Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best of PBW 2013

At the end of every year I sift through the archives to see how things went, what I accomplished and where I might improve things with PBW and my writing life. I think it helps me to reflect, plus it gives me something interesting to post on the last day of the year.

My theme for 2013 was a mystery, and pretty much remained that all year. While I did have some interesting revelations, tried some new things and reached a lovely career landmark, I also wrestled with a bunch of disappointments and challenges behind the scenes. I always tried to reach for the roses this past year, I think, even when I knew all I'd probably get was a handful of thorns.

The summer seemed particularly tough, as it rained almost every day for three months. While I love the rain I could have done without the accompanying lightning, which cut my available computer time in half. I think that was the worst the year threw at me, and for helping me through it I have to thank my friends and regular visitors here. You all kept me working on many days when I really didn't feel like getting out of bed at all. I'm hoping that 2014 delivers fairer skies for all of us.

On the plus side, I began publishing a new series in a new genre with a new publisher; the first novel was released in a new-to-me format. All of that was very exciting and inspiring, as I love to take new roads on the journey. I am exceedingly grateful to everyone who was involved in helping me launch Disenchanted & Co. -- it really was a dream come true for me.

Here's a look back at what I think were the best posts of 2013:

January: Title Logic, Writerisms, Journaling Small

February: Just So We're Clear, Booksigning No-Nos, Ten Author Collaborations We'd Like to See

March: Ten Things I'd Like to Write Before I Kick the Bucket, The Never Read Library, Lost and Found

April: The Hours, Be Happy We Work at Home, 750 Words

May: Another First, Inconveniences, Because Sometimes You Need a Prompt

June: Secret Rooms, Story Improvement, When I Can't Write

July: If Ideas Were Alligators, Ten Things Writers Say (and What They Really Mean), Golden

August: Aftermath, Recycling Books in 1892, SPAMmed Again

September: Building with Books, His Lordship Ten, Recycle X 5: Bookmark Keeper

October: Laws of Physics? Need Not Apply, Way of the Spinyback, Raised by a Barn

November: Trust Issues, Push, To Drawer or Not to Drawer

December: Sword of Unimaginable Annoyance, Gift No-Nos, BNE1

Welcome 2014. May you be as lucky for us as we all hope.

Monday, December 30, 2013

New Writing Year Ten

Ten Things for Writers to Do for the New Year

Get to know your characters better by creating a character palette or making up some character trading cards.

Try a new/free online writing service like Hiveword (see my write-up on it here.)

For your next book writing project make up a novel notebook.

Outline your next novel.

Take the paranormal romance novelist's test.

Buff and polish up your queries (and learn what you shouldn't be sending out.)

Create a submissions log book and hunt for some new markets (for a nice variety I recommend the excellent and regularly updated listings over at Ralan.com.) Before you jump on any sub op, however, be sure to read the fine print.

Reinvent something that bugs you (like I did with the BookLoop.)

Unclutter or make some changes to your writing space.

Be valiant.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 Critter Pics

I had a post scheduled for today that was good but rather depressing, and as I was reviewing it just now I thought it might be good to simply delete it and post something better. Only I didn't have anything else prepared except a compilation of some of my animal pics that I was going to post as a year-end thing on the photoblog. Does that work for you? If so, here are

Ten Critters I Photographed This Past Year

Friday, December 27, 2013


We made a trip into the city yesterday to have some fun and spend a few gift cards. I think I did very well at B&N with mine:

We also stopped by the big art supply store for my kid, where I spotted some really nice mixed media sketchbooks, and picked up this one for me:

Later my guy and I went out for coffee and talked a bit about next year. I'm at another of those crossroads in my career where I can go a number of different ways; he's decided not to retire for a few more years. Like most folks we're willing to work hard and get through whatever challenges come our way, but it seems like more and more pile on us every year. Needless to say it wasn't a very uplifting discussion, and when we got home I decided to break in the new sketchbook with some doodles and a licenseplate-style letter poem I'd had floating in my head for a week. Here's the poem:


I started with that, drawing the letters on little floating computer keys, and then doodled around them:

I also wrote UCANBNE1 several times on the page. It's something I distilled from the poem while doodling out from the keys I'd sketched. I created it as my license plate definition of a writer; when you write you can be anyone. But it's more than that, I think, and I'm going to find out exactly what that is next year.

Here's the entire doodle:

So who are you going to be in 2014? Let us know in comments.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Under the Tree

I hope all of you out there are enjoying the holidays. I must have been on Santa's nice list this year, judging by the lovely bunch of books I found Christmas morning:

My daughter gave me The Gorgeous Nothings, a photographic collection of the actual poems and poem fragments Emily Dickinson wrote on scraps of paper and the backs of envelopes; my Library Thing secret Santa sent me Out of Africa by Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Dr. Maya Angelou and Anguished English, Richard Lederer's hilarious look at how much abuse the language has taken over time; and my friend Jill gifted me The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, J.K. Rowling's not-so-secret adult mystery pseudonym. I also received a gift card for Barnes & Noble from my kid so I can do a little book shopping of my own.

I enjoy when people give me books as gifts. Of course it's the thought that really counts, but their choices are always interesting to me, too. I probably would not have picked out any of these books for myself except maybe the Dickinson collection and the Angelou, which is a welcome addition because my old reading copy of Bird is starting to fall apart.

Did Santa leave any books under your tree? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wishing You

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Off to Make Merry

I'm taking the day off to bake cookies and keep our cat from knocking over the Christmas tree (even at seventeen years old he loves to climb it.) Of course after watching this video from Big Cat Rescue I don't think I'll ever again complain about Jeri's holiday mischief:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Down to the Wire Ten

Ten Things to Help with Last-Minute Gifting

I think the best gift for the person who has everything is a charitable donation in their name. To personalize it fit the charity to one of their passions or struggles, such as the Humane Society for an animal lover, a literacy program for a dedicated reader, or the American Cancer Society for someone who has battled the disease.

A blank book, pretty pen and a printed list of writing prompts can encourage your recipient to do some journaling.

Keeping an extra/generic gift on hand can be helpful, especially when that unexpected guest shows up with a gift for you. My favorite emergency gift is home-baked cookies in a pretty holiday tin; if I don't need to use it we just eat the gift.

My favorite feel-better gift for someone coping with a cold during the holidays is a basket or gift bag filled with a pretty mug, envelopes of instant soup or hot chocolate, a pair of funny fuzzy socks and a stack of paperbacks, a movie or a music CD.

A bowl or basket of fresh fruit is a lovely gift during the holidays, and if you make it yourself you can customize it to your recipient's tastes. Add some whole walnuts, pecans or almonds and some fresh evergreen twigs to give it a festive look.

