Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Tip of My Tongue is one of those little online tools that is insanely helpful when you need a word but you can't remember exactly what it is. You feed it what you can remember: letters, partial fragments of the word, the meaning, what it sounds like etc., and it searches for word matches and produces a list of possibilities.

My guy and I were on a walk the other night and we passed a palm tree I thought was lovely -- but neither of us could remember the proper name of it. All we had was "sa-something." When we got home I fed the letters and meaning (palm tree) to TMT, and got this:

It was a sabal palm, as the TMT correctly guessed on the first run. When you're writing there is nothing more annoying than being unable to remember a word exactly, so this online tool can serve as a very helpful search and rescue for your brain.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Eat Your Books

Library Thing has been holding their third annual Edible Books contest (which I didn't know ends at 6pm today or I would have posted about it sooner than this) and the gallery of entries is pretty neat. If I could have sweets I'd definitely want that Dune cake for my next birthday.

When my kid was in her last years of high school she always wanted to make her annual English Lit art project in cake. The class loved edible projects because at the end of class they got to eat them, so presenting one made you instantly popular. The kid also had me in her corner as an assistant (of all the cooking I do, I'm best at making cakes.) Unfortunately the teacher always assigned the unhappiest books for the annual project, which is how I ended up helping her to craft these two wonders:

Animal Farm

The Jabberwocky

I've never thought about turning one of my novels into a cake version, but it would be fun to try. A scene from one of my Toriana books might be cool; a steampunk alt-history cake would be a real challenge to pull off. But then I'd have to find people to take it away and eat it somewhere else -- I really miss cake a lot.

Have you ever turned a book into something edible? Let us know in comments.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Free Class Ten

Ten Online Writing Classes You Can Take for Free's English Writing Skills

Author and Screenwriter Steven Barnes's Free Writing Class

Author Jeffrey A. Carver's Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing

The Crafty Writer's Creative Writing Course

Education Portal's video series Conventions in Writing

Writing Coach Sarah Lovett's Dream It, Write It

Online Creative Writing's Copywriting Clinic

Online Creative Writing's The Challenge (online marketing writing class)

The Open University's Start Writing Fiction

The Open University's Writing What You Know

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Shop at Your Library

My reading habit is usually heavier than my wallet, so when my new book budget for the month runs out I'll hit flea markets, rummage sales and used book stores to browse for bargains. I also like to stop in public libraries and see what books they're selling (usually offered by friends of the library in some shelves upfront or a separate room), and I make a point to always go to library book sales, like this one:

Library book sales are pretty wonderful for a couple of reasons: the variety of books (awesome), the prices (even more so) and the neat sectioning and alphabetizing of the books (I think when you work at a library this becomes second nature.) There are also lots of long, lovely tables tables like these:

On my most recent trip I was primarily looking mainly for purse books, aka a book I can throw in my purse and take with me wherever I go. For this kind of purchase I like Harlequin Presents because they're short reads and the romances are over-the-top and often quite exotic. I've also been reading HPs since I was a teen, so for me they're comfort books, too. That said, brand-new HPs cost about four bucks each, so I only pay retail for titles by my favorite authors. I also like to look for old paperbacks, interesting hardcovers and pretty much anything that looks like a decent read.

And here's my haul:

I picked up two hardcovers -- an Amanda Quick for my friend Jill and a keepsake how-to by Victoria magazine -- as well as three rare old paperbacks I'd read way back in my teens and twenties. I also scored 27 HPs, most by two writers I like and a copy of a Robyn Donald favorite to serve as a lender. Retail for all these books new would have been in the neighborhood of $175.00; even at the Dollar store they would have cost me $32.00. At the library sale I paid $4.95 for the entire pile, or about fifteen cents a book. All profits from the sale go directly to support the library, too. When I'm done reading the books I bought I will pass along the best to friends and then donate the rest back to the library, perhaps to be sold again at another library book sale in the future.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Escape Your Muggles

Any J.K. Rowling fan can now (virtually) attend the famous school from the Harry Potter books, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry -- for free! -- thanks to the ultra-cool website Hogwarts is Here:

Thanks to the Wizengamot, the British and American Ministry of Magics and a handful of tech-friendly professors from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry , a Hogwarts education has now become available online to all aspiring witches and wizards.

You are now able to enroll at Hogwarts, collect your textbooks and begin taking our 9-week courses online. You can now progress through all seven years of schooling and be assigned a professor, homework assignments, quizzes and more.

Meet other students online by joining a House dormitory, chat with others in the Common Room, browse and contribute to the Hogwarts Library, collect chocolate frog cards, earn galleons & house points and so much more.

