Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cap as Justice

I'll be honest. I'm not terribly happy with this one which is why it's still in sketch form. After the cool action-y pose of Iron Man, Cap is kind of a let down (and you KNOW he's my favorite Marvel superhero these days.)

But, technically, Justice is the 11th card and so I kind of skipped ahead mostly because, after drawing Iron Man, my fingers itched to do Captain America.

I think I may have settled on a subject for the Empress card, however. Medusa, Queen of the Inhumans. She's both sexy and a mother, and she rules over more than just a family (as Sue Richards does for the FF.) Plus, there's something in the Rider-Waite deck that I noticed that I'd love to include in my own... that is that the Empress sits at the edge of a cultivated field and the wilderness can be seen behind her, as though she marks or defends the end of civilization. As the Inhumans are on the moon, it would be easy to show Medusa sitting somewhere near a window that shows the moonscape behind her. Just a thought. I'll see how it all works out when I actually try to sketch it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Do You Believe In Magic?

I was once on a panel with Neil Gaiman about... actually I can't remember what it was about exactly because I was awfully busy being awed by being in the presence of Neil, but I do remember that we touched on the fact that sometimes writers access synchronicity with a skill that's akin to magic. For example, you start thinking about a certain subject, say, alchemy and you decide -- totally randomly -- to make your vampire an alchemist from Vienna, Austria, then later, say, like yesterday, you're at Border's and you see a "Idiot's Guide to Alchemy" and you think, "Damn, you know, I know almost nothing about alchemy really, I should buy that so I can do some research and make Sebastian's alchemy more 'real.'"

So you open the book up to the introduction this morning over your bowl of Corn Flakes, and read this:

"Four hundred years earlier, Vienna and nearby Prague were the heart of European alchemy, and hundreds of alchemists flocked to the area to study."

Hairs rise on the back of your neck, and you say, "Holy coincidence, Batman. That's freaky."

I can't remember entirely the story that Neil told about his magical moment of research other than it had to do with his book American Gods, which at the time he hadn't quite finished. I just know that it's absolutely true. This isn't the first time something like this has happened to me, but it's still always so startling.

Monday, December 29, 2008

It's a Monday

Made obvious by the fact that a few seconds ago I posted a blank blog. WTF? Somehow I fumbled the keyboard. Yeah, it's Monday, all right.

Plus, as I wrote over at the Something Wicked Blog, I woke up this morning with a headache and an impending sense of doom. The headache I mostly blame on the weather. Here in Minnesota it's been warmish (for winter, with temps in the 20s and 30s F), which always gives my sinuses a workout. The impending sense of doom, however, has more to do with the fact that APPARENTLY 2008 is almost over.

How did that happen?

I feel like this entire year has been moving at super-sonic speeds. I have no idea where all my time went, though at least I appear to have some things to show for it. ROMANCING THE DEAD came out this year, and I finished DEAD IF I DO at some point. I'm only certain of this because I'm looking at a set of reader's proofs that are due back at the publisher at the beginning of next year --- a matter of days, actually. The good news there is that I'm half way done reviewing it, and I can fax back the pages that need corrections.

But what the hey? Why do I only have fifty pages on the next book done? What have I been doing with my time?

Oh, yeah, watching HELLBOY 2 and drawing Marvel (tm) tarot cards. I should really try to develop a bit more focus for the new year. Ah! A resolution! Hooray, something accomplished already.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Iron Man as Emperor

This one may look a little blurry, but that's because I decided to do it all in colored pencil without any "inking." I should note that I stole/redesigned the pose from the cover of IRON MAN CIVIL WAR.

Here's what I said about it in my tarot journal:

I skipped the Empress because I'm not quite sure who best fits that card in the Marvel Universe (tm). I'd originally thought Sue Richards/Invisible Woman because she is one of the few heroes who is actually also a mother, but, after meditating on the card, I'm not sure she's quite sexy enough.

The Emperor as Iron Man seemed a much more obvious choice. In this card, I put him in a "ready for action" pose, and in full armor because the Emperor shows no mercy to his enemies (even if they were once friends, ala Cap and the Civil War storyline.)

He is ready to lead and shoulder all the responsibility that entails. He follows the law. As Emperor Iron Man is the apologist for his government. He will explain the law to his subjects and lead those who enforce it. He will, in effect, represent the law (regardless of any misgivings.)

The only nods I gave to the traditional images (besides the armor) is the bleak, orange background and the ram's head on the gargoyle.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Yule

My family and I had a wonderful Yule. I wrote a little about it over at Something Wicked, but I just wanted to wish everyone out here a happy return of the Sun.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Storm as High Priestess

So in my continued Marvel (tm) super-hero tarot deck, I have this new beauty to add:

Here's what I wrote about it in my tarot journal:

I'm pleased with this one, even though it ended up quite differently from my original vision. Though I always pictured Storm sitting much as she is, I'd initially thought to show her inside a ruined/collapsed Egyptian tomb (even though she's claustrophobic) -- I'd been planning to show an opening above, symbolizing salvation, "reaching beyond the veil," etc.

But this image, with the open air and pyramid behind her, just sort of came out instead, as did the finger to her lips -- as if she's saying "no talking. Time to listen to your heart." or "I've got a secret." Both of which I feel suit this card pretty well.

I gave her a crystal ball, but she's not gazing into it. This high priestess has access to divinary power, but doesn't need to use it. Similarly the "Tora" scroll is there, but not in her lap. She already has that information -- hence the slight smile that says she knows it too.

My other nods to tradition are the black and white columns. I made these Egyptian with the lotus blossom motif to reflect the general setting.

I also gave Storm her punk outfit and hair because, IMHO, she really came into her own during those (Chris Claremont?) years. She lost her elemental powers, but gained belief in her own, inner strength. Her fierce independence during this era seems, to me, to fit this card very well.

Here's a close-up:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dash, dot, dot,dash!

"Dash, dot, dot, dash. Ampersand!" is how my son Mason swears. He gets it from comic strips mostly, where the author/artist will replace choice words with dingbats. But, since he likes the sound of dash and dot, it sounds a bit like he's cursing in Morse code. (Although I have no idea what "dash, dot, dot, dash." would work out to be.)

Today, I am swearing because my dash-dot-dot car is on the blink. Actually, it decided to throw a starter wire, which is, at least, blessedly simple (I hope) to fix. It's at the garage right now, though it took some monumental effort to get it there last night. (Many calls to Triple-A, much waiting and pacing in the 4 degree weather, lots and lots of "dash, dot, dot"s from me.)

Also because Minneapolis/St. Paul has a pretty lame public transportation system, I walked about three miles this morning (uphill both ways!) But seriously, after one of Mason's school friend's parents dropped me off at my coffee shop this morning, I decided to start hoofing it down Grand toward our service station. I'm glad I did, because I was able to show the mechanic exactly which wire was the problem. As I jostled the wire, a big chunk of it actually broke off. We looked at each other for a moment. Then the mechanic says (completely deadpan,) "Yeah, that could be a problem."

Sometimes I love Minnesotans.

Monday, December 15, 2008

More Tarot Images

I ended up not very happy with my first attempt, which you can see here. Though the image remains much the same in the second attempt (below). Here's what I wrote in my tarot journal after I finished this:

"I'm not sure how much I like it, because I'd originally imagined the lab/background a lot more science-y and full of tools the Adept had already brought into fruition. I changed Reed's costume somewhat because I wanted the symbolism of white/the uncarved block/limitless potential in the Magician's hands. There is nothing this guy can't build or produce; his understanding of physics, engineering, and mechanics is so powerful. He has so conquered the intellectual world, he doesn't even notice he's casually defying the laws of physics by levitating the gizmo/wand."

"That's not the usual image (levitating), and goes a bit against the idea of the Magician as firmly grasping the wand/his tools, but he is still the conduit of the creative force, the lightening bolt of higher consciousness."

"Reed gazes at the tools of the magical realm with a cool, logical, dispassionate eye. He hasn't quite mastered magic yet, so it needs further study. All the colors (except those of the tools themselves) are "cold" colors, because I wanted to make the connection that the Magician is incomplete -- he is too much intellect and not enough heart."

"The spiral shaped doo-hickey behind Reed's right, downward pointing shoulder is meant to be the closed portal to the Negative Zone. If the card were reversed, the Negative Zone would be in the foreground, replacing the Arcane tools. To me, the Negative Zone represents genius in the service of darkness -- Reed's intellectual folly/moral blindness, intellect misused. Because Reed allowed (encouraged?) Stark Industries to imprison heroes in the Negative Zone during the Civil War (which he did because of a social political formula which predicted the future), it symbolizes genius without heart -- with dark, perhaps even evil, intent -- even though it might appear to have the best intentions."

"If I re-drew this, I might try putting Reed in a lab coat and obscuring his role as a hero, because in his lab -- Reed focuses solely on creation rather than being part of a team. Also, I am considering choosing the title ADEPT instead of MAGICIAN because Mr. Fantastic more fully embodies that term, IMHO."

