Our new cat came with a name — Theo — a complete set of cat-care infrastructure, and nearly two years of experience living with human children. His former principal human chose us with great care to be his new family, and brought him over this morning. Theo spent most of the day hiding, only setting out to inspect his new territory after the kids were asleep. Somehow, even while he was huddled immobile under the bed, he was the most exciting phenomenon in the house, or indeed the whole county.

He’s a fine marmalade tabby with matching orange eyes. Soon my nearly-unpacked house will be a marmalade tabby house, because it’s the time of year for Theo to blow his winter coat for his summer one. The set of cat infrastructure includes three brushes and a comb — this for a shorthair. So many things I’d forgotten about living with cats. I’ll have to start putting Static Guard spray on my grocery list again.

I remember last time I did Nanowrimo, when I still had two cats, I included their meddling in my word-count metrics: 1200 words, 2 hours, persistent cat on keyboard. Surely my creative productivity will increase, now that I have a cat to sit on my important books and papers.

Of course, that means, I stop short of Peadar O Guilin’s acclaimed first novel, The Inferior, and that’s my loss, because the first three chapters he gives away as a freebie are stunningly well crafted. As are the three short stories that make up most of Forever in the Memory of God and Other Stories.You can check out my full review here.

My review of Jon Sprunk‘s Blood and Iron is up at Black Gate. Sprunk’s book is, weirdly, the third fantasy novel set during some version of the Crusades that I’ve read this year, and of all the weird Crusades, his is the weirdest, in a good way. What if the Sumerian ruling class had actually been all they claimed to be — descendants of gods, blessed with supernatural power, just plain cooler than mere mortals? They’d have been insufferable tyrants, but their city-states might have stood unconquered for thousands of years.  Blood and Iron brings a slave revolt, a Crusaders’ attack from the West, and a simmering mutual resentment among factions of aristocratic mages to a head, as a shipwrecked foreigner from the wrong side of the war struggles to find his way as a new mage among seasonsed mages. It has its flaws, but it’s fun stuff.

The first review from a book-review-centered site is in, and it looks like Tales from Rugosa Coven hit the sweet spot for Star at Bibliophilic Book Blog.

The book sold nicely at Lunacon, particularly at the launch party, but if all I could see was the BookScan numbers at Amazon’s AuthorCentral, I would think the book had sunk to the bottom of the sea.

No bump on BookScan yet from the review. I wonder if it’ll produce one if enough people link to it.

The launch for Tales from Rugosa Coven was great fun, and I gather it was pretty successful in the context of small press. We sold a bunch of copies, people I’d never met asked for my autograph, and everyone enjoyed the party. My fellow Dark Quest Books author, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, was piratical and dramatic while reading her excerpt from Consigned to the Sea. Our partner in party hosting, William Freedman, read a hilarious bit of satire from his new book, Mighty Mighty. Thanks to heroic acts of friendship and child-wrangling on the part of David Sklar and , Dan was even able to get some time off from parent duty to join the festivities.

Oh, and I had the strange and wonderful experience of watching as Margot Adler took notes about something I said at the panel on Paganism and Fantasy Literature. Perhaps tomorrow, when I’ve had a chance to recover a bit from being ON for three days, bracketed by six-hour drives with young children (the latter of those drives ending with two hours of blinding snow), I’ll be able to express what it meant to see her take notes from my comments. Meanwhile, allow me to describe my copy of her book, Drawing Down the Moon. The binding is cracked from the many times I set the book up in a stand so I could type quotations from it into conference talks and seminar papers. It’s got at least fifty little tape flags and Post-it Notes ruffling out of the edges. Most pages have at least some small bit of pencilled underlining or marginalia in my scrawly handwriting. Some pages have whole paragraphs of my notions scattered in the margins.

There are so many people to thank for the many things that went so well. I know if I try to thank them all by name right now, I’ll miss some. Meanwhile, Thank Everybody!

I’ve climbed out of my stack of boxes long enough to make sense of my schedule for Lunacon. It’s a doozy. I’m on seven different program items on Saturday, even if you don’t count the double-booking error, plus a couple each on Friday and Sunday. It’s a whole lot of exposure for the weekend of the book launch. This is just what I hoped for. I’m slightly terrified.

