Friday, August 31, 2012

Must Chuckle

Today we must laugh, for it is the Friday of a three-day weekend and we want to start things off right, yes?

I usually dodge anything to do with that boobonic plague known as American politics, but this is simply too perfect for even me to resist. So now that I have my candidate, I just need a T-shirt (pretty sure I'll need one for Kris Reisz, too.)

I also absolutely loved this clever video (and its utterly adorable, geeky-hot presenter) from which details all the benefits of the next big thing in reading technology, the Bio Optical Organized Knowledge device (in Spanish, with English subtitles):

What's made you laugh lately? Let us know in comments.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Roll With It

My guy could never be a vampire; he loves garlic too much. One of his favorite things in the world are those lovely knotted rolls you get at good Italian restaurants. He especially likes the rolls at one local place, which they serve drizzled with olive oil and topped off with chopped raw garlic.

Because I like making my guy happy, I've been trying for years to find the equivalent of those rolls that I could make at home with my Italian meals. I've tried jazzing up my own rolls, rolls from the bakery and frozen garlic knots (which are pretty awful no matter what you do with them) but no luck. Nothing tasted as hot, fresh or light as the rolls from his favorite restaurant.

I don't give up that easy; I'm the daughter of a chef, and while I'm never going to win a bake-off I'm a pretty decent bread maker. I felt certain I could figure out the recipe, I thought, by experimenting until I got it right.

I knew by taste that the rolls were made with yeast, so my first attempts were all variations on yeast roll recipes from various cookbooks. Some were too dense, some were too sweet, and none of them had the right texture. The dough needed to be light but chewy, almost like a good bagel, so I moved on to bagel dough recipes. That didn't work. I then tried to make them based on recipes for Italian bread, homemade pretzels and even my mother's fried dough cakes, but no luck there, either.

I was close to driving myself crazy over these rolls when I thought of something: the restaurant that made my guy's favorite garlic rolls also did a big business in take-out pizza. A lot of pizza meant a lot of dough -- and good pizza crust is made with yeast. If they wanted to save time, they'd probably use some of their pizza dough for their rolls instead of another, different recipe.

It seemed almost too stupid to be right, but I was pretty sure I was onto something, so I made a batch of my homemade pizza dough, cut it into strips, rolled it into knots, and baked them. They came out so close to the restaurant's rolls that after one bite I nearly fell on the floor. They were using pizza dough. Despite my success the rolls still weren't quite right; they didn't have that correct crispness to the crust, and the garlic in my olive oil drizzle seemed mushy.

I talked about the recipe with my daughter, who took a culinary class in school last year, and she suggested I use an egg wash on the rolls to improve the crust (and that worked.) Then I tried different ways to prepare and add the chopped garlic, all of which failed to replicate the restaurant's version. It ended up being too chunky, too soggy, too crunchy or too mushy. I was too close to give up, so by trial and error I discovered that if I waited to chop the garlic (in the food processor) a minute before the rolls were finished baking, and added it to the rolls after applying the olive oil drizzle, it worked.

Now my guy can have his favorite rolls whenever he likes, no restaurant required. I know it seems like a silly thing to spend so much time puzzling out, but you don't know how happy these rolls make my man. He practically kisses my feet every time I set a basket of them on the table.

Of course, I could have saved myself a year of trial and error baking by asking one of the people at the restaurant to tell me how they make their rolls; we're such regular customers I'm pretty sure they would have given me at least the general idea. Or I might have searched online until I found the exact right recipe for garlic knots and copied that. There's nothing wrong with either of those options; they certainly would have eliminated a lot of mistakes and failed batches of rolls.

That also would have taken all the fun out of it, and I wouldn't have learned things like egg wash is great for making crisper crust on bread (thank you, daughter), or that garlic is better chopped than crushed. Even while taste-testing different types of garlic while I was involved in this experiment, I found out that Mexican-grown variety is a little too bitter for my taste, and the elephant variety (which has huge cloves) is kind of bland.

It's also given me an infusion of assurance that I didn't have before; I really don't have my Dad's gift with food so I've always been more of a by-the-book cook. I've adapted existing recipes, but I've never invented one from scratch on my own. Now that I've done this, I think I'll be open to experimenting more often.

There's one more bonus I got out of this cooking experiment: I'll never tell my guy this, but I like my garlic knots better than the ones we get at the restaurant. This is because I know exactly what goes into them, my ingredients are all-natural and healthy, and they're made with love. How can any restaurant top that?

With writing, most everyone develops their own creative process based on what they're taught, what they read in books and what they imitate. None of these are wrong; whatever helps you to learn and improve your art is a good thing. But every now and then, it doesn't hurt to figure it out on your own. It may take longer, and you may fail several times, but you'll also learn, and eventually you will find the way to make it work. And that will be your way, not someone else's, and that will instill a sense of confidence that no teacher or book can ever give you.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

About the BookLoop

With my last giveaway of Rob Thurman's All Seeing Eye I included for each winner one of my BookLoops, the design I came up with last summer when I decided to reinvent the bookmark. Recently I made a bunch to play with different types of anchors, and since I have more than I can ever possibly use I thought they'd be a cool little surprise to tuck in the packages.

Two people who received the BookLoops have already asked about them, and since some of you weren't around when I came up with the idea I thought I'd restate my intentions -- I originally shared the project so other people would use it to make their own. If you like the idea, please feel free to use my design to make your own BookLoops, improve on the design, give them as gifts, use them for promo, sell them as crafts, or whatever you like. It's also a great project for kids because they're uber-simple to make.

For more details about the design, here are the two posts on PBW I've written about the BookLoop:

Reinventing the BookMark Idea #3

Improving the BookLoop

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Back & Not Free Dragon

I'm back up and running, thanks to Isaac only minorly messing with us. Please keep the folks in New Orleans and the impact zone in your thoughts and prayers.

I also have a heads-up on something that Lifehacker has been nattering on about; in this article they claim you can get the home version of Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software version 11.5 for free (pay $40.00 and then mail in two $20.00 rebates) or for $20.00 on another site. Yet when I followed the links it seems neither Tigerdirect or Newegg are offering the deals any longer.

I know internet deals can be taken down as quickly as they're put up, but as of right this moment you can purchase the Dragon for $35.95 here on, which is a 50% discount, and as low as I've ever seen it being offered.

Everyone else make it through the storm okay? Let us know in comments.

A Little Nightbred

In December Nightbred, the second novel in my Lords of the Darkyn trilogy, will be hitting the shelves. Here's the cover copy:

Jamys Durand has survived being made an immortal Darkyn, horrific torture, and years of grueling warrior training. But he has no future to offer Chris, the mortal woman he loves. When he learns of a lost Templar treasure, Jamys vows to possess it and win his lady's heart.

No one knows Chris Lang wants to be a
tresora so she can live with Jamys, her secret love. Her superiors offer to make her dream comes true, but only if she finds the lost treasure before Jamys can. Working together, Chris and Jamys track the jewels through a shadowy maze of priceless artifacts, decadent secrets and a ruthless opponent who can possess an immortal's mind . . . and will stop at nothing to have Chris.

If you'd like to sample the novel, head over to the stories blog and read an excerpt here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Freely Ten

[Note: I've set up some posts to automatically publish while I'm off dealing with the storm; please excuse any errors I didn't catch. Any comments you choose to leave will likely take a while to be approved, as my stand-in comment moderator works days.]

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.)

