Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best of PBW

2011 altered my life in a lot of ways, so it was definitely a year of change. I said good-bye to my dad, which broke my heart, and saw the end of his many years of suffering, which helped me let him go. So did the many kindnesses shown to me by my family, friends and colleagues during those terrible weeks at the end of his life.

Professionally I gained a new editor who has been a dream to work with; I published my first YA novel, started writing a new series and ended another one. There have been some unexpected negative moments as well, mostly behind the scenes, and nothing I particular care to dwell on. I definitely bid farewell to the last illusions I had about the biz, but I also learned some valuable lessons, and I'm glad I did. I needed them.

I don't really like choosing the best book of the year anymore because I have so many great authors that I read, and I don't want to pick. I will say the most surprising novel I read this year was Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughhart, recommended here on PBW by Cloth Dragon. It was a completely delightful read from cover to cover. Which only goes to confirm my belief that we should all listen to our visitors and read what they're reading because so often they do recommend gems like this one.

Despite all the troubles I've dealt with over the last twelve month, I am looking forward to 2012. I see it as a chance for a personal renaissance, a time to set aside the old and get moving in new and different directions. I hope it's going to be a very creative year for all of us.

I've sifted through the archives and put together a list of what I think were this year's best posts on PBW:

January: Got ISSN?, Know Thy Hub, The Book Wubbie, 28th of Snowfall, Year of the Vulture.

February: Bad News, Worry and Death, Just. Not. Ready., Ten Signs That You May Be Writing a Literary McNovel, Writers Hospital.

March: Writer Math, If Manuscripts Were Lovers, You Know You're an Older Writer When . . ., Character Trading Cards.

April: Self-Publishing 911, Color Idea Cards, The Third and Seventh, Productive Task Listing

May: Writer Excuses for the Digital Self-Publishing Age, Promo No-No Ten, Apocalypse Not Now, Taking Shelter

June: Name Clouds, Facebookless, Novel Series Outlining, Butterfly People

July: Ten Things I Hate About Your World-Building, Reinventing the Bookmark Idea #3, Hunting Metaphors, Characters R Us

August: Green Journal, Character Keywords

September: Peace, Symbols and Words

October: You Are My Fire, Color Reference Notebook, NaNoWriMo Prep I: The Mountain, NaNoWriPrep II: Stand-Out Characters

November: SPAMcam, Ten Things Women Do Only in Novels, NaNoWriMo: Writing Your Dragons, Google Street View Weirdness

December: Ten Things I Would Like for Christmas, The Holiday TBR, Baggage

Adieu, 2011. Hiya, 2012.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Outside the Lines

For me the year of change is almost over, and I've been waiting for a new nudge from the universe to give me some creative direction for 2012. After I sold the steampunk novel I thought it might be the Year of New Ventures, but that didn't feel right (probably because I still have two books under contract from this year and last year to write.)

On Christmas night we decided to take a ride to see the lights, and then stopped for hot chocolate and a walk around town. It was one of those odd, completely spontaneous family outings that was filled with laughter and memories in the making; the kind of thing I cherish most. It was while we were out walking that I spotted a decorative sign with a saying that I've probably seen a million times: Color Outside the Lines.

First it made me reminisce. When I was a kid, I rarely colored inside the lines. I drew extra stuff on my coloring book characters: superhero capes, braids, jewelry, background scenes, and anything else I could think of to fill up the void of the empty page. I also wrote captions, made dialogue balloons and signed everything (because that's what real artists do.)

I've always enjoyed thinking outside the box, too, because there's enough room there to be different and experiment and discover new ideas. I think I've gotten away from it recently because I've been more focused on productivity and organization, which are just as valuable but shouldn't hog all your brain power.

For example, one of the most exciting things I did in 2011 was to try and reinvent the bookmark. That one little project was such a simple thing, and lots of fun. At the same, it was very challenging to some up with something that hadn't already been done. What I learned from that I've carried over into a dozen other creative projects, including my writing. I don't do enough of that anymore, and I want to. I want to move past what's expected and accepted and what everyone else does.

I'm not afraid to work in the void; I like having the space to do what I want. I'm also not afraid to mess up; every success has a foundation of dozens of mistakes. The universe knows this, which is probably why I got this particular nudge. It's time for me to climb out of the box, step over the lines and see what I can do.

When I saw the sign in the shop window, I was wondering just how I was going to tackle this, and got another nudge when I read this other sign sitting next to it. I think I already have the Be Obnoxious part down, but I can definitely use the rest as additional inspiration.

So my New Year's resolution is to make 2012 the year I color outside the lines. It's a bit scary, and I have no idea what will happen, but I trust the universe as a creative navigator. Truth is, I can't wait to get started.

What are your plans for 2012? What do you hope to accomplish? Let us know in comments.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

E- to Print

I came across this interesting bit of promo on an endcap when I was out shopping at the brick-and-mortar B&N:

I wondered why the flyer was made of cardstock-weight paper, and then saw the preforation line. The end of the flyer can be torn off to use as a bookmark (with helpful bullet reminders of the release dates for each installment.) To tempt buyers who have already read the e-book versions, which I assume were the self-published works that made the author a sensation, there's also the promise of "all-new bonus stories" in each volume.

This is one of those odd marketing experiments in Publishing that I like to observe. I think in certain ways the publisher and the author are thinking outside the box, and it should be interesting to see what happens on the shelf. This could even turn out to be a unique alternative to the traditional submissions process: self-pub first, start earning income, and once you've racked up enough numbers to prove you're marketable use them to negotiate a print contract.

Also, for those of you with a BAM in your area, this week calendars and planners are 50% off; and I think they'll be even cheaper after the new year. I went ahead and got my 2012 fix:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I'm glad I didn't have to judge the On the Eve ornament-naming contest; too many great entries for this one. My daughter also had a very tough time choosing one, but in the end went with this because she thought it was funny and fitting:

Sock of Christmas Past

That means clairecherven, you're the winner! When you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to info to so I can get your prize out to you. My thanks to everyone for joining in.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On the Road

I'm back on the road again today, but while I'm gone, here's a stunning video on skiers and snowboarders by Dendrite Studios (for those of you back to work, also contains some cool background music):

Parallels - A Short Film from Dendrite Studios on Vimeo.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Holiday Ten

Ten Things I Did on Christmas Day

Asked everyone to go out with me to see the lights around town, and everyone shocked me by saying yes. This then went from a casual drive to a hot chocolate pit stop to a delightful walk around town.

Ate two very small pieces of butter fudge and then successfully resisted sweets for the rest of the day. Considering how many cookies and how much chocolate is in this house right now, I deserve a medal for this.

Discovered what will be my motto for next year. More on that later this week.

Got lovely BAM giftcard joy from the love of my life.

Held a vote earlier this week and decided to go with an utterly non-traditional backyard barbecue Christmas dinner. We loved every bite of it.

Played with the camera and photographed everyone and everything, including my new Christmas red-and-green cyclamen.

Read four of my random pick books; found one new-to-me author to add to my keeper shelves.

Received a pretty but wholly enigmatic gift from my mom and now must find a tactful way to ask her what the heck it is.

Tried Canadian maple syrup for the first time, and added another reason to my list of why I adore Canadians.

Went into raptures using my brand-new standing mixer; the other gift from the love of my life. Before anyone snipes about getting an appliance as a gift, I've wanted one of these just about forever but made do with cheap hand mixers because I felt guilty coveting something so serious and expensive. Not anymore, though. It's fabulous. Like a jet outboard motor for your cooking. Whips egg whites in under a minute, kneads bread dough, can make pasta, juice things, grind things . . . I may never willingly leaving the kitchen again.

So how were the holidays at your home? Get any surprises? Let us know in comments.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wishing You

Saturday, December 24, 2011

On the Eve

About an hour ago I finished revisions for one of my editors, which was the last writing job I had to do this year.  My reward for hitting the final finish line is a movie (Cowboys and Aliens), a week of writing whatever I want (probably just posts for PBW) and as much rest and relaxation as I can manage during the holidays.

