Thursday, May 31, 2012

Steampunk Antho

White Cat Publications has an open call for their steampunk anthology, Airships & Automatons: "We seek steampunk stories featuring strong characters, exciting plotlines, and automatons and/or airships. We don’t want the latter to be mentioned in passing; they should be central to the plot. We aren’t shooting for any particular mood with this book. Dystopian, humorous, pulp, Lovecraftian, upbeat or dark— all have a place here. Please don’t feel constrained to write in a Victorian setting. It’s steampunk, push the boundaries. We’re looking for that certain flavor of writing that’s hard to explain, but obvious when it’s present. Like most markets, we aren’t interested in erotica or unnecessary gore (I know, I know. I said push the boundaries, but I’m not cutting the checks)." Length: "5,000 words preferably"; Payment: ".05 per word first publication/ .01 per word reprint plus a contributor copy of the book. If translations are made, writers will be paid .01 per word and 1 copy for each version." Electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: Until filled.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

City in the Sky

The lotus flower has brought a lot of beauty to my life. In addition to practicing a form of lotus meditation, I also photograph and paint the flowers. I think they're elegant, serene and beautiful -- and I'm not the only one to be inspired by them.

To quote from the web site, City in the Sky is "a concept about an imaginary tranquil oasis above the mega developed and polluted city where one can escape from the everyday noise, stress and dirt. The concept is inspired by the Lotus flower which is known for its ability to emerge above the murky waters pure and clean." This video shows what that oasis might look like (and for those of you at work, this one has some background music):

Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa wrote a haiku about the symoblism of the lotus:


Which translates to:

this world
full of needles and thorns ...
yet lotus blooms

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Weave Your Art

If you'd like to try creating digital art but don't want to invest beaucoup bucks in expensive software, you might check out Artweaver, a digital painting program that allows you to play with many common digital art tools and features, customize your brushes, playback your session (handy if you want to show someone else what you've done.)

More features:

Support for many file formats like AWD (Artweaver), BMP, GIF, JPEG, PCX, TGA, TIFF, PNG and PSD (incl. layers)
Transparency, layers and layer groups
Common image editing tools like gradient, crop, fill and selection tools
Many effect filters like sharpen, blur, emboss and mosaic
Expandable by Plug-In modules (Artweaver standard)
Editable text layers
Pen tablet support
History function to undo/redo last editing steps
Support for many languages through language files

Plus it's freeware, so you don't have to pay a dime for it (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7.)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pass the Sketchup

For those of you who like to build virtual models, the free version of Google Sketchup is an "easy-to-learn 3D modeling program that enables you to explore the world in 3D. With just a few simple tools, you can create 3D models of houses, sheds, decks, home additions, woodworking projects - even space ships. And once you´ve built your models, you can place them in Google Earth, post them to the 3D Warehouse, or print hard copies."

I personally downloaded this one, and while I definitely need to watch all of the tutorials it seemed a bit more friendly than Blender. I also like that you can access galleries of models built by other users and download them (and don't quote me on this, but I'm pretty sure you can even modify them to suit your needs.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Waiting at the Finish Line

I always have at least one reward waiting for me at the novel finish line, and this time around it's Lucidity, our blogpal Raine Weaver's latest release, which is available in most e-book formats at all the major online retailers (also currently on sale at Samhain for $3.15.)

Here's the official copy:

He’s found the woman of his dreams—in the midst of his worst nightmare.

Carlotta Phelps never considered herself special, except for a peculiar ability to control the course of her dreams. Other than being a handy cure for nightmares, it’s a pretty worthless talent. Until she’s recruited for the One Hundred, a team of lucid dreamers whose combined visualizations have been proven to affect reality.

With a giant asteroid hurtling straight toward Earth and the scientific technology to avert it uncertain, the dreamers are the fallback—the last line of defense. And the man who’s been assigned as her bodyguard is messing with her focus, big time.

Ex-Special Ops soldier Parker Munroe has no idea why he’s been assigned to protect the luscious, gentle-eyed Carly. She’s a frustrating temptation, but he’s a hard-core realist. The only power he believes in is brute force.

Then he learns that his charge, who practically lives in lacy negligees, wields an awesome power—and an even bigger responsibility. She and her kind are being hunted by an enemy he can’t even identify, against which all his skill with weaponry is useless. If he can’t find a way to protect her, the world is as doomed as the heart he’s already lost.

This one had me at Hello. I mean, come on -- a lucid dreamer, an ex-spec ops bodyguard, and a planet-killer asteroid hurtling toward Earth? I am so reading this.

Also, I don't know who is doing Samhain's art lately, but whoever is responsible for putting together this gorgeous, classy cover should be given a raise. A very large one.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Deadline Week

At the moment I have a novel to wrap up and send off to one editor, a proposal to finish for another, and (possibly) an offer in the works from a third. Family is also descending for a visit, so things are likely to be a bit sketchy around here for the next week. I'll try to check in and post something of interest when I can.

Do you know you can make a word cloud from any blog by feeding it to Wordle? Go to the create page and in the second search box (just below the top text box) enter a URL for any blog, blog feed or any other web page that an Atom or RSS feed. Once you've done that, click on submit and Wordle will generate a word cloud based on the content. It's an interesting way to get a quick profile on what you (or your favorite bloggers) are talking about at any given time. Here's one for PBW, one for The Presurfer (my favorite link goldmine), and one for author Marjorie Liu's blog.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Eau d'Olde Books

Do you ever wonder why old books smell the way they do? Here's a helpful video from AbeBooks to explain why:

(Video link swiped from Gerard over at The Presurfer)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reading Speed

Do you know at what rate you read? Take this quick reading test over at Staples and find out.

