Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wishing You

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

West Coast Attitude

According to this (brief) geographical attitude test, which evidently matches your personality with the U.S. state best suited to it, I should be residing on the other side of the country:

Since I have a sister who lives there that will have to do. So where should you be living? Take the test and let us know in comments.

(Test link swiped from Gerard over at The Presurfer.)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

SF Story Contest

The 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest is now open: "Since its early days, science fiction has played a unique role in human civilization. It removes the limits of what "is" and shows us a boundless vista of what "might be." Its fearless heroes, spectacular technologies and wondrous futures have inspired many people to make science, technology and space flight a real part of their lives and in doing so, have often transformed these fictions into reality. The National Space Society and Baen Books applaud the role that science fiction plays in advancing real science and have teamed up to sponsor this short fiction contest in memory of Jim Baen." Length and theme: "Write a short story of no more than 8,000 words, that shows the near future (no more than about 50-60 years out) of manned space exploration." Prizes: "The GRAND PRIZE winner will be published as the featured story on the Baen Books main website and paid at the normal paying rates for professional story submittals. The author will also receive an engraved award, free entry into the 2014 International Space Development Conference, a year's membership in the National Space Society and a prize package containing various Baen Books and National Space Society merchandise. SECOND and THIRD place winners will receive a year's membership in the National Space Society and a prize package containing various Baen Books and National Space Society merchandise." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see contest page for more details. Deadline: February 1, 2014

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween Helps Ten

Ten Things to Help with Your Halloween Celebrations

Cooking Light magazine serves up 5 healthier Halloween snack recommendations.

For excellent tips on how to keep everyone's Halloween safe as well as fun, check out the CDC's Halloween Health and Safety Tips page.

Food Network's Halloween page has recipes, decorating ideas, how-tos and lots of other things to fill your All Hallow's Eve with delicious delights.

Download free Halloween songs and sounds here. has some neat Halloween crafts you can do with your kids here (and I'm in love the pasta skeletons.)

If you need some games to play at your Halloween party, check out this list at Halloween Games 101.

Homemade Halloween decorations are thrifty and fun, and Better Homes & Gardens tells you how to make up your own for inside and outside the house. has all the info you'll need to create a nifty jack-o-lantern.

Need some spooky recipes for your Halloween dinner or party? has a bunch here.

Real Simple has Simple Halloween Costume Ideas you can make for the whole family.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments (and I'll probably be very late today.)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Win with Wattpad

I was checking out the NaNoWriMo sponsor offer page for this year and noticed this intriguing addition:

"Wattpad is a free writing and reading app that unlocks a global audience of more than 18 million readers. It is mobile and web-based, meaning that your writing is always with you, wherever and whenever you find inspiration and time to write. In honor of NaNoWriMo, Wattpad will be offering a $2,000 prize to one lucky NaNoWriMo winner who is also a Wattpad user. Check back on November 1st for contest details."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Shoe In

Just a follow-up note on the video contest over at You Gotta Read -- voting is now open until 10/27, and if you'd like to cast a ballot for Her Ladyship's Curse (or any of the competition), click here.

If you've ever wondered how much work is involved with hand-making shoes, this fascinating video gives you a crash course in a few minutes (with background music and sound effects, for those of you at work):

Geology of Shoes from Petr KrejĨí on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Interesting Sub Op

Eggplant Literary Productions has an open call for Spindles, their upcoming fairytale-themed adult antho: "Stories should follow the standard fairy tale structure, but can be placed in any time period. We’ll only be publishing one version of each story (so one Cinderella, on Snow White, etc.) so authors are encouraged to submit as many different stories as they want. We are looking for fairy tales from all over the world; not just Grimm and Anderson." They're also looking for "fairy tales retold to feature POC, LGBT and disabled characters, as well as non-Western European and non-North American settings." No erotica for this one, however. Length: up to 5K; Payment: 5¢/word according to Ralan. No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: April 30th, 2014

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I've shuffled through the PBW archives to find old posts I think may be useful to those of you who are planning to participate in National Novel Writing Month. Here's the list along with some brief explanations:

ABCharacter -- a quick and easy way to outline a character.

