Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Christmas Wishes

My Christmas wishes this year are simple.

1. I wish that I could make it through just one holiday without someone in my family creating a bullshit situation in order to get attention.

2. I wish that I could have just one holiday where I wasn't pissed off at someone within the two weeks immediately preceding or following Christmas.

3. Considering the last few years, I wish I could hav eone holiday where there wasn't some odd and/or frightening health situation ongoing during the season.

4. I wish that I could have one holiday where everyone around me was happy.

5. I wish that I could have one holiday out in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, with just my husband and myself and no stress.

6. I wish that just once, I could cook Christmas dinner for everyone and finally have a meal that I could enjoy every aspect of. I think I'll volunteer to do that this year just to be different.

7. I wish that I could have a Christmas that was so wonderful it would make up for all those Christmases with my family that I missed while I was on the road in the theatre.

8. I wish that one that one perfect Christmas, it didn't involve me doing more acting that the Christmases I spent onstage performing in strange cities for strangers.

9. I wish that being together was more important that the presents.

10. And finally, I wish that all of my dear, dear friends never have to write a post like this because of a situation created by one of their hysterically mean-spirited relatives deciding to ruin the holidays early this year.

Merry Christmas and bah humbug.

Fan mail? Me? Nahhhhhhhh...

I got a lovely email today from a friend who is reading The Reckoning of Asphodel for the first time. This gentleman doesn't like elves, swords, names with apostrophes in them or that are unpronouncable and dragons. In other words, he hates everything I write about except dragons. I don't do dragons.

But he likes Asphodel to the point where he's at. That makes me happy. It's like the day a reviewer stopped in the middle of her review and emailed me, telling me I'd better be writing more Asphodel books and that I'd better not kill off Brial. I framed that email and hung it over my desk. I may do the same with this one.

Most writers never have a clue about what people think of their work save for reviewers and sales. You can deduce that if your sales continue to rise with each consecutive book that you are building a readership. That's obvious. Reviewers are paid to give their opinions of your book--and you'd better hope they like it. Talk about a make or break opinion!

But the average reader? The one who reads your blurb on the back of the book and says, "Hmm, this sounds good. I think I'll try it." -- those are the ones whose opinions you never get to know, never get to hear, never get to ponder and enjoy. That's why, to me, they're so much more important.

There's a young lady at Absolute Write who's read all four books in the series. She was really sick at home and I sent her the unedited versions so she'd have something to read because she was too sick to get out to the bookstore and wanted something new to read. I can occasionally be nice, so I sent Asphodel on to her. She finished all four books in four days. One a day. And she loved them, even in rough form and without all that editorial polish, she got hooked by the story and loved the books.

So that's why this email meant so much to me this morning. Fantasy isn't even this man's genre--obviously, if he hates elves and dragons it eliminates a lot of it. But, for some odd reason, he likes my work and thought enough of it to write me a note and tell me so. It's the high point of what has been a not-quite-as-much-fun-as-a-gynecological-exam sort of week of me. It reassures me that maybe I'm not that bad as a writer. Perhaps, just maybe, I'm on the right track.

I'm walking on air right now and trying not to wipe out on the ice. What a lovely way to start off my day! Hopefully, he'll like the other three books in the series too. That would be an accomplishment indeed.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Author Spotlight for Me and the Absolute Write Day of Listening

Gee golly gosh whillikers! They want to interview me? Love Romances and More wants to spotlight me on their blog on December 19th. Ever wanted to read an interview with me? Next week is your lucky week! The Absolute Write Day of Listening is on December 14th, where I was interviewed by my dear friend Ed Pahule from Upon Reflection and on the 19th, I'll be interviewed by Danny at LR&M.

In case you're interested, I also interviewed three outstanding writers for the AW Day of Listening. You should all stop by and check it out on the 14th, even if you're not members of Absolute Write. you'll get to hear the stories of writers at all levels of success--some of the interviews are oral histories, while others are feature stories/interviews. If nothing else, it will give you a fascinating insight into the minds of writers and how differently all of our minds work.

I feel all important and stuff. Don't miss it!

Withdrawal, or Why the BCS Sucks


Work with me.

*sniff sniff*

I am sad.

Although this has not been a banner year for my beloved Tennessee Vols, this is still a sad day for me. It's the beginning of the withdrawal period, that horrible couple of weeks where they tease you with pundits and then start the best two weeks of the year--bowl season.

But something is missing this year in bowl season--something besides my Volunteers. Common sense. Let's start with the obvious.

According to BCS (Bullshit Conference Suckingupsystem) any team in a non BCS conference ranked in the top twelve in the BCS rankings is eligible for a BCS bowl bid. This year, there were two such teams--Utah and Boise State. Both were undefeated--PERFECT records which not a single BCS conference team was able to pull off. So to start off with, thinking logically, why aren't the two UNDEFEATED teams playing in the National Championship game? Hmm...let me think: because they aren't the SEC team-that-shall-not-be-named or Oklahoma or Ohio State or LSU or Texas or USC. Despite the fact that both teams played BCS conference opponents, they aren't considered good enough to compete with the big conference schools. You know--like those huge powerhouses in the ACC and the Big East. So, they're being robbed from the opportunity to (probably ever) play for the BCS championship because they belong to the wrong athletic conferences.

Let's take that one step further. Utah, quite deservedly, will play Alabama in the Sugar Bowl--an Alabama team that read one too many of its press clippings and managed to lose to the team-that-shall-not-be-named in the SEC Championship. But where is Boise State, also undefeated and ranked in the top twelve playing?

The San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

What, they weren't worth even a New Year's Day bowl? Did they conveniently forget how a few years ago a huge underdog Boise State BEAT Oklahoma in the best bowl game played in recent memory. Don't get me wrong: TCU is a worthy opponent. They held Oklahoma to only 35 points, their lowest score of the year (twice, due to the Oklahoma LOSS to Texas with the same score). Problem is, TCU only scored ten points in that game.

Think about that for a minute. A Notre Dame team that lost to SYRACUSE at least gets to play on Christmas Eve--in Hawaii. What reward does Boise State get for a perfect season?

They get robbed.

Come on already, guys. Have some common sense; maybe even a shred of decency. Give us a playoff. A sixteen game playoff, using the existing bowl systems and let the teams decide our national championship on the field. I'd bet money that if we had such a system this year, there would be two undefeated teams in the final four.

And what wouldn't I give--all of us give--for a national championship game that doesn't kiss the ass of the power conferences and let two undefeated teams from *minor* conferences play for the crystal BCS trophy on the field on January 8? Right now, I'd give you one Charlie Weiss and raise you a Lane Kiffin.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Guest blogger--Raine Delight

I warned you: I have a guest blogger today. Here, check out what she has to say and the answers are to mu oh-so-tough questions:

Raine Delight is a woman who loves books with a passion. The storylines, the characters and the way an author weaves the words makes her believe in HEA (happily ever after). With a boy-toy of her own to cheer her on and two kids under the age of 10, Raine tries to relax by letting her muse take charge and explore the boundaries of her own writing, reading, watching movies and has a serious Johnny Depp Crush! Published with Aspen Mountain Press, her Devon Falls series is garnering great reviews and a reader following and she just released her first fairy novella through AMP called Fairy Kisses and Magical Dreams. She looks forward to hearing from readers and is at work on her newest WIPs that her muse is determined to make her write.

Visit my website at to see what is going on with me and other goodies.

1. What first made you realize that you had stories within you that you just HAD to tell?

Raine says: I guess it was when I read one awful book that started out great but the characters-OMG!-they were just TSTL that made me want to chuck the book across the room and as I growled "I can do better," my friend said to do it. As they say, after that door was opened, it is all history. :)

2. What genres interest you and why?

Raine says: I love paranormal/Fantasy Romance, Urban Fantasy is awesome and I am trying my hand at that as well as a paranormal Romantic comedy. I love the way you can make your own spin on things, from vampires, shapeshifters to anything else you can think of. It is fun and the characters I come up with are unique as well. :)

3. Who were your early influences as a writer--your favorite authors from childhood on that inspire you to this day?

Raine says: Oh my, I think Bertrice Small was one early romance author I absolutely adore. Her writing is awesome and then I branched out to others like Debbie Macomber, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Keri Arthur, JR Ward, and many others that make me strive all the harder to be up there with them. :)

4. What is the hardest thing about writing for you?

The easiest? Raine says: Easiest has to be starting the story and just letting it go. Letting the characters give free rein to their voices and just writing.
Hardest? That would be trying to make sense of it all. *laughs* Making sure that things flow smoothly yet make sense as well. Some days I get it, other days not so well. :)

5.Tell me about a character that's bouncing around in your head waiting for his/her story to be told.

