Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Affordable Fountains

I was surprised to read that Twilight flick heartthrob Robert Pattison generously gave his waffling leading-lady love Kristen Stewart this 18k white gold Tibaldi Bentley Crewe fountain pen (personally inscribed, no less.) Dropping $46K on a single writing instrument as a birthday gift is probably the definition of extravagance, I guess. I keep thinking how hard she'll kick herself if anything happens to it. How many times have you lent someone a pen only to realize an hour later they never gave it back? I learned my lesson when a kid at a football game borrowed my favorite purse fountain, a Pilot Plumix, from me to jot down someone's phone number -- swearing he'd return it in a minute -- and never did.

I'm also not sure how you'd dare write with a pen that costs as much as a Cadillac. I'm guessing you don't; you lock it up in a cabinet with a glass front so everyone can look at it and envy you (although I'm not sure why; all that does is turn it into a pretty pricey knick-knack.) The minute you ding or scratch the clip or barrel the pen loses value, so you'd probably have to wear gloves and use it only to sign your next zillion dollar contract. Maybe that's all it's supposed to be use for?

As some of you know I'm also a fountain pen fanatic, but I admit, I don't own anything even remotely in the Tibaldi price ballpark. Nor do I think you have to invest thousands to own a lovely writing instrument that will serve you faithfully. Fountains are initially more expensive that the cheapie disposable variety of pen, but in the long term they work out to be a good investment because you can keep using them for years; all you need to buy are replacement ink cartridges or a converter to fill them with bottled ink. If you happen to lose one you won't feel like half your retirement fund just vanished, either.

Here are three of my current favorite fountains, beneath samples of how they write:

Starting at the top, The Ultra Violet True Writer by Levenger is my most recent acquisition, and I'm still kicking myself for waiting twenty years to buy one. This is a smooth, beautiful pen with nice, balanced weight (not too flimsy, not too heavy) and a nib that seems to fly across any kind of paper. The barrel colors are gorgeous, and when you hold it in the sunlight you'll notice they have a subtle sparkle, too. I got mine on sale from Levenger for $44.95, and the only complaint I'd make about it is that the cartridges are on the small side. It comes with a converter, though, so if you write a lot you can knock down the price of replacement ink by using bottled.

My favorite and most frequently used fountain is the red and white fountain in the middle; my Platinum Koi. This pen retails for about $450.00 but you can find it in the $300.00 range if you shop around; I got mine on sale at a Levenger store for $110.00. That still sounds like a lot to spend on a pen, and it is the most expensive fountain I own, but I've also been using it almost daily for ten years and it has yet to quit. Most Japanese fountains are exception, excellent pens and my Koi has proven to be practically indestructible; I've done everything to it except throw it against a brick wall and it still writes as beautifully as it did the day I brought it home. One thing to note about most Japanese fountains: their nibs tend to be one size finer than they're graded, so if you buy one with a medium nib it will write like a fine nib, fine writes like extra-fine, etc.

Platinum also makes the Preppy, which is the third pen there at the bottom of the pic, and an excellent all-use everyday fountain. Made from recycled materials and sporting a steel nib, the Preppy is very lightweight and has decent flow. I like the transparent barrel because I can see how much ink I have left in my cartridge, too. I think if you want to go cheap you can still be stylish, and the Preppy is a fun option. Extremely affordable at $3.00, too.

As for what Rob might get Kristen for her next birthday, it's anyone's guess. Maybe he'll bid on the circa-1640 Hymnal about to hit the auction block. Touted as the first book ever printed in the United States, the expected price tag: $30,000,000.00

Monday, April 29, 2013

No Cost 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.

The free trial version of Action Outline is a "simple yet useful organizer, ActionOutline consists of an Explorer-like interface where you can store and arrange all your information in a tree outline form. Arrange items using your keyboard or mouse, cut and paste branches, place checks or tags next to listed items, search information, print data, export to the external file, or link to web or local files" (OS: Windows 2000, 2003, 2008, XP, Vista, 7 and 8. 32-bit and 64-bit.)

Avance Paint is a "complete paint program designed with an intuitive user interface that makes AvancePaint easy to learn and use. It’s powerful enough to suit the advanced user and yet simple enough to please the beginner. Open unlimited number photo´s or pictures and unleash your artistic talents as you will discover the advanced and powerful but easy to use graphical options! A complete set of 20 photo-realistic filters and more then 40 textures are included" (OS: Win 9x/ME/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista/7/8)

FreeText is a "simple and easy-to-use notebook for making notes, keeping to-do lists, storing information on accounts and contacts, etc. It can be helpful when you need to save a link, interesting citation, phone number or to simply insert text from a clipboard for a short time" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Mikogo is a "free remote desktop app full of features to assist you in conducting the perfect web conference or remote support session. Share any screen content or application in true color quality across the world with up to 25 participants simultaneously, while still sitting at your desk. Mikogo can be employed for many desktop sharing use cases, including web conferencing, online meetings, sales demos, web presentations, remote support, group collaboration, and more. Provide online technical support via remote control. Conduct product and sales demos for customers. Use Mikogo to discuss and edit a current team project. Or on a personal level, share your recent holiday photos with friends" (OS: "Mikogo is cross-platform so you can start and join meetings from Windows, Mac or Linux computers")

PDFCreator "easily creates PDFs from any Windows program. Use it like a printer in Word, StarCalc or any other Windows application" (OS: Win 9x/ME/2K/XP/2K3/Vista/7)

QText is a "handy, simple note-taking program similar to notepad. The program includes an auto-save function and features a tabbed interface to organize your notes. QText resides in the system tray for quick and easy access which is ideal for taking quick notes" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7, designer also notes requires Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0.)

