Monday, September 30, 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.

Bits is a minimalist diary application that comes with a stylish yet very efficient design. Bits is able to store both text and images. Bits enables the user to add tags to each entry in order to find them faster at a later time. The Bits entries can be easily synced to other devices via iCloud. Bits also offers you the possibility to share your entries by using the Tumblr or Wordpress services" (OS: Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later )

CintaNotes 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)

Take a virtual tour of almost any location on the planet world with Google Earth (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

According to the designer of iListen, "If you suffer from RSI, can t type or spell, don t want to type, have dyslexia, can talk faster than you can type or can't type 140 words per minute - iListen is the solution you have been waiting for! Talk anywhere into hundreds of applications - virtually anywhere you would normally type! iListen offers fast dictation plus full command and control, freeing you from the keyboard and mouse. Does not include headset/microphone" (OS: Mac OS X 10.1.5 or later)

Mendeley is a "free, award-winning, academic reference manager and web application for managing and sharing research papers, creating bibliographies, discovering new research trends and collaborating online" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

Photopad is a "free digital photo editor for Windows or Mac OS X."

Also from the designers of Photopad, Photostage Slideshow allows you to "create dynamic slideshows from your photos quickly & easily" (OS: designer notes "Works on Windows 7, XP, Vista and 8; Works on 64 bit Windows; Mac OS X 10.4.4 or later; Android version runs on 2.3.3 or higher)

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

TeamTalk is an "internet based voice conferencing application that allows you to talk with your friends and colleagues using the internet as audio carrier" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Virtual Magnifying Glass Portable is "the handy Virtual Magnifying Glass utility packaged in Format so you can easily use a screen magnifier on any PC you use. Virtual Magnifying Glass Portable is a full-featured screen magnifying glass that allows you to zoom in on an area of the screen for better readability. It´s also handy for design work. With a variable zoom (1-20x), configurable size, hot-key support (CTRL-ALT-e) and lots of other great features, it´s a great addition to any portable arsenal. It´s also been localized into Portuguese, Spanish, French and Dutch" (OS:Win 9x/ME/2000/XP/Vista/7)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Smart Edit Giveaway

Darren Devitt, designer of Smart Edit software, is giving away this most excellent novel editing program to ten people via random draw. If you'd like a chance to be one of them, enter the giveaway here.

I wrote up this review on Smart Edit back in January when it went from freeware to pro, and I stand by my endorsement -- this is one of the best editing programs out there for writers.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fox Girl

Four hours of amazing artwork compressed into four minutes, courtesy of the artist Alaires, aka my kid (with background music, for those of you at work):

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Handy Advice

Over at Writer Unboxed author Barbara O'Neal (aka Barbara Samuel) has an excellent piece here about writing truths and how we arrive at them. There's also a line to site with photos of authors' hands with such advice actually written on them.

If I could tattoo one writing truth on my hand, it would be the last line of my old Courage post, and would look like this:

What truth would you write on your hand? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rescue Antho

Dragon's Roost Press has an open call for their upcoming, as yet untitled Dark Speculative Fiction Anthology to benefit canine rescue: "Humans, like dogs, are essentially pack animals. The idea of being alone can be terrifying, liberating, both, or fall somewhere in between the two. The idea of being abandoned, left alone on purpose... We are looking for Dark Speculative Fiction which explores the themes of abandonment, loneliness, isolation, and solitude. We are most familiar with the horror genre, science fiction and fantasy are also welcome, provided there is some element of fear involved. While the tone may be dark, humor is also welcome. If you can make us laugh while breaking our hearts you have a great shot at getting in." Length: "We are looking for original fiction up to 6,000 words." Payment: "At this time payment is one cent per word plus one contributor’s copy and one digital version in the format of the author’s choosing. We will be running a crowd sourcing campaign with the goal of increasing payment to a professional rate. For the mean time, please keep in mind that this is a charity anthology to raise money for canine rescue." Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: January 1st, 2014 or when filled.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Recycle X 5: Bookmark Keeper

I have a collection of several hundred paper bookmarks, and the one thing that plagues me is how often they get misplaced (and that's my fault for leaving them in books, dropping them on a stack of papers, etc.) Over time most of my bookmarks also become dinged, bent or crumpled because I didn't store them in a protective fashion. It's even worse when I make some bookmarks, put them in a safe place and then promptly forget where that safe place is.

