Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thumbnail Thursday with Anaea Lay

Welcome to another edition of Thumbnail Thursday! Today I'd like to welcome Anaea Lay, who is quite charming and pleasant, unless you're her enemy. Or a baby.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I'm revising a semi-post-apocalyptic urban fantasy examination of Romeo and Juliet where a modern plague has forced previously secret societies into the open.  It's full of all kinds of fun mayhem.

What's your pre-writing ritual?

I don't have much of a pre-writing ritual.  I write whenever I feel like it and have the time, so as long as I've got a computer with a keyboard, I dive right in and go.  Usually I've got some sort of music blaring, too. 

Tell me about your favorite story that you've published. What inspired it, and what does it mean to you?

My favorite story I've ever written, even, is one coming out from Nightmare later this year: They Called Him Monster.  The story mugged me while I was wandering around Parc Guëll in Barcelona.  I couldn't actually sit down to write it until several days later, and it was very cross with me about that.  But it came out beautifully and I've loved it unconditionally ever since.

You can have lunch with any writer, living or dead. Who would it be, and why?

Robert Heinlein.  I found him at just the right time, and read just about everything he wrote.  I'd really love the chance to talk to him about the post-internet world.  But I'd want a late-50's Heinlein, before Stranger In a Strange Land became a big thing.  I suspect he became less interesting later.

What's one of the best novels and/or short stories you've read recently?

I've been recommending N. K. Jemison's The Killing Moon to everybody everywhere.  I've been a big fan of hers since The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and was really worried about a sophomore slump when she went to a new series.  Instead I wound up loving the new duology to bits.  She does character and world building fantastically, with a healthy topping of mood and luciously crafted prose, which is pretty much everything I ask for from my fiction.

Writing is a sedentary endeavor. What do you do to stay healthy and active?

I eat babies for their health benefits and spend evenings flogging my enemies in my basement.  It's great stress relief.


Anaea Lay lives in Madison, Wisconsin where she sells Real Estate under a different name, writes, cooks, plays board games, spoils her cat, runs the Strange Horizons podcast, and plots to take over the world. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Apex, Penumbra, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons and Nightmare. She makes her internet home at where you can find her blogging about most anything.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Plague is Upon Us

This has been a rough week. All of the humans living in my house have come down with the flu and various other complications associated with it, but it seems we're all finally on the mend. Hooray for drugs, fluids, and rest! So rather than come up with something coherent for the blog today, I'm just going to post random things that have either made my life easier or made me smile.

First, for my writer friends, most of you know that Duotrope went paid at the beginning of this year. If you're less than impressed with how they made the switch, you might want to check out the Submission Grinder. The Submission Grinder not only has submission information and a way to track data, but they've added some cool features recently that take obsessing over one's subs to a whole new level.

For all my knitting friends trapped in blizzards, you can knit yourself a chair, a toilet, or even a Ferrari. I've only crocheted blankets and snowflakes. Well, there was that sweater that one time, but when I tried it on, it was so tight that my arms stuck straight out at my sides and I couldn't bring them down. No, there are no pictures.

For the cooks and bakers out there, you might want to try this recipe for breakfast balls. I ended up making bars out of the mix rather than balls, and I didn't use coconut. Instead, I chopped up walnuts and added them to the mix. The mix was sweet and delicious. I think I've already eaten half of it. Darn sweet tooth....

And finally, for those with little ones, I stumbled upon a great way to get your rest when you're sick and your small, energetic child is home with you. I built a tent in the toddler's room using one of our spare king-sized sheets. He usually doesn't let me lie down, but in the tent I could. I curled up with a stuffed polar bear as a pillow and murmured encouragement from time to time as the toddler played in the 'tent.' I got to lie down for an hour. That's decades in toddler time. It also reminded me of nights spent reading with a flashlight under my bed's comforter. There's something secure and just plain nice about being in a little cave of one's own making. And the cat seemed to like it, too.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thumbnail Thursday with Matt Mikalatos

It's Thursday again, and that means I get to welcome Matt Mikalatos to the blog! Read on to find out more about Matt and his middle grade fantasy novel The Sword of Six Worlds, just released this past December.

What are you working on right now?

