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I have a cold.  I sound like I swallowed a penny whistle, and whenever I try to do housework I end up soaked with sweat.  As a result I’ve been sitting at the desk quite a bit and trying to write.  Unfortunately I picked today to read over the 17k words of the novel I’m working on.

Oh my god, it sucks rocks.  It’s talky and boring, and none of the characters have much… character. They don’t seem to like each other and they sure don’t want to sleep with each other.  All they do is travel from one place to another, have conversations that skirt the real issues, and eat. Oh, and lie to one another.  Everyone is lying to someone else and the net result is that nobody is really engaging with anyone, including me.

Have I really forgotten how to write? Am I losing my mind?

I expect every writer feels that way in the process of shaping a story.  It’s like being stuck at a dinner party with a lot of people who you were certain were going to be brilliant, but instead keep on nattering about the most inane things imaginable while throwing food or trying to stick forks into the other diners.  You end up wondering if you shouldn’t just nuke them all from orbit.  It’s the only way to be sure.

So what to do?  I could trash it, but with 17k+ words written that seems a lot like buying food and then letting it rot in the fridge.  (Okay, yeah, I do that too. Shame on me.) However I could argue that spending more time on a story that seems to be going nowhere is good words after bad.  Why waste my time if it’s not a good story?

But what if it is?  What if there’s a good story in there, but it’s my attention that’s fragmented, my sense of the story that’s skewed?  I could put it aside for a while and work on something else.  But right now there’s nothing else that’s occupying the space in my head reserved for stories.  None of the old ones are sending me write this! messages.  And maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe I need to spend my time cleaning out closets, scrubbing floors (I did that today.) or arranging my thousands of photographs dating back to the mid-19th century.  Or I could read.  That’s always worth doing, right?

But I want to be writing.  I really feel like I need to be sitting here stringing words together.  It’s like a physical need for me.  So in the end, I think that maybe the best answer is: The damn thing isn’t finished yet. Why be so negative? I need to stop rereading my work because it always makes me want to go rewrite.  The end result is that the beginning of my stories are usually overworked, the middles are  good and the ends read like a rough drafts.

I’ve pretty much decided to stop being such a mope and bash on with the damn thing.  There’s a story there, I’m sure of it, and some interesting characters, even if they are acting like the most boring people on the planet.

Everyone has a different writing process.  I just wish mine wasn’t so weird and time-consuming.


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Our Alter Egos
Our Alter Egos (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)

I don't know if I mentioned it here, but I've started a new blog.  I share this one with Glinda North, and it's called "Those 2 Nice Girls Next Door."  Why?  It's a complex story and has to do with the things we talked about when we were contemplating our move, searching for a house and all the rest.  We joked that people would probably not remember our names and would call us "Those two nice girls next door" or something similar.  So when we were sitting together having coffee a bit ago, Glinda suggested that we start a blog with that title and talk about our life here.  How we got here, what we think of the arrangement, the house, our lives and so on.  I thought it was a terrific idea and set up a blog, which I'm currently monopolizing because she's been so over-worked lately.  When my quarterly calls start in a week or two, she's going to have to take up some of the slack.  It was her idea after all.  Fair warning: Right now we're obsessed with the garden and probably will be so pretty much through June.  Spring is always our most active time out there, so many of the posts are going to be garden-related.

Amber and Green beaded braceletThe other thing we plan to do is open an Etsy shop with that name.  We're both crafters and it would not only do us good to earn a bit of money, but I think it would be good for us to have that outlet.  (The bracelet to the right is one of mine, I sold it under the name "Belle Epoque Originals.")

We need to clean up the basement first, and set up the Art Box I won.  God knows when that will happen.  There never seems to be enough hours in the day.

I've been working on "Winter Rose" aka, "The Russian Novel" and "The Time Travel Novel."  It's coming along slowly but the characters drag their feet abysmally.  And today I decided that I was going to... not rewrite an old novel, exactly, but revisit it.  Many years ago, around 1980 or so, I wrote a novel called "Cat Tales," and I've been thinking seriously about taking some of the original ideas and developing them into something different.  I won't be reselling an old story, just cannibalizing the best of it to make something new.

The Pantry Project is still ongoing.  I'm not doing as well as I'd hoped I would be by now, but we're eating better and wasting less.  I cook more often and we're eating less meat and ordering out less.  I can't expect habits to change overnight or even in a year, really.  Not when they're this ingrained. I want to get back to trying new things.  Tonight we had Hasselback potatoes for the first time.  They were very successful, though the mess in the baking dish is scary.  And a trip to a new Sur la Table store on Saturday ended with me buying avocado oil for our salads.  We are trying new things.

The cats are great.  Leo is having a lot of asthma problems since I started using a supposedly asthma-friendly clay litter, so we're going back to cedar.  And Peeb seems to be not having a lot of 'sodes since I plugged in the Feliway. I don't think to ask for miracles.

So... new and old, and old made new again.  We work with what life gives us.

