Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of PBW 2012

Every year I look back through the archives to see how things went, what I accomplished and where I might improve things with PBW and my writing life. It's a helpful exercise and it always surprises me in some way.

As I mentioned yesterday, my theme for 2012 was coloring outside the lines, and I made some serious progress with that by stepping outside my comfort zones, trying new things and pushing myself almost daily to be more creative. I was also very public about it, which is not the usual thing for me, but I think it helped to share the process. I can't say I was 100% successful in always coloring outside the lines, as I ended up dodging a few things I really intended to do, but overall I'd say I did well with the challenge.

Several people have mentioned to me that I wasn't as funny this year on the blog as I have been in years past. With all the self-improvement projects I've been working on (and the related stress) I think I probably have been too serious. Thus one of my goals for 2013 is to remember to be more entertaining on a regular basis.

The world didn't end in 2012, so a lot of Doomsday theorists have egg on their face. I'm proud to have been one of the people who lobbed some eggs. The world did change, however, and not always for the better. No year will ever be entirely happy, and we shouldn't expect that. What I hope is that what caused so much hatred and ugliness in 2012 will inspire us to come together in kindness and generosity, and do what we can to help each other more often. Silly, I know, but a girl can dream, right?

To summarize the rest, here is a list of:

Ten Things I Did in 2012

Lost a friend and an inspiration.

Decided to make a thousand pieces of art in a year (and did it.)

Discovered my fiction had become reality again.

Laughed at myself.

Read lots of great books.

Resurrected the second series I've had killed by a publisher.

Snapped some neat photos.

Sold a new series in a new genre.

Survived yet another Apocalypse.

Took an online art class.

Wrote a novel, and posted it online while I was writing it, and won NaNoWriMo in the process.

As for the blog, here are the posts I think were the best of PBW 2012:

January: Mistake Me For, Depression, Despair and Do Nothing, Domain Explained.

February: The 8-Track Mentality, The eBrush, Fiction Becomes Fact II.

March: Shopping for Vampires (guest post at Silk and Shadows blog), Carry On, Next Stop Irony.

April: Ten Things That May Indicate You've Written a McQuery, Unveiling Your Characters, EuroSPAMmed.

May: Ten (Weird) Things That Happened Last Week, Balloons, City in the Sky.

June: Ten Excuses for Your Paranormal Heroine Not to Have Sex with Your Paranormal Hero, Short Story Sins, Seeing Story.

July: LEGO® Logic, Ten Things That May Indicate You've Written a McOpener, Ten Things I Saw on My Trip to Savannah.

August: Wordsmithing, See for Yourself, Must Chuckle.

September: Poetry Sparks, Writers Visual Dictionary, Rio.

October: Mr. Ray Persists, Ten Things I Hate About Cover Copy, Making It Work.

November: Character Art, Making It, Battling.

December: Dreaming in Emerald, You Might be a Writer if . . . , Creative Collisions.

Welcome 2013. May you bring more good luck than bad for all of us.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Next Year

Finishing the last major project of 2012 has me thinking about the new year. My inclination is to plan out every second of everything, of course, but aside from a couple of deadlines I haven't. In fact, I haven't even bought my 2013 desk planner yet (disclaimer: I usually wait until after New Year's, when they're marked 75% off.)

I think I did okay with 2012's theme of coloring outside the lines. I took an art class, started and finished the 1000 Cards Project, sold a new series in a new genre and joined a literary penpal club (yeah, I know, but it's actually been pretty cool.) I also got involved with NaNoWriMo in a major way, started working with two new and very interersting guy editors (Hi Adam and Tim), both of whom helped me to expand my writing horizons -- all very different for me.

2012 wasn't all sunshine and happiness, and I certainly didn't accomplish everything I wanted to do, but I'm not interested in rehashing or dwelling on the negative. It's like backtracking over and over on a story trying to make it perfect when you should be writing something new. I'd rather write something new.

2013 will be a landmark year for me in a couple of ways. This is my fifteenth year working as a full-time professional writer. My fiftieth novel will be published in August. It would be easy to kick back and take it easy and think I've proven myself, but writers are only as good as their last novel. I'm not kicking back for anything; I have books to write.

What's ahead? I'm not sure. The universe, which over the last couple of years has been pretty active in guiding me in certain directions, hasn't exactly dropped a sign on my head lately. I'm kicking off the year with a road trip, so I'll keep my eyes open, but I think for me 2013 will be a bit of a mystery year. We'll see.

Are you making a New Year's resolution, or going with a new theme for 2013? Let us know in comments.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

1000 Cards Project Finished

Last stitch in the very last card finished, as of 1:30 am this morning.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fifty Away

This week I've been working on an art project I started back in January, which involves making artist trading cards. ATCs are basically any sort of art which measures 2.5" X 3.5". Here's one I quilted out of batik cloth, batting, copper holographic thread and some beads; all material and scraps leftover from other projects.

This quilted card took about an hour and a half to make. It was too cold to work out on the porch, so I sat in the garage and listened to some music while I sewed. I let the card come together as it wanted to; I didn't have any specific design in mind. I also thought about an upcoming road trip, plans for my kid's birthday and visualized a few scenes for my next novel.

Seems like a lot of effort for such a small piece of art. By itself the ATC barely covers half the palm on my hand. It's a little crooked at the corners and a couple of the quilting stitches are skewed. When I look at it I see another three projects I made but no one else will make that connection. I like how the thread catches the light, but I probably could have done something fancier with the beading. Luckily I'm more into expression than perfection.

On the back of my ATC I wrote a few things: a title, the date I made it, the name of the project, the card's number, my signature and the category it belongs to. The title of this one was inspired by the card's number.

Once I finished the card I added it to this little box in which I'm keeping all the cards I've made in December. Most of them are made from recycled materials like gift wrap, old calendars, Christmas cards from last year and the like. A friend sent me some cute little scented stickers; those are decorating a couple of cards and make my box smell deliciously of chocolate. In that pouch are cards with all of my favorite Asian poems collaged on my old 2012 desk calendar. For this month I also used an old letter I wrote to Santa, a dinged-up copy of my favorite quotation of all time, and two pieces of music my daughter was going to toss in the garbage. It doesn't look like much, I know, but it's just one month's worth of cards.

I don't often think about the rest of the project. I photograph whatever I have finished once a month and then stow it away in a trunk. Mostly I think about the art I'm going to create today because that's the work I have to do. When I finish I do plan to take out everything and photograph the lot. Which is a lot; as of tonight 950 ATCs. I'm fifty cards away from my goal of making 1000 cards in a year. To give you some idea of how much art that is, if you wanted to lay out my cards end to end in a straight line you'd need to use a football field to do it.

I know, to you they're just a bunch of cards. To me they're my art, my paintings, my quilting, my poetry, my sculptures, my collages, my letters, my creations. My wisdom and my stupidity. My failures and my triumphs. A year of my life spent immersed in beauty whenever possible. My heart in (almost) a thousand pieces.

I've never made a thousand of anything, and I probably put a couple thousand hours of hand work into it. There were times this year when I was ready give up on it, too. Twice I gave myself a month off from it; once so I could mourn a friend, and the second time so I could write a book. This project has reduced me to tears, spawned more than one temper tantrum and made me face all my inadequacies as an artist. It's also been with me every single day of 2012, either in my hands or in my thoughts, and pushed me to try things I might never have otherwise attempted. I've called myself an artist before now -- once already in this paragraph, but this past year is the first time I've really felt it was true. And that's why I did it -- not merely to challenge myself, learn new techniques or create something the size of a football field, but to discover who I am as an artist. Now, after a year, after making almost a thousand pieces of art, I can honestly say I'm just beginning to know.