To-Do DeskList "automatically arranges to-do notes on your desktop. Synchronize your tasks between computers and users. To-Do DeskList has beautiful minimalistic design and multiple themes to choose from. Supports reminders, notes, and more. It is very lightweight, easy and simple to use, and much more efficient than complex task management packages" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7)

Web Link Collection is a "handy, free multi-tool to enhance your internet experience. This easy to use utility allows you to organize and manage a collection of internet links which provides quick access to your favorite websites. Additionally, this free utility features a password manager to encrypt and store your sensitive data. Web Link Collection also includes a convenient form filler and several tools to facilitate the navigation and operation of the Internet" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8)

XnSketch allows you to "convert your photos into cartoon or sketch images. This easy to use program features 18 different image effects to enhance your images. Simply click the desired effect and it will be applied to your image immediately. XnSketch also allows users to share their results using email or by Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. XnSketch does not require installation. Just unzip the archive and run the executable file" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

The free version of YeahWrite ia an "easy to use fill-in-the-blank word processor for the computer illiterate or for those business professionals that want to create a document quickly and easily, without having to worry about formatting. You can create journals, keep addresses, take notes, and write simple letters and memos. A memo can become a letter with just a few clicks of the mouse" (OS: Win XP/Vista/7)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Five from Target

On a recent trip to Target I found some very nifty stuff for readers and writers:

Starting clockwise from the left:

Hardcover edition of Taking Eve by Iris Johansen -- this novel was not only nicely discounted, it was signed by the author, something I've never before found at Target ($19.59)

Rifle Paper Co.'s Botanicals Notebook Collection, published by Chronicle Books, features three 32-page notebooks with gorgeous soft covers and ruled pages with a vintage floral header design ($12.95)

Neil Pasricha's The Journal of Awesome, published by Chronicle Books, is filled with fun writing prompts and reminders of all of life's especially wonderful moments ($12.95)

Green-Inspired.com's grid journal is printed on FSC-certified paper with soy inks and has a colorful cover design that reminded me of quilt blocks ($7.99)

Green-Inspired.com's set of five mini 32-page journals are the perfect size for a purse or pocket ($4.99)

I also got an additional 5% off everything because I used my Target REDcard to buy the lot.

This Botanical Notebooks trio would work great as gardening journals, to use for short writing projects, outlines, research notes etc. I really like this mini-journal set too, as they come with a variety of pages: two ruled, one grid, one dotted and one blank -- I can use one set to sketch, draw maps and keep notes and keep them all stowed away in the neat little holder.

The Journal of Awesome (interior pages shown at the bottom here) will make a nice gift for a friend who needs to remember life doesn't always suck. The Green-Inspired.com journal with the quilty design on the brown cover not only opens flat but also has grid-lined pages that are excellent for map-making; since the cover design invokes quilting for me I'll probably use mine for working out new patchwork designs.

Have you found any neat things for readers or writers out there recently? Let us know in comments.

Friday, April 26, 2013

San Diego Rocks

See the city of San Diego, California in less than four minutes, thanks to Michael Shainblum's gorgeous timelapse film (background music, for those of you at work):

WELCOME HOME TIMELAPSE from Michael Shainblum on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

750 Words

750words.com is an online writing site that challenges the user to write 750 words per day. You register to create an account, which then takes you to a page where you simply write. Everything you write on 750words is counted and saved, and when you reach your daily goal you're awarded two points and an X in that day's box. Here's a screen shot of one day's page from my account:

There are obvious benefits to joining 750words.com and using the site to get some writing done. First you have a place to work that has no distractions, bells, whistles, etc. -- it's basically just a blank, private page where you can work. The only goal is to write 750 words in one day, and earning your points for accomplishing that goal can be an excellent motivator. You can also leave and come back to it without having to start up a program or open files; you can log off or minimize the window, do some other online work and then go back to it. The site is an excellent way to get into a daily writing routine, whether you make goal or not.

Here's another screenshot that shows the counter at the bottom of the page:

You can print whatever you write on 750words.com, and since it's saved online you can either leave it on your account or copy it to a file on your hard drive (I did this by highlighting, copying the text and pasting it in Word.) Writers who collaborate can easily share an account and use it to pass their day's writing back and forth; all you have to do is coordinate when either of you will log on. This is also a nice site to use for online writing challenges like word wars or group daily goal drives with other writer pals.

At present registering for an account is free (donations are much appreciated), but that will be changing shortly:

On May 1st, all existing users of the site will be given lifetime free accounts (we hope you'll continue to donate when you can). New accounts created after May 1st, 2013 will be required to become members within 30 days after signing up in order to keep writing. Everyone will always have access to previous writings, stats, etc, even if they choose not to become members.

The site owners do note that after May 1st they will be giving out free accounts monthly, and are always willing to hear from someone who might not be able to afford the new usage fee and possibly give them a free account on a case by case basis. In the meantime, you still have a week to snag a free account, so if you're interested do check it out soon.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Interesting Sub Op

Crossed Genres Publications has an open call for their Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History anthology: "Your story must be set between the years 1400 and 1920 C.E., and take place primarily in our world or an alternate historical version of our world. (Travel to other worlds, other dimensions, Fairyland, the afterlife, etc. is fine but should not be the focus.) Your protagonists must be people who were marginalized in their time and place. By “marginalized” we mean that they belong to one or more groups of people that were categorically, systematically deprived of rights and/or economic power. Examples in most times and places include enslaved people, indigenous people, queer people, laborers, women, people with disabilities, the very young and very old, and people who do not share the local dominant religion, language, or ethnicity. Many people belong to multiple marginalized groups, and many are marginalized in some ways and privileged in others. Your story should acknowledge the complexity and intersectionality of marginalization. Your story must contain a significant element of science fiction, fantasy, horror, or the weird, without which the story would not work or would be a substantially different story." Length: 3-7K (firm); Payment: "USD 5¢/word for global English first publication rights in print and digital format. The author retains copyright. Payment is upon publication." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: July 31st, 2013.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Game of Storytelling

I've finally found a game that can make a storyteller out of anyone: Levenger's Scheherazade Storytelling Game. Created for 2 or more players, the game comes packaged in a little Aladdin-styled shoe pouch and contains a one-minute egg timer, 125 picture tiles and the game rules sheet (which I scanned and posted here if you want to have a closer look.)

The object of Scheherazade is to see which player can use the tiles they draw to tell the longest story in one minute. Each player pulls ten tiles out of the pouch and places them face up, and then takes a turn telling a story inspired by the pictures on the tiles. Each tile used in the story is worth 10 points, and at the end of every round the players vote on who told the most interesting story, and the winner gets an additional 50 point bonus. If a player uses all ten tiles in a minute, they can draw more one at a time from the pouch until their turn is up. Any tiles that are not used during a player's turn are returned to the pouch, and all the tiles are returned to the pouch at the end of each round. There are also 5 special tiles featuring an image of Aladdin's lamp which the player can use like a wild card to represent whatever image they want.

Since there's no actual writing involved I think anyone can play this game, even kids (parents, please note that while the pictures on the tiles are G-rated, they are made of foam and would definitely be a choking hazard for children under the age of 3.) The pouch and its contents are very lightweight; I rolled up mine and stuck it in my purse, so I think it would travel well.

This game is a marvelous way to practice improvisational storytelling and give your imagination a real work-out. The fact that you draw the tiles at random and have only a minute to tell your story is a nice challenge without being too time-intensive. If I still belonged to a writer group I would definitely take something like this to the next meeting. I think it would also be a fun, interactive group activity for both writers and readers at conferences. To suit your particular group you might tweak the rules so that every story has to be told in a certain genre, or you could easily create some custom-designed tiles of your own to add to the pouch and present different challenges (what POV to tell the story in, setting, color themes, specific words; the sky's really the limit.) You could also hold a terrific live storytelling contest with this game.

