Sunday, November 30, 2014

Finish Line Thoughts

Today is the final day of NaNoWriMo 2014, and if I'm not yet at the 50K finish line I hope to cross it by 11:59 pm.* Pretty sure I will; just before I wrote this post I flew past 45K after an uber creative writing session. Which is why I want to write this post now (today is the 23rd, actually) -- I had my best writing day of the month. Finished and turned in the first phase of Ghost Writer Gig II, then nailed my 2K NaNo novel daily goal *and* bailed my characters out of a sticky plot problem *and* found/created a new room in Netherfield. This is about as high as this kite gets, my friends.

I'm still tired, and somewhat annoyed with Publishing, and really, really behind on my holiday prep and household chores. NaNo combined with my day jobs should have me finishing the month with 112K of new fiction written since November 1st, which now seems a bit surreal. Before Nano began I was having trouble writing a thousand words a day; this month I've averaged almost four times that -- and I don't know why, other than doubling up on my writing sessions and letting the NaNo madness and my writing buddies inspire me. Well, being able to actually see again might have helped a little.

Maybe I should give the eyes most of the credit. I almost went blind this year. I was basically blind for the month between my two eye surgeries, when I couldn't write or read or drive or do much of anything. I had a lot of time to sit around and think about what my life would be like if those operations didn't work, too. Trading in my silver cane for a white one. Going to Braille classes. Giving up my books, my sewing, my car. Having to relearn how to do everything by touch. Never again seeing the faces of the people I love.

You know I've never been afraid of the dark, but this year? I learned how.

So I don't care that I'm tired, or that I had to juggle work and NaNo, or that I'm probably going to spend December doing all my housework and shopping while in a partial coma. No matter what happens, I still get to see it happen. There is also one more daily reminder for me to be grateful for my restored sight. This month we found out that our beloved rescue kitty, Jericho, is going blind, and there's nothing the vet can do to stop it. So we're going to pamper him and love him and make sure he knows we're here for him. And I wil remember that could be me.

I would like to thank everyone here who cheered on me and my writer pals, and my NaNo writing buddies, who always came through with a note to me at the exactly the right time. You truly are the best.

Now let's finish this.

*Actually finished up on Wednesay, but wrote this post before that, which is confusing but there you go.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sub Op

New SF e-zine Terraform is looking for short fiction: "Submissions for ​Terraform are open to the public, and the ask is simple: We're looking for 2,000 words or fewer—a nice, digestible internet length—of speculative fiction honing in on the tech, science, and future culture topics driving the zeitgeist. We're looking especially for nearer-future fiction; think more sentient chat bots or climate-changed dystopias and less far-flung space operas. And we don't care what form it comes in: Classic-style SF short stories, social media posts from beyond the horizon, fictive data dumps, experimental graphic narratives, and so on. Our baseline rate is $0.20 a word. Remember, we'll publish one new story every week." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Friday, November 28, 2014


Here's a lovely short film about a quest to understand music (with equally lovely music in the background, for those of you at work):

Understand Music from finally. on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wishing You

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's Official

As of 7:30 pm tonight:


A writer is a world trapped in a person. -- Victor Hugo

We're four days out from the finish line of NaNoWriMo 2014, and hopefully everyone has made some gratifying progress toward their writing goals. I know some of you are thinking now that you won't make 50K, and that's okay. Really.

Making the big goal is nice -- very nice -- but you aren't a loser if you have to deal with life instead of writing, or the story you chose to write isn't working for you, or whatever else keeps you from stepping into the official winner's circle this year. Losing Jak, one of my beloved rescue cats, kept me from finishing NaNo back in 2010; as it happens when I reached the end of the month I hadn't even make the halfway point. Still, I was very proud of what I did manage to write that year, and it helped me through a horrible time.

Earlier I was cruising around the NaNoWriMo forums when I found in the You know you're a writer when . . . topic one of those so-true-it-hurts comments:

"Every song is about your characters." (posted by crossing)

Every song is, actually -- I can't listen to music without applying it to a character in some story I'm writing or have written or want to write. Even music I don't care for eventually becomes theme songs for my antagonists. Same goes for art; I'm always thinking which of my people would own this painting or that sculpture (I once had an epiphany about Lucan from the Darkyn novels while wandering around a glass-blower's booth at an art show; that's where his Shatter talent was actually born.)

It doesn't stop there. When I cook I think about recipes that would please my characters, and when I shop I check out the latest fashions to dress my younger, hipper crews. In reality I can't cook or shop for them (that's the line into Writer LaLaLand I won't cross) but thinking about it is natural. My characters are with me everywhere I go, as they have been since I was eight years old and wrote my first story. They may not be real, but they're mine and I'm the one who knows them best and they belong to me as nothing else in life has.

Which is why all the songs are about them, and all the art revolves around them, and everything that teases my imagination in some way goes to them. Because I belong to them, too.

