Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best of PBW 2015

On the last day of every year my tradition is to sort through the archives to see how things went, what I accomplished (or didn't) and get some ideas on ways in which to improve things with PBW and my writing life.

I continued my themeless trend of 2014 by not picking a theme for 2015 (or if I did, I can't find the post), but I did talk a bit about ghost writing, and how well my transition to becoming a full-time freelance ghost writer worked out. I finally found the nerve to end things with the agent, which was very tough but also my first significant step toward indy publishing.

Downsides were surprisingly minimal this past year, or maybe they just seem that way by comparison to all the scares and bears of 2014. All of the things that made me unhappy in my professional life vanished once I quit traditional publishing, and 2015 has been one of the better years in my personal life, so I see it as a win/win. While touring colleges for my kid I did get a chance to briefly revisit Savannah, my favorite American city, which made me quite happy. I didn't do too many new things, but the few I tried were fun, like signing up for Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program.

My writing life changed for the better in many major ways in 2015. On my own I managed to build a nice list of clients over the last twelve months. Although NDAs prevent me from talking about my work now, I walloped 2015 for completed writer-for-hire works (around 800K total), rejuvenated my love of writing, saw my work return to several bestseller lists, and established a reliable, livable income. And I didn't have to promote a single thing I wrote all year which, let me tell you, was absolutely wonderful. I also continued to write for my readers almost every week online via Just Write, and completed Club Denizen and Ghost Writer; and began work on Twenty-One, the first SF story I've written since 2009. If I nailed anything in 2015, it was definitely writing.

Here's a look back at what I think were the best posts of 2015:

January: Ban It Ten, Not So Smart, Story Carding

February: Ugly Beautiful, 5 Flickr Photo Freebie Sources, Thumb Rules

March: Blogger SPAM, Falling Up, WFH No-Nos

April: New Venture, Necessary Weapons, Walking It

May: Better Writing Days, Gone Post, Personal Legends

June: Toes and Throws, Secret Covers, Q&A with LJ Cohen

July: Pic Ten, Calendar Recycled Pocket Journal, Yes, Europeople, We Have Cookies

August: Summer at the Shelter, Creative Space, Nom Nom Nom Ten

September: Foot Shot Ten (also the most popular post of 2015 on PBW), Free Pics (Weekly!), Color Week #5: Color Collection Notebook

October: NaNoPrep Ten, Titlepalooza, Everywhere

November: Lost in the Details, Blockbuster Ten, NaNoNag #3

December: Gift Pass Ten, 100, Recycled Gift Wrap #2

Welcome 2016. Since I'm in a good place, may you help everyone else make at least one of their dreams or wishes come true.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sub Op

I spotted this sub op in the antho market listings at

"Announcing open submissions for Triangulation: Beneath The Surface, Parsec Ink’s speculative fiction annual for 2016. We’re looking for outstanding speculative fiction from new and established writers. Impress us with your best interpretation of our theme. Be creative, be unique, show us what hides, lurks, or thrives…beneath the surface.

Theme: Beneath the Surface

Submissions Open: December 1st 2015

Submissions Close: February 29th, 2016

Word Count: We will consider fiction up to 6,000 words. There is no minimum word count.

Genre: We are a speculative fiction market. We accept science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories. Please do not send stories without any speculative element.

Compensation: 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).

Rights: We purchase North American Serial Rights, and Electronic Rights for downloadable version(s). All subsidiary rights released upon publication.

Submissions: We do not accept reprints, multiple submissions, or simultaneous submissions. If we reject a story before the end of the reading period, feel free to send another.

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.

How To Submit: Electronic submissions make our lives easier. Please upload your story via Submittable. If this is your first time submitting to a publication that utilizes Submittable, you will need to create an account with them. It’s free.


Manuscript Format: Please use industry standard manuscript format. We’re not testing you to see if you can follow each and every niggling detail, we just want a manuscript that is easy for us to read.

We accept manuscripts in the following formats:

.doc or .docx (MS Word)
.rtf (Rich Text Format — generic document format that most word processors can create)
Editorial Process: We will aim to read submissions as they are received. If a story doesn’t work for us, we’ll reject it. If we think the story has great potential but isn’t quite there yet, we might do a rewrite request. If we love it, we’ll accept it. If we can’t make up our minds, we will request to hold onto it for a while for further consideration. If we send you a hold request and you have something else that would fit the theme, feel free to submit it. After a story is accepted, the only changes that we will make will be minor line edits and formatting fixes.

