Saturday, December 31, 2016

Best of PBW 2016

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.

A lot happened with me professionally in 2016. I successfully negotiated my first publishing contract without an agent, and my work will now be published in French, also a debut for me. I went on my first writing job interview in person since 1989 (which I think is also the last time I put on pantyhose.) I booked ghost writing projects with my clients that will keep me busy writing fiction until Fall of 2017, and probably beyond that. As for the interview, I got the job -- I'm now working as a staff copywriter for a design firm -- and I will be part of a very talented team creating a new quarterly print magazine.

Losing 30 lbs. took almost the entire year, but I did it with sensible, healthy changes to my diet and exercise routine. It was slow and tough, but I hope to keep at it so I can lose the last 20 lbs. I need to shed in order to be at a healthy weight. I also successfully pulled off my secret art project for 2016 with Valerean, my anonymous Tumblr blog, which provided a lovely, private creative outlet. Participating in Library Thing's Early Reviewers Program brought eight free ARCs to my doorstep, saving me $149.27 on my 2016 book budget.

Personally I think I failed as much as I succeeded this past year. I put off trying to figure out indy publishing in 2015, and I haven't gotten back to that (and with my clients and the new job, I probably won't have a lot of time this year to dabble in it.) I let the pinheads annoy me so much I had to unplug from the internet and retreat to the ivory tower for a couple months to cool down. After more than a decade of blogging daily, and writing free fiction for my readers weekly for the last couple years, I had to curtail my posting to twice a week and back-burner the latest free story. I didn't have time to participate in NaNoWriMo last month. I didn't support my writer pals as much as I would have liked to.

In the big-picture sense, 2016 wasn't all sunshine and roses for most of us. I'm not going to get into why (that would attract more pinheads) but I'm sorry that the dark and evil prevailed so often.

Since I've taken off so much time from the blog in 2016 I'm going to skip the usual best-of links list. I'm also not heading into 2017 with a theme or resolutions or a huge list of goals. We live in dangerous times, and it's easy to see the new wave of dark and evil looming on every horizon. I'm simply going to focus instead on my family and friends, the work, and being part of the light -- however I can.

How was 2016 for you? Any plans for 2017? Let us know in comments.

Friday, December 30, 2016

By Way of Santa

These are the first books I'll be reading in January, thanks to my Library Thing Secret Santa. Some amusing, old writer chick trivia: I haven't read MaryJanice Davidson, but I remember her from the heyday of chicklit back when I started PBW. David Weber I've also skipped, but he and I once both wrote in the same universe, and our stories were published together in Baen's The Ring of Fire anthology.

As for the other two, they're also titles I've never read. I didn't know there was a memoir that inspired the film Awakenings, which is one of my favorite Robin Williams movies. Bonk is a scientific look at sex, which should be fun.

Did Santa drop any new books in your stocking? Let us know in comments.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Little Reveal

Since I probably won't have time to do any more with it this year, I thought I'd finally share my secret art project for 2016: Valerean, aka my Tumblr art blog.

I started it on a whim, really. I still miss PBWindow, and I wanted to have a space where I could post photos that I took and show what I made during 2016. I also didn't want to be the author me while I was doing it, or do it every day, or feel any pressure.

Of course I had absolutely no idea how to use Tumblr when I first started, and I'm still pretty clueless, so it's very basic. That said, it was fun to be Valerean for twelve months and share my art with people who didn't know me. I could post pictures of my family and no one batted an eyelash. I found some super inspirational photographers and quilters on Tumblr as well, and followed their blogs so I could watch their projects evolve. Everyone was very kind to me, too (which is why being anonymous has its privileges.)

I have removed some posts that had personal/family stuff involved, but the rest show how creative I've been this past year. If you want to see thumbnails of everything I've posted for the last twelve months, the archive is here.

I don't know if I'll continue posting to it now that I've made it public, but it was definitely a neat project.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Wishing You

Friday, December 23, 2016

Last-Minute Gifts to Make

Ten Things that Make Easy Last-Minute Gifts

Books: For the reader on your list, pick up some of your favorite titles from your local used book store, or find some new reads at your public library's book sale room. Stack, wrap or tie with a ribbon, or place in a reusable tote.

Cookie Exchange: This requires some cooperation from your recipient. Agree to exchange as gifts a batch of your favorite cookies. Once you've made them, pack them in a pretty tin or container (the Dollar Store has great holiday tins), add a bow or tie with a ribbon. Be sure to share your recipe on a note card. This idea is also great as a theme for a Christmas party with friends; everyone brings a batch (my friend Jill holds her cookie exchange every year at Starbucks) and you draw names from a hat for the exchange.

Devoted Day: This is a gift of your time -- make up a coupon for you to spend any day with your recipient doing [fill in the blank]. If you need ideas, you can offer to house clean, babysit, go shopping, hiking, visit a local attraction or just hang out and watch TV. Lovers, you can get even more creative and offer a night. :) Place your coupon in a nice card or clip it to a 2017 calendar.

Dollar Challenge: This is great to do with kids -- you agree to buy each other a gift that costs only $1.00, and go shopping together (and you'll need to shop either at a dollar or thrift store, but that's also fun.) One year my daughter found a little pocket manicure set for me that I still have in my purse.

Flowers: This makes a nice gift when you're visiting someone. Find a pretty bouquet of flowers at your local market (mine have them for under $10.00) and put them in a plain glass vase from Dollar Store. If you want a more ornate vase, check your local Goodwill store. Tie a red, green or white ribbon around the vase, or add some pine needle sprigs or a wrapped candy cane to the arrangement to make it extra festive.

Framed Shot: If you've taken a nice photo of your recipient or someone dear to them during the year, print it out in a 5X7 or 8X10 size and place it in a purchased frame. The Dollar Store has basic frames, but if you want something more elaborate try Hobby Lobby or Target.

Instant Music Collection: Bundle together some CDs you record or purchase that you think your recipient will enjoy. One fun variation is to make some mixes for them to play in the car. My mom did this for me one year with Christmas music.

Snack Bowl: Find a pretty serving bowl at Goodwill or the Dollar Store. Add some bags of microwave popcorn, fresh fruit, hot cocoa mix envelopes, small bags of chips or pretzels, cereal snack mix, etc., wrap with cellophane and crown with a bow. You can tailor this to your recipient, too; I do an exotic tea-and-cookies snack bowl for one of my friends every year (World Market is a great place to find unusual teas and snacks, too.) If you want to make a special but easy snack for the bowl, you can find my no-brainer fudge recipe here.

Stuffed Stocking: For that impossible-to-buy-for person on your list, make or buy a stocking and fill it with something they love. The obvious choice is snacks, but you can also stuff it with small toiletries, crumpled dollar bills (college students love that one), two or three scarves, writer stuff, hand lotion and lip balms, kitchen tools or towels, the ingredients for a recipe, etc. This is also a fun gift to make with small toys or treats for the family pet.

Yarn Basket: For the knitter or crocheter in your life, fill a tote or pretty basket with a project pattern and enough yarn skeins to make it. Be sure you know your recipient's skill level and color preferences before you buy the supplies. You can do a fabric and sewing pattern variation of this for your favorite seamstress.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Working the Holidays

In the past I sometimes tried to take off work for the month of December to enjoy the holidays and recharge my batteries, and Publishing generally cooperated because they shut down almost entirely, too. Since going freelance, however, I've chosen to work seven days a week. I do take time for family dinners and events (and I actually gave myself Thanksgiving Day off this year) but other than that I am writing for at least eight hours every single day of the year.