Any last thoughts on NaNoWriMo 2014? Let us know in comments.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Canadian Sub Op

Here's an open call for Canadian writers only to submit steampunk short stories for the upcoming Clockwork Canada anthology: "I am interested in all permutations of Steampunk, including Boilerpunk, Clockpunk, Gaslight Romance, Raygun Gothic, Stitchpunk, and other variations. Stories must be set in Canada. There are no restrictions on the time period, though technology should be limited to pre-twentieth century. I want to see Canadian takes on classic Steampunk elements, but I would also like to see more than just steam technology. I highly recommend reading Amal El-Mohtar’s excellent article, Towards a Steampunk Without Steam, for inspiration in this respect: Many great Steampunk stories interrogate and engage with historical and cultural elements in their setting. In particular, we often see the exploration of characters and stories that were ignored by dominant historical narratives. Although alternate history is a large component of Steampunk, be aware of Canadian history and utilize it or rework it in original ways. For example, how would the proliferation of more capable steamships and airships have altered immigration in Canada? How would the western expansion, the Trans-Canada Railway, and the Underground Railroad have been affected by alternate forms of transportation? I am looking for stories that explore diverse settings with all manner of characters: Aboriginals, Francophones, senior citizens, LGBTQIAs, PoC, etc." Length: 2-8K; Payment: "5 cents/word for original fiction and a contributor’s copy." On reprints: "will be considered if the story has appeared in journals and magazines, but NOT in book form (collections, anthologies, etc.). Payment for reprints is 2 cents per word. Indicate where the story was first published and when in the cover letter. Reprint stories must also be set in Canada." Electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Reading period opens" Reading period: December 1st, 2014 (don't submit stories before this date.) Deadline: April 30th, 2015.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Ten

Ten Things to Help with Thanksgiving

21 easy Thanksgiving crafts for kids will keep them busy while Mom cooks. has some neat, before-the-big-meal ideas here for Thanksgiving appetizers; I might try these blue cheese and pear tartlets.

The simplest no-cook appetizer I know that just about everyone loves: alternate chunks of fruit and cheese on bamboo skewers to make pretty nibbly kabobs (and older kids who can be trusted with pointy sticks can easily put these together, too.)

Better Homes & Gardens has some suggestions here for indoor Thanksgiving decorating.

Not sure how long to thaw, how much to stuff, and/or how long to roast your turkey? You can call, chat or e-mail the experts at Butterball Turkey; get more details at their website contact page here.

The Cooking Channel has a yummy photo gallery of Thanksgiving Dessert recipes here.

Cooking Light has a great celebrations section here with lots of interesting healthy-option recipes and menu ideas for your turkey day.

Three easy and elegant Thanksgiving centerpieces from Good Housekeeping.

For those who want to skip the turkey and go meatless this holiday, Martha Stewart has a nice selection of main dish options here.

And finally, for those like me who can't be trusted with a candy thermometer (I've broken about a hundred, actually) but want to make a sweet treat for Thanksgiving, my famous No-Brainer Fudge recipe is #5 on this holiday helps ten list.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sub Op

Parsec Ink has an open call for their upcoming Lost Voices antho: Theme: "We are a speculative fiction market. We accept science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories. Please do not send stories without any speculative element. We love creative interpretations of our themes, but we do require that stories fit the current theme. We will run mature content if we like the story and if the mature content is integral to the story. We will not accept fanfic, even if it’s of a fictional universe that has passed into public domain." Length: "We will consider fiction up to 6,000 words. There is no minimum word count." Payment: " We pay 2 cents per word. Authors will also receive an e-book and print version of the anthology and wholesale pricing for additional printed copies (typically 50% of cover price)." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Submissions Open: December 1st, 2014 (do not submit before this date.) Deadline: February 28th, 2015.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

LT Secret Santa

Library Thing is holding their eighth annual SantaThing:

"What’s SantaThing? SantaThing is Secret Santa for LibraryThing members.

Done this before? SantaThing sign up is now open!

How it works: You pay into the SantaThing system (choose from $15–$50). You play Santa to a LibraryThing member we pick for you, by selecting books for them. Another Santa does the same for you, in secret. LibraryThing does the ordering, and you get the joy of giving AND receiving books!

Sign up once or thrice, for yourself or someone else. If you sign up for someone without a LibraryThing account, make sure to mention what kinds of books they like, so their Santa can choose wisely.

Even if you don’t want to be a Santa, you can help by suggesting books for others."

I did this last year, and had such a neat time that I've signed up again for 2014 -- so if you join in, you just might end up with me as your Secret Santa (and my Santee last year really enjoyed my picks, so I'm also a pretty decent book Santa.) Sign-ups for SantaThing will close next Sunday, November 30th, 2014 at 8pm Eastern, so if you want to join in, get to it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The 29

This short video offers 29 simple ways to stay creative; my personal favorite is #14 (and this one has some snappy background music, for those of you at work):


Thursday, November 20, 2014

ETA Ten Days

This past week has been eventful and interesting, in the Chinese curse kind of way. I took the weekend off from NaNoWriMo to wrap up my ghost writing gig, which I turned in two weeks early (hooray!) at which point my client instantly offered me another job (gulp) that started immediately (of course). So I'm very glad I've been putting in a few hundred extra words over my NaNo daily goal, because they allowed me to take those two days off and say yes to the new job offer.

