Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review: The Abyss Surrounds Us

The Abyss Surrounds Us The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pirates. Sea monsters. Giant laser pointers. Girls kissing.

I feel like that's sufficient to tell you why this is a 5 star review, but I'll elaborate.

So it's the future and there are pirates. What's a society to do? That's right - genetically engineer enormous sea monsters and teach them to follow wrist-mounted laser pointers aimed at pirate ships!
All is well and good until the pirates obtain a monster pup and force a young trainer to raise him to be ebil. Her life, the monster's, and a pretty pirate girl's all hang in the balance.

It sounds like I'm mocking it. I'm so not. I genuinely loved this.
It's got great action scenes out of a summer blockbuster and so much tension. No one is good or bad, and it's an amazing look into morality and how we justify our actions. The main character kills some people. And she feels good about it - it's a triumph for her and her monster - but she feels bad about feeling good.

I wasn't impressed with the ableist slurs thrown around in a few chapters, but at the same time, they're kids. Pirate kids. They're not going to stop and say "Maybe I'm using words that are offensive to mentally disabled people."

But all in all, an exciting book with some great female characters. Everyone needs to read this.

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 22, 2017

People Watching (and Jen Pretends to Care about Sports!)

I love people watching. You can get so many ideas for characters that way.

And I don't know if I'm just noticing them more, or if Oneonta has experienced an influx of interesting people lately, but I've been making a list of my favorite strangers. Those people who you see and just want to say "TELL ME ALL ABOUT YOUR FASCINATING LIFE."

Feel free to adopt them for your own stories.

  • Big, tough, Italian-looking man in a monster truck shirt, eating ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.
  • Duck-Dynasty-type fella - long gray beard, get-off-my-lawn face, so much camouflage - getting out of a pickup truck. Which had a Pokeball antenna bopper.
  • Guy dressed in what first appeared to be a robe but ended up being a full karate outfit, going through self-checkout at Walmart with a large pack of assorted Tupperware.
  • The Twelfth Doctor drinking a milkshake. (Okay, maybe not a very interesting stranger but he looked so much like Peter Capaldi from Doctor Who that I'm almost wondering if there was a costume contest going on somewhere. He even had the sunglasses.)
  • Guy casually walking down Main Street in a hospital gown with his well-dressed friend. It was tied and he had shorts and a shirt on underneath. They were several blocks from the hospital or any doctor's office.
  • Old man with long beard, cowboy hat, and Rottweiler, his arms crossed as he watched a street cleaning machine. He and the dog both looked very critical.

And now, sports.
Yes, sports. Also known as "kind of like Quidditch but without the good parts."
I don't care much for sports that don't involve broomsticks, but my friend Penny's grandson, Cody Bellinger, is on the LA Dodgers. And he's awesome. Breaking all the records (or some of them. I don't know. Sports).
And we're trying to get him in the All Star Game as a write-in for the outfield on the National League team. I don't know how many people I'll reach with my little writing blog and Twitter, but I thought I might as well try because Penny is the best.
If you want to fill out a ballot, here's the link: https://www.mlb.com/all-star/ballot?tcid=ASG17_mlb_homepagemediawall (you can pick random people or you don't have to fill out the whole thing)

So, have you ever seen an interesting stranger?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fire Anthology

I love a good coincidence.

So, Rhonda Parrish is editing an anthology called Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinns, with a submission call for stories about creatures associated with fire.

I've been slowly writing a story to submit, but was worried it was too far off from what she would want. My fire creature is the Beast, my adaptation of the Greek chimera but set in a prehistoric Africa. The Beast terrorizes early humans, marking for death any who dare make eye contact.

But through her reign of terror, she (inadvertently?) gives them the nudges they need to evolve into modern humans, burning down their trees and forcing them to walk upright and develop tools. I'm nearing the end now, and I think it involves my main character learning to use fire.

But in an anthology filled with magic and dragons, is there room for my strange little invented folktale?

Yes. Rhonda just posted a wishlist for the anthology. She says:

"I’d like something that dates back to when humans first gained control over fire. Whether this takes the form of something set in prehistoric times or a take on more of a ‘How raven brought fire to the people’ or ‘How Prometheus stole fire from the gods’ type thing… well, that would be up to you."
So I'm pleased, and confident in my story's chances at being considered. Now I just have to, you know, finish it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Craft Time!

You know that feeling when you've made a baby hat but you don't have a baby to model it?

Alternate caption: When you have to Google "what age baby has the same head circumference of a large cat?" to know if your hat will fit.

My poor Sulley.
Actually, he doesn't really mind wearing hats. As long as he can shake them off, he'll just sit there calmly for a while. (His annoyed look is because there's a camera in his face.) And he's never played with yarn or tried to take my projects apart. He's a good boy.
(And yes, I know I should be trying to keep cat hair out of things made for babies with sensitive skin. The yarn is too scratchy for a baby anyway and the hat was just me practicing increasing and decreasing before I did a hat for myself.)

And then I made this for my aunt.

It's cross stitched, about six inches across I think.
(That blue string at the bottom is not attached and wasn't noticed until after we took the picture.)
And this is the pattern I made for my current project. It's a parasaurolophus!
(Art tip: Can't draw feet? Add foliage!)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


On the first Wednesday of every month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group encourages writers to talk about their insecurities.

I'm revising. And that's the worst part of writing because, even though I love making all the pieces fit, it doesn't feel productive and there's random attacks of "WHAT IF I FIX IT AND IT'S STILL AWFUL?????"
Am I wasting my time on this when I could be working on something better? How would I know when it's time to give up on a project? Is my lack of interest because I have ADHD and can't stick to one project, or because it's boring?
But some interesting developments on one story have reignited my interest. In my notes for Blue Incarnations, I mention Flarpball a lot. Flarpball was a placeholder I used because I wasn't sure what sports would exist in the future, and it was never supposed to be part of the book past draft one.
Until a friend on Twitter got involved. He asked me something about Flarpball, I said "I don't know. I kind of imagined it like lacrosse but on hoverboards" and next thing I know he sends me the history and gameplay of Flarpball.
And it's awesome. And it fits in with my world and uses technology that might actually fix some plot problems!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Revenge of the Editing Notes

I'm revising FreakShow. The notes from my revise & resubmit are incredibly helpful and I agree with them.
But you pull one plot thread, and the whole thing unravels.
I changed one scene. One. And now I need to change the next five chapters and probably delete two more, except for the important information in those chapters that I have to fit in somewhere else.

