Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wishing You

Friday, October 30, 2009


After I got hooked on author Douglas Clegg's online difference game for his new novel, Isis, I had to buy the book. Knowing Doug, I had the feeling it would be the perfect read for Halloween week, and sure enough, it was.

After her British father goes off on a war assignment, Iris Villiers and her family move from America to the Villers ancestral home in Cornwall, where they deal with a crazy grandfather, old spooky local legends and a seriously scary family burial ground called The Tombs. While Iris finds plenty to love and hate about her new home, she's also curious about the ghost stories, fantastic myths and stern warnings issued by the locals, particularly about the terrible things that have happened at The Tombs. Real life turns out to be far more grim for Iris, however, when a terrible accident changes everything and gives her the ability to speak with the dead.

I love Doug Clegg's work, and Isis is one of his more haunting tales of the supernatural. Glenn Chadbourne's superb illustrations mesh perfectly with Doug's beautiful writing, and the result is a story that resonates with secrets, sorrow and spine-shivering tragedy.

But as always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, name a scary, spooky or supernatural book that you love to read at Halloween (or if you spend your night trick-or-treating, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Saturday, October 31, 2009. I'll draw five names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned hardcover copy of Isis by Douglas Clegg along with a signed copy of my latest paperback release, Shadowlight. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


According to my SF editor, Dream Called Time, the tenth and final StarDoc novel, will be released in August 2010.

The pitch for my third Kyndred book (title pending approval) has been accepted, and it will be a crossover Kyndred/Darkyn novel (and to avoid spoilers that's all I'm going to say about it for now), tentatively scheduled for release in late 2010.

Last but not least, I feel that the Shadowlight e-ARC experiment was a great success. I've never had a book place so high on the Times list, and I'm sure a nice chunk of my sales were due to the immediate response from my visitors and their help spreading the word about the book, which was simply outstanding. Here is the last round of reviews and write-ups that were sent in to me: reviews: Margaret Fisk ~ Zeek ~ Nina Paules ~ C. Stone ~ C. Vandehey ~ Harriet Klausner, also on The Book Depository

B& reviews (the ones I could view): Margaet Fisk ~ Npaules ~ 4kidsmom ~ Debra_ Saturday ~ Nemhain ~ harstan ~ Zeek319 ~ lxz ~ CatsMeowAZ ~ Chad ~ Pandababy ~ Madonna_lily

The Drabbler/Robin

Erotic Horizon, also on Goodreads

Literaturely Speaking/Breia

Shiloh Walker

The Writing Playground/Danniele Worsham

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


If there was a twelve-step program for my most peculiar jones, I would probably have to confess something like this: "Hi, my name is (whatever it is this week) and I'm addicted to house porn."

Yes, sad to say it's true, but like the teen with the fashion magazine addiction in the film Mumford, I love to look through magazines with glossy photos of beautiful architecture, amazing floor plans, exquisitely furnished rooms and gorgeous landscaping. I think it's the lack of clutter that seduces me, plus the fact that everything looks like art instead of a place your kids can wreck, your guy will track mud into and your dog may upchuck on.

I know it's a silly, frivolous addiction, and I've done pretty well managing it. I don't let myself impulse buy them anymore, and I've whittled down my subscriptions to the two I can't live without (Architectural Digest and Veranda.) I really thought nothing could tempt me again. But today as I was at the grocery store shopping, I saw this new addition on the mag rack:

Yep. It's not just house porn, it's mansion porn. After I picked my jaw up off my sneakers I grabbed it and checked the price: $7.99 -- as much as a paperback novel. I wasn't going to pay that for a magazine just because I instantly fell in love with the cover. Then the magazine sort of fell into the cart and I didn't notice it was there until I checked out, and then, you know, it was too late to put it back without holding up the entire line, so --

All right. I bought the damn thing. It was just this one time, okay?

I didn't thumb through it, and I probably should have, because it's actually a real estate magazine for billionaires. Inside there are mansions. Chateaus. Islands. Enormous estates in exotic places. Practically every home listed comes with a beautiful name: Acqua Liana (cover)*. Lions Gate. Coeur d'Alene. There's even a castle in Umbria that comes with a title -- for eleven million dollars, you could become an Italian Count.

These are not ranch houses, obviously -- every other one comes with a heliport and two or three panic rooms and probably interior waterfalls. The house on the cover has a glass "water" floor, for God's sake. Imagine trying to clean that with your Swiffer. Or what would happen if your spouse happened to accidentally drop their bowling ball case.

But when I got home and got over the guilts for falling off the wagon, I settled down with a cup of tea and looked through all the lovely pictures to my heart's content. In the process I came up with five or six story ideas and solved a problem with one of my settings. Sometimes we're addicted to frivolous things for a reason.

But I also paid for falling in love with a beautiful magazine cover, because inside this was the only other image of that room:

But that's okay, I found another shot of it in this article about the mansion. And I might sketch it or paint it, and build my own house around it, and work a variation of it as a setting for my next book, but that's all. I promise. I mean, $7.99 an issue, that's just ridiculous . . .

Do you think they give you a decent discount on the subscription rate?

*It has a web site, too -- the mansion is listed for sale at $29,000,000.00 U.S.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TiltShift Art

I'm always finding new online toys to play with over at The Generator Blog, and one that Gerard recently posted might be fun for those of you out there who like to make your own cover art.

The TiltShift generator takes a normal photograph of a location or object and manipulates it so it resembles the photograph of a miniature scale model. But I didn't use it for that purpose; I just uploaded a shot of some art and one of my roses to see what I could do with it.

