Friday, February 28, 2014

Sail On

We all take journeys in life for which we have to rely on a spiritual compass; the short film explains why with a man and a canoe (background music, too, for those of you at work):

Spirit Canoe from Symbols of the West on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

MD SF/F Contest

While I've lived in Florida most of my life I'm actually a native of Baltimore, so I thought I'd give a nod to my birthplace by posting this writing contest for Maryland residents:

"To promote the creation of quality genre literature in the state of Maryland, we're holding the annual Baltimore Science Fiction Society Amateur Writing Contest and encouraging everyone to enter. Anything that falls into the "speculative fiction" genre--science fiction in all its forms and fantasy in all its forms. Urban fantasy, hard science fiction, dark fantasy, it all counts. That is to say, the work must have a speculative element." Length: 1-5.5K; Prizes: "1st place is $250; 2nd place is $100; 3rd place is $50. 1st place winner will be published in the BSFSFan (our convention guide at Balticon) and invited to Balticon to do a reading of either a selection of their winning story or the entire story (depending on length and the availability of time and the wishes of the winner). The top five entries will all receive free memberships to Balticon." See contest page for more details, deadline: "The 2014 BSFS Amateur Writing Contest will begin accepting submissions April 1, 2014, and close June 15."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Ten Neat Things I Found On My Latest Trip to Books-a-Million
(All prices shown are after application of my 10% BAM card discount)

#1 -- All of the remaining 2014 wall and desk calendars, like this lovely Secret Garden edition, were marked down to $3.00; I got it for $2.70.

#2 -- Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen is out! Hardcover, $23.39.

#3 -- Adorable bookmark and pen set featuring Grumpy Cat of Internet fame, $3.59.

#4 -- "Keep Calm and Type On" bookmark featuring an old typewriter, perfect for writer pals, $2.65.

#5 -- Joyful Abundance pad of cookbook page flags, which work equally well on other books and are the perfect size for carrying in my purse, $4.49

#6 -- Novelty Ninja Pen that makes the coolest sword sound when you press a button on the hilt, $4.49

#7 & #8 -- The Mind/Body/Spirit and Travel editions of Mini-Marks, sets of 6 themed magnetic mini bookmarks, $4.49 each.

#9 -- Don't Forget elephant-shaped sticky notepad, $4.49.

#10 -- Hmmm, this looks very familiar . . . $7.19.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Wolf Arrives

Today is the official release of The Clockwork Wolf, the second novel in my Disenchanted & Co. urban fantasy series. Also, if you missed it last week, here's the video for the book:

I think that's all the promo I'll throw at you this time. Besides, I have to talk about some people who helped:

My editor, Adam Wilson, deserves much for every wise and amazing thing he did to bring the world of Toriana to publication. I also wish I could name all of the other folks at Pocket Star who put so much creativity and wisdom into the series production, because they did a fabulous job, too.

I am very grateful to author and filmmaker Jeff Somers for creating yet another superb video trailer for Kit and her crew; it was everything I wished for and then some.

Last (but never least) I must somehow thank NYT bestselling author and my dear friend Darlene Ryan for her nonstop support and generous encouragement during this entire adventure. Until I can think up something better, Bubba, know that you are the best writer friend on the planet.

Places where you can purchase The Clockwork Wolf (click on them to do that and keep me writing this series):

Barnes & Noble








Monday, February 24, 2014

Find Someone a Job, Win $1K in Books

I'm going to back-burner today's ten list for a neat offer from Library Thing as an incentive to help them hire a new programmer:

"We need to find a kick-ass PHP programmer, so we’re offering $1,000 worth of books to the person who finds them. Think of it. $1,000 in books. What would you buy? Everything.

Rules! You get a $1,000 gift certificate to the local, chain or online bookseller of your choice.

To qualify, you need to connect us to someone. Either you introduce them to us—and they follow up by applying themselves—or they mention your name in their email (“So-and-so told me about this”). You can recommend yourself, but if you found out about it from someone else, we hope you’ll do the right thing and make them the beneficiary."

For more details go to their blog and read the job post here.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Test Your Typing

Do you know how fast you type? This fun online test gives you a short fable to type and calculates both your speed and accuracy while you do so (it includes typing sounds and background music, which I think is what made it fun.) Here are my results:

I'm definitely getting slower, but I'm happy that I maintained decent accuracy despite my snail's pace. Take the test and post your results in comments.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

And You Are . . . ?

