Baby's first ant bite: "I got a BOO-BOO!"

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your writing is to get out from behind the computer and visit dimensions of the world that don’t depend on high-speed internet.  I decided the other day, after more than a week of being mostly inside due to most un-Springlike weather, that it was time to get our TV-wrecked, Vitamin-D-deficient hides the heck outside.

When I suggested we go hiking and take some pictures, the Toddler was all business.  She wanted to know where her backpack was, could we see the animals, and hiking, yay!

Of course, you know the dinosaurs were down for a road trip.  (They’re always down for a road trip.)  So I assigned the Toddler to dinosaur-wrangling duty, packed up the car, and pointed the whole circus towards the mountains.

What a relief!  Even though it was kind of a bad day pollution-wise — everything hazy and cast like a reddish ’70s Polaroid — with the windows down and the music up, it felt like we were riding into Summer on sun-glossed ribbons of asphalt.

I didn’t have too much of a plan, just to head to higher ground where we could walk around and possibly — but hopefully not — pick up ticks, poke around the dirt, and see a bunch of trees.  So I took my usual route through the countryside, up into the hills.  And as always, the higher our elevation, the better I felt.

It’s been a funky last week or so, just bad attitude, frustrations with time constraints, the wretched kitchen that repeatedly refuses to clean itself…but as I drove, I could feel all of that junk just fall away.

A friend recently posted a quote by Natalie Goldberg on Facebook:  “Stress is basically a disconnection from the Earth, a forgetting of breath.  Nothing is that important.  Just lie down.”

Well, I’ve been following this advice recently.  Literally.  To the T.  And it’s good advice.  But the problem with lying down is nothing happens.  On the one hand, no one gets in trouble, yelled at, or unhappily surprised…but on the other hand, nothing is happening (which, incidentally, is incredibly boring to toddlers).  You’re really just bent over from the cramps and taking a little rest.  That’s cool.

But it’s the idea that stress is a disconnection from the Earth, I think, that resonates the most with me.  Because every time I take this drive, I feel something internal and important reconnecting with Something Big and Powerful and All-Encompassing.  Everything is possible and amazing and incredible and exciting.  The future stretches ahead of us like the road.  I can’t explain the phenomenon any better than this, I’m afraid.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  But I know it’s real.

What I find most incredible though — and for which I am genuinely grateful — is that somehow, in all my blundering through life, between living in different countries, taking different jobs, pursuing different endeavors, I have somehow landed here, exactly where I am supposed to be.  And so a couple of years ago, when I took up Sunday driving with the little one, I finally discovered this road I keep following that leads me always into the Land of the Sun — for truly, the light is different up there.  There is something about this road, this trip, that renews me.  Maybe it’s the light.

Or maybe it’s just the journey.

I realize now I need the travels in my life.  I need the routes.  I need to get to know places.  I need to discover their stories.  When I take a drive up to the mountains, I’m truly a Sunday driver.  I’m not in a hurry.  Sorry to all you crazy in-a-hurry-wish-I-was-dead-so-I-wouldn’t-be-in-your-goddamn-way drivers.  Used to be one of you guys, so I understand…which is why I’m all for pulling over and getting out of people’s goddamn ways.

But let me show you the difference between driving somewhere and Sunday-driving somewhere.

Driving Somewhere:

Take Greenspot Road east, catch Old Mill Creek Road going up, hang a right a mile past where the old barn used to stand, then a left on…ZZZZ…. You get the picture.

Sunday-Driving Somewhere (fiction-writer style):

South of Greenspot, where it cuts through a weird hinterlands of scrubby desert, there is a plethora of great places to bury bodies…if that’s something you might be looking for.  And not far from the iron one-lane bridge is where I once buried a scarecrow.

There’s a wicked curve right before the fresh egg stand marked by a cross that always has flowers hanging from it.  I recently read a description online about the ghost that haunts this road.  It was pretty accurate.  I’ve seen that guy.  He stands at the right side of the road not far from that cross, facing eastbound traffic at night.  He just stands there.  You don’t see him until your headlights hit him and your heart drops into your gut.  And he just keeps on staring.  Never even flinches.  True story.

Past that, there’s the long palm-lined lane that runs through the orange orchards where a freshly-killed coyote once turned its murky eyes towards a protagonist of mine and warned her of storms to come.  I wish I could have saved her.  Also a true story.