It's no big deal for me; I'm doing what I love for terrific clients who appreciate me and pay me very well for my efforts. That income covers my kid's college tuition, my bills and keeps the pantry stocked. My guy may have to retire next year, so what I can save also will help when we transition to living on his fixed income. It will be another decade or so before I can retire, so I'm determined to make the most of the income-earning years I have left. If that means working through the holidays, I'm on board.

Family and friends with day jobs and/or who aren't writers -- which, let's face it, is practically everyone in a writer's life -- do not always understand a writer's working holiday. We hear things like, "Oh, you can type that up later" or "Shouldn't you take a break?" or even "Can't you get that done already so we can have a good time?" They seem oblivious to the fact that through the rest of the year we face the same harassment from all directions. During the holidays it's also easy to feel resentful because the day jobbers usually do have weekends and Christmas Day to party while we're stuck in our writing space trying to get things done.

Let's remind ourselves of the universal truths about writing:

1. No one but another writer will ever grasp what you do for your job. So why justify it to people who never will?

2. Writers have a long-standing rep as solitary, long-suffering, socially awkward and badly-dressed hermits. I know, you're thinking, "And why is that a problem?" but the nice people who aren't us don't get it.

3. They will never know what goes into the work, and if they did, they might lock us up.

Seriously, you can navigate the rough waves of a writer's working holiday by using your common sense. Unless you're under a crushing deadline, set aside some time for your friends and family. If you can't, make a date to see them after you slay your deadline (for this you will have to apologize, but it's better than a no.)

Send some cards and/or make a phone call. The reason these people bother you so much is because they care about you. Or they want a gift. Anyway, a cheerful card or a quick fifteen-minute conversation may get you off the hook.

Do group things so you can see as many loved ones as possible in one shot. A family holiday party isn't that difficult to throw together -- have everyone bring a dish and make it pot luck; that's always fun -- and you can check off a bunch of names from your to-see list.

Ask for time off from the family fun as a personal favor for you. I have no problem at all saying to my guy "You can handle dinner for the next three days, okay?" or "I'm going to work at the library today; please walk the dogs for me" any time during the year. This week he's been especially wonderful in helping me out around the house and running errands so I can finish a deadline project today.

Finally, put in the time for family and friends when you need to. It's easy to forget the people you care about when you're buried in the work, but it doesn't hurt to make an effort for them, too. For example: I was going to put up another off-to-write post and unplug today, but I haven't been around much. So here you go, fifteen minutes of me. Now I really am off to write.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Off To Write

I'm finishing up another project for a client, so I'll see you all on Monday.

Monday, December 12, 2016

I Thank You No Ten

Since the holidays are upon us, I thought it might be time for my annual list of:

Ten Things I Do Not Want for Christmas

Assembly Required Objects: I no longer have the ambition, patience or motor skills to fit together nine hundred pieces of chipboard with a thousand little screws that require a special tool that inevitably is missing from the package. Even if it means I can't have a Darth Vader-shaped bookcase (and why would you think I'd want that? Batman is my guy.)

Books That Are Not Books: This includes but is not limited to book safes, book boxes, book-shaped book ends, shelves, stands for other books -- look, I know I love books, but the reading kind, people.

Diet Products: I don't use them. I lost thirty pounds because I became more active, watched my portions and stopped snacking. That's it and that's all I'm doing next year. Heartless of me, I know.

Faux Fur Purses: You don't think they're creepy?

Hairdo Tools: I do not crimp, straighten, curl or blow dry my hair. I wash it and towel/air dry it. If this makes me a cave woman, so be it. I still have more hair than most women my age, so I must be doing something right.

One-Cup Coffee Makers: Sorry, tea drinker. Also, I think they're too expensive, the cup things are weird and (unless you're single or the only coffee drinker in the house) using them is a bit selfish.

Political Junk: Please take your soapbox out of my face and my holiday, thank you.

Satin PJs: If I have to explain this to you, you're too young to know why.

Singing Ornaments: I have about ten million ornaments already, but with my hearing problems when they activate while I'm alone I think someone is in the house with me. I then run out of the house, peer in the windows, debate on calling 911 and generally behave like an idiot. Save me from myself and my lousy eardrums, will you?

What don't you want for Christmas? Let us know in comments.

Friday, December 09, 2016

PBW's Book of the Month

My book of the month for November is Shadowlands and Songs of Light by Kevin Ott. When the author lost his mom suddenly in 2010 he suffered from depression, and this book is about his spiritual quest to heal and find his way out of despair. That he does that with the novels of C.S. Lewis and the music of U2 is what makes it so wonderful.

This is a Christian inspirational work, but don't expect anything stuffy, bland or patronizing. Kevin offers a fresh perspective on healing and faith, as well as an authenticity that is undeniable. Every page makes you feel as if you're having a conversation with the author. It's also such a thoughtful and joyous book that you come away feeling as if you've found a friend. In times of grief there is no better place to turn than to someone who has found the light through loss, and this author is a spiritual lighthouse.

I should also explain why I'm mentioned in the acknowledgments. Kevin and I have been sharing a journal since August of last year. We send it back and forth as we discuss writing, our lives, troubles, hopes and dreams in the pages. I had nothing to do with this book, but the fact that I've been able to share some of the author's journey as a writer has been a wonderful privilege. So was reading his debut work -- I only wish I'd had it when Dad passed away. I highly recommend it to everyone, especially readers who are dealing with grief.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Off to Write

I'm unplugging to finish up a project for a client. See you on Friday.

Friday, December 02, 2016

This and That

Sorry I'm a bit late posting today. I would like to congratulate everyone who participated in National Novel Writing Month; whether you made the 50K goal or not, you are all winners in my book. My advice is to now step away from your manuscript, take what I'm sure is a well-earned break, and enjoy the holidays (if you're inclined to work on your novel a bit more this month, that's fine, too.)

Library Thing is holding their annual SantaThing, a secret Santa book-giving event for LT members that I participate in every year. Here are some of the details, quoted from their info page:

"Who can do this?

Anyone from anywhere can do this. Unfortunately, for various reasons, we can only ship to countries on this list without extra permission. In order to sign yourself (or a non-LibraryThing member) up, you have to have a LibraryThing membership—which is free. To become a LibraryThing member, go to and click "Join now".

What do I agree to?

You agree that you're doing this for fun. By signing up you agree to take what comes and to be pleasant about it. This is about the giving. Things might go wrong. Unless LibraryThing employees run off to Mexico with your money, you don't have a case against us.

How does this work?

Fill out the form above, including a valid PayPal receipt number.
You can make yourself the recipient or someone else. You can enter as many times as you like!
On Sunday, December 4th at 5pm Eastern, LibraryThing will stop allowing people to sign up for the SantaThing program.
Shortly afterwards, we will tell you who you are matched up with by sending a profile comment. If you entered multiple times, for yourself or others, you will also need to pick for multiple members.
The gifts you pick cannot exceed the total chosen by your Santee. No single item can cost less than $2.50.
You will have until Monday, December 12th at 9am Eastern, to decide what you want to give. We will give you a web form to fill out, with a space for a message.

LibraryThing employees/elves will order everything from the bookseller you choose. We will pay the shipping; if anything is left over, we get that money."

For more information, see their information page here.

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Tale of One Book

Today I'm going to be a reader instead of a writer, and tell you a tale of one book. It's a trade paperback I bought over the weekend, and it's new, expensive (the $15.00 I spent on it would have bought me five books at my local UBS) and almost everything about it pushes no-way buttons with me. So why did I buy it?