Response: We aim to make final decisions by March 31st.

Eligibility: All writers, including those who are known or even related to the editorial staff, are permitted to submit to the Triangulation anthology. That doesn’t mean we’ll automatically publish them; just that we’re willing to look at their work."

The submission guidelines page can be found here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Marked as Read

This month I've been forcing myself to clean out my two oldest online mailboxes. I've kept them going since I opened them back in 2000 and 2004 respectively, and they've always been cluttered. I save a lot of e-mails every week. Some I want to read twice, or put off until I have the time to write a thoughtful answer. Others are documentation of some business deal I forgot to print out. But there are hundreds of old e-mails I've also saved because I don't want to let them go.

One box is finally cleared out; I read through over 300 e-mails dating back to 2007 before finally clicking on each tiny box to mark them as read. One last time I got to see some of the highlights and low points of last eight years of my professional life, business deals and choices, and colleagues who contacted me at various times over the course of my career. The book I could write about Publishing, oy. But I'd rather simply remember the good things and the decent people as I consign all of it to the pro history vault. I do wish all the folks I've met over the years the very best.

I did see some correspondence that proved very hard to mark as read. It consisted of e-mails from people who have since gone onto the next place, and while I've accepted that, feelings for them still linger. Frank, I will always wonder what that first book of yours would have been like to read. Anne, I wish I could have met you and thanked you in person, just once. Monica, I still miss you and your wonderful storytelling. I saved all those e-mails I guess because it helped me to reread them and hear those voices again. Less painful but still pang-filled is a copy of my old blogroll HTML, which I e-mailed to myself in case I accidentally deleted it. Although most of those blogs have vanished, and their writers have been gobbled up by Facebook and Twitter, sometimes it's nice to remember how it used to be back in the early days of blogging (and maybe work on making this year on PBW better.)

It does feel better to finally let go of all these saved messages. Clean-slate good. I can keep moving forward, stop clinging to reminders of the past, and stick with the friends and colleagues who still want to keep in touch. And maybe figure out how to stop hoarding e-mails . . . .

Monday, December 28, 2015

Secret Santa Books

I mentioned last month that I was signing up for Library Thing's Secret Santa event, which is a surprise book exchange between members during the holidays -- and this is what Santa delivered:

Ah, this is so much fun. I love surprise books. Let's open it up and see what I scored:

Hooray! I have read the Bill Bryson, but someone nicked my copy. I was planning to buy another to add to my Bryson keeper shelf, so very pleased to have it so I can read it again. Back when I was in high school Sylvia Plath was my favorite poet (big surprise there, eh?) and I bought the edited/censored edition of Ariel, which is now too old to handle. I'm anxious both to reread it and see what's in the restored edition. I've read several of John Keegan's books -- he's an amazing nonfic military writer -- but not this one. All three books are perfect choices for me.

And in case you're curious, here are the books I sent as Secret Santa for my recipient:

Soulless by Gail Carriger -- hilarious steampunk at its best.

Raven Black by Anne Cleeves -- my Secret Santa in 2014 sent this to me, and I enjoyed it so much I bought the series. Ruthless writer, great puzzles.

Play Dead by Anne Frasier -- Amazing writing. Amazing series. Just amazing.

Black Tupelo by Anne Frasier -- You can't have too much Anne Frasier.

Chalice by Robin McKinley -- this is a book I give often to folks who write or enjoy reading different YA. Really interesting characters and world-building.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: More on Twenty-One, (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 33.

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

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Write! Free

I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays. I spotted this Write! freeware over at "It does not get in the way of your creativity. It helps you be productive when you write or edit. It connects you with other people when (and only when) you need it. Yet Write! provides enough functionality for when you switch from "write drunk" to "edit sober" mode, you can stay as productive and creative as after a bottle of Chardonnay.

Even though it's trendy in the software development community these days, we chose to abandon being mobile-first and browser-based, but set on an alternative path of native desktop responsiveness, performance and experience over the overhyped browser-based-everything. That being said, the much hyped cloud-everything does have a point, so Write! is set to be deeply integrated with the cloud: your drafts, notes, documents and research materials all synced. Another big "online" feature we want to focus on is collaboration and digital asset management integrated right into the text processor.