Here's the original image I used:

Once I uploaded it to the TiltShift Generator, I played with the center radius and the brightness settings on the generator's panel:

Once I had the blur and contrast I wanted, I used the altered image to make a cover for one of my poetry books:

You technosavvy people could probably do a lot more with this generator than I did, and get all sorts of neat effects out of it for your covers.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sub Ops Ten

Ten Things About Submission Opportunities for Writers

Ars Medica international literary magazine is looking for fiction, creative nonfiction, memoir and artworkd related to exploring illness, the body, healing and the culture of medicine. Payment in contributor copies, electronic submissions preferred, see guidelines for more details.

The BackWaters Press has an open call for submissions for their anthology Letters From Grass Country: Essays on the Contemporary Poets and Poetry of the Great Plains edited by Mary K. Stillwell and Greg Kosmicki. Looking for "scholarly or familiar essays about the poets of the Great Plains, their lives and work. Focus on new as well as established poets. Cultural diversity strongly encouraged. Interest in neglected poets of the region. Broader essays about the influence of the region on its poetry and poets --the culture, ethos, geography, history, etc." To be print published in Fall 2011; no info on payment terms; electronic subs only -- submit manuscript in a Word 97 or newer attachment to, Deadline June 30, 2010.

Ledig House International Writers' Residency Program offers residencies of two weeks to two months from March through June and September through November at Ledig House, a writers' colony situated on 400 acres in the Hudson River Valley town of Omi, NY. Up to twenty poets, writers and translators can be accomodated during each session, includes room and board as well as the chance to meet with NYC publishing professionals. Submit a copy of recently published work, or an unpublished 10-page writing sample, a short biography , a one-page project proposal and a letter of recommendation by November 20th. No application fee, see guidelines for more details.

Memoir (and) Literary Journal awards prizes to" the most outstanding prose or poetry memoirs—traditional, nontraditional or experimental—drawn from the reading period" which include cash, publication in print and online and contributor copies of the journal. Next reading period runs from November 1, 2009 through February 15, 2010, winners to be published in their Fall + Winter 2010 issue. Prefer electronic submissions, no entry fee, blind reading so definitely check out their guidelines.

Oregon Quarterly is accepting entries for their 2010 Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest "in both student and open categories. Entries should address ideas that affect the Northwest. The Oregon Quarterly staff will select finalists and the contest judge will choose the top three winners in each category (Open Category: $750, $300, $100; Student Category $500, $200, $75.) First place essay in the open category will appear in Oregon Quarterly. A selection of top essays will be featured in a springtime public reading on the UO campus. Fifteen finalists (ten in the open category and five students) will be announced in the summer 2009 issue of Oregon Quarterly. All finalists will be invited to participate in a writing workshop with the contest judge. The contest is open to all nonfiction writers, except: (1) first-place winners from previous years’ contests, (2) authors who have written a feature for Oregon Quarterly in the past calendar year, and (3) staff of Oregon Quarterly, University Advancement, or their family members. The student contest is open to any student enrolled and pursuing a graduate or undergraduate degree at a college or university at the time of the deadline. Previously published essays will not be considered." No electronic submissions, no entry fee, see guidelines for more details. Deadline January 31, 2010.

Switchgrass Books "exclusively publishes literary novels that evoke the Midwestern experience, whether it be urban, suburban, or rural. Switchgrass authors must be from the Midwest, current residents of the region, or have significant ties to it. Briefly tell us in your cover letter why yours is an authentic Midwestern voice. We publish only full-length novels set in or about the Midwest. We will not consider memoirs, short stories, novellas, graphic novels, poetry or juvenile/YA literature." No payment info, no electronic subs, no agented manuscripts, include resume or C.V., see guidelines for more details.

Tattoo Highway is holding an unusual contest to write a prose or poetry response to this image. "The only rule is length: prose can't exceed 500 words and poetry can't exceed 15 lines. Winners will be notified shortly after the reading deadline for issue 20 as a whole (some time in January 2010)." Electronic subs only, prize is publication and a US$30 bookstore gift certificate for the first place winner in each category (maybe more depending on their sponsors.) I don't see a deadline listed but it's probably coming up soon.

Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred wants entries of poetry that "expresses, directly or indirectly, a sense of the holy or that, by its mode of expression, evokes the sacred. The tone may be religious, prophetic, or contemplative. Only ONE unpublished poem type written in English may be submitted. Please limit the poem to no more than 100 lines. If you are submitting your poem via email, the poem must be sent as an attachment saved in Word 2003. Any other format will not be accepted. First Prize, $500; Three Honorable Mention Prizes, $100 each. Winning Poems will be published in The Merton Seasonal, a publication of scholarly articles about noted spiritual leader Thomas Merton and will be posted on the Merton Institute web site:" No entry fee, see guidelines for more details, Deadline December 31, 2009.

Winning Writers is looking for entries for the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest, "Now in its ninth year. We seek today's best humor poems. Total cash prizes have been increased to $3,600, with a top prize of $1,500. The winners and honorable mentions will also all receive official Winning Writers polo shirts." Electronic submissions via online form, any length, only one entry per year, international poets welcome, no fee, see guidelines for more details, entries accepted August 15, 2009-April 1, 2010.

WordTech Communications LLC "welcomes submissions of book-length poetry manuscripts from residents of the United States. Unlike most poetry publishers, we do not charge reading fees. All chosen manuscripts are published under a royalty contract." Length: minimum 48 pages, pays royalties under contract (percentages not specified), doesn't look like they accept electronic subs, current reading period: November 1-December 31, 2009, see guidelines for many more details.

All of the above op listings were found in back pages of the Nov/Dec 2009 issue of Poets & Writers.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Freebies & Contest

Suvudu, Random House's free online library, has two new e-books now available for download in various formats: Starfist: First to Fight by David Sherman and Dan Cragg, and The Demon Awakens by R.A. Salvatore.

