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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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 I've had a miserable headache all day.  It ebbs and flows, and right now it's flowing and I'm squinting at the screen and holding my breath.  I think I'm going to break down and take a Vicodin before bed.  As a result I've been less productive today than I wanted to be.  I had planned to do a lot of stuff, including writing, but it all got away from me.
Hummus topped with whole chickpeas and olive oil.
Much nicer looking than my hummus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I did manage to make hummus.  Yesterday when our neighbor, Linda, came over with a bottle of wine and some paper cups (It's so good having kindred spirits surrounding us.) the talk turned to chickpeas (I want to plant some this year.) and hummus. (Linda says she has her aunt's recipe for the best hummus ever.)  So last night I put some chickpeas on to soak and this morning I put some in the sprouter and cooked the rest.  Problem was I was sure I had tahini, but I was wrong.  Fortunately I found a jar of sesame seeds which were frankly just a bit older than they ought to have been.  However I was on a mission, and having to make my own tahini with raw, elderly sesame seeds was not going to stop me.  So I processed the seeds with olive oil, then tossed in the chickpeas, more oil, a lot of lemon juice and garlic, salt and some hot sauce.  And you know what?  It was good!  It's not the best I've ever eaten and it's inelegant and not perfectly smooth, but it was good and I enjoyed it.  I have a jar of it in the fridge along with more cooked chickpeas for salad this week.

Tomato seedling

I also have a terrifying amount of lentil (green, red and beluga), broccoli, cress, and radish sprouts in the fridge, a lot of chickpeas in the sprouter and a mix of kamut, amaranth and wheat berries soaking.  I'm on a sprouting binge and I won't be happy until I've tried to sprout every seed, nut and grain in the house.  I have an avocado pit in the kitchen window that should be popping soon, half a dozen lettuce and two celery bottoms in our raised bed, and a pineapple top in a jar of water in the window.  I also have a tomato plant growing from a seed I would normally just have washed down the drain.  Unfortunately not long after I took the picture of the little proto tomato plant, Peeb tore it out of the pot.  I now have a second one growing, out of her reach.

Why am I doing all this?  Well I get obsessed with things, and right now it's spring and growing stuff seems like something I really, really want to be doing.  Our garden budget isn't very big this year, so growing stuff from kitchen scraps is something that makes sense.  And I really believe that if we can we should grow things to help feed our bodies and our souls.  A garden is one of the best anti-depressants I know. (You can read more about the garden and life at the Villa on the blog I share with Glinda, Those 2 Nice Girls Next Door.)

Venus of Willendorf Fertility Goddess cast 240...
Venus of Willendorf Fertility Goddess cast 24000 to 22000 BCE (Photo credit: mharrsch)

This afternoon I got a couple of packages in the mail, one of which is my new talisman.  I think I've mentioned that I have this superstition about having a talisman for every novel I write.  So when I started Nine Lives, a novel that has its roots in an old piece I wrote entitled "Cat Tales." I knew I wanted a proper talisman for it, to help differentiate it from the original in my mind.  I chose a Willendorf Goddess pendant in sodalite, and I'm wearing it now along with my silver pentacle and the golden bear my mother brought me from Bern, Switzerland.  It's a touchstone for the novel, and along with the other two, makes me feel... safe I guess.  Or just in the right place in the universe, which is probably as good a definition of safe as any other.

So now I have hungry cats who have interesting ways of making their desires known, and I should pay attention.  G'night all.  Pleasant dreams.



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Last night I received a contract from Dreamspinner Press for my novella "Call Me But Love."  It's a group of four stories all based on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and comes directly out of a fannish sub-genre known as "(x-number) Things That Never Happened to (character)"  I wrote one in "Brokeback Mountain" fandom, a number of years ago ("Five Things That Never Happened to Ennis del Mar" for anyone who is curious.) and got a taste for the format.  Alas, it's really only good with characters who are known to your audience.

The stories in "Call Me But Love" (From the play: "Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized; Henceforth I never will be Romeo.") are set in different places and eras.  The first, "His Timeless End" is set in Renaissance Verona. The second, "Give Me a Case to Put My Visage In" is set in Victorian England.  "By Any Other Name," which is the third story of the group, is set in post-WWII U.S., and finally  "The Children of an Idle Brain" is a contemporary story set in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

When I posted the news on Facebook last night, I promised an excerpt.  From the second story, "Give Me a Case to Put My Visage In,":

"Arrogant, self-important, little trollop," he growled. There was laughter from the shadows and he was suddenly worried that perhaps some kinsman of Juliet's had seen the entire performance. "Who's there?" he demanded. "Come out if you dare."

It was only Mercutio who stepped out of the shade of the garden wall, applauding softly. "What a show.  I thought for sure you had won the maiden or at least her maidenhead, but I guess true love doesn't buy what it used to."

"Shut up."