Levenger currently has the Scheherazade Storytelling Game priced at $14.95 here, and I give it a great big PBW gold star for being fun, unique and quite affordable.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sub Ops Ten

Ten Things About Submission Opportunities

The Drue Heinz Literature Prize, awarded by the University of Pittsburgh Press, is open to writers who have published a book-length collection of fiction or at least three short stories or novellas in commercial magazines or literary journals. The prize carries a cash award of $15,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press under its standard contract. No entry fee, submission period opens May 1st, 2013. See guidelines for more details. Deadline: June 30th, 2013.

The Eric Hoffer Award for Short Prose and Books was "established at the start of the 21st century as a means of opening a door to writing of significant merit. It honors the memory of the great American philosopher Eric Hoffer by highlighting salient writing, as well as the independent spirit of small publishers. The winning stories and essays are published in Best New Writing, and the book awards are covered in the US Review of Books. Two grand prizes are awarded annually: one for short prose (i.e. fiction and creative nonfiction) and one for independent books from small, micro, and academic presses, as well as self-published books. Prizes include a $250 award for short prose and a $2,000 award for best independent book. In addition to the two main grand prize awards, various other honors and distinctions are given for both prose and books, including the Montaigne Medal, the da Vinci Eye, and the First Horizon Award. Submissions are accepted each year by nominating books and prose." Not entry fee, see guidelines for more details. Deadlines: "The book deadline is January 21st. The prose deadline is March 31st."

The 2013 Family Circle Fiction Contest is open to U.S. resident writers who are 21 or older. Submit an original, unpublished short story up to 2.5K. First prize $1000.00 plus online memberships, second prize $500.00 plus online memberships, third prize $250.00 plus online memberships. No entry fee, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: September 16th, 2013.

Fanstory.com holds contests throughout the year in multiple genres. No entry fees, and every entrant will receive feedback from the site's volunteer community, which reads and discusses all of the entries. Various cash prizes for winners. See full contest listing page here for more details and deadlines.

The University of Iowa Press holds an annual short fiction award open to "any writer who has not previously published a volume of prose fiction is eligible to enter the competition. Previously entered manuscripts that have been revised may be resubmitted. Writers are still eligible if they have published a volume of poetry or any work in a language other than English or if they have self-published a work in a small print run. Writers are still eligible if they are living abroad or are non-US citizens writing in English. Current University of Iowa students are not eligible. The manuscript must be a collection of short stories in English of at least 150 word-processed, double-spaced pages. We do not accept e-mail submissions. The manuscript may include a cover page, contents page, etc., but these are not required. The author's name can be on every page but this is not required. Stories previously published in periodicals are eligible for inclusion." No entry fee, prize is publication by the University of Iowa Press. See guidelines for more details. Deadline: September 30th, 2013.

"Three times a year Jerry Jazz Musician awards a writer who submits, in our opinion, the best original, previously unpublished work of approximately one – five thousand words. The winner will be announced via a special mailing of our Jerry Jazz Musician newsletter. Publishers, artists, musicians and interested readers are among those who subscribe to the newsletter. Additionally, the work will be published on the home page of Jerry Jazz Musician and featured there for at least four weeks. The Jerry Jazz Musician reader has interests in music, social history, literature, politics, art, film and theatre, particularly that of the counter-culture of mid-twentieth century America. Your writing should appeal to a reader with these characteristics. A prize of $100 will be awarded for the winning story. In addition to the story being published on Jerry Jazz Musician, the author’s acceptance of the prize money gives Jerry Jazz Musician the right to include the story in an anthology that could appear in book or magazine form. No entry fee is required. One story entry only. Submission deadline for the next contest is May 31, 2013. Publishing date will be on or about July 1, 2013."

The Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize is awarded to the best scholarly book in English about Abraham Lincoln, the American Civil War soldier or a subject related to that era. Occasionally an important article, essay, work of fiction, poem, theater project, piece of art or film may also be eligible for the prize. No entry fee, prize: %50,000.00, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: November 1st, 2013.

The annual L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest is open to short fiction submissions of up to 17K by emerging SF, fantasy and horror authors. Open to those writers who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novellete, or more than three short stories, in any medium. No entry fee, first prizes are $1000.00 quarterly, and quarterly winners are eligible for the annual $5,000.00 prize; second prizes are $750.00, and third prize is $300.00. See guidelines for more details. Deadlines: June 30th, September 30th and December 31st, 2013.

The Richard J. Margolis Award is open to nonfiction journalists or essayists "whose work combines warmth, humor, wisdom and concern with social justice. The award was established in honor of Richard J. Margolis, a journalist, essayist and poet who gave eloquent voice to the hardships of the rural poor, migrant farm workers, the elderly, Native Americans and others whose voices are seldom heard. He was also the author of a number of books for children." Submit at least two articles, published or unpublished, up to 30 pages in length. No entry fee, prize is $5,000.00 stipend and a month's residency at the Blue Mountain Center, a writers' and artists' colony in the Adirondacks See guidelines for more details. Deadline: July 1st, 2013.

The St. Francis College Literary Prize is awarded to authors for their third, fourth or fifth published fiction book between the dates of June 2011 and May 2013 (and self-published books are eligible for this one.) No entry fee, prize is $50,000.00. See guidelines for more details. Deadline: May 1st, 2013.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


I liked seeing some of the new series novels you all recommended this week -- some here I definitely want to check out. In the meantime, we got the magic hat revved up tonight, and the winners of the Never Give Up giveaway are:

Diana Troldahl, who thought Written in Blood by Anne Bishop was great

Petite, who was captivated by Deborah Crombie's series.

Leslee, who recommends Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

Jennifer, who can't put down Daughter of Smoke & Bone

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

Friday, April 19, 2013


This video is for all the other writers out there who cope with disability and creativity (narrated with some background music, for those of you at work):

The Metalsmith from Dan McComb on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Be Happy We Work at Home

Ten Things That Would Happen if Writing Became a Day Job

Accounting: could slow down in a big way and no one would notice. Meanwhile, the payroll clerk would become everyone's BFF.

Bosses: would have to do a lot more reading, stock up on Pepto, hire an extra secretary just to answer their intercom or phone extension and learn how to speak editor ("Get it done" = "If you can send this to me by close of business today I'll authorize your D&A payment").

Business Conferences: would have to include new events like Project Pitchorama, Character Dress-up for Literacy and The Vampire Ball.

