Monday, August 31, 2009

Rain Rain Go Away Ten

Ten Things to Do on a Rainy Day

Begin or update an interesting character names list. Haul out your baby names or other name source book and start reading through; stop and jot down whatever name appeals to you or pops a character in your head.

Catch up on your correspondence. We all whine about how little time we have to e-mail; this is the perfect opportunity to catch up with your colleagues and friends. If you're already caught up, e-mail some friends you haven't heard from lately and see what they're up to. Also see 15 Tips for Writing Effective Email.

Clean out your filing cabinet. Bite the bullet and file everything that's sitting around. Come up with a color label system and redo your file labels. Also see Sally Allen's article Get Organized!
Filing Systems: A Four-Step Formula That Really Works

Edit some pages or a chapter from your WIP by hand on paper. Everything looks different printed versus appearing on the screen. To take a different approach to editing, read your pages in reverse order -- start editing on the last and work your way backward to the first.

Make a writing to-do list. Plan your writing time, what projects you'd like to work on and when you can work on them for the next week or month. Write out your plan on a calendar or notepad to keep at your writing space. Also see How to Write a Work At Home Business Plan.

Practice writing premises and synopses. Challenge yourself to write a premise for your current WIP in less than 25 words, then 15 words, then 10 words. Try writing a one-page story synopsis for your WIP, then a three-page, and then a fifteen-page.

Read the book at the very bottom of your TBR. Or pick the one you've been avoiding for whatever reason. An unread book is an adventure in limbo, and you never know what gem you might unearth, especially if it was recommended by a friend. If you're all caught up on reading, organize your book shelves. Group your books by subject, author, or however you like to keep them in order. And dust!

Start a novel notebook, or update your current notebook. If you're having trouble writing a character, fill out a worksheet and get to know them better. Cut inspiring images out of magazines and newspapers and make some visual note pages. If you've only planned out one novel, write up some notes on a potential sequel.

Tidy up your work space. Remove any trash or clutter from your desk, dust your equipment, vacuum under your chair. This is also a good time to clean out the debris lodged in your keyboard or the dust and pet hair stuck to the fan vent on the back of your tower (follow your computer manufacturer's instructions on how to do this.)

Write up or plan a week's worth of blog posts. If the power goes out, use your Neo, your netbook, your laptop or other battery-operated device. If you're tired of blogging, look for some ways to recharge your own batteries.

Now if you've done all that and still need something to do, stop by Drops of Crimson and read Kristopher Reisz's free short story Quiet Haunts.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Still Off Writing

Yes, I'm not here again. So that your visit was not completely wasted: blow your mind by beholding the magic of 70 Outstanding Out-of-Bounds Photos (via The Presurfer.)

I had to try this, and played with one of my around town pics. It's not as easy as it looks: has a tutorial on how to photoshop an OOB photo (in Adobe, I think) here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Off to Finish StarDoc

Create a sticky note online for your blog at's sticky note generator, Superstickies (link swiped from Gerard over at The Generator Blog.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Magnetic Fields

If Dave Kapell, the creator of Magnetic Poetry, ever needs a pro testimonial, I'm his girl. I've been a magnetic poetry junkie ever since the original kit hit the market back in the nineties, using it to play with words, recharge my batteries, work on titles (you would not believe how many of my novel titles were born on my fridge) and otherwise just have fun.

My favorite kit is contained in The Magnetic Poetry Book of Poetry, which comes with a pouch of magnetic words to stick to the metal-lined inside cover of the book, making the fridge unnecessary (over there on the left is a pic of my latest poem-in-progress.)

Aside from the fun factor, using magnetic poetry can be very helpful to and inspirational for people who for whatever reason can't write. Those attractive little words and fragments can break through enormous writing blocks, refresh a tired soul, and bring back a sense of fun to word- and world-building. I often buy kits for teenagers who have problems warming up to poetry, then sit back and watch them play. Those of us who are physically disabled also appreciate the kits; it brings back the fun of spontaneous creation (and gives my voice a rest.) Sometimes I take my book to PT and pass it around the waiting room, and the other patients all seem to instantly fall in love with it. It's the ultimate in ice-breakers.

I didn't know it until I went link-hunting tonight, but Magnetic Poetry has a massive web site with themed sets, kits, and new products for the creative players of all ages. You can try out some of the kits by playing with them online here if you'd like a preview. I did a little early Christmas shopping there tonight, and I think any of the kits make great and reasonably-priced gifts for kids, poets, writers, or anyone who owns a fridge.

Language is a has several online author-themed versions of magnetic poetry you can play with here; my favorite (naturally) is the e.e. cummings version.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

P&W This Month

The Sep/Oct '09 issue of Poets & Writers magazine is a particularly good one; there's an article on and interview with Georges Borchardt that is worth the entire cover price. Mr. Borchardt has been a literary agent for more than 50 years, and has represented or worked with writers like Elie Wiesel, Samuel Beckett, and Jean-Paul Sarte. He's really seen it all, and has a lot of fascinating observations about the biz. If you can't get the print issue of the mag, you can read the interview with him for free online here.

Independent presses got a special section of their own in the mag, along with an article on chapbooks, chapbook publishers looking for work, nine notable indies accepting submissions, and two illustrated tutorials on how to stab-stitch bind or tape-bind a chapbook of your own. For you literary short story writers, they have a profile on Tin House magazine, along with insight from the editors and specific advice. Lots of stuff for you poets out there, too. More can be found and read for free online at P&W's article index here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mawked by Dawkness

Aurora Borinlas sat up in bed. The exquisite white French balcony doors she got on sale from from the home improvement store slowly opened inward, which she thought was a little strange. Usually they opened the other way. Could the hinges be . . . defective? Surely not from that store.

A tall, dark, very muscular and definitely masculine six-foot-ten three hundred pound shadow glided into her bedroom. The red silk-lined black velvet very hot vampire novel series-inspired collectible cape he wore swirled around him with dark but ultimately harmless menace, only more impotently.

Aurora clutched her television uber-homemaker designed coverlet and sheets up around her neck as she closed her eyes, swallowed hard, lifted her chin, tossed her head and eyed the intruder with a glitter of defiance in her eyes. After she opened them again, naturally.

"Who are you?" she demanded in a trembling but defiant voice she hoped didn't tremble or piss him off too much. "And why are you in my bedroom, and what do you want?" She glanced down at his beautifully polished knee-high hand-fitted Italian leather designer footwear. "Oh, wow, cool boots."

"Thank you," the shadow said in faint but unmistakeably socialist accent that made his grave tone shimmer and ripple through the cool soft midnight dusky air as he stepped into the faint red air black glow of her official Post-Apocalyptic time travel franchise movie nightlight. "I am Wadameew Wandewboeeh, the Supweme Impewial Pwince of Wallachenstuff." As he spoke, she saw two long white fangs that had obviously been straightened by a brand of invisible transparent plastic braces flash in his mouth. "I gweet you, Auwowa Bowinlas."

"Aurora Borinlas." After correcting him, she tossed her head, shaking out the amazing highlights in her home no-ammonia candy-named hair-color treated tresses before she lifted her gaze to the smoldering lapis lazuli orbs that the devil or a certified natural color-changing contact lens optometrist had set between his densely thick and utterly beautiful black eyelashes. "You can't come in here. That's trespassing."

