Category Archives: musings

Temporarily Flying Solo

Yesterday morning, I took my sister to the airport for her fifth annual trip to Cambodia. She goes each year with a mission group from her church to visit an orphanage there. (It’s not a proseltizing-type trip; the orphanage is attached to a church already.) They spend a lot of time with the kids, and near the end of the trip, they’ll go to Angkor Wat and some other touristy areas.

What this all means for me (because of course it’s all about ME) is that I have nine long, glorious days without a roommate.

*dances naked*

(Okay, not really.)

For much of my adult life, I’ve lived alone. I moved into my first apartment in 1991, and for most of the next 17 years, I didn’t have a roommate. Then my sister moved to Atlanta to go to graduate school, and she moved in with me to save money. We’ve been roomies ever since.

In the spring, we’ll be splitting up, in one form or another. Sister has a very serious boyfriend, and they’ll likely be getting married some time next year, so we’d been talking about getting separate places when our lease is up in March. I was just starting to think about the possibility of living alone again, and then my good friend J.P. Barnaby said she wanted to move to Atlanta and wondered if I might want to room together.

As it turns out, yes, I did. Sure, I lived alone for a long time and I liked that, but over the past 7 years, I’ve gotten used to having someone around. I’m mostly a homebody, but I like being social too, so having a roommate is the best of both worlds.

(Plus, J.P. says she’ll be in charge of emptying the dishwasher. I hate emptying the dishwasher.)

So over the next few months, I’ll be scoping out possible new places to live, my sister and I will be figuring up how to divide up our things (the fannish collections are going to be tough, man), and the new roomie and I will be deciding what we need to keep, toss, or buy. Spring cleaning will take on a whole new meaning when it consists of clearing out old spaces and settling into new ones.

But for the next week, I’ll enjoy having the place to myself. Maybe I’ll dance naked after all. Or maybe I’ll just drink milk straight from the carton and eat the last of the ice cream.

My life is just full of excitement, isn’t it?


So, this is gonna be quick, because I’m on deadline and can barely find time to sleep, much less do anything except write this blasted book. Not that it’s the book’s fault, considering I’m the one who procrastinated and didn’t make myself BICHOK* and get the thing written sooner. I’m also the one who set the deadline and promised it to the publisher by that date, so if I were to miss it, it would be completely and totally my fault. But that doesn’t make me feel any better, because this is the first time I’ve tried writing a novel to a deadline (albeit a long one), and if I fail at it, then it’s gonna drive me nuts, especially when I have another deadline for the next book, and fail me twice, shame on me. I’ve already warned people that it’s likely any free time I have at GayRomLit (where I am now) will be spent writing, so I’ll probably be lugging my laptop and/or notebook around with me, and/or hiding out in my room between events to churn out words. Which makes it sound bad, because it’s not just churning, it’s telling a story that I really want to tell, but when you’re at 46,000 words on October 9 (as I write this) and need a minimum of 60,000 words for a novel (and possibly more to actually finish out the story), and have to have it in decent enough shape to submit no later than October 31, well, it starts to feel like a chore. And I know writing is a job, no matter how much fun it can be, and I know every writer goes through times when things are dragging or frustrating and you forget why you do it. Then your characters start talking to you again, and you find yourself smiling or crying or rolling your eyes at them, or someone reads one of your stories and tells you they love it, or that they can’t wait to read your next one, and then you remember—

Oh. Yeah. That’s why I do this.

(*Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. My mantra for life, really.)

Image courtesy of thaikrit /

Losing a Friend: A Tribute to Eugie

Saturday morning, I was devastated to learn that Eugie Foster had died, after a year-long battle with lymphoma.

Paul Bright, Kage Alan, Eugie Foster, Kayelle Allen, Shae Connor

Paul Bright, Kage Alan, Eugie Foster, Kayelle Allen, Shae Connor

Eugie has been a friend since 2007, when I began working for her as a volunteer for the Daily Dragon, the on-site publication for Dragon Con. She was Director/Editor and had been looking for someone to do layout. She’d nearly given up when I emailed her. I’m lucky she gave me a shot, and we hit it off both as “co-workers” and as people. A few years later, I also shared a panel with her at Outlantacon, though we joked about how we never seemed to see each other outside of the convention context.