 

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Usually I do this from Wordpress so I can post to all my blogs at once, but apparently something happened last night and my WP blog has disappeared.  I can't access anything!  (Yeah, it's not a good day so far.)  Anyway I wanted to drop a note to say that I have a new novella being released today from Dreamspinner Press.  It's entitled "The Vampyre's Revenge" and is the story of a sad fanboy who finds love in an unexpected place.  Here's an excerpt:

FRANK went out one night to pick up a pizza and came home a vampire. It wasn’t what he’d imagined. He’d assumed vampires would be scarier, like the ones on Buffy with their game faces and all. But the vampire who turned him was Mrs. Carlson, his sweet-faced, elderly
landlady who lived downstairs, growing roses and feeding stray cats.

That night, as he was on his way up the stairs, she'd stopped him and said she thought there was a cat in the garden who was hurt and would
he please help her? And then she’d lured him out to the old garden shed where she’d said, “I’m terribly sorry to do this to you, Franklin, but
I’m afraid I need to drink a little bit of your blood.” Then she’d held him down, this tiny little white-haired lady who looked like his
grandmother, and she’d bitten his neck and drunk his blood.

When she finished, she wiped her mouth on a red-flowered handkerchief (“The blood doesn’t show as much”) she’d had tucked down the front of her plaid housedress and said, “Thank you, dear. Now you won’t tell anyone about this, will you?” Then she patted his cheek.

“Is that it?” Frank asked as he followed her out of the shed. He didn’t even feel very different. A little weak, but otherwise unchanged.

“Is what it?”

“Well, I thought there’d be more to someone drinking my blood.”

“Really? Like what?”

“I don’t know… that you’d be scarier or I’d feel different. Or you’d get all young-looking after you fed.”

Mrs. Carlson laughed. “Franklin, how long have you known me? I’m an old woman." She shook her head. “Why don’t you come in the house and I’ll give you some tea; you’ll feel better after a nice cup of hot tea. Bring your pizza along, will you? It smells awfully good, and I always
get a bit peckish after feeding.” Frank didn’t know if he found that funny or not.

He ended up eating pepperoni-and-mushroom pizza and drinking tea with Mrs. Carlson in her cheerful, bright yellow kitchen, playing with her
cat and asking her questions about being a vampire. Forties-era music played quietly on an old radio in the living room.

“How did you become one?” he asked.

“My grandson found out my heart was going and couldn’t stand the idea of losing his old granny, so he turned me." She sighed. “David never
was one for thinking things through. He was a good boy,” she said. “He worked at a large accounting firm in New York. Unfortunately, he was
killed in an auto accident about five years ago. A bad accident can kill us,” she told Frank as she fed a morsel of pepperoni to Mr. Biggles,
who had jumped up on the kitchen table. “He really should have been more careful. But that was like David; he didn’t think things through,” she repeated. “I appreciated the thought, but I wish he’d just left me to live out my years the normal way.”

Frank stared at the cat, who glared back at him. “Is… is Mr. Biggles….”

“What, dear? A vampire?” She chuckled. “No, he’s just a cat. Mind you, he’s a bit of a monster, aren’t you, my sweetheart?” The cat rubbed
his face against hers, then stared at Frank again with suspicious golden eyes. “He’s like my child, only less irresponsible and ungrateful
than my children were. And he keeps me company. No, I do not feed off of him,” she added with a touch of asperity that suggested she’d been asked such things before and considered them offensive. Frank scratched that question off his mental to-ask list.

“So, I mean… needing blood all the time can’t be easy for you.”

“I have an arrangement with a local butcher. A lot of our kind go to them for blood. Only this week I simply wasn’t able to get down there to
pick up my order on the day it came in, and they gave my blood to someone else. Imagine! And me such a good customer. So I had to find,
well, a donor. I don’t like the word “victim” much, do you?”

“Not so much, no. So you could turn someone into a vampire?”

“I expect I could, though I never have. David’s well-meaning gesture notwithstanding, I never thought turning someone into a vampire was a
very friendly thing to do.”

“Even if they asked you to?”

She peered at Frank over the top of her blue-framed glasses. “Franklin, do you mean to tell me you want to become a vampire?”

“Well… yes. That is to say, I guess so.”

“Now why would you want to be a vampire?” she asked, setting Mr. Biggles on the floor. He glared up at them for a few moments, then
meowed and stalked off.

“Being a vampire seems kind of glamorous.”

“Oh no, it’s not, dear. Would you like some more tea?” she asked, pouring herself another cup from the rose-patterned teapot. Franklin
thought that she was probably right, but the vampire life still seemed miles ahead of where he was in his friendless, dead-end existence.

“No thank you. But vampires seem…. I mean, being strong and supernatural is like… well, it’s something big. Isn’t it?” Frank shook
his head. “I’m not making myself very clear, but what I mean is, it’s not as if the life I’m living is so great, Mrs. Carlson.”