"But I must twespass, my dawling." Wad glided a little closer, enveloping her in the dark, beautiful scent of a men's fragrance represented only by letters and numbers. "I have come to take you away fwom all of this." He gestured at her high-end designer bedroom set, her slightly lower-end designer curtains, and her handsculpted non-staining half-priced designer carpet.

She clutched her high thread count television uber-homemaker designed linens a little closer, which after she squared her shoulders and blinked back bright tears of fear. Longing, and her neglect to suck a couple of European herbal menthol-infused throat lozenges before bedtime, allowed her to speak in only a low, pitifully strangled tone. "Tell me why, please?"

"Because." The prince pushed back his cape to reveal his snowy white shirt, which was open to the waist to expose his wide, muscular, masculine, unyielding chest flesh and the hard stony washboard corrugation of the ultimate six-pack abdomen, sculpted and defined by his thrice-weekly power workouts for a super discounted annual membership fee at a national franchise gym. "It is destiny. You have been mawked by dawkness to become one half of my soul. The woman with whom I will spend all etewnity."

Aurora frowned, but thanks to injections of a neurotoxic protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, it didn't show in her unlined expression. "But I'm human, and you're a vampire."

"No." He closed his full, passionate lips over the glittering whiteness of his sharp, pointed incisors, and then mumbled with his lips closed, "Uh ah oh a uheeuuh. Ih ih eheee. Oo ih ee ih."

"What did you say? And quit trying to hide your fangs, I already saw them."

"Fine." He threw up one hand, on which gleamed an exquisite gold signet ring from a jeweler named with the same first letter as the word that described intimate contact between two mouths. "I said, this is destiny. You will be mine."

"No, what did you say before that?"

He sighed. "I am a umpywa. U, M, P, Y--"

"Never mind." Aurora dropped the coverlet and sheets, revealing her supermodel endorsed mall franchise's white satin chemise and tap pants, which coordinated perfectly with her matching creme freshwater pearl earrings, necklace, bracelet and rings from a jeweler that was not named with the same first letter as the word that described intimate contact between two mouths, but a letter much further along in the alphabet. "I know you use those fangs to pierce the soft, white, dimpled flesh of female necks so you can drink their blood."

"Vewy well." The prince sighed again. "I do feed on human females, but only those fwom that state whose voting pwocess usually scwews up Pwesidential elections."

"That's going to be a problem." She blinked, not smudging her female hip-hop atrist endorsed ultra-length mascara, which she'd forgotten to remove before going to bed because it would look just as wonderfully natural in the morning. "See, I'm from the state whose voting process usually screws up Presidential elections."

Wad frowned. "That cannot be wight. I cannot feed on you. It is fowbidden."

"Sorry," she told him. "I was born in the largest city in the center of the state, at the major theme park there. Mom went into labor while she was riding the rollercoaster that runs completely in the dark, which is still as much of a thrillride today as it was twenty-two years ago. Have you gone to see the five-foot-tall rat there lately?"

"No. The lines awe too long. I vacation at the wival theme pawk set up by that movie studio. This is a mess." The prince began to pace. "I cannot dwink the blood of the one mawked by dawkness. I'm vewy thiwsty and that would kill you, and we must spend etewnity as one." He caught her staring at him. "If I dwain you, the loveliness would fade. Pewhaps you have watched the fascinating fowensic crime dwama sewies on the television channel that wewuns them all day? You know what decomposition is?"

"Maybe I'm not mawk-- ah, marked," Aurora suggested.

"You have a cwescent moon mawk in some wegion which I will not find until we consummate this love, do you not?" When she nodded, he growled his frustration. "Then you have the mawk of dawkness. By dawkness. Look, dawkness mawked you, okay?"

She thought for a moment. "But who told you that the mark meant that I was your destined mate?"

"The Sacwed Spinsta," he said impatiently. "Who else?"

A diaphanous figure took shape between them, forming out of white, flowing mist the shape of an immortally lovely silver-haired octogenarian dressed in sporty nautical department store on-the-rack designerwear and casual slingbacks by the ultimate in American shoe designers. "You need to move this along, Wad. My wonderfully tasteless and completely dissolving fiber supplement is about to kick in."

"Oh magnificent one in fwont of whom I pwostwate myself on a wegular basis, we have a little pwoblem." The prince pointed at Aurora. "She is fwom the state whose voting pwocess usually scwews up Pwesidential elections."

"So? What do you want, egg in your beer?" The Sacred Spinsta scratched an itchy place under her right bosom before she turned to peer through her mall optometrist-fitted featherlight trifocals at Aurora. "And you, Miss High and Mighty, you think a prince comes along every night? He's got a castle in Wallachenstuff, and ten thousand or so minions, and big ugly werewolf bodyguards, and even I don't know what else." She wagged her finger. "You could do a lot worse than this one, girlie."

"He's thirsty," Aurora said.

"So on the way to the castle, you stop by that gigantic outlet mall they built on the edge of that godforsaken swamp with all the sharp grass. You can find some nice victims at the fabulous store with the big red star logo, what with this fifty-percent-off sale they have going this weekend." She waved her hand, and blew out the wall by the bathroom. "Oy, sorry. My powers, they slip. You should call the home improvement store -- not the one who put in those defective French doors, darling, but the better one -- to send out one of their helpful home consultants to give you a reasonable repair estimate." She turned to the prince and made a more conservative shooing gesture. "Come on, now, Wad, time to make the booty call."

"It shall be as you wish, my immowtally fwustwated supewiow feminist goddess." Wad glided over to Aurora. "Befow I join with you, my dawling, you must dwink my blood."

"Whaaaaat?" Aurora jumped out of bed. "I don't think so."

The prince's chin jutted. "It is the way of the umpywas of Wallachenstuff. Fwom the time of the fiwst Wad." He stroked his jutted chin. "Which was me, actually."

"The day I drink the blood of a guy who can't pronounce the letter r . . . . " She turned to the Sacred Spinsta. "Look, I'm really sorry about all this, but I'm a lesbian."

"Oh?" The old lady scowled. "Since when?"

"Since right now. And my six-foot-eleven, three hundred fifty pound trucker girlfriend is due home any minute now. So if you two don't mind . . . " Aurora pointed to the open French doors and their rain-scented sparkling glass, thanks to the amazing spray cleaner she used, through which the moonlight streamed. Through the glass, not the cleaner, of course.

"You should be ashamed of yourself, you deceitful hussy." The Sacred Spinsta clucked her tongue. "All right, Waddie, it looks like this one we throw back."

The prince groaned. "But she has been mawked! By dawkness!"

"It's probably a temporary tattoo, like that last one. Let's go." The Sacred Spinster patted the Prince's shoulder. "You can sleep over in the Holy Double-wide with me and watch that funny fellow with the late night talk show. I'll send the minions out to the kosher deli to get you a nice Jewish take-out waitress."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Persona

Have you ever wondered what the web thinks of you? Now you can find out when you play with a new online toy called Personas*, a program which "creates a personal online data portrait" of you, based on what it finds as it "scours the Web for information and attempts to characterize your Web identity."