I'm showing this to you because I know there is something inside you, something like my project, something waiting to be discovered. It could be a painting or a song or a story. It could be a lot of them. It's in that place where you keep your dreams, where you hold onto them and promise yourself that someday you will get to them. There is a new year just around the corner, and it's filled with 365 somedays. My wish for you in 2013 is that you keep one of those promises, and make one of your dreams happen.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

SF Sub Op

I spotted an interesting SF sub op over at Ralan's place that I wanted to pass along in the event anyone has some SF they want to sub:

World Weaver Press has an open call for their upcoming antho Far Orbit: Speculative Space Adventures, and is looking for "modern space adventures crafted in the Grand Tradition. We are not looking for slavish imitations of past classics. Rather, we would like to receive stories that establish a new tradition in the much maligned sci-fi adventure genera — smart, modern stories built around the classic traditions. We are looking for adventure stories that are creative, readable, and memorable. We are also looking for midnight indulgences; exciting stories that transport you from the everyday grind and leave you wondrously satisfied. All adventure-based sci-fi genera are welcome but stay away from fantasy elements unless they are genetically engineered or cybernetic. Stories can begin on Earth but the major action should happen out there, beyond the edges of our blue marble. Dystopia (Mad Max) and fantasy-like adventures (John Carter of Mars) have to be very special to be included in this anthology. Please, no fan fiction." Length: up to 10K; Payment: $0.01/word. On reprints: "Previously published stories are acceptable but we will not publish stories that have been previously anthologized." Electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Submission period opens January 1st, 2013; Deadline March 31, 2013.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

From Canada to London

I'm off making merry today, but here's a very cool holiday video (with music, for those of you at work):

Around the Globe- A Snow Globe Timelapse Journey from Canada to London from All Cut Up Films on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Wishing You

Monday, December 24, 2012

Prezzie Ten

Ten Things That Make Excellent Last-Minute Gifts

Disaster Relief: Make a donation to the American Red Cross in honor of friends or family, and they will e-mail your recipients to let them know. You'll also be helping people who are in desperate need right now, which may be the finest gift you can ever give to anyone.

Etsy Gift Card: My favorite online shopping site for gifts, art supplies and endless inspiration now offers gift cards.

Healthy Cooking Subscription: Cooking Light magazine, which focuses on articles and recipes for lighter, healthier eating, has a 2-for-1 holiday offer that allows you to give two subscriptions for $18.00.

Gift of Flickr: This might be a good present for anyone who just dumped Instagram after their ridiculous change to their terms of service; a one-year pro account is $24.95.

Instant Gift E-books: Did you know you can just send someone with a Nook an e-book as a gift? I didn't until a friend sent me one, and that was very cool. B&N has all the details here.

Levenger, Discounted: Admittedly a bit pricier, Levenger is still the holy grail of writer and reader prezzies, and right now they're offering 25% off your entire order; use the promo code HOLIDAY to get the discount.

NaNoWriMo: Yes, it's eleven months until the madness starts again, but you can still support the wonderful folks at NaNoWriMo with a donation. When you do, you not only help them host the annual event, but you're also donating to the Office of Letters and Light, which offers free creative writing programs to nearly 350,000 kids and adults in approximately 100 countries, 2,000 classrooms, 200 libraries, and 500 NaNoWriMo regions every year.

Not Your Ordinary Car Fish: Yes, Virginia, there is a Cthulhu car fish, and you can get it here for $9.00; perfect for the Lovecraft fan in your life.

Smithsonian Museum Store Online: The Smithsonian has almost fifty unusual gifts you can buy for $25.00 or less, and all of the profits from your purchases directly support the museum.

Write Stuff: For the writer on your list, Writer's Bloc has some fabulous sales going on right now; my personal favorite is this little Clairefontaine notebook for $5.40.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dear Santa

I know I haven't written in forty years, and I apologize for being such a lousy correspondent. When you didn't deliver the spaceship I asked for back in '72 I sort of lost faith. Not that I blame you; if you had I'd probably still be in orbit around Pluto right now. So you definitely made the right call on that one. I don't want to ask for anything for myself, either. I have my family and friends, all of whom make every day a gift, and that's more than enough to last me forever.

That said, I do have four specific requests to make on behalf of others:

A permanent end to these end-of-the-world scenarios. I appreciate the vast appeal that the Apocalypse has to some, but it mostly frightens people. It especially scares children, and I think they have enough to fear in this world without adding to that pile.

A little more time for writers to write without something getting between them and the page. I know you can't destroy fear and doubt, but if you could send them on an extended vacation until my friends finish their books, that would be excellent.

Books for those who can't afford books. I started to help out on this one by donating a book to a child every time I visited a book store this winter, and if you can't manage this yourself I hope you'll inspire others to do the same.

Finally, some peace and good will. Both are running in short supply practically everwhere, so please distribute as generously as possible.

I know I'm asking a lot, but I do have forty years of unused Christmas wishes, so I don't think you'll mind if I cash them all in now. Please give my best to Mrs. Claus and the eleves. Also, sorry about any frisking the TSA may give you and the reindeer tomorrow night. We all have to deal with that, and it's best just to smile and let them look in your shoes.


Saturday, December 22, 2012


Not surprisingly the world continues on, and so do the holidays -- hooray for us all, for that means among other things we can keep reading and sharing our love of great books. It was with that thought that the magic hat went to work tonight, and with a little assistance from Sock chose the winner of the Sock of Christmas Past giveaway, and that is:

Fran K, who is giving her younger sister The Girl who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen (an excellent choice, too.)

Fran, when you have a chance please send your BookWish, your full name and ship-to address to My thanks to everyone for joining in and the world for not ending. Onward!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Waves

My guy is a former surfer dude, so that might explain why this is my new favorite Christmas video (also contains music, for those of you who are at work):

Merry Christmas from Billabong on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

About the Impending Apocalypse

My guy and I have been joking about the latest doomsday prediction, which is supposed to happen tomorrow. Things like, Better wash the dogs, the world's ending on Friday or Armageddon is almost here, have you paid the bills? It's not that we mean to disrespect those who are putting faith in this theory, it's just that we've been through several supposed Apocalypses already (1975, 1982, 1994, 1997, Y2K, Harold Camping X 2, etc.) and after so many letdowns it's getting rather tough to work up the proper amount of terror. Also, given what the actual Mayan are saying, this is a little like believing the world will end every January 1st when we throw out last year's calendars.

Could the world end tomorrow? Sure. Life is a cycle with a beginning and an end, and you and me and this planet are not exempt from that truth. The world could end today. It could end in the next ten minutes, too. Wouldn't that be a surprise?

Frankly I don't think much about the world ending. Mostly I think about right now and the day ahead of me. It's twenty minutes to eight on Wednesday morning. Tonight we're having guests for a holiday dinner, so the future I'm concerned with is making them a good meal that they'll enjoy and remember with pleasure. I'm hoping the world won't end before I serve dessert, because I have a pretty spectacular one planned.

If weather permits we'll probably have a fire outside, too, so we can gather around it after dinner to roast marshmallows and drink hot cocoa and talk. This is how we make merry during the holidays, spending time with friends and family, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Even if I knew the world would end on Friday.

Worrying about things that may or may not happen is human nature, I guess. Fear and darkness and dread are always there, hoping to get into our hearts and poison our lives and steal from us the opportunities we have to know happiness and peace. From my POV I can't do anything to stop the world from ending, and I know I'm not going to live forever, so it seems pointless to dwell on it. I'd much rather spend my time here making good memories and enjoying the blessings in my life. Whenever the time comes for me to move on to the next place, which it will whether I go alone or with the rest of the world, I can leave knowing I didn't waste my time here being afraid of it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Sock of Christmas Past

I'm sure my regulars recognize this guy, the ornament formerly known as the Sock Ornament of Doom, which was renamed the Sock of Christmas Past by Claire Cherven last year (and I think it looks much happier now that it has a merrier moniker.)

