a row. And yes, I did eventually admit to him that I'd made some (cough) minor changes to the recipe. He still says the same thing every time: "It's almost as good as Mom's." I don't mind anymore; I really don't want to replace Mom in his memories. Those should be forever. I simply want to make new ones.

What has making pasta sauce got to do with writing? Think about it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

All Hallows Ten

Ten Things to Help Celebrate Halloween has some Halloween Ideas for making costumes, pumpkin-carving, party-planning and decorating.

Better Homes and Gardens has some interesting ideas for Halloween Decorations Outdoors.

To keep the guests busy, Party Game Central has a bunch of Halloween Party Games.

If you're having a Halloween party and are looking for some interesting recipes, here are some to check out: Knorr Spinach Dip (to serve this one, I hollow out a 1- or 2-pound round pumpernickle loaf, put the dip in the center, and chop up the bread I've removed into bite-size pieces. Also wonderful with raw veggies); Cooking Light magazine's Haunted Eats page; and Simple Halloween Recipes from

In case Charlie Brown needs a hand: How to Carve a Pumpkin (with lots of helpful graphics) from

Carve your own designer pumpkin with How To Carve a Fancy Pumpkin with a Dremel.

If you're really going to get into the power tools, you have to stop in and read How to Carve Pumpkins with Power Tools.

Naturally, there is a, and they've got plenty to offer, including a page with Last Minute Quick Costume Ideas.

Also from if you're concerned about what you're handing out to the trick-or-treaters, check out Chandni Jhunjhunwala's healthy alternatives in The Best and Worst Halloween Snacks for Kids.

Need a classic Halloween read? has archived the complete original text of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Twenty Bits of Advice from a Pro for the New NaNo'er
(plus links)

1. Unless you're writing about meteorologists, tornado hunters or the inexplicable onset of an ice age, resist the urge to start your novel with a report on the current climate conditions. If we want a forecast, we'll watch The Weather Channel.

(Great Beginnings by Robert J. Sawyer)

2. If the only way you can describe your story is to say, "It's just like The DaVinci Code/Starship Troopers/The Hunt for Red October/Go, Dog, Go/The Flame and the Flower/The Stand/Murder on the Orient Express/Twilight -- only better" you might want to try out another idea.

(Top 4 Ways to Know Your Idea is Novel-Worthy by By Ginny Wiehardt)

3. If safe and convenient to do so, remove all the phones, televisions, stereos, radios, video games and non-writing devices from your writing space or turn them off and unplug them. If not safe or convenient (i.e., you need to be reachable) see if someone else can handle phone duty while you write.

(Tips and Tricks for Distraction-Free Writing by Dustin M. Wax)

4. If you plan a writing session that will last for more than an hour, set a kitchen timer for 60 minutes. When it dings, get up, walk away from the computer, and take a five to ten minute break. When you get back, reset it for sixty minutes.

(Five Tips for Finding Writing Time by Michael Stelzner)

5. You don't need to check your wordcount two hundred times per writing session. It's not going to change that much (unless you type really, really fast.) Check it when you start writing, and again when you finish. Feel free to show off your progress on your blog or web site, though. I love seeing those wordcount widgets.

(NaNoWriMo's official Word Count Widgets page)

6. If possible, skip eating where you write, or writing where you eat. Have snacks and meals on your breaks away from your writing space. The only thing you should be doing in your writing space is writing.

(American Dietetic Association's Healthy Eating in Your Home Office)

7. Refrain from asking friends, family or loved ones to read what you're writing while you're writing it. Wait until December 1st, then drop all 50,000 words on them.

(Critiquing by Marilynn Byerly)

8. If at any time you feel seriously burned out, take a day off and do something physical. Go for a walk. Work out at the gym. Clean the house. Garden. Anything that takes your mind off the story and allows you some breathing room. It's better to lose one day of writing than flame out entirely halfway through.

(How to Avoid Writer Burnout by Misti Sandefur)

9. If you can't think of what to write, or you feel a block of any kind forming, tag that section of the manuscript with a bracketed notation of what you needed to write there (i.e., [Jane tells John about her STD test results here]) and move on to the next scene.

(How To Avoid Writers' Block ~ Give Yourself Permission To Write Badly by Rhonda Leigh Jones)

10. If a good name for your character eludes you, give him/her/it a temporary working name with an unusual spelling, like Xerox or Zorro or Jabba. Then, when you do think of a good name, you can do a "Replace-All" without changing all the other words that contain the same letters as your temporary name.

('s Random Name Generator)

11. Writing can be exhausting, both mentally and physically. Try to get eight hours sleep a night, minimum, and if you're writing all day, take a one-hour break to rest in the afternoon.

('s 26 Home Remedies for Insomnia)

12. If you're thirsty, drink chilled water instead of sugary and/or caffeinated beverages. Avoid energy drinks that make you hyper. When I get tired of water, I switch to Crystal Light. Their peach tea is my favorite.

(Crystal Light Citrus Brunch Punch recipe is also delicious)

13. When you finish a scene or a chapter, take a minute to stop, stand up and stretch.

(Stress Reduction Exercises)

14. If your protagonist has the same occupation, physical description, love interests, problems and ambitions as you, you might want to rethink the character.

(Scriptwriting ~ Crafting Your Protagonist by T. Robinson)

15. If your antagonist bears an alarming resemblance to your ex, and is fated to die a slow, lingering and quite horrible death, you might want to rethink your character, and maybe consider making an appointment with a therapist.

(Peter Anspach's classic The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord)

16. Instead of thinking "This will never get published" try "This time I will finish it."

(Positive thinking: Practice this stress management skill from the

17. If possible, take all of the published books out of your immediate writing space, including that wonderful novel by your favorite author that you keep under your desk to pick up and skim whenever you feel blocked. I know, it's hard to give up the wubby book, but when you write, you should be the only author in the room.

(Finding Your Voice by Christopher Meeks)

18. Keep a notepad and pen handy at all times. Put them in your writing space, and carry extras in your car, in your purse or briefcase, on your nightstand and in the bathroom.

(Printable Notebook freeware.)