Thanks to the efforts and resources (plus a little magic) from the Wizard-Muggle Integration Movement, this online Hogwarts experience and education is entirely free. With a lot of passion from fans and with extraordinary creativity, anything is possible.

(Hogwarts link nicked from Gerard at The Presurfer)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Stay the Night

I don't often fall in love with contemporary music videos, but for Zedd's Stay the Night I'll make an exception (the fact that it shares a title with one of my novels may factor in a little, too.) It is amazing, romantic, filled with energy and the perfect showcase for the gorgeous voice of Hayley Williams (so if you haven't guessed by now, it contains wonderful singing and dance music. Also includes some flashing lights, for those of you who don't like/can't watch them):

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Two Ops

Sub Op for Writers:

Timeless Tales magazine has an open call for their upcoming Pandora's Box themed issue: "We only accept fiction (no poetry or non-fiction) that are retellings of the theme that is currently open. It can be a modernization, sci-fi, a mash-up, etc. Content: While Timeless Tales is not targeted specifically at children, it is a fairly conservative magazine, especially when it comes to sexual content, so I intend to keep the stories in the PG-13 range or below. However, I have a deep appreciation for the darker side of many original fairy tales, so don’t assume I only want “happy” stories." Length: "Up to 2000 words, with under 1500 preferred"; Payment: $15.00 + one year premium subscription; reprints okay if you hold all rights, electronic submission only, see see guidelines for more details. Deadline: April 30th, 2014.

Job Op for Editors:

Kirkus Media has a job opening for Director of Kirkus Editorial in NYC, and is "currently seeking a connected, self-motivated editor with an entrepreneurial bent for the position of director of Kirkus Editorial, the company’s fast-growing book editing and promotional copywriting division. This position will oversee a large roster of freelance editors and copywriters who are available for projects from both individual authors and publishing houses. The ideal candidate will be a great multi-tasker who is comfortable with change and open to new ways of doing things. He or she will have a passion for writing and bringing out the best in others’ writing. If you want to play an important role in developing something totally unique in the industry, this could be the job for you!"

For more information about the job's responsibilities and educational/skill requirements for the position, visit Kirkus Media's career section here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spark My Story

Storytellers are often avid collectors; I think most of us have fairly hefty libraries so book collections are likely the most popular. Before he sold most of them author Larry McMurty had a personal library of 450,000 books. I'm trying to imagine just dusting them and I can't. My own book collection is much more modest -- it's holding steady at about 2K presently -- and I only collect certain authors, but have spent many happy years hunting down and acquiring their entire backlist.

Sometimes the things we writers collect can be a little odd, too. Watergate fascinated my grandmother the poet; in addition to buying every single book published about it she also obsessively collected magazine and newspaper articles written on the subject. Author and former D&D player China Miéville is supposed to have a pretty amazing collection of role-playing game bestiaries. Edward Gorey was a huge fan of fur coats; he owned 21 of them and not only wore them but put many of his characters in furs, too (I've never owned a fur, and since I have much love for all furry things I'd rather see them on the original owners.)

I think probably the strangest writer collection I've ever heard of belongs to author Amy Sedaris, who collects plastic meats. Yes, plastic meats, as in toy play food.

Other than books, I collect art, music, handmade quilts and Victorian American photographs and ephemera. I also have a modest collection of story sparklers; these are what I call the small, random and sometimes mysterious objects the universe throws at me as inspiration on a regular basis. For something to make it into this collection it has to fill four qualifications:

1) It must be something small (if it's larger than a ping pong ball I take a photograph of it)
2) It possesses mysterious origins and/or qualities
3) It shows up unexpectedly
4) It instantly gives me one or more story ideas.

The most recent addition to my story sparkler collection is this little sketch I found this morning on my telephone message pad. Now I do know where this came from -- my daughter the artist, who can't resist drawing a pair of eyes or a face on the pad whenever she's in the kitchen or on the phone. And while I've collected most of her formal artworks over the years, I love these little thoughtless random sketches with a passion, so I save those, too -- but I don't write stories about them.

Why did this particular sketch throw a story spark at me? I'm not sure. It could be the expression, or the flowers in her hair. Because I didn't want to know, I didn't ask my daughter, either. Whatever it means to her, the moment I first glanced at it a character whirled into life in my head and started telling me her story. A minute later I was in the office looking at the sketch while I dictated the story idea it gave me to the computer. With most story sparklers it usually happens that fast, too. So when you see a character named Ivi show up in one of my books in the future, you can blame this sketch (and my kid) for her presence.

My love of all things vintage and the fact I'm constantly shipping things is responsible for this another recent addition to my sparkler collection: this slightly rusty key. I found it after coming home with a package; when I moved it from the car into the house it dropped from the bottom of the parcel onto my kitchen table.