It's name-based, kind of like Googling yourself and getting a color-coded bar graph of topics associated with your name; takes a few minutes even on broadband but it's interesting to see the results. I was happy to see from my results that I'm mainly identified with books (click on above image to see larger version), but sports? Politics? I don't think so . . .

*Link swiped from Warren Riddle over at Switched.

Monday, August 24, 2009

UnBoxed Ten

Ten Authors and Groups Who Promote Outside the Box

Author Doug Clegg is offering a new serial horror novel, The Locust as he writes it week-by-week exclusively to his newsletter subscribers. You can check out the first episode 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 no longer recommend using their service. See my post about this scam here.

Probably the oddest author promotional web site I've seen in a while; I think we have to call this one online performance art. You have to click through about 55 times to get through the entire thing, but it's definitely different, as is the author, Miranda July.

Most authors write letters to readers as promo, but Grant Cooperon, one of the protagonists from author Marjorie M. Liu's brilliant Hunter Kiss novels, writes his own letters. Borders has all four parts of his letter to his unborn daughter up in audio format here (and whoa, what a great voice -- he sounds just like the Grant I've imagined.)

Writer Evan Ratliff has vanished and he'll pay you $5K to find him. Maybe you can pay him $10K and he'll stay lost? Probably not.

The Random House authors who have been giving away ARCs via their Read It Forward venture; a great approach to getting ARCs into the hands of interested readers (link swiped from Maria Zannini)

I don't know who started Snippet Saturday*, but authors like Jaci Burton and Sasha White have been using it in network with other writers to get samples of their work up on their blogs while linking to others who are doing the same.

Authors Shiloh Walker and Sasha White have both done amazing things with promotional trading cards.

Promo can hardly be considered buried treasure, unless you do what British author Kit Williams did back in the seventies, setting off a massive treasure hunt for a golden bejewelled hare amulet he buried somewhere in England as part of promotion for his children's book Masquerade. I remember this because my cousins over in the UK went nuts trying to find it. There was some bruha about the guy who found it getting inside info from Williams' ex-girlfriend, and then it was auctioned off and disappeared for a couple of decades, but this past month finally got his amulet back.

There's the box, and then there's the sandbox -- all sorts of writing communities have massive sites out there, but few combine fun, ease of navigation and inventiveness the way The Writing Playground does.

Author Lara Zielin acts, sings and delights in her promotional video "Editing Letter" (thanks to Margaret Yang for the heads-up on this one.)

*Added: Snippet Saturday was started by author Lauren Dane; thanks to Marianne Arkins for the heads-up.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Scratch Me

I am a Reader with a capital "R." If you scratch me, I bleed books. -- Loretta Benedetto Marvel, Mastering Illusion, CPS Sept/Oct '09

I snared this quote from Ms. Marvel's column in the latest issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, which every other month has me eyeing stuff in my junk drawer and wondering if I should open an online shop. If only there were a market for batteries of indeterminate power, orphaned pen caps and used wire ties, I'd be a millionaire in no time.

It also made me think: if you scratch me, what would I bleed? I want to say something cool like ink or plots or even worlds, but I suspect it would be story. Everything I do or love involves a story of some kind, whether it's mine or someone else's. Writing, reading, quilting, painting, blogging, cooking, caregiving, walking, talking, being. Most nights I can't even sleep without being sucked into the stories in my dreams (I'd really like to know why I keep having that one about walking through the aisles at the market though. I'm not even naked in that one.)

So your turn: if I scratch you, what would you bleed? Tell us in comments.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


The only word I can use to describe the e-mail response to yesterday's post. You guys are just the best. Thank you.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Thank you all for sharing your opinions yesterday on my idea to make e-ARCs of Shadowlight available. After much thought, I've decided to give it a go, although I will be imposing a time limit for e-ARC requests mainly to prevent this from going viral in the bad way.

So: readers and bloggers who are willing to commit to writing up a blog post or review of Shadowlight, the first novel in my new Kyndred series, can e-mail me at to request a .pdf or Microsoft Word 2007 copy of the book before midnight EST on Saturday, August 22, 2009.*

As I mentioned yesterday, favorable opinions are not expected and there are no other strings attached; all I ask for in return are two things:

1) Everyone who receives the e-ARC agrees to write up a post or piece about the book on your weblog, web site, or appropriate forum (this includes forums like discussion boards or online bookseller sites for those of you who don't blog or have a site) before October 6, 2009.

2) Everyone who receives the e-ARC agrees not to sell, distribute, redistribute, post on the internet or otherwise pirate copies of the novel.

With the e-ARC of Shadowlight I've also included the initial draft of the first chapter from Dreamveil, the second Kyndred book, so you'll also get an exclusive preview of what's next in the series. Also, if this works out well, I will likely do it again with future novels.

I really appreciate everyone helping me out with this.

*Added: this e-ARC offer is now closed. Thanks to all my visitors who responded for offering your support for this experiment.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I'd like to ask for some opinions on my latest problem. Shadowlight, the first novel in my new Kyndred series, is due to be released in a few weeks. As far as my planned promo for the book goes, I have in the works a parallel e-book, Rain Lashed, which I'll be posting for free on Scribd next month.* Sasha was also nice enough to let me post an excerpt from Shadowlight over on the group blog, and I'll probably do the usual release day announcement here.

Still, I feel I should personally do something about the lack of ARCs. The publisher promised to send out bound galleys, but I don't think they'll get them out fast enough to make a difference. At the moment I have my hands full with finishing up the final book in the StarDoc series, so the time I can spend doing additional promo is severely limited.

One option is to make available e-ARCs of the book to readers and bloggers who would be willing to commit to writing up a blog post or review of the novel before the release date (no favorable opinions expected or other strings attached; just a write-up of some kind.) The e-ARC would be a .pdf electronic copy of the novel manuscript, formatted to look similar to the print novel, minus the DRM and accompanying B.S. I'd probably include some bonus material to make it extra tempting, like the first chapter from the next book, Dreamveil. Naturally the recipients would be on their honor not to pass around the e-ARC or post it anywhere on the internet.

Some writers think using electronic ARCs as promo is too risky, but I believe it's part of our E-Future; the only economically sensible alternative to continuing to print and ship paper ARCs. Readers are always saying that the industry should trust them enough to strip DRM from e-books; I'm willing to to extend that kind of trust (for one book, anyway) and see what happens. It would be an interesting experiment, I think.

What do you guys think? Good idea, bad idea, stupid idea, don't do it PBW, or other? Let me know in comments.

*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 no longer use or recommend using their service. See my post about this scam here. Rain Lashed can be read online or downloaded for free from Google Docs here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Journaling Hardware

I've been keeping some form of personal journal almost daily since 1974, when my parents' marriage melted down. There were so many things I wanted to say that under the circumstances I couldn't, so having a journal gave me a place to let them out safely, without hurting anyone's feelings. After that my journal became the place where I could retreat and work things out on the page, which in turn helped me with my writing.

Now when I give my workshops on writing as a career at the local schools, I make up and hand out blank journals to all the kids. A journal invites artistic expression and emotional exploration as well as trains young writers to write daily, something that never hurts later on when they decide to pursue publication.