19. Avoid backreading before you begin writing. If you need a reminder of where you left off, write a short note of where you are on your notepad after you finish writing each day, or print out the last paragraph of what you wrote and leave that beside the computer.

(PBW's Eff the Editing LB&LI workshop)

20. At some point you will probably think it sucks. Every time I sit down to write, I think it sucks. The difference between you and me is, I don't listen to that whiny, impossible-to-satisfy bitch. I kick her out of my head immediately and go to work. I let her come back later, when I'm editing.

(PBW's Writing Triage)

Finally, one more thing: remember that while you're doing this immense, incredibly challenging, perpetually frustrating and often scary thing called writing, you're not alone. (Courage)

Monday, October 27, 2008

No-No-NO Ten

Ten Things Authors Don't Want to Hear (But Frequently Do)

1. "All the other authors are doing it."

Really? I hear all the other editors are jumping in a lake.

2. "Change [important part of the story.] I know it's logical, necessary and even important, but honestly, I just don't like it."

Well, I had the same problem working with you, and I got over it.

3. "Don't worry about the wording in your contract."

Even this part where it says I have to bend over and . . .?

4. "Her/his name isn't feminine/masculine enough. How about Muffy/Chad?"

You're not planning to breed, are you?

5. "I asked [Big Name Author] for a quote, but s/he's too busy to read the manuscript."

And you couldn't wait to tell me. How thoughtful.

5a. "I asked [Big Name Author] for a quote, but s/he read the manuscript and didn't like it."

Great. Now my book will be the featured title at his/her next workshop: "Manuscripts I Have Read for Quotes That Really Sucked, and Why."

5b. "I asked [Big Name Author] for a quote, but s/he burned the manuscript after reading it and won't speak to me anymore."

(hangs up phone)

6. "I loved the book. I couldn't put it down and stayed up all night reading it, and there's no way in hell we can publish it."

Next time, just come to my house and beat the daylights out of me. It'll hurt less.

7. "Lighten up. No one will laugh if your cover art is a little ugly."

Right. They'll be too busy puking.

8. "PW called the book 'an barely entertaining farce of a train wreck; possibly the Worst American Novel of All Time.' We're going to use '...entertaining...'"

I need an aspirin.

9. "We don't like the title."

Two aspirin.

10. "You're not in the big bookseller's monthly newsletter that goes out to a quarter-million subscribers because someone misplaced the wonderful promotional material for it that you wrote and sent to us. Sorry."


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Speed the Outline

I've had a couple of folks who are going to be participating in NaNoWriMo ask me to put together the shortest/least time-consuming method of outlining a novel concept.

Honestly, it's just about impossible to come up with a one-size-fits-all-genres template. I know, I've tried. Every genre is different, and you need to be aware of the general expectations for stories in that genre (even if you plan to ignore them, at least know what they are.)

Every writer's process varies, too. Some, like me, usually start with a vivid character. Others have a strong plot idea. Then there are begin-with-setting writers who fall in love with a location; the go-with-way-cool technology writers, and even writers who come up with a brilliant ending and work backward from there. Nor should I leave out the writers who simply feel something nameless in the back of their head, open a blank document page and start writing.

So that's the upfront disclaimer -- this is surely not going to work for everyone. Try it out as is or rework it to suit your particular writing and/or story needs (not everyone will have three suplots, for example, you may need more or less.) Also, this is just for the writer's personal use; I don't recommend sending this to an editor or using it for anything but writing the story or maybe as notes for the writer to consult during a verbal/phone pitch.

Since most of you are familiar with my novel crash test dummies, John and Marcia, I'm going to use their story as an example to fill in this template.

Ten Point Novel Concept Outline

Who: Marcia (half-angel librarian); John (half-demon cop); Demon thief (unnamed)

What: must work together to defeat demon diamond thief, avert Armageddon

When/Where: Modern time, Metro San Francisco

Why: Thief intends to use mystic diamond to open the gates of Hell, bring the inhabitants to the mortal world and destroy mankind.

Primary plot line: John and Marcia team up to protect diamond, defeat demon thief.

Subplot #1: John and Marcia were created to battle each other but fall in love.

Subplot #2: Demon thief falls in love with Marcia, wants to kill John

Subplot #3: John's demon father and Marcia's angel mother try to separate them.

Major Twist: The thief is the demon side of John's personality (they're the same person.) Neither are aware they share the same body.

Resolution: John and Marcia each must choose to sacrifice their inhuman powers to save the world.

Once you have these ten points outlined, you have a very general overview of your story. I think these are the basic decisions you have to make before you write (as long as that doesn't throw a monkey wrench at your muse's head.)

If you'd like to print out the blank template, I've posted it, the completed example and the links listed below over on Scribd here. *Note 9/3/10: Since instituted an access fee scam to charge people for downloading e-books, including those I have provided for free for the last ten years, I have removed my free library from their site, and no longer use or recommend using their service. My free reads may be read online or downloaded for free from Google Docs; go to my freebies and free reads page for the links. See my post about this scam here.

Related Links:

Outline Your Novel in Thirty Minutes by Alicia Rasley

Outlining: Clarifying & Accelerating Understanding & Organization by Dr. Robert S. Houghton.

PBW's Novel Outlining 101

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Great Pumpkin

Add an image or holiday message to a jack o'lantern with this online Halloween GIF generator:

(link swiped from Gerard over at The Generator Blog)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Personality Accounting

Unpredictable. Tough. Inventive. Solitary. Determined. Thoughtful. Defiant. Funny. Tempered. Unstoppable.

These are ten words that define the aspects of a person's character -- what's in what I think of as their personality account. Like money in the bank, these aspects can't be seen from the outside, but they're the stuff that directly shapes an individual's personality, reasoning and lifestyle. They're easy to list, but a lot harder to illustrate. They're not obvious like hair color or body build. The character doesn't walk up to the reader and say, "Hi, I'm John Smith. I'm unpredictable, tough, inventive, solitary, determined and a couple other things, and I'd like you to remember that."

When you put together a character, you have to do more than deposit unpredictable in their personality account. You need to incorporate that factor in what they do. You can tell the reader that your hero is unpredictable all the live long day, but if in the story the reader knows exactly what the guy will do five pages before he does, he's not living off the personality account you've banked for him. When confronted with a choice, the unpredictable character doesn't take the well-travelled or less-travelled path. He walks off the path, builds a new path, or blows up all the paths.

