Monday, December 30, 2013

Here's to 2014

2013 was a pretty decent year for me. Not much happened in my regular life, which is usually a good thing. But there were a few waves in my writing life, all of them good.

-In February my short story "The Dark Familiar Shapes of Things" was published in Sky Warrior Books' anthology, Tails of the Pack, and I conducted a series of interviews on this blog with the other authors.

- My novella "Hour of the Lotus" was published by Dreamspinner Press. Recently I also learned it won a Rainbow Award for excellent cover art, which is most definitely has, courtesy of the awesome Anne Cain.

- My short story "Dog of War" was accepted into The Bedlam Book of Horror, a horror anthology. No release date as of yet.

- I completed my second novel, currently untitled (because I suck at titles) and finished the second revision on it. My third revision will begin in January, and then it will be ready to go to publishers.

- The sequel to "Hour of the Lotus" finally presented itself to me, and the roughdraft should be finished any time now.

- I found three stories (honestly, probable novellas) I'd stalled on and once my current projects are finished I'll be turning my attention to them.

So, my resolutions for 2013 are to complete those three rediscovered stories (and begin the sequel to my second novel). I'll also be showing up at a couple cons next year, Conglomeration 2014 in Louisville, KY, and possibly Gencon in Indianapolis, IN.

As 2013 draws to a close, here's a photo of something else that's ending: a dying star caught by the Hubble space telescope. There's a whole big universe out there, friends. Let's keep our eyes open next year and see what we can see.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Scooby Doo and the Blob Monster

I live in the Southeastern Midwest (ha) and there's a huge storm predicted to hit us in a couple hours. Usually these Snowpocalypse predictions turn out to be nothing, but it looks like this one might be for real this time. We woke up to ice-encrusted trees and it's snowing pretty hard right now.

The stressful part of days like this is trying to keep a 4-year-old busy while trapped inside. We made gingerbread houses this morning (no, you don't get to see them, they look hideous). And then over lunch my son wrote a story (well, I wrote it. He dictated).

I present you, "Scooby Doo and the Blob Monster".

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why I Don't Do NaNoWriMo

November is coming to a close, and that means National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) is winding down. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is an informal challenge for writers to write a novel- 50,000 words or more- in a month. If you are successful you 'win'. If not, there's always next year.

I have never participated in NaNoWriMo. I am a slow writer. I have written two novels, and it takes me, on average, four years to write one (though mine are considerably longer than 50,000 words- 120,000 and 112,000 respectively). But I can console myself with the knowledge that no matter how slow I am, I still write faster than Donna Tartt, who has published three novels in the past thirty years; in an NPR interview Stephen King said he just 'wants to shake her'.

I laugh about it, but honestly, Donna Tartt is an amazing writer, and if it takes her a decade to write a book that satisfies her, more power to her. I would much rather have three great novels than ten lousy ones. I am only thirty-four. If I can turn out a novel every four years I should have a pretty good bibliography before I kick the bucket, since I don't plan on dying until I am at least ninety.

NaNoWriMo is a nice challenge for some people and I'm sure they have fun, but I swear all I see and hear this month are panicky complaints: “I'm so behind!” “I have to write 3,000 words tonight to catch up!” “I'll never catch up!” “I'm not going to make it!”

I have enough deadlines in my life. I've been writing long enough to know that giving myself an unrealistic deadline is not going to work for me- and since I have to write longhand, my process takes even longer than it usually would. Instead I use NaNoWriMo to make some more achievable goals: this year I finished the second revision on my newest book and have reached a certain point in my new novella (a sequel to “Hour of the Lotus”).

Some people do make NaNoWriMo, but I have to wonder how good the finished product it. Of course it's a roughdraft, and all roughdrafts suck, but personally I need time to consider my words. My roughdrafts still suck, but at least I don't have to rewrite everything. Which I would have to do if I attempted NaNoWriMo.

So even if NaNoWriMo doesn't appeal to you, you can use the month as an opportunity to make different deadlines for yourself. There's no point stressing yourself out over someone else's challenge; make your own that works for you. And if you do give it a shot, remember that ninjas won't come and kill your family on December 1st if you don't make it. There's always next year.

Good NaNoWriMo participants, and every one else too!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I Am a Scaredy Cat

This October my grown-up brain re-learned something it had long since forgotten: darkness is fucking scary.

One day I went into the garage and flipped on the light, only to be greeted by a popping noise and a hideous smell like burned rubber. Somehow the big fancy tube light out there had blown something or other. It wasn’t just the bulbs, there’s something wrong with the wiring (the wiring in this house is messed up, thanks to the former homeowners who had lots of weird shit done. There are three separate light switches in two rooms that turn on the living room light, for example). So we turned off the breaker to the basement/garage to avoid burning the joint down. That was several days ago and we are still waiting on an electrician.

