Thursday, April 30, 2015

PBW's Book of the Month

There will not be a Just Write Thursday this week as I'm finishing up a project for a client today. Since it's the last day of April I'll use this post instead to make my pick for the book of the month, which is Longing by Mary Balogh. You can read my thoughts about it here.

The new glasses are helping me quite a bit with reading, which is why I was able to knock out a total of fourteen books in April. That's also the most I've read in one month since the eye surgeries, so I feel very good about my reading future. The last remaining problem with reading is that my book-buying budget is quite a bit tighter now that I'm freelancing, so I'm looking for creative ways to get more books without breaking the bank.

One major thing I've done this month is to sign up for Library Thing's Early Reviewer program, as I can now actually read anything I might receive. I also plan to post about the program and what books I receive from it here on the blog -- and as it happens the LT folks just notified me to expect one of my requests:

Congratulations. You've been selected to receive an Early Reviewers copy of In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France by Susan Herrmann Loomis from the April 2015 batch.

This is the book I wanted most out of all my requests so I think the universe is giving me a nod there; I'll be reading and reporting on it here at the blog as soon as it comes in and I read it.

While dropping off a bunch of books at our local public library I also went into their books-for-sale nook for the first time, and was able to score this batch for a grand total of six dollars. The cookbook is not only exactly what I was looking for (my guy loves pasta) but is spiral-bound, which makes it a lot easier to use in the kitchen. It's in brand-new condition and originally listed for $18.95, so at $1.50 it was quite a bargain.

Actually I was surprised by how nice all the books in the book nook were; the Anne Perry hardcover and The Arabian Nights were also in pristine condition, and the Arabian Nights has a bunch of gorgeous color plate illustrations by Maxfield Parrish. The next time you stop by your public library you should definitely check out any books they have for sale. Unless I want to keep them all the review copy or used books I receive will be donated to our Friends of the Library for resale to benefit the library's many excellent programs, or donated to our local public high school for their media center.

What are you looking forward to reading in May? Any exciting new releases I should be keeping an eye out for? Let me know in comments.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Audio Sub Op

The People's Ink has an open call for submissions to be read for The Overcast podcast:

"We are interested in speculative fiction, whatever that means to you, be it Science Fiction, Fantasy, Alternate History, Steampunk, Magical Realism, or an as-yet-unnamed genre. Anything that looks at the world from an unexpected angle, we want to see it. We want to read stories that infuse us with extraordinary feelings, transport us to places we’ve never imagined, and fill our lives with characters that we love and loathe. We want to still be thinking about a story days after reading it. Be original. Be amazing.

We are based in Portland, Oregon, and the focus of our podcast is speculative fiction by authors hailing from, living in, or connected to the Pacific Northwest, as loosely defined by the bioregion of Cascadia. There is an exceptionally strong talent pool of speculative writers in Cascadia, and we want to celebrate and promote them to a larger audience. That said, we are not exclusive. We are open to submissions from anywhere. While we’d ideally like to feature Pacific Northwest authors in at least 3/4 of our podcasts, we first and foremost want to feature great stories. So no matter where you live, send us your stories. If they make us laugh, cry, or turn cartwheels of astonishment, preferably all at once, we will find a place for them in our podcast.

This is an audio format publication. We feel that stories of about 20 minutes in length are the sweet spot for podcasts. In preparing for our podcast, we’ve discovered that our average reading speed is approximately 100 words per minute. Which means that a 2,000 word story falls right in the sweet spot. We will consider submissions of anywhere from 1,000 – 5,000 words, but if it comes down to a choice between two stories of otherwise equal merit, we will generally choose the story that is closer to the sweet spot.

Reprints are welcome, so long as they have not been previously produced in an audio format.

Our authors are the heart and soul of our podcast. We are creators ourselves, and we strongly believe that all creators should be paid for their work to the best of our ability. As we are just starting out, the current limits of our ability are a semi-pro rate of $0.02 cents a word. We hope, however, that our podcast will quickly become a success beyond our wildest dreams and bring us fame, fortune, and the ability to pay pro rates. We’d also like a pony. A genetically modified pony with six legs that urinates a nice, rich stout.

Payment will be made through Paypal upon acceptance."

See the guidelines for more details, and if you have that kind of pony, maybe they'll stable it for you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


A few years back I test-drove RedNotebook, which has a new version that's just been released. This is one of the more interesting and easy-to-use electronic journal freewares out there, so I thought I'd post the info and links for anyone who is looking for a free electronic notebook or journaling program:

RedNotebook is a graphical diary and journal helping you keep track of notes and thoughts. It includes a calendar navigation, customizable templates, export functionality and word clouds. You can also format, tag and search your entries.


