Saturday, February 28, 2015


"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory."

--Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

Image credit: Kalina Vova

Friday, February 27, 2015

Come Sail Away

Smith Journal describes Ray Gascoigne as a man who "has been around boats his whole life, as a shipwright, a merchant sailor, and now as a ship builder on the smallest dry dock there is: a bottle." His art is simply stunning (and this film is narrated by the artist with some background ambience, for those of you at work):

Bottled History from Smith Journal on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

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: More on Club Denizen, with new material beginning on page 31.

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

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Listen; there's a hell of a good universe next door: let's go. -- e.e. cummings

I doubt any writer has saved me more times than a former ambulance driver who considered words his paint and verse his canvas (when he wasn't actually painting a real one.) He was a soldier who hated war, and suffered from depression but despised fear; he was that kind of contrary -- and mysterious and gifted and more lyrical than any man I've encountered on this planet.

He wasn't perfect by any means. He looked a bit like a seedy ranch hand, and made some stupendously massive mistakes with his choices in love and politics. He could be pompous and unyielding, and probably rode his artistic high horse too often as well. He was brought up to be an aristocrat but lived like a bohemian and adored rascals and heretics. Even in death he had to be different; when he suffered a massive, instantly fatal cerebral hemmorhage, he was on his way to sharpen an ax.

great men burn bridges before they come to them -- e.e. cummings

So how can you be protected by a guy who died when you were in diapers? Edward Estlin Cummings left behind for me a bridge through time and space and life and death, built from the thousands of poems he wrote. And not just any poems. The man sculpted language and ignored rules and nose-thumbed spelling and grammar. He took the much-loved sonnet form and played Twister with it. He spoke from the page with ease and wonder and stunning candor. The first time I read this he had me for life.

Edward may have moved on to the next place, but he has never abandoned me. Just the other day, when I was again subjected to some unnecessary and hateful behavior, he was there for me in his work. I opened a book and retreated from this world into his, and on the other side of that bridge he reminded me once more of the many things he's taught me. When you embrace beauty like this, you make it impossible for anyone to infect you with their ugliness. And when I crossed back over the bridge into my reality, it was like the cruelty never happened.

To be nobody but yourself in a world that's doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting. -- e.e. cummings

And this is why we should create instead of destroy, heal instead of harm, and love instead of hate. To build our own bridges for those who need us now, and those who will need us after we're gone. To be there as a sanctuary and a source of reassurance for someone in need of protection, even after we've moved on. Honestly, this is the only immortality worth having.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Thumb Rules

I'm not a fan of rules, but I do enjoy the folksy alternatives, such as rules of thumb. These are advice, estimates or predictions based on experience or opinion, such as "When the ink on a fountain pen flows more liberally than usual you are likely to have a storm" or "If it rains all summer here we'll have at least two freezes during winter" (one of mine). Rules of thumb range from utterly ridiculous (If you don't want a cat to jump into your lap, don't make eye contact with it) to totally accurate (Cook fish ten minutes per inch of thickness.)

You can imagine how entertained I was when I discovered there's a searchable web site devoted to rules of thumb on just about every subject you can imagine. You simply enter any topical word into the search box, and the site will offer you all the thumby wisdom it has on the subject.

Here are a few zingers about writing:

"If you feel that you need a thesaurus to write something, you are probably trying too hard."

--John Shed, language instructor

"Always figure out who your characters are before you figure out your plot. You can follow a good character through a bad plot, but you can't make a good plot out of a bad character."

--James Erwin, Editor, Des Moines, IA, USA

"If the erasers of your pencils wear out before the graphite, you're too fussy."

--Stephen Unsino, poet, Eastchester, New York

(Thanks to Gerard over at the Presurfer, who led me to the Rules of Thumb site via this helpful post.)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ban Me Baby

Which banned book are you? Take this online quiz from Columbus State Library to find out.

My results:

So I'm a Utopian parody written by a smartass pacifist. Sounds about right.