Raine says: Well I got quite a few actually. Darius from Love you to bits is chomping for me to finish it up because frankly, he hates being a spell zapped zombie. Another is a WIP with a half demon of lust wanting to play and Jack Frost wants to visit Devon Falls so that may be a free read for people soon. :)

6. What are your ultimate goals for your writing?

Raine says: To actually get my writing better so I am not head hopping or making the same mistakes over and over again. I try to learn from my editor's comments but some days, I can honestly say, it is hard to see where she is talking, especially if I am too close to the MS to see it. I also want to be at a NY House one day. I may not be good enough right now but I am striving for it each time I get a book contract.

7. What current writers make you jealous?

Raine says: Oh man none really make me pea-green but some I strive to be just as JR Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon and others like them.

8. Tell us what makes Devon Falls come to life to you? Have you designed the town? Are there more stories to tell there?

Raine says: Devon Falls is a little bit of my hometown and a little bit of the places I worked a whole host of imagination. *grins*
The town grew from one story, Sticky Magic, which BTW I wrote in one week. :) It was well received and readers were clamoring for more. It has 5 stories planned (three are currently available at Aspen Mountain Press and 2 more are on tap for 2009). Currently a short is running through my head with Jack Frost and he is itching to visit Devon Falls. :)

I have been writing Devon Falls for close to three years and I need a break so I think 2009 will see the last of it for a spell before I let myself take a peek into it again.

9. How much does your RL occupation as a chef influence your writing?

Raine says: It makes it hard to find time in between EDJ, family, kids and writing. I try to write while kids are at school or after their in bed but some days, I admit, I just want to stay away from the computer long enough to give my eyes a chance to relax and not be so buggy.

10. Is it hard balancing real life and writing life?

Raine says: Yes on some days. I do many different things and it is hard to balance enough time to write, though once I put my writing hat on, I can write at least 1K an hour so it helps I try to do that each day.

11. If you could change one thing about the stories you've written, what would it be?

Raine says: Maybe make them longer. I heard that a lot on some of the Devon Falls books and I am pushing myself to write longer and explore different avenues for the characters to explore. Haunting Magic is the longest one to date yet the fifth Devon falls goal is to be over 30K for that.

12. What's next for Raine Delight?

Raine says: Taking the month of December off to concentrate on holidays, kids activities and relax. I also hope to start planning my next few books which are itching to be told. :)
Next in books is a romantic comedy/Paranormal called Love you to bits. It was my NaNo project and I got to 25K on it so now is time to check to make sure it is coherent. LOL Another is the 4th Devon Falls book-already into my publisher, the 5th Devon Falls book, plus several new projects itching to be told. A very busy time yet I love it. :)
Fairy Kisses and Magical Dreams
Author: Raine Delight
Publisher: Aspen Mountain Press
Prince Aryan has searched his world for the one woman that is his destined mate but has just about given up when he is led to the human world. Even though it is forbidden to fall in love with a human, he finds Skye Andrews completely delectable and wonders if she is his chosen love.Skye Andrews has had it with men. After another disastrous date, her aunt gives her a love potion to try. With a magic spell and a mysterious face haunting her waking days, will Skye find the love she is looking for?******************
Edited Excerpt (All work is copyrighted):

Skye sat with her hands fisted in her shirttails so she wouldn’t throttle her well-meaning yet clueless Aunt Mary. The smoking cauldron on the stove erupted into another hiss, and the smell made her stomach curdle.

Aunt Mary muttered to herself as she gathered the necessary ingredients for the love spell from various places in the ancient farmhouse.

Skye tried not to cringe when her aunt walked too close to a knife sitting on the edge of the table. Clearing her throat, Skye mustered enough courage to ask, “Is this thing supposed to turn black and smell like rotten eggs?”

Oh my, yes dearie.” Aunt Mary said as she bustled around the kitchen.

Skye blew out a deep breath and tried to keep calm as she watched her aunt stir something that looked suspiciously like toad legs in the cauldron. Yuck. I swear, some days it’s almost too much to bear, with Mary’s new found interest in new age-isms and spells that do everything but what they’re supposed to. Skye looked at the clock and sighed, knowing she wasn’t going to get on the road back to Dayton any sooner than when her aunt deemed worthy.

Skye tried not to sound dejected but after her disastrous Valentine date where her date just talked and talked about his life and career; she felt like she was going nowhere fast. Her friends found their own true loves, got married and had their own happily ever after. Where was hers? Her aunt was determined to get the sparkle back in her eyes, or so she said the first night she visited Topeka. It was enough to make Skye cringe in horror but she couldn’t say anything mean to the one person who loved her more than anything. Flipping her hair off her face, she breathed a sigh of relief as she watched her aunt finish whatever she was doing to the brew until Mary turned around with a cup of the foul smelling stuff.

“Here you go dear. All finished and ready to be drunk by you! All you need to do is say three times: `I wish for my true love to find me´ and then within seven days, according to the spell book I got from a used book store, your true love will find you and steal your heart away.” Aunt Mary gazed fondly at Skye, who tried to look happy but couldn’t conceal the sadness in her eyes.

She took the cup and peered at it grimacing with distaste. It was blackish-blue in color, with something that looked like lightening bugs flashing in it. For a moment, Skye watched the kaleidoscope of colors; it was enough to make her cross eyed. Uncorking the bottle, Skye tried to shield her expression from Mary though if she was honest with herself, she was willing to try anything to get her happily ever after, even drink a foul looking potion to get what she desired.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling--Book Review

I am not a book reviewer. I am a book writer. However, occasionally I feel compelled to discuss a piece of literature that impacts me strongly. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is one of those books.

I've run into a lot of naysayers about Rowling's books, which I love unabashedly. A lot of adult readers have considered Rowling an intellectual lightweight. If that's what you thought, take a look at Beedle.

Set up as a series of fairy tales told to children in the wizarding world, this version is allegedly a 'new translation by Hermione Grainger' with footnotes and interpretations by Albus Dumbledore. At first I thought this was a ploy to give us yet another Potter holiday must-have item. It's not. Rowling takes these children's tales and cleverly weaves them into a modern-day equivalent of medieval morality tales. For example, in the first story "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot," a hard-hearted son is bequeathed an old pot and a single slipper by his kindly wizard father who's spent his lifetime healing the various ills of the Muggles around him. When the son is approached by desperate Muggles, he denies them help. The pot grow a metallic foot. The more he denies help, the more the pot bangs around with its metallic foot wreaking havoc in the home. Eventually, just to gain peace and quiet, the son agrees to help the wizard. he then puts the slipper on the foot of the pot, and it no longer makes the noise that keeps him awake every night. At first glance, this is a familiar and simple tale--the stereotypical fairy tale where a father posthumously teaches his son the value of compassion.

What sets the tale apart happens in Dumbledore's notes:

The tale, allegedly written in the fifteenth century, lost popularity as a result of the growing prevalence of witch hunts across Europe. Pro-Muggle stories such as this were revised.

"...In the revised story, the Hopping Pot protects an innocent wizard from his torch-bearing, pitchfork-toting neighbors by chasing them away from the wizard's cottage and swallowing them whole..."--Tale of Beedle the Bard, page 13-14.

Dumbledore goes on to say that the wizarding world grew concerned over "...their unhealthy preoccupation with the most horrid subjects such as death, disease, bloodshed, wicked magic, unwholesome characters, bodily effusions and eruptions of the most disgusting kind..." Tales of Beedle the Bard, page 17.

In an attempt to "...fill the pure minds of our little angels with healthy, happy thoughts..." the Tales were rewritten, in a more child-friendly tone. Dumbledore's final assessment of the situation is that the revamped tale "...has met with the same response from generations of Wizarding children: uncontrollable retching, followed by an immediate demand to have the book taken from them and mashed into pump..." Tales of Beedle the Bard, page 19.

What a brilliant and pointed observation on the sanitization of literature in order to 'protect' the minds of our children today! A basic morality tale had been changed, first because the political climate wasn't favorable to the Muggles it painted kindly and then because it might be considered too violent for the fragile minds of the children who read it! I remember debates when I was a kid about the advisability of keeping Tom Sawyer on the shelves. Speaking of banning books, anyone recollect the brouhaha in recent years over a certain children's wizard book that promoted Satanism?