My next recycled cardboard project, a bookmark keeper, solves all those problems and requires only basic supplies. It's also easy enough for anyone to do. Here's what you'll need:

A piece of 10" X 14" cardboard folded or preforated in the middle (two 5" X 7" pieces also work)
Decorative papers to cover the cardboard on both sides
Glue stick
Three binder clips (four if you're using two separate pieces of cardboard)

To begin, Cover one side of your cardboard piece(s) with your glue stick:

Place the decorative paper you want on the outside to the glued side of the carboard piece(s); if you're using one piece fold in half to create a spine crease:

Cut out a square notch in the paper at all corners. If you're using one piece of folded cardboard, also make a vertical cut in the flaps at each end of the fold:

Apply glue stick to the inside of your flaps, then fold them over onto the inside of your carboard:

Glue two more pieces of decorative papers to cover the inside of the carboard and the edges of your flaps:

Let everything dry flat, then place your bookmarks inside:

Close your keeper and use the binder clips to secure the open sides:

Related links:

Recycle X 5: Note Pads

Interioraholic has some of the most fascinating project designs made from recycled cardboard here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

His Lordship Ten

Ten Reasons Why You Should Preorder His Lordship Possessed by Lynn Viehl

A love scene with champagne and strawberries. In a brothel. Under threat of imminent death. Come on, you know you want to see me write my way out of this one.

Dredmore finally gets what's coming to him, and it's not a winning Powerball ticket.

If they ever make a movie out of it, I promise to prevent them from casting Charlie Hunnam as Dredmore (although he might work as Doyle, if he shaved off the weird beard, yes?)

Lady Diana learns who has been messing with her and why.

No cliffhanger ending. Promise.

Nolan Walsh's plot is completely revealed, and it's a lot bigger than you probably thought.

Perfect, zero-calorie way to take a break from your Halloween prep.

There is no part 3. I know, a couple of reviewers told you there would be, but happily they got it wrong. The book goes like this: Part 1 -- Her Ladyship's Curse in August, Part 2 -- His Lordship Possessed in October, and that's it. The print edition bindup of Part 1 & Part 2 -- Disenchanted & Co. will be released in January, and book two, The Clockwork Wolf, in February. I hope you're taking notes, too, because there will be a pop quiz on this later.

Will give you a couple of hours during which you probably won't be worrying over Syria, Obamacare, or what the heck to make for dinner.

You'll find out exactly who Harry is this time, and it's not Houdini.

Links to places you can preorder:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Science of Nope

I'm unplugging in order to head into the city and take care of some business, which means no, I won't be around today. So that your stop here was not entirely wasted, I'd like to direct you to a very interesting article over on Life Hacker about a scientific process that allows you to say no effectively (and said link was brazenly swiped from Gerard over at The Presurfer.)

Friday, September 20, 2013


I've been on a few road trips like this one (some background sound effects, for those of you at work):

SOMEWHERE U.S.A. from Vitùc on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Being Who You Are

Some of you may have heard the story of seven-year-old Tiana Parker being sent home from school for wearing her hair in locs (a violation of some moronic school policy, apparently.) Instead of changing their daughter's hair to what school officials at the time deemed appropriate, Tiana's parents wisely decided to remove her from the school. You can read more details about the incident here.

I'm seriously confused by the idea that Tiana's hairstyle could be condemned as "faddish". According to the dictionary, the word fad means "a temporary fashion, notion, manner of conduct, etc." Yet locs didn't come into style yesterday; I'm pretty sure they've been popular since before the Pharoahs were building pyramids. I can attest from personal experience that they're not a fad; I went to school with lots of Islander and African-American kids in South Florida, and many wore their hair in dreads (that was what we called locs in my youth.) That was forty years ago -- and since locs have been a popular hairstyle long before that and ever since, how could anyone consider them a temporary fashion? I mean, besides a bunch of ignorant racists using idiotic rules to hurt a child?

Dr. Yaba Blay, co-director and assistant teaching professor of Africana studies at Drexel University, also heard about Tiana's story, and reached out with this essay on the incident, as well as a beautiful collection of letters and photographs for Tiana herself. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and poet Alice Walker (who also wears her hair in locs) is among the contributors. Reading through all the messages and seeing all the lovely photos of ladies in locs really made my day. I'm not surprised so many took the time to open their hearts to this little girl, though -- it demonstrates the power of love over the prejudice, and why it is so important to be who you are, not what others want you to be. And isn't that what we should be teaching our kids?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Elsewhere Steampunking Anne Stuart

Today I'm over at Disenchanted & Co. so we can steampunk author Anne Stuart. Stop by if you get a chance and enter the giveaway to win all this stuff:

(Girl, markers and furnishings not included.)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Recycle X 5: Note Pads

A couple of months back I preordered some art books for my kid, and last week they finally arrived. I try to recycle all the boxes and packing materials I receive via my own shipping, but this package came with a strange mound of five folded cardboard filler pieces:

Generally I toss pieces like this in my paper recycling box to use for mailing photos I don't want bent or as frame backing, but these pieces are all brand-new, and the way they're folded and preforated intrigued me. I decided to make them my next recycle/upcycle project, and challenge myself to find five different ways to make them into something else.