Softology's Anagram Generator "creates anagrams and lexigrams, generates reverse dictionaries, word search function allows wildcard search on dictionary, allows you to see if your phone number spells anything interesting, searches for palindromes, search for words that rhyme with other words. Ideal for song writers, musicians and poets, includes English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Dutch and Spanish dictionaries, solves Jumble puzzles, saves all results as txt files for future viewing/editing/printing, non-encrypted dictionaries allow full customisation of words if required, manually edited English dictionary trimmed to generate interesting anagrams at a much faster speed" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

The free trial version of ArtText is a Mac OS X application for "creating high quality textual graphics, headings, logos, icons, web site elements and buttons. Thanks to multi layer support creating complex graphics is no sweat. Use the result with Apple iWork, iWeb, Microsoft Office, BeLight applications, and various other text edit and web design programs. Available in: English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese" (OS: Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later, Intel only. Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion compatible)

Efficient Sticky Notes allows you to "throw away the traditional paper sticky notes and start using the completely free Efficient Sticky Notes! "Stick" your notes on the desktop and you can read important information at any time on the screen. It saves your money and saves your time! The software allows various background colors, with optional gradient effect, to be set for the sticky notes. You can also customize the font of each note and set it to be semi-transparent so it will not fully cover up your desktop background or icons. To fully protect your privacy, the software encrypts the login password with the irreversible SHA algorithm and also encrypts data files. Besides, it offers various special features such as managing sticky notes by group, setting note importance, tracking the creation time and last modification time of notes, adding attachments to notes, Recycle Bin, etc. (OS: Win 98/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3/Vista/7)

Growly Notes is a freewware that "lets you capture everything you’re interested in, all in one place. Organize research projects, trips, to-do lists, or journals. Scrapbook your images, web links, and video clips. Your imagination is the only limitation. Pages can contain almost anything: formatted text, images, movies, audio clips, PDF files, tables, lists, web and file links, and drawings you create in Notes. There are no rules for where things have to go: put an image beside text or under it. Draw shapes on top of other notes. Put two snippets of text right next to each other. Click anywhere and start typing. It’s really that simple. Notebooks are organized into sections (the larger tabs on the left in the image above), each of which contains as many pages as you like. All the open notebooks are shown in one window, for easy navigation and quick jumps" (OS: Mac)

The Lite version of InstantPhotoSketch converts your digital photos into artful sketches. This one has very limited features, so you may want to check out the pay-for Pro version, which has a free trial period, if you're looking for a more sophisticated program. (OS: Mac, Windows)

LazPaint is an "image editor, like PaintBrush or Paint.Net, written in Lazarus (Free Pascal). Includes BGRABitmap, a set of drawing routines. Features: antialiasing; multiple undo; alpha blending; BGRABitmap; selection of any shape; rotation; filters; update checker. What´s New in version 4.8: better 'Shift colors' (menu Colors); a checkbox enables the correction of the usual HSL model; selection edition in grayscale (menu Selection); new 'Texture mapping' tool; import 3D objects (format *.obj); png black transparent fix" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7)

MemPad is "a plain text outliner and note taking program with a structured index. All pages are stored in a single file. User interface in English, German, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Russian, Turkish, Chinese. The program offers standard editing functions including cut, copy, paste, undo, date/time insert, drag&drop, and supports Web links as well as network and local file or folder links (full path not required) and internal page links. Environmental variables can be used in file links to run programs, for example" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

Piggydb 6.0 is a "Web notebook application that provides you with a platform to build your knowledge personally or collaboratively. With Piggydb, you can create highly structural knowledge by connecting knowledge fragments to each other to build a network structure, which is more flexible and expressive than a tree structure. Fragments can also be classified with hierarchical tags. Piggydb does not aim to be an input-and-search database application. It aims to be a platform that encourages you to organize your knowledge continuously to discover new ideas or concepts, and moreover enrich your creativity." (OS: Multi-Platform Java; Requires Java Runtime Environment.)

TextOnTrays is "a small utility which allows you to store on its "trays" lots of texts that you often write. Afterwards, in a click, you paste any of these texts wherever you want. It is possible to store up to 150 texts" (OS: Mac OS X)

Here's something for those of you who make custom crossword puzzles for your newsletters, conference handouts or on your web sites: XWord is a "crossword puzzle program designed to be highly configurable. It supports a variety of formats: puz, xpf, jpz, and ipuz. Includes support for rebus puzzles, "trick" puzzles, diagramless puzzles, scrambled/locked puzzles, and a timer. Features:
Diagramless puzzles; Rebus puzzles; Circled and shaded squares; Unconventional numbering schemes; Clues in directions (and shapes) other than straight Across and Down; Formatted clue text; Background images; Puzzles with scrambled solutions; Notes" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Off to Batten Down the Hatches

I'm unplugging today to finish our prep for Tropical Storm Isaac and check on family to make sure everyone else is ready. This is by no means our first time weathering a storm, and our house has survived much worse, so I expect we'll be fine. I'm sending out my prayers for everyone who has already evacuated from the islands and the Keys, and hope all of you who live in areas under watches or warnings stay safe.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

In A Hundred Years

If you've been following as I have the story about a mysterious 100-year-old package dated to be opened now by the staff of the Gudbrandsdal museum in Norway, here's what they found:

Although a complete list hasn't yet been made available, evidently the package-within-a-package was filled with letters, documents, notebooks and fabric banners, all of which delighted the historians.

Any time one of these time capsule-type stories pops up in the news I have mixed feelings. I love seeing the discovery of artifacts from the past, but it also makes me wonder if all the electronic gadgets we use plus the slow evaporation of meaningful personal writing (like real letters that you write with a pen and mail in an envelope with a stamp to someone else) will deprive future generations of any legacy we might want to cache away for them. Even if we could somehow save the e-mails and texts and other e-communications for a hundred years, given the usual dubious quality of the content, would anyone really want to read them?

I'm pretty realistic about what might survive me for a hundred years. Probably not my books, unless Project Gutenberg or something like it is still around and takes an interest in preserving my stories once they pass into the public domain. One really positive aspect of not being a literary author is that it's almost guaranteed no kid in 2150 will be forced to read and write a book report about one of my stories. Is there any worse fate for an author than the prospect of becoming Boring English Lit Assignment #999?

Oddly enough I think what I do that has the best chance of making it a century or more are my quilts. I've quite a few that I put together using traditional techniques and fabrics that (if properly stored and cared for) might go the distance. I like the idea of my quilts still being around for future generations to enjoy, even if it's just some far-off branch of the family. Besides, how can you hate something colorful and soft and warm and cuddly?

Now it's your turn: what would you like to leave behind to be discovered in a hundred years? Can be anything at all; your choice -- just remember, it should be able to last at least a century. Let us know in comments.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Looking Back

I made this little pouch while working on my 1000 Cards Project this past week. The nautilus image was one I scanned, shrank and recolorized from a crazy quilt beading book; the other parts of the pouch were made from some fabric scraps and leftover beads from other projects. I didn't think of what to put inside the pouch until it was finished, and then made a BookLoop with a pewter turtle pendant. The entire project took twelve hours to make from my starting idea to the finished piece. Which seems like a long time, considering that it's artist trading card-size (2.5" X 3.5").

While I was working on this one the thread snarled a few times, and snapped once. The beading on the outer edge isn't bridged right in a few places, and I had a devil of a time getting the edges to line up when I was forming the pouch because I'd eyeballed the seams instead of properly measuring them. When I got (understandably) impatient with it, I accidentally rammed the end of one of the holding pins into my index finger.

At that point I said a lot of bad words over it, and I had to wear a bandaid for the last couple of hours I worked so I wouldn't bleed on it. When it was done I felt a little like I'd put myself through a wringer backwards, but I'd learned a few things, too: 1) sew with 12" of holographic Sulky rather than my usual 18", 2) don't use it in areas where I'll need to pull the thread hard, 3) plan out the entire piece first, not just the initial concept, and 4) get off my lazy backside when I'm cutting and use a ruler instead of my obviously not-too-dependable eyeballs.

Despite my one shortcut it probably sounds like a lot of time and effort for such a small piece, and in fact it was. In the time I spent making this one ATC I probably could have knocked out ten or twenty simpler designs. Sure, I could have used the sewing machine instead of doing all the work by hand. I also might have hot-glued the beads on instead of sewing them in place. But for me this project has never been about doing it the easy/fast/simple way, or getting a huge quantity of work done in a short amount of time. I want to learn from this experience, but more importantly, I want to give it my best. Some days I do make a lot of cards because the idea is simpler to execute; but other cards take me days, even weeks to complete.

As with writing or any creative endeavor, when you're so focused on what's in front of you, you can forget the big picture. You can become discouraged by what the day's work demands of you. I can't tell you how many times I've felt too tired, too drained, too inadequate to even think about this project. For most of the year I haven't been concentrating on anything but one piece at a time, although once a month I take a photo of what I finished to post to the photoblog. Sometimes that gives me a boost, but it never seems like much. Back in May I took a couple weeks off and didn't make a thing, which put me seriously behind my production schedule. I needed the time away, and I don't regret it, but it hurt the project. When I started back up I had to do so knowing that even if I work my ass off for the rest of the year, I might not reach the finish line.

So why keep doing it? I don't know. I'm stubborn, I guess. No, I think it's mainly that I like to finish what I start. Actually, I'm pretty obnoxious about it.

