Friday, May 31, 2013

Elsewhere with Her Ladyship

Stop by Disenchanted & Co. today, tell me the title of the last novel you've read, and you could win this giveaway:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

By the Chapter

Chapter by Chapter (aka CbC) is a freeware program designed by S├ębastien Berthet for "novel writers who use Microsoft Word intensively. It allows managing and organizing chapters within a book far easier than in Word just because it deals with one doc file per chapter rather than one big file containing the whole book. When the book is finished (or whenever the writer wants), CbC generates that big file. CbC was developed because the Master Document feature of Word was too complex and very buggy (it corrupts documents). So, the idea was to mimic this feature from out of Word with another application running independently and driving Word."

I usually work on a novel as a single document on Word and keep all my chapter/scene/etc. notes separate and hand-written in my novel notebook, so this approach of doing both at the same time on the same screen definitely appealed to me. I downloaded the program and installed it today (very quick and no problems there.) When you open CbC you'll first get this little side screen on your desktop:

(Click here to see larger version)

When you open a new book you're prompted for a title, byline, and which file format (doc, rtf, docx etc.) that you want to use. Once you've input that, you can begin adding chapters by right-clicking on the appropriate act, which automatically opens up a new Word file and companion screen:

(Click here to see larger version)

I like the convenience of being able to make notes while I'm writing a chapter, which the program allows in a small box at the bottom of the side screen:

(Click here to see larger version)

When you save your files, the document is segregated to the CbC program file, but you can dupe it elsewhere easily with a different Save As file name. This is as far as I've gotten with using the CbC program, but I'm going to give it a genuine test drive by writing an entire story using only the program for what I usually do in Word and with my hand-written notes. If it proves to be as helpful as I think it will, I'll report back on what happens and how I think you can use it for your Word story projects.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Elsewhere with the Parasol Protectorate

Stop by Disenchanted & Co. today, tell me what urban fantasy novel I should be reading, and you could win this giveaway:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Because Sometimes You Need a Prompt

Sorry I'm late posting again today. My life got temporarily derailed, but I'm now back on track, all's well etc.

A few nights back I was doing one of my random searches for online writing inspiration when I found this article by Jenny Yang on ten resources to help break writer's block. Most of them I've already seen, linked to or keep bookmarked, except for one: Plinky. Here's how the site defines itself:

Plinky makes it easy for you to create inspired content. Every day we provide a prompt (i.e. a question or challenge) and you answer. We make it simple to add rich media and share your answers on Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

They don't support Blogger, so I can't comment on how simple it is to share Plinky content on blogs, but those of you who are hooked up to Facebook and Twitter are evidently covered. I looked through the prompt archive, and here's a sampling of what they've posted as challenges for the last three days:

Prompted May 28, 2013: Tell us about the most surprising helping hand you’ve ever received.

Prompted May 27, 2013: Write down the first sight, sound, smell, and sensation you experienced on waking up today. Pick the one you’re most drawn to, and write. (For a bigger challenge, pick the one you’re least drawn to.)

Prompted May 26, 2013: Tell us about something you would attempt if you were guaranteed not to fail (and tell us why you haven’t tried it yet).

These seem like interesting topics for blogging, writing practice and/or personal journaling, and if you wanted to apply them to your fiction you might have a character answer them for you. You can also learn a lot about people by reading the answers that have been posted online by others. Speaking of that, if you don't want to share your thoughts online with others, you can visit the site to pick up the prompt of the day and simply keep your answer to yourself, so in that sense Plinky can work for anyone.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sub Ops Ten