Antagonists need the same sort of account, too, but often they're cast in direction opposition of the protag and even more prone to be walked up to the reader for a recitation, i.e. "Hi, I'm Jane Smith. I'm predictable, weak, unimaginative, social, ambivalent, thoughtless, obedient, dull, untried and subservient." I think it's more interesting to have an antagonist who has just as many admirable qualities as the protag in the bank, because that makes them just as real. My favorite books often have protags and antags who, if not for whatever is keeping them at odds, might have been good friends.

Today's assignment: in comments, list ten words that belong in your character's personality account.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Off to Write

It's double deadline week here at Casa PBW (two books due in seven days) and I'm a bit behind schedule so I'm going to bail on you guys today. So that your visit here was not a total waste:

If you ever wanted to submit an idea for a comic book/graphic novel series to Marvel, definitely read Marjorie M. Liu's post here.

M.J. Rose is offering from now until 11:59 PM EST on October 31, 2008 a free download* of her novel The Reincarnationist (link & info filched from Shannon Stacey's blog.

Want a chance to win a copy of The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance and some promo goodies from author Shiloh Walker? If so, head over to her blog here and name a book or two that you’re looking forward to this fall.

*Disclaimer: There are a few hoops involved before you get your free download -- you have to open an account with eHarlequin (seller for the first link) which requires you give them your personal info, click through like you're going to buy the book, and then put in the code FREEREINCARNATIONIST when you check out to zero out the price. I don't own a Kindle so I didn't bother to try the second link, but Amazon will likely have you register or create an account with them to get their free download there.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From the Trades

Grassroots Publishing Co. Inc. is seeking 3-5K short stories that are "contemporary, historic, inspirational, paranormal, or any other theme as long as love and romance are the main thrust of the story", pays $300.00 flat rate for "first global publishing rights and electronic and internet rights in all languages as well as future anthology rights", electronic and snail mail subs okay, see guidelines for more details here (spotted in the November print issue of The Writer.)

Jewish Community Center of San Francisco Anna Davidson Rosenberg Awards for Poems on the Jewish Experience offers $3,000 in prize money annually to a first-place, second-place and honorable mention. Submit four copies of up to 3 poems, no more than 10 pages in length by December 1st. No entry fee. See specific guidelines and read last year's winning poems here. (found in the Nove/Dec print issue of Poets & Writers)

I also enjoyed reading the Q&A with Algonquin editor Chuck Adams in the Nov/Dec print edition of Poets & Writers; it shows how a great interview piece can liven up an otherwise yawner of an issue. There's an online expanded version of it you can read here, but be warned, he's pretty merciless on just about every topic.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Marcia slowly walked through the smoldering ruins of her home, shocked to see the destruction caused by the unexplained explosion that might have also killed her. If not for John's timely intervention

[Junkies get interventions, not heroines. Specify what he did here.]

If not for John grabbing her, throwing her to the ground and crushing her into the road with the weight of his manly body -- get the picture? -- she would at this moment be winging her way to Heaven.

[Assuming she isn't going the other way for doing it with John in that closet at the Halloween party five minutes after meeting him. Need some good girl guilt, plausible deniability, and couldabeenworse here.]

Perhaps she deserved to die. Marcia still felt scalded by shame over her wanton and wholely inappropriate behavior toward John at the Halloween party. Somehow she would have to accept that she had been under a demonic spell that had forced her to have sex with the first living being with a pulse she encountered. Thank heavens it had been John, who had of course immediately realized that the only way to break the spell was to know her in the Biblical sense of the word know. Otherwise she might have ended up doing it in the back yard with the host's Great Dane.

[Nicely done. I'm starting to smell RITA. Can you work in a line of some soul-wrenching regret for not saving it for the wedding night?]

"Don't think so." Marcia bent to pick up a scorched, twisted picture frame that had once contained the photo of the kids. Now the image of poor little Jimmy, Raymie, Jennie, Suzie, Ralphie, Igory, Brucey, Consuelaly, Supreme Beingly and BillyJoeBobbyRaeBobBilly was a bubbled mess.

[Who are these kids again?]

She sighed, dropped the scorched, twisted picture frame, then bent to pick it up again. It had once contained a photo of the kids in her summer reading group who hadn't quit the program to go look up porn sites on the library's computers. Now the image of poor little Jimmy, Raymie, Jennie, Suzie, Ralphie, Igory, Brucey, Consuelaly, Supreme Beingly and BillyJoeBobbyRaeBobBilly was a bubbled mess.

She closed her eyes and held the destroyed picture against her breast. "Oh, kids. You were my rainbows, my kittens, my unicorns. You mattered to me as much as John, as much as . . ." She began to sing softly. "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray. You'll never know--

[COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT!!!!! NO SONG LYRICS!!!!!! And why the HELL is Marcia walking through the ruins anyway? According to your timeline the house exploded ten minutes ago -- see pg. 21. Fire fighters would still be there soaking it down. Is her jumper made of asbestos?]

Marcia stopped singing. Time rushed forward as the moon raced across the sky, the ruins became a soggy but safe blackened mess that the firefighters had thoroughly soaked down. "Oh, kids, you were rainbows, kittens, unicorns, whatever . . ." She began to sing, although her voice was too soft to hear the copyrighted lyrics. "Mumble mumble mumble."

[Boring -- get rid of this whole kid and singing thing, it's not working for me. Where is John? He's been gone for at least twenty mins. Too long!]

Marcia tossed the ruined picture aside. "John isn't here right now. He's off getting us a motel room. Can I take a message, or would you rather write one in the margin?"

[Ooooo, motel room scenario, much better. Let's end this scene and move onto that.]

"No." Marcia reached above her present paragraph and ripped the line of dialogue about the motel room out of the page.

[Hey. Cut it out.]

John pulled up to the curb, climbing out of his Beemer and hurrying over to Marcia.

[I thought we agreed to switch out the Beemer for a Harley.]