It's always a strange feeling to finish out the writing year.  In 2011 I published three novels, sold four and wrote five.  There have been years when I've done twice that much work, so it doesn't feel like a lot, but I've never worked through so many challenges and changes as I have during the last twelve months.  I'm tired, and I definitely need a week off, but I'm also satisfied that I did my best even in the worst of times.  And while I am my own harshest critic, that actually feels pretty good.

Now I am going to unplug for a few hours, get my kids and take them out to lunch.  In the meantime, I have a contest challenge for you guys that involves this:

Meet the Sock Ornament of Doom, which my daughter made when she was in preschool.  This stuffie has been hanging on our tree ever since she brought it home, and we love it so much that I think it's high time it got a new name.

If you have any ideas, in comments to this post, suggest a name (male, female or other is okay; just please keep it G-rated) for our ornament by midnight EST on Monday, December 26, 2011.  My daughter will choose the name she likes best from all the entries, and I will send the winner a signed ARC of Nightborn, the first novel in my new Lords of the Darkyn trilogy.  This contest is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something from PBW in the past.

Friday, December 23, 2011


After reading this article on cleaning out and organizing your purse, I was shocked by how heavy the purses in the slide show were. On average, the editors who contributed photos of their baggage and its contents were lugging around over six pounds of stuff. No way could I do that.

Then I thought, just what am I lugging around, and how much does it weigh? Since I own only one purse (an ordinary black shoulder bag I bought about a year ago, when the only purse I owned at the time, a seven-year-old ordinary black shoulder bag, finally blew out a side panel) I thought I'd empty it out and inspect what I can't live without on a daily basis:

Camera in case -- I have learned to carry it with me everywhere or I miss the best shots.

Wallet -- actually a clutch; the only thing large enough to accommodate all my fake IDs.

Keys -- to three vehicles, four houses, two lock boxes, a friend's Harley (don't ask), a couple of ICBM remote launch consoles and the Bat Cave's emergency entrance.

Scissors -- because I can't use the annoyingly tiny ones in the sewing kit.

Sunglasses in Case -- prescription; gotta wear them whenever I step foot outside.

Sewing Kit -- for hemline, seam line, suture and quilt emergencies. Also I think the little zebra purse design is cute.

Flash Drive -- in case someone breaks into my house and steals the computer and all my backups while I'm shopping. It could happen.

Mobile Phone in case -- disposable drug-dealer pay-as-you-go phone, costs me a hundred bucks a year, only makes phone calls, and pisses off everyone who pays a hundred bucks a month for their hi-tech toy phones.

Checkbook -- in case the credit card machine fails. Also has the pen I carry tucked in the cover.

Small bottle of lotion -- for my hands; they get chapped in the winter.

Tissues -- so I don't have to use my sleeve and because I won't carry a cloth hankie like my Mom.

Wet wipes -- something I constantly use for like a million purposes; I've even used them to clean dead bugs off a windshield when the wiper fluid ran out. I'd carry a box of them if I could fit it in my purse.

Beauty-engraved rock -- to remind me what to look for while I'm out and about.

Chapstick -- the only thing I put on my face besides glasses

Missing: the paperback book I was carrying, which I lent to a friend today, so I need a new one.

I put all the stuff back in my purse and weighed it, expecting it only to be a couple of pounds, and was shocked to see that it came in at 4.7 lbs. Since I always carry around a book in my purse, that would take it over 5 pounds. I had no idea it was that heavy. No wonder I walk tilted to the left.

I think my final goal for 2011 is going to be reducing the amount of junk I carry in my purse by half. Won't be easy, but it will probably help get rid of some of the neck and back pain I get after shopping expeditions.

Ladies, what do you carry around in your purse that you can't live without? Have you ever weighed your purse, and if not, how much baggage do you think you're carrying around? Let us know in comments.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


The Let It Snow giveaway was so much fun for me this past week (which as you can guess I really needed), and there were so many terrific entries and lovely thoughts I feel completely ready for Christmas now. You guys are better than Santa.

Now it's my turn to give back. Tonight we dropped all the names from every Let It Snow post into the magic hat, which just about split at the seams before it did its thing, and the winner is:

Christina, who wrote this comment about what books she's giving away for the holidays: I bought my boyfriend 5 books from the Barnes and Noble Leather bound Classic set. I also got my sister a B&N gift card so she can load up her Nook with whatever books she wants this year. I also did the B&N book donation to give to a child who is sick in the hospital for the holidays.

Christina, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to address to so I can get this tote full of goodies out to you. My thanks to everyone for joining in.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Let It Snow VII

Over the last couple of months my left eye has been giving me some minor trouble. It itched, it burned, and even when it didn't do that it often felt gritty. These sensations would come and go, and I've had them before; it's usually due to my photo sensitivity or simple eye strain from reading too much or staring at the monitor too long. Sometimes my symptoms would clear up for a couple of days or even weeks, and then they'd come back. I really didn't pay any attention to them until three days ago, when I woke up in a significant amount of pain from what felt like a grain of sand in my eye.

I didn't panic. I irrigated it, inspected it, had my guy look in it, but we couldn't find any dirt or debris causing the pain, and nothing made the irritation go away. Every time I blinked, it hurt, and my eye turned red, and then I saw some swelling starting. It wasn't conjunctivitis; I've had that. It wasn't a sty, either. The only really suspicious thing I found was a tiny lump in the corner of my eye socket, about a quarter-inch from the spot where my eye surgeon removed a cancerous tumor two years ago.

I've always known there was a chance the cancer would come back, but I didn't want to know for sure this week. At least, not until after Christmas. So I walked around for three days in perpetual pain, with my eye swollen up and tearing and burning, and me looking and feeling like hell. This morning I simply couldn't take it anymore, and called the eye surgeon and got an emergency appointment.

I did my meditation before I went to the appointment, and got to the point where I could accept that I was going to get bad news. This lump would probably mean more painful surgery right away, and months of treatment, and maybe even losing my eye for good this time. I'd just get some meds to get me through the holidays and then deal with it. It sounds awful, but I felt pretty calm. I've been through worse and survived, and I was determined not to ruin Christmas for everyone else. But right before I left, I asked God if as a Christmas gift for me that he would just make it benign this time, and let me keep my eye. I didn't feel like that was too much to ask.

The surgeon took me in right away, and carefully went over my symptoms, and performed the exam. This kind of exam is not fun under ordinary conditions; this time it was really painful. He then reached for a pair of tiny-tipped tweezers and used them to extract something that felt like a tree trunk out of my eye.

The relief was instantaneous; the pain was gone and I almost wept with gratitude. He then showed me what he'd removed: a twisted, almost invisible white hair he found behind my outer lashes that had grown backward and curled up under my eyelid. Damn thing was about a quarter inch long, too.

He's going to recheck me in a week, but he's pretty sure the lump is just swollen tissue from the irritation the hair was causing. So what I got for Christmas this year was basically an ingrown eyelash. And as much trouble as it's caused me, and as silly as I feel for getting so worked up over it, this gift was better than a platinum crate filled with twenty-carat diamonds.

Today I'm putting the final additions in the Let It Snow tote: a trade paperback edition of my Rebecca Kelly novel Portraits of the Past; a hardcover edition of Winter Lights ~ A Season in Poems & Quilts by Anna Grossnickle Hines; and a hardcover copy of Enjoy Every Sandwich by Lee Lipsenthal, M.D. As for the final mystery gift, it's a little something that reminds me of what I found this Christmas, and hope it does the same for the winner.

If you'd like a chance to win this giveaway, in comments to this post make a wish for yourself, the other visitors here at PBW, or anyone else (or if you can't think of what to wish for, just toss your name in the hat.) I will draw one name at random from everyone who participates by commenting on this or any of my other Let It Snow giveaway posts from now until midnight EST tonight, December 21, 2011, and send the winner the tote with all the contents. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Let It Snow VI

Sorry I'm late posting today; we had kind of a crazy night. After dinner a couple of proselytizers came to my door to inform me that the End is Nigh. This would be the same pair who informed me the End was Nigh last year, the year before that, and the year before that.

