Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Disability Sub Op

Future Fire magazine has an open call for their upcoming antho: "Inspired by the cyberpunk and feminist science fiction of yesterday and the DIY, open access, and hacktivist culture of today, Accessing the Future will be an anthology that explores the future potentials of technology to augment and challenge the physical environment and the human form—in all of its wonderful and complex diversity. We are particularly interested in stories that address issues of disability (invisible and visible, physical and mental), and the intersectionality of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class—in both physical and virtual spaces. Accessing the Future will be a collection of speculative fiction that places emphasis on the social, political, and material realms of being." Length: 2.5-7.5K with a preference for stories in the 4-6K range; Payment: "We pay $0.06/word (six cents a word) for global English first publication rights in print and digital format." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: November 30th, 2014.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Crew No-Nos

Ten Things I Hate About Your Secondary Characters

Beyond BFFs: Instead of being normal mortals who are occasionally helpful, unavailable, supportive, jealous etc. the friends in your cast are capable only of being beyond best friends forever. These sterling souls are ever ready to drop everything and do absolutely anything to help your protagonist. This includes throwing themselves in the path of nightmarish monsters, committing serious felonies, driving off a cliff in a convertible and my person non-favorite, throwing an insanely expensive surprise birthday party that everyone the protag knows joyously attends on time -- with a table piled high with fabulous gifts, no less.

Bobble Heads: Every time this character shows up in a scene, it's strictly to inform the reader of something they don't know by informing the protagonist of something he already knows. Ala Alfred intoning "You know, my boy, if your parents hadn't been cruelly murdered in front of you in that dark alley, you would never have built the BatCave, took on the secret life of a caped crusader, or escaped your fate to become just another useless overindulged narcissistic jackass into whose food I regularly spit."

Born to be Dumb: I know you want your protagonist to be smart, and capable of solving complex problems, and eligible to join any chapter of Mensa including the one for Grand Master Chess Champions who kicked Bobby Fisher's ass in five moves on that Internet chess site, but does this mean you must give everyone else in the story the IQ of a carrot?

Closet Superduper Deviants: I'm still waiting to find out which of the nice people I know in real life are actually secret neo-Nazi skinheads who like to cut themselves, shoplift guns, blow up elementary school buses and have sex with the helpless farm animals they keep chained in their underground bunkers before they plan massive Federal Reserve robberies with their fascist helicopter-piloting ex-Army buds, how about you?

Lovely & Lifeless: Your secondary characters are all very attractive, super smart, fascinating people who form a powerful and protective satellite of WOW around your protagonist. Yet despite being the sort of people most desired by others, these exceptionally wonderful folks for some reason don't ever seem to have homes, families, relationships, jobs or any kind of life of their own.

Mom Stand-Ins: Odd that the nice lady who lives next door never drops by my house every other day to check on me, bring me food or sit down, have a cup of coffee and listen to all my problems before she tells me exactly how to fix them, kisses me on the forehead and goes home to prune her perfect roses. I should complain to the HOA.

Obvious Herrings: You keep telling me that these characters are up to no good, and definitely working against the protagonist, and yet they don't really appear to be doing anything for real but distracting me from the actual antagonist, whom I had already identified by Chapter Three.

Q&Aers: If the ratio of questions asked to statements made by your support character is more than three to one, then they really exist only to ask questions you believe the reader needs answers to from the protagonist. Or your editor made you delete that long-ass prologue, yes?

Red Shirts: Think of all the people you know in real life. Do two or three of them die pointlessly every week while you escape the same fate, but only by your teeth skin? Yeah, me neither.

Wrench Tossers: Here's the thing: People show up in our lives for more reasons than to expose a concealed injustice, report on an unlikely murder, rat out our love interest, be followed by someone who wants us dead, deliver a sword of unimaginable power, etc. Sometimes people just want to go get coffee and danish and hang out at Starbucks, you know?

