Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wishing You

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lake Pics

I'm off finishing up my deadline today, but so you don't have to stare at a blank post here are some pics I took the other night at the lake:

Friday, March 29, 2013

Crystal Builders

These two architects have very interesting views on structure and design:

Building Awe-Inducing Crystalline Structures from The Creators Project on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

WotC for the Taking

A heads-up on something I mentioned in comments last Sunday: for the benefit of those who are participating in Camp NaNoWriMo (and anyone who wants to read it) I've posted Way of the Cheetah, my how-to writing guide, on Google Docs. It's free for anyone to read online, download, print out and share until the end of April.

To get your copy, click here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Third Nest

The doves are at it again -- for the third time this year, no less.

This morning I crept out to take some shots of Papa hanging out with Mama.

He seems to be a good Dad, too, as he's never too far away, and visits Mama and the nest frequently. And yeah, he smirks at me, too, but being quite possibly the most fertile dove in existence, I guess he's got the right.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Write Stuff Sales

While doing some online shopping I noticed some deals I thought I'd pass along:

Levenger is offering a 15% discount on orders over $100.00 -- use code SPRING15 at checkout. Among some of the nicer things currently in the outlet is Levenger's original Scheherezade storytelling tile game for $14.95 and a True Writer fountain pen in a gorgeous multi-toned violet for $44.95 (I've always wanted to try out a True Writer so I ordered this one as my reward for finishing the novel. Will report more on it once I give it a test drive.)

Office Depot has a bunch of office supplies on sale this week, including two computer work stations under $50.00, a wireless keyboard and mouse combo under $30.00 and several plastic lidded file storage bins under $10.00. I'm going to drop in at my local brick and mortar OD to have a look at the wireless keyboard combo as I've just about burned out my current plug-ins.

Writer's Bloc has some neat Star Wars-themed Moleskin journals, Sakura gel pens and plenty of Clairefontaine notebooks nicely discounted in their Sale section. I love the little Clairefontaine notebooks and notepads; the paper is a nice weight and the cover and margin art is interesting and fun without being too cutesy or juvenile.

Have you noticed any good deals on writing stuff anywhere? Share the wealth in comments.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Quote Ten

Just a heads-up: it's deadline week again here at Casa PBW, so for the next seven days my online time will be limited and posting here likely light and/or sporadic. Once I turn in my book I'll get back on schedule, but in the meantime here are:

Ten Things About Writing from Famous Scribes

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. -- Scott Adams

The problem with writing about religion is that you run the risk of offending sincerely religious people, and then they come after you with machetes. -- Dave Barry

If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed to trap them before they escape. -- Ray Bradbury

Writing is one of the few professions in which you can psychoanalyse yourself, get rid of hostilities and frustrations in public, and get paid for it -- Octavia Butler

If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad. -- Lord Byron

I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes... -- Phillip Dusenberry

The desire to write grows with writing. -- Desiderius Erasmus

Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer. -- Barbara Kingsolver

Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators. -- Olin Miller

Well, my book is written--let it go. But if it were only to write over again there wouldn't be so many things left out. They burn in me; and they keep multiplying; but now they can't ever be said. And besides, they would require a library--and a pen warmed up in hell. -- Mark Twain

What's your favorite quotation about writing? Post it in comments.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Have Giveaways, Will (Virtually) Travel

Hardly seems like author propaganda to post this cover art (it helps that he's very cute and green is my favorite color).

With my upcoming May release of Nightbound I'll be wrapping up The Lords of the Darkyn trilogy, and I'm putting together some packages of all three signed books (including one audio package of the entire trilogy) as well as other reader delights to give away here and elsewhere. I also have seven days still open to impose myself on other people's readers, and naturally I thought of you all.

Seriously, if you'd like to have me make a guest appearance on your blog or journal during the first week of May, please contact me at and we'll discuss the details.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pablo's Bird

This video seeks to illustrate The Me Bird, a poem by Pablo Neruda; I loved the simple yet stunningly fluid animation (some background music, for those of you at work):

The Me Bird from 18bis on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

On Retreat

A writing retreat is like a working vacation: the ideal version is to take a trip or sneak off to some quiet spot where one can work without distractions. Most writers love them; as a rookie pro I was a bit bewildered by the whole concept. Go somewhere to write? Why do you have to leave home? Then I was invited on my first retreat with another author and spent two days at the beach doing nothing but writing and talking about writing and swapping chapters and reading and doing more writing. We only left our hotels rooms to sit by the pool and sun ourselves while we proofed pages and discussed story issues. I have to admit, it was a little like spending 48 hours in writer heaven.

The idea of going on a writing retreat to some vacation-type spot is wonderful, too but the cost of transportation, lodging, meals and so forth can make it an expensive proposition. Fortunately there are other, less costly ways for writers to take a retreat, like a free writer's residency. This is when some writing or arts organization provides you with lodging and sometimes other amenities so you can write. Generally you have to apply for a residency, and if you get it also cover the cost of travel and personal expenses, but the free accommodations and no-distractions environment may be worth it (and if you're interested in finding a residency, check out the online database of opportunities at Poets & Writers magazine here.