The cat’s food bowl is in the basement, and I feed her every night before we go to bed. Going down into the pitch-black basement, toting a flashlight, gives me some serious willies. Everything from the couch to the game table to the laundry room door looks terrifying in the dim glow of a flashlight. I dump food in Mei’s bowl and skitter back upstairs as fast as I can, and I am not ashamed to admit it.

So this entire post is not just about my inane life, here’s a short film where the only villain is the darkness- and it’s creepy as hell. Happy Halloween month, friends.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


First, here is a picture of my Mary Marvel costume. My writing group wanted to see it. Hi guys!

This is actually me from last year at Gencon, with Brian Morris as Uncle Marvel. It's one of my favorite pictures and I've posted it here before.

Yesterday was Shel Silverstein's birthday. In his honor, here's a poem:

The Bridge

This bridge will only take you halfway there
To those mysterious lands you long to see;
Through gypsy camps and swirling arab fairs
And moonlit woods where unicorns run free.
So come and walk awhile with me and share
The twisting trails and wonderous worlds I've known.
But this bridge will only take you halfway there-
The last few steps you'll have to take alone.

Shel Silverstein

I like to think this poem describes the act of introducing children to literature. I can give my son every book I have ever loved. I can take him to Narnia, Bradbury's Mars, Earthsea, and Westeros. But at some point he's going to have to find what kind of books make him happy, and decide where to travel on his own- I can only take him so far. 

Let's see...I have a story coming out in The Bedlam Book of Horror anthology, but I don't have a release date on it yet. The story is "Dog of War", a pulpy horror tale based on a real-life urban legend of World War I about the Hound of Mons (there were demons as well as angels at Mons, it seems).

In conclusion, here is an awwwwctopus. Your argument is invalid.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Life as a GIraffe

I am a giraffe.

The other day, my husband said he was talking to his lab-mates at lunch about their totem animals. According to them, a totem animal is the one you are most like. It doesn't have to be your favorite animal, just one you resemble. They decide that he is an owl. It makes sense; a quiet, watchful bird that notes everything and is very precise in all its movements.

Also, he can fly almost silently, so there's that too.

I thought for a while. Giraffes are my favorite animal, so I was deliberately steering clear of them in my head so I didn't bias myself. My husband suggested that I was some kind of sea creature.

A jellyfish? They have no brain, after all.

Harhar, no. 

A cuttlefish? They're colorful and rather creative.

No, he said. A cuttlefish changes its appearance to camouflage itself. I don't do that; wherever I am, I am obviously me.

I thought some more. Well, then I'm a giraffe.

Giraffes are very chill animals. They hang out on the plains and eat leaves and don't bother any other animals. And if a lion or something tries to bother them, it is dispatched with a swift, powerful kick (I don't get into other people's business, and those who start drama are quickly ejected from my life). Giraffes don't make much noise (I am quiet). And a giraffe is a giraffe, always. It can't pretend to be anything else. It sticks out no matter where it is.

I think being one of those social chameleons would actually be very useful, and it's a little frustrating that I can't always make myself fit in.

But since I can't, I'd rather be a giraffe.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Frederik Pohl 1916-2013

Waaaay back in high school I read a story in one of those 'Best of..." anthologies. It was about a future where the world population had exploded, and the United States had implemented a very unusual method of birth control- although the control was enacted well after the person culled had been born. It was a powerful story, and I remembered it. I couldn't recall the title or the author, but I remembered every detail of the story.

One day I told my husband about it. He pulled up Google- for some reason in all this time I had never thought to consult the Internet- and found the story: "Spending a Day at the Lottery Fair" by one Frederik Pohl.

I was thrilled to have the information, and even more thrilled when, a few days later, he brought me a collection of short stories called "Pohlstars", which included "Lottery Fair".

I re-read the story, and it was everything I remembered (and a little more, to my now-adult brain). And then, because you can't read just one, I kept reading. I read the heartbreaking "The Sweet Sad Queen of the Grazing Isles". I moved on to his most famous novel, Gateway. The incomparably weird "Starburst". The epic "The World at the End of Time". The sharp, cynical "The Day After the Day the Martians Came". And the rest of the Heechee Saga, oh yes. When I discovered that Pohl had a blog, I read that too. As a writer and editor who had been working for the better part of the 20th century, he shared wonderful stories, as well as his political opinions and pictures of his cats and the cruises he took with his wife. And he kept writing. He kept on despite the fact that, as he mentions in his blog post, his hands no longer worked and hadn't for some time.

Pohl was truly unique, even in the rush of Golden Age and New Wave SF that spawned so many unique writers. He combined solid science with flights of epic fancy, wrote truly alien minds with fantastic detail, and laid bare with humanity's best and worst qualities with sharp cynicism, but also humor. His style was plain but eloquent.