Your turn -- got any gripes about secondary characters? Let us know in comments.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Alice Op

Leap Books has an open call for their upcoming Alice in Wonderland-themed antho: "Next year marks an historic moment, the 150th anniversary of the publication of the classic story Alice's Adventures in Wonderland! To celebrate how absolutely mad we are about this occasion, Leap Books, LLC will publish a special Alice-inspired anthology called BEWARE THE LITTLE WHITE RABBIT and you, yes, YOU are invited to the party!" Length and required theme: "Submissions should be between 4,000-6,000 words in length, include a protagonist named Alice and a stuffed white rabbit whose appearance signals the start of adventure. All YA genres are eligible." Payment: "Authors whose stories are selected for inclusion in the BEWARE THE LITTLE WHITE RABBIT anthology and who meet revision requirements and associated deadlines will be paid a one-time fee of $50 USD." No info on reprints, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: November 15th, 2014.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Smart Edit for Word

SmartEdit, one of my favorite editing programs, has now been released in a version that works inside Microsoft Word as a plug-in. Here's a screenshot (and you can click on any of these images to go to a larger version):

SmartEdit appears on the tool bar where the orange star is, and when you click on it, it brings up this menu bar:

Once you've opened the document you want to check inside Word, you click on SmartEdit, bring up the menu bar and click on Run Checks. From there it works its usual magic:

I already have the original SmartEdit program, and got these screenshots from the free trial, which I'm going to try out for the next week and see if it helps to have it in Word as I'm working (pretty sure that's a yes, but I prefer to do a thorough test drive anyway.) Registered users of SmartEdit like me are also being offered a 60% discount on the new in-Word version until October 8th, which is a very nice price break. Anyone can get the ten day free trial of SmartEdit for Word here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Heart of Glass

Describing your art, how you work and what it means to you is often difficult. I think it's because there are so many aspects of the creative life that can't be encompassed by or even defined in words. The artist in this video, however, really nails it (narrated, with some background music, for those of you at work):

Glass Blowing from Jérôme de Gerlache on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: Thanks to bad weather it wasn't a good day for writing here, but I managed a few more pages on In the Leaves, with today's new material beginning on page 26.

For more details on Just Write Thursdays, click here to go to the original post.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

NaNo To-Do

In October I'll be assembling all that I'll need to write productively during NaNoWriMo, and since I'm rather (okay, very) OCD about planning and organizing my story stuff that means putting together:

Session schedule
Novel notebook
Draft synopsis
Rough Outline (2-3 sentence chapter summaries)
Title Idea Sheet
Cover Art Idea Sheet
Character Name Sheet (an A-Z list I'll update as I write so I don't repeat letters or similar-sounding names)
Wordcount Widget
Personal NaNoWriMo Logo (in case this year's official badge is as lame as 2013)

It sounds like a lot, but it's really just the bare bones for me. Depending on the ideas I have for the novel, I'll probably do something other things like make character art, create story and character palettes, collect pics of body models, setting inspiration and other story-related visuals and keep them in a smash journal, etc.

I can already sense some of your organic writers out there cringing in horror. I'm taking all the fun out of it, right? Not from my POV. For me this is the fun part. Some writers work best making their discoveries about the story as they write, while others like to use the planning stages for that. I'm the latter. In fact I think I'm the Queen of the latter. If any of the above appeals to you, feel free to try the same or similar. Honestly though, you really don't have to do anything for NaNoWriMo but show up and write 50,000 words during the month of November.

Meanwhile, to do my part for NaNoWriMo 2014 as in years past I'm making my how-to writing productivity e-book, Way of the Cheetah, available now for free via Google Docs for anyone to read online, download, print out or share until December 1st (and to go to the e-book, click here.) I'm also interested to know if any of you who are thinking about joining in this year will prepare in any way before November 1st. If you do and you want to share, let us know your plans in comments.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Job Gen

When you're an inventor of worlds you often have to make up jobs for the characters who populate them. Generally speaking every society needs certain universal jobs to be filled (like leaders, workers, homemakers and caregivers) but if you want something less ordinary/more interesting, you have to make it up and coin a job.

I make up jobs according to whatever serves my cast and the story, but occasionally I'm also inspired by something entirely random. In my Darkyn books I needed a very specific job for the humans who were sympathetic to the immortals and would help safeguard them. I intended my humans to work like voluntary versions of Renfield from Dracula -- willing to serve and treasured because of their efforts, not forced and abused.

I kept going back to that one word: treasured. For me that encompassed the whole concept of the job; these people are rare, protected, valuable and greatly appreciated. In French the words for my treasure are mon trésor, from which I coined the word tresora (singular) and tresori (plural). On that single word I built an entire society of humans who served the Darkyn.

So where can you find some job-generating ideas? I put together this list in a couple of minutes by refining some results I got using this job title generator:

Neck Hunter -- the vampire's chief procurer, perhaps?

Street Beekeeper -- because cities need honey, too.