An even cheaper type of writing retreat is the virtual version. Get together with a writing buddy and set a goal for a day, and update each other on your progress via an Internet connection (Skype, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) If you have a favorite chat room you can have a word war (challenge each other to write as much as possible in a short amount of time and post your counts as you work in the chat room.) If you'd rather go solo, visit an online typewriter site to do some distraction-free work (Big Huge Labs has one here) or try out one of the document creation/editing/storage sites like Google Docs or Zoho which offer free personal accounts.

I take mini-retreats all the time and never leave my house -- my back porch happens to be a quiet, comfortable spot for me to edit pages, and when I'm working out there the family knows to give me some space. Once a year my guy goes on vacation with the kids and leaves me home alone, too; that becomes my week to having a working vacation and write whenever and wherever I like. If you can work out something like that with your family I definitely recommend it.

In April and July this year the wonderful folks over at National Novel Writing Month are holding two Camp NaNoWriMo online writing retreats, during which you can choose to write 50K or set your own writing goal from 10K to 999.9K, share a virtual "cabin" with other writers based on your preset preferences as to genre, age, word-count goal, and desired activity level, and work on the project of your choice (novel, script, short story, epic poem -- you decide.) These retreats are free to participants; if you have a log in from NaNoWriMo you can use that to sign up and join in.

Remember that a writing retreat isn't just a thing you do, it's also a state of mind. You choose to spend x-amount of time to focused entirely on the work. If you can't do that at home, find a place congenial to you where you can. That can be a bookstore cafe, the quiet room at your local library or a picnic table at the park. Pack a lunch, grab your laptop and head out (and if you're going to an outdoor location, check the weather forecast first.) If you have a friend with a spare bedroom, you might ask if you borrow it for a day. Test drive different places and see where you're most productive, too.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Writer Junk Journal

Back in January I promised to show you how I made a trio of small journals out of some ordinary materials -- which I did with a pack of index cards and a deck of playing cards. This month I had the final challenge of making a journal out of this mini spiral-bound notebook:

Which is now a writer junk journal:

To make this journal I first tore out half the pages (more on what I did with them later in the post) and used the remaining pages as foundations for some interesting specimens from my paper recycle bin. I covered each page front and back with old calendar pictures, junk mail, cutouts from magazines, old photos and postcards, trimmings and other discarded bits. I framed each page with some decorative paper tape left over from last year's massive art project and added a few pockets, tags and little envelopes throughout for writing and saving notes.

I didn't plan anything or go with a particular theme, which made it fun to assemble. Once I had the pages refurbished I made a quilted cover for the journal out of a damaged quilt block. I'm still figuring out how I want to fasten it together so for now I just have a strip of muslin tied around it:

As for the pages I tore out, I trimmed off the binding tatters, cut them into strips and chunks of various sizes and tucked them into an envelope I mounted in the back. These will come in handy when I want to write a note about something to add to the pages:

A junk journal can be used for whatever you want to note and save. I think they're a great way to journal small because with the lined pages covered you won't feel pressured to fill them up with writing. You can add a few words or a note to any page, or just tuck something into one of the envelopes. I'm going to use mine for magazine clipping, articles, take-out cookie fortunes and other little things that would otherwise get lost in the shuffle.

This was a good practice project for me, too, as it's the first junk journal I've ever made. Working on this little journal has given me a confidence boost to try my hand at a more ambitious project: transforming this old beauty into . . . well, you'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lost and Found

I've noticed lately the news is chock full of fascinating finds:

Found: Violin that played as the doomed Titanic went down more than 100 years ago

Medieval Knight Remains Found in Edinburgh Car Park

Roman artefact discovered in Sudeley Castle cupboard

Discoveries like these can be excellent story starters, too. Robin Cook's Sphinx was no doubt inspired by real life; while I was reading it I kept thinking of Carter finding Tutankhamun's tomb. I knew from the moment I first read of Ötzi the Iceman that someday I'd write a fictional version of his story in one of my novels (and it took a while, but eventually I got my chance in Shadowlight.) Even something lost that isn't found can inspire a storyteller; Dean Koontz used the disappearance of the Roanoke colony as part of the plot for his book Phantoms (one of my writer pals believes the same event inspired Stephen King's It, too).

In a sense all stories are a quest for something. In fantasies there's usually some object of incredible power everyone wants, in mysteries the objective is solving a puzzle to find the truth. In romances the characters are seeking love as much as each other. Horror stories are all basically monster hunts, while memoirs are journeys into the past and one's self. This is why the first question I ask a character when I'm creating them is What do you want? -- when you know that, you've got the basic foundation to build on as well as design inspiration for your story elements.

If you want to draw on a real-life find for a story, ask yourself a couple questions:

Why does this discovery fascinate you? You want to write about something that engages you as a storyteller, but you also want to know why. For me it's always the chance to fill in the blanks, aka figuring out how to explain what we don't know. Such as what was Ötzi doing up there in the mountains when he died, and why was he killed?

