Sunday, January 31, 2016

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 Twenty-One (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 50.

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

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sub Op

Timeless Tales magazine has an open call for short stories for their upcoming sixth issue: "Timeless Tales exclusively publishes retellings of fairy tales and myths. We only accept submissions that are retellings of the fairytale or myth listed as our theme. We don't accept original fairy tales or stories outside of our current theme.

These are the known upcoming themes:
#6. Psyche and Cupid (Submission window Jan 25, 2016 - Feb 25, 2016) -- NEW: Now accepting poetry!
#7. TBD (usually decided by a poll, so subscribe to our newsletter if you want to vote).

Additional Rules:

Length: Up to 2,000 words. Under 1,500 preferred.

Genres: As of 2016, we are now accepting poetry! In general, please be creative! We love to see modernizations, sci-fi retellings, prequels, continuations, mash-ups, etc. Just no eroticism, please (see Content section).

Formatting: Please put your story's title and the author's name in the file name of your submission. Example: "Pandora's Choice by Zeus Smith.doc". Too often, we'll get a ton of submisions all labled "Pandoras Box.doc" and it makes it harder to keep track of them.

Content: While Timeless Tales is not targeted specifically at children, it is a fairly conservative magazine, especially when it comes to language and sexual content, so I intend to keep the stories in the PG-13 range or below. However, I have a deep appreciation for the darker side of many original fairy tales, so don’t assume I only want “happy” stories.

Pay Rate: As of 2016, we have slightly raised our rates. We now pay a flat rate of $20 per piece accepted--both poetry and fiction. You'll also get a free year of our audio narrations (usually reserved for our patrons).

1. We do NOT accept multiple submissions.

2. We DO accept reprints as long as the author has the rights to the story. But please include in your cover letter the details of where and when the story was previously published.

3. We DO accept simultaneous submissions, but please notify us by email immediately if your story has been accepted elsewhere."

For more information, check out the submission guidelines page.

Friday, January 29, 2016


Here's a lovely longish video that takes you on a pretty stunning snapshot tour of the south of France (background music, and a tiny bit of bull fighting at the end):

French Taste from Paul Wex on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Recomposition Book #1

Before I get into the details of my first composition book makeover, I should explain the slightly-off weirdness of the pictures I took. On the day I started this project the little video display window on the fancy new Nikon my guy bought me last year stopped working. Basically I had to point the camera and shoot blind, then download the pictures before I knew how they came out. Fortunately Target has a very nice return policy; they took back the camera and gave me a brand-new replacement without a bit of fuss.

Onto the project: for this one I kept it very simple and uber-green by raiding the paper recycling bin for two pieces of the thin cardboard (mine were inserts from two of the wall calendars I bought for this year), a wallpaper border remnant, and a piece of pretty scrapbook paper. I also used a paper trimmer, scissors, a small paintbrush and some washable school glue:

The covers of the composition book are really flimsy card stock, so I needed to reinforce them first. I cut the two cardboard pieces to fit the front and back covers, glued them on, and let the notebook dry overnight (and to keep everything from warping I sandwiched the notebook between two bigger, much heavier books):

I fit the wallpaper border remnant as the outside cover for both the front and back covers, and folded the ends over inside before I glued that on and left it to dry overnight:

I then covered the insides of the front and back covers with pieces of the scrapbooking paper, glued that down, and left that to dry overnight:

Here's the end result:

I liked how elegant the composition book looks now, and it's certainly sturdier. I was especially happy to finally use that wallpaper border remnant, which is one I found when we moved into this house (the previous owner's wife had them decorating the ceilings in practically every room.) I also didn't have to cut the wallpaper to fit; it was the perfect size for the covers.

More recomposition idea linkage:

Dream a Little Bigger has a tutorial here on how to re-cover a composition book.

Ashley Hackshaw has a post here about turning a composition book into an art journal.

Ellison Lane has directions here on how to sew a quilted cover for a composition book.

Momtastic has instructions here on how to give a composition book a chalkboard cover.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Short Story Prompt Challenge

If you'd like to write more short stories but are coming up short on ideas, here's a list I saw over on Tumblr that offers a weekly prompt you can use:

