The Long Overdue Italy Post

On my trip to Italy last month, I tried to do one sketch a day, and came pretty close to it. They aren’t exactly stunning works of art, but after not doing any drawing or painting for a year I was happy with them. Besides, a sketchbook makes for a great souvenir!

(I also took photos. They’ll get posted someday. Maybe.)

Piazza del Signori, Padua

Piazza del Signori, Padua

We flew into Milan and immediately took the train to Padua, where we walked around for four hours before enjoying Campari and Aperol spritzes on a piazza. We also had gelato and pizza because Italy. We ran across the 9/11 memorial (with a girder from one of the towers), got a bit lost, and got un-lost again. The next morning we saw the botanical garden, which has a palm planted in 1585 that inspired Goethe, and some very modern greenhouses. The hotel’s free breakfast was amazing–lots of pastries and cold cuts.

Outside the Artblu Cafe, Venice

Outside the Artblu Cafe, Venice

The next day we met up with the rest of the family in Venice, which looks like all the photos you’ve seen of it. We walked from Campo Santa Margarita near our Airbnb to the La Salute church, stopping for gelato twice because Italy. Dinner at Artblu involved Aperol spritz and gnocchi.

Then we had one full day in Venice. We walked to St. Mark’s Square and then to the Jewish ghetto. The Jewish history museum was interesting (and depressing–this is where the word “ghetto” comes from) and the synagogue we looked into was lovely.

That evening we had our obligatory gondola ride.

Gondolas in Venice

Gondolas in Venice

Bridge in Venice

Bridge in Venice


Friday we drove to Bardolino, a town on Lake Garda. It’s very touristy, but mostly German-speaking tourists. The American guidebooks barely knew it existed.

We had the best meal so far there. First, they brought us complimentary glasses of the local rose. Then we all decided to actually order first and second courses for once. I started with pasta with smoked salmon and zucchini ribbons in a cream sauce. That was followed by what turned out to be a salad of warm steak, fresh arugula and cherry tomatoes, Parmesan, and a wedge of lemon. We also had a local red wine. The other three adults had the mixed seafood grill which had too many legs for my taste (the octopus and white fish I tasted were delicious, though).

Despite being full we all decided dessert was a good idea. The tiramisus were nine cubic inches. It was amazing. And then, because we had not ingested enough, they brought us bottles of limoncello and Goccia Nera (licorice liqueur).

I did sketch the tiramisu but it looks like a drawing of a rectangle, so I didn’t bother to post it.

We had an afternoon in Verona, which is really emphasizing the Romeo & Juliet connection. The more interesting thing was the Roman arena. I’m pretty sure there was gelato in Verona, too.

In Milan, the main thing I wanted to see was the Duomo, a really fancy cathedral that looks like a fairy tale castle crossed with a seven-year-old’s idea of a wedding cake.

The best part there–other than the sculpture of the guy who got skinned and is wearing his skin as a cloak, which was clearly carved by someone who studied anatomy via dissection, which was illegal, yet this is in the cathedral–the other best part was you can climb 300 stairs up to the roof and walk among the spires where the frosting fairy threw up.

Then we wandered back toward our apartment via Sforza castle, a 14th century fortress where da Vinci lived for a time. Dinner included bacon and cheese risotto and a suspicious-looking Negroni.

Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia, Milan

Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia, Milan

We spent the whole next afternoon at the science and technology museum, housed in a former monastery. They have one long hall with models built from drawings in da Vinci’s notebooks, which were interesting to see. Plus some trains, planes, boats, and a submarine.

Random small tower near our dinner spot

I can’t remember if we had gelato in Milan. I guess I’ll have to go back someday.



Leave a Comment

Filed under Drawing, Life

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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Books

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!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Writing

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!)

Leave a Comment

Filed under Writing


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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Drawing

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:

Leave a Comment

Filed under Writing

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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Garden

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

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.


Filed under Garden

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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Writing