"No," Marcia said through clenched teeth, "you thought you'd call John's Beemer a wimp ass car and demand he trade it in for a Harley. Which he hated, so he traded it back in the final draft of Chapter Two. You could have read it, but no, that was when you took that personal day from work so you could have your back waxed and your thighs cello'd. Remember?"

John looked at the gaping hole in the paragraph above them. "Uh, honey, what happened to the dialogue up there?"

"A character has to do what a character has to do." Marcia flung a hand toward the face hovering over their page. "Ask her about the new motel room scenario, since she's writing the book now instead of editing it. Go on. Ask Saran Wrap Girl. She probably wants us to pick up a herd of sheep on the way over. As long as they're sheep that will feel scalded by shame over their wanton and wholly inappropriate behavior."

[Oh, for Christ's sake. You know, John, I have twenty-six other manuscripts I have to edit before the end of the week.]

John frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"

[This is your author's first novel. It can also be her last. I'm just saying.]

Marcia turned her face into John's broad shoulder. "It's so unfair."

[See? She's got a shoulder now instead of a face. You need me.]

Marcia turned her face so that her cheek rested against John's shoulder. "It's so unfair." Behind John's back she lifted her hand and folded down all but her middle finger.

[Hey. I saw that.]

"Now, ladies," John said, pulling Marcia's hand around to rest over his heart and covering with his hand the obscene finger gesture she refused to quit making. "I'm sure we can come to some sort of amicable compromise on these revisions."

"Compromise?" Marcia wailed.

[What compromise?]

"I'll stay and do a walkthrough of the ruins of your home with you, darling, while we have an emotionally-rich verbal exchange," John told Marcia. "Then we'll go together and check into the cheap motel room with the bed equipped with the faulty magic fingers option that starts to spontaneously vibrate just as we begin falling asleep in each other's arms. I'll be too tired to do anything, of course, but that won't be apparent until the end of the chapter."

[Wonderful! Can you hurry up the walkthrough?]

"Maybe we should put on skates," Marcia snapped. "And what about the sheep? Hmmmm?"

John held up a hand. "In exchange, sweetheart, our sensitive, understanding editor will let you keep your summer reading group and your devastation over losing every material thing you own. Oh, and the massive guilt you felt about our closet quickie? Will be changed to a little guilt mixed with a delicious sense of naughtiness. And absolutely no sheep, ashamed or otherwise."

[Oh, all right, anything to keep this moving. I still want a mention of dismay for not saving it for the wedding night in there somewhere. I've already got my RITA accepting-for-the-author speech written.]

"See, darling?" John lifted Marcia's face and smiled into her tear-filled eyes. "It's all about compromise. Now, I'll go and call the motel from my car phone. You still have to retrieve your family Bible, which is of course the only thing that miraculously escaped the destruction."

Marcia eyed John's line about being too tired to do anything, waited until he squished away through the sodden charcoal that had been her home, and listened. As soon as the editor got up from her desk to walk down and steal the last Tab from the employee lounge fridge, Marcia quickly took out a red pen, reached up to John's last line of dialogue, and crossed out family Bible before writing in personal massage device.

A character had to do what a character had to do.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Talking Book

I've been reading a lot of author interviews lately out there in NetPubLand, and while most of them are informative, and a couple have convinced me to check out the author, on average they've got about as much pizazz as a nice cup of lukewarm milk. You know, that stuff people who aren't lactose intolerant drink before they snuggle under the covers. I know because halfway through my interview sojourn I was ready for a nap.

I think it's the inherent niceness factors involved in interviewing on both sides. The questions asked are usually the earnest nice variety from sincerely nice people (okay, obviously I have to exclude Sean Lindsay from this group.) The author, who doesn't want to come off as a jerk, is nice back. I've done a couple of interviews like that myself, and honestly, there's no room for anyone to be anything but nice -- hence the bed time beverage result.

While a lot of people in Publishing hold the niceness factor in high regard, the fact is that it's usually pretty boring to read. When an interview is boring, it comes across like filler and the opportunity to reach and interest the reader is wasted. So the next time you interview an author, consider fine tuning your questions with the following:

Laugh ability: Give the author a chance to tell a funny story, joke or anecdote about themselves, their work or the biz. Questions like "What's the funniest thing that ever happened to you since you were first published" "Name one odd thing you do when you're working on a book" or "What makes you laugh no matter what's happening" give the author a chance to share some humorous insights, which then entertains the reader.

Other Hats: Every author has at least one area of expertise or interest other than writing; make it your business to find out what that is. If you discover the author has an interesting or unusual day job or hobby, ask them about it and how it relates to their work. If the author has an extensive background in another field, get them to contrast it with working in publishing.

Flaws: We all tend to relate more to people who are human like us versus the Mary Sues who do everything perfectly. Ask the author what frustrates them, what about themselves or the work that they'd most like to improve and/or if they've worked to conquer any difficult aspect of the writing life.

Change: Authors know all too well how tough it is to succeed in the industry. Ask them what they would change about Publishing to make it better, what they think would encourage more people to read, and in what ways they hope to make a difference now and in the future.

Colleagues: We've all read authors talking about their favorite authors ad nauseum. Ask the author to name a new writer they think is promising, an author who has passed or is no longer writing who they miss the most, the one writer they'd love to collaborate with, have as a mentor, go on a retreat with, etc.

Finally, the book: After a brief description or synopsis of the author's current release (keyword here is brief), get the author to talk about other aspects of the story. Who was the easiest character to write, who was the hardest, and why? What haunted/amused/challenged them about this particular story? What do they think the book says about them? What do they hope the reader gets out of it?

I think the key to a great interview is to give the author a chance to be a person instead of a persona. Everyone can be nice and bland, and a few authors will probably go that way because they're afraid to do anything else, but the rest are like hidden treasures. Dig a little under the surface, and watch them shine.

Related links:

My unconventional 2006 interview with author Shannon Stacey.

SF Crowsnest's interview with author Joely Sue Burkhart showcases how a writer can be nice during a fairly standard interview without being boring.

The Laugh Doctor, Dr. Cliff Kuhn, interviews world famous comedian Gallagher about humor, health and life in general.