Eugue held a master’s degree in developmental psychology and a day job as an editor for the Georgia General Assembly, but she was primarily an author. She wrote fantasy and science fiction, much of it based on Asian folklore in honor of her heritage. She won a Nebula in 2009 and was nominated for a Hugo for her novelette Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast and won a number of other awards. Her work has been published in multiple genre magazines as well as in podcast format. She self-published a number of short stories, and her collection Returning My Sister’s Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice was published in 2010.

Her latest story, When it Ends, He Catches Her, was published on Friday by Daily Science Fiction.

Eugie’s husband, Matthew, is Director of the Dragon Con Independent Film Festival and has also become a friend. In lieu of flowers or gifts, Matthew has requested that we honor Eugie’s legacy by reading and sharing her writing. You can buy many of her published works at Amazon.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this little piece of fluff and posted it to Eugie’s Facebook wall. I hoped so hard for a happy ending to this story. Maybe in some alternate universe, this is how the story went.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Eugie, and she lived in a beautiful land called Fosteria. Fosteria had many beautiful people and places and all sorts of friendly woodland creatures. But Princess Eugie had eyes only for her greatest love, the handsome Prince Matthew.

One day, Princess Eugie was stricken by a terrible curse that left her sound asleep. Prince Matthew rushed to her side, and unable to wake her, he called on Fosteria’s most prestigious healers to assist. The healers worked their magicks well, but in the end, it was the voice of her dearest love, Prince Matthew, that woke Princess Eugie from her slumber.

Rejoicing, Prince Matthew called for a celebration throughout Fosteria in honor of his Princess, and the people danced and sang and made very, very merry. After much enjoyment, Princess Eugie and Prince Matthew retired to their home, where they adopted a tiny woodland creature and, as the story goes, they lived happily ever after.

Free Advice Can Cost You

redpencil_thaikrit“NEVER DO THIS advice about writing style is rarely helpful. Writing is not an exact science. Authorial voice matters.”

I tweeted the above as part of a conversation on Twitter last week, and it got retweeted around a bit. I thought it deserved a little bit of expansion, so I wrote this post as a follow-up. 🙂

One thing that the internet has made easy is the dissemination of advice. Not just in the publishing world, of course, but the internet makes it simple for any random person (like, say, me) to set up a blog and start handing out suggestions, rules, guidelines, or manifestos about anything they want.

The proliferation of free advice is great for lots of things, including, in many cases, the publishing world. It’s easy to get help when you need it on anything from grammar to word use to location research. The problem comes when personal preferences or opinions are presented as facts. The end result is that there’s a lot of writing advice floating around that’s just not all that good.

When it comes to grammar and usage, most things are pretty clear-cut. There are widely agreed-upon rules regarding how to use the language, and even if not every source agrees, you’ll generally find consensus among different guides on things like word meanings, punctuation, and spelling. Where there isn’t a clear “winner,” a preference may emerge—or your publisher will have a house style that will take care of it.

Other issues aren’t so clear-cut. Idiomatic expressions, metaphors and similes, meter and flow… these are questions related to the author’s writing style, and they don’t have easy answers. They are likely to come down to clarity and authorial voice. To go back to that tweet, generally speaking, advice related to writing style that says to “NEVER DO THIS” is not helpful, no matter what “THIS” is.

Considering the collaborative nature of so much in publishing, it can be easy to forget that editing and writing are far different skills. Writing is a creative art, whereas editing is far more of a science. It’s all too easy for editors to get caught up in the science and lose sight of the art.

I think one of the most difficult things for a fiction editor to learn is how to fix problems without damaging the inherent voice of the author. Even when editors have good reasons for their suggested changes, that doesn’t mean they’re right, or what’s best for the story. I’m not advocating starting editorial fights by any means, but authors who feel strongly about the way they’ve written something shouldn’t hesitate to argue in favor of keeping it.

With every set of edits I receive, I go through basically the same process. I make one pass through to accept or fix everything that I immediately agree with: typos, missing words, incorrect words, and so on. Anything that needs more consideration or that I disagree with gets skipped. Most of the time, that first review clears most of the editor’s comments.