As far as inspiration for journaling goes, I like unconventional sources. Artists, for example, have long inspired writers (without them we wouldn't have The Da Vinci Code, Red Dragon, or The Girl with the Pearl Earring.) Composing a story after being moved by something we've seen is probably the foundation of a million novels.

Four times a year Stampington & Company's Artful Blogging magazine takes a look at the flip side of the equation: the artists out there who are writing via blogging. The results are not always at what we'd consider professional level, but rather spring pure and uncluttered from the artistic mind. The artful bloggers collectively don't nitpick and worry over every word the way we often do; they tap into their emotions and motivations and free them on their blogs. The magazine never fails to rejuvenate me in some way; from this issue I took a quote from the cover art and ran with it.

Sometimes it's fun to work with a guide, and you can get a directed journal or journaling kit like Randi Feuerhelm-Watts's Wide Open Creativity Notebook & Card Set to serve as your navigator. This boxed set comes with fifty cards with art journal images on one side and stories and writing prompts on the other. There's also a partially-written journal with more of the same, along with plenty of blank pages for the writer to fill in.

I bought this kit because I wanted to stretch my wings a little. I have a problem with some mixed-media and spontaneous artistic journaling -- all that untidy scribbling and scrawling just looks messy to me -- so I thought it would do me some good to walk on the not-so-organized side. I'm still struggling with my neatness fixation, but some of the anecdotes that Ms. Feuerhelm-Watts has on her card set are fascinating. For example, she tells a little about outsider artist Annie Hooper (1897-1986), who wanted to be a romance writer, but ended up the stay at home wife of a fisherman. To pass the time she spent alone, the childless Mrs. Hooper made over 25,000 dolls based on Biblical figures, which filled nine rooms of her house. Some of her dolla are now in the collection of North Carolina State University's Gregg Museum.

25,000+ dolls, whew. Makes me wonder if she was the inspiration for that doll-collecting character in King's The Tommyknockers.

I make most of my own journals now, but every now and then I'll purchase a journal or sketchbook that catches my eye. I like supporting artists directly whenever possible, so I shop at Etsy, the grand central station of everything handmade you could ever want that can't be found in stores. Here's a cool green quilted-cover sketchbook made by Florida artist Lolita of Daily Threads. I really like her work and it definitely inspires me.

For writing journals, I've just discovered Afiori, an Etsy shop owned by Swedish artist Maria-Thérèse Andersson, who made the writing journals I'm currently using, which are just the right size for my purse and packed with different sizes and types of paper. They're also not as intimidating as a big journal filled with nothing but blank ruled pages; the colors, textures and different page sizes help spark new ideas.

If you've never tried personal journaling, my advice is to start small. A twenty- or thirty-page journal is going to be easier to fill up than a two hundred-page monster. There are no rules as to what we write in our journals; give yours a theme like "Things I will never say out loud" or "Favorite names, lines and places." If you're feeling word-challenged, fill your journal with photos and magazine pictures and simply write a few words beneath them as to who they are, where you found them and/or how they make you feel.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Journaling for Friends

Occasionally I'll carry a journal around with me for a few months, tape photos and pictures in it while I jot down spontaneous thoughts, observations and such for a specific friend. Here's an entry from one I wrote two years ago for another writer:

May 9, 2007

The 50-acre fire in [nearby town] has burned another 850 acres and is now only ½ mile from my house. I have our grab-and-go bags packed. It would be the week I have a shot at the Times that God would decide to burn my house down.

The smoke haze is everywhere; the truck was white with ash this morning. I keep thinking of Pompeii, silly me.

One of my more religious friends believes that we’re in the beginning of The End Times ™. Between her and Mom I feel Revelations-battered.

I don’t believe in the Bible boogeyman of The End Times, but I have just enough residual faith to drop into a knee-jerk depression whenever someone who does preaches to me.

So: I will write!

Of a future that does not end because people are afraid.

Of people who face their fears.

Of fears that can be fixed.

Like Charlotte Lucas after she marries Mr. Collins, the parlor of my writing is reserved for my particular use.

Sometimes,the only place I can breathe is in that parlor.

When the journal is filled up, I read it out loud to the Dragon, save a text copy, and send the original to the friend. It's like a very loooooooooong letter.

Do you do anything unusual with your journals? Let us know in comments.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rejuvy Ten

Sorry I'm running late today, guys. Tom and his family are basking on a white-sanded beach somewhere right now, and they wouldn't take me with them, no matter how much I whined . . .

Ten Things You Can Do to Revive Your Blog

A to Z: make an alphabetical list of things you love, hate, want, avoid, or otherwise feel strongly about.

All the things I'll miss from summer: amusement parks, barbecues, corn on the cob, dog walks, every day home with the kids, flip-flops, gardening, halter tops, icees, jazz festivals, kites, LB&LI, museums, nectarines, opal skies, peaches, quiet mornings on the porch, rain storms, salad dinners, tacos, umbrellas, vacation, warm days, x-tra hours to sleep in, yoyo contests, zzzzz'ing in the lawn chair.

Contest: Ask your visitors an interesting question, and offer a prize for the most interesting answer or on a random draw, i.e. What's your favorite how-to writing book, and why?

Freshen Up: Give your blog a makeover by renaming it, putting up a new template, rearranging your content display, adding some new features or widgets, etc.

Greatest Hits: Go through your archives and pick ten posts that you like best, thought were the funniest, got the most reponses or something like that, and list them along with links to the original post (or do a best of the last year, like I did here.)

Meme Fun: Post the latest meme you've seen on your blog (here's one from Facebook, answered by a dude with the very interesting handle of Adonisdemon) and challenge your visitors to answer it in comments or on their blogs (don't tag me. I know where most of you live.)

One Year Ago Today: Revisit your archives and see what you posted about exactly one year ago to date (a year ago I was offline due to Tropical Storm Fay; and now we have three storms in the Atlantic: Tropical Storm Claudette, currently in the Gulf of Mexico, will make landfall Sunday evening in the Florida panhandle; Tropical Storm Ana was downgraded to a depression as of the 5pm advisory from the National Hurricane Center; and Tropical Storm Bill, which may be intensifying and making its way towards the Carolinas.)

Publishing News: Go to an internet search engine, type in the word "Publishing" and hit enter. You'll find the latest articles about the industry, and maybe find one that proposes something new or a new view (here's one on "cloud-publishing" by a self-pubbed author that I thought made an interesting argument for self-pubbing on the internet.

Serendipity Spin: Visit one of the blogs on your blogroll at random, read their latest post, and then write up a post about it or your opinion on the same topic (be sure to link back to the author and the original post so your visitors can go there to check it out.)

Ten Listmania: Make a list of ten things (like this one) about book, authors, or whatever that are funny.

Writing or Reading Stats: It's almost September; what have you gotten accomplished so far this month? This season? This year? Write up a post about where you've been, and talk about what you plan to do to finish out the month, season, year, etc.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I think the books we love say something about who we are as well as what we like to read. I play a game with student groups called "Keepers" where the kids write down the titles of three of their keepers on a piece of paper and then drop them in a hat. I draw the slips and try to guess which keepers belong to which kid (which is harder than it sounds.) If I guess correctly, the hat goes to the kid whose keepers I guessed, and they start guessing until they match someone with their keepers. This is a lot of fun to do with fellow writers, too, if you're looking for an idea for your next chapter meeting.