Ten Things About Submission Opportunities

Barking Rain Press is looking for subs, and publishes "complete novels or novellas of at least 20,000 words to sell through the BRP website and other partner sites in print and eBook formats. We will also consider the following: Short story collections (anthologies) with a strong central theme, written by a single author; Reprints of previously published works that are out-of-print, so long as the author owns BOTH the worldwide electronic rights and print rights. While we are open to a variety of literary genres, we are NOT open to submissions containing the following subject matter. These submissions will be automatically rejected: Poetry; A single short story, a single piece of short fiction,or a single work of flash fiction; Children’s books; Erotica; NC-17 / X-Rated / Pornographic fiction; Self-published works that are currently available for sale anywhere. If the work(s) are no longer for sale, and you own worldwide print and electronic rights, they may be submitted for consideration. Keep in mind that if a work can be found for sale or free download through a search engine search, the submission will be rejected outright. Make sure that the work is completely unavailable BEFORE you submit it." Payment: "Barking Rain Press pays authors 50% of net sales for both print and electronic sales (minus PayPal fees). Royalty payments are sent monthly. We pay only through PayPal, so authors must have a PayPal account." Submission periods: "January 1-31; May 1-31; and September 1-30." Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Betwixt magazine "publishes speculative fiction of all sorts—fantasy, science fiction, horror, slipstream, weird fiction, npunk, you name it. We particularly like stories that smash genre boundaries to smithereens, but we also love fresh takes on established genres and in-depth explorations of ultraspecific niches. Experiments in form and style are welcomed enthusiastically—but a straightforward narrative with tight, crisp language is just as beautiful. When it comes down to it, we want stories that will amaze us, astound us, provoke our thoughts, and boggle our minds." Length: "Stories of 4,000 to 7,000 words are ideal, but we will consider a range from 1,000 to 30,000 words." Payment: "We pay $0.02 per word up to $150, payable upon receipt of completed contract and author questionnaire." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Class Act Books is looking for subs, and "is currently accepting fiction and non-fiction manuscripts in all genres. Only COMPLETE manuscripts that portray a story with a beginning, middle and end will be accepted." Length: "The submission word count for ebook publication ONLY is 5,000-150,000 words. Word count for books intended to include POD Print publication is 20,000-125,000 words." Payment: "e-book=30% net; print=7.5% net." Reprints okay, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Dark Continents Publishing has an open call for their upcoming The Sea antho: "HP Lovecraft once wrote, 'The sea can bind us to her many moods, whispering to us by the subtle token of a shadow or a gleam upon the waves, and hinting in these ways of her mournfulness or rejoicing. Always she is remembering old things, and these memories, though we may not grasp them, are imparted to us, so that we share her gaiety or remorse.' The oceans of this world can swallow us, and sink us into the watery depths where monsters lurk and mermaids frolic. Or we can voyage far and discover new worlds. Selkies sing beneath the moonlight. The Flying Dutchman sails forever damned. Many-tentacled monstrosities drown unwary swimmers. Sunken treasures rest in wrecks shrouded in kelp and guarded by sea serpents. Be your tales wonder- or terror-filled, Dark Continents Publishing invites you to submit your previously unpublished short fiction" Length: "between 3,000 to 9,000 words that falls within the fantasy, horror, weird and science fiction genres." Payment: "a flat rate of $20 per story." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: [Note from PBW: I'm not really sure what it is; the publisher guidelines say "Closing date for submissions is June 21, 2013" but has the reading period listed as "1 June to 31 July 2013" -- so if you want to get a confirm on the open/close of the reading period, you might e-mail the publisher.]

The Dreadful Cafe has an open call for query letters for Membrane, their first antho: "We are now soliciting query letters for Membrane, our first anthology. All genres are eligible, but preference is given to stories that cross more than one and which reflect the flavor and theme described above." [Note from PBW: this flavor and theme thing is described as "Unreal. Imaginative. Intense. An escape from the safe. These stories will propel the reader—by wormhole or peephole—through the fantastic, the criminal, and the insane. Sometimes strange, always original, the stories we publish are of the highest production standards, from thrilling premise all the way to professional editing."] Length: "Manuscripts must be between 2,000 and 30,000 words and not previously published by anyone but the author. Self-published works are accepted and encouraged!" Payment: "Upon acceptance of your completed manuscript, Dreadful Cafe pays for non-exclusive, unlimited, 5-year publishing rights on the following schedule: Short Stories (2,000-7,000 words) — $125; Novelettes (7,001-15,000 words) — $250; Novellas (15,001-30,000 words) — $500/Negotiable." Query on reprints, electronic submission query first only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: October 1st, 2013 or when filled.

Fable Press is looking for sub ops: "seek all flavors of speculative fiction. This could be a thriller with a supernatural flair or a paranormal romance novel. A dark horror story or high fantasy. Utopian/dystopian. Alternate reality/history. Space Opera or steam punk – steam punk space opera? Why not! Speculative fiction covers a wide range of genre fiction and we love it all! Currently, we're only considering Young Adult (YA) and Adult fiction. We aren't publishing Children or Youth fiction at this time." Length: "All novel-length (60,000+ words) submissions are welcome, as well as any serialized novella proposals." Payment: "30% and 40% of the net sale." Reprints okay, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

New Zealand digital-first publisher Paper Road Press wants to see subs "with a strong New Zealand or Pacific voice or work by New Zealand writers" and "specialises in science fiction and fantasy, but we are happy to consider detective and historical manuscripts. If these contain a dash of science fiction or fantasy themes or concepts, all the better. Please query first for other genres." Length: "We are currently seeking fiction of 20,000-50,000 words for our Novellas list, and 10,000-20,000 words for our Shortcuts list." Payment: "min. 35% royalty" Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Postscripts to Darkness has an open call for their fifth antho of dark fiction and illustrations: "We print volumes twice yearly, and while we include work from writers and artists all over the world, we give ample space to local creators, emerging or established. While we are open to a variety of approaches and styles, we are interested in original work that pushes and plays with(in) the boundaries of the fantastic, the marvelous, the uncanny, and the horrific. While we are open to a variety of approaches and styles, we are interested in original work that pushes and plays with(in) the boundaries of the fantastic, the marvelous, the uncanny, and the horrific. We are not interested in formulaic re-treads of genre conventions, but in work that revises and interrogates the relationship between genre writing and literary experimentation. We welcome challenging, edgy fiction that embraces not only elements of classic horror, but also dark fantasy, urban fantasy, slipstream, (new) weird fiction, and surrealism. While we are open to English-language fiction by writers of all nationalities, we also strive to support Canadian writers and artists, and maintain at least 50% Canadian content in any given issue. Bearing this in mind, please include with your submission information about your citizenship and/or current country of residence." Length: "We are looking for works of short fiction (up to 3500 words)." Payment: "We offer fiction contributors $25 CAN per story (payable through PayPal), regardless of length. We will also provide a complimentary electronic version of the book to each contributor. Contributors have the option of purchasing hard copies at a low contributor’s rate (30% off.)" No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: June 30th, 2013.

