Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Blood Sucking for the Win!

Coronavirus Modified Vehicle

It was surreal today.

Due to my recent illness, my doctor ordered some blood tests for me. Not Covid, just my usual.

With my reduced immune-system, I was leery at best of going to the epicenter sick people. But rather go and get checked out, than end up in the hospital anyhow for something that could have been prevented.

I put on my lovely, handmade mask, and drove down. It was nice enough on the freeway for SoCal. Practically dead for what would normally be rush hour. The hospital has cordoned off all entrances except one, and they were checking everyone’s temperature. After a few failed attempts, the nurse finally passed me through. I received a sticker to prove I’d been checked, and off I went to the lab.

Usually, the lab is packed right before opening, which is why I hate going. This morning, only two other people were waiting. I took my number, and sat down to wait for them to open. I like that about the lab.  Doors are open, chairs are available, so you don’t have to stand in the hall. A “lab manager” came out to give us all instructions on how things would go, because it wasn’t going to be anything normal.

That was nice.

Covid Rush Hour
Usually, you don’t know if you should take the number and have a seat, take the number and stand in line, or just stand in line.  It’s always annoyed me how the desk workers snidely provide direction several minutes after someone walks in and looks around uncertain, then does the “wrong” thing.

Not today.

I get my blood drawn A LOT, so I know a good phlebotomist from one who is having a bad day. I got the bad morning drawer, and DAY-UM it hurt. She kept moving the needle around trying to find the vein.  I’m still sore.

After that, I was gone. The waiting room was still nearly dead, and so was the parking lot. Two things that are always overfilled and annoying. Crazy times.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Writing in the Time of Coronavirus

That's my desk and my Monster.
Hands OFF the Monster!

Slacking is what my marketing guru jokingly called me today as we were discussing my next newsletter. She wasn’t wrong. I’ve had a ton of stuff that I needed to do and simply haven’t done it. The novelty of working from home hasn’t quite worn off yet.

I’m extremely thankful that my job is one that: A) allows me to work from home; and B) allows me to work fulltime. I’m deeply concerned about all the friends, family, and acquaintances who have reported diminished or lost income due to the current global health crisis.

So, a quick update on what’s going on with me.

First, I was sick. It wasn’t Covid-19, but I’m extremely happy that my manager allowed me to start working from home nearly a full week before the orders in California came down strongly recommending stay-at-home. I was down for a good two weeks, and we had an interesting time getting DayQuil from the stores. Totally understandable given the panic that ensued the following week.

I’m better now.

I don’t love my desk, though. At one point, I became obsessed with rolltop desks, and through a friend in the furniture business, acquired one. It’s big, heavy, and hard to move around. It’s also dark under the hood.  It’s nice enough, and I’m happy to have it at all to work on. Set up was pretty quick once I headed home. All it took was a reasonably cheap monitor for me to hook my laptop into, and I was set. It took more time to clean off and clean out the rolltop desk than it did to actually set up my computer and get rolling.

I’m rolling now.

What a lovely bookmark!
Projects are apace. The Constable Aubrey novella—did I mention there’s a novella?—is still with my publisher for review. The audio version of THE CLOCKWORK DETECTIVE is moving forward. The same goes for the audio version of TEARS OF HEAVEN. I’m hoping to have more news for everyone in the coming months. Fingers crossed! I ran out of bookmarks from the Dickens' Festival in February, so I just ordered more. Those should be here in a couple weeks.

Books are still being written.

Work continues on the Marrin stand-alone book, the Jane stand-alone book, and the next Constable Aubrey novel. That is to say nothing is really happening. Bits and pieces of dialogue and scene description come to me from time to time, but actually sitting down, banging out the witty and the deep like I normally do when I’m on self-established deadlines. Rest assured, there will be more books, and they will be coming soonish if not soon.

Stay safe!

Above all, keep listening to the experts and following the advice being given. We’re still in the opening stages of this thing, and an abundance of caution is well warranted. It’s crazy to think that washing hands is one of the best things we can do—it almost seems TOO easy. But it’s true. My buddy, Dr. Rick, explained this too me repeatedly, and constantly urges me to continue the habit. Stay safe!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Dickens Fest Success

Poe and Twain preparing to toast . . . Queen Victoria . . .
or maybe each other . . . or maybe just have a drink!

It was a fantastic weekend at the Riverside Dickens Festival. This was the first time that I sat a vendor booth at a festival, and it really couldn’t have gone better. Well, it could have gone better, but given how everything played out, it went much better than it had any right to.

The first shout-out has to go to the Dickens Festival itself. They were very kind allowing me to join as a vendor, even though they didn’t have any real idea where to put me. Eventually, they categorized me as an artist, similar to someone selling their own blown-glass or oil canvases. I was neatly sandwiched between the educational folk, in their period-correct outfits, and the festival’s own bookstore which had Barnes & Noble versions of all the notable author-characters present at the festival like Dickens himself, Mary Shelley, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Phyllis Wheatley, and Charlotte Bronte.