It's a little hard for me to take them seriously anymore, but you know, it gives us a chance to chat and catch up on how Prince of Darkness is doing, the many ways in which he walks among us, and how important it is not to be an enabler. I also know the Bible way better than they do so I can always help them find the best foreboding passages of doom, destruction and death; they're dying to get me as a guest speaker at the next End is Nigh luncheon and raffle. I also appreciate the badly-written pamphlets with pictures of cities fallen to ruin and the earth blowing apart on the covers that they give me. They're very absorbent, and I think the cat needs something funny to read while he's using the box.

Before you wag a finger at me, I get my fair share of belief grief in return. Last night while we were working on our tree, some kids crept up to the house and quietly vandalized our outdoor Christmas decorations. What they did was actually pretty funny (and easily repairable) so my guy and I laughed it off. Sometimes the spirit of the holidays means you need to be a little extra forgiving (but next time, you grinches, I'm letting out the little dog, who will happily rip your ankles to shreds.)

What inspires me most during the holidays is kindness in any shape or form. A smile from a tired cashier, who takes a minute to wrap your glassware in protective paper. A kid who holds the door open for you at the mall when you're carrying fifteen packages. Sometimes the smallest act of kindness can inspire others to be even more generous. The other day when I stopped by Dunkin Donuts I got to the end of the drive-thru line at the same moment a guy in a work truck did, and I let him go ahead of me. When I got to the window the girl told me that the guy in the work truck had paid for a large drink for me. That was the best cup of coffee I've had all year.

Someone (you know who you are) asked me if I named my giveaway Let It Snow because I knew Google was going to do the Let It Snow thing with their search engine. Because of course I'm psychic and could predict such a thing . . . . not. In reality it was a cool card I found at my pack-and-ship place. Someone very smart decided to design a line of greeting cards shaped like tree ornaments with strings attached so your recipient can hang them right on the tree. It's a very creative solution to displaying one's greeting cards in a festive and convenient manner. That kind of simple ingenuity inspires me to no end, and I really liked the one as you see here that said Let It Snow, and I already had the snowflake tote, and snow doesn't offend anyone except those who have to shovel it, so I ran with that as my theme. No psychic powers involved whatsoever.

Today I'm adding the non-psychic inspired Let It Snow tote out-of-print paperback copies of my SF novels Bio Rescue and Afterburn, a mini aromatherapy kit, and a 2012 BAM Book Lover's block calendar that says it has over $100.00 in savings. I'm also adding a mystery item, and the hint for this one is that it comes from the Publishing Fairy, and you know what sort of wishes she usually likes handing out around here.

If you'd like a chance to win this giveaway, in comments to this post tell us about anything you find inspiring during the holidays (or if you can't think of anything, just toss your name in the hat.) I will draw one name at random from everyone who participates by commenting on this or any of my other Let It Snow giveaway posts from now until midnight EST on Wednesday, December 21, 2011, and send the winner the tote with all the contents. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Last Minute Ten

Today I'm wrapping gifts, and mulling over what more I can fit in the Let It Snow giveaway tote. It's getting pretty full . . . but I'm good at packing books. More on this tomorrow and Wednesday.

Ten Things that Make Great Last-Minute Gifts

BAM is offering free express shipping to get your purchase delivered by Christmas if you order online today; browse their nicely categorized holiday gift guide here.

Barnes & offers a great personalized quick gift with their custom design a gift card option, which you can personalize with your own image and greeting card message; $4.50 plus the amount you want to put on the gift card.

For the bird lovers: as a mutual Christmas gift my guy and I renovated our old birdhouse (see pics on my photoblog here) and it's something we'll enjoy year-round. If you have a friend or family member who loves birds, a small/inexpensive feeder and a five pound bag of birdseed are a great gift (you can find both at most home improvement or garden stores.)

Create your own cookbook collection by scanning or typing up your favorite recipes for the holidays, dinners, desserts, or whatever theme you choose. Convert it to a .pdf and e-mail the file to your recipient, or print it out and place it in a folder or binder. Some grocery stores offer free recipe cards and magazines that make nice bonus material to add to your print collection.

Speaking of cooking, who doesn't like cookies? Whip up a batch of your recipient's favorite, or if you'd rather not bake, make some Rice Krispie treats (to make these extra festive, decorate the tops with holiday sprinkles.) Both can be stored in pretty tins; I found these little chest-shaped tins at the dollar store (I love the hinged lids; prevents them from being misplaced.)

E-book lovers will appreciate a gift certificate to their favorite online publisher's store; Samhain offers a nice range from $5.00 to $50.00 here.

Here's a last-minute present for everyone who has to stock up on batteries for the holidays: this year Energizer is offering your choice of a $10.00 prepaid Visa gift card, Paypal, or donation to the National Park Foundation; to get it you'll need three codes from participating Energizer batteries or flashlights, more details on the promotion here. Offer is good on purchases made through 12/31/11.

A subscription to your recipient's magazine is easy and thoughtful; some magazines offer two-for-one deals around this time of year, too. To order online, go to the magazine's home page or check out the discounted offers over on

Burn some CDs with themed collections of music and place in jewel cases; for special touch add your own liner notes and cover art. I'm putting together a collection of show tunes for one of my friends who loves Broadway but is constantly getting stuck in rush hour traffic during her commute; these I'm putting in a ten-slot flat CD holder that fits over a car visor (something I also found at the dollar store.)

For your favorite scribe Writer's Bloc has some neat items on sale, including this elegant glass Venetian dip pen set for $13.50 that is beautiful and a real bargain.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Let It Snow V

My final shopping trip for the holidays took me a few towns over to the nearest mall, where I stopped by a BAM that was twice the size of mine. The bargain tables were chock full of neat stuff, and I picked up three remaindered hardcover copies of books I wanted to read but missed them when they released: Rainwater by Sandra Brown ($6.97), Chalice by Robin McKinley ($4.97) and The Angel by Carla Neggers ($4.97).

I also raided the 2012 calendar shelves, the magazine racks and the humor section to pick out some gifts for the non-readers on my list. I am committed to making non-readers read, and I've found humor or a mag on their favorite subject usually does the trick. For those who won't read those, I get a block-type desk calendar with funny jokes or quotes on each page that I know they'll read when they're bored at work (my guy reads his Jeff Foxworthy calendar quote to me every day.)

While browsing I found some new widgets at this BAM that weren't at mine:

1. BAM's Bookmark pen, a pen encased in a flat faux alligator bookmark with a small crystal embellishment ($4.99)

3. Folio's set of 8 Get to the Point magnetic reusable page markers in a nice rainbow of colors ($3.99)

3.'s six pack of Unravels crayon pencils, each wrapped in 30 little messages with lucky fortunes, jokes & riddles and friendship themes ($5.99)

4. Andrews + Blaine's trio of monogrammed magnetic bookmarks ($4.99)

At this BAM I was able to put together some novel series gifts, as they keep a decent stock of backlisted titles. I find it's easier to hook people on an established series if you give them the first three novels all at once. I often stockpile extra copies of the first three books in any series I really love to save for future gifts (as well as investing in a series I want to keep reading.) Series in paperback are the most affordable, as you can buy up to three for the price of one hardcover. As gifts this year I'm giving away series by Gail Carriger, Emma Holly, Larissa Ione, Sofie Kelly, Marjorie M. Liu, Anne Stuart and Rob Thurman.

Today I'm also adding to the Let It Snow tote a now very hard-to-find hardcover copy of my SF novel Blade Dancer; Soulless, the first novel in Gail Carriger's extraordinary Victorian fantasy series; and a mini Snowflake Origami kit (they shimmer!) Two more books will also be going in the tote, and the hint for them is that they're also novels by one of the series authors I've mentioned in this post.