World Weaver Press has an open call for their upcoming Specter Spectacular II: 13 Deathly Tales antho: "The shift from Specter Spectacular I’s “ghostly tales” to Specter Spectacular II’s “deathly tales” is a slight one, but rather than repeat of the first anthology, we hope to expand on the content and story tropes while still holding onto the eerie and enthralling feeling associated with the classic ghost story. While the final anthology will include some ghost stories, we also hope to feature rifts between worlds, specters and jack-o’-lanters, ghosts that are not ghosts, psychopomps (characters who conduct spirits or souls to the other world, such as Charon, Valkyries, the Grim Reaper, etc.), psychic mediums, and tales of crossing over … and back … and perhaps over and back again. We’re quite intrigued by the possibilities (gothic, mythological, modern, humorous, etc.) and are looking forward to seeing what authors bring to the table. We recommend a familiarity with Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales. As we did in the first volume, we will seek a mix of scary, eerie, beautiful, and funny stories to round out the reading experience. The first volume made Tangent’s 2012 recommended reading list and was named a Night Owl Review Top Pick; we hope to see the same quality of fiction or higher in volume II." Length: "Under 10,000 words." Payment: "$10 + paperback copy of the anthology." Reprints okay but editor notes their "Preference for stories which have not been anthologized previously." Electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details; open submission period: May 1 – June 15, 2013.

For the final listing I want to mention something that recently came up: a couple of freelancers alerted me to an overseas Asian publisher with an open call that offers $.25/word for children's magazine articles. I don't know this publisher, and since their web site is not in English I can't do any research on them. For those reasons I'm not going to list the publisher by name, link to them, or try to comment on why they would offer so much money via an open call; I'll simply pass along a warning about publishers in other countries that I've always followed: if the money sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


You all offered some terrific journal prompts for the Be My Guide giveaway, and I hope you'll take the next step and use your suggestion (or any of the other entries you found intriguing) as inspiration to start a journal or add to one you've already been writing.

We got the magic hat to work its wonders, and the winners of the giveaway are:

SandyL, who offered From a tarot deck, I pull out a card and then use the imagery and symbolism on the card to write a scene or a character.

Liv, who suggested Write the life story of a lightbulb?

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

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cities of Light

This video uses time-lapse photography to show some of the architectural wonders of the Chinese cities of Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen (contains background music, too, for those of you at work):

Guangzhou'2012/CHINA from zweizwei |motion timelapse| on Vimeo.

(Video link nicked from Gerard at The Presurfer)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Another Guide

I found How to Publish Your Own E-Book by Nik Rawlinson, published by Magbook, on the tabloid shelf at my local market's checkout line, which was probably why it caught my eye. That and waiting to pay for my groceries is always a little boring, so I picked it up, flipped through it and decided to fork out a rather pricey $14.99 to take it home for further study.

The author is a UK journalist, btw, and brings that sort of no-nonsense tone to the book, which for me made it an easy read. He devotes the first twenty pages of the magazine to convincing the reader why digital self-publishing is the best option, and they're quite effective. There are a few slams against traditional publishing but it's nothing you haven't already heard. Chapter Two addresses writing your book, but only very lightly and not at all in practical terms; this is only section that I found to be basically useless. That said, this is really a book to teach you how to self-publish, not how to write.

Chapter Three is where Mr. Rawlinson earns his cover price by detailing how to create and format your e-book using Sigil, Scrivener, InDesign, QuarkXPress, and iBooks Author. He also looks at working with Kindle Format 8 and how to test Kindle and ePub documents to see how they're going to look. I haven't used any of these programs, so I can't comment on the quality of the info, but there are plenty of screenshots and instructions, and they appear to be what someone would need to get through the basic process involved with each. My only reservation is how long this info will be useful, especially as the e-publishing world continues to evolve. According to the author it has been updated to reflect changes in these programs and services through December 2012, so unless there are radical/unexpected changes ahead in the near future it might be a good reference resource for another year or two.