Mercutio laughed. "Oh by Rosaline's bright eye, you gave it your all and I applaud you. And speaking of Miss Gordon, she's left the gathering, so I guess your evening has been wasted. Lovely girl, Miss Gordon; rather wealthy if I remember correctly. Sheep."

Romeo stalked off, determined to find a way out that didn't lead back through the ballroom.  He did not want to see Juliet again; his pride wouldn't withstand another blow that night.

Mercutio followed, humming a little tune. "Why don't you go away?" Romeo snapped.

"I'm protecting my winnings."

The memory of what he had promised was like a blow. "You knew I wasn't serious about that bet."

"I knew no such thing. You made a bet with me; you lost. Will you be a gentleman and honor that wager?"

Romeo turned sharply and scowled at him. "I suppose one of us must be."

At that, Mercutio drew very close. "I suppose you're implying that if I try to collect my winnings, I am no gentleman. I'll tell you what Romeo: I never claimed to be a gentleman. You, on the other hand, are puffed up with your position in life, swaggering about and using people without ever a thought to what the consequences might be. I watched you with that girl and she had the better of you, my friend, in spite of all your efforts to win her with sweet words and cheap lies. She put you right down in your place. Your family might be rich, but you'll never be nobility, not for love nor money, my sweet, lovely boy. But all she has to do is marry Paris and her path in life is charted. It seems a shame, doesn't it, that you can't just lie down and earn a title, too?"

Romeo struck out but Mercutio saw the blow coming and danced away from it. Thwarted, Romeo snarled at Mercutio, "You would know how that's done, wouldn't you? At least I can't be arrested for what I am." He saw that the dart hit home and he was glad of it.

Mercutio made a low bow.  "As ever I yield to your superior wit." And with a sardonic smile, he started up the street alone, whistling that irritating little tune.  Romeo watched him disappear into the darkness and then began to walk in the opposite direction, towards his club.  It had been a wasted evening, and had, he feared, cost him a friend into the bargain.  But there was nothing for it; he was not like Mercutio, not...

The words wouldn't form in his mind; he feared them. 




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 Writing, I mean.  Why do I -- and apparently a whole lot of other writers -- need to be prodded into actually going about the business of putting words on paper? Why do I spend so much time gathering writing memes about how hard it is to write, and how I should be writing, and how to write, instead of actually writing?

I spend a lot of time over games of solitaire or Cubis, letting ideas marinate, trying to work out plot points.  I spent most of yesterday doing just that.  And yet it's easier than it was; still slow but easier.  Ideas come more often, plotting becomes smoother, characters are chattier.  I have a plot for a short story roughed out today, right on the heels of sending the previous one out to a magazine.  I actually have two things submitted right now, and I think that's a first for me.

Probably what I'm saying here is that the paperwork is always there but you get more used to it.  It becomes easier.  So for what it's worth, here are a couple of... not rules necessarily, but things I've learned about my writing.  Maybe they'll help yours.

  1. You have to have ideas before you can have ideas.  You know that old joke about how the most common question asked of writers is "Where do you get your ideas?" Well there's a reason for that.  Ideas are hard.  Either they don't seem good enough, or they're too big, or too small, too derivative or too weird.  They drag their feet and thumb their nose at you and don't give a damn that you actually are prepared to sit down and write.  They hide under the sofa or in cupboards, and can often be found in the shower, sucking up all the hot water.  My point here is that you have to get into the habit of having ideas.  Have a few, work with them.  More will come to you and beg for food.  Eventually you'll have flocks of them chasing you around the field, trying to get your attention.
  2. Don't rewrite until you've finished the story.  Yeah I know you have to read back a ways to know what you were saying before you can pick up the thread again, but for the love of all you consider holy, resist the urge to read from the beginning and correct mistakes.  Because I promise you that you will end up rewriting the beginning of your story a hundred times and then race through writing the end because you've gotten sick of it.  Just don't do it.
  3. Don't tell your whole story to people.  Once you've told it, however imperfectly, you'll lose some of the urge to make it concrete.
  4. Pay attention.  Take notes.  Ask questions.  You have to engage your brain and your senses if you want to write.
  5. Read.  A lot.  All the time.  If I have to explain this, you're not a writer.  Go do something that will earn you a lot of money, and stop pretending.

These points won't necessarily make you a better writer -- I'm not remotely qualified to teach anyone that skill -- but if you take them to heart you might just get something down on paper for a change.  Give it a shot.


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Three entries?  Three??  What the heck happened to the competitive spirit?  Or cookie fanaticism? *tsk* Well fine.

I got three suggestions for additions to my breakfast cookie and I liked them all.  If I’d gotten twenty, even a dozen, choosing a winner might’ve been simple, but with three really interesting choices, I’m sort of in a quandary.

Parhelion suggested cardamom and cashew with a bit of citrus, and I really liked the idea.  I’m not a big cashew fan but with the cardamom and particularly the citrus, I think I’d like this cookie very much.

