Friday, November 30, 2012

Elsewhere Keeping Warm

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


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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012 Wrap-Up

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NaNo Sub Op

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

Freely Ten

Ten Things You Can Have for Free

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

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

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

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

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

Flashnote is a "quick notes manager created for such cases. When you need a rough copy to save or to process some pieces of a text, Flashnote is small, quick and convenient. Press the shortcut-key combination and a rough copy is on the screen in a flash of a second. Press ESC and the program hides. It's that simple. You don't need to find a place for text, to run Notepad or huge heavy PIM. Flashnote is a lightweight notes manager, everything gets done quickly, simply and in a more convenient way" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7)

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I Write Like

I write like
Anne Rice

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

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

Who do you write like?

Saturday, November 24, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

Elsewhere with Pearls

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wishing You

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NaNoWriMo Week 3

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mirror Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

NaNoLinkage Ten

Ten Things I Discovered via NaNoWriMo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Making It

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

(Video link swiped from Kuriositas)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Elsewhere with My Chicas

Today I'm visiting the lovely ladies at Southern Fried Chicas, which is my favorite writer group blog, to confess the reasons why I won't shop at book stores in December. Drop in when you can and you might win this tote with signed books and a gift basket of lavender aromatherapy products to calm your shopping nerves.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Elsewhere Again

Today I'm over at author David Bridger's blog talking about what happens when a girl from the tropics takes a busines trip to Chicago in mid-winter. Stop in if you get a chance and you might win one of three signed copies of Nightbred I'm giving away to David's readers.


All of you contributed some great entries for the Halfway There giveaway; I think you should be writing the official NaNo site pep talks for the rest of the month (have you noticed how depressing some of these have been? Maybe I should send these folks some of PBW's patented chocolate-covered Valium.)

Anyway, tonight we revved up the magic hat, and the winner is:

LynnPenn, who wrote: When I hit a snag I grab a prompt and with the characters in mind I write my way back. Pandora in the background helps keep me moving. Stopping in the middle of a thought also helps. Writing down ideas for the next days work helps also. This is my third Nano. I have produced more stuff in these three Novembers than in my ten years of pursuing the craft.

Lynn, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to address to so I can get this package on its way to you. My thanks to everyone for joining in.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Today I'm visiting with the lovely folks over at The Good, the Bad and the Unread to talk about why reading is the smart thing to do during the winter. My very kind hosts will also be giving away this lovely quilted tote (handmade by Yours Truly, and you can see a better shot of it here) that will be filled with signed books, one of my favorite reads and some other goodies. If you get a chance, stop by and say Hi.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

NaNoWriMo Week 2: Halfway There

This morning's NaNoWriMo post is brought to you by the garage, where at the moment I'm hiding so I can write. My house has been in a state of utter chaos for going on three days, all the furniture shifted, every floor swept/mopped/vacummed, the bathrooms sterilized, part of my book collection relocated and objects precious to us wrapped up and stowed away for safekeeping. I personally shifted a two-hundred-pound table through three rooms by overturning it on a quilt and dragging the quilt (which is another reason why quilts rule.)

All of this effort is because in less than an hour the carpet cleaners will arrive, and then I'll have three more days of clean but damp rugs before I have to put everything back. Thanksgiving is next Thursday; the family is due to arrive on Wednesday and so far all I have is a turkey. The guest room is wrecked, I haven't yet tested the inflatable airbed to make sure it isn't leaking and the laundry room looks like, well, linen Armageddon. P.S., I started coughing on Monday, I felt like hell all Tuesday and last night I was running a fever.

For all my efforts to turn my house inside out and manage this domestic nightmare, you know what I am most proud of? At midnight last night I finished a chapter, edited three days' worth of work, and hit 25K with my NaNo novel. I wasn't going to bed until I did (and the fact that I could throw my protagonist off a bridge at the end of the chapter helped. I wasn't missing that.)

I think most writers dream of that lovely future in which we occupy a tidy, quiet sunlit home office where we can spends hours spinning our stories and enjoying our writing life. I'm still waiting on that one; right now I'm pecking out this post on a smart keyboard atop my guy's scarred, stained wooden work bench. I'm surrounded by tools of his trade, not mine. There's something in here that smells like a gymnasium. Maybe it's me; I can't remember if I took a shower last night.

NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty sent out a pep talk to everyone on the NaNoWriMo site that addressed the struggles and slogging most of us are experiencing right now (which you can read in the archives here.) I think the second week of NaNo is the toughest because the thrills of starting a new project have mostly evaporated and the delight of spending every day devoted to storycraft has likewise packed its bags and fled. Even if I wasn't currently living in homemaker hell I'd still be struggling to keep up. The finish line is still very far away. I'm only halfway to 50K, and I'm tired. I haven't hit my daily quota for three days, and today isn't looking too promising either. My back hurts, my head hurts, and all I want to do is stay in bed for 24 hours.

I won't do that. After I finish this I'm going to get my words for the day done. If I can keep at it without interruptions (ha) I'll try to write past my quota and make up for some lost time, but no matter what happens I'm writing two thousand new words of my novel today. Those of you who are ahead of me with your progress, send some positive energy my way when you get a chance. Those of you who aren't yet halfway there, I'm sending good thoughts your way. Just write today, and know as you're struggling and slogging and trying to get through that 300,000 other writers (including me) are right there in the trenches with you.

I have a little NaNo incentive to offer, as you see here: an official NaNoWriMo tote and a 2 gb usb bracelet on which you can store a novel and lots of other stuff. I will also be putting some stuff in the tote bag to surprise the recipient. If you'd like a chance to win it, in comments to this post name something you do to keep going during the toughest times by midnight EST on Thursday, November 15, 2012. I'll draw one name at random from everyone who participates and send the winner the tote, the usb bracelet and some surprises. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

First Look

Here's a first look at the cover art for Nightbound, the third and final novel in my Lords of the Darkyn trilogy, due to hit the shelves next May.

Monday, November 12, 2012

NaNoWriMojo Ten

Ten Things to Help Restore Your NaNoWriMojo

Change Locations: Moving your writing to another space may eliminate whatever is distracting you. Think of an alternative place that is different from where you're writing now (i.e., if you're hanging out in a busy coffeeshop and getting nothing written, try the quiet room at your local library. Or if your quiet spot at home isn't working, try a busy coffeeshop.) If weather permits, find an outdoor space (the backyard, a park, a lake, the beach, etc.) where you can commune a little with nature while you write.

Clean Something: Vacuuming a room, doing a load of laundry or even tidying up your writing space restores order to some part of your immediate environment and, unless you like being a slob, makes you feel better about it. That good feeling can carry over into the work once you start writing again.

Emergency Reward: Often that carrot you've hung over the finish line seems too far away, so set up one that's a bit closer. Promise yourself a small reward for just making your writing goal today. Make it something good, too; the more you want it, the more you're likely to work for it.

Exercise: Another good way to vent some frustration is to get moving: take a walk, go to the gym, jog around the block, put on that workout DVD and follow along for twenty minutes, etc. Your goal is to work up a sweat, then take a warm shower and get back to the writing (hopefully in a more relaxed, refreshed state.)

Make Something Minty: Mint is naturally soothing, so drinking a cup of mint-flavored tea, chewing a stick of mint gum or otherwise indulging in a mint treat may bump you from crabby to calm.

Muse with Music: Play your favorite CD while you sit and relax for ten minutes. Don't think about anything; just listen. If you have a soundtrack made up for your story, that's a good choice -- or just listen to the sort of music that puts you in a positive mood. If you can write with the music playing, take it back with you and listen while you work.

Project Switch: This is one of my personal mojo restorers; I stop work on one project and write on another for a short period of time. I always switch to something I enjoy writing but I'm not especially invested in so it doesn't steal me away from my NaNo novel.

Scene Skip: At least once a week without fail I hit a scene that for whatever reason I can't write. If this happens to you, instead of letting it become a brick wall between you and the rest of your story, skip it and go work on the next scene. Mark the place in your manuscript with a notation [I use square brackets and a one-line description of the scene like this] so you can easily go back and write it later.

Switch Creative Gears: This past weekend I had a particularly dreary writing day during which I fought to get every word on the page. I took regular ten minutes breaks and used them to work on a small quilting project. Switching gears like that gave me little creative/spiritual boosts, which kept me from giving up.