Finally I reached the halfway point, and some time today I will make my 500th card. I wanted this one to be significant, but I sort of blanked on how I could make it that way. Then I realized I hadn't really looked at what I've accomplished so far, not the entire shebang, so I started unloading the storage chest where I've been keeping the finished cards to spread them out on the dining room table (and honestly I didn't think I'd have enough finished cards to cover the top of it.)

I've been so busy with the work, and my writing, and my life that I've forgotten about a lot of the cards I've made. As I sorted them out, I rediscovered some of the moments from this past year that inspired bits of this project: the wonderful time we spent celebrating my daughter's birthday; the quilt show I attended last Spring; a cool technique I invented during my art class. There were bleak moments in the cards, too: my very painful jaw surgery, dealing with the loss of my dad, the heartbreak of hearing that Monica Jackson had passed away. It was all there, in the cards, and as I was revisiting them I ran out of dining room table and had to start creatively repiling them.

I didn't realize how much work I've done, either. There were lots of photographs and quilted cards, along with experiments that failed, and ideas that blossomed. A few of the cards made me laugh out loud; some made my eyes sting. And they just kept coming out of the box, more and more until I finally put down the last one. All five hundred, right there in front of me, and I looked at what has become more than a year-long art project. I looked at what I've done, and I saw not just what I can do, but what I will do -- five hundred more of these:

With writing I'm always nagging you all to focus on organizing and planning and getting the words down on the page every day. I know I've warned you not to backtrack. Once in a while, however, it's good to make a pit stop and take a hard look at all of what you've accomplished. It's important to have that sense of where you've been, and how it's brought you to where you are. Maybe never more so than in those moments when the finish line seems so far away.

My project may not be finished this year, but I will finish it. I won't look at the cards again until I have completed the 1000th ATC. I don't need to. I'm halfway there. Now that I've seen what I've done, I know I can do the rest.

And this post, and these photos? Are my 500th card.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Watch & Prepare

Twenty years ago Hurricane Andrew forced me to relocate -- twice -- with a newborn baby. Now we have this one to worry about:

The National Hurricane Center has all the latest on Tropical Storm Isaac, and vital information here on how to prepare for the storm if you live in the strike zone.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Not for Sale

There is an excellent discussion going on here over at Absolute Write's paying market forum that reads like a primer of everything a writer should check out and question about open anthology calls. I'm particularly impressed by how the writers on the site are responding to the post (and if you do go over and join in, please be as civilized about it as they are.) Protecting each other by flagging and (when possible) discussing prohibitive terms involved with any writing job is one of the most valuable aspects of being members of the online writing community.

In the past I've done flat-fee writing for hire, which in my case involved turning a concept into novels for one client. Like most writers I much prefer to do my own thing, but at the time I needed the income, and when bills pile up you often can't afford to be choosy. It turned out to be a neat challenge involving an interesting type of writing, plus I got to use some personal knowledge I don't usually have the chance to employ in my own writing. I worked with some great editors and was suitably compensated for my time and efforts. All in all it was a decent experience and I'm glad I did it; if the right project came along I'd certainly do it again.

That said, before I signed the contract for that particular WFH project I made sure I understood every aspect of what I was selling to the client: all rights, including the copyright, in exchange for a flat fee per novel plus a standard percentage of the royalties. Once the books were finished they belonged to the client, not me; from my POV they might as well have been written by someone else. Which is how I still think of them, actually -- as the client's books, not mine.

Bottom line, be sure and read all the terms involved with any offer or writing job you're considering, and be sure you're clear on what you're selling to the publisher or client. If any clause is unclear, ask for some clarification. If any of the terms leaves you feeling uncomfortable, worried or otherwise troubled, don't accept it. You can always find another job -- once you sell off your rights, they're gone forever.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Thanks to everyone who offered up the impressive titles for the See for Yourself giveaway. I love following the little mini-discussions in comments, and I really do buy a lot of the titles you all recommend; today I spotted at Dollar Tree a hardcover copy of The Magic of Grace by Charles de Lint, and picked it up because of Diane's rec.

Anyway, we revved up the magic hat tonight, and the winners are:

Erin K., who was impressed by The First Confessor by Terry Goodkind.

Shelley, who really liked Lilith Saintcrow's The Iron Wyrm Affair.

Stephanie, who loves all the books in the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne.

Susanne, who really liked Blood Oath and The President`s Vampire by Christopher Farnswort.

Jessica, who really liked The Summoning (Moon Wolf Saga) by Carol Wolfe.

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

Monday, August 20, 2012

Artsy Ten

Ten Things About Online Art Resources

Architect Studio 3D is part online game, part hands-on tutorial, part guided experience in architectural designing. A virtual cartoon version of Frank Lloyd Writer offers advice and helps you choose a client, location, and build what they want (requires shockwave.)

Art cyclopedia offers a search engine where you can look for fine art online by artist's name, the artwork;s title or a particular museum.

If you want to learn an artistic technique but can't afford to take a class, check out the free video tutorials at ArtMaker.

Art Promote is "a free online service that provides access to fine and decorative art images, online exhibitions, and related resources for research and education. Search or browse over 200 categories with more than 5,000 entries organized by theme, region, period, movement, medium, and resource type. All collections and exhibitions presented by ArtPromote are freely available online."

Colour Lovers is a creative community website where you can view, post and discuss all your favorite palettes, and see what other artists are working on.

The Graffti Creator is a free online flash generator that allows you to create and customize your own virtual graffiti.

My latest internet art addiction is Myoats, an online art generator that helps you create (and even better, edit) beautiful mandala/snowflake/spirograph-type images.'s The Scribbler will generate a sketch based on whatever you draw on the whiteboard.

Street Art View is a collaborative web site devoted to showcasing street art found via Google's street view; excellent if you want to see real-world street art. Here's my personal favorite by Keith Haring:

Tuxpi Photo Editor offers 58 different photo editing tools you can use online with an uploaded image.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Off to Sharpen Pencils

I am unplugging today to do the last thousand things necessary to get my kid ready for school. So that your stop here was not entirely wasted, some other places to visit:

There's an interesting article here by Alan Finder at the NY Times that lightly touches on some of the available sites and services out there for indie authors; definitely worth a read if you'd like a (very general) overview of self-publishing options.

If you are working on querying agents, you might want to read this post by literary agent Suzie Townsend, which offers some very sage -- and hilarious -- pointers, such as One sentence about your book and two pages about you is not the best way to sell me your book.

Someone (you know who you are) asked me if I'd ever found a random generator online that produces quick character outlines; thanks to RanGen, here you go.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

See For Yourself

The question is not what you look at, but what you see. -- Henry David Thoreau

Yesterday while I was at the grocery store I detoured from my quest for some decent ripe apricots to take a walk down the book/card/magazine aisle. I can't help it; I can't be somewhere they sell books and not check out the shelves. Also my market always seems to carry at least one or two new releases that I missed because I didn't get to the bookstore that week, or I didn't spot them on my last trip. I've been insanely busy with family and work stuff since coming back from Savannah, so my most recent bookstore trips have been mad grab-and-dash stops.

I scanned the racks but didn't see anything new, and was just about to head back to produce when I spotted two words that promised to wreck my plans to sew that night: Rob Thurman.

Yes, it seems that while I was out of town, Rob Thurman released a new novel, All Seeing Eye. This isn't the first time this has happened, either. I swear, if I were paranoid I'd believe she deliberately plans it when she talks to her editor about scheduling: Is Viehl is going to be out of town at the end of July? Okay, I want the release that week.

Naturally All Seeing Eye came home with me and the apricots. And since I can't have a new Rob Thurman release in the house and not read it, I put away the sewing and carried a kitchen timer around with me so I wouldn't burn dinner while I dove in.

In All Seeing Eye Rob introduces us to a new protagonist, Jackson Lee, a poor kid with a hardworking mom, two adorable little sisters and the Stepfather from Hell. Jack doesn't have much, but he wants more, and better, for his family, and he's willing to work for it. Fate steps in one day to give him one-half of what he wishes for when he discovers one of his sister's shoes in the grass, and his own tactile psychic power the moment he touches it. That day changes Jackson's life forever, and while he's given an tremendous gift, almost everything else he cares about is taken from him in the most horrific fashion imaginable . . . and that's just the beginning.