My results:

The passage I was given to read was unfamiliar, but I answered the comprehension questions 100% correct, so I'll call that fairly accurate. How did you guys do? Let us know in comments.

(Reading test link swiped from Gerard over at The Presurfer)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Paying to Win

Yesterday I jotted down a list of thirteen URLs I found in The Writer's Chronicle submit pages for what I thought were no-fee submission calls, which I thought would produce a solid list of ten sup ops. After checking each web site and reading the particulars, I had to cross off eight of them because turns out they did require an entry or reading fee.

I don't like recommending anything a writer has to pay for in order to have a chance at publication or winning an award because 1) I firmly believe you should never pay a dime to get published; 2) most writers can't afford it; 3) it's a subversive but very common way for obscure publications and presses to make money off other people's hopes and dreams; and 4) before I turned pro I was nearly a victim of a scam dressed up like a real sub op.

That said, you'll probably be surprised to hear that a month ago I paid a fee to enter a novel contest. I wasn't happy about forking over that money, but I did it for a couple of reasons: the genre isn't one I've published in yet, and winning virtually guarantees publication. This may result in a decent opportunity for me to try my luck in another corner of the market.

Will I win the contest? Honestly, I have no idea. What I most liked about this one is that the judging is blind (meaning the judges won't know who wrote the entries until after they pick their winner.) Everyone who enters will be evaluated solely on the quality of their work. Which means it's not a popularity contest, no one can campaign or schmooze their way to a win, and thus I have the same chance as everyone else. To me that's the only way it can be fair.

If you're contemplating any contest that requires an entry fee, you should first realistically evaluate your chances of winning. For example, if the contest is open to every writer on the planet, you're probably going to have considerable competition. If the contest is restricted solely to writers who live on top of mountains in Colorado, naturally the odds are better. Also look at what they want for entries. For novel competitions, most any writer can produce a partial; I have a filing cabinet full of them. Fewer writers will have completed manuscripts to enter, so a contest requiring finished books offers a better chance.

Some people say the amount of the entry fee determines what sort of writer enters, in that a high fee will discourage the untalented. I don't agree with this; plenty of terrible writers enter contests no matter what the fee is because they're convinced that they're great writers and it's just a matter of time before their genius is recognized and they go on to make millions. Most contest entities encourage and even bank on this kind of self-delusional mentality; it makes them a lot of money.

If you're a member of a writing organization, you have the chance to enter plenty of the fee-required contests they run. Some can be helpful as long as you're in a position to win. Are you a popular member, and does most everyone in the organization like you? Also, are you allowed to in some way campaign for the award? If yes, you've probably got a real shot. If no, don't waste money you could be using for office supplies and postage.

Finally, be prepared not to win. One of the reasons I've avoided contests is that early on in my career I saw what losing them did to other writers. Losing a contest can be worse than rejection, especially if the winner got their trophy for reasons other than the quality of their work.

What fee-required contests do you think are fair and/or offer decent awards? Please share them and any links you have in comments.

Added: I've also been pitching this particular novel for awhile, and just this morning I received word from my agent that an offer is in the works for it (ah, the irony.) But even if the interest does result in a contract, I don't have to pull the entry out of the contest. According to the rules, which I read carefully before I entered, I can still compete as long as the offer for the ms. comes in after the entry deadline.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday Five

Five Things About Submission Opportunities

Arroyo Literary Review is looking for a wide range of submissions: "Arroyo Literary Review seeks poetry, fiction, flash fiction, creative non-fiction, personal essays and memoir, and translations. We will consider short plays and drama. We do not publish book reviews. We only consider previously unpublished work. We accept multiple prose pieces at a time, up to 4,000 words each, and multiple poems of no limit. Simultaneous submissions are welcome, though notify us immediately should your work be accepted elsewhere. (Any submissions received before or after this reading period will not be read and we will recycle them immediately.)Payment: "Contributors will receive two copies of the issue in which their work appears." [PBW notes: so no money, but a decent publishing credit.] No reprints or electronic submissions, see guidelines for more details. Reading period ends May 31, 2012.

Hayden's Ferry Review has an open call for their upcoming darkness-themed issue: "We do a lot of things in the dark: feel fear, make love, tell stories. We spend at least a third of our lives with the lights off, dreaming. In the dark, we imagine shadows and movement where there may be none, we picture stormy nights and power outages. We see amorphous shapes that we cannot identify, and the whole world goes colorless. Sometimes, we feel left out or lost, and though it may be the middle of the day, high noon, we say we are in the dark. Sometimes we don't even know the things we don't know, don't know that someone, somewhere, is thinking about how in the dark we are--unaware of unfaithful love, of eyes trained on us from a distance, of surprise parties being plotted. Darkness is also used to make things seem brighter. In painting, for instance, a brushstroke here brings out the color there, illuminating the illumination. Our theme for issue #51 of Hayden's Ferry Review is In the Dark. We want your stories and poems about darkness, about being and doing and feeling in the dark. Turn the lights off. Make shadow puppets on the wall. Leave something out. Tell us what happens when the screen goes black. Blindfold us and take us by the hand. Lock us in the trunks of cars. Take us to attics, basements, graveyards. Find a darkness that hasn't been found." Payment: "Contributors receive two copies of the magazine and a one-year gift subscription to HFR." [PBW notes: another gratis op but I liked the theme.] No mention on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: June 1, 2012.