And here's my second attempt:

I like this one a little better, but I'm still not fully satisfied. I do like that the infinity symbol is now part of the machinery that Mr. Fantastic has built and is almost unnoticeable, as is the fact that he's defied gravity with the gizmo. I added more cool colors to the Arcane symbols on the table as well, and this time the Negative Zone is shown open.

What do you think?

What's on Your List?

My family celebrates both the pagan/Wiccan Yule/Solstice and Christmas. On Yule, we traditionally give each other gifts that are sentimental in value, rather than commercial. It's the time for handmade gifts or coupons that say, "Good for one day to sleep in until 10 am!"

This year, the present I'm MOST hoping for for Yule is a new journal. I'm one of those writers who LOVES all the accouterments that go along with being a writer... I love pens with smooth action, notebooks without lines (so I can sketch and doodle), and anything like that. I would probably be happiest if all I got for Yule/Christmas was six or seven different kinds of pens and notebooks and journals and colored pencils. (I'm also pretty fond of crayons, too, but I currently have a lot in the house thanks to having a five year old at home.)

So what about you? What present are you most hoping for this season (and, yes, feel free to say more books by your favorite author!!)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In Support of "Day Without A Gay"

In support of yesterday's "Day Without a Gay," I didn't write. That hurt you, didn't it?

Uh, hello?

Honestly, I have to say I love this idea, but it does have some obvious drawbacks. For one, no one even noticed my feeble attempt to strike a blow for my GLBT brothers and sisters. Secondly, in this economy? Seems a bit risky to "call in gay" to work. The unemployment line looms large for many of us.

In other news, I got an "A" on my tarot test for "Tarot 101" at So that's something positive, at least.

Plus our plumber came right on time day-before-yesterday and the water is back on to our house. I shall now repeat this mantra: "Never try to fix plumbing yourself... always hire a professional. Never try to fix plumbing yourself...."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tarot 101 Test Today...

Today, the test for Tarot 101 opened up. I'm going to review my materials and take it. Given that I've started drawing my own Tarot, you'd think I'd get an "A," but that's the biggest draw back of doing all this stuff on-line. It's not terribly easy to contact the instructor and get a sense of what anyone else might be doing. Ah well. I'll let you know how it goes. Personally, I expect it'll be yet another "B."

Also, does anyone out there know if Mercury is retrograde? There've been a number of minor breakages/emergencies in my family as well as with other people I know. Seems like there may be an astrological cause looming out there!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Spidey-Fool Card

Well, I found some time to draw my vision for the Spider-Man as Fool card last night after all. I apologize that the photograph is a bit dark. My scanner died sometime ago and I've been compensating by taking digital pictures of my artwork. When the light is good, that works. When it's not....

Anyway, here's Spidey as the Fool (please note, any Marvel representatives out there, this is not intended for sale, only for personal pleasure.) I've drawn him leaping off to some new "cosmic fiesta," but with one foot still safely on the window ledge of his Manhattan apartment. On the ledge is a potted plant (the white rose of innocence, which he leaves blithely behind) in Mary Jane's care. She replaces the loyal faithful canine companion (no literary illusion implied.) Her expression is a bit wistful, because she worries that Peter has too much confidence in the face of adversary.

The cityscape is obviously an imaginary New York, with the Hudson River running through it. The river is there to symbolize the unconscious and the city scape itself is dark (though it grows lighter) to represent the subconscious. The sun is shown rising on a new day, a new adventure.

Peter is still unmasked because the Fool is not YET a full hero. He's not gone through his initiation yet, but is ready to. Peter's hand is reaching to pull on his mask (his persona). His other fingers lightly touch the fire escape, which replaces the wand (and because of that I've colored it brown, for wood, and added an ivy vine to show that the wood is living/imbued with magical energy.)

I colored the interior of the apartment black for balance, though I considered leaving it white for innocence and an unpainted canvass, which is left behind in the search for the higher self. The pot the rose grows in is lavender-purple, for psychic energy.

It's been a LONG time since I've done any real drawing, so please excuse my clumsy sense of perspective, etc. But otherwise, what do you think?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Marvel (tm) Tarot

I started thinking about how easily some Marvel (tm) superheroes would work as archtypes for the Major Arcana of the Tarot, and Shawn and I even started assigning roles for each of the 22 cards. I wrote a long, involved post about my picks at my alter-ego's livejournal. I even started drawing THE FOOL card this morning (Spider-Man, of course). When I finish the first image, I'll post it here for your amusement.

Now, after a quick, little lunch, I'm off to go write. I fell behind again because I got stymied by a sex scene in HONEYMOON OF THE DEAD. I had to... ehm, do a little research first. :-)

Friday, December 05, 2008

An Aquarists Nightmare...

My partner found this article over at Boing-Boing, but it made me laugh out loud:

Bored Octopus Wrecks Havoc

My favorite quote? "Once we found him juggling the hermit crabs..."

OMG. I bet they wish they'd gotten a shot of that for YouTube, eh?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The House is a Mess

And I'm probably about to get up and take care of that... yeah, any moment now.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

My Life and Stuff

By chance today I was looking through my electronic copy of Gila Queen's Guide to Markets, and I stumbled across an anthology that's looking for Biblically themed horror. When I saw that, I was so excited, I nearly peed. Thing is, I've got this "trunk" story called "Jawbone of an Ass." It's a story I wrote many years ago specifically for a Biblical horror anthology, which for reasons yet unknown to me (the fools!), they passed on it.

I love this story, though. I chose the topic by thumbing through the Old Testament and randomly putting my finger down on a passage. No, surprise, it's a bit obscure. I ended up in a story I knew only a little about, that is Samson. Not the more famous one of Samson and Delilah, but of Samson's first wife, a woman from the rival tribe that really kind of gets screwed by Samson and his people. Anyway, I thought that story would make a great horror story if you made it from her perspective, rather than that of Samson's.

I also ended up making other changes. "Jawbone" is completely removed from ancient Israel. I thought it would have more modern resonnance if it were retold in a similar kind of religoius battleground, so I set it in 1980s Northern Ireland. Samson is now an IRA man (with God on his side) and the unnammed wife a Protestant.

And then her life just sort of unravels, as told in the Bible. I actually follow the scripture's plot (which, honestly, makes it that much more surreal) up to the point Samson ties a bunch of foxes together and lights their tails on fire -- I made that a dream. But, if I do say so myself, I always thought that successful or not in terms of a Biblical retelling, the story is one of the most poetic/literary/atmospheric stories I've ever written, and thus I've always wanted a bigger audience for it.

But try selling an obscure Biblical retelling to a mundane audience. Suffice to say, the only place it ever saw print was in the Wyrdsmith's chapbook. I came clean about that pub to the editor of this new anthology, but I hope he won't hold that against the story.

Cross your fingers. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Dead If I Do Available for Pre-Order

Just in time for Solstice! You can now pre-order your very own copy of DEAD IF I DO from The book isn't out until May, but I have recently updated my web site so that you can read an excerpt of the first chapter. Try before you buy! Satisfaction guaranteed.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Twenty-Three Years and Still Counting...

Believe it or not, today is the twenty-third anniversary for my partner and me. We've been together more than half my life, as we met when I was seventeen (though I turned eighteeen that year. I'll save you the math: I'm 41.)

In other news, I have to laugh... in a sort of "ugh" sort of way. So, you know I'm taking all these courses via Well, as part of my Tarot class I decided it would be smart to take a class in Kabballah. So, I'm taking "Introduction to the Tree of Life" or something like that. Anyway, the funny part is really only funny if you know that I used to write about Judeo-Christian religion despite being raised a secular humanist. I have tried and tried to "escape" the whole Judeo-Christian thing... though every time I take one of those "what religion are you?" quizes on, I always end up as a Unitarian Universalist, despite TRYING to weigh my questions so I'll turn out a pagan/Wicca. Okay, so you know how I've been getting all "B"s on my witchy classes, well guess what?

I frigging Aced the Kabbalah test, without even using open book.

I can not escape. My brain is wired toward the whole Judeo-Christian thing. I even remembered which passage in the Bible/Torah the charoit of fire vision is in...


Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Monday...

...So, you can find me over at Something Wicked confessing that I didn't write much over my extended birthday week celebration.

Part of the problem is that Mason is still on vacation from school. I always have a heckuva time getting any writing done while the little one is constantly at my elbow asking me for attention. Plus, when I do have a spare minute or two, what I really want to do is read my "homework" for I'm so easily distracted. It's a wonder I ever get any real writing done. Interestingly enough, my subconscious really wants me to get working on my Tate novel because last night I actually dreamed I was a vampire.

It was a very sexual dream, too. Not surprisingly, I suppose.

As supplimental reading to my Dreams 102 class, I'm reading DREAM SOURCEBOOK AND JOURNAL by a whole bevy of authors: Phyllis R. Koch-Sheras, Amy Lemley, and Peter L. Sheras. Also I decided to finally read a book Shawn bought me many years ago as a birthday present, which is Rachel Pollack's SEVENTY-EIGHT DEGREES OF WISDOM: A BOOK OF TAROT. (The new edition).

Anyway, I promised Mason I'd be off-line soon so I can play "Mastermind" with him, so I should go make good on that promise.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Once a "B" Student, Always...

