Wednesday, September 20, 2017

NaNo Prep

As promised, here's an update on my NaNoWriMo preparations:

Novel Working Title: Haunted House Style

Cast: Emma Jones, Julian Caine, Carol Kimball, Nerina Whitmore, Martina Ramirez, Dr. Fred (Jeff) Jeffers, Olivia Gray, Paul Gray, Angus McShea, Bridie McShea, Maeve McShea, Colin Boyle, Father Patrick Nolan, Donald (Madman) Madigan.

Focal image: See image with this post.

Outline: I had fun with this by writing it in first person in Emma's voice. It's a one-pager, but it gives me the bare bones to build on when I write the full-length synopsis and chapter summaries. Click here to read it.

Theme: Revenge

Also, my user name on the NaNoWriMo web site is Lynn Viehl for anyone participating who wants to get in touch there.

Image Credit: Solarseven

Monday, September 18, 2017

Holding On -- or Not

Before Irma arrived to mess with us, I got a depressing reality check: according to Photobucket's account renewal date I have until November 16th to switch 13 years of images on PBW from their host service to Blogger in order to preserve all my blog pics before I delete my account with them. Which I might be able to do, if I devote a little time every day to uploading and coding, but I also have two other blogs with Photobucket-hosted images (Disenchanted & Co. and PBWindow) to redo.

Here are the number of published posts on the three blogs:

Paperback Writer: 4407

PBWindow: 1252

Disenchanted & Co.: 201

Total: 5860

Not all of my PBW or Disenchanted & Co. posts have pics, but I've been pretty liberal with images on both. PBWindow was my photo blog so that's 100% pictures.

I've been blogging steadily since I started my very first blog waaaay back on November 3, 2001. Sixteen years on the internet; thirteen of them right here. But with all the headaches involved in forging ahead with blogging until I decide to retire (sometime in 2027, Lord willing) I am thinking about how long I want to (or actually can) hold on to all this. I do have all of my blogs backed up, btw, so I won't lose anything even if my Photobucket account goes poof.

Here are what I see as my options:

1. Close the account, let the pics vanish, and not do anything about them. PBWindow would become a complete void, but the written content would still be there on the others. This doesn't work for me because I'm more of a do-something gal.

2. Hang on for another year with Photobucket to have the time to manually switch everything on all three blogs over to Blogger. What gives me pause about this is that Google (which hosts all the pics on Blogger), could go the way of Photobucket and become insanely difficult to use, or up their annual pricing, or behave like jerks, and all my efforts would all be for nothing. Also, I've been burned by hosting services before, so I don't trust any of them.

3. Turn the archives of all the blogs into PDFs and make them free e-books. Possibly the fastest/easiest/cheapest route.

I'm inclined to go with door#3, so I did a test run with Disenchanted & Co., resizing the pics and making it more readable, and it took me about two hours (I cut and paste every page of the blog into a Word document, and then turned it into a PDF with Adobe.) Then I did a cut and paste of one year of posts from PBWindow and converted them to a PDF, which was quicker (about 20 minutes.)

Since I already have my blogs backed up as Word documents, I can turn them all into PDFs right now, save them on my Google drive, and then go back and edit the e-books at my leisure. I have a bit more to think about, but I'll let you all know what I decide before I do anything drastic.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Made It

Hurricane Irma was no picnic, but we made it through without harm, and only moderate damage to the house and our property. Some roads are still closed and/or flooded, and of course millions are still without power, but we and our neighbors are helping each other however we can. As you might expect gas, bottled water and fresh food are very scarce, but trucks are arriving every day, so I hope soon things will get back to a relatively normal state.

What I'm doing: right now, checking on elderly neighbors, clearing the debris from the yard, and providing meals, bathrooms and laundry for friends and neighbors who are still without power. Simple things like a hot shower and clean clothes really help, so if you're in a situation to do the same, please do.

To be sure your donations get to the people affected by Hurricane Irma, I suggest a donation to the Red Cross. You can find out more by visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. You can also text the word IRMA to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Friday, September 08, 2017

PBW on Hiatus

As of right now it looks like we will be dealing directly with Hurricane Irma starting tomorrow night. The last time we faced a storm this strong we had no power for 21 days afterward, so I may be scarce for a while. We have made all the proper preparations, and have been through many storms like this both here and in South Florida, so we feel confident that we'll make it through again.

Since I won't be around to approve comments or update PBW I'm going to put the blog on hiatus for the duration. I'll check in when I can and let you all know how we made it through. In the meantime, please send good thoughts and prayers for all the people of Florida and the Caribbean. This time we're really going to need them.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017


Another experiment with uploading to Blogger, this time in bulk, and a little amusement for your Wednesday. For two bucks my daughter bought this chemistry book at a local antique mall:

It's 142 years old, but in beautiful condition:

Inside we found two makeshift book marks: an article outlining the then-radical method of teachers beginning the school day by discussing the latest news with their students:

We also found a folded scrap:

Unfolded to reveal some student's math notes:

I love old books, especially ones that come with treasures hidden inside. What have you found inside an old book lately? Let us know in comments.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Off to Prep

I'm taking off today to get some household things done in the event we get a visit from Hurricane Irma. For those who are likewise watching her, the National Hurricane Center is your best bet for the most up-to-date and accurate information on the storm.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Art Journaling

Now if I've filched the Blogger links and recoded them correctly, this post should show three pics from my summer art journal. I've gotten back into sketching, drawing, painting and collaging in a small way, mainly to refine my motor skills now that I've got more control over my alternate index finger (aka my middle finger -- arthritis has toasted the joints of my official index finger.)