I called my shipper to ask if they had lost a key, which they hadn't, and then I contacted the sender, who also said no. I examined the box, and found that one edge of some packing tape on the bottom of the box had rolled over. My working theory is that when the frayed cord attached to the key came in contact with that exposed adhesive it must have stuck.

Because it's small and pretty flimsy I'm fairly sure that it's something like a diary or old suitcase key. The shape of the top, however, intrigues me. I've never before seen a key with this odd triangular shape. There are some letters stamped in the metal on both sides, but rust covers all of them except a G and maybe a Y. At the moment I'm torn between wanting to clean it so I can read all the letters and leaving the lovely rusty look intact. I adore keys of all kinds, so finding this old beauty dropping (literally) into my life prompted me to revisit a story idea I had about a mystery key. Having the physical sparkler come into my hands in such an interesting manner added to the original idea, and now I have a working plot outline for the story.

Just how powerful can such random story sparklers be? Imagine you pick up some take-out from your favorite Chinese restaurant, and when you open your cookie to read the fortune you get this:

My guy did the other night when this fortune landed in his lap. Now he's not a writer, so he didn't get it, but the moment I saw it I thought, What if Elizabeth Moon likes Chinese, and collects the fortunes . . . ?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Psychic Review #2!

L. sent me this update from Goodreads, which hosted that three-star psychic review for Forget-Me-Knot, a story I haven't yet written:

If you're out there, Fiona, thanks for the laugh -- much needed right now.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Entitled Ten

Ten Blogs with Titles I Love and Envy
(with descriptions and links so you can visit them)

100 Layer Cake: Aside from its decandent and delicious title, this blog covers all things wedding-related: "At 100 Layer Cake, we are dedicated to finding unique venues and ideas for your big day." The photos are especially spectacular, and while I've never before heard of a wedding-themed blog -- probably because I'm done with marriage for life -- I found the visuals quite inspiring.

Awkward Stock Photos: A Tumblr blog where "awkward stock photos finally have a purpose." I want to steal this idea and start one called "Awkward Novel Covers" but I'd have to feature too many of my own.

Design Love Fest: According to the About page "Bri Emery is an art director and the Los Angeles-based founder and editor of designlovefest, a lifestyle blog with an eye for design in style, DIY, food, travel, entertaining and more." I really loved the subtitle: Where type and images totally make out

Godzilla Haiku: Another Tumblr blog where SamuraiFrog celebrates Godzilla love in seventeen syllables. No, I'm not kidding. Much of the poetry is pretty awesome, too.

Inspiration Strikes. In the Kneecaps. -- Yandie describes herself as "the goddess of pickles" and "a 30-something year old divorced mother of two pre-adolescent girls. I have a dude who is around a lot who I like an awful lot, and a cat whom I tolerate. I work at {redacted} doing {redacted} for {redacted}. I have no mission for this blog... it's a little bit of everything. Humour, creative writing, ranting, parenting, pop culture, feminism and various ephemera." This one is thoughtful and very well-written.

Product Junkies Rehab: written by two 30ish New Yorkers on a mission: "The mission is simple: we love our products but we hate the junk. Starting this year, 2010, we’ll be purging our beauty routine of harmful toxins. We’re going to attempt to use only organic and natural skincare, haircare, makeup, and, yes–even deodorant!" Since I hardly ever wear makeup because nearly all of it makes me break out in rashes, I might be a frequent visitor.

Sho & Tell: Brooklyn blogger Shoko is an "Explorer first, writer a close second, show-er and tell-er always." Great photos with the posts.

Smitten Kitchen: A very neat cooking blog written from Deb Perelman's tiny but fearless NYC kitchen; reminds me so much of how my Dad was about food, too: "What you’ll see here is: A lot of comfort foods stepped up a bit, things like bread and birthday cakes made entirely from scratch and tutorials on everything from how to poach an egg to how to make tart doughs that don’t shrink up on you, but also a favorite side dish (zucchini and almonds) that takes less than five minutes to make."

Spray Beast: A graffiti art blog that "was created in july 2010 with the simple idea of showing the best graffiti in the world, on a daily basis. We have been involved with the graffiti scene for over a decade, both painting and documenting it’s evolution." I love, love, love this blog title. I don't condone vandalism of any kind, btw, but I'm a reluctant fan of Banksy, so this blog helps feeds my internal conflict.