Judymoe, who doesn’t consider herself any sort of foodie, made what I thought was a really interesting suggestion, and one I’d never even considered before: lavender.  Now I can’t stop thinking about it, and I know I’m going to try using it in a batch.

And NamasteNancy suggested: walnuts, coconut to taste and sun dried cranberries.  She was actually a bit more specific about her amounts, and this sounded like a really tantalizing cookie, particularly as I love all three ingredients.

What to do, what to do?  My first thought was to let Peeb decide.  I put three balls on the floor with the names of each of the entrants.  I figured that she’d choose one to play with and that would be the winner.  This is what happened:

Sleepy Girl

Clearly Miss Peeb cares nothing for cookies or reading.

So what I just did was assign a code name to each entrant — Grim, Dave, Rafe; all characters from the novella — and asked Glinda North to choose one without telling her why.  She chose Grim, and in doing so, chose Judymoe!

Miss Judy, you will be receiving your copy of Devil in the Details tonight or tomorrow.  Congrats!  Thanks to Parhelion and NamasteNancy for playing.  The rest of you suck. No, you don’t suck, not really.  But I was hoping for a metric fucktonne of ideas to carry me through the winter.

Oh and when I try the combos you three suggested, I will post the results here!  Thanks again.

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I finally figured out how to use this new web builder program… after a fashion.  At least enough to get my author site updated.  I’ll continue to work on it, of course.  It’s sloppy not to keep it somewhat fresh, especially since I shut down my author Facebook this week.  (Facebook’s new pay-to-play policy on posts.  I don’t think so!)

English: Standard ingredients of chocolate-chi...

Anyway, tomorrow Devil in the Details is being released, and it’s time for a contest!  Now a lot of you will remember my infamous Breakfast Cookies, aka Never Twice the Same Cookie, so called because what I put into the basic batter is always different. Always.  Sometimes it’s several different types of dried fruit, other times its a mix of chopped nuts.  I’ve used cocoa nibs, crystallized ginger, garam masala… you name it, I’ve probably tried it.  Sometimes the magic works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s always an adventure.  I’ve posted the recipe a couple of times and I’m reliably informed that the cookies are always a big hit.  They also play a part in the seduction of my hero.  Oh yes, Rafe can be had for a couple of these cookies, though he wouldn’t actually admit it.

So here’s the deal: I’m going to publish the ingredient list for the basic cookie below.  What I want from you lot is your ideal NTtSC cookie.  Tell me what you would add to it to make it the cookie of your dreams.  Peanut butter?  Cocoa powder?  Rose water? Yogurt? Ground beef? (Yeah that would be a hard sell, but maybe you could convince me.)  I’m going to pick the cookie ingredient list that sounds the best — and most likely to succeed — and award a copy of Devil in the Details to the hedonistic cookie lover who thought it up.

So here’s the basic ingredient list:

1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
5 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

You don’t have to give me quantities; the only reason I include them above is that it will give you a bit of an idea of what the cookie is like. (For non-bakers, it’s a big, soft, almost cakelike cookie.)  Just tell me what you’d mix in.  Spices, maybe herbs? (I love basil with chocolate!), fruit, dried or fresh; nuts, nut butters, some form of chocolate, flavoring agents… seriously, people, knock yourselves out.  What blows your skirt up, cookiewise?

I will give you until 6 p.m. central time Monday to come up with your grand creation.  I will announce the winner either on Monday night or Tuesday morning.  And I may just use your ideas to make my next batch of cookies!

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I received my personal and review copies of “Devil in the Details” today which means that it’s really, truly going to happen.  Woo hoo!  Here’s an excerpt for you to whet your appetite:

“So I can expect your answer tomorrow, then?” Gavin asked, brushing Rafe’s face with impeccably-manicured fingers. “I know it will be the right one.” There was no tenderness in either his tone or his touch. He was threatening Rafe.

Rafe slipped free of his seatbelt and opened the car door. “I’ll call you when I get home from school,” he promised. Once out of the car, Rafe had to will himself not to run to the door of his apartment building. He unlocked the door with hands that shook. Only when the door was closed and locked behind him, and Rafe heard Gavin’s car pull out of the driveway, did he allow himself to relax. He slumped against the wall and took several deep, calming breaths. The dancing skeleton decorations that lined the hallway grinned down at him. Normally Rafe liked Halloween, but those skeletons were laughing at him.

Rafe was in trouble. Unless he could find some way out of this mess before the end of the school day tomorrow, he was going to end up spending the rest of his life with Gavin. The idea made him physically ill.

Rafe jumped as the elevator door slid open with a rattle, and Mrs Lempo’s dog, Romeo, came bounding out. He was followed by a somewhat more staid Mrs Lempo in her tatty old fisherman’s sweater and granny shoes. Romeo was so happy to see Rafe that his tail wagged the whole back half of his little sweater-clad body.