I've also missed my journaling art. I love to sew, and quilting will likely be my primary art-for-fun forever, but sometimes I need a break from the needlework. Having an art journal allows me to play with color and ideas, and express my POV in interesting ways. Over the years I've also collected a massive amount of images, interesting papers, and recycled materials, and working them into art makes me happy while being green. I've also missed painting watercolors, terrible as mine always tend to turn out. It's not the final product that really matters anyway for me; it's the making of it.

As with my experience with adult coloring books keeping an art journal is very soothing. I do write in mine, but not much (and taking a little rest from words is likewise calming and relaxing.) Since it's usually a negative mood changer I have been working on a couple of pages almost every day while moving my youngest off to college. I find I prefer to end my day with art journaling because it works out all the snarls and worries from my thoughts, and allows me to sleep better once I do go to bed. Because I do it just for fun there's no pressure. I don't have to be profound or say things important or even think about it much. I let my ideas loose and see what happens.

Combining collage with doodling is my favorite form of art journaling. Here I put together a pretty little Victorian paper doll I've had sitting in a drawer for years on a recycled bit of black card stock, and used a silver gel pen to doodle around her. Since one of her feet had been torn off I added a clip of the word Paris from another paper remnant to cover the amputation. The end result (see next photo) might look a bit wonky, but I liked it -- and with journaling of any kind that's all that matters.

Incorporating an overall theme for an art journal can help you navigate through the pages with more direction. I have a couple of vintage Victorian scrapbooks filled with loose calling cards and advertising art that I might raid and make into a strictly Victorian scrap-art journal. I've also seen Halloween and Winter-themed art journals that are gorgeous.

Art journaling isn't just helping me cope with being an empty nester. One thing I noticed immediately when I came back from my spring/summer hiatus is that nothing has changed with the toxic levels of dark and evil out there in InternetLand. Honestly, I think it's gotten worse. The only way I know how to combat that kind of ugliness is to be part of the light. Writing may be my big hurricane lamp, but art is my crystal chandelier. If I can inspire just one of you to start an art journal, that's two chandeliers. Three if you get someone else to join us, and more if they do. Imagine if we could all do that, and spread the creation until we bring a little light to everyone we know.

Think about it: if you decided to make an art journal, what would you keep in yours? Tell us in comments.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Grist vs. Gift

One metaphor that has never fit well for me is "grist for the mill." For everyone else in the world it means something that is useful for a particular purpose; for writers it's meant to describe what gives us inspiration, ideas or anything that ends up sparking or going into a story. I don't have a problem with the concept, just the word: grist. For me it immediately invokes gristle, which paired with the mill is simply disgusting, imagery-wise. I think grist is a bit heartless, too. It implies inspiration is nothing more than fodder to be ground up and used.

Since I always want to change things to suit myself, I thought about my attitude toward what inspires me. I consider things that fall into the grist/mill category as gifts from the universe. It may be magical thinking, but the universe always seems to be tossing things at me that make their way into my stories: art, Chinese cookie fortunes, colors, critters, music, odd names, phrases, scents, and textures, to mention a few.

Some of the strongest elements in the stories I write are inspired by very mundane things, too. Broken glass and an old pocket watch evolved into a dreadful superpower (Lucan's from Dark Need) and a time travel device (Disenchanted & Co.) respectively. Gifts for the mill can be very small, too, like a character name (the name Mordred from the Arthurian legend, turned inside out + e = Dredmore in my Toriana books) or something huge (apparently the Oregon Dunes helped Frank Herbert create the SF world of Dune).

Such inspirations often have intense, personal meanings for the writer as well. The photo of the pocket watch you see with this post is one I altered and made into a necklace, and is based on the time-travel device in my story, which was in turn inspired by a lovely old pocket watch I saw in an antique store on one of the best days in my life. For readers, it's a time-travel device. For me it's that and a reminder of something wonderful. Gifts remind us to be grateful and appreciative for whatever makes it into our stories, which is a bit healthier than seeing inspiration as something we can use.

So what was the last gift for the mill you received? Let us know in comments.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

It's never too early to prepare for National Novel Writing Month. I'm taking the first step today by committing to what I'll write as my November novel, which will be the sequel to Ghost Writer. Since I'll also be working in November I need to get as much done in advance on plotting, research, setting up my novel notebook, etc., so that all I need to do on November 1st is start writing.

Other things I have to decide on:

A title: It can be a working title, but I need something to call it. I really dislike writing a story without a title. I don't know why. Just one of my things, I guess.

A cast: I like to know who will be in the story before I write it, so I'll make up character lists. For this book Emma, Julian, Carol, Nerina, Marti, Jeff and Olivia are my main cast; I just need to figure out who else will be on the page with them.

A focal image: This is a picture relating to the story that I put in the front view panel of my notebook. It makes the notebook easy to spot (I am the Queen of Novel Notebook Planet) and it often helps me in odd ways.

An outline: I'll write a one-page synopsis first to get down the broad strokes, and then break it up into more detailed chapter summaries (I also do this when I'm pitching an idea to a client.)

A theme: All my novels have a conceptual theme of one or two words. For example, Ghost Writer's theme was survivors.

This is my process, and since it always works I stick to it; you may want to do more or less to prepare. Once I have everything put together I'll also post it online so you can see the actual prep work. Are any of you ready to commit to NaNoWriMo? Let us know in comments.