Endweek NaNoPost -- making cover art for your NaNonovel along with some resource links.

Hiveword -- my review of Mike Fleming's terrific online novel organizer.

NaNo Now What? -- my suggestions on how to edit your NaNonovel once you're finished.

Midweek NaNoPost -- if you're a late starter, stuck in a rut, or you like to beat yourself up over anything writing-related, join the No Expectations Club via this pep talk.

NaNoFun -- Scroll down past the old 2010 badges to find some links to fun, free NaNoWriMo-friendly widgets.

NaNoNotebook -- how making up a notebook for your NaNonovel can help, with links to helpful freeware.

NaNoStuff Ten -- a list of freeware for NaNoWriMo'ers.

NaNoTen -- ten things to try when writing your NaNoWriMo book.

NaNoWriMo Wednesday -- some thoughts on planning your November novel, along with some links on outlining resources.

NaNoWriMojo Ten -- ten things to try when you're feeling blocked, it's no more fun, the magic has gone caput, etc.

Old Rides, New Roads -- my suggestions on how to evaluate an old story idea and its potential to serve as inspiration for your November novel.

Prep Talks -- The Mountain, Stand Out Characters, Food and Fire and Glass Wisdom.

Ready, Set, NaNoWriMo -- ideas and resources for November 1st.

Red Notebook -- my review on this interesting, helpful virtual calendar/notebook freeware.

You Are My Fire -- my storyteller's take on why we write, and for whom.

Writing Your Dragons -- how to handle writing something you hate to write.

Got any helpful links to share with our NaNoWriMo'ers? Please post them in comments.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Library Thing Promo Giveaways

Each month Library Thing, the online book catalog service that I've used to keep track of my personal library, gives away free copies of books for review to interested members, which is a very cool way to distribute the freebies they receive. I've just learned that members can also give away copies of their own published books for review purposes, too. Since the giveaways are open to e-books as well as print, this can be a very practical (and free) way for indie authors to promote their titles to reviewers. Since the giveaway books are awarded only to members who request them this means they'll definitely go to someone who is genuinely interested in reading them.

To find out more about giving away review copies of your books on Library Thing, go to the Members Giveaway page here and read the information on the sidebar.

Added: I've put up Library Thing giveaways for Her Ladyship's Curse and His Lordship Possessed; the winners will receive a code to download a free e-pub copy from (there are twenty copies of each book available for the giveaways; and since this is redeemable from the publisher site it is restricted to U.S. readers only.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Target Ten

Ten Things for Writers from Target

1. Wonderland Stationery Set: This set will definitely come in handy if you need to take office supplies on a trip but don't want to pack up an entire tote of writer junk to lug along with you. Contents: a small notepad, pen, stapler, staples, paperclips, 4 binder clips and two button magnets. Makes a nice little gift for your favorite writer, too. The set has a dark purple color theme, and have little bitty hearts on two of the binder clips and one of the magnets, so probably better for the ladies. Clearance priced at $4.98 each.

2. Greenroom File Folders: 80% of these folders are recycled fiber, and they're printed with nontoxic soy-based inks, so definitely enviro-friendly. A sheet of blank tab labels is included, and the floral designs on the folders make a nice change from vanilla manila, too. $4.29 for pack of 12.

3. Wonderland Letter Size Notebook: This spiral bound notebook contains 100 wide-ruled pages with four built-in dividers; the covers and dividers are plain brown craft board that can be easily crafted into something more decorative and personal. $9.99 each.

4. & 5. Green-Inspired Blank Journals: Printed on FSC-certified paper with soy and metallic inks, these blank books have wide-ruled pages and a ribbon marker, and are a greener choice for your journaling needs. $9.99 each.

6. Post-It Notes Super Sticky Week Planner Pad: Plan out your entire week on one large sticky note divided by day with ruled sections for your notes; 25 pages per pad. $5.54 each.

7. One Subject Spiral Bound Notebook: 70 college-ruled pages with plain brown covers you can craft into something cool. $1.50 each.