My humble home for the past two days.
The first day, Saturday, went about how I would have expected. I had six copies of each of my four books for 24 books total. This would end up being a mistake, but we’ll get to that. I’d ordered some very lovely, very inexpensive pocketwatch pendants to give away with every purchase of a book. Those never arrived. I’d made the purchase over a month previous with the vendor’s assurance that they would arrive in time. They still haven’t come. We made do with the bookmarks I’d printed up that had my website and contact information, and it was fine.

A few character-actors stopped by the book, notably Charles Dickens himself and Mary Shelley. Harriet Beecher Stowe convinced me to sign and abstinence pledge, and Jane Austen perused through my books. Everyone was wonderful. My mother happened to be visiting when both Dickens and Shelley were there, so she engaged with the characters, and we had a lot of fun asking them questions and getting their “opinions”.

The rain came around 3:30. It had spattered a bit most of the afternoon, but it really picked up and did what it could toward the end of the festival’s run for Saturday. Our pop-up canopy—intended to provide us with shade—couldn’t quite keep up with the rain. It eventually started to leak at the seams and I had to take down all the books and store them. The festival bookstore allowed us to move all our boxes, chairs and table under their much more robust tent, so we didn’t have to take down in the rain.

We sold five books total.

Which was great! I figured we'd have a lot of people thumb through the books, pick up the bookmarks and I'd be out the effort of two days with one or two sales to show for it. Five and I was ecstatic!

Even Vincent Van Gogh signed!
Sunday is where I made my miscalculations. The weather was slightly warmer, though still overcast, but with no rain. This was still perfect for all of us in period costumes or steampunk versions of the same. I thought we might sell another five books, and so my stock was looking incredibly healthy. The actor for Samuel Clemens was taking his coffee with his wife when another woman asked for a picture with him, and Edgar Allen Poe stopped by the booth on his way to a reading, and that’s when an idea struck me. I decided to start asking them for their autographs on my personal proof-copy of THE CLOCKWORK DETECTIVE. Anyone who stopped in at the booth or passed close enough by that I could see their name tags, we brought in and got their autographs. They were all wonderful and eagerly played along, signing in their character’s name.

Because I knew the pendant pocketwatches were not going to make it, I’d found some pendant skeleton keys shipped same day (they arrived the next day, thanks Amazon) and we had those out on display to give away with any book purchases. There were so many more people at the festival on Sunday. Whether it was because I started inviting people to pick up the books and read them, or the pendants, or because I was looking sad and desperate, we started making a lot more sales. Around noon we sold out of the last copy of THE CLOCKWORK DETECTIVE. By 1:30pm we were out of all copies of TEARS OF HEAVEN, and down to the last copies of HELL BECOMES HER and COMPANY OFTHE DAMNED.

Twenty-two books in two days, and 17 of those in just four hours!

No one was going to buy the second or third book in a series, although many people still stopped by and checked them out, and they were happy enough to take a bookmark and a pendant. We decided to stay until all the bookmarks were gone. By 2:30 we gave away the last of those items. I had collected most of the autographs that I wanted, but had missed Charles Dickens for the rest of the day. We packed up our booth and loaded them out, then strolled through the festival looking for Dickens and any other notable characters to get their autographs. We caught up with him as he was speaking to an audience alongside Samuel Clemens, Louisa May Alcott and Charlotte Bronte. I already had the other three autographs, so we waited patiently for Dickens and he signed the first chapter of my book.

Even though I was tied to my booth most of the time, the Dickens Festival was so much fun. This will definitely go into the rotation as one of the events I’ll try to participate in again!

Friday, February 21, 2020

Book Angel Review

I remember this book!

Oh, nice! TEARS OF HEAVEN received a sweet little review from BookAngel:

This is an excellent take on this kind of story of Angels and Demons and their effect on the world. As the lead, Del is an interesting character and the twin threads of past and present helping to provide some insight in who she is and as a result comes across as far more nuanced than several others I have seen in the genre.



Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Time Out for Race

I'm told her lipstick is to die for!

Race, in the United States, is tricky.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is probably selling something.

As a reasonably affluent, white, male author writing female characters and characters of color there are always potential pitfalls and landmines. That’s not ALL I write, but I certainly write those things. Me being who I am, and my characters being who I write, certainly opens the door to criticism whether deserved or not. About a year ago, I was informed (well lectured/ranted at) that one of my novels was “racist”. It doesn’t matter which one.

I have blind spots.

I’m the first to admit it.

When criticism is legitimate, I learn from it.

