Friday, January 31, 2014

Get Lost

This gorgeous video by G√ľnther Gheeraert makes me want to run away to the Canary Islands (has background music, for those of you at work):

Frames of Life from Günther Gheeraert on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Technical Difficulties



When you live in the country bad weather creates chaos with the power and broadband, which is keeping me offline. Once I can get a connection for longer than two minutes I'll be back to catch up. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Kit Arrives (in Print)

Today is the release day for Disenchanted & Co., the print edition bindup of my Her Ladyship's Curse and His Lordship Possessed e-books, aka the first novel in my Disenchanted & Co. steampunk urban fantasy series for Pocket Star.

This is also when I usually natter on about how my published novels are my only source of income, and buying a copy shows your support for me, and that keeps PBW funded and ad-free etc. etc. This is still true, but let's skip all that so I can tell you a story.

This past weekend I took a box of author copies of Disenchanted & Co. to a steampunk show, where I handed them out for free to people at random. Everyone was surprised to be offered a book for nothing (a few were suspicious that by doing so I was somehow trying to dupe them) and most were quite willing to talk a bit with me.

While doing so I chatted with these folks about the series and my work, and asked them if they enjoyed the story to let other readers know about it. I didn't just talk book, either; I discussed steampunk art and Lovecraft with an older gentlemen, jewelry-making with a wonderful artist, and the glories of vintage clothing with a trio of seamstresses. One of the vendors talked about a friend who is self-publishing; another offered to vote for my book at WorldCon (I advised him of my doubts at being nominated -- with a straight face!)

I had to go back and forth to the truck four times to refill my tote and made a circuit of the entire show twice in three hours, but I handed out every single book I'd brought with me. It was a lot of fun and while I probably wasn't perfect -- I need to practice pitching faster -- I think I did okay.

Before the show, on the other hand, I was a mess. I didn't sleep a minute the night before, and then I nearly blinded myself trying to put on mascara that morning. I've decided that hair straightener irons are evil and I'm never again borrowing my daughter's; people will just have to put up with my waves. I also forgot that no matter how carefully you plan something like this you will always leave something (!my business cards!) behind on the kitchen table.

And why was I such a mess, you ask? Because handing out books at this show was the first time I've made a public appearance as an author since 2003. I'm pretty sure the people at the show didn't pick up on how nervous I was (or that while I was talking to them I could barely see out of my right eye.)

Yes, after eleven years I finally left the BatCave; that is how much I love this series.

So: I hope you'll help me keep writing it by investing today in a copy of Disenchanted & Co. or (if you've already read the e-books) buying a copy for a loved one or friend. I'll sweeten the deal, too: if sales of this book are brisk, I promise to make another public appearance -- one I'll actually announce ahead of time -- at the Disenchanted & Co. booth at MegaCon Orlando in March.

Not enough? Okay. If Disenchanted & Co. debuts on the New York Times mass market bestseller list in February, I'll make a public appearance at one of the big/national writer or reader cons in 2014 (something I haven't done in 12 years.)

Online places where you can buy my book:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

As always, thanks for your support of my books, PBW and me.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Match Game Ten

For this Monday's ten things list let's play a game. See if you can match the writer to the fact:

The Facts:

1. Wrote with a goose quill pen and blue ink on blue-gray slips of paper measuring 8-3/4" by 7-1/4".

2. Never revised. If something didn't work this writer trashed the entire manuscript and started over again at the beginning.

3. Burned a first/unpublished novel after a friend said he didn't like it.

4. Died at forty but wrote fifty novels.

5. Wrote a 60K book and designed its cover art for the publisher in seventeen days.

6. Invented a glass harmonica.

7. After going blind, composed what is considered the greatest epic in the English language.

8. Once wrote in a letter that the world will end in the year 2060.

9. Had only 500 copies of the first edition of their debut novel printed because the publisher was afraid it wouldn't sell.

10. After graduating Harvard this writer didn't think the diploma fee of $5.00 was worth it, and so left without the diploma.

The Writers:

A. Jack London

B. J.K. Rowling

C. Evelyn Waugh

D. Benjamin Franklin

E. John Milton

F. Sir Isaac Newton

G. Henry David Thoreau

H. PBW

I. D.H. Lawrence

J. Charles Dickens

(The correct answers will be posted in comments at the end of the day.)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

You Like Me, You Really Like Me! For £50

As always I reserve the right to make fun of anyone who SPAMs me. Especially someone trying to sell me friends:

My name is [Kindness Duct Tape] and I am the manager of [Kindness Duct Tape]. I hope it's okme sending you an email out of the blue.

Sorry, but okme is not an adjective. Or a word.

I hope 2014 is treating you well!

Right, because if I was depressed, destitute and/or semi-suicidal you would actually care, and those dreadful feelings would keep you up nights walking the floor and worrying about what harm I might do to myself. *Yawn* Can we get on with it?

We now have a database with around 750,000 people who have joined in our online lifestyle survey. These individuals are all looking for companies like yours to interact with through your Facebook or Twitter pages.