Things Organized Neatly: This one is also a Tumblr blog, and if you're like me and slightly OCD about the art of organization, you'll want to have a look.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wishing You

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Logging Off, Editing with Ernest

I'm taking the weekend off to celebrate the holiday and be with my family and not be on the internet as much as possible. Selfish of me, I know, but I can get that way sometimes. Comments moderation will likely be slow and/or backed up as a result. So that your stop here was not entirely wasted, let me share some info on an online editing tool:

You can get immediate editing help for anything you write online via the desktop version of HemingwayApp, which allows you to type in (or cut-n-paste) text and then have the app edit it (first you have to highlight and delete the instructions, btw.) Here's a screenshot to explain more details:

And the text version of the same:

Hemingway App makes your writing bold and clear.

Hemingway highlights long, complex sentences and common errors; if you see a yellow highlight, shorten the sentence or split it. If you see a red highlight, your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic — try editing this sentence to remove the red.

Adverbs are helpfully shown in blue. Get rid of them and pick verbs with force instead.

You can utilize a shorter word in place of a purple one. Mouse over it for hints.

Phrases in green have been marked to show passive voice.

Paste in something you're working on and edit away. Or, click the Write button to compose something new.

I tested it with a random passage from one of my novels, and here is a screenshot of the results. It flagged me on the only two adverbs I used -- I don't loathe adverbs like some writers, so having them in the text okay with me -- and gave me a green light on everything else. I should write worse.

You can use this online tool to edit fiction, blog posts, e-mails, or basically anything you write, and it may see something you don't, so check it out when you have a chance.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Seeing how other artists express beauty forever fascinates me, and this incredibly detailed video does so with spectacular, unearthly visuals (includes background music, for those of you at work):

The Moment of Beauty from Takayuki Sato on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Face Me Out, Please

If you were a book, where would you be shelved in the library? Take this Dewey Decimal quiz and find out.

My results:

Yep, that makes all kinds of sense (when I visit the library I spend a lot of time browsing the 900's as it's my favorite nonfic section, so I'd be happy there as a book.) On what shelf did you end up? Post your results in comments.

(Test link nicked from Gerard at The Presurfer)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reject Sub Op

Harren Press has a very interesting open call for an upcoming antho: "We, at Harren Press, are hosting a REJECTED anthology! Any short story that you have written, submitted, and been rejected with; we are interested in seeing it and the rejection letter. We are accepting any genre, so feel free to submit anything you have. What we ARE looking for: Stories that have been polished by the writer, but for one reason or another were not accepted by the intended publisher. What we are NOT looking for: Stories that have obvious reasons for rejection. We do not want stories that are filled with several grammatical and spelling errors. We do not want stories that have no ending, have no plot, and have no character building. Your story should be a complete short story. Within this anthology, there will be a forward that discusses the various reasons that stories, even perfectly written stories, can sometimes hit the rejection pile at different presses, small and large." [PBW notes: How cool is this? I'm putting a reminder on my calendar so I can buy the finished product in December.] Length: 2.5-5.5K Payment: $5.00. No reprints (obviously), electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: June 30th, 2014 or when filled.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Very Good Reading!

There was another very strange thing I saw on the internet last week, but this deserves a post of its own, as I think it will interest one of my friends and indeed every author out there who actively agonizes over the reviews and ratings of their work on

I took this screenshot of a page at Goodreads showing a sampling of the ratings given to three of my works:

What I'd like you to note is the rating for Forget-Me-Knot, the listing indicated by the pink arrow. I scheduled this story to release last October as a freebie novella to promote my new series. To tell you the truth, I was unhappy with how it turned out. Evidently this reviewer was, too, when she read it on March 24th, 2014.

Now I know that authors aren't supposed to make a fuss over this kind of thing, but stay with me on this. I don't have a problem with what the reviewer thought of the story. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Nor do I care that I got a three-star rating for it. I don't count or care about stars. The only problem I have with this three-star rating, in fact, is that I didn't release Forget-Me-Knot in October as planned.

What I actually did with it was delete it after writing the first draft. I know, that's pretty radical, but I want my free stories to be as good as my published works. Sometimes things don't work out, and often I've found it's better to trash a bad draft and start over versus patching and fixing. I did want to think about it a bit, too, and because I've been so busy with the launch of the back-to-back series print editions I haven't yet got back to the project.

Still don't get it?

To date I have not released the story because there is no story yet. There is no Forget-Me-Knot.

So how can someone give a story that doesn't exist three stars? I have no idea. Perhaps this lady did find a way to read the first draft before I trashed it. She could have surreptitiously dug through my garbage cans, for example, to retrieve the original manuscript. Oh, wait, I didn't actually print out that story, so it existed only as a file on my laptop. That laptop is never hooked up to the internet, so she couldn't have hacked into it, either.

Hmmmm, that makes the three-star rating a bit tougher to explain. Before I deleted the only copy of the file, she might have broken into the house to read the story on my laptop in the middle of the night while we were sleeping, I suppose. If she could bypass Casa PBW's security system, sneak past the dogs without waking them and then figure out my password, that could be the answer. Seems like an awful lot of effort to read a free story I never published . . .