Why should we ban you? Let us know in comments.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sub Op

Dragon's Roost Press has an open call for their upcoming romance Lovecraft-themed charity antho [PBW notes: Yes, you read that correctly; romance + Lovecraft.]: "For our new anthology, tentatively entitled Eldritch Embraces, we want to put the love back in Lovecraft. In order to be considered for inclusion in this anthology, your story must focus on two things. There must be an element of love or romance and the story must invoke the cosmic terror of H.P. Lovecraft. What We Want: Finely crafted works of Dark Speculative fiction which explore the connections between people or between elder gods or combinations thereof. Obviously, this topic lends itself best to horror, which is our wheelhouse genre, but science fiction and fantasy are also welcome, provided there is some element of fear involved. We have no restrictions on the setting of your work in time or space. We look forward to exploring ancient deserts, Depression Era alleyways, modern cityscapes, and even far off worlds. While we usually dwell in the shadows, we do enjoy laughter. Humor is more than welcome. Bonus points for fiction which explores some of the more Lovecraftian themes like the how humanity is influenced by forces beyond its comprehension, the quest for forbidden knowledge, and apocalyptic threats to the world." [PBW notes: I am SO buying this antho when it's published.] Length: up to 6K; Payment: "At this time payment is one cent per word ($0.01/word) plus one contributor’s copy and one digital version in the format of the author’s choosing. We will be running a crowd sourcing campaign with the goal of providing higher monetary recompense to our authors. As with our first publication, this is a charity anthology to raise money for the canine rescue Last Day Dog Rescue." Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: October 17th, 2015 or when filled.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Write Habits

Daily writing is not for everyone, but if you want to produce new work more frequently than once every blue moon you should consider making a weekly writing committment. I started this last year with Just Write Thursdays so I could get back to my old habit of trying some new ideas and having fun with story. Thursday is now my favorite day of the writing week.

I think the first step is decide what you most like to write. For me books are inevitably creative marathons, but writing short stories aren't. Short stories have always been my idea test strips, and I like that I don't have to spend months working on them before I reach the finish line. Blogging, journaling, and writing poetry are also fun for me and are even shorter than my short stories.

If you're not sure what form of writing would best fit as a new write habit for you, try prompts. I spotted this button for The One-Minute Writer over at Terlee's blog, and this gal offers daily prompts that are brilliant (and even better, brief.) The idea is simple, too: pick a prompt and write about it for sixty seconds. P.S., if you can't spare one minute to write, you should maybe stop calling yourself a writer.

Other habit-forming write exercises:

Carry a notepad with you the next time you leave the house, and when you see an interesting stranger, jot down a new name for him or her.

Compose your official author bio (and if you want it to sound professional, lie about everything.)

Describe a character with twenty-six words, using one letter of the alphabet for every word.

Make up a list of titles for stories you'd like to write (or that you'd never write.)

Open your dictionary to a random page, close your eyes, point to something on the page, and then write a story premise using that word.

Pen an acceptance speech for an award you'd like to win -- then write one for an award you'd hate to win.

Take five names from different random pages in your telephone book and make up a character for each one by inventing a description, occupation, and a conflict for them.

Tell a story using only one complete sentence.

Write down every word you can think that describes your favorite color, then do the same for your least favorite.

Do you have any tricks you use to get you back in the writing habit? Let us know in comments.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Wizards of the Wheels

Sometimes people do things that seem ordinary but when you slow them down they reveal an amazing, poetic magic to them; this short films shows how much there is in skateboarding (with background music, for those of you at work):

LOCAL from Sean Slobodan on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

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: More on Club Denizen, with new material beginning on page 27.