Can you translate fact into plausible, original fiction? I've always thought those crystal skulls they've found all over the world were very interesting, and would make a great novel. I even wrote a couple plot outlines on how I'd handle them. Then Stephen Spielberg appropriated them for one of his Indiana Jones movies and used a plot idea very similar to my own. This doesn't mean every storyteller who wants to use crystal skulls in their fiction should give up, but you should find out what's already been done so you don't go in the same direction.

Is there enough room with this find for invention and reinvention? Incorporating the copper scroll of Qumran into my Darkyn series was a major ambition of mine, but the scroll itself wouldn't work. It was too old, it was made of copper, it was found in the wrong place, etc. I had to reinvent the scroll to get it to fit into my universe, which meant renaming it, reconstructing it out of gold, reworking the history and so forth. In the end the real scroll was simply inspiration versus having a place in the story, which was fine because I wasn't writing the real history of the actual scroll.

Probably the most important aspect of what you quest for in your story is its value to the reader. They have to want to find it as much as your characters; this is what engages them to stick with the story. Finding and authenticating the violin that was played on the Titanic is a good example of this: it's a symbol of tragedy and courage because of the events that happened during the last time it was played. Without the backstory it's just an old damaged violin someone found in an attic. So what you can do with that? What if it was repaired? What if the first time it was played the original owner showed up to reclaim it? The violin is still old and tragic, but now it's haunted, too.

What real-world discovery do you think would make a great story? Let us know in comments.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Not a Dime Ten

Ten Things You Can Have for Free

Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.

The Aero Clockis a "simple but at the same time beautiful desktop clock with alpha transparency. This very decorative desktop clock shows the local time at the Desktop. The basic functions: total transparency, size, setting, and the selection of the Clock-texture or the appearance are available. The Aero Clock does not have to be installed and can be executed easily from the desktop" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

ColorBug is a "handy color-picker tool, which makes it simple to select colors. It allows to determine colors from other applications, and to find matching colors. This is especially useful for designing websites, and other graphic works" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

FotoSketcher Portable is a "program which can help you convert your digital photos into art, automatically. If you want to turn a portrait, the photograph of your house or a beautiful landscape into a painting, a sketch or a drawing then look no further, FotoSketcher will do the job in just a few seconds" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

FreeText is a "simple and easy-to-use notebook for making notes, keeping to-do lists, storing information on accounts and contacts, etc. It can be helpful when you need to save a link, interesting citation, phone number or to simply insert text from a clipboard for a short time" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Goswaintha Diary is a "freeware personal diary software/journal software/program, could become your personal digital diary and journal software to record your daily events and memories, in your creative words. Runs on Desktop PCs, and Netbooks too. For everyone who enjoys writing journal of their day to day actions and events. GoswainthaDiary is freeware, and requires no payment for any commercial license/use. GoswainthaDiary is a very simple, yet comprehensive free personal diary software product! If you write daily entries and memoirs in diaries, why not at least glance at digital diary software, which is specialized only for this purpose. If you are a diary freak, this personal diary software, is just the right stuff for you! Record all your historic daily events and actions, right into a diary/diary software, as your own expressed creative words. There's also a rough notebook in GoswainthaDiary, just in case you wish to store any kind of note, into it's true appropirate place" (OS: Unspecified, and the designer's web site is down, but looks like Windows.)

In My Diary is a "smart, free personal organizer. The main display is based on a traditional diary format but, although all entries appear as one line of text, each actual entry can contain as many lines as required. Diary entries can be set to auto-repeat at the required interval. In addition to the daily diary, there is also a daily journal facility, a calendar, Password Manager (and generator), Address book with flexible labelling system, Anniversary entries and a notes section with links to diary entries" (OS: Designer notes "It runs on Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7, and on Apple Mac (10.4 and above). There is also now a native version for Linux OS or the Windows version can be used and works well running in the Wine emulator")

Memoria is an "easy tool to keep a journal, a diary, or write your biography. You can create entries for a day, a month, a year, edit the text and print the result as a pdf file" (OS: Unspecified but it looks like Windows.)

Task List Guru is a "task list organizer ideal for personal task management and small project management. You can organize not just tasks, but also task lists, notes and reminders. Task List Guru has a hierarchical task list tree with icons that allows you to organize all your todo lists and notes in a structure with icons. You can choose from 48 different colorful icons for your to-do lists - this makes using this organizer fun" (OS: Windows 8, 7, Vista and XP, both 32-bit and 64-bit)

TeamViewer is a "simple and fast solution for remote control, desktop sharing and file transfer that works behind any firewall and NAT proxy. To connect to another computer just run TeamViewer on both machines without the need of an installation procedure. With the first start automatic partner IDs are generated on both computers. Just enter your partner´s ID into TeamViewer and the connection is established immediately. With many thousand users worldwide TeamViewer is a standard tool to give support and assistance to people in remote locations. The software can also be used for presentations, where you can show your own desktop to a partner, e.g. to present a software solution. TeamViewer also is VNC compatible and offers secure, encrypted data transfer to maximize security" (OS: Windows 9x/ME/2000/XP/Vista/7)

The Writer's Workbench is a "single tool that incorporates the various tool types that many writers use to create an Integrated Writing Environment (IWE). It provides these various tools without binding a writer to a single structure or vision for constructing a story and seeks to enable the creative process by providing immediate access to any story artifact in the tool without the obtrusiveness of having many windows opened at the same time" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Comments Catchup Day

See you in comments.