That was the problem, the truth stripped down to the skin, as pasty and bland as Frank. His life was anything but great. He’d been a geeky
kid and had grown up to be a geeky adult. He’d only ever had one girlfriend, who moved away the day after he lost his virginity to her,
and he spent his free time playing computer games, watching movies, and reading. He had a boring job that didn’t pay well and no real friends because most of the other geeks had moved away and gotten jobs that were better than his. Nobody else had ever cared much about getting to know Frank. His sex life was limited to fantasies set in his favorite television programs, and the occasional internet porn, which was as dull and joyless as his single sexual encounter had been, though rather less anxiety-ridden.

By contrast, everything about Mrs. Carlson seemed so bright and colorful. When he considered the difference between her life and his, he
felt such despair he thought he would choke on it. A vast, empty life stretched out ahead of him: fifty, sixty years of nothing very special
or interesting or even colorful, and he broke down and began to sob. “I hate my life. I don’t have any friends, I have a dead-end job, and
nothing good ever happens to me. I couldn’t even afford to go to college where maybe I’d have met some people who didn’t want to make fun of me.”

“Oh, poor Franklin,” Mrs. Carlson crooned, stroking his head. “I didn’t realize. I guess I forget we don’t all prefer a quiet life.”

“It’s okay,” he said, sniffing loudly. She got up and brought him a box of tissues. “I’m sorry about blubbing, Mrs. C. I don’t usually… you know.”

“I understand, dear.” She patted his arm, and then, as Frank watched in horror, she picked up a pair of elegant little embroidery scissors
and cut open a vein in her wrist. “Here, Franklin, drink my blood.”

“Moonlight Serenade” was playing in the living room; time seemed to have stood still. “Will drinking make me…?”

“Yes, it will, though I still don’t know if I’m doing you a favor.”

He caught hold of her arm and pressed his mouth to the oozing cut. He drank deeply for a moment, then realized what was in his mouth and
began to gag. “Oh God, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry,” he blurted, drooling blood all over her tablecloth. “I’m such a loser.”

“I could barely bring myself to drink when David offered. Did you swallow anything?”

He imagined the mess of blood, tea, and pizza in his stomach and had to suck air to keep everything down. This wasn’t going well; becoming a
vampire wasn’t remotely like what he’d imagined it might be. “Yes. Some.”

“Good, then we’re done here. And now I think I’m going to send you home, because I’m getting a bit sleepy. I have to be up early tomorrow,
too, because there’s a rummage sale at the church.”

“You can go out in daylight? I mean, we can?”

“Yes, of course. Oh, Franklin, how many times have you seen me in my garden during the day?”

“And you can go into churches too?”

“Yes, of course we can, dear. Goodness, you do have a lot of strange notions about our kind. It must come from reading all those comic books of yours. You’ll need to feed about once a week. A pint should be sufficient for you. Two at most or you’ll get sick.” She scrawled a name and address on an old fast-food receipt. “This is the butcher I mentioned. You’ll probably need blood tomorrow. What else can I tell
you? You’ll heal fast, and you’ll be stronger than the average human, though in your case, dear, I expect you’ll only be stronger than the
average out-of-shape human.” She gave him a wee poke in the love handles area. “You won’t live forever, but you’ll have a longer life and won’t get sick.”

“Really? We’re not immortal?”

“No, dear. Did you think you would be?”

“Well, I sort of….”

“Remember what I told you about David?”

“And if I don’t have an accident?”

She shrugged. “I was never quite clear on how much longer I’ll live; David never liked talking about those things. I gather that one day
everything vampiric wears off and we stop, but I could be wrong, and even if I’m not, I can’t tell you when that will be. Not for many years
in your case, so don’t worry yourself, Franklin. You have a long time to enjoy these changes. Oh, and be nice. Don’t give our kind a worse
reputation than we already have.”

“Uh… okay.”

“Good night, dear. Thanks for the blood. And the pizza, which was delicious. Next time it’s on me.”

Frank took the rest of the pizza upstairs and put it on his coffee table, got a bottle of Dr Pepper from the fridge, and popped a Buffy DVD
into the player. He sat there for most of the night, just staring at the TV, and by dawn he’d decided to take the day off work in honor of
his having become a vampire, though he wasn’t quite sure how to celebrate.

To start with, he called in sick and said he couldn’t come to work today because he’d been turned into a vampire. The receptionist said,
“I’ll let them know” in her usual disinterested manner and hung up. It'd serve her right, he thought, if he showed up there after her shift to
suck her blood for being so blasé about his transformation. In all fairness, though, he’d already called in sick earlier that year with the
St. Mary’s virus and a brain cloud, and she hadn’t bothered to ask about those either. That was the problem with this town; nobody got him.
Belatedly, he began to realize becoming a vampire wasn’t going to help him connect with ordinary people. In fact, it was likely to hinder the
process of making friends.

“Hi, my name is Frank,” he said aloud. “I’m a geek vampire.” Oh yes, the folks in their town would come a-runnin’ to befriend him now. Why
didn’t he ever think things through?