Alas, I'm not a company, and I have no Facebook or Twitter page. But hey, do you think they want something to read? I mean, other than your fascinating online lifestyle survey?

We can categorise these individuals dependant on their interests and direct them to your page once an order is placed.

Okay. So buy 750,000 copies of my book and I'll make a Facebook page (no, I won't, but this is because I know you won't buy 750,000 copies. This is me toying with you.)

Geographics plays a part in this, and will also let you specify particular locales.

Oh, cool. Okay, Antarctica. I want everyone in Antarctica to fake-like my non-existant Facebook and Twitter pages. Can you do that? It's only like, what -- three lonely scientists, a couple dozen walruses and nine million penguins, right?

We now have a countless number of prospective clients unique to your business so please get in touch if you think this may benefit you.

What? I'm not the only one you're SPAMming, am I? And here I was going to create a Facebook page for you, you heartless bastard.

Prices from :-

£50 or $82 for 2,000 Facebook Likes

£50 or $82 for 6,000 Instagram followers

£45 or $74 for 7,000 Twitter followers

£50 or $82 for 30,000 YouTube Views


And this would be why I'm not on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram (okay, I have a YouTube account, somewhere, but I'm really more of a Vimeo gal.) You do understand that paying people to fake-like you is the definition of online stupidity, yes?

If a new customer logs on to your Facebook page and can see that you have 7000 likes compared to your rivals with just 350 likes, they tend to side with you even without considering price differences.

Sure, every customer thinks "I'm going to pay more for something because more people have fake-liked you." Dude, that is so not okme.

A free trial is available for genuine buyers.

Now you're implying I could be fake? Just like all the likes and followers and views you're peddling? Does that mean I can charge you for me? That will be a thousand dollars. I take checks and Paypal.

Assuming your company is looking to target new clients we also sell emails lists of individuals interested in what you are offering. Please message back for further details.

Assuming I'm on one of those lists now. Thanks for nothing. Where's my check?

I hope you don’t mind me shooting you--

Okay, keep the thousand bucks. I'm not that destitute.

--this email and I look forward to being able to help you at some point in the future.

Got an aspirin?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Living with Elves

I took Buzzfeed.com's Which Fictional City Should You Live In? quiz, and turns out I'd be at home with the elves:



In which fictional city would you live? Post your results in comments.

(Quiz link nicked from Gerard at The Presurfer, who would be my neighbor in Rivendell.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Elsewhere

Today I'm over at the Toriana blog with maybe the neatest girliest calendar find ever. Stop in if you get a chance, enter in comments and you might win this hatbox giveaway:




Thursday, January 23, 2014

Off to Deal



I'll be offline today getting some author stuff and other things ready for a promo event this weekend. So that your stop here was not entirely wasted, here's an interesting open call for a humorous SF/F antho I spotted over at AbsoluteWrite.com:

"Unidentified Funny Objects is an annual anthology of humorous SF/F. Headliners include Piers Anthony, Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick, Karen Haber, Esther Friesner, Tim Pratt, Jody Lynn Nye, Jim C. Hines, Gini Koch, David Farland. Length "500-6000 words"; Payment: "$0.05 per word + contributor copy. Payment will be made upon acceptance. Our preferred method of payment is via PayPal, but you may request a check." Reading Period: March 1 – March 31, 2014. See open call post for more details.

PBW notes: The post very clearly states that all submissions sent in before March 1st will be deleted unread, so definitely hold your horses until the reading period begins on March 1st. Also, while they have some dazzling headliners listed evidently this is like a Kickstarter-funded project, so you might want to check on how that's going before you agree to or sign anything.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Perfection

I'm posting this pic because it's very likely that I will never again take a closer or more perfect photograph of a bird (actual size and distance, no zoom, no retouching):



It's also the reason I will keep taking photos of birds whenever I can. Because I could be wrong.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

College Romance Writer Contest

Avon Impulse has opened a novel contest for undergraduate and graduate college student romance writers:

Avon Books and Avon Impulse, imprints of HarperCollins Publishers, recognizes the raw talent and passion for the craft that many students bring to their work, and it is for this reason that they have chosen to work with HarperCollins’ Academic Marketing division to launch an initiative seeking emerging young stars of Romance.

Prizes: "Three (3) winners will each receive individual telephone consultations with Amanda Bergeron, editor, Avon Books and Tessa Woodward, editor, Avon Books, of approximately 30 minutes to be scheduled at a mutually convenient time by no later than September 30, 2014. In addition, all entries will be reviewed and considered for publication through Avon Impulse, Avon Books’ digital-first publishing group."