An electronic bookstore gift card can be ordered and delivered right up to the very last minute; so can gift e-books. Tip: Find out what brand of e-reader your recipient uses before you buy; someone who owns a Nook will likely want an e-gift card from B&N.com; a Kindle owner will prefer Amazon.com, etc.

To give 12 months of reading, take a blank subscription card from your favorite magazine and slip it into a holiday card; ask your recipient to fill in the delivery details and then mail it in with your check pay for a year's subscription.

Another great (and easy to make) last-minute gift is to print out your favorite photo of your recipient (or someone they love) and place it in a pretty frame.

My top three suggestions for last-minute gifts for a child are an age-appropriate funny book; a new, soft-furred teddy bear or a small gingerbread house kit.

If you can't afford a gift, offer your services instead. You can clean house or mow the lawn for an elderly person, babysit for busy parents, be a beta reader for a writer pal, take your friend's pup to the dog park, etc. For a really good friend, make up a stack of 12 coupons redeemable for various services over the next year.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dear Santa

After I sent that letter to you last year I thought it might be a good idea to write again. After all, the world did not end, writers kept writing, readers kept reading, and the planet trundles on. I do have a few more requests to make on behalf of others, but since you're the go-to guy for that kind of thing I'm sure you won't mind another round. So:

Would you please erase the word selfie from the English language? We now loathe it more than head desk, nuff said and even YOLO, if that's possible.

As I'm sure you're aware, stress is at an all-time high. Please help folks around the globe copy with it in peaceful and productive ways. Some solid, dependable employment that pays more than starvation wages for anyone looking for work would be much appreciated wherever you can make that happen.

Librarians could use a little love this year, and a lot more funding in order to keep their jobs and their doors open. Please divert some hearts and minds toward whatever they can do to support their local public libraries. Also, if you have an extra really cool gift in the sleigh, please leave it at the British Library for the unbelievably wonderful gift they just gave all of us over on Flickr Commons.

And finally, the Affordable Care Act. Yes, I know it's on a lot of a wish lists this year. I don't want to get into the politics of the thing; I just worry that it's going to end up hurting more citizens than it helps. If you might use some of your special mojo to fix it? Or if nothing else, if you could simply do something about that web site . . .


Friday, December 20, 2013

The Carrot Thief

Warning, very adorable. Also has background music, for those of you at work:

Flocons et carottes (Snowflakes and Carrots) (2010) from Samantha Leriche-Gionet on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

How British Are You?

Yes, there is an online test that will determine exactly how British you are. And yes, it's very silly. But if I have to post one more holiday-themed piece I think my head will explode.

Here, I'll post my ridiculous but oddly apt results first:

Must tell the cousins across the pond that they've been a bad influence on me. So how UK did you rate? Let us know in comments.

(Test link nicked from Gerard over at The Presurfer)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Elsewhere with Three Gifts

Today I'm over visiting at That's What I'm Talking About blog for their Mistletoe Madness event, at which you can read Three Gifts, my free, never-before-published Disenchanted & Co. short story. I'm also giving away this lovely scarlet and gold handmade quilted tote packed with goodies, including signed print ARCs of Disenchanted & Co. and The Clockwork Wolf, so stop in if you get a chance and enter to win the lot.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Cover Art

This is for the German edition of Frostfire; Kyndred #3, which will be released next fall. I've been delighted with every book they've done for me -- their artwork tends to be phenomenal -- but I think this is one of the best covers I've ever had, period.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Online Shopping Ten

Ten Things About Shopping for Gifts Online

Check out Etsy.com for the best handmade gifts by independent artists; here's a gal who will make a necklace for you out of old typewriter keys.

Juniper Moon Farm has a section of free knitting patterns here; one of these paired with some pretty wool would make a neat gift for your favorite knitting junkie. The official website of Red Heart yarn also has a ton of free knitting and crochet patterns.

A subscription to Knockout Novel is a great and very useful gift for the writer on your list as it gives them Hiveword plus James Scott Bell as a virtual writing coach; see my write-up on the service here. ($49.00)

Levenger is offering 25% off your purchases through December 25th, and while they're not cheap you can usually find some decent bargains in their outlet section.

Giving to those less fortunate can be a wonderful gift for anyone. This year we're donating our annual holiday charitable gift to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wish of a child diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition in the United States and its territories.

Aside from being one of the loveliest little museums in America, the Morakami Museum and Japanese Gardens has a very cool museum shop which you can browse online here (and check out their page of gifts under $20.00 for some neat ideas.)

When I need a gift for someone especially quirky I generally find something different over at the Neato Shop (using my link also helps support Gerard over at The Presurfer, too, as he's an affiliate.)

B&N.com has some great deals on Nook Book Bundles; my favorite to give is Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series for $10.99

Free movies: Target is offering ten downloads for free with the creation of a free account at their Target Ticket digital entertainment site.

One of my favorite online shops is Writer's Bloc; they have amazing Clairefontaine note pads and books, Platinum pens and all sorts of neat writer junk. Check out their sale section for very good bargains.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

Weather permitting, see you in comments.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Book Gifts

One of my favorite gifts to give to a friend during the holidays is a bag of new books. I'll make the bag and hand-pick the reads, which are usually a combination of old favorites and recent discoveries, based on what I know of my friend's reading preferences (and this is one of the reasons why I'm so nosy about what everyone is reading.)

Besides snooping through their shelves or TBR pile at home I think the trick to putting together a neat gift bag of books for someone is to consider their personality and really think about their current mood or life situation. Romances are great for a romantic pal, but if at the moment she's going through a divorce you might want to reconsider and give her some humor or light non-fiction. Someone wrestling with depression probably shouldn't read Innocence by Dean Koontz, but A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson might help them see things from a different perspective.

People are most often hesitant to buy books for avid readers, but they're my favorite recipients because they always talk about the books they want as well as the books they've already read. They're also generally more willing than most to try out the first book in a series, and as I'm a series lover I have a long list of favorites in several genres. I also have a few friends of the intellectual/literati persuasion, and while they can be tough to choose for I like the challenge. I often opt for well-written nonfiction or poetry, but I also like to give those that have a working sense of humor some really silly humor books. The smarter they are, the more they probably need a few laughs.

Also, when giving books you love to someone you care about you may accidentally gift them something they've already read. If this happens they may not even mention it, but if they do ask them to pass along the book to one of their friends.

If you're still not sure, here are some of my favorite recs for the book lovers on your holiday gift list:

Anyone in a reading slump will probably enjoy Souless by Gail Carriger, The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu, The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark, Black Ice by Anne Stuart, or All Seeing Eye or Trick of the Light by Rob Thurman.