Enter text for individual days and navigate using a fancy calendar
Add Categories to days and fill them with content
Tag your entries
Format your text bold, italic or underlined
Insert Images, files and links to websites
Links and mail addresses are recognized automatically
(Live-) Search
Automatic saving
Backup to zip archive
Word Clouds with most often used words and tags
Templates for each weekday and arbitrarily named ones
Export the journal to PDF, HTML, Latex or plain text
Graphical preferences dialog
You can have multiple journals
RedNotebook is open source software, you are free to use and redistribute it under the terms of the GPL
Translated into 16 languages
The data is stored in plain text files, no database is needed
Direct PDF export
Markup highlighting
Use webkit more extensively
save your journals on a remote server (SSH, FTP, WebDAV)
RedNotebook is fully translated into 16 languages (make it speak your language)
Optional tray icon and spell checking
auto-completion and command line functionality

(OS: Win 98/ME/2000/XP/2003/Vista/7)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Doc Doc Goose

Can the internet guess how much formal education you have? Take this online quiz (without cheating!) and find out.

My results:

You can call me Dr. PBW if you want, but alas, not even close. I never enjoyed anything academic, regularly skipped school, spent much of my educational years in detention or the Dean's office, and usually pissed off nearly every teacher who ever had the bad luck to get me as a student.

How schooled are you? Let us know in comments.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Quick Fixes

I'm a bit shocked to hear that so many Americans are broke apparently because they eat out too much. We rarely go out to eat any more because of restaurant prices (going up) and quality and quantity (definitely going down.) I also find it difficult to eat out because my diet restricts me from eating about 90% of what's on any menu, so I generally have fish. I like fish, but oy, you get tired of it fast when everyone else is eating steak smothered with onions and bleu cheese crumbles.

I know getting into the habit of home cooking takes some commitment, and coming up with quick/easy/appetizing dinners that don't require five thousand ingredients one must procure from a specialty store is a challenge. But home cooked meals are not only thrifty, they bring the family together. If you don't have much cooking experience you can find tons of free cooking classes and videos online. Here's a list of free cooking instructional videos from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension that features quick, healthy dinners.

I think the key to making meals at home more often is to prepare easy, quick dinners a couple nights a week. Just keep it simple, too. For those of you who are looking for ideas, here are

Ten Quick & Easy Things I Make for Dinner

1. Breakfast: We like breakfast any time, so I'll put together some combination of waffles, pancakes, turkey sausage, turkey bacon, grits, egg white omelets, scrambled Egg beaters, toast, english muffins, etc.

2. Calzone and a caesar salad: if you don't like this one I've linked to you can find a bunch of other, easy-to-make calzone recipes online. They sell bagged caesar salad kits in most market produce sections if you need help putting that together, but it's very fast and easy to make your own.

3. Chili dogs: We adore chili, so I make a big pot of it every other month and freeze it in smaller containers, which I then thaw, warm up and put on top of hot dogs or smoked sausage when we want it. Usually these are so filling I don't bother with anything else, but if you want veggies a tray of celery sticks with ranch or blue cheese dip goes well with them.

4. French onion soup and grilled roast beef and swiss sandwiches: This sounds fussy but it's not, as I use sliced deli roast beef or leftover pot roast for the sandwiches and make a very simple version of the soup. Horseradish mayo is a great spread to add to the sandwiches (sparingly for those who aren't fans of the heat.)

5. Grilled cheese and tomato soup: Yes, the childhood classic, and we're still fans. I like using different cheeses for the sandwiches, too. Sprinkle the soup with oyster crackers or cheddar-flavored gold fish crackers for the kids. If you don't care for grilled cheese try BLTs.

6. Homemade pizza and a romaine salad: if you don't make your own pizza, frozen is fine. I make a romaine salad very simply by chopping up romaine and drizzling it with a homemade Italian vinaigrette and a bit of parmesan cheese.

7. Meatball sub sandwiches: a baguette + leftover meatball pasta sauce + provolone cheese; toast under the broiler for a couple minutes. Like the chili dogs these are pretty filling, but if you want veggies try slicing up a cucumber and drizzle with your favorite dressing.

8. Pulled pork BBQ sandwiches with beans and garlic-chive fries: I use an extra-lean pork tenderloin baked in the oven to cut down on the fat plus a bottled BBQ sauce we like. The beans are from the deli (they make them better than I do), and the garlic-chive fries are actually not fried but baked in the oven.

9. Rotisserie chicken and deli sides: Get all of it from your market's deli; if you live in the South Publix has a nice combo meal deal that feeds four for about twelve bucks, which is usually the price of one meal at a restaurant.