Write Past It: This last idea is tough, but if writing stories was easy everyone could do it. You just keep writing. Doesn't matter how well you write, or if anything you do write will be salvageable. You're not going to think about how you're writing because you're going to be too busy writing. Keep working and moving forward with the story until your mojo returns (and yes, if you push on it generally does. If it doesn't, you can always edit brilliantly.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Waiting at the Finish Line

I had a chance to stop by BAM last night, and after checking out all the new releases I picked up some books that I'm going to save to read as my reward for crossing the NaNoWriMo finish line:

I have a few more to get that have yet to be released; Rogue Rider, Larissa Ione's latest release, will be out on the 20th, and Shawntelle Madison's Kept will hit the shelves on the 27th. I was hoping Linda Howard's Shadow Woman would be out in November, too, but looks like we have to wait until January (and for an excellent list of all the paranormal and fantasy reads that will be released in November check out this post by Jackie over at Literary Escapism.)

I'm late setting up my prize for NaNoWriMo because a) I've been insanely busy writing one book, revising another, and promoting a third, all in one month, and b) for all my planning I really didn't think about what sort of reward I wanted for winning. Maybe writing this book is kind of the reward.

I know, you're shaking your head, but it's true. I get to do whatever I want with this story for an entire month. Unlike my 2009 NaNo novel I'm not going to try to sell it; once I finish Taken by Night I'll be adding it to my library of free reads. So when I'm done I'll really be done -- no pitching it to the agent, no writing up proposals, no contract negotiations, none of that.

Simply selling a book often takes five times as long as it does for me to write it. Add to that the editorial, coming up with new titles, revisions, galleys, production, hiding under the bed until the cover art comes in, hiding under the bed again after seeing the cover art . . . you get the general idea. Taking a book from idea to release date takes me about two years on average; multiple that by 50 novels (I'm currently in editorial on my 50th, which by the time it's released will have taken four years) and you can understand why for once being able to skip all that for once is a genuine reward.

What's waiting for you at your NaNoWriMo finish line? Let us know in comments.

Friday, November 09, 2012


My Dad's family is from Rockaway, so I'm posting this as a tribute to all the folks there who are struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy:

Rockaway Needs Us from everyone and company on Vimeo.

Also, a thought for the holidays: my agent suggested this year we skip buying presents for our friends and colleagues in Publishing and instead donate all the money we would have spent on them to any organization providing help to the hurricane victims (which is what I'm going to do.)

Thursday, November 08, 2012

NaNoWriMo Week One Report

Has it been a week already since NaNoWriMo began? That was my first thought when I noticed the reminder to write this post on my calendar. That's a good sign, too, because whenever the passage of time completely drops off my radar I know my head is where it should be -- in the work. This is also why I set multiple alarms around the house, write daily notes to myself and become enslaved to my planner. If I didn't you guys might not see me until December 1st.

My stats for the novel are healthy and on track; I've been writing to or past my wordcount goals each day. I've been getting up an hour earlier every morning to have some quiet time to work and that was a good decision; I get my words done in a couple of hours and then I have the rest of the day to do other things until it's time for my evening editing session. As far as the writing goes I'm enjoying the story and I've kept it pretty faithful to the outline and chapter summaries I planned out back in October. One extra bonus of officially registering this year is the novel stats widget that the NaNoWriMo folks offer on their site; it gives me an excellent snapshot of how I'm performing. Here's what it looks like this morning:

I had planned to get out to one of the local NaNoWriMo events and meet some of my fellow writers in the area. I'd like to blame my busy schedule for failing to do that, but truth is I've not had a lot of success mingling in person with other writers, and I don't know if as a pro I'd be especially welcome. When people find out you do this for a living they see you more as an affront to their genius or a commodity to be used, and I don't care to be either. Anyway, I put that on the back burner for now.

I had one really bad day this week, which was unexpected. Fortunately, I got my words done a few hours before the trainwreck happened. I was going to use it for a blog post, and wrote up a beautiful, absolutely scalding rant about it. I waited twenty-four hours, got over it, and deleted the whole thing. I overreacted to a silly, juvenile situation that was really not worth ten seconds of my time, and as we all know, the best revenge for being derailed by someone is to get right back on track, right in their face. From my POV, by refusing to let it spoil the rest of my week I won that round.

My big reward for myself this past week was to go on a fun school field trip to the RenFaire, which got me out of the house, gave me a chance to walk for a couple hours (which my legs definitely needed) and spend quality time with the kid. I also watched and photographed an excellent joust hosted by Shane Adams (who aside from being my favorite modern-day knight was also the inspiration for Aedan mac Byrne from Evermore, who will be returning to the shelves in Nightbound next May) and found a very cool handmade leather journal at one of the artisans tents that went home with me. It was a great day, and exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries.

