Book Notes – January & February

Back in mid-February I decided it would be fun to post short thoughts on the books I’ve been reading. It’s taken me this long to do it because I keep reading (surprise!) and the list keeps getting longer.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld – This had been on my to-read list for awhile and I finally got around to it because it was the monthly selection for a book club on Goodreads. I’m glad I did because it was a lot of fun. I’m not a fan of books where girls have to disguise themselves as boys to get to do cool things, but the things she got to do (spoiler: flying whale!) were cool enough that I got over it. I kept wondering how the SPCA will develop in this world of highly modified animals.

Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson – I listened to the audiobook on my way to and from Confusion in January, where Johnson was the guest of honor. The characters were interesting people, and I liked the family interaction and the glimpse inside the wealthy DC world. And of course, the conspiracy.

The Bride Wore Size 12 – This is the final book in Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells mystery series about a former teen pop star in her mid-20s who now works as the assistant director of a college dorm in New York. A dorm where people keep getting killed, because Wells is the Jessica Fletcher of former teen pop stars. These are cute, funny, and fluffy. I read the opening of the first one in a writing class and got sucked in by the voice.

White Night – Book 9 in Jim Butcher’s Dresden files series – It took me five or six books to get into the series, but now I’m really enjoying it. That’s more than I usually give a series by at least 5 books, but I’d heard so many good things about it, and they’re quick reads, so I kept going. I’m halfway through book 10 now.

Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman – My audiobook nonfiction for December and January. All the ways criminals are going to use technology to screw us over in the future. Or even now. Full of great ideas for SF writers.

Patterns in the Sand by Sally Goldenbaum – A cozy mystery set in a seaside town full of artists in New England. The town sounds like a great place to visit for a summer vacation. The mystery plot worked well–I figured out part of it, but hadn’t quite put all the details together. That was partly because the huge number of knitter / artist characters were hard to keep straight. That’s what I get for starting with book 2 in the series.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – Gah. Thinking about this book still makes me sad, but it’s also a very hopeful book in a lot of ways. It’s the kind of book where you get to the end and have to immediately flip back to see what was really going on. I love that. Another one that had been on my to-read list for a while.

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The Ghost in the Woods – Urban Fantasy novel coming in 2019

I’ve mentioned this in a few places but not put anything official here yet. I’m writing a book for Ed Greenwood’s Onder Librum project. The Ghost in the Woods is currently scheduled for publication in early 2019.
Winterknight Towers Logo
I’m thrilled to be a part of this project, which is ambitious and exciting: 15 different settings from fantasy to SF to horror, each with novels, short stories, games, and more.

It’s a weird feeling to have a publication date for a book I’ve only just started writing. In the meantime, the first several novels in the first setting have already been published–and right now they’re 20% off. Enjoy!

My book is in the Winterknight Towers setting. It takes place in central Illinois, so I’ve been enjoying reading up on local history while I do research. Here’s the blurb for the setting:

Death is not the end. The stately manors, castles and centuries-old buildings of our modern world are more than just landmarks of our past… they are homes and waystations for the ghosts of our ancient dead, connected by a mysterious network of otherworldly gates.

When the flesh-and-blood residents of these grand locations become ensnared in the plots and schemes of these wayward specters, they discover that the passions and desires of life do not end at the grave… and can become most inconvenient, perhaps even deadly, complications to the world of the living. In the world of Winterknight Towers, the crossroads of Life and Death is a busy intersection where love, laughter, and murder collide.

The schedule of book releases will be posted soon. If you want a heads up when that happens, sign up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know!

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Solarpunk Anthology Calls

Recently I’ve run across a couple anthologies looking for hopeful stories about climate change. Looks like people are tired of gloom and doom, or maybe even looking for solutions. Hooray!

Ecopunk, Ticonderoga Publications

“We are looking for optimistic stories envisioning the future of our world as we are impacted by and adapt to climate change. New narratives of radical transformation and sustainability.”

Story length: 2k-10k words

Payment: 2 copies of print anthology and Aus 5 cents/word (GST inc., maximum payment AUD$500) on publication.

Submissions open from May 15 to June 30 2016.

Sunvault, Upper Rubber Boot

“The anthology will focus on times of environmental crisis and the people inhabiting these tipping points, fighting to effect change and seek solutions, even if it’s already too late. But these are stories of hope, not just disaster!”

Story length: 500 to 7500 words

Payment: US$0.06/word for original stories, or $50/$100 for reprints depending on length

Submissions will open once their kickstarter (planned for April) is fully funded.

Earth Day Contest, Sapiens Plurum

Not an anthology. The top 3 stories will be published on their website. They’re looking for heroic and inspirational stories.

Story length: 1500-3000 words

Payment: $300, $500, or $1000

Open now; deadline is April 22, 2016 (Earth Day!)