Since I'm reading my own book at the moment (yes, I know, but I'm updating my series bible) this would make me Charmian Kittredge. Who are you? Let us know in comments.

Friday, February 21, 2014

See the Wolf

I won't be posting the usual Friday video here at PBW today but I would like to send you elsewhere to see one you might like. RT book reviews is hosting the online debut of the official video for The Clockwork Wolf, which they've also selected as one of their Top Picks for their March issue*; to have a look click here.

Added 2/25: I've finally seen the issue myself and turns out the info I was given is wrong; RT gave the novel 4-1/2 stars but it was not selected as a Top Pick for March. I'm quite happy with the rating, however, and my apologizes for passing along the misinformation.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Steampunk Sub Op

I am taking off today to be sick in bed. So that your stop here was not entirely wasted, here's an interesting listing from the marvelous assortment of markets at

Inventive Press is looking for "Truly inventive speculative fiction. Steampunk, both adult and young adult. Historical fiction. Contemporary young adult novels. Inspirational non-fiction." Also: "We love spec fic, but there are hundreds of micropresses and major publishers taking spec fic submissions. Yours has to be unique, or we can’t help you be more than another face in the giant crowd. We’re particularly interested in steampunk and alternate history. For spec fic in general, your synopsis needs to convey a sense of 'this is different.'" Length: Less than 130K (fiction); less than 80K (YA) and 40-150K nonfiction. Payment according to Ralan: "ebook=50% net; print=40% net; profit sharing bonuses; possible advance for established authors." Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Get the Wolf

I'm getting a late start today because I nursed my guy through a bad sinus infection and promptly caught it myself. I always kid about my head exploding; last night I thought it just might.

The good news is I can still buy real Sudafed, the only OTC decongestant that works on me, although it's been a while since I have. Thanks to abuse by drug dealers the local pharmacy now keeps this medicine locked up behind the counter, and they had me show my license and sign a register before they handed over the pack of ten pills I purchased (I shudder to think what they'll do the next time I want a bottle of Nyquil.)

On the bright and less sniffly side, The Reading Cafe is offering a print copy of The Clockwork Wolf along with some other neat reads for some lucky reader. If you'd like a chance to win them, head over and enter their giveaway.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Math Under Pressure

Take this online quiz to find out how well you can perform simple maths under pressure. My results:

I don't know that I'd call the math involved especially simple as the time calculations nearly did me in a few times. Post your results in comments and let us know how you did.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Not a Dime 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.

Anki is a "program which makes remembering things easy. Because it's a lot more efficient than traditional study methods, you can either greatly decrease your time spent studying, or greatly increase the amount you learn. Anyone who needs to remember things in their daily life can benefit from Anki. Since it is content-agnostic and supports images, audio, videos and scientific markup (via LaTeX), the possibilities are endless" (OS: Win 98/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3/Vista/7/8)

Bandizip is a "lightweight, fast and 100% free All-In-One Zip Archiver. Bandizip has a very fast Zip algorithm for compression & extraction with Fast Drag and Drop, High Speed Archiving, and Multi-core compression. It handles the most popular compression formats, including Zip, 7z, Rar, and so on" (OS: Windows XP/2003/Vista/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Buddi is a "personal finance and budgeting program, aimed at those who have little or no financial background. In making this software, I have attempted to make things as simple as possible, while still retaining enough functions to satisfy most home users" (OS: Designer notes: "If you have a modern operating system with a copy of Sun's Java Virtual Machine [version 1.5 or higher], it should work fine. This includes most recent versions of Windows, Macintosh OS X 10.4, most Linux distributions, Solaris, and possibly more. Please consult the help files for your given operating system if you are unsure whether it supports Java 1.5 or not.")

GanttProject is a "project management tool" that is "very usable for small to medium size projects, with a surprisingly good depth of features and accessories for a free product. As its name suggest, it's excellent for making Gantt charts, great for making logical and easy-to-understand development plans" (OS: Windows, Linux and Mac OS X)

Pencil is a "free drawing program that helps users to create mockups on their PCs. Its friendly graphic user interface provides ready access to a collection of built-in shapes that can be used to create interfaces for both mobile and desktop platforms" (OS: "The prototyping tool is available for all platforms")