10. Tuna salad sandwiches and soup: This is one of my guy's favorite meals; I usually make a light chicken noodle soup to go with the sandwiches.

Another way I use leftovers is to make just about every variation of hot open-faced sandwiches with leftover meat, a little gravy and toast. You can do this with chicken, beef, turkey, pork or ham. If you're not a skilled gravy maker you can buy a jar of almost any variety at the store.

Also, if you want a decadent, beautiful dessert that everyone will love and think you slaved over but that requires no cooking, try this raspberry cream trifle, which my daughter's friends went wild over (and if you don't like raspberries, substitute strawberries, peaches or whatever fruit suits your fancy.)

Do you have any quick fix ideas for dinner you want to share? Let me know in comments.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Timing, Everything

We had some friends over and ordered in Chinese, and this was the sunny little fortune that came out of my cookie:

After receiving this and a couple other unsolicited but really lovely positive messages lately, I've decided that the universe is cheerleading me. It happens every now and then, usually when I'm busy but feeling good and really in no need of pom poms.

Which means . . . hell if I know.

This is what I would like know: Where are the pom poms when I truly need them? Like 2014, remember that rollercoaster ride, universe? Or when I got shin splints last month, and realized it only when I was still on foot two miles from home? Or the morning when I e-mailed the client a correction and gave the wrong page number (that was so professional)? Or every single time I open a menu and see something delicious I want but I can't have on my diet? Speaking of the diet, where was your support on Prom dress shopping day, when we stopped at that nifty French macaron mall cafe and I nearly died a thousand deaths in front of the display case with all those lovely little rounds looking at me and whispering seductively Diet? We do not diet in France, cherie. We spit on your diet.

I appreciate the good thoughts and positive energy -- honestly, I do -- and I'm sure deep inside somewhere I can fly. Today, however, I need to move my butt, finish the edit on the client's next installment, update the ledger, finish the laundry, and make sure I get in at least three miles with the walking. Oh, and figure out what to feed these people for dinner that is low-fat, has no cholesterol or sugar, and doesn't resemble or taste like tree bark and twigs.

Maybe you could drop a hint in the next cookie?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Completely Bananas

Here's a look at how Chiquita Bananas' fun Nana Serif font was created (with background music, for those of you at work):

Chiquita - Making of Banana font from Erik Post on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 23, 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: I'm bending the Just Write rules a little today by posting an old partial I've always wanted to finish. I did do a bit of rewriting and clean-up on it today, but it was already three full chapters, which is why there is so much of it. I'm still trying to decide if I want to continue on with it, but while I do, you can check out Ghost Writer.

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

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Journal Secrets

In today's all-digital, all-public-all-the-time age I think it's becoming more important than ever to keep some things hand-written and personal. Yes, this is yet another Why Aren't You Journaling? nag post. I know, it's not easy, and it generally requires you to write more than 140 characters, and it's a pain to upload to your Tumblr blog or Twitter thing or Facebook page. But with a little time and creativity you may discover it can be just as much fun as all the electronica.

This is a pic of the journal I'm using this month for my personal chronicles, and we'll take a couple peeks inside so I can show you what I put in it and how it helps keep me motivated and actively involved in learning, moving forward and feeling gratitude for my many blessings.

One reason I think more people don't journal is that they think they'll have nothing to say, or they dread all those blank pages, or they believe they'll end up whining and writing bad poetry the way they did in high school. Because a paper journal is probably now the last place you can bitch about anything without someone looking over your shoulder or using it to hatchet-job you online, it is tempting to make it a depository for all the negative, depressing things that happen. Now imagine that's all that survives you (personal journals are almost universally cherished once they get old enough), and someday your great-great granddaughter opens your old journal to find out what kind of person you were. Are they going to think you were the interesting person you are, or an endless complainer who never appreciated any of the good in life?

Personal struggles are standard journal fodder, but so are the little triumphs and accomplishments we manage, too. For this journal page I added a list from the magnetic notepad on my fridge, which I use to track my progress with walking each week. While history may not care how often I walked every day, it's important for me to know so I can stick to my goals, tally it up and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the week so that I'll be motivated to keep doing it. I like making and looking at lists that show what I'm doing, too, because they're a good barometer of how healthy I'm living. I'm now competing with myself to do a little more walking; I would love to work my way up to walking 50 miles every week (if that sounds like a lot, imagine Charles Dickens, who reportedly walked at least 20 miles a day.) When you get older motivating yourself to be active becomes more of a challenge, so setting goals and sticking to them helps boot me out the door every morning, too.