Let's start with why I didn't want to. The cover art, while pretty, features blueberries. So does the title, which is also too long and employs the word Irresistible, for God's sake. Like I can't stop myself from buying it. Please. Back to the fruit: for blueberry lovers this is great, but I don't like them. They taste like perfume to me. I'll eat them if I have to in a muffin or a pancake, but I'm just not a fan. All the blueberries in my face was strike #1.

According to the bio, the author is a corporate attorney who writes fiction on the side. I'm all for the day job, but lawyers are not my favorite people. They generally make lousy writers, too, and I personally know only one attorney-author who is a marvelous writer. So the lawyer bit was strike #2.

There is a blurb on the front of the cover comparing this book to a novel I really love. Plus, right? Not really. I hate blurbs that compare a book to more successful novels. Also, the author who blurbed the book went on TV with a commercial in which he threatened to kill off his protagonist if readers didn't buy his book. I loathe that kind of advertising. The blurb was strike #3.

I should have put the book back on the shelf at the store, but even with the three strikes I wanted to see what the writing was like. Actually I was positive that the writing would confirm all my little judgments. There would be some stupid weather report, or a fake emotional introspective yawner, or some plodding fumbling attorney crap, or even one of those 12-step podium speech intros: My name is Yada Yada, and I am helpless against blueberries, which changed my life . . . Seriously, though, I was expecting it to majorly stink, just as everything about the book did at that moment -- and I was prepared to gloat over how right I was about the book being a total suckfest.

Five minutes later I checked out and bought the book. Why, why, why? you ask.

The writing. The writing was a homerun. In fact, the first five words knocked it out of the park. The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses has the best opening line I've read in years. The first page grabbed me by the imagination and wouldn't let go, but honestly, the reason I bought it was the first line. That's how much it wowed me. It steamrolled right over the blueberries and the attorney thing and that awful blurb.

I don't care who you are, or what a publisher does to your book. If you write well, I will buy your work. I will follow you, and keep an eye out for more, and tell my friends about you. I will write about you here on PBW, even when your book had three strikes against you from the get-go. Because when it comes down to it all that really matters to me is the work. I won't care if you own a thousand blueberry farms or a hundred personal injury lawsuit franchises. Write a homerun, and I'm yours.

If you NaNo'ers out there are serious about becoming a professional writer, don't be distracted by the hoopla or the mystic or the prestige of the job title. Don't be sucked into all the self-publishing crap. Focus on the work. Get it done, edit brilliantly, and make it the best damn story anyone has read in ages. And we will be yours.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Off to Write

I'm unplugging today to catch up on work. See you on Monday.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wishing You

Monday, November 21, 2016

Down Time

There are nine days left in National Novel Writing Month, and I'm sure plenty of NaNo'ers are nearly at or already over the 50K finish line. I usually finished with a few days to spare whenever I participated. I remember one writer reporting on the forums that he'd written 50,000 words by the fifth day (which I imagine is possible if you're fast, focused and have servants.)

I'm not here today to nag you about making the most of the next nine days for writing. That would be great, but there's something else that's just as important: down time. Aka taking breaks from writing. On Thursday here in the US we have Thanksgiving, which is a very good day not to write. If you're not into turkey, big family dinners or football, November 24th is also National Sardines Day. Sardine lovers, get out there and crack open some cans and . . . eat them, I guess. Who thinks up these holidays?

Anyway, the benefits of taking a little break from writing are sometimes just as important as reaching your wordcount goals during NaNoWriMo. It holds off mental exhaustion, allows the creative batteries to recharge a bit, and gives the writer time to think about something other than how to get the surly dragon to rescue the clueless hero from the Pit of Eternal Stench. It can also lead to light bulbs appearing out of nowhere.

Here's one of mine: I rewrote a character twice trying to find the right voice on the page. This involved three chapters and god knows how many other revisions throughout the second half of my current project -- and it didn't work either time. The character still sounded and behaved like a clone of another character. I tried everything to get it right: I considered the character's unique background. I made trait lists. I even went through the affected scenes in my head and replaced the character with one of the Three Stooges (weird, I know, but sometimes it works.)

It didn't work this time, though, and I was very unhappy, so I gave myself a day off not to think about it. I sewed, and did housework, and cooked. At one point in my day I thought about what the character might be doing while I wasn't writing or thinking about the project. On a whim I imagined the character doing what I was doing at that moment -- and suddenly the character started talking to me in the right voice. At last, I had it.

I didn't rush back to my manuscript. I didn't take notes. I just let the character talk to me, and I listened for the rest of the night. I went through the scenes and let the character take charge. Together we worked out all the dialogue and action. And then I went to bed, and slept better than I had in a week, and woke up the next day to start writing the third revision. Which was the charm.

Down time from NaNoWriMo is tough, because writers have such little time already to reach their goals, so this won't work for everyone. But even if you can't spare a day, take an hour or two away from your novel whenever possible, do something else, and let things percolate. You might be surprised by how much work you can get done not writing.

Friday, November 18, 2016

My Finish Line

Back in January I got on our bathroom scale and nearly fell off it. Not because I'm a klutz, but because it read 184.9 lbs. This was the heaviest I've been since my last pregnancy (22 years ago), and it explained why none of my clothes were fitting anymore, why my knees felt awful all day, the lack of energy, etc.

I'm not obsessive about my weight, but I knew I had to do something about it. At my age it's just not a good idea to carry so many extra pounds. So I resolved to use this year to lose the weight.

Ideally I needed to lose 50 lbs., but that didn't seem like a realistic goal. I'm 55 years old, and everything about me is slowing down. My arthritis makes it difficult to exercise, and I've been on a sugar-free and low-fat diet for the last ten years. There are only so many calories I can cut. Also, I'm not a fan of diet products and plans. I needed to make changes, but my options were limited. I thought if I got creative, and worked really hard, I might be able to lose 30 lbs. in a year.

I started the work by walking more, and changed my lunch to salads only. I was tired and hungry all the time, but now and then I'd get on the scale and be a pound or two lighter. I love bread a little too much, so I cut that way back, and gave up salty chips and snacks. But the weight didn't magically melt off me, and it was depressing. After six months I'd lost twenty-six pounds, but that was where I plateaued.

Four pounds aren't a big deal. I'd done very well. I was fitting back into my clothes, my knees stopped hurting and I had lots of energy. I could have put off losing more weight until next year.

Those are the bargains you make with yourself when the finish line seems impossible to reach. You tell yourself it's okay to quit, that you did most of it, and the rest is too hard. And then one morning you climb on the scale and you've gained a pound or two. I did, in August, after I'd been flirting with giving up.

I didn't much care for that, especially after all the work and sacrifice it took for me to lose a pound or two. I went back to work. I watched my portions. I walked twice as much. I walked the dogs, and went out and walked around town and the malls and the markets. I worked outside to help my guy with some yard stuff. He took me to a big flea market on weekends so I could walk there. I stopped sitting around so much, and I also stopped weighing myself so much.

The extra pounds went away, but the four remaining to make my goal stuck with me. I figured by the time Halloween rolled around and the winter holidays loomed that I probably wasn't going to lose them, but I kept at it anyway. You see, after I lost these thirty pounds, I planned to try for twenty more next year. To do that, the changes I'd made to my exercising and diet had to become permanent.

Yesterday I got on the scale, and this is what I weighed:

So I've lost thirty and a half pounds* in eleven and a half months. I fought hard for every pound that came off. And next year, I'm going to try to lose twenty more. I think I'll be successful, too, but even if I'm not, I'm going to work at it every day and get healthier.