The first idea I had involved the most banged-up, creased piece:

I carefully separated it down the middle along the preforartions:

I then got some old manuscript pages from my paper recycling box and cut them in half:

Using one side of my three-hole punch, I punched two centered holes in the top of the carboard pieces and the short end of my trimmed papers:

To put them together, I thought about using binder rings, ribbons or even some twist ties. Then I remembered I had some of the larger size of Tim Holtz's Idea-ology brads leftover from another project, and grabbed those:

Together the brads, paper and cardboard pieces make two nice refillable note pads (of which I can never have enough):

Making your own notepads saves money, recycles used paper and even junk mail; all you need is something with a blank side. You can also customize this easy project with your own touches by covering the cardboard with pretty fabric or paper and/or using different-colored paper and bindings for the note part.

Stayed tuned in the weeks ahead for more ideas on how to recycle cardboard into writer stuff as I use up the other pieces.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sub Ops Ten

Ten Things About Submission Opportunities

Dark Oak Media has an open call for their upcoming Big Bad 2 – An Anthology of Evil Volume 2: "The immediate success of The Big Bad has been mind-blowing, and Dark Oak has signed us on to do it all over again! Emily Lavin Leverett and I are back to create another anthology of the greatest bad guy stories we can find. This is a mixed anthology, which means that there have been some folks invited to participate, and we will accept some stories through open calls. The invitations have gone out, and we have ten open slots, so we expect the competition to be fierce. Send us your best short story (3,000 – 9,000 words, if it has to be longer contact me first) that features a bad guy or evil character as the protagonist. It can be fantasy, urban fantasy, superhero, sci-fi, horror, whatever. Just send us your best bad guy story. We’re taking ten. That’s right, there are only ten slots available in this anthology." Payment: "This is a royalty-based anthology, with exclusive rights for one year. This is not a “for the love” antho – Dark Oak is a real publisher that sends out real royalty checks. I should know, I’ve already received one for Big Bad 1. After the first year we retain rights to publish electronically in the anthology only, and in print in this anthology only, but you can take it and sell it somewhere else, or sell it yourself as a standalone." See open call post here for more details. Deadline: November 1st, 2013.

DreamSpinner Press has an open call for their upcoming Feelgood antho: "Dreamspinner Press is seeking romantic short stories with medicine/physical health themes. Examples: A Band-Aid, a kiss, and a lollipop make kids’ boo-boos all better, so Mason decides to try that when his boyfriend bangs his knee on the coffee table; Two doctors in separate departments of the same hospital keep running into each other in unlikely places; A physical therapist struggles against falling in love with his patient; Don’t forget dentists, optometrists, and the dermatologists who do laser tattoo removals; Two researchers collaborating on a medical advance start talking about more personal matters. Editor’s Note: Because of the packaged nature of the anthology, all stories need to stand alone." Length: 3.5 - 12K; also noted: "Manuscripts shorter or longer will be considered but will have to be extraordinary." Payment: Unspecified, but I found this note: "Short stories and novellas for single-book anthologies are purchased for a flat amount based on the length of the work." Also no mention on reprints I could find so you might query on them; electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: October 1st, 2013

Good Mourning Publishing has an open call for their upcoming super hero-themed romance antho: "This is an open call for an anthology of short romantic fiction which takes place in a super hero universe; at least one of the love interests has to be a superhero or villain. Any story containing copyrighted characters is not permitted (Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, Psylocke, etc.) but fanfiction which has been edited to be a stand-alone story with original characters is acceptable [PBW notes: this bit concerns me for a number of reasons, so I recommend sending in only your original fiction for your submission]. All gender pairings, sub-genre, and content rating are accepted for this book, but the main theme has to be romance." Length: up to 15K; Payment: "$30.00 USD for accepted works" + "a free paperback copy of the book upon publication." Editor notes that authors will retain all rights. Electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: December 31st, 2013.

Hazardous Press has an open call for their upcoming antho: "We are now open to submissions for Tales of the Black Arts, a swords & sorcery anthology, for POD paperback and eBook publication. We are looking for dark fantastic tales in the tradition of Moorcock’s Elric stories, Wagner’s Kane tales, or the Morlock Ambrosius stories by James Enge. As you might expect from the title, magic must play a central role in the story, not just be in the background. Length: "Word Count: 2,000 to 15,000 words." Payment: "$25, plus one paperback contributor’s copy." No reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: October 31st, 2013.

Inaccurate Realities has an open call for submissions for their January time travel-themed issue: "Prompt: Play with the wibbly wobbly structure that is time and space. Finally all those hours watching Doctor Who will come in handy. Is there a time or place you’ve always wanted to visit? Ever wondered how a certain historical event really happened? Does your character need to deliver a warning to the future? Example: Doctor Who, Tempest by Julie Cross, Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston, Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone." Length: 2-5K; Payment: Pay: $15-$25 based on length; query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: November 15th, 2013.