“Hey, boy!” Rafe squatted to pet the dachshund, who gave him adoring kisses, and made Rafe laugh. He was grateful for the distraction, and for the opportunity to be uncomplicatedly happy for a few moments. “Mrs Lempo, it’s too late for you to be walking Romeo by yourself.”

“Nothing will happen to us. I have my police whistle and Romeo is a very brave dog, aren’t you my angel?”

Romeo answered with a joyous yip that lifted his front half an inch or two off the ground. Rafe could swear Romeo was grinning. In his orange sweater he looked a bit like an elongated jack-o’-lantern.

“You see?”

Rafe was unconvinced. Brave wiener dog and police whistle notwithstanding, he still didn’t like the idea of Mrs Lempo out walking this late by herself. He also figured a little decompression time would be a good thing. “Well then let me walk with you for company,” he told her. A stroll in the cool night air and some easy conversation would be good for him, help him clear his head.

“Rafe, you look unhappy. Are you all right?”

“I have a lot on my mind is all.” They stepped out and he took her arm. “It’s a beautiful evening, isn’t it? Autumn is the best season here in Chicago.” He liked Mrs Lempo, but Rafe didn’t want to talk about what was going on in his life. Instead they chatted about the weather, the new coffee house nearby and how time tended to fly as one grew older. Rafe, who had recently turned twenty-five didn’t quite have the perspective she did, though he wasn’t certain how old she was. She could have been a well-worn forty or a well-preserved two hundred for all he knew.

“The place is beautiful!” she was saying, talking about the coffee house. “You really should see for yourself.”

“I plan to, but when I’ve got a bit more time.”

“Oh you kids, you think so many things are more important than coffee.” She laughed. “I admit they don’t make coffee as well as I do, but the pastries are superb.”

“I’ll be sure to try it soon, I promise.”

They took a pleasant stroll around the block looking at the Halloween decorations. It was a popular holiday in the Chicago area, and a great many homes and businesses went all out to decorate. Grinning pumpkins watched them pass, and strange, half-glimpsed, and often unsettling things swung from tree branches above them.

Romeo did what he needed to do, which included chasing a large maple leaf that was skittering down the sidewalk, and Rafe returned to the apartment building feeling a little calmer. Mrs Lempo was good for his perspective.

Unfortunately, as they were entering the building, Rafe spotted Gavin’s car parked down the block and realized Gavin had parked there to spy on him, a notion that made him feel sick to his stomach. Was this what his life was going to be like? He thought seriously about marching over to the car and smashing the windshield with a rock. “There’s your answer!” he wanted to shout, and maybe smash Gavin’s face, too.

“You coming, Rafe?” Mrs Lempo was holding the door for him.

Anger gave way to brief, overwhelming despair. How could he live like that? How on earth could he allow Gavin to dictate everything he did, everyone he spoke to?

But then despair gave way to determination. As he rode upstairs with Mrs Lempo and Romeo, he decided he wouldn’t give in to Gavin’s demands without a fight even if it meant getting help from some dangerous sources.

Rafe walked Mrs Lempo to her door, which was just past his own. He told her he couldn’t let her walk the whole way by herself at this hour of the night.

She seemed amused. “You’re such a nice boy, Rafe. Could I interest you in a cup of coffee?” she asked. A glittery black wreath hung on her door, and Rafe thought he really should put up his own decorations, though he simply wasn’t in the mood to celebrate anything.

“Normally I’d say yes, but I know your coffee all too well, Mrs L. I wouldn’t get to sleep until December if I drank a cup now. ‘Strong as temptation, hot as Hell, and black as sin,’” he quoted, making her laugh.

“Yes that’s the way I like it, poppet. Where I come from, we all drink it like that. But I do have some half and half for the less adventurous.”

“Another time, thank you. Night, Romeo.”

The little dog yipped again and trotted into the apartment.

“Night, Mrs L.”

“Night, Rafe.”

Once safely inside his own apartment, he took off his jacket and went to fetch some salt and a photo of Gavin. He didn’t normally resort to this sort of thing, but living with Gavin was the worst fate he could imagine; going to Hell didn’t seem a lot worse, particularly in his circumstances. He drew a circle with the salt, sat down in front of it and began to chant.

“By my will I invoke thee, Agrimillit, by my will I call thee to my circle.” He couldn’t fight Gavin’s money and power, so if he needed to get help to level the playing field a little, he was willing to do it. “By my will I invoke thee…”

There was a fracturing of light within the circle and the funky smell he’d learned to associate with demon summoning. “By my will I call thee…” A flash of light blinded Rafe momentarily and as his vision cleared he saw the demon in all its hoofed and horned glory.

“Who invokes my presence?” it intoned. “Oh, it’s you, Rafe. What’s up?” The demon was looking down at Rafe, scratching the base of one of his curving blue horns with a wicked looking claw. Little licks of flame flickered across its head and shoulders.