If exercise isn't an issue for you to journal about, pick something that is. For example, my friend Jill was trying to clean out her spare room, which was pretty cluttered with stuff, and making little progress. I suggested she start taking a picture of the room every time she worked on it and put the pic in her journal, along with a list of what she got out of the room and what she did with it. After a week of doing that she told me it did the trick, and she had the room cleaned out completely (this after months of being unable to make a dent in it.) She also tucked the receipts she got for donating some of the excess into her journal. Now next year come tax time she'll be able to detail exactly what she donated to Goodwill, and have the pictures to prove it, all by raiding her journal.

Here's something you may not know about me: I save every single card, note or letter my family and friends give or send to me in the mail by adding them to my journals. Here's a lovely card I received from a wonderful reader of mine that left me a little teary-eyed -- and yes, I do keep everything my colleagues and readers write to me, too. I even have a special journal just for editor correspondence. Occasionally, when I feel strongly about an issue, I write to very famous and powerful people, and sometimes they write back as well; among the more famous letters I've stored in my journals is one from then-President Bill Clinton about health care for the elderly, and a note from the CEO of Waste Management about the fair treatment of working-class people.

You may not think your correspondence is worthy of saving in a journal. I'm sure Jane Austen's friends might have thought that. Women of her time were mostly regarded and treated like room decorations, and I doubt anyone thought the little stories she scribbled would go on to become some of the most beloved classics in romantic literature. Or Emily Dickinson's few friends. Sure, she was a crazy lady who dressed in white and never left the house . . . and after her death would become one of the most admired and respected poets of all time. Almost all of what we know about Vincent Van Gogh's state of mind comes from the 874 letters that survived him. Even if you and all the people you correspond with never become famous, you still have value to history. You know how they say "In a hundred years, what will it matter?" Maybe in a couple hundred years all the electronica will be erased by some disaster, and your humble little journal may contain the only record to survive and show your time as it really was, ala Pepys.

Future fame as a dead celeb or posthumous contributor to history is definitely a glamorous reason to journal, but perhaps not as important as what has personal meaning for you. You all know one of the great joys in my life is quilting. I talk about it occasionally online, but where I really explore it and work on it and think about it is in my personal journals. I keep a quilt diary to record everything I make, but I also use my daily journals to play with design ideas, work out problems, figure out failures, celebrate milestones and pretty much quilt-dream whenever I like. This is something that makes me happy, allows me to channel my energy into artistic creation, and keeps me connected to some of the happiest aspects in my creative life.

This is a pic of some lovely quilted blocks and a huge, generous collection of fabrics that a dear friend sent to me. The colors and patterns are just amazing, and right now in my journal I' working out what to do with all of it. I'm sketching and planning and arranging little swatches on the pages, and having so much fun. Now that said, I don't think any of my quilts will be historically important; I'm not that skilled. I leave the history-making stuff to my more talented sisters. What will be important is what quilting taught me, how it made my life more colorful and fun and content. Those passages in my journals may inspire someone else someday to give it a try. I hope they do, and in passing along that gift I hope it enriches their life as much as it has mine.

Bottom line, whatever secrets (or non-secrets) you choose to put in your journal, the chronicle of your life is something only you can create. A journal is in every way a book of your life, and who better to write it than you?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Club D

The final edited edition of Club Denizen is now posted to the online freebies library; to go to it click on the cover art. For those who have been following it for the last couple of months, not much has changed; I cleaned up what typos I could spot and added some bits for clarification here and there. I am tempted to make it into a novel, or perhaps a series, so I'll think more on that and see what the work schedule allows in the future.

Thanks to everyone who did follow along; writing this one was a lot of fun.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Friend to the Mobiles

According to this post, Google is going to make things a little easier for mobile users:

Have you ever tapped on a Google Search result on your mobile phone, only to find yourself looking at a page where the text was too small, the links were tiny, and you had to scroll sideways to see all the content? This usually happens when the website has not been optimized to be viewed on a mobile phone. This can be a frustrating experience for our mobile searchers. Starting today, to make it easier for people to find the information that they’re looking for, we’re adding a “mobile-friendly” label to our mobile search results.

This change will be rolling out globally over the next few weeks. A page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot: Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash; Uses text that is readable without zooming; Sizes content to the screen so users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom; Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped.

With more people using their mobile phones to surf the internet accessibility is apparently becoming an issue, and if you use your site or blog to promote your books you may want to see how yours will be flagged. According to Gerard over at The Presurfer, where I originally found the info and the link to the test: "This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in Google Search results. Users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results optimized for their devices."

To find out if your site will be flagged as mobile-friendly, go here to test the URL. And in case you're wondering about PBW:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Revisited Reads

Mary Balogh, one of my all-time favorite historical romance authors, recently published a new edition of her 1995 novel Longing, and since it has been about twenty years since I first read it I decided to revisit it this month to see how it holds up after two decades.