The thoughtful and philisophical will find much to ponder in At Home by Bill Bryson, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost (illustrated by Susan Jeffers), Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart, How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You by The Oatmeal, or The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Romantics will warm up to Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, The Arrangement by Mary Balogh, A Piece of Heaven by Barbara Samuel, Kill and Tell by Linda Howard or This is All I Ask by Lynn Kurland.

Your writer pal will likely appreciate The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell, The Writer's Lab by Sexton Burke, any blank journal by Chronicle Books, A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves or The Pocket Scavenger by Keri Smith.

What books are you giving out as gifts this holiday season? Let us know in comments.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Design Starts Here

It's tough to describe what writing is like from the author's perspective, especially how the creative part feels while it's happening. This interesting little video will give you some idea (and contains background music, for those of you at work):

Design Starts Here from Echoic : Music and Sound Design on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Elsewhere Celebrating Victorian-Style

Today I'm over visiting at The Good, The Bad and The Unread blog to talk about how many of our modern Christmas traditions got their start during the Victorian era. Stop in if you get a chance and enter to win this handmade quilted and beaded Victorian tote filled with goodies, including signed print ARCs of Disenchanted & Co. and The Clockwork Wolf.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Off to Party

I'm unplugging today to spend some time with my guy as it's his birthday. So that your stop here was not entirely wasted, here's a very cool animated video from the UK that is actually an advertisement (wish we had more like this over here; does contain background music, for those of you at work):

The Bear & The Hare from Hornet Inc on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

14 Days & Counting

Sometimes it can be tough to get into the spirit of the season, especially during online time, so to give my cheer a boost I'm sorting through my holiday bookmarks and trying to visit some old favorites.

I know it's two weeks until Christmas thanks to NORAD's Santa Tracker site, which has a countdown timer on their front page (as well as a whole new look this year.)

Snowday's holiday classic Create Your Own Snowflake site is also back for another holiday season of making virtual snowflakes (quite addictive, too. I can never make just *one* snowflake.)

Every year I make a point to revisit Jacquie Lawson's animated e-card The Snow Dog because it just makes me happy.

What links do you revisit during the holiday season? Please share your favorites in comments.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Covering Elsewhere

Today I'm visiting Typing with Wet Nails, author Anna C. Bowling's blog, to talk about how even great cover art can sometimes mess up your life. Stop by if you get a chance today and enter for a chance to win my hand-quilted and beaded Winterberry tote of goodies including signed print ARCs of Disenchanted & Co. and The Clockwork Wolf.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Gift No-Nos

Ten Things I Do Not Want for the Holidays

Anything related to The Hunger Games, The Game of Thrones, or Ender's Game. In fact, if you're out shopping for me and you spot anything that has Game in the title please just walk the other way.

Ballpoint pens covered with fur, rhinestones, spikes, obscenities or miniature body parts. What you think is cute I'll probably think is pointless, plus my mom will likely end up stealing it, taking it to church and using it during her latest Bible study class, after which the pastor is going to want to have a word with me. Again.

Birdhouses. All of the pregnant birds around here refuse to use them. The snakes, frogs and squirrels, on the other hand . . .

Hats. I'm just not a hat person. I'm not a scarf, watch or lacey lingerie gal, either. I also now own enough cute fuzzy socks to keep my feet warm until Doomsday.

House plants. No matter where I put them my cat gets to them, eats them, and then regurgitates them all over some high-traffic carpeted area, generally during a dinner party. This includes potted catnip and that kitty grass that is supposed to be good for them.

Any product that has the name Kardashian attached to it. Do I even have to explain this one?

Kindle anything. I don't own a Kindle and (more importantly) I don't want to own a Kindle so you would be helping me not buy one. You should probably skip any Nook stuff too because I keep misplacing the one the family bought me for my birthday.

Makeup kits with ten thousand eye/lip/cheek colors in them. Aside from the fact that I haven't worn makeup for ten years, I cannot think of a single occasion in my life that would demand I paint any part of my face fuschia, chartreuse or bubble-gum-pink in order to appear presentable.

Perfume. But if you need some for someone else, please see me -- I have a huge drawer in the bathroom filled with about a hundred unused bottles from birthdays and Christmases past.

A T-shirt or sweatshirt with a decal that reads "Writers Do It [Insert Obnoxious Sexual Innuendo]." This because a) I don't advertise on my body that I'm a writer, b) there's never a really clever way to fill in that particular blank and c) it's absolutely none of your business how I do it.

What don't you want for the holidays? Let us know in comments.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Sword of Unimaginable Annoyance

This animated video is quite clever and absolutely adorable (and contains narration, music and sound effects, for those of you at work):

Song Of The Knight from Ringling Computer Animation on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

3 Gifty Journals

While browsing the blank book shelves at BAM I found a trio I thought would make great gifts for any journal lover:

From left to right: Hardcover London-themed journal $5.00; Forest Animals journal with animal sticker tabs $10.95; and Clear Skies Journal $10.95 (I should also note that I got an additional 10% off those prices by using my BAM discount card.)

Here's what they look like on the inside:

The two critter journals are from Chronicle Books, and while I can't read the fine print on the London-themed journal it's a very nice buy for just $5.00. Also, I'll be giving away all three of these journals as part of some upcoming giveaways for the Disenchanted & Co. novels, so if you'd like to win one stay tuned to the blog.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Catch Lark

I know author Barbara Samuel aka Barbara O'Neal has many fans among my visitors, so I thought I'd pass along some news: she's just released a new title in a new genre and under a new psuedonym:

I've nabbed a copy to read on my Nook once I finish up my work this month. To learn more about this new venture visit the author's blog here.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Sub Op + Free Issue

Apex Publishing is holding a holiday flash fiction contest with a nice bonus for everyone who submits: "Whether we’re ready to admit it or not – and I’m definitely not ready to admit it yet – Christmas is right around the corner. This means all the lights, the music, the festivities, and the cheer. To help brighten up the holiday Apex style, we’ve decided to run a flash fiction contest. How to enter: All entries must have to do with Christmas, but have a distinctly Apex slant – dark science fiction, fantasy, or horror;
You can submit anytime between now until December 16th; 250 word limit; Email entries to apexwritingcontest@gmail.com with the title and author name in the subject line; Limit 3 entries per person; Story should be in the body of the email. Submissions will be read by Jason Sizemore and me (Lesley Conner) with the winning story being published on the Apex blog on December 23rd. Besides getting their flash fiction published on the Apex blog, the winner also receives the following fantastic prize pack: a short story (up to 5,000 words long) critiqued by Apex owner/publisher Jason Sizemore, payment of 5 cents a word, and a one year subscription to Apex Magazine. To make sure that everyone has a merry Christmas, all entrants will receive a free issue of Apex Magazine. All you have to do is let us know in your submission email which issue of Apex Magazine you would like and we will send it out to you. Search our back issues to see which one you’d like to own." See contest info here for more details.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Not a Penny 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.