I'm not one to ascribe political motives to the author of a children's book. But, if this was just an unintentional coincidence and not Rowling's reaction to the reception her books have received from certain narrow-minded corners of our society I'll eat the Sorting Hat. This is an intellectual, but highly entertaining and thoroughly age appropriate set of little stories that not only expand a child's knowledge of the Harry Potter world, but gently initiates them into the concept that politics has no place dictating the future of literature. Ever.

On a different and an amazing note, this book's profits will go to help the Children's High Level Group charity, co-founded by Rowling and the Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne to help children in institutional situations--including those with disabilities. What a lovely and wonderful thing to do!

My advice to you? Buy the book. You're helping a charity, you're getting more from the amazing wizarding world of Harry Potter, and Rowling delivers a delightful and instructive series of tales that will amuse and entertain generations from 7 to 70. At just around one hundred pages, it's a perfect stocking stuffer and a fabulous gift.

And for those naysayers who blathered on about Rowling's lack of intellectual integrity, it's time to eat some crow. Hedwig will be providing shoes...and that their gnawing on their own shoes might be a bit more favorable. Do yourself a favor and learn from a writer who, despite the squawking to the contrary, has broadened her horizons into an insightful and sometimes pointed expose of the atmosphere surrounding modern literature. Beedle is beautifully written, the stories are definite bedtime stories for your young ones, and adults will appreciate the mature and elegant way in which she handles tough topics for wizards and Muggles both.

I give Beedle five Firebolts--four for sheer entertainment value and one because JK Rowling is just so darn smart.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Promotional Appearances and a Guest!

Hurray! I'll be hosting my first guest blogger on December 10. I hope you'll all come out and check out my guest and very dear friend Raine Delight this week. She's a fun writer and a hell of a spunky lady, with some great ideas about writing and how it works. She is a another writer at Aspen Mountain Press and I love and have read all of her books. If you haven't checked out her Devon Falls series--get prepared! Raine is a little on the spicy side. *drools*

Check out her blog at for some clues into how she thinks. Very coincidentally, I'll be at her blog on the same date--answering some tough questions and doing my darnedest to be funny. Come see if it works.

Looking for me in other places Check these out:

I'll be joining Raine as a guest on Sierra Dafoe's loop on December 9th. Sierra is a very dear friend and writing mentor of mine, who came to my house this summer so we could bond over seaafood crepes and margaritas. (We REALLY bonded.) The first story I ever published, I wrote and submitted because she dared me to. She is a brilliant writer and puts the 'hot' in erhotica. (That was done on purpose; trust me) We'll be there from 7 to 9 pm EST.

Then, on December 11th, I'm hosting a pajama party at Sinful Seductions from 7 to 9 pm EST. Here again, lots of excerpts--a sneak peek at book FOUR and a HUGE contest. Might want to make it out.

Then on December 29th, it's an all day long "End of 2008" party at Love Romances Cafe. I'll have special guests, lots of giveaways of 2008 releases and some special sneak peeks of things coming in 2009--including some very dear friends of mine that you haven't met yet. ALL. DAY. LONG. What could possibly be better? Not a hell of a lot. One thing I know for certain that's being giving away--a special release CD version of the Asphodel series--with cover art and signed by moi, along with a special short story set in the Asphodel world that's never been released before!

Wanna find me on the web? Here's the schedule! Stay tuned, because there's more on the way!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Temptation of Asphodel Released!

It's official! The countdown clock has hit zero. The Asphodel Cycle 3: Temptation of Asphodel is now available from Aspen Mountain Press.

You'll soon be able to pick it up on Amazon, Fictionwise and numerous other retailers on the web.

Be sure you stop by my launch party on my Facebook page (link in previous post) for your chance to win a copy of any of the Asphodel novels! I did find a pretty awesome blog post this morning from a friend of mine--Jen, over at Scribbling.

If you've never read epic fantasy before, this will spoil you, and I think that's a good thing. So, if you've got a hankering to read something new, or are looking for a gift for the fantasy lover in your life, I'd heartily recommend the series.

That gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. I'll admit it. So did this because it was so unexpected--from Ed over at Upon Reflection:

And buy her book. Heck, buy all three in the series. She's an excellent writer
(and I don't give out that kind of praise lightly). When I grow up I want to be
just like her.

Thanks to all of you great fans of Asphodel! I really hope you enjoy this offering as much as you did the first two books.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Another Book Release Friday

I've never had a book release on a holiday weekend before. I find it kind of interesting that the darkest book I've written to date is being released on Black Friday. All kinds of implications there...

So, tomorrow I'm hanging out on my Facebook page all day for my book release, as well as a few of the readers' loops I frequent on Yahoo and, of course, Absolute Write which is the best writing forum on the web. If you're trying to track me down, Facebook is the best place--especially as I'll be giving away copies of my books all day long.

For those of you who are AWers, I'm doing my darnedest to declare tomorrow a moratorium for myself in the politics forum.

You're welcome.

You know, the first time I had a novel published, I wondered if it would become blase' by the time I hit this point in my career. I finally have the answer: no. No, it doesn't feel normal, it doesn't become familiar, and it doesn't get old. Every new release comes with a new set of questions.

Will they notice what changed?

Do they see where I'm taking them?

Is the story getting more involved, more interesting or just bad?

Yeah, those fears never quite go away. Every time I having a book coming out, I break off half my nails making sure they are edited correctly and then chew off the others in the first week after it's released. So, once again, I find myself on the night before a little nervous, more than a little apprehensive and very, very excited.

But sleepy. Yeah, I'm sleepy this time. Darn turkey.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Things That Make Me Laugh

It doesn't take a lot to make me laugh. I flatter myself that I have a good sense of humor, although it sometimes borders on the bizarre. I find that when one of my cats misjudges the distance from the dresser to the bed and flies through the air with paws flailing that I really can laugh until I cry.

But lately, there's not been a lot to laugh about. I've almost had to actively go out and find things to give me a chuckle. Here's just a few things that have worked over recent weeks.

The Ohio State-Michigan game. *snicker* Sorry, Steve.

A show on the Cartoon Network called Metalocalypse. Not too long ago, they had an episode where the band members were chiding the character Murderface because he wasn't writing any songs. Just to prove he could, he ad libbed some song lyrics that went as follows:

Mmmm tits.
A fish.
A fish with tits.


I don't know why I thought that was so funny. I TIVOed it so I could watch it over and over again and laugh. Now all my husband and I have to do is say 'tittyfish' at each other and we crack up.

I can't help it that I have a warped sense of humor. At least I have one.

I'm waiting for the first substantial snowfall of the year so that I can build anatomically correct snowmen in the front yard. This never fails to piss off the religious right who live next door. I may invest in some squeeze bottles so I can fill them with food coloring and tint my creations so that they show up better too.

Something else that cracks me up? Holiday music that would never be played in a mall or a church: South Park Christmas music, like "The Most Offensive Christmas Song Ever" or "Swiss Colony Beef Log;" Adam Sandler's Hanukah Songs 1,2 & 3 and--oh yes--"Police Stop My Car" which is the only version of "Feliz Navidad" I can tolerate. (For those of you who haven't heard my annual rant, I'm of the opinion that "Feliz Navidad" is Satan's answer to Christmas carols.)

You know, we need more things to laugh at--even if they're kind of stupid like my reaction to Brian the dog doing 'Peanut Butter Jelly Time' on Family Guy. Things are pretty grim right now and a good sense of humor is the best free entertainment to be had out there. So take some time out from your day today and see if you can make another person laugh.

They'll thank you for it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Using Basic Tools Well

I've been involved in an interesting conversation over the past few days about--of all things--the state of education in the United States specifically as it deals with the use of the English language. I've been both horrified and encouraged by it.

For example, there was an admittedly very young writer who felt the need to criticize the 'Brits' for being 'wrong' in the way they speak/spell the English language. This same young writer is a senior in high school and, according to him, only just now learning syntax. The posts in which he broadcast his opinion were full of spelling, grammatical, punctuation and syntax errors--which obviously were not conducive to his post being taken seriously.

This bothers me on several levels. First, I find the concept that someone could actually think that UK English is wrong. Are you kidding me? Seriously?

Second, what kind of incredible complacency would lead someone to overlook their own inadequacies to dismiss an entire culture's unique and individual use of the language we share?

And third, and the most important, whatever happened to the concept of educating yourself? Hear me out before you get jumpy. I was blessed with some fantastic teachers throughout my life, who taught me the rudiments and sometimes more than I wanted to know about English grammar. Throughout the entire process, however, I was educating myself.