I'm in the middle of a YA novel about super hero kids, which I wrote as a Christmas present for my daughters. Now it's getting the first draft clean up, and then we'll get to work on structural issues, a lot of which have to do with themes that didn't come out clearly enough (or that I didn't know about when I was writing the first draft). Basically, this is me wishing I wrote comic books.

What's your pre-writing ritual?

Hiding. I usually need to hide somewhere to get some writing time, unless I make the big pronouncement to the family, "Dad is now working on a novel and even though the laptop is open and his eyes are open, let's all pretend that he is somewhere far away." Sometimes I turn of the Internet on my computer, or my "research" takes me on strange rabbit trails that prevent writing.

What is one of the most surprising/interesting things you've discovered while doing research for a story?

I was doing some research into omega point cosmology (essentially the exact point/moment/place where the universe can no longer become more complex or evolve further… depending on who you talk to about it), and was surprised to discover that the concept originated with a Jesuit priest. It's pretty amazing, because the concept has since been picked up, transformed, altered and used by everyone from pot heads to transhumanists to science fiction authors. It's fascinating to me that it was originally part of a system designed to be part of Christian apologetics.

You can have lunch with any writer, living or dead. Who would it be, and why?

Probably John Steinbeck. His novel, "East of Eden" is my favorite novel of all time, and I admire the way he talked about justice and doing the right thing in the context of every day life, and in the middle of hugely entertaining novels. Word is, however, that he was a bit cranky, so my second choice would Endo Shusaku, the famous Japanese novelist, whose work is staggeringly good. Or Gene Wolfe. Or Michael Connelly. Maybe we could have lunch at one of those big buffet tables.

What's one of the best novels and/or short stories you've read recently?

I'm in the middle of "The Passage" by Justin Cronin right now, which I'm enjoying a lot. Not too long ago my kids and I read "Super" and "Powerless" by Matthew Cody. We all enjoyed those and assume/hope another book is coming in that series.

Writing is a sedentary endeavor. What do you do to stay healthy and active?

I'll run a few times a week when I'm doing well on this topic, or, when I'm doing poorly, I'll run once every few weeks. I strongly suggest the former if you can stay disciplined. Once you get out of the habit it's increasingly difficult to get back in. I find that the quiet and space often give me a chance to work through things in my stories and novels when I run, actually, so it's helpful on the artistic front as well.

 What other writing projects have you been involved in this year?

I have a story in the UFO (Unidentified Funny Objects) anthology, about a vampire who hunts vampire hunters (or, as he calls himself, a vampire "vampire hunter" hunter). My middle grade fantasy novel, The Sword of Six Worlds, released in December, which has been an enormous amount of fun. I really like the tag line for that book: Validus Smith has three goals. Stay alive. Save the World. Finish her homework.


Matt Mikalatos lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife and three daughters. You can find more about his books on his blog at, or follow him on Twitter at .

Monday, February 18, 2013

Books on the Craft of Writing

I'm one of those people who loves books on writing. I have tons on my shelves, I've checked out plenty from the library, and I have quite a few on my e-reader. I enjoy hearing the books that others found useful, so I decided to share some of my favorites here, and if you have any that you've read and loved but don't see on the list, please share them!

In no particular order:

(1) The 90 Day Novel by Alan Watt. I've talked about this one before. This book takes you through a month of writing exercises so that you get to know your character, and then guides you through the next two months in order to write a rough draft. There are over two hundred questions in the book that allow you to explore your protagonist and antagonist as thoroughly as you want (and really, you can apply them to secondary characters as well). I didn't use all 200-plus questions, but at one point while working on these, things clicked, and I suddenly felt like I knew my characters very well. I will definitely use these questions as guidelines in the future.

(2) To Each Their Darkness by Gary A. Braunbeck. Braunbeck has taken some of the most horrific things that ever happened to him (and trust me, they're pretty awful) and turned them into fiction that just takes your breath away. I recommend this for finding the courage to write about your own darkness and fears.

(3) Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder. It's a book on screenwriting, but it's also applicable to writing fiction. I'm going to try the techniques to help outline my next novel.

(4) The 10% Solution by Ken Rand. When it's time to edit, this book can help with whittling down words and strengthening your prose.