Here's the copy for Longing:

The illegitimate daughter of an English lord, Sian Jones abandoned her heritage to live in a stalwart coal mining community in South Wales. Empowered by their cause, she’s engaged to be married to the leader of a revolutionary movement that is bracing itself against the tyranny of English mine owners. But Sian’s principles are unexpectedly shaken when she accepts a job as governess under Alexander Hyatt, the mysterious Marquess of Craille, the oppressive symbol of everything she has come to resist. She never expected Alexander to upend all her expectations. He is sympathetic to her cause. He is a loving father. A man of wealth and position, he is fatally attractive. And he is offering his heart to the independent woman who has illuminated his life. Now, caught between two worlds, and between the promises and desires of two men, Sian must make a choice that will define her future — one that can only be made in the name of love...

Now onto my backstory: in the mid-nineties I was staying at home with two little ones in diapers, and with only their dad's income to support us we lived on a very tight budget that did not allow for lots of book purchases. So once a week I would go to the library to pick up books to read during naptime or after the kids went down for the night. Longing came home with me on one of those trips. I'd read only a few of Mary's books back then (the first I read was Dark Angel, which knocked my socks off) but I was already hooked on her lovely writing style. This story was also set in Wales, about which I knew absolutely zero, so I considered that a bonus.

I remember reading it slowly while I mentally tried to sound out all the odd Welsh names and words, too. When I finished it I felt a bit walloped. The story was very emotional as well as very non-traditional in how the romance (more like a romantic triangle) played out, and in the HEAwful era of the 90's it was quite refreshing. It also had an intense cast of characters that stayed with me a long time after I finished the story. When I returned it to the library I promised myself I'd buy a reread copy for myself the next time I was at the used book store.

Actually I never did get a copy of Longing for myself (another long story), so I was quite pleased to see it back on the shelves with its pretty new cover art. I think as soon as I began reading it I remembered that walloped feeling superimposed over a similar experience I had when I saw BBC's production of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South for the first time. While Longing has a different setting, plot and characters, much of the emotional stakes in both stories had the same effect on me. Now that I've written 50+ books of my own, including a few like Dreamveil and Disenchanted & Co. that have more than one hero, I can also personally appreciate how tough it is to publish a story that features multiple romantic interests that last longer than the usual two pages.

Longing definitely held up very well after a twenty-year reading break, and for those of you who didn't get a chance to read the original release I can definitely recommend it as an excellent choice.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sign Me Up

Ten Holidays Writers Would Like to Celebrate

Butt in Chair Week (January 2-9): To help all writers get a decent start on all those writing resolutions they made on January 1st which they will either ignore, forget about or declare impossible by January 10th.

Hatchet Job Recovery Day (Anytime): Must be celebrated with the writer's favorite consolation activity, food or beverage as well as a very large box of tissues.

Income Tax Weepfest (April 16th): Save some of those tissues for this 24-hour period of hysterics over all those lost receipts, being unable to claim Hagan-Daaz as a deduction, having to pay twice the FICA for being self-employed, etc.

Leave Me Alone I'm Writing! Month (November 1-30th): Because calling it National Novel Writing Month has not discouraged non-writers from interrupting us while we're creating our next work of breathtaking genius, maybe this will.

Love Scene Composition Day (February 15th): Got to do something with all that personal intensive research we did on February 14th, yes?

Not Going to Nationals Compassion Weekend (July): For our writer friends who are members of RWA but are unable to afford the thousands of dollars it costs to attend their National Conference, which we all know is a huge waste of time and will do nothing for their careers but can't convince them of the same.

Promo No-No Day (Anytime): A full day and night during which the writer does not have to advertise, hand out gratis copies, hold a giveaway, promote or even mention the latest release. Not even during a casual conversation on Twitter that offers the sparkling opportunity to regale all fifteen of one's followers with purchase-enticing snippets.

Snickerfest (April 1st): The day we all get together and laugh over the latest piece of idiocy perpetuated by a colleague whose advances have outgrown their common sense. This year I vote we guffaw over any writer who claims their characters are making them write their books badly. Because, you know, characters do that so frequently.

Writer Love Day (Anytime): A day when everyone just shows us some love instead of the usual barrage of crap. Wouldn't that be nice?