The Imagination & Place Press has an open call for their upcoming cartography-themed anthology: "The Imagination & Place Press seeks poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and essays for a fifth book in a series of anthologies, to be titled Imagination & Place: Cartography. We are interested in maps and mapmakers of all kinds. Interpreting imaginatively, your submission should focus on a particular bioregion (e.g., desert, wetlands, mountain, plains, grassland, etc.) that you clearly identify and discuss in your piece." Length: up to 7K; no mention of payment [PBW notes: this may be for the credit or a gratis-copy thing, but again I thought the theme was interesting.] No electronic submissions, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: August 31, 2012.

Graywolf Press has an open call for submissions for their annual nonfiction prize: "A $12,000 advance and publication by Graywolf will be awarded to the most promising and innovative literary nonfiction project by a writer not yet established in the genre. The 2012 prize will be awarded to a manuscript in progress. The Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize emphasizes innovation in form, and we want to see projects that test the boundaries of literary nonfiction. We are less interested in straightforward memoirs, and we turn down a large number of them every year. Before submitting your manuscript for the prize, please look at the books previously published as winners of the prize for examples of the type of work that we are seeking." Eligible: "Any writer who has published at least one previous book (in any genre) and resides in the United States is eligible." Lenth: minimum 100 pages (25K) from a manuscript in progress, no reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: August 31, 2012, and they are open to submissions only during the month of August 2012.

Prime Mincer Press Bromance has an open call for their buddy anthology: "Prime Mincer Press, publisher of Prime Mincer literary magazine, is seeking submissions of short fiction for an anthology titled The Man Date: 15 Bromances, to be published in early 2013. The editors are looking for original, unpublished short stories ranging from 1,500-6,000 words concerning bromances—work that in some way comments on or deals with male friendships and relationships, and/or plays on the idea of the buddy story. The final selection will be a mix of emerging and established writers including Rick Bass, Pinckney Benedict and Alan Heathcock, among others." Payment: "Payment will be in the form of contributor copies an d a percentage of royalties." [PBW notes: another interesting -- and pretty rare -- theme, and I think this one would be a decent publishing credit as well.] No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: June 1, 2012.

Monday, May 21, 2012

First Look

I'm still off hammering away at my deadline, but I thought my German readers might like to see this:

This is the LYX edition of Stay the Night, Darkyn book seven, and a lovely wrap-up for this translation of the series. My German is terrible, so excuse me if I'm wrong, but I believe the retitle is End of Darkness, which seems quite appropriate, if not entirely accurate.

Friday, May 18, 2012


I've got a mountain of work and grief to deal with, so I'm going to unplug for a couple of days. For you guys, and all the mountains you're climbing, here's a view from above:

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Yesterday author Monica Jackson passed away from complications during surgery. Most of you from the old days know that Monica was an incredible novelist, a beautiful soul, and a good friend to me from almost the first day I began this blog.

I know when we lose one of our own we're supposed to say gentle and supportive things, and my heart and prayers do go out to her family, friends and everyone who loved her, but right now all I can think is Damn it, not Monica.

Even after Monica shut down her blog and left the online writing community, she and I kept in touch by e-mail. The last note she sent me arrived just after I lost a loved one. She always kept an eye on me, I think, and in that one she wrote Ah, as we age and our own transitions near, it seems as if we start losing the things of this world faster...

You left us too fast, Monica, and too soon. God keep you safe on your journey.


When I was in my last year of high school, my divorced mother couldn't afford to pay for frivolities like senior pictures or a class ring. All the money I earned at my after-school job went to Mom to help pay for the mortgage, groceries and stuff for the younger kids.

Naturally I was too proud to tell anyone about our unhappy financial situation, so instead I avoided all the senior class stuff as much as possible. The indignity of being photographed at school was always an ordeal for me -- even back then I was painfully unphotogenic -- so I was also quite delighted to skip going to the photography studio that handled senior pics that year. If I remember correctly the only traditional event I attended was my senior Prom, and only because my boyfriend at the time bought the tickets and the dress and made me go.

I don't miss high school or any of the class souvenirs I couldn't afford, but as I've grown older I have wondered how they handled the yearbook listing for me (when it came out that year I didn't look through any of my friends' copies; again the pride thing.) I convinced myself that the yearbook staff had probably done something really lame, like put up an empty gray space above my name, or list me as "No photo" at the very end of the senior class pics.

Over the years I've kept in touch with a few people from school, and truth is I could have found out how I was listed, but that silly pride thing wouldn't let me. Of course by then I was so sure that whatever they did had been so wretched and embarrassing that it wouldn't help me to know. As time rolled on that feeling just ballooned until I couldn't think about it without feeling sick.

An old school friend I hadn't heard from since we graduated got in touch recently, and on impulse I asked if he still had his yearbook. He didn't, but he sent me a link to a copy of it that someone had scanned and put online on one of those alumni sites. One click and I'd know. Finally I could see what they'd done to me.

Of course I went and looked; I was tired of my huge hot air balloon of hopelessness. The guys who at seventeen I'd thought were cute looked a bit goofy now. I didn't remember that half the girls in my class had Farrah Fawcett Fail hair, and the other half Dorothy Hamil Wacky Wedges. And all that lip gloss we used to wear, oy -- even in black-and-white, it's blinding.

Everyone from senior class was there, though. Except one person: me. No gray square, no photo from a previous year, no missing-in-action name listing. There's exactly zero for me.

They skipped me.

I have the diploma, of course, and a single blurry photo of me being handed it the day I graduated, but otherwise it's like I never existed. Which is the most perfect thing of all. All those horrible indignities I've imagined never happened. I'm safe, and I've been safe all this time. Which made me laugh at myself. A lot.