Racism is real, and many authors who haven’t lived it, or dug into it, stumble and bloody their nose when attempting to write characters of color. I’ve started and rejected sharing the story above many, many times. Ultimately, it’s not worth addressing, but since race and racial politics are very much a thing, and since I’m not going to back down from writing the characters I want to write, it’s very much worth sharing a more recent discussion that came up.

For one of my works-in-progress, RELICS OF PURGATORY, I’m introducing a new character. She’s a black character. Not the first that I’ve written, but that doesn’t matter. As I do with all my characters, I needed to describe her hair. Calling black hair a very touchy, very political, very divisive issue, is pretty much the understatement of the last four-hundred years. I had very specific ideas about what her hair should look like, and I wasn’t willing to compromise those just to make my life easier. There’s no great detail there. It’s a line or two at most. But hair—or lack thereof—is very much a thing we use to describe and define ourselves so it’s on my checklist of fundamental character descriptions.

Daveed Diggs is SO talented!
Hair is about 8,000% more important for black Americans. While I’m certainly not an expert, I’m well aware of American history. As always with a subject I’m not fully comfortable, I started to do my research. When I approached a writing group for some assistance, I was overwhelmed with all the helpful suggestions by other authors. It’s so great that, at least this group, is very aware of the issues and pitfalls.

A few fell into the classic traps-and-tropes, which others were quick to educate.

What I was shocked by the—thankfully few—angry responses. I was accused of “self-censorship” by one and “virtue signaling” by another. It was even suggested that I wouldn’t “survive being a writer” if I was being “uber-sensitive” about this particular issue.

Laughable, but there it is.

WWADD—What would Alexander Dumas do?
The answers, in this case, are pretty simple.

It’s not self-censorship to use correct descriptive terminology. A writer dealing with firearms doesn’t call it a “clip” when really it’s a “magazine” and knows the difference between a semi-automatic and automatic weapons. Doing research on a touchy subject is hardly the overtly conspicuous humble-brag of virtue signaling, especially for a single descriptive line in a book of 80,000-plus words. Finally, being aware of history, including one of the great evils of the world and the centuries of fallout that have lingered like a cancerous growth, isn’t debilitating so much as it’s being a smart, inclusive writer.

I’m wholly unwilling to back down from the character that I’ve envisioned. I’m also wholly unwilling to turn a blind eye. As the late, great Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” That’s not only being a decent writer, that’s being a decent human. It’s literally the least that I can do, and since I know better, I’m not just happy to do more, I’m obligated.

Here’s a wonder site, Writing With Color, if you’re interested in the avoiding some of the landmines and pitfalls.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Riverside Dickens Festival & You & Me

Not to scale!

As I vaguely vagued to y’all about ten days ago, I’m doing a thing. I signed the contract yesterday to have a vendor booth at the Riverside Dickens Fest—25 Years of Wit and Wisdom. (Please Note: No actual wit or wisdom was harmed in the making of this festival.) Here are the details:

Where: Downtown Riverside

When: Saturday, February 22nd & Sunday, February 23rd

What: Selling and Signing books, talking about books, and reading books


As an added incentive, if you need one, I’ll be giving away mini pendant pocket watches with each purchase. Emphasis on both the mini and the pendant. While they actually do open and tell time, I am not responsible for any alternative universes they might open, or changes in the historical timeline that you are otherwise familiar with.

There will be a ton of other stuff that you can do at the Dickens Festival, including other vendors of various stuff, music, exhibitions of strength, a Victorian tea party, escape rooms, and probably Baby Yoda will show up to entertain the masses.

Ok, ok. Maybe not the ACTUAL Baby Yoda, but certain "a" Baby Yoda will be in appearance in some form.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Short-Listed!

I'm sure he died of natural causes!

Helluva weekend, folks!

The big news today is that THE CLOCKWORK DETECTIVE was shortlisted by Chanticleer International Book Awards for the OZMA, “. . . emerging talent and outstanding works in the genre of Fantasy Fiction.” You may recall that previously, the novel survived the slush pile to move into the long list. 

I actually held my breath when I started scrolling through.

The next stage is semi-finals, so fingers crossed for that.

In the meantime, I’ve submitted my Aubrey Hartmann novella BENEATH A FEARFUL MOON to my publisher. Here’s a small taste from the opening:

Pulled from the mill pond, the corpse was bloated, swollen into a horrible caricature with a bluish-gray pallor. Aubrey knelt to examine the man, torn between revulsion of his current state and fascination for how he died. Only scraps of cloth remained on his body at the wrists, ankles and neck as reminders of the clothes he’d worn. Long, deep gashes covered him in a rough zig-zag pattern from the top of his head down to his toes. They looked like knife or sword wounds in tight groups of three. She wasn’t going to touch him, but the slashes reminded Aubrey of a bear mauling, except without bite marks, and no part of him had been chewed and eaten. The mutilation made her think it was a deliberate.

No release date on this yet, but definitely this year, and hopefully quite soon!