Fun Gifts for English Lovers: Check out my Zazzle Store!

Yes, you read that right – I now have a Zazzle Store, and it is open for business! In fact, I have two. 😉 If you’re looking for fun gifts for English lovers, now’s your chance! Check out Words to Write By for products related to author quotes and writing, and if you like rebus puzzles and fun Christmas cards, look no further than Holiday Cards & More!

Fun Gifts for English Lovers

Words to Write By

You know the author quote images that I post here? Well, now you can buy them on various products. 😀 I’ve posted a mix below to give you an idea of the types of products I’ve made, but be sure to look through the store. Different quotes may appear on multiple products, and mugs, magnets, etc. come in different styles and sizes.

1. Magnets


2. Mugs and Cup Warmers


3. Coasters
4. Keepsake Boxes
5. Notebooks


6. Wall Art & Decor


7. Accessories


Holiday Cards & More!

Did you ever get those puzzles where you were given a drawing or some words together that made a pun or a literal representation of something that you had to guess? Like a knight in armor making the “shhh!” gesture to indicate “Silent Night” or “blind mice” written 3 times to indicate the nursery rhyme “3 Blind Mice”?

Well, those are rebus puzzles. I’ve always loved them, and, recently, I’ve started trying to make my own. Specifically, I started making punny Christmas cards.

Here are a few examples:

8. Rebus Puzzle Holiday Cards


Thanks for looking! If you liked what you saw or wanted to see some other quotes or ideas in products, let me know – maybe, I can do something about that. 😉


Brandon Sanderson Unholy Hours of the Morning Quote

Brandon Sanderson Unholy Hours of the Morning Quote


Honestly, I have paid many authors this compliment. More than I should have, actually. And I have to say that the “unholy hours of the morning” part of this Brandon Sanderson quote is painfully accurate. At a certain time of night, the body begins to punish you for still being awake (But… I must… finish…).

As for the rest of the quote, while it might be interesting to debate whether authors are “terrible people who delight in the suffering of others,” the obvious humor takes the joy out of that conversation. I’d much rather discuss the final idea:

“Plus, we get a kickback from the caffeine industry.”

Now, isn’t that a fun concept to play with?

Granted, I’m a bit tired (see: loopy); however, part of my brain is formulating a sales pitch for the marketing department of a coffee company. I’m sure there’s some grassroots coffee company owner who’d love to partner with an author with a page-turner to sell.

Especially coffee shops in books stores, right?

Would you buy coffee or tea that promoted your favorite author? Or authors? J.K. Rowling recommends this tea for late-night Harry Potter binges. Stephen King dares you to try this coffee when finishing his latest horror novel at 3 am.

This feels like the sort of thing ThinkGeek would promote – the bibliophile’s Christmas coffee  gift box with a flavor matched to each book.

Ok. I was being silly before, but now, I’m starting to seriously think this could happen. Maybe, it already exists! Hold on. Let me Google it.

Phew. I didn’t see it – yet (although the Mr. Coffee blog does have an article about book genres that go better with a cuppa coffee).  But all in all, I guess, the last part of the quote is sadly fiction.

But if you get a coffee-book marketing thing going, don’t forget that you owe me a percentage! (or at least a tip on how to get one, too…)


A Writing Prompt for Villains (and Thanksgiving)

A Writing Prompt for Villains (and Thanksgiving) how to make a stronger villainYou know that moment when you’re writing something and what you’re writing gives you an idea for something else to write? Well, while writing last year’s “Happy Thanksgiving Writing Prompt,” I couldn’t help but think about how it could be turned into a writing prompt for villains (and Thanksgiving).

Seem wrong? Of course it is! It’s villainous!

How to Make a Stronger Villain with the
Happy Thanksgiving Writing Prompt

If you think back to last year’s Thanksgiving writing prompt, you’ll remember that it was all about what characters want and how badly they want it. From a writer’s perspective, that’s important for figuring out character motivation and planning character behavior. From a villain’s perspective, it’s useful for almost exactly the same reasons.

After all, villains are plotting against your characters the same as you are (or should be).

That means that a very similar writing exercise can help you make a stronger villain and up the stakes of your plot. Here’s how it works.