Rather than worry about it, Frank decided he should go down to the butcher shop and set up a regular supply of blood. He wasn’t ready to
think about the alternatives, and it seemed like a mysterious and vampy thing to do, stealing down to the back door of the butcher shop at
sunset in a long black coat and sunglasses and paying in cash, saying something like “Just call me….” Frank tried hard to think of a good
vampire alias. He didn’t feel right about using “Spike” or “Angelus,” but nothing else occurred to him. Franklin, maybe. Or not: it wasn’t
sinister enough. He’d have to give the name more thought. So anyway, then he’d take the unmarked parcel, the jar of blood in a plain brown
wrapper, to someplace quiet to drink and contemplate the tragic romance of his new life. The mental image of the wretched loner, shadows lying heavily upon him, made Frank a bit happier.

In the end, though, he settled for phoning the butcher shop. He hemmed and hawed so much about what it was he wanted that the guy on the
other end finally said, “You want a pint of pig’s blood a week, right?”

“Um… yes.”

“Fine, give me your name and number and I’ll put you in the book.”

“Book?”

“Vamps. Gotta keep track or things can get confused. What day do you want to pick yours up?”

Nonplussed, Frank blurted, “I could come by now.”

“No can do, buddy; last shipment is sold out. Next one won’t be in until after three today. We’ll be open until seven.”

Sold out? How many damn vampires lived in this town? “Fine, fine.” He felt okay; he could wait. He probably hadn’t actually turned anyway. He
sure didn’t feel any different. Probably he hadn’t swallowed enough of Mrs. Carlson’s blood to do any good. Relief and disappointment churned inside his belly. “I’m okay,” he managed.

“Okay then, blood’ll be ready for you any time after three this afternoon.” The guy didn’t even sound scared. In fact, he sounded bored.

This whole creature of the night thing wasn’t working out quite the way Frank was expecting. 
persimmonfrost: (caddy)

I just got a release date for novella “The Vampyre’s Revenge”  It’ll be published by Dreamspinner Press on February 13th.

Podgy fanboy Frank Vogel lives a dead-end life. He’s addicted to pop culture, Internet porn, and fantasies about Rebecca Hansen, a Buffy-like cheerleader from his high school days, but he yearns for something more. When he finds out Mrs. Carlson, his sweet, elderly landlady, is a vampire, a whole new world opens up to him. Blinded by dreams of sexy, mysterious vampires, Frank begs Mrs. Carlson to turn him. Against her better judgment, she does.

Unfortunately, Frank’s life doesn’t seem much different afterward. Then he runs into his unwitting nemesis, Will Chase–former high-school football team captain, former boyfriend to Rebecca–and makes gleeful plans to destroy him… until he discovers that he and Will have a lot in common.

This story was a lot of fun to write.  I don’t really remember where I got the original idea, probably from a conversation with my friends — most of whom are fans — about how maybe the world needed some vampires who weren’t broody, sexy, got-it-together bloodsuckers or shambling revenants.  What I wanted to write was a regular guy, a fan, someone smart but not happy or successful, who becomes a vampire almost by accident, and ends up finding love, also by accident.

I think it’s a sweet story.  I hope you all will, too.

Little vampire

Mirrored from Persimmon Frost.

persimmonfrost: (caddy)

Here’s the cover art for my upcoming release with Silver Publishing.  It’s by the very talented Lee Tiffin.  Isn’t it a delight?

Devil in the Details: Rafe is a young man with a problem. His lover, a wealthy and powerful man, has become increasingly demanding and possessive, and is occasionally abusive. Gavin is prepared to do anything to get what he wants.

What Rafe wants is a little peace and security. And he wants it with the owner of the new cafe in the neighborhood.

Driven to despair by his lover, Rafe calls on his half-brother, a demon named Grim, to help settle things.

Here’s a taste:

Rafe returned to Maraczek’s café about eight-thirty the next morning. He’d brought a book and was prepared to read while he waited, but Dave saw him and let him in. “They’re cooling. Come on in back and we’ll have milk and a cookie to start the day.”

“Really? In back?”

Dave laughed. “That’s right. The Inner Sanctum! C’mon. I don’t want anyone seeing you in here and rapping on the window.”

They went back into the kitchen and Dave pointed him towards a stool. Then he brought two big glasses of milk to the table. “Chocolate syrup? I make my own. You really should try it.”

“Oh sure, why not?” The butterflies started flitting around inside Rafe’s stomach. Was Dave going to put the moves on him with chocolate syrup and cookies? Rafe had to admit it would be a novel approach and one he could appreciate, but he wasn’t sure if it was such a good idea. Hard on that thought came the certainty he didn’t really care too much if it wasn’t a good idea.

“Why not indeed? It’ll make you feel like a kid again.” Dave fetched a big cobalt bottle, and a plate full of cookies. “These are also known as never-twice-the-same-cookie because I use whatever’s on hand.”

They were huge, heavy cookies that smelled heavenly. “What on earth is in these?” Rafe asked.

“Try it and see if you can figure it out.”

It was something to distract him from the awkward but very exciting attraction he was feeling for Dave. On the first bite he got oatmeal, walnuts and chocolate chips. “Chocolate chip oatmeal, right?”

“That’s a start. What else?”