Bonded Trouble Scrubber -- if there was ever a cool title for "cleaner" in an epic fantasy, this is it.

Truck Puncher -- He's big, he's mean, and you better not drive down his private roadway.

Crimp Plotter -- Perfect pie crusts mean calling in this precise lady for a consult.

Internal Puff Voicer -- like a ventriloquist for fur balls, perhaps?

Curtain Router -- Stage-handy for sure.

Birth Roofer -- baby must be born in a special hut/outbuilding/manger with a roof made of [insert your native material here.]

Crane Receptionist -- help at the bird sanctuary's front desk, I imagine (and I'd love to invent a world based entirely on birds and bird societies.)

Bow Trainer -- very vivid idea for this one: living wild bows must be captured and tamed by this guy before they can go to the archers.

Where do you get your ideas for coining jobs? Let us know in comments.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Not a Dime Ten

Ten Things You Can Have for Free

BirdFont is "a simple Mac app designed to help you create your own font by using vector graphics tools: the built in editor enables you to draw a new design for any letter or symbol. Since the app is able to work with vector images, the output will have a high quality. The BirdFont application works right out of the box so all you have to do is move the utility to the disk. When you start developing a new typeface, BirdFont automatically generates glyph spaces for all alphabet letters and other additional symbols. Simply open one of these glyphs and begin drawing the new graphic by using the available vector tools. Finding your way around the BirdFont editor is quite easy: select one of the tools available in the right side panel, and start drawing in the canvas area" (OS: Mac OS X 10.6 or later)

BMP to PDF is "a free image conversion software to convert common image files to PDF documents, supported image format include BMP, JPG/JPEG, GIF, PNG and TIF/TIFF. It can support batch conversion and file Drag-Drop feature. In addition, you can resize or stretch image, stretch options include: "Auto", "Stretch", "Max-Width", "Max-Height" and "None". You also can custom embed image position in generated PDF documents, position option can be "Top-Left", "Top-Center", "Top-Left", "Middle-Left", "Middle-Center", "Middle-Right", "Bottom-Left", "Bottom-Center" or "Bottom-Right"" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Colorful Tabs is "a simple and handy web browser add-on specially designed to colorize all opened tabs using a wide variety of colors in order to make it easier for you to distinguish between tabs. The light add-on is very easy to install and does not required too much time to setup and run. Once installed, you need to restart Firefox and let ColorfulTabs do its job. ColorfulTabs automatically colors every tab using a different color and, as a result, changes the appearance of the web browser. In addition to colorizing your tabs, ColorfulTabs also offers you a context menu for your tabs that helps you add domain preset, re-color and change the color of the selected tab, reset the color and enable the “Mini-Mode”. All above mentioned actions are accompanied by predefined keyboard shortcuts that you can use in order to avoid accessing the context menu" (OS: Mac OS X)

Speak to the free trial version of Dictation Pro and it will "type for you. Prepare your letters, reports, e-mails just by speaking into a microphone. All you need is a good-quality headset. Dictation Pro is fast, easy and fun. You´ll wonder how you managed without it!" [PBW notes: the program is about $30.00 to buy, which for VRS is pretty cheap, but I'd definitely test drive it first via the free trial before you invest. Since they do offer the free trial it may also work as a no-cost test to see if VRS is a good match for you] (OS: Windows Vista/7 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

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. (DSpeech does not install itself, is very light, starts in a second and doesn't write anything to the registry)" (OS:Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Express Accounts is "perfect for small businesses. Easily track payments and deposit transactions. View balances and reports to see how your business is doing. Email or fax reports directly to your accountant. This software is designed to be intuitive and very easy to use. Organize your business' bookkeeping by tracking sales and accounts receivable. You can also automatically record recurring orders and invoices. Express Accounts Features: * Easily generate over 20 financial reports. * Income Sheets and Balance Statements help you track growth. * Generate purchase orders, receipts, and checks * Secure mobile access via web. * Run multiple businesses with a single installation. *Perfect for both product and service based businesses" [PBW notes: according to the developer's web site the program is free for businesses with five employees or less, which means most of you pro and freelance writers out there] (OS: Mac 10.1 / 10.2 / 10.3 / 10.4 / 10.5 / OS X)