Sock, who has figured prominently in our holiday celebrations ever since my daughter made it in preschool, wanted to get on the blog again this year. I had a giveaway in mind, but no exact theme for it, so I decided to let Sock do the honors.

In comments to this post, name the title of a book you're giving as a gift during the holidays by midnight EST on Friday, December 21st, 2012. I'll draw one name at random from everyone who participates, and Sock will grant the winner a BookWish*. This giveaway 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 that is available for order from an online bookseller, up to maximum cost of $30.00 U.S. I will throw in any applicable shipping charges involved.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Character Journals

The University of Chicago is blogging about a very neat journal mystery:

Yesterday we received a package addressed to “Henry Walton Jones, Jr.”. We sort-of shrugged it off and put it in our bin of mail for student workers to sort and deliver to the right faculty member— we get the wrong mail a lot. Little did we know what we were looking at. When our student mail worker snapped out of his finals-tired haze and realized who Dr. Jones was, we were sort of in luck: this package wasn’t meant for a random professor in the Stat department. It is addressed to “Indiana” Jones.

This included a handwritten journal penned by Abner Ravenwood, the father of Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark (and you can read more about the mystery and details of what else came in the package at UChicago's Admissions tumblr blog here.) That someone would go to all the trouble of creating a journalistic homage to a fictitious character doesn't surprise me; writers do it all the time. That they mailed it off to a real university is part of the mystery, as in the film the college Indy worked at was completely invented. My guess is the creator might have once been a UChicago student -- and (obviously) a huge fan of the Indiana Jones movie franchise.

Creating a character journal is much like keeping one of your own; the difference is that you write in character, as this enterprising soul did as Abner Ravenwood. Your dates are your character's timeline, either in backstory or the present (you might even want to explore their future by journal), and any photos, sketches or other visual additions should be character- and story-appropriate.

This kind of journaling can be fun, but it's also serious practice with POV. When you write as your character you have to see things through their eyes, and it can help you understand their thoughts and responses. Before I wrote Evermore I created a poetry journal and a sketchbook for Jayr, my female protagonist, so I could work out her feelings for Aedan mac Byrne, the male protagonist. The project became part of the story, inspired the title of the novel and some of the poetry I wrote in character is actually published in the book, so it was not only immensely helpful, it actually became part of the story.

If you don't want to commit to a project as sizeable as a journal, try writing a letter or a blog post in character. The more time you spend in your character's POV, the better you'll get to know how they think, and like me you may even come up with some fun and valuable story material.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Ten

Ten Things to Make Your Holidays Fun

Before you toss out your old 2012 calendars, here's 5 ways to reuse them and a bunch of fun craft projects to make with them.

Cooking Light magazine has a nice collection of Christmas cookie recipes here that take a lighter approach to classic holiday treats.

This article on eco-friendly holiday gift wrapoffers some good tips on ways you can skip the pricey store-bought rolls and go green by recycling stuff around your house as wrapping material.

For those who would rather dodge the malls, here are Ten Things You Can Make as Last-minute Gifts

If you need a delicious treat or a sweet hostess gift but you don't want to haul out the candy thermometer, try my no-brainer fudge recipe here.

The Official NORAD Santa Tracker is keeping a countdown to the big night; this year they have a series of hidden interactive activities in their Christmas village for the kids to enjoy (click on the activities tab on the home page.)

Snowday's holiday classic Create a Snowflake site is celebrating their 10th year, and it's just as much fun as ever to make your own (virtual) snowflake.

Can you throw away Christmas cards? For some reason I can't, so I was glad to find Martha Stewart's nine crafty ways to recycle old Christmas cards.

Jacquie Lawson's animated e-card The Snow Dog is one of my favorite holiday stops.

Writer pals are not that tough to please; here's my ten list of gifts you can make for us.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Old Look, New Cover

NAL is repackaging and re-covering some of their old eSpecials, which includes my own Master of Shadows e-book. Here's a look at the revised cover:

I'm glad they decided to stay true to the old cover image, as I actually designed the original and I've always been rather fond of it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Creative Collisions

A first-time reader e-mailed to ask if Christian Lang, the female protagonist in Nightbred, was named after the male protagonist of that very popular, allegedly Twilight fanfic-based, book that everyone but me has read. While it's true they have the same first name, I used it first, beginning in 2006 when Chris first appeared as a character in Dark Need, book three of the original Darkyn series. Not that it matters to anyone but me, but she's also named for one of my nieces. I'm quite glad that when I created her character I didn't also decide to use Gray, a family surname, for my Chris.

This type of creative collision happens infrequently, but when it does it can create a lot of stress for the writer. I'm fortunate that I have public creative provenance on my use of the name; no one can argue with a published book with an earlier copyright date. But what if I was a writer who had yet to be published, and what if I had used Gray instead of Lang? Is that okay?

Before I answer that, let's talk about the legalities surrounding the commercial use of names. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a trademark is "a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others." Names can be trademarked to protect a brand and to prevent others from using them, and I believe (and I'm not an attorney, so don't quote me on this) that is the only way you make any name you create exclusively yours.

You've probably heard that copyright protects anything you write from the moment you create it, and it does, with an important but. Copyright protection applies to the entire work, not individual names or titles used in the work (as stated in this Copyright Basics .pdf from the U.S. Copyright Office, which breaks down the federal law in simple language.)

Creative collisions in the Publishing industry aren't quite as black and white as trademarks and copyright. Most ethical publishers try to avoid or prevent creative collisions, especially among in-house authors. This happened to me when I titled my third Kyndred novel Winterfire, which by complete coincidence was the same title author Jo Beverly used for a historical novel that was being reprinted within the same year. My editor let me know about the collision, at which point I contacted the author myself to let her know about it. She was very gracious and had no objection to me using the same title, and no doubt there would have been zero shelf confusion. I prefer to use original titles for my work, however, so in the end I decided to change it to Frostfire to eliminate the collision.

I've heard tales of editors encouraging writers to lift names or titles from authors who work for other houses, and I wanted to comment on this, too. I've worked for a lot of publishers, and I've never once had any of my editors tell me to do that, but it's possible that it happens among the less ethical. It's not fair, and it's unpleasant when it happens to you, but it's not illegal. Bottom line, there is nothing we can do about it, so my advice is to stop worrying about things you can't control or change, and always try to be original with your work.

Which brings us to how the writer should deal with being on the downside of a creative collision. Let's go back to my little creative collision of Christian Lang with that other Christian. This time we'll pretend I'm an unpublished writer who has been tinkering with my manuscript Nightbred for some time now. For the sake of argument, let's also imagine I named my character Christian Gray when I started working on the story back in 2006, and have only just now discovered the existence of the book I haven't read with the more notorious Christian. I love my character's name and I can't think of them as anyone else. What do I do?

If I were me (which I am) I'd change the name. Oh, in a heartbeat, without a second thought. For one thing, I don't think I'm going to get my Christian Gray past any ethical editor I submit to; they're going to assume that a) I'm trying to hitch my story wagon to a very popular novel, b) I'm clueless as to what's going on in the market or c) I have no imagination. That's definitely a concern as we want to show editors we are original versus knockoff artists, but it's not my primary motive to make the change.

No matter how much it hurts, I'd rather retrain my brain to think of the character by a different name than have my work even accidentally associated by any reader with that other Christian and that other author. This is where you get to the core of who you are as a writer. I'm seriously invested in being original, so I'm willing to sacrifice just about anything to protect my work and to keep it free of any creative collisions.