What to submit: "The lesser of three chapters or 50 pages of your romance novel; a detailed synopsis of your novel not to exceed 5 pages; and a brief paragraph not to exceed 150 words describing your follow-up book." See more details in the official rules (click here to get the .pdf) Deadline: Apil 1, 2014

Monday, January 20, 2014

No Cost Ten

Ten Things You Can Have for Free

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

Alternate Pic View is a "simple picture viewer and manipulator. Features: Slideshow, Thumbnails, Drawing operations, Serveral picture formats, Tile picutes, Combine pictures, Size pictues/extend, Batchconversation/Sizing and more" (OS: Win 98/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3/Vista/7)

Celtx is a "comprehensive software package designed for people who work in the Film, TV, Theatre, and New Media industries. It combines full-feature scriptwriting with media rich pre-production support and enables online collaboration. Features include: Write, import, edit and publish scripts using standard industry formatting; Manage pre-production tasks like location and talent scouting; Perform production breakdowns by adding media (sound files, video clips and digital pictures); Collaborate with team members over the Internet" (OS: Mac OS X 10.4 or later)

Clipboard Master is a "handy utility designed to keep all previous texts, pictures and files copied to the clipboard in a list, for later use. Organize your text modules and snippets and paste them in any Windows program whenever you like. Features: List with the most recent items, Can by activated in any application at any time (Win + V or left + right mouse click), Many settings and rules possible" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/2008/7 [32-Bit/64-Bit])

The Journalist ia a "lightweight, easy-to-use and well-designed note taking application that enables you to quickly and effortlessly handle and write notes" (OS: Mac OS X 10.8 or later)

Joy to Mouse allows you to "use a joystick or joypad as if it were a normal mouse by transferring the operating system movements and clicks. In the "Options" window, accessible through the icon in the system tray, you can customize the buttons on the joystick and the velocity of movement of the pointer, enable the automatic acceleration and eventual execution of the program startup" (OS: Windows 9x/Me/2000/XP)

The free trial of Katana is a "straightforward note taking application that offers everything you need to take notes and edit, share or export them to PDF files. From Katana’s minimalist interface you can easily create new notes, search through existing ones and share them with your friends, family and co-workers via Email, Messages, Facebook or twitter" (OS:Mac OS X 10.9 or later)

Listen N Write "can be used to play and transcribe ordinary audio an video recordings. Listen N Write has special features simplifying the transcription work as you can control via keys (while using its integrated word processor) and insert time markers (bookmarks). Moreover, the audio stream is automatically rewinded a few seconds when pressing the Pause key. Listen N Write can be considered the standard program for any transcription because of its simplicity of use and small size" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/2008/7)

Radi allows you to "Create drawings, web animations and videos that work everywhere. Write web pages using the easy Markdown format. Make your videos more effective with stylized looks, annotations, etc" (OS: Mac OS X)

V-Radiois a "small and easy to use application that allows you to play your favorite internet radio stations" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7; requires Windows Media Player 9 or later, Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0)

The free trial of Ulysses III "provides quick access to reliable, handy and stylish text editing tools and also includes support for processing Markdown documents" (OS: Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Scrabble Board Collage

We're going to get crafty today; this is to show you how to recycle a Scrabble board game by turning it into a nifty Valentine's Day gift for the one you love.

What you'll need:

An old/unwanted Scrabble board game (if you want to keep yours check the local thrift stores)
Copies of your favorite family photos
Glue


First, lay out the tiles on the game board to form names and loving phrases (try to intersect two or more words to get the Scrabble effect.) Select photos that you want for the collage (if you like use a theme like your wedding, high school days, memories of the kids, or a special vacation as a theme.) Trim your photos to fit them into spaces between the words you've made with the tiles.

Lay out everything on the board so you'll have a preview of how it will look when it's finished. Once you're satisfied with the arrangement, glue the tiles to the board with a hot glue gun or tacky glue. Use adhesive splits or mounting corners to fix your photos in place (the game grid is an excellent placement guide for your photos, too.)

If you have any extra spaces on the board left that you want to fill, use adhesive-backed felt hearts or glue small mementos in those spots. Once all the glue has completely dried drill two small holes in the top corners of the board and tie on a piece of yarn or ribbon to serve as a hanger.

Here's what it should look like when it's done:

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cool Shelves

I spotted this old beauty here during a recent flea market junket and had to snap a shot. I love shaped book cases, and while I don't have space for it at mi casa, I thought it would likely fit perfectly in the corner of almost any room. Books are (to me, anyway) a safe harbor, so why not store them in lighthouse bookcase?













In anticipation of Spring cleaning I'm working on the home office, and now have one back wall free to do with as I please. I'd like to hang shelves (for books, of course) but I'd rather do something other than the usual thing. Which is probably why this clever shelf caught my eye:



What better way to keep track of the TBR as well as what you're reading or have just read than this?

Unfortunately that shelf would probably be a bit small for my purposes; at the moment I'm reading about twenty different books and I have another thirty piled up in the TBR queue. Maybe something like this would be more accomodating:



I don't have that much wall space, however, so I guess it's back to the drawing board -- and if I do put together anything especially cool I promise to post some pics.

Do you have an unusual or creative way to showcase your books? Let us know in comments (and share links to pics if you have them, too.)

Related PBW links: Book Places

Image credit for TBR and READ bookcases: Amazing Punch

Friday, January 17, 2014

London Then & Now

A cinematographer named Claude Friese-Greene travelled across the UK back in the 1920's with his new colour film camera. His trip ended in London, with some of his most stunning images, which were recently restored.