Right before you hit Old Mill, there’s an old house with a chain-link fence, outboard engines perched along the railing like little whirlybirds.  Besides the giant Statue of Liberty and Paul Bunyan, there is a giant rooster.  In one story I dreamed that at night, after Everything Falls Apart, the rooster pulls his feet free from cement shoes and stalks across the desert to find out what happened to all the cars.

All of this is within 15 minutes from the house.  I haven’t even gotten to the scenic loop that winds through the apple farms (where there’s an old witch’s house that overlooks the farms, hanging on the edge of a cliff that marks the boundary between our world and the Sky), or the bit of road with deadly cliffs on both sides (where a character of mine once lost control of his car when a jet black deer ran in front of him), or that big buttery spread of land coming down from the Banning side of the mountains that’s so vast the cows look like smudge marks and we look like horizon to them.

Our destination is somewhere in the middle of the apple farms where there is a nature conservancy and the danger of being attacked by wildlife.  It is here where I found a leprechaun for a story, and so I am fond of the place.

When the Toddler and I finally park and plunge into the woods with camera equipment, dinosaurs, and provisions, I can feel the Earth warm and vibrating beneath my feet, my face tickled by tiny breezes from bugs winding energetic circles about us.  I can tell that the Toddler feels it too, this goodness, this reconnection with the Earth.  I can tell because she always runs through the grass instead of along the path…and that makes me incredibly proud.

This was a few days ago.  After several days in a row of driving and visiting petting zoos, feeding “bambis,” and watching clouds skid across the sky in Banning, we finally made it to Sunday, a day of rest.  A chance to get caught up.

But today the clouds were super-fluffy and the sky was exceptionally blue.  And sometime in the afternoon, the Toddler looked up at me and said, “Bye-bye?”  That’s when it finally hit me.  We’ve got Spring Fever, and we’ve got it bad.

Ah, what the hell, I thought.  The laundry can wait one more day.  And so it did.


Awesome photo by Frédéric Lepied - Flickr.com - Creative Commons

I really thought I was scraping bottom when I wrote a flash fiction piece while clamped onto my seat by my butt cheeks as my co-Ninja-assassin-driver swerved through dead-man curves at 60 miles per hour on our way to our writer’s meeting…which is exciting if you think about it.  Once you hit bottom, there’s no other way to go than up, right?

Not unless you pry up the bottom and keep digging.

On Saturday, at our Third Ninjas Omniscient writers’ meeting, I managed to outdo myself in circus fashion once more.

Not only did I finish writing the piece while my fellow ninjas partook in our ninja feast — always held right before the readings and séances — sorry — critiques — but since I obviously hadn’t edited it, I had to convert some scenes from past tense to present tense as I read the piece.

What a noob.  I figure next month, I’ll just stand naked at the front of the room and throw down some beats and while rapping free form short story.  Sheesh.  What the hell is wrong with me?

It’s not like I waited until the last minute.  I started at the beginning of the month, right after our last meeting.  It was a great story idea, an exciting concept (at least to me).  I sat down and developed the idea, blocked out scenes, and started writing fairly quickly.  That went well…until I “solved” the story.  Once I knew exactly how the dice was going to land, the writing slowed down.  I still had a few scenes left to go.  But hey, no problem, I’m golden.  All I have to do is fill in the blanks now.  In fact — SQUIRREL!

Of course, this is the point where I got distracted by other pretties.  It happens.  A lot.  I have been accused of having a wandering eye.  (More like a lazy third eye with a cataract that can’t focus — let me read your fortune! — but that’s besides the point.)

So this is how I get myself into trouble.  I get a good way into a project and think I’m golden.  I’m the rabbit in fable, the jackass — jackrabbit — no, jackass sleeping behind the tree thinking she’s leagues ahead, the nap is deserved.  I’m serious.  This is a problem.

Because I had the file open all month and picked at it here and there, I managed to convince myself I was working on it.  But I wasn’t.  I was flitting from story to story, advancing multiple projects by nanosteps.  True, nanosteps forward are better than sitting in the same spot, but you always run the risk of energy dissipation.

Clearly the problem is that I took too long to write it.  I was writing only a few hundred words on it a day, here and there.  Granted, I’m working on other things — keeping a two-and-a-half-year-old alive and healthy not being the least of these things — but I think with a project this short, I need to just finish it quickly.  At least write two scenes on it a day until it’s completed.  I know that goes against my whole I’m-never-going-to-not-be-interrupted-ever-again-because-I-gave-birth-and-the-baby-owns-me-so-stop-crying-about-it-and-get-used-to-writing-in-15-minute-increments-and-handle-your-business approach, but even so.  The energy one has for any project is an essential element in shepherding it past the finish line.  And there’s no question that my energy waned for this story once I figured it all out.