Finally, when you get into a situation like this, think about what's most important to you. I know how attached we get to characters; to us their names aren't simply words on a page. We bring them to life, we get to know them, and we live with them in our heads for months and even years at a time. Often they can seem as real to us as a member of the family or close friend. The resistance to change is natural; you'd never rename your brother or your Dad or your best pal. But remember what Shakespeare said about roses? Whatever you call them, their beautiful fragrance doesn't change. Same goes for your character. Take it from me, a writer who still occasionally thinks of her two most popular characters as Vanessa and Jacques-Sebastien (and if you're scratching your head, that's what I originally named Alexandra Keller and Michael Cyprien.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

BookLoop Variations

This past weekend I worked on some new ideas I had for my BookLoops (my reinvention of the bookmark; see my original concept post here) and came up with a couple of interesting variations I wanted to share.

I'm still testing different types of ribbon and other materials for the loop, and have one more to add to the list: silk. The latest trend of big statement beads in the craft stores also caught my eye, and I bought some strands of those along with some different style pendants:

Darice has reasonably-priced strands of glass and shell statement beads that are fun to play with; they range in price from $2.99 to 6.99 depending on the style. Laliberi, which sells a line of metal jewelry-making components, has some interesting connectors that come with jump rings already attached; I picked up a pair regularly priced at $5.99. Blue Moon, one of my favorite bead sources, had some fun metal pendants in pairs and quads at the same sale price, and Plaid's pendant duos were even cheaper, on sale for $2.39. Tori Spelling's Styled jewelry-making line has pieces that are mainly too big for use as anchors, but I found one onyx and crystal piece that I liked for $5.99. I also picked a couple of 1/4" ribbon spools out of a bargain bin at 2 for $1.00. All my savings convinced me to splurge a little on some 15 yard spools of 1/4" silver organdy ribbon for $2.49. All of the above were purchased at my local JoAnn's (and because I shopped during a sale I got everything 40% off.)

I used the Plaid pendant duos and a couple of Blue Moon silver Buddhas to make some double-anchor BookLoops. These are made in the same way as the original design except that you put matching or complimentary anchors on either end. It adds a bit more weight to the loop but gives it a more finished look when it's in place in the book. I also liked that I could drape the piece over my neck like a scarf while I was reading versus wearing it like a necklace. This variation would be fun if you want a ying/yang-themed BookLoop or have connecting pieces you can use on either end.

Once I'd done a few double-anchor loops, I stopped knotting the beads in place on one end to see if I could make it adjustable to accommodate the bigger-style paperbacks as well as the standards. It worked great. To make this type, cut your loop material to the length you need for your largest book, add only a bottom knot to keep the anchor you want to adjust from sliding off. Once you've cinched the loop, slide the beads that aren't knotted in place up or down to accommodate the size of your book. This also helps make the loop a little more secure when it's in the book.

I'm working on another project with hand-dyed silk ribbon, and stole a couple lengths of that to see how it would work as a loop. I'll warn you upfront; once you use real silk ribbon for a BookLoop you'll never want to go back to organdy. It's thin enough to be threaded directly through the beads with a tapestry needle, has almost no weight at all and sings through your fingers like a whisper. Real silk is also sturdy enough to hold the weight of your anchors. The only drawback to using silk ribbon is that it snags easily, so you do have to be careful when you're pulling it through your anchors. Silk does wrinkle like crazy, too, but I actually like the vintage look a little crumpling gives it. The textile artist who dyed my ribbons no longer sells them, but you can make do with any narrow embroidery-type silk.

My next experiments will be with sewing on anchors to make them double-sided and hide the end knot of the loop. I'm also fiddling with thread and wire wrapping to hold them in place. For the benefit of any new visitors, if this is the first time you've seen this idea, please note that I am fine with anyone using the BookLoop design for whatever they want. Feel free to make your own, improve on it, make them into holiday gifts, promo items for your books, hand them out, sell them, whatever you like. I always love to hear what you're doing with them, too, so if you come up with an interesting variation of your own let me know.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

You Might be a Writer if . . .

Anyone who touches your manuscript is absolutely required to answer two questions: Did you read it? and, based on their answer, Why not? or What did you think of it?

On your desk you have things like five pads of half-used sticky notes, a day-old cup of coffee, a dog-eared copy of Roget's Thesaurus, a cable for something you can't remember, and/or a pen that ran out of ink last week.

The only thing that worries you about the North Korean "weather satellite" currently tumbling out of control in the stratosphere is whether or not another writer will publish a story based on it before you can.

There is at least one Idiot's Guide to something about writing in your book collection; you keep hidden in the back of a desk drawer.

When someone tells you that they're writing a novel you ask them what it's about and then critique it in your head as they're describing it.

When your best friend calls to tell you about the horrendous argument she had with her guy, you take notes on the dialogue.

You have tabbed a Bible for easy reference but you haven't attended church services since you were six.

You have argued with or complained to a bookseller about the shelving arrangements in their store.

You have outlined a novel idea featuring a protagonist who is either an FBI agent, mutant, Navy Seal, private detective, shape-shifter, star ship navigator, werewolf or vampire, or some combination thereof. You have no intentions of writing the novel but still hang on to the outline, just in case.

You own a shirt printed with a profound quotation about writing that doesn't fit you anymore.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Something Beautiful

Can you guess what this is before the end of the video? (includes music and sound effects, for those of you at work)

infime from Cut And Cook Studio on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


The winners of the Wonderful Winter Reads giveaway are:

Joyce M., who is reading 30 Pieces of Silver by Carolyn McCray

Nicole, who is reading Barbara Bretton's "Casting Spells".

digillette, who is reading the second book in Christine Henry's "Black Wings" series and plans to read the next Dresden Files book, the next in Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid's Chronicles series, and about 30 other books.

Winners, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to address to so I can get these books out to you. My thanks to everyone for joining in

Monday, December 10, 2012

Elsewhere with Gifts

Today I'm at Bitten by Books recommending some fun gifts for the readers on your shopping list. Stop by if you get a chance and enter to win this tote packed with signed books and all the reader gifts, too.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sunday Ten

Ten Things About Submission Opportunities

Blood Bound Books has an open call for their Night Terrors III anthology (scroll down on guidelines page): "As with all great trilogies, the third one always changes something we thought we knew. And now it’s up to you to help us forge this new direction. While this third installment will continue to plague readers with restless nights and sweat-soaked sheets, we’re now offering 5 cents a word for your best nightmare-inducing tales. As always, this anthology is open to the wide gamut of horror and all its subcategories. Remember, evil has no boundaries and neither do we! Science fiction and dark fantasy will also be considered as long as stories contain strong elements of horror. Third person stories are strongly preferred, but we’ll read first person as long as they are extremely well done or the POV is integral to the plot. Stories may take place in any setting or time period, as long as it’s well written, powerful, and original. Most importantly, scare us. We want to be haunted by your story long after we put it down. Gore and sex are acceptable, as long as it serves a purpose." Length: 750-5000 words; Payment: 5¢/word. No reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: January 1st, 2013.

Author M.R. Jordan is holding a story contest which includes a critique: "Any Genre. 3500 words or fewer. I'll pick three stories to put on my blog but there is only one cash prize of $50.00. I'll pay second and third place winners a token flat rate of $5.00 for first world rights, non-exclusive. Remember, I'm not a business. My blog is not a magazine. However, I do get a couple hundred visitors a month so the exposure is pretty good. Also, the contest is free. Submissions close on January 5th." See blog post here for more details.