I admit, I'm a bit tired, too. Mentally bouncing betweem two projects isn't the problem -- it actually helps keep me fresh and engaged in both -- but trying to manage two separate writing sessions every day and also juggle my domestic responsibilities is the real challenge. I just discovered a couple of tiny mountaineers scaling the dirty laundry piled in the washroom hamper. Thanksgiving is in one week, and while I have a nice turkey in the freezer I haven't yet confirmed the guest list, planned the final menu or found my favorite holiday tablecloth. P.S., sometime between now and next Monday I'm having the carpets cleaned.* Don't ask me which day; I forgot to write it down on the calendar.

Still, whenever I remember to look up from whatever I'm working on, I can catch just a glimpse of that 50K waiting for me at that November 30th finish line. For some reason it doesn't look worried, either. I think it knows how much fun I'm having, and how good it's been for me to get back to a daily writing routine, and that no matter how tired I feel, even that's wonderful, because it's the good, satisfied, I-kicked-butt writer tired I haven't felt for most of this year.

So how are things going with you NaNo novelists out there? Let us know in comments.

*Guess what? They just called to confirm -- they're coming today!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sub Op

Garden Gnome Publications wants to see "novella-length manuscripts that cast old myths into new lenses or that create new myths out of thin air. Myth-makers, ignite!" (PBW notes: Cute. But please, don't set yourself or anything else on fire literally.) Here's what they want to see: "We want stories, not lists of gods. In other words, tell a story within a mythological system, one you created or one that already exists. All ideas and themes are worth exploring. Just make sure you tell a damn good story. Make it weird, make it absurd, but make it good. Prose, not poetry. Give us gods, demigods, demons, supermen, mortals, and everything in between. Make them dark and mark them powerful. Or make them light and elemental. As long as they’re true. Stories can be horrific, satirical, magical, romantic, scientific, or anywhere on the storytelling spectrum. Hell, you can mix extremes if you have the chutzpah. We like dark and we like dark satire. Of course, we like laugh out loud outlandishness too. But what we really like is weird and off-the-wall. Most of all, we just like a good story well told. Pick a myth. Any myth. Put your own spin on it. Can’t find one that suits your fancy? Make one up." Length: 20-40K; Payment: "All writers receive 50% royalties. Paid monthly." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Whose Brainchild are You?

Take this interesting online quiz that maps your mind, and find out which two famous people had brains similar to yours.

My results:

I love DaVinci, and he had the kind of creative life I could only dream of, so that's very cool. While I'm not a huge fan of St. Joan or my Catholic upbringing, my mother was named after her, so I'll take her, too.

Whose brainchild are you? Let us know in comments.

(Online quiz link swiped from Gerard over at The Presurfer)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Freely 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.

Anxiety is a "super-lightweight To-do list application for Mac OS X Leopard that synchronizes with iCal and Mail. Its aim is to provide a streamlined, easily accessible interface to add and check off your tasks, while remaining poised to melt into the background at a moments notice" (OS: Mac OS X)

Blue Griffin is a "new WYSIWYG content editor for the World Wide Web. Powered by Gecko, the rendering engine of Firefox, it's a modern and robust solution to edit Web pages in conformance to the latest Web Standards" (OS: Windows, Mac OS X and Linux)

IceCream Ebook Reader is "one of the best free EPUB readers that transforms your computer screen into a convenient top-notch ebook reader. The tool enables you read ebooks in EPUB, MOBI, FB2, PDF and other popular formats. Manage your digital library on your PC or Windows-based laptop. This program also features the ability to turn pages, use bookmarks, search your library, track reading progress and much more" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7/8)

Keyboarder "will give you an intuitive way to type everything more easily and faster. You no longer have to fiddle with the “Insert Symbol” menu and then search for what you want, and that is assuming you can access the menu in the application you are using in the first place" (OS: Windows Vista/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Mendeley is a "free reference manager and academic social network. Make your own fully-searchable library in seconds, cite as you write, and read and annotate your PDFs on any device" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

My Last Search "scans the cache and history files of your Web browser, and locate all search queries that you made with the most popular search engines (Google, Yahoo and MSN) and with popular social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace). The search queries that you made are displayed in a table with the following columns: Search Text, Search Engine, Search Time, Search Type (General, Video, Images), Web Browser, and the search URL. You can select one or more search queries and then copy them to the clipboard or save them into text/html/xml file" (OS: Windows 9x/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3/Vista/7)

Panopreter "reads any text aloud and reads files in formats of txt, rtf, doc, pdf and web pages. It also converts the text into wav and mp3 audio files, so you can listen to the audio later with a portable mp3 player device. Furthermore, Panopreter reads text copied to the Windows clipboard from any other software window. It supports various languages and voices" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7/8/8.1)