Filmmaker Simon Smith recreated every one of these shots by walking in Friese-Greene's footsteps around London, and cobbled them together in this split-screen video to show how much (or rather, how little) London has changed during the past 86 years. What caught my eye more than anything was the dramatic differences in clothing (video includes background music, for those of you at work):

London in 1927 & 2013 from Simon Smith on Vimeo.


(Video link nicked from Gerard at The Presurfer.)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Patronize Me

Salon.com's Laura Miller has an interesting article here on the future of authorial income, in which she spotlights Kickstarter as an excellent way for an author to raise funds for a novel project. Over the last couple of years the crowd-funding website has become a popular platform for indie authors and other publishing entities to employ when seeking the always-elusive financial support they need for books they can't/won't sell to publishers and other special projects.

What Ms. Miller doesn't mention in her piece is that Publishing has the second-lowest successfully funded rate of all the categories on Kickstarter; according to Writer's Digest only 32% of the book projects placed on the site are fully funded. I'll also take an educated guess that the majority of Kickstarter book-funding successes are enjoyed by established names who can attract a large number of donors and/or widespread interest from funder crowd. Still, Kickstarter has successfully funded 4,000+ publishing projects since it began in 2009, so if you already have a following and don't mind seeking financial aid in this manner it could help with the cost of producing an indie title.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fine with Will

I took the How Long Would You Survive After the Apocalypse test and discovered I'll probably make it for a while after:



This also gives me an excuse to tell a true story: my daughter actually met Will Smith some years back during a school field trip to Disney World. The actor was there on vacation with his kids, and still took the time to stop and talk to my daughter and her class and answer some questions. We didn't know about any of this until she mentioned it during dinner that night, and I didn't believe her until I asked her teacher, who confirmed the whole thing. So if I'm going to be like any celebrity, I'm absolutely fine with Will Smith.

How long will you survive after the Apocalypse? Take the test and post your results in comments.

Added: Broken link for the test has been fixed -- apologies for that.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Elsewhere with Kit

Today I'm over at the Toriana blog celebrating 2014 and the print launch of my new series, which will be hitting the shelves in late January and February this Spring.

Stop in if you have a chance, enter the giveaway and you could win this lovely handmade crazy quilted tote (this is the one with the neat holographic thread stitching on the burnout silk centerpieces that I posted on the photoblog last year, and some sinfully soft silk velvet patchwork.) The giveaway winner will also receive a signed print copy of Disenchanted & Co. and a print ARC of The Clockwork Wolf.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sub Ops Ten

Ten Things About Submission Opportunities

Belfire Press will be open to novel submissions from 2/01/14 to 5/30/14, and is looking for "mystery, adventure, fantasy, romance, historical, horror, thriller, science fiction, paranormal, urban and YA. We are particularly interested in cross-genre works. We publish almost every genre, with few exceptions. Over the years we’ve published mainly horror, and are looking to move into other areas. Horror submitted to us at this point will need to be something that really grabs us to receive a full request. All that being said, we are most interested in cross-genre fiction; urban-paranormal-fantasy-romance-YA-thriller-scifi-apocalyptic (sans zombie) sounds about right. If you’ve got a mix of any (or all) we’d take a look." Length: up to 90K; Payment according to Ralan.com: "no advance; print=25%; e-book=50% (½ if Dual Novella)" Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Circlet Press is looking for erotic microfiction submissions: ". . . 250-1000 word short-shorts of erotic sf/f and related genres (no horror, though) that make an enticing fictive snack. Microfictions should be sex-positive. literary quality, and although they may be explicit should be tastefully written. Stories without that sf/f/speculative element will not be considered." Payment: "Microfictions pay $5 via Paypal (you must have a Paypal account), or a free ebook from our extensive digital library." See guidelines for more details.

The Dark Magazine is open to fiction submissions for its bimonthly e-zine, and is looking for: "Mainstream fiction with elements of the fantastic mixed in; Dark fantasy / science fiction; Magic realism (“a literary genre or style that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction—called also magical realism”) —Merriam-Webster, www.m-w.com; Surrealism: (“the principles, ideals, or practice of producing fantastic or incongruous imagery or effects in art, literature, film, or theater by means of unnatural or irrational juxtapositions and combinations”) —Merriam-Webster,www.m-w.com. Don’t be afraid to experiment or to deviate from the ordinary; be stylistic—try us with fiction that falls out of “regular” categories. However, it is also important to understand that despite the name, The Dark is not a market for graphic, violent horror. The “horror” should be subtle and fall in with one or more of the themes above. It is also not a market for ordinary science fiction or fantasy." Length: "1,000 – 5,000 words (query for longer)" Payment: "We pay 3 cents/word for original fiction up to 5,000 words on publication for FNASR. Query for longer." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Fantasy Scroll Magazine has opened its virtual doors: "Fantasy Scroll Mag is a quarterly publication featuring science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal short-fiction. We are a brand new publication and our mission is to publish high-quality, entertaining, and thought-provoking speculative fiction." Length: up to 5K; Payment: 1¢/word; reprints okay, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Inscription Magazine publishes science fiction and fantasy for teens, and is looking for ". . . stories with strong writing and memorable characters. There must be a clear genre element, science fiction or fantasy, so no non-genre fiction, please. But while genre is key, we consider characters and story to be even more important. Humor is welcome, but the point of your story shouldn’t just be a punch line at the end. While we hope readers of all ages will enjoy this magazine, we do primarily publish fiction for teens. It is always difficult to draw a definite line around what makes a story young adult, but here are some rough guidelines if you’re deciding whether your story is a good fit for our magazine – you can also read some of the fiction already posted on our site." Length: "We accept stories between 500 and 9,000 words in length." Payment: 5 cents/word. Reprints okay, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details.