“So, Do You Always Wear White Underwear?” – How to Write an Exciting Interview by copywriter Guillermo Rubio

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Net Shade Ten

Ten Things to Help with Online Color Choices

With the Color Blender HTML color palette generator, you "pick a color value format, input two valid CSS color values in the format you chose, and pick the number of midpoints you'd like to see. The palette will show the colors you input as well as the requested number of midpoint colors, and the values of those colors."

This Color Code Generator/Color Picker gives you colors, RGB, hex, and a test button for each that changes the outer border of the page to your test color so you can see what it looks like as a background.

Learn the basics of HTML color over at Ted M. Montgomery's Color Coding tutorial page.

If you know the name of a color you want to use but not the hex codes or RGB values, give's Color Converter a whirl.

Color Design for the Web, a very interesting workshop article by Vaishali Singh, talks about how to get your web site or blog's color design to harmonize with your content.

One of my favorite online generators,'s Color Palette Generator, will generate the codes and colors to compliment any image you upload (excellent if you're trying to harmonize your web site or blog to your cover art or other theme images.)

See your primary color choice in mono, contrast, triad, tetrad and analogic color schemes on a mini mock template with the Color Scheme and Color Scheme Two generators (warning, addictive.)

Pallasart Web Design's article How to Make Effective Use of Color in Websites takes a look at how people respond to colors and the most effective colors you can use for your site or blog. offers a more simplified but equally addictive online color scheme generator.

If you want to play around with HTML color choices and/or see how your web site or blog template colors will look together, definitely check out Christian Gram Hansen's interesting Unsafe Colormatch generator.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Writer Recycling

We're doing our usual fall house-cleaning this weekend to get ready for the winter holidays, but rather than throw stuff out, I'm trying to figure how I can recycle things.

Junk mail is always a problem, and today a national political party sent me a big flyer to try to sway my vote. There isn't a single picture or word about their candidate, his platform or what he plans to do in it; it's 100% nasty quotes from dubious media sources trashing the other guy. Typical. Included in this junk mail were three rather nice pictures of the other guy. I cut out the photos and taped them in my journal and wrote a little bit about what I think of him, then put the rest of the flyer through the office shredder. I'll use the shredded material to pack fragile items for shipping.

A favorite author of mine had a wonderful keeper story in an anthology with other authors who, while competent writers, aren't going on my keeper shelf. Because I know I'm going to reread the keeper story frequently, I excised the pages I wanted, hand painted a new cover and rebound them with it. Since I don't donate vandalized books to the library, the remains of the antho will be recycled page by page in my flower press.

I've collected some beautiful handmade paper over the years, and I had one stack of very fragile but truly gorgeous stuff that I've never figured out how to use. I cleaned out that cabinet drawer today, found the fragile stuff and a folder with mat board scraps I've also saved to use as cover boards for my handmade books. Matt board + pretty fragile papers + glue + much patience = a pile of very neat cover boards and bookmarks. For the bookmark ribbons, I used trimmed pieces from my yarn scrap bag.

This year's desk calendar is one of those page-a-day variety with famous paintings from all over the world. Because each page is double-sided, I've had to save them all to flip them over back in June. Flipping through them all year gave me the idea of what to do with them after December: bind them into a flip book so I can look through them again when I need inspiration.

Both of my kids want to clear out the picture and story books they've kept since elementary school. Usually I donate these to the local library, but I had to call the hospital today to set up an outpatient appointment, and after I did I asked them to transfer me to the pediatrics ward. Turns out they are desperate for kids' books for their young patients, so that's where I'm taking ours.

What have you been altering, reusing or recycling? Give us some ideas in comments.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nothing Ventured

You all might remember back when I vowed to write one dangerous book this year. I'm about done writing it, but that's not all I did. I came up with an entirely new concept/approach involved in both writing and publishing it that I believed would make it a win/win/win situation for me, my publisher and the readers.

I then had the nerve to pitch the whole shebang to New York. If you're going to cross into dangerous territory, might as well go the entire distance.

Well, guess what.

Coming in December 2008

I don't have anything in writing yet as they're still putting together the contract, but as of this moment it's pretty much a done deal. I'll have more information for you as all the details crystallize.

Cover photo credit: © Diego.cervo |

Cover design: Lynn Viehl

Thursday, October 16, 2008


According to The World of Bookmarks, the web's largest bookmark information database, the bookmark may date back as far as when we were writing everything on scrolls, but the earliest known bookmarks came into use during medieval times. These ancient markers, used as a method of keeping illuminated manuscripts from being dog-eared or damaged by their readers, were usually made of cord or parchment strips. They were also physically attached to the book itself so they could be used by anyone who read the book.

It wasn't until the mid-nineteenth century that bookmarks won their independence and became separate objects from the book, and promptly became collectibles. These early bookmarks were made of thick paper (often used as advertising space by various businesses) and also woven in silk, or handmade by the ladies to show off small watercolors and even needlepoint.

Today the humble bookmark continues to evolve from its practical beginnings into new and interesting forms, often with multiple functions. Here are just a few examples of the new generation of megamarks:

German publisher teNeues offers Booknotes, bookmarks with lined space on the back to make notes ($6.95 online.) They also have packs of twelve designed bookmarks like these, each with the month's calendar at the top (I found the latter at BAM for $3.99 for a pack of twelve, and these are definitely nice.)

A few years ago Pixar came out with a collectible bookmark incorporating a strip of film from their animated movie Cars (still available art B&; $4.95.)

The LightWedge reading light marks and illuminates the page you're reading ($34.95

Mark-My-Time digital bookmarks allow you to time how long your child (or you) spend reading ($8.95 at Target and most chain booksellers.)

The Original Book Buddy by Amanda Crawford Designs is a reading pillow (page holder and book marker) that comes with an acrylic desktop that turns it into a lap desk. Several pretty designs available ($29.95 online)

Oxford Pagemark Dictionary by Franklin Electronics not only holds your place, but features an ultra-thin dictionary with more than 145,000 words, phrases and definitions with American and British spelling; a calculator, games, vocab builder and a clock to check local and world times. All it doesn't do is read the book for you ($59.95 at Franklin, $39.95 at B&

Look, it's a book holder, it's a book stand, it's a bookmark . . . no, it's all three: Paperbax ($9.95 online.)