PhotoSun 14 is "a professional software application that comes packed with editing capabilities for helping you optimize your photos, apply special effects, and edit metadata. It sports a clean and straightforward layout that gives users the possibility to upload images into the working environment using the built-in browse function or “drag and drop” support. PhotoSun 14 works with the following file formats: JPG, BMP, PNG, GIF, ICO, and TIFF. Plus, it lets you add the contents of an entire folder to the list. The program gives you the possibility to zoom in or out, rotate or flip the images, set the current photo as your wallpaper, resize and crop the items, as well as create slideshows in a full screen mode, with background music and themes, and a user-defined transition delay. Other notable characteristics of this utility are represented by the possibility to erase red eyes, adjust the levels of exposure, contrast, saturation, and brightness, as well as apply denoising and sharpening effects. What’s more, PhotoSun comes packed with several special effects (e.g. sepia, boost color, antique), and lets you personalize your images by embedding different types of frames, undo or redo your actions, and view a history with the recently performed actions" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

Simple Sticky Notes is a "simple, easy-to-use, absolutely free, fast and efficient taking notes software. Simple Sticky Notes is 100% safe and ads free" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7/8)

WriteMonkey is "Zenware for full screen distraction free creative writing. No whistles and bells, just empty screen, you and your words. WriteMonkey is light, fast, and perfectly handy for those who enjoy the simplicity of a typewriter but live in modern times" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7/8)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Online Art Therapy

Thanks to the internet and art generators everyone can create digital masterpieces, and one of my favorite places to play with color and shape is Bomomo. To use this generator you simply click on a tool button, and then click your mouse and hold down the button, and move your mouse to guide the bouncing color-generating tool circles around the design area.

Here's a look at the dashboard, and a pic I made by sampling every one of the tool buttons:

Using just one tool can result in very cool art:

Using Bomomo can also help when you're feeling blocked or frustrated; watching those little bouncing circles do their thing is surprisingly relaxing, and whatever you create with them may shift your mood to something more positive.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Character Web

The orb weaver living between my oak and Japanese maple trees has graciously agreed to help me out with today's topic by serving as an example of a story character. So if spiders creep you out, you might want to skip this post.

When most people first encounter someone in a story they tend to see the character like this:

This is as it should be (at least, how the reader's first impression of the character should be.) Because we're a very visual species, and books generally don't have any pictures in them, characters are usually introduced in such a way that readers can easily envision them.

For the writer, however, there should be more to the character than simply their appearance. For us, the character should look like this:

Yes, this is the exact same spider; I simply took the shot from a different angle.

Great characters don't pop out of thin air to hang around the story and do nothing more than show off how terrific (or terrifying) they look. A character is a fictional construct of a person, which means there should be a lot more to them than simply physical appearance or story placement. Like a spider, a fully-realized character is surrounded by a web of interconnecting threads; instead of being made of silk these threads are created from personal history, education, health, life experience, hates, disappointments, loves, ambitions and everything else that goes into making people who they were, who they are and who they want to be -- as well as what they do.

So how does a writer build a character web that provides the proper amount of support and dimension? Lots of ways; just do a search on characterization and you'll probably find a zillion different answers. What I notice most about how other writers characterize their crews is by relying on elements in the character's occupation and/or backstory. This is not wrong, either; what we do for a living and our personal history does contribute to who we are -- but there is a lot more to us than our jobs and our past. If there wasn't I'd simply be characterized as a crippled writer, and not a partner, mother, daughter, sister, friend, USAF veteran, artist, quilter, volunteer, cancer survivor, jewelry-maker, blogger, teacher, student, animal lover, mentor, photographer . . . get the picture?

Here are fourteen different elements I often use to better weave my character webs:

To escape heavy dependence on backstory, consider how the present and the future is shaping your characters. If you're wondering how the future factors in when it hasn't even happened yet, ask anyone who has ambition, hopes or dreams to tell you how they affect them now. Are they going to school, saving money, following a five-year plan? Have they committed recently to a monogamous relationship that they feel may become permanent? Are they considering relocating, starting a business, inventing something, breaking off with someone, acquiring something they've always wanted? Now think about your character -- what are they doing about those things now? How is it changing them as people?

Opinions vary on how much we need to put into characterization, and again there's no right or wrong. Whatever elements I draw on, I always try to know enough about my characters to make them come alive on the page, so my characterizations tend to be as involved and detailed as my world-building. Everything I know about them doesn't make it into the story, either. All the knowledge that the reader never has access to is really more to guide me while I'm writing and get me into the character's head.

Okay, writers, your turn: What are some of the elements you use for your characterizations? Let us know in comments.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Wild Skies

Photographer Nicolaus Wegner spent four months filming severe weather in the skies over Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado -- and put the results together in this awesome, mesmerizing (and sometimes even frightening) video (with background music, for those of you at work):

Stormscapes 2 from Nicolaus Wegner on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

(Almost) Halfway There

We're two days from the middle of November, aka the halfway point for National Novel Writing Month. which means I'd better be at 25K on my NaNo novel done by now (yes, I'm writing this post in advance.) I've been gently nagging some of you who were foolish enough to let me be your writing buddy (and I'm actively blackmailing Keita), and I've even replied to a couple of posts in the NaNo forums. It's the perfect time for a pep talk -- because everything is going great, yes?