You can think of Write! as a lightweight combination of a distraction-free editor, Evernote app, a bit of Wordpress post editing UI, some formatting features of Word, and even some IDE mechanics, from which we borrow how auto-complete or text folding works."

A bit too technical for someone as allergic to devices as me, but it seems like something you gadget-savvy scribes might like. You can see the features here, and I particularly liked this bit: "Every account starts with the Pro version of Write! and falls back to the free version after one month, should you decide not to subscribe." The pro version is $4.99 a month. Looks to be Windows but you might want to check into that.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Wishing You

Image credit: egal

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Recycled Gift Wrap 3

I'm pretty sure most of you thrifty souls out there already know this way to recycle a handled store bag into a gift bag, but I'll show how I do it just in case there's still someone out there throwing them away. For this extremely easy project you'll need a handled paper store bag, a picture, old Christmas card or pretty paper to cover the bag logo, tape or glue or double-stick tape, and some scissors for any necessary trimming.

I brought this store bag home when I bought a gift at Bath & Body Works (and I always save their bags to recycle them because they're clean, usually unwrinkled, and all around nice to work with):

All you have to do with a store bag like this is cover up the logo with a seasonal image that has matching or complimentary colors. Here's a pic I printed out, trimmed, taped over the logo and also used it as the gift tag:

Or to make it a double-recycled bag, use the front of an old Christmas card to cover the logo:

Be creative with what you use as your cover image. A family photo would be terrific -- or how about a photo of the recipient instead of a gift tag? This is also a great project for kids, who can draw or color the cover pic for the bag.

For this one I salvaged this piece of holgraphic card stock with a beautiful snow flake from an old origami kit box:

You can also layer pics and things, like this variation with a piece of holographic paper and a snowflake I cut out from bond paper:

New gift bags can be costly, so every time you recycle a store bag this way you'll definitely save $$$. Get into the habit of saving your store bags, and you'll always have one ready to recycle for those times when you run out of wrapping paper, or have a hard-to-wrap gift, too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Recycled Gift Wrap 2

Okay, deadline done and I'm back. To continue with my posts on how to make your own gift wrap by recycling paper and some other items you may have around the house, today I'll show you how to turn a plain brown bag into a neat gift container.

For this project you will need a small brown paper bag, a sheet of white paper, tape, and scissors. Some optional items to use: double-stick tape, glue, stapler, old flat Christmas ornament or a small candy cane. I got this bag when I bought some cards at the market:

Accordion-fold the top of your paper bag six or seven times:

Place your gift or treat inside the bag now, and then fold the top accordion fold you've made in half, to form a fan shape:

Tape the back of the two sides of the top fold together (you can also staple them if you want):

Cut a snowflake out of your white paper (if you don't know how, Martha Stewart has a photo gallery with simple instructions here) and tape (or glue) to the front of your bag:

You can add a little candy cane on top of the snowflake as extra decoration:

Or use an old Christmas ornament:

You can do this with just about any size plain paper bag; all it has to be is flat at the top so you can fold it. It also makes a neat, inexpensive party-favor bag during the holidays, birthdays or any special occasion.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Off to Write

I'm unplugging today to finish up some work. I may also be off tomorrow. See you when I get caught up.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Recycled Gift Wrap 1

This week I'll show you how to make your own gift wrap by recycling some old paper, sacks, and shopping bags, and using a few ordinary things you probably have around the house:

We'll start with the big sheets of paper on the bottom, which is old, wrinkled newsprint that a store employee wrapped around some glass jars I bought. Usually people throw this away, but it's actually great paper to recycle as gift wrap.

For this you will liquid food coloring, water, and (optional) an old clean sponge, and a small plastic cup. First, spread out some old newspaper to protect your work area. Since we'll be using food coloring to dye the paper, you may also want to put down some plastic or protective sheeting under the newspaper to prevent the colors from bleeding through the paper and staining your surface (I used the old metal table on our porch as my work surface, as it can't be stained.)

Wet your paper (which will immediately remove all wrinkles and creases from it) and spread it out on the newspaper:

Dribble some drops of food coloring directly onto the wet paper:

Add some dribbles of another color:

As you work the colors are going to spread like watercolor paint. Now add a third color. If you want more control over where the color goes on the paper, apply with a sponge, as I did here with the blue:

Also, if you'd like to add a subtle pattern of circles, apply the color by dipping the rim or bottom of a small plastic cup into your food coloring, as I did here on another sheet with the red:

Which turns out like this:

Let your paper dry for about an hour, and it will be ready to use:

Some other tips:

If you don't want to get food coloring stains on your fingers, wear plastic gloves as you work.