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

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Club Denizen Final Cover

I appreciate all the feedback for my Just Write cover quest. I was rather surprised by the responses (my favorite starting out was actually #1) but what you told me made lots of sense. I fiddled a bit with the final choice in Photoshop, and here's the result:

Stop by tomorrow if you'd like to read more of the story.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sub Op

Quarterly journal Farrago's Wainscot publishes "original fiction and poetry in the literary weird mode. Style: Experimental, cross-genre, or other interstitial forms that challenge or expand standard narrative mechanics." What they'd like to see from the poets: "We are open to all subjects, styles, forms, and genres, especially, but not exclusively, those moments where lyric collides with narrative. We are most excited by poems that do or say something, those attentive to the musicality of language and to voice, that do their work subtly and surprisingly, that blindside us with epiphany or heartbreak or both together, that make us want to get up and walk away for a bit to digest. We like poems that whisper, poems that haunt, poems that know when to croon and when to punch." Length fiction: 2-4K; poetry unspecified; Payment: $0.06 USD per word for fiction, $20.00 USD per poem up to four poems. No reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Got Indy?

Now that the eyes, work and life in general have settled down I've been looking for some indy author titles to add to my TBR. I confess I haven't read much in the way of indy since LJ Cohen blew me away last summer with her indy YA SF Derelict so I do need to make more of an effort.

I guess the main problem is print is always my #1 format preference. I know, with all the technology involved in reading these days the paper book is going the way of the dinosaurs, but then I am, too. Print books for me are always going to be the real deal; they're easier for me to read and I just like them better. So the first thing I look for with any indy title is a print edition option. Not many authors opt for print, however, so I then have to eye the electronic alternatives. Since I don't have a working e-reader I use Adobe for .pdfs (love being able to print them out, too, hint hint) my Nook thing on the PC, or that idiot Amazon Cloud thing (don't get me started on that; I just this week finally figured out how to reopen a book on it.)

My latest indy purchase was from LJ, as she has a new indy title out: Time and Tithe, which is the sequel to The Between. Along with all the electronic incarnations she has a print edition available on Amazon, which I happily ordered and will have by Tuesday, according to the e-mail. I could complain about having to wait three years for the book, but that might jinx the sequel to Derelict so I'm keeping my mouth shut.

Having been burned more than a few times I generally don't buy indy titles from writers I don't know anymore. Sad but true; I just can't gamble on new-to-me indy authors the way I can while browsing the brick-and-mortars; there are just too many indies who are simply not writing at a professional level. I have a select few authors who are doing both traditional and indy publishing whom I trust to deliver every single time, and I'll buy anything they publish indy-wise. Some favorite authors of mine are now independently publishing backlist titles for which they've had their rights revert, and if there's something I've never read I'll grab those. I'll also occasionally buy indy titles from authors I'm watching (not in the stalkerish sense, but more to see if they overcome various rookie/early career writing problems and develop into the storytellers that I think they could be.)

Considering how many debut indy titles I have I think the bulk of my purchases are to support writers I know who have opted to fly solo out the starting gate -- like our blog pal B.E. Sanderson, who has gone indy with her first novel Dying Embers. Although B. has a print edition option I bought the Kindle format so I could use it as a test book on their stupid Cloud thing. It turned out to be my good luck charm novel, too, because with it I finally figure out how to close/go back/reopen my purchases. Which means that once I finish B.'s novel I can also read that Anne Stuart Kindle-only book I bought like two years ago and have never been able to reopen.

Are you buying more indy books these days? Got any title recs you want to share? Let us know in comments.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Opinions Wanted

I'm tinkering on cover art for my current Just Write Thursday story and would appreciate some opinions. I'll likely be changing the title and byline fonts, and polishing the final product in photoshop, but which do you like best?

Cover #1:

Cover #2:

Cover #3:

Please let me know what you think in comments (and there are no wrong answers.)

Image Credits:

Mask by belchonok

Figure in Tunnel by eugenesergeev

Old Door by exile7

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Wishing You

Image credit:

Friday, February 13, 2015

Crazy Little Thing Called

In honor of the big V day I have for you a very short, very cute film about the L word (with narration and background music, for those of you at work):

Foolishly Seeking True Love from Jarrett Lee Conaway on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

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: a bit more on Club Denizen, with new material beginning on page 25.