Journalstone Publishing is holding its 3rd annual Horror publishing contest: "Get your HORROR novel published and earn a $2,000 advance against future royalties. If you are not familiar with the last two year’s winnesr please check out That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley which won in 2011 and Twice Shy by Patrick Freivald and The Devil of Echo Lake, both of which tied for 1st place in 2012." Genre: "Horror only. Nothing else counts in this contest." Length: 75K or more, Payment: "The winner will receive a $2,000 advance against future royalties and have his/her novel published by JournalStone." The publisher also notes this on payment: "Scared about not winning? Second prize gets a $500 advance and a published novel. Yes, you have to sign a contract first. Third place gets a $200 advance and for the last time, also gets a published novel. Not one of the top three? No worries, you might still be good enough to get your novel published, you will just have to earn your money on the royalties. We only have so much to give out for free." I don't see any notations on reprints so you might query on those; see guidelines for more details. Deadline: "All submissions must be received no later than 11 p.m. Pacific time April 1, 2013."

Nihilist SF e-zine is currently accepting submissions: "We accept science fiction short stories 2,000-10,000 words. The absence of any moral message is preferred. We do not accept work that has been published elsewhere. We do not accept simultaneous submissions – if you’ve submitted a story to someone else, wait until you hear back before submitting to us." Payment: "We pay $5 per story on publication via PayPal." Electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

On Spec, the Canadian magazine of the fantastic, is now open for submissions: "The ON SPEC editors are looking for original, unpublished speculative fiction (SF) and poetry -- fantasy, horror, ghost stories, fairy stories, magic realism, etc. Our mandate is to give our readers the best SF we can find, regardless of the author's nationality, and we have published authors from Canada, the U.S., Britain, New Zealand, South America, and more. In order to qualify for grants, we do have to maintain 80% Canadian content, which means it may take longer (an issue or two) for a non-Canadian work to appear in the magazine than a Canadian work bought at the same time." Length: "Short stories (max. 6000 words), short short stories (under 1000 words) or poetry (max. 100 lines)"; Payment: "CA$200 +2 copies; poem/flash=CA$50 +1 copy". No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Reading period ends January 15th, 2013.

Red Adept Publishing is looking for quality novel-length genre fiction, and they look at everything except nonfiction, reprints, or "Erotica and Elementary to Middle Grade books." Length: minimum 25K; Payment: "We pay 50% royalties (net from distribution channels) to authors." Electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details.

Reuts Publications is accepting novel submissions: "We don’t limit ourselves within genres, but we do ask for stories to be fiction only and geared towards Young Adult and New Adult audiences. Our team is fond of the following genres and their sub categories: paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, horror and romance." Length: "Over 50,000 words. REUTS does not accept submissions for short stories, anthologies, children’s books or poetry. This may change in the future, so keep checking back." Payment: "Print=40% royalty; eBook=50%." Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Suddenly Lost in Words is looking for "the best in writing for young adults (13+) from both established and up-and-coming writers. Any genre. We pay professional rates. Selected works will appear in eBook releases to be sold through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. WHAT WE ARE LOOKING FOR: Original writing not previously published. Short stories, memoirs, and longer works that can be serialized. Writing that is free from gore, porn, profanity, racism, preaching, and politics." Length "3000 words or less. This is a firm limit." Payment: "5 cents per word for First Worldwide Electronic Rights and First Serial Rights. Payment is made upon publication. All minor authors (less than 18 years old) will require a parent or guardian to sign with them upon story acceptance." See market post at here for more details.

World Weaver Press has an open call for A Winter's Enchantment, the tentative title for an upcoming anthology of themed novellas that will also be published as individual titles: "We’re looking for winter romances with a speculative element — supernatural or paranormal beings, magic, doors to other worlds, inexplicable serendipity, etc. — at the novella length. Stories must have a winter element. Preference for stories where the winter holidays play an important role in the story: Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, Chinese New Year, Thanksgiving, winter solstice, yule, other winter holidays (real or invented). Will consider contemporary or historical settings as well as second-world fantasy settings (sometimes called “high fantasy” or fairy tale realms). No fan fiction. We have no specific guidelines on “heat level.” But whether or not characters tumble into the bedroom, these stories should be primarily romances with HEAs or implied HEAs; if you want to get explicit between the sheets, go for it! — but stories need to be more plot than sex. This is not an erotica anthology. Stories should focus on the couple: m/f, m/m, f/f will be considered — no group or menage romances." Length: 20-45K; Payment: "Writer will receive royalty on both anthology (% split among contributors) and individual publication (39%)" No reprints,electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: December 31st, 2012. is looking for Christmas stories: "We are looking for short stories with Christmas and what it represents as a theme, i.e. family, memories, giving, grief, unfulfilled expectations, cold weather, anticipating the New Year. We are mostly looking for fiction, however if you have a compelling first person, true life story to tell, please send it along. The story can be humorous, romantic (R-rated okay) religious, satire, with characters that are spirits, ghosts, angels, Christ-like figures, the faithful, and nonbelievers (no zombies or vampires, please). For example, you can tell a story about Christmas from an atheist’s point of view or from a very, very old person’s perspective. The most celebrated example of a Christmas tale is Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” but to the other extreme the movie “Home Alone” also featured Christmas in all its hilarity. Our rule of thumb is the story doesn’t have to be realistic, but it has to be believable and relatable. Story must have a beginning, middle and an ending and the main character or characters must undergo a transformation of some sort, even if the change comes in the form of an epiphany." Length: "Story should be no more than 2000 words." Payment: "We pay $50 upon acceptance via PayPal." See the market post at here for more details.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Fun Gifts for Writers

Knock Knock says they put the fun in functional, and this collection of obnoxious office supplies I found at BAM is definitely that:  WTF pen, $13.99; WTF and Seriously? sticky notes, $3.99 each; Yes I'm Actually Reading This Bookmark Notes pad, $4.99; large WTF desktop pad, $9.99.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Wonderful Winter Reads

One of the gifts I give myself every holiday season is time to read. I've been stockpiling books in anticipation, and the new crop of winter releases has been delivering one dazzler after another to my TBR.

We finally have the fourth Lords of Deliverance novel, Rogue Rider, by Larissa Ione, and it was worth the wait. As I've been following this series I've been especially impatient to read this one, which features the story of Reseph, the Horseman formerly known as Pestilence. Yes, Res is back, although he has no idea what his evil side has been doing for the last three books. He wakes up naked in a snowbank with zero memory, and is rescued by Jillian, who is living in a remote mountain cabin while she recovers from a demon attack. I'm not saying another word about the story because I refuse to spoil it for others, but man, I love this universe and Larissa's storytelling. I really love how she redeemed this protagonist, too. And if this is going to be the last book in the series, which unless there's a fifth horseman I think it is, it's a perfect wrap-up.

Shawntelle Madison wowed me earlier this year with Coveted, her debut novel about a werewolf struggling with OCD. Now that she's released Kept, book two, she's pretty much blown me away. This novel is builds beautifully from Natalya going on a search and rescue mission for her Dad to a series of quests and obstacles and surprises that culminate into a showdown to end all showdowns. You know how we say we can't put a book down -- I was practically glued to this one. I'm so impressed with this series I'm turning into a valley girl; every time I mention it to my friends I end every other sentence with totally awesome, dude.

Linda Howard and Linda Jones have teamed up again to pen Running Wild, the first book in the Men of Battle Ridge series (in my head I keep changing that to Battle Creek. But it's not set in Michigan, the story takes place in Wyoming.) If you love romantic suspense featuring cowboys this is probably your novel of the year. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and have been handing out gift copies to every romance reader I know around town. I think this team had better write faster to keep all their fans happy.