I read every book I could get my hands on. I learned the majority of my grammar and knowledge of the English language from the masters themselves. My greatest teachers were Austen, Alcott, Twain, Faulkner and Hemingway. Every book I read, even if it was something as simple as C.S. Lewis' Narnia novels, taught me something more about the ways to use language to create an imaginary world. It occurs to me that while people are heaping all of the blame for the sad state of American students on our educational system, they are forgetting that education is what you make of it.

You have to educate yourself in cooperation with the education you receive. In the end, every good writer must absorb what they read. Pick up your favorite book and take a look at it. How does the author manipulate language to create a scene? What do they show you? Are they using split infinitives or dangling participles in their prose? No? Why is that, do you think?

*pssssssst--the answer is because there are simpler and correct ways to get the same point across*

Just like an artist selects a medium and learns to use it to create art, so does a writer use language. You have to be familiar with the medium before you become proficient at it. Educate yourself in your chosen craft.

Stop playing the victim and blaming your education for the gaps in your knowledge. Everyone has the ability to learn things on their own. You don't have to be spoonfed by a teacher. Get off your duffs and start learning for yourself.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Eight More Days and a Temptation Teaser

The countdown clock, it is a runnin'. We're getting close to the release of Temptation of Asphodel. So, since we're getting close to Christmas and I haven't gotten you guys anything yet, have a looksee at the prologue and tell me what you think!

Temptation of Asphodel
Death has been my constant companion.

My parents died when I was twelve; when I was eighteen I saw thousands die upon the blood-churned fields of my home. Two of my beloved Ka’antira uncles burned upon the great funeral pyres lit under the stars at Asphodel. The child that I should have borne in joy never came to life and I still grieve for this first, lost gift from my marriage. I watched as the traitor Jeshan de Callat vomited away his life to Dis while his blood dripped from my sword.

Yes, death has followed upon my heels. I recognize its finality even as I defy its proximity.

But nothing could prepare me for the sight of Brial, broken and bleeding, on the sands of Ectatte. His death was the one that broke my will and destroyed my defiance. His life was the price required to redeem the race of Elves; how bitter it was to know I had no choice.

I discovered something about death in the moment that changed my determination to succeed at my task. In order to gain victory, you must be prepared to give up the things most important to you. My willingness to accept Brial’s death in the end gave him life. The Huntress returned my beloved to me.

“I do not require everything,” she had said, “only that you are willing to give it.”

Brial lived; as a result so did I.

My other losses fell into perspective and I no longer dwelled on the horrors of death. This was my first triumph over my enemies, the first milestone I passed on the long, bitter road of divine machination.

I had learned acceptance of the inevitable.

I do not like to remember that night in the labyrinth of the gods. Brial has spoken of it only once. We put it from our minds and continued to act on behalf of the goddess in her contest with the Lord of Death.

I cannot help but wonder: if you lose your fear of death, what is left to fear? Is there something worse lurking in the shadows of life than the pain of separation and grief? I dread this knowledge and yet I crave the answer. While we moved through the mountains, following obscure hints laid down within the perimeters of the gods’ game, my mind lingered on this question.

And when I slept, a single image returned to haunt my dreams: a single golden apple, resting on a rough, mildewed table in a dark room, and behind me in the inky shadows a long, echoing, hissing laugh.

It is but a dream, but one of evil portents.

I fear this image more than any other. For some reason, I sense a darker doom creeping up behind me. I don’t dare share this dread. In anticipation, as well as in the reality, I am alone.

Perhaps that isolation is the very fate I fear.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Learning to Differentiate

Sometimes I am amazed at the manipulative abilities of people.

You find a lot of this online. People who in real life would be laughed out of the room for expressing their opinions somehow gain a strange credibility in the cyber world. It's hard for me to take someone seriously who pontificates hatred, whether in the real world or online. But, what truly amazes me, is how some of these people can manipulate public opinion with their ability to write.

For example: there's really not any way to justify racist behavior in the real world. In the real world, if you expound upon you racist points of view you usually either get your ass kicked or you're dismissed by the people who hear you as stupid and beyond redemption. But, you take that same person and slap them online and suddenly all sorts of whacked-out critters crawl from the woodwork and support them publicly. Why is that?

Is it because of the alleged anonymity online? That doesn't really work any more--I can find out a heck of a lot about a person from their IP address...and their blog...and their website.

What makes people comfortable enough online to try and manipulate other people?

Look at the recent election. Because of online bullshit, there are a whole lot of people who believe the new President is a Muslim and that the Governor of Alaska doesn't comprehend basic geography. Are you serious? What kills me is that there are people who call one of those rumors a lie but still beleive the other one. It makes no sense to me.

As a writer, I'm very sensitive to the power of words. It occurs to me that since the advent and explosion of the internet, that sensitivity has spread into sectors unseen before this time. It was easy to dismiss the KKK newspapers I found on the front lawn twenty years ago.

It's not as easy to dismiss some of the racial prejudice spread over the internet, especially when it's clothed beneath some other sort of rhetoric. It's imperative now that we, as internet users, learn to differentiate between thinly veiled agendas and the outer shell of acceptability that some people are using. We need a new subset of skills if we are to comprehend the ugliness that lies just beneath the surface of much that we find online these days.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Temptation of Asphodel Cover Art

Okay--I love cover art as a rule. It always makes the book seem more tangible to me when I finally get the cover art. I'm always excited to see it.

But this cover art is super-scrumptious fantabulously amazing cover art and I am in LOVE with it. Check it out:

Isn't that the BOMB? HUGE thanks to Renee' George, who did a bang up job with the artwork and to Celia Kyle, the art director at Aspen Mountain Press. Oh, and just in case you missed this at some point, here's the blurb:

Tamsen has learned to sacrifice everything as she plays the game of the gods, but as she nears the end of her quest everything changes again. The hunter becomes the hunted, the ally becomes the foe and behind it all lies the hand of a third, unknown god who tries to lure her from her destiny. Can she hold firm against the temptations that are thrown in her path, or will she fall into failure as generations of Elves have done before her? As the rumbling memory of an ancient war settles over the realm of Ansienne, Tamsen’s faith falters. When she is drawn into conflict with immortal enemies, she discovers that the line between obedience and temptation is much narrower than she thought. Tempation is dangerous; obedience can kill.

Yep, I'm just a little excited. Stay tuned for more details here and on my website Shoot The Muse!

I'm getting ready to post the prologue for Temptation of Asphodel on my website.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It's Travesty Time in Tennessee!

For as long as I can remember, Phil Fulmer has been at the University of Tennessee.

He was an offensive lineman when I went to my first football game at Neyland stadium at the age of five.

He was a graduate assistant when I went to a competition at UT when I was in elementary school.

When I was in high school, he was an assistant coach for the Vols.

When I was in college, he was the offensive coordinator.

The first time I used my alumni tickets, he was the newly crowned head coach of the mighty Volunteers and we loved him for it.

College football has been one of my greatest loves since I was a child. Nothing was a bigger treat than driving to Neyland Stadium on Saturday morning, one of thousands of orange-painted cars on their way to eat, drink and be merry before the game. Nothing was more fun than sitting on the deck of one of the boats in the Volunteer Navy as you rounded the bend and saw Neyland sitting like a jewel against the backdrop of Knoxville and the Smoky mountains. Nothing was more exciting than sitting in that stadium while 110,000 people screamed out Rocky Top at the top of their lungs in support of their team.

And for every game I've ever attended at the University of Tennessee, Phil Fulmer has been on the sidelines. He was there for four hundred plus games--can you imagine that? He's been involved with the university for FORTY years--the Joe Pa of the Southeastern Conference with a .752 all time winning percentage, five SEC title game appearances, two SEC titles and one BCS national title in a year that the Vols were supposed to be rebuilding in. It was just thirteen months ago that he led his team into the SEC title game, losing to eventual national champion LSU.

But now, the greed of the UT athletic department, its AD and the President of the university has driven out the icon that gave his life to the Tennessee Volunteers. After forty years, he's been run out of town on a rail.

How sad.

I watched his press conference yesterday and wept for the pain of a good man, a man who lives and breathes and sleeps for the young men he guides. I felt a moment of fierce joy because of the team's support of their coach, and I cheered when, as one, they rose to their feet, turned their back on the AD and marched out of the room. One young man shouted, "He ain't got nothing to say to us!" as they left.

And you know what? He doesn't. How do you explain to an athlete that you got rid of an iconic coach because greed is more important than integrity, that victory will sacrifice loyalty and titles are more important than philosophy. Athletic director Mike Hamilton has sorely miscalculated during this fiasco, sacrificing the pride of one of the winningest coaches in college football history on the altar of competition. There is nothing he can say to those young men, for whom loyalty is a virtue preached every day at practice.