Scribus is an "open Source program that brings professional page layout to Linux, BSD UNIX, Solaris, OpenIndiana, GNU/Hurd, Mac OS X, OS/2 Warp 4, eComStation, and Windows desktops with a combination of press-ready output and new approaches to page design. Underneath a modern and user-friendly interface, Scribus supports professional publishing features, such as color separations, CMYK and spot colors, ICC color management, and versatile PDF creation." (OS: Complete download list and links here)

SSuite My Money Portable is a "simple to use personal finance manager that is also portable. SSuite Office - My Money – Portable is a cross-platform utility that allows users to keep an eye on their accounts, income and expenses, and to generate financial reports. New accounts can be added by specifying the type and balance, and you can give details about transactions, such as description, date and amount. Thanks to its built-in search engine, you can quickly find the accounts in the list; they can be edited or deleted. Furthermore, it is possible to specify the income description, date and amount, as well as provide information about the inter-account transfers and expenses. SSuite Office - My Money – Portable allows users to create financial reports by selecting a report type and fields that are included (account number, type and balance), specifying the report title, number of columns on each page and page orientation (portrait or landscape), and picking the font style" (OS:Windows All [32-Bit/64-Bit])

The free trial of TaxSlayer Books is a "complete, online accounting software for your small business needs. Includes payroll, and bookkeeping software." It also "allows you to import bookkeeping information from Quickbooks, making setup a snap" (OS: Windows XP, Vista)

Tomboy is a "desktop note-taking application" that is "simple and easy to use, but with potential to help you organize the ideas and information you deal with every day" (OS: Linux, Unix, Windows, and Mac OS X)

Tonido "allows you to set up and run your own personal cloud storage" (OS: Linux, Mac OS X 10.5 or later, Windows 2000, Windows 7 [32 bit], Windows 7 [64 bit], Windows 8, Windows Vista [32 bit], Windows Vista [64 bit)], Windows XP)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sub Op

Weird Bard Press has an open call for their upcoming Torn Pages antho: "Given the title, Torn Pages, the ideal submission will deal in issues such as religion in the science classroom, censorship, historical revisionism, chilling effect, book (media) burning, net neutrality, or Orwellian concepts like Newspeak and Thoughtcrime. Watching the recent Nye/Ham debate we were reminded of Burrough's assertion that language is a virus. Think books. Think classroom. Think logical fallacies, partisan politics, and education standards in the balance. Acceptable as well are stories related to a real-life wrong so great or insidious that the issue must be told, though it may not relate directly to books or the classroom, such as abuses of political or social power. Pussy Riot, Occupy, or Anonymous may be good starting points, but refrain from propaganda for or against any one of these. Inherent in this project is an interest in stories from under-represented points of view, be they ethnic, gender, cultural, sexual orientation, or others we have not considered. The person who comes from what they perceive as a mundane background may have an equally important story to tell." Length: 1-5K; Payment: 2¢/word. No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Reading period opens March 1st, 2013; do not submit before that date. Deadline: March 31st, 2014 or when filled.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Unlikely Inspiration

I like to reward myself for finishing difficult projects, and most often I gravitate toward something that I love but don't indulge in too often. Some examples would be art supplies, fabric, or other such materials with which I can experiment but that I have no particular purpose in mind. It might seem strange that I celebrate completing work with more work, but it's really more like play. It also helps refill the well to do these things, so that when I do tackle the next project for work I feel creatively rested, if that makes sense.

Kathy Uhrig, the proprietor of Strange Notions on, is one of my favorite sources for this type of thing; she puts together wonderful little tin kits and packs of trims that always provide me with hours of creative fun. In one of the kits I recently purchased from her I found this very interesting textile:

The image is a Picasso -- you can still see a fragment of the artist's signature down at the bottom right corner -- and the piece probably started out as a scarf. While it's thin the colors are still quite bright, and there are no major snags or stains on the piece, which make it perfect for repurposing into a quilted project.

I can honestly say that I've never worked with a Picasso; I've always thought of his art as pretty bizarre and somewhat alien. Still, something about this particular piece is very compelling. I like the colors and the strong lines, and the lady's face is both tranquil and mysterious. Making this into something else presents an interesting challenge for me.

It's not my usual thing, but sometimes it's good to get completely away from that. Creatively speaking, every time you step outside your comfort zone you open yourself up to new opportunities. You explore unknown territory, discover unfamiliar ranges within yourself and regularly encounter other, unexpected surprises. Sometimes this also means making mistakes and finding out something really new is not for you. I might work on this piece for weeks and hate it by the time I finish. The thing about this kind of creative playing is that it doesn't matter -- success is not the objective.