Casual Friday: would be pretty much every day, and would have to be expanded to authorize the wearing of pjs, yoga pants, fuzzy socks and T-shirts with slogans like "OCCUPY PUBLISHING".

Company Coffee Pot: would burn out from overuse every other month or be filled with extra-large tea bags immersed in something vaguely purple that smells a bit like like the Queen's perfume.

Desks: would be buried beneath stacks of corrected chapters, two years of The Writer back issues, three dozen pens that ran out of ink and assorted widgets/gadgets/gizmos, index cards, newspaper clippings, and at least one hundred sticky notes inscribed with enigmatic phrases like "Sx scene Chap 9!!!!" or "Dismember by ch. saw?"

Offices: would need three walls of book shelves, stereo systems, scented candles, locking doors, pillows to scream into and at least one large window overlooking something pretty.

Personal Calls: would have to be authorized for mid-afternoon moments of panic when the employees need to call their best writer pals to say, "I suck. Go ahead, just tell me the truth. I suck."

Supply Closets: would have to be kept stocked with six months' supply of toner, bond paper, highlighters, red pens and lots and lots of notebooks with cute kitten covers.

Water Cooler: would be much more popular, at least until the boss discovers someone refilled it with wine.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Third Set of Twins . . . Maybe

Our mourning doves came back for round three with their nest, and Mama finally flew off long enough for me to snap some quick pics:

Dad is actually standing guard here; he's been especially attentive with this nest. I think that's due to some recent bad weather. I've noticed that in past years when we have storms he tends to stick much closer to Mama and the babies:

I was only able to photograph one baby's head so I'm still not sure there are two this time. I didn't want to upset Dad so I kept at a safe distance:

Once the baby/babies are a little bigger I should be able to tell how many there are. In the meantime, welcome to Dove Central, little one/s.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Never Give Up

There are many kinds of heroes, and yesterday there were quite a few of them trying to help the victims of another despicable, cowardly attack on this country. I actually wrote the following giveaway post (and the title of it, too) this past weekend; as soon as I heard about the bombings I considered holding off on it until next week. But if I can share a book like this, with a story of such hope and heroism in the face of great despair and loss, then it may help someone else who needs that right now. My heart and prayers go out to the victims, their families, and all the people of Boston.

Stephanie Tyler's Surrender, the first novel in her new Section 8 series, is an action-packed romantic suspense novel featuring Dare O'Rourke, a former Navy SEAL and the son of a CIA black ops specialist. Dare is still trying to put his life back together after being tortured and nearly killed during a ruinous mission, but his recovery ends when he's sent to rescue Avery, a half-sister he never knew. By the time Dare finds Avery he realized someone is systematically executing his father's old team as well as their families. To stop the killing, he must find his missing father and take out the traitor -- and the only way to do that is to kidnap his enemy's daughter, Grace. What Dare doesn't know is that Grace barely escaped from her murderous stepfather with her life -- and she's already been warned that Dare is coming for her.

Surrender is a dark, edgy story with lots of twists and turns to be navigated by its unusual cast of characters. Dare and the boys aren't simply unsung heroes trying to get past the ways they've been unfairly judged and treated; they operate in that shadow zone where nothing is black or white. The evolution of the relationship between Dare and Grace was fascinating to follow as it bloomed. Oh, and I'll warn you now, there's a marvelous secondary character named Gunner who will not only steal your heart but he'll probably tattoo something beautiful on it to boot.

As always you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post name a series with a first novel you loved (or if you can't think of any, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Friday, April 19th, 2013. I'll draw four names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned copy of Surrender by Stephanie Tyler. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

One final note -- I'm also holding another giveaway over at the Disenchanted & Co. blog; stop in if you have a chance.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tax-Free Ten

Ten Things to Take Your Mind Off Income Taxes

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

The thirty-day free trial of Brainstorming Toolbox "not only allows you access to better lateral thinking, creative thinking and problem solving. It also enables you to use the techniques in a simple, structured way on a day to day basis. Brainstorming Toolbox is extremely user-friendly, so you spend more time using it than learning it. By promoting pro-active brainstorming, Brainstorming Toolbox helps you develop new ideas and solutions to bring success to you and your business. Brainstorming Toolbox makes generating new ideas and solutions extremely easy and will improve your brainstorming sessions greatly. It will even allow you to brainstorm successfully by yourself by using the computer to steer you in alternative directions" (OS: Window 98/2000/NT/XP)

Cinta Notes is a "simple program for basic notes keeping that provides a convenient way to quickly store pieces of information that are collected from other documents or websites. All you have to do is select the text to be stored and then press the CTRL+F12 hotkey on your keyboard to create a note. CintaNotes captures the text and uses the application title as the note´s title. Alternatively, you can copy/paste the text into the application and append it to the list of previous notes. You can optionally assign keyword tags that can be used to locate and identify notes at a later time. An instant search feature quickly locates keywords within notes as you type them. Other features include merging of notes and support for automatic capturing of Internet links from IE" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7)

i*write4life™ is a "professional tool for serious journal writers. You can now get the fully functional version that used to sell for $69 for free. There are no strings attached. Chances are you will never again want to miss its lightning-fast full-text search and powerful navigation capabilities. Check out the optional iwrite.4.life extensions, too" (OS: Windows 98 / NT / 2k / Me / XP / 2003)

Keep Writing is "a word processor that works like an old school typewriter: it doesn't let you delete. If you really, really have to, you can type over mistakes just like with a real typewriter. The idea is that this will let you focus on productivity (instead of endless polishing) and on reaching your word count goals. It simply encourages you to Keep Writing!" (OS: Windows 7 / 98 / NT / 2k / Me / XP / 95 / 2003 / Vista / 2008 Server)

Pro Frequency's Names List is a "complete US Census Bureau names list data of all the US Names. Can be used in your programs for a variety of purposes, including name spell checker and card verification. Format: Data CSV. Line 1 = Male, Line 2 = Female. All updates, upgrades and lifetime support are free with frequency. Features: Complete list, all US names, CSV usability, multi-platform format, instant use" (OS: 7 / 98 / NT / 2k / Me / XP / 95 / 2003 / Vista / 2008 Server)

Scheduler allows you to "schedule tasks to perform at a particular time of day. Tasks include the ability to open any file in its default program, open a URL in the default web browser and shutdown or restart your computer. The main window can be minimised to the system tray. The uses of this range from using it as an alarm clock or reminder to shutting down your computer at a set time after any remaining tasks have been completed" (OS: not specified but it looks like Windows)