I just took my first few on-line tests through, and life repeats itself. I was always a "B" student -- both in high school and in college. Apparently, this is a trend destined to continue.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Raising Energy and Sleeping Through Meditations

One of the big things about witchcraft that I've always struggled with is meditation and visualization. Fellow writer friend Naomi Kritzer and I often talked about our various failures meditating -- falling asleep, getting leg cramps, etc. She even wrote a scene in one of her novles where one of her main characters struggles rather humorously with the whole meditation thing.

Last night, however, I had a kind of break through. I did a "psychic shield" meditation that was suggested in the on-line materials for the First Degree course, and when it came time to ground my energy, I actually would swear I felt a kind of light "whoosh" from the souls of my feet. It was cool. And I can honestly say I've never experienced anything even remotely like this before. I think it might have been that I have always grounded in the past using the "tap root" image because it was the first one I came across, many years ago, from a book called TAROT FOR YOURSELF by Mary Greer. The materials from suggested a number of new ones and the image I really resonated with was one of laying in a stream and imagining the water washing away your excess energy. I've always been very attracted to streams and rivers, having grown up in a place where three rivers meet (LaCrosse, Wisconsin). And, of course, one of Mason and my favorite hang out spots is the Minnehaha Creek.

Anyway, it worked! I consider that an awesome step forward on my whole witchy education.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Time Suck

As I wrote over at Something Wicked this morning, my biggest concern right now with is how much of my brain it's going to take over. As part of the first degree program I signed up for a mentor and a study group. Lots of emails, lots of on-line chats, lots of communicating with my mentor. Currently, I'm totally up for it, although with two books to write, I'm going to have to really be careful about how I manage my time.

Plus, studying for me is ALWAYS more fun than writing, which could be a big problem. :-)

Speaking of studying, I've been keeping a dream journal as part of my "Intro to Dreams" class. I've always been pretty good at remembering my dreams because Shawn and I have long been in the habit of asking each other about our dreams when we wake up in the morning. It's different, though, when it's this intentional. I find I'm a bit lazy about jumping up to jot things down and try to say things to myself like, "Remember the LEGO thing later." Which, mostly works, though I need to just grab the pen and scrawl something. I remember, on average, four dreams a night this way. So far, most of my dreams are exactly as they've always been: strange nonsensical stories about things that are only connected to my mundane life by a feeling.

Like, last night I dreamed I was a half-Cherokee man (modern day) who became, through various bits of dream logic, the lynchpin in a war between whites and Natives. There was a lot of running around through a forest/small town trying to talk people out of this war. My sense is that my subconscious is a bit nervous about the cultural appropriation issues in taking part in a tradition like the Correllians who are a blend of Cherokee and European Wicca.

My subconscious is rarely subtle.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Life's a Witch!

I mostly practice the Craft as a Solitary, but every once and a while I get a yen to have a teacher of some kind. I've had some pretty disastrous experiences when I've joined local groups (I tend to question authority too much), so this time I've decided to try an on-line course at

The tradition WitchSchool is in is Correllian, which, admittedly, when I signed up thought was perhaps in the flavor of Han Solo ;-), but as you can see by following the link, it's a blend between Cherokee and European Wicca.

There are a number of ways to sign up, but since I'm new to this Tradition (and the whole once bitten twice shy thing) I've decided to only attend on a month-by-month basis, until I'm sure I want to stick with it.

As a paying member (the price is minimal, $5 a month), you are allowed to sign up for as many as eight courses at a time. So I'm taking:

Tarot 101
Intro to Dreams
Russian Paganism
First Degree Training

I've started everything except the Degree Training, and so far it's working for me. I'm particularly enjoying "Intro to Dreams," because I've always had a number of reoccurring dreams that I've wanted to explore further. Plus, dreams fascinate me generally.

But, anyway, I mention this here because I'm thinking that I may start devoting some of this blog to my personal experiences with WitchSchool and the things I'm learning.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stuff Going On This Weekend

And, damn, there's a lot.

If you're local to the Twin Cities, this is one seriously happenin' town, because on Saturday, November 15 (3 days before my birthday) you lucky souls can first march against Prop 8 and other anti-human rights issues starting at 12:30 pm at the Minneapolis City Hall.

After that, you can go see one of science fiction's most promenient gay authors Samuel Delaney at the Walker Arts Center from 2:00 - 4:00 pm for FREE.

And then, if you're me, you can entertain a couple of out-of-town visitors from the fine city of New York. Catch a few winks of sleep, and then...

...on Sunday, Novemver 16 (2 days until my birthday), you can get on the waiting list for the sold-out show of "Meet the Wyrdsmiths" sponsored by MinnSpec Meet-up which is taking place from 12:00 - 1:30 at the Uptown Lund's meeting room.

And then, apparently, I will collapse in a heap.

Got any plans this weekend yourself?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Good Morning, Class!

Actually, it's almost afternoon, but that's what happens these days when I go work out right after dropping Mason off at school.

So, since it's Monday, you might feel so inclined to check out what I have to say over at Something Wicked... where I whine (as usual) about the problem of titles.

Simiarly, my alter ego is somewhat misrepresented in an article over at the Pioneer Press about Kindle. The quote is spot on, but the bit about "not wanting" Kindle sounds more universal than I intended it. I meant, "for myself" (and that's sort of there, but...) Anyway, I totally get how other people might like it, though I have to admit I am one of those people who reads in the bath -- which is not terribly well suited for Kindle. ZZZAPPP!

I've got a lot of housework I should be doing -- we started baking Christmas cookies this weekend, so there are more than the usual share of pots and baking pans and such like in the sink (like Garnet, I don't have a dishwasher besides myself.)

And my birthday is coming up... I'll be 41. Yikes! Although as my eye doctor is fond of saying, "Growing older is better than the alternative!"

Friday, November 07, 2008

It's Snowing!

We woke up this morning to snow.

I LOVE living in Minnesota. (Seriously.) It's beautiful. And, since it's Novemember, it's not too cold.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Morning After the Morning After

I apparently forgot to blog yesterday... but, honestly, the whole day was kind of a blur.

My partner and I were invited to a returns party at the house of a rather promenent Democratic family here in Saint Paul. We went for a little while, but, since it was sort of spur of the moment and we didn't have a babysitter, we left well before the returns really started coming in. In fact, when I left the party the electoral college score was McCain 13, Obama 3.

It was my turn to put Mason to sleep and I think the stress of the day go to me. I fell sound asleep at 8:00 pm (CST), when many of the Western polls hadn't even closed.

Somewhere around midnight, a cat puked in the sun room. I stumbled out of bed to clean it up, and heard fireworks going off. I looked up and over our Capitol someone was shooting off big huge fireworks, and I just KNEW. We'd done it. Obama had won.

I ran to the computer room and logged on. Believe it or not, I still have only dial-up, and while I was waiting for the electoral college map to come up a headline slowly materialized. It read: HISTORY IS MADE. I ran to tell Shawn. Who startled awake at my exicted news, "Shawn, Shawn," I said: "Barack Obama is president of the United States!" She murmurred, "Wha..?" Then, more awake, "Seriously??"

Yes, I told her. We did.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

You KNOW What You Need to Do Today...


My family and I were up at the crack of dawn (actually, it was still dark out, thanks to daylight savings time,) and at our polling place by 6:30 am. I'm happy to say there was already a long line forming.

However, Minnesota is pretty practiced at this high turn out thing (we routinely get 75-80% voter turn out), so once the doors actually opened, we probably only had to wait about fifteen minutes tops. For some reason, it took Shawn a lot longer (more people with last names that start with "S"?), but, even so, we were on the road to work by 7:30 am, an hour later.

The other nice thing about Minnesota is that we vote on paper. We don't have to wait for people in booths or at machines. At our polling place, if we were okay with not having a privacy screen, they let us vote sitting on the floor using clip boards and a ball point pen. Our ballots look a lot like those SAT tests you took in school, except instead of using a number two pencil, they have special markers for you to fill in your circles with. I think that also helped with the expediency, because most of us would sacrifice a little privacy for maximum efficency.

Can I just say, I'm really proud that I'm going to be able to tell my grandchildren that I voted for Obama.

Monday, November 03, 2008

We're All Fine Here... How Are You?

It's Monday, so I'm blogging over at Something Wicked, of course, but I'm not going to give you the link to that today, because I'm basically going to repeat here what I said there.

Over at Wyrdsmiths, it's traditional on Monday morning to ask the readers of our blog what they're working on today (and for the week.) So, what are you doing today? What's on your agenda for the week? It doesn't have to be writing related, just tell me what you're up to!

For myself, I'm at home today watching over a sick kid. Mason had the stomach bug again this weekend, complete with a LOT of trips to the bathroom. So, even though he seems recovered, we're keeping him home from school just to make sure. He's watching (rewatching) EMPIRE STRIKES BACK at the moment, and I'm going to join him on the couch in a moment. After that, I have a ton of stuff I need to do to get ready for the week. I have to blurb two different books: one romance (for me) and one science fiction book (for my alter ego). On Wednesday, I have my class at the Loft and I need to read and comment on my student's submission as well as come up with something clever (and hopefully useful) to lecture about for an hour. Thursday is Wyrdsmiths, so I have to read my peers' work as well as get my own submission ready to be handed out.