*Added: I put the wrong weight at the beginning of the post, which I've now corrected -- I started at 184.9 lbs. in January.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Blast from the Past

I am unplugging today to finish a work project, but while I'm away here's a ten list I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2012 to give you some ideas on how to shake off pretty much anything that is messing with your writing mojo:

Ten Things to Help Restore Your NaNoWriMojo

Change Locations: Moving your writing to another space may eliminate whatever is distracting you. Think of an alternative place that is different from where you're writing now (i.e., if you're hanging out in a busy coffeeshop and getting nothing written, try the quiet room at your local library. Or if your quiet spot at home isn't working, try a busy coffeeshop.) If weather permits, find an outdoor space (the backyard, a park, a lake, the beach, etc.) where you can commune a little with nature while you write.

Clean Something: Vacuuming a room, doing a load of laundry or even tidying up your writing space restores order to some part of your immediate environment and, unless you like being a slob, makes you feel better about it. That good feeling can carry over into the work once you start writing again.

Emergency Reward: Often that carrot you've hung over the finish line seems too far away, so set up one that's a bit closer. Promise yourself a small reward for just making your writing goal today. Make it something good, too; the more you want it, the more you're likely to work for it.

Exercise: Another good way to vent some frustration is to get moving: take a walk, go to the gym, jog around the block, put on that workout DVD and follow along for twenty minutes, etc. Your goal is to work up a sweat, then take a warm shower and get back to the writing (hopefully in a more relaxed, refreshed state.)

Make Something Minty: Mint is naturally soothing, so drinking a cup of mint-flavored tea, chewing a stick of mint gum or otherwise indulging in a mint treat may bump you from crabby to calm.

Muse with Music: Play your favorite CD while you sit and relax for ten minutes. Don't think about anything; just listen. If you have a soundtrack made up for your story, that's a good choice -- or just listen to the sort of music that puts you in a positive mood. If you can write with the music playing, take it back with you and listen while you work.

Project Switch: This is one of my personal mojo restorers; I stop work on one project and write on another for a short period of time. I always switch to something I enjoy writing but I'm not especially invested in so it doesn't steal me away from my NaNo novel.

Scene Skip: At least once a week without fail I hit a scene that for whatever reason I can't write. If this happens to you, instead of letting it become a brick wall between you and the rest of your story, skip it and go work on the next scene. Mark the place in your manuscript with a notation [I use square brackets and a one-line description of the scene like this] so you can easily go back and write it later.

Switch Creative Gears: This past weekend I had a particularly dreary writing day during which I fought to get every word on the page. I took regular ten minutes breaks and used them to work on a small quilting project. Switching gears like that gave me little creative/spiritual boosts, which kept me from giving up.

Write Past It: This last idea is tough, but if writing stories was easy everyone could do it. You just keep writing. Doesn't matter how well you write, or if anything you do write will be salvageable. You're not going to think about how you're writing because you're going to be too busy writing. Keep working and moving forward with the story until your mojo returns (and yes, if you push on it generally does. If it doesn't, you can always edit brilliantly.)

Friday, November 11, 2016


Library Thing just gave me the heads-up that the next ARC I'll be receiving from their Early Reviewers program is Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk by Danielle Krysa, published by Chronicle Books. Since this is the one I wanted most from the October list I'm quite happy.

There are nineteen days left for National Novel Writing Month, and I regret to report that I did not kick writing ass this week. Mostly because a stomach virus and a wrenched shoulder kicked my butt, but also other things that thoroughly stomped on my spirit. It happens to us all, and when it does, all you want to do is lock yourself in a dark room and sleep or weep.

Creative people rely on inspiration to help bring beauty and joy to our work. When that goes away, and it seems like everyone around us is determined to fight or harp or feed themselves to the evil, it can get between us and the writing. It tries to poison the well. It whispers that there's no reason for what we do. That no one cares. That all there is and ever will be is that dark room, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it. Even Byron said that darkness is the universe, and has no need of us.

I guess Byron would be right if the universe was a complete void, but it's not. It's full of galaxies and stars and nebulas and planets and comets and pulsars and amazing, wonderful things we've yet to discover. Maybe if Byron had ever looked up, he might have seen some of that.

Creation is looking up instead of down. It's inviting hope instead of despair. It's going into a dark room and lighting a candle. Darkness will always be there; we know that. It's not a fair fight because we can't ever defeat it. But here's the thing about reaching for better instead of surrendering to the bleak: the light of you can be seen by someone else in the dark. You can inspire them to hope. With your light, you let them know that they're not alone -- and that may be the most important, valiant thing you can ever do. When you do, and you reach someone, the darkness loses another victim.

This is my candle for you: Look up, not down. Write this week with me. Find beauty and joy and hope however you can. Be the light, not the dark.

Monday, November 07, 2016


It's Sunday night here, and tomorrow is my mom's 80th birthday, and the much-dreaded election is the day after that (and I'm too sick over that to even think about it.) I moved a lot of furniture last week to get my carpets cleaned for the holidays, and then put it all back on Saturday. My guy, our daughter and one of my daughter's friends helped, for which I am beyond grateful (Ryder, you are the best!) I have two big quilting projects to finish this month, and two more projects for the clients to write by the twenty-third. Thanksgiving looms on the horizon in the shape of the Godzilla turkey I might have to make this year.

I used to handle my life without even thinking about it, but I'm not a youngster anymore. I'm old. I'm tired. Everything seems a little impossible tonight.

I'm still a rabid planner, but sometimes don't go according to plan. And there is so much to do; so much that seems impossible to accomplish in three short weeks. I seriously need to mop the floors. The laundry, like the election, we will not discuss. The dogs need a bath. I also need to go shopping because the fridge is basically empty. Did I mention I need to clean the fridge out, too? Which reminds me, I need to know who is coming here for Thanksgiving so I can buy the right-size turkey, but no one wants to commit. Probably because they don't have to do the cooking, the ingrates.

Then there's Mom. I made a quilt for my mom and sent her that and flowers for her birthday, but this is the first year she didn't call me to let me know they arrived. I don't think she realizes I sent them; her dementia is advancing pretty fast. So I'll call her tomorrow and remind her of who I am, and make sure she knows she's loved and missed because that's what you do.

As for the other thing? To my surprise I wrote about 27K since last Monday. I'm going to write another 3K tonight if I can. This while I'm feeling a bit blue about Mom, my bad shoulder hurts from moving furniture, and I have absolutely no idea how many people I'm feeding for Thanksgiving. Doesn't matter. Baby, I kicked writing ass this week.

There are three weeks left in National Novel Writing Month. Three weeks to sit your butt in that chair and attack that keyboard and put your story on the page. This is your novel and your time. It's impossible, I know. Your lives are as busy or even busier than mine. You can't do it, right?

Only you can. Don't plan, don't worry, don't feel blue. Find some time. Set the rest aside, and do what you love. Kick writing ass with me this week, people!

Friday, November 04, 2016

PBW's Book of the Month

October was so busy for me I had time to read only a few books for pleasure, but the most enjoyable was 50 Ways to Wear Denim by Lauren Friedman, my latest ARC from Library Thing's Early Reviewer program.

As a teenager I loved jeans, especially the hip hugger style that was so popular when I was in high school. Wearing a pair of jeans with a pretty blouse or T-shirt was practically a school uniform for my generation -- but unfortunately my mother absolutely hated denim. She considered it something that farmers wore, and refused to buy anything made from it for me (she also made me wear dresses to school, for which I was suitably tortured by my peers.) That's why I got my first pair of jeans with some money I made babysitting, and since then have never stopped buying them.