After I skipped reading the last book in Karen Moning's Fever series -- I just didn't want to go there -- I felt guilty. I like the first couple of books and I really prefer to finish a series. As a compromise I resolved to invest in the first book of whatever came next, which is Iced. Karen continues to smash the rules to smithereens by featuring Dani O'Malley, a fourteen-year-old protagonist, but this is not YA. Oh, no, not at all. It's fun, exciting, and reminds me a lot of what I liked so much about the earlier Fever books. I totally fell for Dancer, btw; hook/line/sinker. The story also filled me in enough on what I missed with the last Fever novel that I don't have to worry about it anymore. So I'm back in, and look forward to the next installment of Dancer's supremely amazing geeky coolness Dani's adventures.

As always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, name an author or title you're reading this winter by midnight EST on Monday, December 10th, 2012. I'll draw three names at random from everyone who participates, and send the winners unsigned paperback copies of Rogue Rider by Larissa Ione, Kept by Shawntelle Madison, Running Wild by Linda Howard and Linda Jones, a hardcover copy of Iced by Karen Marie Moning, and a surprise. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Lucan's Christmas Letter

Lucan decided to write a letter to Santa, and if you're interested in finding out what he wants for Christmas you can read it here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Nightbred Audio on Sale

Here's a look at the cover art for the audio edition of Nightbred, which along with all of Tantor's audio books is currently 50% off. It's also narrated by Johanna Parker, who did such an amazing job with the audio edition of Nightborn. According to the site this will start shipping on December 17th.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Jamys Arrives

Today is the official release date for Nightbred, the second novel in my Lords of the Darkyn trilogy. As most of you know my published novels are my only source of income, so buying a copy is the best way to show your support for me and keep Paperback Writer funded and ad-free.

December is supposed to be the worst month in which to release a novel, but I always look at it as a better opportunity to sell. After all, lots of you will be out there shopping. For those of you who are fans of my Darkyn books, and would like to see me continue writing in this universe, now would be the time to invest in it. Also, if you enjoy the story, please let other readers know about it, as word of mouth is the best advertising in the world a writer can't buy.

Online Shopping Links:
Barnes & Noble

Monday, December 03, 2012

Elsewhere with Rules

Today I'm over at Shiloh Walker's place talking about how my life is being ruled lately by threes. Stop in if you get a chance and enter to win my Emerald Dreams tote along with the entire Lords of the Darkyn trilogy (Nightborn and Nightbred in paperback, and a manuscript copy of Nightbound, too.)

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Under Ten

This year my family and I decided to start a new holiday gift-giving tradition. Instead of spending money on lots of presents, we're buying just one gift for each other that costs no more than $10.00. The rest of the $$$ we normally spend will be donated to folks in need. For 2012 we're giving to the victims of Hurricane Sandy in Rockaway, which was my Dad's childhood home.

You'd think this one $10 gift rule would make shopping difficult, but I love bargain hunting so I'm actually having a blast with it. I'm also finding there are a lot of cool gifts out there for under ten bucks, so I thought I'd share some intel by putting together a list of:

Ten Gifts You Can Buy for Ten Bucks or Less

Kathy Iogo's All You Need is Love . . . and a Cat box sign is a great gift for your favorite feline lover; at $5.95 from B& you'll have enough left over to buy a nice pack of kitty treats, too.

Sometimes you can find bargains even at pricey places like Levenger; they have this ruled ceramic pen/pencil cup for $10.00
which you can fill with something fun you make for your recipient (chocolate-dipped pretzel rods would look neat.)

Office Depot carries Lexar™ JumpDrive® TwistTurn USB 8G Flash Drives in a variety of colors for $9.99; to make it extra personal add some content on it for them, like family pics or some free stories from your favorite authors (I have a whole library of them available over there on the sidebar, not that I'm hinting.)

Target is another site where you can shop by price; they have lots of gift ideas for less than ten bucks including this cute set of Paul Frank Lip Smackers that inlcudes a neat little makeup bag for $9.99.

Writer's Bloc is the place I shop for interesting gifts for writers; they have a bunch of items for less than $10.00 like this Writersblok Woodpecker Notebook that looks like it's covered with white birch bark; at $8.55 you can add an inexpensive pen and still stay under ten bucks.

Pier 1 has 634 gifts under $10.00 on their website, including this cute Mini Desk Supply set for $4.78 (saves you enough to splurge on an inexpensive 2013 calendar, like this one from Office Depot for $4.99) and these adorable Chubby Cat Salt & Pepper shakers for $8.00.

Add some pics to this Vintage Camera Photo Album and you've got two gifts in one; $9.95 from B&

These Sakura Gelly Roll StarDust gel pens produce a lovely, sparkling ink, and for $1.00 each from Writer's Bloc you can buy a nice set of them and pair them with an inexpensive journal or sketchbook.

The Top Secret Lock & Key Diary is great for teens or anyone who wants to journal securely; $9.95 from B&

Give your favorite scribe this Writers Block memo pad; $10.00 from, where else, Writer's Bloc.

Finally, a great novel is always a welcome gift, and most paperbacks cost under $10.00. I happen to have one coming out on Tuesday that is $7.99 from B& or at most bookstores.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Dreaming in Emerald

Last night I sewed the last stitch of a dream. To everyone else it'll look like a tote bag, one that might be too large and with a design that may seem a little strange. To me it was exactly what I envisioned when I saw the fabric. Probably every other quilter on the planet would have called that swatch a tone print with a weird dark green crackle; I saw the material equivalent of uncut emeralds.

I knew from the beginning that making this odd, unpretty fabric into the vision I had in my head would take some doing. I'd have to be clever with my thread choices and embellishments -- too much would obliterate it, too little wouldn't communicate the idea. If I was too literal in interpreting the design, it would turn out like a bad joke. So I collected threads and beads while I daydreamed, and let it come together gradually, until I could see it as clearly as if I'd already made it.

Taking the first stitch was a leap of faith. I don't jump all that well so while I worked I also tried to talk myself out of it. There were easier things I could do; smarter things, things more acceptable that had been done a hundred times and always came out well. That and it was just a tote bag, for crying out loud. Why was I getting so worked up over something I was giving away, that would never be mine?

I stitched on. I stitched, measured, pulled out threads that had gone in crookedly and restitched them. I discovered I'd made an error with the seam allowance and had to trim an eighth of an inch off four sides of one panel. There were moments when I wanted to toss the entire project in the fireplace and watch it burn. I stopped thinking about how many people wouldn't like it and how no one but me would really understand it and stitched on.

I finished the needlework and moved on to the beading. I had piled a small mountain of packages and strings of beautiful crystals and stones and glass, all in different shades of my dream emeralds, all waiting for me to arrange them and feed them to my beading needle and stitch them in place. One of the prettiest strands turned out to be plastic, and when I realized that I threw it across the room (and then I ran and picked it up before the dogs could use it to play tug of war.)

I moved on to binding it all together. The green binding I'd picked out for the project now seemed too much like a crayon color, and when I switched it to black that seemed even worse. It was going to be too dark, I told myself as I sewed it on and mitered the corners. The fireplace was still burning. I had enough time left to do something else . . . but I hadn't put it all together. I needed to see it finished, and then I'd decide.

I took my guy out to dinner right before my last sewing session, and over salmon and a baked sweet potato I listened to him talking about work so I wouldn't think about the tote. I thought about it anyway. It was waiting for me, waiting on me to make it real. And when I got home I gave myself one last chance to give up on it, then laughed at myself and went to the sewing table.