Image credit: Miiisha

Friday, August 25, 2017

Pardon My Bubbles

Pay no attention to the repetitive images; I'm messing with Blogger's code to see how I can make it work for me. I think I've actually got a handle on it now; I'm just uploading through their widget and then stealing the URL to work it back into my old familiar code, which allows me to resize it and put it where/how I like.

I'm going to have to redo fourteen years of posts with images in order to end my dependency on PhotoBucket, but at least now I know how to do it.

Image credit: Flynt

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Ghost Writing BOLOs

After freelancing for three years I've developed a sense for what sort of client to be on the lookout for when I read job listings. Basically I watch for professional clients who offer details and who are prepared to pay a reasonable amount for quality work. I've also picked up on things that tell me the client and I are likely not a good match: hints of micro-managing, rambling listings with no solid info on the work, or rife with claims of how busy or important they are, and of course my personal favorite, threats to prosecute me before I even start working for them.

There's no one yardstick to measure potential clients for anyone, but you can usually pick up on these red flags:

Crowd-funding payment: If you see crowd-funding mentioned anywhere in the listing for the project, make sure your part is fully funded first before you take the job. You want to get paid, not hope to get paid if everyone likes the idea over on Kickstarter.

Multi-staged auditions: Often clients will ask a potential hire to write a trial scene of a couple thousand words, for which they will pay only pennies. This is slightly annoying, but okay. Asking you to do that, plus a chapter if the trial scene is accepted, and then three chapters if the chapter is accepted -- you get the picture. This client can't commit (and I had a publisher do this to me for almost a year, once, so it's not bad behavior exclusive to WFH clients.)

Settling someone's score: An obviously angry client wants someone to write a story about something like, say, their horrible divorce. Before you get sucked into it, let me tell you what they probably really want: a very cheap therapist, or a co-conspirator in a revenge plot. Be neither.

Too much work, too little pay: No client wants to pay millions, but there are plenty who want to pay peanuts (aka a penny a word.) If you're a newbie ghost writer trying to get your foot in the door, you can go for these jobs, but stick to small projects until you've built up your resume enough to attract better clients. Two cents a word is standard, but three cents a word (while rare) is better.

Unreasonable expectations: Some clients seem to think writing takes no time at all, or that writers are like sweat shop workers. I saw a listing the other day for a client who wants five thousand words minimum turned in every day. For a penny a word? That's fifty bucks. You can make more than that slinging burgers.

Finally, trust your instincts. If something in the listing makes you uneasy, that's a red flag (even if you can't define why it unsettles you.)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sub Op

Otter Libris has this open call for their upcoming MCSI: Magical Crime Scene Investigation antho: "Sometimes the tools that mundane detectives use to solve the crimes of the world just aren’t enough – sometimes you have to call on a little magic. We’re looking for urban fantasy stories that involve a crime scene and require the investigator to use magic or engage the aid of a magical being to solve the crime. Did the house’s hob see what really happened in the domestic violence incident? Does a detective come into possession of a genie’s lamp that will grant him one wish, and he uses it to solve the case that got away? Does your gumshoe use a tracking spell to find the perpetrator using a few strands of hair she found at the scene? The people in your world can use magic openly or on the sly, it’s all up to you. But your story must be urban fantasy, and involve a crime scene and magic in some way."

Also, on what they really want to see: "Comedy, comedy, comedy! We truly don’t see enough of this in the slush pile and giving us something that makes us laugh will give you a leg up on the competition. Diverse protagonists – we’ve got nothing against the classic gumshoes of the noir era (usually white males), but we want to see something new. This doesn’t mean we won’t accept a story with a white male lead, but you’re going to have to knock our socks off. Magic systems and magical creatures outside of the typical European-based fare that’s dominated Western publishing for so long. Again, we want something new and fresh; and if you do use the more well known European-based magic and creatures, you’re going to have to wow us."

Length: "We’re looking for stories that fall in the 3,000 to 10,000 word range. We will consider looking at stories outside this range, but they need to be just too good for us to pass up. You have a much better chance if you keep the word count within our range. Please query us before sending a story outside of the word count guidelines." On reprints: "We prefer unpublished, original fiction. However, we will consider including one or two reprints in this anthology, but only if they are overwhelmingly fantastic. Make sure you let us know if your story has been published elsewhere before." Payment: "Unpublished stories earn a onetime fee of $25 plus one contributor’s copy for the original terms of the contract. Reprints earn a onetime fee of $10 plus one contributor’s copy for the original terms of the contract. Payment is within 90 days of publication." On submissions: "We will be accepting electronic submissions only. Make sure you put “MCSI” in your email subject line. No simultaneous or multiple submissions please. Send your story as a .doc or .rtf file to submissions at otterlibris dot com." Submission Window: "We will be open for submissions for the anthology beginning on October 1, 2017 and close to submissions on January 31, 2018.

For more information, go to their guidelines page here.

Friday, August 18, 2017

For Art's Sake

This is another pic test, but also displays what was a big step for me as a quilter. Over the summer I made my first official art quilt (which I define as a quilted piece created organically and strictly to function as art.) I've done some crazy quilted and fiber art pieces, but both times I used stitch guides or patterns. This time I planned nothing, collected the materials I wanted to use as I spotted them, and then put it together and embroidered and quilted it. No patterns. No stitch guide. I designed it based on things in my life, and went with improvisational stitching.