8. InkJoy Non-Retractable Multi-Color Pens: Shawna convinced me to give these PaperMate ballpoint ink pens another try; more on them once I do the test-drive. $3.89 for a pack of 18.

9. Gold Bar Noteblock: This is a fun, chunky little notepad that looks exactly like a bar of gold on the outside, and has nice amber pages inside for all your noting needs. Definitely a cute gift for the writer who has everything. $8.95 each.

10. Wonderland PadFolio: A clipboard cover with a letter-sized pad and pocket inside, this folio is decorated with an artsy girl design but has sturdy covers and will keep your writing stuff neat and contained. $7.99 each.

All of the above items were purchased at Target on 10/08/13, so prices may vary. If you go shopping, look for the Wonderland products on the bargain endcaps in the store's office supply section.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Raised by a Barn

During our last road trip we stopped for gas, and I caught a glimpse of this property across the street from the station:

I don't know why the old ramshackle structure caught my interest so immediately. I think it was because on my side of the street everything was pristine and landscaped; a few feet from the gas station was a nice hotel. Also, there was a stern No Trespassing sign nailed to a tree on the perimeter (and for the record, I didn't trespass; I just used my zoom.)

The structure, which I decided was a barn, seemed a little menacing, too:

When I zoomed in to get a closer shot, I saw more things that intrigued me: the overgrown trees and brush around it, the signs of damage to the roof and siding, the odd red color, and the absense of a door:

Everything could be explained, of course. I was probably seeing the backside of the barn, which are often red in color, and was likely damaged by wind and debris during a storm. The farmers in this region are always struggling just to get by, too, so it's logical to assume this one hasn't had the time or funds to trim the trees and shrubs.

That didn't matter to my storyteller side, which kicked in immediately to demand: What's inside?

No door -- and now you might notice, no windows, either. Damage. Overgrowth. No trespassing. Red that is definitely not barn red. Across the street from a hotel and a gas station. Lots of cars, traffic, and people from other places.

I will never know what's really inside that barn, but that doesn't matter, because I'm going to put something inside it on the page. I'll have reasons for lack of doors and windows, and why the farmer neglects it, and what is responsible for that weird red color, and finally, what happens when someone does find a way inside the barn.

Next time you're traveling, try taking pics of some random structures that catch your eye. Use that place as a jumping-off point for a story, and you may find it tells you all sorts of things, too.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Le Retour

We outgrow a lot of things, but as this brief and entirely charming animated video by Natalia Chernsheva assures us, some of them still have the power to take us back (this one has some background music and sound, for those of you at work):

Le retour from Natalia Chernysheva on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Waiting For

For everyone who has griped about having to wait until 2014 for The Clockwork Wolf, you should know authors do the same. Probably more often than you do. In fact, I'm about to yell at e-mail Charlene Teglia and give her some grief for getting me hooked on this writer as I wait on her next release:

And yes, I have to wait until FEBRUARY to read it.

So who are you waiting on for their next release? Let us know in comments (and don't say me!)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

ACEing Your Story Colors

I tagged along with my guy when he took a trip to ACE Hardware recently, and found some excellent (and free!) color charts in their paint department:

The charts are for ACE's Colors for Your Life interior paint, but what's interesting is how they put together the palettes. Each folder is named with a theme word, and I picked up the charts for Charming, Classic, Cozy, Historic, Organic, Playful, Progressive, Romantic, Serene, Sophisticated, Tranquil and Worldly. Inside the tri-fold pages are 48 different colors to represent the theme word, but they're further subdivided into different moods:

This chart, themed as Charming offered combinations of nine different shades with sub headers of Cheerful, Alluring, Fresh and Blissful. There were also other combinations on the right side foldout page to give you some alternative colors and grouping ideas for your Charming palette.

I really liked the Tranquil chart, which offered Relaxing, Spiritual, Dreamy and Peaceful shades of the sort of sea and sand colors I like best:

The Progressive chart had an interesting mix of bold and soft colors subheaded by Complex, Edgy, Confident and Trendy:

Some of the individual shade names were quite inventive, too. I responded immediately to Crystal Lake, Peace River, Moongrass, Prince's Robe and Mysterious Monique, which along with their particular shades almost begged to be written into a story.