Suvudu is also running a Halloween costume photo contest with a prize of books and a $25.00 Visa gift card for those of you who like to dress up your kids and pets (the contest runs from now until November 9, 2009.)

If you're looking to change your desktop background to something more seasonal, check out these twelve fabulous fall wallpapers (link filched from Gerard over at the Presurfer.)

If you'd like to download some free classical music suitable for Halloween, Michael Segers over at Associated Content has a list of 50 freebies in audio and video.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


We've got a week left before NaNoWriMo begins, and barring acts of the Almighty I'm (unofficially) joining in this year. While I know most NaNo'ers are pretty spontaneous about it, you guys know me -- I have to be organized or my head will explode. So I'm going to use the next seven days to cross off all the things on my NaNoToDo List:

Blog/Writing Schedule: I plan to write at least 2K per day as well as put up some NaNoposts on PBW, so I'll add quotas and reminders to my work calendar (because I'll also be working on two other books at the same time.)

Character Sheets: I like filling out character worksheets on my protags and the primary players in my cast; it helps me nail down a lot of details I need to know about them before I write them.

Novel Notebook: A three-ring binder with dividers for all my notes, plot outlines, worksheets and other writer junk (I have examples of the templates, worksheets and other things I do in the example I posted on Scribd as a free e-book 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 this document, and I no longer recommend using their service. The Novel Notebook is currently available to read online or download for free on Google Docs here. See my post about this scam here.

Plot outline: I usually put together a fifteen to twenty page synopsis, but with the time constraints I'll probably do a more barebones outline version for this book.

Research: I'll pull the stack of reference books I need from the book room and see if I need to pick up anything I don't already have.

Sketchbook: Sometimes I need to sketch out a character's face or map out an interior floor plan to get it right, this will be tucked in my novel notebook.

Soundtracks: I'll go through my CD collection and see what appeals to me as music to work by (I don't play it when I write, but I'll put the CDs in the car and listen to them while I'm driving.) I'm already thinking this is going to be a Coldplay/Linkin Park/Staind story.

I'm also putting together a reward for me to enjoy after I finish: I'll be recording all the episodes of AMC's The Prisoner mini-series to watch when I'm done (I was a huge fan of the original series.)

That should keep my gray matter where it belongs, and I'll feel a lot more confident when I jump in on November 1st. How about you guys? Are you doing any advance prep work this year, or do you plan to write without a net? Let us know in comments.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Catching Up Q&A

Plugging back in last night, I realized a couple of things: It's almost November, which means October must have vanished into a time/space rift, because it was just September, wasn't it? I can't keep up; I need a perpetual calendar brain implant. I owe just about everyone e-mail now, too, including a couple of editors and my long-suffering agent. It would be so much easier if we were just telepathic. If there's ever a thought-transfer implant on the market, I want one of those, too.

One bit of lovely news: Shadowlight made the Times list for a second week; this time at #33.

I'm going through comments and e-mail now, but if I missed something while I was off being a writer and you need an answer, please post it in comments. Or just ask something new, or let us know what's happening with you.

Graphic credit: © Yellowj |

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Ten Year Thunk

I apologize for playing hooky, but I really had to finish something. And I know you'll understand when I tell you what:

Dream Called Time, StarDoc book ten, done.

StarDoc series, 2000-2009, done.

Now I can get hit by a bus tomorrow and you'll still find out how the series ends.


Monday, October 19, 2009

NaNo Ten

Stop by, hang out, cheer on and commiserate:'s NaNoWriMo and Beyond forum.

Come Write In: public libraries can apply to borrow for their patrons some of the 60 AlphaSmart Neos that will be loaned out this year by Renaissance Learning; check out the details here.

A forum to watch: Helpful Orgs and Sites.

Some NaNo'ers are making Mock Book Trailers for fun.

Details on the third annual Night of Writing Dangerously, NaNoWriMo's 2009 six hour write-a-thon fundraiser, to take place in San Francisco on Sunday, November 22, 2009, 5 PM - 11 PM.

You Noveling Machines out there can pick up official NaNoWriMo T-shirts and other writer junk at The Office of Letters and Light Donation Station and Store.

Screenwriters, don't feel left out -- April is now officially your WriMo with the annual Script Frenzy event.

Another forum to watch: Special Offers from NaNoWriMo sponsors. has a page with their choices for The Top 5 NaNoWriMo Tools, a list that includes links to our blogpal Simon Haynes's yWriter freeware and Seventh Sanctum.

If you're in need of a NaNo plan, check out Susan Pitner's article Succeeding at NaNoWriMo ~ A Five Step Plan for Reaching Your Word Count

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Dog's Story

Yesterday as I was taking our pup for a stroll around the yard (he needs to check every blade of grass for intruders at least three times a day) Cole's fur stood on end and he began growling. All kidding aside, as Cole has matured he's become a pretty intense, protective guard dog. He's also so good at spotting possum, skunks and other troublesome critters that I pay close attention when he behaves as if something isn't right.

This time trouble was big: a dark cream-colored Labrador mix about three times Cole's size, watching us from a wooded area at the very back of our property. He barked back at Cole with a deep scary woof, and since he looked like he could step over the only fence between us and have us for brunch, I decided it was time we went back inside.

I mentioned the dog to my guy. "There's a big lab back there on John's property."

"Uh-huh. Maybe someone is moving in."

A bit of backstory: John's property has been unoccupied and untended for a couple of years; the yard is filled with weeds taller than me and there are so many critters in the undergrowth my kids aren't allowed back there anymore.