Sketchbook is "a drawing application designed to provide a glimpse on what you can do with the Autodesk SketchBook products. The app comes with a clean, organized design and an intuitive workflow that will help you express your ideas naturally. Most of the SketchBook drawing tools can be accessed within the apps main window, via the bottom left corner toolbar: the brush palette, the color palette, the editing tools but also the interface controls. The SketchBook app provides basic drawing tools but the results are extremely accurate: you can create high quality projects in no time. A selected brush can be blurred or sharpened, resized and more. If you are not satisfied with the result, simply press the undo button and start over (you can specify the undo level in the Preferences). By default, SketchBook exports your projects as TIFF files but you can choose to create PSD documents from the Preferences window. Moreover, the app can be used to edit image files: simply import the picture to a canvas and start working on it" (OS: Mac OS X 10.8 or later)

SSuite Writer's D'Lite has ". . .just enough functionality to start you on writing that important novel, short-story or article, without any bells and whistles to distract you. Get writing from the first moment you start the application. It has all the important functions and text formatting needed to get you busy. It also has custom page settings for easier viewing of your document. Keep the cursor at eye level for best focus and writing. Conforms to a full page size for best viewing of script. Full statistics are visible on the status bar, keeping you abreast of your text document as you type. There is also no java or .Net required to run this application, keeping it very small and portable and very useful. It has all the necessary editing short-cut keys for power users. See the blue question mark for more info{F1-key}. This application is also completely and absolutely portable!" (OS: Windows All [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Task Coach is "a simple open source todo manager to manage personal tasks and todo lists. It grew out of my frustration that well-known task managers, such as those provided with Outlook or Lotus Notes, do not provide facilities for composite tasks. Often, tasks and other things todo consist of several activities. Task Coach is designed to deal with composite tasks" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7/8)

Team Viewer is "a simple and fast solution for remote control, desktop sharing and file transfer that works behind any firewall and NAT proxy. To connect to another computer just run TeamViewer on both machines without the need of an installation procedure. With the first start automatic partner IDs are generated on both computers. Just enter your partner´s ID into TeamViewer and the connection is established immediately. With many thousand users worldwide TeamViewer is a standard tool to give support and assistance to people in remote locations. The software can also be used for presentations, where you can show your own desktop to a partner, e.g. to present a software solution. TeamViewer also is VNC compatible and offers secure, encrypted data transfer to maximize security. TeamViewer is absolutely FREE for personal, non-commercial use [PBW notes: This might help those of you who collaborate with another writer or are online critique partners]" (OS: Windows 9x/ME/2000/XP/Vista/7/8)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cover This

This week I'm hoping to finish up In the Leaves, my Toriana story from Just Write Thursdays. Once I do I'll need some cover art for it, so I began playing around with some ideas and put together three possibilities:

Cover A

Cover B

Cover C

I haven't been able to narrow it down to one because I like all three ideas, so now I need some other opinions. Which cover of the three do you like most, and why? Let me know in comments.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

UF Sub Op

Infinite Acacia has an open call for their upcoming UF antho: "Infinite Urban Fantasy One will be a collection of urban fantasy short stories. We are looking for great UF that breaks away from the tired tropes of the genre. Think Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes or The Skyscraper Throne Trilogy by Tom Pollock. Sure, throw your vampires at us, but have you seen the sheer number of stories (good and bad) about them--they damn well be special if we're going to consider using them ourselves. Same goes for werewolves, witches, and little faeries living in Bon Temps." Length 1-17.5K; Payment: "Pay is 1¢ per word for the first 4,000 words." Reprints okay, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Submissions open September 30th, 2014 (don't send before); Deadline: December 31st, 2014.

Friday, September 19, 2014

By Hand

Beautiful handmade books are rare things these days. Here's the intricate process of making one, via Russian publisher Lamaritis Publishing House (contains background music, for those of you at work):

Birth of a book from Lamartis Publishing House on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Just Write

Today I'm picking back up where we left off with Just Write Thursdays, so I'll be writing something new that I can post online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: In the Leaves novella (and for those of you who have been following the story, today's new material begins on page 21).

For more details on Just Write Thursdays, click here to go to the original post.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014

As I mentioned on Monday I'm joining in National Novel Writing Month this year, so my November will be devoted to writing a book in thirty days. During that month here at the blog I'll also put up some motivational posts, progress updates, helpful links and anything I find that may be of interest to other NaNo'ers. They haven't updated the official website yet for 2014, but when they do I'll share whatever I think is notable (and please, Lord, let them design a better logo for this year. 2013 was pitiful.)