I've talked about how to use color palettes to inspire characters and story elements, and you can find paint charts at any home improvement store. I think ACE Paint charts could be especially helpful to writers who want to try working with color palettes for their stories but aren't quite sure how to put them together. While I don't agree with all of ACE Paint's ideas on color themes -- the Romantic chart, for example, relied heavily on pink, a color which immediately invokes for me Barbie, breast cancer, cover art disasters and/or indigestion -- most of the groupings do fit the theme. Some may even surprise you.

For those of you who want to refine the visual aspects of your settings, each of the ACE paint color charts also show at least two room shots with examples of how an individual shade or a group palette works in an actual setting to invoke the theme mood.
The next time you're at ACE Hardware, stop by their paint department and pick up some charts, and see how they inspire you to create some new color palettes for your stories.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Recycle X 5: Junk Mail Journal

For my final Recycle X 5 project I wanted to go totally green and make a journal out of other recyclable materials I have on hand. One thing I receive a ton of every week is junk mail, and this time of year is when the gift catalogs begin arriving by the dozens, too. I generally use unwanted gift catalogs as work mats for things I apply glue stick adhesive to (the pages protect my work surface, and when I want to glue something else I just flip to the next catalog page for a new work surface.)

There are some especially beautiful catalogs I receive in the mail like Victorian Trading that I hate to mess up with glue or part with because they're so neat to look through, and I picked one of my older catalogs intending to cut it up and use some of the product illustrations for some journal pages. I even hated the idea of that, and then I thought, why don't I recycle the entire catalog by making into a journal?

To make my junk mail journal, here's what you'll need:

One piece of cardboard that is as tall and twice as wide as the size journal you want to make, folded in half

A junk mail catalog large enough to serve as pages for your journal

A glue stick

A heavy-duty stapler (long arm is best, but one you can open up and use to fasten something bulky will work, too)

Staple remover

An old stretchable school text book cover (if you have kids, you probably have a dozen of these sitting in a drawer somewhere. If not, you can probably find one at your local dollar store)

Scissors and/or paper trimmer

Assorted used paper that has one blank side

To start, first make sure the catalog you're using is large enough to serve as pages. If it's larger, measure and mark where you need to trim it:

I used a combination of scissors and my paper trimmer to cut down my catalog:

When you're done, your catalog should look like this:

Now find the center of your catalog (where you can see the staples holding it together. Remove the staples on each end of the catalog, and then restaple them to your cardboard cover in the same places the old staples were. If your catalog is too bulky for this step you may need to remove some of the pages to reduce the size.

Once your catalog is stapled in place, cover your cardboard with your stretchy book cover (optional: glue or staple the cover in place.)

Outside of journal:

Now begin adding your blank-sided paper to each page of the catalog to create writing spaces by covering the used side of the paper with your glue stick and placing it on your catalog page:

If there's an image on the catalog page that you want to show, trim your writing paper into a shape that it doesn't cover it:

If you have some really gorgeous pages in your catalog, you can also use vellum so that the images show through the paper:

You can theme your junk mail journals according to how you want to use them -- for example, I'll be using mine as an idea journal for the Disenchanted & Co. series. If you'd rather make a sketch journal, use an old art supply catalog and some used, blank-sided sketch paper for your pages. Writers, if you have an old, skinny writing mag, use it with old manuscript pages to create a new story idea journal. Readers, one of those old book catalogs you pick up at your local chain bookstore would serve as a neat background for a reading journal. Or, if you're working on holiday plans, use a holiday gift catalog as a base for a winter planner, and some blocks from an old calendar as your writing spaces.

This project was a lot of fun, and (forgive the pun) got me thinking outside the box about how I reuse recyclable materials. It was also a nice recharge for my creative batteries. The next time you're stuck with some wasted cardboard I hope you'll try making it into something you can really use, too.