It's been a tough week. I was tired, I had a thousand things to do and no time to look after someone else's dog. Just the sound of that Lab's bark scared me. But the dog being alone back there bothered me, too. I don't know why; it just did. So I walked back by myself to say hello and have a closer look at him.

I didn't try to go near him at first. He was sitting next to the gate and watching me like I was a big chew toy. I stopped a few yards away and spoke to him until I saw a reluctant wag of his tail. Then his ears drooped and he gave me a big, toothy grin. I imagined him sinking those humongous fangs into me as I kept talking to him and went a little closer, and closer, until I was near enough to hold out my hand for him to sniff through the gate.

He was big and muscular and had a funny-shaped jaw for a Lab, more like a Rotti in Lab's clothing. He also had those cool eyes of a working dog, the kind that assess you thoroughly (and yes, I do know better than to mess with a working dog.) He was also covered in mud on his underside and looked tired and thirsty. He couldn't tell me what was wrong or why he was there, but I had the feeling that he was in trouble.

There was no one on John's property and the dog made it clear that he wanted out, but the Lab was so big he couldn't even push his head through the five-inch gap in the gate. Once we'd size each other up, I crouched down to get on his eye level and see if his collar had a tag. It did, a little worn one you can get in the pet shops. It was flipped backward, though, and if I was going to read it I'd have to reach in and turn it around.

Note here for kids and adults: never do what I'm about to tell you I did. I've been around dozens of strays and hostile pets over the years and I can make a good guess as to how they'll behave, but it was still pretty stupid.

I reached inside the gate for him to sniff my hand, and he began to wag his tail and head-butted my palm. I praised him and scratched around his neck until I was sure he felt comfortable with me touching him, and then I checked his tag. I recognized the name and address engraved on it as belonging to one of the local farmers.

I left him there and went back to the house to get some water and a snack for him. In passing I updated my guy, who suggested I open the gate and let the dog out. His philosophy is, "The dog will find his way home."

I couldn't do that. I know some people are fine with letting animals run loose, but I'm not. There are also a lot of little kids in the neighborhood who are always playing outside, and plenty of traffic on our streets. I didn't know what the dog would do; it was just too risky.

The Lab slurped up an entire bowl of water I brought back to him in a few seconds and gobbled up the snack in two bites, which told me it had been awhile since he'd been watered or fed. Sometimes it's easy for dogs to get in under fences but almost impossible for them to get back out, and John's property has a triple fence: barb wire, chicken wire and wood post and slat. There was no one who would have known he was on that property but me; it's just too overgrown and wooded and everyone avoids it. I thought it was logical to assume the Lab was trapped there and couldn't get out.

Armed with that knowledge and my theory, I went back to the house and started making some phone calls. I couldn't get hold of the farmer or his family, but I left messages at the farm and on his mobile number (which was on the Lab's tag.) Then my guy and I had to run out and do some errands, and while I wasn't crazy about leaving the dog back there alone, I had described where he was in my messages and promised I would check on him when we got back.

My guy was amused by all this. "It's just a dog. He probably gets out all the time."

I'd never seen him running loose, and while I've gained a rep as the neighborhood busybody for catching any stray pet I see, this was different. I just knew that dog was in real trouble, and when we got home I was going to go back and see if I could coax him onto a lead and walk him back home. My guy thought I was blowing the whole thing out of proportion.

While we were out, my mobile rang, and it was the farmer. "We've been looking for him for days," he told me. "We even went over to the pound to see if he'd been picked up. We never would have looked over there for him."

I filled him in on the dog's condition and what I'd done, and he thanked me and promised to go pick him up at once. When we got home from our errands, the Lab was gone, and the farmer's wife had called the house and left a really lovely message thanking me and telling me how happy they were to have found him.

"See?" I crowed to my guy. "I was right."

He just shook his head. "You could have gotten your hand bitten off."

Maybe I could have, or even should have, but it felt good to know I'd helped a lost dog and contributed to this story's happy ending. There are scary things out there, and it's definitely safer not to get involved. But to paraphrase Rilke, sometimes terrible things are simply helpless, and need help from us.

Pet owners, please consider getting an ID tag for your pet engraved with your name and emergency contact info. There are plenty of places you can get them cheaply like your local pet supply store or a web site like this one. Here at Casa PBW we've also had our pets implanted with a microchip that cannot be removed or lost; if you'd like more information on this new process check out this article or talk to your vet.

Also, if you see a stray pet in your neighborhood, the safest thing to do is contact your local Animal Control officer. You can usually find the number under your city, county or municipality pages in the phone book.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gen Ten

I love online generators, especially the wonderful collection over at Seventh Sanctum. Lately I've been checking out some of SS's linkage, and found another terrific site that offered a wide variety of inventive and intensely descriptive generators. To show you some examples, here are:

Ten Things Generated over at Kusani's

"This exo-skeletal biped has a reptilian head, with light, steel grey, stalk-mounted eyes, which seem to stare straight into your soul. It has a short muzzle which is which is unfortunately gaping. It has floppy, floppy, elephant-like ears. Its muscular neck is faster than lightning. This transparent creature has a smooth, snake-like torso with a very flexible spine. Its forearms are agile and long. They end in skinny, avian, dully clawed talons. Its two hind legs are long and agile. They end in quick, insect-like paws. It has one tail, which ends in a knot of heavy bone. The tail itself is smooth and coiling. It eats metal and drinks water. The thing can run up to 120 mph. It has very discriminating eyesight, has a bad sense of smell, has a sensitive sense of hearing, has a nonexistant sense of taste, and has a nonexistant sense of touch. It's smarter than you are - nothing personal, you understand. It speaks a growling, snarling language." (Bipedal Species Generator)

