Tuesday, May 31, 2016

PBW's Book of the Month

Work kept me writing more than reading this month, but I did discover a new-to-me historical author who knocked my socks off, so my pick for May's book of the month belongs to Winston Graham and his Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787.

I'll confess, despite being a history buff I had never heard of Mr. Graham or his Poldark books. They're classics, so I should be ashamed of myself, but I think it's because I lean more toward historical nonfiction versus fiction. This one caught my eye after I saw the first episode of the Masterpiece Theater series based on the Poldark books as part of a preview on the tail end of a BBC DVD. Say that seven times very fast and I'll give you a cookie. Seriously, the preview was interesting enough to prompt me to look for the book version, and once I found the newly-released reprint I decided to invest in a copy.

If you like history, Cornwall, romance and/or drama, read this book. It's amazing, from the painstaking research that flows effortlessly on the page to the absorbing characters to the great, gritty realism of the storytelling. It's one of those very rare books that will appeal to both men and women, because while there's romance it's not kissy face stuff. It's real life love, with all its chaos.

As for the story, it centers around Ross Poldark, a black sheep of the family who comes back scarred and exhausted from the Revolutionary War in America. On his return Ross must try to salvage his father's estate, help his impoverished tenants, and deal with losing the woman he loves (and that happens like the minute he gets back.) There's lots of mining history, along with the life you might have lived in eighteenth century Cornwall. Ever imagine after your wedding having your Dad hold a cockfight (the poultry variety) for the guests? Inside the house? That kind of life.

Each character has their own, distinct voice, so much so that I really didn't need dialogue tags to recognize who was speaking. Demelza, a runaway kid Ross Poldark takes in, is definitely a heroine for the ages, but Ross is every bit as fascinating. By the time I finished the novel I knew I'd be investing in the rest of the series.

Technically speaking this is a fantastic piece of work, too. The author has a writing style unlike any I've read, which I've been trying to think of how to describe all week. He keeps the text tidy and well-paced, with terrific detail-weaving, but also infuses it with such passion that I'm not quite sure how he manages it. I read every word, very slowly, which is not like me. I speed through books, but this one was too good to rush.

I highly recommend Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787 as one of the best historical fiction novels I've ever read.

Monday, May 30, 2016


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Off with the Family

I'm taking off today and tomorrow to spend time with visiting family (and as you see here, one of my daughter's new tiny adorable baby Dumbo rats. There are three and they are all super cute.) See you on Tuesday.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Just Write Saturday Edition

I have family arriving for a visit tomorrow, so I'm going to move Just Write to today, and 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 100.

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

Friday, May 27, 2016

Lucky Seven

Here's a rather spiritual short video with some interesting things for everyone to ponder (narration, background music):

7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Reading, Writing, and Living from Dissolve on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sub Op

For those of you who like to cook and write out there, I spotted this sub op in the Paying Markets forum over at AbsoluteWrite.com:

"Are you a master chef with cooking Ramen Noodles? Are you able to make cuisines out of such a basic food staple?


A new food blog is looking for someone who can make fabulous recipes with Ramen Noodles. This would require you to take 2-3 pics of the food, write the recipe and write a blurb/description about it. The most IMPORTANT part is to have an appealing photo of the food. No one will eat it if it doesn't look appetizing. The pay is $15 via Paypal with a byline.

Send writing samples and photos of your creations for consideration. Content must be original and this is for exclusive web rights. A food photo sample is REQUIRED. Snap a quick pic of your lunch with your cell phone of any meal as a sample. Send samples to BrunchOnABudget [at] gmail [dot] com for consideration."

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Charity Requests Reminder

Lately I'm seeing a bunch of charity-related requests landing in the blog comments approval queue, so as I'm deleting them I thought I'd also post a reminder that I don't allow them on the blog. The main reasons for this are:

a) I don't have time to chase down all the associated links and make sure they're legit

b) In the past every time I have supported a big charity they've pestered me for years afterward to make more donations, to the point that what they pay in postage to ask for more money exceeds the sum I originally donated.

c) I can't support health charities that incorporate inhumane and unnecessary animal experimentation as part of their research, which is more of them than you probably want to know.

d) If I post one charity request I am ethically obligated to post them all, and eventually all you'd be reading here would be charity requests.