Plus, there's a ton of yard work that still needs doing, although we did manage to get all the Halloween decorations in over the weekend. I woke up this morning with a bit of a sore back thanks to all the raking I did on Sunday. We have two ginormous maple trees -- one in front, and one in back -- which dropped all their leaves quite suddenly, and the neighbors two oaks shed everything, plus the silver maple on the boulevard. Rake, rake, rake... that's kind of all I did. And there still more to do! I'm going to put up the Christmas lights on the lilac bushes and maybe try to trim the hedges.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

All These Internets

I just realized that I haven't updated anything on my MySpace page in about two months. I'm geeking out right now, even as I type, and using my laptop to upload the new cover picture to my site. (I'm writing to you on the "big" computer. I'm totally multi-processing. Cool, huh?

There's just far too much to do in any given day, though. Especially since all I want to do is sleep. I taught class last night, and I think that went pretty well, though I didn't end up revealing anything terribly ground-shaking about the writing process or craft, we had fun. Or, at least, I did. Zach, one of my students, came up with a fun writing exercise for all of us to try. It's a progressive story, where each person writes a line of the story, folds the paper over, and hands it to the next person. So, because you can't see what the last person wrote, it can be VERY strange. Here's how mine turned out (I wrote the first line, those that follow are my students'):

On a dark and stormy night, he danced the rumba.

He fell down the stairs.

She stopped trusting her sister after the melted crayon incident.

Thinking the bottle was empty, I forgot to screw the cap on tightly; as a result, my skin is covered in permanent purple ink.

He realized there was a problem when his mother, glazed eyes, crumbled dried worms into the children's salads.

Her boyfriend had an "in" with the guys at the organ market; she could get hearts for cheap.

Loose objects floated around the room -- magazines, chairs, lamps-- all headed towards the newly opened vortex.

The walls seemed to resonate with the emotion Bill was transmitting. Could it be possible?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Me, Every OTHER Day

I think I finally have a writing system that's working for the two books I have under contract this year. I've been working on one book a day. So, today, is HONEYMOON OF THE DEAD's turn, and tomorrow is my alter-ego's prequel day. I figure that way I'll actually make forward progress on each book during the week.

Clever, no?

Unfortunately for HONEYMOON OF THE DEAD, my writing time is going to be shorter than usual because Mason has an early release day. We're planning a nature hike at the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge again. He so loved the "road of smooshed grasshoppers" that we're going to check it out again. On the flipside, I decided that an afternoon hike was the same as a work out at the gym, so I skipped that this morning. After I finish updating this and my livejournal, I hope to get a few minutes of writing time in before it's time to go pick him up.

Also, I have class tonight. I'm supposed to be lecturing on "Show, Don't Tell" the great myth, but I think it may morph into something else. We'll see. I do need to get some photocopying done before tonight. I suppose I should head down to the basement and look for that sooner rather than later.

In other news, the election continues to make me jittery. Hope is a scary thing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Baking and the Apocalpyse

The closer we get to election day, the more I've been baking.

I know there's much talk about a landslide for the good guys (as my son says: Vote Obama!), but I'm still scared. If only the otherside hadn't stolen elections before, then I could probably stop cooking.

If I get fat, I'm blaming it on McCain.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Me, Elsewhere

What, you expect me to post here?

Dude, it's Monday. So, that means you can find me over at Something Wicked talking about how cool it is that reading made my son cry, and then over at Wyrdsmiths giving a half-a$$ed apology to George Lucas. What, you expected more? One word, my friend: midiclorians.

Hey, and I'm back to my regularly scheduled routine. Hooray!

Friday, October 24, 2008

About to Explode

...because the last time I wrote anything significant it was September.

In other news, the article about me came out in the Highland Villager. I look pretty scary, actually, and not necessarily in a good way. The article itself, however, was very complimentary. I don't know that it will result in any boost in Halloween sales, but one can always hope.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Just When I Thought It Was Safe... start writing again, Mason came down with the stomach flu. As a bonus, while he's been vegging out in front of the TV (yes, I'm a bad mom), I've gotten a bunch of housework done. Now I'm going to start lunch -- chicken soup all around -- and then see if I can coax him into staying in front of the boob tube while I get some writing done.

I'm not holding my breath.

That's what I get for being so gleeful yesterday!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Finally Writing

Between contractors fixing our downstairs bathroom and a trip to Indiana to visit the in-laws, I haven't had ANY time to write.

I know a lot of us writer-types love to complain about how sometimes it's a chore to write... we'd rather do the dishes or walk the dogs (herd the kitties), or pretty much anything other than writing. Goddess knows, I've felt that way some days. But I think wanting to write and not being able to is a much worse feeling.

I've had one line in my head waiting to get out for about two weeks now. It's for the second section of the first chapter of the fifth Garnet book (currently titled: HONEYMOON OF THE DEAD) and it reads:

"I might not have chosen to wear my black leather jacket with all the chains and the gigantic white skull on the back if I’d known I’d be spending time in a Homeland Security holding cell."

Can I just say... ah, it's great to be back writing Garnet.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It's Monday...

... so look for me elsewhere!

Today, I'm at "Something Wicked" apologizing for being dragged along in the forest by rabid 5 and 6 year olds, oh and talking about author blurbs or something else inane like that.

Also, over at Wyrdsmiths I have nothing intelligent to offer about plotting. In fact, I think my title is much more humorous and enlightening than anything that follows.

So, how are you, kids? I'm somewhat impatiently waiting to hear from a photographer I spent last Wednesday morning with. He and I took some shots of me (with a wig! in make-up!) at a local cemetery for the Highland Community Newspaper, which is doing an article about me and ROMANCING THE DEAD for, of course, their Halloween issue. He SWORE he'd send me some thumb-nails of the shots he took so I could see if I wanted to buy any for a publicity shot. Apparently, he forgot. Or, more likely, lost my email address.

Anyway, sorry I was silent for so long. The family went down for a quickie visit to Indiana to visit the in-laws... though it's just grandma now, since Shawn's father died in April. Because of that I was expecting it to be really sad, but we had a surprisingly good time hanging out with grandma and playing at Butterfly Park.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ten Seconds... reportedly the amount of time you have to grab the attention of an editor reading your slush pile submission.

Obviously, this varies by editor, but even if an editor is willing to give you more than a few minutes of their time, the idea is: DON'T WASTE THE OPPORTUNITY.

I've written about this on this blog before in "Hooking Like a Pro" and "Opening... A Can of Worms?"

I have only a few new insights to add to those, and they come after having re-watched IRON MAN (the movie, as opposed to the animated special, which I also have) last night. Those of you who have seen the movie -- or, like me, read the comic books first-- know that, in terms of a "sympathetic character," Tony Stark is a bit of a hard sell. He's a drunk (though not so obviously in the movie), a military-industrialist, a womanizing playboy, filthy rich, and arrogant. But those character defects are also crucial to the plot, i.e. Tony's transformation into a hero.

I noticed last night that those clever screen writers did something very sneaky. They didn't start in chronological order, instead, they very briefly introduced Tony and then had his convoy blow up. As viewers we didn't really have time to decide if we LIKED Tony or not, but we sure could sympathize with what is quite obviously a horrible plight.

Then they showed us what a jerk his was in a few short brief, and mercifully funny scenes. The funny deflected some of his jerk-itude, but, as they quickly brought us back to the NOW, those scenes served to really illustrate his change in character that takes place while captive in Afghanistan (which in the original comics was Viet Nam).

Clever, huh?

I was surprised, too, how effective it was. Frankly, I went to that movie not already not liking Tony Stark very much. I'd just finished reading CIVIL WAR and Tony is not portrayed as a very sterling good guy, shall we say. And, I was completely and utterly charmed by Robert Downey, Jr. (whom I normally don't like either) by this very clever and subtle writing trick.

Monday, October 13, 2008

So, it's Monday...

....So I'm talking all over the place.

I've got a brief post about Halloween over at Something Wicked: "Monday, the 13th", which includes a REALLY CUTE picture of Mason in the mummy costume that I made for him last year.

Also, I'm ranting about all the disrespect I feel I suffer over on SF Novelists.

and on Wyrdsmiths, I mention this item:

Tuesday, October 14 from 5:30 to 7:00 pm -- there will be a "RAKING THROUGH BOOKS" event at Keiren's Irish Pub in downtown Minneapolis, featuring Wyrdsmiths: Eleanor Arnason, Kelly D. McCullough, and Lyda Morehouse/Tate Hallaway. The event gives the audience members a chance to have a discussion with writers - about the authors' works, the writing life, etc. Kieren's Irish Pub is located at 330 2nd Avenue South in downtown Minneapolis. The event is sponsored by The Rake, The Loft, and, of course, Kieren's Pub. The event is open to the public. Call the Loft (612) 215-2575 for more information.

For all you local folks, think of it as an opportunity to get drunk AND talk about writing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Nice Review on LiveJournal

Google Alerts found this nice review of Romancing the Dead.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"Where Are We Today, Miles?"