For me, 100% great, eh. I'm at about 64%, maybe. Naturally I'm trying to stay positive, but I had hoped to get more words done every day and finish about a week early (now I don't think I can because I'm divided this year between my writer-for-hire day job and NaNo. I am getting a lot of words done; they're simply not all for me.)

Then there is Publishing -- Lord, yes, I know about the award nomination; I've gotten about a thousand e-mails from my romance writer pals. For those who don't know, I'm up for an award I won't win for a novel that is now out of print in a series that the publisher cancelled. I know, I can hardly contain myself either. But seriously, I think I know the reviewer responsible, and if it was you, T., I am genuinely touched. Thanks for thinking of me.

Then there are the novel-related problems. The more I write my NaNo novel, the more I think about the first chapter, which I don't like anymore. Okay, I hate it. If this were a regular writing project, I'd probably rewrite it or delete it or just take it out in the backyard and roast marshmallows over it. But I don't have time to rewrite that chapter and keep on schedule, so I have to hold onto my lousy first chapter. Until December 1st, when I believe I will quite ready to rip it out of my manuscript and drop-kick it into the backyard firepit.

I'm stil not shaking the pom poms very well, but stick with me, there's a point to all this whining. After writing and publishing 51 novels you'd think I could do this in my sleep, right?


Every book is different, but writing them is always and forever work, work, and more work -- and not always successful work. I plan ahead but then for some reason I fall behind. I fail to meet my expectations, often daily. I write scenes and pages and sometimes entire chapters that I think are utter crap. What was bright and shiny and exciting thirteen days ago now often seems more like an annoying, tiresome, plodding, dragging, why-did-I-go-with-dumb-idea millstone tied around my neck. I've already thought about dumping this story entirely and starting over with another idea -- twice since November 1st, in fact.

Here's why I don't: I know to keep going, to keep writing. Yes, I have doubts, the bright and shiny is wearing off, I'm tired, I'm writing two stories simultaneously and I'm disappointing myself. It doesn't matter. This was a great idea, and every problem I have with it can be solved once I finish the book. I'll edit what I doubted and fix it or rewrite it. The bright and shiny never stays but always will come back with the next idea. Then I will rest my brain and recharge my batteries. Maybe I'll even take a little me-vacation and only write one story next month.

I know what you're thinking. What if after all that I discover that it is hopeless, and I can't fix it, and I really should have dumped this story and started over? If that happens, I'll accept what I can't change, stick it in the file cabinet and move on to the next story. Problem solved.

No matter what I do with a story, I know I will always disappoint myself because I'm never satisfied with the work. I think if I ever was, I'd be done and I wouldn't write anymore.

I'm not done. How about you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bonsaing Inspiration

The Bonsai Story Generator takes any text fed to it (up to 6K) and randomly rearranges the text to produce new sentences. As you might expect this creates a small mountain of nonsense, but it also produces some interesting word pairings and clusters, a few of which can work as titles, prompts, scene ideas and more.

I took about 4K of my NaNo novel and Bonsai'd it, and then weeded through the results, deleting out the gibberish and whatever else was useless. Here's what I kept, along with some of my thoughts in italics:

Driving through the lionsgate to be ruined

But he should hurt a little as my son-in-law.
(Beautiful line for a mean mama-in-law.)

She caught her ladyship's feathered bonnet.

She would have had a traveled veteran.

Tell the wound.

The man looked down into our society, Lady Hardiwick said.

Greville would send Prudence into tarts
(I love this as a description of a compulsive eater)

Well, he beheld the mare.

Agitation kindled a gentleman.

The fact that she would do no longer.

She heard a kindly older brother.

As a girl she'd been silly enough to cross their path.
(This sparked a new scene for me)

No man had fainted from her.

I haven't a groan.

You are a morning salon, abundantly furnished.
(What a nervous man might say while trying to compliment a beautiful, well-endowed woman, maybe)

He is not indulging in the company as yet

the great house at Netherfield Park stood like a spinster
(You can't imagine how helpful this was to me. Honestly. Hugely.)

Stand back, she can make himself sick again. (Instant, hilarious imagery)

Julian with no other sound.

He will look at the most generous good enough to be ruined
(is there any better description for a penniless rake?)

Lady Maycott released a ridiculous fiction (A lot of us are prone to doing that.)

Miss Maycott, please allow any callers.

I don't care how often he will have us.

It will likely turn the decanter.

It is not the makings of our invitations

Built in pieces, Miss Maycott.

your kindness has no other sound.
(I just loved this.)

You have a bloody clue. (as opposed to the cliched haven't)

I feel so dreadful for her, much of her too.

She sat back on her own feelings

The roads are recovered

I will cut open your hopes
(this one gave me shivers, and is definitely going in the story as part of a rant.)