Please understand that I'm not anti-charity. Every year my family and I donate to worthy causes in our community, including the public schools, the no-kill cat shelter and the food bank. I donate lots of books to our public library and a children's charity. I also make at least one quilt or quilted project every year for a charity auction. So while it may seem like I'm being stingy, I actually do my part in private.

Thanks in advance for understanding.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


One of my clients has booked me to ghost write full-time for them until the end of the year, which takes care of all my job-seeking stress and free work time until the end of 2016. This is a freelancer's dream come true, and it has the extra delight of being for the client who has the most interesting projects, allows me the most creative freedom, and is a pure joy to work with, always. If I was given the job of quality control manager at the Hershey's chocolate factory, I couldn't be happier.

Unfortunately this means I have to say Adieu to my tentative plans for summer, and joining NaNoWriMo in November. Regarding the latter, as I do every year on the blog I'll still shake my pompoms, nag incessantly, and post anything I think can help for those who do take the leap.

Booking jobs this far in advance isn't always possible when you're freelancing, but when you can it takes a lot of the pressure off you. Having that income to look forward to allows you to focus more on the work, which is the ideal situation when you're trying to deliver your best. If you do reserve your time for a client, be realistic about your productivity. You can say you can write ten novels before the end of the year, but can you really knock out 200K a month without stopping until December? Do the math first. You should also consider any holidays or vacation time you might want to take off from work.

Some other suggestions:

1. Talk to the client about their schedule, and make sure they're going to be at least available to contact while you're working should any problems arise. If the client plans to be on vacation or offline celebrating the holidays, mark that on your calendar as a reminder.

2. Discuss kill fees (aka what you will want to charge if any future project is cancelled) upfront so the client is clear on the cost of cancellation. My philosophy is that life happens, and finances can get tight without notice, so I don't charge them (note that it's also pretty easy for me to land a freelancing job now, so I have a bit of an advantage there.) I do ask my clients to give me as much advance notice as possible so I can line up new jobs to take the place of the cancelled project.

3. Find out as much about your future projects as you can from the client. This is just common sense. If you hate writing NASCAR romances, three months down the road you don't want to find out you have to write a series of them.

Always be grateful to a client who asks to reserve your time, too. Even if you turn them down, you've just been paid a very nice compliment.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Coach Not

Over the course of my career I've been asked by a bunch of people to be a mentor to a struggling writer they know. 75% of the time this is their son or daughter, so it's a touchy situation. It's generally because the parent wants a writer in the family (why? search me), or the kid wrote a poem, a short story, or something that won a contest. The other reason is the parent is an expert at getting their kid coaching from a pro, the way a kid who plays baseball is sent to an exclusive summer camp or training school run by some former major league player. Either way I get a phone call or an e-mail or a message via a mutual friend asking for help. There was a very inventive lady who even tried to use my kid to get to me for her kid.

I like kids, and consulting with an experienced professional writer in person in this area means contacting me or a guy who writes travel books, who I imagine gets all the nonfiction-related requests. It's not amazing how often they manage to hunt me down, as I'm fairly well-known to teachers, librarians and indie bookstore owners around here. Here's a typical encounter:

1. The parent initiates contact by telling me how lovely it is to meet me. Even thought they've never actually read any of my books, I'm assured that I come highly recommended as a really decent writer. I am polite.

2. The parent then admits they would rather be talking to Stephen King, as he's much more successful, but he never replies to their calls/e-mails/mutual friend messages. Then, very casually, the parent asks if I know Steve. They phrase it like that, too: "Do you know Steve?" like they already do and we might have him as a mutual acquaintance, but what they really hope is that I do because I'd represent one more shot at getting to him. I say no, sorry. I'm not sorry, but again, it's polite.

3. The parent launches into a roughly 85 page single-spaced synopsis of how they discovered Junior was meant to be a writer, how well Junior writes, what makes Junior different from and superior to every other kid in the world who writes, the last thing Junior wrote, etc. I listen to this and some wildly unrealistic expectations on all the great lit Junior is going to produce, if only someone in the biz would share their insight/wisdom/fairy dust and somehow magically compel the kid to write. Let me translate this for you: that would be me. Tragically, I fail to take the hint.