Photo Credit: © Duard Van Der Westhuizen |

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Always Forever

Every writer has little idiosyncrasies they bring to the writing life or acquire along the journey. For example, I use only Courier New font for my work. I'm not a font snob; I prefer it because I wear trifocals and I can see the punctuation marks without squinting. A few years back I started writing a draft of the last chapter of my novel before I reached the midway point of writing the actual manuscript so I'd have something to work toward, and to get rid of my last-chapter anxieties. That little trick, which I read about online, proved 100% effective for me. And while I can write dressed in pretty much anything (often my pajamas) I can't summon a single word if I'm barefoot.

I write a lot of e-mail; I don't count them but after glancing at my Sent folders I think I average about fifty to a hundred per week. Last night I got an e-mail from a colleague who jokingly signed off with xoxoxo as protest to an anti-signoff article. That was the first time I'd heard of that (and the first time I'd gotten virtual kisses and hugs from a colleague), so I went looking for the piece, found and read it.

My search results also suggested that the poor guy is already at the bottom of a massive pile-up, so I won't add to it by naming him or linking to the article. He's obviously wrestled with the issue, and I don't think he really meant to beat up on anyone but himself. In the process of defending his opinion, however, he casually insulted everyone who writes letters, e-mails or anything else that is traditionally signed off with a Sincerely Yours or Best Wishes or Cheers. Considering how much correspondence we all write, however we write it, that's a lot of people. That's probably billions of people.

I wasn't deeply offended, probably because I've wrestled with the issue myself. I started out like most using Sincerely as we were taught in school to sign off e-mails, and progressed to Best Wishes and then to the abbreviated Best. I still use Best with business correspondence or with people I don't know well because it sounds a bit warmer than Sincerely but not as lofty as Best Wishes. For reader mail I settled on Always, mainly because no one else was using it and it's one of the two ways I sign off when autographing books. With friends I generally use some variation of Hugs. I like Hugs; it's warm and friendly and personal. I mean it, too; I'd give them all real hugs if I could.

There are plenty of sign offs I don't like. I'm not a big fan of the authorial sig block so beloved by the writer organization crowd, the one that lists upcoming releases, award nods and sometimes even bookseller links; personally I find the really long ones a little tiresome. At the same time I know the pressure to promo put on every writer, so I don't take offense (nor do I mean to ridicule anyone who uses them; I just don't care for them) Same thing with Cheers; I was a bartender and while I've tried using it a few times myself that word will always be a toast to me. Makes me occasionally wonder if the other person is inebriated or expects me to be, too.

Despite the inherent awkwardness of the e-mail sign off I don't think it's outdated or that it needs to be eliminated. Removing it from our cyberlives might buy a few more seconds to Tweet something clever or update the Facebook status, but it would erase something far more important: a chance to express some respect or affection. When you end a telephone call, or you go to work, or you send your kids off to school, you wouldn't think of just hanging up or driving off or slamming the door shut. You say take care, have a good day, see you tonight -- or even simply good-bye.

We exchange these words because no matter how much the world progresses or becomes gadgetized, that moment may be the last time we speak to that person, Maybe for today, for the week, for the month, or for the rest of our lives (or theirs.) For these reasons I am so glad the very last e-mail I sent to my friend Monica Jackson signed off with a Hugs, and the last words my father heard from me over the phone, when he was still conscious and could understand me, were I love you, Dad.

I'm already a dinosaur, so I don't think anyone will mind if I continue using my e-mail sign offs. I hope you will, too. Some things should not become antiquated, and like our lives, our chances to say farewell are not infinite.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Le Ha

I love the French.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Never-Read Library

This morning a friend asked me to describe my professional methodology in ten words or less. At first I did it in seven: Pitch, sell, write, edit, polish, submit, publish. Then I had to fiddle with it and rounded it out to ten: Create, pitch, sell, write, edit, polish, submit, revise, promote, publish. I would have liked to pen something more lyrical than a string of ten verbs that sound like the instructions on a shampoo bottle, but to me the path to publication is not an especially poetic experience. Being a professional writer is a job. You do these things -- you do the work -- or you don't publish.

I felt almost a hundred percent happy with my response, and my friend liked it a lot, too, but something was still missing. I figured out what last night while Mom was watching Jeopardy, her favorite game show. I sat down to keep her company and play Fourth Contestant to amuse her. As long as there are no sports categories I can usually guess about 85% of the responses correct (and last night I went 100% correct for all the answers to both the Alcohol- and Hittite-related categories, which I'm pretty sure most writers would probably nail.)

Then came the Final Jeopardy question, the category for which was British Novels. As soon as the relatively simple clue about a Thomas Hardy book went up I knew the answer: Tess of D'Urbevilles. Everyone has read that book, I thought, so everyone would get it right.