Chapters Four and Five, Selling Your E-book and After Publication, return to the lighter/theoretical format of earlier chapters, although they contain some solid advice. Since I'm not personally interested in going the indie publishing route, the fact that I found two resources, Sigil and, still made it worth the cover price.

I wouldn't call this a complete guide, or a must-have manual for anyone considering digital self-publication, but it contains enough info to get you started down the indie path. I couldn't find it for sale at any US online booksellers but it is available through Amazon's UK site here in Kindle format. Combine this guide with your own research and online legwork, go cautiously, and you just may be able to self-publish your own e-book, too.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Direct e-Sales

Sorry I'm so late posting today (long story), but I do want to pass on some info for those of you who want to self-publish but are not in love with the idea of signing on with Amazon, Apple etc. and handing over a chunk of your profits. Alternative services are coming onto the market now, like , which for a monthly flat fee will sell digital downloads of your books. You're paid directly and instantaneously for each purchase via services like Paypal, and you're not required to adhere to preset (and often obnoxious) formatting requirements. Do be sure to read carefully all the terms of service and the amount required per month to keep your title(s) in stock before you sign up.

While a direct sales service isn't for everyone (new-to-the-biz writers might want to first establish themselves via the online booksellers), if you have built a strong following and have a dedicated readership, this could be the way to sell via links from your website or blog and keep 100% of your profits. Authors who have a specialty title might profit more from selling direct as well; you won't get lost in the current deluge on the big bookseller sites.

With the direct sales approach you'd definitely have to be more aggressive with promotions and getting the word out, as you won't have the exposure you'd get on the big bookseller sites, so keep that in mind as well.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Be My Guide

Guided journals, or blank books that include specific prompts or instructions on what to write in them, can provide an interesting journaling challenge and plenty of no-sweat writing practice. They're great for youngsters but I think adults can get a lot out of them, too. If you ever feel blocked, unable to focus or otherwise cut off from the work, a guide journal can be like jumper cables for your creativity. You still have to think and write, but it's nice to have your direction mapped out in advance for you.

On a recent trip to BAM I picked up two newly-published guided journals: Michael Nobbs's Drawing Your Life and The Pocket Scavenger by Keri Smith. Michael, who is the founder of, has tackled guided journal via impromptu art by putting together a book of drawing challenges.

I struggle most with sketching, and when I spotted Michael's jourrnal I thought it would be geared more toward experienced/confident artists. But while flipping through it I discovered Michael has disabled since the late nineties and learned to draw himself as a way to come to terms with his health challenges. That comes through in the journal, as he puts it: I hope this book will encourage you to draw YOUR LIFE and perhaps show you a way you can enjoy each day just a little bit more. To me the fact that he not only wrote but also illustrated the book convinced me to invest; I like authors who practice what they preach.

I tried out the journal in the fearless sense -- with a pen -- and freehand drew a bunch of different keys I'd been working with on some BookLoop and art projects earlier that morning:

I've already enjoyed working through one of Keri Smith's guided journals, so I had to grab a copy of her latest, The Pocket Scavenger. This journal is a guided treasure hunt through your life where you hunt for ordinary and even mundane objects like postage stamps, buttons, part of a book, a used envelope, something that was given to you -- all of which you add to the journal along with the location, time, date, and a story/notes section where you write a bit about the process of finding the object.

Now to some of you this might sound a little tedious, but wait, there's more to do: once you've found the required treasure, you then flip to a random page in the journal, turn it upside down, and follow the instructions written in the bottom page border to alter the object you found. For example: I found some old postage stamps in my desk. I noted the details of the hunt on that page, then did the flip and got these instructions from the border: add some music. That I interpreted as making the background of my postage stamp page out of some old sheet music from my paper recycling bin. Which then turned the postage stamps into a neat mini-collage:

Both of these guided journals allow anyone, no matter what level of artistic skill they might have, to creatively explore their immediate environment, document their life in an interesting way and journal outside the box. If you've never tried to keep a journal, either one of these could make a great first experience.

As always you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, give us a journaling prompt you think would be interesting to do (or if you can't think of one, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Friday, May 24th, 2013. I'll draw two names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned new copy of either The Pocket Scavenger by Keri Smith or Drawing Your Life by Michael Nobbs (to keep it fun, the winner won't know which until my package arrives.) This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something at PBW in the past.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Freely Ten

Ten Things You Can Have for Free

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

Clip Trap is a handy little utility that "watches the clipboard and keeps track of copied text in its window" (OS: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/2003/Vista/7)

Efficient PIM is a "full-featured personal information manager (PIM) software program that can help you organize and plan your business and private life. With EfficientPIM you can keep track of contacts, appointments, tasks, to-do lists, birthdays, and much more. The program also gives you space for keeping notes, diaries, and even passwords. In order to be successful you need to be organized and efficient. With EfficientPIM all of the things you need to manage are located in one, easy-to-use interface" (OS: Windows 8/7/XP/Vista [32-bit or 64-bit])