4. At this point I almost always receive a copy of Junior's poem, short story or contest win, which the parent asks me to honestly critique. What they really want is to hear how brilliant it is, so I always refuse. Very politely, too. This is their child's creative work. The Hope Diamond is not as valuable to them.

5. The now frustrated-but-hiding-it parent tries to set up a play date for me and the kid so we can meet and talk about Junior's future in the Publishing industry, or they ask me to contact the kid via phone or e-mail with some encouraging thoughts, which I must again very politely refuse. I am not much of a play dater. I used to do the contact thing, but after an editor's kid tried to sell my encouraging words on eBay I admit, I got a little jaded.

While all this is going on, I'm always thinking the same thing: Thank you, Mom, for never doing this to me. I don't say that, though. This is what I say:

1. I think it's wonderful that Junior is so talented. (Always praise the kid first. It's a nice thing to do.)

2. I don't mentor other writers because I barely have enough time to do my own work and take care of my home and family. (Always true, never believed. Like when I tell non-writers that I don't make millions off my books.)

3. I recommend things like online resources and free writing classes, NaNoWriMo, and the few books on writing that I think are worth the cover price. Oddly I never recommend Stephen King's, which I think like most of his stuff is really more of a memoir put through a wood chipper on acid. I usually mention James Scott Bell and Sage Cohen.

The end result: 99.9% of the time, the parent thanks me in the same tone I use to tell telemarketers to stop calling my house. I then never hear from them again. I'm guessing it's because I should have flung myself at this marvelous chance to browbeat their budding writer into the next Stephen King.

Seriously, I do understand how parents can get their hopes up, but I really don't know how mentorship can turn anyone into a writer. Then again, I'm self-taught in nearly everything I do outside of cooking and cleaning. Since turning pro I've picked up a lot from some older/wiser authors who chose to share their experience, opinions and advice with me. I've gotten some great stuff from new and inexperienced writers as well. I listen, but mainly I rely on myself, self-study, trial and error, and a lot of practice. I share what I know about writing here, but it's mostly me talking shop because I love to talk shop. Also, I'm not holding a gun to your head to make you read it. If you stop in and like it, great. If you don't, you won't come back to read more, great.

If you have a child or a family member who loves to write, there is a lot you can do to help them. First, don't look for ways to push them -- be supportive instead. You can provide them with the tools they need by taking a more practical approach. If they need writing supplies, buy them. If they need time to write, or a dedicated space to write in, arrange it for them. Take them to the book store and buy them a new journal or how-to writing book. Get them a library card. Let them have your old laptop. The key is to provide them with what they really need to write: writing stuff.

No one in my family really believed I would end up being a professional writer. Back then it simply wasn't something girls did. Do you want to know what I consider the greatest thing my mother ever did for me as a writer? She got me a secondhand Royal Academy manual typewriter, on which I wrote my first novel. Until she did I wrote everything in longhand. I think having a typewriter that could keep up with my thoughts is what really got me hooked on writing. So there you go.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Off Yet Again

I'm unplugging for a couple of days to do some writing for the clients, so there will be no Just Write this weekend. See you on Monday.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Art of Paper

Watch the delicate, beautiful and painstaking art of hand-making paper in Japan (background music):

Making of Japanese handmade paper of Kyoto Kurotani from Kuroyanagi Takashi on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Weekly Op

If you're up for entering a weekly writing contest, you can find some very interesting challenges over at TheProse.com here. Here's the current challenge:

"Prose Challenge of the Week #23: Write a haiku about deceit. The winner will be chosen based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. The winner will receive $100."

From what I see on the website you must first register and join their community to enter a challenge, but there appears to be no fees involved. Entries are posted on the website, along with the number of entries received, so you can read all your the competition before submitting your own (here are all the entries for the current challenge.) There are also challenges posted by the community as writing prompts, and most of those looked quite inspiring, so it appears you'll be hanging out with a very creative group of writers.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Summer Planning

My favorite season of the year starts on June 20th, and along with family stuff I'm now planning my writing schedule. I'll finish up my latest ghost writing series project on June 30th, so that comes first. I also have a client who has me on retainer and keeps me busy year-round. I intend to continue writing the weekly installments for Twenty-One, but unless the other clients on my list ask me to work for them I will have a sizable chunk of time to use as I please.