Frederik Pohl died yesterday at the age of 93. I commented on his blog posts a couple times. I hope that he might have read them and, in my clumsy words, understood what I was really trying to say: that he was an important artist and an important person to readers everywhere. To the world. To me. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

GISHWHES 2013: The Reveal

I wasn't around much the past couple weeks. Part of the reason was Gencon, the other part was the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (GISHWHES). Above are some of the items my 15-person team completed. I considered writing captions to let you know what each picture is supposed to represent, but then I decided it was funnier with no explanation.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Non-Gamer at Gencon 2013

Our time at Gencon was cut woefully short this year due to lack of babysitting (one grandma just started a new job, and the other is a teacher...yeah, I understand Gencon's overlords don't want to hold it the same weekend as PAX or another big con, but if maybe they could hold it sometime that is not the week school begins in my state, that would be great). We arrived Friday evening and left Sunday afternoon. Because of this the weekend felt rushed, since we had to pack four days' worth of awesomeness into two, but hey, short Gencon is better than no Gencon.

Since we didn't get to Indy until 6, I assumed we'd be waiting in line a while to pick up our badges at Will Call. I figured the locals would be getting off work and coming to grab their own badges...but I was wrong. There was no wait. Not even sixty seconds. Not even ten seconds. We walked right up and got our stuff with no trouble. The guy in the booth turned out to have gone to our alma mater as well, so we chatted about that (sorry I didn't get your name, cool friendly guy!).

We were meeting a friend for dinner, but he wouldn't arrive until 9, so we wandered around the convention center a bit, discovering the arcade room, which was packed with elderly arcade games including The Simpsons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and others my husband knew but I didn't because I never played many games back in the day- still don't, really. We checked out the card hall and the miniatures hall and Cardhalla, ran into my friend Kimberly and chatted a bit, then headed to the Rock Bottom Brewery for dinner. Our friend who was supposed to meet us at 9 didn't show up until 10:30; we were finished by then. The cute waitress busted his balls about being so tardy, but we stuck around while he ate, went with him to pick up his badge, and retreated to our hotel room at the Fairfield Inn, peeking in at the massive Pathfinder room.

The Fairfield isn't fancy, but the beds are soft, the TV has HBO and they offer a free breakfast. I will always stay in the hotel that offers free breakfast.

Saturday morning I actually managed to drag my lazy ass to the hotel fitness center, where I trudged on a cross-trainer while watching the scrolling newsfeed on CNN (only after my workout did I notice the headphones tucked behind the screens on the equipment. What a dumbass).

I got dressed (super-cute miniskirt kind of- EGL dress and stripey stockings. My friend bought the dress from Hot Topic for my birthday more than 10 years ago. When I found it in my closet a couple months back I was stoked that I can fit into it again) and we partook of the free breakfast and went to the convention center.

My first panel was “Exploring Genres: Horror”. The “Exploring Genres” panels were a new thing this year, and consisted mostly of panelists who wrote in that particular genre attempting to outline the genre and give tips for writing it. In all I went to four “EG” panels that day (the only ones I attended on Saturday, actually): Horror, YA, Dark Fantasy and Cross Genre. All were entertaining (and, in the case of YA, a genre I don't read and don't know much about, helpful). However, I still feel that the Gencon Writers' Symposium- while enjoyable- is something I might have outgrown. Most of the panels are geared toward writers who are just dipping their toes into the water. Those of us who have been doing this a while need panels with more specific topics to help further our writing education- because you're never too old or too experienced to learn, but the basics are pretty much laser-engraved into our brains at this point. 

Between panels I got lunch with friends in the packed mall food court, wandered the dealer hall and spent too much money there, bought a Magic playmat with half-naked ladies on it, ran into Booster Gold, found the Hound's fearsome helmet (how the hell could he actually see out of that thing?) and was enchanted by a little pink stuffed llama. Shut up, I needed it.

There's a funny story about the playmat. I saw it, loved it, but decided I should look around some more first. When I ran into my husband, I said, “I found a playmat I like!” and he replied, “I saw one I think you'll like too, it has a succubus and a lady in chains at her feet...”

Me: “THAT'S IT!”

So of course I bought that one, and thanks to a special deal also received a matching box and sleeves. SEX-AY!

I met up with my husband and the same friends for dinner that evening in the miniatures hall; after some back-and-forth about what we should eat, we proceeded outside to places where food would presumably be served.

(but not before I caught a picture of this rockin' Powergirl, probably the best I've ever seen)

And here's what I learned that night: finding food at dinnertime in downtown Indianapolis when there are two large conventions happening (Gencon and a biker convention, which made for some interesting juxtapositions at crosswalks; I tried playing “Biker or Gamer?” in my head while we walked but it wasn't very challenging), it's going to take some time to find food. After walking for almost an hour (with a 3-year-old kid that belonged to my friends, who I must say was insanely patient and well-behaved) we came upon the California Pizza Kitchen. We had to wait a while, but we were too tired to trek on, and when we saw the servers and bussers were all wearing geeky t-shirts (from superheroes to The Big Bang Theory) we knew our choice was the right one. Alas, our server was not the girl dressed in a full-on Katniss-from-The-Hunger-Games costume, but she was nice and apologetic when my pizza came out later than everyone else's food. I tipped her what I had (a dollar over 20%) and she thanked me at least three times, which makes me wonder what other people tip (or don't).

