Meet the Pets!

Check out the awesome cover for the fourth Sorcerous Moons book!! It releases Tuesday, January 24, but you can preorder at a few retailers. The blurb: 

An Enemy Land

Once Princess Oria spun wicked daydreams from the legends of sorceresses kidnapped by the barbarian Destrye. Now, though she’s come willingly, she finds herself in a mirror of the old tales: the king’s foreign trophy of war, starved of magic, surrounded by snowy forest and hostile strangers. But this place has secrets, too—and Oria must learn them quickly if she is to survive.

A Treacherous Court

Instead of the refuge he sought, King Lonen finds his homeland desperate and angry, simmering with distrust of his wife. With open challenge to his rule, he knows he and Oria—the warrior wounded and weak, the sorceress wrung dry of power—must somehow make a display of might. And despite the desire that threatens to undo them both, he still cannot so much as brush her skin.

A Fight for the Future

With war looming and nowhere left to run, Lonen and Oria must use every intrigue and instinct they can devise: to plumb Dru’s mysteries, to protect their people—and to hold fast to each other. Because they know better than any what terrifying trial awaits…


This week on the blog, we’re featuring the pets of the SFF Seven. Come on over to see my pretties

Cats and Oklahoma Weather

005I’m so happy that (new) cat Jackson and (old) cat Isabel get along so well. It doesn’t always work out that way and is so lovely when it does.

This evening I pick up my boss/colleague Laurie and we’re driving over to Oklahoma City for some meetings tomorrow. Then we’ll drive back tomorrow night and she’ll spend a couple of days here in New Mexico. Should be quite the whirlwind!

Otherwise, I’m over at the Contemporary Romance Cafe tomorrow (May 1), talking about where I write. Which, of course, involves treadmill desks. 🙂 If you’re a regular reader here, it won’t be anything new to you. Except to say that I figured out I’ve walked over 150 miles in April and have logged over 61,000 words. It’s been a busy, productive month for me.

Which is good, because Ursula’s book is being kind of wrenching to write. It’s due June 1, so I anticipate May will be another 60K+ month.

Think No-Tornado Thoughts for me!

Enforced Peace

003A bit of found art – or found cuteness. This is a neckwarmer bunny that I’d set aside. When I walked past later, it struck me just how serendipitously it had fallen, making a very peaceful tableau.

More peace is always good.

In the mornings, when I feed the kitties, I stay to watch them eat. If I don’t, Jackson – younger, faster, and more ravenous – will finish his and head over to Isabel’s bowl. He’ll nudge her out of the way and, remarkably, she’ll let him. I keep thinking this will change as he’s no longer a kitten, but he’s at a year and a half now and she still cuts him that baby slack. So I stay and watch, keeping him away until she’s done.

She’s a delicate eater, precise and unhurried. It can take a while for her to finish. I make my coffee, take my vitamins, but then I have to simply wait. Isabel is also our guard cat and she hates any disturbance while she eats. Kitchen chores like unloading the dishwasher or doing dishes are simply out of the question. Once clank of a plate and she’s out of there. One turn of my back, Jackson will dive in and she won’t come back.

Once I tried bringing my laptop in, so I could begin dealing with email for the day, but it diverted my attention too much and Jackson stole the moment.

Thus, I’m forced to be quiet and still. Sometimes I look out the kitchen window to the back garden – a view I rarely take in, because any other time I’m in the kitchen I’m on task. Though I begrudged the time to begin with, it’s become one of my few “doing nothing” moments of the day.

Something I probably need more of.


Writing What You Read

BFQ6OC9CUAARMjsMy office assistant, Isabel. At least she’s not on the keyboard, right?

The other day, I saw this tweet:

D’ya think it’s poss to write a YA zombie book without ever having read ANY zombie books at all, like ever? Recommendations please folks?

This isn’t anyone I follow or who follows me – I saw it because someone I follow retweeted it. So, Unknown Person who asked this question by flinging it upon the waters of Twitter in good faith, if you see this, please don’t think I’m dissing you here. I had a long answer to your question. Longer than Twitter permits.

Plus I admire this person for asking the question in the first place. So very many people don’t. And I think it hurts them as writers.

See, there’s this idea that there’s an artistic purity in working from a vacuum. I’m not quite sure where it comes from. But people love to tell stories about the guy who never studied painting, ever but produces this amazing, unusual work. Or the young girl who spontaneously starts creating symphonies. We’re fascinated by the idea of this kind of genius, that seems to spring out of nowhere.

It also maybe is alluring, because we get the idea that we can skip a few steps and be successful anyway.