The Pedestal is open to poetry submissions for their December 2013 issue: "For Issue 73, we will be accepting submissions of poetry (only) from September 1-November 30. There is no need to query prior to submitting poetry. There are no restrictions on length, theme, style, or genre. Submit up to six (6) poems via the provided link. Please submit all poems in one (1) file." Payment: "$40 per accepted poem"; no reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Reading period: September 1st - November 30th, 2013.

Supernatural Tales is open for submissions: "I must insist that a story submitted to Supernatural Tales might - however tenuously - be described as a tale of the supernatural. Awfully restrictive, I know, but there it is. That said, a conventional and predictable ghost story of the kind we've all seen, heard and read a thousand times should not be submitted to ST. Come to think of it, such stories should not be written in the first place. Horror is all very well, but there are plenty of horror magazines out there. Try them first if you're into writing about people's viscera exploding all over the tea things. You will impress me by showing subtlety and wit, as opposed to gore-porn and OTT prose." [PBW notes: I think I'm in love with this guy now.] On length: "It's hard to spell out what I'm looking for in a short story, but I think the word 'short' is awfully useful. The shorter a story - and I mean this in a blindingly obvious sense - the easier it is to fit into a little magazine. So while I set a quite arbitrary upper limit of 8,000 words on a submission, in practice anything that long had better be superb. I have a soft spot for very short stories in the 1,500 word range. But, as with the long 'uns, the short-shorts have to be pretty damn good to stand out." Payment: Story that receives the most reader votes earns £25; other contributors receive two free copies of the magazine. Electronic submission only; see guidelines on reprints and for more details.

Third Flatiron has an open call for their upcoming Mars-themed antho, and want to see "short stories that revolve around age-old questions and have something illuminating to tell us as human beings. Fantastical situations and creatures, exciting dialog, irony, mild horror, and wry humor are all welcome" (some other details on the sort of stories they like to see can be found in this interview.) Length: 1.5-3K; Payment: "3 cents per word (U.S.), in return for the digital rights to the story. All other rights will remain with the author. We no longer offer royalties, as we're now into our second year. If your story is selected as the lead story, we will pay a flat rate of 5 cents per word, in return for the permission to podcast or give the story away as a free sample portion of the anthology." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: September 30th, 2013.

Timeless Tales has an open call for short stories for their upcoming Puss and Boots-themed issue. I can't copy any of the guidelines for reposting here, but basically the fiction they're looking for should be a retelling of the theme fairy tale, so you'll want to send in any spin on Puss and Boots. Length: up to 2K (1.5K preferred); Payment: $15.00; reprints okay, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: Midnight PST November 1st, 2013.

World Weaver Press has an open call for Fae, their upcoming fairy-themed antho: "Have you ever noticed that, despite the name, there is often a conspicuous absence of fairies in fairy tales? Historically speaking fairies have been mischievous or malignant. They’ve dwelt in forests, collected teeth or crafted shoes. In Fae, we want stories that honor that rich history but explore new and interesting takes on fairies as well. We want urban fairies and arctic fairies, steampunk fairies, time-traveling and digital fairies. We want stories that bridge traditional and modern styles and while we’re at it, we want stories about fairy-like creatures too. Bring us your sprites, your pixies, your seelies and unseelies, silkies, goblins or gnomes, brownies and imps. We want them all. We’re looking for lush settings, beautiful prose and complex characters." Length: under 7.5K; Payment: $10 and paperback copy of the anthology; no reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: November 30th, 2013

Many of the above sub ops were found over among the marvelous market listings at

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, September 14, 2013


I'm bailing on you all today so I can get some writing done. So that your visit here was not entirely wasted, here's an interactive generator from Nova that allows you to write your name in runes (click on Launch Interactive to get to the generator.)

PBW in runes:

(Generator link swiped from Gerard at The Presurfer)

Friday, September 13, 2013

For Laughs

For no other reason than a really good laugh today, the genius of Monty Python and John Cleese (comedic sketch with talking and audience sounds, for those of you at work):

Thursday, September 12, 2013

November Nag

From the way the work & family schedules are filling up it looks like this year I'll have to be content with staying on the sidelines for National Novel Writing Month. Being in the cheering section, however will give me time to do some pep talks, natter on in motivational posts and provide links to whatever free resources I can find for the participants, aka serving as an unofficial NaNoWriMo nag (which is almost as much fun as joining in.)

If you're still on the fence about whether or not to participate, here are

Ten Reasons to Decide Today to Write Your Novel This November

1. As soon as you do, you can begin the important preliminary work of endlessly agonizing over the title.

2. Every waffling writer who hasn't decided will openly envy you.

3. Good friends will worry about you until November. Concerned friends will try to talk you out of it before November. Real friends will offer to babysit for you during November.

