Tuesday, March 31, 2015

PBW's Book of the Month

I skipped doing a book of the month post in February because I had time to read only a couple of books and my favorite was actually a cook book (plus I was feeling too blue about Leonard Nimoy passing to work up the proper amount of enthusiasm.) I did make more of an effort to read in March, and my pick for the book of the month is Prudence ~ The Custard Protocol: Book One by Gail Carriger.

You don't have to have read Gail Carriger's The Parasol Protectorate series to follow this story, although if you have then you're in for a treat. Prudence is the first novel of TPP's next generation in this delightful Victorian steampunk alternate universe. The protagonist is none other that Lady Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama, the daughter of TPP's Alexia Tarabotti, whom we last saw as Alexia's mischievious abilities-stealing infant. She's also the adopted daughter of Lord Akeldama, London's ever-dazzling, always-fashionably brilliant vampire.

Prudence -- now known as Rue -- is all grown up, and about to set off on her first adventure with her best friend Primrose, Prim's bookish brother Percy, and the utterly too rakish French engineer Quesnel Lefoux, all on board a fantastic dirigible run by the most charming (if not perfect) crew ever to take the skies. How to describe Prudence as a story . . . you're in for a romp that twists and turns like The Spotted Custard (the name of Rue's airship, which resembles an enormous ladybug) as it floats off to India in search of adventure, tea, intrigue -- and finds all that and quite a bit more.

I picked this book because it made me continually laugh out loud while keeping me on the edge of my seat, especially in the second half of the novel when things go from very interesting to Holy Cow, how is Rue getting out of this mess? As fond as I am of all the characters from TPP, and loved seeing some of them show up in the story, I really enjoyed the quartet of Rue, Prim, Percy and Quesnel. As a team they're definitely original and endlessly entertaining, and I can't wait to follow their adventures in the next book.

Monday, March 30, 2015


I'm always looking for ways to reuse things. For example, I like to recycle old dryer sheets in a couple of ways (wrapping for fragile Christmas ornaments, stacked as batting for mug mats, stitched into a pocket and filled with dried lavender or rose petals as a quickie mini-sachet, etc.) so I don't throw them away after I use them.

My guy hates this. This is primarily because sometimes the used sheets fall onto the tile floor in the laundry room and act like banana peels underfoot, but also because there is no really tidy way to store a lot of crumpled up sheets. I was sticking them in plastic bag hanging by the dryer first, but evidently this was too technical for anyone else to remember to do. My guy wanted me to stop saving them; I was just as determined to keep doing it. Then one day I had an empty tissue box I wanted to reuse in some way and the lightbulb went off.

Now when I take a used sheet out of the dryer I pop it in the empty tissue box I leave on top of the dryer. When the box is full I put it in my recycling cabinet, take out another empty tissue box and start over. I get to save the sheets, everyone remembers to use the box, storing them takes up less space and best of all my guy is happy now.

Sometimes when you're writing you come up with a character, scene or plot element that seems so great but ultimately doesn't work for the editor (or the story and you) and bites the dust during the editing process. I have never liked throwing away these dust biters; often they are the victims of space constraints, differing opinions or other edits that render them unnecessary. Sometimes you can rework them back into the story -- Chapter 24 of my Disenchanted & Co., for example, was originally the novel's prologue -- but most often they need to be deleted entirely.

You don't have to erase them permanently, however, if you set up a Repurposing file for your story discards. This can be an electronic or paper file folder where you stick the stuff you have to toss. I set up a file for every book I write as [Story Title] Cut Notes to which I save anything significant that is removed from the manuscript, and keep them all under one folder which I often raid when I need ideas or want to repurpose something into another story.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Draftback is a Chrome extension that allows you to see what edits and revisions you've made while working in Google Docs. I found it via author Jeff Somer's hilarious post about it here (and personally I agree with everything he said about the idea of recording yourself editing a doc for vanity purposes.)