Lauren Friedman's book is a crash course in how to wear denim jeans, shirts, jackets, vests and accessories to their best advantage. I had no idea there were so many different types of denim, or that you could pair them and wear them in such a wide variety of styles. With artfully drawn illustrations the author takes the reader through dozens of denim looks for every occasion, from dressy styles for work or formal events to the most casual of cutoffs and beach wear. She clearly identifies the types of washes and treatments designers give denim, something a fashion-challenged gal like me found very interesting, and offers several options on how to wear the particular cut or style.

In the back pages there is a short history/timeline of denim that I thought was delightful. I also appreciated the section on how to recycle denim, which provides some ideas on upcycling. Just as an aside, quilters often make heavy-duty quilts out of patchwork made from old denim, which I've always wanted to try -- only I'm too attached to my old jeans to cut them up just yet. My only criticism is the author's recommendation never (or rarely) to wash your denim. It may help preserve the fabric but I'm too much of a clean freak to do that. I also think that the more denim fades, the more attractive it becomes, so that may color my opinion here.

Since my daughter is young, hip and much more fashionable than I'll ever be, I asked her to take a look at the book and give me her take on it. Here's what she said:

She's not a huge fan of denim (she must get that from her grandmother) but it will always be timeless and popular.

The styles are well put together and very trendy.

It would have been nice to represent more diverse body types in the illustrations (her only criticism.)

50 Ways to Wear Denim is a fun read, and a great way to learn more about the fabric and how fashionably flexible it can be. I recommend this book for the jeans lovers or anyone who wants to get more mileage out of their denim garments.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

NaNoWriMo Begins

Today we kickoff National Novel Writing Month, during which hundreds of thousands of writers all over the planet will be racing to write 50,000 words in thirty days. If you want to join in but have never done so, the official web site has a How It Works page that will explain the official participant details.

For the first day of NaNoWriMo I could crush you with tons of writing advice (and if you search under the tag NaNoWriMo on my blog, you will find plenty of pep talks, link lists, writing tricks and other advice I've offered in years past) but I'd like to start off with something else this year: writing as the other thing.

There are lots of things in life we have to deal with, like the fact that in about a week my country will elect a new President. This campaign has been the dirtiest, meanest, most disgusting and offensive political mess I've ever seen (and my grandmother forced me to watch the whole Watergate debacle when I was a kid.) I am appalled by the way most people are behaving over it. I get hate mail every day from one of the candidates; so much so that I make my guy pick it up from our mail box now so I don't have to touch it. I dread the outcome and the impacts it will have on me, my guy, our kids and everyone we know. As situations go, it's beyond toxic.

I could easily give myself another ulcer while I wait for the outcome of the election, or I could do something else. Something productive. Something I love. Something that helps me deal with an ugly world. The other thing.

Another thing that weighs on me daily -- three of my family members are also having a rough time in their lives right now. Really rough. I love all three, and am doing everything I can to help them, but I can't fix their problems. That frustrates me so much that I've been having trouble sleeping. I want the people I love to be happy, safe, and in good situations, and it kills me to feel so helpless while they're not.

I could wallow in dread and despair over any or all three of these situations until they come to their inevitable conclusions, and even work myself into a depression so deep I have to take another two-month hiatus. Or I could do that other thing.

Writing is never ugly. It doesn't send me hate mail. It doesn't get itself into impossible-to-solve situations. It simply is. It always waits very patiently on me to get on with it. It doesn't take offense when I use an excuse to avoid it. No matter what I do, it's always there to rescue me from reality, give me secret worlds to escape to and provide me with income and an outlet for my creativity. Writing is the silent best friend who saves me every day from everything else.

Writing is not just the other thing. It's my thing.

I wish every one of you who are participating in NaNoWriMo this year the very best of luck. Now I'm off to do my thing -- how about you?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Wishing You

Friday, October 28, 2016

Off to Write

I'm unplugging to catch up on work today. See you next week for the NaNoWriMo kickoff.

Monday, October 24, 2016

In Eight Days

National Novel Writing Month begins in eight days, at which time hundreds of thousands of writers all over the planet will start their race toward the 50K finish line. In order to win NaNoWriMo, a writer has to produce at least 1667 words per day, or 12,500 words per week. It's madness, and crazy fun, and the best free writing competition out there.

Why should anyone try to write 50,000 words in thirty days? In the two years since I went freelance as a ghost writer I've averaged writing about 75,000 words per month (and that's not counting free stories or what I wrote here at PBW.) As a pro novelist before that I averaged about 50-60K per month -- and I did that for sixteen years. I am very fast, so I do write more per day than the average writer. That said, if you want either job, you probably should give full-time writing a test-drive first. NaNoWriMo is an excellent way to find out if you can handle writing a great many words under the pressure of a deadline.

For experienced writers, writing a novel in November is a chance to play with new ideas, take a break from your ongoing projects, and/or just write something you've always wanted to. Does it pay off? Depends on what you write and what you decide to do with it after November. I eventually sold the rights to Harry's Charm, the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2009, which was later published as the first book in my AH steampunk Disenchanted & Co. series. I just sold the French rights for those books and two other stories to an overseas publisher this past summer, too. Bottom line: if not for NaNo I probably would never have written any of them.

Work prevents me from joining in this year, but I've got my pom poms ready for all of you who decide to dive in on November 1st. In all the years I've participated what's always delighted me most is how beautifully our community of writers comes together to support each other. The NaNoWriMo forums are wonderful places to chat with other participants, ask questions and find some valuable resources. You can also find local groups in your region that meet up in real life to have write-ins and encourage each other. As promised I'll be posting lots of things here at PBW that I hope will be helpful during November, too.

If you're not thrilled by the ninja can opener official participant badges they have this year, here's one I designed:

The tiger photo is one I took this year, and everyone has my permission to use and distribute it for nonprofit purposes. For supporters like me, here's another:

Also a photo I took, and the same permission as the tiger badge applies.

Finally, to kick off the helpful stuff, here are some NaNo treasures from my archives:

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

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.

For links to my Outlining 101 post and thirteen other links to outlining resources and tools, click here.

All ten of these word count meters I listed last year for NaNo are still available online.

So who will be writing a novel in November? Let us know in comments.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Second Time Around

This is my Gypsy quilt that I made during Hurricane Matthew, constructed entirely of cutter quilt pieces, an old quilted pillow sham, the sham's backing fabric and some vintage soft white muslin. Even the binding is a leftover from another project. I tried this as an experiment to see if I could make a new quilt out of some old quilted pieces, and it turned out even better than I expected (the Roman numeral II in the center was just a happy accident, btw.)

Here you see what I started with as raw materials. My pillow sham had different fabrics from the pink quilted pieces, but the colors went well together. For more contrast or a crazier look, you can use pieces that are all wildly different. You'll want to trim and lay out everything as you want it to fit together to assure you don't have any spaces between your quilted pieces. Also, keep your main pieces fat-quarter size or bigger to cut down on the number of joining strips you'll have to use to put them together.

I cut the pillow sham backing fabric into 2" strips, which I ironed into 1-1/2" strips with 1/4" folds on either side. These strips are what you use to join the pieces of your quilt together. You can also use wide single-fold bias binding if you don't want to iron strips.