"52 short stories in 52 weeks
1. A story entitled “A New Beginning”.
2. A story about rising to a challenge.
3. A retelling of a fairytale.
4. A story about three siblings.
5. A story set in London.
6. A story about finding something that has been lost.
7. A story about a journey.
8. A story set during a war.
9. A creepy story.
10. A story featuring a countdown.
11. A story set at a full moon.
12. A story about a contest or competition.
13. A story that takes place entirely inside a vehicle.
14. A story from a villain’s perspective.
15. A story set at a concert or festival.
16. A story that begins with a gunshot.
17. A story set in a country you’ve never been to.
18. A story about a historical figure.
19. A story set in a theatre.
20. A story written in 2nd person narrative.
21. A story set on another planet.
22. A story written from the perspective of someone dead/undead
23. A story about a birthday.
24. A story that ends on a cliffhanger.
25. A story set at the summer solstice.
26. A story about nostalgia.
27. A story that features a song or poem.
28. A story that ends at sunrise.
29. A story opening with the words “F*** you!”
30. A story about a magical object.
31. A story set at sea.
32. A story about a curse.
33. A story set 100 years in the future.
34. A story about loneliness.
35. A story that features a real recent newspaper article.
36. A story written from an animal’s perspective.
37. A story about a scientific discovery.
38. A story set on another planet.
39. A story with only one character.
40. A story about a secret.
41. A romance that ends in tragedy.
42. A tragedy that ends in romance.
43. A retelling of a recent Hollywood movie.
44. A story that takes place the year you were born.
45. A story about a near-death experience.
46. A story about anger.
47. A story about a magic spell.
48. A story set in a strange small town.
49. A story about justice being done.
50. A creation myth.
51. A story set at Christmas.
52. A story entitled “The End”."

I usually write short stories to test-drive my world-building, but I've also used them to help build characters, tell a story from a different POV, or explore a particular theme or myth. Give one of these a shot, see what you come up with on the page, and you might surprise yourself.

Source: Writing Therapy

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

On the Indy Front

I'm back, and also finally getting into the how of indy publishing. It's a lot more complicated and worrisome than I ever imagined. Everyone has different opinions on which is the best way to go, but facts are few and far between. I think I've gotten more info from comments left here at PBW than anywhere else, so let me thank everyone who has made recs in the past.

The cost involved with using a publishing service is a lot more than I expected. I'm often reminded of the old days of vanity print publishers, and how they used to swindle writers into paying way too much for print books that ended up sitting in boxes in their garages. My sister's father-in-law, who was a university professor, got scammed big time by those folks. Anyway, some of these service providers seem to be doing the same thing, only in electronic version.

Of course I'm cheap, too, but I was willing to invest a little fee-wise in my first title. I already have by commissioning the cover art. However, I don't think I should have to pay a thousand dollars to indy publish in e-book and print on demand. These providers tend to change their pricing and range of services whenever they like, and in most cases the fine print is pretty daunting. I am definitely not interested in giving any service a percentage of my sales, so that also eliminates most of them.

I'm back to the daunting reality that I have to figure out how to do all the publishing stuff myself. Fortunately there are authors who are sharing the wealth, like Bill Peschel, who offers a ton of indy publishing advice on his blog. For example, this post shows you how to create the best .pdf for publishing your book with CreateSpace, with step-by-step instructions along with screenshots (and when you do release that new book for career writers, Bill, you've got a sale right here.) Right now my plan is to write and indy publish a test run short story first under a new byline. That way I can screw it up without disappointing or pissing off my readers. Then, once I've got the procedure down, I'll move on to my own longer byline works. So that's where I am on the indy front.

In the meantime, for those who are interested in indy publishing via Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing, I found a simple tutorial here by author Graeme Shimmin on how to do it in (basically) three steps. Also, for those of you who are interested in designing your own covers but don't want to invest in a pricey photoshop program, Dereck Murphy's has a whole page of interesting free tutorials, templates and tools here that include showing you how to design cover art in MS Word.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Off to Write

I'm taking off today to finish up a big project for a client. See you tomorrow.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

No Just Write Today

I'm finishing up a big job this weekend, so I'll have to skip Just Write this week and take Monday off, too. See you on Tuesday.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Something for Saturday

Books of the Dead Press has an open call for Suspended in Dusk 2, a dark fiction and horro antho: "Show me something that plays on the theme of light/dark (Wendy Hammer did this in the original Suspended in Dusk with her story Negatives) , or don’t… show me a person, people, society on the edge of the proverbial abyss (Chris Limb did this with Ministry of Outrage). Show me a story of someone on the grey fringes of normal society (Karen Runge, Hope is Here!). Show me a person, or people undergoing some kind of change,.. willing or otherwise. Knowing or otherwise (Shane Mckenzie, Fit Camp). Show me something that is brought into the light, but everyone would’ve been safer if it had been left alone where it was (Benjamin Knox, Keeper of Secrets).

Submission Guidelines:

1. Try and scare me or creep me out. Or show me something dark and pretty. No subject off limits although try and make sex and violence relevant to the plot and characters. If you’re going with a common trope, put a fresh spin on it.
2. Submit all stories to with the following in the subject line Suspended in Dusk 2 –
3. Submission deadline 29 Feb 2016
4. Word count – 3000 – 7500 words.
5. 12 pt Times New Roman. Standard manuscript format.
6. Italicise your italics, don’t underline.
7. No Pictures within your manuscript.
8. Please ensure you’re able to use track changes.
9. No simultaneous submission to other markets.
10. No Multiple submissions. Send your best story.