No one got it right. One guy came up with Jude the Obscure, the lady answered Clearwater, and the champion didn't even bother to guess. As Mom nagged me for the thousandth time about trying out for Jeopardy (she's sure I'd be the show's all-time greatest contestant; I'm sure I'd get nothing but sports categories) I smirked a little. How could three grown adults not have read Thomas Hardy? I mean, Tess of D'Urbevilles may not be as widely read as A Tale of Two Cities or Jane Eyre or Cantebury Tales, but it is a classic. This trio were young but obviously college-educated; the lady was some kind of teacher. How do you go to college and not have dudes like Thomas Hardy pounded into your skull?

In one sense I could understand their ignorance. I never cared for most classic literature, and I've gone to a great deal of trouble to avoid reading some of it. Not all; Shakespeare and Chaucer were decent, and aside from The Grapes of Wrath, which I still wish I could burn from my brain, Steinbeck was okay. Conrad and Chekhov were ghastly, though. Faulkner puzzled me as much as Melville repelled me, but I plowed through them. Attempting James Joyce is like trying to read when you're seriously inebriated, but I do try once a year, and he's actually helped with understanding Faulkner. I developed an infantile fascination with Poe in high school that I eventually outgrew, but I still have some moments when I ponder the psychic bruising Hawthorne inflicted. I loved Austen, loved Charlotte Bronte, and went wild for Wilde, and still read them all the time. So if I'd been on the show last night I would have wagered everything in the final round because I am well-read, and if I hadn't read the book in question I would have figured it out.

Which is exactly what happened last night, because while I got the right answer I've personally never read Tess of D'urbevilles. I did the exact same thing a few nights before with the Final Jeopardy clue about Classic Lit Novels. I guessed Anna Karenina as the correct answer even though I've never read the book (the reference of the train in the clue made me think of all the movie posters I've seen with Anna standing next to a train.)

My triumph didn't last long as I began to wonder just how many classics I've been consciously avoiding reading, and why, so I wrote up a list of the first that came to mind:

Anna Karenina -- Russian literature seemed so depressing that after the compulsory Chekhov-Cherry-Orchard assignment in school that I dodged as much of it as I could.

David Copperfield -- They made me read A Tale of Two Cities in the ninth grade and that was enough Dickens to last me forever. AToTC is also the only book by Dickens I've ever read, so add the remainder of his backlist.

Gone with the Wind -- Grandma loved it, Mom loved it, I haven't even watched the movie. I still don't think anything about the Civil War is even remotely entertaining.

Moby Dick -- they forced us to read Billy Budd in school; I think that was the tenth grade. That was such a revolting experience that when it came time to read the whale book I decided getting an F was better. One of my fondest memories of school, in fact, is remembering the look on that teacher's face when I turned in my book report, which consisted of four words: I didn't read it.

War and Peace -- Too long, lousy title, and again the mental scars left by Chekhov.

Wuthering Heights -- Too many girls in school worshipped this book for me to do anything but run from it as fast as I could. Until the cat cartoon came out I always thought Heathcliff was a stupid name, too.

Aside from my natural aversion to Gone with the Wind and my reluctance to join the Wuthering Heights herd, I think school ruined me for classic lit. While I now appreciate that most teachers want to instill a love of reading in students, the majority of the books they demanded my generation read were too depressing, wordy, heavy, ponderous or simply boring. What kept me from hating all classic literature was the public library. There I discovered on my own Austen and Shakespeare, Bronte and Thoreau -- I read classics all the time. This was due to my method of browsing at the library, by starting at the A shelf in fiction and gradually reading my way to Z. If I came across a book that was too difficult to understand or that didn't engage me, I just put it back and went to the next author.

I also know that my mental blocks have kept me from discovering some great books. Case in point: Chekhov truly did ruin Russian literature for me; I wouldn't voluntarily read any Russian author until I picked up a book with a strange cover, didn't look at the author's name and was spellbound by the tale of what it's like to spend one day in a Soviet labor camp. That novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, remains the one book I think everyone in the world should read.

Which brings me back to the fact that I knew the answer to the Final Jeopardy question without having read Thomas Hardy's book. Over a lifetime I've acquired a mental Cliff-notes type library of knowledge about books that I've never read, basically so that I never have to read them. My Never-Read classics library is pretty good, too; I've had long conversations about Gone with the Wind with unsuspecting folks who remained unaware that I've never once read the book or watched the movie.

Feeling superior to three Jeopardy contestants who had no knowledge of Thomas Hardy when I'm really no different from them makes me feel like a cheat and a bit of a hypocrite. The reason for that? Goes back to the one word that I left out of my professional methodoloy, the eleventh word that I believe is absolutely vital to any writer's process: READ. Read anything and everything. There is no cheat code for reading, either. You have to get a book and sit down and read it.

So today I am ordering a copy of Tess of D'Urbevilles. Yes, I'm going to read the damn thing. Cover to cover if possible, or as much as I can stomach. Then I think once a month (or as often as I can stand) I'm going to try reading all the other classic lit I've been avoiding since school. I'm not expecting any life-changing experiences, and it's likely that I won't finish a lot of them, but I will give them a try. Maybe that will help me empty the shelves of my Never-Read classics library and someday shut the place down for good.