Writer Prezzie E-card Month (December): For thirty-one days every member of families and friend circles will resist the urge to buy us fuzzy socks, cologne that smells like rotting mangos and the obligatory [Insert Writer Pun] T-shirt and instead present us with electronic gift cards from whatever bookseller we are currently not boycotting due to shady business practices, the ever-looming possibility of bankruptcy, or who refuse to remove that two-star review with all the damn spoilers on our last novel even when we can prove it was that envious ass ex-critique partner who wrote it.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Doodle On

How doodling at your job can lead to amazing art (with narration by the artist and background music, for those of you at work):

Keep Doodling | Will Barras from James Partridge on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 16, 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: The final installment of Club Denizen, with new material beginning on page 58.

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

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Off to Write

I'm unplugging today to take care of some work that needs finishing. So that your stop here was not a complete waste of time, here are the details on the Twenty-First Annual Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers Short Story Contest, which does not have an entry fee but does offer an option to get a critique if you donate five bucks:


Old Ski Nose and Der Bingle sought a metaphorical Utopia on one of their many cinematic road trips, but unlike Mr. Hope and Mr. Crosby, many of today’s practitioners in speculative fiction follow a road going in the opposite direction, a grim path leading to a bleak future full of relentless zombies, environmental catastrophes and totalitarian police states that are particularly unfriendly toward precocious teens. Dystopian fantasies, to some degree, reflect the anxiety of the times, but the reason they’re consistently popular is because they appeal to the rebellious streak in all of us. We’ll accept any oppressive regime, no matter how ridiculous the premise, because we’re hungry to see it fall. It’s so much easier to destroy than it is to build.

And that’s why this year’s contest may be something of a challenge. Cast away all pessimism and craft your vision of the ideal society or the perfect future. The more whimsical and humorous, the better. But above all, make it personal; what is the perfect life to YOU. Make it as realistic or as absurd as you want. Lord knows plausibility wasn’t high on the list of considerations for the current literary wave of 1984-wannabes. And remember to tell a good story: if flying cars represent the pinnacle of human achievement, then take the reader on a joyride. But please, no dry treatises about a Socialist collective workers’ paradise or the benefits of selfishness under a strict Objectivist economic system. Make the future fun!

Submission Period: The contest opens April 1, 2015 and closes July 31, 2015. Any manuscript received before or after the submission window will be disqualified. Multiple submissions are NOT allowed.

Eligibility and Prizes: The contest is open to everyone, no combat skills required. The top five stories will move on to the second round, judged by Hildy Silverman, Editor-in-Chief of Space and Time Magazine. The 1st Place story will be published in a future issue of S&T, as per editor’s timeline and discretion, and the author will receive the Graversen Award ($70), in honor of the GSSW’s founder, Patricia Graversen. The 2nd and 3rd place winners will receive $40 and $25, respectively. There is NO ENTRY FEE. GSSW members will receive a detailed, written critique. Optional: For a donation of $5, non-members may also receive a critique.

Format: Stories must be original and unpublished. Manuscripts must be double spaced and no more than 4000 words in length (firm). Please include contact information (name, mailing address, phone number, email address) on the first page of the manuscript.

Where to Submit: Electronic submissions ONLY. Email manuscripts as an attachment in .rtf file format to Please note the story title in the subject line.

Results: Contest results will be announced at the GSSW’s meeting on September 12, 2015 at the public library in Old Bridge, NJ. All entrants are invited to attend. For directions, please visit our website at Prize money will be issued in the form of a check payable to winner. Winners unable to attend the meeting will receive their prizes by mail. All contestants will be notified of the results via email and those who qualify for a criitique will receive theirs no later than September 30, 2015."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Walking It

Getting back to writing full time has been great in all ways except one: spending most of the day sitting in front of the computer. I take breaks and proof things out on the porch, or take my editing out to the work bench in the garage, which I use as a standing desk, but I have been spending a few too many hours on my butt in a small room. After gaining a few too many pounds over the holidays I also needed to work that off before I ended up spending all of summer in my chubby clothes.

I am not an exercise lover; my joints make most workouts impossible for me, and I'm not nearly flexible enough to do more than the very basic low-impact stuff. Also, like most people, I hate exercising. The only varieties of exercise I've always liked are swimming and walking, and since we don't have a pool and the beach is far, far away I decided to set a daily walking goal for myself. In addition to what I already walk with the dogs I would try to do an extra mile in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Two miles doesn't sound like a lot, I know. Unless you have a bum knee, arthritic joints, and a tricksy ankle that likes to sprain itself with any misstep; then you're probably quite familiar with my pain. Most days those extra two miles do feel like twenty, especially when I do mile #2 after dinner. The first week I got blisters from wearing the wrong shoes; the second I had to change my route because the late-day traffic and people driving like maniacs down my favorite country road to walk scared the heck out of me.