Writers are hard-wired to imagine anything and everything, which is probably why we are so often victims of our own creativity. We fill in the gaps of what we know with what we convince ourselves must occupy that space: That manuscript was rejected because [my writing stinks]; the editor didn't return my e-mail because [my idea stank]; my entry to the contest didn't win because [I stunk]. The frustrating thing is that we often never know what actually fills in those blanks. The sad thing is when we start to believe what we imagine, and begin blowing up those balloons with a lot of nothing.

So the moral of the story is: Don't imagine, find out. If you can't find out, let it go. Like any balloon, if you really turn it loose eventually it'll float away or pop.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Virtual Safeguards

I was putting together a proposal the other day when I realized something. Thanks to the internet, social media, e-readers, smart phones and digital cameras virtually all of my work has become, well, virtual. I'm sure it's the same for most of you. Technology allows us to communicate in an instant without paper or ink; in a sense we've all become electronic writers.

Publishing also now conducts most of business with writers virtually; correspondence, contracts, manuscripts, cover art, copy-edits and even some galleys are created and worked on in electronic form. This is not a bad thing, either. After fourteen years of wrestling with six to eight pound manuscripts and waiting on the postal service during production, I'm quite happy we've gone virtual.

What occasionally gives me nightmares is what would happen if some manner of catastrophe silenced or erased all the things we've entrusted to virtual form. In a way this has already happened to me once; many years ago I lost three computers on the same day, and eight years of my writing, art and photographs simply vanished. That included about fifty manuscripts I'd never bothered to print out. Eventually I recovered everything, but it taught me a valuable lesson. Ever since that disaster I've been making multiple back ups and hard copies of everything I do, and storing other virtual copies on flash drives elsewhere. Naturally that's no guarantee it will survive a major catastrophe, but it's the only creative insurance we've got.

Btw, have you backed up your files lately? If you haven't, do it now, and make a commitment to doing the same at least once a week. Trust me, you never want to face losing any work, much less eight years of it.

It takes time to put things into physical form, time no one seems to have anymore -- even me. Whenever I visit an old internet bookmark and find a site with content that I used or liked has vanished, it's almost always one that I never bothered to print out or save in electronic form or hard copy. One of my favorite sites of all time recently disappeared, and I tried to e-mail the owner to see if I could get copies of the content. The e-mail bounced back, unread, and since the owner lives on the other side of the planet I can't exactly go over, knock on his door and ask what happened.

While the virtual world is fast and convenient and hardly any trouble at all, it's also vulnerable. As busy as we are these days, we tend to forget this. Depending solely on it to preserve our voices, our writing, our art and all the things we create and love is dangerous. For the things that exist solely in virtual form, the things that are important and/or can't be redone from scratch or replaced, everyone needs a backup plan.

So what are you doing to protect yourself and your virtual property? Have you used any online services that you've found helpful (and free or cheap?) Let us know in comments.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Found at B&N

Over the weekend I got a chance to visit the big Barnes & Noble store in my region, and in the process found a trio of interesting things:

Creative Journal Writing ~ the art and heart of reflection by Stephanie Dowrick: I have plenty of books on journal-making and journal art, but not too many on journal content, so this caught my eye immediately. I'm working my way through it slowly, but from what I've already read it's a bit like a journal coach, in that it helps you get started, gives you reasons to keep going and offers some interesting directions to follow. I like that writers who actually journal are frequently quoted in the book; I tend to relate better to someone else who is actually working at the same thing. The author is an Australian writer who according to her bio is a #1 bestseller of fiction and nonfiction in her country ($14.95).

Tree-Free Journal: The cover of this blank book provocatively informs the buyer that it's made from recycled underwear and tee-shirt scraps (from a manufacturer of the same, so we can assume these clothing items were unused.) Although no trees were harmed during the making of this journal, it does look and feel just like a real book with real paper pages. This one was made in India by World Paper Inc., which supports traditional crafts through development and trade ($9.95).

The Writer's Chronicle Magazine: This is the Summer 2012 issue of a magazine for writers I've never before seen, so naturally I had to test-drive an issue. It's big and glossy and well put together, and there are pages upon pages of contests, grants, sub ops, conferences, etc. The articles were a mix of topics; one about author Shirley Jackson's distinguished and all-but-forgotten husband, an interview with a prize-winning literary author, and one pretty neat piece on modes of conveying emotion in writing. It's kind of a cross between The Writer and Poets & Writers minus the obnoxious bits, and I like the market listings most of all, so now I'm thinking about subscribing to it. Ironically, unlike every other magazine I buy or subscribe to, there were no mail-away subscription cards in the issue ($5.95).

What interesting things have you found at your local brick-and-mortar lately? Share some with us in comments.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Build Your World Ten

Ten Things About World-Building

Stephanie Cottrell Bryant's 30 Days of World building tutorial can be read online or downloaded in several different formats, and covers a range of topics interesting to world builders.

Denyse "Domynoe" Loeb's has five world-building outlines along with tons of other templates and lessons here.

Evidently pantsers can world-build, too, just in reverse: Kat Zhang's Backwards Worldbuilding.

Encyclopedia Mythica offers info and articles from A to Z on mythology, folklore and religion to help inspire and populate your fictional worlds.

How to Draw Nice Maps

Kathy Steffen's article Jump-Start Your Imagination: Creative Writing Exercises for Worldbuilding offers a list of questions you answer about your world as building exercise.

Loren J. Miller's Mythopoets Manual covers in exquisite detail the many things writers might consider when writing the multi-cultural fictional setting.