Like many families, mine has some odd catch phrases that come from our own shared experiences.

My parents used to always say, "Where are we today, Miles?" when we were driving somewhere and had gotten lost or even as an opening conversation gambit, ala, "How have you been? 'Where are we today, Miles?'" According to them, it comes from a radio show that used to run in LaCrosse. The show used to air in different locations which were also the subject of the show, and the announcer asked his co-host (presumably Miles) that question to get the show rolling. Miles would then answer, "Well, today we're standing at the Johnson's dairy farm...." or whatever the show was about (did I mention this was in Wisconsin?)

I always think of this phrase when I teach the class on setting.

Of course, that's usually what I call it in the syllabus: "Where Are We Today, Miles?" Creating Setting, which also might be the other reason I think of it.

But, at its simplest, setting answers the question: where are we? Though, it should also be noted that setting also defines WHEN we are (as in the "today" part of the announcer's question.) The when is much more important when writing SF than it is when writing contemporary romances because the reader assumes "today" (or now or modern times) unless given a clue to the contrary.

Setting is one of those things that your very first writing instructor also always told you needs to be in the first paragraph. I actually agree with him or her, for once! It does. Though, how you go about establishing that is a matter of much flexibility, IMHO.

The simplest option is just to say so. "The year was 1778..." or "2778," as the case may be.

But that can be awkward and clumsy.

Because I teach SF/F on a regular basis, I must have a thousand books lying around my office with the oh-so-clever title "Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy." In one of those books -- the one by Brian Stableford (which is much more cleverly titled "Writing FANTASY and Science Fiction and Getting Published"), in fact -- is this idea: use a "distancing move." Stableford then goes on to define a distancing move as some event or physical description that makes it clear to the reader that this story is taking place somewhere outside of the norm. His example is the clock striking thirteen in the beginning of Orwell's 1984. But it can be something as simple as describing a double sunset in a binary star system (my lame example, not his).

Stableford goes on to talk about how effective a "distancing move" is to alert the reader to pay attention to the rest of the words that follow, which makes it that much easier for you, the writer, to use subtle clues (as opposed to a two-by-four) to let the reader in on the setting of your world.

He doesn't say this (I don't think), but the fact of the matter is that, thankfully, most science fiction readers have been conditioned to be rather careful readers. A skillful writer can use this to their advantage. It can also be the bane of the not-so-skillful, in that we (SF readers) tend to take everything at the beginning as not only important, but LITERAL.

So if you say "he was an animal" at the beginning SF readers tend to believe you mean that literally. He's non-human. A romance reader reading the same sentence might think he was merely a nasty person with a beastial attitude. These are the pitfalls of writing for SF readers.

That's not to say you can never use that kind of a metaphor when writing SF. You simply have to establish a tone before you do (and, even then, it's wise to make it as clear as possible in context. Otherwise, we're easily confused.)

Setting: set it up early, and say it clearly (or via a distancing move.)

Those are my inital thoughts. More later.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Oh, So That's Your Excuse, Eh?

Like much of America, I watched last night's VP debate and posted my comments over on LJ. Unlike most Americans, I don't *get* "folksy." I have never, in my entire life, wanted to vote for the guy (or gal) who I'd sit and have a beer with. Fine for beers and peanuts, but, when it comes to governing a superpower, I want someone smarter than me in charge (or second in charge, as the case may be.)

Meanwhile, I haven't gotten much writing done because we have contractors doing work on our downstairs bathroom. That's my excuse, anyway. Speaking of writing, though, my editor sent along the electronic version of my copyedited manuscript of DEAD IF I DO (which now has a fancy new cover) for me to start work on. So it's not like I don't have anything that needs doing.

Also, I've kind of been left in charge over at Wyrdsmiths, so I'm sparse over here, it's probably because I'm busy over there.

Uh,yeah, that's why I haven't had much to say lately. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

What's in a Name?

The topic of last night's Loft class was the creation of characters, which I've talked about here before. However, at the tail end of the class, Keri asked, "How do you pick the names for your characters?"

I kind of pulled a Neil on her and answered, "magic."

So I thought I should probably elaborate on that.

Naming is a very strange process for me. I love names. I really do think they have a lot of power. Getting a character name exactly right is something I spend a lot of time on.

First of all, I usually start by combing through my various baby name books. I have a ton, which I had even before I had baby, as it were. I have books that just list names alphabetically, and ones that divide names by ethnic origin. There are TONS of on-line sources for names, if you're so inclined -- all you have to do is plug "baby names" into Google and you'll get about a million hits.

But then the process starts to become really... personal.

I say names that seem interesting out loud. I try to imagine what a "Max" might look like compared to a "Matyas." And I can't tell you why I might go for one over the other, except that one will "FEEL" right.

A lot of it is rhythm or how it flows from my lips. Some of it is practical (ala, "oops, I've already got three guys whose names start with "M.") Some of it is flights of fancy (I've always thought the name "Constantine" to be sexy. I have no idea why, and it's not from either the movie or the Hellblazer comic book). I just like imperial names, like that, I think.

Magic, I guess.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

New Cover Art: DEAD IF I DO

I just got this from my editor at Berkley:

And here's how the back cover copy reads:

I’ve finally found Mr. Right. Sure, he might not have a pulse, but coming from a girl who’s sharing a body with a short tempered goddess, I’m not one to judge. Sebastian is the vampire of my dreams and I’m dying to walk down the aisle. Everything couldn’t be more perfect.

Well, except for the fact that the awesome band I hired for the reception has been replaced by some guy with an accordion and lederhosen. And the bridesmaids’ dresses somehow got switched to salmon pink taffeta with butt-bows. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that Sebastian’s ex-lover, the zombie-slash-vampire-slash-witch who just happens to be the mother of his undead son, wants the both of us six feet under. Now I know why some girls turn into Bridezilla…

So... What do you think? Are you excited??? It comes out in May 2009!!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

You Know What I Hate...?

I hate how hard it is to lose weight. I know I sound like such a girl, but I've been regularly working out at the gym for over a year now and I think I've lost all of five pounds. The worst part? If I don't work out regularly and decide, "Oh what the hell" and have a peice of pie, I INSTANTLY gain a pound that it's taken me months to walk off.

Mother bluther.

On the flipside, my friend and fellow writer Naomi Kritzer gave me the latest DVDs of "Battlestar Galactica" (the new one, of course,) and I can now catch up on all the comings and goings of my favorite SF TV show.

Yum, Jamie Bramber.... All he had to do to lose weight was jump rope for a couple of episodes, goll dang it. Why doesn't that work in REAL LIFE (tm)????!!

Now I'm off to go have some bread and water....

Grumble, grumble.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Urban Fantasy and Real Life (tm)

In class last night, I ended up talking about... well, a lot of things, but one bit I thought amusing enough to share here is about where FANTASY ideas come from.

I've yakked on here at this blog a lot about where to get good science fictional ideas, but not so much about fantasy. One of the things I ended up writing on the chalkboard last night was: "notice weirdness."

I do think that's really fundamental to being a good speculative fiction writer. If you notice the weirdness of every day life, you begin to articulate ways you can describe that. I remember a class many years ago (or maybe it was the MarsCon panel on "plot" with Walter Hunt, in which Kelly McCullough and my alter ego got seriously wound up about how "every scene needs to be in SERVICE TO PLOT!!!" and I'd had so much coffee, Walter worried my head was going explode.) Anyway, the point is, that I remember explaining to someone that writing good exposition/narrative is like imagining that you (the character) are traveling with an invisible foreign exchange student (the reader) through you fantasy/science fictional landscape. When you stop to buy a soda, you might turn to him/her and explain, "In this country, we use credit cards for everything. Money isn't real here, it's just electrons, which represent debt...."

How this relates to "noticing weirdness" is that you can't really distill concepts like our economy into little, entertaining sound bytes unless you spend some time noticing just how absurd it all is, you dig?

And it doesn't have to be something so complex as our economy, it can be noticing other small, random weird bits that then mushroom into full-blown story ideas. The example I gave last night was from a real conversation I had with friend and fellow writer Sean M. Murphy on Tuesday night. He said, "Hey, I've got this great idea for you to steal!" and then proceeded to recount his drive over. Apparently, he was behind this truck that had one of those business decals on the back. It was for a tattoo parlor called "Monster Ink," which was cool enough in itself because it very easily lent itself to any number of urban fantasy ideas in which tattoos have magical/totemistic powers, but the best part, he said, was the phone number: (651) ***-DEAD, which automatically made him ask one of those central to story generating "what if" questions: What if a vampire ran a tattoo parlor??

So there you go.

My advice to all you writers out there: Notice Weirdness!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nature Walkin'

Today St. Paul Public Schools have what they call an "early release" day, which has always sounded to me like some kind of prison term, but you know... what it means is that in not that long now I'll be picking Mason up from school. Our plan is to go somewhere for a nice, long nature hike. Both Shawn and I worry that Mason doesn't get to go outside very much now that he's a full-day kindergartener. The truth is, he could pretty much count on almost a half-day of outside adventure when he was in Pre-K. I loved to, (when weather permitted, of course, I mean, this IS Minnesota) spend the afternoon with him at the beach, in the park, walking in the woods, or just running around (or even just sitting and reading) in our own backyard.