Resurrection House has an open call for their upcoming XIII antho, and is looking for: ". . . science fiction, fantasy, horror, and creative non-fiction for a loosely themed anthology to be released in the winter of 2015. “Thirteen” is the first month of a new yearly cycle, wherein the old skins have been shed and the newborns are still learning to walk. “One” and “Three” make “Four,” which is the number of completion, of coming home, and of realizing the form that has been in process for some time. Nothing is true; everything is possible. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. The thirteenth Tarot card is Death, and he is the symbol of transformation and rebirth. This is the genesis and root of XIII." Length: "Stories should be between 1,000 and 7,000 words" Payment: 5 cents/word. Reprints okay, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: March 13th, 2014.

The Act Itself erotica e-zine is calling for submissions, and is looking for: ". . . fun, sexy stories and quality erotica artwork. We'll not consider anything which includes underage characters or stupidly dangerous acts. We will consider some fetish-oriented themes, but keep them light. This publication is to bring everyone together, and for everyone to have a good time. What do we like to read in our spare time? Some like Penthouse Letters, others like Literotica.com, others enjoy the Marketplace books, or anything from Blue Moon. That should give you some idea as to what we're looking for." [PBW notes they also want authors to be 21 or older.] Length: up to 8k; Payment: 3 cents per word; no reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Villainous Press has an open call for their upcoming Steampunk: The Worlds Beyond antho, and requires the following story elements: "Protagonist is either a (strong, empowered) female OR an under-represented race (Black, Hispanic, Middle-Eastern, Asian, Native, etc.); The setting must be anywhere EXCEPT on Earth. Please worldbuild so we can “see” your setting; You may mix in dark, horror, mystery, romantic, fantasy, or science fiction elements, as long as it doesn’t overpower the theme of steampunk; This is a Steampunk anthology, so there must be Steampunk elements. A bit of electricity or dieselpunk is acceptable, but the majority must be steam-oriented; A solid plot involving a conflict of some sort. Make your “villain” believable and a good match for your hero." Length: "Stories must be between 2,500 words and 8,000 words, strict." Payment: "From 2,500 to 6,000 words: $15US plus a copy of the print edition. For countries other than the United States, $15US plus a copy of the digital edition; From 6,000 to 8,000 words, $25US plus a copy of the print edition. For countries other than the United States, $25US plus a copy of the digital edition." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: February 28th, 2014

There's an open call here for a dark ritual antho: "Rituals have always been a powerful part of human life, from the ancient Aztec nation’s human sacrifice to the supposed transubstantiation of the Communion elements during Catholic Mass. They impart a sense of history, comfort, community, common ground—but also power, mystery and horror. Since this isn’t Clam Chowder for the Coddled Child, I’m interested in the latter attributes. I want to see dark ritual in all the various forms you can imagine—from the ancient and ceremonial to the simple and home-grown. The rituals in your stories can be grounded in painstaking research or your own twisted creations. They can have real power or simply exist in the minds of your characters. They can produce the desired effect or something else entirely. Stories predicated upon the standard voodoo doll or zombie need to be particularly mind-blowing, as such topics are expected given the theme—the same goes for Cthulhu Mythos. If you’ve read CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? you’ll know that I’m especially interested in the kind of stories that play with people’s preconceived notions and turn tropes on their ears. I’m anticipating a modern setting for most pieces, though I’m open to historical stories told with today’s sensibilities. Cross-genre stories will likely be a hard sell. No Science Fiction. Urban Fantasy might work. Gore and sex need to support an actual story, rather than be the end in and of themselves." Length: "Word count is 3-5,000." Payment" "will be split royalties, paid quarterly*." Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: June 1st, 2014.

WritersWhoRock.com has an open call here for an upcoming Nana-themed antho: "We are looking for true life stories about specific memories, incidents and lessons learned from your grandmother. What impact did she have on the woman you have become? You can convey her essence through conversations you had and remembrances you cherish-or cringe about. Unusual, provocative, irreverent, poignant, shocking, sad, or funny are the kinds of stories we are looking for. Are you and your grandma radically different or two peas in a pod? Was she traditional nana or a forward thinking feminist? Was she kindly? Or best described as a witch?" Length and Payment: "We pay $30 for 500-2000 words upon acceptance and two contributor copies after publication." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: March 14, 2014.

Much of the above was found among the marvelous market listings at Ralan.com.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Didn't Got Build

We have a loose tradition of having take-out from our favorite Chinese restaurant on or around New Year's, and while we're a bit late for 2014 we finally indulged last night. The place we go to faithfully is also the source of my favorite fortune cookies, as they always seem to offer some very quirky (and occasionally eerie) wisdom. So far 2014 has been relatively uneventful, too, so I was itching to read the first fortunes the Universe sent our way.