Rafe took another bite. Dave was watching him closely. Watching him take bites, watching him chew. Rafe nearly forgot how to do both, but then the flavors tugged at him. “Not raisins, but… wait,” There was an almondy quality to the dried fruit. “Dried cherries?”

Dave seemed pleased. He nodded as he mixed chocolate syrup into the milk. “Right. And?”

“Coconut?” Dave confirmed it. “Spices…” There was the rich, friendly aroma of cardamom, the brightness of cinnamon and the warm bite of clove. And more, a whole lot more, but it remained mysterious. “It’s sort of like pumpkin pie spice with some cardamom, but not really,” Rafe said. ” Honestly, that’s as far as my thinking takes me.”

Dave patted his arm and Rafe almost shivered. He liked touching Dave far too much for his own good. “You did really well. There are some sunflower and chia seeds in there, and the spice is my own garam masala blend today with some extra cardamom because I love the stuff. The last batch I made with bits of crystallized ginger, and orange flower water. The next one? Who knows?” He grinned and took a big bite of his cookie.

Rafe sipped his chocolate milk and was again distracted from watching Dave by the flavors. “What’s in this?”

“Just chocolate syrup.”

“Oh no, there has to be something else.”

“Nope. That’s what it tastes like when you use real cane sugar and very good raw cocoa.”

“It’s amazing. It’s got this… I don’t know what to call it.” Sensation was coming at him far too fast; he was having a hard time sorting it all out.

“It’s rich and it’s a little musky, fruity, and kind of warm, isn’t it?”

“Yeah! Man this is good. You should sell this.”

Dave reached out and ran his finger over Rafe’s upper lip. “Chocolate milk moustache,” he said with a chuckle.

This time Rafe did shiver a little.

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William Shakespeare

Yesterday I finished a first draft of “Call Me But Love” which is a collection of four riffs based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but focusing on the romantic relationship between Romeo and Mercutio.  I need to put it away for a while because I’m sick of looking at it.  I’m getting nowhere fast on my contemporary romance novel “Will Work for Food” so I put that aside as well; I find that letting things marinate a bit helps me a lot when I go back to the story.

But I have to work on something, so I pulled out “Variations on a Theme By Dickens,” a novel length collection of five stories all based on Dickens’A Christmas Carol.”  Like “Call Me But Love” it comes out of a genre in fanfic known as “X Things That Never Happened To _____”  It’s one of my favorite fan fiction genres, and it’s rather like the musical genre of theme and variations.  I think it’s a shame it’s not more used in mainstream fiction, and both “Call Me But Love” and “Variations on a Theme By Dickens” are nods to that genre and an attempt to make it more mainstream.

Charles Dickens

In the latter, novel-length collection, four of the stories are Dickens-era historicals and one is contemporary, but they’re all quite different.  The first is told from the point of view of one of the Cratchit children.  The second which is in a tie for my favorite of the group, is “The Atherium” a steampunk fantasy with a rather engaging romance.  The fourth is the contemporary retelling, and this is my other favorite because it’s mean and funny and a little romantic, but not in a sappy way.  It’s about adults who make mistakes and get involved in silly or inappropriate relationships.  And the last one is a letter to Dickens from a former employer.

You noticed there’s no number three, didn’t you?  Because I’m in the middle of rereading it now, and I’m not happy with how slow the opening is.  It picks up about halfway through the story, but that’s not good enough.  I don’t want something that brings the momentum of the first two stories to a crawl.  It’s entitled “David Tarried at Jerusalem” and those of you who know your Bible might well guess at the theme.  It’s a kind of romance, but one that you know isn’t going to end well for anyone.  I need to find a way to make it pop right from the get-go.  Unfortunately it’s the one that’s been kicking my butt since I started the project.

However, that’s not your problem, gentle readers, it’s very much mine.  I will succeed; I just need to kvetch about it occasionally.  So to thank you for putting up with my ramblings, here’s an excerpt from “The Aetherium” the steampunk fantasy romance from “Variations on a Theme by Dickens.”

“Mr. Scrooge?’

“You have the advantage of me, sir,” Scrooge replied without looking up from the worn journal splayed across his desk. Time would tell if the stranger was worth the interruption.

The lightly accented voice replied, “If you please, sir, my name is Edwin Mayweather.”

Had Scrooge been afflicted with a sense of humor, he might have framed a reply along the lines of “And if I do not please, who shall you be, then?” But humor was a vice which Scrooge did not count on the debit side of his ledger. In fact, he counted no vices in that column having long become immune to lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath and the rest. As for greed, he felt that it was an extreme position, in no way related to his wise and thrifty ways. He felt he did not so much love money as need it, as a man needs air and water. One could not live without money, at least not as God intended, so the need for it was hardly sinful.

No vices, a few mistakes, nothing more. His considered opinion was that the seven deadly sins could be neatly distilled down into a lack of good, common sense. And common sense he had in abundance.

“What do you want?” he asked, eyes still fixed on the words before him, seeking a clue, always seeking…

“You were recommended to me by Mr. James Tillman, sir, as a man with a good eye for value.”