  1. Pick the villain and target(s) you’re going to work with. If this is for a book, the target should include all the heroes (all the people opposing the villain) – thinking of 1 is not enough, but you can work on them 1 at a time.
  2. Use the happy Thanksgiving writing prompt to figure out what the target(s) values. If you’ve already done this, all the better.
  3. Think of ways the villain could endanger the objects, ideals, or people the target values. You can aim for the most important ones, but a villain with a meticulous personality might try to cover them all. If the main hero’s family or valuables are protected, consider their friends or allies. There has to be a vulnerable spot somewhere.
  4. Integrate the villain’s plans into your plot. Does the villain do the work him or herself? Does he or she assign someone else? When do the point of view characters find out about the danger(s)? How is the danger averted? Are the attacks spread out (faced one after another), or must several be confronted at once?

Remember that realistic villains have finite resources, so they may need to prioritize attacks by the cost, profit, and chance of success. That said, if they can’t manage to threaten at least a couple of the valued people or things, then they’re not that impressive as villains. The more efficient, effective, and insightful their threats are, however, the more frightening and powerful they will seem.

On the other hand, if a villain is bad at figuring out what the enemies value, he or she isn’t going to succeed (not without help or lucky happenstance).

And when you think of it that way, it makes sense that a villain would like last year’s Thanksgiving writing prompt. A process for identifying the hero’s weaknesses? Oh, yeah. That’s handy. It’s like an excerpt of Villainy for Dummies. 😉


5 Dangers of Holidays and Vacations

5 Dangers of Holidays and Vacations

It doesn’t look dangerous…

When you see something about the dangers of holidays and vacations, the first thought is probably along the lines of safety when traveling and shopping fraud, not writing problems. You know me, though, I’m talking about the dangers to your writing habits, not your health or finances.

Holidays and Vacations: The Succubi of a Writer’s Schedule

If you’ve ever manage to get into a regular writing habit or even a semi-regular writing habit (not the easiest goal, I admit), then you might see where I’m going with this. It’s like any other habit – the only ones that are easy to restart are the bad ones (the ones you’re trying not to do).

Since writing is work, beware temptations to put it aside for a bit. It might get dusty before you get back to it.

Here are some common enticements to resist.

 1. Reading

If you’re a bibliophile like me, books can be hard to resist. And the more I read, the harder it is to resist reading. Then, that time I set aside for writing? It’s spent reading instead.

I’m not saying to never read (A tragedy!), but it might be wise to keep whatever rules you usually have for reading. In other words, don’t let books take over your entire schedule. It’ll make coming back from a holiday harder, believe me.

2. Sleeping In

Oh, that sounds good. Are you as sleep deprived as I am? Does the idea of lazing in bed and sleeping hours into the day sound like the best present you could get right now?

Well, that sucks.

Honestly, that’s pretty bad, and if you can, you need to make some life changes to fix that (says the pot to the kettle [I’m working on it!]).

That said, resist the urge to sleep til noon on vacation days. It’ll just screw up your sleep schedule, and you’ll pay for that temporary pleasure with a real struggle when it’s time to get up for work again.

3. Distracted Writing

Although multitasking is handy at times, it’s not ideal for productive writing. Like loss of sleep, it makes the writing take longer, and the writing quality drops. Neither is helpful.

If you can, keep your dedicated writing time the same as usual. If you can’t, a shorter but still dedicated period for writing can be more productive than trying to combine your writing with other chores or projects.

4. Hectic Schedules

Those of us with large families may not get much of a choice on this one. That said, we still get to decide what we commit to. We can choose not to make our lives more complicated than they need to be.

A good example is what you cook for a family potluck. If you have a choice between a really fancy, work-intensive recipe and an easy one that’s just as popular, which is gonna give you more time to write and make your life less stressful?

There are tons of decisions we make about holidays and gatherings that can have the same effect. How many stops we make, what parties we go to, and what favors we agree to do for other people are the mere tip of the iceberg.

5. Residual Exhaustion

If you can resist scheduling yourself thin, this one will be easier; however, we’ve all had those holidays where we work so hard to make everything amazing that we need a vacation after the holidays are over. That’s when taking a total day or two off looks really, really appealing.

Apple to Eve kind of appealing.

In that situation, try to make yourself do a minimum amount of work. You can even decide ahead of time – this much time writing, this much exercising, this much cleaning up, etc.

If you can at least keep the general shape of your usual daily habits in place (still with plenty of resting!), then, going back to work will be much easier.

You see, getting out of the habit is the real problem. The more of these temptations you keep from taking over your vacation, the better chance you have of keeping your writing going once you get back in the swing of things. Otherwise, it’s horribly easy to get back to work and replace your writing habit with a reading/sleeping/tv-watching/etc. habit instead.

You’ve experienced this problem before, right? (It’s not just me?) What other tips do you have?