The reason I'm still posting about it is for the benefit of collaborating writers who work online together. Using this could save tons of time for writing partners who can use it to see what changes have been made by the other partner versus telling them via lengthy e-mails, writing up change notes, etc. I think this might also prove helpful to indie writers who want to work online with their editors. This could also be a pretty decent teaching tool for editing, particularly with students who can follow along and see how the process works.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sub Op

UFO Publishing has an open call for their upcoming dark humor SF/F antho Unidentified Funny Objects 4: "We’re looking for speculative stories with a strong humor element. Think Resnick and Sheckley, Fredric Brown and Douglas Adams. We welcome quality flash fiction and non-traditional narratives. Take chances, try something new, just make sure that your story is funny. Puns and stories that are little more than vehicles for delivering a punch line at the end aren’t likely to win us over. Unlike the previous volumes, UFO4 will feature the theme of “Humor with a touch of darkness.” This time around we’re seeking stories that are darkly funny rather than light and fluffy. Sarcasm, black humor, biting satire are all welcome, but I’d like to steer clear of outright horror, even if it has a few humorous lines thrown in. Funny first, dark second. We’re open to a relatively wide interpretation of dark humor, but each story must combine elements of humor with touches of darkness." Length: .5-5K; Payment: "$0.07 per word + contributor copy. Payment will be made upon acceptance. Our preferred method of payment is via PayPal, but you may request a check." Electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Reading period opens April 1st, 2015; Deadline April 30th, 2015.

Friday, March 27, 2015


If there is one art I will forever envy, it's the ancient craft of pottery. Here's a short film on the process featuring Swedish artist Karin Eriksson in her studio (with background music, for those of you at work):

Manos, Pottery Studio from Homegrown Swedes on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 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 47. Also, I'm sorry I wasn't able to get this posted before midnight this week; bad weather here conspired against me.

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

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Collab Free

MoonEdit freeware enables "Cooperative multi-user text editing over the internet: Every co-author can edit the shared document at any time, from any place, and at the same time! There's no need to send files via FTP or to compare documents when multiple users need to make changes to it independently. Multiple text cursors visible on the screen: Every user has their own color. Every cursor movement and text changes are simultaneously visible on the screen by all users. Remote text editing without latency: "ME" uses local prediction code - the same technology used in modern video games! You can use a dedicated standalone server to share a whole directory of text files. Remote users can then edit these files using the "me" client - at the same time. This functionality can be useful for creating websites directly on the www server - which is more efficient than editing files privately and then uploading them via FTP. You could even use "ME" to run a real-time text forum :) Users can view the history of changes from a multi-user edit session. This is especially useful if you want to check out what other users have changed since you were away. Keyboard typing sound simulation: With this, you don't need to move your eyes to know when someone else is making changes to the document. Built-in calculator and music sequencer: To solve complex mathematical expression, just type it as normal text and press Ctrl+Enter. You can also enjoy most unique ME feature: collaborative multi-track music edit. Enter music score using simple text format, and play it using your own or built-in samples" (OS: Windows 98/XP/2000; Linux [i686]; FreeBSD 4.10 [i686])

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sub Op

Cohesion Press has an open call for their upcoming military-themed paranormal antho: "For this anthology, we want hunters of the supernatural. Sam and Dean… Grimm… Van Helsing… with soldiers, hunting along the edges of reality, watching their backs while others watch them from the shadows. Take us along for the ride while your soldiers or hunters take the fight to their enemies. Both hunter or hunted may die, but above all, show us the hunt. We still want ORIGINAL military-style combat from any period, don’t get me wrong, but we also want fear… we want suspense and tension… we want originality in the monster/antagonist. Most of all we want action, action, ACTION! We want something jaw-droppingly amazing. If there are no soldiers in the tale, make the hunters and the action military in nature." Length: 2-10K; Payment: according to Ralan: "AU3¢/word + print & e-copy." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Submissions open May 1st, 2015 (do not send in anything before this date); Deadline: August 1st, 2015.

Monday, March 23, 2015


The March/April 2015 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors was so chock full of excellent new ideas for journaling and book making that I've already picked three to try out:

Modern cartes de visite by Gabriela Domville Dondisch: Back in the nineteenth century, people would mount small photos of themselves on cards and use them to share with friends and family or even use them as the next generation of calling cards. Gabriela's short article covers how to simply make some modern versions, which would be a very cool promo item for authors to hand out with their backlist, contact info, appearance schedule, etc. (theme your cards with your genre, and steampunk writers, this project was practically made for you guys.)

My Story to Tell by Kristen Robinson: if you've ever wanted to try to make a mixed-media book or journal, this is the project for you. The artist uses a lot of recycled materials and offers a very simple two-hole binding technique that anyone can manage.