The options:

1. Write something new. Always the first thing I think of, the big shiny ooooh option. I have this character dancing in my head who wants his story written, too. I'll finally pry him out of my brain and onto the page. I could manage a new idea novella in a couple months.

2. Find some more/new clients. Always the financially wise option, although as I head into my third year of freelancing I've managed to produce steady, reliable income from the clients I already have (all of whom are pretty fabulous to work with, too.)

3. Take another step toward my first self-publishing venture. Gulp. Assuming I can stop waffling and make some production decisions, maybe.

4. Use the time to do something other than writing. Since I had my eye surgery I haven't taken any long road trips, and my guy wants to see Maine. I think that's a bit far for my first jaunt, so I'm thinking a couple days in the Tennessee mountains.

5. Hand-quilt a huge quilt top I made over the winter. Summer is the best season for my arthritis, and at the rate it's affecting my working fingers this may be the last quilt I stitch by hand.

I might go with a combination of 1 and 3, and negotiate a long weekend to do 4. Which means I can't get sick, but none of the options are musts, so if something happens I can always opt right back out of them. I might also start 5 and work on it through the fall and winter, but that depends on how well the hands are functioning. I'm also thinking about NaNoWriMo and whether or not I want to do it this year; if I do decide to jump in I'll have to start planning in August to feel ready by November.

What are your plans for the summer? Share them in comments.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ghost Writing Op

I know some of you have asked how one breaks into ghost writing, and when I spotted this ad over at Absolute Write I thought it was worth linking to for that purpose. The guy is very upfront about what he and his company do, and while the pay isn't great this is a staff position, which probably means steady work. If you're looking for an opportunity to find out what ghost writing is all about, and experience what it's like to write on demand, this may be a good place to start.

Some suggestions when you're applying for any writer for hire position:

Be honest about your experience, and avoid padding your writing resume because a) it's wrong, b) most clients see a lot of that so they can usually spot it and c) there is nothing wrong with being a beginner -- everyone has to start somewhere. My experience actually works against me in some cases, so it's not always about how much you've published.

Writing for hire means you always bring your A game to the assignment. Don't try to be a ghost writer because you're bored or you're too lazy to go out and get a day job. Think of it this way: you're competing with writers like me for this job (and hey, maybe you are competing directly with me.)

The three most important aspects of any ghost writing job are pay, client personality, and type of project. If anything seems off with those three things, you should probably walk away from the job. I just had this happen to me last month, when I applied to a client who was offering a decent rate. Once the client contacted me he immediately cut the rate by a third. The client claimed that was what all the new hires were paid, but it was not an auspicious beginning. As we discussed the project it also became immediately clear that the client's personality did not mesh well with mine. I didn't wait for the third strike but politely withdrew my pitch.

Don't take jobs you will hate because you like the money. There are terrific clients offering very decent rates, but if what they want you to write makes your stomach turn, you should move on. There are plenty of other fish in the ghost writer sea, and you should always at least like what you do, or you're not going to want to do it for long.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Eye of the Storyteller

I'm not done lecturing you all about getting out in the world with a camera to hunt down some inspiration. Photographs are amazing wells of story ideas and solutions to your writing problems, but it's also about looking at everything with a storyteller's eye.

Three examples:

I took this pic because I like taking pictures of old buildings; they're more attractive to me than modern/new/hip structures. I also liked the circular brick pattern, which may or may not have once been a window.

Let's say it was, and look at it as a storytelling opportunity. The first thing I noticed is that brick inside the circle window is much more modern than what was used to build the structure. That shows a stretch of time between the creation of this place, and a very strange renovation.

So why did they brick up the window? What was inside? Were they trying to keep something in (a monster), or keep something out (sunlight)? What happens if those bricks are removed by say, the new owner, who has decided to renovate the old place?