To add to this issue, I have relied all my life on the energy/excitement/danger of an impending deadline to push me to complete projects.  But somewhere along the line, I realized that no deadline was so serious that missing it would result in physical pain and harm.  Maybe we need to bring back the “taking it out of one’s hide” penalty, eh?  That could be motivating.

The solution is simply to write faster.  The solution always is to write faster.

Anyhoo, it’s a credit to my fellow ninjas that I haven’t been hog-tied and hung upside down from the tree by my two-toed ninja shoes.  Truly, the Third Ninjas Omniscient are some of the most understanding, sweet, indulgent fellow writers I’ve ever met.  Even so…I better get cracking on next month’s sub.  I’d hate to be the only mono-toed noob at next month’s meeting.  Besides, it’ll be worth the look on their faces if I were to actually turn something in early.  (Ever see a surprised ninja?  Yeah, me neither.)


With daily headlines of outrageous fortune raining down on authors who have seized the reins of their careers and become their own publishers, it is no small wonder that unknown writers are crawling out of the woodwork by the thousands for a shot at driving the new, souped-up bandwagon.

But indie publishing isn’t just for authors who haven’t been able to publish through traditional means.  Well-known traditionally-published authors are hanging out at the indie playground too…and they come bearing cupcakes.

~         ~         ~

Last Monday, science-fiction writer Tobias S. Buckell released Aerophilia, the first of 18 “one-shot” short stories, via Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook.  Each Monday, he plans to release a new short story, each of them priced at $.99.  (This week’s offering is “The Fish Merchant,” available on Kindle and Nook.)

Buckell writes, “One of the ideas I’ve wanted to play with, but haven’t had the time to, was to see what happened if I ‘unbundled’ the short stories I had in my eBook Tides From The New Worlds and sold them directly via Amazon.com. I had 18 stories I could do that with. Will the iTunes music effect happen (people prefer buying singles), or is literature different (well, you don’t buy individual chapters of books, but maybe collections and anthologies online work more like music albums do?).”

I think this is an incredibly smart move on Buckell’s part.  I also think that in today’s publishing climate — hell, in today’s digitally-accessible world — he’d be missing an opportunity not to try it.  He’s got these short stories that have been previously published, and now the rights have reverted back to him.  The (old) typical thing to do would be to submit them to other markets as reprints, a process that usually takes months before the writer would receive any kind of income from them.  Even if Buckell were to able to place all the stories a second time, then his rights would be tied up again for however long the contract states.

Of course, taking this route now makes no business sense.  Buckell is a traditionally-published author with major award nominations under his belt, and he makes a full-time living writing.  He’s well known and respected in the industry, and he has a loyal fan base, both from readers of his books and his blog.

By publishing his stories on his own, he can make them available to virtually anyone in the world, he can make them available for as long as he wants, and I expect that he’ll enjoy income from these stories for as long as he wants.

Buckell readily admits he doesn’t expect to make a fortune off of these things, but regular Starbucks money is better than having perfectly good stories sitting around the house.  Why should short stories only get a limited few shots at being offered to the public and then retired, their little story fingers crossed in the hopes of a “Best Of” collection when said author becomes über-famous?

Making them available in downloadable ebooks not only earns Buckell some change on short stories that might not otherwise continue to make income, but it also garners him more exposure as a writer.  It gives readers an opportunity to try him out as an author without a big investment of money or time.  And unlike stories published in fiction magazines and anthologies made of paper, there is no recycling bin waiting for them in the back alley of some bookstore once their turn is up on the newsstands or shelves.

And since there’s no expiration date on their time in the digital sun, these short stories can remain available indefinitely.  The longer they’re available online, the more reviews they can hopefully collect, and more readers will have a chance to discover them.  Faced with the seemingly endless bookshelf of choices, many readers will go with a story that’s been reviewed favorably by other readers.

It might be that Buckell won’t make a fortune off of these short stories, but I certainly hope he finds success with it.  Only time will tell.  I, for one, think it’s cool that he’s willing to put the work into this “experiment,” as he calls it, and share his results with his blog readers.  And that’s why I bought, read, and enjoyed “Aerophilia.”