Dip It! by Ann St. Martin Stout: You know those little sample jars of latex paint at the home improvement stores that always tempt you? Okay, maybe it's just me. Anyway, in this article Ann tells you how to use that paint to decorate the spine plus bind a small book, and uses this really cool marbling technique that is also practically a no-brainer.

At the end of the issue there are also five reader challenge winning projects that show you what you might sculpt out of old unwanted books, plus lots of other articles with fun ideas for your art. Definitely recommend checking out this issue.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Time Tracker

The free standard version of ManicTime "automatically collects data on your computer usage. It records active and away time, as well as which applications you used and for how long you used them. The data ManicTime collects is stored in a local database on your computer. Once data is collected you can use our simple click and drag feature to accurately tag how you spent your time. Time tagging allows you to see how you spent your time based on your own time tags and gives you accurate information on how efficient you really are. Because there is so much data available about your computer usage, you are able to tag spent time for days in the past. Based on this data you are able to generate various statistics. You can easily find out how much time you spend behind a computer or how much time you spend browsing the web." (OS: Windows XP/2003/Vista/7/8)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sub Ops

Third Flatiron Publishing has open calls for several upcoming anthos: "We are looking for submissions to our quarterly themed online anthologies. Our focus is on science fiction and fantasy and anthropological fiction. We want tightly plotted tales in out-of-the-ordinary scenarios. Please send us short stories that revolve around age-old questions and have something illuminating to tell us as human beings. Fantastical situations and creatures, exciting dialog, irony, mild horror, and wry humor are all welcome. Stories should be between 1,500 and 3,000 words. Inquire if longer."

On payment: "Your story must be original work, with the digital rights unencumbered. Accepted stories will be paid at the flat rate of 3 cents per word (U.S.), in return for the first publication rights to the story for six months after publication. All other rights will remain with the author. We no longer offer royalties. If your story is selected as the lead story, beginning July 1, 2014, we will pay a flat rate of 6 cents per word (SFWA professional rate), in return for the permission to podcast or give the story away as a free sample portion of the anthology. We also pay SFWA members 6 cents per word. You do not need to be a SFWA member to submit work."

No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Themes and submission periods for their upcoming anthos:

"Only Disconnect - Presentism as a theme: the pitfalls of distraction, overstimulation, attention thieves. Too much to do, too little time, headlong into the singularity. Advantages of being bored or being "in the present." Connecting with the Earth rather than Bluetooth (gardeners, here's your chance). Are we becoming ADD? Should we disconnect--or connect even further?" Deadline March 31st, 2015.

"Ain't Superstitious - Theme involving superstition, e.g., luck, prophecy, magic, rational and irrational thinking, Spinoza, dark times, black cats, Orpheus, the Flying Dutchman, Sleepy Hollow, Tam O'Shanter, astrology, witchcraft, etc." Submissions open May 1st, 2015; Deadline June 30th, 2015.

"It's Come to Our Attention or Scratching the Surface - Under the radar: things that are happening quietly, without a lot of fanfare, that may still be extremely significant or make a big difference." Submissions open August 1st, 2015; Deadline September 30th, 2015.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Next Gen

On the personal front, I had my six-month eye checkup this week and I have great news: I'm healed completely and seeing (almost) perfectly. The minor difficulties I've been having with reading and threading needles and doing other close-up work is due to my prescription changing -- also because of the healing process -- so in a week I'll have new glasses that should help.

Onto this week's short video: One thing I love about quilting is how it evolves with each new generation. Here's a short film about one young quiltmaker who has taken a very modern approach to quilting while still preserving the tradition of hand quilting (with music and narration by the artist, for those of you at work):

Modern Quilts By Lindsay Stead from House & Home on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 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 44.

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

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Win an Inn

Generally I don't post any essay contests that include fees, but this one offers an opportunity of a lifetime: to own your own historic county inn and restaurant in Maine. Here are some of the details from Janice Sage, the owner (who also won the inn from the owners previous to her via an essay contest):

"Have you ever dreamed of owning a Country Inn and restaurant in New England? Well, here is your chance! Located in southwestern Maine overlooking the White Mountains is The Center Lovell Inn and Restaurant. In 1993, the former owner ran an essay contest and I was the winner. After 22 successful years, it is time for me to retire. Now, I would like to fulfill someone else’s dream.