Walking around an old church, I happened to look down to see this patchwork of old porcelain tiles. I snapped a pic just because they were pretty.

Now switch to your storyteller's eye. The tiles are pretty, but they're also in a definite pattern. The plainer blue tiles look like buttons, too. What if they aren't just tiles?

Four people walk around this church, and as they're in a huddle talking about the next sight to see they inadvertently stand on the four plain blue tiles. What happens next? How does it relate to the old church? Does it change those four people -- or are they transported to another place?

During our road trip we stopped at a little country diner to have breakfast, and I saw this quirky old family tree photo collage on the wall behind our table. I don't really know why I took a photo of it. Maybe just because it was in a diner.

Let's take a closer look at one section of it:

Two photos are missing. Perhaps the person who made the collage never managed to find pics of Moses and Harriet. But then why tag the empty spaces? What happened to those pictures? What about the two pics between the spaces? Why does Caroline look so smug (and more like a guy in drag than a lady?) What reason does Silas have to look so menacing? Or is he afraid?

Imagine you're a waitress closing up the diner for the night, and you just noticed those pictures are missing -- and two people who look exactly like Caroline and Silas are sitting at a table and looking at you like you're a menu. What happens next?

If I want to answer my questions about my pictures in interesting ways, I write a story. I think there is something in that old building with the bricked-in window, and the new owner renovating the place is about to set it free for the first time in two centuries. My four tourists at the church do accidentally stand on those four blue tiles, and will be transported to the time the church was being built. As for Caroline and Silas, they do corner my waitress in the diner for their own dark purposes -- at least until Moses and Harriet, her great-great-grandparents, show up.

So get that camera and get out there to take some shots. Look at your pictures later with your storyteller's eye, ask questions, and use your imagination to answer them. That's all there is to it.

Sunday, May 15, 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 96.

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

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Off to Catch Up

I'm taking off today to catch up on some work. See you tomorrow.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Count

If only my writing instruments were this cute (narration, background music):

Pencilvanya from Studio Tinto on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sub Op

I spotted this open call over in Absolute Write's Paying Markets forum:

"Short Shorts: A Summer 2016 Flash Fiction Contest is open to all new, emerging, and established writers.

We seek flash fiction of 500 words or less.
Winning entries will contribute to our upcoming “Outsiders” theme highlighting the unique struggles, circumstances, and journeys that set individuals apart from others.
Multiple entries, simultaneous submissions, and previously published works permitted. (More details on submissions page.)
Up to three works may be included in each entry.
Accepting entries between May 1, 2016 - September 20, 2016
Grand Prize winning entry and Runners Up to be announced on or before October 20, 2016.

$250 and publication in the 2016 print issue of From the Depths plus Featured Author Interview to accompany published work.

All entries eligible for publication in the 2016 issue of From the Depths.
Contributors to be paid $20 for each published story plus online Featured Author Interview.

All entries accepted via Submittable. https://hauntedwaterspress.submittable.com/submit
$10 reading fee per entry.

Thank you. We look forward to reading your work.

P.S. Don't miss our free reading period for fiction & poetry open through May 31, 2016! Submit today!"

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Fountains of Ideas

One of my favorite times to look for story inspiration is when I'm outdoors or traveling somewhere. This is why my camera goes with me everywhere, too -- one picture can often fire my imagination with such a blaze of thoughts and associations that I can keep building and expanding on that image until I have a novel. If I'm really lucky, my photos can also help me write my way out of a story problem, too.

Case in point: I'm working on a project for a client that I thought needed an additional scene, and that's about all I can tell you about both without violating my NDA. I needed to pitch an idea, too, but I kept coming up short on ideas to make it interesting as well as significant to the story. While I was driving myself crazy trying to arm-wrestle some inspiration out of my brain, I sat down to take a look at a bunch of pics I took on a recent trip to one of my favorite southern cities, St. Augustine, and decide which ones I wanted to print out.