For that matter, there is very little he can say to me.

Coach Fulmer, you were kind to me when I was young. You remembered my face and name when you saw me by the side of the road for the Vols Walk three years ago. You've given me the greatest football memories in my life.

Godspeed to you, Coach. I just wanted you to know that at least in this subsection of the Volunteer Nation, there's a bright spot of Tennessee Orange in Ohio that will never forgive the university for what they've done to you.

And as for you, Tennessee football players, it's time for you to suck it up and win out for the Coach. Here's your chance to say something to Mike Hamilton about what loyalty can bring to the University of Tennessee.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Temptation of Asphodel Book Trailer

Twenty eight days and counting. I guess it's time for you guys to get a load of this:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Challenges of Co-Writing

You guys know I'm a loner. What else could I be cranking out the word counts I do every day?

Don't answer that. I know I don't have a life.

At any rate, for the past couple of weeks I've been working on a project with a Canadian writer--Rob Graham, another Aspen Mountain Press author who writes really really outstanding erotica.

Really really outstanding erotica.

But I digress. We came up with the idea to co-author a book. I'll admit that at first I was skeptical. I mean--come on! Who in their right mind wants to spend part of their day in my imagination, right? Well, the gods love him, apparently Rob didn't have much of a problem with that. It took us about half an hour to decide that we would co-write a Georgian vampire story. he would write from the hero's POV and I would write from the heroine's.

And the story took off. Ever have one of those stories that just WOULD NOT SHUT UP? We've got one. The characters are complex and interesting, the historical atmosphere of the setting is addictive, and for some reason this thing has taken on a life of its own. I'd venture to guess we're already about halfway through the first draft--and it WILL be a novel--in fourteen days. I'll keep you guys posted on how it's going.

If you guys want to drop a line to Rob and comisserate with him on the horrible punishment he's currently enduring because he's working with me, you can find him on his blog at .

The poor dear. Rob has several books available through AMP and Phaze--I just got done reading his Gillian's Place and its wonderful. You should go check it out.

By the way, the countdown clock for Temptation will be going up this weekend. *grin* We're getting close to time for a new Asphodel book release.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

American Writers too Insular and Isolated Says Head of Nobel Prize Committee

Well. Doesn't take much to get me riled, does it?

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) - Bad news for American writers hoping for a Nobel
next week: the top member of the award jury believes the United States
is too insular and ignorant to compete with Europe when it comes to great

Counters the head of the U.S. National Book Foundation: "Put him in
touch with me, and I'll send him a reading list."

As the Swedish Academy enters final deliberations for this year's award, permanent secretary Horace Engdahl said it's no coincidence that most winners are European.
"Of course there is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can't get away from
the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world ... not the
United States," he told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Tuesday.
He said the 16-member award jury has not selected this year's winner, and
dropped no hints about who was on the short list. Americans Philip Roth and Joyce
Carol Oates
usually figure in speculation, but Engdahl wouldn't comment on
any names.

Speaking generally about American literature, however, he said
U.S. writers are "too sensitive to trends in their own mass culture," dragging
down the quality of their work.

"The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature," Engdahl said. "That ignorance is restraining."

Color me mad.

Ignorance? Insular? Isolated? Just how in the Dickens (my bad--European writer) could anyone actually apply these words to American literature? For that matter, since when would an international committee created to honor acheivements in literature willingly employ an official who carries this view into the week of the Nobel voting system?

I have friends in Europe who have never been exposed to the joys of Hemingway or Steinbeck, never were pulled in by a Poe or Twain short story and didn't have the oportunity to study Hawthorne or Thoreau. Why is that? Is there some preconceived notion that American literature is, by the the very nature of its origin, somehow inferior to European? What of Asian literature or African literature? Are they insular too?

What are the odds of taking politics out of the arts? And, while we're at it--isn't the appreciation of art in all its forms primarily a subjective matter? Here's my take on it: all literature is, by its nature, international. There is no such thing as a continent that spawns *better* writers.

And there shouldn't be a leading executive of the Nobel Prize for Literature Committee who thinks there is either. Mr. Engdahl should be removed from his position now.

And I'll continue in my ignorance to write insular and isolated stories without the edifying bolster of a European nationality, thanks.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Oh No! Could it be...?

The carnies are pulling into the Fairgrounds.

For those of you who may have missed my previous carnie encounters, you might want to check them out. We get great carnies up here. I keep threatening to write the "Great American Carnie Novel," but no one believes me.


Our local fair is the last in the State of Ohio, taking place every first week of October since the first Neanderthal taught the first mammoth to do tricks. For the past few years, I worked at the bar across the street from the Fairgrounds and we were inundated with carnies. As some of you know, I love me some carnies: they're great character studies, they always have good stories, they spend their money as fast as they get it and they tip well. (the last bit was the bartender in me) But this year, I get to look at carnies in a whole different light. I no longer have to deal with them; it's purely voluntary.

So yesterday, I did some snooping around. I was pleased to see that my favorite carnies were back, including the carnie czar and a couple of the middle-aged oddballs that always made me laugh. They recognized me immediately, calling me by the wrong name and asking if I remembered their preferred drink.

"Of course I do! You drink root beer and made me cook chicken wings daily. How could I forget you??? *subtext--butthead!* "

"You're the best bartender I've ever seen."

*note to self--missing another tooth but still wears the same 'cologne.' Wonder if Old Spice will ever go out of date?*

It's nice to be missed.

So, in order to keep you guys up-to-date on carnie activity in southern Ohio, I'm going to continue my carnie blog this year--as a customer of my former bar instead of an overworked and underhumored 'girl.' (I think some of them think that 'girl' really is my name) Maybe I'll get more carnie insight to share with you; perhaps I will start researching that "Great American Carnie Novel;" or, maybe, I'll just get drunk and type incoherently for a while. Either way, you'll be kept in the know about the great carnie tragedies and life events, as usual.

It's almost as fun as killing Elves...

Oh. Speaking of killing Elves, have I mentioned that The Asphodel Cycle 3:Temptation of Asphodel will be released in November? *grin* Not too much longer to wait, and I'll keep you amused with carnies at least for a couple of weeks.

See? That's not so bad, is it?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Writing Versus Editing

I love writing.

I loathe editing.

Let me clarify. I hate editing MY stuff. I write my first drafts very quickly--I can get to 100k in 20 days without a problem if I'm on a roll. When I'm writing my first draft, I don't worry about word choice or bad habits--I just plow on through. For example, I use LOTS of dialogue tags and adverbs--they set the characters' mood throughout a conversation--when I write a first draft. So, the main purpose of the second draft is to write most of them out. I replace them with actions or with internal dialogue. Probably, in the long run, I strike about 90 % of them during the course of the second draft. Then on the third draft, I discover that I cut some needlessly or that I left the wrong ones in.

From that point on, it's a juggling act.

I was editing an manuscript for another writer the past couple of weeks and I found myself commenting, "You need to find some other action for theses characters other than "he looked and smiled." or "she glanced away and sighed" or "he nodded his head and frowned."" Then when I went back to my manuscript every single instance where I had done that glared at me from the page. So I went back through and cut most of those.

Even notice in your writing that you have a pet phrase or word? Mine is 'suddenly.' After a thorough analysis of the 'suddenlys' in my manuscript, I determined that I'd used the word 1800 times in a 120k manuscript and of those 1698 of them were placed where the action wasn't really sudden. Out came the red pen, out went the suddenlys.

No matter what anyone says, editing is the most important part of writing. Sure, the imagination needed to create fiction is vital as are the personalities you give your characters. But in the long run, the editing is what will take your work where it needs to go. Without it, your novel has virtually no chance of success with either agents or publishers. So no matter how much you hate it, you an't avoid it. I sent back a round of first edits to an author a few months ago where the entire right-hand margin of the manuscript were covered top to bottom with little red balloons. Great story; no editing.

So the moral of this story is: you know how all the submission guidelines tell you to make sure that your manuscript is clean? Believe them. Eliminate all those pet phrases and grammatical errors and misspelled words and send them as perfect a product as you can. No one will recognize your genius if you send them sloppy work.

Learn to love the red pen--it is your friend. Trust me.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Politics! and then...

...REAL politics.

I'm excited about politics out there in the world beyond my office. There's a bit of zest these days,with either our first person of color or our first woman breaching the good ol' boy network in the Executive branch of our federal government. This is a great thing--infinitely preferable than the status quo--no matter HOW it shakes out! After all, at last the so-called minorities of the US are going to have a voice in the highest office of the land. We will have an advocate, a representative and all that entails. Just please, puh-LEEZE--

--let's not fuck all that up with trying to see which party is being more racist or more sexist, shall we?