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

Focus Writer is a "simple, distraction-free writing environment. It utilizes a hide-away interface that you access by moving your mouse to the edges of the screen, allowing the program to have a familiar look and feel to it while still getting out of the way so that you can immerse yourself in your work" (OS: Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X)

Listen N Write "can be used to play and transcribe ordinary audio and video recordings (WAV, MP3, OGG, WMA, AVI, MPG, WMV, OGV, FLV, VOB, TS, etc). Listen N Write has special features simplifying the transcription work as you can control via keys (while using its integrated word processor) and insert time markers (bookmarks). Moreover, the audio stream is automatically rewound a few seconds when pressing the Pause key. Listen N Write can be considered the standard program for any transcription because of its simplicity of use and small size" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/2008/7)

ManicTime is a "time tracking software which automatically collects data on your computer usage. It records active and away time, as well as which applications you used and for how long you used them. The data ManicTime collects is stored in a local database on your computer. Once data is collected you can use our simple click and drag feature to accurately tag how you spent your time. Time tagging allows you to see how you spent your time based on your own time tags and gives you accurate information on how efficient you really are. Because there is so much data available about your computer usage, you are able to tag spent time for days in the past. Based on this data you are able to generate various statistics. You can easily find out how much time you spend behind a computer or how much time you spend browsing the web" (OS: Windows XP/2003/Vista/7; Requires: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5.)

Mendeley is a "free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research. Features: Automatically generate bibliographies; Collaborate easily with other researchers online; Easily import papers from other research software; Find relevant papers based on what you’re reading; Access your papers from anywhere online; Read papers on the go, with our new iPhone app" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

Sigil is a "multi-platform EPUB ebook editor with the following features: Online Sigil User's Guide, and Wiki documentation; Free and open source software under GPLv3; Full UTF-16 support; Full EPUB 2 spec support; Multiple Views: Book View, Code View and Preview View; WYSIWYG editing in Book View; Complete control over directly editing EPUB syntax in Code View; Table of Contents generator with multi-level heading support; Metadata editor with full support for all possible metadata entries (more than 200) with full descriptions for each; User interface translated into many languages; Spell checking with default and user configurable dictionaries; Full Regular Expression (PCRE) support for Find & Replace; Supports import of EPUB and HTML files, images, and style sheets; Documents can be validated for EPUB compliance with the integrated FlightCrew EPUB validator; Embedded HTML Tidy: all imported files have their formatting corrected, and your editing can be optionally cleaned" (OS: Windows, Linux and Mac)

StylePix is a "convenient, easy-to-use image editor that has all the features of raster graphics editor and adhered to lightweight design and effective UI. In addition, it has a built-in image viewer and batch processor" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8)

TheSage is a "free software application that, through a multi-tool interface, integrates a complete dictionary and a multifaceted thesaurus of the English language together into a unique language reference system" (OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7 [32bit and 64bit])

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Writsy Stuff

I subscribe to author/quilt designer Carol Doak's monthly newsletter, mainly because I like her how-to books on paper piecing and want to know whenever she publishes something new. This month she mentioned the success she's having with teaching online classes at, the hot new how-to crafting site. According to her newsletter in about a month she had 3,000 students sign up for her class on paper piecing, and even at the currently discounted price of $29.95 per student that comes close to making $100K in a month.

Startling figures, to say the least. Some disclaimers: I don't know how much of that takes as commission or any other details involved in teaching one of their classes. It should also be mentioned that Carol is already quite well known in the quilting world as a very talented and innovative writer and artist. I noted that one draw may be that she includes free for her students a companion e-book which is valued at half the price of the class, which is an excellent bonus. I thought I'd mention it primarily for any of you who may have published how-to craft books and want to check out what's involved in teaching a class.

It would be great if there were a site for writers (Writsy!) where you could sign up to learn how to write a proper query, what needs to be in a submission package, how to efficiently edit a chapter or even the real nuts and bolts of how to put together an e-book when going the indie route. There are a couple of obvious problems with that idea; the primary one being that writing does not translate as well to video as something like crafting. Writing happens in your head and on the computer and the page, and even the most basic screenshots quickly become tedious (or incomprehensible) in video's rapid delivery of visuals. Filming writing workshops like the kind put on at conferences might be a solution, as long as the instructor is a gifted speaker and does something besides talk.

The other big problem is that there is no one go-to, this-is-how-you-do-it standard for everything professional writers do. I think it would be tough to get everyone to agree on a standard as well -- a good example is simply how you write a novel synopsis. I learned first what synopses were and how to write them via my subscription to Writer's Digest magazine -- until an editor asked me why I wrote such odd synopses. Once I explaining that I was following examples from WD articles, the editor informed me that my synopses were in fact too short, that I should not put every character's name in all caps and I wasn't detailing my plot twists or my endings. I asked for an example I could follow, but the editor wouldn't give me one, so I began blindly writing longer synopses, ditched capping the character names and revealed all -- until another editor complained that my synopses were too long and too detailed.

