Monday, March 25, 2013

The Best Things in Life

This weekend I went to the third annual Chocolate and Coffee Fest, and it made me realize a few things.

First, I had already gone to many of the stores represented prior to this weekend. Chocolate and coffee are two of my favorite things. Add wine to that, and I'm in heaven (actually, there was a wine seller there, but the line was too long). I've long had this dream of what I'd do if I ever opened my own restaurant. The three main items I'd sell? Chocolate, coffee, and wine. There would be some small tables and chairs, but a lot of it would consist of plush armchairs, walls covered with shelves of books, and a wall separating sections where a huge fireplace would run in the winter. Part of it would be an actual bar, and part of it would be like a living room/library. I'd never want to leave.

Back to the coffee. My parents were coffee drinkers. I bugged my mom endlessly to drink some of hers when I was a kid. Sometimes she'd give in, putting lots of milk and sugar in a small amount of coffee and let me have at it. Then I turned from coffee, preferring sugary sodas during my adolescence and early twenties.

And then grad school happened.

I started getting a small cup of coffee in the mornings. Then the medium. Then the large. This coincided with the ever-shrinking amount of time I spent sleeping at night. I got my coffee at the campus cafe. Then I tried a cappuccino. Not bad. I branched out to local coffee houses and tried their brew. I found it unbelievably strong and reverted to my childhood by adding tons of milk and sugar. Some wacky Seattle-based coffee chain came along and I started drinking their flavored mochas. By then, clearly, the addiction had dug its claw deep into my flesh. A few years ago, my husband and I took a trip to Seattle. I planned part of our itinerary around the local coffee shops (and no, I never once went to the international chain that started there). At this point, I brew my own in the mornings and add a packet of Splenda and a dash of milk.

Then there's chocolate. I prefer dark chocolate, but really, any kind will do. I love it all. But I didn't know how much it was possible to love chocolate until I learned about pairing it with port wine. If you've never tried it, you must. The next time you go out to eat at a nice restaurant, save room for dessert. Order a chocolate ganache, or something decadently chocolate, and a glass of port. By itself, port is just a super sweet wine. But! Take a bite of chocolate. Then sip the port. The wine will make the chocolate even more chocolatey. You will hear angels singing. You will want to run around giving everybody a hug (don't). You will want to name your firstborn after me (go ahead). It's that good.

And now, if you'll pardon me, there's a cup of coffee calling my name.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thumbnail Thursday with Amalia Dillin

      It's Thursday, and that means it's time for another interview, this time with Amalia Dillin, author of the recently released Forged by Fate. Read on to find out more about her and the sort of animals she'd like to have in her backyard some day. 

     What are you working on right now?

I’m currently in the middle of a couple of projects, including revisions for the second book in the Fate of the Gods series, a paranormal romance novella with Ullr, the Norse god of archery and skiing, and a novel about Pirithous, son of Zeus, and his escape from Hades into the modern world. I’m really not sure what I would do with myself if it weren’t for mythology!

      What's your pre-writing ritual?

Um. I guess I check my email, then twitter, then facebook, then dive in. Of course, I try really hard *not* to do this, too. I find that my most productive days are the days when I look at my word document first thing. It sets the tone for the rest of my writing day, and while I might break for research, it helps me to tune out the rest of the internet and all its amazing and wonderful distractions.

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

I recently learned a lot more than I ever wanted to know about fleas – I hadn’t realized there were specific fleas for specific animals, or how varied they were in size. I calculated how many fleas it would take to fill a wine bottle for that novella, but thankfully, I’ve blocked the most sordid of those details out of my mind since. If I ever have to look up fleas again it will be far, far too soon!

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

Ha! Well, so far, my favorite is definitely Forged by Fate, because it really is my book of ThorLove, and I’m so, so glad I’m getting to share it with the world. BUT, I also wrote a serial for my blog with my friend Mia Hayson, about Thor in Zombie Land which was truly a labor of love, and so, so much fun. It was kind of a story we wrote together just for the joy of writing ridiculous things, so I guess that project kind of gives Forged by Fate a run for its money in my heart. So often, it’s easy to forget about that kind of writing, but it’s the pure joy of it which started me on the path to authorhood, and it’d be a shame to lose touch with that.