"Utael is a young adult, a god in the prime of his life. He embodies the blooming of life, strength, and physical prowess. His emotions are positive and harmonious. He is the patron of poetry, music, and dance. He is a god of love, beauty, and joy. He is man at his best - he is the Lover. His totem is a Hare, and he is often portrayed with its head or other features. He has innumerable followers. His day is Saturday, his season is Summer, his color is bright red, and his symbol is the Sun." (Deity Generator)

"The Hyper Ship is a enormous, dazzlingly advanced spaceship. Its cockpit is on the tail end, the engines are extended outwards from the ship, and its overall shape is appealingly blade-like. Its meteor-pocked weapons are capable of precision firing and use energy instead of missiles. The ship's engines are remarkable in the fact that they use nothing for propulsion, yet they go without a sputter. The hull is armored, and the ship is ageless. It only requires one pilot, one copilot, one gunner, and one navigator, with nine more people able to stay comfortably on the ship. The cockpit uses telepathic and telekinetic controls which can be operated by anyone with a brain and opposable thumbs." (Generic Space Ship Generator)

"Jaruso is an older woman. Somewhat short and amazonian in build, she is solid, rugged, and deft. Arrogant in appearance, she has moody, blue green-flecked mahogany eyes and cream-coloured skin; her medium-length, straight hair is brown-orange, and she wears it in a high ponytail. She prefers to wear cream-coloured breeches and a beige tanktop. Her favorite weapon is her katana. Perceptive and passionate, she is antisocial and ready to fight." (Human Generator)

Kilgrange ~ Hampbrone ~ Derbywen ~ Plywall ~ Weyclooney (must be where George's ancestors are from) ~ Beron ~ Glenampton (Medieval Town Name Generator)

"This primeval world is smaller than Earth and has a gravity far greater than that of Earth. Its atmosphere is a gorgeous burnt sienna and contains mostly nitrogen with some oxygen and carbon dioxide. The lovely clouds are dandelion and the colossal, melon sun is rich. The stars are watermelon. There are three moons, one of which is gigantic and gray, another is tiny and yellow, and the other is gigantic and shamrock. They do support life and are not inhabited by sentient life. This planet has 5 continents and many large islands. The most glittering continents are ruggedly mountainous and they're pocked by several ponds and lakes. Aside from those, the terrain on the islands and other continents is most commonly covered with thickets of impenetrable brambles. This expansive world has dozens of major rivers, innumerable major lakes, 10 major swamps, and 3 seas and oceans. The most prominent source of water is salt water oceans. The grass and other low-lying flora is mulberry, various trees are storm-grey and timberwolf grey, and leaves turn level maroon in the third season. The dry soil is tumbleweed, the rocks are blue-violet, and water is chill-inducing royal purple. Life barely survives here." (Planet Generator)

uiquy ~ eeshevi ~ isai ~ fuethu ~ veulay ~ davaucui ~ ruqaas (Random Word Generator)

"This is a polytheistic religion. Its tons of followers worship many deities as omnipotent, with a god as head deity. They perform rites to their goddesses rarely and are devotees of them. Their pantheon is represented by the stars." (Religion Generator)

"This sacred solar system revolves around a supernova. There are ten planets, most of which are habitable. The most lovely planet has dozens of moons. Its location nearly outside of a whirlpool galaxy, which is in an unexplored area of the universe, is harmful. This inhabited system, secretly known as Prime Bejhe, is expanding slowly." (Solar System Generator)

"This incredible tree grows to a height of ten feet with a trunk width of three feet and a crown width of fifty-four feet. Its trunk is robin's egg blue. The tree thrives on good soil, and grows best during the winter. Its leaves are robin's egg blue, oblong, and feel silky. It bears clustered, orchid flowers, which are poisonous and smell like rotting flesh. Overall, the tree is livid." (Tree Generator)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Free Your Hands

I appreciate little low- or no-tech reading gadgets, especially the ones that are so simple I wish I'd thought of them and/or that last a long time. For a couple of years now I've happily used Gimbles, a clever little invention from the UK that allows you to hold a book open to read without using your hands.

I think I bought my original pair during one of the LB&LI workshops, maybe in 2007 or 2008. They're still in perfect shape and haven't cracked, split or warped. They are especially wonderful because unlike some other book holders, the shape of the Gimble prevents the book's spine from being damaged, and also allows you to stand the book up on end. Obviously I don't have to point out the advantages for people who have difficult holding books open; they do it for us.

The pair that are sold here in the U.S. come in two different sizes; one for standard paperbacks and one for larger trade paperbacks and softcovers. I've seen them for sale in B&N stores and also I think at BAM; they're usually displayed on those carousel racks with the bookmarks or near the booklights.

The larger Gimble even fits some oversize softcover books, you just have to test it (and for these shots of my Gimbles at work, I used the larger one on the biggest cookbook it fits):

Here's what they look like when they're not clipped on:

I purchased my pair shown in these photos from B&, which is currently selling them for $7.99 U.S. (or $7.15 after membership discount.)

Now if only they could invent a Gimble that turns the pages, feeds me grapes and rubs my feet while I read . . .

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Times Pool Winner

I should really name this post The Surreality of a New York Times Bestseller because of the rather spooky results from the
Times Pool contest. For those of you who missed it, I had a contest post and asked people to guess whether or not Shadowlight would make the Times bestseller list, and if they thought it would to also pick what position on the list it would debut.

I was surprised to see so many "yes" entries, and such optimistic and flattering predictions as to the spot it would take on the list. And honestly, I thought you all were being very nice, but I expected if I were exceptionally lucky that the book might show at the end of the extended list, somewhere between #25-#30.