Today I'd like to do a spin on this game, and invite everyone to list in comments three keepers in your collection that you think illustrate something about who you are as a writer or a reader (and you don't have to explain them if you'd rather not.)

I'll go first:

1. e.e. cummings Complete Poems 1904-1962 edited by George J. Firmage

e.e. cummings and I have a very weird artistic connection; his poetry bailed me out of a couple thousand bad moments in my writing life. I think he's the only poet I've ever read who writes as contrary and subversive as I feel.

2. Life in Biblical Israel by Philip J. King and Lawrence E. Stager

My wubby book; the one I read when I want to remind myself of where I've been/where I am/where I'm going. A brilliant, flawless, compassionate, detailed, accurate history of people living in interesting times -- all the good things I love and love to write are wrapped up in this one.

3. Genetics manual ~ Current Theory, Concepts, Terms by George P. Rédei

This one is more of a textbook, and an outdated one at that, but meticulously written and organized, and utterly ruthless about the topic. This book illustrates the great extremes of our species' character, and how easy it can be to let your focus blind you. Like me, kind of a cautionary tale.

So what are your three keepers?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sub Ops

Robert Swartwood put out an open call for a "hint fiction" anthology to be published by W.W. Norton. Submit up to two stories of twenty-five words or less in the same e-mail; payment is $25.00 per story for World and Audio rights. See guidelines for more details. Deadline is midnight EST on August 31st.*

Pill Hill Press is open for submissions for their Shadows & Light: Tales of Lost Kingdoms anthology, edited by Alva J. Roberts. "We are looking for fantasy stories with clearly defined forces of good and evil. This does not mean “good” characters can have no faults, or that they know they are good. Stories do not have to be written from the “good” point of view. We are looking for a good mix of stories told from the perspective of both “good” and “evil” viewpoints. This is a fantasy anthology, and most subgenres of fantasy are acceptable (including, but not limited to): Epic, Heroic, Dark, Comic, Sword and Sorcery, Fairy Tale, and Mythology. We prefer tales set in a secondary world (a world other than Earth) but all stories will be considered. Also, we prefer stories with a magical element." Length: "1,000-10,000 words in length - the longer it is the better it has to be." Payment is upon publication, ".01/word plus one contributor’s copy of the book." Electronic submission preferred. Deadline until filled, see guidelines for more details.**

Norilana books has an open call for The Ladies Of Trade Town, "An anthology of original science fiction, fantasy, and related genre short stories about the world’s oldest profession, edited by Lee Martindale, scheduled for publication by Norilana Books in April 2011." Oh, so it's about writers! Ha. No, in this case, the world's oldest profession is defined as prostitution. What they're looking for: "The stories selected for this anthology will build on that varied background to tell well-crafted tales of the women and men – and other sentient beings – who “ply the trade” in a variety of times and settings. I’m looking for original science fiction, fantasy, and related genre short stories that entertain and play to the imagination of the reader. Show me something I haven’t seen, read, or written. (For examples of that last, see “Lady Blaze” in Roby James’ Warrior Wisewoman 2 and the title cut of the filk CD that gives this volume its name.) Humor, characters of all orientations and gender-identities, and new writers all welcome." What they don't want: "Despite the theme, I am *not* looking for porn, erotica, or gore-soaked horror. Absolutely no child abuse, incest, or non-consensual situations. Also not looking for poetry, fanfic or proselytizing either for or against the theme." Length: 3-10K, prefer 5-6K. Rights: "First English Language Rights and non-exclusive electronic rights. The anthology will be published by Norilana Books as a trade paperback edition in April 2011, to be followed by an electronic edition to be produced later." Payment: "$0.02 a word on acceptance of completed anthology manuscript by the Publisher, as an advance against pro-rata share of the royalties after earnout, plus one contributor copy." Reading period opens January 5, 2010, closes June 9, 2010. "Manuscripts received before or after this period will be discarded unread, unless prior arrangements have been made otherwise." No electronic submissions, no reprints, no simultaneous submissions. See guidelines for more details.**

*via Joe Konrath's blog
**via the anthology market listings over at Ralan's place

Friday, August 14, 2009

Twitting Scribd

A couple of weeks ago I got an e-mail from the folks at Scribd* telling me about their latest new venture; a real time notification thing like Twitter. They're calling their version "social publishing pages" that have "fun features that make it easy for you to share what you're reading and publishing with Scribd's community."

For the launch, they put together a list of prominent Scribd users that they encouraged people to start following. I've yet to see this list, but the e-mail claimed it included me. I was also issued somewhat ominous instructions for me to "log into my Scribd profile" and "respond to my Scribd readers soon."

While I was flattered that they consider me a prominent user, at no time was I consulted about any of this, or even asked if I wanted to participate. I guess because most authors jump at any promotional opportunity they assumed I'd hop right on the bandwagon.

I don't have "cripple" listed on my bio, so Scribd can be forgiven for not knowing I can't type or text. Even if I could hook up the Dragon to a feed of some kind for their new venture, to add that workload to what I already do on the internet would stretch me too thin. I give an hour a day to the internet; I can't spare any more time than that from my work schedule. But since this was a new thing, I thought I'd be supportive of Scribd's launch, see if I could get the Dragon to interface with that little box, and respond to a couple of twits. Until I went to my new Scribd home page, and how many "followers" had subscribed to my account:

I can't count how many new notifications I've received -- from all the pages I've waded through, about half of them look to be SPAM -- but as of the writing of this post, 8,516 people can twit me and it shows up on my home page (1,362 more than I had when I took the screen shot for this post a couple days ago.)

Obviously the promotional value of this new venture is attractive for an author, because who wouldn't want to text nearly nine thousand interested readers about a new release hitting the shelves or some other bit of marketing? But as with Twitter, the new social stuff is supposed to be reciprocal -- they twit you, you twit them, lather, rinse, repeat. I can't do that and have enough voice left over for the writing I get paid to do.

As with anything that threatens my writing time, I've grown extremely wary of this new social media fad. It appears to be as addictive as it is time-intensive. Writers I know have complained to me that they now spend upwards of four hours a day twitting or twitting back to people who twit them. By the time they try to do some actual writing, they're mentally exhausted.

I know the lure of all that "What did she say about me? What did he say about her? Know what I said about them?" is seductive, but it doesn't pay the bills. For example, this week I didn't produce a single twit, but I did sell two books for major money and I condensed a pitch for another interested editor who might be buying three more from me. I also wrote five new chapters of my novel and cleaned most of my house. Go ahead, hate me.

I've notice a few writer blogs out there have been converted to Twitter feeds, and this depresses me. While some people like to read one-sided conversations, for me it's about as interesting as overhearing one side of a cell phone call. Honestly, I'll change lines at the grocery store so I don't have to listen to that. Come back to your blogs and write something real once in a while, please.

I really don't want to tinkle on the Twitter parade any more than I wanted to mock the MySpace trend or make fun of the FaceBook furor. I think (like all indulgences) twitting is probably good for writers in moderation (or at least partially justifies what you're paying for unlimited texting.) The upside to Twitter (and now Scribd's social notification feature) is that it requires writers to actually do a little writing. Until they figure out a way to hook up some feed to their Twitter account that doesn't require any keyboard time . . . .