4. It gives you a legit reason to stockpile notebooks, pens, Post-Its and all the other office supplies you love, plus real motivation to fix that lock on the spare room door.

5. "Someday" can now have a date: November 1st.

6. Thanksgiving dinner can be at the parents/in-laws/sibling's home this year. You'll also have a built-in excuse as to why you had to bring a store-bought pie.

7. The announcement will offend that dimwit you know who has been writing the same novel since high school (and will stop said dimwit from asking you to read the latest rewrite.)

8. Three words: Love Scene Research.

9. When the ex asks you what you'll be writing the book about, you can simply smile mysteriously (and repeat this torture for six more weeks.)

10. You'll have an utterly luxurious forty-nine days to prepare, versus the usual one hour of absolute panic on October 31st.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Building with Books

I've been gradually becoming a rabid fan of Flea Market Style magazine, and with every new issue I read I find more and more new ideas on how to upcycle and turn inexpensive yard sale, flea market and rummage sale finds into neat things for the home and office. While some of the ideas are of the DIY craft variety, many articles simply tell you how to take an alternative approach to decor by arrangement, or how you can use your antiques or unusual items in a different way (i.e. if you collect old large medicine bottles, why not clean them out and put them to work as wine decanters?)

The magazine's blog, which I've just tracked down, is an ongoing online photo album of fabulous finds. At present they don't have a subsciption option, although you can purchase individual issues by mail (I get my copies at the local grocery store.) There is also not a digital version at present, although I expect that is in the works.

FMS's Winter 2013 issue is so good I've been buying extra copies and handing it out to pals. as it's chock full of some neat ideas on how to show off your thrifty finds and junklove collections (including a really neat way to display some unusual objects as wreaths, which would be cool for the winter holiday season ahead.) One of my favorite articles in the issue involves how to turn unlikely objects into side and end tables, which includes old/unwanted hardcover books (far right side of the pic):

I think the stacking of the books could be more attractively done, and I wouldn't paint it white. Still, the magazine includes instructions on how to make the table of books, and it doesn't require much in the way of supplies. For this project you also don't have to drill through the books, so ideally with a few adjustments to the project you could preserve them in their original condition while having them serve another purpose. If you collect a certain author and turn the books so that the spine titling faces out, it could make a really interesting homage piece, too.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Free Reads from XOXO After Dark

XOXO After Dark, one of my Disenchanted & Co. publisher's community web sites, is now featuring a very cool page of free reads each month:

Here you’ll find XOXO After Dark’s Free Reads—complete e-books that you can read, for free, in your browser, tablet or smartphone. A new free ebook is added each week and each book is available to read for 30 days. Just be sure to check the expiration dates listed below. And don’t worry if you don’t have time to read it all in one sitting (who does?)—our e-reader will remember your place and take you right to the page you were on the last time you closed the book.

Keep checking to find free novels in all sorts of genres—romance, urban fantasy, women’s fiction, suspense and more. And if you like what you read, we hope you’ll be encouraged to try more by these authors, whom you can find in our shop. In order to take advantage of these free books, you’ll need to register with our site the first time you use the e-reader and login every time you return. Once you’ve done that, our bookshelf is your bookshelf—enjoy!

If you want to test drive an author, there's no better way than reading one of their full-length novels, so this could help you discover some great new writers and series for the price of registering.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Anti-Slump Ten

Ten Things to Help Defeat Writing Slumps

Alter Your Lighting: The wrong lighting can make a writing space feel more like a dentist's office or hospital room than a place of creativity. Combat this by inviting natural light into your space (open the curtains or blinds over windows during the day) or by changing out your light bulbs to softer varieties (some energy-efficient bulbs are now available with coatings that make them seem more like incandescent light). You can also create a background for your monitor (and cover up wall paint that is reflecting too much light into your face) by hanging a warm-colored length of fabric or a shawl, quilt or coverlet you like on the wall behind your computer. Don't forget that a glare screen for your monitor (or changing the display settings) can also help if the light from it bothers you.

Challenge Yourself for a Reward: Writer's don't get a regular paycheck like everyone else, so it's important to set up something in lieu of that. One reason I never stop writing is because I have a system of regular rewards for meeting my weekly goals. Last week it was having lunch out with my kid; this week it will be a visit to Barnes & Noble in the city. Having something you really love or want dangling as a carrot at the end of a writing session or work week can be a nice payoff as well as motivation to work.

Change Your Space: A writing space needs to be an oasis of creativity for you, and if yours isn't working that way it may be time for some changes. Some ideas: try moving your work station and/or furnishings to alter the arrangement of your space; remove some clutter to give yourself clean surfaces; or add an atmospheric enhancer (scented candles, a stereo to play music, or hang some new pictures within your visual field).

Do Something You Hate More First: I really hate doing laundry, and when I really want to feel good about my writing session I'll do the wash first. By the time I'm finished being able to write feels like a reward, and I've also knocked out a chore I despise.