Even the Supreme Court Historical Society sells a pretty nifty bookmark/booklight combo: Robot Book Light ($8.95 online)

The UltraOptix Handi-Lens Magnifier Bookmark marks your page and magnifies the text for you ($1.95

This Weighted Bookmark holds your book open and flat for easy, hands-free reading ($9.50

I have a full basket of bookmarks in my office because I tend to misplace them once I've finished reading. Among them are signed bookmarks other authors have given me, along with a few that I've found in used books. I also have a small but lovely collection of bookmarks my daughter has made for me over the years.

I'm curious: what are you guys using right now to mark your place in the book you're reading? Do you have a favorite bookmark or megamark, or will any strip of paper or other material do?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

State of the Blog

I didn't write an anniversary post back in September when the blog turned four years old, which I meant to but got sidetracked and promptly forgot. Yesterday I noticed my post was the 1,800th I've written for PBW, so I thought today would be a good time to do the semi-annual "Here's the deal" post.

PBW is my personal project, and I'm the sole owner and author of the content. Two years ago my friend Tom started helping me cope with some of the technical challenges involved and comment moderation, which had become more than a little overwhelming for me. He has also posted a few update notices in my absence. Other than that (and the pretty amazing comments left by my visitors) PBW's content is mine alone. The responsibility for it is mine. The blog buck stops here.

I've been around for awhile. Once I write 98 more posts (which, if I don't quit blogging, I should accomplish by some time in late January/early February 2009) this weblog's posts will officially surpass the number I wrote on my previous online journal. Add to those numbers all the posts from my other private online journals which shall remain private, and altogether I've written about six thousand posts since I signed onto Prodigy (remember Prodigy?) and posted my first sonnet on the poetry forum in 1994.

I am pretty strict about content. I don't accept any form of advertising on PBW. I don't permit my agent or my publishers to have any say whatsoever in what I post here. I don't accept promo disguised as content from any publisher. I don't belong to any writer's organization. I am not affiliated with any industry group nor do I get involved in their promotional efforts. I don't support reciprocal promotions or any sort of cronyism. If I recommend something here, it's because I genuinely liked it, tested it out or thought it was an interesting product, or I am lending my support to a charity or fund-raiser that I believe is worthwhile.

Or it's free. I like free stuff. I like finding free stuff for readers and writers. We pay enough for everything else.

PBW is a public blog supported free-of-charge by Blogger or Google or whoever owns the service now, which means I don't pay a dime for it. Of course I can afford to buy one of the pricier blog hosting services, but I'm keeping PBW as it is to show that you don't have to pay through the nose to have a decent weblog. It's all that lead by example thing we authors should be doing.

I have instigated a number of trends over the years, made some industry predictions that came true, and helped launch a couple of shining stars. All of that was purely accidental. I've also touched off some major snitfests, firestorms, flamewars etc. Also not deliberately. Either way, PBW got a lot more popular (or notorious, if you prefer) than I ever really wanted it to be. The obvious benefits are often dimmed by the outside envy, ugliness and pettiness that popularity always seems to generate. I don't know how to feel about it, to be honest. I try not to think about it too much so I won't be tempted to click on the Delete Your Blog button.

I don't recommend young writers, or writers of any age for that matter, emulate me. I'm not a role model. There are many, many more talented, educated, likable, diplomatic authors out there who would serve as much better examples, and will help you a lot more along the path of your writing life and career. But if the writing advice and links I post are of any help to any of you, or you just enjoy reading the blog, then I've accomplished what I wanted to do with PBW, and that's what matters to me.

Finally, thank you all for visiting, supporting and encouraging me. Thank you for buying my books, joining in our discussions, listening to my ideas, giving me advice and sticking with me during the tough times. Thank you for offering your words, ideas, thoughts, hopes and dreams. I say you guys are the best a lot, I know, but you truly are. Thank you, and I hope we can hang together here and talk about books, writing and all things publishing for many more years to come.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Write Secrets

Writers all have writing tricks, habits and other methods we use to accomplish various things with with work. It's what helps us leave a distinct mark on the writing that, like voice can be imitated but not duplicated.

One of my tricks is physical: if I have a hard time visualizing or choreographing the physical action in a scene, I will (literally) do a walk-through of it in a space comparable to that of the novel setting. During my recent trip to Savannah, I strolled through town not only for my own pleasure, but also to time how long it would take my protag to go to work, walk the riverfront and evade capture in three different scenes (not as long as I had guessed in two cases.)

An unexpected benefit of this trick is that walk-throughs also help me with structure and pacing of a scene -- if I discover it's going to take a very long time to physically move through the choreography I have planned, I may shorten the action or split the scene up into two scenes.

Habits are more nebulous, force-of things that we're barely aware of. My guy says he knows when it's deadline week for me because I wear green almost every day. I don't deliberately do that, but I know I consider natural shades of green both inspirational and soothing, so it makes sense. When I start a new project, I try to watch the sunrise that morning before I begin working. On the night I finish a book, I always light candles and take a long, hot bubble bath. All of these habits probably started way back when I was having a problem with the work, solved it, and have since become rituals I don't even think about anymore.

Some of my writing methods have changed over time. I no longer try to make my chapter page counts as symmetrical as I did when I started out; I've stopped counting and obsessing and instead let the writing tell me when it's time to shift into a new chapter. I no longer make endless lists of keywords for title ideas but think it over and whittle it down to twenty of the strongest key-concept words and then work with those.

Over the course of a writers' life change is inevitable. I do miss something of the methods and habits that have fallen by the wayside over the years, but I've also discovered some new things that have helped me more: changing the lighting around my work space to eliminate screen reflections (less wear on the eyes), switching from hot tea to chilled water when I write in the late afternoon (keeps me from getting drowsy) and tracking any changes I make during my evening edit session (eliminated saving two, before-and-after copies of the daily work.

Writers, what are some of your favorite work tricks, habits and/or methods? What have you stopped or started doing since you began writing? Tell us in comments.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dry Well Ten

Ten Ideas for Tired Writer Bloggers

All Your Mission Belongs To Us: Write a spoof manifesto for the publishing industry, your genre, your writers organization or based on some popular topic of discussion that you think is complete hogwash. Need more inspiration? Try using a manifesto from the Evil Genius Mission Statement Generator.