The benefits, on the other hand, have been measurable. I lost five pounds in the first week without any extra dieting (probably all in sweat.) I'm sleeping better, too -- deeper, restful sleep without waking up in the middle of the night. I can't say I'm full of boundless energy, but my spirits have been better and I feel more upbeat about things, which tends to make me more energetic. Being outside in the sun and seeing the flowers of spring has that effect on me; we writers often forget how beautiful the real world is, too.

Walking also inspires me to think in different directions. I took my camera on one morning walk and photographed this old shed door, and then came home and wrote on the image:

Sure, it's not War and Peace, but it made me think in a different direction. When I booted up my work file for the day I took on a scene I thought would be difficult to write, but thanks to getting creative with the pic I worked my way through it with a bit more confidence and enthusiasm.

Where you walk is as important as how often you walk. Obviously you want to go somewhere safe, but you should also consider the environment. I love country neighborhoods as much as urban developments, but I try to avoid dirt roads (the ankle -- it's super tricksy on uneven or unstable surfaces.) I love to walk down by the lake, and since they have a really cool nature trail there I also see lots of birds every time I go. If you have a beautiful park nearby your home or office that offers a nice walking op you should try to visit it a few times a week.

On days when the weather doesn't encourage outdoor walking (next month rainy season starts here) I'll either do all my walking in the morning before it usually rains, or head to a nearby mall that I've measured with a pedometer; one lap of that place equals exactly one mile. I'm also going to measure a couple of local museums where I have annual memberships to see how much of my goal I can knock off by walking through them.

How do you exercise most successfully? Let us know in comments.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sub Op

Dreaming Robot Press has an open call for their upcoming 2016 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide antho for middle grade (ages 9 to 12) SF readers: "We’re looking for stories that: Have a main character that a middle grade reader (ages 9-12) can identify with; Show a diverse set of real characters; Are well written, fun to read and encourage a love of reading science fiction; Tell of adventure, space, science. Give us rockets, robots and alien encounters, and we’re pretty happy. Steampunk, time travel, weird west and alternate history are all fine. Are between 3,000 and 6,000 words. We’re especially looking for stories: Of adventure! We love a good dystopia as much as the next robot, but remember – this is the young explorer’s adventure guide. Where the main character is of a population that has traditionally been under-represented in science fiction, e.g. girls, people of color, differently abled people; Where the main character has agency, exercises it, and isn’t just along for the ride." Payment: $0.06/word; query reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: May 31st, 2015.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lost City Treasures

My new glasses have (finally!) arrived, and I can see stuff that isn't six feet away (hooray!) So I'm trying to get out on the weekends and put my camera back to work. Here's a slideshow of my latest pics from a visit to the flea market:

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Spring Signage

Whenever spring arrives here the air changes, a certain type of shrub blooms for a couple of weeks, and of course the spiders come back to set up house:

I like the spiders. I know most people find them creepy, but their webs are beautiful and I think of them as Nature's exterminators. They also eat most of the mosquitos that will be arriving between now and summer, never a bad thing.

Every spring I also haul out a UFO (unfinished object) quilt project and try to finish it, and sometimes when I dig through my sewing stuff I find something that I forgot I didn't finish. I have to wait for my new glasses to come in, but when they do I've decided I'm going to finally finish Snow here, who has been waiting for a couple years now for me to get on with it:

Spring also often brings some weird new critter trying to invade our property. Most of the time it's a bug (one memorable year we discovered the porch was infested with black widows) but 2015 appears to be the year of the tussock moth catepillar:

I've never seen these around here before this year, and some quick research revealed that contact with this catepillar's hairs can cause allergic skin reactions. Our kid is particularly sensitive to any kind of insect venom, so we are removing them from close proximity to the house. We've also spotted several buck moth catepillars, with whom any contact inflicts a horrible welt that hurts for days (and I can personally attest to it being worse than a burn from a hot iron) so we're disposing of them without any regrets whatsoever.

What surprises has spring brought to your corner of the planet? Let us know in comments.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Necessary Weapons

Why Raul rules (with narration and background music, for those of you at work):

Weapons of Mass Instruction: A 1979 Ford Falcon Converted in a Tank Armored with 900 Free Books from Colossal on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 09, 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 54 (and yes, this week we finally get to meet the real Densworth.)

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

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Free Trees

Visual Family Tree Maker is a freeware that "simplifies this process of building your family tree. Just fill in the blanks for name, birth, death and other vital information. Individuals are automatically linked with family members. Add an unlimited number of photographs, maps, census forms, birth certificates and other documents. Associate each with only one or with multiple individuals. Make Wall charts, shows the root person and his descendants or ancestors." [PBW notes: this could prove valuable for series writers with complicated dynasties or who are writing historical or family sagas; I'd use it to tree your cast of characters] (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Minister Me

Which job should you have in the wizarding world of Harry Potter? Take this online quiz to find out.