“Shit, did you have to blind me?”

“Sorry, sorry. That light flash isn’t really working for me either; I can’t see a damn thing for the first few seconds afterwards.”

“Yeah that could be a problem.”

It’ll be out officially on Saturday but you can purchase it now if you want.  You do want to, don’t you?

I’m also attempting to update my website.  I’ve been having a hard time trying to find a web editor that I like and that likes me.  The free ones were quirky at best and at worst made me jump through hoops before I could publish.  I finally opted for a mid-price program that’s supposed to be easy but I’m not finding it to be quite as simple as promised.  Still, the project is coming along and I hope to have it finished by the end of the weekend.

In honor of that and the publication, I’ll be running a contest for a copy of Devil in the Details.  Stay tuned for details!



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Fragonard: Young Girl, Reading

I fell down on my reading this year.  I’m not sure why.  Part of it had to do with the fact that the challenges I set for myself failed to engage my interest.  And part of it was that I was working more hours at my editing job, and writing more; I have two novellas being published between this month and spring.

But I like the idea of reading challenges.  Just saying “Hey, I’m gonna read 50 books this year!” isn’t as structured as I’d like, but promising myself that I’ll read 20 books on some esoteric subject is way more structured than I want to be, and probably as doomed to failure as the former sort of challenge.  What to do, what to do?

Another young girl, reading

First, I’m not going to sweat it.  I’ll read what I read.  But one thing I’d like to do is explore the Rory Gilmore reading list.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about here, then you never watched The Gilmore Girls, which is a shame because it was a smart, funny show (at least up to the final season which sucked rocks.) Rory was a voracious reader, and in the course of the however many seasons the show ran, mentioned reading a whole lot of books. posted a Rory Gilmore reading challenge and a list of those books taken from this forum, but she removed the travel and cookbooks.  I’m leaving them on the list below because I think they’re perfectly valid reading.  It’s varied enough that there’s always something there I’ll want to read, so I’ve decided to make this my main reading challenge for 2013.  I want to get through 20 of these.  That doesn’t mean it’s all I’ll read, but 20 of these books will be a big chunk of good reading for me.

The list below doesn’t reflect the books I’ve already read and which are not eligible for the challenge even if I do choose to reread them.  I just don’t have the energy to go through and note them right now.  There are 339 of them!