If you'd like a chance to win this giveaway, in comments to this post name any novel series you think would make a great gift (or if you're not into series, just toss your name in the hat.) I will draw one name at random from everyone who participates by commenting on this or any of my other Let It Snow giveaway posts from now until midnight EST on Wednesday, December 21, 2011, and send the winner the tote with all the contents. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Added: Swiped this very cool heads up from Gerard over at The Presurfer: today if you go to Google's search page and type the words "let it snow" in the box, it (virtually) will snow, frost over your results and give you a chuckle.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Let It Snow IV

I did not make a pilgrimage to the mall or any book stores today; I had to run to the market to do my weekly shopping. I didn't have a lot to buy other than staples; during November I made up a lot of double batches of things to freeze for December dinners. I also try to keep meals fun and uncomplicated during the holidays because there's enough to do without slaving for hours in the kitchen. I've done the traditional big dinners in the past and they're exhausting; I'd rather spend my time with my family than chained to the stove.

Tonight we're having Caesar salad (from a kit), pepperoni pizza (my homemade crust + ready-made jar sauce + mini pepperonis + pre-grated mozzarella cheese.) The meal takes only about fifteen minutes to whip together, which will help if my guy gets home late (he works in retail, so I never know when I'm going to see him.) I'm also going to try a spin on a simple prosciutto bread recipe from the December issue of Food Network Magazine; instead of the plain prosciutto in the recipe, I'm using slices of prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella, and adding some Italian herbs.

You might not think of shopping for books when you run by to the grocery store, but most do have a small section. Mine has an entire aisle of reads, mostly bestsellers but some less-hyped titles, too. That was where I found a copy of this Lynn Kurland novel that I haven't read, so that's going right to the top of the holiday TBR. My store also carries a couple of shelves of discounted cookbooks, which is where I found a neat gift for one of my cookie monster friends.

The grocery store offers a lot of other gifts that go with the books for readers on your shopping list: coffee mugs, all sorts of hot beverage mixes, cookies, candies, and other things to nibble on while curled up with a great read. For hard-to-buy-for friends who enjoy cooking, look in the magazine section for a food magazine or small pamphlet-type cookbook with a recipe you think they'd enjoy, collect all the non-perishable ingredients for the recipe (or as an alternative, a specialty tool they'll need to prepare it), and put everything in a reusable shopping bag. Tie a bow on the handles and you're done.

Today I'm adding to the Let It Snow tote a trade paperback copy of my Christmas inspirational novel Home for the Holidays, a new snowflake mug, and a week's supply of Nestle's Hot Cocoa mix with mini-marshmallows. The mystery item for today is something I've mentioned in this post that is not a book.

If you'd like a chance to win this giveaway, in comments to this post tell us what is your favorite holiday-themed novel (or if you can't think of one, just toss your name in the hat.) I will draw one name at random from everyone who participates by commenting on this or any of my other Let It Snow giveaway posts from now until midnight EST on Wednesday, December 21, 2011, and send the winner the tote with all the contents. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Let It Snow III

My shopping excursion today included a stop at my local Books-a-Million, where I did some widget and teenager shopping. BAM has all the best widgety stuff for readers and writers, and a nice buy-2-get-1-free sale going on YA books.

I love buying books for kids of any age, but teens can be tough. Just as I was getting comfortable with my daughter's Twilight obsession, she outgrew the books, told me she was done with Team Edward and Team Jacob, and moved on to reading (cough) classic literature. I'm bracing myself for the day she comes home and asks, "Mom, did you read this Salinger book?" and I have to discuss that damn story with her like a rational parent should.

I don't try to think like a teenager when it comes to picking out books for them; my mindset is the same as when I'm looking for an adult. I rely primarily on authors I know are talented and can tell a great story, but now and then I'll also try new-to-me writers at random (I always buy myself a copy first to test-drive it before I give the book as a gift.) I also talk to teenagers and see what they're currently reading, what they like and don't like in a story, and what books their friends are talking about lately. They can really surprise you, too.

Once I had amassed my pile of YA gifts, I went in search of widgets. I love BAM's widgets and I always find something new whenever I'm gift hunting. On this trip I discovered a cool pen and two interesting reinventions of the bookmark:

1.'s Seven Year Pen, which is Swiss made, boasts a jumbo ink supply, and has a long-life tip ($7.99, which works out to a dollar a year if it lasts as long as the manufacturer claims. According to the package, a portion of the purchase price will be donated to environmental causes)

2. The Electronic Dictionary Bookmark, which not only keeps your place but provides over 38K definitions for words you may not recognize while you're reading ($29.95, and yes, I thought that was quite pricey, but worth it for someone who is vocabulary-challenged like my intended recipient)

3. A cat-shaped iMark magnetic bookmark by Thinking Gifts, the tail of which keeps your place as you read ($4.99, handy and exceptionally cute.)

Btw, I also found a single version of the three boxed pop-up Snow Globe greeting cards I found at B&N yesterday; one small size was $6.95 and one large size (not quite as cute as the small size) was $8.95. So if you just want one instead of three, check your local BAM for it.

Today I'm adding to the Let It Snow tote a trade paperback copy of my YA novel After Midnight and an iMark cat bookmark to help the winner keep their place while reading it. As for the mystery addition, it's a new hardcover YA novel by a debut author. This one has gorgeous cover art that caught my eye, and the premise of the story sounded quite interesting, so much so that I bought two copies so I could add one to my own holiday TBR (look carefully at today's tote pic to spot the hint.)

If you'd like a chance to win this giveaway, in comments to this post tell us which YA book or author you think a teenager would really enjoy (or if you can't think of one, just toss your name in the hat.) I will draw one name at random from everyone who participates by commenting on this or any of my other Let It Snow giveaway posts from now until midnight EST on Wednesday, December 21, 2011, and send the winner the tote with all the contents. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Let It Snow II

Today after school my daughter and I drove an hour to the largest mall in our area to take care of the last of her holiday shopping. I also made a stop at Barnes & Noble. Since this was probably going to be my last trip there before Christmas I picked up the gift books and magazines I know I probably won't find at one of the smaller book stores closer to home. Then I just browsed with the kid and watched her pick up things at random.

Here are two of my teen's gift purchases that I thought were neat: A set of absolutely gorgeous pop-up Snow Globe Greeting cards by Up with Paper ($14.95 for a set of three, and the price did made me wince until she pointed out that we spend that much on flat Hallmark cards, while these turn into dimensional art.) She also found a Cynthia Gale/Artmarks metal, satin cord and mother-of-pearl Bookmark in a Celtic Heart design with a tiny key ($6.95); quite elegant and the perfect gift for any passionate reader.

It's fun to shop with my teenager because she never goes for the usual/predictable gift, and yet whatever she selects always seems to suit her recipient to a T. I wish I could do that, but she didn't inherit that gene from me, so I simply enjoy watching her in action (and I just asked her what it's like shopping with me, and she said: "It's pretty fun. I like spending time with my mom. She makes me laugh and she laughs at my sad jokes. She just rushes me too much." Have to agree; when shopping I have two speeds: move and move faster.)

As for what I'm adding to the Let It Snow tote today: all seven novels from the original Darkyn series (I hardly ever sign complete sets of my series, and the few times I do it's for a charity or fund-raiser, so this is a rare opportunity to get them all.) Two more books are also going in the tote, and to give you a hint about them, both are new copies of books I wasn't planning to buy when I went out to assemble my personal Holiday TBR but bought anyway.

If you'd like a chance to win this giveaway, in comments to this post tell us which author or title you've not yet read but would like to try (or if you're still undecided about trying someone new, just toss your name in the hat.) I will draw one name at random from everyone who participates by commenting on this or any of my other Let It Snow giveaway posts from now until midnight EST on Wednesday, December 21, 2011, and send the winner the tote with all the contents. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Let It Snow

During the holidays I spend a lot of time in book stores, and not just because I love them and they're the candy store to my inner kid. Mainly I go to buy books and gift cards for family, friends, and any other poor unsuspecting acquaintance I can compel to read. To me there is no better gift in the world than a book, and everyone knows this so they humor me.

This year I want to celebrate the gift of reading by filling this lovely Let It Snow designed canvas tote from Barnes and Noble with books: my books (all of which I will sign for the winner), books I love, books I want to read, and anything else interesting that captures my eye while I'm out shopping. Every day from now until December 21, 2011 I will be posting more about what goes into the tote (some things I'll show you, and some that will be surprises that I hint at to add a little mystery.) To start off, today I am putting in a set of my Kyndred novels. As for today's surprise, I just saw a copy of certain ARC accidentally fall into the bag. Hmmm, must be something everyone wants to read.