How was it, working on the art quilt? I can tell you that it felt intimidating and frustrating, and at times scared the crap out of me. The whole time I worked on it I wanted to run for my how-to books and use something from them rather than invent my own designs. Even as I put the last stitches in I considered hiding it under the bed.

It's definitely not perfect, and I've seen art quilts that are a hundred times better. I also love every single awkward unplanned imperfect stitch of it, because it's mine. My world. My art. My hands. My vision. I know because I did the same thing thirty-three years ago when I wrote my first novel.

I had no practical reason to make this art quilt. The time I used to work on it could have been spent working on a handmade gift for someone else -- I live in what has become the house of quilts, so I give away almost everything I make now to family or friends. I didn't need another wall hanging; I'm actually running out of wall space in the office. When I thought about it before I made it, I felt like I was being selfish to put so much of my spare time into what seemed basically useless.

Any of that sound familiar? Most of us are so busy with making a living or caring/providing for family that we feel guilty when we give a little of ourselves to our art. To do something just to create beauty, that doesn't generate income, almost seems wasteful. To vent or rejoice or mourn or celebrate through art is probably the best therapy on the planet, and yet we beat ourselves for doing it, or behave as if it's something we have to do in secret, like using drugs or booze.

This art quilt, awkward and amateurish as it is, represents one of the changes I'm making in my creative life. I'm taking a little time for me now, and I don't feel guilty about that. I've spent my life to caring for and giving to others. There are still things I need to discover. I'm going looking for them.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Jump Start Ten

Ten Things You Can Do to Jump Start Your Writing Life

Color Spark: Put together a palette of colors (DeGraeve's Palette Generator will make one for you based on any online pic you feed to it) and create a character or setting based on the color combination.

Copy That: Write cover copy for a short story or novel you want to write. If you like how it comes out, use the copy as your story outline.

Cover It: Create a book cover for a story you want to write, and hang it up in your writing space as inspiration/motivation. Or use a cover generator like this French one (input your byline in the box and pick an edition) to generate something random, and write a story based on your results.

Descriptive: Go to a beautiful spot with a notebook, pen and (optional) camera. Describe where you are and what you see in as much detail as you can in your notebook. If you bring a camera, take photos of the most interesting aspects of your spot. You now have the setting for a scene; when you get home write one.

Eavesdrop: The next time you go out (and make sure you do this discreetly/safely) take a notepad and jot down the most interesting things you hear the people around you say. When you get home, choose one or more of the things you wrote down as dialogue, and write them into a scene.

Hour Aside: Devote one hour at the same time every day to work on a writing project (or, if you don't have one, start a new project.) People with day jobs, try getting up an hour earlier -- that always works for me.

Idea Book/Journal: Start a journal of writing ideas. You can just list whatever comes to mind when you think about writing. If you already have enough story ideas, write a journal from the POV of a character.

Super Short: Write a flash fiction of 100 words or less. If you want a real challenge, write a one-sentence story.

Trunk Treasures: Unearth any old story you never finished. Take from it one element (character, dialogue, plot, setting) and use that as inspiration for a new short story.

Uncontest: Find a fee-free writing contest that intrigues you, and write a submission for that contest just for fun (note: if you finish the story in time for the contest's deadline, submitting it would be awesome.)

Monday, August 14, 2017

More Pics

Pic #1 : Cheetah pic taken by my guy for me.

Pic #2: Dome chandelier at the place the kids took me for my birthday lunch.

Pic #3: 81 spools of vintage thread I bought at GoodWill for $7.99 (storage box included.)

I'm trying out Blogger's photo upload extra-large size, and experimenting with how the text works with it. Also, I found this about storage limits on Blogger in their help forum:

"As of now there are no such storage limitations specifically for images you upload on Blogger. As Blogger is a part of your Google account, Google provides 15 GB of free memory for each account. This 15 GB will be shared across all Google products linked to your account such as Gmail, Google Drive and Google Photos.

Blogger usually doesn't have any limit for the storage as the images the you upload will be stored in Google Photos of your Google account."

Just FYI: I pay $10.00 per year to Google for 36G of storage space for my free e-books, all of which take up only about 3G.

Friday, August 11, 2017


Today's post is being written on my new desktop computer, Calliope. She's got awesome memory, and the latest version of Word and Excel. She also supports my ancient Microsoft Digital Imaging Suite (circa 2006) and the equally decrepit version of Adobe Acrobat I own (no date on the box, but probably about 2008). Despite the fact that I can now hook up with X-Box and Netflix and all the other bells/whistles Calliope is fully prepared to host and ring and blow for me, Word + Excel + MDIS + Acrobat is all I really need for my ghost writing gigs.

My old desktop became corrupted and unreliable a few months ago, forcing me to depend solely on my old laptop, which is actually my emergency backup computer. I was tempted to go out immediately and buy a replacement, but at the time what I could afford to spend wouldn't get me what I really needed (with a kid in college I prefer to pay cash for everything, too.)

I thought about what would be my dream computer. I wanted a lot of memory, better processing speed, and a more reliable brand, so I asked around for recommendations -- and my daughter's friends turned out to be the most helpful in that department. I researched, looked at prices, and waited some more.

It made me a little nervous to be dependent on just one old laptop, but I got into the habit of backing up everything multiple times per day, and in the meantime saved my pennies and watched for good sales. I thought I might have to wait until the holidays to find what I needed marked down. Then I spotted Calliope, marked down $180.00, at a back to school sale. She was exactly what I wanted, so I bought her. She was such a good deal that my guy also bought one for our kid to take with her to university. The icing on the cake was getting software, a printer for my kid, and protection plans at a fraction of what they usually cost, as they were also on sale (if you bought a new computer.)