Carefully lift and tip the wet paper back and forth to help the colors spread.

For lighter colors, dilute your food coloring with a little water.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: A couple more pages on Twenty-One (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 29 -- and sorry it's not more this week; the holidays and work are kicking my butt. :)

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

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas at the Shelter

I paid a holiday visit to the no-kill cat shelter to make a donation and visit with the kitties, and here are some who kindly posed for me and my new camera (and if for some reason the slideshow doesn't show up on the blog, click here to go directly to it at my Photobucket account):

Donating to animal shelters and other rescue organizations is one of the nicest things you can do during this time of year. Cash is always welcome and much appreciated. Shelters also need food, cleaning supplies and other practical items to help care for their furry ones. Call your local shelter or check their web site to find out what they need most.

If you're ready to add a new member to the family, adopting a pet from a shelter is a marvelous way to provide a homeless animal with the home and love they need. You can also stop in at your shelter to spend some time with the residents if they allow visitors, or to volunteer as a helper. It really only takes a little time and care to do your part, and what you get back in return is absolutely priceless.

Friday, December 18, 2015


I'm still off writing and dealing, but here's a thoughtful street interview video that asks: If you could have anything in the world for Christmas, without limitation, what would you choose? Watch for some surprising answers (with narration and background music, for those of you at work):

What Do You Want for Christmas? | A Short Film from The Right Brothers on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Off to Finish

I have a couple of work and personal projects to finish up before the holidays arrive, so I'm unplugging to attend to them. While I'm away, here are some holiday links for you:

I always visit NORAD's Santa Tracker site each December, which has updated and looks very cool this year. If you go to Santa's village and visit the arcade, you can play a new game every day until Christmas.

Snowday's holiday classic Create Your Own Snowflake site is also back for another holiday season of making virtual snowflakes. I've already made my first one, and no doubt I will be making more.

Every year I make a point to revisit Jacquie Lawson's animated e-card The Snow Dog because it just makes me happy.

See you on Sunday for Just Write.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


According to my dashboard thing Blogger now has a featured post widget you can add to your blog:

"As bloggers, we all know how important it is to post frequently in order to encourage readers to come back. Of course, the more you post, the more quickly your posts slip down into the archives, making it harder for your readers to discover everything you’ve posted that they might be interested in.

To help make it easier to showcase the posts you want your readers to see, we’ve created a new gadget called Featured Post. With Featured Post, you can choose posts you’ve shared on your blog and highlight them wherever you’d like."

With eleven years of almost daily posts I think I'd probably spend the rest of my days digging through the archives to find everything I'd like visitors to read, and I'm not crazy about tweaking the sidebar every week for new stuff, so I won't be using it. But if you don't have to deal with a lot of content on your blog, this might come in handy (especially if you're an author on Blogger promoting a new release or holding a giveaway.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Quick Gift Ten

Ten Things You Can Make or Put Together as Last-Minute Holiday Gifts

Audio Car Package: Choose an audio book for your recipient, and package with a travel mug and some envelopes of their favorite hot beverage mix for a nice treat they can use the next time they head out on the road. One of my favorite all-time audio books is Powers That Be by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, marrated by Star Trek's own Marina Sirtis.

Book Stack: Buy your favorite novel series or some books in the same genre, stack, and tie a ribbon around them like they're a box. Use a bookmark as the gift tag. See some other fun ways to gift-wrap books over at Book Riot here.

Homemade Bread: One of our neighbors always gives us a loaf of her homemade bread as a holiday gift, and it's one of my favorite treats every year. Make your favorite bread, wrap in a pretty tea towel and place in an inexpensive bread basket. If they have kids, add some jars of peanut butter and jelly. Don't want to make a whole loaf of bread? Go for a batch of homemade cinnamon rolls, buttermilk biscuits, or garlic knots.

First Aid for Kisses Kit: Glue a piece of white cardstock to the top of a small empty tin. Write "First Aid Kit for" at the top of the cardstock and draw a lips puckered for a kiss in red marker below it. Fill the tin with a stick of lip balm, disposable mini toothbrushes and breath mints.