My results:

Well, I like the hat, but I think I'll pass on the importance. Where will you be sending your magical resume? Let us know in comments.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Sub Op

Broken Eye Books has an open call for their upcoming Ghost in the Cogs steampunk antho:

"Ghosts. Gaslight. Gears. In the wondrous age of steam, pirates, rust, and syphilis aren’t all you need to worry about. Ghosts abound! In this hissing and clanking steampunk world, there are moments that science just can’t explain. All the mechanical geniuses scratch their heads and whisper words of ghosts and powers, of spirits and demons. Possessed automatons take on lives of their own. Superstitious pilots take all necessary precautions. Avant-garde machinists harness the spirits to power their creations. Revenge-minded ghosts stalk haunted gasworks. This is a mechanized playground for the souls of the dead. These are the tales we’re looking for: where the spirit world proves itself at times inspiring and dangerous, useful and annoying. In a rich steampunk world, chock full of gizmos and gadgets aplenty, tell us the stories that go bump, clatter, boom in the night. What if Jules Verne wrote Ghostbusters? What if Scooby and the gang rode around in a steam-powered airship? What if Tesla talked to the dead?

Broken Eye Books wants your alternate history steampunk ghost stories. So send us your mechanized masterwork of less than 4,000 words. 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. Send your manuscript as an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf only) in standard manuscript format. Diversity welcome. Burn your story in a graveyard under the full moon, or just send it to (with “GITC Submission: [YOUR TITLE]” in the subject line). We can keep the aether gates open through the 4/1/2015 deadline, but not after. Try to spook us…"

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Wishing You

Image Credit: Konstanttin

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Cook the Books

Have you ever wanted to turn your favorite read into something everyone can nosh on? Library Thing's Edible Books Contest will give you a chance:

Every spring, LibraryThing members across the globe cook up some truly amazing literary treats. Our Edible Books Contest is now in its fourth year, and I can't wait to see what everyone is going to make this year!

Create a dish inspired by your favorite book, author, character, or even the LT logo, and you could win some awesome LT swag. One grand prize winner will win $50 worth of books from Sherman's Books and Stationery here in Portland, ME.

The deadline to submit your creation is 6pm Eastern on Sunday, April 19th. At that point, LT Staff will meet to choose the winners.

The above pic is of the Jabberwocky cake my kid, her friends and I made some years ago for her English class project (and while definitely not professional it was really fun.) If you want some extra inspiration you can check out last year's entries here. More details and the rules can be found at the contest blog post here.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Reinventor

Artist Dominic Wilcox perpetually reinvents normal in this delightful video about his work (narrated by the artist and with background music, for those of you at work):

THE REINVENTION OF NORMAL from Liam Saint-Pierre on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 02, 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 51.

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

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

New Venture

I admit, since becoming a full-time writer for hire I have been keeping a lot of secrets. Occupational hazard, I guess, but never worry -- I'm doing quite well as a ghost writer. In addition to being employed full-time since October, I have been building a list of terrific clients, and recently landed a series project that will keep me a very happy scribe for the next couple of months. I've also been working on a franchise project that I think is going to change things for the better around here.

Yes, change is inevitable, but this one is almost imperative. PBW has always been about the fun of writing, and I think we need more of that. The problem is that writers are always so isolated and serious and forever wrestling our demons and whatnot that we forget to set aside some happy us-time. It's depressing. We need to get out and hang together and forget about all that editing and characterization stuff. I mean really, who needs to spend five hours deciding to go with Courier New or Times New Roman, or if Jessica should have violet-rimmed emerald green eyes, or soulful chocolate brown with just a hint of amber-tangerine sparkle?

To bring more writers together and promote the good times we should be having I am opening a chain of publishing study centers where we can commune over the really important stuff. I'm also revamping the blog to promote my new venture. Here's a sneak peek at the new banner:

Yes, from this day on PBW will stand for what writers really need: Pizza, Beer, and Wings. Because this is the ultimate triumvirate; the cure for every single one of our writing problems. Can't figure out if you're writing an urban or epic fantasy? Come down and have a large pepperoni with extra cheese. A pitcher of our fabulous house ale can cure any rejection woes and could help you compose an interesting thanks-for-bouncing-me-bitch reply. And for that writer friend of yours who just got the six figure contract for their debut novel we recommend a double order of our new ghost pepper extra-hellish wings (which can also be shipped to the ingrate in one of our Punishment/Preparation congrats basket.)

I know, you're all saying "Why didn't I think of this?"

Everyone excited? So am I. But you do know what day it is, right?

Image Credits: The real Pizza Beer & Wings