(5) The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. Not a writing book, per se, but many writers have been influenced by him. Star Wars (episode IV, not those crappy prequels) was heavily influenced by Campbell, for example.

(6) The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. This is just a great overall guide for breathing life into your characters and your world.

(7) Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches by Jessica Page Morrell. First of all, I've never had so many people interested in what I was reading until I toted this around and pulled it out in public. The title grabs you, that's for sure. Also, it helps with making complicated, nuanced villains and not just the two-dimensional, mustache-twirly kind.

(8) Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress. A good introduction to writing characters.

(9) Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. A collection of essays on writing. I considered highlighting to most important passages, but then realized I would've highlighted every word.

(10) Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin. Writing exercises that can be done by yourself or in a group. What you write may surprise you, and will definitely delight you.

Which ones would you recommend?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thumbnail Thursday with Abby Goldsmith

Today I'd like to welcome Abby Goldsmith to the blog. Read on to find out why you might want to take her up an offer to go to lunch, particularly if you're in Maine.

What are you working on right now?

The fifth novel in my epic science fantasy series (visit for information). Is it foolish to write an entire linear series before getting the first book published? Many people tell me so.

What's your pre-writing ritual?

Turn on the fireplace. Make sure the dog is fed. Sit down in recliner with netbook, and write.

Tell me about your favorite story that you've published. What inspired it, and what does it mean to you?

My favorite is the first story I ever got published, in 2002. Unfortunately, the magazine went defunct and I've been unable to get the story reprinted. I might sell it in an ebook anthology or put it on my website for free. Anyway, the story is a modified excerpt from a half-completed novel that takes place in a far-future spinoff of my epic series. I may never complete that old trunk novel, but the story stands on its own, and I think it showcases my skill with characters.  I've seen it copied on a couple of random blogs, which is a form of flattery, although it never got officially reviewed.

You can have lunch with any writer, living or dead. Who would it be, and why?

Let's see. I've already had lunch with Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin, two of my biggest influences. I'd love to do that again with either of them. Stephen King is my earliest major influence, and I haven't had lunch with him yet. That would be grand.

What's one of the best novels and/or short stories you've read recently?

I've enjoyed some nonfiction books recently, including Stealing God's Thunder (about Benjamin Franklin), Over the Edge of the World (about Magellan), and Catherine the Great.  I also just read the final book in Robert Jordan's epic Wheel of time series, which was satisfying.

Writing is a sedentary endeavor. What do you do to stay healthy and active?

My dog helps me by requiring a 30 – 60 minute walk every day. I live in a neighborhood with steep hills.


Visit for links to Abby's published fiction and articles. She's a freelance animator, and her extensive website includes her art gallery and an FAQ.

Monday, February 11, 2013

For the Introverts

Every so often I check out the search items that bring people to my blog, and one of the most popular ones is some form of "physical therapy introvert." So this post is not only for all of the introverted therapists out there, but for any introvert looking to thrive in a workplace dominated by extroverts.

According to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, most PT's are extroverts. This means they are energized by being around other people. They would rather go out and engage in small talk at a party filled with strangers than stick around the house reading a book. As an introvert, however, the idea of going to a party where I hardly know anybody makes me anxious.

But! This doesn't mean introverts are shy or incapable of going to a party and impressing people with their witty banter. It just means that it drains them, and so they don't want to do it very often. And being an introvert certainly doesn't mean a person shouldn't enter this career or that career. It just means that you often have to make certain adjustments.

For example, therapists spend all day surrounded by people: patients, co-workers, doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational and speech therapists, family members of patients, etc, etc, etc. I enjoy helping people. But it's exhausting, mentally and physically. After a long day of togetherness, the introvert should take care of herself by taking the long way home, or curling up and reading a book, or taking a run or bike ride solo.