It’s good to have a loyal fan base. 🙂


(c) Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc., courtesy of www.cartoonscrapbook.com

I have finally converted myself from a miserable-hanging-onto-consciousness-until-it-hurts lifelong night owl into an early-to-bedder/wee-early riser, so I am astonished to still be awake.  But when the Toddler hits the hay this early (8:11 p.m. — woot!), I gotta jump on it.  Still, even at the bottom of a Starbucks Doubleshot Energy+Coffee, I feel the wire fingers of sleep threading through my brain-meats and flipping off the lights, all the pretty lights.  I better hurry before curfew is called.

Not to exaggerate in any way — I’m pretty precise on these numbers — but I am currently working on about a million projects in between about a million interruptions, which means there are lots of good things to come.  About a million of ’em.  Got a few writerly articles coming your way, as well as a new Dinosaur Party, which should be renamed the Dinosaur Epic Production of Silliness.  (They are all turning into divas, I swear to Murgatroyd.)

I have finally finished putting together the whole email subscription template thingie, so I should be able to let the MailChimp out of the bag in about a week.  Just wanna test the little bugger.  But this is good news for those who like to receive their My Blue Screen Epic-ness in their emailboxes.  Unfortunately, for my old WordPress.com subscribers (I’m sorry, Ré!), according to The Sacred Path, “WordPress has not provided any way to export/import subscribers, or move them, from one blog to another.” Blarg.

WordPress also does not make it very easy to discover this information, but discovered it is.  So I apologize for that.  I didn’t realize that when I moved the blog.  Easiest thing to do if you’re feening for epical goodness from yours truly — ahem — is to subscribe to my RSS feed using a feed reader.  (I just started using Google Reader and the Feeddler RSS Reader Pro app on my iPhone and I love it!)  Or you can sign up for an email subscription.  If you don’t care to get a daily emailed post, then there is a once-a-week option.  So there’s that.

In other more random news, I got marauded on the arm by some alien life form — or a mosquito on steroids — which resulted in a frightening-looking rash that looked almost like a bull’s eye rash.  Lyme-y!  Doc took one glance, declared it cellulitis, probably from the frantic scratching I inflicted upon it, and gave me drugs to vanquish it.  Already the itching has ceased.  I feel better.

What else?  Discovered new music today.  I love YouTube, and I love, love, love me some Karmin.  Nothing makes me happier than coming across new talent.  These two are not only uber-talented and adorable and charisma mixed with swagger on a plate, but they’re friggin’ goofy.  And that makes me heart them even more.


That would be the cows coming home.  I better go before they catch me out of bed.  They’re so strict.


It’s been a long week, ladies and jellybeans.  Let’s recap, shall we?

Besides playing roustabout to a bunch of wishy-washy dinosaurs (“The dry ice won’t last forever, reptiles!”); applying baking soda poultices to a spider bite that just won’t go away (Where the hell are my Spidey senses?); setting up a neat lightbox situation with Pringle-can light reflectors; gambling hard and winning hard ($100 on a gift scratcher — whoo-hoo!); and spending said booty on a long, long, long overdue haircut (a year and five months — a new record), I have been waging an epic battle in the wee hours of the morning.

Mostly, I have been playing at Ahab, stalking back and forth across the planks of my office, the plastic doohickeys on the bottoms of my sweatpants clicking ominously with every uneven step, reddened eyes affixed to the lined diagrams laid out across the whiteboards, hopeful for a glimpse of that elusive, rare event in this writer’s life where I would finally lay down the words like a gravestone:  “The End.”

Alas, I have been unmanned by a startling beast, a cunning Wolf de Resistance in wooly couture and a seductive smile.  This creature keeps bringing me gifts of short story ideas — delicious, cheesy, savory bits of delight — shoving them under my quivering nostrils, always cutting in line in front of my Big Scary Project.

“You have time,” he always tells me.  “Just write this one real quick, before it gets away.”  And even though I know his motivations are unfriendly, aimed at keeping me forever cutting bait for lesser creatures, I fall for it…every single time.

But just outside my window, beyond the rolling deck and the salt-rimed railing, is a marvelous creature awaiting my harpoon that it might finally fulfill its destiny, its flesh laid out in fine-cut filets, fit for public consumption and enjoyment.

Which is how I find myself working simultaneously on four new short stories while taking tiny little nips at the Big Scary Project.

So I says to myself, “I need a better plan.”  That’s what I said to myself.

Hmm.  So how do you vanquish the Big White Whale?  Easy.  You get her good and drunk.

An ambitious evening....