Orion's Arm states their manifesto as " inspire writers, artists and thinkers. To create a vision of the future that is plausible at every level, internally consistent and abides by the accepted facts and theories in the physical, biological, and social sciences." Some decent examples for hard SF world-builders.

For obscure words and vocabulary resources, you can't do much better online than The Phrontistery (warning, wordsmiths, highly addicting site.)

Charmaine Clancy's W is for World Building Workshop can be read online or downloaded in .pdf format.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Wishing You

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sub Ops

Got a trio of interesting sub ops for you guys today:

Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing has an open call for their Urban Green Man anthology: For this anthology we seek fantastic stories involving the mythology of the Green Man in any form (which includes the Green Woman). While the mythology is predominantly European, the setting is not limited to that region. Also, stories MUST be Fantastical, ripe with the magic of the archetype. We want urban fantasy or contemporary fantasy; no science fiction or steampunk please. And while Jack in the Green, the horned god and many other myths in conjunction with the Green Man are acceptable, the closer you are to using pure Green Man mythology the better." Length: up to 5K (shorter stories preferred); Payment: 3½¢/word, no reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: November 30th, 2012.

SFWA-approved market RedStone Science Fiction is reopening to subs on June 1st, 2012, and would like to see ". . . science fiction, anything from post-cyberpunk to new space opera. We do not want supernatural horror, urban or heroic fantasy. No vampires, sparkly or otherwise." [PBW: Sniff] Length 750 words to 4K (firm on max.) Payment: ".05 per word, on publication". No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

World Weaver Press has an open call for their Specter Spectacular anthology: "World Weaver Press seeks new and previously published short fiction in the vein of the classic ghost story for themed anthology, SPECTER SPECTACULAR, to be published fall 2012 as ebook and print edition with online distribution. Spirits, hauntings, specters, boggarts, poltergeists — give us your best ghosts and spooky whatnots! Scary or funny, tragic or redemptive — we’re looking for the full spectrum. We’ll be looking for at least one funny piece to end the anthology. Anthology will be published fall 2012, but stories don’t need to be Halloween themed. We hope writers will draw inspiration from such classics as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, A Christmas Carol, The Woman in Black, The Haunting of Hill House, Annabel Lee or others, but we are not (necessarily) looking for retellings of those tales. This is not an anthology for slashers, serial killers, zombies, vampires, or other undead creatures (their World Weaver Press anthology will come one day; this is not that day)." Length: 1K-10K; Payment: $5.00 advance against royalties; Reprints okay, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: July 7, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

First Look

Here's the cover art for Nightbred, book two in my Lords of the Darkyn trilogy, to be released in December (and can now be preordered at B& here.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Body Double & BAM Haul

I was reading an article about how we see our own body size that included a link to My Body Gallery, a site that shows photos of real women's bodies (not nude or lascivious in any way, just real-life gals.) The cool thing about it is that you can search the photos by height, weight, pant size, shirt size and body type (pear, banana, apple or hourglass) in order to find photos of women with a matching body type. This could be helpful when you're writing a female character whose physical stats don't match your own or anyone you know. With this site you can get a good look at real women who are a body double of your character, which will help you write more accurate, realistic descriptions.

Now if they only had one for real men . . . .

Yesterday I cured a minor case of the blues by making a run to BAM and finding a half-dozen books I wanted: two books as gifts for friends (which I'm not naming or showing you because both read the blog and they're just going to have to wait until the party), and four new releases for me: Mary Balogh's The Proposal, Gail Carriger's Timeless, Sofie Kelly's Copycat Killing and Shiloh Walker's Hunter's Rise. Should keep me curled up and happy through the weekend, which proves there is no better way to shop for prezzies and shake off doldrums at the same time than a visit to the bookstore.

Have you guys picked up any new releases you've been impatiently waiting on? Share some titles in comments.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

World Sources

Most of my story ideas begin with a character, but occasionally something else sparks my imagination: music (Blade Dancer), dreams (If Angels Burn) and art (Nightborn.) Regarding the latter, every year I go to a particular art show to see John Galbo, one of my favorite artists. His work is a constant source of inspiration for mine, and it was one of his gorgeous photos of the French countryside, Le Mistral, that initially gave me the idea for Nightborn.

The three elements in Le Mistral are very simple but striking: a field of lavender ready to be harvested, a lovely old manor house, and a storm brewing over the mountains in the distance. Whenever I've looked at this print on the wall in my office, I've always wondered who lived in that house, and how many storms they've weathered. One day I decided to answer those questions, and wrote the first outline for Nightborn.

Finding inspiration with which you can build an entire world isn't difficult as long as you pay close attention to your reactions to it. Does the source invoke a strong emotional response in you? This is important, and it should be passionate enough to keep you from being distracted by other bright, shiny ideas. Also, your passion will translate onto the page and communicate itself to the reader; not something you ever want to be tepid. Are you curious about the source? For you to base a world on something, there should a significant storytelling opportunity already there, looking you in the eye, and you should really want to jump on it. And finally, are you willing to take the time to explore it? You can't build a world in one day or with one glance, so you have to make a commitment. Outlining, researching, drafting -- you're looking at months, even years of work here.

Revisiting the point about emotional response: you can build your world based on anything -- I once wrote a 100K+ novel inspired solely by the words carnival geek -- but if you're not passionate about the source of your inspiration, you're probably going to lose interest in it. If you think of world-building as a love affair between your imagination and the object of its affections, then you can better judge whether or not to dive in. You don't fall in love based on a nice, lukewarm, ho-hum response to something, nor should you world-build that way.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


I appreciate all the terrific recs you guys offered on writing how-tos; there were several titles I haven't yet read, and I always think it's neat to see which books work for other writers.