aClipboard Manager manages text clipboards in an easy way. Users do not need any practice to be comfortable with aClipboard Manager. The reason is that aClipboard Manager is a simple-to-use program. In fact, aClipboard Manager has been created for the developer´s own purposes. But it is better to distribute aClipboard Manager among others so that many users can be benefited by using aClipboard Manager. Users can use aClipboard Manager for any purpose free of cost" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

ArtWeaver is a "simple Freeware program for creative painting, i.e. Artweaver makes all artistic effects, which you need for your work. You can create sketches from photographies and experiment with a wide range of brushes. The brush simulation is realistic as possible" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7)

Converseen is an "open source project written in C++ with the powerful Qt4 libraries. Thanks to the Magick++ image libraries it supports more than 100 image formats. You can convert and resize an unlimited number of images to any of the most popular formats: DPX, EXR, GIF, JPEG, JPEG-2000, PDF, PhotoCD, PNG, Postscript, SVG, and TIFF.
With Converseen you can save your time because it allows you to process more than one image with one mouse click! Converseen is very simple: it features a very simple user interface without strange options" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

Flashnote is "just a rough copy for your quick work with any text information. Just when you need a rough copy to save or to process some pieces of a text, here is Flashnote – small, quick and convenient. You just have to press the shortcut combination and in a flash of a second you will have your rough copy before you. This done press ESC and the program hides. Everything can be done quicker, simpler and in a more convenient way" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7)

The Form Letter Machine is a "program that will help you to write letters and emails by mixing and matching from pre-written paragraphs. It's useful for people who regularly need to send out emails which include different components in different circumstances. For example if you field technical support requests, or if you need to reply to various inquiries, etc. It enables you to assemble text from multiple paragraphs, each one customized for a specific type of inquiry or response. You can build your own configurations using checkboxes and radioboxes and nested groups, and then easily write new letters or respond to inquiries by checking off the components you want to include. A real-time preview allows you to view the message as it is composed. The program also supports user defined variables, which allows you to quickly personalize the template with a name or other data that is specific to the task. The text is then copied to the clipboard and can be used in your e-mail program or word processor" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7)

According to a review of GeniusPDF Reader, "many PDF readers are so bloated that they consume plenty of system resources unnecessarily. If you want a lightweight but effective free PDF reader that will speed up your system, then GeniusPDF is for you. This ebook reader will make you enjoy reading your ebooks on your computer whether they are inspirational, research or comic ebooks. GeniusPDF is compatible with several other ebook formats besides PDF, including CBR, CBZ, MOBI, DJVU and EPUB, which makes it more versatile than many ebook readers, even many of the premium ones" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

M-Minder will "remind you of important (to you) events on computer startup. At computer start up a reminder window will open, displaying a list of events to remember for the day. After you have viewed this list the window can be dismissed and the software will then hide itself in the System Tray. At regular, user selectable, intervals a small reminder window will pop up for each still pending event and a customizable sound will optionally be played. The user is presented with a choice to either permanently discard this window or to let it pop up again after the next time interval. Future events can be reminded daily up to one year in advance" (OS: Windows 9x or higher)

MemPad is a "plain text outliner and note taking program with a structured index. All pages are stored in a single file. User interface available in 16 languages" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

Simple Sticky Notes is a "simple, easy-to-use, absolutely free, fast and efficient taking notes software. Simple Sticky Notes is 100% safe and ads free" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7)

Task Coach is a "simple open source todo manager to keep track of personal tasks and todo lists. It is designed for composite tasks, and also offers effort tracking, categories, notes and more" (OS: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch)

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

To Drawer or Not to Drawer

November 30: You found it in a drawer -- Judy Reeves, the revised edition of A Writer's Book of Days

As a youngster I wrote stories that I never showed anyone. I imagined them, scribbled them down, put the pages in a folder and hid them in the bottom drawer of my dresser. I did this until there were so many folders in the drawer that there was no room for clothes on top to hide them. I moved my folders to a cardboard box and stuck that under my bed, at least until that box filled up and I had to get another, and then another, and finally there was no more room under my bed and I had to put the boxes in my closet.

At this point the two sisters with whom I shared my room began (quite understandably) to get very annoyed with all the space I was hogging with my boxes. My grandmother helped me move some of them into the attic, and my mother bought me an old used typewriter, which helped condense my scribbled stories into smaller batches. Still, when I finally grew up and moved into my own place, I brought with me about forty boxes just like this one:

For the past twenty-nine days you NaNoWriMo'ers have been writing your November novels and hoping to cross the finish line today. Many of you probably have already won; some of you may end this effort with less than 50K. Whatever your expectations were, and wherever you finish tonight with your story, however, you should feel proud of what you've accomplished. It takes a lot of courage and determination to make a dream into a story.

You may also be thinking about what you'll do in the future with your NaNoWriMo novel. Over the years here at PBW I've talked about editing and rewriting and other ways to improve a story, and I encourage all of you to keep working on your book in the weeks and months ahead. If you can do this much in a month, think about what more you can do in three months, or six months, or a year.

There's also the question of what drawer you'll hide it in. Yes, some of you will never show this story to anyone, and that's okay. You have the right to keep your stories to yourself, if that's what you really want. Put them in a drawer, stick them under your bed or in your closet, and they'll be safe, and you'll be safe, and no one ever has to know about them. You'll never have to deal with rejection or criticism; you can write for your own pleasure. You're absolutely allowed to do that.

So what's the point? Well, if all writers did that -- if we hid everything we wrote in drawers and boxes and refused to let anyone see them -- there would be no books in the world. There would only be drawers filled with folders and boxes stuffed under beds.

How did you do with NaNoWriMo this year? Let us know in comments.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wishing You

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Two Things

First Thing: LibraryThing is holding their seventh annual Santa Thing for their members:

"The idea is simple: You pay into the SantaThing system (choose from $15–$45). You play Santa to a LibraryThing member we pick for you—we try to match up similar members—and you select books for them. Another Santa does the same for you, in secret. LibraryThing does the ordering, and you get the joy of giving AND receiving books!

You can sign up as many times as you like, for yourself or someone else. If you sign up for someone without a LibraryThing account, make sure to mention what kinds of books they like, so their Secret Santa can choose wisely."