You can also feed poems, song lyrics or any other type of text to the generator to be bonsai'd; I do this sometimes with long, imagery-rich poems to get title ideas.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


The winner of the Make Happy the Winged Wench giveaway is:

Peggy, who wrote I have on the top of the TBR pile MORTAL HEART, by Robin LaFevers. I really liked the first two books of this trilogy ("His Fair Assassin"), and I'm hoping the third doesn't disappoint.

Peggy, when you have a chance please send the title and author of your BookWish along with your ship-to info so I can get that sent out to you. My thanks to everyone for joining in.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Another NaNo Ten

Ten Things You Can Have for Free

(The NaNoWriMo edition)

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

Need an online story organizer with storage? Hiveword is all that plus 100% free.

Language is a Virus is an amazing site filled with tons of free writing games, prompts, generators, and everything else a scribe might need to inspire some new ideas (or simply blow off some steam.) My favorite time waster is their electronic poetry hub (like a virtual version of Magnetic Poetry.)

To get first and last names for your characters without slogging through a phone book, try this quickie character name generator.

If you need to put together a novel notebook for NaNo, try a virtual freeware version like AM-Notebook or Keynote, or a test dive into a printable guide full of templates and examples with my own Novel Notebook.

Plot a scene out before you write it with my Scene On-Call Worksheet (and for more on how it works, here's the post I wrote about it.)

Scribe is "a free cross-platform note-taking program designed especially with historians in mind. Think of it as the next step in the evolution of traditional 3x5 note cards. Scribe allows you to manage your research notes, quotes, thoughts, contacts, published and archival sources, digital images, outlines, timelines, and glossary entries. You can create, organize, index, search, link, and cross-reference your note and source cards. You can assemble, print, and export bibliographies, copy formatted references to clipboard, and import sources from online catalogs. You can store entire articles, add extended comments on each card in a separate field, and find and highlight a particular word within a note or article. Scribe's uses range from an undergraduate history research seminar to a major archival research project." (OS: Windows, Mac OS X)

If you want a novel plot worksheet that is fast, simple, and only takes 1 page, try my Ten Point Plot Template (and following the template is one I filled out so you can see how it works.)

The End -- Now What? is a free 105 page writing/publishing advice e-book for NaNoWriMo participants from Book Baby, one of the sponsors of NaNoWriMo; download your copy here.

A trick to finding great titles for free: Feed a keyword from your story into the Verse search engine at, then look through the results to see how poets used your keyword in their work. Often you'll find amazing ideas in the lines of e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, John Keats and other passionate versesmiths.

Way of the Cheetah, my how-to writing book, is free for anyone to read, download, print out and share until December 1st.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Make Happy the Winged Wench

Last night the Publishing Fairy dropped by to give me grief about how I've been too busy writing to pay any attention to her. I explained that this month I'm ghost-writing and NaNo'ing at the same time, but she thought those were lousy excuses. One day I'd like to see her try. Anyway, to appease her (and prevent her from cursing my WIPs) I'm giving her today's post and the chance to grant a BookWish* for one of my readers.

If you'd like to be the one for whom the wand waves, in comments to this post name a book you've just read that you really enjoyed (or if you haven't read anything enjoyable recently, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST Monday, November 10th, 2014. I'll choose one name at random from everyone who participates and grant the winner a BookWish. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet EXCEPT Keita (involves NaNoWriMo blackmail, ha), even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*A BookWish is any book of the winner's choice available for order online and that costs up to a maximum of $30.00 U.S. dollars (I'll cover any additional shipping costs involved.)

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Sub Op

SF/F e-zine Diabolical Plots is looking for fiction submissions: "Genres: science fiction, fantasy, horror (everything must have speculative element, even horror) . . . Speculative fiction. Everything should have a speculative element–that includes horror. Feel free to mix in other genres at will–a fantasy mystery or a science fiction romance. Things that we tend to really like: Weird ideas or combinations of ideas we haven’t seen before; Sense of wonder; Strong character and plot arcs; Relatable protagonists (not necessarily likeable, not necessarily reliable); Strong worldbuilding, hinting at more to see around the edges of the story; Philosophical food-for-thought; Straightforward, easily readable style." Also: "We want to see stories from any and all demographics of people and about any and all demographics of people. Women or men or transgender or genderqueer, people of color or Caucasian, straight or gay or bisexual or asexual, disabled or abled or superabled, aliens or robots or fey or talking animals (maybe even humans!). We’re sure there are some we’ve neglected to mention, but that was not meant as a slight if it’s the case. The world is made of all kinds of people, and we want to hear from all of them." Length: "2000 words or less"; Payment: "6 cents per word". No reprints, electronic submissions only -- and an important note here: "We read submissions blind, with no author name. Be sure to remove all mentions of your name from the manuscript before submitting." Reading period for fiction submissions: December 1-December 31st, 2014

Friday, November 07, 2014

Save 33,000ish seconds

Whether you're a fan of LEGOs or The Hobbit, you will probably love this (contains narration and sound effects, for those of you at work):

(Video link nicked from Gerard at The Presurfer)

Thursday, November 06, 2014

NaNo the First Week

Thoughts from the trenches:

Night Before: Why did I pick this idea? I'm not ready to write this. I should lie to everyone and say my eye infection came back and I can't see my computer monitor. No one will expect me to write half-blind. Only then I'll burn in Hell. Okay, using this idea for NaNoWriMo, or burning in Hell, which is worse . . . .