Value was one of the holy words in Scrooge’s litany, and heeding the name and word of Tillman had never failed to enrich him. “Is that a fact?” Finally he looked up and found that the man standing before him was of middling years, quite tall and startlingly handsome with vivid blue eyes, dark hair lightly shot with grey, and a complexion the color of lightly smoked meerschaum . “Have a seat, Mr. Mayweather,” he said, closing the journal.

Mayweather made himself as comfortable as he could in Marley’s old leather chair. Scrooge never threw anything out, and when the seat of Marley’s chair gave way, he merely put an old account book between it and the cushion and pronounced it “good as new.” The added advantage was that no visitor stayed long in Scrooge’s office. In truth most were disinclined to do so in any event for neither the office with its uniform dark walls, heavy dark furniture and windows so grimy they let in a pitiful amount of light, nor Scrooge himself, a man so much like his surroundings that he seemed to absorb what little light there was, reassured visitors that they were in any wise welcome.

“Now tell me what sort of value we are discussing.”

“A business opportunity, sir. An invention…”

“It isn’t one of those damnable steam-powered contraptions?” he asked, the memory of Robert Cratchit’s horrible death rising up to choke him with horror. Since Robert had been cooked alive in an explosion of one of those steam monstrosities, Scrooge felt a persistent unease at having the Pacioli Accounting Engine on the premises. He did not like steam unless it issued from a tea kettle, and only constant reassurances from Ada Cratchit, who Scrooge now employed to maintain her husband’s invention, and the certainty that he would lose money by going back to using clerks instead of the engine, kept him from selling it.

“Not at all, Mr. Scrooge. It is rather a case of the electronic stimulation of crystal which produces a luminiferous aether. The aether in turn…”

“Is it an expensive process?” Scrooge asked.

Mayweather shrugged eloquently. “It has been somewhat dear,” he admitted. “And now that I am prepared to begin public testing, I shall need a plentiful supply of materials with which to work. It would not do to fall short while presenting my invention to the world. As with all things of this nature, the investment of monies is the only way to ensure that one will make money.”

“Which is why you came to me.”

“Precisely. While I have already created Voltaic cells with copper and nickel the process would be greatly enhanced by the use of silver and gold. And the crystals do not withstand more than two or three uses …”

Scrooge raised a hand. “Pray do not attempt to make me familiar with the process for I have no head for the science of it. Tell me only how I might profit from helping you. What is this invention?”

“I call it “The Aetherium.” I have built a machine which allows the user to communicate with the dead.”

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Shady side of the garden

I’ve been ferociously busy the last few weeks because gardening season hit in a big way recently after weeks of (mostly) sub-normal temperatures.  March was hotter than usual and we got an early start, and then the temps started roller-coastering so we barely knew from day to day what the weather would be like.  Our cool-weather flowers — violas, pansies, ranunculus etc. — did very well for us, but everything else was slow.  The early tomatoes lollygagged in the raised bed and only recently started blossoming a full two months after being planted.  Bunnies ate almost all our pea shoots, roses budded, but the buds looked wrong and bulbs either came up looking odd or didn’t come up at all.

We already have grapes and nectarines, but the nectarine tree has peach leaf curl and I’ve seen black spot and rust on the roses, both of which usually show up much later in the season, so I fear it’s going to be a bad year for fungus. Then we had a freaky, scary storm with a whole lot of hail; a storm so bad that it sounded as if people were outside flinging rocks at the house.  It didn’t break any windows but it tore up the garden and killed one of our baby bunnies. That bothered Glinda and me far more than the plants.  We’ve buried him in a spot between our trio of rose bushes named “Buffy,” “Willow,” and “Cordelia.”  I know  it’s a good resting place for him.  We built him a little cairn, too, to keep out scavengers.

The Tomb of the Unknown Bunny

We pretty much by-passed spring this year and went right into summer.  It’s 94 degrees here today, and of course since it’s Chicago, it’s humid.  We were out all day yesterday and bought a lot of plants, so this morning we stumbled out of bed and went into the garden to plant.  Pretty much everything is finished now, and it looks really nice. Anyone who is interested can find more photos at my Flickr account.

I had a fantastically busy quarter at my editing job, too, which is a good thing because I had to buy a new laptop.  My two older ones couldn’t run the software and while the newest one could, it didn’t run it consistently well.  I had a lot of trouble with my internet connection, too, so I bit the bullet and got myself a Lenovo.  Fortunately I made enough this quarter to pay it off and much of what I spent on plants as well.

I’m very nearly finished with a new story; it’s being revised right now, and I hope to get it edited and out to a publisher by mid-June.  Then I’m going back to “Anna Magdalena’s Song.”  I would love to have that one finished and ready to get shopped around by early autumn.  Royalty payments have been disappointing but then I’ve had nothing new for a while, and if there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that you have to be in front of your audience all the time.

I’ve become obsessed with Pinterest, and have made boards for images that inspire writing ideas as well as the usual ones for gardens and good noms.   I’m Tracy Rowan over there, too, if you’re interested.  My “What do they look like?” board has a lot of images of people who may or may not turn into my characters.  I work sideways with characters, creating them, then finding faces, then developing them, finding new faces and so forth until they have their own lives.  Still it might be interesting to peek at current inspirations.