About the deadlines for the program:

"Sign-ups close Friday, November 29 at 8pm Eastern. Saturday morning, we’ll notify you via profile comment who your Santee is, and you can start picking books. Picking closes Thursday, December 5th at 12pm Eastern. As soon as the picking ends, the ordering begins, and we’ll get all the books out to you as soon as we can."

More details can be had by clicking on the Santa Thing link. This seems like a fun way to give books as well as get some in return, so I've joined in. If you're also inclined to play secret book santa please do check it out.

Second Thing: Today over at Disenchanted & Co. we're steampunking author Sofie Kelly -- and giving away this awesome cat tote filled with her Magical Cat mysteries and other very cool stuff:

If you'd like a chance to win it all, head over to the giveaway post on Disenchanted & Co. for more details.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Off with Mi Familia

I have family coming in today so I'm going to bail on you guys in order to look after them. So that your visit here was not entirely wasted, here's one of my favorite videos about being thankful (contains background music and some other sounds, for those of you at work):

30 gifts to 30 strangers in Sydney from Lucas Jatoba on Vimeo.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Helps Ten

Ten Things to Help with the Holidays

Artists Helping Children has an entire page here of kid-friendly Thanksgiving arts and crafts to keep the youngsters busy while you cook.

All of your turkey prep questions can be answered over at Butterball's website here, and their 30th annual Turkey Talk-Line (1-800-BUTTERBALL) is already up and running if you want to talk to someone live.

ChristmasCookies.com has over 500 searchable sweet cookie, candy and other treat recipes to inspire you.

One no-cook appetizer that appeals to everyone, even kids, is sometimes tough to manage; the most popular at any gathering we have are my fruit and cheese skewers. Make them by placing chunks of cheese and fruit on bamboo or plastic skewers (cheddar, grapes and pineapple chunks are a popular combo, as are strawberries, raspberries and swiss.) You can shape the cheese by using small cookie cutters to cut them from a block. A dessert spin on this is to replace the cheese with marshmallows or brownie bites.

When I need meal inspiration I always go to Cooking Light magazine's online site to hunt for healthy recipes; visit their Ultimate Holiday Cookbook section here for some terrific ideas.

Crochet Concuspience has links to 20 free online patterns here for one-skein crochet projects you can complete before Christmas arrives.

Make one of these five free Christmas stocking quilt patterns, fill with homemade cookies or treats and you've got a gift for almost anyone on Santa's Nice List.

Food Network's Thanksgiving page offers recipes and ideas on every aspect of your holiday meal from some of the most popular chefs on TV.

Knitting Daily offers a free e-book here with 4 one-skein knitting projects and 3 bonus holiday patterns.

Every year people ask me for my No-Brainer Fudge recipe (#5 on this old holiday ten list here), aka the easiest dessert/treat to make in the universe.

Do you have any holiday helpful tips or links to share? Let us know in comments.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sub Op

Online Canadian e-zine Lackington’s is looking for "speculative fiction between 1,500 – 5,000 words in length. The “spec” element can be overt or subtle (so blow us away with realism if it possesses the merest twinge of strangeness). Fantasy, SF, slipstream, post-apocalyptic, magic realism, mythopoeia, folktale, or any flavour of ‘punk — it’s all good, BUT WAIT! Read this before submitting — meeting our style preference is our foremost demand. We’re excited by stories by, or representative of, members of traditionally marginalized communities. We are never excited by fanfic, so please don’t send us any. We’re not a horror market, either, though we embrace dark elements." Payment: CAD1¢/word; no reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Friday, November 22, 2013


After watching this video you may never again look at a dollar bill quite the same way (includes narration by the artist and background music, for those of you at work):

Mark Wagner - Money is Material from The Avant/Garde Diaries on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sub Op

If you are a devoted flash fic writer, this is definitely the market listing for you:

SpecLit, a "world of wonder in 100 words" is a weekly e-zine that specializes in delivery flash fiction of 100 words exactly, and define themselves as "suckers for plot. If it ain’t got plot, it ain’t a story. We want each piece to have the feeling of a beginning, a middle, and an end (or inciting incident, attempt(s) to fix it, and climax). All fiction must be original. There are lots of places for fanfic – this isn’t one of them. And finally, of course, it also has to be speculative – fantasy, science fiction, myth fairy tale, dark fantasy, etc… – but no erotica and no gore. A well-placed swear word, the recognition that we are sexual beings, and off-camera violence are all okay, but within limits, eh? Besides, with the focus on plot, there’s no time to get all graphic." Length: 100 words exactly, and according to the submissions guidelines "Titles do not count as part of the 100 words". Payment: 5¢/word. Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Counts

Tomorrow you November novelists out there will hit the two-thirds month mark, which means time-wise you have about a week and a half to finish your 50K novel. Doesn't sound like a lot of time to complete a whole book, does it?

Perspective is a funny thing, and never more so than when you count things. That week-and-a-half you have left to finish your NaNo novel? Equals more time than you think. It's actually ten days, or 240 hours, or 144,000 minutes, or 8,640,000 seconds. Imagine if you could write one word every second; in the time you have left for NaNoWriMo you'd be able to finish 1,728,000 50K novels by November 30th (this assuming you did nothing but write a word each and every second for the next ten days.)

Fortunately you don't have to write 1,728,000 novels over the next ten days -- you have only to finish the one you've been working on all month. The other 1,727,999 novels can wait for another time. Don't you feel better now?

All kidding aside, I know how hard you NaNo'ers have been working, how tired you're probably feeling, and how much you dread/long for November 30th to arrive. It's okay to panic for a minute when you think about the time you have left, too. But just remember, every minute from now until November 30th is not just something you count; it's also a window. You can sit and stare at it, or you can open it and let the words stream in, and put them down on paper, and finish the book, and win NaNoWriMo. It is not impossible; you can do it. Count on yourself and you will.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

InkJoy Redux

Last month I was pretty underwhelmed by Paper Mate's new line of InkJoy pens, but after reading Shawna's comment about how much better the stick variety were (versus the retractable type I tried) I resolved to give the product another chance. I found a big package of multi-colored stick InkJoy pens during a recent visit to Target and sat down with them last night for a test drive.

The biggest and most immediate difference with this set of InkJoy pens is that I didn't have to deal with removing a ball of goop on the business end, as there wasn't any goop (I imagine the molded plastic top caps keep the ink fresh.) There also seems to be a wider variety of colors in the stick version, including two shades of a green and an ink I've never before seen made available in a ballpoint pen: brown. No clips fell off (they were molded as part of the top caps) and I did not notice the smell of the ink as much this time, either.