Side note: CPK's Sicilian pizza is way better fresh at a restaurant than frozen from the grocery.

Walking back to the convention center, we had one of Those Moments. Where someone says something so funny that the entire group starts laughing, and as soon as it dies down someone says something funny that is related to the first funny thing, and pretty soon once you manage to get a hold of yourself, you catch the eye of another group member and start howling again, and then anyone walking by who glances at this group of morons who are falling on the floor with hilarity thinks you're insane and possibly mentally deficient. What started us off was one member revealing that on an Xbox Live game, he put an icon of a horse molesting a pig on all his guns, so if someone else killed him and jacked his stuff, they would find themselves in possession of a gun proudly marked by an instance of farmyard rape. I can't even tell you what jokes that image led to, but they were all said in front of my friend's daughter, who thankfully was so exhausted at that point that she looked like a tiny, cute zombie, so hopefully she didn't remember any of it.

Sunday was my big day. At 8 a.m. I attended a Read & Critique, probably my favorite thing at Gencon (I usually try to do two, but no time this year). In a Read & Critique, you read from your selected piece for a set period of time (usually 3-5 minutes) in front of a panel of four authors/editors. Then they spend 10-15 minutes giving you hell. Well, not really. They buffet you with both praise and criticism, most of which I've found to be really helpful. I think the panelists like me because I've done this before, and I'm as good as anyone at taking criticism, if I do say so myself. I keep my mouth shut, take notes, and thank them at the end. Too many writers want to explain things to the panelists as a protest against criticism they think is unfair- which takes up time other people could be reading. I received a good mix of praise and criticism for my piece, the beginning of a novella that is a sequel to Hour of the Lotus (shameless self-promotion alert!). There was some seriously good stuff being read at this Read & Critique, so I'm optimistic about the future of specfic.

Gencon did something new this year as well, in which writers could sign up for 10 minutes with an author/editor for a one-on-one critique session. It was an intriguing idea, so I tried it out. I was paired with speculative romance author Elizabeth Vaughn. I don't write romance, but I enjoy getting perspectives from different genre writers (this is why I love writing groups). She read the first few pages of my new novel, a YA fantasy set in a Japanese-inspired secondary world. And she said it was really, really good. It was polished and precise (it needed a few details, though) and in a couple years I'd probably be on Gencon panels, not attending them. All of which raised my already-unbearable ego to soaring new heights (and gave me motivation to tackle my revisions with renewed vigor). It turns out that many of the writers she'd consulted with that day needed suggestions on points of view, tenses, grammar, etc. So maybe she was just relieved that I knew the basics already...

We hit the food trucks lined up outside for lunch. Indian tacos are more delicious than you would think. And then I got a cupcake from a van (it said 'free cupcakes' on the side in permanent marker; it looked legit enough). No really, a little old lady was selling cupcakes out of a van. I wish I could remember the name of the business on the side of the van because I would love to give her a shout-out, but I can't. The cupcakes all had Star Wars names, like 'The Darth Vader' (chocolate) or 'The Princess Leia' (almond wedding cake). I chose 'The Chewbacca' (chocolate cupcake with caramel frosting and a salted caramel in the middle). No joke you guys, this was the best fucking cupcake I ever had. If I see this lady next year I'm going to ask if she ships to my town. 

After another turn through the dealers' room, we waved goodbye to Gencon for another year and headed home to our lives of quiet desperation.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Some Terrible Fanfic Writers Have All the Luck (And I Don't Mean E.L. James For Once)

Good Heavens. So many of us strive every day to do the very best writing we can, and no one ever calls with plans to turn our work in a web series (I have several pieces available, Mysterious Web Series Makers. If you're interested). But write the worst fanfiction ever, and someone out there will jump at the chance to spread the lulz.

I am 99% sure the notorious Harry Potter fanfiction 'My Immortal', with its egregious abuse of the English language, constant side notes by the author, and lack of knowledge about basic human sexuality, is really the most hilarious and brilliant joke ever played on the Internet. I suppose it's about time this travesty got its own web series. I mean, how can you lose when 3/4 of the characters in the books find out they are really vampires? And dress exclusively in clothes purchased at Hot Topic? Which, as we all know, is the single most Goth place on Earth.

Side Note: Back at my old bookstore, there was this Goth couple that sometimes came in. The man had a beard and long hair and they both wore long black coats, but the woman won because she had a crown of thorns tattooed around her forehead. I know it was a tattoo because it looked the same every time I saw her. They were really nice customers.

Anyway, if you'd like to see some clips from this fantastically funny little series, check it out here!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Help The Lovecraft eZine WITH NO EFFORT!

So, I know you guys buy stuff. And I know you probably buy stuff on Amazon.

Here's a way you can help save one of my favorite e-zines, created by one of my favorite editors, without spending a dime more than you intended.