It's important to have very straight edges on your quilted pieces, because you're going to join them together with your folded/bias strips. Pin them together so the quilted piece edges are flush, not overlapping, under your folded/bias strips, and then sew down (by hand or by sewing machine) each side of the strips. Two notes on this step: If your quilted pieces are very thick you'll probably need to use a walking foot on your sewing machine. Also, if you don't want to do any hand-sewing, start joining the back of the quilt first, and make your strips for the back 1/4" to 1/2" narrower than your strips for the front of the quilt, so the front strips hide the machine stitching.

This is what it looks like when you join two quilted pieces together. From there you just have to pin and sew your strips all over.

The back of my quilt, with Skye hiding her head behind it. I hand-sewed the white strips to cover the joined seams on the back because we didn't have any power.

Because the pieces I recycled for this were already quilted, once I finished sewing my joining strips all I had to do was bind the quilt, and it was done -- and it took only four days from start to finish. If you have some old damaged quilts or quilted pieces you want to recycle, this is a fun way to make them into a practical, pretty project. This also works if you want to quilt smaller pieces and then join them together (versus piecing and basting your layers and then quilting the whole quilt.)

My idea was inspired by Bill Peschel's wife, Teresa, and her series of very cool NotQuilt posts on his blog.

Monday, October 17, 2016

After Matthew Part II

Things are finally getting back to normal here after Hurricane Matthew. The power is back on (hopefully for good this week), our cable is working again, the roads have been cleared and we've finished cleaning up our yard mess. All my guy has left to do is chop up the one tree we lost:

My guy and I decided to take a drive down to Daytona to get away for a day and find out how they fared, and as you can see from the pictures I snapped the beach took a hard hit:

The Hilton's first floor was completely flooded, and they've had to gut every room on that level as they dry out. Everywhere we saw things that were sand-blasted, warped or buried by the storm surge. Even the boardwalk stairs down to the sand were smashed to smithereens. It looked to me like half the beach itself was gone. Part of A1A was still closed as they worked on repairing the road. But their cleanup efforts were stupendous, and the local businesses and hotels were open, so recovery is well underway.

Monday, October 10, 2016

After Matthew

Thanks to everyone who prayed and e-mailed and left messages for us during Hurricane Matthew. We made it through the storm in better shape than we expected; some of the siding on our house peeled off, and we had some roof and tree damage, but we lost only one old oak at the back of our property.

The wind was definitely the biggest issue for us; it took my guy a day to clean up all the debris that blew into our yard from other places. We have lovely neighbors who helped out without us even asking. Other than some big rain puddles we had no flooding to speak of here. The power failures, phone and cable disruptions during and after the storm could have been a lot worse, too. No one in our extended family suffered any unfixable damages, either.

Bottom line: we were very, very fortunate. Much of our part of the country was not as lucky, and we are keeping everyone in the southeast in our prayers.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Storm Hiatus

Paperback Writer will be on hiatus for the duration of Hurricane Matthew and the aftermath. I'm hoping that won't be too long, and I'll check in with you all whenever I can. In the meantime, please send good thoughts our way.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Storm Prep

The National Hurricane Center has posted an advisory here on Hurricane Matthew, which is currently a category 4 storm with sustained winds of 140 mph. The Caribbean is likely to take a hard hit, but beyond that they're not sure where Matthew will go. North is pretty much a given. You can take a look at the latest projection cone here, and I strongly recommend everyone in the southeast keep an eye on this one.

If you're ever in or around the path of a hurricane, you should know your route out if you will be facing an evacuation. Florida residents, you can find yours here by county. If you're going to stay home and hunker down during the storm, it's absolutely vital to have a disaster kit ready, including enough drinking water and non-perishable foods in the event you're cut off in the aftermath. I can speak from personal experience on this; after four hurricanes in a row hit us back in 2004, we felt very lucky that we had prepared so well in advance. We lived without power and running water for 21 days until they finally cleared the roads enough for us to drive out and restock.

I live in a rural area, so if we take a hit here from Hurricane Matthew it will probably be a while before our power and cable service are restored. I'll report in when I can. In the meantime, everyone in the danger zone please prepare for this, and be safe.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Book(s) of the Month

This week I have lots of book news, beginning with a heads-up from Library Thing that I've won a copy of 50 Ways to Wear Denim by Lauren Friedman from the September batch of Early Reviewer Program books. It might seem like an odd choice, but I've been trying to put my name in for a wider assortment of available titles. This increases my chances of being selected, and I can also test-drive some new-to-me genres and authors. While I don't own a lot of denim clothes, I thought I might learn something that would tempt me to wear what I have more often. I'm also going to have my very fashionable daughter take a look at it and share her thoughts.

I usually start talking about National Novel Writing Month in August, but being off on hiatus has me a bit behind. They've already posted the official participant badges and banners here, and, well, let's be honest: the little space guy looks like an elaborate ninja can opener. I'll see if I can put together something slightly more attractive to offer as an alternative. As I mentioned earlier this year I won't be joining in the fun, but as always I will write up some pep talks, hunt down some helpful links and otherwise shake my pom poms from the sidelines for all of you who decide to write a book in thirty days this November.

My book of the month for September was actually a short story: Second Son by Lee Child, which can be found in the back pages of his novel The Affair. It can also be purchased as a standalone e-book.

This was not a new read for me; it happens to be one of my favorite short stories of all time, so there wasn't much the other books I read could do to compete. As a very early prequel to the Jack Reacher series Second Son meshes quite well with the novels, and explains a bit of the mysterious family dynamic that resulted in Reacher becoming the somewhat psycho savior he was fated to be. It's intensely satisfying to see how Reacher deals with a bully and manages to solve two other mysteries in the process. I will caution you all that there is a particularly vicious fight scene between minors, and if bullying and violence between kids are triggers for you, you should give it a pass.

Expect some clean, spare, precise (almost surgical) depictions of Reacher and some other very interesting people. There are fascinating glimpses into the lives of children who travel with an active duty military parent. Each time I read it I fall a little in love with Reacher's father, too; his POV is presented just briefly but it makes the whole story. I think it works well as a standalone, and as an introduction to this universe (if you are one of the two or three people left on Earth who haven't read this author, start here.) It's not so long that you get mired down in a lot of stuff you won't need to know if you want to move on to the series, either. On top of that it's superbly written. I highly recommend it.

What was your book of the month for September? Let us know in comments.

Monday, September 26, 2016


I have a new e-reader, and it's a Kindle Paperwhite. The primary reason I have it is that I got it for free, along with the case, from my guy's employer. He gets points every year from work that are redeemable for stuff online, but he never uses them. If he retires next year he will lose all the points, so we decided to cash them in this year. I first tried to talk my kid into getting a tablet (he also had enough for a small one of those) but she wasn't interested in that or anything else that was available.

I've made peace with finally having a Kindle, too. I've resisted getting an e-reader for years, until the family bought me a Nook. That finally died on me earlier this year, and (even if I could afford it) I'm not sure getting a new Nook is a good idea. I worry about B&N and what's going to happen to it after the holidays. So I've been reading e-books on my desktop for the last couple of months to compensate, and it's difficult to finish anything because of the big monitor in my face.

Honestly, I'm not thrilled to be supporting Amazon, but I was already buying from them a few e-books that I couldn't get from any other bookseller, and rental textbooks for my college kid. A lot of my favorite authors have gone exclusive with Amazon, so a Kindle is necessary if I want to continue to read their work, especially when they publish in electronic format only. I can keep telling myself I didn't pay for the e-reader, so it doesn't count, but of course it does. I want to support my author pals more than I want to boycott Amazon, so it's an easy decision.