1984 by George Orwell
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Archidamian War by Donald Kagan
The Art of Fiction by Henry James
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Babe by Dick King-Smith
Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
The Bhagava Gita
The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews by Peter Duffy
Bitch in Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel
A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays by Mary McCarthy
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brick Lane by Monica Ali
Bridgadoon by Alan Jay Lerner
Candide by Voltaire
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman
Christine by Stephen King
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
The Collected Short Stories by Eudora Welty
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty
A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Complete Novels by Dawn Powell
The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton
Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (pére)
Cousin Bette by Honor’e de Balzac
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Cujo by Stephen King
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
David and Lisa by Dr Theodore Issac Rubin M.D
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Da Vinci -Code by Dan Brown
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Deenie by Judy Blume
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx
The Divine Comedy by Dante
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
Don Quijote by Cervantes
Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhrv
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn
Eloise by Kay Thompson
Emily the Strange by Roger Reger
Emma by Jane Austen
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Ethics by Spinoza
Europe through the Back Door, 2003 by Rick Steves
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Extravagance by Gary Krist
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore
The Fall of the Athenian Empire by Donald Kagan
Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
The Fellowship of the Ring: Book 1 of The Lord of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Fiddler on the Roof by Joseph Stein
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
Fletch by Gregory McDonald
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers
Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
George W. Bushism: The Slate Book of the Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President by Jacob Weisberg
Gidget by Fredrick Kohner
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
The Godfather: Book 1 by Mario Puzo
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Alvin Granowsky
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
The Gospel According to Judy Bloom
The Graduate by Charles Webb
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Group by Mary McCarthy
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
Henry IV, part I by William Shakespeare
Henry IV, part II by William Shakespeare
Henry V by William Shakespeare
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
Holidays on Ice: Stories by David Sedaris
The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
How the Light Gets in by M. J. Hyland
Howl by Allen Gingsburg
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The Iliad by Homer
I’m with the Band by Pamela des Barres
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
Iron Weed by William J. Kennedy
It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
The Jumping Frog by Mark Twain
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito
The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Lady Chatterleys’ Lover by D. H. Lawrence
The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 by Gore Vidal
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Love Story by Erich Segal
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Manticore by Robertson Davies
Marathon Man by William Goldman
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir
Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
Mencken’s Chrestomathy by H. R. Mencken
The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Miracle Worker by William Gibson
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion by Jim Irvin
Moliere: A Biography by Hobart Chatfield Taylor
A Monetary History of the United States by Milton Friedman
Monsieur Proust by Celeste Albaret
A Month Of Sundays: Searching For The Spirit And My Sister by Julie Mars
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and It’s Aftermath by Seymour M. Hersh
My Life as Author and Editor by H. R. Mencken
My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru by Tim Guest
Myra Waldo’s Travel and Motoring Guide to Europe, 1978 by Myra Waldo
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin
Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature by Jan Lars Jensen
New Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Night by Elie Wiesel
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism by William E. Cain, Laurie A. Finke, Barbara E. Johnson, John P. McGowan
Novels 1930-1942: Dance Night/Come Back to Sorrento, Turn, Magic Wheel/Angels on Toast/A Time to be Born by Dawn Powell
Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Old School by Tobias Wolff
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan
Oracle Night by Paul Auster
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Othello by Shakespeare
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan
Out of Africa by Isac Dineson
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Donald Kagan
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Pigs at the Trough by Arianna Huffington
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
The Portable Nietzche by Fredrich Nietzche
The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill by Ron Suskind
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Property by Valerie Martin
Pushkin: A Biography by T. J. Binyon
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Quattrocento by James Mckean
A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall
Rapunzel by Grimm Brothers
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories From a Decade Gone Mad by Virginia Holman
The Return of the King: The Lord of the Rings Book 3 by J. R. R. Tolkien
R Is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton
Rita Hayworth by Stephen King
Robert’s Rules of Order by Henry Robert
Roman Holiday by Edith Wharton
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
The Rough Guide to Europe, 2003 Edition
Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi
Sanctuary by William Faulkner
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
Say Goodbye to Daisy Miller by Henry James
The Scarecrow of Oz by Frank L. Baum
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman
Selected Hotels of Europe
Selected Letters of Dawn Powell: 1913-1965 by Dawn Powell
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Several Biographies of Winston Churchill
Sexus by Henry Miller
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Shane by Jack Shaefer
The Shining by Stephen King
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
S Is for Silence by Sue Grafton
Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Small Island by Andrea Levy
Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
Snow White and Rose Red by Grimm Brothers
Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World by Barrington Moore
The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos by Julia de Burgos
The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker
Songbook by Nick Hornby
The Sonnets by William Shakespeare
Sonnets from the Portuegese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
A Streetcar Named Desiree by Tennessee Williams
Stuart Little by E. B. White
Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
Swimming with Giants: My Encounters with Whales, Dolphins and Seals by Anne Collett
Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Term of Endearment by Larry McMurtry
Time and Again by Jack Finney
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Trial by Franz Kafka
The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962 by Sylvia Plath
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Unless by Carol Shields
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
The Vanishing Newspaper by Philip Meyers
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico (Thirty Three and a Third series) by Joe Harvard
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Walt Disney’s Bambi by Felix Salten
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
We Owe You Nothing – Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews edited by Daniel Sinker
What Colour is Your Parachute? 2005 by Richard Nelson Bolles
What Happened to Baby Jane by Henry Farrell
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronté
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

I’ve seen a couple of other versions of the list but I like this one; it seems complete.  Of course my plans could change by Jan 1st., I make no claims that they won’t.  But this looks like fun.
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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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First big news is that I’ve sold a novella to Dreamspinner Press.  The title is “The Vampyre’s Revenge” and here’s a little teaser for you:

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, grew roses and fed stray cats.

That night, as he was on his way up the stairs, she 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 house dress 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 much 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 smelled awfully good and I always get a bit peckish after feeding.” Frank didn’t know if he found that funny or not.

I’m pretty juiced about it.  It should be coming out in late winter/early spring.  I’ll post more details when I know them.

Souvenir de Malmaison

Souvenir de Malmaison (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)

Also, I finally got the rose I’d been coveting for decades now.  The name is “Souvenir de Malmaison” and it’s a very old Bourbon rose with a heavenly scent.  Stories about the rose vary from source to source.  I’ve heard it said that it was Josephine de Beauharnais‘ (The Empress, Josephine, the “godmother of modern roseomaniacs” ) favorite rose, and also heard it said that it was only named after her rose garden at Malmaison.  This information comes from A Guide to Antique Roses:

“Originally known as ‘Queen of Beauty and Fragrance’ this rose received its present name when one of the Grand Dukes of Russia obtained a specimen from the gardens at Malmaison for the Imperial Garden in St. Petersburg. ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ produces large, flat, quartered blossoms with petals of pale, almost flesh colored pink, and a delightful fragrance. The compact bush rarely grows more than three feet, seemingly spending all its energy on blooming rather than growing.”

Français : portrait (inachevé?) de Josephine d...

Français : portrait (inachevé?) de Josephine de Beauharnais par Prud’hon, situé à la Malmaison (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In keeping with our habit of giving our roses names, we’ve named this one “Josephine” in honor of the woman who is her godmother in spirit if not in fact.

The Japanese beetle adult--an attractive pest....