Hey. Could she be psychic and have read the story by directly tapping into my thoughts? Is that how she did it?

What? It's possible.

This is getting kind of exciting -- I mean, I may have proof here of a genuine psychic reviewer! How cool would that be? I wonder what she thinks of the next novel I'm planning to write. I should e-mail her and ask. This kind of reviewing could really save me a lot of grief. I may never again waste my time producing a bad story; all I have to do is check Goodreads to see what everyone thinks of it before I actually write it.

How can I agonize over such an amazing discovery? Right, this is supposed to be depressing. Tell you what, I will try to work up the proper amount of devastation to merit a meltdown or something. Check back with me next week, okay?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Huh Ten

Ten Amazing/Strange/Inspiring Things I Saw on the Internet Last Week

#1: A man who spent $158K on plastic surgery in order to resemble a human Ken doll insults a woman who wears makeup and hair extensions in order to look like a human Barbie doll.

Already I need an aspirin.

#2: Bruce and Melanie's Steampunk Victorian House

Bruce and Melanie, adopt me, please. Or let me be your housekeeper.

#3: "Don't break anyone's heart
They only have one
Break their bones
they have 206"

My next hobby: evil cross-stitch.

#4: Google adds the temples of Angkor, Cambodia to StreetView

This is one of the places in the world that I've always wanted to visit but likely won't, so I'm totally in love.

#5: Sakura, Sakura ~ the cherry blossoms of Tokyo

Sigh. If I ever visit Japan, it will have to be during March or April.

#6: The 25 Stages from Courtship to Marriage (in hand-tinted stereograph)

My count is 24 -- apparently one of the cards is missing -- but still, quite charming. Also a good reminder of how lucky we contemporary women are for not having to wear those long skirts and all the corsets, crinolines and petticoats that went with them.

#7: What happens when you and your family stop eating sugar for a year.

I lost forty pounds my first year. Still sugar-free, too.

#8: The Ten Types of Writer's Block and How to Overcome Them

Number 11: You spend your creative time reading articles about writer's block instead of writing.

#9: Woman throws shoe at Hillary Clinton during speech.

Everyone thought this was funny but me. Probably because I'm thinking how it could have easily been a grenade instead of a shoe.

And #10:

Sony's version of Sakura, I guess. If more commercials were this inventive I might start watching television again.

(Some of the above links were found over at The Presurfer.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kit & Crew on LT

I'm cross posting this from the series blog as I know some of you out there are Library Thing members:

To spread the love among my fellow book lovers I'm giving away ten signed print copies of Disenchanted & Co. to members of Library Thing, and it doesn't matter where you live -- residents of all countries are welcome to put in a request (you can find the official listing here, about halfway down the page.)

My only request of the winners is that they post a review of the book somewhere online (I'm not picky.) The folks at Library Thing will choose the ten recipients on April 23rd, so you've got two weeks to put in your request.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Get Feedback, Help a Pup

Author P.N. Elrod is holding a virtual garage sale to raise funds to pay for her pup Fuzzy's vet bills, and among the treasures are donation critiques:

Limit is 2500 words. If it goes longer to finish out a paragraph, that's okay, but don't send more than that. Most editors and agents make a decision based on the first couple pages. 2.5K words = 10 manuscript pages. Send the start of the story or novel, no prologues, no middle of the story with your "best" stuff.

The author asks for a donation (minimum $10.00) in return for the critique, which is quite reasonable. I also have it on good authority that a very cool bag of convention swag will be added to the Garage Sale page in the near future, so check back for updates.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Birds & Art

Before we get to the Friday video, some of you know how my home is a magnet for nesting birds. I don't know why, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I feed them all year long. If you're going to have babies, might as well be near the best take-out place in the neighborhood.

For the last several years I have found birds nesting in the oddest places: on top of my birdhouses, in my potted plants and my hanging plants, but the absolute strangest spot of all time was in our backyard grill:

I thought I was the only author who attracted these ditzy birds, but it turns out they're after Shiloh Walker, too:

All I can say is lift the lid and check your grill before you turn it on, writers.