The editor after that one wanted to know why I didn't write out the relationship arcs (and then had to explain to me what those were.) Another asked for chapter summaries to go along with the synopsis. The one after that, who started working with me in mid-series, asked for one-paragraph synopses for all the previous books (and if you want a real writing challenge, try to condense a novel series that contains hundreds of characters and settings and plot lines and over a million words altogether into just nine paragraphs.)

To this day practically every editor I work for has a slightly different opinion about what should or shouldn't be in a synopsis. Some want a lot, others just want bare bones, and still others want something I've never before done. That's why I put together a synopses bible on all the books I've sold so I can at least review what I've done in the past that worked. When I teach writing synopses, I also use for examples only the ones which have resulted in contract offers.

Until someone does come up with enough standards for writers to create a there are plenty of online classes for writers. A few weeks back I noted author Barbara Samuel is teaching an online class on voice; the way she has this set up (maintaining a small class size, the triad approach of lectures/exercises/discussions, and offering a scholarship as well as discounts for group) seems like a sensible way to go about it. Before you invest consider all these things as well as what sort of talent and experience the instructor offers, and let that be your guide.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Interesting Sub Op

Bundoran Press Publishing House has an open call for their upcoming antho, Strange Bedfellows, which is "an original short story anthology of political science fiction ‘where ideology is a character.’ We are looking for well-written science fiction stories with strong plots and compelling, if not necessarily sympathetic, characters engaged in arguments with the world. We want political stories, immersed in science, that take on those arguments without polemic but with passion – recognizing that causes have both effects and consequences. We don’t care what your politics are; we just want you to tell a good story. Similar to our novel guidelines, we are accepting any genre of science fiction, from space opera to near future to any of the ‘punk’ genres. Military SF is fine as long as the focus of the story is on internal conflicts not armed ones. No fantasy, even urban, and generally no horror unless it has a solid SF element. In all cases, political systems, political processes, or political solutions must be central to the story." Length: "We are considering stories in the 2000 to 7500 word range with a definite preference for 4-6000 words. Shorter and longer stores MAY be considered but no more than two stories shorter than 2000 words will make the book and no more than one over 7500 (hard maximum 12K)." Payment: "Payment is 5.5 cents per word (Canadian funds) on publication, plus one contributor copy" On reprints: "No reprints, unless specifically solicited by the editor. (Don’t Query.)" Electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: September 30th, 2013.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Flaming Art

A festival of art through self-expression, impermanent structures, creative invention/repurposing and spontaneous community, Burning Man is held for one week annually in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. To get a glimpse of what it's all about, here's an excellent video on its art and culture (for those of you at work, plays with music and narration):

DREAM - Art & Culture of Burning Man from Spark Pictures on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Yesterday laryngitis prevented me from getting any serious work done, and I was slightly miffed. I have a quite a backlog of posts to write and e-mails to answer, and the inconvenience annoyed me. Determined not to sit around and mope, I spent my morning writing session putting together a new journal and thinking about a story. The journal turned out neat, and while no new revelations about my story struck me (for me that kind of lightning cannot be summoned at will) I did sort out a few things that had needed more thought but that I hadn't had the time to brood on.

I devoted the afternoon and early evening to clearing out some closets, packing up donations for Goodwill and cleaning out the pantry. This is my pantry:

Yes, I alphabetize my spices and categorize my canned goods; it keeps me from having to hunt for things when I'm cooking. It also gave me a chance to check expiration dates and get a handle on what I need the next time I go shopping. This is all part of taking care of a family, and that's my first job anyway.

My voice is better now, which is excellent because I hate whispering, but tonight's editing session is off because I have family obligations to attend to. Families tend to be inconvenient that way; they're always doing something that requires our attention and/or our physical presence. And because we love our families for putting up with all of our writing life nonsense (last week my family were absolute troopers when I was spending twelve hours a day online to promote) the work schedule has to come second to them. I don't expect I'll be thinking at all about writing tonight, but that's okay -- I'll be participating in life and having fun surrounded by the people I love. Nothing is better for recharging the creative batteries than that.

Here are five other things you still can do as a writer whenever life interrupts your writing:

Run Title Ideas: for this you need your brain, a pen and a small notepad. Make a key word list that relates to your story and start playing with combinations or synonyms of the words to form new ideas for titles. Pay attention to the world around you, too; I once got a stupendous title idea when I saw a couple of signs on the highway during a road trip and recombined the words.

Characterize the Crowd: Make up a name, an occupation and a goal for interesting strangers you see while you're out and about in the world. Keep that notepad and pen handy to jot down the best of your ideas for future characters (and, if you have the opportunity, note a physical description of the person who inspired it.)