Meditate Before Writing Sessions: I've been harping about this method for years, I know, but clearing the cob webs out of your thoughts and finding the right focus can make all the difference. You don't have to tackle meditation by any traditional method, either. Simply take a half-hour before your next writing session to sit somewhere quiet, release any negative thoughts or emotions, and reach for inner calm.

Remove All Distractions: That phone/television/gadget you love? Turn it off and then take it out of your writing space so you won't be tempted to check it. Same goes for any other device that has nothing to do with writing. Unplug from the internet, too. Don't worry, it will all still be there when you're finished.

Skip Ahead: Often one difficult-to-write page or scene or chapter can act like a roadblock to creativity. If you can't write it now, why let it derail you altogether? Set it aside and move on to the next page, scene or chapter. This skipping provides two advantages: you can recover your momentum by moving on, and give yourself some time to let that tough part percolate in your subconscious for a while. When you are ready to try tackling it again, your mood will also likely be improved, you'll have more story finished and you'll probably feel better about the work -- all of which are excellent things to have when you make that second attempt.

Talk it Out with a Writer Friend: No one understands a writer in a slump better than another writer, and if you have someone in your writing life whom you trust, it may help to reach out to them and get some practical advice. Now, that said, I don't think you should use writer friends as constant creative crutches, as becoming dependent on them to bail you out whenever you get blocked can cripple you as much as the blocks themselves (as eventually you'll get to the point where you can't write anything without their help.) Nor should you expect a writer pal to have the answer to your problem every single time. But if you do have a big problem and someone you can trust, simply talking it out can release a lot of emotional frustration and dissolve some of the reasons for the slump.

Take a Walk: Physical activity + fresh air usually = internal change. I walk my dogs every day, and lately I've been taking extra walks to soak up the sunshine before the colder weather arrives. When it rains, as it has nearly every day this summer, I can go someplace where I can walk around inside (museums and malls are great for that.) If you're not an outdoor walker type, go work out at the gym, go window-shopping, or take a bike ride. The idea is to get your blood pumping and your muscles working (but as with all new physical activity, make sure you're healthy enough to do it and/or get the okay from your physician.) Most writers spend entirely too much time indoors, and if that describes you a daily walk might be just the thing you need to stomp over your slump.

Write Something New (and Short): We spend weeks and months and sometimes years working on the same project, and growing tired of it can contribute to a slump. To combat the long-term writing project blues, take a break to write something else -- something new, short and that won't take longer to write than a day or two. This can be a poem, short story, blog post, Twitter rant, Facebook entry or whatever you like. If the new idea seems more appealing than the big project, set it aside and use it as a carrot every week to motivate yourself to finish the original story (i.e., if you reach your weekly writing goal, give yourself one day to work on the new idea.)

Do you have any special tricks you use to get out of a writing slump? Please share them in comments.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

All You Can Read

Digital Trends has an interesting article here on Oyster, a newly-launched reader subscription service that "allows subscribers to read as many books as they want for a monthly subscription price of $9.95." At the moment they're invitation-only, but the company is accepting invitation requests from iPhone users (which you can sign up for here).

While the article claims Oyster has 100K in available titles, I'm guessing their inventory will at first be limited to licensed/in-print works, or the usual public domain freebies (I couldn't find any titles list on their site, so what they actually have in stock is a big question mark.) But if Oyster can get authors as well as publishers on board with their service, very soon they may be able to provide readers with a very cost-effective alternative to purchasing single titles.

Friday, September 06, 2013


Just imagine if your desk lamp had a personality (and mind) of its own (some background music and sound effects, for those of you at work):

Pinokio from adambd on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

ReadWave Writing Challenges

Rob Tucker, the community manager over at ReadWave, got in touch with me on a new feature at his site that can help those of you who want to develop or work on your writing routine:

ReadWave has launched a new hub dedicated to weekly writing challenges. The weekly challenges are designed to inspire you with writing prompts, and to motivate you to sit down and write at least once a week.

ReadWave is a place for writers to share articles and short stories with the world, and is now home to tens of thousands of stories which are collectively read over 200,000 times each month.

The best entries will be posted up on the ReadWave homepage and showcased to the entire readwave readership, and the author will be interviewed on the ReadWave blog.

The writing challenge page is here, and currently has the following prompt:

Don't you sometimes wish you could write a letter to your 13 year old self, explaining all the things that are going to happen to you, and the things you wish you'd known. Write it now!

The core services of ReadWave (uploading, reading and sharing) are free, and stories on the site can be shared on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. If you're interested in building an online readership with free content but would rather not meddle with a web site or blog, ReadWave is an interesting alternative.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Hiveword Goes Knockout

I'm a big fan of Mike Fleming's Hiveword, the online novel organizer, so when he teamed up with author James Scott Bell to create Knockout Novel I was very interested. James writes amazing how-to books (which I've recommended via my posts For Whom the Bell Toils and Writer Wars), and the idea of having him as a virtual writing coach is pretty fabulous.