An hour later it was done. It definitely wasn't perfect -- I'd made it a little too large, and the strap was a bit too wide. But when I carried it past the fireplace, the crystals and the threads sparkled into life, and I saw my dream in my hands, almost exactly as it had been in my head, and that made it worth all the trouble.

Whoever gets this bag may think it's a little weird, not exactly pretty and definitely not the usual thing. I don't know; what someone thinks of my art is not something I can control. They won't be able to appreciate the time and thought and effort I put into it because they weren't with me while I was making it. But when they open the package and take it out, they'll be holding my dream in their hands, and that's why I did it. Because the best dreams are the ones you share.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Elsewhere Keeping Warm

Now that I've finished my NaNo novel, today I'm over at Under the Covers talking about my secret to keeping warm while enjoying winter reads. Stop in if you get a chance and enter to win signed copies of Nightborn and Nightbred along with warming nibbles and a gift basket of luxurious bath products from Le Petite Maison.


As of 7:57 am this morning. How did everyone else do? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012 Wrap-Up

As I write this it's actually Sunday, and I'm enjoying the last night of my mini-vacation. We had a terrific Thanksgiving with family and friends, and it was exactly the sort of break I needed before heading into this final week of NaNoWriMo. During my four-day holiday I didn't ignore writing entirely but I didn't worry about it, either. I'm rested, recharged, and I've gotten everything lined up for the week ahead, so I'm ready to finish the last leg of this race.

This last week brings a lot of stress with it, because we're all making that last mad dash. I plan to reach 50K by November 30th, but I really won't know if I do until I get there. I've paced myself accordingly, and if all goes well I will. If all goes south, I'll still try. Winning is great, but staying in the race is just as important.

I didn't run this one alone, either, so I'd like to thank my family for giving me the time, space and support I needed throughout November; Tim Kim and the folks at the Office of Light and Letters blog for offering me a chance to reach out to all their readers, which was wonderful; the comraderie and many kind messages from my NaNo writing buddies (who should know I meant to pester them more but I ran out of month); the writers on the NaNo forums who talked shop and shared ideas and links and all sorts of useful info with me, and everyone here for the many comments and nonstop encouragement you've offered all month long. I could not have done this without you.

Now I'm off to write the rest of the way to 50K. See you at the finish line.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NaNo Sub Op

I found this call for submissions from Avon on the NaNoWriMo forums: "Avon editors will make themselves available to the author community via online forums at,and by sponsoring "NaRoWriMo," the publisher hopes to acquire original works of romantic fiction, to be released in 2013 by Avon Impulse. "NaRoWriMo" romance fiction submissions should be submitted by December 10, 2012 to Avon Romance’s online submission portal (, and tagged "NaRoWriMo." All novel and novella-length submissions (50,000 words and above) will be reviewed, and will be considered for publication through Avon Impulse" (and for more information on how to submit a completed “NaRoWriMo” manuscript, visit

Monday, November 26, 2012

Freely 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.

30 Days of Worldbuilding offers an entire month of free guides you can use to create and flesh out your fictional universe.

Compositions is a "minimal, well-designed text editor for iOS and OS X" which "allows you to focus on the content. It features a clean white background, and a full screen mode that gets rid of almost all of the interface chrome, leaving just the text on the screen" (OS: Mac)

Dreamstime is my favorite stock photo site, not only for the great royalty-free images they sell, but also for the large, searchable archive of photos that are free for registered users to download and use (and registration is free, too.)

Eusing Clock is a "small desktop clock application that will place a great looking, colorful clock on the screen of your computer. You´ll be able to not only see your local time, but also the time in cities and countries across the globe. Eusing Clock enables you to quickly customize the looks, time format and standard as well as the background opacity level. You can set alarms to display messages, shut down or restart your computer, and more" (OS:Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Flashnote is a "quick notes manager created for such cases. 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" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7)

The Internet Typewriter is an online writing environment that will "take care of saving your work automatically every few minutes, when you start a new document, and when you open a different document. Your documents will still be here when you come back later. The site remembers you by placing a cookie on your computer. Click here to choose a login just in case you lose your browser cookies or if you want to use Writer on a different computer. Totally optional. You can customize colors, fonts, and other settings in your Preferences. Saved documents are listed at the bottom of the page. Open one by clicking it. The document you are currently working on will be saved automatically first." Seems to work best in Chrome and Firefox.

JustNotes ($9.99 to buy, but they offer a 15 day free trial download) is a "simple, beautiful and powerful notes app. The nice user interface lets you focus on the important things – just notes. JustNotes synchronizes your notes with Simplenote, so you have access to your notes also from your iPhone" (OS: Mac)

NotePuppy is a "minimalist text editor designed to keep your notes and ideas in text files, in one place. If you like keeping a lot of notes in text files, and would like to keep them all in one place with the minimum of fuss, this could very well be the text editor for you. The editor saves the files as you work on them, saving you from the chore of having to remember to press Cmd+S every few minutes or (worse) having to find places and names for however many text buffers you have open if you should need to reboot. It also protects you from crashes if you are on an OS which isn't overly stable: NotePuppy has been succesfully deployed on a bleeding-edge crash-prone Linux machine before, and so that was useful. All the files managed by NotePuppy are stored in a central directory. If you are on a Unix machine (Linux or Mac), you can add symbolic links to the directory, and keep files from several places under the loving care of NotePuppy." (OS: Linux, Mac)

Task List Guru is a "free task list organizer ideal for personal task management and small project management. You can organize not just tasks, but also task lists, notes and reminders. Task List Guru has a hierarchical task list tree with icons that allows you to organize all your todo lists and notes in a structure with icons. You can choose from 48 different colorful icons for your to-do lists - this makes using this organizer fun" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7)

One final reminder, to do my part for NaNoWriMo I've posted my writing how-to, Way of the Cheetah, online for anyone to read, download and print out for free; it goes back into the vault on December 1st.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I Write Like

I write like
Anne Rice

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Hmmm. Can't really say I agree, but I'll take it.

Who do you write like?

Saturday, November 24, 2012


For once the other day things were going fine. I caught up on my chores and made my guy's favorite dinner (which he deserves because he works in retail and for him every day from now until Christmas is a bad day.) I also took the pups out for a long walk and had a chat with a friend who's out of work and needs the moral support. I felt great and was ready to knock out some words. Only the minute I sat down to write crickets began chirping in my head.

Besides the crickets there was nothing. I had plenty to write, but no idea on where to start or what to put on the page. My brain flatly refused to cough up a single word of fiction.

Sometimes I do go blank like that, like the page I'm not writing, and there are a couple of ways I shake it off: I get up and walk around for a few minutes, or I listen to a song from my novel playlist, or I fold laundry or do some other mindless task. Then I go back and try again, and usually that works.

Not this time. I repeated my shake-it-off routine until I ran through everything that usually works and I was still drawing the blank.

I have a long-standing agreement with my creative side; I do not abuse it and it does not bail on me. Even now and then one of us violates that agreement, and then it's time to engage more directly. When I overwork my creative side, it messes up everything I do until I take a break. When my creative side runs out on me, I go after it and drag it back to work.

When all my gentler methods fail, I sit down and start typing story. What comes out on the page is always boring and mechanical and about as much fun to write as an obituary. My internal editor immediately rears her pointy little head and starts blowing raspberries at the page. I churn on, typing whatever makes sense because I know writing badly is not just bad writing, it's bait.

My creative side is smug, full of herself and generally thinks she can do no wrong -- she has to be that way, and I accept it because she makes the magic happen. I'm just the dumb assistant who does the grunt work, and that's all I'm ever going to be, and that's fine because I know what every other stage hand knows: can't have a show without the stage.