Speedy Painter is "an OpenGL based painting software for Windows. It supports Wacom digitizers to vary size and opacity of brush strokes according to pen pressure. Features: Reference view that follows zoom! Available using the F3 key; Export drawing process into a video: ready to upload it on YouTube!; Multiple layers; Ability to vary stroke size and/or opacity according to pen pressure (supports Wacom digitizers); Replay of drawing process; Import/export drawing process; Loading of most common image formats; Canvas rotation; Canvas flip; Selection mask" (OS: Windows Vista/7 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Stellarium is "a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go" (OS: Linux/Unix; Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7/8; 64-bit Mac OS X 10.6.8 or greater)

The thirty-day free trial of WhizFolders helps you to "begin your writing project in this writer's outliner for improved productivity. This is an outline software for writers that uses a new list-based outlining approach. Better writing involves being able to cope with new ideas as and when they strike you. With WhizFolders, you can write your ideas in pieces, outline them with drag and drop, and merge then to make a document for your word processor. If you think about it, a word processor is only needed for formatting and fine tuning your manuscript and not as a writing, outlining and research tool. Manage all kinds of notes, ideas and writing projects with this versatile outliner and organizer software. Additional features include a rich text editor, automatic pastes to collect text from Internet browser and other applications, hyperlinks to other notes, documents or web sites, boolean search, keyword tags and so on. Includes a nice tutorial to get you started quickly" (OS: Windows 7 / XP / 2003 / Vista)

The fourteen-day free trial of Writer's Blocks is a "writing program for writers who want all the bells and whistles. You’ll get the core of our program, of course, our unique Block Panel where you organize and visualize your writing with our flexible, sizeable movable blocks. Plus you’ll get our fully integrated word processor. You’ll also get our unique floating Power Panel that makes gathering material from other sources a snap. If you need to track references, we’ve got you covered with our footnotes and endnote capability" (OS: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP Home or Pro - 32 bit or 64 bit )

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Librarians Want Promo

Got this heads-up by e-mail today:

The Ohio Library Support Staff Institute (www.OLSSI.org) is looking for promotional items to give to their attending librarians at this year's conference. This is a great opportunity for writers to reach out to those all important librarians who can hand-sell and recommend books to patrons. Around 100 librarians will be in attendance. They are looking for bulk of up to 100 or individual items including overstocks and ARCs. If you would like to donate some of your works or goodies to the cause, please contact Katie Mihaly, OLSSI Steering Committee, at 419-372-7908, or kmihaly@bgsu.edu.

Evidently the theme for their con this year is noir and mystery fiction, so if you're publishing in those genres your promo will probably be especially welcome. Also, for those of you who are librarians but can't afford the $225.00 registration fee, OLSSI is holding an essay contest here that will award three winners free registration; deadline for entering is April 22. There are some other conditions involved so do read the rules carefully.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Doing What You Love

After working fifty years as a shoemaker and repairer, 91 year old Frank Catalfumo still puts in five days a week at his Brooklyn shop -- and is still smiling (narrated with background music, for those of you at work):

The Shoemaker from Dustin Cohen on Vimeo.

(Video link nicked from Gerard at The Presurfer)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Something Grand

This morning I was made aware of yet another commonly-used term that has become a new no-no: Stay at Home Mom. For some reason it is now offensive to use this as a reference for a woman who opts to pass on the day job in order to care for her family and home. I did try to watch the interview explaining why, but the responsible party had a loud, obnoxious voice and weird white wires sprouting from her ears (those iPod things? Not sure), a combo that frankly I found a little unbearable at 7:00 am.

I was a stay at home mom for ten years, so I'm also a little perplexed. I never minded being called a housewife or homemaker, but when those terms became no-nos I was okay with the replacement (which happened to be stay at home mom). It's a tough, thankless job and really, no one else wants to do it; you don't see all that many new fathers marching into work and declaring "I'm quitting so I can stay home with my kids and take care of the house." I do have one guy friend whose circumstances led him to become a stay at home dad while his wife worked for the last year, and let me tell you, he has all kinds of new respect for his lady.

Sometimes -- probably more frequently than most gals -- I simply don't understand my gender. Having a job and generating income is great, especially in this economy, but it doesn't make you superior to someone who elects to be whatever we're now supposed to call a stay at home mother. Nor does the opposite. You do what you have to so you can take care of your family. If that means a day job, good for you. If that means no day job, good for you. Why do we have to call you anything? Whatever sex we are and wherever we choose to work, if we have kids or we don't have kids, we're all working people, yes?

Right now I do both: I work as a professional writer, and I work at the house in order to care for my family and home. Honestly, I'm tired of having to relearn a new term for my second job every couple of years. So if we're going to do away with stay at mom, I vote we come up with something so grand that it will forever shut up the nit-pickers. My personal favorite is Domestic Crises Manager; that's a one-size fits all unisex term that embraces all aspects of the job. Can never be called sexist, sounds important, and looks good on an application or resume when it's time to stop being a Domestic Crises Manager and work outside the home.

I'd also like to hear from those of you who are stay at home moms or dads: what do you want to be called? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Free Folio with Neo Purchase

The folks at NeoDirect, home of AlphaSmart keyboards Neo and Dara, are currently offering (while supplies last) a free folio case with the purchase of a Neo2. I discovered this when I went to the site to buy one as a gift and thought since it was free I'd go for it. The keyboard and folio arrived this morning:

Knowing how freebies are I was half-expecting some cheap, flimsy case, but the folio is actually quite nice -- it's like a zippered heavy-duty briefcase with lots of pockets and places for papers and other writer junk as well as the keyboard:

The top part has a deep pocket where initially I thought you were supposed to put the keyboard:

That's actually a storage pocket. They include an adhesive strip of Velcro material that you can stick to the back of the keyboard to hold it in place on the lower half, like so:

They also include a hook-on shoulder strap you can connect to two rings on the outside of the folio, or you can pull out these handles and use them:

I don't often get excited by freebie cases but this one is very well-made; I'd willingly pay $25.00-$30.00 for something comparable. At $119.00 plus shipping for the Neo2 battery-operated model this freebie makes a nice incentive to order now if you're in the market for a smart keyboard.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Roll with It

I'm off today to deal with the accountant. So that your stop here wasn't entirely wasted, have you ever thought of what you might make out of masking tape and old/discarded objects? You'd be surprised (narrated and with background music, for those of you at work):

Sarah DiNardo. Tape Artist. from gnarly bay productions, Inc. on Vimeo.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Sub Ops Ten

Ten Things About Submission Opportunities

Mystery and Horror LLC has an open call for their All Hallows' Evil anthology: "An anthology of mystery stories set during Halloween/Samhain/CandyFest. Paranormal elements are acceptable as long as the central story is a mystery. We're seeking stories that are 4000 - 8000 words in length (firm). Query about reprints. We will accept multiple submissions, but not simultaneous submissions. Open submission period: April 20 - July 15th, 2013. All contributors will receive a free trade paperback copy of the book, plus a $5 advance on royalties. Contributors will also be able to purchase more print copies at a 50% discount on the cover price. We're seeking first world rights in English to publish in print and electronic format for 12 months, beginning on the date of publication. Please see our Guidelines and Payment page for further information on the rights we ask for and the compensation we offer." [PBW notes: Remember to wait until the submission period opens on 4/20.]