I also have the chore of transferring all my unread my e-books from my desktop Kindle reader to the e-reader. I decided to move one e-book at a time, and read it before I transfer another file, which will allow me to avoid having two TBRs. The only thing I have done is start putting my name in for ARC e-books at Library Thing when there is no paper copy available in their Early Reviewers Program. Having a Kindle may help me get more free books that way.

I'd like to take the Kindle with me when I'm away from home, too. For one thing it's a lot smaller and lighter than the Nook, and the non-glare screen is easier on my eyes. It would be nice to have some books with me when I'm waiting somewhere, or maybe sit and read at the park or an outdoor cafe. This might open up a whole new way of reading for me, especially when cooler weather rolls around soon.

Now if I could just figure out how to keep the damn thing from turning itself on . . . .

Friday, September 23, 2016

Summer Fun

It's funny that almost the minute I come back from hiatus, every other thing that pops up in my face is about two very famous people getting a divorce (and forgive me for not naming them, but I'm not inclined to join in the hen party/crow fest.) These were the same two people who got together in properly scandalous fashion back when I started PBW, so it's a little ironic that I've outlasted them. Or may not. The day I retire they'll probably get married again or have a secret baby or something. Well, at least they're not Kardashians.

What have I done that I can talk about . . . I finished quilting the lap quilt I made for my Mom's birthday:

I machine pieced it but hand-quilted it, and battled my aversion to the color yellow in the process. Yellow pretty much won me over, but it was a necessary surrender. Since Mom is spending the winter in Oregon I wanted this to invoke summer and sunshine. The pattern is Atkinson Design's Yellow Brick Road, which uses blocks made by cutting up fat quarters into strips and piecing them in different ways. Very easy to do, with nice results.

I also rehabbed a Victorian-era photo album into an art journal, which was a first for me. Here's how the album looked with its worn and torn velvet covers, and dirty celluloid flowers, before rehab:

This was a delicate challenge, because I had to carefully remove the celluloid before I cleaned the cover. I also made a new binding for it and handstitched it together. Here's how it looked after being cleaned, repaired, and bound with my journal pages:

I loved being able to show on the front some of the original blue velvet used for the covers, which the dirty flowers actually protected for a hundred years or so. Here's a peek inside:

I made all the pages with recycled papers, old calendars and some pages left over from another art journal. It turned out massive but so worth it. I have another old photo album in red velvet that I'm going to rehab in the same way.

Finally my kid and I made our annual summer pilgrimage to the no-kill cat shelter to make a donation and spend some time with the kitties. They really love her:

Even the suspicious ones were cute:

And of course I fell in love (again):

My guy and I have made the difficult decision not to adopt any more cats, as they tend to be very long-lived with us, and we're not getting any younger. We also don't want to introduce an older cat into a household that at present has two very active, nosy dogs. That and we really are dog people. But that just means I can go and visit the shelter whenever I need a feline fix.

So did you all have any creative adventures over the summer? Share your stories in comments.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Books of the Hiatus

With work and creative rehab taking priority for me this summer I didn't read a huge amount of books during July and August, but I did take time for at least one or two reads per week. My favorite book from the batch I read in July was Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, which I've taken to rereading whenever I feel really blue.

There is something about this novel that just drop-kicks whatever is bothering you to the curb. For writers I think it reminds you of the thrill of writing. Reading Garden Spells always makes me happy, and it's the book I still most often give other readers in real life (just last month I gave a copy to my favorite indy bookseller in town.) It's a beautiful story. If I believed in magic, I'd think there even might be anti-ugliness spells printed invisibly behind the test.

If you writers want an example of book with multiple genre appeal, this is one to study. It's literary, romance, and paranormal, all without being pretentious, maudlin or too far out there. It's also funny without becoming a caricature of itself. The realism is what I like best; the setting of Bascom, North Carolina reads like a real town with a lot of charming secrets. The characters are interesting, quirky, and deceptively simple. Nothing happens without a reason in a Sarah Addison Allen novel (she must have paid attention during that class on Tolstoy) but nothing seems artificial or arranged, either. That's very tough to do.

I first read Garden Spells back in 2011 (and wrote it up here), and to this day it still reads as fresh and fun and magical as it did then. If you want to treat yourself to a wonderful novel, this is the one to invest in, no question.

I got a real treat in August when I found a copy of Rebecca Flanders' Wolf in Waiting in a thrift store. This paranormal romance was one of my favorite reads of the 90's, and I was curious to see if it retained its delight after all these years. Which it did, so well that it ended up becoming my #1 read in August.

I loved the Silhouette Shadows line when it debuted, which in those days was kind of a bold move for a publisher to take (vampires had yet to be Hamiltoned or Meyered back then.) I'd never read the author, and somehow missed book one in the trilogy, but that actually was for the best. This was the strongest novel of the three, and offered a lovely, hip romance between a gorgeous royal werewolf and a delightful would-be were who can't shift. The world-building is magnificent for a Silhouette, which tend to be very light in that department. There's mystery and intrigue, and a dinner scene between the main characters and some snobby weres that to this day I remember when I need ammunition for a social confrontation in a story. The end twist is even better. The end twist is amazing.

Since this book is over 20 years old now you probably won't find a paperback copy unless you stumble on it at a thrift store, or have a really good romance UBS in your town, but it has been repackaged and released as a standalone e-book and part of a trilogy bundle. You can absolutely read it without investing in the other two books, as it's an excellent standalone, but for fuller appreciation of the world-building you probably should read the other two (which oddly didn't wow me half as much.)

So those are the two books of my hiatus. What were your two favorite reads of the summer? Let us know in comments.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Work Comes First (Again!)

Sorry I did not get a post up today (looking at the clock, I mean yesterday) as promised, everyone. I literally just now sent off my manuscript to my client, and I'm really not exaggerating when I say how busy I am.

More after I get some sleep. . . .

Friday, September 16, 2016

PBW Changes

Along with getting my zen together during my hiatus I've made some decisions about the blog.

Big one first: I'm not going to shut down or delete PBW. I thought about it a lot, and here's what I concluded:

1. While I don't have the glamorous job in traditional publishing anymore, I believe I can still offer content that is helpful to other writers.

2. I have no web site or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or what have you, so aside from e-mail this is the only place online where my readers can have any contact with me.

3. What I do here, and all of you PBW regulars, have been a big, happy part of my writing life for the last twelve years, and I'm not inclined to let that go.

So: PBW stays in business. You should also thank our blog pals LJ Cohen, who kept checking on me and took the time to discuss some issues that were driving me batty, and Maria Zannini, as she also kept tabs on me while I was on hiatus, and got me thinking of things other than that at-the-time-very-tempting Delete Your Blog button, and (last but not least) Theo, aka nightsmusic, for helping to make my birthday extra-special, and reminding me that the internet has brought some really wonderful people into my life.

I do need to change some things with the blog; primarily to create more writing time so I can keep up with my freelance work, and make the income I need to get my kid the rest of the way through college. Family and my financial responsibilities have to come first. I'm booked solid for the rest of the year, and since I want to give my clients my very best blogging daily isn't an option for me anymore.

I'm tired, too, and that was another reason I considered shutting down the blog. I've always tried to be a good sport, but I just don't have the energy or inclination to deal with toxic people anymore. After all the ugliness and stress caused by the contract-meddling nonsense in June (which was so ridiculous as to be almost the last straw), and all the bliss of the last two point five months unplugged, I think what I actually need is more downtime from the internet. A lot more downtime.