So now it's your turn: what's on the shelves of your Never-Read library, and why? Have you ever considered overriding your natural inclinations to read any of those titles? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quilt Show Goodies

I'm still off writing, but I did want to mention that I'm holding a giveaway over on the Disenchanted & Company blog that runs through Friday night. Stop in if you get a chance, enter the giveaway and you might win the contents of Her Ladyship's hat box:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ninja Texting

I'm off today to do some writing. While I'm gone, here's a new and very cute way to text:

Want to have a tiny little ninja do some texting for you? Go here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sub Ops Ten

Ten Things About Submission Opportunities

Eibon Vale Press has an open call for their Caledonia Dreaming antho: "Glaikit, mockit, droukit, drouthy, couthy, scunner, thrawn – the Scots language is rich with words too gallus not to glory in, dialect terms that deserve better than to be boxed away as precious oddities. For us, those words aren't quaint parochialisms of a past preserved in amber; they're wild wee beauties, straight razors slashing keen to the quick of meaning. We want stories that wield them as weapons for today, for tomorrow. We want you to pick up one of these words and flick it open to gleam in the light of the 21st century. Play with it, work with it, give us a story that riffs on it with relish – the sound, the sense. Run wild with it, ye ramstouger rannigants, and send us the result." According to, payment is £15-£20; length is 1k-12k, no reprints, and electronic submissions only. Submission deadline is 31 May 2013.

White Cat Publications is looking for good quality fantasy stories for their bi-annual Conjurings: "We are interested primarily in good quality writing in the fantasy genre. We will consider stories of any variant of this genre. We do not accept poetry at this time. We desire First English Language serial print, audio and digital rights so that we might present your work in all formats within the magazine." Length and Payment: "Short Stories and flash fiction: We accept stories up to around 5,000 words in length, three cents per word up to 5,000 words. Reprints are paid out at one cent per word." Electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Winter deadline: December 20th, 2013.

Eggplant Productions wants to see some spec fic novella submissions: "All types of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction and horror) are welcome and reprints will be considered; however, you should query first with story and publication information before submitting a reprint. Short story collections, full length novels (40,000 words or more), poetry collections or non-speculative fiction novellas will not be considered for open submissions." Length: 20-40K; Payment: "$250 (USD) advance + 25% royalty of list price." Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

The Fiction Desk is holding a ghost story competition: "Most of the stories we publish at The Fiction Desk are more or less realistic, but we try to stray outside that from time to time: some genre fiction should be part of any balanced reading diet. One genre that we'd like to feature more of in our pages is the ghost story. The competition is open now, to all English-speaking writers at the age of 16 or over. There's a first prize of £500, and a second prize of £100; both winners will also be published in an upcoming Fiction Desk anthology." Also: "Entries should be between 2,000 and 5,000 words in length. The entry fee is £6 for one story or £9 for two stories submitted together, and the closing date is 31 May 2013." [PBW notes: I'm not happy about the entry fee requirement but it's not outrageous, and the prizes are decent, so I thought it was worth listing.]

Goldfish Grimm is accepting short fiction submissions: "Short stories are like sushi. Sometimes, they make delicious appetizers. Other times, they’re a full course on their own. For all discerning tastes, Goldfish Grimm aims to please. Everything is on the table, so serve up your best. From hard sf and space opera stories to fairy tales and medieval yarns, we’ll consider it all. Don’t be afraid to take risks and show us something new. Cursing, sex, and violence will not offend us. Just make sure it has a point, okay?" What they want: "Goldfish Grimm’s Spicy Fiction Sushi wants fantasy and science fiction stories ranging from 100-7500-words. Each month we’ll be accepting two stories: one 1,000-words or less, one 1,001-words or more. Stories that fall around the 1,500-word mark will be published as flash or as the longer story based on the editor’s judgment and the overall theme of the issue. Preferred length for longer stories is somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 words." Payment: "$10 for flash fiction; $25 for longer works." See guidelines for more details.

The Lakefly Literary Conference is holding three different no-fee fiction contests for authors who reside in, attend school in Wisconsin, or register for the Lakefly Literary Conference May 10-11, 2013. Rather than list all the details I'll let you few who actually meet that criteria go to the submissions page and have a look.

Montag Press is accepting novel submissions: "Of primary interest are the following genres and sub-genres: Speculative fiction •Science fiction •Horror fiction •Subversive fiction •Utopian and Dystopian fiction •Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic fiction •Experimental fiction •Urban Fantasy •Dark Fantasy •Existential Horror •Paranoid fiction •Ex0-Fiction •Xeno-Fiction •Altered States [PBW notes there is a lot more they're willing to look at, too; go to this page for the full list.] Length: 40K+; Payment: "$100 advance; 30% net." The web site says no reprints but Ralan notes okay "if self published" [PBW suggests you query.] Electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Stone Skin Press has an open call for an upcoming Gothic-themed anthology: "The Gothic is the most enduring literary tradition in history but in recent years friendly ghosts and vegetarian vampires threaten its foundations. This will be a collection of short stories which revisit the core archetypes of the Gothic, the rambling, secret-filled building, the stranger seeking answers, the black-hearted tyrant, and reminds us not to embrace but to fear the darkness. The focus of this anthology will be on fear and atmosphere, rather than graphic horror or full out action, and will draw on the themes of the Gothic so if you’re not entirely familiar with them, the wikipedia entry is a good place to start." Length: 3-6K; Payment: to be negotiated. No repints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: April 30th, 2013.