Memory Game: this is one I play often when I'm away from the desk; I observe a person, place or thing, wait five minutes and then jot down what details I remember about them. This is a great exercise in sharpening your memory and determining what is memorable about anything.

First Lines Tinkering: like the title ideas exercise, just think about what words you want to use in the opening sentence of your story, or work on giving more immediate impact to the sentence you've already written.

Story Photo Ops: If you have a camera with you, why not take some photos of interesting subjects around you? Look for things that are not only attractive or compelling in some way, but that also inspire your curiosity. I keep a photo album specifically of neat places and things I see when I'm out that I think I can work into a story.

Inconveniences -- a few large, but mostly minor -- often make a riddle out of our writing lives. Becoming frustrated or sulking when they happen makes them breed, I think, so I've learned to put the work on hold and simply deal with them as cheerfully as I can manage. It's the resentment that is the creative poison, not the inconvenience itself, so shedding it as quickly as possible is the best kind of damage control.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

#14 Makes #15

After spending much time online promoting my new release my voice has decided to go on strike; I can't speak louder than a whisper. This is amusing my crew to no end, especially when I try to use the international gestures to communicate vital requests like Please pick that up or Would you mind not teasing the dog? or Eat your vegetables right this minute or I'm going to puree them and put them in your next milkshake.

Naturally typing by hand takes me forever, so I must keep today's post brief. I want to thank everyone who preordered or went out this week to purchase Nightbound. My editor e-mailed yesterday to tell me that the book debuted at #15 on B&N's mass market romance bestseller list, which is really lovely. Consider yourselves all hugged.

I'll be back tomorrow with something more interesting than my endless novel propaganda. One last reminder, if you visited any of the blogs where I was guest posting and entered the giveaway, remember to check back to see if you've won.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Elsewhere Getting Smacked

To wrap up promotions for Nightbound the protagonist from my novel has been featured in Dark Fairy Tales's Supernatural Smackdown event. Stop in if you get a chance, vote for Beau or your favorite character among the competition, and enter to win this giveaway.

Monday, May 13, 2013

More News Elsewhere

The first two covers for my new Disenchanted & Company series are being revealed today; to have a look click here.

Signage Ten

In honor of Nightbound's release I am sending you over to Penguin's Project Paranormal page to read today's ten list here, which will advise you on how to tell if the guy you like is an immortal.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Elsewhere & Wishing You

Today I'm visiting Under the Covers to talk about the fountain of youth and why I personally never want to find it. Stop by if you get a chance, enter the giveaway and you may win this batik bag handmade by me, a signed set of the Lords of the Darkyn trilogy and lots of other goodies.

I'd also like to wish all you moms out there:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Off to Dance

I'm taking off today to handle Prom. So that your stop here was not entirely wasted, here's a video compilation of Russian dash cam recordings that oddly enough do not show terrifying crashes or meteorites exploding. What they do show are good people (and this one has some lovely background music, too):

(Video link filched from Gerard over at The Presurfer.)

Friday, May 10, 2013


It's always fun for an author to hear which of her characters are her readers' favorites, and your many wonderful comments made this release week extra-special for me, too. We got the magic hat to do its thing, and the winner of the Fourteen giveaway is:

Emily, who wrote I have a lot of favorites, but Jayr would probably win. Total badass who writes poetry!

Emily, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to address to and I'll get your books out to you. My thanks to everyone for joining in.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Alpha BookLoops

While fiddling around with new designs for the BookLoop I stumbled on a neat idea -- add a name or message to them by stringing them with alphabet beads:

These are the exact same kind of beads used to make baby and name bracelets; I simply strung them on the BookLoop ribbon to spell out names and words before I tied on the anchor. Here's a closer look:

A couple of tips: line up your alphabet beads first so you don't string them out of order. If you want to use beads or other objects as spacers, be sure they have a large enough bore or shank to permit stringing with a ribbon-threaded tapestry needle.

If you'd like a different look, here's a variation using Tim Holtz's idea-ology Type Charms:

These charms are fashioned to look like the keys off an old typewriter, which you customize by selecting and applying the letter stickers that come with them. A little clear epoxy sticker placed on top of the letter completes the illusion.

Since the charms have a top ring instead of a shank you can knot them on your ribbon like this.

Or attach them to your ribbon by jump rings, like this (you might want to use spacers or stoppers to keep them from sliding and bunching.)

For this example I attached my type charms to a short length of copper chain, to which I tied ribbon to the either end. This gives the loop the look of a charm bracelet.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Another First

I went to the market yesterday to pick up some milk and bread, and of course I walked down the book aisle because not walking down it would mean I have a concussion or something. My books never make it to the market's shelves, naturally, but I do like to see which big name bestsellers have books out on the same week I do -- or any week, for that matter. Thus I cruised along the market's book shelves:

I almost didn't see it, but I've gotten in the habit of checking the very bottom shelves because for some reason that's where they always put my favorite authors' books. And then, I spotted it:

My first book ever in my own market. So is it weird that I tiptoed past it?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Beau Arrives & Elsewhere Celebrating

Today is the official release day for Nightbound, the third and final novel in my Lords of the Darkyn trilogy. As most of you know my published novels are my only source of income, so buying a copy is the best way to show your support for me and keep Paperback Writer funded and ad-free. Also, if you've already invested and have enjoyed the story, please let other readers know about it, as word of mouth is the best advertising in the world a writer can't buy.