When it comes to interacting with patients, I often take my cues from them. Some people seem to want relative silence. I get the hint when I flip on the ultrasound machine and the patient closes his eyes or cracks open a magazine. Others, however, feel the need to talk. So I have a list of go-to questions. It probably goes without saying, but it's best to steer clear of topics such as religion and politics unless you know the patient absolutely shares your beliefs and ideas, and even then I'd be wary. Usually I ask things along the lines of books they've read lately, movies they've enjoyed, weekend plans, holiday plans, children/grandchildren, pets, upcoming local events (the Big Game or Balloon Fiesta, for example), and even what's for dinner (usually I ask this of my last patient of the day). In general, people love to talk about themselves--I mean, look at me blathering away on this blog--and once you ask a few questions and get them going, you don't have to do much to keep the conversation moving.

And finally, there's always some sort of meet-and-greet situation. Some people belong to professional organizations, or your job might require you to do marketing or community reach out. This is almost exactly like being invited to a party where you know only one or two people (or nobody, eek!), and this sort of situation usually makes an introvert's heart go into palpitations and their hands sweat. So how do you keep from freezing up? First, think of why you're going. How much do you really have to talk? Can you breeze in, say hello to a few people, and then breeze out? Come up with a few questions or comments ahead of time and practice them if you have to. Second, loosen up. Take a few deep breaths. Meditate in the car before you go in. Listen to Queen's "We Are The Champions" at full volume as you drive there. At a professional gathering, I wouldn't rely on alcohol as a way to loosen up, though. Loose lips and all that. And finally, take an acting class. Do some improv. Sometimes I find that I'm too far into my own head to have a meaningful exchange with another person, and improv techniques have helped with that.

Now go out there and embrace your introversion! I'll be over here, curled up in the corner with the cat and a good book.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thumbnail Thursday with Barbara A. Barnett

I'd like to welcome fellow Odyssey grad Barbara A. Barnett to the blog today! She is one of the wittiest, loveliest people I know. Read on to find out more about her!

What are you working on right now?

I've been working on a particularly slow-going round of revisions on a tricksy little beastie of a short story involving a violin, a magical military chaplain, and things that go boom. I've also got me a shiny new flash story to tweak and polish.

What's your pre-writing ritual?

I don't have one. I just apply butt to chair and start writing. Actually, even the butt-to-chair part doesn't always happen. I've been doing a lot more writing while standing recently.

What is one of the most surprising/interesting things you've discovered while doing research for a story?

One of my favorites was learning about the town of Longyearbyen, which is part of Norway's Svalbard Islands. You're not allowed to die in Longyearbyen. Because of the climate, bodies buried there won't decompose, hence the no-death policy. I found that fascinating. Now if I could just sell the story that research spawned . . .

Tell me about your favorite story that you've published. What inspired it, and what does it mean to you?

It's tough to pick, but at present I'd have to go with "Mortis Persona," which was published in Fantasy Magazine and reprinted in Wilde Stories 2011: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction. The story was inspired by a panel I attended at World Fantasy Convention. One of the panelists mentioned the ancient Roman funereal practice of actors wearing death masks to represent ancestors of the deceased. My brain immediately went, "Dude, what if the actors actually became the ancestors when they wore the masks?" The story was challenging to write, but I fell in love with the world and the characters, and getting to see several readers fall in love with them too resulted in many warm fuzzy feelings.

You can have lunch with any writer, living or dead. Who would it be, and why?

Peter Beagle, because I absolutely adore The Last Unicorn. It's one of the few books I've read multiple times. I tend to be a super-slow reader, so that's saying a lot. 

What's one of the best novels and/or short stories you've read recently?

Sadly, I haven't been able to do much fiction reading lately because of grad school and my raging case of slow-reader-itis. One book I did manage to read recently was The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. I love the voice and style with which she writes.

Writing is a sedentary endeavor. What do you do to stay healthy and active?

I'm lucky in that I have a day job that frequently keeps me on my feet carrying around large folders full of orchestral music. As I mentioned before, I've also taken to standing while I write, which helps. And I find that regular exercise helps me both physically and mentally, especially walks and yoga—two things I've unfortunately been slacking on lately.