You may be thinking of diving in the madness as well, and I encourage you to go crazy and do it. For one thing, NaNoWriMo is the most work you will ever love and the most fun you will ever have in a single month. It's terrific to hammer out those 50,000 words and win, too, but it's not about that, not really. It's about you, and your writing, and living the writing life. For thirty days you get to experience what a writer's life is like; the nuts and bolts of what it is to be a writer (versus daydreaming/talking/wishing about it.)

For NaNoWriMo last year I found a bunch of November novel links in the PBW archives, and to get a jump on 2014 I thought I'd repost the list. Here they are:

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.

So who else is in? Are you already making plans? What are you looking forward to this year? Let us know in comments.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The View

One of the questions I've been asked most frequently since having my surgeries is "So how bad was it before?" It's tough to put into words, of course, and I wasn't completely aware of just how poor my sight was until after the operations. Glasses helped for a while, and I think with some eye issues over time you get used to them. Plus I was in denial, big time.

Losing the ability to recognize certain colors was what brought me back to reality. Black and dark blue slowly began looking the same, and then I couldn't distinguish any difference between orange, pink or red. I lost green and blue after that. I work with color every day with my art and sewing and quilting, so I couldn't pretend everything was okay anymore.

To give you something of a visual, this approximates what I was seeing from my left and right eye, without glasses, when I finally realized I had a problem:

Six months later this is all I could see with my glasses on:

If you're wondering how much better I am post-surgery, here is the same view with what I can see now:

Other than being able to see colors again and focus, I think the most startling difference is that I can see white again. I don't think I have in a couple of years. Now the world seems dazzling, as if I've been transported to another planet where everything is bright and beautiful.

I also had no idea my bathrooms were so clean, either. What do you know, I am a good housekeeper.

All kidding aside, if you are having problems with your eyes, go and get them checked as soon as you can. I actually procrastinated a bit with mine, first thinking I was just depressed, and then blaming menopause and age. On some level I knew something was seriously wrong, but I didn't want to think about it. I had to go almost blind before I went to the doctor, and now that I can see clearly again, I know I was a complete idiot to put it off -- so don't make the same mistake.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Back Again Ten

Ten Things I Did While on Hiatus

Attended: An art show at a vineyard. We don't drink so no bottles came home with us, but it was interesting to people watch and see all the wine-making stuff along with the art.

Changed: My daily writing schedule, which over time had shifted more to afternoon and evening sessions; I've have gone back to getting up very early and writing in the mornings until mid-afternoon. It's slow going at the moment as I'm just now getting back into a regular routine, but the change seems to be helping.

Discovered: BBC's Call the Midwife series on DVD. Funny, dramatic, entirely lovely show; highly recommend it.

Dyed: My hair and went back to being a redhead. Had some strawberry blondish highlights put in, too. Nobody has fainted, laughed or thrown up after seeing me, so I think it works.

Observed: Lots of things I haven't noticed in a while. Like my dogs, who totally have me wrapped around their little paws.

Learned: How to make a cluster of grapes pendant out of twenty-one beads and 15" of wire (in under five minutes, no less.) Here's a pic of how my first one came out, and if you want to make one, here's the video tutorial.

Penned: A couple of poems, three short stories, many letters, tons of whiny personal journal stuff plus a synopsis and the first three chapters for a new project.

Read: Due to the last item on this list, not a whole lot. At present I'm working on the reissue of Barrett's Hill by Anne Stuart, after which I'll start Downfall by Rob Thurman.

Resolved: To do NaNoWriMo 2014 and write a new novel in a month. So I'm in; more details as I work out exactly what I'm going to write.

Survived: Not one but two eye surgeries. Yep, that's why I shut down the blog and was gone for so long.

Some of you know that I've been having eye issues for a couple of years now, but this past Spring my vision began rapidly deteriorating. I started having trouble with strange things, like recognizing colors, and driving at night. I went to the doctor thinking it was a post-menopause thing (or hoping it was, I should say.) That's when I found out I needed the surgeries.

As for why I didn't say anything until now, well, you can imagine how scary something like this is. Until I saw the specialist I wasn't sure what would happen or what outcome I could expect, either. I didn't want those of you who care to worry, and I also knew I'd be sporadically/temporarily blind while I recovered, so it would be tough to keep everyone updated.

The excellent news is that I'm not blind or going blind anymore. Thanks to my amazing surgeon both procedures went off without a problem, and there have been zero post-op complications. I'm expected to make a complete recovery, for which I will be grateful every single day for the rest of my life.

So what's been happening with you all since I've been offline? Let us know in comments.