Really, I think this rarely happens. In fact, I suspect it never happens and stories meant to convey that idea are heavily massaged. There’s a reason interviewers ask bands about their influences, why people are forever asking writers who they read. Creativity comes out of richness, not a vacuum. Ideas lead to more ideas. Also, learning your craft means studying others who’ve gone before.

After all, no one really wants to hire an architect who says “Oh, I didn’t go to school because I didn’t want my creativity to be influenced by the establishment.” No CPA should touch your taxes who says she hasn’t read all that IRS stuff.

It’s great to want to be a rulebreaker, but you have to know what the rules are first. For a writer, that means reading. A lot of reading.

A few years back, I had a friend who was writing a vampire book. Only hers was a going to be a special vampire book – not like all the others. In fact, she’d never read a book with vampires in them. She had a fair amount of contempt for the genre. When I suggested a few books or authors who’ve greatly influenced that genre, she dismissed the idea. First of all, she didn’t want to waste her time reading books like that. Secondly, she wanted her book to be unique, untainted by the tropes. She planned to mix it up and do something Fresh, Exciting and New.

Who doesn’t want to do that?

Thing was, because she hadn’t read, she didn’t know which rules she was breaking. So, she would ask me, hoping for the benefit of all the energy I’d invested in reading those stories. I found that, not only was it difficult to answer a question about vampire nature – after all, according to which author, which tradition? Laurell K Hamilton’s vampires are not Charlaine Harris’s vampires are not Anne Rice’s vampires are not Bram Stoker’s vampires are not Stephenie Meyer’s vampires – but I resented that she wanted to write a genre she didn’t care enough about to read.

That’s what it really comes down to. If you’re writing something you don’t love to read, why the hell are you writing it?

This is a kind of literary carpetbagging. The sort of person who swoops in on the lucrative opportunity, with no real investment in the thing itself.

Not that you’re thinking that way, unknown Twitter person. Because you, at least, cared enough to ask. The short answer is sure, it’s possible to do it. There’s no guarantee for how your book would turn out if you do or don’t read. But why wouldn’t you? Take two weeks and read everything you can get your hands on. If you’re feeling the YA zombie love, then it should be a fun assignment for yourself. Spend a little time enriching yourself, creating a nice thick stew of ideas and images and emotions to draw from.

Don’t worry that you’ll be derivative or duplicating – if your creative heart is in the right place, your own story will come out of it. But do spend a little time studying the genre.

It will be an investment you’ll never regret.

How the Wrong Focus Can Lead One Astray

This morning I was typing an email to an old friend and told her I’d been following her exploits. Only I typed “explotits” instead. Which, you know, isn’t really the same thing at all.

But surely it should be a thing.

Thus: your Arbitrary Word Challenge for the day: use “explotits” in conversation or writing.

Fortunately, the helpful pointer out of wrong words flagged it for me. You know what I mean – that squiggly line that pops up under words the almighty computer doesn’t have in its databanks. I rarely use Spellcheck, because I’m a spelling snob that way. (Amusingly, I have an existing label for “Spellcheck, but can’t recall why. Clearly I have a fraught relationship.) But if the squiggly line shows up, I know I misspelled the word somehow. Or I made it up. It’s kind of a 50/50 proposition that way.

The other day I tried to typed “unparalleled” and got the warning squiggly line. Not terribly surprising since that’s a hard word and I sometimes forget how many r’s and l’s should be in it and in which places. So I tried adding an l, but the squiggly line persisted. I subtracted a couple of l’s to no avail. I frowned at the r, pretty sure there should be only one. Determined to figure it out, I played with the l combinations some more.

Finally, exasperated with myself and that I’d spent so much time on it, I resorted to Spellcheck.


I’d left out the n.

Yeah. I’d typed “uparalleled.”

Because I’d been so focused on those l’s and r’s, I’d never bothered to go back and check the whole word for stupid misses. This is what people mean when they say you “can’t see the forest for the trees.” You get so intent on particular pieces that you fail to expand your view and see what else is there. What you might have missed.

It’s a good thing for me to keep in mind.

Cats and Character Arcs

I posted this pic on Twitter and Facebook yesterday, so apologies if it’s a repeat for you.

It’s a good example, though, of what I let Isabel get away with. No, of course I can’t work very well like this – but do I scoot her off my desk? No no no. One sleepy stretch and contented purr and I’m putty in her so-fuzzy paws.

Part of this is because Isabel has never been a lap cat. In fact, we’ve taken to calling her Nearby Cat. She likes to be close by – e.g., where my keyboard should be – but rarely actually on us. Another favorite position of hers is to lie on the back of the chair or couch and put one paw on whoever is sitting there. Nearby cat.