Monday, October 14, 2013

His Lordship Arrives

Today is the release day for His Lordship Possessed, the latest book in my new Disenchanted & Co. steampunk urban fantasy series for Pocket Star. This book wraps up the story that began with Her Ladyship's Curse in August, and will be combined with that book in the print edition of Disenchanted & Co., to be released in January. Takes notes because there will be a pop quiz on this later.

As most of you know the only income I have is from sales of my books, so if you would like to show your support for me, Paperback Writer, the Disenchanted & Co. blog, and all the other trouble I get into online you can invest in His Lordship. My thanks to you and those already have; you're the reason I keep at this gig.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Way of the Spinyback

I was out in the yard snapping photos of the sunset when I noticed something glittering over my guy's spare trailer:

The web was enormous -- probably six by eight feet in size -- and glowed like spun gold:

I thought it might have been built by one of the big orb weavers in our yard, but on closer inspection I found the maker in the very center of the web:

We call these little critters crab spiders, although they're actually a type of orb weaver called a spinybacked, or properly known as Gasteracantha cancriformis (Linnaeus). These spiders are extremely small; the largest I've ever seen was about as big as an M&M. This spinner was even tinier; I'm guessing she could lounge comfortably atop a pencil eraser.

Why this crabby little gal feels compelled to build such huge, intricate webs, I can't tell you. There's probably some scientific reason to explain it all, but when you look at it common sense tells you it has to be exhausting for her. Why doesn't she spin something smaller and less ambitious? It would certainly be easier, less noticeable and she'd probably get by just fine. All this work she does instead seems almost foolish.


Now imagine the spinybacked orb weaver as a writer, and the web she spins is the work. She could probably get by doing a third of the labor, sticking to modest expectations and producing something safe and sellable that won't attract a lot of notice. Many writers do, and make nice careers that way, and likely have comfortable, happy lives. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all glorious or memorable about it, either.

Anyway. There are no shortcuts for the spinybacked orb weaver. She stays true to her vision, does all the work involved and creates something extraordinary. For the short time she's here, she gives it her all, and I can't imagine she has any regrets. She might be small, and not particularly attractive, but she builds castles of silk and light in the air. Even better, she lives in them.

And as a template for the writing life, you don't get much better than that.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dancing with Books

This delightful video from Type Books in Canada will make you wonder what your books do after you go to bed (some background music, for those of you at work):

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Juniper Moon CSA Shares

This year I became a CSA share holder in Juniper Moon, an organic, no-kill farm that produces yarn and fiber from humanely-treated sheep and goats. I first read about Juniper Moon in Country Living magazine, and it's exactly the sort of enterprise I like to support. Also, I just thought it would be cool to get some yarn directly from the source.

In return for investing in the farm I receive a share of their clip, which arrived last week:

The wool is a lovely creamy white, and still smells like the sheep at the farm (this is because while it's beautifully milled it's not washed, and arrives with all the lanolin still intact.) To get it ready for my project, I had to first wash it in some Dawn and rinse with vinegar:

Once the skeins were clean they fluffed up quite a bit, as you can see from when I put them out on the back porch to dry:

After drying them in the sunshine I then began winding them up into balls (for crocheting it's easier for me to work with a ball versus a skein):

Now every morning I'm using my yarn to work on a holiday project. Crocheting is something I can usually do without thinking about it, especially if I use a simple, in-the-round pattern that I can easily memorize. This also gives me time/space to think about the current WIP and all my other writing projects, or just relax and think about nothing at all.

As you might guess with my crabby fingers it's slow going, but that's fine; I'm in no hurry. The wool is amazingly light and has a very smooth hand, and while now and then I have to pick out a stray dark hair or a tiny bit of grass it's been a lot of fun to use. As to what I'm making, you'll have to wait and see, but here's one block to give you a hint:

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Substitute NaNoWriMo Badges

I'm not really in love with the participant "Nano Flair" badges the folks over at National Novel Writing Month are offering for 2013, so instead of posting them on my Photobucket account as I do every year I've made up some artful substitutes (and to get the image link, hover your cursor over the image you want, or grab the links below):


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Recycle X 5: Mini-Binder

For my fourth project with recycling cardboard I decided to make a mini-binder for some visual ephemera related to the Disechanted & Co. series. There were a couple of problems along the way (one stain never really dried, and I had trouble getting the duct tape on straight) so I need to repeat the project and work out a few bugs before I post directions for it.