While I don't like waiting for what I want, I really like getting what I want on my terms. That makes it worth the wait.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Pics Problems

I am ready to give up on Photobucket as a photo archive, as their service has become so problematic I can hardly upload anything anymore. Since Blogger offers a pic upload, I'm going to experiment with it today to see how it works (and show you some of the work I've been doing while I was on hiatus):

Pics #1-2 (Small Size on the Blogger Upload): Two throw quilts I made over the spring; I designed the bargello pattern for the second one myself.

Pics #3-4 (Medium Size): A tote I made from fabric scraps for a friend of my guy's who was in a car wreck; a quilt I designed and made with some gorgeous blocks and fabric that our pal Theo sent me.

Pics #5-6 (Large Size): A beach tote I made for my daughter after accidentally destroying hers in the washer; and my very first official art quilt, which I made for fun last month.

I have to figure out the text wrapping on Blogger's photo upload, but otherwise it seems pretty easy.

Can anyone recommend a photo archive/hosting service (other than Photobucket) that is simple to use and doesn't cost an arm + leg? Let me know in comments.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Free NaNoWriMo Resources

I got an SPAMish e-mail from the National Novel Writing Month folks offering me a discount on an online writing class with some university where Joss Whedon evidently went to school. All due respect to higher education and all, but I am perplexed by this (Mr. Whedon writes novels?) That's what I get for subscribing to their newsletter, I suppose.

I don't think you should have to pay anyone to learn how to write novels (disclaimer: I never did.) The reason I started PBW was to share what I know and learn about writing with others who are self-taught like me, and/or who can't afford to pay for education. So here are free writing resources from the PBW archives for anyone who wants to prep for NaNoWriMo:

Characters: You can get a mini crash-course in how to craft characters in my post about stand-out characters here, and a fun way to create character references by using my Character Trading Cards idea.

Outlining: Check out this post for everything you ever wanted to know about novel outlining, including a link to my Novel Outlining 101, the most popular post of all time at PBW.

Plot: Plotting with Purpose is an online workshop I did ten years ago that still holds true to everything I do today.

Setting: My workshop post Food and Fire gives some insight as to how I work (and often struggle with) writing settings.

Style: I even did a virtual workshop on writing style here.

If you do a keyword search here at PBW you'll likely find a post about almost anything to do with novel writing, too, and with workshops I usually include links to other authors' opinions on the topics. You can also use keywords and research 40K articles on writing over at Hiveword's Writer's Knowledge Base.

I'm also in for writing a novel in November, and once the NaNoWriMo site opens for the 2017 challenge I'll see what group options there are so those who want to join me can congregate together all during those crazy thirty days. Stay tuned for more details as we get closer to the kick-off on November 1st.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Back to Writing

Although fall doesn't officially start until September 22nd this year, the month of August always feels like summer's end to me. I think it's partly all the back to school sales; seeing those inevitable yellow cartoon bus signs plastered on a bin of file folders or hanging over an endcap of highlighters signals the finality of fun for the year (for me, anyway -- summer is my favorite season.)

This week I've been plotting a new work project that will keep me writing until the holidays arrive, and like any fresh story I'm completely in love with it. I want to start it so much I've been scribbling bits of dialogue and sketching characters and printing out research notes all week. Tomorrow I'm heading to the office supply place to acquire a new binder -- and I'm thinking of colors and how I want to make this huge, rich palette for the whole cast of characters, because they're all so different, and yet -- look, I can do this all day. My point is that I'm excited and thrilled and so enthusiastic about this story that I feel as if I could write the first book start to finish this weekend.

But: I'm not ready to write it.

Why? Not like I haven't written a book before, right? Plus I know what I want to do. I can even see some of it in my head. When I'm this worked up about all the sparkling beautiful parts of a story, it can be almost painful not to write it. But: I'm not a pantser, or a particularly organic writer. I'm a plotter who wants everything nailed down before I write a single word. I need the whole story, figured out, run through, mapped out and precisely detailed, and that I don't have down or done yet.

It doesn't sound like fun, and I know a lot of writers can't do the kind of prep work I do because it kills their mojo. I'd love to be a more organic, artistic writer, but I know me. When I do this I have to be very methodical, very focused, or I won't finish the project. I don't want to waffle or wonder when I'm writing because that derails me. I don't want the story to be a surprise. Fun for me is getting it done minus train wrecks or surprise parties on the page.

Knowing the kind of writer you are is half the battle, I think. Our blog pal LJ Cohen, who is probably my polar opposite as a writer, talked about how she works in this post. One thing she wrote should be tattooed on all our bods somewhere: "Don't let anyone get away with saying there's only one way to write a novel."

I know tons of ways to write a novel; I've probably tried at least half of them. I also know what works best for me -- the way that hurts a little in this glitzy in-love stage I'm in, but that will enable me to deliver. So I'll spend the next day or two finishing up my very detailed outlines of the plots and characters, and discuss them with my client while I do a bit more research and let everything percolate. Once I have all that done, I'll set up my novel notebook, sit down at the computer and write those two words that still send a little shiver through me, even after typing them sixty-seven times: Chapter One.

What have you got planned for your fall writing? Anyone thinking about doing NaNoWriMo? Tell me in comments.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Now and Then

This is going to be an artsy, I-just-want-to-show-you-cool-stuff post that I want to write more of on the blog. Apply it to writing if you want, because the shoe certainly fits.