UK digital quarterly ARC is looking for fiction and more: "Arc publishes short stories over 5000 words. On acceptance, it pays a flat fee of £1500 (c. US$2370) for first world serial rights. We publish stories that have some bearing on the future. You don't need to write science fiction to do that -- all we're interested in is your vision, your skill, and your ability to move us. We set our bar very high. Arc’s writers so far have included Margaret Atwood, Bruce Sterling, Stephen Baxter, M John Harrison, Hannu Rajaniemi, Alastair Reynolds, Adam Roberts, China Mieville, Frederik Pohl, Paul McAuley, Nick Harkaway, Lavie Tidhar, Robert Reed, Liz Jensen, Nancy Kress and Kim Stanley Robinson. If you can hook the editor's attention on page one, there is some slim hope for you. Joseph Conrad and Raymond Carver knew how to hook a reader. You should too. We like technology and science, but we love people. The stories we're looking for will explore their anxieties, their joys and fears. We don't publish fantasy and if you send us anything with even a whiff of steampunk about it we will come round and burn down your house." [PBW notes: And they say the British don't have a sense of humor.] "Arc also publishes features, essays and poetry. Please contact us before submitting these as we have very specific requirements and we usually commission this work. Our boilerplate rates are: (for essays under 1500 words) £250 (for features over 2000 words) £500 and £75 per page for poetry and experimental work. We commission news pieces and reviews for our blog at http://arcfinity.tumblr.com. We pay £30 per blogpost. If you're interested in contributing, tweet or DM us at @arcfinity." No reprints, electronic submission through online form only, see guidelines here for more details.

The submission period for The Future Embodied anthology has been extended; they want spec fic stories "exploring how science and technology might change our bodies and what it means to be human. The editors are looking for character-driven, near-future stories of how the trajectory of current science and technology could impact our daily lives and choices. Social sciences and as-yet-untested or anecdotal discoveries are fair game. If an idea or discovery has the potential to impact human behavior and bodies, it could make a great story. We are looking for stories of medical and aesthetic body modification. Consider topics like genetic engineering, prosthetics, implants, body ornamentation, surgical augmentation, and age retardation or reversal. Surprise us. Don’t give us stories that we’ve read before. We want this anthology to embody the wide range of human experience, voices, and bodies, and, in particular, to credibly consider our present and future demographics. You are encouraged to populate your stories of the future with the kinds of bodies that have been under-represented in speculative fiction but which should be ever more present in visions of our near future — aging bodies, obese bodies, chronically ill bodies, diverse racial and multi-racial bodies, bodies from diverse geographies." Length: 2-5,5K; Payment "3¢/word +copies." Reprints okay, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. New Deadline: April 15th, 2013.

UK Publisher Gollancz is looking for manuscript submissions: "Gollancz publish Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Urban Fantasy, Steampunk, Dystopia and a little YA cross-over fiction. If you’re writing in these areas, we’re happy to take a look at your work. Only get in touch when you have a complete, spell-checked manuscript of 80,000 words or more." Length >80K; no mention of payment but Ralan notes "assume industry standard." Query on reprints, no electronic submission, see guidelines for more details.

The John A. Hartford Foundation is holding a heroic stories competition, and is seeking stories "that convey how a person with geriatric expertise (in any profession and discipline) can make a difference in peoples' lives. Stories must be true, so the genre would most likely be creative nonfiction or essay. (Audio and video stories are also being accepted.)" No entry fee, length not specified [PBW notes: might query first to find out length requirements].Prizes: $3,000 First Prize, $1,000 Second Prize, $500 Third Prize. Eligibility: "USA-only, 18+" See guidelines for more details. Deadline: April 15, 2013.

Masque Books, the new digital imprint of Prime Books, is looking for submissions: "Our emphasis is on both general sf/fantasy, and sf/f romance." What they want to see: "We expect great writing, fully developed plots, and well-rounded characters speaking believable dialogue. Ideally characters will reflect the diverse nature of human experience. Science or magic systems must be logical and world-building complete. Science Fiction/Fantasy: Any subgenre or cross-genre including planetary romance, steampunk, space opera, alt-history, small-scale fantasy, contemporary fantasy, and dark fantasy. No romance is required, but if there is a romantic element it should be secondary to the main action of the story. SF/F Romance: The relationship between the protagonists should be the heart of the story and their emotional arc should be resolved. Science fictional or fantasy elements are essential to the plot. Multi-partner relationships are welcome as are queer ones. All heat levels will be considered, from sweet to explicit, but the sex scenes should be integral to the story. No stories under 30,000 words; no collections of short fiction; no poetry; no Young Adult, children’s books, or non-fiction. We plan on launching with three titles in July 2013 and publishing three titles a month thereafter. For now, please send only the first three chapters and a synopsis of your completed manuscript. If we respond to your submission positively, we expect to see a full manuscript immediately." Length: 30-50K (novellas) 50-120K (novels). Payment: "Masque Books pays a small advance (usually $100-250) against royalties of 50% net of all digital receipts. Our contract includes an option for print trade (not POD) publication after digital, but we do not promise this. If your book is traditionally published in print, we pay standard industry royalties." On reprints: "At this point we are interested only in original fiction, although we may be interested in previously published material that has reverted to the author at a later date. WITH THIS EXCEPTION: We may be interested in republishing a first or first and second of a series if new fiction for the series is available." Electronic submissions through their online form; see guidelines for more details.

MindShift: Writers Who Rock is "a forum for published and emerging writers of all ages and backgrounds from all over the world. Writers Who Rock offers paid opportunities for first time and veteran authors to write essays, book reviews, short stories and columns." Length and Payment: "Short stories and essays up to 1000 words $50; Book Reviews up to 300 words $25." For more info, staycalm09@gmail.com.