So now I’m going to go put my feet up.  All that sun and heat finally caught up with me.  Game of Thrones tonight, and some gin and tonic in the garden.  Not a bad thing at all.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 15: In this handou...

Peter Dinklage rocks. I'm just sayin'.

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It's not as if it hasn't been real, after having worked on it all this time, but seeing this has made a huge difference in the way I think about the book.

The other day I was reading a writing blog and one of the pieces of advice being offered was that as soon as you know what you are going to write, get a cover for it and post it.  It makes it more real for everyone.  I took that to heart and today I went to Fiverr.com and found a graphic artist who was willing to make up a cover for me for five bucks.  Now any way you slice that, it's a deal! (Unless of course the image sucked, but this gal had a ton of positive feedback, so I wasn't too worried.  Look for jw12792 if you're of a mind to commission something like this.)  She sent the first one and there was a problem with it, so I wrote to her, explained and asked if she could fix it.  In less than 20 minutes she had a second one done.  Same idea, different image and colors, and I like this one a whole lot better because it really speaks to the themes of the book: secrets, masks, opera, and a fantastic, magical setting.

So in celebration of this cover image, here's an excerpt from "Anna Magdalena's Song":

Zoë had planned an opera-themed wedding, and in spite of Max’s misgivings, he had agreed. He would stand at the altar as Felicia and Zoë would be costumed as Felicia’s lover, Arturo. “It will be a delicious joke,” Zoë had promised, displaying the lively sense of humor that had drawn them together from the start. "They'll say we're mad.  Do you mind?"

It wasn’t in his heart to deny her so he told her, “Whatever makes you happy, my dear.” At the time he had found the idea amusing.

Now he was regretting it, at least in part because the enormous powdered wig and multi-layered costume both weighed a ton. “Is it too late to flee?” he asked Frederick who was fussing with several acres of lace.

“Much too late. Finish with that bodice so I can get you into this over-sized pastry of a skirt. Why couldn’t she have chosen a better opera, or at least one with less ridiculous costumes? What about “Lollia” or “Die Absolution der Weißen Mädchen” instead of this idiotic piece?”

“She's sentimental about the role; it’s the first one she ever saw me sing, and anyway it was my greatest one, everyone says so.”

“I don’t. I think you were best as Lollia.”

“So do I,” Max admitted. "But it's also one of the few where I don't die or go mad by the end, so it does have a happy ending to recommend it. I expect she prefers to begin married life that way rather than with the cumulative tragedies of Lollia."

As he fastened the dozens of hooks and buttons, Frederick said “I was joking about it being too late to flee. If you need to…” He let the thought trail away, but Max understood.  Once before, on the day he and Zoë had become engaged, Frederick had asked if Max thought it wise. It was a mark of his concern, and his love for Max that he would ask a second time.

“I have no doubt that this is my best course. Zoë and I have spoken frankly.”

Fred seemed unconvinced. “How frankly?”

Max half turned. “You forget yourself.” Then more softly he added “As frankly as necessary. We have achieved an understanding.”

What he didn’t say, couldn’t say even to Frederick, the one person on earth who knew all his secrets, was that his heart was breaking. "You told me once that I could do better than Niccolò St. Arvid. I have done. That's an end to it."

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English: [detail].


Well yippee and zowie, I just sold a story to Silver Publishing.  The title is "Devil in the Details" and here's a short summary:

Rafe is a young man with a problem. His lover, a wealthy and powerful man, has become increasingly demanding and possessive, and is occasionally abusive. He is prepared to do anything to get what he wants. .

What Rafe wants is a little peace and security. And he wants it with the owner of the new cafe in the neighborhood.

Driven to despair by his lover, Rafe calls on his half brother, a demon named Grim, to help settle things.

I'll be publishing more details soon.  Stay tuned!

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 This is from a novel I'm working on called "Five Things That Never Happened to Ebenezer Scrooge."  Thought you all might enjoy a peek.

_____________________________

“Mr. Scrooge?’

“You have the advantage of me, sir,” Scrooge replied without looking up from the worn journal splayed across his desk. Time would tell if the stranger was worth the interruption.

The lightly accented voice replied, “If you please, sir, my name is Edwin Mayweather.”

Had Scrooge been afflicted with a sense of humor, he might have framed a reply along the lines of “And if I do not please, who shall you be, then?” But humor was a vice which Scrooge did not count on the debit side of his ledger. In fact, he counted no vices in that column having long been immune to lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath and all the rest. As for greed, he felt that it was an extreme position, in no way related to his wise and thrifty ways. He felt he did not so much love money as need it, as a man needs air and water. One could not live without money, at least not as God intended, so the need for it was hardly sinful.  No vices, a few mistakes, nothing more. His considered opinion was that the seven deadly sins could be neatly distilled down into a lack of good, common sense. And common sense he had in abundance.

“What do you want?” he asked, eyes still fixed on the words before him, seeking a clue, always seeking.

“You were recommended to me by Mr. James Tillman, sir, as a man with a good eye for value.”