I do have a delightful video for you this week that features Lila, sort of an artist version of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie. It is long, but worth every second (and features music and background sounds, for those of you at work):

"LILA" from Carlos Lascano on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Three Wishes

Spring arrived and brought time to dream
as the world woke up
and turned to green

To celebrate winter's finish
She's granting you three wishes

I wish for wonderful things to see and learn and do

I wish for peace for all of you

and I wish everyone has time to make their dreams come true.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Will Write for Kittens

While cruising around some links I came across Written? Kitten, aka the most adorable writing prompter on the internet. It's very simple, in that you type your words in the box provided. For every hundred words you write there, you get a (virtual) kitten, as you can see from my first try here:

I forgot to do a screen capture when I reached 100 words, so my screenshot actually shows my second kitten. This little online tool is oddly delightful, and while obviously all in good fun, might even help you bust through a writing block (unless you hate cats; then you might want to try a heartless unfeeling wretch prompter.) I think it would also be great for kids who are learning how to type or journal, or who might be slogging through written homework.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Off & Sub Op

I am taking off today to deal with some family business. So that your stop here was not wasted, here's an interesting new sub op I found among the marvelous market listings over at

According to their web site, Spacesuits and Sixguns is a "magazine of contemporary pulp fiction – simple, straightforward storytelling with an emphasis on action. We’re not looking for Lovecraft or Howard pastiches, or stories set in the 1930’s. Read a dozen pulp fiction stories, soak it all up, then ask yourself: what if this happened in my hometown today? Write close to home, write about what you love, and follow Elmore Leonard’s maxim: leave out the parts people skip. All genres accepted — detective, horror, mystery, adventure, SF, sword and sorcery. We love them all." Length: "Give us about 4000 words. Shorter is fine. We’re flexible. If it’s longer and it’s good, no problem. Rule number one – be fun!" Payment: "Pays 4 cents/word on publication." Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Not a Penny 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.

CintaNotes is a "Windows application that will let you easily collect and manage thousands of text-based information pieces. The application sits in the Windows system tray and springs into action on a hotkey. Ergonomic, fast and inobtrusive: you’ll feel it is part of the OS. And all this together with excellent searching and organizing abilites — CintaNotes makes collecting, organizing and finding information a breeze. A must-have for all knowledge workers: a no-nonsense, simple and pleasant way to maximum productivity" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8)

Desktop Journal is a "basic and straightforward journal software, meant to store your entries safely, without all the confusing and frivolous bells and whistles. All entries are encrypted and access to the interior of your journal can only be accessed by you (front-cover passcode). Entries can be searched by date, you can simply flip through your entries by page (forward and back), or you can set the trackbar thumb to jump to a desired location within your journal pages. The interior of the journal also contains a user friendly, searchable and integrated contact book which can store names, numbers and email or street addresses of family or friends. Complete help-files are also included" (OS: Designer notes "There are no special system requirements. Windows platform (compatibility): XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8/8RT [RT is the ´light´ version installed on most small tablets])

DoPDF is a "free PDF creator that does what the name suggests, creates PDF files. Once installed it will allow you to convert any type of printable documents to PDF files. doPDF installs itself as a virtual PDF printer driver so after a successful installation will appear in your Printers and Faxes list and also in the list of All Programs" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7)

DreamPlan Home Design is a home and landscape planning and design software that allows you to "Visualize and plan your dream home with a realistic 3D home model; create the floor plan of your house, condo or apartment; custom set colors, textures, furniture, decorations and more and plan out exterior landscaping and garden spaces" [PBW notes: if you want a freeware to help you design a particular setting, this one could be quite useful] (OS: Windows 7, XP, Vista and 8 64-bit)

Efficient Calendar is an "elegant and easy-to-use scheduler, planner and reminder. Multiple calendar views, such as Day and Month views as well as list view are available so you can better arrange and track your events. All appointments, meetings, events and tasks can be reminded in time as configured, and you will never miss any important event" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Interactive Calendar is a "fusion of a multi-functional desktop calendar with impressive customization capabilities and a convenient task manager, capable of bringing some order to your business and personal life. This unique software displays a calendar and its cells right on your desktop wallpaper, making it an integral part of your Windows theme. Interactive Calendar renders cells 400%-1000% faster than its closest competitors, which makes it the fastest calendar software of this type on the market. No delays and update lags, no jerky refreshes – the user interface is both smooth and natural looking. Planning your time with Interactive Calendar is a breeze. Its greatest advantage is the degree of visual customization it supports. You can customize everything from the position of the calendar on the screen to its size, color, transparency, font, shadows, cell spacing and much more, to make sure it stays in line with your desktop color scheme. As a bonus, Interactive Calendar includes a built-in wallpaper changer" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Money Manager is a "free, open-source, cross-platform, easy-to-use personal finance software. It primarily helps organize one's finances and keeps track of where, when and how the money goes. It is also a great tool to get a bird's eye view of your financial worth. Money Manager includes all the basic features that 90% of users would want to see in a personal finance application. The design goals are to concentrate on simplicity and user-friendliness - something one can use everyday" (OS: Windows, Linux and Mac OSX)

Task List Guru is a "free 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 2000/XP/Vista/7/8)