Barbara A. Barnett is an avid rejection letter collector (aka writer), musician, Odyssey Writing Workshop graduate, SFWA member, coffee addict, wine lover, bad movie mocker, and all-around geek. Her short fiction has appeared in or is forthcoming in publications such as Fantasy Magazine, Shimmer, Daily Science Fiction, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Flash Fiction Online and Wilde Stories 2011: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction. In addition to writing, she works in an orchestra library and is currently pursuing a master's degree in library and information science at Rutgers University. Barbara lives with her husband in southern New Jersey, frequently bursts into song, and can be found online at

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

The witty, talented, and charming Barbara A. Barnett tagged me in her blog for The Next Big Thing Blog hop. Barbara was in my Odyssey class in 2007 and is a fellow wine connoisseur. Her writing ranges from humorous to dark, and everything in between, and her work has appeared in publications such as Fantasy Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, Black Static, Shimmer, and Wilde Stories 2011: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction. Should you come across her work (and I do encourage you to seek it out), you'll be glad you took the time to read it.

What is the Next Big Thing Blog Hop, you ask? An author answers some questions, then tags other authors, who then tag other authors, and so on, giving readers a chance to find some great new writers they may otherwise have never discovered. So read on to find out what I'm working on right now, and then consider the work of some other writers who might turn out to be the Next Big Thing.

What is the working title of your book?

I'm pretty awful at coming up with titles, but I like the working title of my current novel-in-progress, Death is the New Normal. It's a young adult/new adult urban fantasy novel set in Albuquerque about a recent high school graduate named Rose who comes from a long line of necromancers.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I took an online writing class about a year ago taught by Bruce Holland Rogers. One of our assignments was to come up with a scene-by-scene outline for a novel. I did that for a young adult-space opera sort of novel and then realized that I didn't want to write it, at least not at that time. I wanted to write something more along the lines of urban fantasy, and maybe with a character just out of high school (because really, I don't want to revisit that part of my life, even in my imagination), and maybe something a little dark. Don't ask me how my brain got from the first idea to the second.

What genre do you write? What genre does the book fall under?

I write primarily fantasy, and I occasionally dabble in science fiction and horror. If I'm honest with myself, the reason I set aside the young adult-space opera novel is that I don't feel as confident in writing science fiction as I do fantasy. I'm slowly overcoming that, and I look forward to writing that sf novel someday.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I have a toddler, I've hardly been to the movies lately! Seriously, I have no idea who I'd pick. I don't know current actors that well. But if I could go back in time and choose Anne Hathaway as she was in The Princess Diaries, I'd have her play the lead.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

An eighteen year-old discovers she can raise the dead and unintentionally draws the attention of three self-proclaimed angels who believe it's their duty to kill her.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I'll pursue publishing through more traditional means.

How long has the editing taken you?

I wrote two drafts last year, and right now I'm waiting for responses from beta readers. So all together, it will probably be a year of edits before it's ready to send out into the world.

What other books would you compare your book to within the genre?

Hmm, I'm not sure. I'll get back to you on that one.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to explore what it means to be good or evil.

What else about your book might pique your reader’s interest?

Rose works in her brother, Ed's, restaurant, which is a fusion of Cajun and New Mexican cuisine. As far as I know, a restaurant like that does not exist in the real world. I wish it did.


And now for the tagging, in no particular order:

If you enjoy haunting stories and lyrical writing, you'll love Luisa Prieto's work. I met Luisa at The Never Ending Odyssey, where I discovered her work. It's dark, it pulls no punches, and I love it. She's the author of the After Series, Cooking With Ergot, Written in Blood, and Shadow Hunt.

Susan Abel Sullivan is the author of The Haunted Housewives of Allister, Alabama and Cursed: Wickedly Fun Stories from World Weaver Press, as well as the short story collection--Fried Zombie Dee-light: Ghoulish, Ghostly Tales. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous online and print publications, including Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, ASIM Best of Horror: Vol II, Beyond Centauri, New Myths, AlienSkin, and Writers' Journal. She is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop for Speculative Fiction. When not writing she likes to get her groove on by teaching Zumba Fitness classes. Visit her website at:

Abby Goldsmith  is a fellow Odyssey graduate and has been working on an epic science fiction series. And she is a fabulous artist. And she started a web show. And she's had several short story publications. I think she sleeps. Sometimes. I can't wait to see her Torth series on book shelves some day. Until then, go to her blog, or her website, to find out more. She'll also be making an appearance on this blog on February 14th.