Our daughter's part-time job at a very busy store has turned out to be more like full-time, so I imagine she was happy to read hers:



My guy is not getting any younger, but he never uses his age as an excuse, and usually does twice the work of men half his age. He also doesn't give up even when things get really tough, so his fortune was probably not much of a surprise:



Then there was mine:



Love that comma placement. Of course it can be interpreted to be about writing -- isn't everything about writing? -- but at that moment it spoke to me about something else, too.

We always get an extra fortune cookie so that whoever doesn't like their fortune can have a do-ever. Since we were all happy with our fortunes we decided the fourth cookie would be a fortune for the year ahead for all of us. It delivered the expected wisdom along with an unexpected chuckle:

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Brain Changers

According to this article by Julia Ryan, reading fiction does great things for your brain. fMRIs performed on the participants after they read some of Pompeii by Robert Harris (excellent book, btw) revealed:

. . . heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, the area of the brain associated with receptivity for language. Heightened connectivity in other parts of the brain suggested that readers may experience “embodied semantics,” a process in which brain connectivity during a thought-about action mirrors the connectivity that occurs during the actual action. For example, thinking about swimming can trigger the some of the same neural connections as physical swimming.

I'm interpreting this to be similar to the sensations one can have when thinking of biting into a popsicle (I feel phantom cold shivers, for example.) We storytellers often talk about engaging the reader, and this study offers interesting scientific proof of that. It also suggests why some books don't work for readers -- possibly because those connections between story and mind weren't made.

What do you think about the potential effects of fiction on the brain? Do you think reading has changed your brain? Tell us in comments.

(Article link swiped from Gerard over at The Presurfer)

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Discovering by Doing

Last month I started working on this crazy quilted tote with no particular purpose in mind. Almost everything else I'd worked on in 2013 was for gifts or promo purposes, and I wanted to do something for stitching practice. Projects like these allow me to try new ideas, too.

When I make practice projects I always use scraps and leftover floss and beads so I don't waste materials. I also try to use up supplies I don't particularly like for whatever reason (this bag got stuck with a length of velvet ribbon and a swatch of faux-silk cotton, both in bright Barbie/Pepto Bismol pink.) My logic for using unwanted bits is that if I completely screw it up I can toss it in the scrap bin without any tears.

I made some poor choices with this bag from the start: the blinding white canvas handles (neutral would have been better), two Victorian novelty prints I considered interesting (actually too busy) and a butterfly I cobbled together from an organza floral accent piece and a rhinestone earring (it looked so great in my head, but after the execution? Not so much.) I'm also a little allergic to sequins, so discovering the semi-transparent type already sewn on my silk flower and my butterfly base annoyed me. I admit, I was a bit all over the place with the color palette, too.

Despite this, I worked on this bag every night for four weeks. I didn't like it, I was already mad at myself for some of the decisions I'd made, but I also suspected I could learn something from it. I've been experimenting for a couple of years now with mixing crystals, pearls, satin ribbons and lace for embellishment. Lately I have this running pink/gold/antique white/gray theme that usually works out well, and I decided to go with some variations on the bag.

I was fairly happy with some of what I did on the front of the bag, but a satin ribbon I wanted to use for the back turned out to have a bunch of pin marks and puckers in it. Beading it the way I had planned would showcase every blemish. I also had a slightly tattered ivory cotton eyelet ribbon I'd meant to pair with the mangled ribbon, but once I pinned it in place I could see that my pearls and crystals would look a little silly edging the many large flower-shaped spaces in it.

I sewed and ripped and beaded and snipped as I tried several things I've done in the past, but none of them really worked with the ribbon or the lace. Right as I was about to toss it in the scrap bin I decided to let go of what I expected and wanted and instead try something entirely new. I sewed different-colored pearls in the eyelet spaces of the lace, and then embroidered and beaded over the mangled ribbon with contrasting beads and floss. As I was working on it I was almost 100% sure it would end up looking like crap, but what the heck. Nothing ventured, right?



Of all the work I did on the bag, the make-do/try something new sections with the lace and ribbon you see here turned out to be the best-looking of my handwork. They finished so well you might think that I'd planned it all that way from the start with brand-new materials.

We can talk about our work, and study techniques, and read piles of books about it (you don't want to know how many books on quilting and embellishment that I've read.) Having discussions as well as studying how to be better at what we do are great, and we should do as much of that as we can. That said, sometimes the only way to discover what you can do is to simply do it and keep doing it until you figure it out or you work it out or it just happens. We all know that practice really doesn't make anything perfect, but it can give you the time, space and challenges you need in order to make new discoveries about your work -- and yourself.

What have you learned to do better simply by doing it? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Who Plays Me?

Answer nine questions in this online quiz and you'll find out which actor would play you in a movie. Here are my results:



A bit young and far too pretty to play me, I think, and I don't know what that dream unicorn ref means (which proves how old and unhip I am.) So who plays you? Post your results in comments.