Author compensation:
$25USD plus print and ebook copy."

For more information see the submission guidelines page.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Over There

Visit Japan in January via this lovely video (background music):

January in Japan from Scott Gold on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


One project I started but never finished last year was making over a standard school composition book. I got as far as buying the materials before work dragged me away. It's actually good that I stayed too busy to go back to it, as my initial idea was pretty complicated. While doing some pre-spring cleaning in the office this week I found these two extras:

The composition book, also known as a copy book, study book, student book and a lot of other regional terms, is one of the few things I loved about school. I always had one with me, and they often kept me out of trouble. After using the first couple of pages for schoolwork I would devote the rest of the pages to journaling, short stories and even some sketches. I wouldn't have wasted the first pages except they made excellent camouflage for when the teacher would walk by my desk (which is how they kept me out of trouble.) I still get a warm, fuzzy feeling every time I see one. I think my mom used to buy them for five or ten cents each.

Composition books remain pretty cheap; I always see them at dollar stores, and the two I have here I got on sale at Target last January for fifty cents each. Let's see what I can do with them this week to make them less schoolgirlish and more fun.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

PreSpring Clean

I decided to do a little early spring cleaning in the office yesterday, and removed all the books so I can weed out and donate what I don't need and rearrange what I do. Then I started moving the furniture to accommodate the addition of a dresser, and eight hours, two sore shoulders and an aching back later I ended up with this:

There are a couple of paintings I need to rehang, but this is pretty much how it will look for 2016. Although I can't always keep my home office spotless I really love it when it's this clean. The dresser will probably stay, too; after 15 years of faithful service my college kid decided she didn't want it anymore. I can donate just about anything but furniture, especially when it's something that belonged to the kids. So until someone in the family needs one, it will likely become my new office supply storage center.

The sofa folds out into a queen bed, which allows us to use the office as an extra guest room when needed. I always put a quilt on the floor for the dogs, which Miss Skye usually hogs:

My writing space on the other side of the office isn't quite as pretty (and please, ignore the disintegrating old computer chair, scarred work station and wretch tangle of cords I can never arrange neatly):

I do need to replace the chair before it collapses into a heap, but it's so comfortable I'll probably keep it until it does. Same thing with the old work station -- I've had that thing for about fifteen years now, and as battered as it is I can move it anywhere in the house (which is nice when we have noisy visitors.)

Although my spine is singing the Ave Maria now it did feel good to tidy up and change things around a bit. It really doesn't matter if you keep your writing space spotless or cluttered; making sure you feel comfortable in it is the important thing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Notes Limited

I'm a notebook addict; I use several notebooks every day, read and talk about notebooks online, and even collect interesting notebooks. My latest acquisition came via reading this post over on Notebook Stories about a European notebook maker who incorporates beautiful vintage papers as covers. I fell instantly in love, popped over to Notes Limited's web site and ordered one for myself, which just arrived:

It's a beautiful little notebook, and the vintage paper used to make the cover is almost as old as I am, yet looks pristine and new. The makers included a handy slip cover to help keep it tidy, and a little slip of paper with the edition number and info on the cover:

Definitely not cheap -- I think it worked out to about twelve dollars US -- but to me some things are worth a little extra $$$.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sub Op

Here's a themed antho open call for those of you who like to pen stories about the addicted dead: "We're inviting you to send us a story so great that we can't resist saying "yes" to it. The only rule is that a tale include some version of at least one ghost who's on some version of at least one drug. And both key terms are broadly defined—e.g., a ghostwriter hooked on cough syrup could fit, and a dead ancient god with an inhumanly intense craving to be worshipped again could too.

Also, a story can run anywhere from 2 pages to 30 pages, so a short-short tale that's a solid fit for the collection will definitely be considered.

This book is designed to be playful and fun, so we're especially seeking stories that are a mix of comedy and other genres—e.g., comedy & fantasy, comedy & SF, comedy & horror, comedy & thriller, comedy & adventure. That said, we'll consider a great tale of any genre, or combination of genres. Whatever the category, we want stories that are fresh, smart, extremely entertaining, appeal to a wide-ranging audience (high concepts are especially appreciated), and provide an emotionally satisfying ending (smartly crafted character arcs/transformations are especially appreciated).

We're aiming to include some of the world's top comedians, a bunch of superb writers, and one or two celebrities who happen to be drug fans.

Some of the advantages of being in this anthology:

Getting a credit for a book that's likely to receive substantial attention because of its cool high concept, wildly inventive range of ideas, and exceptionally fine writing.
Having your name alongside other impressive celebrity talents (if you're a star) or taking a helpful step on your career path (if you're not a star yet).
Receiving payment on our acceptance—15 cents a word for the first 2,500 words and 6 cents a word after that (to encourage tight writing).
Receiving a share of the royalties (based on word count).
Working with Hy—a world-class editor—to make your story the very best it can be.
If the above sounds appealing, then please feel highly encouraged to submit material. The initial deadline is May 1st, 2016. (This might get extended, or not, depending on what comes in.)