Framed Pic or Poem: Print out a nostalgic photo, or handwrite or print out a favorite poem, place in a pretty frame.

Pre-Addressed Book: Buy an inexpensive address book and fill it with the names, updated addresses and phone numbers of mutual family and friends. I honestly wish someone would do this for me.

Quick Fabric Placemats: For each placemat cut two 16" X 8" rectangles from matching or contrasting fabrics, pin together right sides facing out, sew 1/2" around the entire border, trim the edges with pinking sheers. You can do the same thing to make coasters; just downsize your fabrics to two 4" or 5" squares.

Sugar Scrub: Whip up a homemade batch of sugar scrub (click here for 21 recipes) and place in a mason jar. Write the ingredients on a notecard and tie with a piece of ribbon around the lid.

Tea Lover's Stocking: Fill an inexpensive stocking with individually-wrapped tea bags, a pretty mug, a jar of honey, a small package of cookies, etc. You can also make individually-wrapped tea bags into a wreath by following the directions over at here.

Writer's Block: To making an uplifting paperweight, use an indelible marker to write short, encouraging phrases on a 4" square wooden block paperweight. For a more elaborate version, purchase a photo-frame block (like this one from Pier One) and insert inspiring quotes and photos in the frames.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: More on Twenty-One (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 24.

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

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, December 12, 2015


Here's something you can do for someone you love during the holidays, and all it costs is some time, typing, old photos and a bit of memory-surfing. This is for my guy:

The 100 Reasons Why I Love You

1. All the beaches we've shared and all the sunsets we've watched.

2. Surprising me at Christmas with the Kitchen Aid I was always too cheap to buy. God, I love that thing.

3. Never walking out on me in labor and delivery, even when the nurses thought you were going to faint and told you to.

4. Buying our rather expensive bed because you hated seeing me hobble around in the morning.

5. Cutting the kids' umbilical cords when you were so obviously terrified you'd do it wrong.

6. The way you smiled at me the very first time we met.

7. Driving two thousand miles so our daughter could to see snow for the first time on her eighteenth birthday.

8. How nice you were to Mary Balogh at that writer's conference when we were drafted as her chauffeurs because the other people had bailed on her; this while you had absolutely no idea who Mary Balogh was.

9. Not dying on me from your cancer, or that fall that really should have broken your back and neck and paralyzed you for life. Miracle should be your middle name, actually.

10. Always giving me birthday and holiday cards that have the words "I love you" on them somewhere.

11. Our first date on Hollywood Beach, and later, when it rained.

12. What you wrote on those 517 tiny slips of paper you left scattered them all around the house for me to find.

13. Fixing our neighbor's lawn mower and edger to help save her the repair costs.

14. The doors you always hold open for me and any other female or elderly person within ten feet of us.

15. Warming up bath water on the gas grill for me and the kids when the hurricanes knocked out our power for 21 days.

16. Being there at every single one of the kids' school events, even when you had to drive from work and show up in your uniform.

17. The baby powder rubdowns and the scalp massages.

18. How you smiled when we were serenaded by mariachis at the Copa.

19. Driving my car without complaint when I know how much you utterly despise driving my car.

20. The way you constantly apologize to me every time you get sick.

21. All those phone calls while we were dating. Thousands, I think.

22. Feeding the neighbor's cows.

23. Filling the feeders during the winter because you feel sorry for the birds.

24. Your aftershave. Still drives me insanely crazy for you.

25. Your amazement and wonder the first time I took you inside St. John's to see the stained glass.

26. How you look whenever you wear blue.

27. Cleaning the bathrooms when you know I'd do it.

28. The undying love of little diners that we share.

29. The color of your eyes.

30. Not minding when the daughter and I drag you into yet another Cuban restaurant.

31. The way you looked at me when I was sitting with Ray in the hospital.

32. Your voice, your hands and your nose. Yes, I love your nose (but I love your hands just a tiny bit more.)

33. How you always make the Chinese lady laugh.

34. The hours you'll spend on the phone talking another guy through a problem at work that isn't your problem.

35. How kind you were to my Dad when he began forgetting things.

36. How kind you are to anyone in trouble.

37. How kind you are, period.

38. Your love of wings, which you've never insisted I share.

39. What you said when my dad died.

40. Your tireless obsessions with my pasta sauce and my German chocolate cake.

41. How you kid around with waitresses, and how well you tip them (okay, I help with that last part a little.)

42. How your voice sounded when you said, "It's a little girl."

43. How bewildered you were when I informed you that the pretty lady in the neighborhood who kept stopping by to talk to you was actually trying to hit on you.