On the second trip through, I look at things more closely. If I agree with the editor’s comment, then I figure out a way to fix it. If I don’t, I mark the passage and explain my reasoning in a comment. Most of the second category contains instances where I think the editor has misread something or has corrected something that wasn’t actually wrong. Often, the choice comes down to “I think it reads better this way.” And pretty much every time, my version is what makes it through to the final copy. Not because I’m “right” and the editor is “wrong,” but because there is no right or wrong, only a preference. And my name is the one that’s on the story.

So the lesson? As with anything on the internet, don’t take every piece of writing advice you read at face value. Figure out what works for your story. And most of all, never say “NEVER.”

Image courtesy of thaikrit /

Help Wanted: Housekeeper

I took last weekend off from writing and related tasks, and I refuse to let myself feel guilty about it. For one thing, my level of guilt for how messy the apartment had gotten would have far outweighed the no-writing guilt. Sister and I have been so busy the past few months that housekeeping has been a bare minimum. Things have piled up around the edges, and so last weekend, we tackled it.



I assembled a new bookshelf and filled it with my writing books and all of my print romance books (including my own). I put away a stack of linens that had been waiting to be folded for weeks. I finished emptying my overnight bag from my last trip and put it away. I did ALL THE LAUNDRY. I put the last of my cold-weather clothes in storage and got a box of long-term storage stuff ready to move to our storage unit. I filled a box of clothes, shoes, and other extras to take to the Lost-N-Found Youth thrift shop. I bagged up trash and sorted receipts for shredding. I ran the dishwasher and hung curtains in my bedroom.

I also sent emails requesting quotes for a house cleaner, because GAH.

I started a new side project recently (job no. 3, for those counting) that will probably take about the same amount of time as it would for me to keep up with my share of all the necessary housecleaning. But it’s something I’ll enjoy doing. So I’m going to use part of that money to pay a cleaning service so I won’t have to do as much of it. I consider that a very fair trade-off.

(Truthfully, we could afford to hire someone anyway, but having the extra money and the commensurate less time makes the decision much easier.)


Anyway. For a while many years ago, I worked as a house cleaner for a family of three. I got paid much less than I should have (even by 25-years-ago standards) to clean the kitchen and two bathrooms, change beds in two rooms, do most of the laundry, and vacuum everything. It was HARD. I mean, anyone who’s done housework knows that, but most people don’t do it all at once. I understand that housecleaning services are a job like any other, with good and bad aspects, but I have all the respect for anyone who cleans a whole house willingly, and especially for those who actually seem to enjoy it.

Yes. He'll do nicely.

Yes. He’ll do nicely.

Right now, we’re planning to get a one-time, top-to-bottom, deep cleaning, followed by either monthly or bimonthly regular cleaning. We aren’t terribly messy, and we generally clean up after ourselves, but we both hate doing anything beyond surface cleaning. (Except that my sister loves to vacuum. Weirdo. Though if ^that guy^ were doing the vacuuming, I’m sure she’d be happy to just sit back and watch.) We’ll be getting the kitchen and bathrooms scrubbed down once or twice a month, plus dusting and other general stuff.

And then when I have writer’s block, I’ll have to come up with some other way to procrastinate. 😉

Image courtesy of artur84 /

Don’t Tell Me What To Feel

crylaugh_StuartMilesI’ve never been a fan of sitcoms, mostly because of the “situation” part of that equation. Sitcoms rely on placing characters into ridiculous circumstances and then having them do silly things to reach a resolution. The circumstances, the resolutions, or both require the characters (and often the audience) to be completely stupid for the “plot” to work. It’s contrived and trite, and I rarely enjoy it.

Really, though, the single thing that bugs me most about sitcoms is the laugh track.

As I write this, my sister is in her room with the door open. She likes to have the TV on in the background while she works, and something like a sitcom is perfect because it doesn’t require her to follow along closely. In part that’s because she’s probably seen every episode already, but in part, it’s because the show never required much brain power to start with.

Most sitcoms have the same basic setup: a group of main characters who have different backgrounds and personalities and each week are thrust into some kind of situation that made them do some kind of over the top thing to resolve. It’s generally brainless entertainment, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

But sitting here, the only thing I can hear clearly from the TV is the show’s laugh track. And it is grating on my nerves like you wouldn’t believe. It’s like water torture, the same sound repeated over and over at almost the same intervals until I just want to scream for it to stop already.