Despite the timer, All Seeing Eye nearly did make me burn dinner, because (like all of Rob's books) once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. As stories go this one is particularly nightmare dark, switchblade-edged, with characters and a storyline so compelling you should expect not to be able to set it aside until you reach the stunning conclusion -- and then it will probably haunt you until I go out of town again and Rob releases a new book.

As always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, name the last book you read that impressed the hell out of you (or if you can't think of one, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Monday, August 20, 2012. I'll choose five names at random from everyone who participates, and send the winners an unsigned copy of All Seeing Eye by Rob Thurman. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something at PBW in the past.

Friday, August 17, 2012

As You've Never CV'd

This imaginative video made me grin, as one of my very first writing jobs was composing and typing up CVs and resumes for people looking for jobs. Oddly, none of mine ever did this (and a heads-up for those of you at work, this one has some background music):

Skoda - Curriculum Vitae from weareflink on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Drop Results #2

Last month I tried a book dropping experiment to test my ability to match people with books I think they'd enjoy. This required the test subjects to tell me what sort of story they most liked to read, and then me sending them a book without telling them in advance the title or author. The first to report back was DeeCee, and you can read about the results here. My second matchmaking attempt was for SF and Fantasy author Margaret McGaffey Fisk, and she reported in yesterday on her experience.

First, Margaret's original comment from the book drop post:

Margaret M. Fisk 2:28 PM

Ooh, interesting concept :). I'm in it for the story, so it's hard to limit. I generally prefer non-modern except where urban fantasy and all shades of romance are concerned. I prefer stories with strong characters, though whether complex narratives or candy reads depends on my mood. It's easier to say what I don't like than what I do, because it's the smaller category. I'm pissed off by self-righteous or arrogant main characters who use the people around them without either noticing or caring. And I love being transported to different places or times, to see a bit of our world, or one that only exists in fiction, that I might not have experienced in real life. That's why in non-fiction I tend to prefer anthropology or historical biography over straight information.

I sent Margaret Michelle Moran's historical novel Cleopatra's Daughter because I felt it was a good match for her, basing the choice entirely on the eloquent description she gave of her reading preferences. Dropping historical fiction on someone can be tricky, in that it's generally not something I consider casual/light reading, and too often even the best historical fiction strays over to the dry/scholarly side.

Not so with Cleopatra's Daughter. Michelle Moran pairs superb research and artfully re-imagined history with a smooth storyteller's voice, and I thought Margaret would appreciate the excellent story and the chance to visit an important historic era and culture which (unfortunately) doesn't often appear on the fiction shelves.

Judging by Margaret's wonderful review of the novel, which you can read on her blog here, I'd say I made the right choice.

That's two down and one to go, and once I have the final results in from our third book drop winner I'll post them and wrap up this experiment.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Nook Friendless

Now that I have the damn thing a Nook e-reader, I thought I'd check out the lending feature and share e-books I buy with friends. Only turns out that none of my friends in the real world has a Nook, or any e-reader at all. I know my sister has an ancient Kindle, but I'm not sure it will let her borrow anything from me (disclaimer: I've yet to find any official info on if inter-device lending is even possible. I had to comb through B&'s Nook forums for half an hour before I found out how the LendMe thing works.)

In the process of investigating how all this lending stuff works, I came across Rick Broida's cnet article Four Matchmaking Services for e-book Borrowing and Lending that lists four online sites that evidently help match you up with another reader who wants to swap e-books and/or allow you to lend and borrow e-books for free (I've yet to personally check out the terms and conditions on any of the sites so if you do want to give them a test-drive be cautious and read up on their small print first.)

I'm also not sure how many Nook friends I really want to have. I haven't bought a lot of books for the e-reader, so my library is still pretty tiny. I'd be okay with lending books, but for my part I'm more inclined to pay for a book than borrow one (that way I own it and I can read it whenever I want.) And the whole "friend" aspect really annoys me; why do they have to use that word? That's the reason I've avoided LiveJournal and Facebook; I have a very different definition of the word friend. I think your e-reader "friends" can ask you to lend them books, too; what if I'm reading it and say no? Will they decide we're not friends anymore?

It makes my head hurt just to think about it. I also suspect one can easily go overboard with this sort of thing and become a slave to your e-reader lend-me-borrow-me whatever list. It's not something I want to do or check every day or even every week. If anything I'd like to build a small, private circle of like-minded book lovers who like to swap books a couple times a year. More like a private e-book club, minus the meetings.

I'm still learning, and I know 99% of you out there are way more knowledgeable on these things than me, so if you have a moment I'd appreciate some advice. Have any of you come up with a workable system to handle lending out your e-books? Do you have a small circle of e-reader friends, do you just lend to family, or have you tried one of these e-book matchmaker services? Also, how is the whole lending thing working out for you? Let me know in comments.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


According to Margaret Wolfson's article on branding in the current issue of Poets & Writers, brand name styles can be grouped (broadly) by one of the following categories, all of which I've used myself:

Metaphoric/Allusive (Darkyn ~ a metaphor for vampire)

Coined/Divergent Spelling (Kyndred ~ divergent spelling of the word kindred to link it to Darkyn)

Descriptive (Paperback Writer ~ a blog written by a novelist)

Eponymous/Origin (Lynn Viehl ~ a brand pseudonym)

Creative Compounds (StarDoc ~ a coined compound of star + doctor)

Phrases (Tales from the Lost Ledger ~ my only phrase brand, I think, comprised of the novella's subtitle, which is also a subversive element in the story)

Alphanumeric/Acronym (PBW, a coined acronym of Paperback Writer, aka shorthand for me, which is easier to remember and spell than any of my bylines.)

There are plenty of approaches to brand naming, including hiring a professional to do it for you. As writers we are forever forging words into stories, however, and I think the best brands are those we create ourselves and that have meaning for us (and some of the most successful brands started out as a personal mark by the brand's creator.)

Why are writers so suited to successful brand-making? We are wordsmiths who already forge immense things every day using only words. Writers dream in words, and use them to construct new people, places and even entire universes. We are exactly like the classic variety of smith, too, except that the page is our anvil, words are our metals, imagination our furnace and writing skills the tools we use to hammer out, hone and perfect our stories.

Smithing words into brands is also one of the most important exercises you can do as a writer, not only to group and define your work under a recognizable symbol, but to make your mark on the Publishing world as well. Stop and think about the word brand for a moment. One definition of it is as a permanent mark to record and display ownership. When you mark something with your brand, it should say to the world "This is mine."

Writer brands range from individual character names (Harry Potter ~ J.K. Rowling), setting names (Mitford ~ Jan Karon), novel titles (Twilight ~ Stephenie Meyer) to group names such as name-linked novel titles (One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly, etc. ~ Janet Evanovich) or series brands (StarDoc ~ Yours Truly). The writer's own name can become a brand as well (Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe) but unless they inspire a great many people during their lifetime (like Dr. Maya Angelou) that's usually a posthumous brand.

For me coining the words and using divergent spellings for my own brands has worked best, and inspiration can come from anywhere. StarDoc was born during a shower, when I was thinking about a newspaper article about a marine biologist. They ran a photo of the guy standing beside his Jeep, which sported the vanity license plate. I kept thinking how perfectly apt and utterly cool that plate was (SEA DOC), and then made the leap to my own brand (and don't ask me how, to this day I don't know what really prompted it) by mentally swapping out SEA with STAR. So there's one technique that might help you come up with your own brand; invent an imaginary vanity license plate for the work you want to mark.

Wordle, my favorite online word toy, can be extremely helpful with brandsmithing, too. On the create page, feed Wordle lists of keywords, synonyms and other descriptors, and let it form a word cloud for you like this one, which is compromised of a few title ideas plus synonym lists for the words fire, light and burn (and here's something I've recently discovered about editing your Wordle creations: if you want to remove any word from the cloud, right click on it and a little remove-word window will pop up; left click on the window and Wordle will regenerate the cloud again in the same format and layout minus the word you don't want.)

One more thought -- wordsmithing a brand takes time and often a lot of thought and work, so don't expect to come up with a brilliant concept overnight. Be diligent, keep tinkering at it but also remain open to any source of inspiration, and you'll have the best chance of creating the brand that leaves your mark on the industry.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Outlining Ten

Ten Things About Outlining Your Fiction

I haven't yet tested Using MS Word to Auto-Outline and Keep Track of Revelations by Martina Boone, but it sounds like it should work.