If you'd like a chance to win this giveaway, in comments to this post tell us which books you're giving away as gifts for the holidays (or if you're still out shopping, just toss your name in the hat.) I will draw one name at random from everyone who participates by commenting on this or any of my other Let It Snow giveaway posts from now until midnight EST on Wednesday, December 21, 2011, and send the winner the tote with all the contents. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Hero

I couldn't help trying out this interesting quiz to determine which Regency hero I should marry, via author Carolyn Jewel:

Which Regency Hero Should You Marry?
The Knight His great, great, great, great (a few more) was a Knight, and this hero is chivalry personified. The truth is, you little strumpet, you'll have to make the first, second and third move. He'll make the fourth. He is very very talented in bed, as all Knights are.

Facebook quizzes, quiz apps & blog quizzes by Quibblo

Figures I'd get stuck with a guy on a horse. I bet he'll want me to polish all that blasted armor, too . . .

Wonder who wants your hand in marriage? Take the quiz here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Booster Ten

Ten Things to Make the Holidays Brighter

Decorate with Nature: Bring some of the natural beauty inside by making a real evergreen wreath, putting together a fruit centerpiece or fashioning ornaments for the tree out of pine cones, cinnamon sticks or winter berries.

Enter to Win: an entire set of brand-new cookbooks written by Food Network stars here, $15K in prizes from Cooking Light here, or $250K from Woman's Day here.

Experimental Treat: try making a cake, cookie or muffin recipe you've never attempted for dessert one night (for ideas, look in your cookbooks, holiday magazines or visit Cooking Light's 100 Healthy Cookie recipes page.) Ask the kids or friends to help with the cooking, decorating and tasting.

Give a Kid a Book: Any kid + any book you think they'd enjoy. For the older kids, get a copy for yourself and let the kid know you'd like to discuss it with them when they've read their copy. For younger kids, sit down and read the book to them. One of my favorite kids' books: Put Me in the Zoo by Robert Lopshire; great for boys or girls.

Help Out: Offer to spend an afternoon at the home of an elderly family member or friend and help them with chores or fix-ups around the house, run errands or do some baking with them. If everything at home is okay, take them out for lunch, shopping, or see a movie together (if you're looking for a great holiday movie to rent, check out this list of 25 classics from Moviefone.

Homemade Gift: Take a free afternoon or evening and spend it using your creative talents making a gift for someone you love. If you've never handmade anything, buy a simple kit from your local craft store to use for the project and teach yourself a new craft skill (decorating a flower pot is a fun project.)

Practical Party: Invite friends to bring over their unwrapped gifts and wrapping supplies, and have a gift-wrapping party (Moms, great to do while the kids are in school.) Make up goodie bags with scotch tape, adhesive gift tags and rolls of ribbon. Ask everyone to bring two jumbo rolls of gift paper; one to use and one to pass around. Serve coffee, tea, and a non-sticky treat like cookies or muffins. For creative gift-wrapping ideas, check out Martha Stewart's ideas here.

See the Lights: If weather permits, take a drive after dark and tour the homes in your area that are decorated for the holidays. Bring take-along cups of hot chocolate to keep you warm (for grownups, my favorite hot chocolate recipe here is delicious and not too sweet.)

Turn Off the Television. A recent survey of 45,000 showed that the happiest people watched TV 20% less than the unhappiest people. Put on a holiday music CD, break out the Scrabble or Monopoly board, or play a card game using cookies or chocolate coins as chips (for's ten best board games for 2011, go here.)

Write a Letter: Pick two of the people to whom you send holiday cards, sit down, and hand-write a one or two page letter to put in the card. Here's a great blog post on the art of letter writing. If you can't think of what to write, tell them how they've made a positive difference in your life and thank them for it (our minister had us do this over Thanksgiving, and it was fun and very uplifting.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I'm not really here, but let's pretend I am anyway so I can show you this neat plant:

This is a cyclamen, a cousin of the primrose, which is sold as a decorative plant during the winter holidays. This is also when it blooms.

From what I've read (and don't quote me on any of this; I'm by no means an expert) cyclamen are grown from a tuber (I'm assuming in the same way you grow paperwhites from a bulb or sweet potato vines from a sweet potato) and flower from December through April. They shrivel and go dormant from April until August, at which point you can replant the corm (the dried-up tuber) and grow another cyclamen for the holidays.

I spotted this one at my local grocery store and fell in love with it instantly (hence the pics.) The red and green colors are even more intense than a pointsettia and the flowers remind me a lot of orchids. Even the buds made me think of tiny swans.

Because I didn't recognize the plant, I went home to read up on the species first; I do like to know what I'm buying. Then I went back to purchase it -- only to find someone else had already snatched it up. So now I'll have to look for another one.

If you give plants as gifts during the holidays, this would probably make a gardener friend very happy.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

On the Road

I am bailing on you guys today to hit the road and see some family. So that your visit here was not entirely wasted, here's a video of what a talented (and extremely patient) artist can do with 3.2 million dots of ink:

Hero from Miguel Endara on Vimeo.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Holiday TBR

Mom and I made a pilgrimage to the nearest brick-and-mortar Barnes & Noble on Wednesday, where I filled not one but two tote bags with a lovely assortment of books. Since I've already griped about what I buy and won't buy, I thought it would be interesting to look through my bags and see how I did with my actual purchases.


Four Harlequin Presents. All were holiday-themed, and all are written by authors who are new to me. I haven't been reading HPs since they've acquired so many new authors, and I'd like to see what they're writing.

Larissa Ione's Immortal Rider. I buy everything she writes except her grocery list, so grabbed four copies, which was all the store had left. Larissa sells out quick.

Within the Flames by Marjorie M. Liu. I also buy everything Marjorie writes, and weirdly there were also only four copies left of this one, which are now all mine. When I get more from an incoming order I placed with BAM I might be nice and share them.

Highlander for the Holidays by Janet Chapman. There's an adorable dog on the cover, he doesn't seem to be warning me off and besides, I hate being predictable. Cross your fingers for me.

Fern Michaels' Christmas at Timberwoods. It's a holiday-themed romance set in a mall. I've never read a mall romance. How does one write a mall romance, anyway? Don't know, so I had to buy it.

Shiloh Walker's If You Hear Her. I think this is a story Shiloh and I discussed a while back when it was in its earliest incarnation, and I'm very interested to see what she ended up doing with the premise and the protagonist.

Holiday in Stone Creek by Linda Lael Miller. Semi-random pick. I've heard she's a decent writer. I haven't read a cowboy romance in a while.

Trade Paperbacks:

Seal of my Dreams Anthology. I don't know why I assumed this would be available only in e-book format, but I did. It was a nice surprise to see it in print. This was the only anthology I bought, but my blogpals Alison Kent, Jo Leigh and Stephanie Tyler have stories in it, and so does Barbara Samuel, so that means at least four of the stories will be well-written and interesting. Looks like the cover model is wearing a yarmulke, so maybe it's a holiday read, too. Ha.

Anne Perry's Christmas Vigil. I used to read her quite a bit before I got burned out on historicals. Don't see many duologies by one author these days. I'd call this a semi-semi-random holiday pick. I liked the cover art, too. Very Christmasy.


The Nine Lives of Christmas by Sheila Roberts. I never see authors named Sheila, and from the jacket copy it sounds like a cat is the protag. Until Sofie Kelly gets off her lazy butt and writes me another magical cat book, I'll just have to console myself with this.

Victoria Alexander's His Mistress by Christmas. Random holiday pick.

Saint's Gate by Carla Neggers. Classy author + elegant writing = worth the investment for hardcover. And a story about international art heists, suicidal nuns and the Feds in Maine? This is so a book for me. Unique cover art, too.