This Friday night, I was joined by not just one dear friend, but three.  And like all dear friends, they came bearing gifts.

The first friend was Ninja Jim, and he came bearing gifts of Indian food, among other things.  I heart chicken tikka masala!  This simple act of culinary generosity has activated the escalator provision in our friendship contract…meaning he gets to pick the restaurant next time.

The second friend was my dear, dear friend Kellie, who arrived with a Spanish Moscato in one hand and a German Riesling in the other.  She also brought pajama pants, which turned out to be a shrewd move since Saturday morning found her tucked happily into the couch.  They’re so cute when they sleep.

The third friend was, of course, Miss Marian, my partner in vino, who showed up at the end of a trying day with a smile — always with a smile! — and an Argentinian Torrontes.

My offering was a Meritage wine, Lost Sonnet, selected because it has a picture of old Willy Shakespeare on the label.  My thought-process is deep and mysterious.

Ninja Jim scrammed early due to ninja duties, so it was just us girls.  So it’s not surprising that the evening started out Twisted, thanks to a Moscato from Spain.  Damn good.  A sweet wine, to be sure, but tasty.

Then we moved on to frolic in the Ziergarten, with a Riesling from Germany.  I have always been fond of the Riesling varietal, which is also a sweet wine.  I am partial to Blue Nun, which always reminds me of my 20s…which was like, you know, yesterday…but the Ziergarten is good, good, good!  Plus, it comes in a pretty blue bottle.

By the time we got to the bottom of the Ziergarten, Marian had moved to the couch to “rest her eyes.”  Yeah, I know.  She’s young.

Kellie and I, being older and wiser, tougher and stringier, forged on without her, but not too far.  We didn’t want to embarrass anyone.  So we broke into the Crios, an Argentinian Torrontes, more for show than anything else.  A much more dry and stronger wine, but I liked.

The Lost Sonnet remains undiscovered at this point, but not for long, I am certain.

~    ~    ~

Revelations and highlights from the evening:

People do not talk about poop less as we age, but more…and with much more specific detail, including texture, form, and density.

Girl talk is a necessary, critical activity that fills a friendship with camaraderie and laughter and reminds us that we are not alone.

When Marian says she’s going to move to the couch and rest her eyes a little, what that really means is she’s going to pass out for several  hours oblivious to shouts of “Fire!” and the oh-so careful placement of salami slices over her eyes.  (I’ll can’t wait to show her the pictures. 😉 )

There is lots of mojo that needs to be found, and peeps should know that they can always count on their friends to tramp through the wilds helping them look for it.

Winner of Friday Night Vino’s Spoonerism Gooberism…me.  “I think you need to use the spour pout.”  Yup.  Future Pulitzer Prize wiener right here, folks.

~    ~    ~

Emboldened and recharged with the treasures of Dionysus, I have doubled my efforts against my white whale.  Refreshed and renewed by the company of my friends, I embark on these efforts grateful and happy.

So how the hell was your Friday?


This morning it rained, leaving the roses by the patio bejeweled in Nature’s finest.  It would have been a crime not to take their pictures, all dressed up in their Sunday best.  And just in time for Mother’s Day.  Well-wishing text messages and presents have come my way, and I find myself filled with gratitude.

I had my little girl at the relatively mature age of 35.  (The term the medical profession uses is “elderly gravida,” may the coiner of that phrase burn their tongue on their coffee.)  She’s an itty-bitty 2 years old, so it’s still a little new to me to be included in this holiday.

I remember before I even got pregnant, Fat Cat told me I had better do what I want to do in life (read:  get published) before I became a mother and my brains turned to mush.  (In true kitty fashion, Fat Cat never minces words.)  I, of course, thought he was full of exaggerations and scare tactics, but there was a part of me that was a little afraid he was right, wondering what it would be like having my brains mommified.  Would it hurt?  Would I lose sight of my dreams?  Would I become boring?  Would I suffer from some sort of mommy-dementia as Fat Cat forewarned?

I got a taste of things to come during my pregnancy when I drove away from a gas pump with the hose still attached to my car.  It was a little embarrassing standing in line holding a gas nozzle and disembodied hose.  (I can hear my brother cracking up somewhere.)  “Uh, how much do you charge for something like this?”  It was a relief when the cashier shook his head and said, “Not again.”  I did the glad-I’m-not-the-only-idiot dance and took my leave.  Da-da-dum!