44. Refusing to lose your temper even under circumstances that would have pissed off Buddha.

45. Going with me to see Titanic at the over-priced movie theater because everyone said we should, and (despite really liking the movie) being okay with me crying afterward while I swore I'd never watch it again.

46. Cruising around with me to look at houses just because I like to look at houses.

47. Paying a little more at beach hotels so we always have a view of the ocean.

48. Your expression when you watch the Thunderbirds perform at air shows.

49. How you're always willing to have my mom stay with us when she needs looking after.

50. Not caring that I usually smell like the dogs + hand soap instead of eau de something sexy.

51. Always kissing me good night when we go to bed, and again when you leave in the morning for work. Always.

52. Driving all the way to Cedar Key in my car and not bitching about it or making me take a turn at the wheel (and I offered a couple times, remember?)

53. Spending all that time looking for something to fix the lid on my old sewing box that is basically worthless to everyone but me.

54. Going with me to that quilt museum on the way home from Cedar Key and pretending to be interested when the lady volunteers talked to you.

55. Your obsession with wiping out the crab grass. Patton was not this determined.

56. Asking me to come and see every rainbow you've ever spotted.

57. Not getting mad at me for rescuing Skye.

58. Not getting mad about the daughter's pet rats, or the huge cage, or the smell of rat pee that sometimes gets a bit much.

59. Not getting mad whenever any other human being would simply explode.

60. Waiting for me every time I've had surgery, sometimes for very long hours in very small rooms filled with too many people.

61. Giving me your camera when I broke mine.

62. Buying me another camera when I broke yours.

63. Sharing my intense hatred of mobile phones. You, me, and the Amish, baby.

64. Driving me over to see the spectacular Christmas lights at that guy's house when you were tired and probably just wanted to go home.

65. Every time you say "Let's take a little ride."

66. That weekend at the inn by the lake, when we chanced upon the festival at the winery, and that night we sat out on the dock.

67. Letting me help when things are a bit much now versus hanging onto your pride and doing it yourself.

68. Not retiring when you should so the kids can stay on your medical insurance plan a little longer.

69. Going with me to visit family after Thanksgiving dinner instead of taking the usual food-coma nap on the couch like most other men.

70. Insisting we have a real Christmas tree every year.

71. Allowing me to gradually eliminate virtually every fried food from your diet.

72. Driving up the always-scary mountain roads so we could see the Smokies from the highest possible elevation -- in the dead of winter, no less.

73. Being okay with my love of books and quilts when you don't actually like books or quilts.

74. Being fine with taking coffee from home to work every day in reusable cups to save money and waste (which saves us like a hundred bucks every month, btw.)

75. Supporting me 100% when I went freelance, and neither of us knew if I'd make a dime.

76. Not minding my wrinkles, my white hair or my new shoulder problems (because if you do, you've never shown it.)

77. Never once criticizing me for gaining weight at any time I have over the last 24 years.

78. Doing most of the grunt work when we had a booth at MegaCon.

79. Calling me honey or sweetie instead of my name, which you use to only identify me in conversation with other people.

80. Being the only person who didn't bail on me on the worst days of my life. The only person. All of them.

81. The night of your birthday, 2003.

82. Taking care of me, the kids, and basically everything else that Christmas when I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle so badly that I couldn't walk.

83. All the Saturdays and Sundays walking around the flea market just so I could get some exercise.

84. Your lifelong determination to prune trees so that they have perfect balance. Bonsai masters probably should worship you.

85. Bathing and brushing out the dogs, with which you have more patience than anyone else.

86. Teasing the daughter about her hipster outfits.

87. Taking us out for hot chocolate and cake in the winter and sitting outside in the cold on the cafe balcony when I know how much you hate being cold.

88. Being okay with my crazy idea to open a bed-and-breakfast even after it (thankfully) passed.

89. The things you say when you talk in your sleep.

90. The nights sitting and talking by the firepit.

91. How much you adore our children. They really have no idea, but I do.

92. Your complete inability to end a phone conversation quickly.

93. Always checking in with me every day you're out of town.

94. Asking me to marry you every day for six months.

95. The years you spent taking care of that miserable abusive bastard who treated you like crap for most of your life, simply because he was your dad and you loved him.