TodoPlus is a task management program that allows you to "Break down your goals into small and achievable steps; reduce time spend on unimportant tasks; focus on your most important tasks first; stay focused on one task at a time; always know what to do next; achieve more in less time by being more productive and reduce stress caused by having too many tasks in your head, and the fear of forgetting something important" (OS: Windows, Mac OS X)

WowBase is a program that allows you to "create your own database quickly and easily. The main feature of the program — records are not in the form of rows, and in the form of cards. This method of editing the records you have not tried! There is quite a different attitude to the records: now this is not one thin strip of thousands, and a separate independent object that can be manipulated. You can even copy a few records and send them via instant message or e-mail to a colleague that he added them to his table. Very simple interface and minimal facilities needed for editing tables" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Sunday, April 06, 2014

IngramSpark for Indies

I've had more than a few folks ask me about free publishing services for indie authors, in hopes that I had something tucked away in the No-Cost file. Unfortunately:

1. I am not an indie author, unless you count self-publishing e-books for the last thirteen years. Since they're all free I think that makes me crazy, not indie.

2. From my limited POV (and when I say limited I mean it in the comfortably-fits-in-my-favorite-thimble sense because I don't do it myself) unless you handle everything -- formatting, cover art, promotions, web site, Twitter, Facebook etc. -- indie publishing is never 100% free.

So those are the disclaimers, and I defer anything I write in this post in advance to any dissenting indie author with more experience than me, which is basically every indie author.

That said, I did a little homework and found that if you're interested in going the indie author route IngramSpark may offer the most pub for your buck as an all-in-one low-cost pub/concierge POD service:

Ingram Content Group has introduced IngramSpark, a new Publish-on-Demand platform that enables the delivery of content worldwide to readers in print and electronic formats. Powered by Lightning Source and CoreSource, Ingram’s ebook distribution platform, IngramSpark is specifically tailored to the needs of the small and independent publisher.

IngramSpark streamlines sales, account set up, content management and customer support activities into an easy-to-use, self-service platform. All you need to get started is an email address, print-ready PDFs for print titles, EPUB and JPEG for ebooks, an ISBN, and a credit card.

Here's a look at their pricing (my comments are in italics):

Account Set-Up: Free (excellent)

Title Set-Up ~ Loading, storing, and managing book, ebook files, and metadata per title.

Book and ebook -- $49.00 (submitted at the same time)
Book -- $49.00
E-book -- $25.00

(Admittedly not cheap but I think in the range of reasonable for most wallets.)

Titles are eligible for automatic free set-up with an initial order of 50+ copies. When a print order is placed for 50 copies within 60 days of title set-up, the customer will receive a $49 refund. (I would first figure out how much 50+ print copies are going to cost you before signing on for this. As in spending $1000.00 to save $49.00 is a bit silly.)

Print On Demand (Print & Ship): Printing and shipping costs will depend on your book type, volume, and shipping location.
You can print as many copies as you need (one or thousands). We have volume discounts available for large print orders. (They have a Print and Ship Calculator to help you estimate costs, too, which can be helpful.)

Global Market Access (Book & Ebook Distribution) ~ Your title(s) are automatically available for purchase to over 39,000 global retailers, and their consumers. (I would want to know upfront if Amazon, B&N and BAM are among these 39K retailers, but that's me.)

Book and Ebook Market Access -- $12.00 per title, per year (if submitted at the same time)
Book Market Access -- $12.00 per title, per year
Ebook Market Access -- $12.00 per title, per year

(Not so thrilled about this charge, as access has already been granted via the set-up charges, but a dollar a month is also reasonable for most wallets.)

Publisher Compensation:

When your books are sold through our distribution network, you are paid:
Printed (POD) Title -- Dependent upon your wholesale discount, you are paid 45% or 60% of List Price minus print costs
Ebook Title -- 40% of List and Agency Price

(And this would be when? Something you might also want to find out in advance.)

Upside: This is quite a bit cheaper than the indie publishing platform my literary agent recommended to me some time back, so I hope that means indie author services are becoming more competitive.

Downside: It's all self-service, so if you mess up something along the way you might end up with a clunker or having to repeat the entire process. I also suspect that if anything goes wrong it may take some doing to correct, so you might want to find an author who has used the service and ask them about their experience with it.