I love Lovecraft, and I love Mythos fiction, so I double-love The Lovecraft eZine (never mind that they published one of my stories a while back...). And Mike Davis is a stellar editor: discerning, quick to communicate AND he pays on time. But now The Lovecraft eZine is in trouble. And you can help me and all the other readers/writers save it.

Its simple. When you go to Amazon, don't just type in Go through this link. When you do, The Lovecraft eZine gets a referral fee. SUPER-EASY! This portal pulls up a Lovecraftian fiction page, but you can search for whatever you want.

So take a minute to bookmark that Amazon portal link and help us save this zine! I thank you, other Mythos fans thank you, and The Bloody Tongue will thank you if he remembers between chaos-causing sessions.

(and if you're One of Us, you can purchase megapacks of the zine's 2011/2012 archived fiction- including my 2012 story "Inheritance").

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fandomfest 2013

I (and my other half) will be attending Fandomfest in Louisville on Saturday, July 27th. We went last year; I didn't know what to expect but ended up having a fine time. The problem with many cons' writing tracks is that they tend to have the same panels over and over, every year- and usually those panels are aimed at beginning writers. “How to Get Published”, “How to Avoid Scams”, “How to Edit”. These panels are often entertaining but not very informative. Fandomfest was different. There I found panels about what is taboo in different genres, about writing GLBT fiction, and about the Lovecraftian mythos (which I enjoy writing stories in).

The panel list for this year looks equally fun. Here are some of the panel names from the programming list on their website:

Animals in Fiction
This panel will explore the topic of animals in fiction, including animals that are characters and the use of animals in stories. Some of the most heartwarming stories in literature have involved animals who have been main characters (Watership Down, for starters), or important parts of the cast (Shadowfax in LOTR). Join this panel for a fun and interesting overview of the use of animals in fiction.

I like animals. I like fiction. I use animals in my fiction pretty often, so this should be interesting.

Book Blogging
Book Blogs have become quite a force in today’s publishing climate. Book Blogs have propelled self-published authors to the heights of the sales charts, and major presses now place a great focus on the book blog community. This forum will discuss the world of book blogging and why it has become so important for today’s authors.

Perhaps I can make this blog better...

Crossing Genres: A Forum
There will always be readers of particular genres, whether it be steampunk or epic fantasy, but many storytellers are having wonderful experiences bringing in elements of many genres. This panel will explore some examples of cross-genre fiction, and also discuss why cross-genre fiction is growing fast in popularity.

A lot of my own work is between genres, and I like reading things that cross boundaries.

Episodic Fiction: An Effective Format for Today’s Publishing Climate
The explosion of eBooks has brought along with it a great potential for publishing stories as episodic fiction. This panel will give an overview of episodic fiction, and also discuss why the digital media world makes episodic fiction increasingly attractive for many authors.

Hmmm...interesting. It worked for Dickens.

Literary Costume Contest!
Yes, that’s right, a literary-themed costume contest. If you have a costume relating to a literary character, then this event is perfect for you! There will be prizes awarded in several categories in what is going to be one of the favorite activities in the Literary Track at FandomFest.

Hmmmm... should have had that Honor Harrington costume made last year. Ah, well.

World Building 101
World building plays a key role in all kinds of speculative fiction, from steampunk, to epic fantasy, to science fiction and urban fantasy. How do you go about creating an interesting and compelling world to set your story in? There are so many considerations, from geography, to sociology, to technology, and much more. What world-building elements can be used in developing a story set in our world? Come and explore the exciting topic of world building with our expert panelists.

Well...even I don't know everything.

So if you're a local specfic writer, consider checking out Fandomfest. And if you go, look for me! We can chillax together and talk the craft.

Click here for the complete list of literary panels at the con. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hot Spring Public Library

For some reason my son got it into his head that he wanted a miniature dollhouse library. I got out a shoebox, some construction paper and made a plan.

This little place was constructed entirely from cardboard boxes, construction paper, and glue (except for the tiny toy dinosaurs).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ramblefest Sunday

I don't have any fully completed or organized thoughts in my head at the moment, so this post is going to be a bit of a ramble-fest.

I was gardening the other day (planting some stuff) and it suddenly occurred to me, I don't like doing this. I enjoy having a decent-looking garden, so I like the end result of gardening. But I don't actually like the act of gardening. I find no particular joy in spreading mulch or picking slugs off my squash leaves. I just like having a yard that doesn't look like a post-apocalyptic wasteland. But I don't really like the process, it's kind of a pain.

Same with cooking. I like food. I definitely like food. But cooking is also kind of a pain. I'm not one of those people who scours the city for ethnic groceries to get unusual ingredients. I don't mix it up or substitute stuff or experiment and I rarely hit up farmers' markets. I just like to eat, but cooking is not exciting.

What is exciting? What do I do for the pleasure of the work itself, for it's own sake?

Writing. I love every step of the writing process: thinking, developing, writing, even revision. If no one ever read another story of mine again, I would still write. Because I truly do love every single minute of it.