Knockout Novel works with Hiveword, which you use while you go through the instructions and prompts provided by James (which are based on his #1 bestselling how-to, Plot & Structure.) As you do, you begin building your story outline in Hiveword via your responses. You can take as long as you like with each section in Knockout, and you can use it over and over again for different stories, so it's self-paced and perpetual. All of this is done and stored online, so you don't have to download anything (or worry about losing it.) According to Mike's info, updates are also automatic and free, so as the program improves you won't have to purchase newer versions.

Let's be clear about one thing: Knockout Novel does not write your book for you, or tell you how to do it in thirty days, or any of that other online how-to hokey stuff I see too many writers buy into. What Knockout does is show you how to organize and refine your existing story ideas as well as create and develop what you haven't thought about yet. I'm a self-taught writer, so I had to learn all these things by trial and error; this program virtually eliminates all that frustration. I think it's also valuable for experienced writers because it can get you out of the rut of you've been doing and show you some different directions to take with story organization (which can also help you in whatever areas you've always been weak, and/or rejuvenate your love for the craft.) Pantsers, I know the word organization makes you break out in hives, but if you want to try plotting for a change you'll have James Scott Bell as your advisor with Knockout. The guy won't talk down to you or waste your time; when it comes to teaching the craft I think he's one of the best in the business. Since the program is designed to work with all genres it will fit any type of story, too.

Knockout Novel is currently priced at $49.00 U.S., which is comparable to or cheaper than most of the how-to online programs I've seen come and go. The prospect of having James Scott Bell personally show you how to organize a story is worth that much, and since it works within Hiveword you'll also learn how to use that. I think it's definitely worth the investment so I bought in, and will be using it this winter for a couple of different projects.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

SmartEdit Update

The folks at SmartEdit, my favorite fiction editing software, has just release their latest version of the program with some new features (copied the following from the change log):

Version 3.101 (Release date: August 29th, 2013)

1. Minor release, but contains key new functionality -- free to all licensed users

2. New "Export Reports & Print Reports" toolbar

3. Export results of all checks to Excel (XLSX), CSV, Text (TXT), PDF or HTML

4. Export results of individual checks in the same formats

5. Print results of single checks or of all checks

6.10 Day Trial reset for all trial users

If you have trouble editing your work, don't know what to look for and/or want a completely impartial review, SmartEdit is the way to go. A license for the full program costs $59.95, but you can still test drive it via their free trial, so you can get a real feel for the program before you purchase. I don't often recommend paying for any software, especially with so many freeware alternatives available online. That said, after I did a thorough test drive I bought this one myself, and I use it every week for something, so I do believe it is worth the investment.

Related PBW Links:

Virtual Free Editor

More on Smart Edit

Monday, September 02, 2013

Freely Ten

Ten Things You Can Have for Free

Amibook is a "Free Personal Information Manager . You get a personal information manager to make your life easier, not harder. So why use a day planner that takes a course in school to learn to use? Most of us want to be able to keep our address book, keep track of the appointments and tasks we have scheduled, and send an email without worrying about spreading a virus. Amibook lets you do all that. Features: Remember what you have planned for today; Don’t miss appointments. Amibook lets you schedule appointments for any day, any week, any year. You can set alarms, so you are reminded if you do forget; Keep the contact information for friends and colleagues at the tip of your fingers; Don’t let email viruses use your computer to spread themselves. Amibook isn’t vulnerable to them. You can use Amibook’s address book to automatically start an email to send to someone at the touch of a button, or to everyone in an address book. You can access the websites in your address book or dial phone calls with a single click; Print envelopes for anyone to everyone in your address book; Have full printing capabilities. You can print out address books for the people you select, so you can put them in your paper planner. You can also print daily, weekly, or monthly calendars of your tasks and appointments. Amibook supports full print preview so you know exactly what you’ll be printing, and by using custom page sizes you can print on paper sized to your planner; Are you using another personal organizer now? Amibook will both import and export from delimited text files, which most other programs support. It also imports other Amibook databases and the Window? Address Book; Get updates when you want them. You can access our updates page from within the program at any time to see if there is an update available. If there is, just download it and install it where you currently have Amibook installed. All your settings and data are saved; Protect your privacy. With Amibook, you have the option of encrypting your database, so only those with the password can see the contents of your sensitive personal information" (OS: Windows 2000 or higher.)