It's a beautiful day out today, and I've never visted the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Reserve, which is just south of the international airport and a short drive from the Mall of America. The information on their web site looks cool. Plus, if it turns out not to be to our liking, we're not far from Minnehaha or Hidden Falls at that point.

I need to go if I'm going to get any "real" writing done. See ya all on the flip side!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Happy Belated Mabon

For our Mabon celebration last night, Mason and I baked cookies in the shape of fallen leaves. We decorated them with frosting in fall/autumn colors: reds, yellows, oranges... and even some green and brown (chocolate!) We also made moon shaped cookies, of course! I made several dozen because we have a very tiny maple leaf shaped cookie cutter that made bit-sized cookies I thought would be nice for Mason to take to his kindergarten class for snack treat.

Mason has been very anxious to start his "magical training," so we also did a very small ritual that we usually do on Imbolc, but have been forgetting... which is that every year we add a bead to our life necklaces. Mason's was started at his Wiccaning, and this year he added beads for the cats. It wasn't a very harvesty thing, but as we beaded we told Mason about why we celebrate Mabon and about how the days will start getting darker until we finally reach the darkest day: Winter Solstace.

For my own harvest things, I've been baking a lot of bread to save on food costs this year. I make a single sandwich loaf every other day now. I got a really good recipe from one of our thousand of baking books that I've been slowly perfecting. The bread is perfect for sandwiches, but Shawn has also been craving some "artisan" bread, like French baggettes, which I'm going to try to make now and again as well.

At any rate, Happy Mabon!

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's Monday... I'm writing about ideas over at Something Wicked. As I say there, I'm not one of those writers who can come up with really cool ideas at the drop of the hat. I believe this is one reason why I'm a novel writer rather than much of a short story person. I guess I feel like if I'm going to invest all the energy it takes for me to come up with a cool, viable* idea, then I want to milk it for all its worth.

Ironically (or perhaps synchronicity-ly,) my Loft class subject on Wednesday is: "'Where the Heck is Schenectady' Finding SF Ideas." I've write about this subject here on this blog before, but every time I teach this class I come up with a new answer to this age old question. Tune in on Thursday to see if I've got a different insight after talking about it for two hours at the Loft.


*This is the hardest part for me. It's one thing to come up with an idea, another thing for it to be well-suited to hang a story on, you know?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Today, I Was A Parent

Which is my big excuse for not getting any writing done so far today. Instead of writing, I visited my son's kindergarten class. Mason has been having a little trouble adjusting to the new teacher/new routines. In art they did a project about their favorite part of the day, and Mason drew a picture of going home. After that, I thought, "Hmmm, maybe I should check things out," and since the teacher made an open invitation for us to stop by any time....

It was fun, and honestly, I'm glad I did it because it assaged many of my fears.

I still have concerns, but now I have more concrete information to base them on, which will help when it comes time again for parent/teacher conferences.

Then Shawn and I went home for lunch, and I'm only now getting around to "starting" my usual day as a writer.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

So, I Guess I'm Teaching...

By chance, I happened to log-in to LJ last night around 6:30 pm and one of the readers of my blog casually wrote, "Hey, see you tonight! I'm taking your class at the Loft."

As A. A. Milnes might write: "!... !!... !!!"

The last thing I had heard from the Loft was two weeks ago, when they very kindly informed me that my class VERY LIKELY would be cancelled because they only had four people signed up at that time. My assumption (and you know what you get when you ASSume) was that they would give me a call or an email telling me if it WAS a go. Guess not. I'm just really, REALLY grateful for LJ right now and the chance that someone made an off-hand comment, or, as I told my students last night, I'd have been sitting home in my pajamas watching "The Closer."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Feeling Old...

... because I just discovered that Mason's kindergarten teacher is on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

You Say TV Like That's a Bad Thing

Over at the Wyrdsmiths blog, Kelly McCullough is talking about how he has been without a TV since 1983 and how this confuses people.

He doesn't actually say that thing you often hear from English and creative writing instructors say, which is "Turn off your TV" with the corresponding implication that people who watch TV waste their brains and all their creativity pools on the floor at their feet, but this implication lingers in between the text.

And I want to refute that.

If it weren't for TV, I wouldn't be a writer.

Let me say that again so that I'm perfectly clear: if it weren't for TV, I wouldn't be a writer.

I was inspired to write Archangel Protocol (under my other name) after watching an "X-Files" episode and watching the entire run of "American Gothic."

If the TV eats your brain, you should turn it off. But it's not all the evil-to-creativity that people imply that it is.

That's all I'm saying.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Foiled by Faeries!

So I wrote my usual Monday morning blog over at "Something Wicked," but let me tell you, girl, it's hardly worth the re-direct. I'm very uninspired today, and I blame that on my inability to drive through Minneapolis without getting lost.

A little background to explain the above: I'm currently a Saint Paulie, and have been for over a decade now. I lived for six years on the OTHER side of the river in Minneapolis (think Oakland vs. San Francisco. St. Paul = Oakland), but apparently the faeries of the place no longer recognize me as one of their own.

St. Paul and Minneapolis have a long and sordid rivalry. At one point, I'd hoped to write a novel that "explained" the profound differences between the two cities via magic and/or faeries. (Turned out the research overwhelmed my ability to make forward motion.) The thing is, Minneapolitans always complain about St. Paul -- they think it's impossible to find things in our town. Our former governor/former pro-Wrestler Jesse Ventura once infamously snarked that he thought the streets of St. Paul must have been planned by "drunken Irishmen." St. Paulies often feel the same way about Minneapolis (only I supposed we'd have to insert "drunken Norwegians"). After all, it's not a joke that in Minneapolis you can stand on the corner of Hennepin and Hennepin (it turns a ninety degree angle under the highway) and parallel streets will sometimes cross and flip sides.

After moving to St. Paul, I've become a rabid supporter of my town, and I think that the Minneapolis faeries are on to me. Because, I SWEAR, every time I have a reading gig in Minneapolis I get lost. (With the notable exception of gigs at either Uncle Hugo's or Dreamhaven, but both are located on the evil lay line of Lake Street, which may negate the faeries' ability to excert their magick on me.)

To this end, I spent much of my usual writing time this morning driving aimlessly through the southern suburbs of Minneapolis trying to find a Home Depot I've been to a thousand and six times.

It's definitely a Monday. Damn faeries!*

--------------------------------- * Note: before you alert my doctor that I'm apparently off my meds, this whole St. Paul/Minneapolis faerie thing is the product of my well-documented overactive imagination.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My First Day as a Writer

I think this whole writing thing is going to work out for me. I got up and got my family off without too many hitches, and then I hauled my a$$ to the gym and worked out. I cleaned the house a bit (I mopped the kitchen!) and did the usual maintenance things like sweeping and dishes, and then...

I wrote.

I didn't get a huge word count in yesterday, but it was well over a thousand words and, more impressive to me, I managed to work on two DIFFERENT projects. And most importantly to readers of this blog (if there are any) I started BETTER WED THAN DEAD/HONEYMOON OF THE DEAD, the fifth Garnet Lacey book. I'm really pleased how quickly I picked up Garnet's voice after having spent most of the day's writing energy working on my science ficiton novel.

Garnet is so fun.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


So in about three minutes, I'm going to take Mason off to all-day kindergarten. Then I will be a full time writer. I'm sure I'm going to squander some of my time, plus there are things I need to get done, like grocery shopping and housecleaning... but even so, I suspect I'm finally going to have a whole lot of time to just WRITE. I'm so excited I could barf. I've go so many projects that have been waiting for today. I'll probably run around trying to do everything at once, but it's going to be great to finally have the time.

Friday, September 05, 2008

New Review: Writers Are Reads. com

If you want to know what I've been reading lately check out my review of Tobias S. Buckell's SLY MONGOOSE on

So... what are YOU reading these days?

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's Monday... I'm blogging over at Something Wicked about how I did absolutely nothing of value this weekend (except read.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cover Copy for DEAD IF I DO

I got the back cover copy from my editor, and while, in my previous life in science fiction, I've been known to roll my eyes at some of the copy I've been given, I have to say this not only accurately describes the book, but it's cute and funny too!

I’ve finally found Mr. Right. Sure, he might not have a pulse, but coming from a girl who’s sharing a body with a short tempered goddess, I’m not one to judge. Sebastian is the vampire of my dreams and I’m dying to walk down the aisle. Everything couldn’t be more perfect.

Well, except for the fact that the awesome band I hired for the reception has been replaced by some guy with an accordion and lederhosen. And the bridesmaids’ dresses somehow got switched to salmon pink taffeta with butt-bows. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that Sebastian’s ex-lover, the zombie-slash-vampire-slash-witch who just happens to be the mother of his undead son, wants the both of us six feet under. Now I know why some girls turn into Bridezilla…

Plus, I absolutely LOVE the little tag line they gave me: "Something borrowed, something blue; something dead, and witchy too!"

What do all y'all think?