I bought this antique crazy quilt fragment from Kelley Street Studio on Etsy because a) it's beautiful, b) it depicts a spider in a web watching an owl reading a book, which is way cool, and c) it was my reward for working through my birthday. It's also over a hundred years old, which makes it even cooler and more precious to me (plus it was very affordable for a little piece of history.)

I'm working on an art quilt right now, and having another quilter's work helps me improve my craft. I can look at a lovely piece like this and let it teach me something by taking in the stitches, colors and composition. The palette of the patchwork, the texture of the silk, the design of the embroidery -- all of it speaks to me as a quilter on multiple levels.

That said, I have my own mojo, too. Before the antique patch arrived, I stitched a spider and web in one of my art quilt blocks:

It was fun to compare the two. I made my web with holographic Sulky, and my spider is based on an orb weaver I often see in my backyard. Mine is also much more primitive, as that's the look I wanted for this piece. What I brought to the creative table is how I see spiders, what I know of them, and how I envision and translate them in my art. The quilter back in 1890 who made the spider watching the owl likely did the same.

In a hundred years or so maybe a quilter will acquire a piece of my work they think is cool and historic, and compare it to their work, and this connection will continue -- or not. The delight is that it's possible, as I just proved by acquiring hers.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Everyday Inspiration

When I unplugged back in March I needed more than a break from the internet and the blog. I had a huge project to tackle, creative batteries in need of serious recharging, and a desire to get back to who I am (versus who everyone expects me to be for them.) This little critter here is an example of things I was missing. Over the last couple years I'd gotten so busy that I wouldn't have said okay when my kid said, "Mom, come outside and see this cool bug."

I stopped burying myself in have-tos and must-dos. I started going outside again, and taking pictures of cool bugs. I wandered a little every day, not to search for anything specific but to be open to inspiration. That cool bug (only the second mantis I've seen since we moved here) inspired a character in the novel I just finished; one who turned out so well that my client complimented me for it.

Would I have created the character without seeing the cool bug? Maybe -- but it probably would have taken longer, and the character might not have been as original. Taking five minutes to admire and photograph this little critter was just for fun, but it helped me with the work, too.

Since I am the least random person I know, I spent a couple of months doing very random things. I ordered a mystery box of modern fabric (which I don't use) and got a bunch of very graphic fat quarters in black and white with touches of gold. You should have seen my face; I've never made a black and white quilt. The point of the exercise, however, was to get out of my fussy old lady crazy quilting color junkie corner and try something new, so I made the fabric into this quilt.

The process made me appreciate modern fabrics; their deceptively simple patterns become classy and vibrant when you start putting them together. The challenge of making such graphic materials work together taught me some new tricks. Since I'm now set on making a true black and white quilt, I think it expanded my horizons a bit, too.

We tend to get complacent with our creativity. I've been doing the same things over and over because I'm pretty good at them, I don't have to think about the work involved much, and the results are predictable and positive. Whether it's quilting or writing or anything, there's nothing wrong with sticking to what you know. That said, unless we try new things once in a while, we can't grow.

What have you done lately to seek new sources of inspiration? Let us know in comments.

Friday, July 28, 2017


Yes, it's really me. After 4+ months on hiatus, I've had ample time to attend to my family and freelance work, get my head and heart in the right place, do lots of other-than-writing creative things, and think about how I want to change/not change things with PBW. I don't have all the answers, but I know if I stay away much longer I'll throw in the towel -- and I'm not willing to give up on this just yet.

The long break was very good for me, writing-wise. Since I've been away I built a new universe, wrote three novels, four novellas and lots of interesting copy. I've also embarked on a new business venture that is very promising. If all goes well I should be gainfully employed until I'm ready to retire. With a kid in college who would like to go on to medical school, that financial stability is really important.

Since my career shift from traditionally-published author to freelance writer I've been struggling with what to do with the blog. I know what I don't want, and what I can't do. Politics are not my thing. I haven't been reading much for pleasure, and while I love books I don't want to review them anymore (but I will knock out what I owe Library Thing; just off the blog.) I'm not inclined to self-publish anything but free reads, so there's no point getting into the whole indy pub stuff. I'm not able to talk about my job except in the most general of terms, so that's off the table, too.

PBW needs to evolve into something else. That's where the question marks come in. I've been having a lot of fun over at Tumblr with my non-writing projects, and I'd like to do a writing version of that here. While NDAs prevent me from sharing details about what I'm working on, I can still talk about the process, neat things I find that help with the work, and anything that helps boost the quality and productivity of the writing life. I am and always will be passionate about that.

There are also a few things about my work that I can still share, too. For example, my French publisher did this amazing cover for their edition of The Clockwork Wolf. I'm thinking about writing a sequel to Ghost Writer for NaNoWriMo this year, and posting my draft online so everyone can follow the process. I'm looking around for a new desktop computer, and doing lots of research on that. I'm getting back out with the camera and taking pictures, mainly of architecture, to help with world-building and making covers for my free reads.

I've missed you all, too, and I want to hear what you've been up to -- so if you're still speaking to me, let me know in comments.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Wishing You

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Wishing You

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Wishing You

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Wishing You

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Hiatus Extended

Just checking in to let everyone know I'm fine, and still hard at work wrapping up a big project for one of my clients. After this one I have to jump right onto another one, too. Bottom line, I will be on hiatus for at least a few more weeks; possibly longer.

Of interest to writers who never think about what their heirs might do with their private work, author Margaret Forster's personal diaries are being posthumously published by her widower.