We revved up the magic hat, and the winner of the Practical Guides giveaway is:

Anne V., who recommends How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card.

Anne, when you have a chance please send the title you'd like for your BookWish, your full name and ship-to info to My thanks to everyone for joining in.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Headscratch Ten

Ten (Weird) Things That Happened Last Week

A marketing person sent me a Kirkus review for one of my novels. I usually don't read them, but said review was so glowing as soon as I opened the e-mail it practically blinded me.

So, has someone at Kirkus been drinking their lunch lately?

A mere three bucks bought me two hardcovers and a trade paperback.

This is odd because I generally don't find books at the dollar store that I actually want to read. I also didn't know they were getting remaindered hardcovers from Wal-Mart, so I will be checking out their book aisle more often. If anyone wants to check to see if one of their local $1 store carries the same titles, I bought these at Dollar Tree.

After losing fifteen pounds I thought I would hit a plateau, but nope, got on the scale and saw I lost two more pounds.

Giving up all forms of sugar might actually be worth the enormous amount of pain and suffering involved.

I entered an unpublished novel in a contest.

It's a genre I haven't published in, the entries are judged blind (no author name on the manuscript) and for me entering a contest is coloring way way way outside the lines.

I got through three weeks of art class without being kicked out for being a smartass.

Or a dumbass, no less.

I used craft foam for the very first time.

I used craft foam for the very last time, too.

A colleague surprised me by confessing her secret love for the books I wrote years ago under an old/retired pseudonym.

It's nice to be the author of secret love books. Next I'd like to write someone's completely obsessed with, utterly addicted to, must tell all their friends about them novels.

Under certain conditions of my choice I agreed to do something I haven't done in nine years.

I'll let you know what it is if I have to make good on my offer. In the meantime, you can cross off the What the Heck is It? list me getting married again, dyeing my hair blonde, or writing a memoir about my writing career. Those I won't do for a billion dollars, so the eligible bachelors, unguarded retinas and publishing corporations of the world are still safe.

With my trusty camera I photographed a picture perfect sunset.

And for once I didn't have to use that "straighten picture" fixit thing in photoshop to correct the level of the horizon.

Without noticing it I stepped - barefoot - on a huge wolf spider in the garage.

Yes, and hearing and feeling that crunch is something I could have gone my whole life without experiencing. Stephanie Tyler, I finally get your phobia. Oh, and I haven't lost that much weight, so RIP Monsieur Araignée.

Anything weird happening in your corner of the world? Let us know in comments.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Practical Guides

Writing Fiction by the Faculty of Gotham Writers' Workshop and edited by Alexander Steele, is what I consider the most complete writing how-to I've found out there, and it's the guide I've most often recommended or handed out to writers at all stages of the game who want to better understand the major elements of story. It's not Novel Writing 101 in a book, and like most scholarly books on writing written by teachers it suffers from a literary skew, but it does a very decent job of explaining theory and the big basics, and it offers some interesting exercises to apply what you've read about in each section.

Other writers swear by Robert McKee's Story, which I've read, but it's a book of story theory for screenwriters, and you have to adapt everything in it to apply it to novels (which isn't a bad thing; you could do a lot worse than learning about story from a screenwriter.)

While I've been scouring the how-to aisles for years in search of better, I haven't yet found it. Most of the authors who write how-tos are either not working novelists, or have very limited practical experience. The few that I've read authored by veteran working writers (Stephen King would be a shining example of this) were mainly memoirs dressed up as how-tos. Interesting as they can be, they're more about the author's particular journey to superstardom, which I don't think is practical or especially applicable to the average novelist.

I can't read everything, so I know I've probably missed some good soup-to-nuts how-tos out there, and I wanted to ask you guys for some recommendations. If you could have only one book about novel writing in your reference collection, what would it be? Let me know in comments by midnight EST on Monday, May 7, 2012. I will draw one name at random from everyone who participates and 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.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Twinkling H2O's Class

My art class wrapped up yesterday, and after three weeks of studying and practicing, I think overall the experience was an excellent one.

The class, Mastering Twinks, focused on a product that I've used and loved for five years: Dreaming in Color's Twinkling H20 watercolor line. These paints, which are unlike any I've ever tried, are self-blending watercolors infused with varying amounts and colors of ground mica. This makes them very hard to photograph, but you can see the mica shining in this photo. This makes the colors reflective in various ways, from soft and subtle twinkle to a hard metallic glitter, depending on the shade. Collectively they are dazzling.

I've been experimenting on my own with them on paper and fabric with some amazing results, and I wanted to learn more about the paints as well as techniques I could use with them, so I signed up for the class.

Our instructor, Dion Dior, is a very talented artist, and she conducted the class in three lessons: Twinkling Techniques, Colors, and Masterpieces. All of the lessons came in .pdf form, which we downloaded and followed. We also discussed the various lessons and exercises on a private forum discussion board, and posted our works on a Flickr group account where we also chatted about tips and techniques.

I probably spent two to three hours a day studying and working on exercises and projects for the class, and in the process I learned at least a dozen new techniques. I was familiar with only about half of the other art supplies we combined with the Twinks for our homework, so the exposure to new methods and mediums was excellent. I'd say the most important for me was how to employ masking fluid with watercolor; I've always wanted to try it but felt too intimidated by my own ignorance to give it a shot.