Even more than that, though, it makes me want to yell at the TV to stop telling me when I’m supposed to laugh. I can figure out when something is actually funny without something holding up a “WELL, LAUGH!” sign in front of me. And if something isn’t funny, throwing in canned laughter isn’t going to make it funny.

In short, I don’t like emotional manipulation. Of any kind.

In romance, I see a lot of books described as “tearjerkers.” I don’t have a problem with that label, really. I know a lot of readers love a book that has them reaching for the tissues. I’ve certainly read some books that made me tear up, and I’m a tough nut to crack.

Having said that… if I’m reading a book and it feels to me like the author is trying to make me cry? All they’re likely to get out of me is an eyeroll or a huff of annoyance.

Defining what constitutes emotional manipulation in a book can be like defining obscenity: I know it when I see it. Obviously I’m not about to give examples, even if I could think of specific ones right now. But one example is “piling on”: one bad thing after another happening until it’s beyond the point of suspension of disbelief. Another would be a character reacting in a way that’s completely out of line with who we’ve been told he is. Sometimes it’s a “big misunderstanding” that could have been avoided (or could be resolved) with just a few words.

I like reading books about people and situations that feel real, even though they aren’t. But you may have heard a little adage called “truth is stranger than fiction.” To “feel real,” fiction has to make more sense than reality. Real people do weird things for no reason all the time, but in fiction, that weird thing needs to fit the story. If it doesn’t, it belongs on the cutting room floor.

Real life is easy, folks. It’s fiction that’s hard. And that’s why so many sitcoms need laugh tracks to prop them up.

So jerk tears all you want! Or laughter, or whatever you’re trying to accomplish. Just make sure you’re doing the work it takes to evoke real emotion.

Not something that has to be added in post-production.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

My House, My Rules

Most people who know anything about me at all know that I’m pretty easygoing. I’m a happy person, upbeat and optimistic, and it tends to take a lot to make me truly angry.

One of those things that gets to me is someone trying to tell
me what to do in my own space.

rainbowsofa_SalvatoreVuonoIt’s kind of funny, actually. I don’t know anyone who would walk into my house and tell me I have to repaint the walls, or buy new furniture, or even move to a different place just because the visitor doesn’t like the way I’ve done things. It’s my house, so I get to choose how it looks.

Why do people seem to have no compunction about horning in when we’re talking about online spaces?

Yes, yes, online spaces are public, so there are some general civility guidelines to consider. I can gossip about the crazy lady down the street all I want in my own living room, but it wouldn’t be kosher to stand in the middle of the street and yell it to the whole neighborhood. If I like thrash metal, I can thrash metal all I want in my house, but hooking up my stereo to outdoor loudspeakers would be a different matter.

But in general, on my social media accounts—Twitter, Facebook, and wherever else I go—I have every right to decide what I see and choose the people I interact with. If I see someone posting things that annoy me, or offend me, I don’t have to sit there and watch it happen. Social media comes with these handy-dandy little tools like unfollow. Or unfriend. Or block. Even hide and mute, for things that aren’t as major.

I am not required to let anyone who wants to come into my virtual living room and mess up the way I have things set up. It’s my space. The only person who controls what goes into it is me.

Let me be perfectly clear here: this is a two-way street. Just as you don’t have the right to tell me what I can and can’t put in my space, I don’t have the right to tell you what you can and can’t put in yours. If you post something I don’t like, I can hide it, or unfollow you, or otherwise get it out of my space, without requiring you to remove it from yours. I’m not going to report a post on Facebook (as one example) unless it’s something truly reprehensible—like child porn, or a call to kill homosexuals. (In which case I will report, block, and tell everyone I know to do the same.)

Social media can be a huge timesink. Most of us have to make decisions all the time about how much we can put into it. I ignore the vast majority of event and page invitations on Facebook. I rarely follow back on Twitter without an established relationship. I do accept most Facebook friend requests, but I unfollow people regularly.

None of that means I have anything against the people behind those pages. It just means I need to keep my space neat enough that I can deal with everything.