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

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Time to Read

I got a bit of a surprise this week when my college kid told me she was reading The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub; because of her current class workload (including a hefty course in western lit) I thought that she didn't have time to read for pleasure. Then she mentioned that her boyfriend had given her the book because it's his favorite, and it made a little more sense (and now I know the boyfriend is a serious reader -- gave Mama here a moment of utter joy.)

As busy as work/home/life is it's easy to assume people don't have time to read. I used to feel apologetic when I give someone outside my circle a book because I bought into that myth, but the truth is most people will make time to read a book -- as long as they're curious enough or think it's worth it. Thus getting people properly motivated to crack those covers and dive in is the real trick.

I read a lot about books online, and the one thing that captures my attention 99% of the time is humor. If you can employ something fun (a cute video, a tongue-in-cheek post, a list of laughable points) to get me interested in your book, I'm usually motivated to invest. For this reason I also frequently use humor when I recommend other author's books; I know how well it works on me.

Other factors involved in me making time for a book:

Cover art and quotes don't impress me (occupational hazard), but short and very well-written cover copy or a teaser can, as long as there is a strong, substantial hook involved. Has to be pretty tantalizing, though.

Online samples are great motivators, but I think most authors post too many chapters. At most I read only the first page or two of a sample or excerpt, and I don't think I'm alone in this.

Recs from a reliable source are great as long as they've never burned me in the past with a lousy read they've pimped for a publisher or pal. Sources can be anyone in your life -- one of my neighbors is at the top of my trusted rec list because she's never once steered me wrong.

Notoriety can create buzz but I'm kind of contrary when it comes to that; the more notorious and buzzy a book is, the faster I run from it. Interesting and thoughtful discussions about a book work better for me.

Freebies like short stories set in the same universe or part of the story told from a different angle always get my attention because I've used them so often to promote my work, and I'm always intrigued to see what other writers are doing. I like free stuff a lot, too, and a freebie gives me a chance to test-drive the author before I invest. If I don't care for it, I don't get mad because I didn't spend any money on it.

I don't borrow books from anywhere but the library, but if I was more of a dedicated e-reader I'd probably check into the loaner options the e-booksellers offer and swap books with another e-reader pal. Unfortunately my Nook died last summer and I haven't gotten around to replacing it.

What motivates you to make time to read? Let us know in comments.

Image Credit: robynmac

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

7 V-Day Prezzies

Since Valentine's Day is this weekend and everyone I know is cash-challenged I thought I'd share some ideas for low to no-cost gifts for your special loves:

Framed Picture: Print out or make a copy of your favorite picture of your honey (or a romantic moment in your lives) and place in an inexpensive frame (the dollar store has tons of these.) If you want to get crafty, make my photo collage using an old Scrabble game. For bonus love points add a personal caption to the photo or write a sweet message on the frame's backing.

Handwritten Poem: Compose and hand write a poem for your love on some nice paper. If you're not poetic, find a classic love poem and copy it.

Home Cooked Meal: Make your special one's favorite meal for them, set a nice table, light some candles and let that kick off a romantic evening together. If you don't know their favorite meal, I suggest anything Italian as a pretty safe romantic choice.

Pizza Potluck Party: This is a fun way to celebrate the day with a group -- invite everyone over and ask them to bring a small or medium pizza with their favorite toppings. You make a big salad and provide the drinks. You can also do this with Chinese take-out or subs instead of pizza.

Romantic Reads: Nothing says love like a great romance novel, and it's fun to give copies of your favorite to those you want to inspire. Or hunt for the book love at your local thrift or used book store and fill a tote with a themed collection or series.

Theirs for a Day: If your budget can't cover a gift offer your Valentine your services instead. For family members you can babysit, help around the house, work on the yard or just spend the day with them. For your love you can offer a night instead of a day (I'll leave it to you to figure out what services you want to offer for that scenario.)