What I love most about going to the brick-and-mortars and browsing the shelves are the surprises, like finding Seal of My Dreams in print, and Carla's latest (I simply can't keep up with all the new releases; sometimes I don't know about them unless I see them at the bookstore.)

I'm also excited to try out the random picks because I have very good luck with that method; I started reading Linda Howard, Patricia Briggs and Rob Thurman just by picking up their books at random. Taking that chance doesn't always pay off, but sometimes you discover these great hidden jewel-type authors.

So there you have it. I also bought two tote bags, one to replace one of my favorites that I gave away, and this large, sturdy blue and white snowflake tote which I'll probably be giving away or using for a holiday gift. I know I kind of stacked the TBR in my favor, but I feel I also bought enough random picks that the mix will be interesting (Poor Janet Chapman, she's really the one in the hot seat. If this a lousy story I swear I'm done forever with dog-on-the-cover romances.)

Thursday, December 08, 2011


Thanks to everyone who joined in the Nightborn Preview giveaway. There is no greater power in the Publishing world than supportive readers, and whenever you talk about any author's books to other people you become the most effective advertising there is, and that's something no author or publisher can ever buy.

I wish I had forty ARCs to send you all instead of just four, but this will not be the only ARC giveaway, so if you don't win this time stay tuned to the blog during the holidays for another chance.

We got the magic hat to do its thing, and the winners are:

Charlene Teglia


Keita Haruka

John C

Winners, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to address to so I can get these ARCs out to you. Again, thanks to everyone for offering to help out.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Books for the Holidays

I will be heading out soon to buy some novels with holiday themes, which I will put in stockings, mail along with greeting cards and leave around the house for visiting friends who have no desire to watch The Christmas Story again. I know, it's a cute film, but after seeing that kid get his tongue stuck to the flagpole for the nine thousandth time it's starting to lose some of its charm.

As I was making my shopping list, and checking it twice, I realized over the years I've become pretty picky about holiday-themed reads, and gave some thought to what I will buy, what I won't, and why:

Anthologies: If one of my favorite authors is a headliner, or if I know at least two of the authors are decent writers, I'll take a chance and buy it. If I don't read or recognize any of the authors, I'll pass. I don't like anthologies because usually there is at least one and often two or more badly-written stories in it, so I'm only going to finish 25-50% of the book. If the majority of the stories are really bad and/or tick me off, I will cut out the one or two good stories, make a new cover for them and throw the rest of the book away.

Dogs on the Cover Art: I love dogs in stories, and will happily buy a holiday-themed book that includes a furry face. Except if the book is a romance of any kind, in which case the dog seems to be warning me not to buy it because the story is going to suck. Seriously, I don't know if it's just dumb luck or what, but I have the worst track record with holiday romances featuring dogs on the cover. Every single one I've read has been deplorable.

Family Gathering Stories: Even when they're not about the holidays these tend to make my blood sugar spike, but I can read them if the family stuff is light and kept in the background. Mary Balogh regularly writes holiday stories that feature some type of family gathering, and as an element she always keeps it beautifully under control. It's the authors who idealize and inflate family gatherings into these never ending Norman Rockwell lovefests that I can't deal with. They definitely don't speak to my personal experience, and in a strange way they strike me as kind of sad and depressing.

Holiday Horror: I love a great horror story, and I can handle one that takes place during the holidays. Unless the holidays are an integral part of the horror elements, at which point I turn and run away from the shelf as fast as I can. I have a hard enough time getting through Christmas without adding nightmares about Rudolph the razor-toothed man-eating reindeer chasing me over the river and through the woods to Santa's slaughterhouse, thank you very much.

Meaningful/Spiritual: This is a tricky one, probably because I've written a holiday-themed inspirational novel for Guideposts, and it was no walk in the park. I don't particularly care for an inspirational holiday read that uses the holidays like a club to beat the real meaning of them into my head. I know the real meaning. Would like to see that told in a story in an interesting and original way versus the same-old same-old sermonizing, but these are few and far between.

Pun Titles: I try to ignore them, really I do, and most of the time I can slap a book cover on them as soon as I get home. That said, I cannot force myself to buy any book that uses "Santa" as part of the pun title. This goes double for erotica. Hey, I love Santa, honest I do, but I don't want to ever envision him naked and doing naughty things to an elf, okay? Okay.

Holiday-themed books rarely surprise me, too, and that's probably my biggest gripe. I wish authors of all holiday books would be more creative, try some new approaches and genres, and stretch their wings. I'd love to read holiday-themed steampunk, science fiction, non-romance historicals or urban fantasy.

I'm also interested in other-than-Christian holiday themes in novels, but try to find them at the book stores? You practically have to call search and rescue. One of my favorite series when I was growing up was the All-of-a-Kind Family novels by Sydney Taylor, who wrote about a Jewish family in turn of the century New York City. I adored those books (and still have all the original copies from my childhood in my book collection), they were wonderfully written and explained Jewish traditions and holidays from the family's point of view, which was like being invited into their home and taking part in their celebrations. I was the only girl in my third-grade Catholic Sunday school class who knew what Yom Kippur was, why Jewish people had a different New Year's Day, and what the foods served for Passover dinner symbolized.

So there you have it. When I hit the book store, I'm going to do my best to find the right holiday reads for me. Maybe this year I'll get lucky and find something surprising. Hope so.

How about you? Do you like holiday-themed books? Got any recent reads you'd recommend? Let us know in comments.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Nightborn Preview

My editor kindly sent some ARCs of Nightborn, the first novel in my new Lords of the Darkyn trilogy. Usually I give away all my ARCs without asking for anything in return, but as this novel is the first book in a new venture, it's important to get the word out about it. Thus I'd like to send these ARCs to people who are willing to help me do just that.

If you're interested, in comments to this post write a pledge for what you'd be willing to do to help me promote the novel* by midnight EST on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 (and if you'd like some ideas, you might write and post a review** of it on the internet, feature the book in a blog post, talk about the new trilogy on a discussion board, or something along those lines. Be as creative as you like, too.) I will draw four names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners a signed ARC of Nightborn. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*Please note that this is not a contest for who promises to do the most. That said, I do expect the winners to keep their pledges, so please be realistic about what you actually can do.

**In regard to writing reviews, there are no expectations here or any strings attached. If you don't care for the book after reading, you are not expected to lie and/or throw up fake gushing reviews; nor will I hate you forever if you rate it with three stars or less. I don't care about stars. Just be honest and we're good.

Added to clarify: Midnight EST on December 7th is the cut-off to enter the giveaway; winners can keep their pledges whenever they like after they've read the ARC. It would be most helpful to have your help with getting the word out before March 2012, when the book is released, but it's not an iron-clad requirement.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Prezzie Ten

Ten Things That Make Great Writer Gifts

Book Store Gift Card. I know, you're tired of me saying this every year, but it's the truth: we adore them (and so do your reader friends.) Most online booksellers offer versions that you can send via e-mail, making them also uber convenient to give to faraway friends.

Books. We not only write them, we also read them. Obsessively. Some ideas: buy a collector's edition of your writer pal's favorite novel, a boxed set of their most loved series, or hunt for something they might not expect (I can now happily second Cloth Dragon's rec of Bridge of Birds; this is a fabulous story, very funny and a complete delight to read.) If you're still not sure, ask your pal to make up a wishlist.

Get-Together. If you live close enough to your writer to hang with them, schedule a day when you can drag them out of their writing cave and take them to lunch, a movie, a museum, a coffee shop or any place that keeps them out of the writing cave for a couple of hours. The more creative and inspiring the surroundings, the better chance you have of recharging their batteries, which is the whole point of the gift.

Guest Post: If you and your writer pal both have blogs, offer to write a guest post for them, conduct an interview, or provide some other material they can showcase at their place during the holidays. This will give them the corresponding time off to do something else, and add some interesting and unexpected content to their blog.

Paper. One year a friend of mine who likes to read my stories in manuscript form left on my doorstep a carton of high-quality printer paper with this note attached: Write Faster. It was a gag gift, but at the time I was down to my last ream, so it turned out to be a very useful one. Other welcome gifts of paper can be card stock, photo paper, postcard or business card form paper, or any specialty type paper they use on a regular basis (check around their printer or in their supply cabinet to see what they're using.)