In the meantime, here's a slideshow of how I worked on it from start to finish:

LynnViehl's Mini Bonder album on Photobucket

Monday, October 07, 2013

Blues Buster Ten

Someone (you know who you are) asked if I would expand on my Anti-Slump ten list last month with more specifics on how to cope with depression. So here are

Ten More Things to Help Bust the Blues

Accept What You Can't Change: You probably won't make $95 million dollars from your writing, because you have to compete with 95 million other writers who want that. Or maybe you got 95 million rejection letters last year. Whatever is happening in the biz is going to happen and unless you're the CEO of a huge publishing house you can't do anything to change it (here's a secret: neither can most of those CEOs.) Getting upset, brooding and/or feeling despair over things you cannot possible change prevent you from changing what you can, and moving forward, and enjoying your writing life. So: let it go. Accept that there will always be things about Publishing that you can't change, and that will stop them from depressing you and getting between you and the page.

Attitude Shift: With all the challenges involved with the work it's easy to fall into the trap of a negative attitude toward it. Being creative on demand is tough enough without piling dread or despair or doubts on top of it, and when you do that, you're really fighting yourself. The next time you go into your writing space, leave the bad attitude outside. Don't think about writing and all the negative things you've been associating with it. Think about nothing but the work. Aka just sit your butt in the chair and write.

Do What You Can (Instead of Hating Yourself for What You Can't): I got a shot last week and had a minor reaction to it, which temporarily disabled my left arm and resulted in constant, nagging discomfort for four days. Every time I moved my arm, pain would shoot up into my shoulder and neck, so I couldn't get any of my housework or sewing done. Which frustrated me to no end, until I considered how lucky I am. It's true that I have to get shots every couple of months, but I have friends with diabetes who have to face the needle every single day. I needed the shot, and I knew from experience that the pain would eventually disappear, and I'd get back my arm. In the meantime, I could do other things that didn't require both arms. Which I did, and subsequently knocked out one major project for October before the month even started ( and I couldn't have done that if I was wallowing in misery.)

Help Someone Else: I bet you know a person who is having a tough time right now, too, and I also bet you could do something to help. Combat your blues by doing something for them -- write them an e-mail, ask how they're doing, and/or offer your shoulder for them to lean on. This will help you stop worrying about yourself by focusing on a friend's troubles. If you and your friend are writers and a good match for critiquing, offer to swap your latest chapters. If you're both readers, ask if they want to swap the latest good book you've each read. If you live close enough, meet up for coffee or lunch.

Learn Something New: There are tons of free tutorials and classes about innumerable subjects online, and I'm sure at least one of them covers a topic of interest to you. Do a search for a free class on something you want to learn and take it.

Makeover Your Writing Space: Cherstin mentioned in comments last week that she was rearranging her writing space, and I think as a one-day project that could be a great mood booster. Take a day off from writing to give your space a makeover, clean up any clutter, alter how your work area is arranged, and otherwise change things up.

Set More Reasonable Goals: It's tempting to try to write enormous amounts of new pages every time you go to the keyboard, but that's often a guaranteed recipe for burnout, too. If you're finding your writing time is becoming more of a burden every day, and/or you're not getting what you want on the page, reset your goals to more reasonable levels. Instead of trying to write 3000 words in one session, go for 1500; if you're spending four hours at the keyboard, cut it back to two. What you lose in quantity you'll probably gain back in quality.

Talk Shop: Every writer has particular areas of expertise with the craft as well as things about it that they love. Sharing insight into some element of the craft can shift your focus from what's depressing you to what you do very well or what you'd like to improve. Write up a post about it, invite your visitors to discuss the topic and contribute what you can to help them.