Anything you write is up for grabs after your death, and often becomes more valuable to boot. Maybe the author wouldn't have minded; after all her family will profit from it, and evidently she was quite devoted to them. Or maybe she wanted them kept just for family reading. The sad part is that no one can ask her now.

So, another PBW classic reminder: if you have something you've written that is not intended for public consumption, best burn it now while you're still kicking.

Monday, March 13, 2017

On Hiatus

At present family and work need more of my time, so I'm going to put the blog on hiatus until I catch up. See you when I do.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Whole Story

With the upcoming release of Disenchanted & Co. in French I've been getting some e-mails about when I might be returning to traditional publishing. Let me shed some light on the subject.

It took me four years to sell my last two traditionally-published novels. I had to leave the publisher I had worked with for fifteen years in order to get them published. Once I finally secured a contract, I also wrote a free promotional e-book, created a blog for the new series, solicited the cover quotations, took a booth at a national convention where I spent three days selling myself as well as the books, had countless giveaways, sent out review copies to anyone willing to read them, and did a (for me) huge amount of self-promotion in order make the new series a success.

I didn't resent any of it, as I think those books are among the best stories I've ever written. Shortly after the print publication of the second novel, however, I started to go blind. I did have to deal with that, which I think everyone can understand took priority over continuing the self-promotion.

When I finally recovered from two eye surgeries, my publisher indicated that sales of the books would not support any new releases in the series, and I was out of a job. I failed. I was finished.

That sounds like the end of the story, but for me it was just the beginning of a new one.

As I've always preached to you, I didn't give up. I went about finding a way to still work as a professional writer. It took some time, but eventually I succeeded. Three years later I'm employed full-time as a freelance ghost writer and copy writer. I've carefully built a list of terrific private clients who employ me regularly, treat me with respect, give me enormous creative freedom, and pay me quite well.

I'm really happy, too. I no longer have to deal with anything but the writing for the very first time since turning pro back in 1998. I realize now this is what I should have been doing all along, so it's actually a wonderful thing that I failed so miserably.

Some readers feel angry or frustrated with me for not doing more to deliver new books under my byline, and I'm sorry about that. I know many of you are supportive of my work, and for that I will always be grateful. If I ever publish under my byline again, it will be for you.

That said, I need to make a living, and (just like everyone else) I want to be happy in my work. That means writing stories and copy for my clients instead of my readers. So for now, I hope you will understand and be supportive of this new chapter in my writing life.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Marching On

Time gets away from us, doesn't it? When I'm working I hardly have any awareness of it, how much has elapsed, the hours I spend in my writing space, etc. On those occasions when I'm in the zone I forget time altogether. The dogs often have to remind me that it's the hour for our walk, or to start dinner (they get fed when we eat, but they always want theirs early) or even when I should be in bed instead of at the computer.

I've always been like this, which is why I have so many calendars and planners and such. Without them I'd be entirely clueless as to the date. It is Monday, right?

I have no idea what happened to February, but it's poofed, vanished, gone. Last time I checked the calendar it was February 24th. I woke up this morning and it's March 6th. I can tell you I spent the last week of February and the first week of March building, fine-tuning and mapping out a new universe for a client. At the same time I've been putting together my series notebook, ordering research books, and getting settled in for the long haul, writing-wise. In the process most of the personal stuff I had planned for February poofed on me, too.

Back in January I started working on a tote to take to the county quilt show and share some new ideas I had with my sewing sisters. I had basically a month to get it done, and I didn't. So I took the unfinished work to the show, and got teased for being overly-ambitious. Still shared my ideas, which was thing most important to me. I might start working on next year's show project as soon as I finish this one, though.

Despite the inexplicable time jump from February to March I got the important personal stuff done: the family and the dogs are cared for, the house is relatively clean, and the laundry is under control. I'm almost ready for the next visitor. Sometime today I need to go grocery shopping or we're having soup and sandwiches again, but other than restocking the pantry and the fridge, I'm good to go for March.

I used to beat myself up for not finishing things according to plan. Only when I realized that I will always plan more than I can actually do did I stop smacking myself over things undone.

Time marches on. Yesterday (and really, it seems like just yesterday) I brought my youngest home from the hospital after a nineteen-hour labor with a midwife supervising the delivery. This past week she flew to Washington DC for a science conference. On her own -- this because she's not a newborn; she's a grown woman. Between these two events in her life and mine there were twenty-three years, but from my POV it might as well be twenty-three minutes.

Time does not wait for you to notice it. It is a perpetual army of moments, indifferent to you and on the move forever. Our lives and our time here are finite, so make the most of yours.

Friday, March 03, 2017


Looking for ghost writer work? I spotted this op over in the paying markets forum at

"I'm looking for a ghostwriter, for a 30k words story, the payment is 0,025 USD per word. It should be satirical in nature and containing some fetish scenes. If interested, please write an email to: , with a short sample of your work."

As far as the info goes it's a little sparse. If that comma in the payment is supposed to be a decimal point, then the job pays $750.00, which is not bad. I'd e-mail first, confirm the rate and ask any questions you might have about the genre and details before you submit. Satire can be a lot of fun, but anyone who is uncomfortable with writing fetish material should probably skip this one.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017


According to a family statement in comments at his blog, Gerard Vlemmings, the host of The Presurfer, passed away suddenly last Saturday, evidently from lung cancer.