The free trial version of Budget uses an interesting envelope system for money management: "Use Budget to manage your real world checking, savings, or even credit card accounts at the same time as you're managing your expense envelopes. You Balance your account, print checks, and view your checkbook register. When you get paid you will manually distribute the income to your envelopes" [PBW notes: the free trial for this program has no expiration -- certain features are disabled and documents print with watermarks until you purchase the full version, so you can use it as long as you like to see if it will work for you] (OS: Mac OS X, Windows)

DesktopModify is a "program that cheers up your desktop making it cute and unique by arranging your icons into different shapes and styles. With it you can arrange your desktop icons into 77 different shapes and styles like circles, stars, hearts and other cool shapes which truly makes your desktop original and funny to work with" (OS: Windows)

DSpeech is a "TTS (Text To Speech) program with functionality of ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) integrated. It is able to to read aloud the written text and choose the sentences to be pronounced based upon the vocal answers of the user. It is specifically designed to quickly and directly provide the functions and improved practical usefulness that are requested by this kind of program. In the meantime, the invasiveness and resource consumption is minimal" (OS: Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista/7)

Lightened Dream is "a journal designed for dreamers in search of lucidity. Follow its directions and you will be bending the laws of reality while getting a good night´s rest" [PBW notes that while I seriously doubt this program could even ding the laws of reality, dream journalists might find it an interesting resource/experiment] (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

Task Coach is a "simple open source todo manager to keep track of personal tasks and todo lists. It is designed for composite tasks, and also offers effort tracking, categories, notes and more" [PBW notes: This program is free for desktop, but there's a small charge for iOS versions] (OS: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch)

Todo Plus is "a free to-do list program for Windows. Features: Easy to use — TodoPlus is designed with productivity and simplicity in mind. It is both fast and easy to manage many tasks;; Sub-tasks — You can have many levels of sub-tasks, that can be opened and closed like folders. This is a great way to break down large projects into smaller projects; Filters — Focus on your most important tasks using filters. Hide the unimportant tasks and finished tasks; Password protection — You can add a password to each file. Files are encrypted and backed up; Accessibility — Keyboard shortcuts for anything! Fast access to tools. Resizable fonts. You can use your mouse, but you don´t have to; Multiple lines per task — Tasks titles can have multiple lines of text, so you can keep everything within the task list. If you need more space, just add sub-tasks; Search for keywords — Search through large files for text/TAG´s, like : ´buy´, ´email´, ´call´, ´urgent´ or just ´*´. This way you are able to finish a group of related tasks faster; Continue your where you left off — TodoPlus remembers all your settings including window size and position, font type and size, filter settings, file history, the last opened file and edit positions; Import/Export tasks — You can import text files. You can also import/insert many tasks at the same time in TodoPlus if you want to copy a checklist from a website, a text edition or an email etc. Use HTML-Previews to be able to transferred your to-do list to other software like text editors, email software, calendars and website editors" (OS: Designer notes: "Cross-platform — TodoPlus is released for both Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, and you can share the same files between the two")

Ultimate Calendar is a "free, easy to use calendar with rich features and settings. Features: Calendar for any year from 1 to 9999-th in table and list; Common and personal dates differing by sets and groups; Movable, cyclical, periodical, particular dates; Internal editor for easy work with dates sets; Two view modes: Whole year and Monthly; Popup window which contains the list of nearest events and displayed when the mouse hovers over the tray icon; Tracking change of day; Options «Autostart on system startup», «Hide to tray on minimize», *new* «Run only one copy», *new* «Always on top»; Plugins support. Distribution includes the following plugins: ◦Sun and Moon. Displays, in accordance with the selected geographic location, the time of rise and set of Sun and Moon, the duration of the solar and lunar day, the current phase of the Moon ◦Julian dates. Displays the date on the Julian calendar (old style), Julian Day and Modified Julian Day; Displaying schemes support; Export to Microsoft Excel and formats BMP, RTF, TXT; Multilingual interface and Unicode support; Contains predefined dates sets with holidays and events for Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, USA" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7)

Viva Start Menu's designer notes: "In Windows 8, Microsoft has replaced the Start Menu with a new Start Screen filled with flashy "Live Tiles." The new interface is cool and has a wow-factor, but not everyone is ready to get rid of the start menu. Viva Start Menu gives you the power to restore the start menu on Windows 8. We also include a shortcut to the Live Tiles modern desktop and lots of options to customize your start menu experience" (OS: Windows 8)

X Sticky Notes is a "simple, effective, useful and user-friendly sticky notes & reminder for windows. It expands the meaning of sticky note with many features: You can let notes stay on top always, or pin notes to desktop, notes always show even pressed Win+D; You can hide your note by dragging it to any edge of your screen, When the cursor touches the hiding note´s border, it will show again; You can stick note to window or program, for e.g. document or web page; You can copy & paste anything into note; You can drag & drop files(documents, programs, pictures), folders as note´s attachments. The attachment can place anywhere in your texts, double-click to open it; You can set reminder by day, week, month, etc.; and you can save and backup all your important notes" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.