The Inn was built in 1805, the barn on 1795 and the adjacent guest house in 1985. There are 7 guest units, two dining rooms, and a screened-in wrap-around porch overlooking the mountains, all on 12+- acres.

This area attracts guests from around the world for biking, hiking, skiing and all kinds of boating on beautiful Kezar Lake (across the street) and the many other lakes in this “Lake District” of Maine. Visit www.centerlovellinn.com for more details on the Inn and area."

To win you have to write a 200 word essay on why you would like to own and operate a country inn, and send that in along with a $125.00 entry fee. There are also some requirements the winner has to fulfill (like running the place as an inn for a year after winning.) To find out more, visit the official contest site here. Deadline: "Entries must be postmarked on or before May 7, 2015 and must arrive at the Center Lovell Post Office by May 17, 2015."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Which state in the U.S. is the perfect place for you to live? Take this online quiz to find out.

My results:

Not much of a shocker there. So where should you be living? Let us know in comments.

(Quiz link nicked from Gerard over at The Presurfer)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Digital Art Freeware

I found this freeware while looking around for a freebie alternative to Adobe Photoshop for a friend. The gallery of user art is pretty impressive, too:

KRITA is a "KDE program for sketching and painting, offering an end–to–end solution for creating digital painting files from scratch by masters. Fields of painting that Krita explicitly supports are concept art, creation of comics and textures for rendering. Modelled on existing real-world painting materials and workflows, Krita supports creative working by getting out of the way and with a snappy response. Note that when we say "Krita is a KDE program", that doesn´t mean you need to run the Plasma Desktop to run Krita. It means that Krita as a project is proud to be part of the wonderful KDE community and uses the great framework technology that the KDE community develops. You can run Krita on Windows, Gnome, XFCE, and if you spend some effort even on OSX. There are three versions of Krita: Krita Sketch, for touch devices, Krita Desktop desktop systems and finally Krita Studio, which is like Krita Desktop but supported by KO GmbH. You can find info and the download links for the other Krita programs as well as various Linux ditros on the developer´s download page. A 64-Bit version is also available." (OS: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Match Game

Let's play a game. You know the old saying that you are what you eat? Try to match the writer with their snack of choice:

The Snacks:

1. Coconut Chips

2. Milk

3. Unpeeled carrots

4. Ham and cheese sandwich

5. Beans and hominy

6. Vinegar

7. Oysters

8. Coffee with raw eggs

9. Heavy cream

10. Homemade Bread

The Writers:

A. Emily Dickinson

B. Walt Whitman


D. Franz Kafka

E. John Steinbeck

F. Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket)

G. Michael Crichton

H. Agatha Christie

I. Lord Byron

J. Victor Hugo

No Googling! List your guesses in comments, where I'll post up the correct answers at the end of the day.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sub Op

Plaidswede Publishing has an open call for a New Hampshire-themed fantasy antho: "Come all ye tale-tellers, yarn-spinners and bards! The sixth volume of the New Hampshire Pulp Fiction series is now open for submissions—and your submission needs to be fantastic: literally! Volume VI, tentatively titled “Live Free or Dragons,” is seeking New Hampshire-based fantasy fiction. Elves at the town meeting, unicorns in the White Mountains, or supernatural lumberjacks in the north country. If you’ve known the magic of a bright autumn day, hoped to meet a faerie on the streets of Nashua, or felt that something wondrous might lurk in the chill of a boulder cave, this anthology is for you. Your story can be contemporary, historical or other-worldly—as long as it features a strong New Hampshire connection." More on the theme: "New Hampshire must be integral to the story but how you use it is up to you!" Length: "Submissions should be 1,000 to 8,000 words long." Payment: " Payment will be $50 on publication and two copies of the book." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline" May 1st, 2015.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Color Me Evil

This delightful animated short film demonstrates the evil that is pink (with music and narration, for those of you at work):

Thursday, March 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: More on Club Denizen, with new material beginning on page 40.

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

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

In Internet Years

Can someone tell how old you are by how you use the internet? Take this online quiz to make BuzzFeed guess.

My results:

Twelve years off, I'm afraid (you did not realize I was all of 29, yes? Ha.) So how old are you as an internet user? Let us know in comments.

