Hanukah starts in nine days; Christmas is two weeks away. And so I thought it might be worthwhile to offer a few gift ideas for those of your shopping for a writer (even if that writer happens to be you!) It’s been a couple of years since we had one of these lists on the site, and while there may be some overlap with past lists, this one will be a bit more inclusive.
Software: After Kalayna’s great post from Thursday, this seems like a good place to start. Scrivener, which is a terrific program for writers that helps with organization, research, character sketches, and the actual writing of your book, started as a mac program but is now available for Windows as well. Both versions can be purchased for under $50.00. Nisus Writer Pro, which is my favorite word processing program, is still only available for mac users, and it’s a bit more pricey, though still under $100.00. I can vouch personally for both Scrivener and Nisus Writer Pro. Kalayna’s post lists other programs that might also be of interest to writers, including One Note and Ulysses. I don’t know the prices of these other programs, but that information should be easy to find.
Subscriptions: The gift that keeps giving. A subscription to a print magazine or online journal can be a great gift for writer and reader alike. A subscription to Writer’s Digest costs about $20.00. Or maybe someone you know is more interested in Locus, the business journal of the SF/Fantasy field. Year-long subscriptions to Locus start at $60.00. If your writer friend is more interested in reading literature than in reading about writing or business matters, you might consider susbscriptions to one or more of these genre-oriented ‘zines: Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Analog, or Azimov’s.
E-Readers: Yeah, chances are you all know about these already. The Kindle and Nook have both come way down in price and can now be had for under $100.00. Sony e-book readers start at about the same price.
Books: I don’t care how tech-savvy your writer friend might be. In the end, writers still love to get books. I know I do. But which book to get. Well, I can tell you that every person on this site has written and published at least one novel. A collection of MW-authored novels might be a terrific gift for that MW fan on your list. Or you could give someone a copy of How To Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion.
Though I’m reluctant to admit it, there are other How-To-Write books out there as well, including Stephen King’s On Writing, Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Chris Roerden’s Don’t Sabotage Your Submission, and Donald Maass’s The Career Novelist.
Then there are the research books: One set of books I’ve mentioned before is actually published by Writer’s Digest Books under the heading “The Howdunit Series.” These books are geared toward writers of contemporary mysteries, but I use them all the time in writing fantasy. Among the titles: Deadly Doses: A Writer’s Guide to Poisons; Scene of the Crime: A Writer’s Guide to Crime Scene Investigations; Cause of Death: A Writer’s Guide to Death, Murder, and Forensic Medicine; and Body Trauma: A Writer’s Guide to Wounds and Injuries. Yes, they’re a bit gruesome, but they are written for writers by experts who are interested in helping you kill and maim your characters as realistically as possible. Each title costs less than $20.00.
If you’re interested in books about magic, I can recommend another series of books, this one published by Llewellyn Publications of St Paul, MN. The first three are written by Scott Cunningham. Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs; Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem and Metal Magic; and Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews. The fourth book, by Bill Whitcomb, is called The Magician’s Companion: A Practical and Encyclopedic Guide to Magical and Religious Symbolism. The Cunningham books each cost less than $20.00; the Whitcomb book costs about $25.00. Unlike the Howdunit books, these are not geared toward writers, but are actually written for people who are into ritualistic and personal magic. I would never judge a person for his or her beliefs: I just want you to understand what kind of books you might be buying. That said, I’ve found all of these books helpful at one point or another, some in concrete ways, others simply as inspiration for my own magic systems. Cunningham has also written other books on Wicca, earth power, and natural magic.
I can recommend as well a few books on demons and magical creatures: Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns and Goblins, and Ghosts, Monsters and Dragons, both by Carol Rose; The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, by John and Caitlin Matthews; and The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology, by Rosemary Ellen Guiley.
If you’re interested in a book on healing herbs, I would recommend the beautiful Brother Cadfael’s Herb Garden by Rob Talbot and Robin Whiteman. It is named for the lead character in the Ellis Peters mysteries and it is a coffee table book with beautiful photos and glossy pages. But it is also filled with terrific information. I would guess that it’s currently out of print, but you should be able to find used copies.
A few other books that I’ve mentioned before: Ancient Inventions, by Peter Hames and Nick Thorpe (Ballantine, $20.00); Eyewitness to History, edited by John Carey (Avon, $15.00); English Through the Ages, by William Brohaugh (Writer’s Digest Books, $25.00). It’s also good to remember that sometimes the obvious is the best gift. Does your writer friend need a good dictionary? The industry standard, often used by copyeditors, is Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition, hardcover, unabridged). Another industry recommended book is the Chicago Manual of Style, which can be helpful in preparing manuscripts, interpreting copyediting symbols, and making your own markings on an edited manuscript. A good thesaurus is always helpful (I use and recommend Roget’s International Thesaurus, 6th edition) as is a comprehensive baby name book.
Music: I won’t bother to recommend titles here — musical tastes are far too idiosyncratic. But for those of us who do write to music, having new titles to listen to during the work day is more than helpful; it can be crucial and even downright inspiring.
Other Writing Stuff: A few years ago, my wife gave me a beautiful leather-bound journal for my birthday. It remains one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. A small notebook can also be a nice gift. I always want to have something of the sort with me so that I can jot down writing ideas as they occur to me. A few years before my wife gave me the journal, one of her brothers gave me pencils and a HUGE pack of erasers for Christmas. He meant it as a joke gift, and I thought it was hilarious. But I also used them. I’m not recommending that you get someone pencils and erasers, but a really nice pen might be a thoughtful gift, particularly for a writer who keeps a journal or writes out stories and chapters in long hand.
So what’s on your wish list? What kind of gifts are you considering for the writers in your life?David B. Coe http://davidbcoe.livejournal.com http://www.DavidBCoe.com http://magicalwords.net