96. Letting me keep and look after a nineteen-year-old cat, although all he mostly does is sleep, puke and miss the litter box.

97. Being the kind of man whom other people admire, like or love. I actually don't know a single person who dislikes you.

98. Having no hobbies because you'd rather spend the time taking care of our home and family.

99. Choosing me as the first woman you asked out after your ex heartlessly dumped you.

100. Sticking with me through better or worse, including thirty-one years of our rollercoaster relationship, my arthritis, my three bouts of cancer and when I started going blind, every single one of my surgeries, the scares, the waiting, menopause, and all the other scary bad times in my life. That's why I don't need a list to know just how much you love me, and how blessed I am to have you as my guy.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Tropical Christmas

This lovely timelapse video gives you a peek at what the holidays are like for folks in L.A. (with background music, for those of you at work):

Beach Cities Christmas from Brian Hawkins on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sub Op

I spotted this open call for submissions over at the Paying Market forum on, and while I have absolutely no idea what interactive fiction is -- yes, I am that old -- I'm sure you all do:

"sub-Q is an interactive magazine for interactive fiction.

We are a market for F/SF, horror, mystery, and mash-up interactive fiction. Our authors have had prior works featured in Weird Tales, Strange Horizons, Apex, and Wired, among others. Please see our website for examples of what we are publishing. We like beautiful, moving prose, but we also like pulpy fun! Don’t self-reject. Let us see what you’ve got! If you’d like to submit something, but you’re not sure it’s a good fit, feel free to query via our contact form. We are happy to work with you to achieve your goals.

What We Want

Stories that can be told only on a device (using choice, audio, and/or animation)
Fiction, poetry, and webtoons/sequential art welcome
About 3500 words of one-time user experience (about five minutes of playthrough), 5000 words of all possible user experiences
F/SF, horror, mystery, magic realism, mash-ups
Showing the reader things they’ve never seen before
1st or 3rd person POV

Not Looking For:

Fan fiction
Revenge fantasy
Excessive sex, violence, or profanity

Guidelines are subject to change. Please review before submitting.


Our rates for text-based interactive fiction are based on prose word count.

Original: $0.06 USD/word for prose; $0.03 USD/word for interactivity ($0.09 USD/word for both)
Reprints: $0.03 USD/word for prose; $0.015 USD/word for interactivity (0.045 USD/word for both)"

For more information, go to sub-Q's web site here.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Coaster Tags

One little way to go green with your holiday gift-giving this year is to make quilted fabric gift tags that double as coasters, and today I'll show you how. For this project you'll need:

Print Fabric scraps
Muslin scraps (or a fabric light enough to write on)
Narrow ribbon
Fine-point indelible marker
Batting scraps or dryer sheets
Wide masking tape
Sewing thread
Embroidery floss
Sewing and tapestry needles
White notepaper

Optional: Sewing machine, beads, other embellishments

Press all your cloth scraps, and cut the prints and muslin scraps into the size coaster tag you want plus one half inch (so to make a five inch square coaster tag, you'd cut your fabric into 5-1/2" squares.) Cut your batting or a stack of dryer sheets into the exact size of the coaster you want. Place a piece of masking tape across the center on the back of your muslin (like this), turn it over and write the name of your recipient on the front with your marker:

The masking tape is an old quilter's trick to temporarily stabilize the muslin so you can write on it like paper. Once you're finished writing, remove the tape, and stack a square of your print fabric on top of it so the name and the right side of the print are inside:

Place a square of muslin or a stacking of dryer sheets on top of your two squares and pin together:

Sew along the edge of the muslin square all the way around (like the black lines in this pic), leaving a 1-1/2" gap at the bottom. Clip your corners (like this), turn inside out, and press flat with your iron:

Sew closed the turning gap with a blind stitch, cut a heart shape to fit inside the coaster out of your notepaper, and pin the heart to the coaster:

The heart is your stitching guide. Stitch around it with your embroidery thread.