The one funny thing I did notice was how many people chose #17 (and many mentioned that it was the first thing that came to mind.) In fact, #17 was guessed more often than any other position number in the contest. Which I thought was weird because the only Lynn Viehl novel I've ever had rank in the top twenty portion of the list barely squeaked on at #19. My last LV release, that pink one I never want to talk about, hit at #27. So why pick #17? Odds were definitely against it. But now I know you guys picked #17 because . . . you're all psychic.


I found out today that Shadowlight will debut on the Times bestseller list at #17.

As promised if there were multiple correct guesses, I put the names of everyone who chose #17 into the magic hat, had Kat pick one at random for a little extra good luck, and the winner of the Times pool is:

JulieB, who wrote: I don't know why, and I realize other people have said this too, but the number that came to mind was 17, immediately.

Julie, when you have a chance, please send your BookWish and ship-to info to me at -- and please, use e-mail, not your psychic power.

Thanks to everyone who joined in the pool, gave me so many votes of confidence, bought the book, reviewed the e-ARC, blogged about it, spread the word, shared in the fun and collectively made Shadowlight a top twenty Times bestseller. You guys are the best, and you have definitely got the power.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

PBW-1, H1N1-0

An update for those of you who are worrying: Kat is out of the woods, and after a week and a half of pretty much constant/heavy exposure, I tested negative for H1N1 (I got all my shots, but I've also had so many types of flu over the years that I'm probably naturally immune.) We'd toss confetti and pop open a few Pepsis, but we're too tired to do anything but whimper a little gratitude to the Almighty for watching over our little girl.

According to our pediatrician this bug is spreading like wildfire through the schools throughout the nation because -- as always -- even when kids are sick, parents are still sending them in. If the H1N1 vaccine is available in your area, I'd consider taking advantage of it, and if your child or a family member are ill, please keep them home and away from healthy people.

Thank you for all the lovely notes that I have not replied to yet but will once I get caught up. I should have some news shortly to wrap up the Times Pool contest, which I will be closing as soon as I hear, so if you haven't entered but would like to, best jump on that asap.

Last but not least, I sold three more books last week (okay, my agent did while I was running around to doctors and administering Tamiflu, but it still counts.) It's a neat new deal, new publisher, and a new genre. I'll have more details as soon as I've talked to my new editor.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cookie Ten

Ten Chinese Cookie Fortunes, and What They Really Mean for Writers

Don't ask, don't say. Everything lies in silence.

Just shut up and take it. Everyone loved Helen Keller, right?

Failure is the chance to do better next time.

Burn the book of your heart and write something else, or we're going to hurt you.

It is better to deal with problems before they arise.

The first time your internal editor thinks you should go back and rewrite chapter one instead of writing chapter two, tell her to piss off.

Plan for many pleasures ahead.

You won't get them, but you need something to write in your journal besides long riffs off the topics of "Why does everyone hate me?" and "Publishing will never understand my genius."

Someone is speaking well of you.

Someone wants a quote for their new book.

There is a true and sincere friendship between you and your friends.

Writer friendships are like condoms: tight and secure-feeling in the beginning, thin and easy to break in the middle, and messy and emminently disposable at the end.

Today it's up to you to create the peacefulness you long for.

Get off the internet before it sucks your brains out of your skull.

Whenever possible, keep it simple.

That sex scene where they're doing it while juggling a bomb between trapezes as the antagonist and his small army shoots at them? Has to go.

You will witness a special ceremony.

First you'll pay two thousand dollars, be squashed in economy class for three hours, eat lousy chicken entrees, listen to boring speakers, stay in a room with cigarette burns on the carpet and roaches in the lavatory for four days straight before the night you finally learn that you did not kiss enough ass to win that coveted genre award. And then you'll have to congratulate the beaming suckup who did. But hey, you got to hang with some of your writer friends, right?

Your flair for the creative takes an important place in your life.

You'll need some cute buttons to put on your uniform suspenders when you go to work at TGI Fridays.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Isis & iPod

It's official, Kat has H1N1, which of course was not the news we wanted to hear, but we'll cope. She didn't have a great morning today, but she rallied this afternoon and kept down some solid food. I'm cautiously optimistic that she's over the worst of this bug. Thanks to everyone for all the e-mails and thoughts and prayers.

On a happier note, author Douglas Clegg has a new book out, Isis, which was the inspiration for the very cool Isis online difference game we've all been playing (it's way fun and highly addictive, but does have music, so if you're at work turn off your speakers first before giving it a whirl.) My high score so far is 777, probably because I keep messing up on the skeletons in armor page.

Doug's publisher is also having a neat contest to celebrate the launch:

We're giving away an orange iPod Nano and a copy of Isis by Douglas Clegg to one grand prize winner . . . There will also be 10 runner-ups who'll receive a free copy of Isis. Winners will be randomly drawn on November 2nd, 2009. Don't be afraid to just might win!!

According to the contest rules it is limited to U.S. and Canada residents over age 13 (sorry, my overseas pals.) Also, on the form you do have to answer a question about a character in the novel, so obviously you'll need to have read it, or be very good guesser.

To enter the Isis & iPod contest, go to the online entry form here.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Off to Deal

My daughter became suddenly very ill earlier in the week, and while she's improving now she has tested positive for the flu. We're waiting on results from an additional test to tell us if it's the garden-variety or the H1N1 virus (she was exposed to the latter at school.) I've had my shots, and we've put her brother on Tamiflu as a preventive measure, but as you can imagine it's a little scary. My blogging here will likely be sporadic for the next couple of days as I take care of my kid. All good thoughts and prayers you might care to send Kat's way will be greatly appreciated.

