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Sandra McDonald
love, duty and really big spaceships
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24th-Apr-2014 07:00 am - Two Ops

Sub Op for Writers:

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

Job Op for Editors:

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

For more information about the job's responsibilities and educational/skill requirements for the position, visit Kirkus Media's career section here.
23rd-Apr-2014 07:00 am - Spark My Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My guy did the other night when this fortune landed in his lap. Now he's not a writer, so he didn't get it, but the moment I saw it I thought, What if Elizabeth Moon likes Chinese, and collects the fortunes . . . ?
22nd-Apr-2014 07:00 am - Psychic Review #2!

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

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

21st-Apr-2014 07:00 am - Entitled Ten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things Organized Neatly: This one is also a Tumblr blog, and if you're like me and slightly OCD about the art of organization, you'll want to have a look.
19th-Apr-2014 07:00 am - Logging Off, Editing with Ernest

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

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

And the text version of the same:

Hemingway App makes your writing bold and clear.

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

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

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

Phrases in green have been marked to show passive voice.

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

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

You can use this online tool to edit fiction, blog posts, e-mails, or basically anything you write, and it may see something you don't, so check it out when you have a chance.
18th-Apr-2014 07:00 am - Beautiful

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

The Moment of Beauty from Takayuki Sato on Vimeo.

17th-Apr-2014 07:00 am - Face Me Out, Please

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

My results:

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

(Test link nicked from Gerard at The Presurfer)
16th-Apr-2014 07:00 am - Reject Sub Op

Harren Press has a very interesting open call for an upcoming antho: "We, at Harren Press, are hosting a REJECTED anthology! Any short story that you have written, submitted, and been rejected with; we are interested in seeing it and the rejection letter. We are accepting any genre, so feel free to submit anything you have. What we ARE looking for: Stories that have been polished by the writer, but for one reason or another were not accepted by the intended publisher. What we are NOT looking for: Stories that have obvious reasons for rejection. We do not want stories that are filled with several grammatical and spelling errors. We do not want stories that have no ending, have no plot, and have no character building. Your story should be a complete short story. Within this anthology, there will be a forward that discusses the various reasons that stories, even perfectly written stories, can sometimes hit the rejection pile at different presses, small and large." [PBW notes: How cool is this? I'm putting a reminder on my calendar so I can buy the finished product in December.] Length: 2.5-5.5K Payment: $5.00. No reprints (obviously), electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: June 30th, 2014 or when filled.
15th-Apr-2014 07:00 am - Very Good Reading!

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

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

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

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

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

Still don't get it?

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

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

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

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

What? It's possible.

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

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