Alas, all is not mazel in Roselandia. Glinda noticed that Therese was being chewed, and this afternoon I discovered the culprit, a gorgeous, golden Japanese beetle.  I confess I dispatched him as quickly as I could, but hopes for an easy fix were dashed when I read about their mating habits.  So it’s milky spore and nematodes for us in the spring, and a couple of beetle traps for us now.  I put up with a lot in the interest of having a welcoming garden for our bees, butterflies, birds, etc., but I will not have my roses eaten, even if the diner is as handsome as the bug I picked off of Therese today.

Ornamental Chives

Ornamental Chives (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)

Karen rose

Karen rose (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)

Our Alter Egos

Our Alter Egos (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)


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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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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!

persimmonfrost: (Default)

English: There are no symbols that represent s...

It's your turn.  Let me explain:  I was just looking at the cover of a friend's new novel, and thinking about the different components of a book,  novel, short story... whatever.  Those things are all part and parcel of what a publisher does.  We write/read, the publisher does much of the rest of the work.  So what I'm curious about is what publishers you all like and/or respect.  Which ones are your go-to publishers?

Authors, tell me where your publishers have really gone the extra mile for you, the ones where the editing process is solid, the cover art never disappoints, the marketing is vigorous, and the communication between press and author is outstanding.

Readers, tell me which publishers publish the things you just LOVE to read.  Tell me why, tell me what those things are.  Talk about subject matter, art, price... whatever you think has pulled you in and made you a loyal customer.

What I don't really want is a kvetch session.  We've all had bad experiences and this really isn't the place to air them, k?  I want to think positively about this.  Remember, this is my year of Yes, so c'mon and show your favorite publishers some love.

P.S. I'm not adverse to a bit of kvetching in general, and if you know of any good forum where authors talk freely about the downside of publication and the people involved, I wouldn't mind hearing about it.  It's all part of knowing who is out there and what they can do for us, IMO.  It's just that I don't really want a lot of mud-slinging around here right now.  Thnx.

persimmonfrost: (Default)

I am seriously sick of schelpping stuff from one end of the kitchen to the other and sometimes back again.  This week I've been rearranging all my cabinets, and in the process, washing every dish and glass, and wiping down the insides of the cabinets.  I've moved half the dishes into the cabinet where I kept my packaged food, and all my baking supplies and part of the packaged food over to where the dishes were.  It's really a much more efficient use of space, but boy it's a boring process. My friend, Karen, would say otherwise; she loves cleaning and organizing things. When confronted with a household task that chaps my hide, I ask myself, What would Karen do?

I did actually enjoy the part where I found jars for all the bagged spices and herbs I had sitting here, and then made labels for them with our Dymo label maker.  I felt so accomplished as I surveyed the rows of neatly labeled and stacked jars!  I also made an inventory list of what I have in that cabinet.  Karen would be so proud!

Needless to say, now virtually every flat surface is covered with stuff waiting to be put away.  I got the herb and spice cupboard assembled thanks to a new two-tier lazy susan I found at for $12.  Everyone was complaining it was too big for their cabinets, but because I was going to put it into the corner of a corner cabinet, it was exactly what I needed.  The cabinet holds two of the two-tiered lazy susans, and two one-tier ones, plus a lot of plain old surface space on the second shelf, so I've got all my oils and vinegars in there as well as extracts, salts and 
syrups.   The best thing is that now I have more room, so if I need some ground this or cracked that, I have a space to put it, and I won't lose it.  (I swear I had ground ginger at Christmas but I can't find the jar anywhere.  It's gone on my Spice House shopping list.)  I was sad to find that my vanilla beans had all but dried out so I'm going to be making a jar of vanilla sugar with them.

In any event, the whole point of this is that I'm sick of arranging and incidentally also sick of editing.  I have four of the five sections on the Scrooge book edited and I think they're in good shape now.  The middle one -- Adagio: David Tarried at Jerusalem -- was the worst, but it was the last to be finished and the one that had kicked my butt right from the get go.  The emotions I'm trying to deal with there are difficult for me because I've felt them, and it's hard getting that down without making it sound whiny and self-pitying.

So what did I do to ease my ennui?  I baked.  When I was cleaning the cupboards I found a package of Bob's Red Mill 10-grain bread mix, and figured I'd give that a shot since I could just reach my mixer. I added millet, oats, chia seeds and raw honey to it, and for the oil, I used some herbs de Provence olive oil that Glinda's sister had given me.  It's in the oven on proof right now, and should be finished rising in another 30-60 minutes. Of course there was a lot of stuff added and I'm not sure how old the mix was so who knows if it'll turn out?  The dough was awfully wet, so I had to add about two tablespoons of flour.  Eh, what's the worst that could happen?  I could end up with a high fiber brick.

It actually looks pretty good, I think.  Now if it’ll just rise.