I'm a bit behind on my chores, and the to-do list for the holidays gets a little longer every day, so for the next week of NaNo I'm going to try to build on what I've been doing, organize my time a little better, and work a little harder at keeping everything in balance. By writing past quota I've earned an extra day off, but I don't need it right now so I'm going to save it for later on in the month when I probably will.

How was your first week of NaNoWriMo? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Bulgarian Style, Nightbred Audio

Here's some new cover art, this one for the Bulgarian edition of my Jessica Hall novel Heat of the Moment. Have no idea what it says, but I think the artwork is quite stylish.

For those of you who like to listen to the Darkyn, you'll be happy to know that Nightbred, the second novel in my Lords of the Darkyn trilogy, will be released as an audio book by Tantor on December 17th (which you can preorder for a 20% discount at their web site here.) Johanna Parker, whose amazing voice made Nightborn sound so terrific in audio, will also be narrating this book.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Character Art

To get to know my characters better I often make portraits of them. I wish I could say I always do that strictly by imagination, but alas, I'm not that talented.

My trick is to convert photographs of real people into digital sketches, parts of which I transfer as line and perspective references while I'm working on the art. Recently I've been revisiting my old love from high school, pen and ink, so I'm using that for all the portraits of my crew from Taken by Night (as you see here, clockwise from the cute guy at the top: Chavez, Kim, Ara and Deuce.)

Most of the writers I know collect pictures of faces and bodies they find inspiring or interesting. Unless you base a character on a real person from the very start, however, it's almost impossible to get an exact match to how you envision them. Sketching, painting or inking your characters allows you to make those adjustments.

If you'd like to try this, start with a clear photo of your character model that has strong lines and good contrasts. Here's one wallpaper I found of actor Matt Bomer at a fan site* that I'm going to use as a character model for James Brand:

Enlarge or reduce the photo to the size you want for your character portrait, convert it to a black and white sketch or outline in your photoshop program (if you don't have photoshop, there are lots of photo-to-sketch freewares and generators online you can use.) Erase what you don't want to transfer (the handsome Mr. Bomer here looks a bit too scruffy and hollow-cheeked for my character, so I airbrushed away those shadows), and print out the result on plain bond paper:

Take some erasable tracing or transfer paper and put it between the printout of the photo and a sketch pad, and trace the lines of the features you want to duplicate. I use red transfer paper because I can't do a portrait in one sitting, and the contrasting color makes it easy to see where I left off. Once you've done that, trace very lightly the features you want to alter. Once you've finished you'll have a foundation outline of your character portrait (and you might first scan or print out a copy of it so you have an extra one if you mess up and want to start over.) Here's the transfer of my photo:

Starting with the lightly-traced features you want to alter, sketch in with pencil your changes. You are allowed to erase whatever doesn't work. Once you've done that, use the medium of your choice to detail, colorize and complete the portrait, like so:

I like filling in negative space (the empty parts of an image) to suggest things like hair, nose shapes and other hard-to-draw features. It creates a kind of wood-block print look that I think is neat, too:

One of the side benefits of creating character art is increasing your knowledge of and familiarity with their physical appearance. Now that I've inked Matt Bomer into James Brand I know that face from his cowlick to his square jaw. I hadn't decided on his exact eye or hair color until I drew him; now he's definitely green-eyed and silver/black-haired.

Character art is created for you, so you don't have to make it perfect or show it to anyone. You also don't have to use traditional supplies or techniques to make your portraits. I once made a character portrait using bits of old junk jewelry and broken necklace chains glued to a piece of slate. If you're a scrapbooker, try using cutouts from your favorite papers to assemble a collage portrait. Art quilters often "paint" portraits in thread, which I'm going to have to try someday myself.

However you choose to make character art, just have fun with it. You'll always enjoy it, and you may end up surprising yourself.

*Image source URL:

Monday, November 05, 2012

Cooking Ten

When we're busy we often resort to microwave dinners or takeout to save time, but I've learned quick home-cooked meals help keep me on track with the work (and keeps my family happy, too.) To give you some ideas, here are ten of the recipes I'll be making in November:

Ten Things to Make for Dinner During NaNoWriMo (or any time)

Beef-Broccoli Stir-Fry: Try this quick to make, healthy version of the Chinese takeout favorite. I often use leftover steamed rice (which I revive with my double-boiler) versus the instant stuff in the recipe.