For the sake of saving you time and effort, we recommend running an idea by Hy first to ensure it isn't redundant with something we've already purchased for the collection. However, if you prefer to just write and send us a complete story, that's great too (no query needed in this case; simply email a cover note and the story as an attached Word file).

Please send anything related to the anthology to Hy Bender at

Looking forward to your playful, inventive, genius (or so-stupid-it's-genius) ideas and wonderful writing."

For more information, go to the guidelines page here.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

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 Twenty-One, (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 46.

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

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

On Clients

When you're a freelance writer for hire (like I am) you have to find jobs to write for other people who pay you to do so. These people are called clients. Before you obtain a client, you should be aware of what they are -- and what they're not.

Your client is the source of your income. As in, this person pays you to work for them. That doesn't make the client your boss -- as a freelancer, you are the boss -- but signing a contract with your client makes you responsible to work for them until you deliver what you promised in exchange for the payment they promised. If this goes well for both of you, your client may offer you more work. If not, you'll have to find another client.

You know you've done a good job for your client when they pay you. If you do a great job, they will probably offer you more work. If you and your client work together well, and you're consistent with delivering excellent work on time according to their specs, they will likely want you to work for them on a regular/ongoing basis. Building a list of clients who offer you regular work and decent pay is the ideal situation for most freelancers, because eventually you don't have to go out looking for work anymore. About two-thirds of my clients have become regulars over the last year, and have already offered me jobs for the first half of 2016 and the holidays this year. That means I only need one or two more jobs for fall and I'm employed until 2017. I can also plan out my income for the entire year.

Be willing to negotiate with any client, and keep in mind that they're probably not millionaires with truckloads of cash to shower over you. Often unhappy ghost writers say that all clients are making tons of money while paying them pennies, which really perplexes me. First, why would you take a job that only pays pennies? Go for the better offers. Also, while I don't recommend working for pennies, there are some exceptions to that rule. If it's a trial job that the client is offering to see how you'll work together, and offers to pay more on future projects should you be a good fit, that's one. Another is if you have no prior experience. Being willing to work for a low rate may be the only way to get your first ghost writing gigs, but you can build on them. Once you have an established resume better-paying clients will be more inclined to hire you.

It's in your best interests to be picky about with whom and on what you work, too. When I started out, I decided from the beginning to be very selective, and only work for fellow professionals on projects that I would be happy to publish under my own byline. This results in excellent working relationships, invests me in the projects, and keeps the job from becoming a thankless grind. Also, if I'm ever accidentally revealed to be the ghost writer of any WFH project I've done, I'll never feel embarrassed.

When you have a problem with a client, my advice is to think before you pick a fight. The client didn't hire you to argue with them, snipe at them or give them any grief. It can be frustrating, especially when they change their mind about something in mid-project that requires you to do more work, but being nasty with them about it almost guarantees you won't receive another job offer. On the flip side, if the client is an ass, you can choose never to work with them again.

On rare occasions you may have a serious problem with a client. I always try to discuss it first, but some clients are simply problematic. My advice is to finish and deliver all work due, collect your payment, and then politely refuse any new offers. If you can't hang in long enough to finish the job, refund whatever payments they've made, thank them for the opportunity to work with them, and then politely refuse any new offers. The keywords here are polite and refuse. Whatever the situation with a client, always be courteous (even when they're not.) Also, it's better for you to refuse more work than to continue working in a problematic situation. You may be tempted to vent your spleen somewhere public about your negative experience, but given how obsessed people are with Googling themselves, they'll probably find it. All it takes is one disgruntled client to ruin a freelancer's rep. Write about whatever is burning your butt in your personal home journal, and then move on.

If you work through a freelancer site you can leave a negative review for a problematic client, but there may be backlash from the client that can get you bounced or banned. Also, future clients may see those scathing words and go hire someone else who leaves only good reviews for their clients. If your client clearly violates the terms of service at your work site, you can report them to site management, but they can just open a new account under another name and come after you. Bottom line, always think carefully before you play client police.