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Last month I spent a week in Barbados with some friends. It was a wonderful trip with good people. We did a lot of swimming and reading and some tourist things. I brought my colored pencils and watercolors expecting to not use them as much as I planned, but I did a fair amount of sketching.

I also took a few hundred photos, mostly of water and clouds, but I haven’t sorted through them all yet.

These two are going to turn into real paintings someday:



Both are views from the villa we stayed in. Every day, we woke up early to sunlight and birdsong and walked out the back door to go snorkeling. I could use another month or three of that.

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Gen Con Writing Panels

Two weeks ago I was in Indianapolis for Gen Con, my fifth time there. I found three games to buy, none of which are out yet. So that saved me some money.

The writer’s symposium was well attended and everything I was at went very well. For once I not only took notes at the panels but actually posted them. They’re on my writing group’s blog:

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Caterpillar Poker

Monarch caterpillar

The dill is winning right now, with a straight flush of all the black swallowtail instars on a single plant.

The milkweed is catching up, though. Yesterday I found its ace: a huge monarch caterpillar. And then today, a much smaller one. The milkweed is infested by a giant colony of aphids that I’ve been dabbing with rubbing alcohol, but seems to be thriving anyway.

In not-my-garden news, my neighbor cut down his giant honeysuckle bushes, which makes me happy since I’ve been going to the park work days once a month and cutting down honeysuckle. This variety is invasive, and the less of it in my neighborhood, the better.

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More stories inflicted on the world

Way back in January I sold two short stories! The first of them is out now: “Sticking Together” in Abyss & Apex. The story got a brief good review at SFRevu. I think that’s the first time one of my stories has been reviewed, so I’m glad they liked it.

The other story, “All That Matters,” will be in Schoolbooks & Sorcery, an anthology of YA urban fantasy stories involving magic. (School and magic: I’m looking forward to reading the other stories!) There’ll be a kickstarter for that coming soon.

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Note to self re: the contents of my garden

My plants are big enough to remind me what I planted where! Why no, I didn’t use markers or make notes. That takes the surprise out of it.

From west to east:
* Peas, plus a not-insignificant amount of volunteer lettuce, plus the one lettuce plant that inexplicably survived the winter and should be honored by never being eaten
* Chard (probably)
* A big hole courtesy of a squirrel, or possibly a Vroon
* The remnants of the radishes
* Spinach (probably)
* Lettuce (the actual lettuce patch, not the volunteers)
* Plus more peas and probably chard on the north side of the bed

Also including innumerable violets and tiny coneflowers.


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Read my story “Alpaca Tricks” in Fictionvale

My short story “Alpaca Tricks” is out in Fictionvale‘s December issue.

Kylie is determined to win an alpaca obstacle course competition when a strange, suspiciously well-trained alpaca arrives at the barn, with an owner hiding a secret that makes him just as determined as Kylie.

I’ve been intrigued by alpacas since I interviewed a family who owned some for an article back in journalism school, so I’m delighted to see this story out in the world.

You can buy the Fantasy/Mystery mashup issue directly from Fictionvale (you get a zip with Kindle, ePub, and PDF files), or from Amazon.

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BLTTs and Fall Fun

On the way home from work the other night, I was grumbling about having to make tofu for dinner. I keep looking for good tofu recipes, but we always end up falling back on stir fry. I didn’t want to do all that chopping only to end up with a meal that’s only ok.

Luckily, when I walked into the house the bowl of tomatoes caught my eye. I’d been meaning to have BLTs ever since the tomatoes started getting ripe. I ended up slicing the tofu into thin slabs and frying it in the bacon skillet once the bacon was done (best tofu ever). The bacon, lettuce, tomato, and tofu sandwiches turned out quite tasty.


I still plan my life in semesters. Here’s what I’ll be doing this fall:

• Writing, of course. I’m working on a short story to be finished this month, I plan to write a novella in November, and I have various things in various stages of revision to finish up and send out.

I also have a new story coming out in November: Fictionvale is publishing “Alpaca Tricks” in their mystery issue. This was a fun story to write. I watched a bunch of alpaca obstacle course competitions on YouTube.

• Tennis. I rejoined the singles league I was in a couple years ago. I’ve been playing doubles all summer, and the Thursday workout we go to is mostly doubles, so playing singles is tough. Tennis courts get really big when you have to run back and forth across them for over an hour.

• Painting. I signed up for an introductory acrylic painting class. Then it was canceled because no one but me registered. They moved me to the second session. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll either try to switch to a drawing class or find some tutorials online.

• A Coursera class called Designing Cities that covers the history of cities, current urban issues, and possible future cities. In addition to being interesting, it might be a good source of story ideas.

Some recent posts from my writing group’s blog:

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