Over the years here at PBW I frequently credited Gerard for the links I swiped from The Presurfer and his other site, The Generator Blog. I started reading his blog way back in 2003, and have visited The Presurfer almost daily ever since. He was not only hugely popular, but a terrific gentleman with a truly wry wit. Now and then I was able to contribute a lead to him for his blog to pay him back for all the interesting links he passed along to his readers.

I always counted on Gerard to be part of my morning. He never failed to deliver something interesting and thoughtful to my day. He was a genuine online treasure, and I will miss him more than I can express.

Safe journey, my friend.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Quilt Show Pics

I had an amazing time at this year's county quilt show. I saw so many beautiful quilts, talked with their incredibly talented makers, and got some wonderful ideas for my own work. Kat went with me one day so I got to show off my kid to my friends. I think I completely recharged my creative batteries too, always a great thing.

We also had fantastic luck with the show raffles. I won two: a huge basket filled with yarn and pattern books, and a adorable ceramic purse stuffed with fat quarters, sewing tools, and a journal:

My daughter was the big winner with this lovely wine rack filled with fabric, patterns and even two bottles of very nice vino:

It's also a little funny -- none of us drink -- but the bottles will go to friends who appreciate wine. Kat generously gave me all the fabric and patterns, so I'll have to make her something neat.

With fingers crossed that this slideshow embed code works, here are some of the pictures I took of the show quilts (Added: the embed thing isn't working for everyone, so here's the link to open it in another window:

Friday, February 24, 2017

Off to the Quilt Show

I'm taking off today to hang with some of my quilter pals who are in town for my favorite county quilt show, where I invested in this for my daughter:

The Quilting Goddess smiled on me, too, as I won a door prize:

It's so cool -- I don't own a pin magnet, and I've never made a rag quilt. Free fabric, too.

I'll be back on Monday with pictures of the show -- until then, have a good weekend.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Kit in Paris

Last year I sold rights for my steampunk books to J'ai Lu for translation into French, and they very kindly sent me the art for the first two covers:

This is for the book one.

This is for My Lord Mayhem, a contract I negotiated by myself, so I'm especially delighted to see it's in my favorite color.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Art Space vs. Work Space

This past weekend my guy and I took on a monster spring cleaning project, which involved unloading everything from the kitchen, donating what we don't use to Goodwill, and scrubbing every inch of the cabinets and counters before reorganizing and putting everything back. I have a big kitchen, and after three decades of cooking for this man and our kids, way too much stuff. We made three trips to Goodwill yesterday and I've still got a pile of things to take over today.

I did pretty well, too. I got rid of two sets of old dishes, innumerable gadgets, old flower vases, pans, pots, and three small appliances. I wasn't sorry to see things like the 20-year-old blooming onion maker drop in the donation box (I haven't used it since the nineties.) At the same time, I couldn't let go of my daughter's Where's Waldo plastic cereal bowl, which I can guarantee you she will never use again. That bowl is for me and my memories of her in her high chair, dropping Cheerios for our dog Missy when she thought I wasn't watching.

Cooking is work, but it's also an art. When it comes to meal preparation, the kitchen is both work space and studio. Having a spotless, well-organized kitchen now will help me be a better and happier cook, which will result in more creative meals. Since I'll be cooking only for two starting this fall, I definitely need that, but it's also about respecting myself. I work every day in the kitchen, and it should be a space that allows me to do that comfortably and well.

Next on the spring cleaning list is my office, which I've let slide over the past couple of months because I've been so busy. I could let it wait until summer, or do it a little at a time, which is also perfectly acceptable. Thing is, I have some new, significant writing projects coming up on the schedule, and I need the office to be as clean, efficient and uncluttered as the kitchen is now.

Whether it's cooking or writing, I'm always happy to go to work. I'm not very conscious of my work space when I do. That said, I feel better when everything around me is tidy. I think I work better, too.

What's on your spring cleaning list for 2017? How are you going to tackle your projects? Let us know in comments.

Friday, February 17, 2017


My guy and I both like lighthouses, so when we got the chance to go inside the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime museum, we couldn't resist:

Signs all around the lighthouse property warned us that climbing the lighthouse's spiral staircase was the equivalent of walking up a fourteen-story building. I wasn't worried; while I'm not going to win any marathons my legs are pretty strong.

Looking up from the base of the lighthouse:

So we climbed. We took a few short breaks on the landings (I'm not so athletic that I can climb up 219 steps without stopping.) The staircase narrowed the higher we went, and we had to wait for people coming down the steps, but finally we made it to the top.

The view proved to be pretty spectacular:

There was a little window that allowed you to see inside the lighthouse's gigantic Fresnel lens, too:

And then there was the climb down, which was not half as tough as the climb up:

If you're ever in the area I highly recommend it as a terrific experience, especially for history lovers.

At the top of the lighthouse I experienced some extraordinary clarity, too. While everyone around me looked nervous, excited, and even a little intimidated, I felt right at home. My guy marveled at the small size of the room where the Lightkeeper worked to keep the beacon burning, but it looked right to me -- maybe because it was about the same size as my work desk. I also liked how hard it was to get to the top; you really had to want it to do all that work.

One lady mentioned how dull the Lightkeeper's job must have been, not to have any television or radio or things to do. I could see him sitting and reading by the light of the beacon, or writing letters, or simply watching the boats come into the harbor -- none of which seemed boring to me. If I had been born in 1888, I would have applied for the job.

I've always thought of retreating from the world into my work as going to my ivory tower -- the old chestnut most writers use -- but from now on I'll think of it as manning my lighthouse.