Treat Tin: Make a batch of brownies, homemade candy, cookies or fudge and pack them into a pretty tin (also plentiful at most dollar stores.) If it's a special recipe, write it on an index card and tape to the top of the tin.

Got any thrifty ideas for great Valentine's Day gifts? Share them in comments.

Image credit:

Monday, February 09, 2015

Sub Op

Stone Skin Press has an open call for their upcoming antho: "Stone Skin Press is proud to announce our newest anthology, Swords v. Cthulhu. As you might have guessed from the title, this project is a spiritual successor to our previous Shotguns v. Cthulhu, but while Shotguns featured mostly modern or futuristic settings for its action-heavy eldritch tales, this tome will collect stories of a historical or fantastical bent. To fulfill the promise of the title, we want at least a few adventure romps in which sinewy muscle and cold steel are pitted against the minions of the Great Old Ones. That said, we’d also like some stories combining movement and violence with the existential despair at the heart of Lovecraft’s work. What we want to see is the cerebral cohabitating with rowdy action sequences." Length: up to 5K; Payment: five (5) cents a word; No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: March 1st, 2015

Sunday, February 08, 2015

5 Flickr Photo Freebie Sources

For those who are hunting freebie images to use, Flickr is a popular place for various archival entities to post collections of photos in the public domain, particular those of historic interest or value. Generally works that have passed into the public domain are free for anyone to use for any purpose, but you should always check the source for terms of use before assuming you can. It's also wise to give credit to the source of any public domain image.

Here are some interesting pics from five of my favorite Flickr freebie image sources (and to go to the complete collection, click on the name):

Library of Congress

Making History

The National Archives UK

National Library of Ireland on the Commons

Florida Memory

As to what you can do with them -- here's what I did just having some fun:

What happens when a Prohibition-era housewife opens the wrong bottle (I might actually have to write this one.)

Docket builds a defensive corset and all hell breaks loose. Or not.

Or maybe just the responses I wanted to send but didn't . . .

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Sub Op

February is one of World Weaver Press's open submission months for unsolicited fiction queries (the other two are June and September), so if you have a SF/F novel, novella, serialized fiction or a fiction collection you might want to check out their very detailed guidelines on what they'd like to see. They also have two new assistant editors who have posted specific details here and here about the sort of submissions they'd personally like to see in 2015.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Sea of Clouds

Here's a lovely time lapse film that shows the mists and fogs of San Francisco behaving like ghost oceans (with background music, for those of you at work):

Adrift from Simon Christen on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

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: More on Club Denizen, with new material beginning on page 22.

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

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, February 04, 2015


My kid has been nagging me to surf around Tumblr more often than I do (which is never) so I cruised on over to have a look around and found these very inspiring stops to bookmark:

Archisketchbook -- Architecture + Drawing = Wow

Art Journaling -- as the subtitle says, where art and words meet. Look at the Archives. No, really, look.

Book Mania -- I admit, somewhat snotty in places, but the very cool visual content makes you forget the occasional lit butt sticks.

Bookshelf Porn -- I think I could live at this one, actually.

I Work at a Public Library -- be prepared to laugh. And sigh.

Inspire Me Now -- 354 pages of brilliant designs from all over the planet.

Things Organized Neatly -- the other kind of visual porn that I love. I know I've linked to this one before but now I think I'll add to my blog roll.

To Love Many Things -- This is what you get when you raid museum databases.

Writing in Notebooks -- I want to live on the planet of Notebook people. Now please.

Writing Prompts -- if you need a kick in the muse, you'll probably find a good one here.