Oh, and that red and purple thing in the first photo?  That’s my vacuum.  If it wasn’t enough that I’m cleaning all the cabinets, I spilled a lot of mustard seeds and had to vacuum them up.  I had to sweep anyway, but I’d have preferred to wait until all the schlepping was finished.  Basically there's nowhere to walk in my kitchen and nowhere to set anything down.
I'll get there.  I always do.  And when I do I'll have a much better arrangement for my kitchen than I do now.  Moving from a larger place to a smaller one means you have to find analogs for the space you had or get rid of a lot of what you brought with you.  I've already done the latter; it's time to make a real effort to do the former.
persimmonfrost: (gorey)
It’s funny how you can go down to a really cold basement to work out and after about half an hour end up thinking “Oh man it’s just boiling down here, I wonder if there’s something wrong with the thermostat.”  Yeah.  So I took my laundry downstairs and because Dawn had left a Beatles CD in the treadmill player, I hopped on and though I really didn’t think I was up to more than five or ten minutes (not only did my back give me hell this morning, but I have the attention span of a gnat) I did thirty!  And then I replayed “There’s a Place” (which I love because it reminds me of Erigos, a character dear to my heart) and worked out on the elliptical for all of about two or three minutes.  That one takes some getting used to, but it was a gift from Taylor and Christ who will be moving soon (I don’t even want to get started on how awfully sad that’s making me.) and so fantastically good for both of us.

Yesterday I was restless and sleepy at the same time, and if you don’t think that’s a great big mindfuck, try it sometime.  I kept lying down, desperate for sleep (I’d only gotten about five hours the night before.) but kept jumping back up again.  I think the restlessness had a lot to do with the fact that I’d written over 4000 words the day before, and finished the short story, but was literally jonesing to keep on writing.  I didn’t feel like outlining, I felt like jumping in with both, well, hands in this case, and just typing.  But I didn’t have anything that was ready to work on.  So I just emailed Dawn at work and asked if she’d be willing to plot bang tonight.

While I’m at it, I should thank her publicly because I don’t think I could have managed to work out all this plot so efficiently without her.  She downplays what she does, but all you writers out there know how fantastically helpful it is to have someone who can brainstorm with you.  She’s not quite my co-author, but she’s damn close.  I owe her!

And speaking of writing, I read a lot of Sherlock Holmes communities on Live Journal, and sometimes there’s actually some fic worth reading over there.  As with all such things, Sturgeon’s law does apply, but I’ve found that there’s a handy guide to winnowing out the absolute crap in fanlit, and I’m going to share it with all my (How many now?  Two?) readers out there in hope of sparing you some pain.

  1. If the author writes “Please be gentle” anywhere in the introduction to her story, it’s probably crap.  At the very least she’s saying she doesn’t want to be criticized, she only wants praise, and that’s the mark of a writer who doesn’t want to improve.  I’m always gentle; I don’t bother with their stories.
  2. If the author says something to the effect of “I don’t really know anything about what I’m writing, but I wrote it anyway and expect you all to read it.”  It’s crap.  Period.  No really, it’s crap.  Why?  Because it’s so fucking simple to do even a little research and make your story more accurate.
  3. If the author says “My story’s not beta’d” it’s lazy crap.  Author can’t be arsed to make any corrections, so here it is folks, just as I spewed it up into my computer.

I recognize that the first six months or so of any fandom is usually overwhelmed with excitable teenagers who spend all their time eating, sleeping and breathing this new fandom, but there has to be a nice, firm way to tell them that they look like idiots when they produce or consume  reams of drivel with such girlish glee.  And to do it without discouraging the writers and artists who might actually get to be good if they’re willing to work at it.

So I’m cooling down and have my breath back.   I think I’m going to go make some liptauer cheese and have a liptauer and onion sandwich.   Mmmmm.

persimmonfrost: dancing bear animated gif (bear)
I've been writing most of the day, stopping only to chat with Charles, and do some laundry.  I don't really remember eating but I'm guessing I did.

The first novella has gone out to Tazlet for a critique.  (Also because I think she needs to get on this bandwagon.)  The second is currently at just under 5k, which means it's about 1/3rd finished.  My goal is to be able to send three finished novellas to the company by the end of August. After that I intend to finish at least one of these novels and use it as a follow-up.  With luck and persistence, NaNoWriMo may produce a second novel.  It'll be a good beginning.

There's nothing like paying huge bills to remind you of why you're working like a fiend.  Unless I sell some stuff there'll be no new patio and no new windows next year.

In other news, there is no other news.  The house is a wreck because I'm doing very little other than writing.  The basement and garage are disasters.  But I do have clean sheets to put on my bed tonight and a slice of blueberry coffee cake to have with some tea.  Life is suprisingly good, and will be better if I manage to run off all the rest of the dirty dishes before I go to bed tonight.

Oh and someone is playing the music from A Fist Full of Dollars on an outdoor PA system.  What a strange little neighborhood I live in.


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Tracy Rowan

August 2013

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