I have certain preferences for how I think social media should be used. I’ve written about some of those in the past, and I probably will in the future. What I’m not going to do is get up in your virtual face and tell you off for not following them. If you’re doing something that annoys me, I’ll react in one of two ways: ignore it, or ignore you.

And that’s okay.

That’s my point, really. Whatever I decide to do with how my space looks is okay. Same for you. Neither of us is required to continue receiving content we don’t want or need. Whether it’s something innocuous like game invitations or something more serious like political discussions, you have every right to follow along or not.

And so do I.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /

Eatin’ Nawlins Style


I’m (more than) a little jealous watching all the people enjoying the RT convention in New Orleans this week. There’s the convention itself, of course, which I’ve never been to but have heard from numerous friends is awesome. There’s the friends who are gathering to have fun together while I’m sitting here working the EDJ. And there’s New Orleans, a city I love, with its depth of history highlighted by more than hint of wildness around the edges.

But if you know anything at all about me, you know when it comes to New Orleans, what I’m missing most is THE FOOD.

Even with my personal food restrictions—I can’t stand anything very spicy, so I have to be careful with the Cajun and Creole labels—I’ve had some of the best food of my life in New Orleans. Jumbo prawns in cream sauce over pasta. Gator po’ boy. Grilled gorgonzola and ham on French bread. Beignets and café au lait. And, of course, hurricanes of the frozen and non-frozen variety.

I saw a mention a couple of days ago of a group of convention attendees eating in a kitschy chain restaurant, and I have to say, it made me wince. Really? All the amazing food the city has to offer, and you choose the mass-produced kind? Sacrilege! I can’t imagine eating in any chain restaurant in New Orleans—not counting, of course, local establishments that have multiple locations.

cafedumondeSo go on, enjoy Nawlins, all you RT people. Eat, drink, and be merry. Don’t mind me, sitting alone at home on my sofa, sobbing into my Café du Monde mug.


Let’s Talk Process



So this is the thing. When you get a group of authors together for any length of time, the topic of conversation will invariably turn to sex. I MEAN. Writing process.

(… also sex. But that’s another post.)

“Everyone should do THIS,” one author will gush. “I always [outline to the nth degree/pants it all/fast draft/go through 34839743 revisions/draft in quill and parchment] and it works every time!”

Well, bully for you. No, really. I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you. That’s great!

But I’m not you. And what works for you could be the kiss of death for me.

I’m a short story writer. I can pants a short story in a few days, and a novella in not much longer. If I have a decent story idea and a couple of well-formed characters, I can cough up 10k in no time.

Set a 60,000-word minimum in front of me, and it’s an entirely different story. So to speak.

I cannot pants a novel. I’ve tried. I have several (for high values of “several”) projects that sit forlorn, shunted off to the side, because I don’t have the foggiest freakin’ idea where they’re supposed to go next. I can start a story just fine. I might even be able to write an ending for it. But those fiddly little bits in the middle will trip me up every time.

Unless I write a synopsis first.

No, wait! Don’t run away! Hear me out!

I know how much authors hate writing synopses. The only thing that gets close to as many complaints from the authors I know is writing blurbs. And actually, the very first thing I write for a story is a blurb, but I don’t worry about making it non-sucky. I’ll probably spend a little time figuring out the main characters, too. But it’s writing a synopsis that takes a story from a passing thought to Srs. Bznss.

Writing the synopsis before writing the story kills two birds for me. It serves as an outline for the story, and it saves me from having to write a synopsis from scratch after I finish the story. Does the synopsis hold up intact? Nope. Never. Stories take on a life of their own. Characters do crazy things. But the synopsis isn’t carved in stone. It can be revised at any point—before, during, or after the story is written and revised.

For my first novel, Sand & Water, I wrote a synopsis of about 2,500 words, and nearly all of that ended up in the book. But as it turned out, that was only about two thirds of the story. I had a few ideas in mind for a possible sequel, but I realized as I wrote that those parts needed to go into that book. So they did, and I added all that to the synopsis.