Parents of children who play brass or wind in school bands, you might ask your child not to swap instruments with their bandmates. I've learned that band kids are very casual about this, especially when they're trying to tune their section, and it's probably how my daughter got infected.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

WotC on Scribd

My how-to writing guide, Way of the Cheetah, is now available for purchase at's store. Since I'm doing this mainly as an experiment to see how this process and Scribd's service works, I've discounted the e-book to sell for $1.00 U.S. 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.

People have asked me when I'm going to start selling my fiction work this way, and the truth is that I have mixed feelings about authors who are using online services like Scribd's store to sell their work directly to readers. While this can help supplement the author's income, I think it can also create conflicts of interest. My primary market is still print, and while the major publishers are having ongoing problems embracing the E-future, I still have hope they'll catch up with the internet and see the wonderful opportunities electronic format offers.

Anyway -- if you'd like to get the book at a drastically reduced price, I plan to leave it up for sale on through January 1, 2010.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

NaNoWriMo Ten

Ten Things for the NaNoWriMoer's

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

New Nano Badges!

(I've uploaded .jpgs of all eight badges over on my Photobucket account if any of you want to use the codes.)

Get character names in an instant online with Kleimo's Random Name Generator, which uses data from the US Census to generate up to 30 male and female names at once; you preset the obscurity factor from 1 to 99 (1=Common, 50=Not so common, 99=Totally obscure.)

NovProg2 "allows you to create a graph of your progress in writing a NaNoWriMo style novel. You enter your wordcount and it updates a graph showing you how much progress you have made. It also shows you how far you are through your daily goal, and your total goal. Mousing over a bar in the graph will show a tooltip with that day's wordcount." (OS: Win 2000/XP/2003/Vista)

Outline Your Novel in Thirty Minutes by Alicia Rasley

Special Offers from NaNo-friendly companies: Create Space, Scrivener, Writer's Digest and AlphaSmart all have some nice discounts or offers here for NaNo'ers.

If you need some help putting together an outline or a plan for your NaNo story, try one of PBW's how-to freebies: Novel Wiring Diagram (blank and filled out), Ten Point Novel Plot Outline Template, or The Novel Notebook. Also, since year I get asked for these, here are the links to my single novel plotting template, trilogy plotting template and mid-length series plotting template.

The Printable Notebook "lets you organize and print your personal data in the same manner a paper notebook does. You can print (and cut) selected pages so that they fit into your paper notebook. The program allows you to create multiple notebooks with custom fields for each. It includes several sample print templates, that will fit a standard notebook size. The templates are XML based and can be edited by experienced users to accommodate other formats. Printable Notebook supports website links and email fields, different tab layouts, search across notebooks and more" (OS: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP)

When you just can't think of the word: OneLook's Reverse Online Dictionary allows users to "describe a concept and get back a list of words and phrases related to that concept. Your description can be a few words, a sentence, a question, or even just a single word. Just type it into the box above and hit the "Find words" button. Keep it short to get the best results. In most cases you'll get back a list of related terms with the best matches shown first."

Not sure what constitutes a novel scene, or what to put in it? Get my jewels o' scenic wisdom in my PBW post Scene Building 101.

Finally, links that are most requested from me during NaNoWriMo (hover your cursor over the link title to get a description): Notecarding: Plotting Under Pressure, Novel Outlining 101, Richard Salsbury's Rough Draft, Seventh Sanctum, Text Block Writer.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Shadowlight Arrives

Shadowlight, my first Kyndred novel, officially lands on the shelves today. An excerpt from my upcoming June '10 release, Dreamveil, is included in the back pages.

I'll spare you guys the usual "Buy my book" post; by now most of you have heard it a couple dozen times. I've had a lot of help getting the word out on this one (your fault) and really, what more can a writer ask? All right, if everyone wants to support PBW and/or insure my future employment, I suppose you can go out this week and buy a copy, or request it from your local public library. But I'm guessing most of you already have, and I thank you for investing and requesting.

I've been brooding for some time about something veteran literary agent Georges Borchardt said in his interview with Poets & Writers:

The pub date used to mean the author would get a bouquet of roses or there would be a party. There was practically always a party for the author. The birth of the book was something to be celebrated. Now it's just the question of "Do we admit to the author that the actual printing is only one-fourth of the announced printing?"

I didn't know that releasing a book used to be such an event. Maybe back in the day publishers could afford to throw a party because there weren't that many books being published, so they didn't have to do it very often. Now release day for most authors seems to be focused on exhausting varieties self-promo, checking to see if blog ads and book videos go live, waiting for the lists and not much else. Publishers are never involved, and I think that's pretty sad.

I seriously doubt anyone in the biz will ever throw a party for me (maybe one to celebrate the day I retire, or whenever I drop dead), but I've always spent my pub dates with my family. We're pretty tame, so our idea of fun is going out to dinner or spending the evening with a big bowl of popcorn and a new movie, but we have fun together, and the gift they've given me is ten years filled with happy memories on release days. Publishing can never top that.

I hope you writers out there don't forget to take a little time off from the endless promoing to party on your pub date. Whether it's the release of your first or your forty-fourth, a new book should always be something wonderful in your life. When it arrives, do something special to celebrate it.

Monday, October 05, 2009

E-xperiment Ten

Ten Things About the Shadowlight E-xperiment

Amelie Markirk's Blog/Amelie (off topic note -- Amelie's review of Rob Thurman's Trick of the Light proves I'm not the only one who was floored by this book.)