Are there any Tumblr blogs you haunt regularly? Share your favorite links in comments.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Pens Pens & More Pens

All of my every day pens around the house have gradually disappeared over the last couple of months (I blame the college kid; when it comes to pens she never has any of her own -- but she always has at least three of mine) so I hit Office Depot to do a little cheapie/disposable pen shopping, and bought these:

I know, after my past, less than joyful experiences with InkJoy I should have skipped them, but they were on sale ($5.00) and I haven't tried this variety. The Uniball Vision Elite pack was a bit pricier at $11.99, but I like Uniball and I wanted to try them, too. The weirdest thing is I actually got the pack of Uniball BLX pens with black-infused color inks for free; when I checked my receipt I discovered that the clerk didn't ring them up.*

Anyway, here's how the pens write:

They're all good, but I like the Uniball BLX pens best. The black-infused ink looks really normal with the blue and red pens, but the green and purple are rather gothic:

I'm going to hide the ones I like and share the rest with the pen thieves. Should keep them from filching mine for another couple of weeks . . .

*This is the universe balancing things, I think; a few days ago I tried to use a coupon on some toner Office Depot e-mailed to me, and although it was perfectly valid they wouldn't honor it because the bar code wouldn't scan.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Ugly Beautiful

In December I did a lot of crocheting to help retrain my eyes, learn some new stitches and work out some creative frustrations. My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was five, so I can pretty much do it in my sleep, plus to crochet you just need a hook, yarn, and scissors. My sewing and quilting, on the other hand, I had to let languish while I recovered because even after the surgery I still couldn't focus well enough to do even simple tasks like threading a needle.

Over the holidays I slowly adjusted to my new vision. I crocheted four scarves, two pillows and a hat, but I still avoided all of my needlework. I had this terrible yearning for it -- nothing calms me or makes me feel as peaceful as sewing -- but I was afraid the changes to my eyes would make it difficult or even impossible for me to do anymore. Contemplating the thought of giving up sewing was really tough.

Finally I decided to find out just what I could do by doing a practice piece with things I didn't care about, so if I totally screwed it up I could throw it away without a qualm. So I crazy-patched a little tote with every unsightly fabric in my scrap bag and went to work embellishing it. Sort of like putting lipstick on a pig, but I didn't care how it turned out.

For the embellishment I began with this yellow flower lace applique, which came with a bunch of other appliques I ordered for another project last year. Yellow is my least favorite color, so it had been sitting in my lace box for months. On some level I almost wanted to screw it up, so I used it to practice beading:

After I spent a week of tediously beading that applique and the swatch of ugly fabric around it I moved on to another applique; one with an oddball gold color that went with nothing. I decided to pearl that one until it begged for mercy:

Working on all these ugly bits and pieces helped me channel a lot of anger and frustration that had been building since before the surgery. I even found a use for this really hideous plastic bead that I'd had in my bead bag since the Jurassic era:

After a lot more beading and embellishing I finally finished the ugly damn thing last night, and sewed it up, and turned it out to discover this:


My stitching was less than perfect, and I think I need more practice with spacing my seed beading, but . . . it's not really all that bad. I did some rather neat things with this, actually. It reminds me of Fall and October fires and how the leaves on my Japanese maple look when they begin to turn red. Somehow in trying to make something ugly on purpose I accidentally made something kind of beautiful. Something I couldn't have made if I'd given up on sewing.

As for yellow, I'll never love it, but I don't hate it anymore. This time it kind of saved my ass.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

2 Sub Ops

I spotted this double op over in the Paying Markets forum at

"We love anthologies. Can’t get enough of them. So what are we doing about it? Well, Broken Eye Books is preparing to unleash two new anthologies, following up on this past year’s By Faerie Light.

It is our pleasure to announce the new anthologies Ghost in the Cogs and Tomorrow’s Cthulhu. The first is alternate history steampunk ghost stories and the second is transhumanist near-future science fiction tales of the Cthulhu Mythos.

If you would like to submit a story for one of them, we are having an open reading period for original fiction submissions from March 1, 2015 to April 1, 2015.

We are paying six (6) cents per word for up to 4,000 words. Publication requires first rights for the print and digital versions of the anthology. No reprints. You may submit one submission per anthology. Please, no simultaneous submissions."

Get more details on the anthos from Broken Eye Books here.