(Quiz link swiped from Gerard at The Presurfer.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

WFH No-Nos

Ten Things You Should Probably Avoid Putting in Your Ad for a Ghost Writer
(all quotations found in actual Craigslist writing job ads)

"I will pay you in money and other valuable considerations."

Just to be upfront about it, I'm not taking any more chickens in trade.

"Most writers can average $30-45 per hour."

What if I'm above average? Will you pay me $100?

"This is a pay per job position and you can do it from home or you can come sit on my coiuch with your laptop, doesn't matter to me, as long as the work gets done and done right."

Right as in . . . spelling the word couch, for example?

"You really have to get it done pretty quickly, because otherwise it's too expensive."

You really have to wait until you can actually afford to hire me.

"Have a passion for booze in all forms?"

No, but I think I'm developing a migraine. Got an aspirin?

"If you are interested and you think you can write good enough books to hang with the big boys you can email me or text me."

Good enough books, okay. Um, give me a minute to stop laughing and then I'll text. I promise, big boy.

"The more views your articles get, the more you get paid."

Let me reinterpret this one: The more views your articles get, the more we get paid -- not that we'll ever tell you how much that is, btw. You, we might toss a couple extra pennies. Maybe. If we're feeling generous that day.

"While the pay for each task may vary, the goal is to pay approximately $12 per hour for work completed."

And if you don't, can I have David Beckham kick a soccer ball into your groin?

"We're looking for ambassadors . . . "

Try the U.N., pal.

"Please do not send a resume, I would rather see an image of you."

Make that two aspirin.

Monday, March 09, 2015

So Noted

Here's a contradiction: I rarely write in books, but I love to find writing in books. I think the former is because I read mostly library books when I was a kid, and I didn't want to get in trouble with the library ladies. The latter is like spying a bit on the book's former owner and finding out something about them.

Sometimes I find notes in books that really intrigue me, such as those I discovered when I purchased a 1958 edition of Edmund Spenser's poetry. Inside the front cover some reader before me wrote this:

The notations on the inside of the cover are lists of the seven deadly sins and the seven cardinal virtues, along with the phrase "Fatal to spiritual progress" next to the sins list. In case you're wondering, I pulled this book to get the list of the seven deadly sins for a scene in Club Denizen.

On the opposite/title page are some fainter, different notes in pencil (some of which I've typed out beneath them):

I didn't recognize any of the words except the Pershing, which I thought used to be an old gangster hotel in Chicago back during the Capone/Prohibition era. I never bothered pursuing the meaning of the words, but after author Kris Reisz made a very interesting discovery about one of his old books I decided to research the notation and see what I could find out. Which lead me to this recording over on YouTube and this article over at The Wall Street Journal.

I didn't recognize the notation because I'm definitely no music expert; the jazz in my own collection is primarily limited to sax wizards like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. Still, it was very cool to discover Ahmad Jamal, listen to his music, and find out how he and his trio changed so much with their live album.

Have you ever tracked down something you found written in a book? Let us know in comments.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

County Quilt Show

Here's a slideshow of all the amazing quilts we saw at the county show this year:

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Off to See My Other People

I'm unplugging today to go hang with my quilter pals. So that your stop here was not a complete waste, here's an open call for a LGBTQ+ spectrum themed e-zine startup I spotted over in the Paying Markets forum at AbsoluteWrite.com:

"McKay & Gray is looking for submissions for our monthly zine, “The Running Bunny”. We’re looking for comic writers and artists, spot illustrations, and previously unpublished short stories and comics. Our zine “The Running Bunny” is focused on queer content. All stories must contain at least one character on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. We’re looking for strong characters going through all sorts of struggles, from fighting dragons to finishing their math homework. Characters should be more than just their queer identities. All genres are welcome to apply. Do not submit if you are under 18 years old. This is paid work, however our rates are currently: $10 per spot illustration; $15 per comic page; $30 per short story. We hope our rates will raise as our readership grows. We want to pay you decently, we promise! Everything is out of our own pocket for now. Intellectual properties remain the creator’s. Digital rights are exclusive to McKay & Gray for one year then revert back to the creator. Digital copies will remain in the zine’s archive however."

On short story submissions: "We’re looking for short stories between 500-7,000 words. All genres are welcome, as long as one character identifies on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

On one shot comic submissions: "We’re looking for 1-5 page comics. All genres are welcome, as long as one character identifies on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Specifications: 2000x3000 pixels; 300+ dpi; B/W or Colour accepted.