Monday, August 18, 2008

It's Monday... I'm over at Something Wicked blogging about Swear Words and Writing.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Come On Over...

My pal Rick, aka "the Ninja Writer," is featuring my short story "Irish Blood" as part of his short story club. It's short! It's free! It's on-line! Come join the discussion on his blog:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sex Scene Class On-Line


September 2-29, 2008
"Sex Between The Pages: Understanding & Writing Sexual Tension"
by Mary Buckham
Registration $30 at

How do you write great sexual tension? That’s the question Mary Buckham posed to Linda Howard, Stella Cameron, Susan Andersen, Nancy Warren and more romance writers who write great sexual tension from sweet to spicy hot. In her workshop, Mary combines these lessons from real-writers with practical understanding of the 12 Stages of Intimacy (based on Desmond Morris' works) and more recent findings by scientists on the amazing role biology plays in mate attraction and selection -- findings that can be directly incorporated in our creation of powerful sexual tension.

So if you want to learn how to increase the sexual tension in your work, don’t miss this opportunity. Topics include:

* Sex versus Intimacy
* Using conflict to increase sexual tension
* The importance of details
* How to portray body language
* Maximizing biological differences between the sexes
* Analyzing those who write sexual tension well
* Exercises for your work in progress

Mary Buckham’s debut Romantic Suspense novel, THE MAKEOVER MISSION, was a Silhouette Intimate Moments release. Her second novel, INVISIBLE RECRUIT, was a May 2006 Silhouette Bombshell. A former magazine editor, she has written hundreds of free-lance articles and a non-fiction book. Currently she is a national writing workshop presenter, both online and at conferences. Visit or for more information about the release of her Break Into Fiction™ book coming June 2009.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

One Life Goal Down...*

I finally wrote the perfect book.

Okay, that's perhaps a SMALL exaggeration, so let me explain. Despite the changes in the publishing industry, I've always been edited. Normally, a couple of months after I turn in a book, I get an editorial letter of some sort requesting revisions. These letters are e-mails, actually, and can be anywhere from twelve to three pages (single spaced). I get two months to revise the book and then it goes to the copy-editing stage, etc., etc., until finally the book hits the shelves.

For every book I've ever written, I've always gotten a revision letter. Even though sometimes the changes are "small," they usually involve changing plot or character or other rather substantive things.

I got an email from my editor yesterday, and I thought, "Okay, here we go. Let's see what needs doing this time." Turns out nothing! Well, okay, I actually forgot to fill in a couple of "fill in later" spots, but we decided we could do that during the copy-editing stage.


I can't really explain why this makes me feel so elated. I mean, it's not really like I've written a *perfect* book. But, I really loved writing DEAD IF I DO and I'm really proud that my "first" pass (really, of course, the result of several drafts) was accepted.

Maybe I'm just excited to get to skip one of the usual steps, because it means less work for this self-indulgent, lazy writer.

Whee! Video games here I come.

-------------------------------------- *Cross-posted from Wyrdsmiths.

Monday, August 11, 2008

SF Market for Women

A market from BroadUniverse:

Hello, everyone. My name is Dash and I'm the creator and editor of the new speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.) webzine Expanded Horizons. Our mission is to create a venue for diverse voices in speculative fiction, and to publish stories which challenge stereotypes of all sorts. We seek to challenge SF as a white male genre, and transform it into something broader, something that reflects the actual diversity here on Planet Earth. I try to read each submission both for the quality of the writing and for how well it fits the mission of our magazine - I think about whether the story engages in cultural appropriation, how my own biases are affecting my selection of stories, etc. I know that because I am one person (who has benefited from both earned and unearned privileges), and because I am not, and cannot, be deeply familiar with all cultures and subcultures, there will be points and nuances I will miss. I know that this process of self-reflection is constant and ever-changing. I want to create a vessel for the creative energies of others, but because I am human and my contributors are human also, missteps will be made. I also know that by creating a venue for the authentic expression of views which challenge deeply held, "established" social truths, there will be controversy. But there is real, tangible racism and sexism in the SF community- and many of us know something needs to be done.

**Please note** Editor is trying very hard to have a reasonable gender balance for authors, but to date has received far more submissions from men than from women.

Note from Tate: I checked the website and they do pay, though not much. ($30 per story regardless of length.)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Backyard Bummin'

This summer has been damn near perfect, weather-wise. It's been a bit dry, but the temperatures have been ideal for someone like me who doesn't really like that whole sweaty humidity thing that's been Minnesota summers of late. We've been spending a lot of time in our own backyard and bumming around to our friends' backyards. This is a picture of Mason (and Tika, dog,) in the backyard of our friends Steve, Shari, Berren, and brand new girl addition (whose name I don't know how to spell.)

We spent much of yesterday either splashing around at our friends' house or just laying under a tree watching clouds roll by. It was a very Calvin & Hobbes kind of day where we spent a lot of quality time doing absolutely nothing.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

An Open Letter to Barack Obama

Dear Mr. Obama,

I am writing to you on behalf of my five year old son, Mason. Yesterday, at the dinner table I read him the article about how you've decided lift bans on off-shore drilling. He started to cry. My son loves the ocean so much. It's his favorite thing. We watch the BBC Blue Planet series: Ocean World, Frozen Seas, Open Ocean, The Deep, Tidal Seas, Coasts and the rest over and over and over again. Mason has said that he wants to be a marine biologist since he could talk.

Many months ago, during the nomination process, when we started hearing your name on the radio, Mason asked me why we vote Democratic and why we wanted you for president. I told him you were from Hawaii (one of his favorite states), and I told him that Democrats are more likily to support the environment rather than big business interests. He liked that. After that he started repeating that he wanted Barack Obama to be our next president. Not now. He would really like you to change your position "by next Saturday" please.

Thank you very much.

Yours truly,

Mason Rounds and Mason's parents

Monday, August 04, 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Paranoia and Writers

I'm not usually a paranoid person, but I am when it comes to my writing career.

Last night, while sitting in the bathroom, I started reading an article in the recent Romance Report (the official magazine of RWA) called, "When Bad Things Happen to Good Writers." It's all about the rather inevitable decline in one's career, when your sales numbers drop, the editor stops returning your calls, and you suddenly find yourself without a renewed contract.

It's the sort of thing that professional writers don't like to think about. After all, we've all worked hard to get where we are (were?!) And, more than that, the mystical "call" came -- the one from our agents where, suddenly, we became published novelists. All our worries should be over. We've "made it." But... as the article warns, these things happen. It's the nature of the business.

And I should know. It's already happened to me. I used to write as my alternate personality; now I write as me because of this little thing called "the law of diminishing returns."

I only read about two paragraphs of the article and I can already feel the storm clouds gathering. (Yes, I KNOW I'm being paranoid. But have you ever heard the phrase, "Once bitten, twice shy"? That's me all over.) Now, I've been staring at my email inbox, and started muttering, "She hasn't sent the revision letter yet," (speaking of my editor). "She hates me. It's all over. I'll never work in this town again."

I told my partner about my ominous feelings last night, and she did what any sane person would do: she laughed. "Of course your editor hasn't written yet. It's only been two months. That's well within her usual return time on these things. Be patient."

Patient? I'm sure she said, "Paranoid".....

Monday, July 28, 2008

It's Monday...

...So I'm over at Something Wicked reminding myself to "Write! It's Good for You!"

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Periphery Review

My alter ego would like to direct your attention to a review of her short story (as well as all the others) in Periphery, here:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's Tuesday...

... so I'm over at SF Novelists complaining about writing the dreaded synopsis.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's Monday, so...

...I'm over at the Something Wicked blog trying not to complain about my current embarrassment of riches.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Interview: David Louis Edelman

David Louis Edelman's debut novel Infoquake was released by Pyr in 2006. Barnes & Noble Explorations called the story of cut-throat software entrepreneurs in the far future "the love child of Donald Trump and Vernor Vinge" and later named it their SF Book of the Year. The book was also nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best Novel, and Edelman was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer on the strength of that novel. Infoquake has just been re-released in mass market paperback by Solaris Books with a fancy new cover by Stephan Martiniere.

This week, Pyr is releasing book 2 of David's Jump 225 trilogy, MultiReal. The book continues where Infoquake left off, and has already been called "a thoroughly-successful hybrid of Neuromancer and Wall Street" by Hugo nominee Peter Watts.

In addition to writing novels, Dave has also programmed websites for the U.S. Army, the FBI, ExxonMobil, and Rolls-Royce; taught software to the U.S. Congress and the World Bank; written articles for the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun; and directed the marketing departments of biometric and e-commerce companies. Dave is well-versed in PHP, Ruby on Rails, WordPress, ColdFusion, HTML, Javascript, XML, and CSS, and is an expert in web usability, web design, search engine optimization, and writing for the web.

What was your inspiration for writing Infoquake and MultiReal?

Infoquake and MultiReal are two parts of a story I started writing in late 2000 about my dot-com experiences in the '90s. I'm a marketing guy and web programmer by trade, and I saw a number of crazy things during the dot-com bubble. Mostly I was interested in the personal dynamics -- how charismatic schemers like my protagonist Natch convinced so many people to invest in so many worthless companies.