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

Robert A. Heinlein. No question. His vision was just… incredible. And he had so many amazing insights. We see that clearly in his work. Wait. I lied. I want to change my answer to Homer. I want to know what he actually knew about the epic stories he wrote down!

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

Runemarks, by Joanne Harris. It was really an amazing and creative take on the idea of Ragnarok and what comes after. I really, really enjoyed exploring the world and the mythology she created!

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

Not enough, honestly. But I enjoy yoga, and more than that, I love romping around in the woods. I’m looking forward to getting a dog soon, and getting just a little bit lost out in our (awesomely large) backyard. The size of my yard may or may not be part of the reason I’d like to get goats – riding mowers are so much less fun than livestock!

Amalia Dillin began as a Biology major before taking Latin and falling in love with old heroes and older gods. After that, she couldn't stop writing about them, with the occasional break for more contemporary subjects. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, and dream of the day when they will own goats--to pull her chariot through the sky, of course! Links to all her work can be found on her website, – including the aforementioned Thor in Zombie Land, and more information about The Fate of the Gods trilogy!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Drum Roll Please....

I have a couple of exciting announcements to make! First of all, Shards of History will be available in paperback on Tuesday, May 21st! Mark your calendars! Or you can just keep track via all the shameless plugs I'll put out between now and then. I'm excited about the paperback release, and happy that the novel will be available for everybody who's been wanting a copy but doesn't have an e-reader.

And if you want even more of my fiction, World Weaver Press will be releasing my short story collection on June 4th. It will include a new tale set in the Shards of History world soon after the novel ends, this time from Rasmus' point of view, as well as three other short stories.

I've been busy on Pinterest. Find me here. I've got a small hodgepodge of boards and pins, including one board dedicated to Shards of History where you can find some of the inspiration for the setting as well as who I'd cast in the Shards of History movie. And you can find a recipe for unicorn poop cookies, which has nothing to do with the novel, but is fun and sparkly nevertheless.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thumbnail Thursday with Katherine Sparrow

It's Thursday, and that means another interview, this time with the insighttful Katherine Sparrow. Read on to find out more about her and how she came to write a Nebula nominated story.

What are you working on right now?

A sequel to a book about cured mentally-ill kids with not-so-super powers. Thinking about and drafting a sequel is interesting and hard. There's the issue of working in back-story to orient readers who didn't read the first book, without boring the readers who did read the first book. Then there's working with characters who've already had a lot happen to them, and how to express the growing complexity of their lives. And, on top of that, this book is much more about sociology and groups of people told through the lens of a couple of characters, so I find that hard, hard, hard. My writing, it seems, always wants me to learn how to write things I don't know how to write. Which is why I love it and why it terrifies me and why I doubt I'll ever move out of a place of, as the Buddhist's say, of beginner's mind.

 What's your pre-writing ritual?

Grabbing a cup of coffee or green tea. Surfing the same four Internet places I always do until I get bored. Turning on Pandora (lately to the dubstep station which is way too industrial and grindy for my normal taste, but seems to work for writing.) Telling myself I can't take a break until I write X amount of words. Taking a deep breath and jumping into word-world.

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

I love, love, love writing research. It's so different from academic or real-life research in that instead of looking for mastery of a subject, I'm looking for quirky details and vignettes, and those tidbits that open a whole imagined world.

Last year, for a story I was writing about a girl discovering San Francisco's secrets, I photographed over a hundred and fifty graffiti murals in the city, and let the images and hidden places seep into me and whisper their stories.