Value was one of the holy words in Scrooge’s litany, and heeding the name and word of Tillman had never failed to enrich him. “Is that a fact?” Finally he looked up and found that the man standing before him was of middling years, quite tall and startlingly handsome with vivid blue eyes, dark hair lightly shot with grey, and a complexion the color of aged meerschaum . “Have a seat, Mr. Mayweather,” he said, closing the account book.

Mayweather made himself as comfortable as he could in Marley’s old leather chair. Scrooge never threw anything out, and when the seat gave way, he merely put an old account book between it and the cushion and pronounced it “good as new.” The added advantage was that no visitor stayed long in Scrooge’s office. In truth most were disinclined to do so in any event for neither the office with its uniform dark walls, heavy dark furniture and windows so grimy they let in a pitiful amount of light, nor Scrooge himself (a man so much like his surroundings that he seemed to absorb what little light there was) reassured visitors that they were in any wise welcome.

“Now tell me what sort of value we are discussing.”

“A business opportunity, sir. An invention...”

“It isn’t one of those damnable steam-powered contraptions.” he asked, the memory of Robert Cratchit’s horrible death coming back to him suddenly. Since Robert had been cooked alive in an explosion of one of those steam monstrosities, Scrooge felt a persistent unease at having the Pacioli Accounting Engine on the premises. He did not like steam unless it issued from a tea kettle, and only constant reassurances from Ada Cratchit, who Scrooge now employed to maintain her husband’s invention, and the certainty that he would lose money by going back to using clerks instead of the engine, kept him from selling it.

“Not at all, Mr. Scrooge. It is rather a case of the electronic stimulation of crystal which produces a luminiferous aether.  The aether in turn...”

“Is it an expensive process?” Scrooge asked.

persimmonfrost: Me at age three or so, enjoying the snow (snow)

Storyteller is a lyrically written series of stories which make up an historical novel about the travels of Gwernin the Storyteller -- and about this he makes a very important distinction; he is not yet worthy to call himself "Bard" -- through dark age Wales. It's not just about medieval Wales, though that would provide material enough, nor just about Welsh culture and the oral tradition. It's also about growth and the education of a story teller, and his adventures along the way. Another reviewer likened it to "The Canterbury Tales" and the comparison is apt. Grove's stories introduce Gwernin to a whole host of colorful characters, and provide hearty doses of humor, surprise, mystery and the like.

This is not popularized medievalism, nor is it strictly academic. Rather it walks a path between the two, neither pandering to contemporary tastes nor remaining so obscure that contemporary readers will not be engaged by it. It remains thoroughly accessible, but without the sort of compromises that might rob it of so much of its authenticity. It's clear that Grove has done her homework here. In fact, it's clear that this is a labor of love for her, and as such it carries even more impact. You write best what speaks to you most clearly.

If I have a quibble with the book, it's that some of the stories lack dramatic tension. They are shortish, and sometimes don't so much end as stop. And yet there's enough here to keep you wanting to read more, which is, in the end, what propels the reader through any book. Recommended for lovers of good historical fiction, or anyone with an interest in Welsh legends and mythology.




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The life of an expat American has always held a kind of allure for readers. Between the World Wars, jazz age writers and artists populated the cafes and salons of Paris, writing, arguing, drinking coffee and making art, talking poltics and guzzling champagne. And ever since then, France has been something of the holy grail for the American romantic. Its expatriate history, both real and imagined, is rich and exciting.

The years after WWII were like a collective sigh of relief for young people. War was over, time to throw themselves into life again. And among those who do so with ferocity is Sally Jay Gorce, the Dud Avocado. She's a young woman who is so full of life she doesn't begin to know how to spend it. Her ambitions finally bring her to Paris, and into the orbit of an American theater and its director with whom she decides to fall in love.

In spite of her feelings for Larry, she does tend to take up with other men at an almost alarming rate, and much of the book details her romantic entanglements and how they never quite mesh. Even her feelings for Larry prove problematic in the end, and after a vivid, frenetic and troubling year in France, all she wants is to go home and become a librarian.

It's difficult to dislike Sally unless you're scandalized by her. She's a smart girl, but she has no sense, which is as much a function of her age as of the way she's trying to live her life. Perhaps she does have an unfair advantage in rich uncle Roger who bankrolls her time in Paris, and helps her out of the enormous hole she's dug herself into. But through it all, she is just so filled with life, so open to whatever it brings that it's hard not to be rooting for her to find her destiny, no matter who or what that might be. When Sally's illusions shatter, it doesn't destroy her. She is sadder and wiser, but no less determined to find her own way.

"The Dud Avocado" is apparently one of those books which gets rediscovered by each new generation, and perhaps that's because it speaks to the youth and hope in all of us. We all start out determined to live life on our own terms, we all learn hard lessons, and if we're tough and lucky, we bounce back the way Sally Jay does, stronger for what we've experienced. I think this is a book for everyone who lives with hope and an open heart.

The Dud Avocado (New York Review Books Classics)

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Tracy Rowan

August 2013

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