Sword and Laser has an open call for their first anthology: "Sword and Laser’s first anthology is intended to be a celebration of scifi and fantasy fiction. What are we looking for in a story? Diversity. Not helpful? OK. Here are some better guidelines. Interesting characters. They can be evil or nice or mean or stupid, but they should be worth spending time reading about. Original settings, point-of-view, and voice. Not necessarily within your story, although that’s important too. But we want lots of different kinds of stories in the anthology. Hard for you to manage when you’re not reading all the other stories, but suffice to say if you’ve seen a story like yours before, it’s less likely to get chosen. Unique experience. We’re not going to ask you to ‘write what you know’ and also expect stories about aliens and dragons... form most of you... but situations and reactions drawn from your unique experiences that expose us to something new, will definitely be a plus. Stuff happening. Believe it or not, some people write stories where nothing happens. Please don’t be one of those people. Have a central, compelling idea or conflict. We want exciting ideas and character growth. At least a little. Love, laughs, fights, philosophy, insight are all also welcome. It needs to be in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. We define this pretty loosely of course. Not every story has to have spaceships or castles. We hope they don’t! But the farther you stray from the center of the sword or laser styles, the less likely we’ll want the story. That said, you’re not restricted in how you tell your tale. All styles, all settings, and all tones are welcome. Write the very best story you can, and do your best to surprise us with a new take on the genre!" Length: "We recommend a length of 1,500 – 7,500 words. We may choose to print shorter or longer stories in some cases, but this should be your target word count." Payment: "We pay $200 (US) upon acceptance." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: May 15th, 2013.

Third Flatiron Publishing has an open call for an upcoming themed antho: "We are now seeking stories for the Summer 2013 anthology, which will have a "Playing with Fire" theme." [PBW notes: there's very little info on this op, but I found the following description on another page at the site: "Fires and backfires from inventions (Greek fire?), culture clashes, climate change, comets and meteors, Hephaestus, and so forth." Also, the editor detailed the sort of stories she'd like to see in a blog interview here.] Length: up to 3K; Payment: "Please note that we've raised our pay rate to 3 cents/word." Appears they don't want reprints and I'll assume they want electronic submissions only. Deadline: March 31, 2013.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Catching Up

See you in comments.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Sea of Colors

Sorry I'm late posting today, but I have a really good excuse:

Friday, March 08, 2013

Peru in 2:36

Take a gorgeous 2-1/2 minute tour of Peru with Cole Graham (some background music, for those of you at work):

a few weeks in Peru. from Cole Graham on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Handy Mystery

Today I'm over at Disechanted & Co. talking about how this artwork solved a big problem for me -- to find out more, stop by.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Write Stuff

I'm always looking for unusual writer junk, and on my last office supply run I made some neat little finds that I wanted to share.

I picked up this quartet to the left at BAM. Here are more details on each, clockwise starting at the little green journal:

One Word A Day Mini-Journal by Knock Knock -- This is a palm-size hardcover that gives you 365 opportunities to "choose any word to describe your day and write it down." Journaling doesn't get any simpler or more concise than that, and there's even enough room to write a few more words if you want to say more; $12.59 with my discount card.

Small Edgewise Journal by Orange Circle Studio -- this flocked turquoise little beauty of a journal has 144 white and soft pastel ruled pages, interesting edge tabbing plus an elastic ribbon to keep it closed. The binding allows it to lay flat as you write in it, and it's small enough to tuck in a purse or a large index card holder; $3.60 (on sale at 50% off.)

Origami Sticky Notes by Suck UK -- 100 sticky notes imprinted with picture diagrams so you can fold them into ten different origami critters. Office notes will never be the same; $3.59 with my discount card.

A Year of Fortunes (without the cookies) by Knock Knock -- I bought one of these little hardcovers during the holidays to give to a family friend; it contains 365 preforated, dated fortunes with wry sayings on one side and lucky numbers on the other; $14.85 with my discount card.

I also rummaged around the bargain bins at BAM and found two unusual journals:

You have to peek inside to see wwhy they're unusual:

The Tri-Coastal Script Journal offers widely-spaced ruled pages that give you about twice the writing room as a standard journal (perfect for scribes like me who don't have tiny handwriting); the Pepper Pot journal on the right with the starburst cover design has graph-ruled pages with color-striped edges. The fact that I got them for $4.50 and $6.73 (50% with an extra 10% off for my discount card) respectively was a nice bonus.