Bonsai'd: Feed some text from your WIP into The Bonsai Story Generator and post a paragraph. Or use at least one phrase from the bonsai'd text as the title of your blog post, then create a hot premise for it. Challenge your visitors to do the same.

Bookish: Write a post naming your favorite books at various ages. Start at the point in childhood or adolescence when you began reading voraciously. Ask your visitors to list their favorite books.

Changing Places: If you have a friend who blogs, offer to write a post for his/her blog if he/she will do the same for you. You can choose your topic or assign each other one.

Character Connect: Interview one of your characters about: 1) a topic that isn't in your story; 2) their favorite book, music or artwork, or 3) how they really feel about working with you. Or have your least favorite character write a blog post.

Future Shocks: Make some predictions about the future of Publishing, your genre, books or advances in industry technology. Ask your visitors to do the same.

The Next Generation: Generate a blog post with The Lazy Bloggers Post Generator, or use one of the many interesting generators compiled over at The Generator Blog to create some fun content.

Topical: Name your #1 favorite writing topic, and explain why it fascinates you. Then name your least favorite writing topic with the same explanation. Use a search engine to find interesting articles, resources and other links that focus on both topics and put together a link list for your visitors.

Verse It: Make a poem out of random lines you read from various Twitter posts (easy), other writers' blog posts (harder) or interesting LJ handles (tough.) Or declare a limerick or haiku day, write a couple for fun and ask your visitors to join in.

Visual: Post an image that you've taken with your camera that you find inspiring, funny, or odd in some fashion. Write a short paragraph about it, why it inspires/amuses/puzzles you, and/or ask your visitors to give their impressions.

Do you have any favorite resources for blogging ideas and inspiration? Post your links in comments.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Things Eye Notice

One Eye Covers

This is an amazing coincidence. Or, if you're a Scandanavian advertising exec who wants to sell Bibles to all the cool kids, why you hire a smart Yank like Larry Norton to bring your vision to the United States. Jury's still out.

I think we should jump on this cover art trend immediately, though. Who wouldn't want to imitate a trend cover for the word of the Almighty? Or for the Bible, for that matter? In fact, it's already happening -- here's the cover art for latest inspirational chicklit Top Pick for October:

Sure, laugh now. Never mind that I said the same thing about cover trends like Running Suspense Woman and Headless Historical Woman and the Dude From Six-Pack Mountain. We'll just wait until all the books on the shelf start eyeballing us.

Seriously, though, what cover art trend doesn't especially thrill you? Post your gripe in comments.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Before you all jump into NaNoWriMo in November, you might consider putting together a synopsis for your story this month.

I will say upfront that synopsis-writing is probably the most dreaded job requirement of the professional writer. Condensing one hundred thousand words into ten or fifteen pages of concise paragraphs for an editor is a bit like trying to count then describe the freckles on a redhead to a blind person only willing to listen to you for five minutes max. But if synopses were easy and fun, we'd write them instead of novels.

With all due respect to the organic writers out there, I advocate writing the synopsis before writing one word of the novel. For me, it organizes my thoughts and reassures me on a couple of levels. I know if I can write an effective synopsis, I know the story inside and out. The folks in NY may not like synopses any more than writers do, but the standard book proposal remains a synopsis and the first three chapters (although once you've established yourself as a professional, editors are usually okay with just a synopsis.)

One of my oldest tricks to make synopsis-writing a little more palatable is to write one for another author's book that I love or have read many times. I also use synopses for nailing down annoying/lengthy story ideas that won't get out of my head. It helps get the pesky stuff that I don't have time to write out of my head, and I always feel good dropping a full synopsis into the idea file.

Some links to check out:

Charlotte Dillon's Writing a Synopsis page has tips, samples and about fifty links to other synopsis-writing resources on the internet.

This article on Pam McCutcheon's how-to, Writing the Fiction Synopsis: A Step-by-Step Approach, shows completed examples of her prelimnary worksheets from the book.

Down at the bottom of this article on synopsis writing from Where the Map Ends is an interesting five-paragraph formula for writing a very short synopsis (spiritual warfare, I like that phrase.)

PBW posts opn synopses: Synful Trio, John and Marcia tackle The Synopsis, and Novel Synopsis-o-Rama. I also wrote this workshop article on writing a synopsis a few years back, and it's still the way I write them today.

Anyone have any questions, suggestions or problems with synopses? Post them in comments.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Take a Walk

My Savannah trip journal

Click on the cover art to read the e-book.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Free the Books Ten

Ten (or More) Books You Can Get for Free

Project Gutenberg has available for free download Short Story Writing ~ A Practical Treatise on the Art of The Short Story by Charles Raymond Barrett

The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri is available in e-book format for online reading or download over at Scribd. *Note 9/3/10: Since instituted an access fee scam to charge people for downloading e-books, including those I have provided for free for the last ten years, I have removed my free library from their site, and no longer use or recommend using their service. My free reads may be read online or downloaded for free from Google Docs; go to my freebies and free reads page for the links. See my post about this scam here.

eHarlequin offers two free books if you sign up for their subscription service (which, according to the web site, you can cancel at any time.) This month they're featuring freebies with subscriptions to a number of their traditional series in Larger Print

Need some advice on viral marketing? Online sales guru Seth Godin has his much-acclaimed marketing book Unleashing the Idea Virus available for free download in e-book form.

Also on Scribd: Return to Wonderland's free e-book, How to Write a Fairy Tale (warning: while all the naughty bits are covered, some of the graphics included in the e-book may not be considered appropriate by some parents for their kids.)*

Marketing expert Janice Jacobs has her free e-book, Lousy Writer's Guide to Writing Persuasively, posted over at Scribd.*

Harper Collins has a First Look program for bloggers who want "to preview books in literary fiction, general fiction, suspense, biography, cookbooks, and other genres, for readers who make a difference – like you! Each month, Advance Reading Editions (AREs) of great books by fabulous authors are offered that you will have the opportunity to review. Reviewers are selected at random, but you must register to be eligible. In joining the program you may select your favorite genres and we will let you know when a book in your preferred category is offered." (Program rules can be found here)

LibraryThing has an early reviewer program which distributes ARCs to interested members who sign up, see more details at their Early Reviewers FAQ page.