Anyway. Big bunch of notes from the end of Blue Incarnations. Now I just have to actually edit it.
I'm surprisingly pleased with the end, but it'll be a lot of work to make the beginning match it in quality. Or plot.



This sword was pointless.

(I swear that pun was unintended.)

"His moustache makes him look like he has a squirrel stapled to his face." I forgot about this line! I love it so.

The president is also gay? This is amazing.

Bobson. That's the best last name you could think of?

Really. Children shouldn't be planning assassinations. REALLY?

WOW THAT WAS SO ELOQUENT NOT. (I have this written in the actual manuscript but the line it refers to isn't that bad?)

Remember: just because I can't imagine anyone but Jeff Goldblum playing this character doesn't mean I should add a Jurassic Park reference here. Even if they ARE being chased and he IS looking in a mirror and they really MUST go faster.

Somehow I doubt "swearer-inner" is a real job title.

I assume by "I slide down the window" you meant she opens the car window, but it took me a second to figure out that she isn't a Wacky Wall Walker.

And Carey is fat again. (I swear this man changes size every scene.)

I don't think that part of the helicopter is called "feet bars."

NO. She does not have extraterrestrial boobies. Try "unfamiliar" instead of "alien." (She currently has the memories of her male past life uploaded into her brain, and he is finding her anatomy distressing.)

And Carey is skinny again.

What a very subtle transition, not.

Find a better name for the bad guys than "BGs." I keep seeing it as "Bee Gees" and Barry Gibbs has no business in this story.

Can we call them the Knights on Broadway?

No, that would be ridiculous. (...right?)

We need to nail down once and for all which one is Sasha.

Okay, knock it off. I think FreakShow filled my "OMG stars are so pretty!!!" quota for the millennium.

And Carey is fat again.

How many times has she almost had a Winnie the Pooh incident?

People don't sidle often enough.

"This one dispenses of whatever semblance of charm and warmth of the last." What even is this attempt at a sentence?

In which a fruit plate is a major plot point.

OMG, seriously. Stop being surprised by the awful things your corrupt government is doing.

And now Carey is tall. No mention of weight.

The character I imagine as Jeff Goldblum is described as rubbing his hands together like a fly and I don't know if that was an intentional reference to The Fly or not.

One of the Sashas is now named Rosita apparently and I don't know which one. I really need to name these people better.

Do better glazier foreshadowing.

Let's use three different tenses in one sentence. Omg.

She never said that because these last chapters are from a book with a better beginning than the one you wrote.

Ooh, those jungle scenes are going to be full of Legends of the Hidden Temple references, aren't they?

You forgot who she threatened? It was like two pages ago.

Chief Justice changed his name there.

Let's finally add a backstory for Phyllis. In the epilogue.

Okay that ending was actually good.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review: River of Teeth

River of Teeth River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What if America imported hippos, put them in the Mississippi River to eat the water lillies, and then farmed them for meat?
This is an actual historical thing that almost happened, and Sarah Gailey's debut novella takes that idea, tweaks the timeline and technology a bit, and gives the world the gift that is River of Teeth.

I don't even know where to begin on how much I love this book.

The human characters. Could they BE any more diverse and amazing? (Oh no, I've become Chandler from Friends.) From fat and fabulous French lady to older nonbinary black person to knife-wielding pregnant Latina badass... Not once did I forget who a character was, and that's saying something.
The hippos. Different breeds and such personality! Ruby has gold plated tusks, because of course she does.
The caper. Sorry, not a caper - an operation. Explosions and riverboat casinos and hippos who eat people! What more could you want?

Speaking of.
This book does something that gives it a sense of excitement and danger. It kills off characters. The movie Serenity did this really effectively, too, and I'll avoid spoilers for both but this is the general idea:
"These characters all seem very important to the plot. Oh. Wow. So that person died. I liked them. WAIT. Now we're killing off THEM? Well now I'm convinced anyone can die and WAIT THAT'S MY FAVORITE CHARACTER DO NOT PUT THEM IN ANY SORT OF DANGER!!!!!"

So yes. An amazingly fun western with hippos that everyone needs in their life.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Review: Legend

Legend Legend by Marie Lu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, I enjoyed this book. Like, "Yes, I know I should eat and we have nine episodes of Twelve Monkeys I really want to watch, but I have 60 pages left and I need to finish this" levels of enjoyment.
Exciting and conspiracies and secrets! A political dystopia that feels a little too possible and realistic!
(I read it too fast and can't remember when all the twists happen, so that's all I'm comfortable saying without risking spoiling any of the exciting bits.)

I don't know how I feel about June. She feels kind of cold at times, the distant genius, analytical, Temperance Brennan type. I mean, at one point she gets cut and her first thought is that it must be a serrated knife to cut her skin that way.
But at the same time, I totally love her because that's exactly what I would do. And while I want to fault her for being so loyal to the Republic for so long, I can't because I know how hard it is to stop trusting the thing you've believed in for your entire life.
(And this has been another installment of "Jen can't even write a simple book review without bringing up her issues with her father or comparing herself to a genius." *eyeroll*)

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review: Time Salvager

Time Salvager Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Hello, people reading this on my blog. I think I finally figured out how to sync my Goodreads account with my blog so I don't have to copy and paste everything.)