A new problem with the stick variety of InkJoy was the tendency of the ink to blob; this happened most frequently on curves and was most noticeable with the lighter colors. If you want to use these pens for decorative purposes the blobbiness of the ink will likely be an issue.

The orange ink still seemed a bit too light in color to be practical for reading, as did the light green ink. The red still looks like a dark fuschia to me, too.

Also, while the ink flow from the stick InkJoy pens was easy and uninterrupted they wrote pretty much like every ballpoint pen I've ever used, so I'm still wondering what is supposed to be so revolutionary. The InkJoy stick pens were lighterweight than the retractable model, which actually made them a bit more uncomfortable for me to write with (weightier pens tend to provide more control for people like me with motor skill challenges.)

All things considered, I think for the average user these InkJoy stick pens will make a decent everyday writing instrument, but I wouldn't pay a lot for them. To me there just wasn't anything special about them to make them worth the investment of any extra $$$.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Freebie Ten

Ten Things That Won't Cost You a Dime

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

Anki is a "program which makes remembering things easy. Because it's a lot more efficient than traditional study methods, you can either greatly decrease your time spent studying, or greatly increase the amount you learn. Anyone who needs to remember things in their daily life can benefit from Anki. Since it is content-agnostic and supports images, audio, videos and scientific markup (via LaTeX), the possibilities are endless" (OS: Win 98/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3/Vista/7)

Efficient Diary is a "completely free while still beautiful, easy-to-use and powerful electronic diary software package. With its unique and powerful flash full-text search technique, you can simply enter a word in the diary to quickly find the corresponding entries! The product has a strong edit function similar to that of MS-Word." [PBW notes: also comes in portable version you can run from a stick drive] (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Google Blogger Sitemap Generator is a "small standalone utility that will allow you to enter your Google Blogger URL, select the number of entries that you want adding to your Sitemap and then generate the URL required for your Sitemap" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8)

My Visual Database allows you to "create a fully functional user interface in minutes without writing any code. The result of your design will be full-fledged Windows application, ready to work on any computer. My Visual Database allows several users to work with the same database simultaneously" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/2008/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Pixia is a "painting tool and retouch software made exclusively for full color graphics. Pixia supports layers, masks and many other graphic editing functions. You can use your own customized brush tips and even use an image file as a brush tip to create unique effects. Pixia's user-friendly interface is suitable for beginners as well as experts. Pixia supports the most common editing techniques and presents a user friendly interface" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7)

SmoothDraw is an "easy natural painting and digital free-hand drawing software that can produce high quality pictures. Support many kinds of brushes (pen, pencil, dry media, airbrush, bristle brush, image hose, etc.), retouch tools, layers, image adjustment, and many effects... Works great with tablets and Tablet PC" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7; requires Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0.)

Speedy Painter is a "simple and lightweight painting software. It is written in C++ and uses the OpenGL graphics library. It supports Wacom digitizers to vary size and opacity of brush strokes according to pen pressure" (OS: Windows Vista/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

StrokesPlus is a "completely free mouse gesture recognition utility for Windows which allows you to create powerful mouse gestures that save you time. With rocker support, modifiers, and the robust Lua engine built right in, there's virtually no limit to what you can automate. Traditionally, you begin a mouse gesture by holding down the right mouse button and drawing something, like the letter R for example, then release the right mouse button. This triggers the application to process your drawing and perform the specified action. The most common actions are maximizing/minimizing windows, navigating back/forward, or automated logging into a certain website. However, StrokesPlus takes it to the next level, giving you ultimate control over exactly what happens when your action executes" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

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)

WowBase allows you to "create your own database quickly and easily. The main feature of the program — records are not in the form of rows, and in the form of cards. This method of editing the records you have not tried! There is quite a different attitude to the records: now this is not one thin strip of thousands, and a separate independent object that can be manipulated. You can even copy a few records and send them via instant message or e-mail to a colleague that he added them to his table. Very simple interface and minimal facilities needed for editing tables" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Elsewhere This Weekend

Over at the Toriana blog I'm giving away one of my handmade quilted and beaded totes, along with a couple of signed ARCs you might be interested in winning:

Deadline to enter the giveaway is midnight EST tomorrow, so do stop in if you get a chance this weekend.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ice Art

This very short video makes art out of things being encased in ice (has some background music, for those of you at work):

Frozen from kveten on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Push

Tomorrow you novelists of November will reach the halfway point of NaNoWriMo. Fifteen days done, fifteen more to go. You may have reached the midway wordcount of 25K, too. Some of you will have written more; others less. A couple of you serious and audacious procrastinators out there have just begun writing your story this week.

Most writers will tell you that stories stall most often in the middle, and there is a reason for this. Beginnings are generally new and thrilling, while endings are usually triumphant and satisfying. Middles stretch out between the two and must be crossed in order to go from one state to the other. In the middle it's too late to start the story over but also too soon to end it. This is why the middle of a story can feel like a desert or ocean through which you trudge or slog without really getting anywhere. It's also in the middle where I think most writers tend to give up on a story -- the chuck it in a drawer and forget about it zone.

Writing is lovely fun, so much so that we sometimes forget that it's also work. The middle of your story can be a mental sweatshop where you may not have any fun at all. So how do you get through it?

One word: Push. Okay, it's actually an acronym for four more words: Persist, Use, See and Hush.

Persist by writing on, sticking with your story and refusing to give up. Right now the middle you're slogging through may feel like a giant Sargasso Sea of story, but it will not last forever -- eventually you will write through it and make your way toward your ending.

Use your story elements in the middle to have some fun (and yes, middles can be as much fun as beginnings or endings.) Take a story element and play with it -- find out a bit more about one of your characters, settings or conflicts. Use your elements to surprise you as well as your reader. There is something in the middle of the story you can use to liven it up; all you have to do is be willing to look for it and then put it to good use.

See beyond the middle of your story by focusing not on where you are but where you're headed. You may have forgotten that there is a finish line out there, just over the story horizon. The only way you're going to get to it is to write your way there, and to do that you have to keep writing.

After you've done all that, also be sure to Hush those doubts and demons that crop up in the middle of the story. They want to distract you and derail you, especially when you begin making some progress through your middle. The only way they can do that is if they can make you listen to them. Imagine taking a big roll of psychic duct tape and slapping a big piece of it over the mouth of every one of those middle-of-the-story jabberwockies in your head.