What I believe is the best solution is to cut down on posting and just blog two or three times a week for now. So effective immediately, you can expect new posts on Monday and Friday, and also possibly on Wednesday if I have the time. Occasionally I will post on other, random days when I have something important to share; I also plan to go on hiatus again as needed. Also, a note on my weekly Just Write feature -- with my workload at present I can't keep that up on a weekly basis, either. I will keep writing Twenty-One and other free stories for you, and post new material for you to read on a regular basis when it's ready to be read; maybe once or twice a month if I have the time. Right now I don't.

So that's all the bad news. The good news: I do have a few new ideas I want to try:

Going Green: One thing you know that I'm passionate about is recycling and upcycling, and I'd like to share more ideas on this with you all. I thought it might be fun to come up with ten ways to reuse something specific, like an unwanted book, used paper, junk mail, old magazines, etc., with any links to online tutorials I can find. I'd love for you all to contribute your ideas, too.

Just Write Voting: When I'm ready to start a new Just Write story I can post some ideas I'm interested in pursuing and get you all to vote on which you'd like me to write for next. This would include things like a sequel to Ghost Writer or Club Denizen, for which I've had innumerable e-mail requests. I'd like to finish up Twenty-One first so this probably won't start until next year.

Your Book of the Month: Each month I talk about the book I liked best out of the lot I've read; I'd like to hear what was your favorite read of the month, and why. We could just do a post where everyone posts their recs in comments, or put up a list of titles and one-line recs, or some other variation.

Now it's your turn: what changes or new content would you like to see on PBW? Please let me know in comments.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Offline Endeavors Ten

Ten Things I Did While on Hiatus

Anger Management: It took awhile, but I channeled my temper in some positive directions, resolved an ugly, toxic personal situation without responding in kind, accepted that which I will never be able to change, and generally walked the Serenity Prayer path every step of the way. Sometimes you really do have to turn it over to your higher power, and I did. If you're ever at the same crossroads, this is a good way to go.

Baby Bunny Rescue: While my guy was doing the lawn he accidentally uncovered a nest of three tiny baby bunnies about a foot away from our back porch. The babies were so small you could literally hold them in the palm of your hand. Because of the damage to the burrow, and the threat of our dogs (who then knew exactly where it was) we couldn't leave them where they were, so we put them in a carrier. My daughter and I then drove for an hour through a pretty hellacious storm to get them to a volunteer at a regional wildlife sanctuary. This place will care for them until they're old enough to be released back into the wild.

Best. Zen. Revenge. Ever.: This also took some time, but I straightened out all the contract headaches caused by the fake reviews posted for a story I never wrote on that site I'm never again going to mention by name here (this to keep away Googling trolls.) In the process I sold translation rights for two stories that I actually did write and made a nice pile of money. These earnings will pay for a big chunk of my kid's school expenses this semester. So in the end the mess turned into something terrific for me, and very helpful for my college kid.

Edited Stuff: I finally got the chance to edit and post the final version of my Just Write novella Ghost Writer, which you can read, download, print out and share with friends for free by clicking here.

Flying Solo: I handled my first major contract negotiation with a publisher in another country; this without an agent or anyone helping me. I'd say I did very well, and oddly enough the universe did not collapse. Who knew?

Road Trip: My family took me to a beautiful little fishing village on my birthday, where we spent the day walking around and taking pictures and having fun together. Being with my crew and recharging my creative batteries is the best way to spend any birthday.

Sewed and Created My Brains Out: All the time I usually spend on the blog went toward sewing for fun and getting a jumpstart on my holiday projects. I made tons of pillows, taught myself the basics of silk ribbon embroidery (still need a lot of practice, but wow, really a cool way to embellish), designed and pieced a queen size quilt, and pattern-pieced a lap quilt, embroidered a silk needlebook with a lace jellyfish on it as a tribute to my birthday trip (see pic below), and even rehabbed an old Victorian photo album into an art journal. I also made a new and extremely creative, inspiring friend, and tried some stuff I've never done with vintage fabrics, silk and reclaimed wool. Basically eight weeks of creative bliss.

Slow-Cookery: One of my birthday gifts was a beautiful multi-function slow cooker that also steams rice, makes yogurt and even bakes cheesecake. It really does just about everything but set the table for me. I then found a slow-cooker recipe book at BAM, and I'm trying a new recipe every week. This will come in handy this winter, too, when we want more substantial meals.

Spruced Up: Another nice thing I did for myself was to clean up and clear out my spare bedroom and office. I'm now working on the closets in both rooms, which are way overloaded with stored stuff I'm probably never going to use again. Everything we don't want to keep will be donated to Goodwill or the Families in Distress shelter, as applicable.

Wrote: About 100K altogether for the clients, but also some poetry and lots of journal entries. I also finally cleaned out the last of my e-mail accounts.

I am still working on a few things yet to be decided, finalized, etc., but all things considered my two point five months away were very productive. My next post will be on this Friday, the 16th, at which time I'll explain more of what's ahead and everything that will be changing with PBW.

So what's been going on with you all? Did you miss me, or was it a nice vacation for you, too? Anyone read some great books? Publish their own? Please catch me up in comments.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Hiatus Extension

I promised back in June that if I needed more time unplugged I'd let you know -- and I do. So I'm going to keep PBW on hiatus and take off the month of August as well. Everything is fine; I'm just super busy with work, negotiating contracts (I do that without an agent now), and recharging the creative batteries.

As always, I appreciate your patience. See you in September.

Added 8/28/16: I have to extend my hiatus again so I can finish some deadlines, but I'm planning to return to posting on Monday, September 12th. Thank you again for understanding.

Friday, July 01, 2016

PBW on Hiatus

I need to take a break from the internet. Mostly for work, but also to give some thought to the future, make some decisions, and get my writing life where it needs to be. My creative batteries are also much in need of recharging, too. Since summer is my favorite season it's a good time for me to get away from the computer and enjoy it a little. Also helps me avoid that "Delete Your Blog" button that sometimes looks so very tempting even after twelve years of doing this.

As for the length of my hiatus, right now I'm thinking a month will work nicely. If I decide to extend it longer than that I'll post an update in August. Please don't worry about me, and thanks in advance for understanding. See you in a few weeks.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

PBW's Book of the Month

My pick for June's book of the month is Dreadnought And Shuttle by LJ Cohen, which continues her Halcyone Space series with more edgy adventure in the far future.

There is a lot to love about this novel, including a rescue mission that had me glued to the pages, but I think this installment also showed some particularly wonderful character development. Halcyone's young crew have had to do a lot of growing up as they cope with some hefty issues, and I'm beginning to see the adults they're going to be.

Ro is (slowly) getting her prickly anti-social kneejerk impulses under control, and Barre has finally found where he fits in without having to change who he is. Jem is still having brain problems, but there's some light at the end of the tunnel now. I also really loved Micah and his storyline, as I think he's one of the most intriguing guys in the series. Robert Frost would have said Micah has far to go before he sleeps. We're also introduced to a new character named Dev, who I hope will remain part of the series because she has some mad survival skills. Seriously, we need this gal on the ship, LJ.

I've loved this universe since I read the first book two years ago, and the sequel was just as cool. This is the kind of science fiction I grew up reading, with characters you felt were like real friends, who would take you through galactic playgrounds where anything might happen. It gives me hope, too, that someday maybe the color of our skin and the shape of our eyes or who we fall in love with won't be judged by the nimrods. I know, but hey, a girl can dream -- and that's what these books are filled with, too. It's what makes them such a pleasure to read.

I highly recommend Dreadnought and Shuttle by LJ Cohen as an excellent addition to anyone's SF shelves.