(Online quiz link nicked from Gerard at The Presurfer)

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

A Charming Challenge

In February I'm joining in the 2014 edition of a month of letters, a correspondence-writing challenge created by author Mary Robinette Kowal. Here's a description of the challenge in her words:

"In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch. Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items. All you are committing to is to mail 23 items. Why 23? There are four Sundays and one US holiday. In fact, you might send more than 23 items. You might develop a correspondence that extends beyond the month."

Postal rates here in the U.S. are increasing as of January 26th, so if you want to join in figure stamps for 23 first class, one ounce letters will run you $11.27 for domestic and $26.45 for international.

While I have a fairly constant circle of correspondents to whom I write regularly, I thought it would be interesting to add a personal spin to my participation by sending half of my letters to people I don't know very well and/or with whom I've had only very limited contact. It's easy to write to close friends and family; a bit tougher to reach out to someone who is simply an acquaintance.

I'll report back at the beginning of March on how it went. Anyone else interested in taking up the challenge? Let us know in comments.


Monday, January 06, 2014

Work It Ten

Ten Web Sites with Jobs for Writers

AbsoluteWrite.com Forums: Check out the Freelance & Work for Hire section in the forums for open calls. Mostly sub ops for anthologies, e-zines and start-up book publishers.

Ed2010.com: Looking for magazine jobs, freelance article work, editorial positions, internships, etc.? Check out these classified listings.

Editor & Publisher.com: Searchable classified listings for those of you who are looking for writing, editing and other publishing employment.

Ellora's Cave: We could rename it "Romantica and Erotica Sub Ops R Us." To see where your work might fit in, read up on EC's extensive line of imprints here.

Freelance Writing Jobs: Job leads for just about every kind of publishing job. Probably the best daily-published listings of wide-spectrum writing jobs on the internet.

JournalismJobs.com: This one provides global job listings for media professionals.

Mediabistro: Lots and lots of industry job listings here.

Ralan.com: if you're writing SF, fantasy or horror fiction, this is the place where you'll find the most market listings for your novels and stories. Also especially good for timely listings for anthology and contest open calls.

Samhain Publishing: An established and respected online e-publisher; wants novels in "all genres of romance and erotica, as well as fantasy, urban fantasy and science fiction with strong romantic elements." Currently branching out into reprints and horror, too.

The Market List: Geared toward genre writers; offers resources as well as market listings.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Comments Catchup Day No More

Last year I began devoting Sundays strictly to reading and answering comments left here at PBW; something I've never been very good at doing. For a few months it worked, too. Having an entire day to review the week's posts and chat with my visitors helped me be more responsive and show my appreciation for those of you who brave the comment form to leave some remarks.

The number of comments began to decline almost immediately in the wake of this feature, however, and I think that may be due to me trying to answer all of them. Also, I'm not always able to spend even one day per week answering comments; often bad weather or the usual domestic disasters conspire to keep me offline. Seems silly to schedule a day to answer comments and then not be able to show up and do that.

So my first change to the blog for 2014 is to eliminate comments catchup day. I will try to keep responding to the comments you leave here, although I can't promise when. I'll also skip answering any comments that don't really invite or need a reply from me.

Comments will remain on moderation, primarily to prevent SPAMmers from flooding them with their dreck, as I still get hit about five or ten times a week from those pinheads. For any questions you have about comments here at the blog, see section E. on the About PBW page over there on the sidebar.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Doing Things Undone

My first work-related task of 2014 was to hang the new calendar up in my writing space. It's that stark but peaceful Zen edition I bought at B&N with my Christmas gift card, and it looks neat and calm on the wall. I think I'm going to like keeping track of my work weeks in black and white, and hopefully it reminds me to knock on the sky and listen to the sound (quoting it here.)

My second and third tasks were to finish some work leftover from 2013. For various reasons it was tough but at the same time brought some relief; unfinished things weigh on me terribly. I think every week I'm going to tackle things like this, all these little and big things I've set aside or put on the back burner or otherwise left hanging, and do whatever it takes to get them done. The good feeling of getting it done chased away my post-holiday blues, and now I feel more prepared to get back on a regular work schedule on Monday.

It's amazing how many lives we can have going at the same time, isn't it? The family life, the personal life, the professional life, the writing life, the social life, the online life -- toss in hobbies and friends and volunteer work and before you know it you're trying to live ten lives all at once. We all multi-task like postal sorters on amphetamines, and yet more and more it seems we can't get things done. Focus on any one of your lives for any length of time in order to finish something, and the others start to suffer, create problems for you and/or dwindle. You almost have to be a master juggler to integrate it all, keep everything moving and not drop anything. How can we get things done if we're too busy to realize how much we have waiting, unfinished?

That's also what I want to work on this year, and while I need to meditate a bit more on the solution I think downsizing and simplifying wherever/whenever I can will help.

So what's up with you all? Tell me in comments.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Talk Like a . . .

Answer an easy 25-question quiz about how you pronounce words, and the New York Times will show where you most fit in dialect-wise on a U.S. map.