It's okay if the middle of your story isn't as dazzling as the beginning you've written, or as stunning as the ending you have planned. The middle is where you make it all work, and the writing of that is often riddled with difficulty, extra effort and creative worry. Last week we talked about trust, and this is one of those spots when you really have to trust in yourself and your story -- and then Push on.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Papaya! Art is all about creative abandon, which is why the company regularly produces some of the most unusual journals and notebooks I've found in art and book stores. To quote from their web site:

Everything we make is for the joy of creating and the thrill of sharing ~ Our credo of creative abandon means we believe in a no-apologies policy of answering our artistic impulses. Our promise to you is this: everything we make, we love.

I collect Papaya art journals and notebooks, as they are beautiful and there really is nothing else quite like them on the ready-made for writing market. Here's the latest batch I picked up during my last visit to the art store:

The Gnome Hat journal is 7" X 9" hardcover edition with 160 unlined pages, a ribbon page marker and lay-flat binding. This one works as a sketchbook or journal, and the cover illustration is lovely, mysterious and practically begs to have a story written about it. This is the kind of journal that makes a wonderful gift for an artistic pal but can also serve as a nice reward for yourself, too.

The Dream Catcher is a smaller 5" X 7" version of the Gnome Hat journal that features lined and unlined pages, so it would work well as a travel journal or photo book. I'm going to be a bit more literal and use mine as as dream journal.

Love Who You Are scribble and sketch set offers two 8" X 5" softcover journals, one lined and one unlined, to cover all your artistic bases, while the Light Tomorrow and Inventor mini books at 5-1/2" X 3-1/2" and 32 lined pages are the perfect pocket companions for any journaling or note-taking pursuit.

Pair any of these journals with a nice pen, pack of colored pencils, markers or travel watercolor set and you have a great gift for a creative friend. You can shop for Papaya products at their website, or look for their journals at your local fine art, scrapbooking supply or book stores.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rec 3

Here's a pic of the last three books I've read:

I picked up the trade paperback of Jeal M. Auel's The Shelters of Stone at a neighbor's yard sale for fifty cents so definitely a bargain. I lent out my own copy a few years back and the borrower never returned it, so this was really a replacement buy. I also wanted to read it again before I order the final book to finish up the series (all I have left now to read is The Land of Painted Caves, book six.) This book really couldn't compete with my favorite, The Valley of Horses, but I thought the author did a good job moving the story along with it.

I paid full cover price ($28.95) for Bill Bryson's One Summer ~ America, 1927, a lively look at the historic folks and events of that particular season in our country. If you really like baseball and aviators and Presidents, you may find Bill will smash to bits most of your illusions about them. Still, he does so with his usual good-natured glee, and that in itself is admirable in its cheerful cheeky audacity and complete contempt for the history taught (past and present) to American kids. I also happen to think Bill Bryson is one of the finest writers of this century so doubtless I'm 100% biased.

Beautiful Sacrifice by Elizabeth Lowell was a remaindered hardcover I picked up for $5.98 at Barnes & Noble on my last trip into the city. This was a random buy; I was looking for something to read by an author I trust to deliver. The story was interesting, different, and well-written if somewhat outlandish and probably quite implausible. I've written a book with many elements like this one, only with Aztecs instead of Maya, so I felt right at home in the story and could personally appreciate the amount of research the author had to do to get it all right.

I'd recommend all three books as good reads for anyone who is interested in prehistorical fantasy, history, and/or romantic suspense.
What are the titles of the last three books you've read that you'd recommend to others? Let us know in comments.

Monday, November 11, 2013

NaNo Ten

Ten Things to Help with NaNoWriMo

13 Writing Tips by author Chuck Palahniuk that are actually pretty decent.

50 Writing Tips from Every Writer's Resource.com.

Search the fiction, nonfiction and verse databases at Bartleby.com for keyword quotations, title ideas and more.

This real-world City and Town Name online generator is customizable by nation.

NaNoWrito is an online, distraction-free spot where you can work on your words for the day with a built-in counter to tell you how many you've gotten. Great for timed writing exercises and word wars, too. Don't forget to save your work!

OneLook Reverse Dictionary allows you to input a definition or concept and get in return a list of words that mean exactly that.

Symbols.com, the online encyclopedia of Western signs and ideograms, contains more than 1,600 articles about 2,500 Western signs, arranged into 54 groups according to their graphic characteristics.

Wordcounter.com is an online text analyzer that "ranks the most frequently used words in any given body of text. Use this to see what words you overuse (is everything a "solution" for you?) or maybe just to find some keywords from a document."

Writers Friend on Tumblr has lots of advice and prompts.

Writing Fix.com also has tons of writing-related resources.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Bold Sub Op

Tychee Books is currently accepting submissions, and looking for ". . . bold science fiction and fantasy novellas and novels (60,000 words minimum; 120,000 words maximum). We welcome stories that aren’t easily categorized; stories that push the boundaries; stories that aren’t afraid to challenge the reader. We will accept these stories in any sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy, including steampunk and slipstream. What does that really mean? So long as the critical part of the story depends on Science Fiction or Fantasy, we’ll take it." Payment: According to Ralan.com, "print=25% net; e-book/audio=35% net." Query on reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Amazônia Manauara

Go to the heart of the Amazon and take a tour of some of its beauties in less than three minutes (includes background music, for those of you at work):

Amazônia Manauara from MOOV on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Heart the Paper

When I heard that the folks at Cloth Paper Scissors magazine would be branching out with a new venture, I Heart Paper, I made a point to watch for the first issue to hit the shelves. And while I'm definitely more of a cloth gal at heart, the premiere edition did not disappoint.

I Heart Paper really is all about paper, and how to transform it into primarily 3-D projects like bracelets, sculptures, ornaments, wreaths, etc. There are 32 projects in this issue of the magazine for you paper fanatics, many of which use handmade and recycled papers and some very fun techniques. Some, like this paper topiary, are utterly gorgeous. If you've ever wanted to sculpt a book, fold flowers or form a hat or wreath from paper, this is a mag you don't want to miss.

Collage lovers will find a lot in this issue to inspire them as well. Artist Annie Simcoe's article on how she makes her own paper pairs nicely with instructions on making a decorative collage of the same, and Mary Rork-Watson shows you how to collect found papers and use them to compile artful strip-collage pieces for hanging around the house (I'm thinking of doing the same with all the fabric selvages I've saved over the years.) The magazine is also divided into several themed sections, so if you have some paper fanatic pals you can use this issue to inspire a creative get-together.

Skill levels required for the I Heart Paper projects range from easy to advanced, and while most of the ideas are primarily decorative there are a few that are very writer-friendly. I really liked Catherine Anderson's Photos-in-the-Box collection, which shows you how to creatively show off a bunch of themed photos and/or create an inspirational gift for an artistic friend. I also liked this project for making fortune cookies out of paper (easy plus no calories; a terrific party favor idea.)