On the opposite end of the WFH spectrum, networking and client karma are wonderful things, and it's a good idea to cultivate both. Get to know other ghost writers and help each other when you can. I constantly refer good listings that aren't right for me to other ghost writer pals. I also try to help clients find a ghost writer when I can't do the job. For example, I had a publisher client contact me about writing a fairly large series project under a very tight deadline. I would have loved the work, but since my schedule was already full I had to turn down the offer. In my refusal e-mail I also recommended another ghost writer I knew who would be perfect for the job (and I did check with the ghost writer first before I mentioned them.) My pal got the job and was quite grateful, and the publisher thanked me for helping out. Later that publisher referred another client to me, so in the end I got a job out of it, too. When clients and ghost writers network like this, everyone wins.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Winter World

This may be the most stunning, remote, and rather dangerous book promotion video I've ever watched (background music, noises):

Arctique from vincent munier on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Sub Op

Sorry I'm a bit late posting this morning -- I didn't like my scheduled post so I deleted it and had to come up with something more interesting. Which, in these days of Let Me Wheedle Money Out of You However I Can on the Internet, is a bit tough.

I did spot this interesting sub op over in the Paying Markets forum at AbsoluteWrite.Com:

"Speculate! (Submissions Open on 1 Feb 2016 )

Magic and mystery. Murder and mayhem. These are the things we want for Evil Girlfriend Media’s new Speculate! feature. Once a month, we will feature a dark speculative fiction story that embodies the EGM aesthetic. Editor: Jennifer Brozek.
2016 Theme:
Curiosity Killed the Cat. Someone gets curious about something and all sorts of chaos, madness, mayhem, and badness happens. (I.E. Who left me this note? What does this button do? Where are those cries for help coming from? Why do we sprinkle salt around the house once a month? How did she get there?)
Crunchy Bits:
1. Submissions open to original stories on February 1, 2016.
—> Submit to Subject heading of “Submission: Title”
—> Attach the stories in standard manuscript format as an RTF or DOC document.
—> Include name, word count, Paypal address, and postal address in the body of the email as well as in the story document.
2. Stories are to be 4000-7000 words in length. Query for longer.
3. Payment: $100.00 via Paypal.
4. Rights: First North American Rights. Website archives for 2 years. Possible inclusion in a Speculate! anthology with additional reprint payment.
5. One submission at a time. No simultaneous submissions. No reprints.
6. No pedophilia. Rape is not a plot point. No violence for violence’s sake. All horror must have a clear supernatural element to it.
Evil Girlfriend Media is committed to providing high quality, engaging, science fiction, fantasy, and horror that pushes stereotypes, gender biases, and standard tropes out the window to provide a truly entertaining experience for readers."

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Off to Write

I'm taking off today to not be on the internet and get some work done. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Sub Op

Here's an open call from SF Romance Quarterly for their upcoming tenth issue:

"THEME FOR ISSUE 10: No special theme…give it your best shot!

Length: 2,000 to 7,500 words.

Payment: 2.5 cents/word (US) paid upon publication, promotional biography with two links, and a complimentary quarter-page advertisement.

Deadline for Issue #9: 15 February 2015.

Rights sought: Six-month exclusive world digital rights from date of publication; non-exclusive thereafter.

Other info: One short story will be published per issue. Please send only edited and polished work. Due to time constraints, we are unable to give personalized feedback on rejected stories.

Stories that tie-in to a previously established world will be considered, but story must stand alone.

All sub-genres of science fiction will be considered.

Any heat level, from sweet to erotic, will be considered. Original, previously unpublished fiction only. No fan fiction, please.

Story should meld the Science Fiction and Romance genres, and must have an upbeat (HEA/HFN) ending. Not quite sure what we’re looking for? Read our original fiction in previous issues.

No multiple submissions. No stories that have previously been rejected by us. Simultaneous submissions are accepted, but please inform us if the story is placed elsewhere."

For more information, see the editor's blog post here.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The 500

While bargain shopping over the holidays I purchased 500 Writing Prompts, a guided journal published by Piccadilly Inc., currently on sale for $4.99 from B&

This is a really nice, big journal with 240 ruled pages featuring multiple writing prompts that ask some really interesting questions:

To give you an idea of what the prompts are like, here are a few I selected at random from my copy:

Have you ever given up on someone? Why?

Do you have a secret hiding place? What do you hide there?

Create a new nemesis for Batman. What is the character's name? What is their feud about? Describe a short scenario, comic book style.

If you had the power to make something illegal that is currently legal, what would it be? Why?

Name a weird mannerism you have. Do others notice it? Does it help you or bother you?

Aside from great sparks to get you writing more often in a journal, this might also provide inspiration for posts for your blog.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

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 Twenty-One, (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 42.

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

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, January 09, 2016

My Head Explodes. Again.

PBW: So now it seems the guy who inflicted Facebook on the world wants to build an artificially intelligent assistant for himself to, and I'll quote the Time article here "to help run his house and assist him at work." Because, you know, that's insanely hard work no human being should ever have to do.

Alfred: Madam, your proposal is waiting. The canines will need walking, and the batcave is beginning to resemble an actual bat cave. Please stop surfing the internet.

PBW: In a minute. Apparently Facebook guy sets himself a new goal every year, and this is it. Build himself a robot helper.

Alfred: It sounds rather admirable. I wonder if he'll sell them on Amazon?