Proofing: If you happen to be an excellent proof reader, offer to be your writer's second pair of eyes and proof a manuscript for them. Often we're reluctant to ask others to help with this, as it can be a big job. Professional proof-readers can be costly to hire, so this is also quite a valuable gift.

Story Storage: Writers constantly need to stores notes, research materials and other story ephemera in an organized fashion; give your writer something to use for this that is attractive, different, and/or has lots of dividers and pockets. If you're creative or crafty, design or upcycle a set of notebooks or binders with your writer's favorite colors, textures, imagery, or anything that might help inspire them. If you'd rather they do the shopping, a gift card to their local office supply store is also most welcome.

Time. None of us have enough of it these days, so a gift of time is practically priceless. You can get creative with this, too; offer to babysit, run errands, do housework or any other task you can take off your writer's hands to give them that time in exchange. Tell them to use the time off to do anything they want: write, read, relax, whatever. Since my mom has been here she's been taking care of the laundry, and that has given me at least an extra hour per day to do with as I please. Trust me, if you can manage it, this is a stupendous gift.

Tools. Writers simply love anything that can be used for the purposes of writing. Lately Writer's Bloc has been my one-stop online shop for stylish writing supplies; their sales are pretty decent and they ship fast (I love their line of Clairefontaine note stuff; they're gorgeous.) Or go to your local office supply store and fill up a bag with stuff you know your writer uses or covets.

Write or Create for Them: Among my most cherished possessions are some stories, letters, and poems that other writers have written for me. I consider all of them gifts. That goes for anything you make with a creative talent other than writing. I know the emphasis every holiday is on what you can buy, but there are things that cannot be purchased, like friendship. Whatever you give of yourself and your talent will be treasured for years to come.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Editing Ever Afters

Thanks to NaNoWriMo, writers around the planet wrote 3,073,723,493 new words during the month of November 2011. If you divide that by 50K, that's more than sixty-one thousand novels. That just blows my mind.

Most of these new novels will probably need to be edited and corrected, and will have significant portions that require rewriting and revising. Which is why we should probably designate the months of December, January and February as The International Fix the Book Festival (in reality there is a NaNoEdMo, which takes place in March, details for which you can read about here.)

As soon as I'm finished writing a novel, I do take some time off to recharge before I do my book-length edit. These days I try to give myself at least two weeks downtime, but if that's not possible I shoot for a minimum of 48 hours. During my downtime I devote myself to making my writer side part ways with the book. Which means I don't look it, I don't check anything, and I definitely try very hard not to think about it.

The break between writing and editing is important to my process, not just to refill the well but to put a little distance between me and a story I've been living with and working on daily for weeks and months and even years. It also allows me to shift from storyteller to self-editor, also imperative if I'm going to edit as objectively as I can.

I usually have no problem separating from a book once I've wrapped up the writing end of it. Crossing the finish line is a good feeling most of the time -- there's a lot of satisfaction to be had simply by getting the job done -- but occasionally that feeling doesn't happen, at which point it's more important than ever that I give myself some time away from the novel.

99% of the time I think these negative feelings are caused by doubt or worry over another factor, like concern over the quality of the writing, the actual chances of selling it, and/or what everyone will think about it (that one regularly strikes first-time novelists.) For pros it can be caused by something like a new editor, or a change of publishers, or the first book in a new series.

When it happens to me, I start to question myself, and of course I blame the writing because that's right in front of me and feels like the source of the negativity. I start having these radical urges that tell me to gut the manuscript, or start over, or cancel the contract, or give up Publishing altogether and go into the quilt business.

This is another reason why I think that break between writing and editing is so necessary. Post-novel, writers can at times be like little kids suffering from separation anxiety. Some of us get scared and don't want to let go.

Once I feel like my emotions aren't going to drag me and my manuscript under the bed and keep us there until next Christmas, I set up an editing schedule. Because I do a complete pass of the full manuscript, I divide the work into chapters starting at the beginning. Unless I'm under a severe time crunch, I generally don't edit more than three or four chapters a day, nor do I edit less than two. Editing too much of the book in one session can cause me to rush the reading and miss things I should have caught; editing too little of the book makes me more prone to linger and overthink and second-guess.

A few years back I wrote a blog post that detailed in general how I edit, and that really hasn't changed. I think these days I'm a better proof-reader, simply because I've spent so many years proofing manuscripts. I'll still use spell-check once I've finished typing in all my corrections, but my days of multiple spell-checks of any manuscript are over (and this is primarily due to Microsoft making it too wonky to be useful.)

All of this is not to say that you have to edit your novel as I do mine. Just as writing is a process unique to the writer, so is editing. I'd try any advice that you think might work well for you, but don't be afraid to evolve your own approach, either. You may find yourself editing happily ever after each book you write, and that's the sort of HEA we all want.

Related links: Carrie Kei Heim Binas's blog post on using Wordle as an editing tool ~ Do You Copy? Tips on Copy Editing Your Own Work by Janice Hardy ~ Proofreading and Editing Tips: a compilation of advice from experienced proofreaders and editors

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Holiday Linkage

I have to bail on you guys today to see my kid march in a Christmas parade, take care of a job for an editor and attend to some of the chores I've been neglecting. I think the dogs need a bath as well. Or maybe I do.

So that your stop here was not entirely wasted, and to hopefully help jumpstart a happy mood for December, here are some of my favorite holiday links:

The Official NORAD Santa Tracker is now counting down to the big night; stop by the countdown village to play some games and listen to some holiday tunes.

It's always snowing somewhere

Each year I take a few minutes to Awwww over Jacquie Lawson's animated card The Snow Dog.

If you missed it like I did, you can watch a replay of the lighting of the National Christmas Tree here.

If you have any cool holiday links -- Christmas-related or otherwise -- please share them in comments.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Wait for It

I have a few announcements, some of which due to various and sundry details to be confirmed/wrapped up/signed/so forth have to sit on the back burner for now. But in the meantime I can let you know what's confirmed and drop a few hints about the rest:

My publisher has sold foreign rights for Twilight Fall and Stay the Night to be published in German. I've also accepted an offer for audio rights to all three novels in the Lords of the Darkyn trilogy, so those will be coming out as audio books as well as print and e-books.

I've turned in to my new editor the complete manuscript for the steampunk novel I sold this month, so that's done (and this book is the one I wrote the first draft of during NaNoWriMo 2009, for those who have been nagging me about it.) More info to follow once I've signed the actual contract, finalized the title, get pub dates etc.

The second novel in the Lords of the Darkyn trilogy is also finished -- yes, I've been a busy girl -- and since someone else spilled the beans on the title of book one before I had a chance to announce it, let me be the first to tell you book two will be titled Nightbred. More details on this one are also pending.

Those of you who would like a chance to preview Nightborn, the first novel in the Lords of the Darkyn trilogy, should definitely stop by the blog next week.

Finally, while I can't discuss what I was writing because I don't want to jinx it, my total count for November was 98.4K, and the goal I set for myself was 80K, so I reached my finish line, too. Congratulations and hugs to everyone who participated in NaNoWriMo 2011.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Wishlist Ten

Dear Santa,

Normally I don't bother you, but I have some special requests this year that I believe only you can handle. Here then is my list of:

Ten Things I Would Like for Christmas

1. Every celebrity who agrees to sing The Star-Spangled Banner at special events to first take the time to actually learn all the words to the song. It's our national anthem, it's not that long or complicated, and hearing it being mangled by famous dimwits greatly annoys me.

2. The ability to open the end of a package of crackers without the cellophane tearing down to the middle or end of the package. This is so I don't have to put all the crackers I don't want in a ziploc bag that never fits back into the original box.

3. All these people in the industry who are constantly shrieking that "Print publishers suck" or "E-publishers suck" or "Self-publishing sucks" to be escorted to a deserted island without internet access or a way to escape, and left there to bitch at each other until next Christmas, as it will take at least that long for them to exhaust all their pointless whiny-ass arguments.