If you're bored with scrapbooking, curious about how to creatively recycle variously types of paper, or simply want to take your paper art to the next level, I recommend I Heart Paper as a solid investment and a neat source of new inspiration.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Trust Issues

Tomorrow it will be one week since writers around the world began working on their National Novel Writing Month book. I always love the first week of writing a new novel, but I always hate it, too. There's the excitement of beginning a new story, which clashes with the dread that I've chosen the wrong idea to write. I've probably had the characters in my head for quite some time, and yet I've never heard them before on the page (a bit of synethesia there; I hear my characters via the dialogue I write.) Unless I'm working on a series book I'm generally in a new place with a lot of unfamiliar folks doing things unknown to me, and this can be both exhilarating and exhausting.

For some of you this first week has been instructive; it's given you a chance to engage in a work routine, figure out how much you can comfortably write per day, etc. You've discovered self-discipline, internal or external motivation, and how you may best do this thing. For some of you it's been the exact opposite; you're fighting with the words and the characters and the concept; the story is getting away from you (or hasn't appeared at all as you imagined it), and you may even be thinking this was a very bad idea, and/or you're considering tossing in the towel now before you end up looking/feeling/writing like a fool. Most of you will waffle between these two states or land somewhere in the middle of them for the next twenty-five days.

From what I've experienced and observed over my 15+ years as a novelist, the difference between the writer who glides through the work and the writer who plows through it is monumental and yet also very simple: trust. If you trust in yourself and your idea and your skills and everything you possess to pour into writing this story, you will glide. If you don't, you will plow. You'll probably do a little of both -- and you never really know how it's going to be until you begin to write that day.

You can't fake trust; it's an instinct based on innumerable factors that contribute to making up who you are as a writer and a person. For example, if you've ever had any trouble writing anything, that will factor in, and hover over your keyboard and loom in the back of your mind and otherwise get between you and the page. For the rest of your writing life that difficulty will haunt you, and make you wonder if it'll happen again. Think about it more than what you're writing, and it probably will happen again -- because that's how doubts work.

You can't escape doubts anymore than you can force trust, but there is something that always helps me: I don't think about the writing; I just write. I write because that's what I do. I write because I trust myself to write well. I do know it's impossible to write well 100% of the time, but I also trust myself to edit, rewrite, or do whatever it takes to make it work after I write the first draft. Even if that means tossing out two-thirds of a book and rewriting it from scratch (something I've done more than once, in fact) I know I can do that. And if none of that works -- another, awful thing that has happened more than once in my career -- I trust myself to set aside the story that failed, and write something else, and keep writing until I do produce what I do want on the page, and what I do expect from myself as a novelist.

It's not easy to trust in yourself as a writer, particularly when you're in the beginning stage of creation. You're a stranger in a strange place with a lot of strange characters; you're entitled to feel the magic or the mayhem of that position. When you're away from the work, celebrate it, wallow in it, but whatever you feel, get it out of your system so that when you go back to the page it's just you and your story. Trust in both as you forge ahead, and you will reach that 50K finish line.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Site Safety Rating

Webutation is a site that rates any other web site based on how safe its content is. I'm happy to say that PBW rated 100% safe:

They also give you some code for your rating so you can add it somewhere on your site, and it shows up like this:

pbackwriter.blogspot.com Webutation

I found the link to Webutation over on The Presurfer, which also scored a 100% safety rating -- way to go, Gerard!

Monday, November 04, 2013

$1.00 Ten

When Mom visits we always make a trip to the local dollar stores for cards, gift wrap and other seasonal necessities. During our last pilgrimage I looked around for writer stuff, too, and here are:

Ten Things I Found for $1.00

1. Ruled Writing Tablet, 6" X 9", 100 lined pages. I usually pay a couple of bucks for these at the local drugstore.

2. Pack of 8-1/2" X 11" designer computer paper, 40 sheets. The store had a bunch of these packs in different designs so there's a good variety.

3. Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs, hardcover remainder. Original price tag of $17.34 still on the cover. I already own a copy but I'll use this one as a lender.

4. 10 manilla 1/3-tabbed file folders, letter size. I'm setting up a filing cabinet for my daughter so I need lots of these.

5. 2014 pocket weekly planner. Can I ever have enough of these? Probably not.

6. Stretchy school textbook fabric covers. I mentioned in my last Recycle X 5 post that you could probably find these at a dollar store, and here's the proof.

7. Floral pocket notebook, 4.25" X 5.62", 60 ruled pages. Perfect size for my purse, and the elastic band on this one will help hold stuff like receipts and business cards along with my notes.

8. The Gate House by Nelson DeMille, remaindered hardcover. I actually haven't read this one, so a good TBR bargain.

9. Gardens 2014 Calendar duo. One wall-size and one mini. These are actually quite pretty, and comparable to the ones for which you pay ten or twenty times as much at the bookstores.

10. 2014 11"X 17" desk planner/blotter pad. To better organize daily next year I'm going to park this on my work desk, and this one is the exactly right size to fit.

Purchased at my local Dollar Tree on 10/23/13; availability of items will likely vary.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

YA Sub Op

Spotted this open call over at Ralan's place this past week:

"Kaleidoscope is an anthology of contemporary YA science fiction and fantasy with a focus on diverse perspectives. Alisa Krasnostein (founder of Twelfth Planet Press, and winner of the World Fantasy Award in 2011) and Julia Rios (fiction editor at Strange Horizons, and host of the Outer Alliance Podcast) are co-editing this project, which we hope to fill with a variety of exciting tales, happy and sad, adventurous and meditative. We’re not simply looking for cookie-cutter vampire or urban fantasy stories, but for things that transport us and subvert our expectations." Length: "Stories submitted for this anthology should be between 2,500 and 10,000 words"; Payment: "5 cents per word (USD) to be paid on publication in late 2014." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: December 31st, 2013.

Friday, November 01, 2013

NaNoWriMo Begins

Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month, the annual madness during which fellow scribes around the globe spend thirty days writing a novel. The goal is to complete 50,000 words (that's 1,667 words per day) by the end of the month in order to cross the finish line and win.

At the NaNoWriMo site you can read pep talks from the pros, join in discussions with other participants in the forums, and take advantage of special offers from event sponsors.

To do my part, I've posted Way of the Cheetah, my how-to book on writing, online for anyone to read, download and/or share with pals for free during the month of November. To get a copy, click here. I'll also have a couple of posts each week during November with resources, freebies and whatever else I can find that I think may be helpful to you November novelists out there.

So who is doing NaNo this year, and how is it going so far? Let us know in comments.