More like 2.5 stars, but I'll round up.
I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. Time travel, cool technological doodads that give you basically superpowers, conspiracies, SPACE...
In the future, time travelers go back in time to collect things that they can use as energy. I think. I don't know if it's not fully explained or if I just didn't get it. Anyway. James is tired of watching people die, and he saves a scientist from the disaster he's salvaging, bringing her to a future where her beloved Earth has become a toxic wasteland. This is extremely against the rules and the company he works for will execute the both of them if they're caught. Except suddenly, they want the scientist alive.
Which is all very well and good and exciting, except I just couldn't get into it.
James is a jerk who just wants to drink and be miserable, which is completely understandable given his life but is also a bummer to read. (Very technical literary term, "bummer".) Elise is at least an adorable bright spot.
I found that I didn't care about the bad guys' storyline at all, but as a writer I get how that was a good way to convey the information that the other characters didn't know.
The story was never boring enough to make me want to stop reading. It was just a slow read that sounded much better on the jacket, and I'm excited to be able to read something else.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I Made Things and Notes

This hat started out as an attempt at following an actual pattern, but the biggest ladies size was too small so I had to wing it. It's still pretty tight because I have a very large head.


And a tiny cross stitch of my kitty, Sulley. I think it's about 2 square inches, so small that you can't even see that I even did pupils in the eyes.

And now my editing notes.


You stole that line from Fringe and you know it.

[if this was set in modern day, I would make an Inside Out reference here]


I want this scene to go on forever and I want it to be a sitcom starring Kristen Bell and Mayim Bialik.

(You know you're not hip to current young people media when you try to think of actors to play your teenage characters and all you can think of are Kristen Bell and Mayim Bialik.)

You forgot that cameras are a thing again, didn't you?

Let's use flavors of soda as code to decide whether we're going to take down the government!

Gay Supreme Court justice! Are there any straight people in this book?

Not that I'm complaining. At all. I just forgot.

At some point you should have a plan. This is all so confusing.

You don't know fashion - you're still dressed like Star Trek Hillary Clinton.

Where are we supposed to think Carey is and why don't phones exist?

Who do you think you are, using the word "influx"?

"Bricks can't exactly be categorized as igneous, metamorphic, or... you know, the third one. Sedimentary." This coming from a geologist.

Newsflash: bricks are not rocks!

Wait, why do they suddenly just find a sword in a wine cellar?

Since when is Phyllis Walker, Texas Ranger?

You did not just use the term "ebil political views."

Now is not the time to admire a tunnel.

No, the kitten in kitten heels does not refer to a fancy shade of blue. If you know enough to identify them as kitten heels, you should know that.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

More Blue Incarnations Notes

I swear I don't actually hate this book. xD

There's a good story in here about love and destiny and trusting yourself... It's just hidden under so much awfulness that resulted from me having no idea what story I was trying to tell.

And it's just so much fun to mock myself.



"Justice Morgan, formerly known as [where do justices come from?]" I literally don't even know what you were trying to say or why it confused you so.

HEY LOOK! Romance and a metaphor and neither are incredibly stupid!

Most people do not grin with their hands.

Note to self: Find a better name for "thingy."

Also note to self: Saying "note to self" in your personal notes is redundant.

I might know why I used all the Walking Dead names! It might have been a "look at the flowers" reference! (In my book, looking at a specific flower led to someone's death and basically the entire plot.)

Is there Winnie the Pooh in the future?

Summary of this scene: "Why are you bleeding so much?" "There was a cute girl so I tried to be a ninja."

""Careful, broken glass is sharp!" I yell to Phyllis because I'm helpful like that." Oh my god this girl is a dork.

Are there sardines in the future?

Siren song of an ambulance. I see what you did there.

Is there tennis in the fut--NO. THERE IS ONLY FLARPBALL.

"I don't know how to stop someone from blackmailing someone." That's unfortunate because neither do I and it's the whole point of the plot.

Youngify Sophie.

In which flarpball is actually an important plot point.

Zippy could be Mitchell.

SERIOUSLY. You have a perfectly good Mitchell and you're wasting page time on this Mike-from-Breaking-Bad named Bob?

Sasha update: One of the Sashas is now named Tara. I have no clue which one.


Yes, folks. This is the second Chapter 11 because I was too lazy to scroll up and check. I do not expect this to go well from here on.

I love that the characters have no plan because clearly neither did you.

Oh, I remember this. It's very stupid.

Wait, it's worse than I thought. It's Colonial Williamsburg but with more Furbys. WHY!?

I don't think composure is a type of shirt.

Yeeeah. Explain this way earlier. Like in that dinosaur sex ed class she didn't go to. (I really love this note for some reason.)

Bad guys are coming to kill you. But YES. Now is the perfect time to complain that you were taller in a past life.

Stealthy locales? STEALTHY. LOCALES. The term you're looking for is "hiding places."

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

ISWG and Notes

On the first Wednesday of every month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group encourages writers to talk about their insecurities.


Each month, they also have an optional question to answer. This month it's:

What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?


Oh boy. Where do I begin?

Whether or not whales are kosher. How to evade a police chase. Would dinosaurs taste like chicken?

But I like when I actually learn something because of wacky research and it turns out to be useful. Yesterday I had this conversation with my mom:

Mom: I wonder how often [our friends] need to change the batteries on the dog's invisible fence collar.

Me: Every six months to a year.

Mom: Oh, you looked it up for them?

Me: ...no. But I did have a story where they had to keep dinosaurs out of the town, and I thought they could attach invisible fence things to them when they're young, but then I learned how often the batteries should be changed and that isn't practical once the tyrannosauruses are adults.



So I started revising FreakShow the other day. Guess what song was on the radio yesterday? American Pie, the song I apparently only hear when I'm working on that book.


Aaaand editing notes!

How many names can I seriously steal from The Walking Dead before people catch on? Because these characters really feel like they should be named Rick and Tyrese, and the girl should be Sophia.

Yes, let's speak in code in case the MIND READING ROOM has hidden microphones.