Everything will be fine, say the many excellent folks who’ve had my back all these years. Don’t worry, your stuff always turns out fine.

Yes, my dear ones, I say, everything will be fine because I’ll work my butt off to make it so, just like I always do.

So it’ll be strenous, and fun. If I’m lucky, my Vortex of Schmooze superpowers may manifest intermittently. Some people might even by copies of my book. Stranger things have happened.

You know how convention hotels like to give their meeting rooms names with unifying themes? If you want to find me at Lunacon, I’ll be spending most of my time on the Corridor of Famous People Nobody’s Heard Of, where the literary programming track is, with a couple of side trips to the Corridor of Trees, and one shining moment in a quadrant of the carved up ballroom (where I’ll be on a panel with Margot Adler!). Here’s how my schedule breaks down:


5:00 pm, Elijah Budd

Storiness: Connections between Story and Consciousness

Programming Notes Say: How does shared understanding effect your story? Using analogies, aphorisms, idioms, mores, themes and myths (intra /extra textual) to help tell your story.

With: A.L. Davroe


7:00 pm, Bartell

Gender Parity

Programming Notes Say: Sick of programs called Women in SF, Women in comics, bleh bleh bleh.. now its the traditional women in comics panel, blick. There’s a lot here to read: http://journeyplanet.weebly.com/uploads/1/5/7/1/15715530/journeyplanet13.pdf [I predict the final draft of the description in the program booklet will look a little different.]

With: Barbara Krasnoff, Felicia Herman, Catt Kingsgrave, and James Daniel Ross



10:00 am, Bartell

Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading

Programming Notes Say: Give us a timeslot and we’ll squeeze in as many readings as we can! The Rapid Fire Reading (RFR) is one of the oldest events Broad Universe holds. Usually at science fiction, fantasy, and horror conventions but branching out to other venues, too, the RFR showcases snippets of published and in-progress work from members for the audience to enjoy.

With: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Roberta Rogow, K.T. Pinto, Carole Ann Moleti, April Grey


11:00 am, Bartell

New Writer Workshop

Programming Notes Say:  If you have never been to a writers workshop, if you have never (or rarely) participated in a writer’s group, if you’ve never been published, this is a good workshop to start your Lunacon experience.

With: Michael Ventrella


12:00 pm, Westchester Assembly


With: James Cambias


1:00 pm, Westchester Ballroom A2

Paganism in Fantasy

Programming Notes Say: Paganism in fantasy (as in used in books) — getting the facts right…

With: A.L. Davroe, Jim Freund, Margot Adler


4:00 pm, William Odelle

Moving Plot Forward by Knowing in Advance

Programming Notes Say: A popular fantasy element is the inclusion of prophets, prophesy and farsight. In most cases, it’s used as a reason that either forces or predicts the actions of the characters. A discussion on whether this is a good means of foreshadowing or just an easy out for an author trying to find a reason for the protagonist to do something.

With: Mary Catelli, Darrell Schweitzer, Paul Calhoun, Jared R. Lopatin


5:00 pm, William Odelle

Test Panel Ideas Here!

Programming Notes Say: This was a test panel entry to see if Brainstorming function worked in our database — Now it IS a panel. Throw a discussion topic into the “hat” and our demented program participants will talk about it for 10 minutes. Then, on to the next topic. Audience votes on What topic(s) can be a panel next year.

With: William Freedman, Paul Calhoun, Catt Kingsgrave, Lee Gilliland


7:00- 9:00 pm, Con Suite

Launch Party

For Tales from Rugosa Coven (Sarah Avery), Mighty Mighty (William Freedman), and the Garden State Speculative Fiction Anthology (Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers)

Readings! Homemade chili! Giveaways and raffles! Come celebrate with us! (Watch Sarah Avery use up a six-month quota of exclamation points in a single blog post!)


(They programming folks accidentally double-booked me  opposite my own launch party. Mistakes happen. Scheduling the program for a convention is really hard, and the folks doing it are volunteers with lives full of other obligations. I mention the next panel in the hope that they’ll be able to move it to some other time slot. If not, then I bow out of the panel in favor of the book launch.)

7:00 pm, Maple

Help the Writers of the Weird Finish This Story

Programming Notes Say: ”I knew the dame was trouble when she slithered into my office” was the opening of a Round Robin story started several years ago on the private Google Group of the Writers of the Weird. See what happened next and help wrap things up.