I'll post updates on the Picasso project as it progresses; I think it'll be a lot of fun to see what I can do with it. I'll also include any screw-ups that happen along the way and what I learn from them.

How do you challenge yourself creatively? Let us know in comments.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Elsewhere for Valday

First, Happy Valentine's Day to everyone -- I'm hoping that those of you in the storm zone are staying safe and warm at home.

As for me, I'm spending the day over at Under the Covers book blog to talk about some alternative gifts for your Valentines who (like me!) can't have sweets. Stop in if you have a chance and enter to win this nifty tote packed with goodies and signed print copies of Disenchanted & Co. and The Clockwork Wolf ARC.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Steaming Along Elsewhere

Today I'm over at XOXO After Dark, my publisher's blog, to talk about some of our technology that might be improved by adding steam power. Stop by if you have a chance and enter to win a print copy of my latest release, Disenchanted & Co.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New Hunter Kiss Novel

I have an FYI for all the other Maxine fans out there: Labyrinth of Stars, Marjorie M. Liu's new Hunter Kiss novel, is being released on February 25th. Here's the gorgeous cover art:

I've pre-ordered my copy, but if you haven't you can get your order in at these online retailers:

Barnes & Noble



Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Writer by Word Choice

Take this short online quiz at Oxford Dictionaries blog and they'll decide what kind of writer you are based on your word choices.

My results:

Eh. I wouldn't mind winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, but I don't hate women or gay people, and I can metabolize iron. Just not on Tuesdays.

If you take the test, post your results in comments. Added: Test link now works!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Shiloh's Ten

Ten Things That Happened When I Went to See Shiloh Walker

With zero prior warning I crashed the Coastal Magic Conference and they did not kick me out. On the contrary; Jennifer and her ladies were very welcoming, and helped me sneak up on Shiloh, and let me sit with her for their charity booksigning with no fuss whatsoever.

Before I shanghaied Shi I met up with wonderful steampunk jewelry-maker Leslie from Aunt Matilda's Jewelry Box to do some personal shopping. While I was depriving her of inventory I bought another of Kit's pendants to give away to one of my readers (this week ~ stayed tuned to the blog for details.)

I met and chatted with the lovely and charming USA Today bestselling author Carrie Ann Ryan, who can be described by many other words; the next that comes to my mind should be awesome as she gave me this gorgeous tote to hold all the books I bought. Her assistant Charity was so sweet and helpful, too, and I think somehow moved at the speed of light.

Author Gini Koch may have as many pseudonyms as me and was giving away e-book freebies, which was way cool (she is a rather amazing powerhouse when it comes to presentation, too; she should be teaching classes in how to promote your books in person.)

Author Sarah M. Ross was a delight to talk to and quite gorgeous in person; among other things she has that perfect hair I will never attain (sigh.)

Author James R. Tuck is a handsome devil with a wonderful voice and a neat sense of humor, too; I think every gal at the conference was falling in love with him.

I did not get around to all the tables, but I bought books from every one I visited, so it was probably good for the bank account that I didn't make it around the room.

Some people asked me and Shiloh to pose for pics and we did for two, I think; Tori from Smexy Books has one of them. Please note if you happen to see it that I am not dead, a man, or Stephen Leigh.

After the booksigning I dragged Shiloh out to dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, where I made a complete pig of myself over the delicious spicy fish and rice dish I ordered. We also talked shop, families, ordnance, explosives and plotted the overthrow of the online writing community. Kidding. We really didn't talk shop that much.

After many, many years of being cyber colleagues and blog pals I finally met Shiloh Walker, who is just as wonderful in person as she is online. Of all the people I've wanted to meet in the biz, she was the one I drove 500 miles (much of that in the pouring rain) to see, which should give you some idea of how much I care for her.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Strangely Funny Sub Op

Mystery and Horror LLC has an open call for their upcoming Strangely Funny II antho, and describe the project as: "An anthology of humorous paranormal/supernatural stories. All stories must contain paranormal or supernatural elements (ghosts, witchcraft, vampires, etc.) and be funny. Think Addams Family, Zombieland, or Love at First Bite. These stories should not contain gratuitous violence, gratuitous sex, or excessive foul language." Length: 2-6K; Payment: Ralan says "shared 25% net royalty ($5 advance) +print copy." Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Reading period opens February 10th, 2014; do not submit before that date. Deadline: May 1st, 2014 or when filled.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Out of Here