PBW: Instead of giving someone who actually breathes a job? How is that admirable? No, it's just like an insanely rich person to think up something idiotic like that. I bet he just doesn't want to offer medical benefits. Or any benefits, really. A robot wouldn't need any, or rights, or lunch breaks, or--

Alfred: Perhaps if I could buy one that closely resembles me, I could -- wait, you mean other assistants get lunch breaks?

PBW: I give you tea breaks, Al, because you're British. Also, you never eat.

Alfred: Oh, dear. Am I a robot?

PBW: No, you're my invisible assistant. Like an invisible friend, only naggier and more organized. Anyway, you remember that Will Smith robot movie? Will was great, but the whole robot helper thing didn't turn out so well for his alternate universe. And that other, awful movie about robots, you know, that one with the kid. What was the name of that one? It was like three hours long. Jude Law was in it, and he didn't even have to act.

Alfred: AI, Madam.

PBW: That's it. I still think of that robot kid every time I hear the word dolphin. I don't know why these things annoy me. What would you expect from a person who considers reading two books a month such a difficult thing that he had to make that a goal one year?

Alfred (mumbling): But you read only three books last September.

PBW: I heard that.

Alfred: I think I'll take my tea break now, Madam.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Follow Your Passion

Meet Ben Harris, a traditional wooden boat builder in Cornwall, UK, who describes his passion for working with wood to build boats (includes background music and narration):

From Timber To Tide from Pixillion on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Wall Calendar Keeper

If you'd like to recycle your beautiful old picture wall calendars, here's a way to make them into pocket keeper books, where you can save things you don't want to lose, get dinged, etc.

For this project you'll need an old wall calendar, a single hole punch, scissors, double-sided tape, and three 12" to 18" lengths of ribbon, yarn or string. You can also use a paper trimmer if you have one large enough to accommodate your calendar, and staples or glue in place of the double-sided tape:

First, remove the two staples holding your calendar together, and separate it into the six pages plus the cover:

Cut each page in half along the spine line. You will end up with twelve pages and two cover pages:

Place each page picture-side down, and fold up the bottom up to form the pocket for each signature (top page below). To know that you've got a page in the proper position, the little holes in the calendar that you used to hang it on your wall should be at the top of every page, with an upside-down calendar grid facing up (the back cover page will not have that litte hole, however.) The size of the pocket is determined by how much you fold over. Once you've done this, fold the page in half to form a signature (bottom page below):

When you're finished folding all your pages and covers, you should have a pile of pocketed signatures like this:

With your single hold punch, make three evenly-spaced holes along the spine fold of each signature:

Once you've punched holes in all your signatures, open each one and apply a short piece of double-sided tape to the inside of the pocket fold, where I've indicated below in red, then refold. The tape will seal the sides of each pocket:

Assemble your signatures in a stack, and remember to put them in the order you want them in your keeper. I used the signatures I made from the covers for the first and last pages, as the covers are a bit thicker than the rest of the calendar and make nice covers for the keeper.

Thread your ribbons through each hole in every signature, leaving enough so that you can tie the ends together once it's through all the signatures:

Knot all three of your ribbons (and if you open your keeper to the middle when you place it down before you tie it, this will help prevent you from tying the ribbons too tightly):

And you end up with a keeper that looks like this:

And when you open it, like this between signatures:

What can you keep in your keeper? Anything you want to save that fits in the pocket. A keeper can store your bookmarks, photos, and greeting cards:

Postage stamps or clipped recipes:

Laces, ribbons and paper, sewing or mixed media ephemera:

It's a great way to keep notes, journal pages or receipts, too:

I think the nice thing about this project is that you don't waste any part of the calendar. I made four of these in one day, so it's easy, too:

Some other ideas:

Combine two calendars to make a bigger keeper book.

Instead of using ribbon, try small binder rings.

Punch corresponding holes in pieces of notepaper, and stack them between the signatures to make pages you can write on.

If you're feelings really ambitious, don't punch the holes or use ribbon, and instead coptic-stitch your signatures together.

Label each pocket with a month of the year and use the keeper to store any deductible receipts for tax time.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Sub Op

I spotted this open call for Valentine's Day erotic romance over in the Paying Markets forum on

"Publisher: Acelette Press

Contract: Non exclusive rights

Payment: Acelette's currently taking 5% for Sexy to Go volumes 6-12 and special editions, and I believe we will do the same for themed boxed sets in 2016. They divide the payments for us. Pays on monthly schedule.

Story Due Date: Jan 22nd

Story types accepted: erotic romance 3-4k and up in word count

Contact: Ask to join our fb group for more info or email the designated cat herder Haley Whitehall at"

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

LT Early Reviewers

I just received a notice from Library Thing that my next free read for their Early Reviewers program will be 52 Small Changes for the Mind by Brett Blumenthal. Since I'm all about little changes to make things better, especially in the gray matter department, I'm quite pleased.