Day One: So silly to be scared of this. Crashed rig, first thing this morning! Wonderful scene to write. Feel so much better about the idea. Oh, and must remember this is a straight historical romance, and somehow resist the urge to turn 18th-century England into alternate universe populated by six-foot-tall sentient bunnies.

Day Two: Enter the Colonel. A bit tight-lipped but very dashing and manly; I love him already. I think his steward could work in a secondary romance with the vicar's wife. Might have to kill off the vicar and see. Obviously love the steward too much. Rabbits still trying to get in the story.

Day Three: My family forgot I'm a writer. I guess it was all those months I spent recovering from the eye surgery. But still, really, popping in to ask a dumb question Every. Five. Minutes? Okay, so now I have to get serious. The next person who interrupts me while I'm writing is going to be abducted by six-foot-tall sentient bunnies who have inexplicably acquired a taste for human flesh and are presently starving. Kidding. Hmmmm. Wouldn't a story with rampaging giant zombie bunnies be cool, though?

Day Four: I don't have to kill off the vicar, hooray! I'm writing in a visiting, bitterly unhappy widowed sister who makes everyone miserable, especially the vicar's sweetheart of a wife. She'll be a great foil for my female protag, plus I can redeem her. Maybe. Not sure, as she's seriously miserable. Then there's the village doctor, who I might keep in London for a few more chapters. Doctors are always waaaay too interesting as characters for me. Also rabbits persisted in showing up all over the main house at Netherfield, so I surrendered and wrote them into the setting. Should keep them from turning into zombies.

Day Five: Why do these people keep asking me to cook for them? Don't they know that NaNoWriMo is the real reason God created takeout?

Day Six: (technically, it's 12:09 am) Cooked for my family anyway. Was good for me; I've been getting so sucked into both projects I needed to come up for air. Editor happy. Writing buddies are inspiring me. NaNo is great. All I have to do is something with all these blasted rabbits . . . .

So how has your first week gone so far, my fellow NaNoers? Let us know in comments.

Image Credit: pavila1 ~

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Fake Covers, Real Inspiration

If you want to make up a cover for your NaNoWriMo novel (or any other story) but aren't feeling particularly inspired by anything, trying playing with this Fake French novel cover art generator.

Three of my results:

I really love the broken window and the open-book pages designs, and armed with my own camera I know I can come up with something very similar (or even better.) I'm not a huge fan of using museum art for book covers, but #3 might work for a more literary writer.

If you don't have a camera or aren't interested in photography, you can always look for similar images on stock photo sites like, or (I found the cover image for my NaNo novel Lord of Midnight there.) Prices vary, but it's possible to find something (like mine) that works for around $1.00. offers free images, too, so if you're cash-strapped you might check there.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Speedy Links

I noticed when I was over on the NaNoWriMo forums this one post with a megalist of helpful writing articles. Things like this are definitely worth checking out when you have time, but they're not exactly time-savers. Since I know a bunch of sites where you can get a direct answer to a writing-related problem very quickly, I thought I'd put together my own list of speedier links:

Acronymer -- you've got an acronym, now you need to figure out what words the letters stand for. Feed your 2-6 letter acronym to this one and it will instantly generate some suggestions (as in LYNN = Linear Y-value Network Node)

Chaotic Shiny's Place Name Generator -- need a geographic landmark name fast? Use this generator.

Character Feelings Table -- Julia West put this together as a reference for character emotions. Can be a great prompt source when you're not sure how your character is feeling at the moment, or you need a word to express the intensity of your character emotions.

Complete Friday 20 Index -- a quick source for answers to a bunch of writing-related questions posted here on the blog during the old Friday 20 sessions, indexed by subject and listed by question with links to my answers.

Index of Freeware & Online Tools for Writers -- I need to update this (badly) but many of the links are still viable, and may be of help when you need a free program or specific tool.

Invent-a-Word -- when you need to coin a new word but can't think of one, this prefix/suffix words overlapper generator can be a huge help.

Job Title Generator -- some are silly, but others are pretty interesting. Even if you just need a place holder/easily-searched-and-replaced type title until you can think up a better one, quite helpful.

OneLook Reverse Dictionary -- for when you have a definition or concept for which you need a word. Describe it in the search box, click and get a related words list.

Pseudo-Elizabethan Place Name Generator -- for those times in the story when you immediately need 100 Dickensian/UK-flavored place names. Seriously, I love this one; much of the names generated are consistently inspiring.