On comic series submissions: Comic artists without a writer, send your portfolio with subject line COMIC SERIES ARTIST SUBMISSION. Writers / Artist teams, send your portfolio with a pitch. We prefer to work with people who have done one-shots in the past. Comic writers are welcome to send a pitch. Please have a completed script prepared before submitting without an artist.

For more information hop (or run) over to MacKay & Gray's Tumblr blog and read the submission guidelines here.

Friday, March 06, 2015


To revise or not to revise, to serve the story or the powers that be, to write your vision, or what everyone else wants you to write -- this adorably scary short film from Robert Rugan just might decide all those questions for you (with music and dialogue, for those of you at work):

DANNY AND THE WILD BUNCH - Short Film from robert rugan on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 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 36.

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

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Falling Up

My first major art project this year is this lap quilt I put together from some random red and gold fabrics in my scrapbag. I also used some black broadcloth leftover from the MegaCon booth drapes last year as the backing and sashing, and simply strip-pieced the patchwork to create long straight lines for me to hand quilt.

I haven't made a quilt since my eye surgery, and I've missed sewing. I'm also seeing some of my quilter pals this month for our annual in-person get together, and I didn't want to say I'm still on hiatus while they talk about all the projects they've finished (we're not really competitive, but I wanted to have one good story.) After struggling with beading and sewing on some tote projects this winter I knew in advance my needlework would probably suck, though. With my flip-flopped vision I can pick out a stray thread hanging from across the room, but it now takes me about ten tries to thread the eye of a quilting needle.

I still felt pretty optimistic when I pieced the top, even when I saw that I had mixed up the order of the strips, and the two dark wide black floral print strips I had ended up practically side by side instead of opposite sides of the quilt. It irked me a bit, but it was a practice piece, so I kept going.

And the going? Was very slow. My stitching did suck, quite a bit; I couldn't seem to quilt one straight row. What should have looked like ----- was more like /~\\~/. My thread kept popping and knotting and raveling. All that color in my face didn't help; I forgot that anything red tends to work like a matador's cape on me when I'm frustrated. The only good thing about the red is that it nicely disguised the fact that I kept stabbing myself with the quilting needle and bleeding on the fabric.

I refused to give up or start over. I can be mule-headed that way. I didn't care what the damn thing looked like; I just wanted to finish what I started. I felt like if I could just get this piece done I'd finally have my quilter self back. I miss her. She's fun.

I think my final straw snapped after I'd quilted my way to the center strips and found two small rips and a hole in two of the fabrics that I hadn't before noticed. That's the quilter's equivalent of completely falling down on the job. All that work I'd done was instantly reduced to a complete waste of time. What was I going to tell my pals now, that I was an idiot? I felt like ripping it to shreds.

But I didn't. I believe in falling up, not down. As in, if you can't learn from your mistakes you'll never improve.

Finishing the ripped-up holey quilt took me two months. I spent a couple of hours almost every night stitching up and down. I quilted over the hole and the rips and tried some different threads to see if anything would be a little easier for stitch practice (and weirdly enough, rayon thread turned out to better than glace or waxed for me.) Once I finished the piece I looked at the damaged spots in the fabric and decided to cover them both with with the strategic placement of two heart appliques. Sappy, I know, but by then I had worked through my frustration and come out the other side with my love of quilting intact -- and maybe more balanced.

I'm going to keep practicing, because that's what you do to get better. I may never again be able to quilt the way I did before my vision failed, but it doesn't matter. This piece taught me that the love of quilting isn't about perfection or doing everything right or even what others think of the final product. Quilting actually doesn't care when I mess up. It's always there, waiting for me to make it into something that I see inside, where no one can see. That I can take that and make something out of nothing, something that will comfort and keep someone warm on a cold night, is never a waste of time. And that's the story I'm going to tell my sewing sisters when I see them.

Now apply this to writing.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Sub Op

Found this SF/Fantasy/Horror freebie/charity antho open call over on Ralan.com, which has posted it in lieu of linking to a web site (because they don't have one): "Science fiction, fantasy and horror (and derivatives) short stories of between 5000 and 8000 words, nothing shorter than 5000 words. No theme, subject is open. Looking for the best to use in this wide ranging collection. Payment $75 AUD on acceptance and paid via paypal – sorry, my only payment method. Plus a copy of the collection in print and ebook form. The ebook form can be copied and sent to as many people as you like, just as long as it is free. Note: While the payment is low, the anthology will be offered as a free ebook to readers, and as a very low cost print book on amazon." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see Ralan's post for more details. Deadline: October 1st, 2015.