After joining the program in spring last year I received three ARCs, worth a little over $116.00, so this new venture has definitely helped my book budget. My book of the year for 2015 came to me this way, too, which I think is pretty cool. I think I'm having such good luck with it because I put my name in only for books I want to read (mostly nonfiction). While I'm not always selected to get a free copy, looking through the listings of available titles every month keeps me in the loop about what's being published in my favorite reference categories. If I really want something, but don't win the ARC, I jot down the title and order it through our public library.

It's not all about instant gratification -- the ARCs I've won often do take eight weeks to reach me -- but when the ARC does arrive it's like a mini Christmas. I don't have the budget to buy many new books anymore, and this takes some of the sting out of that. I appreciate the opportunity to help launch a great new book, too, and by reading and writing it up (which I do faithfully with each one I get) I feel like I also earn the free read. Anyway, I highly recommend joining LT's Early Reviewer program if you're a member, and would like to add some terrific books to your personal library.

Monday, January 04, 2016

PBW's Book of the Month & Year

Reading in December was made particularly brighter by my LT Secret Santa, who among other books sent me my pick for December's Book of the Month, At Home by Bill Bryson. It was for me a revisited read, but the second time around I had more time to appreciate the author's remarkable handling of history, amusing writing style, and all those countless little details that Mr. Bryson somehow manages to include in all his works without making even the tiniest infodump pile of them.

At Home is probably the most intense history lesson ever written, and discusses in remarkable detail how every room (and virtually every thing) in the places where we live relate to the conflicts, disasters, discoveries, geniuses, inventions and crazy people that change the world. Mr. Bryson takes you through his own home in the UK while he talks about things you might never otherwise have realized had such illustrious --and often startling -- connections. It's not just a book for history buffs like me; it's the sort of read that makes anyone feel smarter, enlightened and entertained, all at the same time, which is Bill Bryson's particular mojo.

I mulled back and forth over whether or not to pick a book of the year. Every month I picked a favorite, though, and of those twelve books one did make me exceptionally happy. Not only was it a great read, it reminded me of my dad and his love of great food and all of the wonderful things he taught me in the kitchen. So my book of the year for 2015 really has to be In a French Kitchen ~ Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France by Susan Herrmann Loomis, which I received as an ARC from Library Thing's Early Reviewers Program. You can read my take on it here.

Finally, for posterity, here's the list of the 123 books I read for pleasure in 2015:


First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen*
In the Arms of Mr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan
Dead Drop by Carolyn Jewel
Raven Black by Anne Cleeves
Revival by Stephen King
Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl
Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger


Without Fail by Lee Child
Persuader by Lee Child
The Enemy by Lee Child
American Cooking: The Northwest by Dale Brown*


Inca Gold by Clive Cussler
Polar Shift by Clive Cussler and Paul Kemprecos
The Stranger I Married by Sylvia Day
Blush by Opal Carew
The Juliette Society by Sasha Grey
Time and Tithe by LJ Cohen
The Cooking of Vienna's Empire by Joseph Wechsberg
Prudence ~ The Custard Protocol: Book One by Gail Carriger*
The Cooking of Japan by Rafael Steinberg


Longing by Mary Balogh*
Beyond the Sunrise by Mary Balogh
Beauty's Kingdom by Anne Rice
The Cooking of Provincial France by M.F.K. Fisher
Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane
Wicked by Gregory Maguire
Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich
The Ideal Wife by Mary Balogh
Skintight by Susan Andersen
The Arabian Nights edited by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora A. Smith
Low-Fat Ways to Cook Pasta by Susan M. McIntosh
A Breach of Promise by Anne Perry
Reckless by Anne Stuart
The Mysteries Within by Sherwin Nuland


Governess by Ruth Brandon
White Nights by Ann Cleeves
One Shot by Lee Child
Red Bones by Ann Cleeves
The Hard Way by Lee Child
Dying Embers by B.E. Sanderson
Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child
Nothing to Lose by Lee Child
Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves
Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child
61 Hours by Lee Child
Angel in a Red Dress by Judith Ivory
Worth Dying For by Lee Child
English Tea & Cakes by Celia Brooks
The Affair by Lee Child
A Wanted Man by Lee Child
Never Go Back by Lee Child
Simply Love by Mary Balogh
Simply Unforgettable by Mary Balogh
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz*
What Life Was Like Among Samurai and Shoguns: Japan, AD 1000-1700 edited by Denise Dersin
Quilting Art by Spike Gillespie
Midnight in Ruby Bayou by Elizabeth Lowell