Montag Press is looking for novel-length manuscripts, and "currently seeks subversive, speculative, science, historical, young adult (YA), new adult (NA) and horror fiction, in either a narrative or dramatic structure, with a strong plot, well-developed characters and engaging voices." Length: >40K; Payment: $100 advance and 30% net. Reprints okay if self-published, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

There's an open call for Neverland's Library, a Kickstarter-funded anthology, and the editors are looking for stories "focusing on the rediscovery of the fantastic; magic, dragons, the supernatural, etc. We are looking for stories which highlight finding that which was once thought lost, incorporating fantastical and/or fictitious elements. We will not restrict how the story is told. All styles, settings, and tones are welcome. We are looking for only unpublished stories. If the story has been made available for free or payment online then please do not submit it for consideration as it will be considered ineligible under our criteria. We ask that authors limit themselves to no more than 2 submissions, with no simultaneous submissions. That means when a story is submitted to us, it should not be submitted for publication consideration anywhere else." [PBW notes: I generally avoid posting charitably-funded ops because the whole practice troubles me, but the editor notes elsewhere that they have alternative funding to fall back on should the Kickstarter campaign fail. In light of that I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, but do be cautious with this one.] No reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: June 20, 2013 or when filled.

Mystery and Horror LLC also has an open call for their Strangely Funny, an anthology of humorous paranormal stories: "All stories must contain paranormal elements (ghosts, psychic abilities, vampires, etc.) and be funny. Think Addams Family, Zombieland, or Love at First Bite. They should not contain gratuitous violence, gratuitous sex, or excessive foul language. We're seeking stories that are 2000 - 5000 words in length (firm). We will also accept cartoons if submitted in electronic format. No reprints. We will accept multiple submissions, but not simultaneous submissions. Open submission period: March 1 - June 10th, 2013. All contributors will receive a free trade paperback copy of the book, plus a $5 advance on royalties. Contributors will also be able to purchase more print copies at a 50% discount on the cover price. We're seeking first world rights in English to publish in print and electronic format for 12 months, beginning on the date of publication." Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Most of the above sub ops were found among the many marvelous market listings at Ralan.com.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Basket Case

Every year at Easter, no matter how busy I am, I've always dyed eggs and made up baskets and had an Easter egg hunt for my kids. Last year no one ate my pretty eggs (I would have, but they're one of the forbidden things on my diet) and the baskets sat around the house untouched for three months until I threw out the candy (also a no-no for me). One kid bowed out of the egg hunt; the other slogged through it like it was a punishment. All of this was a little depressing for me; I'm not a huge fan of Easter but I've always enjoyed the holidays through my kids and their happiness. Suddenly Easter had become a chore, not a celebration, and I realized it's because while I wasn't looking my kids have gone and grown up. They're both adults now and logically not interested in kid stuff anymore.

This year I made myself march past all the adorable stuffed bunnies, basket goodies and egg dye kits while I looked for more adult ways to celebrate the holiday. And there aren't any; Easter has become like Halloween -- all about the kids. I had to think of what I do for adult family and friends for holidays. I usually hand out gift cards for the market; everyone needs food and I feel like in a small way I'm contributing to their family celebrations. My nephew once told me the market gift card I send to him and his wife every Christmas is his favorite gift, so at least I'm doing that right.

That wasn't going to work for Easter. My kids don't need market gift cards; I do the shopping and the cooking so they have no use for them. What they do love is going out to eat; sometimes with their parental unit but mostly on their own or with friends.

A nice meal is a great gift for anyone, but as I stood in front of that rack of restaurant gift cards I waffled. I felt like I was giving the kids a gift that basically said, "Here. Go away and eat somewhere else." How personal and loving is that? Then I thought of it from the kids' POV. My daughter in particular loves to go out to dinner with her boyfriend; between school and work they don't get to see each other very often these days. Dinner out also = time alone together, and while they don't mind hanging out with us it gives them some private time. They're also both too cash-strapped to do it very often.

I shook off my qualms and bought the restaurant gift cards (presented in an Easter card along with one chocolate bunny, because I simply couldn't resist one mulish reminder of the old days) -- and they were a huge hit. The kids thanked me; my daughter's boyfriend thanked me, and they rushed out to use them, and when they came back, they thanked me again. For once I got it right.

As for not making Easter baskets, well, I cheated a little. My mom has been having a tough time getting through the holidays without Dad, so I made up one basket for her. I've never done that; I always send her flowers. And from her childlike delight in the basket, I didn't mess that up either.

Times change, people change, and the things we do have to change with them. It's tough letting go of traditions and testing yourself in new waters. Parents of children who are suddenly all grown up struggle with this in a million ways. We want things to stay the same because of all the happy memories we collect over the years. We want to hold onto that and have it forever. But we can't, and unless we want to reside by that river in Egypt, we have to let go and move on.

There's a lot of new out there to be discovered. I'm slowly getting up to speed on using the e-reader, although by the time I'm an expert I know the damn thing will probably be obsolete and I'll have to learn to use some other gadget. And I will, because most of my favorite authors and writer pals are publishing electronically now. Even my fiftieth novel, my big landmark book, will first be published as an e-book. I love print, and as long as I can buy it I'll stick to print, but I knew from the first time I saw a prototype e-reader back in 2001 that electronic publishing was coming in a big way. Now it's here, and I have to embrace the change . . . or move to Cairo and learn how to fish.

You youngsters out there won't understand how difficult this can be for your elders, but growing up my generation never had video games, Gameboys or any of those gadgets. Put it this way: I remember when handheld calculators and LED watches first came on the market; the first computer I worked on was the size of desk and didn't have a monitor; it printed out what I typed as I worked and I had to look at the paper to check my entries. Floppy disks were almost the size of record albums (the things music used to be recorded on before MP3s and CDs.) Telephones still had dials and were connected to heavy bases by short little curly cords. When I wrote a novel I typed it on my trusty Royal Academy with a bottle of white-out nearby for corrections. If I wanted to go somewhere I'd never been I used a paper map; if I wanted to write someone I put it on paper and mailed it with a stamp.

Before any of you youngsters sigh -- and I know this is like hearing Grandma grumble When I was in school I had to walk five miles through the snow . . . -- remember that without my generation yours wouldn't be here.

It does all sound a little fantastic now that it's all changed. I miss some of those things but I'm not afraid to put my stories in a word processor program, or e-mail, or use a GPS, or back up fifteen years of my work on a little stick drive. Three stick drives, actually; I don't trust the damn things.

Change can be bad or good or anything in between, but the one thing I've learned it never does is go away.

What changes are you struggling with? Let us know in comments.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Learning Bridge

This looks like a cute cartoon film, and it's funny, but this wisdom it contains might teach the entire world about peace, cooperation, and just plain good manners (background music and sound effects, for those of you at work):

Bridge from Ting on Vimeo.