I photographed a lot of fountains on that particular trip, and I smiled when I saw this one:

Here's a closer look (you gotta love six guy heads spitting into a basin):

One of the aspects of this funny fountain is a great story element, too, and it appealed to me as a tool I could use in my scene pitch. How I might do that came with the color of this fountain in front of one of my favorite restaurants:

You just don't see that many red fountains around, right? My thought exactly -- and that bloomed into a bigger concept. Finally, I looked at this pic that I took from the side of a gorgeous fountain, so that the sunlight and shadows would show off the intricate art:

From that angle several details jumped out at me, all of which dovetailed nicely with my concept.

I still didn't have the scene idea fully realized, but I had enough to let it percolate while I went to make dinner. As I cooked I thought about precisely what attracted me to each fountain picture, and how I could work that emotional response into my scene and get it to motivate my characters. I rewound the project in my head to see what it would best fit with in the backstory. I looked for opportunities where I could put my personal stamp on it as well.

All the elements I found interesting came together with the needs of the story. By the time I was washing the dishes I had it. The end result was not a fountain in the story, but a new construct formed from these fountains of inspiration. I pitched the new scene idea that I built with them, and the client loved it. Tomorrow I'm writing it in and I already know it's made this part of the project stronger, more cohesive and definitely more interesting. The best part? It's not filler. It's what was missing.

Next time you feel stumped with a story, grab your camera, go take a drive or a walk, and take pics of whatever catches your eye. There is a little story fountain inside your head, and sometimes all you need to do is prime it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


I've been getting into some very hands-on, fun projects with the books I've been receiving lately from Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program. First I tried the adult coloring book trend, and now I've become a hair stylist.

Seriously, in order to properly test drive 100 Perfect Hair Days by Jenny Strebe, published by Chronicle Books, I wanted to use the book as it was intended: to style hair. It's a bit easier for me to do someone else's hair, and much easier to photograph my efforts, too. This is why I asked my daughter's best friend, Michelle, to be my model. Chelle has amazing, lovely long red locks, and she's young and fashionable, so I thought she'd be a good test subject.

First, some thoughts on the book itself: it's very well written, beautifully photographed, and offers many style variations. The models used for the styles are of a nice mix of ages, hair colors and hair types as well, including some African American, Asian and Latina ladies. I really liked that ethnic hair types were well-represented in the book, as we all know that not everyone is born a California blonde. The instructions are grouped in five chapters by style type: casual, out and about, sporty, dress up and extra special. There's also a whole chapter at the end, Problems and Solutions, to help the reader trouble-shoot, fix and maintain a healthy head of hair.

At the very front of the book are two Style 101 pages, which is a cross-indexed picture grid of the styles in the book by number, matched with the type of hair (frizzy, fine, wavy, etc.) that they best suit. That's definitely a real time-saver when you want to try out something new; you can pick a style that will work with your type of hair. As you go to each particular style, you have one page showing a model wearing it, a description of the style and some notes by the author discussing the advantages. There are also symbols of the type of hair the style suits best. On the facing page there's a list of what you'll need to create the style, along with very clear instruction steps on how to create it, and illustrations of what your hair looks like as you go through each step. The latter is especially fabulous as a how-to reference, because you can check your hair against the illustrations as you go through the steps.

I had my model pick the styles she wanted me to try, and the first was a classic French Twist:

Chelle's hair has long layers, which made it a bit of a challenge. I didn't get this one perfectly smooth, but she was happy with the results.

Next we tried a Dutch braid, which is under- rather than over-braided:

This was easy enough for Chelle to do it herself, and she thought it would be a pretty style to wear when she does her volunteer work at one of our local children's hospitals.

Finally, we went with a pretty twisted chignon:

Of the three we tried I liked this style the most; I thought it turned out the best, and it could be worn for anything from a business meeting to a nice date. Clip a pretty barrette or a silk flower in the center of the twist and you can dress it up even more.

I can't find fault with anything in Jenny Strebe's 100 Perfect Hair Days, although I did make some observations. There are no older/gray-haired ladies in this book, and I would have liked to see some because I'm one. That said, I realize that my segment of the hair styling population generally wear their hair short or go to the salon to have it styled, so it's probably sensible to stick with younger models. Also, most of the styles are for shoulder-length or longer hair, but you can't really do much with short hair, so that's also only logical.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to try some new styles, learn how to better care for their hair, and create more perfect hair days in their life.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Cardinals Adieu

Our porchside nest of baby cardinals triplets are grown and off to start their lives; they all took their first solo flight earlier this week. This experience has been such a thrill for us, and we did our part by not mowing the lawn or making any noise near the tree while they were nesting. My guy even went out one day to chase off some curious crows who were making Mama and Papa frantic.