This is politics, people, not a tea party. Neither party is discriminatory. Get over it.

So why not enjoy the run? Chuck the hysterical vitriol to the wayside and let BOTH voices be heard. What the hell? It could be fun in the long run.

Which brings me to REAL politics.

Real politics happen every day--interpersonally, if you will. We are, all of us, doing political work for ourselves every single day of our lives. Ever suck up to a boss? Politics. Ever finagle your way into a position that you weren't quite ready for? Politics.


Now then, I've let it be known fairly regularly that I am not a political person. (Main reason why that Pol Sci knowledge sits on the shelf a lot of the time too.) I'm too outspoken; I call things as I see them. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten, that doesn't go over too well. It's much better for me to sit at my desk in my home day after day than to venture out to inflict my ideology upon others.

Occasionally, my online rambles interfere with that most noble intention. As a matter of fact, I realized today that I have never...not once...discussed politics on this blog. And, save for the plea above I never will. But I will discuss interpersonal politics for a moment if I may and then we can move on to something more important in the next blog post.

Interpersonal relationships are difficult to build on the web. As many cruisers have discovered to their chagrin, it's only too easy to 'fall in love' with someone's words online only to find that other person has the most heinous halitosis or the most hideous body odor they've ever encountered. The same goes for message boards or public forums. You may think that you're completely free to exress your opinion and find you're not, or vice versa for that matter. You can couch your words in such a way that people see right past your message, or they can just choose to overlook it. And in either case, it's hard to call--because you DON'T know why someone would be offended or because you went out of your way to avoid being offensive or whatever justifications you make to yourself.

But here's the ultimate test: go back the day after and read what YOU wrote. Ignore the vitrolic responses of other people--don't even read them. Just read YOUR words. Then ask yourself if they say precisely what you mean for them to say.

If, at the end of the day, you can stand behind your words then you expressed exactly what you meant to. If you find that your words, thoughts, sentiments, or feelings were not adequately conveyed you might owe some other folks out there in cyberland a few apologies. Now, I've been know to eat humble pie with salt and apologize for my words many times in the past. For one thing, as a writer I consider it my responsibility to take charge of my words and own the consequences that arise from them. *shrug* Only fair--my bad, right? So if I go out on a tangent and hurt people's feelings, I will always apologize if I am in the wrong--and even, sometimes when I wasn't the original cause but was partially responsible for a conflagration.

But I'm not always wrong. If I'm concerned enough to stick up for something, I'll damn well stick up for it. One thing I will NOT do is back down on it. I may give up the dissenters as a lost cause and move on, but I will not back down from my original conviction.

So, no. I won't back down this time either. I may consider the situation there a lost cause. But, sorry--not backing down. Nice try though.

The last time I checked, everyone's opinion counted for something--whether it's the hotbed of partisan politics in the States or how, on a non-partisan forum people should have equal and fair treatment regardless of what their voice is. But then again, I could be wrong. I've been known to be wrong before.

Stubborn, too.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Back to Blogging Again

So I have been chastised into blogging again.

It's not that I don't like blogging--I do. It's just that in my seven day array of 18 hour days, I have to give up something to ease my schedule. I like thinking about my blog entries before I write them and...well...unfortunately, I haven't been able to think as of late. I've been doing a lot of editing, and my head is full of other people's characters WHILE finishing the final draft of Asphodel 3.

Oh. Haven't I told you? The Asphodel Cycle 3: Temptation of Asphodel will be released THIS FALL. This October 27th, to be precise. *grin*


Should be fun, I'm thinking.

The great thing about editing is how much my writing has improved. I'm a lot harder on my manuscripts that I was before, which means that I'm eliminationg all of my bad writer habits --like adverbs and commas--that I used to death before. This is a good thing. Hopefully, this will make MY edits a lot easier. I hope so. I even know how to format the darn thing correctly now. My editor should love it.

*I did it ALL for you Sandy!*

Here's another thought--have you ever noticed when a series gets more exciting as you go through it? Isn't it maddening when you get to the end of a book and you just want MORE. That's the way lots of fantasy series were for me--David Eddings' Belgariad, Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern, Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart, JK Rowling's Harry Potter--all of them page turners to the very end that left you wanting...


That is my new goal. Hopefully I'll figure out how to do this before that final rejection makes me jump off the cliff across the street. We are starting to run short of agents.

But one day, I will find one. I promise.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cleaning Memories

So the big move is underway.

Since I'm not allowed to pick anything up these days, my job is to pack the valuables and unpack them later. First day of valuables--books. Yeah, like that involved not picking anything up. I lifted a book on Restoration authors and literally cursed the name of the author. That book was HEAVY--not to mention the Norton Anthologies. Then I took it back, of course.

Yesterday's valuables? Family things. It's always sad for me to pack them away, even if it's just for a trip to the next county like this move is. I was somewhat astounded this morning to realize that sometimes it's even sadder to unpack them.

My mother's nationalization flag. It's a small flag, from 1958--all fifty stars and thirteen stripes still bright although the gold paint on the little golden finial is faded. As I unpacked it and put it in its normal place over my desk, I wondered what my mother would say if she saw how cheaply that citizenship is held today. Chiding myself for my obsession with politics, I pulled the next item out of the box.

A crystal Vernus de Milo given to me by my grandmother--my French grandmother. The first time my mother took us (my brother and me) to France, we met our grandmother for the first time. Jeanne Herink was a woman who'd led a colorful life. Her husband, my grandfather Jean Herink, was a cafe' owner in Paris during WWII. When the Nazis marched into Paris, he opened his cafe' and its access to the cellars to the frantic flight of those leaving the city. He operated successfully in the French Underground until the Nazis evacuated just ahead of the Allied invasion. Apparently, he was suspected because the Nazis dragged him from his cafe' and executed him in the street before they left. His widow, my grandmother Jeanne, began an affair with a British officer--a lord,or so I was told. My mother hated that and resented her for it until the day she married my father. The day after, the two quarrelled over some teacups my mom wanted to bring to America and didn't speak for twenty years. Almost like us, in a way--that extended bitterness. The Venus de Milo, a little statuette that stands about 8" tall, was the first gift I ever received from her in her little apartment just across the river from the Eiffel Tower.

My grandfather's traveling clock. A small but heavy clock set into a heavy red leather case. I was told he'd brought it with him from Czechoslovakia as his family hurried west after the Bolshevik revolution in his native Russia. My mother was born there, in some town with an unpronouncable name that I only know from the turn of the century paperweight enscribed with its name. Both of them together, as they've always been, on the shelf with my Shakespeares.

A 19th century hand-sized Sonnets of the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barret Browning. She's my favorite poet from the Romantic era and this little book was the first thing I ever kept from my store inventory. It's faded and aged brown, although the little painted nosegay on the front still glows with light pastels, and I'm afraid to open it. It's in perfect condition, a time capsule from the 1890s and the ultimate temptation: it holds what I want, but I'm afraid to go get it.

The more I went through these things, the more I hung handles on them: Mom's things, Grandmere's things, Grandpere's things--rarely our things or my things. I've moved these things all over the country since my mother's death, revering them--almost sanctifying them because they were hers, or my family's--links back to people I can never see or touch again. These things I treasure, perhaps because they represent relationships or feelings or memories that I don't want to give up. A whole side of my family, and my daughters' heritage, lost save for the trinkets I preserve in my china cabinets and curios.

I think I'll write my family's story down for my kids. Then, one by one, I'll write the story of each little thing and pack it away with its history.

For them to find.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


Okay--I get to have a brag post!

The first reviews of The Gift of Redemption are coming in. The first came from Coffee Time Romance, which sort of surprised me because they hadn't reviewed any of my work--including The Reckoning of Asphodel. Anyhoo, Regina has this to say about Redemption:

This has to be the best fantasy romance I have ever read. I could not put this book down until I had read the final page. While it is clearly the second book in a series, the author does such a good job of weaving background information into the storyline that the reader never feels cheated. Ms. Summers skillfully draws her readers into the book. The characters are so realistic that they appear to step from the pages. A devilishly wonderful book that I highly recommend to one and all!

You can read the entire review here.

I was really pleased with Regina's take on the book--she really seemed to get where the characters and the story were coming from and she'd never read the first book. So I had a little SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE! moment and went back to moving.

Which I hate.