Keith Cronin abstains from Roman numerals in his hybrid pantser-plotter approach to outlining, The Big O.

Glen Ford's Book Proposals ~ Writing an Outline for a Nonfiction Book from the Book Itself and How to Reverse-Outline Your First Draft by Mark Nichol both tell you how to write up an outline after you've written the book.

If you want to know how Janet Evanovich outlines (aka the easy way), take a look at her storyboard method and how she plotted one of her novels here.

Janice Hardy discusses putting together your own outlining method in Are You In or Out? Crafting Outlines That Work for You.

The Outlining Dilemma - Plotting vs. Pantsing by Beth Hill discusses the pros and cons with both approaches, and has some useful tips on outlining that work for both.

Sarah A. Hoyt's Hunting the Wild Subplot is more about the process of refining an outline than subplots per se, but still worth the read.

Alicia Tasley's classic article Outline Your Novel in Thirty Minutes asks all the right questions; you provide the answers.

DIY MFA's Untraditional Outline Techniques article includes a link to a one-page worksheet to help with outlining the primary elements of your story.

Juliette Wade's Sequence Outlining offers an event-driven method of outlining.

All of the above links were found via the fabulous writing-specific search engine at Writer's Knowledge Base. And if you'd like to see what I've written on outlining here at PBW, click here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Water + Light = Art

Did you know anyone can make art (or write a message) using only water and light? It's possible now, thanks to Antonin Fourneau and some very innovative use of LED technology:

Water Light Graffiti by Antonin Fourneau, created in the Digitalarti Artlab from Digitalarti on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

By Any Other Author

According to the Times, Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe, one of the most beloved PI protagonists in the mystery genre, has been appropriated yet again, this time by lit author John Banville. Banville, who has been authorized by Chandler's estate, is writing a Marlowe novel under his mystery pseudonym Benjamin Black, to be published in 2013.

In 1937 Chandler, an American raised in England who early on had literary ambitions, wrote this:

The best writing in English today is done by Americans, but not in any purist tradition. They have roughed the language around as Shakespeare did and done it the violence of melodrama and the press box. They have knocked over tombs and sneered at the dead. Which is as it should be. There are too many dead men and there is too much talk about them.

So how would Chandler feel about a Booker-prize winning Irishman appropriating his much-beloved detective? Well, we can't ask him. He died in 1959. But he did leave behind this quotation:

There is something about the literary life that repels me, all this desperate building of castles on cobwebs, the long-drawn acrimonious struggle to make something important which we all know will be gone forever in a few years, the miasma of failure which is to me almost as offensive as the cheap gaudiness of popular success.

Whatever Chandler's personal wishes were, after the end the deciding authority are always the author's heirs. More often than not money decides the issues for them; if there is some to be made, why would they walk away from it to protect the integrity of the work? Besides, however horrible the choices made are, the author can't do anything about it.

Fortunately most of us who publish will likely never have to worry about this; our books will probably not survive us for very long. At best the heirs of most traditionally-published writers can expect five to ten years of royalties before the next generation of writers takes our place. For the majority of us our titles will go out of print and in time will be completely forgotten.

But what if they aren't? What if right now you're writing the next Phillip Marlowe, and fifty years after your death some random writer decides s/he can pick up where you left off? How do you protect the work from inappropriate appropriation after your death?

Your first and best option is to consult an attorney who handles this sort of business, and learn what you can do legally to protect your work from predatory parties. Obviously this is the most expensive option, but if your work means that much to you then you won't mind spending the money.

You may also choose during your lifetime to write an irrevocable end to the works you don't want continued after your death. Killing off the characters is the most final version of this solution, but that still leaves room for prequels (and sorry, but you're just going to have to deal with that possibility.) There are other ways to handle it without exterminating your casts; one of the reasons I wrote Dream Called Time the way I did was to protect the StarDoc universe as best I could from future appropriation.

You can also have a long talk with your heirs, and make it clear what you want done with the work after your death. If you choose to do this, be reasonable, and be clear. You might even consider accepting that your work may be continued on by another, and put together for your heirs a list of writers (or the sort of writers) you'd like to see carry on the storytelling, should it ever come up for future appropriation. This allows your heirs the chance to profit from the work after your death -- which, let's face, is going to be their primary concern however much they love you -- while still respecting your wishes.

(Link to the Times article found over at J. Michael Poole's place.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

82 Days

I'm running a bit behind on checking my annual calendar reminders, but the one I did want to mention this week is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Each year thousands of writers around the globe spend the month of November writing a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.

I've unofficially joined in a few times, but as I have a book due in October, a new release coming out in early December, and (possibly) a WFH job to add to the work schedule, I don't think I'll be NaNo'ing this year. As before I'll do what I can to support, nag, and cheer on the participants.

I'm hoping to do something completely new this year for NaNoWriMo as well; I'll have more on that once I iron out the details. I'll also have some spectacular NaNoWriMo-related news to share in the very near future, but since I don't want to jinx it before it's all settled I'm also going to keep that under my hat until it is. Don't worry, it'll be worth the wait.

Are any of you planning to write a novel in November? How are you getting ready for this marvelous marathon? Let us know in comments.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

This and That

After several requests came in for advance reading copies of my December release Nightbred I checked with my editor, and it turns out that my publisher will not be printing any this time around. Instead NAL will be placing the novel up on Net Galley, which I'm told hands out e-book versions for reviewers and bloggers. I don't know how difficult it is to use this service, as I buy all the books I talk about here on the blog, but I'm sure you techno-savvy folks know all about it.

It's a little sad to see the end of printed ARCs, although it will be nice not to see them being sold on eBay or by used booksellers on Amazon for ridiculous prices. I've heard some authors get permission to print their own ARCs via short run printers, but at present I don't have the time or the room in the budget for that. I've done my own photocopied, unbound galleys in the past but they're a bit cumbersome.

I'm planning to do some online giveaways for Nightbred during mid-to-late November, and for these I'll use signed copies of the final edition (this assuming my author copies come in earlier than the release date.) It will also mean I have to do the promo a few weeks later than I'd planned, but this is part of the E-future, and it's time I got in step with it.

I've also received several e-mails from readers who noted the BBC's coverage of the unique tomb burial discovered beneath the ruins of Templo Mayor in Mexico City and how closely it resembles the tomb in my novel Nightshine.

It's not the first time my fiction has pre-empted fact, and I do understand why it kind of weirds out everyone when it does. While the newly-uncovered tomb is in the same (okay, the exact same) location of the fictional tomb of Sokojotsin in my book, which I wrote two years ago, no psychic visions on my part were involved. I attribute the coincidence to a lucky combination of research and imagination. I spent months studying the history of the Aztecs, their culture and how they lived in preparation for writing Nightshine.

As for the specific reasons I chose Templo Mayor as the not-quite-final resting place of this character, there were two: 1) it was one of the most important temples in Tenochtitlan, and 2) it was actually destroyed by the Spanish exactly when I needed it to be destroyed to fit in with the character's storyline. That archaeologists have now uncovered a significant burial beneath the same temple in the real world is yes, simply an odd coincidence, nothing more. I can tell you with 100% confidence that they won't find in their tomb what I put in mine in the novel.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Last of the Trade Gripes

Since I've gotten hooked on the UK's writer trade magazine Writers' Forum I grabbed the August issue when I stopped by BAM yesterday. As it's also been some time since I test drove the U.S. writing trades I also picked up copies of the July/August issue of Poets & Writers; the July issue of The Writer to do some comparisons.

At 128 pages Poets & Writers seems a bit heftier this month, but I noticed there were far fewer contest, residency and market listings in the back, which has always been the primary draw for me. Of the content, I liked Dark Room Redux, a short piece on the origins of a twenty-five-year-old society of poets and writers of color, (online for free reading here); Network by Jami Attenberg, a primer on how to use Tumblr blogs to connect with readers (online for free reading here); and Practical Poetry by Margaret Wolfson, one of the best articles I've read in a long time that explains the creative roots of many well-known name brands, and offers some intuitive observations on why the brands were such excellent marketing tools.

I appreciate that P&W makes some articles and much of their market info available online for free reading, but I'd still like to see more of the "My Journey/Struggle/Pain" -type content trimmed and replaced by info that is actually useful to writers working in the lit end of the market.