The work could be as easy or difficult as you wanted it to be; I committed to doing every exercise and project so I could get the full benefits, so it was a lot of work. I also experimented a little on the side and came up with a variation on one technique that allowed me to transfer the impression of a metallic lace into the paint. I tried at first to do my lessons at night, but found I was too tired to produce at my optimum level, and so I switched to first thing in the morning. Starting out every day with a couple of class assignments put me in a great, lasting creative mood that carried over into my writing time.

The class is not super expensive, and with registration you receive a gift card with which you can purchase most of the required colors for the class. Twinks are not cheap, so if you want to buy more of the colors Dion uses in her examples for the lessons you can probably expect to spend another $20.00 - $40.00 on watercolor. The rest of the supplies depend on what you keep on hand for your art. I already had plenty of watercolor paper, brushes and palettes on hand, but I also invested in some supplies that I don't normally use, like gesso and oil pastels and water-soluble crayons. JoAnn's carries a very reasonably-priced art supply line, "Simply Art" which covered most of these needs. I did make a couple of trips to the pro art supply store in the city to get specific, uncommon items like black gesso and hot-press watercolor paper, which were more expensive, but not required (I was really determined to try everything Dion taught in the lessons.)

I didn't know what to expect from the other people in the class; the last time I took an art course was in high school. Back then we were all grumpy teenagers who mostly kept to ourselves. My group in this class seemed very diverse; hailing from all parts of the world. I'd say they were a little shy -- and it's tough to put your work out there for everyone to comment on -- but those who were more active were unanimously supportive. There was absolutely no negativity from anyone, and that did surprise me. Skills ranged from beginner to professional, so it was a good mix.

Dion Dior is a terrific instructor. She said we could ask her any questions, and we did, and she answered all of them. She shared plenty of her personal methods, made astute observations and was universally encouraging to everyone. If she ever gives a real-life art workshop in my area, I plan to sign up and sit in the front row.

As for me being in the class, I didn't try to hide who I am -- I did register as Lynn Viehl -- but I also didn't talk about my profession, and it never came up once from anyone else. That was a nice little online vacation for me, to simply be a student.

I didn't love all the lessons -- stencils are still not my friends -- but I'd say 95% of them helped me make some real progress with my art. The other 5% were just not for me or were techniques I was already using. That's pretty good for a class using a medium I've already worked with for a long time. The final project was a real challenge, but by the time I reached it I was fully prepared to take it on.

I'd recommend this class to anyone who does decorative art, journaling art, mixed media, or who would like to try something truly different in the realm of watercolor (but if you're anti-sparkle, this is definitely not the class for you.) You'll get a real work out of your existing art skills, and you'll definitely learn quite a few new things.

To see a slide show of more of my work from class, click here.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Beauty in 3:23

Joerg Niggli artfully uses time lapse and tilt shift to film a day in Venice, Italy, from daybreak to sunset (for those of you at work, this one has background music):

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The ATC Dilemma

Back in January I was inspired by the Japanese legend of a thousand cranes and my love of cards to commit to a creative project for 2012: use as many artistic skills and techniques as I could to make one thousand artist trading cards before December 31st.

This idea was a bit more ambitious than my last year-long art project back in 2009, when I pledged to take at least one photo of something ineresting every day. I wasn't sure I could keep up, but over the last four months I've been working steadily and posting to the photoblog pics and monthly updates on the project. I'm more than a third of the way toward my goal; as of tonight I have 342 cards finished.

Actually the project has been a blast. I'm trying all sorts of old and new techniques, and I've already sewn, quilted, sculpted, glued, recycled, painted, photographed, beaded, pressed, sketched, written, hammered, woven and/or assembled 342 cards. Because the cards are small (ATCs are 2.5" X 3.5"), and I'm always doing something different with them, I haven't gotten bored. If anything I could probably make five thousand ATCs.

Over the weekend I put the cards I made in April into the desk-size storage chest where I'm keeping all the finished cards, and I realized two things. One is that the chest already is getting pretty full:

The other thing is -- after I've finished the project -- what the heck am I going to do with a thousand ATCs?

Yes, as it happens I didn't think that far ahead. I could keep them, of course, but the whole idea of Artist Trading Cards is to give them out, usually by trading with another artist. Only I don't know a thousand artists. I don't want to sell them or auction them off because I'm doing it for fun, and art-wise I'm strictly an amateur anyway. For various reasons a few of the cards are too personal to give away, so I will be keeping those, but the rest I'd like to send out into the world somehow.

Considering all of the above, what do you think I should do with the cards I am willing to part with? Let me know in comments.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Titles That Brand

Harry Potter and Twilight are two mammoth author brands. When anyone says the name Harry Potter, one inevitably thinks of Harry's author, J.K. Rowling. The same is true of Twilight; that single word forever owns Stephenie Meyer. Both are series titles; Rowling used Harry Potter as a title prefix for her global-bestselling novels, while Twilight began as the title of Meyer's first novel and went on to become the brand name for her entire series, the movies, the merchandising, etc.

On a far more modest level I've branded and rebranded my works and myself with multiple titles: Darkyn, PBW and StarDoc have proven to be the most popular. I coined Darkyn and StarDoc; PBW is shorthand for my blog title. Single, easy-to-remember words can be powerful brands for lesser-known authors, especially multi-genre/multi-series writers like me. You may not remember which pseudonym I'm currently using, but PBW will stick to the roof of your mind because 1) it's extremely short, 2) it's simple and 3) it's an identifier: PBW, aka Paperback Writer, aka that chick with the writing blog.