The other thing I love for its own sake is vacuuming. It's instant gratification. For Christmas a few years back I asked for a Dyson. Seriously. My in-laws and parents pooled their cash money together and bought me one, too.

Moving on, I have some upcoming appearances (ha!). There's Fandomfest 2013 on July 27th (we'll only be there for one day). Last year we went and I had a blast at the writing panels, and this year's list looks pretty neat too.  My problem with a lot of convention writing panels is that every single one is aimed at beginning writers, and they rarely vary from year to year. The Fandomfest panels seem to assume that you already kind of know your shit, which is nice.

There is also Gencon 2013 in August.  Due to some scheduling issues (both grandmas work in schools, and school starts that no babysitting for us until the weekend), we won't be getting there until Friday evening, but plan to close the place down on Sunday.

Currently working on both a prequel and a sequel to my novella Hour of the Lotus. The prequel focuses on a character who is mentioned in the novella, but doesn't have a large part (well, she does, but indirectly) and the sequel will continue the story of the two main characters. I am also working on a weird Western involving a Chinese railroad worker/former Shaolin monk and vampires. It's getting pretty gonzo. I plan to begin revising my second novel in the couple weeks but I want at least one of these other pieces completed first (in roughdraft form, anyway) before then. Probably the weird Western.

And finally, this is funny is you watch A Game of Thrones or read A Song of Ice and Fire. My favorite character is 'Thug" (not an inaccurate description) and I do think Khal Drogo's official title should be 'King of the Guys'.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Writing Advice from Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favorite writers. Everything she writes is at least decent (and she writes a lot- 2 books a year at least), and besides, she is one twisted lady, which makes me happy.

So you can probably guess how delighted I was to see an article full of invaluable writing advice from her.

Disclaimer: it's The Onion. The advice is probably still good, but, um, I think I'll try a different path.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Hour of the Lotus" E-Book Now Available!

My new novella, "Hour of the Lotus", is out from Dreamspinner Press as of today!

You can purchase it on Amazon for $3.99 or directly from the publisher's website at a slight discount.

Here's the blurb:

"General Sho Iwata is devastated when the man he secretly loves, Prince Narita, is struck with a mysterious illness. To make matters worse, the servants assigned to sit up with the prince at night have been falling asleep, leaving him unattended.

Iwata's current lover, Hiroshi, is well aware of the general's unrequited passion. But that isn’t his biggest problem. His sister is Narita’s favorite consort, but Hiroshi believes she has been replaced by an imposter. When he convinces Iwata to investigate, they discover the true cause of the prince’s illness. Iwata will fight to save the man he loves, and Hiroshi will fight for his sister, but if they want to save the prince and find justice, they first have to battle an ancient spirit and survive."

I've had an excellent experience working with Dreamspinner Press  (in case you want to know!). They're organized, quick to respond and willing to help an author out with any questions they might have.

Now, if you do read "Hour of the Lotus", please please please leave a review on Amazon or the Dreamspinner Press website.  Don't pat me on the head and tell me it's good; I have a mother to do that for me. Leave an HONEST review. It's all I ask.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

Novella News!

My novella, Hour of the Lotus, will be coming out on May 29th from Dreamspinner Press. The price will be $3.99. Here's a blurb to help you decide if you want it!

"General Sho Iwata is devastated when the man he secretly loves, Prince Narita, is struck with a mysterious illness. To make matters worse, the servants assigned to sit up with the prince at night have been falling asleep, leaving him unattended.

Iwata's current lover, Hiroshi, is well aware of the general's unrequited passion. But that isn’t his biggest problem. His sister is Narita’s favorite consort, but Hiroshi believes she has been replaced by an imposter. When he convinces Iwata to investigate, they discover the true cause of the prince’s illness. Iwata will fight to save the man he loves, and Hiroshi will fight for his sister, but if they want to save the prince and find justice, they first have to battle an ancient spirit and survive."

And if that doesn't get you, here's the cover by the very talented Anne Cain:

(I love this picture, it's a little Blade of the Immortal, a little Yoshitaka Amano, and all awesome). The story is very loosely based on an old folktale that is sometimes collected under the title "The Vampire Cat" (in the world of this novella, however, cats- as one character points out- are able to interact with the spirit world but rarely bother; the same way they rarely bother to interact with this world, ha).

So a mere nine days from now you can pick it up at this website.

Love it, hate it, whatever you think about it let me know. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Short Fiction Rocks!

A Short Film That Reminds Us Short Fiction is SF's Lifeblood

The link title pretty much says it all. In fact, short stories are the lifeblood of many genres, not just SF- where would horror and erotica be without short fiction?

Short fiction is an entirely different animal from novels. Some authors can write great short stories, but can't write a decent novel; other are reversed, and still others can do both with equal skill.