With: Philip De Parto, Alex Shvartsman, David Sklar



10:00 am, Maple

Mix-and-Match Myths

Programming Notes Say: Do Zeus and Thor have a brawl when a storm moves from Germanic to Italian areas? If winter happens when Persephone goes to the Underworld, what happens in Australia? If fairies are vulnerable to cold iron and kitsune to virtuous government officials, is there a way to combine them in a story without making it a mere comic jumble? Myths, legends, and folklore of the world were not designed for continuity. How can you work original folklore into world-building without losing coherence?

With: Mary Catelli, Patrick Thomas, James Cambias, K.T. Pinto


1:00 pm, William Odelle

Writing Groups and Professional Associations

Programming Notes Say: Writing groups? Professional Associations? Secret Society? SFWA, HWA, MWA, the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers and ____. All are writing organizations, either local or international. Do they really serve a purpose in our writing lives or are they another distraction from writing? Come hear writers discuss their experiences.

With: Matthew Kressel, Bianca D’Arc, Neal Levin, Alex Shvartsman, David Mercurio Rivera


Wish me luck!

I just got a look at my panel schedule for Lunacon, March 14-16, and whoa. When I filled out the webform telling the con programming folks which of their panels I thought I’d make sense on, Paganism in Fantasy Literature was the one I was most certain they’d choose me for.

Nobody told me Margot Adler was coming!

The program’s firming up, so I went to check out what panels I’m on and with whom. There on the screen is a table with names in the left column and everybody’s answers to the why-pick-me question in the right. My answer rambles about Tales from Rugosa Coven, my adventure at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and so on, for several lines.

Margot Adler’s answer is one sentence long, but really, does she need a sentence? She’s Margot Adler.

::whoops, stutters, reexamines own blurb and concludes it’s self-indulgent, admires simplicity of Adler’s one sentence, fangirls at family members who think maybe they’ve heard Adler’s name on NPR::

Tomorrow I’ll post my whole convention schedule. Right now I’m borrowing a cup of internet from my folks, and really it’s time to go home. The Comcast guy’s not coming to install at the new place until Wednesday. So, yes, here I am preparing to launch a book, finally, with a publisher that’s equipped to make it count, and I have to get into the planning and promotion home stretch with no internet connection where I live. It’s been Somewhat Challenging. Then again, if a setback that small were enough to stop me, I wouldn’t have made it this far.

Far enough for somebody to think I  belong on a panel with THE Margot Adler. I can’t stop grinning.

I can’t be the only person who’s ever involuntarily burst into song with this spontaneous filk while ringing up at Ikea. My Google fu fails me when I check to see how many thousands of others have independently invented it — all the internet wants to give me is directions to every Ikea near an avenue. While I waited with my whimsically named purchases and balky children (or was that my whimsically named children and balky purchases?), I dreamed of Carolina Kostner skating her lovely Olympic short program through the warehouse, launching her triple Salchows over preassembled specimens of the Expedit shelving system.

The worst of the move it behind us now. We still haven’t unpacked enough of the kitchen boxes to find a single knife, but every hour gets us closer to having a real functioning household.

My books are all under my own roof again! Not that my shockingly numerous new shelves are assembled and ready for the Opening of the Boxes yet. Tomorrow we’ll have a family barn-raising and break out our collection of Ikea-issued Allen wrenches. If there’s enough champagne to go around, I may even get the rellies singing.

This week I tried to plow through a book that is almost certainly excellent in small doses. For this week’s review at Black Gate, I wrote about the first volume of The Apocalypse Triptych, an anthology series edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey. Adams is the King of All Anthology, and Howey’s been on my TBR list for some time. Their table of contents is full of awesome people. The stories I was able to make it through were all glorious specimens of their kind. Alas for me, the first volume of the triptych, The End Is Nigh, requires that every single story lead up to the end of its world. One stunning end of the world story, well, that you can withstand, even if it’s powerful and keenly felt. Two dozen end of the world stories was more than I could face, and I had to put the book down about a third of the way through, precisely because it succeeded so well on its own terms.