**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 no longer use or recommend using their service. See my post about this scam here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why No ARCs

A couple of people have written to me to ask for ARCs for Shadowlight, my October release, and I have some unhappy news. My publisher informed me this week that they did not print any for the novel.

As it was explained to me, moving the release date up four weeks on the schedule evidently made it impossible for them to produce any ARCs for the book. They have agreed to make up and send out some bound galleys, but they have not yet done that and I've not been given a date as to when that will happen or who will be receiving them.

Naturally I'm disappointed, as this is the first book in a new series for me, and there has been quite a bit of interest in getting ARCs for it. This also means none of the trades will get a look at the novel before they finish production on their October issues. But look at the bright side: at least no one will be selling them on eBay, right?

I have been promised a limited number of these bound galleys; if/when they arrive I'll e-mail the reviewers and bloggers who have requested ARCs from me and see if you all will settle for these instead. Allison, my very patient LB&LI winner of the Darkyn series set, you will definitely get one of them. I apologize for any inconvenience this causes anyone.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Last week in my Book-o-Mat? post I mentioned that I ordered an Art-o-Carton from the Art-o-Mat folks because none of their machines are in my area. Today the FedEx guy delivered it:

It's exactly the same size as a carton of cigarettes, and packed with little boxes and blocks of art, all carefully wrapped:

Each piece of art was fascinating. One fiber artist folded up a tiny fish-themed quilt in her hand-painted, hand-signed box; another artist made an accordion book out of a watercolor painting. About half the contents were painted on or glued to wooden blocks, which made them double as paperweights.

Here's a shot of the entire contents out of the boxes:

All together the Art-o-Carton contained four original paintings, two prints, a very cool flip book, a tiny hand-sculpted copper statue, the mini-quilt and a ceramic "Art Bar" which led me on an adventure to the artist's web site, where I learned that I'd won a piece of his amazing pottery.*

It was a complete blast; I don't know when I've had more fun opening boxes. It was like receiving a treasure chest of small, perfect gifts for creative people. I wish we writers could figure out a way to do something like this.

*Added: Sadly, the Art-o-Mat blog reported that the ART BAR artist, Tom Rohr, passed away recently. I mailed the ART BAR I found in my carton back to Mr. Rohr yesterday, but I'll definitely write another note to the pottery to express my sympathy for their loss. Thanks to Margaret for the heads-up on this.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Abstruse, Abstruse

I found this blue jay feather out in the yard when I was walking the dog. It's prettier than this; I just had to sanitize it and it's still a little damp in this photo.

Next to the feather is a cat claw, one that belongs to Jak. I know it's Jak's because I extracted it from a small wound on top of poor Jeri's head. Apparently Jak left it lodged there after their latest rumble. Jeri is a little sore but doing fine; Jak is strutting around like King of The Litter Box.

I'm a great believer in accidental revelations. Finding both of these objects in one day was the equivalent of a metaphysical grand slam (which will be explained in more detail in my post over at the group blog this Friday.) I think the universe was trying to get something through to me, and finally had to throw spare animal body parts at me to illustrate the point.

What (if anything) do you think they mean?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sparky Ten

Ten Things To Help Spark Ideas

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

Seeing = writing: The Creativity Portal offers 365 picture prompts to inspire you.

Sometimes I key in a descriptive word and watch as Henry Solaass's Dreamlines paints abstract images based on matching images it pulls from the internet.

Frigtool (Flickr random image generating tool) allows you to search for specific images based on keywords; I put in "rain" and got this spooky shot of lightning against a pink (eep!) sky.

Vickie Britton's article Generating Story Ideas ~ Tips on Finding Great Ideas for a Short Story or Novel has some practical tips, including one I loved about starting your own X-Files (if I ever did, mine would be really, really weird.)

Spin the virtual Idea Generator and three random words to nudge your muse.

If you don't mind flirting with infectious ideas, Language is a Virus has an entire page of creative writing widgets for you to play with (I love the Poem Engine.)

Mangle allows you to "View the latest 25 pictures uploaded to Note that ANY picture can be uploaded to Livejournal. Livejournal is not moderated or censored in anyway, so some images might be may NOT safe for work!" You also get links to the LJ where the image is posted. This works, too; I gave it a whirl and got this very cool photo of a storm from Ravenstar's LJ, which reminded me to do a bit more sky description in Rain Lashed.

Pick any one of the 329 writing prompts on this page to jumpstart your creative batteries.

The Northern Nevada Writing Project has an entire site devoted to writing inspiration, Writing Fix, which offers a variety of prompts to help with journaling, blogging, story telling and more. I especially like the Writing Prompts for the Left Brain section, which speaks to those of us who like to work with structure and logic (but for those of you who need a fix of random chaotic seredipity, there's a right-brainedsection, too.)

You can get a download link to the lite version of Write Sparks software by e-mailing your first name and addy on the web form here.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Fusing the Classes

Seventh Sanctum has a fun new generator to play with, one that mixes two genres (which you can pick from a list of fifteen, or choose any type of mix) to offer up a hybrid character classification. Here are some examples:

Steampunk ~ Western

Stagecoach Scholar
Artifice Drifter
Magnetism Rancher
Cowboy Re-animator
Aero Gunfighter

Fantasy ~ Science Fiction

Spiritual Physicist
Illusion Interfacer
Holographic Conjurer
Sword Technologist
Galactic Warlock

Modern ~ Steampunk

Political Apothecary
Electro Banker
Tesla Salesperson
Statistical Pharmacist
Armored Chemist

Any Kind of Mix

Medical Slave
Data Warlock
Forge Showgirl
Bionic Baloonist
Cattle Mage

For those of you who don't know what to call your antagonist, Serendipity also has a new villain name generator that produces some silly as well as some seriously neat bad guy handles:

Cain Darkmoon
Dmitri Wilde
Draco von Bloodcrow
Gustav Noire
Leopold the Unpleasant (oh, God, I can just see this guy, can't you?)
Nicholas the Heartless
Rudolf Nyx
The Bloody Wolf
Ulrich Foxe
Ulysses Wynter
Vlad Malheur

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Other Newsy Bits

With many misgivings I finally downloaded B&'s free eReader software to see how much of a free sample they are giving away of the e-book version of Crystal Healer. It's stored in their online library and you can access about 21 pages of front material (quotes, titles, copyright page, etc.) but only 4 pages of chapter one. I also got a bunch of stuff in my online library that I didn't want, namely all the public domain novels they touted as freebies during their launch. If this big brother approach is the direction e-readers are going, I'm definitely not jumping on the bandwagon.

Related to our discussion on the Book-o-Mat, On Demand has a promotional video on YouTube here that relates the specs on and demos the operation of their 2.0 version of the Espresso Book Machine. Kind of hypnotic to watch, actually.

Lulu has taken over*: "Lulu Poetry is about winning prizes and recognition for your poems, creating and selling beautiful books of your poetry, and learning tips and tricks from other enthusiastic poets just like you." I hope they don't pick up where the old left off.