Vent Constructively: Unplug from the internet, which is probably the source of 75% of your frustration, and channel your negative feelings in another direction. I use the work and my journals on days when I'm really aggravated. Most often I write a really vicious action scene and pour all my ire onto the page. If I'm too upset for that, I'll shove everything aside, grab my anger journal and indulge in a long, private tirade over whatever is bothering me (and whenever I finish an anger journal I burn it, and that always feels wonderful, too.)

Wander Off Creatively: On my worst day last month some books arrived with a pile of brand-new cardboard used as packing. I hate waste like this, so at first it didn't improve my mood at all. Then I thought of that quotation Be the change you want to see in the world and wondered if I could make something out of it. I've never worked much with corrugated cardboard except as picture backing, so that was an immediate challenge, as was coming up with designs of things things I would actually use. That day I started my Recycle X 5 project. I know how silly it may sound to everyone else, but you can't believe how much fun I've had cooking up new ideas to recycle this cardboard. The project has also provided something positive for me to look forward to every week (and project #4, which I'll show you tomorrow, was especially fun.) Now I'm almost sorry I didn't get ten pieces of cardboard in that box. Creatively wandering off like this with a short-term, spontaneous project can recharge the batteries and give you a breather from whatever's plaguing you.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

SF Sub Op

Infinite Acacia has an open call for their upcoming Infinite Science Fiction antho: "We want good science fiction stories. We define SF as broadly as possible. However, please note that fantasy is NOT science fiction. Neither is horror or magical realism. If in doubt about your story's genre, please send it." They also note: "Science Fiction is burdened by a white male shadow hanging over the genre. If you are a woman, better yet if you are a non-white woman, please send in your story. It will be judged solely on quality, but we will be rooting for it to be excellent. If you're a white male, don't fret. We don't discriminate." [PBW notes: nicely put.] Length and payment: "Payment: 1 cent per word for the first 4,000 words." [PBW notes: has the length in the market listing as being from 2-6K, and since Ralan is usually right, I'd go with that, but query if you want to confirm.] No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: December 31st, 2013.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Video Contest

No film for you all this week as I'm off to prepare for the latest tropical storm headed our way. However, I do have one elsewhere; the official book video for Disenchanted & Co. is being featured today over at You Gotta Read Reviews in a contest for, you guessed it, videos. I entered it because I think Jeff Somers (the producer) is a genius, plus it was a fun way to get more people to watch it.

Stop in if you have a chance, vote when you're able (I believe voting takes place at the end of October), and thanks in advance for your support.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Joy, Not So Much

Writers are always searching for the perfect pen, so I was quite interested when my friend Jill told me about a lovely commercial she saw for InkJoy, Paper Mate's "revolutionary" new retractable ink pen that promises "effortless" writing. Evidently these pens are so wonderful they practically write by themselves (as they did in the commercial, Jill insisted.) Since I have yet to find an effortless inexpensive writing instrument, and the arthritis in my hands makes finding one a perpetual quest, I had to check them out.

I found two different eight-packs of InkJoy pens at my local CVS store; one set of all-black and another with multicolor inks. As you see here, I bought the latter on sale for $3.99 and brough them home to test drive them.

According to the little story on the back of the package, Paper Mate designed Inkjoy to start "quickly without dragging" and writing with these pens "requires minimal pressure from your hand, and delivers crisp, clean lines every time." They also note "We hope that you feel the joy whenever you write with an InkJoy pen." I'm always prepared for writing joy, so I opened the package and tried out all of the pens.

As soon as I took out the black InkJoy pen the metal clip fell off, which was not a promising beginning. I tried a couple of times to wedge the clip component back in place with no luck. Then I discovered a small ball of soft, waxy goop on the tip, aka the "tip seal" the package claimed preserved the freshness of the pen. Unfortunately this substance had partially melted into the end of the barrel and took me three tries to remove completely. This resulted in ink smeared on my fingertips, something I did not find especially joyful.

The ink did start immediately once I put pen to paper, and flowed a bit better than most ball point pens I've used. Whatever substance or chemical Paper Mate used to make this joyful ink flow has a distinct smell I noticed immediately, rather like ballpoint ink on steroids. Disclaimer: I have a pretty sensitive nose so the ink stink may not bother most people.