I used to think I was a better short story writer than a novelist, but lately I've had a hell of a time writing anything under 10,000 words (the dreaded bastard-length 'novelette', which has few markets). I'm not sure why I'm having such difficulty recently. Maybe my brain is shifting into 'long form' phase. Hopefully it will shift back soon, because I enjoy the unique challenge short fiction offers- with less space to explain, you really need to use your words as efficiently as possible.

In closing, here is some advice from a better writer than me, one who I think was a far superior short story author than a novelist (hmm, this might get me flamed):

Kurt Vonnegut Tells You How to Write a Short Story

Friday, May 3, 2013

Boxes for Big Cats

I have a cat. She is a 15-pound monster with a cranky attitude and fur that she sheds relentlessly, all year long.

She also likes boxes. You can't leave any box on the floor and come back to not find Mei Mei sitting in it. Even little kid shoeboxes; somehow she manages to stuff her fat ass in there.

As this video shows, all cats like boxes. Even really big ones.

Boxes for Big Cats

Friday, April 26, 2013

First Chapter No-Nos

I found this very interesting (and helpful) blog post about How Not to Start a Novel. It's basically a bunch of quotes from editors about the things they see in first chapters that make them toss the manuscript in the wastebasket immediately. Some of them are kind of surprising- not surprising that editors wouldn't like them, but surprising that some people even do them.


I don’t like it when the main character dies at the end of Chapter 1.

People do this? Sure, George R.R. Martin can get away with killing a POV character in the first novel, but even he waited until nearly the end of the book to do it. The first chapter?  No wonder the editor feels cheated.

Characters that are moving around doing little things, but essentially nothing. Washing dishes & thinking, staring out the window & thinking, tying shoes, thinking.

Well, this is what I do all day, but my life is totally boring and I would never subject a reader to that.

 I don’t like an opening line that’s ‘My name is…,’ introducing the narrator to the reader so blatantly.

It worked for Herman Melville...but that was more than a century ago. Also, it's really hard to find people who like Moby Dick (I mean, I do, but I'm a bit weird. And even I think it could have used an editor with a supply of red pens).

 In romance, I can’t stand this scenario: A woman is awakened to find a strange man in her bedroom—and then automatically finds him attractive. I’m sorry, but if I awoke to a strange man in my bedroom, I’d be reaching for a weapon—not admiring the view.

I have never read a book that started this way.  I don't care if he's freaking Michael Fassbender, I'd be sticking a shiv in his gut before I even looked at his body. Does anyone know of any books that actually begin with this situation? I'm curious. Maybe some did but the wise editors threw it out.

A rape scene in a Christian novel in the first chapter.

I can't say I've ever read a Christian novel but...goodness gracious.

 I don’t like descriptions of the characters where writers make them too perfect. Heroines (and heroes) who are described physically as being virtually unflawed come across as unrelatable and boring.

Yep, yep. I definitely could never relate to a beautiful person. On good days I try for 'not unsightly'.

One more not mentioned in this blog post: don't start a book with your main character waking up. It's waaaaaaay too common and it's too easy to exploit as an information dump. When I wake up I don't spend time gazing at my surroundings and contemplating my life; I'm too busy trying to sneak out of bed and get to the living room to work out before my son gets up.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Problems in Fiction: Whiny Crybabies Who Need a Kick in the Pants

I started reading this fantasy novel on a friend's recommendation. In the book, a young man is raised in a household where all the men are manly and like to fight, but the main character is a sensitive sort who doesn't want to slog around in armor and deflower wenches. He just wants to read and play his lute. It's a lot like this Ray Stevens song, actually.

This is a pretty good setup for a fantasy novel. Obviously the young man will flee his overbearing family and find his way in the world, probably discovering that he has magical powers and will save the world or something. Standard, but usually interesting.

Well, the young man does flee, sort of. But before he finally blows that manly popsicle stand, he sits around a lot and thinks to himself about his shitty situation and how everyone hates him and it all sucks.

For about eighty pages.

Eighty-odd pages of this kid whining and throwing a 24/7 self-pity party. I hung on, hoping maybe he would actually do something besides act like a little bitch, and it finally seems he might be about to perform some actions of some kind, so I'm still reading. It's a near thing, though. I say he has ten pages to stop pissing me off before I give up (which sucks, because this is a trilogy and I bought all three books at once, I'd hate to have wasted the money).

Now Patricia, you say. This is realistic; there are people in this world who complain and feel sorry for themselves without ever doing anything to change their situations.

Yes, there are people like that in the world. These people are a giant pain in the ass. If I meet people like this, we rarely stay acquainted long. Most people can't stand these sorts of whiners, so you definitely don't want your main character to be one of them. Besides being annoying, they're also boring.

Even if your characters aren't necessarily whining, readers don't need (or want) to be treated to a constant internal monologue. In another fantasy series I only finished one book of, every time something happened to a character, they spent at least one paragraph reflecting on what had happened to them and how tragic/amusing/bizarre it was. It completely interrupted the flow of the story, and was the main reason I never read more of the series. 