I took the test, and here are my results:



How accurate is the test? Well, in my case, 99.9%. As a young kid I lived about three blocks south of Pembroke Pines, and later spent much of my teen years in Fort Lauderdale. I'll guess the Jacksonville crept into my speech patterns when I was a young adult and commuted there for work for several years.

(Test link filched from Gerard over at The Presurfer)

Thursday, January 02, 2014

First Reads of 2014

I thought I'd kick off my 2014 reading year with books and mags I was given or bought during the holidays. Here's what I picked:



And, what I thought:

I picked up a copy of Writer's Digest Writer's Yearbook 2014 special issue because of the market listings; I needed the info for some future sub op posts. Kevin Kaiser has a decent article with some smart strategies on self-promotion for those of you who are looking more for theory, but the rest isn't all that new or interesting. I do think the market listings make it worth the cover price, though.

The Cuckoo's Calling by J.K. Rowling (at first pretending to be a guy writer named Robert Galbraith until the publisher realized no one was buying the book and accidentally/artfully spilled the beans) is a private detective mystery. It's easy to sneer over a book that didn't sell until everyone knew who really wrote it, but I thought it was okay. Middle of the road, earnestly-written -- like a lot of popular hardcover crime fic, in fact (disclaimer: I'm not really a P.I. mystery fan, but I started with P.D. James's Dagliesh novels, so as a result I expect my reading bar is a bit higher than most.) There were a few size references for the protag that also made me envision that kindly giant character Hagrid from Harry Potter, but otherwise it seemed to be entirely Hogwart-free. I would not recommend it for youngsters due to the violence, language and certain themes -- J.K. does sprinkle the eff word about quite liberally -- but fans of Michael Connolly and his sort might find it mildly diverting.

Land of the Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel. How do I describe this reading experience, besides regret over the large chunks of three days of my life spent plowing through it that I'll never get back? I had wondered why so many of you had nothing good to say about the book when I mentioned it last year, and hindsight says I should have listened to you. It's true that I haven't really loved the series since the end of The Mammoth Hunters, but I was hanging on until we could get to the last novel, you know? I even waited an extra two years before I cracked this puppy so I'd be emotionally ready to let go.

Am now quite ready. Fasten your seatbelts, friends.

Probably the most annoying thing was all the repetition, repetition, rep -- I mean, how many times did we really have to hear the Mother's song in its entirety? I'm thinking not twenty-seven, how about you? Or what it was like to bring the horses into a strange camp and calm people's fears about them (fifty times), or show them how to pet Wolf and feel his neck fur (ninety times), or be introduced to Ayla and hear all her titles (two hundred times), or see the same fricking boring cave paintings of horse heads and elephant heads and what have you over and over (I'm not counting those. After the third cave, I just skipped over those scenes.) I think some of you mentioned that, too.

And what was with the kid and whipping her out of the carrying blanket so she could pee on the ground? Why, exactly, did I have read that four hundred times? Jean, honey, I've potty-trained a daughter. After the first perfectly-timed piddle it's just not that impressive. And that's in real life -- but in fiction? Even less.

I know how difficult it is to end a series, so I think I could have forgiven all the repeats and dragginess, but whoever was playing the part of Ayla in this book was not the Ayla I know from The Valley of Horses. That Ayla would have never stood around so much, or uttered all this housekeeping dialogue, or treated Jondalar like an unreliable babysitter instead of the love of her life, or perpetually kissed the First's butt for reasons I'm still not straight on (and don't get me started on that portion of the story. Your seatbelt will snap.) No, my Ayla would have packed up her sling and dragged Jondalar back to the Mamutoi and gone on thrilling hunts and invented more cool stuff and tamed some more critters and kept me from falling asleep. This Ayla was about as engaging as Zzzzzzquil.

No reunion with Durc, so that was a huge disappointment. I should have expected that, but I really wanted Ayla to see her kid again, one last time. I was led to believe it would happen. Remember the dream she had where her Clan son meets her Other son and they fight or something? I think that was in The Mammoth Hunters. What happened to that coming true?

Then, toward the end, in the last part . . . I won't get into specifics so I don't totally spoil the end, even though I want to, but Jondalar and Marona? After what that witch did to Ayla in Shelters? Okay, maybe my disbelief might have eventually stretched to accomodate that drop into fictional relationship hell -- Jondalar could have had a complete lobotomy at the Big Summer Meeting, right? -- but then to follow it up with Ayla and Laramar? Really? Laramar? No, really? Laramar? Laramar?

JM&J. I never like to caps-yell, but the next time you all tell me not to read a book, I swear, I AM GOING TO LISTEN TO YOU.

To end on a positive note, the Winter 2014 issue of Pages magazine has just hit the racks, and this one has another great assortment of ideas and projects for your handmade books, journals and art journaling. I was amused to see the "Pocket Star" journal (have to make one of those for my editor) but I thought Gina Lee Kim's Washi Tape Art Journal project and Shayna Butler's article on what to put in an idea book were especially inspiring. I also applaud the editors for continuing to provide fresh new projects, many of which use recycled materials, for those of us who love to make books.

So what have you read so far in 2014? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Wishing You