So in 2000 and 2001, I wrote a novel titled Jump 225.7, which you might call a far-future satire of the dot-com era. I literally finished the first draft of it on September 10, 2001. Then suddenly the next day, satire seemed the wrong way to approach the story I was trying to tell. So when I started rewriting it, the story became much darker and more serious in tone. I tried to ask all the big questions about capitalism, about Western society, about human nature and greed and what the long-term prospects of the species were. The end result was the Jump 225 trilogy, starting with Infoquake and continuing with MultiReal.

Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

Growing up, my favorite author had to be J.R.R. Tolkien (unless Stan Lee counts).

Interjection: Of course Stan Lee counts!!!

I'm sure I read the whole Lord of the Rings saga (including The Hobbit and The Silmarillion) half a dozen times. Then in adolescence I fell in love with Kurt Vonnegut, with a special reverence for Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five. College brought John Barth to my attention, and I've been running the biggest fan website for his books since about 1996 or so. If I had to name my favorite author since college, I'd have to pick either William Gibson or Thomas Pynchon.

What is it about fantasy/science fiction that attracts you?

I think for me it's the ability to rethink absolutely everything about the world, down to the smallest nanoparticle. I'm a worldbuilding addict, so I like being able to examine and reconfigure the politics, the history, and the sociology of my world to suit the story I'm trying to tell. For the Jump 225 trilogy, I considered all of those things and more -- I even got down to the level of thinking up new building materials and trying to invent ways that people would move goods from place to place in the absence of trucks and an interstate system. I can't really think of any other genre you can do that in.

Why did you decide to make Natch a software entrepreneur?

When I started writing the Jump 225 trilogy, I followed the axiom of writing what you know. I'd worked for several high-tech start-ups run by young, charismatic, slightly unhinged software entrepreneurs. And so that's who I started with.

The supporting characters are also based on character types I'd met in dot-coms. Horvil is the heavy-set, brilliant engineering guy who prefers to run things behind the scenes and leave the politics to the boss. And Jara is the serious, no-nonsense marketing woman who has something of a love/hate relationship with the company.

What (besides writing) do you do for fun?

I'm incredibly boring. I read. I putter around on the computer and tinker with my websites. I watch a lot of movies, and I keep up with the news. I'm looking forward to having children so I can have the excuse that I'm "spending quality time with my family."

What sort of research did you do to write these books?

Infoquake is heavily concerned with biologic software (or "wetware," as it's sometimes called). I know something about software, but I know very little about biology or physiology. So I certainly had to do some basic research into how the human body works. The main technology behind MultiReal also involves quantum physics, so I had to beef up on that a bit too. I admit that I don't tend to delve very deeply into the subjects that I research; mostly it's just your basic Wikipedia and Google searches, combined with long involved discussions with subject matter experts I know.

Natch is a compulsive workaholic. Are you that way too?

Absolutely not. I'm actually not very much at all like Natch or Jara, the two main protagonists of the novels. Although I suppose I do share certain characteristics with them. If I had to name a character who was closest to me in temperament, I'd have to say Horvil, the fat cheerful engineer who's always putting up with Natch's crap.

The political factions in the Jump 225 trilogy are divided between governmentalists and libertarians. If you were a character in the books, which would you be?

A lot of people who've read Infoquake assumed that my sympathies lie with the libertarians, because that's where Natch's sympathy lies. But I'm definitely more conflicted in my politics. I like to pick and choose among the different parties and philosophies. I have some definite liberal tendencies but a number of conservative ones as well.

You'll discover in MultiReal that the political situation is much more nuanced than Natch makes it out to be in Infoquake. The central government, which really seems like the epitome of evil in Infoquake, is a conflicted organization itself with some do-gooders working in the fringes. And the libertarians are full of self-interested schemers who'll stab you in the back.

What are you writing now?

I'm currently about 80,000 words into Geosynchron, the third and final book of the Jump 225 trilogy. I'm a very slow writer and I write a million drafts, but I'm hoping to finish the whole thing by the end of the year.

Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?

Yes, I always wanted to write, ever since I was a little kid. I wrote my first "novel" when I was about 6 years old, and I spent much of my childhood building up a pantheon of superheroes with my brother. I studied creative writing in college at Johns Hopkins, and tried to write a novel in my early 20s. It wasn't until I had given up on the writing and spent half a dozen years in the trenches of high tech that I came up with an idea that I could follow through on. And that was the Jump 225 trilogy.

What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing?

I've never been very good about setting a concrete writing schedule. Maybe that's why it takes me so long to finish anything. I typically work about three days a week at my part-time web programming job, and then write whenever I have the free time and the inclination.

Where do you write?

I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I'm one of the guys you see sitting there at Starbuck's with his laptop for hours on end. For some reason, I find it easy to write with background chatter. But when I'm not writing there, I'm sitting on my couch at home with one dog on the back of the couch behind my head and one dog nestled between me and the armrest.

What is easiest/hardest for you as a writer?

The hardest thing for me as a writer is discipline. I have an easy time coming up with great ideas, and I find it very easy to sit down and start pecking on those first few paragraphs. But then I quickly burn out. If you're ever going to finish anything, you need to be able to batter your way through those burnout times, and I have a difficult time with that. And then I'm so rarely satisfied with what I write, it always takes me to forever to finish.

Thanks for the interview, David. If you want to know more about David Louis Edelman, check out his website at:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Vampire Drink?

I had a very weird dream last night. I only remember snippets of it, of course, but one detail stuck with me. I was a vampire, and I was drinking blood bottled with garlic and stinging nettle. Weird, huh?

I think my brain was figuring that the garlic, being posion to a vampire, would act like acohol, and the stinging nettle would numb the vamp a bit so s/he could drink more...? Not sure about that last part.

Now I'm only bummed that I'm not sure I can find a way to use it in my writing. I almost NEVER get ideas from dreams, so this is pretty unusual.

Monday, July 14, 2008

It's Monday...

... so, per usual, I'm over at "Something Wicked." However, this week all the authors are doing a re-release party for our various books, and I'm kicking it off with a contest for a signed copy of Romancing the Dead. If you want to participate, head on over here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

On-Line Synopsis Class


Online class: August 6-31, 2008
"Tips From Madison Avenue: The Selling Synopsis"
by Laurie Schnebly Campbell
Registration $30 at

No wonder so many great novelists have a tough time writing a synopsis -- the two jobs require completely different skills! Advertising copywriters have discovered a variety of techniques that make people want to buy a specific product, whether it's a bike or a burger or a book. So this hands-on workshop teaches those same techniques, including:

* Finding your unique selling points
* Headlines (or openings) that grab a buyer
* Identifying your target market
* When details matter, and when they don't
* Brainstorming a creative plot strategy
* Highlights that sell your product
* Changing format, emphasis or both

An advertising copywriter for 25 years, Laurie Schnebly Campbell was amazed when she realized her day job made it easier to "sell" editors on her books. So far she's sold six to Silhouette, including one that beat out Nora Roberts for Best Special Edition of the Year, and loves sharing marketing techniques with people who DON'T work on Madison Avenue.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Booksigning Woes

Mason, at least, had a good time at the signing last night. I bought him two new Calvin & Hobbes and a new three-pack Garfield. The other ladies were fairly impressed at how quietly he sat absorbed in his books. He got a little squirrely at the end, and, of course, we had to take a break to eat, but I think it was fairly successful given I had my four year old in tow.

I, of course, sold no books.

Before you cry for me, Argentina, I have long ago come to the realization that book signings are really for booksellers and for authors. The booksellers get a stock of signed books, which, according to at least one bookseller I talked to actually sell pretty well off the shelf -- and better than their unsigned cousins, at any rate.

The author benefits the most, I think. The author gets a chance to meet-and-greet the booksellers, who, as we know, are the ones who do any and all "hand-selling," which can be key to a book's success. The author also usually leaves with a sense that many of the books won't end up as stripped returns. (Note: I worded that very carefully, because I'm well aware of the fact that in many cases signing a book does NOT save it from being returned. Plus, sometimes the booksellers will crassly admit to returning as many as possible. It's only crass because all the authors I know tend to take that stuff personally. We know it happens; we just don't want to necessarily hear about it.)

But, back to the positive. Personally, I also really like to do "multi-author" signings, because then the authors also have a chance to catch up on industry gossip and whatnot. Plus, the time goes a lot faster when there's someone else to talk with.

I sometimes wonder why we bother, since, like so many things in the publishing industry, booksignings feel like they come from another era -- one that's being overshadowed by "promotional" opportunities on the that crazy Internet thing all the kids are into these days.

I suspect that book tours -- the kind that are sponsored by publishers for gigantically best sellers (who, in my humble opinion, are the ones who need it the least, but then much of capitalism makes very little sense to me) -- still perform some important function in terms of boosting book sales and maybe even just allowing fans and opportunity to see that Big Name Star is just and average guy who puts his/her pants on one leg at a time... I'm not sure. I just know that I'll probably continue to sit in empty Mall bookstores staring at the wall for many years to come... at least until the bookstores stop asking me, that is.