The Writer continues to shrink; at 50 pages it was the real lightweight of the trio. This volume, which is touted as the "How-to" issue, had only three pieces I felt were worth the trouble of reading: For the mystery writers, Hallie Ephron's The Secret is in the Secrets, which offers seven tips on how to plot a page-turner, has some decent ideas; for the travel writers, Diana Tonnessen's 8 Secrets to Selling Your Travel Stories likewise has some practical tips on how to approach travel publishers. The third was Kelly James-Enger's piece on the 8 biggest mistakes e-book authors make, which identifies and offers a quick fix for common problems (and I can't comment on the value of this as I don't self-publish for profit.)

Some of the content was pretty lightweight, too, like the articles on 30 Twitter feeds and Facebook feeds to watch. Of the 8 contests listed in the market section, all required fees, and some were pretty hefty. As for the Freebies for Writers resource column, it listed only six resources, none of which are anything new, and four of the six were listed only by name. It was nice to see author Lynne Connolly credited for her rec of WordWeb; maybe next time the editors could provide the actual link to what she recommends?

As a trade useful for the working writer, Writers' Forum was the clear winner by comparison. I found three very valuable bits of market info in among the interesting items in the News section. Indie author Mike Hillier has been writing a article series to help self-pubbing writers, and this month he tackles how to format your ms. to make it readable on all e-readers (aka exactly what every aspiring indie author needs to know.)

Even the smaller pieces, like Emily Carlisle's article on online writing groups, Barbara Dynes's piece on actually starting writing (as opposed to sitting around and thinking about it), and Alison Baverstock's advice on how to handle a book launch party, were great. Sue Moorcroft also has an excellent article, The Bad Guys, which with much practicality discusses how to handle writing antagonists and unsavory characters. This is exactly the kind of content that should be in The Writer's how-to issue.

Over the years I've been so frustrated with the trades that I've considered starting up a writers' trade online of my own in order to publish the sort of information I want to see out there for working writers. Earlier today I seriously mulled it over again, and then I realized something. Last year I re-registered Paperback Writer as an electronic serial periodical with the Library of Congress. I've never thought about it before, but this blog is my writers' trade, one I've been writing for going on eight years now. So instead of subscribing to the others, or complaining about their content, I'm going to put more energy into writing up articles, checking out how-tos, and finding as many decent no- or low-cost resources as I can for the writers who stop in here. Thus this will be my last gripe about the trades.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Book Drop Results #1

Last month I tried a book dropping experiment to test my ability to match people with books I think they'd enjoy. This required the test subjects to tell me what sort of story they most liked to read, and then me sending them a book without telling them in advance the title or author. The first results are in, and here's what happened with my book drop for DeeCee.

First, the original comment from the book drop post:

DeeCee 3:31 AM

I like UF/PNR that have multiple book story arcs with fewer than 10 TSTL moments. :)

I sent DeeCee Rob Thurman's Trick of the Light, which I consider among other things to be the smartest urban fantasy I've ever read. In my e-mail to DeeCee, I also mentioned this: You were the toughest of my book drop winners to choose for, mainly because I think you and I read a lot of the same books.

I am psychic, it seems, as this was DeeCee's response when the package arrived (posted with permission):

I actually do already have Trick of the Light-I just finished reading it about 3 weeks ago. :) Trixa was a smart heroine, but I think Cal Leandros will still be my go to UF.

I wasn't about to give up, though, so I sent this:

I should have known! Ha. Okay, I've sent another book out, and hopefully this time I've managed to find one to surprise you. I'll check back with you once I return from my road trip.

And DeeCee's response to reading the second book, which was Sarah Addison Allen's The Girl Who Chased the Moon:

I can't thank you enough. You picked the perfect book. Allen's writing is so fast, the two contrasting voices kept the story moving and I couldn't put it down today. I can't believe Allen pulled off [censored by me, as it contains spoilers] -she didn't even have to explain the hows or whys. But I think Stella's scenes made me LOL the most, "Erase that." :) I've got to go track down The Sugar Queen and the Peach Keeper now.

I can't take credit for discovering Sarah Addison Allen, however, as two of her books were given to me by two different friends who thought I would enjoy them (and they were wonderful, and I loved them.) That's why book dropping works so well, I think. When someone gives me the gift of a great story, passing it along to someone else is as much fun as enjoying it myself. You don't have to stop at one person, either. Today while I was at BAM I recommended Allen's Garden Spells to the lady manning the cash wrap.

Although it took two tries I'm going to call this one a success, and my thanks to DeeCee for allowing me to share comments from our e-mail exchange. As soon as I have more results in, I'll post more updates.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Sub Ops Ten

Ten Things About Submission Opportunities

Alive Now is a "devotional magazine that nurtures the spiritual lives of individuals hungry for God. The magazine invites readers to enter an ever-deepening relationship with God, helps them to open and unclutter their hearts, encourages them to reflect on contemporary issues from a faith perspective. Each issue of this bimonthly, 48-page magazine focuses on a contemporary topic that impacts the faith life. Readers are drawn into the theme and invited to deepen their relationship with God and others. The magazine may be used by individuals or in small groups. The magazines contain scripture, prayers, meditations, stories, poetry, reflection aids, photographs, and art. Each issue identifies a prayer practice related to that issue’s theme. Seasonal material, both theological and liturgical, is appropriate." Length: 400 words (firm), Payment: "$35.00 and up", query on reprints, electronic and snail mail submissions okay, see guidelines for more details.

Crossed Genres magazine is now open for submissions of themed fiction: "Each month CG Magazine has a new genre or theme. Short story submissions must combine elements of either Science Fiction and/or Fantasy with the current theme. Current theme (August/September 2012): BOUNDARIES. Boundaries are physical, psychological, emotional, and imaginary. Who we are can often be defined by how we respond to perceived boundaries – accept them; ignore them; sidestep them; confront them. Where do the boundaries we encounter shape the boundaries of our selves?" Length: 1-6K firm; Payment: "We pay 5¢ per word for fiction. Authors will also receive a gratis print and ebook copy of the anthology in which their story appears." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Reading period for the current theme ends September 30th, 2012.

Deep Set Press is looking for "literary genre" novel submissions; Length: 25-125K, Payment: according to they pay 50% of gross, no reprints, electronic submissions only. I'm not seeing a lot of details on their web site submission guidelines at all so you might want to query them first or ask around and get more info before you submit.

Galileo Games has an open call for their upcoming charity anthology, The Lost ~ A Kingdom of Nothing Anthology: "Are you a writer who can write compelling stories with interesting characters? Can you create memorable characters who shine from the page? Do you want to participate in an anthology where the profits will go towards charity? Then you may be interested in submitting to The Lost, an anthology with fiction based on the game, Kingdom of Nothing. We are looking for fiction from writers in the fantasy and literary genre who are interested in writing moving stories about characters that have lost everything. Submissions to The Lost must have strong, character-focused stories. Fantasy, surrealism, a literary approaches are all welcome. The Lost are stories that take place in the slums and back alleys all over the world. These stories will tell of a malignant force born out of apathy and fed by despair that swallows everyone who slips though the cracks. Writers familiar with the setting of Kingdom of Nothing are preferred. Proceeds from sales of The Lost will go to Food Bank for New York City," Length: 2-8K; Payment: $100.00; no mention on reprints (kinda doubt they'd take them for this project, but query if you've already published with them), electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: September 1st, 2012.

Kazka Press has an open call for their upcoming fantasy/California themed anthology: "Here at the Kaz, were looking to combine two of the things we love the most: fantasy fiction and California. Thus, we’re opening up a call for fantasy (not science fiction…sorry) short stories about California–specifically about Californian counties–with a historical fiction bent. Here’s what we mean: There are 58 counties in California. Each has a history–a real history free of dragons and sorceresses and enchanted forests, which is a real shame. So, we want you to remix some part of the real history of a Californian county with fantasy fiction. For example, did griffins really help miners in Nevada County, California transport their gold to market? What role did telepathy have in opening up Monterey County, California to exploration? You see our idea. Fantasy + a county in California. Just shy away from libel. In your story, you must tackle the history of only one county in California. You, as the writer, will be the spokesperson, as you will be the only writer for that county’s history–if your story is selected, of course. Think of it as a fun research project. That said, if we get two stories about, say, San Diego County, we’ll be publishing the stronger one, so consider a story about one of the lesser known counties to up your chances of inclusion in this anthology. Maybe Yolo? Plumas? Modoc? Oh, and time for the one really anal-retentive, this-is-to-enfore-the-editor’s-worldview rule: if your story says that places like San Francisco or Monterey or San Jose are in Northern California, your story will be scowled at and edited. Northern California means from the west in Sonoma to the east in Alpine and the way north to the Oregon border. Anything south of those counties is not Northern California. Not. No matter what people say. So spaketh the editor." Length: "500-5,000 words. Anything over 5,000 will be considered, but you will be paid a flat rate of $50 if accepted." Payment: "1 cent a word + 1 contributors copy (eBook in .epub or .pdf format (and print copy if we print it))." No reprints, electronic submissions via online form only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: September 30th, 2012.