I didn't catch two of the babies leaving the nest, but I was lucky enough to spot this little guy just as he did:

He still has his little mohawk, too:

Just before he took off with his mom, he looked back at me:

I'll take that as an Adieu.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Wishing You

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Just Write

I have family plans for tomorrow, so I'm going to move Just Write to today, and 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 92.

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

Friday, May 06, 2016


I hope this delightful short film doesn't give my Fiskars any ideas (background music):

A Small Escape from David Sandell on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Copy Strikes

One thing I've been noticing since I started receiving BookBub's daily e-mail on e-book bargains is the short copy written beside the cover art. This copy is supposed to entice me into acquiring the read. Here's a typical example (with the author and character names removed):

“[This Author] combines the best of [A Much Bigger Author] and [A Not Much Bigger Author] in this wildly imaginative and intensely gripping urban fantasy” (Publishers Weekly starred review). After her magic opens a demonic portal, [Main Character] and [Secondary Character], must journey to hell to save [Secondary Character]. With over 300 five-star ratings on Goodreads!"

Okay, let's dissect this:

Strike One: The first line tells me nothing about the book; it gives me Publishers Weekly's opinion of the author. Even if it is honest and accurate, two words that I've personally never associated with Publishers Weekly, it is a quotation (aka a blurb.) I expect quotations on the front cover, or in the opening pages; not in the copy. Most quotations are attaboys or attagirls like this, and while that's nice and all it doesn't tell me anything about the story.

Strike Two: The second line gives me a twenty-one word premise about the story. Less than half of this particular copy is actually about the story, btw. First impression? Sounds like the main character caused the whole thing, which squashes my care factor (as in, why should the reader care?) It apparently takes place in Hell*, too, which calls for a sidebar.

Sidebar to Strike One: I'm not sure how a trip to hell could be a "wildly imaginative" story. Mainly because stories like this are as old as, well, Hell. Dante Alighieri wrote epic poems about it. They made me plod through a trip to Hell via Goethe's Faust back in high school (and Lord, what a snoozer that was.) I believe we've been reading trip to Hell stories since some Myceanean dreamed up Persephone back in 1400 BCE. If you don't mind Hell not being called Hell, the ancient Egyptians were hieroglyphing tales of what happened when your soul went on the scales in Duat waaaay back in 2400 BCE. Bottom line, this leads me to believe the quotation is inaccurate -- another reason to get it out of the copy.

Strike Three: The third line assured me that at least 300 folks on Goodreads absolutely loved it. This assurance backfires with me. I am not a fan of Goodreads; among other things the people who run it have helped themselves to my blog content without my permission, then assured me they'd remove it, and then didn't. Then there's that lovely, possibly psychic review of a book I never wrote.

If you have to come up with fifty words of copy to interest me in your book, the last thing you want to do is bore me and waste my time, but even that would be better than seriously annoying me. So here are some suggestions:

1. Tell me about the story, not the author. With all due respect, I'm not buying the author. I'm buying a story.

2. Write a strong and alluring premise that hooks me with all the best points. Example: [Main Character, expressed imaginatively] must use her [interesting adjective] magic in the [scary adjective] underworld to find her lost lover and close a demonic portal before [Huge Scary Threat].

3. Ditch the mention of any secondary characters if they sound like filler. Tell me about the main character, the most thrilling aspects of the conflict, and add a twist or something that gives me a really good reason as to why I should pay money to read this story.

4. Be sure to give me something that shows how your trip to Hell story is different from all the other trip to Hell stories I've read (assuming there is something.) If it's more of the same, feature something other than the trip to Hell in the copy.

5. Finally, if five million people on Goodreads gave the book 5-star reviews, that might impress even me. Three hundred? Not so much. Skip the stars and use the space instead to tell me more about the story.