But Isabel is changing as she gets older – a personality evolution that’s fascinating to observe. She turned six recently and is now a fully adult cat. Maine coon cats are different than many breeds in that they don’t get their full growth until about five years. Isabel is the baby of the family, too, and we still call her the Kitten. She came into our lives at a very dark time. We were in the middle of winter, our five-year old cat had just died of cancer and we’d also had to put down our ancient border collie. Isabel the Kitten brought much-needed light and life for all of us. So, though she’s adult now, compared to our 11 year-old border collie and 16 year-old senior cat, she’s a baby.


See, this is the interesting part. You’ve seen those videos where the kitty-cat chases the bear away? (Here’s one, if you haven’t.) Well, since we moved to Santa Fe, to this rural setting where coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions are part of the landscape she’s moved into a new phase of herself: Guard Cat.

She, the smallest family member, is the self- appointed protector of the entire household. She prowls the property lines. She watches out the windows. When she spots a coyote, she comes to tell us, tail-lashing with indignation.

Then, yesterday, senior-cat Teddy came to lie under my office chair while I was working. I didn’t know she was there. And I have a chair with wheels and a brick floor. Yes – I ran over Teddy’s tail AND caught some of the fur up in the bearings. If you’ve ever stepped on a cat’s tail, you can now hear the caterwauling that ensued. Before I’d managed to do more than stand, Isabel had bolted into the room, quivering, eyes dilated, ready to defend Teddy. By then Teddy was fine, but Isabel had to sniff her over and then prowl my entire office, checking security.

I have never had a cat like this.

More, Isabel never used to be like this. I wonder where it comes from, since she’s not learning it from the other animals. It’s something in her, some dormant instinct, perhaps, welling up to meet the challenges of her life. Along with this change has come the increased affection. She seeks me out for this together time and I find myself unable to deny her.

I’ve been thinking about long character arcs. I’m mulling over the next books in A Covenant of Thorns and thinking about the long-term journeys of the characters. More than just solve the immediate problem (run off that coyote) but how that changes the person over a lifetime (greater vigilance, protectiveness, affection).

After all, if a cat can change so much, how might a human grow?

Of course, it could be just that Isabel is an unusual heroine.

Story Intrusion

This is Isabel’s favorite summer snoozing spot – on the east side of the house, in the shade, where she gets a lovely little breeze. It has the added bonus of a wall she can put her back against or, as she is here, press with her back paws.

Yes, I have to go pet her all the time. The cuteness is too much to resist.

The other evening I was out on the patio, too, reading Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose bundle. (For those of you not snapping up every ebook deal you can find, a “bundle” is like a digital box set. In this case, I was able to get all four of the books in her Blades of the Rose series for the price of one book. Fab deal. The only thing is, Kindle measures reading progress by percent, not page numbers. So, when you’re reading four books essentially at once, you’re stuck in the low percentages FOREVER. 3%. 4%. 5%. I have to get over it… But I digress.) While I was reading her lovely story, bits of The Middle Princess started floating through my head.

This is a good thing. First, it means that Zoe’s stories are inspiring and put me in the best frame of mind to create my own stories. I think it’s really a high compliment to the author. Second, it means that Middle Princess is talking to me and that part of me is connecting to the story even when I’m not actively writing. I don’t know how other novelists do it, but I really need that kind of ongoing flow, especially since I can’t work on it all day long. It’s also a lovely, dreamy feeling.

The phenomenon reminds me of REM intrusion. REM is Rapid Eye Movement sleep, of course, or dreaming sleep. What’s really interesting about sleep-deprivation studies is that they all show that the main effect of sleep deprivation is sleepiness. This seems silly until you think about it. The symptoms of sleepiness – feelings of fatigue, intense desire to sleep, blurred vision, murky thinking – all intensify the more sleep is missed. With sleep, the symptoms disappear again.

The really measurable effect of sleep deprivation is when REM sleep is lost.

Studies have been done where people were allowed to sleep as much as they liked, but were awakened whenever their brains kicked into REM. This has dramatic and rapid effects. People quickly lose the ability to make rational decisions instead of emotional ones. The most minor problem becomes insurmountable. After a few days, the need for REM state becomes so desperate that the brain spontaneously goes into REM even while people are awake, called REM intrusion.

Yeah, you actually start dreaming while you’re up and about. Puts a whole ‘nother spin on hallucinations, doesn’t it?

I kind of wonder if Story Intrusion (my term) isn’t similar, though less pathological. I hope.

Maybe I’ll go have a nap by the side of the house.