Meanwhile, my six-year-old has tightened his professional focus. For a while, he started half his sentences with, “As a rock scientist, I …” Now he plans to be a rock scientist who does field work on exoplanets, thanks to a NOVA episode about the Kepler telescope. Boy, was he upset when we told him interstellar travel would take more than a human lifetime. He scowled for a couple of days, then proclaimed his solution: He would replicate himself into an entire ship’s crew of clones, and make new versions of himself every time one of him started getting old or died. That way, several of him would make it to every one of the exoplanets he wanted to study.

I like imagining this solution for several reasons. It more than satisfies my parental hope to see my child outlive me and, better yet, guarantees fulfillment of the classic parental curse, May you have children just like yourself! Oh, this week especially, I enjoy picturing my son grown and wrangling a dozen of his young clones while they demonstrate the full range of his problem behaviors.

Why are both my kids’ problem behaviors so out there this week? Because next weekend we move into our new house. We’re packing again, leaving my father-in-law’s place after eight long months in limbo. The kids want their own rooms, and a mammal for a pet, and all the other benefits of moving, but they’re not so sure about all this change. Leaving their grandfather behind is probably their least favorite of the changes to come. We’re a little giddy, a little crazy, a little hair-triggered. The end is nigh!

Publishers are trying the Netflix model. It’s so clear now that people prefer to consume film and television series in watching binges, and there’s always been such a vocal subset of the book-buying market that waits to buy a series until the last volume is published, that we’re going to see some experiments with releasing sequels six, or even three, months apart, rather than the traditionally preferred year.

I wonder what acquiring editors will be advising newbie authors to do now. Back in the late Cretaceous Period, when I had just finished my first novel, all the editors at writing conferences and fan conventions were unanimous: don’t bother working on the second volume of your series until the first volume sells. The rationale then was that editors could fix problems in the first novel, and then they’d stay fixed for the whole series, because all the sequels would be undertaken under editorial guidance, whereas if the author was already on volume five and there were problems that threaded through the whole series, it would be much harder to fix. Also, in the editors’ experience, authors were harder to work with when they were several volumes’ worth of committed to something the editors felt to be a flaw in the work.

Some will say that self-publishing is the solution to this problem, and that no writer of series should ever have been deterred. Although there’s a case to be made for that view, a good editor can help a writer find the best, truest version of a book — a version that’s a revision pass or two beyond where the writer stopped when s/he thought it was ready to submit for publication.

The first two short stories I sold taught me this lesson the hard way. John O’Neill put me through three strenuous rounds of deep structural revision on “The War of the Wheat-Berry Year,” which was above and beyond the call of duty for him. There was no guarantee until the third try was in that he would buy the story at all. His every suggestion made the story stronger, and the process laid the groundwork for a cordial working relationship that continues at Black Gate some eight years later. The second short story I sold, “New Jersey’s Top Ghost Tours Reviewed and Rated,” was accepted exactly as I submitted it at what was then one of the top short fiction markets in the genre. I felt thrilled, vindicated, endorsed, all of that. When the story went up on the website, I discovered a couple of jarring sentence-level infelicities that had escaped me, ones that I think would stand out for most readers. Every time I think about that story, I flinch about those two sentences, and I wish there had been a step in the process in which both the editor and I could have looked the story over one last time for improvements. Which editor would I rather work with now?

And which kind of editor would I rather have as a partner in preparing a novel for the big time? Easy choice. I’d pick the collegial perfectionist over the laissez-faire congratulator any day.

Would it help my Big Book now if I could admit that the second volume in the series is 75% complete in working draft?

Does this new development in the publishing business clinch the question of whether to polish the Big Book at its current length or to split it into two shorter volumes? In the market of eight years ago, it would have meant automatic rejection to submit a first volume with an admission that one sequel was done and the next one nearly so. Now, that could be an advantage.

Or — hell, why not? — I could look at the four-act and five-act structures of Big Book I and Big Book II as places to split each of them into novellas. That would put me at four volumes finished, ready for release at three month intervals, while I knocked out revisions to the five acts of Book II one at a time. Easy peasy. Except that nothing’s that easy, and the Big Book never gets that lucky. And, despite the fact that I’ve had a surprisingly easily time selling novellas, it doesn’t seem possible that the big publishing houses will embrace novella-length series installments.

I wish there were someone I could ask whose answer I could trust implicitly. Ain’t no such person. We’re all stumbling in the dark together into the future of books.

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