I'm off on a business trip this weekend, so new comments will not post until I return. So your stop here was not entirely wasted, here's an interesting freeware that may come in handy with tax season upon us:

The designer of Ace Money Lite touts it as an easy and free alternative to Microsoft Money or Quicken: "It makes managing multiple accounts a breeze. You can manage your budgets, track multi-currency finances, analyze your spending habits, make transfers between accounts, and do on-line banking. You can start instantly without any prior accounting experience. Features: Track your spending habits and see where the money goes; create and manage budgets; track performance of investments; do your financial math in multiple currencies; enjoy the convenience of on-line banking Download and import information from on-line banks in QIF and OFX formats. If you run a small business, export to HTML, Text, or CSV; Don´t miss the next deadline for bills; Double check - Enjoy the security of password protection of every file, scheduled backups and many other features; Plan debts and mortgage payments" (OS: Win 9x/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3/Vista/7/8)

Remember the usual PBW freeware caution, too: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Light Show

Sometimes we forget we have an immense theater that perpetually plays light shows for us each night. Randy Halverson's Huelux gives us a long and lovely reason to remember this -- and look up (contains background music, for those of you at work):

Huelux from Randy Halverson on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Under Pressure

Can you write proper English under pressure? Take the online test here.

My results:

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Library Thing Heads Up

The good folks over at Library Thing sent out this notice yesterday:

During a security review, we found that LibraryThing suffered a data breach in June 2011. While no book data or financial information was taken, lost or changed, the hackers did take email addresses and encrypted password hashes for some accounts created prior to that date.

People like me who were members at the time of the breach were advised to change our passwords, which I did (and if this affects you, you should receive an e-mail with the password reset link. If you haven't received it, you might check your account.) LT is also doing something quite classy in response to the breach:

The entire LibraryThing team and I deeply regret and apologize that this happened on our watch. Since 2011, we have significantly improved our security measures, which have been further tightened across the board since we discovered this breach. As a further apology, we are upgrading you and all LibraryThing members who joined prior to June 19th, 2011 to full lifetime accounts.

To read more details about the breach, see this post on the Library Thing blog.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Split Seconds

One of my favorite art and video sites, Kuriositas, has an amazing collection of photos here taken of events that happened in a split second. If you have a chance to go visit it's definitely worth it (my favorite is the one with the pigeons, naturally.)

I also admire the quick skill of every shooter behind these pics; as an amateur photographer I know how hard it is to capture an exciting moment that only lasts for a blink or two. Only by pure dumb luck do I ever get a split-second shot, and oddly enough it always seems to happen for me at RenFaires:

My technique? I don't have one; I simply point, shoot and pray. My favorite of all my split second lucky shots is this one, with cropped enlargements following to show why:

(Link swiped from Gerard over at The Presurfer)

Monday, February 03, 2014

Argh Ten

Ten Things That Always Seem to Happen The Week Your Book is Released

Appliance Fail: a major or integral appliance in your home that has never once given you a second of trouble will stop working, start leaking or emit a stream of dark oily smoke when you turn it on.

Comrade in Harm: In the process of congratulating you a colleague will artfully mention that they're not buying your new release because they're too busy to read it, they prefer another author in that genre, or the whole idea really wasn't their cup of tea.

E-mail Gainer: Your incoming e-mail will quadruple, and about a third of it will be from people who have never before contacted you but bought your book the second it hit the shelf, hated it, and now want to tell you in excruciating detail why.

Gaming Glom: To stop from thinking about your release on Monday you'll find an online version of Candy Crush and decide to try playing it for the first time. By Wednesday you'll be competing in tournaments. By Friday you will be the highest-ranked Candy Crush player on that site.

Gone Data Gone: Your editor, publicist or video producer will need a vital bit of information from you asap, which is part of a file you discover you can't open, you can't remember what you named, or that you deleted last month while cleaning up your hard drive.

Honey Huh: About halfway through the week your honey will call home to see if you performed some time-sensitively and extremely vital task s/he needed you to do, which you haven't. Worse, you will have zero recollection of agreeing to do it.

Match Game: You won't understand why all the book store managers keep giving you such odd looks until you get home from a long day of making the rounds and realize as you undress that your shoes don't match, you're wearing your shirt inside-out, and/or the bright red lipstick that still gleams on your mouth is all over your front teeth, too.