New B& reviews ~ Npaules ~ 4kidsmom ~ Debra_ Saturday

BlogCritics/Robin Kavanagh

Book Crazy Scrapbook Mama/Pamk

Dreaming in Rhyme/Joely Sue Burkhart (Joely wrote a very cool poem about the story.)

From This Day/Rhienelleth

It's My Blog -- It's My Opinion/MarnieColette, also on Facebook and MySpace and in a discussion on's Shadowlight sales page

Raine's Secret Garden/Raine Weaver

Web Petals/Marjorie M. Liu -- Marjorie not only says many kind things I don't deserve, but she's also giving away three copies of Shadowlight and three copies of a surprise Darkyn novel. Stop by her blog today and leave a comment to have a chance to win one.

Wife of Monobot/Little Bits

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Counter Widget Fun

For those of you who are planning to join in NaNoWriMo and want a countdown widget for your web site or blog, you can get one online for free that allows you to select the size, colors and countdown style: OnePlusYou's Countdown Timer Generator.

Here are a couple I made with it to give you an idea of how they look:

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Twin Peeks Day

I know I am behind schedule with posting Rain Lashed, my first Kyndred free e-book novella and parallel story to Shadowlight, but I hope to have it wrapped up this weekend. Here's an excerpt from the story to give those of you who are interested a little preview.

For those who have been trying to bribe me for a look at Dreamveil, you might stop by the group blog tomorrow morning and see what I have posted there for my turn at Genreality Sneak Peek Saturday.

Now I'm off to write, edit, publish, pitch, schedule and decide some things, but so that your trip here was not all about me, check out this Dutch department store link I swiped from Gerard over at the Presurfer. Just click on the link and then wait a few seconds, it's amazing (there are also some sound effects and music so be careful if you're at work.)

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Times Pool

As you are by now doubtless exhausted of hearing, the first novel in my new Darkyn spin-off Kyndred series, Shadowlight, is due to be released next week. Okay, for all intents and purposes, it has been released, but next week's sales are what will determine if/where the book appears on the Times or any other lists.

I think Shadowlight has a decent shot at making the USA Today list; the last seven Lynn Viehl novels I've written have all made it there. But the New York Times bestseller list? I have no idea.

I think we should have fun with it and start a pool for Shadowlight. So here are the rules: In comments to this post, tell me if you think Shadowlight will make the Times list. If you don't, simply put "no" (and you won't hurt my feelings if you vote no.) If you do, put "yes" and guess at what number it will appear on the list or the extended list (that would be a number between 1 and 30.)

Once the Times lists for the week of October 6th are released, I will close the pool, announce how Shadowlight did (or didn't) do, and award the person who guessed correctly a BookWish* as well as a surprise. No, I'm not telling you what the surprise is, but my surprises are good ones. If more than one person posts the correct guess, I will put all of their names in the magic hat and draw one at random to be the winner.

This pool is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*A BookWish is any book of your choice available to order from an online bookseller, up to a maximum cost of $30.00 U.S. (I'll throw in whatever shipping is involved.)

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Guess who volunteered to schedule today's post to automatically publish, and then forgot? Yep. Sorry, Tom.

Dreamveil, the second Kyndred novel and Rowan's story is off to production, and while I refuse to jinx it by talking about it too much, it's definitely one of the strongest books I've written in a few years.

My editor didn't think I could pull off Rowan's book, but after reading the manuscript she didn't request any changes except some technical corrections and some additional clarification of one plot point for the reader. When that's the extent of your revision requests, you know you nailed the story. But from the moment I started writing the synopsis for this novel, I knew it was strong. I could visualize every detail. I knew the characters, down to what socks they wear and toothpaste they use. And while the twist was something I've never before attempted, and certainly not The Usual Stuff, it came together without a single hitch.

The ending of Dreamveil (again, not the usual sort) was in my eyes damn near perfect. I don't brag often because I'm not perfect and I don't do perfect. I generally rush endings and I know it. But this one made me so happy I was tempted to print it out and show it to people like a new baby while I cooed, "Look! Look what I did! Call my mom!" Actually I don't think I've ever been as satisfied with an ending for a novel as I am with this one.

When I have a story hit the pages like this, I try to analyze it, and see what it is that I did that made it work out so well during the writing phase. I want to be able to do that with every book, and I can't, and that frustrates me.

I know it's not me. My methods don't vary, I use the same basic routine with every novel, and while I always strive to produce an original, unique storyline I outline, draft and edit the book in the same way each time. Each series I write has a specific structure and tone that I put in each novel to provide continuity, and unless it serves the story I don't mess with that too much because that's the glue that provides cohesiveness.

I hesitate to say any book writes itself, because even with a strong story there's too much work involved. Every novel is a mountain to be conquered, and none of us can leap over them in a single bound. It's days and weeks and months of intense work, every time. When I think of how many years it took me to pull together all the elements, do the research and then work up the nerve to write Blade Dancer, I still wince.

Some books are insanely difficult to write on an emotional level, and I've had a couple of those. Endurance, StarDoc book three was the toughest book I've ever written; I fought my way through every paragraph and it kept kicking me in the teeth all the way to the last page. In the end I won, but the experience was such that after nine years (Lord, has it been that long already?) I still can't read it.

I'm not sure, but this time I think it was the constructs of the characters. I don't think I've put together a cast this defined and strong since I wrote Red Branch. I didn't have to write up worksheets for this bunch; they were all there from the moment of conception. And I have no idea why. None of it was deliberate. They just showed up.

Maybe the key to writing a strong book is not to question how you did it, or try to repeat it, but I want to know. It would make my writing life a hell of a lot easier.

What do you do when the story comes out clear and strong? Do you try to figure out what made it happen? Or do you accept it as a gift of the Writing Gods and move on? Tell me what you think in comments.