Obsidian River is looking for steampunk stories: "Obsidian River is seeking Steampunk themed fiction. Steampunk, in our definition, involves periods of history re-imagined with advanced technology. Technology should be big, steam powered, clock-work and NOT subtle. Magic may have a presence in stories we publish but it should play a smaller and more subtle role in the worlds you are creating." Length: not specified; Payment: $10.00 (PBW notes: they are very upfront about advising writers that they will be selling their first electronic rights for what is a very modest/token payment; this is the kind of ethical warning I like to see from an online publisher); no mention of if they accept reprints (I'd query first); electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Persimmon Tree magazine only accepts submissions of fiction and nonfiction written by women over the age of sixty, and are looking for "work that reveals rich experience and a variety of perspectives. Each issue of the magazine will include several fiction and nonfiction pieces, poetry by one or more poets, and the work of one visual artist. The magazine is published quarterly, in association with Mills College." Length: up to 3.5K. No mention of payment so you should query first, no reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

I found an open call for an antho here that doesn't offer a lot of info but sounds like it might be interesting to those of you who have body art: "Tattoos have been in existence for centuries, from the indigenous people of Japan to tribal people of Polynesia, Philippines, and Borneo. They are markers of time, rites of passage, symbols, remembrances, and sometimes, stupid decisions made on drunken nights. They are everywhere—under the white sleeve of a co-worker, sneakily peeking out of a shirt collar, up and down muscled legs and arms of athletes. There has been a proliferation of reality shows centered in tattoo parlors. What once was a subculture has now emerged as mainstream. Yet, in the literary landscape, there has been a conspicuous absence of writing about tattoos. The editors of the tentatively titled anthology, Sins & Needles—Ira Sukrungruang and Jim Miller—are looking for personal nonfiction narratives about the meaning behind the tattoo. Please send 500-3000 word essays in a PDF or Word document file via our submission manager." (Note: there is no other information about payment and such so do be cautious with this one.)

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: up to 3K (firm); Payment: "5 cents per word for First Worldwide Electronic Rights and First Serial Rights. Payment is made upon publication." Obviously no reprints, electronic submission via online form only, see guidelines for more details.

Vishnu Temple Press has an open call for essays for an anthology themed on hiking in the Grand Canyon: "We are interested in writing that conveys the sights and sounds, the texture and spirit of that place, and the richness of your immersion. We are open to all kinds of approaches, including writing that depicts: the sensory experience of a Canyon hike; close encounters with flora and fauna, rock and water; the specifics of particular places; interactions with other humans, present or past; adventures and discoveries; physical and psychological challenges, and their surmounting; new or renewed perspectives that arise from a Canyon immersion. No poetry or fiction please." Length: up 6K; Payment: "Contributing authors will receive two copies of the book and may purchase additional copies at a 50% discount." Reprints okay, electronic and snail-mail submissions, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: December 31st, 2012.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Berg Vision

After dinner tonight we went down by the water to take a walk and get some fresh air. I managed to take this shot of a seaplane taking off, but I fumbled with the buttons trying to zoom in and get more details, and by the time I had the camera ready the plane was gone.

No one else on the dock seemed to be watching the plane; the half-dozen people there with us were hanging over the railing looking at something in the water. They were all smiling, too, which I thought was a little strange. My kid joined them and started making those "Aw, isn't it cute?" noises; which made me think there was a duck or maybe even a puppy under the dock. Earlier we'd run into a nice guy who was carting around a wagon with three golden lab puppies that he was trying to sell, something I had to drag my kid away from before we ended up with another pet.

I got to the railing and looked over, and to my surprise, this is who everyone was cooing over:

I suppose to someone who didn't grow up by the Everglades he does look cute. To me he looks like a gator, which ranks very high on my don't-fool-with list, right up there with rattlesnakes, yellow jackets and brown recluse spiders.

I think people don't know how deceptively small a gator can look when it's in the water. Mostly you see the eyes poking up, a bit of its snout and that's all -- but that's not all there is to the gator. You might see this:

But what you're really looking at is just the tip of this:

Gators in the water aren't that much different from icebergs; what you don't see can be a lot bigger than you'd ever imagine (and I apologize for the poor quality of that last pic; not only was Mr. Popularity big, like all gators he was also really fast.) Here's something else: I was the only one who saw the gator full-length; after a couple of minutes everyone else got bored looking at his cute little head and wandered off the dock.

Sometimes when you're honing an element of story, whether it be a character or a plot or even a setting, the need for clarity often demands tight focus: here is Protagonist Guy, what he looks like, what he wants, and what his problems are. Like the gator, we see all the attractive/sympathetic/exciting bits upfront. As writers we want that; to immediately engage the reader's attention is one of the most important aspects of the work.

But once you've got them hanging over the railing, is this all they're going to see? If you haven't gone deeper with your character (or any of your other story elements), and developed them to be more than what the reader initially encounters, how are you going to sustain interest? Remember, as with the gator, all that upfront cuteness only goes so far.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Indie Reads

One of my first indie author purchases for my new Nook was Free Fall by Carolyn Jewel, a novella set in her My Immortal series. I chose a novella because I wanted something shorter than a novel to test for my initial reading experience. I also happen to like the author's voice and the unusual characters in this series. The story was appropriate for a novella-length tale, and while it was a bit light on the plot side (one of the normal downsides of novellas) the characters were absorbing enough to keep me reading. I've heard the frequent gripes about how indie authors skimp on length, but at 240 pages (and there are an additional 62 pages of excerpts from some of her other works at the end) it's a solid read and to me definitely worth the $2.99 cover price.

It did take me a couple of days to read the novella; I'm still fiddling with the screen resolution and brightness, and until I find the right combination for the most comfortable reading experience I'll be reading on the Nook in short doses. Also, once you do have an e-reader I think you can go a little crazy buying e-books (after years of not being able to read so many books, it's pretty hard for me to resist a spending spree.) To keep my spending in check I decided only to buy something new once I'd finished the last e-book I bought for the Nook. This way I won't hoard stories or create a towering e-TBR.

After I finished Carolyn's novella I purchased The Sleeping Night by Barbara Samuel; mainly because I read on her blog her post on how long she struggled to get it published. Interracial romance is always a tough sell, but this one is an especially great read, and I applaud her for choosing to self-publish it. I think more readers would probably invest in it if it were a bit cheaper (I paid $10.15 for my e-copy) but I don't mind spending a little extra on an author I know for a fact is a very talented storyteller. Far as I'm concerned it's an investment in my future reading pleasure.

This novel particularly resonated with me because my first love in middle school was an island boy. Kevin and I were part of the first generation to be subjected to public school desegregation, however, and as a result our fearful parents put a swift end to that fledgling relationship. We certainly weren't together as long as the protagonists in this book, nor were we treated as badly, but even forty years after the fact I can still relate to their wretched situation.

Ten years ago Barbara's novel likely would never have been released; the author probably would have shelved the manuscript and moved on to write something she could sell to New York. Now that she has more options, she's exercising them to gain more creative control of her work while making more of it available to her readers. That she can do that while also paying her bills and making a living at writing simply provides extra insurance that she will keep writing; something we all want to see happen, yes?

I may be regarded as a traditionally-published writer, but people often forget that I started self-publishing my fiction online back in 2001. While I've always done it for purposes of promotion versus profit, I know exactly how tough it is to fly solo with the work. I've never cared about the hoopla surrounding self- versus tradish-publishing, or e- versus print-releases, which always seem to me to be fueled mainly by some personal agenda or poorly-disguised marketing campaign. None of that matters to me as a writer or a reader. As storytellers we have to make tons of choices regarding the work; how we publish is just another item on a very long list. As readers we all want great stories, and whether they're released by a publishing house or the author really doesn't factor in for most of us.