Now we’re two years and five months later, and I am intensely aware of the mommification my brain has undergone.  Even more is the sense of permanence of these changes.  Resistance has been futile, but thankfully, it doesn’t hurt…not too much anyway.

But Fat Cat was wrong about one thing…my brains are anything but mush.  If anything, I think being a mommy has made me sharper and more determined.  And when I press my fingers against the back of my skull, I can feel my new eye bulbs growing in the back of my head, preparing me for the days ahead when I will have to out-weasel Little Weasel.  (Yes! Mommy superpowers!)  My senses are strangely acute, all of them attuned to her first, everything else last.  She is the soul of my soul and heart of my heart, and she makes me dream harder than I ever have before.

When I see my husband with her, I know he feels the same way.  His eyes soften, and he does crazy things atypical of a good-standing member of his frugal clan…like driving 40 minutes to find her a balance bike.  (I think his brains have turned to mush, and I love it.)

Anyway, I know Mother’s Day is about celebrating moms and all that they do, but today I want to celebrate my daughter, who is my fondest dream come true, and my husband, for everything that he does for us.  Thank you both for making me a mommy.  I love you guys.


This Friday past, Marian brought over a 2009 Green Fin California Cabernet Sauvignon.  I think we both agreed that it was a bit dry for our taste, but it did the trick.  Plus, it has a very cool label.

Usually when we get together, we nerd out behind our respective laptop screens while we chat.  Don’t laugh.  Anyway, this time we just sat back and made good old girl talk.  The Toddler kept us company.  That kid can hang.

This week we covered everything from existential problems to what exactly histamines do in our bodies; we solved romance problems for people who weren’t even there and didn’t ask for our help; and we decided to support each other in our efforts to lose weight…which led to how many Weight Watchers points a Burger King Whopper is (I am led to believe it is 9)…which led to discussion over how tasty the new California Whopper might be…which reminded me that I have a buy-one-get-one-free coupon…which led to a pact to redeem that puppy in the very near future.

All in all, I’d say a pretty productive Friday night.  🙂


…we are now way past our March/April goal of 100,000 words! A thousand thank-yous to skyraftwanderer, long-time reader and poetic force of nature, for your 11,728 words; my outrageously funny friend Midori, who donated 347 words; and to Courtney, our new friend on Twitter who responded to our tweet for words with 16,500 words!  You guys are my heroes.  The final tally stands at a grand total of 108,812 words! Yow!

That means we can stop counting up our text messages from last month and start writing like crazy for May.  Remember how I asked whether we should go for 100,000 again, or back down?  Well, we’re going for 125,000. Am I crazy?  Yes, but that’s what makes me fun.  Seriously.  Besides, the collie wants it.

Anyhoo, in light of such buoyant news, I’ve given the dinosaurs the green light, and they’ve already brought in the roustabouts to set up.  Looks like the big event will happen sometime this weekend.  I’ve been informed I’m on a need-to-know basis.  (I need to know what the hell they want with a fire thrower.  Veto!)

So depending on their mysterious and secretive schedule, I’m thinking I’ll be able to post photographs and the like — they want lithographs — jeez! — Monday or Tuesday.  So stay tuned and keep writing!

I gotta go.  They’re baking Play-Doh in the oven again.  Dang.


Last call…last call for alcohol!  I mean, word counts.  (Dang, that used to be my favorite thing to hear at the end of the night…erm, because I was working, not because I needed help to stop drinking. 😉 )

So here’s where we stand.  Derek from apparentbook — who rocks, incidentally — has recently contributed a total of 4,343 words.  Thank you, Derek!  I’m also putting in 4,009 of my own words.

That brings us to 90,737 words for March and April.  So close!  I think we’ve got it…we just don’t know it yet. 😉

So…if y’all could pretty-please! count up your words from March and April — we need to scrape up 9,263 words in the next couple of days — that would be swell. Then we can show you just how cool a dinosaur party can be!  (The dinosaurs tell me they’re just getting warmed up.)

Despite the fact that everything moves at the speed of Hawaii around here, and regardless of the outcome for March and April, I’m thinking we’ve only got 25 days left for the month of May.  Should we try again for 100,000 words, or should we go with a less noble number until we’ve hit our stride?  Whaddayall think?  To help start things off, I’ve got 11,973 words for the month of May.  I know.  Too bad they’re non-transferable. 🙂


*For those of you who are new to the game, the rules are simple.  Just leave your word counts in the comments section or via email, and I’ll add them to the group word count.  Every contribution gets a shout-out on the blog.  Word counts can be anything:  fiction, non-fiction, journaling, poetry, emails, et cetera.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is you’re writing, composing new words in new and different arrangements.  When the goal is reached, then the dinosaurs throw a party, and I bring it to you — well, not live, but soon after the fact. 😉  Simple, see?  I don’t even need your credit card…unless you want me to hold it for you.