(Video link swiped from Gerard over at The Presurfer, who's also having an unrelated T-shirt contest)

Thursday, April 04, 2013

The Hours

Now that the craziness of deadline week is over, and I finished the novel (plus a set of revisions on another book, because yes, I am SuperWriter) I finally had a moment to sit back, catch my breath and recharge my batteries. It was a nice moment, too, and I'll cherish it forever once I clean the house, bathe the dogs, catch up on my blog writing, update the ledgers, do the filing, defrag and backup both computers, see the accountant, write all the promo posts I've promised, put together my May giveaways, answer about three hundred e-mails, pay the bills, write real letters to friends who probably think I've dropped off the edge of the earth . . . there's laundry in there somewhere, too. Lots and lots of dirty laundry.

And I have to do all this by tomorrow evening at the very latest because I know there will be more coming at me any second and I have to be ready for anything -- or so my overcaffeinated turbocharged laser-focused brain is telling me.

One of my most frequent dilemmas after turning in a book is shifting those mental gears from Get It Done to Knock It Off. Even now, as I sit and write this post, both of my legs are still joggling (it's what I call that jiggly thing people do with one leg when they're nervous; I do it with both legs when I'm writing for long periods of time to keep from getting charleyhorses, numb feet, sciatica flares, etc. That's how the family knows I've been on the computer all day -- they check on me and I'm joggling in my chair like a little windup writer.) Once I reach the finish line I always expect to collapse in an exhausted heap, but the truth is I can't; I'm too wired. Generally I'll crawl into bed after the 168 hour marathon that is deadline week ends and not sleep. No, I'll lay there and stare at the ceiling, thinking of all the things I haven't been doing, what I need to do right away and even plan what I'll do after I get that stuff done.

The sleepless night is a given; I've come to expect it. But on the day after I finish a book I have some rituals I follow throughout the next twelve hours that help engage my creative brakes and help me assimilate back into regular life mode:

Tea and Meditation hour -- first thing in the morning, usually spent with the dogs on the back porch. I have my tea and watch birds, the pups bark at squirrels, and we soak up the sunshine that I haven't seen for a week or better. When thoughts of the work and responsibilities waiting for me intrude, I fold them into mental origami cranes or lotuses and hang them from the back wall of my brain. I know there will always be stuff to do; I use this time to choose something fun that I haven't been able to do.

Something Fun Hour -- This always follows tea and meditation, and no matter how high that dirty laundry pile has grown, fun comes first. This time I finished a hand-written letter in progress to a very patient friend, packaged it up with some other neat stuff and got it ready to mail out that day. Yes, that's my idea of fun. In the letter I talked about Prom dresses and Shepherd's Pie and a little about the novel I'd just finished. I also wrote it with my new fountain pen that was my finish line reward for this book. While some people think hand writing anything is a waste of time, I think it's actually good mental therapy. After seven days of staring at a computer monitor it's quite restful, too.

Time with Family and Friends Hours -- I have imposed on all of them for the last week by locking myself in the office and working nonstop, so this is the time I use to thank them for that by giving them my attention. In addition to wrapping up that letter to my friend I talked to my guy about a well problem we're having and offered to help out with a related online errand; I checked on my mom and listened to her latest news; I got updates from the kids on impending events and priorities in their lives. It doesn't sound like a lot but it does matter to make that effort and reconnect with your crew.

Prioritizing with Limits Hour -- The amount of other-than-writing work I have to do after finishing a book is always pretty hefty, but trying to do it all at once doesn't help settle me down. I take an hour to look at everything, sort out what needs doing and pick a couple tasks to do that are high on the priority list but that won't exhaust me. Doing the online errand for my guy was #1; vaccuuming the rugs #2, mopping the floors #3; making a mail and market run #4, and cooking a real dinner for everyone #5. I could have done fifteen more things today, too, but I wouldn't have done any of them well. Nor would I have enjoyed them because I'd still be operating in Get It Done mode, this time with a super side order of mental exhaustion.

Forgiveness Hour -- after dinner, when everyone has gone off to do their own thing, I take some time to meditate again, but this time for the purpose of making peace with myself. While writing is my job, sometimes the actual doing of it can feel incredible selfish. During deadline week I block out everything but the book, and afterward, I always feel guilty about that. I remind myself that my guy doesn't apologize for working late when he has to put in overtime; nor do the kids say they're sorry when they're cramming for exams or finishing up an important paper. Even today my daughter locked herself in her room after school to practice a new piece of music for hours; she has a difficult solo to play for the Spring concert and she needed the time. It was a good reminder to me to adjust my attitude. I wasn't selfish this past week; I was working my ass off to get the job done.

Reading Hours -- This is how I wrap up the day after deadline week, a couple of hours which will commence right after I finish writing this post. I always save (okay, hoard) some new books to read after I finish writing one, and I can pick whatever one I want and read as long as I'd like. Shifting into reader mode more than anything helps settle down my overwired brain; it's relaxing and soothing and by the time I'm ready to go to bed I know I won't be staring at the ceiling for hours.

Tomorrow I'll repeat this whole process, slightly modified to include another task or two, some time outdoors in the garden and maybe a stroll in the park. I'll also do some writing again because not writing feels really weird (which is why I'm writing this post) but nothing too stressful. Shifting focus like this is a process, and it needs to be a calm and peaceful one, or it doesn't work.

How do you wind down after finishing up a book or another attention-intensive project? Let us know in comments.

Photo credit: David Hughes

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Audiobook Cover Peek

Here's a first look at the cover art for the audiobook edition of Nightbound, my May release and the final novel in the Lords of the Darkyn trilogy. It's currently on sale at Tantor's site for 20% off, too, if you'd like to preorder.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Fork Stick Please

Sorry I'm late posting today, but the book (as yet to be officially titled) is DONE.

Now I'm going to let my guy take me out to dinner before I collapse into a quivering pile of tired but very happy novelist.


Monday, April 01, 2013

Spruce Me Ten

Since Spring has (almost) arrived I thought I'd spruce up the blog with some new colors. See what you think of these:

Ten Things I'd Like To Do Once I Finish This Deadline

Dye my hair this color. I've gotten over my hatred of it, and I think the shade would be very attractive on me.

Change my name to Pink II to match my new do.

Become Pink's roadie. My new name will make me a shoe-in for the job.

Brush up on Pink's music, too, since I've never actually heard it except that one aerobics commercial. How bad could it be, right?

Find my bottle of chocolate-covered Valium, just in case the music isn't all that.

Assume the job is going to be pretty bad and move to Tibet instead.

Have wild monkey sex with a friendly but nearsighted Abominable Snowman.

Not worry about having a deadline ever again because I'll be too tired from all the sex to write.

Make lots of quilts so Abominable and I can stay warm and cozy in the ice cave.

See if I think up something else to drive all my visitors crazy. You do know what day it is, right?