I don't know what this is but it is most assuredly not grammar.

Who took care of the bodies? GASP. Was it Carey's husband, whose name I have just decided is Mitchell?!


Oh, hey, humor! Do that more often.

"She slapped on a [future bandaid]." This is worse than when every other adjective was "space."

You live in a totalitarian dystopia, Diane. Stop being surprised when things are awful.

I distinctly remember giving her the last name Clavel as a nod to Miss Clavel from Madeleine. I do not remember why.

No. They can't know what their names would be in the future. That is not how past lives work.

No. Stop with the backwards Q. That isn't a thing.

I would have thought vinyl chairs would have been outlawed in the future.

What is this eyelash flower you speak of?

[what do smells smell like?] That is an actual thing I thought would be helpful to have in my manuscript.

[crime!] I love that you felt the need to put an exclamation point.

[what was her name? Sasha? I'mma go with Sasha, and see if anyone catches on that I'm stealing names from TWD] A: She didn't have a name so you didn't actually forget it, B: There are absolutely no zombies or apocalypses so I don't know why you chose to steal names from The Walking Dead, and C: There are two people in this scene and at some point you call them both Sasha.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

News, Revise and Resubmit, and Notes

So. Busy day for me means a long post. We'll get to the editing notes in a minute, but I got two emails within 30 minutes today that were slightly exciting.
First, my short story Chrysalis will be made into a podcast that will air on Cast of Wonders as part of their Little Wonders collection in mid-July. Exact date to come.

And then there was the rejection for my novel.

I know what you're thinking. "You said this was exciting?" It is, I swear!

This was a rejection on my first full manuscript request for FreakShow, and while I was really hoping it would be accepted, the editor gave me a lot of great notes and said I could resubmit if I wanted to revise my novel.

In a way, it kind of hurts to see paragraph after paragraph of things I did "wrong." I love this book so much, and the perfectionist in me sees all criticism as a personal attack (even though I know it isn't). And then there's the feeling that I somehow disappointed the editor, which I don't think is true.

But I don't really disagree with anything she said, and I kind of feel like I should have seen these problems before I submitted it.

You know the big exciting thing, though? There were a few parts and characters I love (Billie, m' dear, I'm looking at you, you darling little knife-wielding nutjob) that I worry other people won't "get", and as I read the notes, I kept expecting to see "This whole plotline seems unnecessary." But all my favorite bits were "spared." Nice things were said about some of them, too. (And those of you who've read my editing notes for this novel will appreciate this: absolutely no mention of how I kept using birds to symbolize other birds!)

I feel like I should be dreading the idea of editing this again, but honestly? I'm kind of looking forward to going back to the FreakShow world again and making it even better.


Okay. Making the longest post even longer, I'm slowly working my way through the awful first draft of Blue Incarnations, my young adult novel. Join me as I laugh at myself, won't you?

"CHAPTER 6 GOES HERE"? Are you freaking kidding me?

Wait, then immediately after that I have what appears to be all of chapter 6?

Why is Carey dressed like Elton John from the 1970s but also from the future?

The best thing I can say about this scene? It's very short.

Blue Incarnations first draft drinking game: take a drink every time I forgot whether Carey was tall and gangly or very fat.

I don't know if all these jungle references are on purpose or not, but it's getting to be about as annoying as when you kept symbolizing birds with other birds.


You have definitely eaten recently, Diane. There was a super important scene all about it. Twice.

And here I thought being finished with FreakShow meant we were done with scenes where people go "Omg stars are so pretty!"

SHE'S GAY. ALWAYS. (I originally had her realize she was attracted to girls after meeting the love interest. This was my subtle way of telling myself to have her know from the beginning.)

I highly doubt the government is going to be overthrown because they unscrew the lids on the salt shakers, Jen. I mean, there IS something in between "juvenile pranks" and "political assassination."

Obliviate is not a word. Problem is, I have no idea what word you were thinking of. (Used in the context of "Advancements in technology helped the computer obliviate the need for typewriters." I MIGHT have meant "eliminate"?)

Rubber bands don't have the mental capacity to repent. Your metaphor is invalid.

Oh YAY. (<--sarcasm) We've reached the part of the book where you gave up and named everyone after Walking Dead characters for some reason.


So yeah. That was my day. :D

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Book Review: Stranger

(image from Goodreads)


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Equus Cover Reveal!

Today my blog is participating in a cover reveal! And it's sooo pretty!

World Weaver Press has announced Equus, an anthology of short fantasy stories about horses, unicorns, centaurs, and other equine mythology edited by Rhonda Parrish, will be available in trade paperback and ebook Tuesday, July 18, 2017.

There’s always something magical about horses, isn’t there? Whether winged or at home in the water,
mechanical or mythological, the equines that gallop through these pages span the fantasy spectrum. In one story a woman knits her way up to the stars and in another Loki's descendant grapples with bizarre transformations while fighting for their life. A woman races on a unique horse to save herself from servitude, while a man rides a chariot through the stars to reclaim his self-worth. From steampunk- inspired stories and tales that brush up against horror to straight-up fantasy, one theme connects them all: freedom.

Featuring nineteen fantastic stories of equines both real and imagined by J.G. Formato, Diana Hurlburt, Tamsin Showbrook, M.L.D Curelas, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, VF LeSann, Dan Koboldt, J.J. Roth, Susan MacGregor, Pat Flewwelling, Angela Rega, Michael Leonberger, Sandra Wickham, Stephanie Cain, Cat McDonald, Andrew Bourelle, Chadwick Ginther, K.T. Ivanrest, and Jane Yolen.

Equus is the newest installment of Rhonda Parrish’s “Magical Menageries” anthology series, preceded by Fae (2014), Corvidae (2015), Scarecrow (2015), and Sirens (2016). Equus will be available in trade paperback and ebook via Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, World Weaver Press, and other online retailers, and for wholesale through Ingram.

Rhonda Parrish is driven by the desire to do All The Things. She was the founder and editor-in-chief
of Niteblade Magazine, is an Assistant Editor at World Weaver Press, and is the editor of several
anthologies including, most recently, Sirens and C is for Chimera. In addition, Rhonda is a writer whose work has been included or is forthcoming in dozens of publications including Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast, Imaginarium: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing (2012 & 2015), and Mythic Delerium. Her website, updated weekly, is at rhondaparrish.com.

World Weaver Press is an independently owned publisher of fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction.
We believe in great storytelling.

Publication Date: July 18, 2017 • Anthology • Fantasy / Science Fiction
$13.95 trade paperback, 325 pages • $4.99 ebook
ISBN-13: 978-0998702209
Publicity/Reviews: publicity@worldweaverpress.com

Saturday, April 15, 2017

I Finished a Cross Stitch Thing!

I am a crafty little dino dork.

And here's my first finished cross stitch project!

It's easier to read in real life, but it says "Goodness gracious - we've reached the late Cretaceous," which is a line from the Magic Schoolbus episode about dinosaurs. (That was such a good, educational kid's show; I can't count how often I quote it in daily life.)

Because I'm a nerd, all the animals featured are actually from the late Cretaceous.

Going clockwise from the top left: A tyrannosaurus skull, a parasaurolophus, dinosaur footprints, a pterosaur, two velociraptors (with feathers, like they had in real life), a hatching parasaurolophus (technically the babies weren't born with head crests, but then they probably weren't purple, either - I'm willing to take creative liberties for adorableness), and a sauropod.

The whole thing is about four inches square, done on 11 count Aida fabric with two strands of floss.

I thought cross stitch would be an good craft for me because my muscular dystrophy limits my movement and strength while my fine motor skills are generally unaffected. I had to cut the fabric smaller than I wanted because it was unwieldy, and sometimes my arm fell over while I was pulling a thread that was a little too long, but overall I'm very pleased with the experience.

My mom is less than thrilled at my calling it "analog pixel art," but I grew up recoloring Pokemon sprites. Working in tiny squares comes natural to me.

I designed all the patterns myself (I traced the outline of the skull from a picture). Here they are, along with some extras I didn't use. Feel free to use and share them if you want (and I can do custom designs if anyone needs anything).


Dinosaurs are just about my favorite thing ever. I've always been a dinosaur nerd. My favorite movie when I was 5 was Jurassic Park, and I so idolized Drs. Grant and Sattler.

I loved the chase scenes and the science, but one of my favorite parts of the movie is actually the boring beginning part before they go to the park. The dig. That's what I liked. I always felt like I should have been a paleontologist.

I think that's one of the few things that I can't do because of my disability that actually bothers me. But any time I learn a new skill, I use it to make dinosaurs.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Return of the Editing Notes

On April 19, World Weaver Press is revealing the cover of their new equine-themed fantasy anthology Equus, which will be available in paperback and ebook on July 18. And I'm part of the reveal team, so come on back here next Wednesday to see the cover (it's real pretty, you guys).

Now, on to the editing notes. The first draft of Blue Incarnations is not improving. Most of it isn't actually that bad, but the bad parts are reeeaally bad. (You can tell by how many times I use "omg" in my notes.)

  • This is a chase sequence! Stop describing the scenery!
  • Wait. Hold up. Did she just super casually remember very specific details about her past life? You know, the thing she can't do BECAUSE IT'S THE ENTIRE PLOT OF THE BOOK?
  • Is there mall jail in the future?
  • Aaaand "Namey Namerson" wins the prize for stupidest placeholder name ever.
  • "Don't you have a wishing well to patrol?" Best insult ever.
  • So this is the Jetsons then. Because I get how maybe adding water to a futuristic food tablet could fill a glass with a chocolaty beverage. But no way can it put a cherry on top. OMG fix the science!
  • Is she seriously surprised by the fact that she died in a past life? What exactly does she think happened to make it a PAST life?
  • Omg stop talking about flarpball. It isn't a sport.
  • Yeah you totally stole that scene from an episode of Rugrats.
  • "Focus groups indicate cursive is the most sympathetic writing style." I don't remember writing so much of this book.
  • Yeeeah, the file clerks are clearly not the enemy here.
  • Convenient plot time is convenient.
  • Is there a better way to do this major plot point that doesn't involve whimsical fridge magnets?
  • I think Gran would rather you get her out of jail and then go have girly funtimes in the city.
  • Pineapples. They're not pines, they're not apples... what's up with that? Omg was she Jerry Seinfeld in a past life?
  • It's not mindreading if the other person says their thoughts out loud.
  • "Pride, not hide." Well, it rhymes but it's still a stupid slogan.
  • It's the future. Do men still wear ties?
  • I find myself doubting every detail I add: "It's the future. Would there still be eggs, or are chickens extinct? Are velociraptors farmed for eggs?"
  • *whispers* It would improve the story significantly if they were.
  • "Hey, welcome to our super secret bad guy villain lair. May I teach you to tango?"

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Book Review: The Girl from Everywhere

(image from Goodreads)
The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
4 out of 5 stars
Any time, any place. Real or imaginary. If Nix and her father have a map, they can steer their ship there.
But when her father finds a map that will let him go back and save her mother, who died just after Nix was born, Nix worries that changing the past will effectively erase her life as she knows it.
The Girl From Everywhere is full of beautiful language and interesting characters. I especially love Bee, an African woman who blames the ghost of her wife for knocking over bowls and things.
It's clear the author researched and cares about Hawaii in the 1800s. The details are amazing.
And, because the crew of the Temptation can go to mythical places, there are lots of little magic objects and creatures.
The plot itself is a bit confusing at times, and I got a little lost sometimes with the time travel. I liked the complicated relationship between Nix and her father.
I also liked that, while there are romantic undertones at some parts, it was more along the lines of having a crush rather than "true love will save the world!" The latter I can enjoy every once in a while, but I appreciate when an author doesn't try to cram it in where it isn't needed.
All in all, a very nice book. As I excitedly told my mother last night, "This is the best book because it has like ten pages of author notes explaining the real history and myths!"

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Editing Notes

As expected,, the first chapters of Blue Reincarnations, my young adult reincarnation thriller, are a hilarious mess.
  • Starting with an infodump, I see.
  • An infodump in which you show, within the first five words, that you have absolutely no idea what's going on or when. Good job; that's a new record.
  • What if instead of infodumping all the info you dump, you had Diana in a biology class that's like, "Welp, we should be teaching y'all about not getting pregnant but there are literally so few free souls compared to the amount of people having sex at any one time that you have a better chance of getting struck by a lightning shark that just won the lottery on a leap day than you do of getting pregnant. So today we're learning about DINOSAURS."
  • It sounds like the lack of babies is the plot and this is going to be a thriller about getting to the IVF clinic before they close.
  • Revolutionary concept: What if the characters had personalities? And you could actually remember what they looked like?
  • Grandma tears are clearly not what makes flowers grow so let's turn the melodrama knob down just a few clicks here, mkay?
  • Flarpball. That is what you think sports will be called in the future.
  • You named the doctor... Dr. Doctor. Do you have a bad case of being unable to think of names?
  • Should I be worried how casually everyone handles having memories of murdering each other?
  • Plot twist: everyone dies of salmonella!
  • Ooh. (Super helpful note, self.)
  • What is that outfit? Why is she dressed like Star Trek Hillary Clinton?
  • Sorry I didn't get you acquitted of murder; I was distracted by memories of dust.
  • Way to make a subtle parallel and then POINT IT OUT IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH.

In other news, I'm learning to cross stitch. Bought supplies with my first Circuits & Slippers royalty check!
And, as is my way, I'm launching straight into making my own complicated patterns without really practicing much at all. Below is the chart I'm starting with, in case anyone else needs a parasaurolophus cross stitch pattern. (And really, who doesn't? They're the best dinosaurs.)


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Book Review: Illuminae

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Goodreads link)

5 stars

This is not a typical book. It doesn't have chapters and the story isn't told in description and dialogue. Instead, the story unfolds through excerpts from journals and incident reports, emails between the main characters, and the internal monologues of a damaged computer (which reads almost like poetry).

It's beautiful.

Blueprints of the ship, coffee stains on the bottom of a file, multiple pages that are just the names and photos of the people who were confirmed dead. Blank pages when a character is lost in space. Pictures made of words.

The story itself would be great without all of that, too.

What starts as an attack on a planet by an enemy corporation quickly escalates into chaos. Three ships are trying to get to safety, the bad guys are on their tail, and a disease is turning people into wild, merciless killers.

Oh, and an artificial intelligence system, damaged in the attack, just blew up one of the ally ships.

The fleet's only hope is seventeen-year-old hacker Kady Grant. To save the ships - and her boyfriend - she has to risk everything and team up with some less than trustworthy characters to bring these atrocities to light.

This is a sci-fi book I would recommend to people who aren't sci-fi fans. Once you get used to the unconventional storytelling method, it's just an amazing story of human perseverance - and what it means to be human.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Plot Notes!

I'm about to finish the first draft of a novel. It's a young adult story about reincarnation and taking down an evil government.

I think I'm calling it Blue Incarnations.

And editing it is going to be... fun. Especially because I'd write for a few months, something else would catch my interest for a while, and I'd come back to it later. Each time, I forgot some details and come up with new ideas. The last chapters tell a very different story than the first chapters. I've changed which characters are the good guys, what was supposed to be the whole plot is now just a little sideplot, and a dead character was reincarnated as a very evil preteen.

And that means I'm in for a lot of editing.

And that means...


I'm expecting a lot of good ones when I actually start editing, but for now, here are some notes from my plot outline.


  • D killed P in jungle life, possibly for same reason Gran killed D - they thought 30 was being repealed soon and next life would be without punishment (but P didn't kill anyone; bgs were after her for starting resistance) (I know exactly what all the abbreviations mean. I still have no clue what I'm talking about because none of this happens in the book.)
  • Can I seriously call the bad guys "nematodes?"
  • Flower obstetrician (I forgot the term "botanical geneticist")
  • But how do you dismantle a government using knowledge of horticulture in only one day?
  • It's what you get when you combine reincarnation, an evil government, and Billy Joel songs. (this is apparently how I described the book. It was inspired by a line in Only The Good Die Young, but otherwise there isn't a lot of similarity to Billy Joel songs. Which is probably why I wrote this:)
  • Okay this is solarpunk now. Fix the cities. Add more Billy Joel.
  • They really did start the fire, though. If "fire" is a metaphor for "social change" and "Belgians in the Congo" is a metaphor for "bad guys in the shopping mall."

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Time After Time

Time After Time is ABC's new drama about HG Wells and Jack the Ripper time traveling to 2017. I'm really excited about this show because it combines everything I love: time travel, unsolved mysteries, people who don't understand how phones work...

I haven't watched all of the two-hour premiere yet, but so far I'm enjoying it for a very... interesting reason: it almost feels like the show keeps referencing something I wrote.

I know it's all just a big coincidence, but I was laughing for the first twenty minutes or so and finally had to have my mother pause it to explain how many "connections" I was seeing.

  • My novella Anachronism is about a time traveler, Moses. who shows up in the present in a bank vault; in Time After Time, it's a museum exhibit.
  • HG and Moses both have to talk to a bewildered person in charge, who think he's crazy but decide not to press charges in the interest of not attracting unwanted publicity.
  • The time travelers then learn another, murderous time traveler (Jack the Ripper in Time After Time, Zachary Davenport in Anachronism), whom they knew in their native time, has come before them.
  • They team up with a woman to stop him. (There's a very small line in Time After Time about something being a gift from her father that might be funny to the five people who have actually read my book.)
  • HG and Moses are both British but otherwise not very similar.
  • But Jack the Ripper and Davenport! Not only do they dress the same and both enjoy threatening people in public places, but the actor playing the Ripper looks so much like how I imagine Davenport! (I'd originally imagined him a little more like Zachary Quinto, especially in Heroes where he was a great villain, but I think this Josh Bowman fellow may be edging him out for the role in the movie adaptation that exists only in my head).

And one or two other things that would spoil parts of the book if I were to point them out.
So yes, I'm quite enjoying the show, if not for the normal reasons. Have you ever noticed a TV show or movie "stealing" your ideas?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

ISWG: Reworking Old Stories

First, a little bit of exciting news. I've just had a query lead to a request for full manuscript! It's from a publisher I'm really excited about, too.

On the first Wednesday of every month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group encourages writers to talk about their insecurities.

Each month, they also have an optional question to answer. This month it's: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

I have, and that's how I got published the first time!
When I saw the submission call for Circuits & Slippers, asking for sci-fi fairy tale retellings, I thought... "Wait, don't I have one of those about Goldilocks and aliens?"
And the answer was "kind of." I had four paragraphs that was going to be about a girl abducted by aliens and subjected to tests (I don't remember what tests or why they were doing them, or really what made me think it was going to be anything like Goldilocks), that I had written a few years ago.
But I liked the idea. Mysterious people, tests, messing with memory... So I got rid of the aliens in favor of bear-like creatures, had the girl get trapped in a house in the woods, and gave her a few different sets of memories. A few months later I was told it had been accepted for publication.

(Just for fun, I dug up those four paragraphs of the original story. They actually aren't as awful as I remember, but the new version is much better in my opinion.)
I awoke with a start and found myself in a room devoid of light. To say it was a room at all was a bold presumption on my part, as it equally could have been a cave or a forest under a clouded night sky, but something about it, perhaps the echoic quality of my breath, gave the impression that I was enclosed in a spacious chamber with four walls.
My head pounded with the ferocity of a bass drum; the hard metal slab did my already-pained skull no favors. This was most certainly not where I had fallen asleep -- though, to be honest, my memories of the previous night were rather blurry.
By this time, my eyes should have begun adjusting to the gloom, but if there was anything to be seen, it was obscured by the thick, all-encompassing darkness. My hand was invisible before my face, and I only knew my eyes were open at all because of a single point of light, a red and blinking eye high above me.
I sat up and swung my legs off to the side, but my dangling feet failed to find the floor and I pulled them up under me.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Book Review: Dreadnought

(image from Goodreads)

Dreadnought by April Daniels
5/5 (review also posted on Goodreads)

I ordered this book from the library before they actually had a copy, just because I liked the idea of a trans superhero. And I was not disappointed.

First of all, this book is so funny. "Come, Mother, and show me the wonders of the tampon aisle!" had me laughing so hard. And Danny is such a dorky fangirl sometimes.
I love the running theme of not knowing who to trust. Superheroes - and parents and friends - can be bad people and do bad things, even though they're the people we're supposed to rely on. And teenagers make stupid decisions and skip class to go be vigilantes. (Can you blame them, though?)
The universe of Dreadnought divides people into the good whitecapes, bad blackcapes, and morally ambiguous graycapes, but it seems like everyone has a little bit of gray in their cape.

Now the gender stuff.
Wow. So when you become the superhero Dreadnought, you become your ideal self. For Danny, this means "he" is finally transformed into the girl she always knew she was. The transition is described so well, how she's surprised to be a little shorter and how her emotions are closer to the surface now.
I really identify with the way that was described because even though I'm fine being a female, I've always felt like my brain was mostly male. And there are times when the girly hormones get the better of me, and that's exactly how it feels.
And people are... not exactly cool with her change. Some are, but others are really abusive and dismissive of her identity. Those things bother me, because they aren't just characters being awful; they're real things that happen to people. There are parts that are hard to read because of the language and behavior.

But it's a really good book. A great story about friendship and awesome fight scenes. What more could you want?
(Also included in this story are helpful superhero tips, such as it's not as easy to lift a plane as Supergirl made it seem, and it's less effective than you'd think to hit someone with a car and more effective to rip out the engine block and hit them with that.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Book review: Raptor Red

I like using Goodreads to review books I read. I thought I'd start posting them here as well. This time I read Raptor Red, by paleontologist Robert T. Bakker. It's a fictional story about a year in the life of a female Utahraptor trying to survive after the death of her mate.

4/5 stars

So first of all, I am a huge dinosaur nerd. Like, "watched Jurassic Park multiple times a day when I was 5" kind of nerd. So it's a huge struggle for me not to rate this a 5 just because it contains biologically accurate (I mean, as accurate as you can get when you're giving human thoughts to animals and you don't know that raptors had feathers because you live in the early nineties) dinosaurs that do not exist just to be big scurrrry monsters.

That being said, Bakker is the king of infodumping. If I was only mildly interested in dinosaurs, I would be annoyed at stopping the action to talk about how one crocodile is such a good breeder and how all modern crocs might be related to her. I found it fascinating at times, but maybe that's just me.

Anyway. Thoughts:

* I like that raptors also struggled with body image.

* All the characters are so different and realistic animals without seeming like they're just human characters in dino suits. The dumb little gaston is the cutest.

* I don't know how scientifically sound the flower scent theory is, but it was so funny how confused and scared the male raptor was.

* The conflict(s) over the chicks were an interesting source of drama you can't get in human stories ("I like this guy, but I won't sleep with him until I'm 100% sure he won't kill my family..." "I really like this girl, but I also really want to kill her nieces because they don't share my genes, and I'm just not sure how she'll react to that...").

* At some point near the end, my brain started picturing the raptors as Chocobos. That was weird, but not entirely unpleasant.

* The ostrich dino that could have started the first dinosaur religion because she thought a mouse-type-thing turned into a frog may be my favorite part of the entire book. I adore her.

Also, this is not related to the actual book but the copy I borrowed from the library had a bunch of random words underlined on pages 42 and 43. Pretty sure it's a secret code.

You can read more of my reviews on my Goodreads page.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Request for Pages!

Last week, I posted about my "superstition" about the song American Pie, and how I hadn't heard it since finishing my novel. A few days later, I heard the first two lines of the song on a show I was watching.

And a few days after that, a publisher I'd queried requested to read the first 30 thousand words of my novel.

Yes, really. :D

I'm still blown away by the fact that it wasn't a rejection. This is my first request for pages for FreakShow, and the editor said it may be several months until I hear back.

Someone is going to read thirty thousand little bits of my soul.

My concept and first few chapters "intrigued" them. I wrote a successful query. Even if this results in them not wanting to read the rest, I consider this a win.

And I can just imagine how my characters would react to this news. Lily would smirk and say, "What, did you actually doubt that we were awesome?" and Jack would pretend it's no big deal, only to secretly design book covers in his quarters while Ruby and Par started planning a book tour through the universe.

Friday, February 3, 2017

(Updated) Very Superstitio-- Wait, Wrong Song

I have this dumb superstition regarding the novel I'm querying. I'm not usually superstitious at all; I think this is probably my writer brain forgetting that not every little detail is symbolism or foreshadowing. Especially, ya know, in real life.


In November of 2015, I had an idea for a novel about a space carnival. And that was the extent of the plot. A carnival in space and the people who worked in its freak show. I had some characters I liked and a general idea that there'd be a war, but nothing else.

And then I was sitting in the van in our friend's driveway, waiting for my mom, and American Pie came on the radio. I like the song, and it isn't one I hear very often, so I actually stopped to listen.

And it fixed everything about my plot. I mean everything. It gave my character a love interest and the villain a backstory. It indirectly named a lot of my planets. (Vespi 3-14? That's totally named after Ameriggo Vespucchi, whom America is named for, and the first three digits of pi. American Pie. Get it?) A major part of my plot involves music "dying," and if you were to play a drinking game involving really obscure references to the people and events in the song, you'd be too drunk to read past the first few chapters. (Even I don't remember them all, but I think every planet and most characters were tangentially named for something in the song.)

So American Pie became something of my book's theme song, and while I never actively sought it out, the song kept... finding me. In the six months I was writing (not editing, just writing) FreakShow, I think I heard it six or seven times. Sometimes the whole thing, sometimes just catching the very end, and almost always when I was struggling with the plot.

I wrote "The End" in May 2016, and haven't heard the song since.

I listen to the same radio stations, around the same times of day, as I did for those six months. Nothing. So now I have this idea that I won't hear it until the day my book is accepted or published. It's silly, I know, and I don't actually believe it.

But if it does happen, now I have written proof that I thought it might. :D

Have you ever had interesting coincidences happen with your writing? Does your book have a theme song?

UPDATE 2/5/17

Guess what song I just heard.

I'm not even kidding. I'm watching the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (hilarious show, by the way), and Jon Hamm's character started singing American Pie.

I know it doesn't mean anything, but how funny is it that I was just talking about it?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

ISWG: Reading as a Writer

On the first Wednesday of every month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group encourages writers to talk about their insecurities.

Each month, they also have an optional question to answer. This month it's: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

(I'm going to lump in TV and movies in with reading because there's nothing in the rules says I can't. It's the Air Bud law.)

Well, it's easier to figure out who the murderer is.

I once named the murderer within five seconds of her showing up on screen. Not exaggerating. It was a futuristic cop show called Almost Human. The detectives go to investigate something, the big important guy introduces his secretary when she brings him a folder, and I said "She did it." My mom asked how I knew, and I said, "Because it's the future. They have robots. They don't need secretaries, and they definitely don't need paper folders. Her character was onscreen for ten seconds and didn't need a name, so this was the writers making sure we knew her before the big reveal at the end where Cop Guy goes 'Wait, I know that name...'"

And I was right.

I also find myself noticing little bits of symbolism and foreshadowing that I think went over my head before I started having to add that kind of stuff into my own stories.

But mostly, I think being a writer has given me a better understanding and appreciation of the work that goes into making something like a book or movie. I might not like that character, but look at how developed his backstory is! Or maybe there's a few episodes that I think are pointless, but I can see how the boring events are needed to set up the big exciting bits later on.

And in other news: I made a scarf! My mother made the hat and had extra yarn. (Aren't I adorable? You can hardly tell how claustrophobic I am in that horrible yarn noose. (I really don't understand the appeal of scarves and was a very reluctant model here.))


Sunday, January 8, 2017

It's Really Happening

So I wrote a novella. It's being published by Kristell Ink. And I don't talk about that as much as I talk about Circuits & Slippers. I don't think most people in my life know about it, even though they knew C&S was coming out for months.

I think I didn't want to get anyone's hopes up. Theirs, mine, I don't know. Because I thought it was too good to be true.

I did my research. I knew KI was a legitimate publisher, and I signed a contract. But still that little voice in my head said "Someone's playing a joke. It's all a big scam. Your name will never be on the front of a book, only the table of contents or on a website."

Which is not to knock anthologies or websites in any way. It's just that in those, I'm only a small part of the whole. 1/20 of the stories in C&S, one of hundreds on Cast of Wonders (sometime this year!). But a novella with only my words in it. That's a bigger risk they're taking on me, it's scarier.

So no matter how much I knew it was real, it didn't feel real.

This morning I got to see the first sketch for the cover of my novella, Anachronism. And I just about cried because it finally felt real.

And it's pretty, you guys. My aunt (the first, and at the time only, person I personally knew who had read the book) and I came up with an idea, and the artist pulled the image straight from my brain. It's amazing, and I can't wait to show everyone the final version when it comes out.

Because it is coming out. I am going to have a published novella. And I need to start believing that.