*P.S., If you must write about Hell, I wouldn't call it Hell. Hell is never particularly alluring for most people; in fact we regularly tell people we really don't like to go there, so why should we? Use something like underworld; it sounds sexier, doesn't rile the Catholics, and makes people think of Kate Beckinsale in a skin-tight leather jumpsuit. Who looked quite fetching in it, I must admit . . .

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Sub Op

Laksa Media has an open call for their upcoming short spec fic antho Where the Stars Rise: "This speculative fiction anthology contains original stories to celebrate Asian diversity, featuring an Asian main character, Asian setting and/or some amount of Asian elements, by authors with an Asian ancestry. We consider Asian countries as those defined by United Nations in Wikipedia. Authors do not need to reside in Asia to participate in this anthology. Asian ancestry includes persons who may not necessarily be of Asian ethnicity but have grown up or lived a significant amount of time in an Asian society or country (“Asians of non-Asian ethnicity”). We welcome translated story from other languages to English (no English reprints, please).

We are looking for stories to celebrate character diversity (ethnic, age, walks of life/socio-economics, sexuality, etc.). We leave the question as to what determine Asian theme open so not to restrict creativity. No stereotypes or clich├ęd portrayal of cultures or stories based purely on showing the strangeness or exoticism of a culture. No erotica. Cross-genre is encouraged. This anthology is geared towards Young Adult and Adult.

Project Objectives:

A portion of Laksa Media’s net revenue from this anthology will go directly to support Kids Help Phone.
Laksa Media will donate CAN$500 upon the publication of this anthology to Kids Help Phone.

Submission Guidelines:

Length: <7,000 words No reprints: No simultaneous submissions: No multiple submissions. Advance Payment to Contributors: Contributors will be paid CAN 6 cents per word. The payment is an advance against royalties. A contributor’s copy is included. Payment will be on acceptance of final edited story. We want to have a balance between science fiction and fantasy, with at least 50% science fiction. However, anthology editors tend to receive more fantasy than science fiction submissions. Therefore, we encourage more science fiction stories of all varieties (space opera, time-travel thrillers, interesting new approaches to classic themes, near-future technology, techno-thrillers, science mystery, Asian-punk) because, for an ethno-cultural based anthology, they would help to mitigate the Orientalism that influences Western perceptions of cultures east of Constantinople. Our media is already filled with mystical gurus, genies, and kung-fu monks. We are not saying our anthology has no room for fantasy-based stories, but we are saying that we need to expand the perception and show that Asians do know science and engineering, that they’re not just mystics with magical powers. We are happy to accept fantasy-related fiction, but we are prioritizing the reading of the SF submissions." For more information, see the submission guidelines here. Deadline: May 31st, 2016.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Cast Away

Today I think we should put a message about writing in a virtual bottle, right here. Maybe someday someone will find it and wonder who we were.

Here's mine:

Be valiant.

Robin Bayne: Listen. Revise.

Raine Weaver: Write stories you'd like to read.

Deb Salisbury: Don't give up.

Theo: Find a reason to smile every day. Your writing will be all the better for it.

Shiloh Walker: Worry less

Erin Z.: Never stop dreaming.

If you want to add to the bottle, write yours in comments, and I'll update the post.

Image Credit: exopixel

Monday, May 02, 2016

Growing Fast

Every day has been bird watching day here as the baby cardinals continue to grow. Mama spends most of her time bringing them bugs and worms and keeping a sharp eye on the nest; to keep from scaring her off I shot this on zoom through the porch screen:

I was surprised to see Papa feeding the triplets, too, and was even able to snap a pic (also zoomed through the screen) of him serving breakfast to one of the nestlings:

My guy and I waited until both parents left to see if we could get a couple more snaps of the triplets, who are starting to get their feathers now:

We were very lucky to get this pic, which shows all three:

I know, they're really not all that attractive yet, but I love their little mohawks. We think they may be two girls and a boy, but it's hard to tell when they're this small.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Off Yet Again

I apologize, but I have to skip Just Write today and unplug so I can get caught up on some work that pays the bills. Since Mother's Day is next Sunday I'll try to reschedule it for later this week. In the meantime, I'm off to write for the clients. See you tomorrow.