Howard Andrew Jones

I first met Howard Andrew Jones in a small writer’s critique group back on CompuServe some 15 years ago.  Although we haven’t kept in close touch the past few years, I have always counted him a good friend.  When Howard contacted me recently, I was not only delighted for the chance to catch up with him, but thrilled to learn that he had recently celebrated the release of his first novel, “The Desert of Souls,” featuring his popular characters Dabir and Asim.  I remember reading these guys’ adventures in draft form.  Getting to read them now, in their own novel-length story — in hardcover, no less! — with my friend’s name across the front is just validation of what I’ve already known from the beginning:  Howard is a remarkable storyteller.

Besides knowing how to steal you away across exotic deserts and make you forget that you’ve got an episode of “Dancing with the Stars” in your Hulu queue, Howard has built an admirable and multidisciplined career as a writer, editor, and teacher…among many other things.  Not only is he is the managing editor of Black Gate magazine, he is also the driving force behind the The Curved Saber, a website dedicated to the late great historical adventure pulp writer Harold Lamb.  Howard is responsible for assembling and editing eight collections of Lamb’s work for the University of Nebraska Press.  And as if that wasn’t enough, one month after the release of his first novel, he also released his first gaming novel, “Pathfinder Tales: Plague of Shadows,” set in the role-playing game of Pathfinder.

A few days ago, Howard and I met at the Russian Tea Room in New York City between premieres (read:  we exchanged some emails), and I got a chance to ask him a few questions:

MBS: Howard!  Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to let me interview you.  I couldn’t have wished for a better first author interview.

So I have here in my grubby little paws my very own copy of your debut novel, “The Desert of Souls.” This is particularly exciting to me not only because we’ve known each other since the days of CompuServe, but because the characters in this book are old friends to me.

Can you tell my readers a little bit about the evolution of your characters Asim and Dabir?  How did you discover them?  I know you started out writing short stories about these characters.  Did you always mean for them to make their way into hardcover?

HAJ: I read a lot of historical fiction, especially that of Harold Lamb and Robert E. Howard, and one day Asim was just “there” ready to start narrating stories about the adventures he had with his friend Dabir. I found their names easily, and sat down to start drafting short stories about them. Hardcover – a man can dream, right? I wanted to write a novel about them for years, but kept putting it off. I didn’t honestly dream about hardback; dreaming about a book deal seemed incredible enough.

MBS: I’ve heard you describe “The Desert of Souls” as an “Arabian Nights swashbuckler.”  Tell us about the story of “The Desert of Souls.” What is it about the story that drove you to write it?

HAJ: I honestly think Beth Shope’s done a better job with a plot synopsis than I’ve ever managed. I’ll crib from her. But as for what drove me to write it, the book is an adventure about how Dabir and Asim come to forge their friendship.

MBS: I know you strive for historical accuracy.  Can you tell us about this time period in which “The Desert of Souls” takes place and how that’s played into your voice or tone of the story?

HAJ: I think most of us are familiar with the impact of the Renaissance in Europe. 8th century Baghdad was undergoing something similar, though not a rebirth so much as a flowering. It was a true golden age of science and literature. Islam was but a few centuries old, and the ruler of the caliphate could trace his lineage back to a relative of the prophet himself. Religion was a constant concern. This era also was a time of strife and conflict. Two of the world’s great superpowers of the time were right next door to one another – the Abbasid caliphate and what we now call the Byzantine Empire – and border disputes and wars occurred with savage frequency. Many areas of the world just around the corner from these centers of civilization were terra incognita. Anything must have seemed possible. As reflective of a man serving the aristocracy, my narrator has a formal, dignified writing style, but he is a warrior of renown and a relatively simple man, willing to believe any number of strange stories, though he is seasoned enough not to be completely credulous.

MBS: Who do you consider to be the “star” of the series; Asim or Dabir?  Do you have a favorite of the two?

HAJ: I don’t have a favorite. They’re a team, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. They have equal billing, and bring out the best in each other. Without each other to play off of I don’t think they’d be interesting for me to write about, or for others to read about.