Pet Pouting: The well-behaved, healthy, house-trained furry friends who are always content to slumber away most of the day suddenly become crazed demons of destruction with severe tummy troubles who sit at your hip and whine to go outside. Every. Five. Minutes.

Takeout Tonight: While worrying about your release's debut, how it will be received, if it will sell, how many copies are hitting the stores and why in God's name you every thought this was a wonderful job, you will finally remember you have to make dinner. This will happen no earlier than thirty seconds before dinner time.

Writer's Blech: As you begin to perform a reading, chat up a reader, introduce yourself over a microphone or pitch your release to an important industry entity over the phone, your nervous digest system will surge to produce audible flatulence, a generous amount of bile going the wrong way or an involuntary burp that not only escapes but can be measured on the Richter scale.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Interesting Sub Op

To continue the spin on breaking out of bounds from yesterday, The Dreadful Cafe has an open call for their upcoming anthology Thresholds: "We cross boundaries every day--the door to a room, a crack in a sidewalk, the border of a city. "Thresholds" is not so much a theme as a sign to the reader that we want to take them somewhere fantastic: to another time, into the dark, into the arms of a lover, to another world, or to the dark recesses of the mind. All genres of fiction and all sizes/colors of art are eligible. Just show us something fantastic, something adventurous, something far out, something fun." Length: "Manuscripts must be between 1,000 and 25,000 words and not previously published by anyone but the author. Self-published works are accepted and encouraged!" [PBW notes: that's why it's so interesting] Payment: "Short Stories (1,000-7,000 words) — $125; Novelettes (7,001-13,000 words) — $250; Novellas (13,001-25,000 words) — Negotiable" Also noted: "The Dreadful Cafe is committed to socially responsible publishing. All after-cost proceeds from Thresholds and Membrane go to support St. Jude's Children's Hospital, because life is too short not to have fun and too precious not to do good." Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: Website says "TBD" which I'll assume means to be decided; says "Until filled." Either way if you're interested I'd get your submission in asap.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Doodle Zen

I've been a dedicated doodler practically since the first time I picked up a pencil. Throughout my childhood I would draw blocks, shapes and patterns in small spaces; usually in the margins of my notebook paper while in class at school. The process for me was soothing and curiously satisfying, but the results were always something I concealed or tucked away out of sight -- I suppose I didn't want anyone laughing at me. In fact until Zentangles became popular I had no idea there were other people who doodled as small or as obsessively as I did.

Doodling, which I think practically everyone does at one time or another in life, can be viewed as the art of the subconscious, and it was certainly that for me. I'd never once planned a doodle except for choosing the space in which to draw it. This changed when I learned of Zentangles; the popularity meant I didn't have to hide my strange doodles anymore and there was even a logic and discipline I could now apply to them.

For months I happily Zentangled away on countless squares drawn in my sketchbooks, until one day I began doodling around the square's edges, and beyond them, until I was filling the entire page around my Zentangle with more doodles. Once I crossed the boundaries I suspected I was committing some form of doodling heresy, but it felt right to grow in that direction (I've never been content to color inside the lines for long anyway.)

When I saw Zen Doodle ~ Tons of Tangles, this lovely doodling art book edited by Tonia Jenny and Amy Jones, I thought it would be more of the same squares and fill-in-the-spaces. Once I began thumbing through it I was pleasantly startled to find a collection of gorgeous works by artists who regularly step outside the square to explore the universe of doodling possibility. Some are inspired by nature, online challenges, and even mehndi (the custom of using henna to stain designs onto skin.)

There are four sections in the book that cover abstract designs, shapes & objects, animals & beasts, and friendship & love, but other than those themes each artist brings their own vision to doodling. Along with detailed instructions on how to create some of the patterns and linework, and pictured example doodles in various stages of completion, the contributors also talk about their process, what influenced a particular doodle and other aspects of their creativity. Going through this book is a bit like taking a doodling workshop with forty-two different instructors from around the world. I think it's already had a very positive impact on my Zen doodling:

I know to many doodling may seem like a complete waste of time and paper, but you're probably not aware of the benefits. The next time you're on hold with your doctor's office I bet many of you will be drawing tiny 3D boxes on your message pad, or looping a continuous line like a Slinky from one side of an old envelope to the other. You may think you're killing time, but what you're really doing is a form of meditation through the simple beauty of no-stress no-expectation creation -- something I think all of us can use on a regular basis.