Thread your piece of narrow ribbon through the corner of your coaster:

Tie it to your gift with the ribbon:

Once they're done with their gift they can use the tag as a little coaster:

You can make these in all kinds of variations:

Some tips: Keep all your beading and raised embellishments on the outside edges of the tag so the center remains flat enough to place a cup on later. You don't have to write names on your tags, you can use an initial (like my K coaster above) or something else that identifies your recipient. One quilter I know makes fabric photo Christmas ornaments like this and uses them as gift tags first.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Swanning Around

I finished my latest crazy quilt tote yesterday, and I'm so happy with how it came out I'm going to make you all look at it:

I made every stitch by hand, which is why some of them are a bit uneven, but my stitching is slowly improving:

I've had this swan lace applique for a while, and couldn't figure out how to use it. Finally I just sat down and made it a center motif, and let the subtle colors in it inspire the embellishment beading:

Sometimes I think too much about how to do something, and the solution is always to just do it, trust myself, and see what happens. Even when something doesn't turn out perfect, it still gives me the opportunity to learn from my mistakes (and with this one, about a hundred stitches I had to pick out and do over.)

Working with materials I love also helps. All the backing fabric for this tote is thin, hand-dyed silk that feels like air when you stitch through it. I went crazy with the beading, which is always fun, and used holographic thread, which makes every inch of the tote sparkle. This will be part of a gift for a family friend who is going through a tough time right now, so I poured a lot of love into it, too. Hopefully it carries as many good thoughts and wishes as the beads and stitches.

All that's left is to fill the tote with goodies and make a gift tag. Tomorrow I'll show you how I make fabric gift tags that also work as a little extra gift.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Homemade Ten

I'm hand-making all my holiday gifts this year, and to encourage any you who want to do the same, here are:

Ten Things I Make as Gifts

Apple Basket: Organic green Granny Smith and Red Delicious apples piled in a nice basket are my default gift when I'm visiting someone I don't know for the holidays. Even if they don't want to eat the apples, it makes a pretty centerpiece for their table.

Book Loop: back in 2011 I reinvented the book mark by turning it into a necklace you can wear while you're reading; I also created some interesting variations here, here and here.

Character Cards: If you have a writer pal and want to make something really special for them, try creating a set of character cards based on their story crews. If they haven't yet published or finished writing anything, make up a deck of character idea cards.

Crazy Needlebook: For a friend who sews or quilts, make my Victorian-era needle keeper by following my step-by-step directions and photos here on the Disenchanted & Co. blog.

Framed Paper Roses: Watch this DIY video to learn the simplest way to make roses out of paper. Glue a piece of background paper to the backing of your frame. Glue your roses in rows on top of the paper-covered backing. The variations on this are fun, too -- if the gift is for a musician, make the roses out of old sheet music, book pages for a reader, or old handwritten notes for a writer, etc.

Holiday Story: Write a short story exclusively for your recipient, print it out and put it in a nice binder for presentation. If you're a journal maker you can also make it into book form for them.

Index Card Journal: This was probably my most unusual homemade small journal, and all you need to make your own is an inexpensive boxed pack of index cards, some old tea or coffee to stain the cards, some theme words, and some small bits to decorate the box base.

Natural Sachets: Learn about sachets and find out how to make a variety of floral, herb and spice sachets here, including a drawer sachet you can make from two old handkerchiefs.

Recycled Calendar Pocket Journal: Make a keepsake pocket journal from an old wall calendar by following the steps and photos in this post.

Toriana Market Bag: Another step-by-step post of mine here shows you how to make a strapped messenger-style bag in virtually any size.

What have you made for holiday gifts that your recipients loved? Let us know in comments.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: More on Twenty-One (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 18.

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

Image credit: My kid. :)

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Off to Write

You know you're behind on your blogging when you go to schedule your next day's post at 12:57 am and there isn't one to schedule. I could have sworn I had one in the queue, but alas, no.

Just as well. I'm unplugging today to knock out some work and take care of some housework and errands. We're running a bit behind on Christmas so I'm hoping to catch up this weekend.

Just FYI, I haven't got a lot planned for the holidays on PBW; I do have to work this month so naturally the clients come first. That said, I'm putting together some inexpensive gift ideas and photos to share in upcoming posts (which I will find the time to write, too.) I might also try one or more of Cooking Light magazine's 100 healthy cookie recipes for fun and show you the results. If you want to check them out for your holiday baking see the thumbnail index here. I'll also be continuing to work a little bit on Twenty-One each week.

See you all tomorrow for another Sunday edition of Just Write, and more of Nex's adventures.