Monday, March 02, 2015


Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick. -- Hippocrates (466?-377? B.C.)
-- epigraph for StarDoc by S.L. Viehl

Last week in comments I mentioned that Tennessee Williams used the last line of my favorite e.e.cummings poem as an epigraph for The Glass Menagerie, and promptly got three e-mails asking me what epigraphs are and why writers use them.

To put it simply, the epigraph is a very brief preface, usually in the form of a line or two, placed at the front of a book or chapter by an author. Epigraphs are almost always a quotation of someone else's work, and are frequently borrowed from verse or text that has some relation to the story or some personal significance to the author (or both.) Epigraphs became popular back during the early eighteenth century when printing processes had evolved enough to make mass-produced books less expensive and more accessible by the general population. Authors and publishers knew many of these folks didn't have extensive backgrounds in literature so they used the epigraph to give the reader a preemptive shove in the correct thematic direction.

Why do writers use epigraphs? Lots of reasons that have to do with our love of words and wisdom from other writers. Epigraphs could also be interpreted as the copy we would write for our stories (if publishers ever let us.) I can't dismiss how very cool they look at the front of a book, either. Epigraphs quoting Scripture, poetry and classic literature are common, but there are plenty of other forms. I used the definitions of genetic terms as epigraphs for my Kyndred novels. Quotations by Kafka and Nietzsche are particularly, ploddingly popular among the literati, but Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Eugenides coolly opted to use lyrics from a Talking Heads song for The Marriage Plot.

Up there you see the very first epigraph I published, which I did not place in the front pages of StarDoc but used to open book's first chapter. This was deliberate; I wanted the statement by Hippocrates to be the very first words of the story that the reader saw. Yes, it was that important. StarDoc's epigraph doesn't simply describe the main character's goals and conflict or what drives the plot for ten novels, or even give a big hint about the series. Those sixteen words are the series.

Other writers with interesting epigraphs:

E.M. Forester was famously, fabulously brief with the two-word epigraph for Howard's End: "Only connect . . ."

Going for the ego gold F. Scott Fitzgerald decided to quote himself as an epigraph for The Great Gatsby: "Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her; If you can bounce high, bounce for her too, Till she cry 'Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover, I must have you!'" (It's a line he wrote for Thomas Parke D’Invilliers in This Side of Paradise.)

Ernest Hemingway made John Donne pull double duty when he used him for the epigraph and the title of For Whom the Bell Tolls: "No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."

Mario Puzo was extremely cold and direct with his Balzac quotation epigraph for The Godfather: "Behind every great fortune there is a crime."

Mark Twain is the author of my all-time favorite epigraph, which you can find (if you dare) in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. By Order of the Author Per G.G., Chief of Ordnance."

If you want more examples of book epigraphs, visit Epigraphic, a Tumblr blog devoted to them.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Blogger SPAM

I always reserve the right to make fun of anyone who SPAMs me -- including my own blog host:

Starting March 23, 2015, you won't be able to publicly share images and videos that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity on Blogger.

Because I'm, what, Sexy Back Writer now?

Note: We’ll still allow nudity if the content offers a substantial public benefit. For example, in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts.

You know, that's what every twerp says when his mother finds his sticky little Playboy stash: "Geez, Mom, they were substantially beneficial to me."

Changes you’ll see to your existing blogs: If your existing blog doesn’t have any sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video on it, you won’t notice any changes.

Kinda doubt there is anything I've done that qualifies. Well, this cover. And this one before I convinced them to put a shirt on him. Or are you doing the gender double standard thing and not counting naked male chests?

If your existing blog does have sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video, your blog will be made private after March 23, 2015. No content will be deleted, but private content can only be seen by the owner or admins of the blog and the people who the owner has shared the blog with.

Okay, so if PBW suddenly vanishes this time it will be entirely due to your uptight, unwarranted and unwelcome censorship. Gotcha.

Settings you can update for existing blogs, blah blah blah

Oh, bite me. Wait, only if it offers a substantial public benefit!