For the novel I just finished drafting, Unfortunate Son, I had more experience under my belt and a better idea of what it would take to tell the story. I wrote the first few chapters before I wrote the synopsis, and it took a few tries and some time to get the story to flow the way it needed to. Once I had that locked in pretty well, I was able to actually finish the book. (Though I still have some things to add to both book and synopsis before they’re finalized.)

I started writing original fiction four years ago. It’s taken me this long to figure out a novel-writing process that actually seems to work for me. It’s never an exact science, of course. Every story is different. But now I have a place to start from, and it’s getting the synopsis out of my head and onto the page.


  1. Get story idea
  2. Write blurb
  3. Develop main characters
  4. Write full synopsis
  5. Write story draft
  6. Revise story
  7. Revise synopsis
  8. Revise blurb
  9. Submit
  10. PROFIT

Will this work for anyone else? I have no idea. I just know that it works for me. And so I’ll keep doing it, until and unless it falls apart completely, or something that works better comes along.

So go ahead and talk process with other authors! Maybe you’ll give someone an idea, or get one from someone else. Just don’t expect anyone else’s process to work exactly like yours. As long as you get the same results in the end—a finished story—nothing else really matters. 🙂

Image courtesy of Simon Howden /


I’ve spent the last almost-three weeks in my own personal “con season.” It’s been an amazing time, albeit exhausting. The bulk of the insanity was a 12-day, cross-country excursion to Tampa and Portland. I left home on April 16 and didn’t return until April 27—and then Outlantacon was 5 days after that!

I started my trip in Tampa for RainbowCon, which was pretty awesome. We had some great panel sessions—I sat on panels about author etiquette and stereotypes in fiction—and the vendor room stayed pretty busy. I left with just one book left from the ones I brought, though of course I had a stack of new ones I purchased from others! I shared a table with the fabulous Nicole Dennis, and we were set up right next to Grace R. Duncan, so we had a great time. It was so great to see so many friends again and to meet some new people. Best surprise: Brandon Shire stopping by! (He’s freaking adorable, too. LOL)

Once RainbowCon ended, I went home with cousins who live nearby for a couple of days off. I mostly did as little as possible: soaked in the hot tub, sat by the pool, ate some great food, and slept a lot. I did write a blog post and worked on plotting my next books, but I focused on resting up because I knew I’d need it!

On Wednesday, April 23, after a quick trip to St. Pete beach, I hopped a plane to Portland by way of Detroit, getting to the hotel at 10:30 local time. Naturally, my body felt like it was 1:30 a.m., so after unpacking the absolute bare minimum and drinking a little chocolate milk, I crashed hard. Thursday, I took care of two Portland touristy essentials: lunch from a food truck (a really good gyro) and doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts. When I got back, I started meeting up with people, and if I tried to list them all, I’d leave people out. But I got to see many of my favorite people and meet a bunch more, and that is always awesome.

The workshop itself was fun and interesting. Lots of information about sales and marketing, suggestions for writing specifics, and plenty of laughter. I had a good talk with Elizabeth North, pinning myself down to a three-book series commitment in the process (eep!), and several other Dreamspinner staffers, in addition to a bunch of authors. Nothing like feeling like you’ve found your people. 🙂

I did manage to squeeze in dinner with a local friend, though plans with another fell through just because I was too tired to think by then. I did hit up a couple more food trucks and wander through the Powell’s location at the airport. Portland is a lovely city, and I’d love to go back at some point.

I flew home last Sunday, along with Nessa Warin and Paul Richmond, which led to quite a bit of insanity, some of which might actually make it into a book (pokes Nessa). Of course, by the time I got home, I was dead on my feet and pretty much only had time to collapse into a bed. I did have to work the next day. 🙂

I survived last week, barely, and picked up J.P. Barnaby and Kage Alan from the airport on Thursday to kick things off. I went to the Eagle with J.P. and William Cooper for the Outlantacon kickoff party, had to work briefly Friday morning, and then spent the weekend doing the panels I listed on Friday and the rest of the time in the dealer room, selling books. We had a big pile of print copies of Butt Ninjas from Hell and sold quite a few. And of course we’re already planning for the next anthology or two. 😉

I’m finishing this up Sunday night, and I’m so tired it’s taking me twice as long to parse things as I go. I should probably stop writing and go get some sleep. Back to the EDJ in the morning!