The time I spend writing absolute crap varies; sometimes it's an hour of plodding, other times it's a few minutes. At some point in the process of typing, my creative side shows up to have a look. If she had any sense at all she'd let me trudge on for hours, but no, Ms. Busybody can't stay away. Naturally she zeroes on something particularly lame so she can sneer and make fun of it.

I let her have a few snickers as I back away from the page and let her get in front of me. See, I've got her now, and I know what she's going to do: tell me how to rewrite it. Which I do, and then continue on until she makes another snide suggestion, and another, and then loses all patience with me, pushes me aside and takes over from there. No matter how many blank cards I draw, writing through them until the creativity shows up and takes over always works.

How do you get your creativity to kick in when it wants nothing to do with you? Let us know in comments.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Elsewhere with Pearls

I hope all those who celebrate Thanksgiving are having a great holiday. Today I'm over at Literary Escapism to help kick off their Black Friday author event by taking Lucan shopping. Yes, that Lucan. Stop by if you get a chance, and enter to win this collection of goodies, all packed in my Victorian Pearl Girl tote, which I beaded and quilted by hand with sumptuous fabrics, all sorts of laces and ribbons, freshwater pearls, Swarovski crystals, chandelier gems and pretty much every sort of glass bead in the house.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wishing You

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NaNoWriMo Week 3

I was so busy the third week of NaNoWriMo should have flown by, but oddly enough it kind of stumbled, staggered and during a few memorable moments sat down and refused to go anywhere -- like me after I moved all the furniture for the carpet cleaners and then moved it all back. My sewing table looks like Victorian Armageddon; must tidy that up for sure today. I did something to my one working thumb (feels like the jammed sprain you get when you catch a basketball the wrong way, although I wasn't shooting hoops) and that's been throbbing all morning.

I have today and tomorrow to finish the rest of the housework before the family arrives and we kick off four days of Thanksgiving festivities. My voice is just coming back after a brief bout with laryngitis, and yesterday (this really made me laugh out loud) more work arrived from an editor so now I'll be juggling four novels until the end of the month. My response to the ongoing chaos? I work hard, so I'm being nice to myself in little ways. This morning I slept in until 7 am, and this afternoon I'm going to break out the watercolors and paint for an hour. It can't be all work/no play.

Life is busy and relentless and very messy. It interrupts you, it gets in your writing space and sometimes throws all the wrenches it owns at you. I believe in fighting it by not fighting it. I do what I can, and once I've managed the latest disaster I let it go and pick up where I left off with the writing. And I am regularly nice to myself because that also keeps me going.

For most of us that perfect writing life I mentioned last week will never happen. We don't exist in bubbles; we are involved with people and homes and activities and holidays. While the amount of responsibilities they bring with them may seem a little ridiculous at times, think of how lonely we would be without them. Life in a bubble might be perfect, but it isn't really living.

We have nine days to reach 50K and cross the finish line. It doesn't seem like a lot of time, especially with a holiday arriving for us Americans in the middle of it, but it's all we're going to get. Seize the opportunity to write whenever you can. Right now I'm going to log off and write the rest of Chapter Seven, and maybe even start Chapter Eight. Because whatever happens this last week, whatever my messy life throws at me, I'm going to finish and win this thing. I hope you do, too.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mirror Me

There's an interesting article in the October issue of Smithsonian magazine about how our brains process music (How Music Works by David Byrne of The Talking Heads; and if you don't subscribe you can read it here); apparently excerpted from his book by the same title. In it he talks a lot about how we experience music, and how that's changing now that the world is basically immersed in music.

In the article Byrne also cites some studies by UCLA neurologists who monitored human brain activity as they were exposed to actions and emotions of other people. By determining which of the observers' neurons fired, they decided that we physically and mentally "mirror" what we see. Basically what that means is when you watch someone running track or having a temper tantrum, the neurons associated with the muscles used for running and the emotions deployed for a snitfit light up in you. They concluded that while we can't physically benefit from the neurons firing (to get the benefits of running track, you actually have to run the track) we're all hard-wired to be empathic.

As with music establishing empathy with ficition is not a face-to-face process; readers depend on writers to provide a story that engages and entertains them while writers are dependent on the readers' interest and imagination. Musicians use instruments, lyrics and their voices to do this while writers are dependent solely on words, but they work the same way. When you hear an engaging song it produces an emotional response: happiness, sadness, nostalgia, regret (which is why Adele had so many sniffling through the morning commute; the songs she wrote after having her heart broken seem to resonate with anyone who has ever been burned by love.) Writers go after the emotional connection primarily through characters and conflict but also by creating an artificial reality for the reader to explore. The strength and endurance of that emotional response is the empathy yardstick.

I've heard it said that there is nothing more artificial than art, and in some cases that may be true, but I think it depends on the artist and maybe what neurons are firing in their brain during the act of creation. I know how I feel when I write in the zone, which is always my goal; I've often described it as sneaking out of the house at 2 a.m. on a school night + going on a wild midnight joyride + waking up Christmas morning. A quote I read in a Times article on Sunday summed up some of that in six neat words: "Get on my train. We're leaving."

When you're working on a story, you are both the author and the beta reader. You may not be conscious of the emotion you're pouring into the story, but it's there, and at some point you should consider how the reader will probably react to it. You may be able to do this while you're actually writing; I use my daily editing session to think about how what I've written will impact the reader. Having several hours break between the writing and the editing allows me to put a little emotional distance between me the writer and the story to allow me the editor to analyze it. One of the most common ways to spot readers empathy problems is when we find ourselves skimming our own stories; if we're not interested in reading it then there's a good chance the reader will have the same reaction.

Once I've finished a book, I do a comprehensive technical edit, revise, and then a second complete read-through to make my final changes. It's during that last, start-to-finish read that I again consider the reader's response to the story. Is it exciting to read? If I'm skimming any part, that's not. Did I deliver interesting characters? Are these the kind of people a reader will care about and root for? Is the pacing consistent and absorbing? Nothing kills the momentum of a story than passages that slog along. Are there plenty of good reasons to keep turning the pages? That's really the final question -- will it be read by someone I can keep engaged from start to finish, and afterward will they feel it was time well spent? If I've served the story by genuinely investing it with my energy, my emotions and my sense of wonder, then there's a good chance that the readers will mirror me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

NaNoLinkage Ten

Ten Things I Discovered via NaNoWriMo

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

750 words is a free writer motivation site that awards you points and badges for how much you write during the month.

Booktrack allows you to download or create soundtracks to play along while you read e-books. Some of the booktracks are free, and according to the FAQ the ones you pay run between $1-$4, with $2 being the average cost.

Cliche Cleaner does exactly what it says, plus it offers a free demo download. has an entire list here of different methods for creating and problem-solving.

If you're still looking for a title for your NaNo novel, try feeding some of the text to the Cut Up Machine online word jumbler to generate some new ideas (sort of like the Bonsai Story Generator.)

My tomatoes is an online timer site that times you working for 25 minutes (the time it takes to cook a tomato) before it rings for you to take a break.

Panlexicon is an online thesaurus that uses the cloud approach to providing synonyms for your searches.

Online text scanner Story Analyzer will inspect whatever text you feed it and report back with common word overuse, excessive punctuation, adverb flags, passive writing, cliche and fad phrases and more. Seems to be a quickie version of Smart Edit.

Tagxedo is a Wordle knockoff onlin generator that you can use to create word clouds from URLs of your blogs, Twitting or other taggedy stuff.

ZenWriter, a free writing environment program, offers soothing music, calming backgrounds and can be customized so that your keyboard work produced typewriter sounds.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Making It

This is a simple but imaginative short film that has a wonderfully wry twist at the end (for those of you at work, some background music with this one):

(Video link swiped from Kuriositas)