Then this morning, I found a review in my inbox from Brianna at Bitten by Books:

I’m giving The Gift of Redemption 4 ½ tombstones. I loved revisiting the characters,and watching them grow – especially Tamsen – was a delight. Celina Summers really packs in the drama and love that was so evident in her first novel into this action-packed delight. There is a scene at the end that left me in tears. I would read the first book in the series, The Reckoning of Asphodel, before I picked this one up. The Reckoning of Asphodel is integral to understanding the beautiful world Summers has created.

How can you argue with a reviewer that admits my story made her cry???

Exactly. You can't.

So, I went outside and had a celebratory Coke and cigarette. While I was sitting on the deck, Emily the hummingbird buzzed by my head. She does this now whenever my husband Shannon or I are outside, buzzing our heads to let us know she's there and then looking at us for a few minutes like she's thankful--very cute. She hovered for a minute, her dark eyes glittering and contented again, and then went back to the feeder. I think she's coming along better now that her eggs have hatched. She's filling out a bit and starting to store it up for the impending trip to warmer climes. I suspect that it won't be long before she brings her babies by to inspect the deck, the flowers, the silly old Lab asleep in the sun, and teaches them how to drink from the feeder. I really hope that when this occurs, I'll be sitting out there also with my laptop handy.

If it does, then I'll tell you all about it.

Thanks for sharing my SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEs in threes. Emily says hi!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Casualty In The Great Hummingbird War of Hocking County

So we walked into the garage today and got a horrible shock.

Emily, my little hummingbird friend, was trapped in the garage. The poor little thing kept flying into the ceiling, bashing against the wall and the garage door, desperately trying to find a way out. She wouldn't settle on anything to rest; by the time we found her, she must have been bumping into things for hours. She was exhausted, and terrified.

We knew we had to get her out.

Now picture this: four adults, armed with brooms and ladders and plastic containers trying to herd a scared hummingbird into something so that we could take her outside and set her free. Not only was it probably funny to anyone that might have caught a glimpse of it, it was upsetting. Other hummingbirds lined the fence outside, calling to Emily as she darted from side to side, her little wings beating so slowly that it was like watching any other species of bird. She's particularly gaunt at the moment, having (apparently) hatched her eggs in the privacy of her woven spiderweb and lichen nest.

She's also spunky.

Twenty minutes passed, and finally my husband, perched precariously with one foot on the ladder and another on the top of the SUV, trapped her in an old plastic tub. When she settled down finally within it, Shannon slipped a plastic lid over the tub and we took Emily outside.

She was so tired that when we removed the lid, she just sat there looking at us. It's the closest I've ever been to a living hummingbird, and this one just stared at us from dulled eyes. The only life about her flashed from her emerald feathers--the ones on her back that I'd never seen when she darted at the feeder.

She stayed with us for five minutes, communing in her silent way with the two huge creatures that has brought her out into the open. She could smell the dusty scent of the grass, the fading aroma of the late lilies, the wind swirling gently around her feathers. She permitted me to touch her--one gentle stroke across her little back, then cocked her head and glanced over her shoulder with a quiet chirp.

Then she pushed off from the plastic container and rose into the sky. She didn't hover; she fled to the safety of the nearby woods, probably to check on her growing young ones.

An hour later, she visted our feeder again. She hovered near us, looking at us both, then perched on the little yellow flowers of the hummingbird feeder and drank her fill.

We saved a hummingbird today. What a great karmic experience! But, in the end, I realized that in some way Emily had given us a precious gift. For a few quiet moments, we earned this tiny creature's trust. And then she rose back onto the skies, and we knew that our efforts had been rewarded. She would live, and thrive, in the environment she was meant to enjoy.

And on one hot August day, we would live and thrive in the knowledge that we had done some good for the earth she lived on. It was a great feeling.

So...we drank vodka to celebrate.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Full Moon & Japanese Game Shows

So it's a full moon tonight.

I love writing when the moon is full. For some reason, it makes me feel like it. I can take my laptop outside and sit on the deck, watching the moon turn the woods into silver threads against the horizon and always--always--a new story nudges its way into my brain.

Probably not tonight though.

I think I have lost ten IQ points inthe last hour. Why, oh why, did I let my husband convince me to watch "I Survived A Japanese Game Show???" Holy crap--it just makes me cringe to see these people making fools of themselves like that. Tonight they played a game called "Big Chicken Butt Scramble."

How do you look at yourselves in the morning after LOSING a game called that?

"Big Chicken Butt Scramble." Somewhere over in Japan, World War II vets are sitting together pissed off.

"We lost to people like that?"

Yeah, hate to admit it to you, but--you did. Your bad.

I just don't get this new urge for self-humiliation, for public spectacle, and for lubing yourself down with oil, rolling in feathers, and then trying to sit on big balloons to burst the egg filling out of them! And on top of it, these people are taking this 'game' seriously!

The $250,000 prize money probably has something to do with it.

*sigh* I guess I'll never be able to survive a Japanese game show. Unfortunately, neither will my Muse--at least not tonight.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Great Hummingbird War of Hocking County

We've been housesitting for my inlaws, who have been at their youngest daughter's wedding in Wyoming. During the time I've been here, I've witnessed some extraordinary things.

For example, the hummingbird wars.

My inlaws live out in the country--just on the edge of Wayne National Forest and Hocking Hills. At the back of their two acres, the trees grow fast and thick and the hills rise up to give me a poignant reminder of the foothills of the Smokies a couple of states south in Tennessee. There is a weathered back deck, surrounded by lilies and flowering shrubs, a gigantic willow tree and a plethora of smaller plants--in other words, bee heaven. They also have a pretty good sized hummingbird feeder with a colony of fifteen to twenty hummingbirds who feed at it daily.

Hummingbirds are highly strategic creatures. Ignore the impossible speed of their little wings whirring, forget about the flash of ruby at the breasts of the males and the tiny inquisitiveness of the smaller females.

THE FEEDER BELONGS TO ME seems to be the mantra they all chirp to themselves as they perch upon strategic locations and guard their personal feeder from the rest of the colony. Just now, as I was sitting outside with a cigarette while listening to my daughter's woes on the cell, I watched as a great battle unfolded before me.

To the west: perched upon the wire fence sat a tiny female. She's the one that yells at us if we get too close to the feeder. To the south: a larger male eyed me from his flamboyantly defiant seat on a shrub just below the wire fence. He's closest to the feeder and he knows it. Atop the willow tree to the southeast, a second male yells a challenge. He's been fighting the first male for girls and sugar water since the hummingbirds returned. I can't see him, but I recognize his voice. Full east, another female hides behind the waving leaves of an azalea bush. She insinuates herself into the branches, hoping for a go at the feeder while the others scream insults at each other.

Suddenly, over my head there's the loud buzz of a divebombing hummingbird. She's come over the top of the house and slides into the northern-most feeding station for a quick stolen bite. Immediately the two males dart towards the feeder, but they encounter each other in midair and fly off the the field to continue their private feud. The female on the western side of the fence cries out and attacks the newcomer, wings beating at her foe's head. As the two females chase each other through the yard, the female hidden in the azalea flies in a liesurely fashion to the deck, eyes me with just a hint of friendly curiosity, and slakes her thirst calmly at the feeder. Her enemies remain out of sight, unaware that the victor has already taken the field.

Full, she flits up to the patio table where I sit under a large umbrella. I lift my hand slowly and just for a split-second, I feel the whispered touch of her claws on my outstretched finger. The next thing I know, she's gone--back to her nest made of spiderwebs in the ridge of oak trees a half-mile away--while I watch her flight and smile.

Round one: to the little hummingbird female I call Emily.

Round two: probably in about fifteen minutes.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Redemption Doing Well...Or Is It?

Occasionally I find myself, much like Piers Anthony, living in conjunction with my book subjects. The Gift of Redemption is about one individual giving up everything in order to redeem a society. In my world, it's about one individual giving up a lot so that others can have what they crave.

For example...

Lately, my husband and I have been feeling a financial crunch--much like the rest of you. Ours is due to a combination of things--my back, my daughter, OPEC--just to name a few.

My back has now (again) made it impossible for me to work in the 'real world.' So, I've increased my work in writing and editing and have become a stay-at-home writer. So, my husband has to take up the slack. He's working more hours, losing the time to do the things he loves, and has nothing left over for what he wants to do. In other words, his gift to the family is to redeem me for my lack of steady financial input.

It's hard to watch. It's harder to agree to, knowing that I haven't 'hit it big' yet and that all of the responsibility lies upon him. I can do my part (like submitting short stories and hoping for the best) but in the long run, unless I get an agent and my book goes to auction, this burden will be on him for a long time.

And I'm not even thinking about the back surgery that's looming in the near future either.