Another very bright glimmer of what's ahead on the electronic horizon -- a fusion of internet, video and book: Vook.

*via Absolute Write

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Next Big Mash-up

Perhaps it will soon be a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of a good public domain novel that can be populated with things that go bump in the night will not be in want of a publisher.

According to this post over at Wake the Dead Podcast, the success of mixing zombies with Austen may result in a new sub-trend of classic literature ~ paranormal/horror mash-ups. We can look forward to at least one: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters.

Uh-huh. And that faint spinning sound you hear in the background is probably Jane doing 1000 rpms in her grave.

I wonder how many more classic lit reads will end up being repopulated with monsters and mayhem:

Around the World in 80 Nights
Beneath the Shores of Silver Lake
Far from the Maddening Zombie Crowd
Jane Eerie
Les Monstre Miserables
Little Undead Women
Moby Demon
The Blood-Scarlet Letter
The Count Dracula of Monte Cristo
The Great Ghost Gatsby
Uncle Tom's Cabin of Doom
Vanity Were

I hate to admit it, but I kind of like the idea of Little Undead Women. Jo and her sisters would have made interesting vampires. Hey, Beth could get staked! Okay, I know, shut up.

What about you guys? Any classics you can imagine as the next big mash-up? List your potential titles in comments.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Freebie Quickie

The latest publisher freebie to surface is a .pdf download of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, a YA novel about a world where you have to be beautiful (I know that place; it's called hell, right?) There are some hoops involved; you have to give them an e-mail address and zip code (but I lied and entered 12345, and the form accepted it.) If you don't want the publisher to SPAM you, be sure to un-check the box on the form.

I tested it out, and was able to download, save and print the book; that's the best kind of freebie. Looks like it'll only be available for 30 days, though, so if you want it don't wait.

Thanks to Paul for the heads up on this.


Scanned from the January issue of Southern Living magazine, page 14Southern Living magazine had an interesting article back in their January issue about the Art-o-mat project, which repurposed 80 old cigarette vending machines to instead dispense original art by some 400 different artists. While looking up a recipe tonight I re-read the article and (since none of the machines are in my area) decided to order an Art-o-Carton to see what they are like and use as little inspirational gifts (and I'll report more on that when my order arrives.)

The UK already has novel vending machines; I saw the one at Heathrow last time I was over there. They're selling all sorts of things in airports these days; Doug Aamoth reports here on all the cool vending machines he saw at the Dallas airport last year (which included a Sony vending machine that dispensed e-Readers.)

If they're not already here, I think it's only a matter of time before we see vending machines for print books in the U.S., too. Practically every hotel I've stayed in has chips, candy, soda, ice cream and even condom vending machines, why not install in the lobby or by the pool a novel vending machine? They'd be great in hospitals (gift shops do sell a limited number of paperbacks, but they're rarely open 24/7.) They'd be wonderful in medical office buildings; I'm tired of reading those old, smudgy magazines in doctor waiting rooms.

It's all about convenience these days, and it would be great to make books more convenient to purchase on demand. As a person who buys at least five books a month from my local grocery store (because I admit, it's more convenient for me to pick them up along with the Cheerios and laundry soap than it is to drive twenty minutes to the nearest book store or wait a week for them to be delivered by an online bookseller) I'd be overjoyed to find some book vending machines in places where I know I'm going to have to wait. Also, having an interesting selection of debut novels available by vending machine might prod me into trying a newly-published author; something I might not do if I have all my old reliable-read authors at hand as I do at the book store.

What do you guys think? Good idea, bad idea, silly?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Ping Me

As most of you know, I don't use stealth software or traffic counters here on the blog to learn who visits or how many folks stop in. I think people should feel free to visit without worrying about having their presence known, detected, counted, spindled, folded, intruded upon or otherwise identified. It also helps me perpetuate my illusion that only a few friends stop by every day.

That said, once again I need to gather some statistics for a presentation I'm writing, and that requires a rough estimate of how many folks actually do stop by on any given day. Since my last figures are from 2008, I need a new count. So if you're willing to help out, please leave a ping, your name, your handle, or some other sign you've visited in comments to this post before midnight EST on August 5, 2009 (and naturally you may ping anonymously if you'd rather not reveal your identity.)

Thanks in advance for your help on this.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


In quilting we have insider acronyms for projects that we never finish or that we perhaps should never have finished:

The UFO (Unfinished Object): Something like a king-size all-white wholecloth quilt with twelve stitches per inch; in my life time I've only seen one master quilter actually finish one, and it took her seven years (as I described to Darlene in comments to my old Genreality post here.)

The WOMBAT (Waste of Material, Batting and Time): That tumbling block patchwork pattern baby quilt looked so gorgeous in that catalog back in the 90's, as did the hot-pink and electric-blue leopard-spotted fabric chosen for it. Only the quilter didn't get it finished until the newborn was in their senior year of high school and now wouldn't be caught dead with that pink-blue horror, not even if you offered a large cash bribe.

Once a year the wise quilter will find the courage to get rid of her UFOs (usually by donating it to the guild kitty for someone else to pick up and brood over for another year or five) and repurposes a WOMBAT into something less revolting (personally I can make anything into a tote bag) so she is free to move on to new projects with little or no guilt. Alas, not all of us are that wise, so we save things and work on them here and there and wallow in our guilt.

I think the same thing can be true of writers:

The NFS (Never Finished Story): Five to five hundred pages of that brilliant idea that should have written itself, but didn't; half of an epic novel that lost so much steam in the middle it could pass for a half-eaten donut; or whatever other opus that fizzled out on us.

The WOMPET (Waste of My Paper, Energy and Time): Big strong alpha male homoerotic Were-Sloth Brotherhoods were going to be the next big thing! Writers knew it! And wrote it! And then they weren't (whimper.)

I don't think there is anything wrong with writing the NFS, as long as you don't make them such a habit that you never finish anything. One good way to thin out your unfinished work file is to make a committment to finish at least one decent NFS before you start a new project. Why finish what sucks? Because you're developing good work habits. Keep making a promise to finish what you start, and eventually you'll never need a NFS file.

Too many WOMPETs, on the other hand, can be tough to handle. We all have them, and any writer who says they don't has simply done the brave thing and burned all theirs. It can be the Trunk Book, the One That Was Supposed to Sell Like Hotcakes, the Book of Your Heart or any painful variation thereof. It's sitting somewhere in your home or office unread, unwanted, and silently gathering dust, and that's probably all it will ever do.

But the WOMPET says something about you as a writer, and not what you think. It's not a symbol of failure. It may look and feel like one, but in a sense the WOMPET was the complete opposite of a flop. You used your talent, practiced your skills and gained experience, something you can't be taught, you can't buy, and you can't pay to have done for you. You wrote, and you learned. That's a genuine achievement.

The only real, practical way to learn how to do this job is to do the job. Every day or as often as you can. As the ladies of RWA say, backside in chair, hands on keyboard (BICHOK). Start to finish. Over and over. You make it your job to write as many WOMPETS as it takes to find your voice, develop your skills, refine your style, and bring your writing up to professional level. This doesn't happen over night. You have to want it, pursue it, and work for it.