From BAM I went to Target to look for some notebooks and binders and see what they had on sale. They have a new line of "Sunwashed" office supplies under their own brand that I really liked with dreamy photo designs and lovely colors. When I'm working on a particular project I like to color-coordinate my writing stuff so I can find everything with a glance, so I picked up a binder ($4.99), legal pad/clipboard padfolio ($8.99), journal 3-pack ($5.99) and pencil box with pencils ($4.99):

I also found a lot of notebooks and journals marked down for clearance, and scored an 8" X 6" 80-page Mead notebook with those lovely dot-gridded pages instead of lines ($2.65) as well as a slightly smaller, 80 page Horizon groovy hues ruled notebook with a front pocket and an elastic closure ribbon ($1.98):

I got an additional 5% discount off everything for using my Target Visa at checkout. Target also had every 2013 pocket planner, desk blotter, wall blotter and so forth heavily discounted, and clearance prices on some nice smash book and scrapbooking supplies, so if you're in the market for any of those it maybe worth a trip to check them out.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Calm & Cool

I've always wanted to design a motivational poster for writers, and now I have:

Want to customize your own version of the Keep Calm poster? Go to the TheKeepCalm-o-Matic and do it for free online.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Bucket List Ten

Ten Things I'd Like to Write Before I Kick the Bucket

Advertising Copy: I've written plenty of my own advertising as well as cover copy for many of my novels, but someday I'd like to do that for someone else's product (one that I personally believe in, naturally.) It could be any sort of ad, jingle or even a one-line quirky mission statement, ala Kashi's Seven whole grains on a mission. You know that Kashi thing is kind of catchy. Maybe author Sofie Kelly needs one like Two magical cats and a librarian on an investigation. Or author Jeff Somers could use Two tricksters and a rune-covered chick running from Armageddon. Sofie, Jeff, call me before I die, okay?

Dear Prez: I do dream of writing a letter to the President of the United States that is so powerful and persuasive that the President himself reads it instead of the Secret Service and/or one of his flunkies, and then is so moved he actually does something about it. I should get a fifth grader to coach me; they do it just for homework and get a response.

Grafitti: Nope, I've never written it once in my entire life. Why? Because I knew my mother would find out and kill me. Don't laugh, that woman has eyes everywhere. Maybe I could write it somewhere on my house. That still counts, yes?

Liner Notes: I might just do this for my own album collection someday; you know, just rewrite all the liner notes. It's not illegal, and like Linkin Park is going to come to the house and inspect my CDs.

Memorable Limerick: Limericks are hard to write; I've penned a couple but they weren't very good. I'd like to write one that would forever more be considered a classic. Probably would have to be really funny, or really filthy. Or both!

My Phone Number on Someone's Hand: It looks so cute in the movies, doesn't it? Never ever did that because I'd use the notebook in my purse. That's the problem; there's always a notebook in my purse.

Screenplay: Now here's a little known fact about Yours Truly: I did co-author a screenplay that made it to the semi-finals of the very first Project Greenlight. Since I also did the bulk of the actual writing on that one, I think I could swing one on my own. I'd even write one about Publishing, except they already did the Matrix movies.

Secret Book: I'd like to write one book without telling anyone about it, hide it somewhere with a big box of all that gold my grandmother left me. When I know the end is near I'd sprinkle around a few cryptic clues as to its location. Whoever finds it can use the gold to publish it, because of course that's what they'd want to do with gold. Stop giggling. Anyway, the first clue would be contained in a ten things list about things I'd like to write before I die. Kidding. Or maybe I'm not. Maybe I've already done it. I bet you're sorry you laughed now, aren't you?

Song: I have written lyrics a few times for songs composed by some musician friends, but I'd like to compose an entire song on my own. This one might be tough as I'm also the least musical person I know. Probably because I can't read or write music. Yeah, this one is going to be tough.

Wedding Vows: I personally always went with the traditional stuff whenever I got hitched. Did the Justice of the Peace thing, too. As I don't intend to ever marry again they can't be mine, but I wouldn't mind taking a shot at writing them for someone else. Or maybe a book of wedding vows for every occasion, i.e. first marriage, second marriage, tenth marriage, the marriage so one can get on the other's group health insurance, that vow-renewal thing they do just after barely avoiding a divorce . . . .

What's on your writing bucket list? Let us know in comments.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Saturday, March 02, 2013


I'm glad to see so many of you are trying new or new-to-you writers; I often do the same when I'm restless or in a reading slump (and thanks to your many recs I now have a list of new-to-me writers to try out.)

We got the magic hat to stop flirting with Her Ladyship's Hat Box -- man, I didn't even plan that -- and the winners of the Storm Warning giveaway are:

Michelle in Colorado Springs, who wrote Name in the hat please,this books sounds cool.

Kristen, who commented New to me author I can't get enough of is Chuck Wendig. Both of the books I've read from him kept me up way toooooo late. Now I want to start over and read them again.

Margaret Yang, who commented I haven't discovered anyone new and fun in a long time. Name in hat, please!

Susanne, who wrote Please put my name in the Magic Hat - the book sounds great!

Dunabit, who wrote Lou Morgan. I picked up her debut, BLOOD AND FEATHERS, and became an instant fan. Funny enough, I had the same response to Rob Thurman.

Winners, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to address to so I can get your books out to you. My thanks to everyone for joining in.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Minding the Office

Can architecture dream? In this mind-bending video it can (and for those of you at work, there are some structural-type sound effects):

555 KUBIK | facade projection from urbanscreen on Vimeo.