4. Hair coloring that doesn't burn my scalp, drip in my eyes or smell like Eau de Chernobyl. I'd also like it to come in shades that are not named after food but that are modelled on the packaging by real women who actually use the product versus these airbrushed emaciated teens who won't even see an authentic gray hair sprout from their scalp for another 25 years.

5. An e-reader that is actually handicapped-user friendly. Or a video that shows a handicapped person trying to use any of the existing e-readers on the market, so I can show it to all these Oh, you gotta have an e-reader they're so great I love mine you're really missing out people and get them off my back.

6. All candy, confections, pastries, puddings, cupcakes and pies to become 100% no-calorie, no-fat and no-cholesterol for Christmas Day. Or (if you accept my solemn promise in advance that I'll be a good girl in 2012) from Christmas Day through my birthday.

7. Goodwill toward women. I'm tired of the men hogging it every year.

8. The family member who is at this moment considering a pink bathrobe, pink satin PJs, pink slippers, pink purse, pink bath products and/or pink sneakers as a gift for me to decide that a bookstore gift card in any shade of pink would be a much more appropriate present.

9. All women who sleep with married politicians for any length of time to stop doing it and avoid all publicity while writing a sincere, anonymous letter of apology to said politicians' wives, in which they make a solemn vow to never do it again. Some therapy and community service would probably be a good idea, too.

10. Peace on Earth. Will take that over the other nine items any time.


So what's on your wishlist to Santa? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Final Day

For the last twenty-nine days you NaNoWriMo'ers have been at the keyboard working on your novels. Along with the writing you've done, you've probably stared at the monitor, swore under your breath, hit and held down the backspace and delete keys, and maybe head-desked it once or twice. You've given up reading your favorite books, watching your favorite shows on television, playing your newest video games, going shopping, hanging out with friends, putting cool new apps on your smartphone and a bunch of other personal pleasures. You may have missed a meal or four.

In the process you've thought a lot of things about yourself, your work and writing in general. Sometimes you've loved this craziness of writing a novel. Sometimes you've hated it more than that bully in high school who made your freshman year a nightmare. But most of you reached your goal, and those of you who didn't gave it your best shot.

It's not the wordcount that matters, you know. Nailing that 50K is great, but what really counts is that you went after it.

If you're taking a break now and need a recharge for your creative batteries, go here to watch and listen to a breathtaking tour of the Medieval and Renaissance galleries at the V&A, one of my favorite museums on the planet (about nine minutes, is narrated in English and has some background music.)

Break over? Okay, you've got one more day to write. Get to it, and good luck.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Making Book

Cloth Paper Scissors has debuted a new magazine, Pages, as a creative guide for art journaling and bookmaking. The Winter 2011 issue has over sixty different handmade books and journals, and is simply stunning. I haven't seen this many good ideas in one place since reading Alisa Golden's Making Handmade Books (which they also review in this issue.)

The magazine sectioned projects and articles into Bookmaking, Book Covers, Binding, Inside Pages, Art Journaling and Regulars (editor's page, advertising, supply wish lists, etc.) I think this is smart because often with bookmaking you know what you want for one part but need some ideas for others (I have no problem with making interesting covers, for example, but I definitely need some new directions to try with my pages as foundations. I'm also not especially fond of complicated bindings, and often have the most problems with that part of bookmaking, so I always like seeing alternative binding options.)

Making your own books seems like an old-fashioned concept, but with all the attention and emphasis electronic format is getting, I think it's more important than ever to devote some quality time to writing and creating personal works that can't be uploaded or downloaded, pirated or otherwise become lost to the digital abyss. As art goes it can also be intensely private; something one does out of the deep and abiding love for the physical book.

If you've never attempted making a book, and really want to, this magazine is inspiration on tap. Some of the projects are pretty simple and require materials you probably have around the house; other are more challenging and can teach savvy bookmakers some dazzling new tricks. A few of the projects could be scaled down/simplified for kids to try, and I especially liked how many of the projects features upcycled or recycled materials.

This would also make a great holiday gift for your favorite art journaler, bookmaker or diary junkie; find a pretty tote, fill in with interesting materials and supplies and top it off with a copy of the magazine.

Monday, November 28, 2011

No Cost Ten

Ten Things You Can Have for Free

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

ArtWeaver "lets you paint creatively with the help of a huge range of painting tools. You can create sketches from photos or just experiment with colors" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7)

Sign up for free membership at the Cloth Paper Scissors website here and get a free e-book: Exploring Encaustics and Encaustic Art: 4 Free Articles Demonstrating Encaustic Collage and Encaustic Painting Techniques.

FlashNote is "a quick notes manager" and according to the web site: "When you need a rough copy to save or to process some pieces of a text, Flashnote is small, quick and convenient. Press the shortcut-key combination and a rough copy is on the screen in a flash of a second. Press ESC and the program hides. It's that simple. You don't need to find a place for text, to run Notepad or huge heavy PIM. Flashnote is a lightweight notes manager, everything gets done quickly, simply and in a more convenient way." [The designer notes that FlashNote is NOT a Notepad replacement program; but it looks like they have a portable version, too] (OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7)

FreePlane is a "free and open source software to support thinking, sharing information and getting things done at work, in school and at home. The core of the software consists of functions for mind mapping, also called concept mapping or information mapping, and tools for using mapped information" (OS: Designer notes: "Freeplane runs on any operating system on which a current version of Java is installed and from USB")

Whether you have a complicated real life or ficitional family to sort out, the free trial of Gaia Family Tree™ promises to help: "Plug your information directly into the software, and let it build your family tree for you. With its simple interface, Gaia Family Tree™ allows you to create your family tree with a few clicks - no need to be an expert in computers or genealogy" (OS: Windows XP / Windows Vista / Windows 7)

The free express version of MapleXp time-tracking software allows you to "keep track of multiple tasks and categorize how much time you spent working on each of them. Main features of MapleXp include: unlimited number of tasks organized into hierarchical structure, unlimited number of work items (single piece of time spent on a particular task), pay rate for tasks to invoice customers, totals calculated across time and tasks, rich configuration capabilities" (OS: Windows XP/2003/Vista/2008/7)

Pigeonhole Free Organizer "shows you a grid of pigeonholes similar to a spread sheet. Click on a pigeonhole and type in whatever you want - it is saved automatically. When you want to recall the information, just move the mouse over the grid. Whatever you typed into the pigeonhole the mouse is over appears automatically in the viewer window. There are 175 pigeonholes displayed at any one time so you can view up to 175 different pieces of information just by moving the mouse over the grid...... Could anything be easier?" (OS: Not specified, likely Windows.)

PixBuilder Studiois a "free image editing software program for digital photo editing, images processing, and resizing. For digital photo editing, you can use its many professional quality functions. PixBuilder Studio allows you to use the following color management functions: brightness/contrast management, color balance, and levels manipulation. For professional results, you can use the curves function. In PixBuilder Studio, to carry out great, professional looking photo editing, you can manipulate the image with color channels. Layers concept, multi-step undo, gradients and masks support, and text layers support all make PixBuilder Studio a great graphics software program for image processing and creating illustration" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7 (32-Bit/64-Bit)

QT Writer Express can be used "for anything from writing a quick letter to producing an entire book with embedded illustrations, tables of contents, indexes, and bibliographies. QT Writer is a complete and powerful software solution for creating, editing and viewing various types of documents. A number of available features give you a fine degree of control over the formatting of text, pages, sections of documents, and also entire documents. You may also save your documents in a variety of industry standard formats like pdf, rtf, doc, txt, and our own presentation format ssp. Insert special characters, emotional icons, pictures, and images into your writing for a more colourful display of your thoughts and ideas. Create pdfs without any additional software. Use the built-in PDF capabilities of QT Writer to share your work easily and with everyone! Adobe Acrobat is NOT required to create these handy files." [Designer notes that the application is also completely portable.] (OS: Windows 2000 / XP / Vista / 7 / 8)

This is the last week for free access and downloads to my writing how-to e-book Way of the Cheetah, which will be going back into the vault on December 2.