Branding is an art all on its own, and you can spend years chasing the right word(s) that define you and/or your writing. Your first idea may not be your best, either. Before inspiration struck me one night in the shower, I called my SF medical adventure stories the Border FreeClinic series. Back in 1998, I dubbed my Darkyn tales the Darkling stories (which wasn't bad; it simply wasn't right.)

For novel branding, I prefer brand words that tell a story in a single glance. Star + Doc = galactic physician. Dark + Kyn = shadowy relatives. When I had to come up with a title for the books my publisher had me write as a spin off of the Darkyn series, I worked for weeks combining and recombining words without success. Finally I threw out everything and meditated on it. I knew I wanted to use Kyn for the connection to the original series, but what to pair with it? Who were these characters? I knew them as ordinary mortals with extraordinary abilities whom the Darkyn should really dread. And that was when the light bulb came on; dread was the word I needed to complete the series brand. Kyn + dread - a = Kyndred.

To find brands for your works or yourself, the best place to start is with word lists. Begin jotting down every word that describes you, your stories, your style, or anything that is strongly related to you or what you write. You don't have to automatically go for one-word or simple branding; the keyword here is memorable. For example, you may not know who Daniel Handler is until you hear his pseudonym: Lemony Snicket. Marjorie Liu's series title Dirk & Steele invokes images of honed, bladed weapons (which aptly applies to her characters.) Patricia Briggs's Alpha and Omega pulls double duty by reflecting on the soup-to-nuts hierarchy of her werewolf pack's social structure as well as the unusual relationship between her protagonists, an alpha and an omega werewolf.

Don't instantly discount your pseudonym as a brand - I can't ever recall any of the titles of author Carl Hiassen's novels, but I remember his name due to the surname. I do the same with Susan Elizabeth Phillips because hers is probably the longest author name I know, plus it's as elegant as her writing.

If you can't think of memorable words off the top of your head, hit the thesaurus and make some synonym lists based on your keywords. Focus on words that invoke an immediate emotional reaction, or that invoke instant imagery. Once you have a couple of pages, play with the words by pairing them with each other as new compound words, changing the spelling slightly and/or recombining parts of them to form coined compounds. You can also feed your lists to Wordle and generate a cloud that will shuffle the words around and create interesting groupings; I find this works best if you select a horizontal or mostly horizontal appearance so that you get a more linear cloud.

To run a fun test of how memorable your brand is, add it to a list of similar words, show it to someone for a minute, take the list away from them and ask them which word they remember first. If they say your brand word(s), it's probably the winner.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Story Marathons

The May '12 issue of The Writer has a good article by Rochelle Melander on achieving story success through participating in online writing marathons. While I knew about NaNoWriMo and NaNoEdMo, there were a bunch of others for fiction that I didn't know existed:

3-Day Novel Contest: write a novel (no specific length, but 100 pages is called "average" on the web site) in 72 hours during Labor Day weekend, which is September 1st-3rd this year. Fee for registration; cash prizes offered.

Camp NaNoWriMo: the summer camp version of NaNoWriMo; write a 50K novel in one month, takes place June 1st - 30th and again on August 1st - 31st

JulNoWriMo ~ July Novel Writing Month: write a 50K novel in one month, takes place July 1st - 31st

NaBloPoMo ~ National Blog Posting Month: post daily on your blog for one month; web site offers monthly theme challenges (PBW notes: This one isn't geared toward fiction, but it might help you revive your weblog.)

NaPiBoWriWee ~ National Picture Book Writing Week: write seven picture books in a week; takes place May 1st - 7th

WeSiWriMo ~ Web Series Writing Month: set your own goals and create a regularly-produced entertainment series (podcasts, serial stories, webisodes, web-comics, you name it) for a web-only audience; takes place August 1st - 31st

Given the ever-expanding popularity of NaNoWriMo, I'm not surprised to see there are so many spin-offs; marathons are a great way to inspire collectively. Participating in a group effort to write instills camaraderie and competition in a healthy format. Plus marathons are a fun way for writers to get a lot of work done in a relatively short period of time.

One thing Rochelle mentions in the article is the necessity of passion for your project. You never want to marathon a book based on a lukewarm ho-hum flickering spark; ideally your story should be the one that won't leave you alone, that wakes you in the middle of the night, or barges into your thoughts when you're writing something else. If there is something in your head that does nothing but throw petrol on the fires of your imagination, you've probably got a marathon-worthy concept.

Writing marathons give you the opportunity to be the writer you've always wanted to be, and that's no small thing. I think they're even more valuable for training purposes. There is no better practice at creating on demand than marathon writing, and as a pro you will need to do that. Aside from the rigors of writing according to a contracted schedule, publishers often drop extra projects in your lap that have to be done in a short period of time. This can be anything from writing cover copy to series proposals to jumping your deadlines (one time a publisher made a significant schedule change and offered me a much earlier slot, which resulted in me having to write a novel I'd only outlined in three weeks.)

For working novelists the writing marathon gives us a chance to take a break from the contracted work and explore some new territory. I find marathons help me recharge my batteries so that when I do go back to the contracted work I have more energy, better focus and a fresher perspective. Using marathons to try different genres or approaches to story can help an established writer increase their range and possibly open new opportunities to publish in a different area of the market.

Of course marathons aren't for everyone; the pressure can be overwhelming for writers who don't respond positively to tight deadlines and/or high-volume productivity. Then there are the artistic considerations. Some people really do need ten years to properly write a book, and there's nothing wrong with that except without financial support from some quarter it's quite difficult to make a living at writing that way.

Are you guys tempted by any writing marathons out there (I'm eyeing that one for picture books; that sounds like fun.) Are there any other writing marathons you know of that you want to share? Let us know in comments.