Speaking of that, does anyone out there use IngramSpark's services, and if so can you share any intel on how they perform? Or do you use another POD publisher that provides more services for less $$$? Please let us know in comments.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Spec Fic Contest

The Twentieth Annual Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers Short Story Contest is now open for entries, and this year's theme is "Harping on Conspiracies": "1970s paranoia is back in fashion, but with a 21st century technological edge. Does the NSA listen in on every little tweet? Will drones watch over the backyards of America? And what exactly is HAARP (the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program), with its high-power radio frequency transmitter facility located deep in the Alaskan wilderness? Is the Air Force really studying the ionopshere, or is electronically tickling the Northern Lights a cute cover for more sinister experiments in weather manipulation, satellite disruption and mind control? Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to impress us with the wildest conspiracy you can imagine, whether inspired by current events like those above or drawn completely from your worst hypothetical fears. All genres will be considered, and the subject matter need not be limited to modern, scientific skullduggery. Freemasonry, ancient cabals, cults, secret societies and good, old-fashioned assassination plots are just as welcome." Length: up to 4K (firm); prizes: "All authors will receive written critiques from each of three first round judges. The top three stories will move on to the second round, judged by Hildy Silverman, editor-in-chief of Space and Time Magazine. The 1st Place story will be published in a future issue of S&T, as per editor’s timeline and discretion, and the author will receive the Graversen Award ($75), in honor of the GSSW’s founder, Patricia Graversen. The 2nd and 3rd place winners will receive $40 and $25, respectively." No entry fee, no reprints, electronic submissions only, see contest page for more details. Deadline: July 31st, 2014.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Crazy Real

This computer animated video looks so real it may actually make you queasy (some sound effects, for those of you at work):

Crazy Furniture from immortal-arts on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Quilting Picasso Update

Thanks to a couple of quiet nights I've been able to make significant progress on my Picasso project, which presently is in this stage:

The glaringly white ribbon flower is now a lovely tangerine hibiscus color, thanks to some careful application of not-too-wet watercolor paint:

I chose this particular shade to compliment Picasso's colors and to match the hedge that bloomed outside the back door of my childhood home. I think it's important to weave a little personal history into any creative project, even when it has special meaning only to you; that is what makes it uniquely your work.

The lady now has some pretty lace and bead cuffs for her dress, too:

I'm not sure if the cuffs are too fussy for the piece, but her sleeves looked a bit naked without them, and they pick up some of the colors of the midsection beading I did. I've also decided on the fabric I'm going to use for the other half of the project:

I believe I'm done with embellishing Picasso's lady, and now I'll move on to finishing up the piece (I do have to set it aside for at least a week while I take care of some work-related business stuff, too.) I'm still sticking to a mantra of keep it bold and simple, which so far has worked out very well. For all of you who are interested, when it's done if I'm happy with it I will be giving away the finished project here at the blog, so if I don't mess it up in the very near future (end of April, beginning of May or thereabouts) it could be yours.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Ink Saver

As a science fair project, 14-year-old middle school student Suvir Mirchandani discovered that switching to Garamond as the typeface font for printed documents could save thousands in the cost of ink -- and on a larger scale, millions:

"Ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume," Suvir says with a chuckle. He's right: Chanel No. 5 perfume costs $38 per ounce, while the equivalent amount of Hewlett-Packard printer ink can cost up to $75.

The young teen theorized that his school district could save as much as $21,000.00 by switching to the thinner Garamond, which uses less ink, and went to do the same math for the federal goverment:

Using the General Services Administration's estimated annual cost of ink -- $467 million -- Suvir concluded that if the federal government used Garamond exclusively it could save nearly 30% -- or $136 million per year. An additional $234 million could be saved annually if state governments also jumped on board, he reported.

So will everyone switch over to Garamond to save all that expensive ink? Probably not -- but I can tell you from now on I'll be using it instead of Times New Roman or Arial for what I print out.

Related links: Make your own fonts for free with Fonstruct

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

New Cover Art

I'm very pleased to announce that we have a new horror cover for my next novel, and it's absolutely a career landmine landmark:

I would love to hear your opinions of it, but before you comment I'd like to point out some of the ways in which it's going to ruin my life help create buzz for the new series. While I have considered killing myself over haven't always fared so well with pink covers in the past, I think this one is worse has so much more potential to create buzz. You won't find this particular shade of pink on anyone's just anyone's novel, you know. In fact I think it's destined to become my personal cover art curse career trademark color.

The authentic Victorian-era model used to depict my protagonist is also tragic a thoughtful and provocative choice, especially considering her physical and mental disabilities striking appearance. Very few ladies can pull off looking like a loon wearing a top hat. I applaud the art department for reaching out to the local mental institution modeling community to find such a special lunatic lady.

I'm also utterly appalled enraptured by the new title chosen for my story; I think it will completely mislead reassure readers as to the compulsory sex scenes romantic content of the story. Romance readers, you no longer have to fear the appropriate troubling genre label of urban fantasy or steampunk on my books; as the title screams suggests it's all about the love.

And if any doubts about the new cover linger in your mind, you might want to check the date. Yep, gotcha!

Original image credit: