I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
There was nobody calling me up for favors
And no one's future to decide
17 April 2014 @ 06:11 pm

Most of you are aware that I’m co-writing the next Witchfinder mini-series with Kim Newman, and that the amazing Tyler Crook is providing the art, with colours by the multiple award-winning Dave Stewart.

I’ve now seen all the art for issues 1 and 2 and it’s terrific. I can’t wait until other people see it too.

On top of all of this we’ve been lucky to have Julian Totino Tedesco as our cover artist. I’ve seen most of the covers now and he’s doing tremendous work.

Recently on Facebook he posted the art progression of the first cover of Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland, and I thought other people would like to see it too. It’s the kind of thing I find fascinating. I asked Julian if it was all right to post it here and he gave his blessing.

Here was the rough he sent us as mock-up of what he wanted to do:

Then he did the pencils:

Here’s the final cover with the lettering:

It’s wonderful to work with talented people!

~ Originally published at Splinister. You can comment here or there. ~

17 April 2014 @ 04:05 pm
On Tuesday, I ran out of my prescription allergy stuff - and was told that I couldn't get the refill until yesterday, which is typical. I don't know what weird, bad magic it is, but for some reason my helpful nose-spray-goo (Flonase) is always used up a few days before the insurance company says I'm allowed to have any more. Well, this time it ran out at exactly the wrong time because OH LOOK, SPRING.

In short, my head pretty much exploded. I literally didn't sleep more than an hour straight all Tuesday night, and I was absolutely useless most of yesterday ... so, yeah. That's yesterday's excuse for not getting any writing done. Once my 'scrip was obtained and I could breathe again, all I wanted to do was sleep.

I tried to resist. I did practical, non-thinky things like laundry and yardwork. (Weeding, watering, etc.) But mostly I just lounged on the couch, moaning, blowing my nose, and pretending not to watch HGTV.

* * *

Tomorrow I have to be up a little early, in order to meet one of the fine gentleman who's coming over to see about our back yard. It's got some...issues, you see. And now's the time to start getting estimates regarding its repair in a few weeks.

Why a few weeks? These reasons: (1). my Big Spring Royalty Statement hasn't landed quite yet, and that will affect the final budget, (2). it's the busiest time of year for landscaping companies, and I don't expect anyone to be able to start work any sooner, and (3). I live in a historic district, and although landscaping isn't regulated by the zoning folks, structural issues like retaining walls/landings are - and sometimes it takes a week or two to get all the paperwork in order.

I'm not particularly worried about the zoning folks. They've been very easy to work with in the past, and I've doublechecked their historic guidelines (available as a PDF online, conveniently enough); nothing we plan should pose any conflict.

And what do we have planned? Depending on how far the budget stretches (and how that royalty check shapes up), we'd like to (1). repair/restore a concrete landing poured in 1930, for it is cracked/sinking/letting water under the house, (2). repair/restore (rebuild, essentially) a catastrophically failed retaining wall, (3). add a second retaining wall, with (4). a patio/walkway at its base [where the vegetable garden used to be].

Everything except the patio is a necessary fix that needs to happen sooner, rather than later. But dammit, I will have a place to sit outside with the dog and sip mimosas under a big umbrella get some work done in the fresh air.

Anyway. One dude is coming over tomorrow to give us an estimate. Next week, I'm getting a second quote for good measure. Like a civilized grown-up, I am.

* * *

I think last year's purple finches have returned to the front porch! That's the good news. The bad news is, I think they've picked a flower basket for their nest ... rather than the nook in the eaves. Naturally, they picked the flower basket that's hardest for me to reach. - not that it will prevent me from playing bird paparazzi again, once the eggs hatch and there are FLUFFY BABY BIRDS TO OGLE. Gently. When their parents are away.

And I guess I'll have to water the basket very, very carefully. And rarely. If at all.
[:: sigh ::]

* * *

Here's today's progress on my witchy art-deco horror novel about Lizzie Borden thirty years after her parents' deaths - now featuring ghosts and non-ghosts alike, anti-Catholic conspiracy nuts, supernatural political shenanigans, the mafia, and a Bonus! space-worshiping murder cult hiding behind the KKK:

    Project: Chapelwood
    Deadline: October 1, 2014
    New words written: 1979
    Present total word count: 63,638

    Things accomplished in fiction: Poor little axe murderer. He's having a terrible day.

    Next up: Courtroom results and fallout.

    Things accomplished in real life: Neighborhood jaunt with dog; replied to some emails; did some writer business; cooked lunch and made myself some tea; not much else, to be honest. I'm still dragging a little.

    Other: I got nothin'.

    Number of fiction words so far this year: 97,031
17 April 2014 @ 12:17 pm


There's a deer in there somewhere

There’s a deer in there somewhere

Defrosted lake

Defrosted lake



Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

Tags: ,

I'm back from the dentist, where Minou the fur-coat-bear* was a Big Hit.  I did not take the Valium before the appointment, though I had it with me, In Case.  As it turned out, I didn't need it; the appointment was Very Brief -- a matter of grinding down about four teeth and polishing everything to a high shine.  The recommended braces being out of the question, this ends the current Dental Adventure.  I do need to see the hygienist again in another three months, but I expect to have positive news, then.

So that.


1.  There's a new Liaden story up at Splinter Universe, the title is "Roving Gambler," and it's set on Surebleak.  Here's your link.

2.  An oldie-but-goodie.  The following is a reprint of a post made in this blog in November of 2013.  We have not changed our minds.

Don’t write and post fan fiction of our work.

The following is Lee and Miller specific, and it has been our stance for more than a decade.  It’s not new, and it’s not a secret.  Other writers have other stances and opinions.  When in doubt — ask.

I know it’s a popular belief among many of the fan-fiction community that fan fiction does not hurt the parent work, that it provides much-needed publicity to the parent work, that it does not infringe the copyright or trademark of the parent work, and that the authors of the parent work can’t stop it, anyway.

Three of these four beliefs are just that — beliefs.  They can no more be proven than can our belief that fan fiction materially harms the parent work — especially a parent work which is still evolving — provides no useful publicity, and does, indeed, infringe on the copyright and the trademark of the parent work.  Note that we are talking about our own works here — see disclaimer, above.

To the fourth point, that authors are powerless to prevent fan fiction authors from ficcing whatever they want to — that’s perfectly true.  Common courtesy would seem to dictate that the wishes of the author of the parent work be respected, however.  So, we would ask for common courtesy.

3.  For those who have friends that they need to addict to the Liaden Universe®, the ebook editions of Agent of Change and Fledgling are available as free! downloads from All of the Usual Suspects.  I think you know what to do.

. . .and that's it.  I would like to point out that I have three coon cats in my office as I type this, all of them projecting Professional Level Sleep Rays.  And that my writing goal on the day is at least 2,000 words.

Right, then.  More coffee.

See y'all later.

*Minou is actually constructed from an old fur coat.  There was a woman in Winslow who was making fur-coat-bears and selling them through Back Door to the Moon, the local Pagan shop.  BDttM is long gone, and I don't know what outlet, if any, there now is for fur-coat-bears.  Minou was a Yule gift to me from Steve.

17 April 2014 @ 02:25 pm



I forget the names of towns without rivers.
A town needs a river to forgive the town.
Whatever river, whatever town—it is much the same.
The cruel things I did I took to the river.
I begged the current: make me better.

—“The Towns We Know and Leave Behind, The Rivers We Carry With Us,” by Richard Hugo

Hamoudi holds court with a circle of border taxi drivers. We have reached the last mile of Jordan.

“Forty-five kilometers,” he informs them coolly, holding up an imperial finger. “Forty-five kilometers in a single day.”

Hamoudi (far left) and circle of admirers. King Hussein-Allenby Bridge, Jordan. Photograph by Paul Salopek

Hamoudi (far left) and circle of admirers. King Hussein-Allenby Bridge, Jordan. Photograph by Paul Salopek

We gulp cups of water at a roadside kiosk. We chivvy the pack mules Selwa and Mana’ into the bed of a waiting truck. Hamoudi gravely shakes my hand, and takes his leave, rolling away with the animals back to the red-blue cordilleras of the south. Back to Petra. Back to canyons where the Bedouin yet inhabit caves. I hop a taxi to Amman and a week of research and writing.

Hamoudi Enwaje’ al Bedul: He drank his campfire tea sweet and boiling, like some molten precursor to candy. He steered me like a sled dog when I wandered too far ahead, calling out into the vacuum of the desert in sharp Arabic, “Walk left! . . . No, more left! . . . Right! . . . Straight! . . . Left!” He smoked too much. He ate little. He was tireless.

At our last camp in the Dead Sea Valley, I asked Hamoudi if he was ill. He had been lagging all day, sometimes by more than a mile. He replied that his favorite niece was dying in a faraway hospital. The news had come that day by cell phone. He had needed to weep alone, so he slowed his step, but that was over now. Across 300 miles of trails in Jordan, I heard not a single complaint from this man.

Back at the border, a Jordanian guard wagged his finger. Crossing the international bridge on foot was impossible, he said. It was forbidden. I argued. He shrugged. He blamed the Israeli Defense Force. The bridge was a no-man’s-land. For the first time since walking out of Ethiopia, I was forced to board a bus.

The Jordan River flashed beneath the bridge. I almost missed it. It was mud-colored, maybe two yards across. I might have vaulted it at a run.

The bus seats were covered in plastic. About 50 morose Palestinians sat in them, whispering. The absence of choice is true freedom. The Sufis say this. In this way, I entered the West Bank.

17 April 2014 @ 08:06 am

Yesterday, Chuck Wendig wrote a post called Ten Things I’d Like To Say To Young Writers (the man likes his lists) and I think it’s good, solid advice. Me, I’d like to add two more things. Here goes:

Really study text that works.

Have a favorite short story? Retype it. A favorite novel? Type out that first chapter. There really is no substitute for retyping a whole mess of text–just reading it, even aloud, doesn’t bring the same focus. Then read it through with a yellow legal pad next to you and, every five pages, jot a line describing what happened.

How quickly does the book get to dialog? To the main characters? How quickly does the book describe what the main character is searching for, if it does at all? How much space on the page is given to description of people or places? How soon does the conflict start? Depending on the genre and the style of book, the answers can be quite different.

Best of all is to choose a successful book that is very like the one you hope to write. Study it. Try to get a feel for it, because:

Understanding how a piece of writing makes readers feel is the real prize

The universe is full of writers who crap on a keyboard and call it gold. Those people do not understand the way readers respond to their text; they know what’s in their head, they’re sure that’s what they put on the page, what’s wrong with readers/editors/agents/the world that they can’t see the awesome?

But, in fact, it can be very difficult to judge your own writing the way a reader will. We might hope the scene we just finished will be scary, or funny, or sad, but until we show it to complete strangers we’ll never really be sure.

What move people never say is that the ability to accurately understand the effect your own words will have on the reader is the first (and most difficult) step to becoming successful. So try to get a feel for your own books the way you do when you read the ones written by other people. Revisit stories you wrote the year before. Invite readers to tell you how they reacted to the story (but never what they think you should do.) Understanding those feelings are the way to mastery.

Mirrored from Twenty Palaces. You can comment here but not there.

A car plowed into me last night while it was making an illegal turn onto Belmont Avenue.

I'm mostly not hurt it seems.

So ... a few weeks ago that article came out saying that people who ran ultra-long distances actually had sometimes fairly crappy heart health -- like there's a point at which your body starts being damaged by all the running. And with this the Internet as a whole sighed a big breath of "See! running is bad for you! I'm going back to eat Tastykakes and watch House of Cards!" which isn't really what the article said, but I got curious while reading that and thinking about Jim Fixx who was a pioneer of running of my parents generation who dropped dead while out for a jog one day and the whole pre-internet world sighed loudly in the supermarket and said "See! Running is bad for you! I'm going back home to eat a pie and watch The Cosby Show!" so I looked on the Internet for athletes who'd died while doing athlete things and it seems the overwhelming majority of people like runners and cyclists who've died lately while running or cycling (Zinaida Stahurskaya, Jason MacIntyre, Scott Peoples, Amy Gillett, Lauri Aus, etc) were hit by cars. Your chances of running too much and blowing your heart up are small, but your chances of getting hit by a car increase every time you leave your house -- and runners & cyclists do it a lot.

This route was through Belmont park so we could check out the cherry trees in
bloom. It was pretty spectacular. Clickenzee to Embiggen!

I was running along with the West Philly Runners, trying to keep up with the second-fastest group and at mile 4 I'd fallen behind about 100 yards, but I was still doing around eight-minute miles, which I was pretty happy with and while crossing the Avenue of the Republics, which is a small street that opens up onto the very large Belmont ave, I saw, out of the corner of my eye a car that wasn't stopping for the light. I looked over just before it hit me and saw that the driver was looking left, towards oncoming traffic on Belmont to see if she could keep going to turn right or if there was traffic and she'd have to stop. I guess there wasn't traffic on the left and she wasn't expecting that anything could be coming from her right and by that time it was too late for all of us -- she sped up to make the right hand turn and hit me with the right fender of her car (it was a giant black Cadillac) and I went up on the hood -- as soon as she heard the noise she slammed on the brakes and I went off the hood and landed face down on the ground. I remember laying there thinking first that I wasn't in a hurry to get up and then thinking "wow, I really should have heard a car door by now...." I don't know how long it was, probably just a few seconds -- I felt like nothing was broken, so I rolled over and sat up and saw two people staring out the window of the car at me like I was a penguin they weren't expecting on the side of the road. I wiggled my fingers and does and they all worked and I didn't see blood anywhere, so I waved and said "I'm OK" and they drove off. Which I later thought was also weird. If I ran a red light and hit someone, I'd want to at least check and see if they had a concussion.

You can see my speed go from pretty good to zero on ye olde gps.
It's also interesting to get an insight into how the GPS averages time
Instead of flat to zero and staying there, it's averaging my previous
speed in there for at least a minute.
You may clickenzee to Embiggen!

One of the things that I like about the West Philly Runners is that it's a group of all kinds of people who run all sorts of distances at all sorts of paces, and also, that the group runs through all sorts of places in West Philly -- since I joined a year ago, there isn't, I don't think a street within two miles that we haven't run down. Plus there are these destination routes like this one, to see beautiful things I wouldn't know about otherwise.

While I was limping to my feet another group of West Philly Runners came past and I headed back with them a little more slowly. I felt mostly fine by the time we got back, there was a circular bruise on my thumb probably where I landed on a pebble.

This morning I'm pretty stiff in both legs and there's a little ouch on the leg that collided with the car, but I never hit my head and, luckily, I mostly t-boned the car rather than getting scooped up in it's giant grill and bent in half the wrong way. So, an 8 minute mile is 7.5 mph, so imagine running 7.5mph into the fender of a car, that's basically what happened. If I'd been running 7:50's I would have been right in front of it and then who knows, I could have ended up underneath it getting dragged until I sluiced out the back.

So, like Dr. Pangloss says, It's the best of all possible worlds -- and if not, it's certainly not the worst outcome.

This seems to be the worst of it so far. This and a bruise on my thumb.
You may clickenzee to Embiggen!

In retrospect -- I wasn't wearing a flashy neon jacket, but it wouldn't have helped, the driver was looking in the other direction. I'm not sure what would have stopped this from happening, on my part, maybe being more aware that a green light doesn't necessarily mean you can go. We'll see how it percolates in my brain over the next few weeks and months.

In the meantime -- have any of you been injured on the road like this? Bicycling, running, walking?

What have you learned?

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Current Mood: soresore
Current Music: Aerosmith: Dream on

Justine Larbalestier and I have started a book club to talk about bestselling women’s fiction of the 20th century. We’re both curious about the whole idea of the publishing category of “women’s fiction,” particularly how and when that label started. And, of course, we also wanted to see how well the bestselling and most long lasting of the books with that label stand up. Because usually books like Valley of the Dolls (1966) and Rona Jaffe’s The Best of Everything (1958) and Grace Metalious’s Peyton Place (1958) are considered to be, at best, middle brow. Yet now some of these books are being taught in university and they’re all back in print or have remained in print.

Last month we started with Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls. You can find the post and the discussion on Justine’s blog.

This month we’ll be reading The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe, which happens to have been published the year I was born! Bonus excitement!

The Best of Everything (1958) is Rona Jaffe‘s first novel. It is the story of five young employees of a New York publishing company.

PLEASE JOIN US on April 28/29 (that pesky international date line): in the evening on Monday April 28 in the USA and Tuesday April 29 in the Oz/NZ; morning April 29 in the UK/Europe.

The primary focus of the discussion will be here, on my blog, but there may be some spillover onto Twitter.


Mirrored from I Make Up Worlds.

16 April 2014 @ 09:21 pm
Because, well, because this episode really nailed me between the eyes, for several reasons. If you haven't seen "Meta Fiction" yet, feel free to avert your eyes....

Main thought:  Yep, yep, that’s kind of what it’s like when the characters toss your script and refuse to go along with the plot….and explaining to them that “but this is the plot! You need to follow the outline!” never seems to work…” But the experienced storyteller also knows that sometimes the plot twists, and the ending isn’t quite what you’d originally thought it would be.

Metatron spent a lot of time transcribing someone else’s words, and reading other peoples’ stories. As a writer, though, he’s a newbie. He hasn’t yet learned that you can’t always force the ending to stay the same form it was when you started….

Second thought: oh Gadreel, what was that look on your face, at the end? What is going on in your oh-so-conflicted and oh-so-damaged head?

Third thought: any Gabriel is better than no Gabriel, I suppose.

Fourth thought: that title was a terrible, terrible multi-layered pun, bless their pointy little heads.

Fifth thought… this one gets kinda long. And there are gifs.

So, yeah.  Overall high marks for Show a) kicking it up a notch in terms of Events, b) using every damn tool in their toolbox to kick it up, and c) not pulling many punches.

But there was one punch that, for me, was straight to the gut.

The look on Castiel’s face was the pullback to the blow: What have you done?

mark of cain revealed

Dean’s fine.  Everyone’s fine.  Right. And they part, each to do their bit to bring this to an end…

But when Castiel returns to his motel room, filled with the detritus of Being a Hunter (shades of John’s motel room in Season 1), the look on his face is of someone who is bleeding internally, who has taken the last blow before his knees buckle.  Because Metatron holds the script, and Dean wears the Mark of Cain.

“You are not the hero in this masterpiece. You are the villain. I’m the hero.”

If they are not the heroes, if they are not The Righteous Man and the Angel - then what chance to do they have?

And then the blow lands - the moment when Castiel stops, turns, and tears down the wall of evidence, clearing it away to make the glyph of the Horn of Gabriel and call his troops to him …


It was the sheer violence that I loved in this scene [where loved means “oh Casbabyno”], the “get the fuck out of my way you useless pieces of paper that can’t save anyone” intensity of his slow-building yet sudden decision.  That is not the rational strategist, the emotionless angel-soldier.  That’s a heart in pain

”Fine,” he is saying.  ”I will play your game.  I will embrace the role you have made for me, leading my people to death in a futile attempt to destroy you.  And we will see how it plays out…”

And oh, Cas, baby, you’re real close to becoming this 2014’s version of EndVerse Dean….