I tested the light blue InkJoy next on a pad of writing paper, and again the waxy tip seal ball had partially melted into the barrel and took three tries to remove (wrestling with these tips seals obliged me to stop writing and go wash the ink off my hands several times, also not particularly joy-inspiring.) The ink of the light blue pen had the strongest smell, and the color itself was odd and a bit too light to be practical for writing purposes.

I then put all the pens to the ultimate test by using each in my current Moleskin writing journal. I love Moleskin journals, as they're beautifully made and have perfectly smooth pages, but the narrowness of the lines make them a challenge for me to write in. The ink continued to flow well from all the pens, with some globiness here and there. Pen weight and grip comfort does factor in when you're writing, and the lightness of the barrels and the plastic guards above the pen tips (if these are supposed to provide comfort, they're a total fail) didn't really help in that department at all.

I stopped using the InkJoy pens to switch to my Platinum Koi fountain pen, which is the most effortless pen I own, to compare the feel. The difference between InkJoy and my Koi in writing ease were pretty startling; the cramp that was beginning to set into my hand disappeared with the Koi, along with a lot of my tension. Disclaimer: the Koi has been my most faithful, dependable writing instrument for the last ten years; it has among other superb features a 14k gold nib, and a new one retails for about $300.00, so a 50₵ ball point really hasn't a hope in heaven of competing with it.

The colors of the ink were hit-and-miss for me. I liked the black and dark blue, which were the basic standard color of all ball point pens, but the other colors not so much. The red pen was not really red but more like a dark fuschia, which annoyed the hell out of me. I want red, not dark pink. The orange pen's ink was so light it rendered what I wrote almost unreadable. I then tried a smear test, and discovered the ink doesn't dry instantly. If you don't want to smear what you've written, you have to wait about five seconds for InkJoy to dry.

At no time during my testing of InkJoy did I experience a single moment of joy. Lots of annoyance, yes, a couple of moments of real aggravation, yes, but actual joy, nada.

I took apart the orange pen to look for the revolutionary ink technology I'd been promised, but found the components to be identical to any disposable ball point pen. Since InkJoy didn't deliver on most of Paper Mate's promises -- I think the pens really only provide decent ink flow, assuming you can get the tip seals off without tearing out your hair -- and you can usually find much bigger packs of ballpoint pens at your neighborhood dollar store, I can't recommend them as a good buy.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Laws of Physics? Need Not Apply

I read this college admissions essay for the first time over the weekend, and since 1) the web site hosting it is shutting down soon and 2) it is without a doubt the finest example of hyperbole humor I've ever read, I'm reposting it here:

This is an actual essay written by a college applicant. The author,
Hugh Gallagher, now attends NYU.


I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat .400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.

I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami.
Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

But I have not yet gone to college.

(Essay found over on Turtlenck and Chains)

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Recycle X 5: Sticky Notes Caddy

My third cardboard recycling project helped me solve another ongoing problem: finding sticky note pads. I own dozens in different sizes and shapes, and yet when I need actually one I find they've all migrated elsewhere (generally with the help of whoever last used it.)

To keep the sticky note pads I use most often in one spot in the office (and to make them harder for the family to filch) I used my cardboard to create a sticky notes caddy, as follows:

First I worked out how many notes I could fit on each side of the cardboard by arranging them until everything fit the space.

I then marked the cardboard with a marker by making a line at the top of each note pad for placement and as a cutting guide.

For the note pads that had strong, bendable backings I used a box cutter to cut a slit just below the placement line for that pad. When you do this, remember to be careful with the cutter or cutting utensil you use (most of them are insanely sharp), and work on a surface like a cutting mat, a piece of scrap wood, a bundle of newspapers or whatever you have that won't be ruined by the cutting process.

For the note pads that had flimsy backings I applied some strips of double-sided tape and stuck them to the carboard.

The first time I tried this I put the note pads on both sides inside the cardboard piece to make it more like a book, but that turned out to be a bit bulky and hard to keep closed. I thought about refolding the carboard, but decided to put half the note pads on the outside and half on the inside, and that worked better for me.