About five years ago I did researched South Africa, and more specifically the history of the anti-apartheid movement and what it's like to live in Soweto for Xhosa and Zulu teenaged girls. I got to interview some really wonderful and vibrant teenagers, who were hilariously like teenagers everywhere, and also very specifically south African and passionate about the struggles and joys of living in Johannesburg. I also got to read many testimonials about a movement I personally find inspiring and heartbreaking. It was wonderful.

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

Well, a lot of my stories start out of a rage at some injustice or other. When I wrote "The Migratory Patterns of Dancers", I was really pissed off about the ways patriarchy and capitalism co-mingle to mess up men's lives just as much as women's, a lot of the time. Like the way men are supposed to be the workers and providers, and aren't allowed other roles in their lives. I was also angry at feminists who didn't seem interested in those injustices, and would rather personally profit off them.

So, of course that led to a story about a future without birds, and men who bike around to national parks and perform extinct-bird dances. Somehow, it got a Nebula nomination in 2011 which I am still thrilled about.

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

George Orwell. I love him so much as a writer who told complex truths, and I just want to breathe his air and be his friend and talk to him about "Homage to Catalonia", "Down and Out in London and Paris", and how his chickens are doing (Not a metaphor, he was obsessed with his chickens.)

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

"Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” a short story from Cat Rambo's science fiction anthology, "Near and Far." It was one of those stories that is both strange and incredibly real. It broke my heart. I read it months ago and I still think about it all the time. (

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

Writing is so sedentary, and it often hurts my back if I sit around too long. Add to that that I rarely get ideas when I'm pounding the keyboard, and I end up spending a lot of my time walking. I live in a city that is full of mossy staircases, pocket parks, and strange micro-neighborhood. I love exploring new routes and watching the seasons change.


All things Katherine Sparrow can be found at Also, for some free stories go to:

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Wheels on the Bus....

I love people watching. The airport is great for it. All walks of life go through an airport. I can't ever read or do puzzles while waiting for a flight because I'm so busy watching everybody around me and making up stories for why they're going to the same place I'm going.

But what I've really been thinking of lately is the sort of people you meet on the bus. It often depends on the part of town you're in and the time of day. It depends on the size of the city--I've ridden the bus in Houston, and in Taos, NM, which is, obviously, much smaller. Riding the bus when everybody is heading to work or back home at the end of the day is rather bland. People tend to be deep in their own thoughts and keep to themselves.

But in the middle of the day, when you get on the bus and you're the only passenger, you might find yourself having an animated, pleasant conversation with the bus driver. And then that bus driver might suddenly offer to let you drive the bus. At which point you freak out because (1) you're a stickler for the rules, and driving a bus without a special license is definitely against the rules, and (2) a person who apparently isn't a stickler for rules is operating a very large vehicle in which you're riding without any kind of restraints. Yep, that's my stop right there, have a nice day, bye now.

Sometimes the bus driver is awesome, like the guy who gave me the impromptu tour in Taos. It was a small bus, and easy to have a conversation with everybody on it. There was the lady who smelled like cats and talked about her fifty (fifty!!!) felines. Yes, I met the cat lady. She's nice. Then there was the guy who opened the conversation by pointing to houses way out in the foothills and saying, "That's where the aliens live." Hoo boy, that became a long ride.

When we first moved to Albuquerque, I tried figuring out a way to take the bus to work, but the bus schedule didn't jive with mine. I enjoy public transit for many reasons, of which people watching is one. But driving the bus is not for me.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thumbnail Thursday with Erica Hildebrand

It's Thursday, and that means another interview! Today I'd like to welcome Erica Hildebrand. Not only has she written some of my favorite stories, but she's also an excellent artist. Read on to find out more about her!

What are you working on right now?

I'm trying to revise this convoluted story about a family that gets visited (and subsequently badgered) by their immortal ancestor.  Elsewhere, I'm working on a script for a graphic novel about werewolves and superheroes.  And for the hat trick, I'm writing a new science fiction story.  It's about space rabbits. 

What's your pre-writing ritual?

I'm not sure I have one.  Hydration, maybe?  This answer used to be a resounding "coffee," but I'm off coffee right now.