Online Shopping Links:
Barnes & Noble
Tantor (audio edition)

Today I'm also visiting Once in a Blue Muse, author LJ Cohen's blog, and talking about my busy morning schedule on a release day. Stop in if you get a chance and you could win this giveaway, which includes a handmade quilted tote, a signed set of the trilogy, a Chronicle books Treetops journal, a neat stylus/pen and Levenger's Scheherazade Storytelling game.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Elsewhere with Stories

Today I'm visiting the Word Nerds to talk about one place where a lot of my stories were born (as well as my storytelling.)

Stop by, enter the giveaway and you might win this cool quilted tote packed with a signed set of the Lords of the Darkyn novels and lots of other goodies.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, May 04, 2013


Back in 1999 I outlined a dark fantasy novel series about a secret society of vampires who lived among us. While at the time there wasn't much vampire fiction on the market, I had faith in the idea. Unfortunately I was also a rookie writer and had almost no confidence in myself or my work. The first rejection I received for that proposal was so harsh that I became convinced it was a terrible idea and couldn't work up the nerve to send it out again. I packed up all my outlines and notes, cried over it a little, and then put it away and moved on.

I couldn't let go of the terrible idea entirely, so I wrote some short stories about my vampires for my own amusement. They came out so well that I decided to post a couple on my web site. My readers then went crazy over them, which confused me. If this was a terrible idea, why were they begging me to write more?

I respect my readers' opinions, but the old rejection still haunted me, so I hauled out on my old files, took a hard look at the idea and began tinkering. The only major change I made with the idea concerned the vampires, who had originally been former poets called Darklings. I thought I could do better, so I consulted history, found new inspiration, made my vampires former Templars, renamed them the Darkyn and ran with it from there.

When I submitted my not-so-terrible idea again, I sold it to the first editor who looked at it (after she had a tussle with the second editor who saw it and also wanted to acquire the series.) The series got published, the books began appearing on the Times list and suddenly I had a big hit on my hands.

Nightbound, my fourteenth Darkyn universe novel, in print debuts next week. It's the final book in the third series for this universe, and fourteen years ago I could never have imagined being here. Thanks to my readers I am, and that's part of the magic of the writing life. So is this:

To celebrate this lovely moment I'm giving away a signed set* of all fourteen Darkyn universe novels in print. If you'd like a chance to own them, in comments to this post name your favorite character from the series (or if you don't have one, toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Thursday, May 9th, 2013. I'll choose one name at random from everyone who participates and send the winner all fourteen signed novels and a surprise**. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*Unless the winner would like the books personalized I'm going to flat-sign the set, which should increase their value as collectors prefer books with signatures only, and I rarely flat-sign anything.

**No, I won't tell you what the surprise is -- that would spoil it -- but my surprises are always good ones.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Elsewhere with Answers

Today I'm being interviewed over at Typing with Wet Nails, author Anna C. Bowling's weblog (and is that not like the best blog title ever? I have so done that too many times to confess.)

I'm also giving away an elegant keepsake box from The Book Whisperer on Etsy, a signed set of the Lords of the Darkyn trilogy, tea, cookies and more. Come over if you get a chance, enter the giveaway and it could all be yours.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Elsewhere with Backpack

Today I'm over at Robin Connelly's blog talking about what it takes to sustain a novel series (a lot of work is only the beginning!) I also have more goodies to give away:

Stop by if you get a chance, join the discussion, enter the giveaway and you could win this lovely backpack filled with a complete signed set of the Lords of the Darkyn trilogy (Nightborn, Nightbred and Nightbound), a custom-made journal and matching memo book from one of my favorite Etsy journal makers, and a nifty sword pen.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Elsewhere Keeping Things Balanced

To celebrate the May 7th release of Nightbound, the third and final novel in my Lords of the Darkyn trilogy, I'll be guest blogging elsewhere for the next couple of weeks. This is the fun part of promoting a new novel for me, because I get to hang out with pals, chat with their readers and talk books and writing. It also gives me an excuse to put together some fun things for the giveaways to go along with my guest posts.

I'm delighted to get this party started by first visiting B.E. Sanderson's The Unpublished Writers' Guide to Survival today to talk about finding the right balance in the writing life. Please stop by if you get a chance, join in the discussion, enter the giveaway and you may win this Spring patchwork tote handquilted by me, a signed set of the trilogy, a pair of mini gardening kits and some delicious goodies.