Cheesy Chicken Bagel Pizzas: I use bagels to make mini-pizzas alot (toast them, top them and microwave them for a few seconds and you've got pizza without using the oven.) This 4-ingredient recipe uses the broiler but also gives you a chance to use up some leftover rotisserie chicken.

Chicken Parmigiana: This is the easiest recipe for this classic dish I know, plus there is no breading involved. I skip the salt as the sauce doesn't need it, and serve with thin spaghetti or linguini.

Classic French Salad: An inventive way to serve tuna Niçoise style, and easy to adjust to your family's taste preferences. Dinner salads like this are another all-in-one dish you can pair with some hot rolls or whole-grain bread.

Grilled Roast Beef Sandwiches: This is one of my guy's favorite quick meals; it's as fast to make as grilled cheese but heartier for big appetites. I use horseradish mayo instead of the chile mixture in the recipe and thin sliced Chicago-style Italian bread instead of the rye. Goes great with a hot bowl of vegetable soup on a cold night.

Easy Stromboli A new treat for your pizza lovers. I like to play with this recipe and use different ingredients for the filling: mini-pepperoni, Italian sausage, sliced meatballs or salami are fun to swap for the ground beef. You can also add chopped veggies, different cheeses or whatever you love on your pizza.

Garlic-Chive Baked Fries: These are delicious as a side dish for anything; they're also healthy as you use very little oil and bake them in the oven -- no frying. My kids went absolutely crazy over them. Tip: Slice your potato strips thin (think like the fries at Steak N' Shake) they'll turn out wonderfully crispy.

Golden Burger Spirals: Forget the Hamburger Helper and instead make this casserole; serve with a tossed green salad. It's one of my favorites because the golden mushroom soup and chopped peppers give it an interesting flavor, and ground turkey works as a substitute for the beef.

Steak Soup: For the meat and potato lovers. This one is made in your slow cooker, which means in the morning you toss all the ingredients in and you're done.

Vegetarian Chipotle Nachos: Meatless Monday doesn't mean it has to be tasteless, too. Take out the chips and use the filling in crunchy or soft tortillas for a new spin on the taco. This recipe also makes a filling, healthy snack.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Today's Note

When I'm working on a book the kids always leave me notes (which is much nicer than being interrupted.) This is the one I found this morning.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Skater Boys

There's something almost beautiful about skateboarders and the gravity-defying stunts they pull off with just their boards, some architecture and their incredible sense of balance. Here's a group who skated an abandoned city in Mongolia (includes background music, and kids, don't try this at home or anywhere else):

ORDOS from Charles Lanceplaine on Vimeo.

Friday, November 02, 2012


I know I've been very mysterious about the new series I sold over the summer, but I wanted to wait until NaNoWriMo kicked off to announce the sale (it's a personal homage thing, because this all started with the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo back in 2009.)

Every story we write is important to us, but every now and then one comes along that you believe in and then fight for, even when everyone else tells you the smart thing it to give it up. When you sell a story like this it makes all the hard work and blind faith worthwhile, too. And this is that one for me. Not the book of my heart, but the book of my dreams.

Her Ladyship's Curse, the first novel in my Disenchanted & Company urban fantasy series, will be released in August next year by Pocket Star. For more details and a few chuckles, head over to SF Signal, which has the exclusive announcement here.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012 Begins

Happy NaNoWriMo 2012 to everyone! Now, stop reading this and go do your writing for the day. Ha.

As promised I've uploaded on Google Docs the novel synopsis/backstory/world overview and chapter summaries for Taken by Night, my NaNoWriMo novel. These are the sort of notes I work from when I write so they're written and formatted for my personal convenience. I have tried to keep most of the details of the plot twists a surprise, but if you don't want to know in advance what I'll be writing, obviously don't visit these links.

I will be posting whatever I write each day over on the Stories blog in two versions; first draft and post-edit. I'll mark the post-edit in such a way so that anyone interested can easily see the revisions I make. I'll also share some insights on how my writing day went along with daily updates on my wordcount. Links will be posted on the sidebar under my NaNoWriMo web badge.

To give myself some breathing room I've put the photblog on hiatus for the month of November. I'll try to keep PBW updated daily, but I have two other novels to work on besides the NaNo novel. If all combined it proves too much for me to keep up with I'll probably scale back posting here to two or three days per week. For now we'll see how it goes.

Good luck to everyone who is joining in, and here we go!