Sacrifices. Everything these days seems to be about sacrifices, just like in Redemption. That worries me.

Book 3 is called Temptation of Asphodel.

Oh dear.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

News and More News

Yeah, yeah yeah I know. I'll TRY to do better. I just thought I'd let you all know that The Gift of Redemption is at # 39 on the Fictionwise Fantasy Bestseller list!


Yep. Just a little excited. It may be my imagination, and I'll check here in a bit, but it seems to be moving up the list quicker than Asphodel did. Two weeks from release at Fictionwise to #39 sounds FINE to me, though. I'd be dancing but...and here's the more news...I'm couch-bound until the middle of July.


More writing time though. And that's a good thing.

I find that I'm enjoying my writing time more and more. Although I still faithfully tackle my world-building and editing/rewriting chores every day, those hours when I concentrate on continuing a story have been just rolling along. Remind me soon to update my projects list--there's a hell of a lot going on that I haven't shared with you guys yet. There are a couple of new stories ongoing that I think you might be interested in.

I also submitted a few short stories this week, and have sent other numerous review requests to new venues so we'll see what happens.

Overall, a happy day. :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

OK, So I don't update my blog enough...

...or so I'm told. Apparently, BUSY does not count. hmmph. So, I'll just update you guys for a bit.

The Gift of Redemption is now available on Fictionwise and Mobipocket. It seems to be doing well on Fictionwise, where it's been available for a few days now. It just came out today on Mobipocket.

I'm particularly interested in how it does on Fictionwise, since The Reckoning of Asphodel hit number one on its Fantasy Bestseller list and the top ten on the overall Bestseller list. It would be nice if Redemption could follow in Asphodel's footsteps.

A little birdie told me that Reckoning's first review from a major review site will be out within the month. This is sort of scary for me. I'm still obsessed over some horrifying questions: What if it isn't as good as Asphodel? What if people hate it? What if a few directions that the storyline takes really turns my readers off? Will I live? Could I survive that?

I guess I'll know pretty soon. *shudders* Hope my blood pressure survives it.

Right now I'm doing some beta reading for some friends and surveying the wreck of my study with satisfaction. As you probably remember, when I'm plotting a new world and the story that goes in it, I literally paper my study with worldbuilding charts and plot continuity lines with long rolls of butcher paper. And there it will hang, a daily prod to hurry up and finish what I'm working on so that I can get to the project that is stewing deliciously along my walls. This project has migrated onto the ceiling; when I look to the heavens for divine inspiration, I'll find a chart labelled *Events that need to happen before Armageddon.* This makes me write faster.

It's like a hambone in front of a hungry pit bull.

I reckon I have a few more days' work to put in on the current project (final draft of Terella, then off she goes into query land) and then I can sink my teeth into the juicy world that swims along the edges of my vision in this room.

*Events that need to happen before Armageddon*---Big red letters, long long list. Looks like at least a trilogy from where I'm sitting. Just as an FYI, 'armageddon' is just my brainstorming catchphrase for how the plot culminates--it has nothing to do with angels or Satan or the end of the world or anything like that. I call all the ends of my storylines 'armageddon' just so I know that it's the absolute end of this plot.


So don't get too excited.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

So It's Out

The Gift of Redemption was released on Friday. I did my all-day release party on Friday and I'm still trying to recover from it (and the thirteen hours at work yesterday.) I actually had a cool little interview in the local paper yesterday (so glad they noticed me finally!) and I had several people oming into the bar saying, "Hey! Yer a cee-lebrit-ee now!" All of my Saturday Morning Regulars were pleased as punch--which I thought was pretty cool.

And now I'm going to try to focus my eyes enough to send out some review copies so I can concentrate on finding the floor of my house again. *rolls eyes* I know it's there SOMEWHERE--but alas! When Mom is stuck for two weeks getting a book release ready (hence the overwhelming eye strain) everyone else takes a vacation too.

I'll find it. I promise.

Stay tuned for further updates on Reckoning and how it progresses. And thanks to all of you for keeping an eye on how it goes.

By the way, the winner of my super-duper fabulous BIGGEST CONTEST EVER--is Sophie Weresley! Congrtulations, Lil Squick! And NO you cannot publish the Asphodel backstory file as a companion piece. Geesch--kids this days!

Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Wow. Look at that countdown clock run. When I started this blog post, it was 4 hours and 47 minutes until The Gift of Redemption is released.

Wow. Just wow.

I'm excited. I'm getting things ready for my release party tomorrow and sending out a slew of press releases and all that what not. My local paper interviewed me this week, so THAT was fun. I made it onto Raine Delight's author spotlight--check it out here!

That was also fun.

My very good friend who is also a writer, Sierra Dafoe, is coming to visit this weekend, so THAT'S good.

I'm having a very good day. Of course, my eyes are burning and crossed after working through the nights the past three days, but I feel good about the work I've done. In celebration, I'm taking a weekend off from the writing desk just so I can revel in the the fact that another book is hitting the market in the morning.

I might also pray a little that it's as well-received as The Reckoning of Asphodel was. Here's hoping.

You guys enjoy!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Perspective From the Pen of a Babe

But let's not talk about that. You can go check it out at if you want to read it. The very nice young lady who reviewed it has a new and very neat blog, and she's already done a spotlight post on Authorscoop which is a great site for book reviews and commentary done by my good friends William Haskins and Jamie Mason. (Man are they quick at cranking out reviews! ) So check out Scribbling, the blog that reviewed Asphodel, and check out Authorscoop just for an informative and very intellectual look at writing by writers.

And let's talk about something completely different.

The young lady who reviewed me on Scribbling is the mother of 4 children--which totally made me sick with jealousy when I saw her picture, by the way. She's a wife and mother, a writer who once served our country in the Navy, and who's probably too smart for her own good half the time.

In other words, a role model.

What makes her a role model? One of her sons was diagnosed with clasic autism just before his third birthday. Another, they suspect, suffers from Asperger's Disorder, which is also Pervasive Developmental Disorder ("PDD") -- like autism but , according to

In Asperger's Disorder, affected individuals are characterized by social
isolation and eccentric behavior in childhood. There are impairments in
two-sided social interaction and non-verbal communication. Though grammatical,
their speech may sound peculiar due to abnormalities of inflection and a
repetitive pattern. Clumsiness may be prominent both in their articulation and
gross motor behavior. They usually have a circumscribed area of interest which
usually leaves no space for more age appropriate, common interests.

By the way, I'm not forgetting the dad in this family. He works his ASS off and attends school at the same time.

When I first heard her story, I was flabbergasted. She and her husband have four small children in their home--which is enough of a strain--and, even more astounding-they are doing everything ON THEIR OWN. Of course, the local school system helps as best they can, and they do have their autistic son on Medicaid which helps with health care and pharmaceutical costs...but let me tell you what they don't have.

They don't have their son covered by their insurance policy because it is 'chronic and non-treatable.' They don't have their son in the nearby Center for Autism Behavorial Disorders at the Munroe-Meyer Institute--because it would cost them thousands upon thousands of dollars out of pocket. They don't have any assistance from any medical foundations or charitable institutions--not even the major autism charities.

As she told me in a conversation: "Doctors don't understand this. I probably know more about it than a GP does."

And through all of this, she managed to find the time not only to read my book but to review it? To encourage her son who may have Asperger's to write (the most ADORABLE little picture book about dinosaurs!) and then post it on a writers' forum for review. Not only did he take the crits, he thought about them and posted his replies. Here's his response to my critique of his story:

Thank you, Miss Celina!I will write more about the fights. I will draw more
pictures, too. I think that is a good idea!Thank you for saying much nice things
about my book and me! DinoBoy

This is a reaction to a CRITIQUE. I couldn't expect that much courtesy and enthusiasm from the critique of a 50 year old writer.

You know what this tells me? It tells me that this is an extraordinary woman, a woman who writes (extremely well, by the way) and raises four active sons. A woman who contributes in such a way to her sons' development and comfort that a boy that most other adults would call 'handicapped' had the werewithal to not only write and draw a children's picture book, but also to write such a well-mannered, thoughtful reply. A woman who, besides her husband and family, gets little to no help from anyone as she struggles with the difficulties of an autistic child.

My friend.

The next time you feel sorry for yourself, take a minute to check out these sites:

Autism Speaks--
Dr. Stanley Greenspan, developer of one of the most promising behavorial therapies for people with autism --

and learn something about the world of PDDs. And if you have a moment, stop to consider this mother and how her guidance has given this world an absolutely beautiful talented son.

And maybe, just maybe, you'll feel the same way I do about it.