Japanese Quilt Blocks by Susan Briscoe
In a French Kitchen ~ Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France by Susan Herrmann Loomis*
Bond of Hatred by Lynne Graham
The Greek Tycoon's Convenient Mistress by Lynne Graham
Marriage at a Price by Miranda Lee
The Frenchman's Love-Child by Lynne Graham
Married to a Mistress by Lynne Graham
Greek Tycoon, Inexperienced Mistress by Lynne Graham
Outback Man by Miranda Lee
Shakespeare ~ The World as Stage by Bill Bryson
The Story of X by A.J. Molloy
Only a Promise by Mary Balogh
Consumed by Fire by Anne Stuart
Derelict by LJ Cohen (revisited read)*
Semi-Homemade 20-Minute Meals by Sandra Lee
Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell
The Spanish Billionaire's Pregnant Wife by Lynn Graham


Ithaka Rising by LJ Cohen*
Beck and Call by Emma Holly
The Sicilian's Mistress by Lynne Graham
Burned by Karen Marie Moning
Shades of Twilight by Linda Howard
Personal by Lee Child
The Cybrarian's Web 2 by Cheryl Ann Peltier-Davis
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson


The Falcon at the Portal by Elizabeth Peters
Horns by Joe Hill
Beginner's Guide to Silk Ribbon Embroidery by Ann Cox
Bead Embroidery Stitch Samples by Yasuko Endo
Everything's Eventual by Stephen King
Chill Factor by Sandra Brown
Double Dead by Chuck Wendig
Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning (revisited read)
Running Wild by Susan Andersen*


Play Dead by Anne Frasier (revisited read)
Stay Dead by Anne Frasier (revisited read)
Pretty Dead by Anne Frasier*


Only a Kiss by Mary Balogh*
Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning (revisted read)
Belong to Me by Shayla Black
Because You are Mine by Beth Kery
The Door Through Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Florida Land Boom of the 1920s by Gregg M. Turner
Faefever by Karen Marie Moning (revisited read)
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice


Victorian America ~ Transformations in Everyday Life 1876-1915 by Thomas J. Schlereth
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
A Storm in the Blood by Jon Stephen Fink
Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg (revisited read)
Silent Thunder by Iris and Roy Johansen
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Shadows by Robin McKinley
The Lingering Dead by J.N. Duncan
The Taint of Midas by Anne Zouroudi*
The Andalucian Friend by Alexander Söderberg
The Deadliest Sin by Caroline Richards


The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Absolution by Patrick Flanery
News from Heaven by Jennifer Haigh
Aztec Revenge by Junius Podrug
Justice by Karen Robards
Skin Trade by Laurell K. Hamilton
Ariel (the restored edition) by Sylvia Plath
At Home by Bill Bryson (revisited read)*

*My pick as book(s) of the month

Sunday, January 03, 2016

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 Twenty-One (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 38.

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

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, January 02, 2016

PBW Plans 2016

I hope everyone is enjoying a happy and safe new year. I'm skipping resolutions and themes for 2016 and just going with the flow. The flow has been pretty good to me over the last year.

I do have a couple of ideas I might test-drive on PBW over the next few months, and most are related to the work, blogging, journaling and various other creative ventures. One secret project is also in the works. That said, I'm also booking my work schedule into summer now, and I know I'm going to be busy, so there may not be time to experiment much.

I am planning to continue a couple of the newer features on the blog: Just Write, Book of the Month, and reviews of any ARCs I happen to receive from LT Early Reviewers. As always I'll also hunt for free writer resources and post any interesting sub ops I find out there. No doubt I'll make you look at lots of quilting and recycling projects, too.

I know I haven't been writing as many humor posts as I have in years past. It's not because I've lost my sense of humor; it's more that I've been much happier. Humor has always been my response to anything negative or hateful. Not to gloat, but for once things in my pro and personal life are going exceptionally well, and I'm writing better than ever. I'm sure I'll find something to joke about in 2016, but expect my focus to be more on creativity, productivity, books, and all things writing.

On the indy publishing front, over the winter I was planning to begin writing Her Majesty's Deathmage. I even went so far as to commission the cover artwork and design. As luck would have it just as I was about to start on the book I got a series job offer from a fabulous client.

I admit, I was kind of relieved to put aside HMD so I could focus on the ghost writing. I'm still pretty nervous about going back to byline work, plus the clients pay my bills, and there are always plenty of those. The decision resulted in another offer for more new work, so it turned out to be for the best. I'm still not very savvy about indy publishing for profit, either, and have to do a lot more research to learn how to do it, find the best options, etc. At present I can't tell you exactly when I'll get to HMD, but eventually I will, and (unless a whole pile of fabulous jobs fall in my lap) I'm planning to indy publish it this year. Readers, I thank you for your patience and understanding.

Is there anything you'd like to see on PBW in 2016? Let me know in comments.

Image credit: zzoplanet (and this was one of's free weekly photos, btw.)

Friday, January 01, 2016

Wishing You

Image Credit: demurig_100