Robert Louis Stevenson's Essays on the Art of Writing over at Project Gutenberg.

Author Shiloh Walker is having a contest for bloggers which offers among other prizes an ARC of her Feb '09 release Fragile.

Readers, do you know of any good free e-books out there? Writers, are you offering any freebies or giveaways in the near future? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

It's Almost Here

As 99.9% of you writers out there already know, November is National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo, one of my favorite writer events of the year. For the entire month first-time and experienced storytellers all over the world work toward the goal of completing 50K words in thirty days.

Since my writing schedule makes almost every month at Casa PBW a NaNoWriMo, I don't officially participate, but I encourage everyone who's game to give it a whirl. If you've never attempted to write a novel, it can be a terrific ice-breaker to join in. It's also a good preview of what it's like to write professionally, create on demand and work under deadline pressure.

Are any of you guys joining in? Is it your first time, or are you a dedicated NaNoWriMo'er? What are you planning to work on? Let us know in comments.

Some NaNoWriMo Links:

The 2008 NaNoWriMo Write-a-Thon Fundraiser Event in San Francisco

AlphaSmart Loaners


NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program

2008 Web Badges and Wordcount widgets

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Here I thought I was being so clever with the pics for the Where was She? giveaway, but most of you guessed it; the road trip I took was to my favorite city in Georgia: Savannah (with an afternoon jaunt over to Tybee Island.)

We put the magic hat to work, and the winner of the BookWish is:

Jamie (whose guess was: It reminds me of Savannah, GA. Such a lovely town.)

Jamie, when you have a chance please e-mail the title and author of the book you'd like for your BookWish along with your full name and ship-to information to Thanks to everyone for joining in.

*I've reposted all ten of the pictures from the giveaway along with short descriptions for each over at the story blog here.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Where Was She? Ten

Ten Pics from PBW's Latest Road Trip

Doris Morgan would love it -- Click to see larger image

Church goes Goth -- click to see larger image

Got brick? -- Click to see larger image

Look it's the new RITA award -- click to see larger image

My kind of conference -- click to see larger image

Because you simply can't have enough live oak -- click to see larger image

Noon in the Garden of Mostly Good -- click to see larger image

The gates of I'm Not Telling -- Click to see larger image

My idea of house porn -- click to see larger image

Ghost in the Frame -- click to see larger image

Guess where I went on my road trip in comments to this post by midnight EST tonight (Monday, September 6, 2008.) I will draw one name at random from everyone who participates (whether your guess is correct or not) and grant the winner a BookWish.* This ten things giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something at PBW in the past.

*A BookWish is any book of your choice that is available to be ordered online and costs a maximum of $30.00 U.S. (I'll throw in whatever shipping is involved.)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Road Trip

I'm heading out of town again, and not too sure if I'll have access to the internet where I'm going. Tom is also unavailable, so the blog and comments may remain static for a couple of days. I'll catch up as soon as I get back.

A couple of other things:

I've received a number of requests asking when the reprint of my Rebecca Kelly GCI novel Portraits of the Past will be released and where. This reprint is a trade paperback that will be sold exclusively at Wal-Mart. I've e-mailed Guideposts and asked for a lay-down date, and as soon as they let me know I'll post it here.

My publisher has advised me that the first Darkyn novel, If Angels Burn will be translated into Thai. That's all the info I have on that so far; I'll keep you updated on that as the situation develops.

Have a good weekend, and see you when I get back.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Virtual Writing Jobs is looking for freelancers to write feature articles, news items, profiles and opinion pieces for their online zine.

Detailed description writers needed to write content for, full-time 6-8 weeks, $10/hr.

Food/Entertainment writer (experienced and published) needed to write content for a Manhattan based specialty food chain's newsletter.

Freelance writers needed for media company that owns and operates several websites; $10.00 per 300-500 word article.

LA-based online jewelry company ( is looking for writers to "generate buzz and intrigue about diamonds and more." Research & write one article per week, each of 400-500 words, $50 per post. is looking for a website content copywriter to write 500 posts for $1-3 per post. needs writers to pen "daily blog posts about music news, culture and technology (those who can post in the morning are especially needed); review albums and concerts, songs and videos, Interview bands for Q&As, feature stories, and profiles and for PrefixTV, and write broader argument and analysis stories." Pays sliding scale, but listing shows $2 (blog posts) - $10 (features) per article, see listing for very specific application details.

Web Humor Editor needed for new website recommending the best videos on the internet, part-time, $15/hr.

Writer with knowledge of "genetics, psychology, anthropology, history, Maslow, Einstein, Diamond, Dawkins" and a "desire to change the world" needed 1-2 days per week/$150 per diem.

The Village Voice is taking applications for the fall 2008 Mary Wright Minority Fellowship, a "fulltime, three-month writing job with the Voice that provides an opportunity to work alongside veteran Voice journalists." Pays $500.00/wk for the length of the fellowship.

All of the above listings were found while cruising through in the writing/editing job sections of Craigslist LA and Craigslist NY.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Who says people don't read anymore? They need to come see all the magnificent entries for the Afterlife giveaway. (Jena, you actually made me go look for my ancient but much loved copy of Ken Follett's Eye of the Needle so I could re-read it, too.)

We had some technical difficulties tonight when the magic hat refused to pick only one name. I think it's because it knows I have two copies of Afterlife* as well as two ARCs left of Stay the Night, and it thinks I should give them both away. I never argue with the hat, so the two winners of the giveaway are:

bella, who is reading "Knit One, Kill Two", by Maggie Sefton, "Mortal Remains", by Peter Clement, "The Celtic Collection", by Alice Starmore and "The Book of Lies", by Brad Meltzer.

Karen Mahoney, who is reading "Grave Sight" by Charlaine Harris.

Winners, when you have a chance, please e-mail your full name and ship-to info to, and I'll get these books out to you. My thanks to everyone for sharing your current reads with all of us.

*No worries, I will be getting another copy of Afterlife for myself with my next Cemetery Dance order.