A finished story that didn't sell is not an object of shame, nor is it really a waste of your paper, energy and time. Instead, think of it as a HIPMA: How I Practice My Art.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Sub Ops Ten

Ten Things for Writers Looking for Work

Pulpwork Press is looking for stories for their Amazing Alternity Stories antho: "What we are looking for is stories in the pulp tradition with an adventure component of 5-12K in length with a central character based on a real-life personage. We want a wide variety of pulp genres represented; if this book is successful we'll release future volumes that focus on specific genres. Fun should be the most important element in these tales--the oddity of seeing a real-life person in a different setting should be secondary to the excitement of reading a fast paced adventure tale." Pay shared royalties, query on reprints, electronic submission of 2-3 page outline only. See guidelines for more details. Deadline: August 31st.

Pill Hill Press has an open call for their April 2010 antho The Bitter End. "We are looking for scary stories that take place on ships, boats, rafts, anything - as long as the setting is on - or in - or under - the ocean (or land-locked bodies of water or lakes). Traditional monsters (werewolves, vampires, witches, mummies, ghosts, etc.) are welcome if presented in a new and interesting way. The setting (at sea) must be integral to plot development. Stories can be realistic or fantastical. They can take place at any time - past, present, future, alternate. We are looking for a good variety of unique and terrifying sea stories." Length: 500 to 5K, pays 1 cent per word plus contributor's copy on publication by check (US authors) or PayPal (International authors), no reprints, electronic submission preferred. See guidelines for more details.Deadline October 31st.

Someone out there asked me for the guidelines to submit to Boy's Life magazine, here is a link to the pdf. with their guidelines.

Comet Press has an open call for their to-be-titled antho of Dark Crime/Horror fiction: "We are looking for very violent, extreme, gruesome, and disturbing hard boiled tales. The stories preferably may have horror elements, whether supernatural, non-supernatural, paranormal, occult, etc." Length 3-10K, payment ¼¢/word, query on reprints, electronic submissions only. See guidelines for more details. Deadline: September 1st or until filled.

Electric Velocipede has a new online submission form; according to Ralan they're also open for submissions as of August 1st. Looking for SF/SpecLit fiction and poetry, Length: 10k or less, query if over 10K; payment 1¢/word with a minimum of $25, No reprints. Electronic submission via online form only. See their excellent guidelines page for more details.

Samhain Publishing will soon be closing their open-call, as-yet-untitled Space Opera Anthology to be published in the Spring 2010; looking for 25-30K length fast-paced, action-adventure space opera romances. No info on payment but they offer 40% on the net for single-author books so it should be fairly decent; definitely inquire as to terms and see guidelines for more details. Electronic submissions only (please read guidelines for specific formatting), and get moving, as the reading period closes August 10th., the Internet Audio Magazine of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction, accepts fiction and nonfiction submissions: "We are primarily looking for works of fiction up to 10,000 words but feel free to submit works of shorter (flash fiction) or longer (serializable) length as well. We are also looking for reviews, commentary and non-fiction articles of a scientific or entertainment industry related nature We purchase non-exclusive audio rights to stories for which such rights are available regardless of previous publication history. We do, however, prefer not to re-broadcast fiction that has already been published in audio on another fiction podcast." Payment: "$0.01 (USD) per word for fiction and $20.00 (USD) flat for non-fiction. Donations of fiction or non-fiction are also gladly accepted." See guidelines for more details.

Twilight Times print magazine and e-zine will be open for submissions from August 15 to September 5, 2009, looking for sf/f/literary/cross-genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry and art and "still need a few stories and poems for the Halloween issue." Length: cross-genre fiction under 6k words, fiction from 1-10k, essays to 3.5k, poetry to 30 lines. Pays $5 for original and $2.50 for reprints (you're basically going for exposure with this one) electronic submissions only. See guidelines for more details.

I had to see it to believe it, but it's true: Ralan has opened up a new section for Twitter markets.

Tyrannosaurus Press is open to submissions again; looking for novel length SF/F, pays 10-20% net royalties, no reprints, query first, electronic submission preferred, see guidelines for more details.

Nearly all of the above listings were found over among the marvelous market listings over at Ralan's place.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Tools & Toys Ten

Ten Things for You to Work or Play With

Clue goes viral: solve a murder by playing the online advergame Apartment 13.

Try out Chrysanth NETime Author free for 14 days, and see what you think of "a professional writing and thought organizer that helps you to increase your productivity and complete your writing tasks in time." The designer also says: "The software does its job in such an intuitive way as to not come in the way of your creative thought processes. Instead, you will marvel at how its nifty little features actually make your task so much easier!" (OS: Windows 95/ 98/ ME/ 2000/ XP)

Cooking Light pretty much covers soup to nuts with their free online Ultimate Summer Cookbook

Custom design and create your own generator over at (via Gerard over at The Generator Blog. I couldn't get this to work for me, but I think it's butting heads with my browser.)

Fun and kind of addicting, an online group advergame by Post-It UK: Draw-it.

For some more fun, also has a very cool online advergame, Expedition, suitable for any adventurous spirit. The thing I like about this one is the journal you read while you play. I keep killing off all my porters, though.

Entrepeneur magazine has a free e-book, I Hate My Web Site! 10 Ways to Improve Your Web Site, but it looks like you have to give them a bit of survey-type info to get it (those of us who refuse to have web sites won't snicker, we promise.)

One of you lurkers (you know who you are) sent in a tip for QuasarDragon, a blog tracking and linking to free SF online (not mine, naturally.)

WritersFocus was designed to "create a world on your Notebook just for writing, without interruption. Without Distraction" (OS: Windows XP and Vista; for you Mac users, try Focus Writer.

The Writing Jungle has posted a free-to-download and/or print e-book version of their Writing for Children Blog Fest, with lots of articles, tips and more.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The $16.99 MFA

SueLoree, if you're out there, you're the only LB&LI winner I haven't heard from, and I don't have any contact info for you. Please e-mail me at with your shipping info so I can send your goodie bag out to you.

I'm on page 73 of The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, apparently written by five members of the New York Writers Workshop. I've never read or heard of any of the authors, which probably means they're very important in the literary community. Just three pages to slog through before I finish the fiction section of the book and can donate it to the library with a clean conscience.

It's not a bad book, just one that sets out from page one to name-drop rather than inform. It plods, and you have to wade through a lot of droppings as you plod along. I know some writers respond to that, the slow sedutive invocation of the literary saints while murmuring their rule-of-thumbs rosaries and reciting the mustn't-ever-dos commandments. Hail Mary Gaitskill, full of short story grace, the published word is with thee . . . forgive us our weak transitions, and help us to forgive those who thoughtlessly reject us . . .

Nevertheless, I will say that you can pick up an occasional bright thought from the book here and there that hasn't had the life crushed out of it by the likes of Flannery O'Connor or Raymond Carver. I don't think it's worth $16.99, though, so you might want to check it out from the library before investing.

I don't know why I picked up this book. I think I was curious to see what kids are paying a hundred grand or more for. If this book is any indication of what is taught to young writers at university, I hope the privilege of learning to name-drop and amend their signature block with those three letters is worth all that money, because I doubt they're going to get much more out of it. But if you are interested in going the way of the literary rhino, save your money. You can find most of what's in this book in various forms on the internet for free.