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

I once wrote a story about a female gladiator in ancient Rome.  Part of my research involved digging into the Roman calendar of festivals; I had mentioned the goddess Minerva, and I wanted to make sure I had the correct event so I knew what month to place the story in.  It was a full day's research for maybe five words of prose. 

The part that surprised me was just how many festivals, holidays, and celebrations they had in Rome.  I knew they had a lot, but I didn't think it was that much.  And it drilled the lesson into me that if I ever create a fictional society that is both religious and loves to party, I need to give them a full calendar of holidays. 

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

Oh man, tough to choose!  I'd say the ones with protagonists worth rooting for are the ones that tend to stick with me.  I have a story forthcoming from Kaleidotrope called "Jack Magic," which is an adventure fantasy born out of the old superstition that ship's cats are good omens to sailors.  It's about a guy down on his luck who is just trying to make things right.  I'm still rooting for him, and I hope readers will too.

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

Can it be a group date?  I'd love to sit down with Rudyard Kipling and make him tell me anecdotes, and find out which adaptation of The Jungle Book is his favorite (mine is Chuck Jones').  But I'd also like Edna St. Vincent Millay to come too, because she enjoys a good time, and after lunch we could paint the town red.

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

I just read "Wool - Part One" by Hugh Howey, an introduction to his science fiction series of the same name.  The story begins with a character climbing an iron staircase.  Before you know anything about the guy, you're getting only glimpses of the strange setting that serves as backdrop, very minimalist brush strokes.  But it's pretty compelling!  I see why this series has generated a lot of buzz.

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

I'm a fan of resistance training.  It's a great alternative to cardio.  I'd love to try lifting exercises sometime, and my basement is earmarked to become a home gym at some point.  I'm also a fan of taking walks.  As for staying healthy, I'd say switching to a more natural, plant-based diet is one of the best things I've done.


Erica Hildebrand works on illustrated projects in addition to her writing. She has a soft spot in her heart for superheroes, dinosaurs, and the conquerors of antiquity. A graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, her fiction has appeared in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet and a half dozen other places. Her comics have appeared in Space Squid and Kaleidotrope.  She lives with her wife in Pennsylvania, and her tweet handle is @Hildebabble.  Come say hi.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Big Five Zero

This marks my 50th blog post. Hurrah! It would have taken me quite some time to get here if I hadn't started digging in other people's dirt interviewing people. It's been an interesting endeavor, and I'll continue as long as people are willing to spill their guts I can find people to interview. I decided on sending people the same set of questions (although a couple have changed some around to suit what they're working on, which is fine... I see it as a fluid process, not some rigid thing) because I've got too much going on right now. Otherwise, I'd love to craft questions that are specific to each person.

The answers have made me smile (and sometimes laugh out loud) and made me think, and most of all, they've reiterated what I already know, and that is that the writers I hang out with (in real life and on the  interwebz) are all-around wonderful people--brilliant, witty, and generous--and they're all filled with amazing stories. I feel quite fortunate to belong to such a group.

My most popular interview to date was from Alex Shvartsman. He also had the dubious honor of being my first victim. I think his wit and charm come through in the interview. My most popular non-interview post was the one in which I talked about the Shards of History launch party where I learned you should always bribe your readers with food.

Moving towards the 100th post, I'll continue to post about my writing process and whatever else piques my interest that particular week. I just finished putting together the major scenes from the novel I'm about to start writing. The blue cards belong to the main character. The yellow are scenes from the antagonist's POV. The pink cards belong to the love story. I can glance at the board and see where I might need to add more pink or yellow (or less), and I can rearrange the scenes before I even start writing. I've dabbled with them enough, and now I'm ready to start writing. Heck, I might get to the end of the first row and throw out all the rest because I discovered some really cool storyline that will work better.

At any rate, I used it as an excuse to procrastinate a bit while preparing myself mentally to write this particular story. Plus, any excuse to shop at the office supply store and bring home cute things.