It's not wrong for your characters to reflect on the events of the book (or even complain about it a little- key word, little) but a line or two, maybe the odd short paragraph, is more than enough. I speak from experience as a reader and as a writer; I myself tend to have my characters ramble on and over-explain their emotions and actions. When revision time comes around, I cut loads of that stuff. And my writing is better for it.

So remember: we want to know how your characters feel and what they think...just not for eighty pages at a time.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Mwhahahahahaha! I bet if Rollins went up to a bunch of bratty kids at the library and told them "Shut up and read." they'd be like, "Yes sir."

 Time to get Immortal on an ALA READ poster.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Of Kindles and Buttons

I work in an independent bookstore chain (I know that sounds weird, but it can happen). Today I noticed that we are selling these tiny little buttons that say things like "Keep Calm and Read On", "I Read Banned Books" and "Kill Your TV".

Then there was one that looked like this.

The picture was so small I couldn't see any text on the screen, so it took me a while to figure out it was an e-reader.

Now, as an employee of an honest-to-God bookstore, I want people to buy printed material rather than e-books because it, you know, pays the bills and keep a bunch of people employed. As a bookstore employee, I know I should despise e-readers with a passion.

But I was a writer long before I was a bookstore employee. And as a writer...I LOVE e-readers. Hundreds of posts have been written on e-publishing and all the new opportunities it offers to authors, so I won't go into all that. I don't own an e-reader myself- no need for one, I don't travel much- but I love that people can read my work on them.

I am also not a paper snob. Oh, don't get me wrong. I love paper. When I go into a stationary shop, it's practically obscene. But I don't turn my nose up at people reading on their Kindles. They're reading, thank God. I don't care how they do it (Same with audio books. I always wondered if the famous poll that indicated 1 in 4 Americans didn't read one single book in a year, took audio books into account).

So sorry, tiny button company. I won't be buying that one.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tails of the Pack Final Interview: The Brass

The cover's back! Did you miss it? Remember to purchase the anthology here or here.

Today is the final interview in my Tails of the Pack series. I am talking to Steven Wedel, who not only wrote a story for the collection, but also wrote the introduction and edited it. Busy guy!

Heeeeere's Steven!

  1. Tell us about yourself. What do you write? What do you do besides write?
I write almost exclusively supernatural fiction for adults and young adults. I can't seem to write anything that doesn't have a slavering monster in it somewhere. My best known works are After Obsession, co-authored with Carrie Jones, and my Werewolf Saga books. What takes up most of my time, at least nine months of the year, is teaching high school English. Or, as I call it, slamming my head against walls of laziness and willful ignorance.

  1. What's your writing/editing routine?
Pray for summer. Write like crazy. Repeat. haha I get a lot more done during the summer, but the rest of the time I write in the evenings when I don't have too much to grade. I pretty much never edit until I have a first draft done, then I'll edit, turn it over to my critique group, then edit again with their comments in mind.

  1. Who or what are your influences?
The usual suspects for anyone who grew up in the 1970s-80s ... Stephen King, Peter Straub, William Peter Blatty, Ramsey Campbell, etc., along with the classics, from Charles Dickens to Robert E. Howard, John Steinbeck to H.P. Lovecraft.

  1. What's on your bookshelf (or shelves!)?
Books. Duh. There's a pretty wide range. A lot of horror, of course. A lot of classics and fantasy, a healthy dose of Westerns, and a ton on non-fiction on ghosts, witches and witch trials, werewolves, vampires, etc. I also have several books on mythology, general and specific cycles.

  1. Do you have any advice for other writers and editors?
Journey said, "Don't Stop Believin'" and Triumph said, "Never Surrender." Just keep at it. Never overlook a chance to improve or to submit. Too often it's about being in the right place at the right time.

  1. What's your favorite thing about writing?
I don't go to jail for killing people. Writing really is my therapy. And my escape from reality without drugs.

  1. How did you become the editor of Tails of the Pack?
Maggie Bonham, owner of Sky Warrior Books, knows about my Werewolf Saga. We were at a convention in Oklahoma or Texas and she mentioned wanting to do a werewolf anthology, if only she could find the right editor ... And her eyes rolled my way. I agreed, and there we are.

  1. Did you have to do any research for your story?
A little. It was geographical. At this point, after five published books in my Werewolf Saga, my twist on the werewolf mythos is pretty established, so I just needed to know a little about the landscape where it happens.

  1. Give us a blurb for your story.
Ha! What happens when the author of a popular series of werewolf novels gets asked, "Can you turn me into a werewolf?" too many times?

  1. What other projects or publications are you working on that we should know about?
Carrie and I recently sold our second collaboration to TOR Books for a 2014 release. Graveside Tales released a new edition of Murdered by Human Wolves in October, and I'll be re-releasing the rest of my Werewolf Saga, including the brand new book Nadia's Children, this spring and early summer.

Thanks Steven! And thanks everyone for reading my interview series. Don't forget to buy a copy of Tails of the Pack and enjoy the excellent work by all these authors!