My largest problem with reading self-pubbed works has always been that 99% of them aren't released in print or aren't print-enabled. Until last month I've only read print or printed-out books for pleasure because I have to stare at a computer screen all day. Thanks to my family's birthday gift of a Nook that's now a non-issue (I also solved my inability to use a touch-screen by purchasing a Nook Stylus. Now if they'd just invent a wireless keyboard for the Nook I'd be very happy.) Having access to all those books I've not been able before to read means I'll probably be posting more about great indie reads here on the blog.

Now I'm curious -- which indie authors have you been investing in lately? Got any titles you'd recommend as great reads? Let us know in comments.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Your Olympic Body Double

This is fun -- the BBC is giving us all a chance to live vicariously as Olympians by offering this body matching generator which tells you based on your height and weight which athelete at the games you are most like (in shape, obviously, not in fitness.)

I plugged in my stats and found out I have a Brit twin:

I've no idea what handball is, but now I'll have to find out. So who is your body double at the games? Let us know in comments.

(BBC link filched from The Presurfer)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Ten Questions for J.C. Daniels

If you don't change you stagnate, so this month I'm going to shake things up a bit and try out some new things on the blog. I thought I'd kick off my new direction by featuring interviews with the three types of authors publishing these days. Since I'm also lazy, I decided to corner one writer I've known almost my entire career, who currently wears all three hats: our blogpal Shiloh Walker, who is now also publishing as J.C. Daniels.

Ms. Daniels, you’re an e-published author, a traditionally published author, and a self-published author. Should we call you an uppity legacy house-slave, or something else?

You can call me the same thing I told my agent I was . . . I am a hyped-up bunny on speed. I told people I write a lot. I mean, I think they know. But . . . well. I write so much I needed another persona to handle it all.

What’s it like, juggling all three of those hats – besides smart, I mean?

I get dizzy. I get very dizzy. One of these days, I’m going to forget who and what I am, because I’m so busy spinning in circles.

Why did you decide on J.C. as the initials for your new pseudonym? For example, were you watching Jackie Chan or John Cena?

Heh. Neither. I was watching the three miniatures who rule my life. It’s a play off the names of my three kids, not their names, per se . . . but similar.

Everyone who sees this cover art will want to steal your designer. So who’s responsible, and what was it like working with the cover artist on the look?

That would be Angela Waters, of Angela Waters Art, and the woman is a fricking genius. I tell her roughly what the story is about, the feel I want, and character descriptions and she comes back with a rough cover. The first one, on this one, wasn’t precisely right, because I had very clear idea in my head who the guy in the background needed to look like. So we hammered that out until I had exactly what you see on the final cover. Angie and I have been working together for a while, and she knows me, knows what I like, but I’ve never seen a bad cover from her. Plus? She’s very affordable.

Tell us in twenty-five words or less why we should invest in Blade Song – and to add a little challenge, don’t use any adjectives.

Simple. I wrote the book in a week. It ate my brain. I want it to consume others the way it consumed me.

Should we expect Blade Song to be a standalone or the first of a duology, a trilogy, or a series? Also, if there’s a second book, what’s the title and when will it be available?

I’m hoping it will be the first in a series. But as with most self-published works, a lot of it depends on how well this one goes. If it goes well, I plan on releasing the next book in early 2012, I think. That book is titled Night Blade.

Where can we buy Blade Song, what formats is it available in, and because we’re lazy can you give us some links?

It’s available just about every place ebooks are sold for now, although print is coming. (Look for that in another month-ish). Right now, it’s ebook . . . on Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and most other e-devices . . .here are the major sites.

Amazon | BN | iBookstore

What’s the biggest professional challenge working writers like you face today?

Besides . . .selling the next idea? Um, selling. That’s it, in a nutshell, I guess. I’m still at that point in my career where I’m waiting for that . . . thing that will give me a little more security. So I don’t have to panic every time I turn in a proposal. I had to end a few series lately, not because I wanted to, but because they weren’t selling well and publishers don’t like that. So . . . selling the next idea. Hoping publishers will like it. Hoping readers are going to support you. Hoping the stress of it all doesn’t interfere with the creative process, because if that happens? It doesn’t matter if you sell the idea. If you can’t write the book? You’re screwed. Ah . . . Lynn? What were we thinking, getting into this business?

(Beats me, the interviewer mutters under her breath) Once you asked me (among other things) what was the one piece of advice I would give to a new writers. I’ve been waiting patiently for some payback, so what’s your answer to that question?

DON’T DO IT! (Just kidding). If you’re crazy enough to do it . . . be ready for the fact this isn’t a business for wimps. If you’re looking for easy money, if you thinking you’ve got the next E.L. James, the next Stephanie Meyer, the next J.K. Rowling manuscript on your hard drive, keep one thing in mind . . . for every mega success you hear about? There are thousands and thousands of writers out there who struggle for years and don’t see that success, or even a fraction of it—many of them can’t even quit their day jobs. I’m actually one of the lucky ones who can do it for a living and it’s still not easy for me. But don’t look at this business with stars in your eyes, and don’t think that selling a book suddenly makes it easier. The stresses and challenges are still there. They are just a different sort of stresses and challenges.

I have super secret time-bending powers, and because I don’t believe in all this Mayan end-of-the-world nonsense I’m going to open a window to 2015. When we spy on you through it, what will you be writing?

I’ll be sitting on the beach, sipping a mai-tai, writing my tell-all book about the industry . . . hmmm. That’s not coming together in my mind. Damn it. Okay. I’m probably putting together another romantic suspense trilogy. Because I’m good at those. If this UF thing goes well with Blade Song? I’ll be writing another book in that series, because it’s not just going to be over in three or four books . . . it’s not open-ended, but Kit’s got some, well, issues that need to be resolved. I’m not an organized thinker, so who knows? And . . . hmmm . . . that’s three years down the road? Wrapping the fairy tales I bastardize with my Grimm books and figuring out what I want to tear apart next.

Thanks for letting me interrogate you, Ms. Daniels. Now I'm off to read Blade Song, which I just downloaded on my Nook, and actually looks pretty fabulous . . .

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Creative Pilgrimage

My sneaking off to Savannah included some multi-tasking; I had to do some research, plus manage a college tour for my youngest. The fact that I also paid a visit to E. Shaver booksellers was simply for research materials, and had nothing to do with my inability to walk past a fabulous book shop without stopping, browsing and purchasing something.

I finally got to show my guy the place I most love in the South (it was his first visit, and you should have seen the look on his face when we walked inside the Cathedral of St. John.) Savannah is a city for people like us who love to walk, and despite the heat we ditched our car at the hotel and went on foot just about everywhere.

I wasn't entirely unselfish while visiting my favorite southern city, either. I needed Savannah to boost me creatively, something it always does without fail. It's why every couple of years I have to go back; it's one of my most important creative strongholds. When I'm there, sitting on a bench in one of the city's beautiful squares, or walking through one of the grand old historic neighborhoods, or standing by the river to watch the ships come into port, I'm infused with constant delight.

During this trip I spent an hour inside my favorite Savannah landmark, the Owens-Thomas house, soaking up all that amazing architecture and atmosphere while I sketched little details that always seem new no matter how often I see them: the golden light pouring through the Greek key window in the front room, the graceful curves of the pottery in the kitchen, the dark streaky glow of the wood and brass banisters of the inner staircase. Everything in and around that house enveloped me and my imagination, comforting and warming and knowing -- and that's only one house. There are countless houses like that in Savannah, just waiting to be seen and appreciated.

I brought some of my troubles and concerns to the city, too, but they never seem quite as huge or insurmountable there. While we were at St. John's I lit a candle for a friend who is going through a tough time, and later sent her a postcard I picked up in the cathedral. At our hotel I met the mother of a young writer who will be attending the same college we came to see, and we talked about our kids and the school and the Publishing business. Savannah has a unique way of reminding you that you're not alone in your worries, and there's always time to talk and figure things out and even dream a little.

Making a creative pilgrimage isn't about traveling as much as it's about finding yourself in a place. I don't really know why Savannah has such a strong hold on my heart; I've never lived there, and neither has anyone in my family. It's just a place where I am so comfortable, and so much at home that part of me always lives there no matter where I am.

Where do you go when you need to make a creative pilgrimage? Why do you think your particular place rejuvenates you? Let us know in comments.