MBS: How many novels had you written previous to “The Desert of the Souls”?  What do you think you did differently, if anything, with “The Desert of the Souls,” to make it be the one that caught the attention and enthusiasm of an editor?

HAJ: I suppose it must be somewhere around 6 or 8; as for what I did differently, compared to the first few I just had to better learn how to write. Compared to more recent works, I still needed practice! I wish I could say that I had to find characters I was passionate about and a story I was dying to tell, but it’s not that simple, because I’d been trying to do that for ages. Maybe all the practice finally paid off, or perhaps I finally found my voice.

MBS: You’ve written some excellent essays regarding your journey to publication, “How to Get a Book Deal,” “Signing the Contract,” and “After the Book Deal.” In “Signing the Contract,” you talk about this cup-of-tea moment you have when you received an email from editor Pete Wolverton at Thomas Dunne Books, who had your manuscript under submission, asking you to give him a call.  I especially loved that you shared this as this is the moment I think we all, as writers, work so hard for.  What was going through your mind while you enjoyed that cup of tea?  Did you know that this was it?

HAJ: I suspected it was the moment, but I didn’t know for certain. I can’t recall what was going through my mind other than slowly enjoying the tea. I was excited, certainly, and a little nervous. Doing something ordinary helped clear my head.

MBS: Right on the heels of the release of your first novel, your second novel — a gaming novel — “Plague of Shadows” was released.  How did you come to write a novel for the Pathfinder universe?

That came about through my Black Gate work. I’d known the editors at Paizo for several years because of the reviews I’d been doing of Paizo game products and because we had a similar love of old sword-and-sorcery and sword-and-planet adventure stories. Paizo editor James Sutter was readying to launch the Pathfinder line at about the same time word broke that I’d signed a book deal, and he asked if I’d be interested in writing a novel set in the Paizo game world. I was already a fan of Paizo material and somewhat familiar with the setting, so I was happy to submit some story ideas.

MBS: I would be remiss not to bring up Harold Lamb.  In fact, it seems your name is always to be found in reference to Harold Lamb, and with good reason.  For those of you who don’t know, Harold Lamb was a historical adventure writer who published short stories and novels between 1917 and the early 1960s.  He was best known for his stories that appeared in Adventure Magazine through 1936.  But if it weren’t for you, Harold Lamb surely would have faded away into obscurity.

You’ve put together eight collections of Harold Lamb’s fiction through University of Nebraska Press.  How did you go from being an appreciative fan to compiling these collections of almost-lost adventure literature, an amazing labor of love?

HAJ: Purely by accident. Lamb’s stories were pretty far ahead of their time as to pacing, cinematic description, plot twists, compelling characters – they were grand adventure stories, and when I discovered dozens and dozens of them had never been reprinted, I tracked them down and learned most were just as good or better than the ones that I’d already read. It was criminal that such fine stories were in danger of being completely forgotten, and I really hoped something could be done about it. I just didn’t know I’d be involved! I’d never planned to become an editor, but I fell into the job when I couldn’t get a position in the radio-tv-film industry. After a few years I realized that I knew the “language of publishing” so that it was much simpler for me to approach publishing houses about reprinting the work – rare work that I was in possession of. I wasn’t alone, though – other Lamb fans had preserved the work from the rare old magazines, and when I had interested the University of Nebraska Press in collecting Lamb’s work, those fans stepped forward to help supply me with the texts.

MBS: You mentioned the other day that you just finished the sequel to “The Desert of Souls,” and I hear there’s going to be a flying carpet in the sequel.  Are there any other tidbits you can give us regarding the sequel?  What else can we look forward to from you in the future?  And — this is me being fan girl — d0 you intend to publish any Kyrkenall stories?

HAJ: There will be forgotten lore, sinister wizardry, bone-chilling monsters and giant beasts, and romance is in the air for Asim. Kyrkenall – hah! I’m amazed you remember him from our writing group days. Of all the novels before “The Desert of Souls,” there’s one that I’ll probably revise heavily, and another that I’ll keep the characters and background from and start over, and that’s the one narrated by the impulsive, charming, and deadly Kyrkenall. I’d still love to launch a series featuring him.

MBS: I’d love to read a series featuring him. 🙂

Thanks so much for taking time for this interview, Howard.  I’m really glad people are sitting up and taking notice of you and your work.  The blurbs and reviews have been glowing…and deservedly so.  I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you.

HAJ: Thank you for the questions and support, Ang. It’s been a real pleasure.