Seventh Sanctum -- Aka generator heaven. An index and links to the specific writing-related generators can be found on this page.

Tip of My Tongue -- an actual search engine for that one word you can almost remember. Enter letters, partial word fragments, what it sounds like, what it means and get back a list of possible solutions.

Word Navigator -- a wordsmith's mini-toolkit; enter a prefix, suffix or word and this generator will find words that start, end or contain it, new words made from the letters, words found within it and much more.

Wordle -- create word clouds from any text; extremely helpful in creating titles, story ideas and more (I love to feed it parts of stories, poems or songs and see what comes up in the cloud; I get a ton of title ideas that way.)

Writer's Knowledge Base -- Elizabeth S. Craig's search engine can find the writing-related online help you need very fast.

Monday, November 03, 2014

NaNoisms Ten

Ten Things Writers Say, and What They Really Mean

(The NaNoWriMo edition)

Come and be my NaNo writing buddy?

Don't make me go through this insanity alone. Please. I'm begging here.

Finally, a chance to do some real writing!

Finally, a chance to lock myself in the spare bedroom, turn down my computer speakers and play Candy Crush for three hours.

I don't yet have a title for my NaNo novel.

I'm not telling you the title of my NaNo novel because it's so good you'll steal it and tell everyone you thought it up and get published and then I'll have to one-star review and face in all your novels at the bookstore for the rest of my life.

I join in NaNoWriMo every year because I love it.

I hate this. Why did I do this to myself again? Because I'm crazy. Seriously. Calling the therapist as soon as I get my 1667 words for the day done. I swear.

I love all my friends cheering me on and encouraging me to write.

I'm Tuckerizing and then brutally slaughtering the next ass who asks me if I'm done yet.

My wordcount? I don't know, somewhere in the high five digits.

If you use two decimal places.

Once I finish NaNoWriMo I'm going to edit my novel and submit it to a publisher.

Once I finish NaNoWriMo I'm going to take this stack of crap into the backyard and burn it. Unless you read it for me, and love it to pieces, and tell me I'm the greatest writer who ever lived. Because I am. Look, just promise read it and lie to me, okay?

This is all I wanted to do in November.

This will get me out of all the lame holiday stuff my parents want me to do in November.

Writing a novel in 30 days is the most fun you can have as a writer.

Actually, no. It's gloating over the remainder titles at the Dollar Store, putting in fifteen requests under fake names for your own book at the local library, then sitting and pretending to write in the cafe where that really cute barista can watch you battle your non-existant literary demons. And there should be M&Ms in there somewhere. Like a pound of M&Ms.

You're not joining in? But you'll miss out!

Talk me out of this, please. Hurry.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Spec-Fic Contest

The Friends of the Merrill Collection are holding a Spec-Fic short story contest: " All entries submitted to the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest must have a speculative fiction element (see the FAQ page for our definition). As we are no longer posting the winning stories on the website, there are no restrictions on content or subject matter. All entries must be previously unpublished." Length: up to 6K; Prizes: "First Place: $500.00 (CDN); Honourable Mentions (2): $50.00 (CDN) each." There is an entry fee for this one: "All stories submitted to the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest must be accompanied by a $5.00 (CDN) entry fee. This fee is used to fund the winners’ purse and all funds raised in excess of that amount are used by the Friends of the Merril Collection to support the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy at the Toronto Public Library." No reprints, electronic submission only, see contest page for more details. Submissions period opens November 14th, 2014 (do not submit before); Deadline February 15th, 2015.

I generally avoid posting contests or sub ops with entry fees, but reading this in their guidelines persuaded me to make an exception: "We know that for many writers the idea of entry fee based contests is a touchy subject, both because of the fraudulent practices that choke the field like the risen dead clawing their way free from rotting loam, and because of the idea of the fees themselves. We, the Friends of the Merril Collection, would like to make very clear the fact that we are not charging “reading fees”. We are running a contest to raise funds to aid the Merril Collection, and to raise awareness of the Collection. We hope you will visit the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy website, or better still, join us at The Lillian H. Smith Branch of the Toronto Public Library for readings, exhibits, discussions and other special events! Your entry fees and donations will help the Friends continue to offer great programming throughout the year."

An excellent way to use the funds, I think, so bravo, Friends of the Merrill.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Here We Go

Today begins National Novel Writing Month, and for the next thirty days I'll be writing my way toward the 50K finish line. I've posted my wordcount widget and unofficial NaNo badges here, and as I have in years past I'll be posting updates, detailed notes on my progress and possibly some peeks at the story over on the stories blog.

Whenever I join in NaNoWriMo I like to set up in advance a reward for reaching the 50K finish line. Just as I was mulling over what that should be for 2014, our mail carrier stopped in with a package from B&N for me:

I forgot I had these on backorder, and it seemed like the universe was giving me a nudge, so the book and CD will wait until I finish NaNo (and if I don't reach 50K, I'll give them away to someone else, which will really hurt.)

If you're likewise diving into the madness, let us know in comments.

And we're off -- everyone, break a keyboard!