How Not To Be a Successful Author: Water

Yes. Water. It seems innocent enough. We drink it. We shower in it. We bathe in it.


Ah, but that is where the problems start. Soaking. You can waste a lot of good time soaking in a bath and it can lead to things like soaking in a hot tub or even swimming for pleasure.


When things really get bad is when you start discovering the other adventures water can provide.

Snorkeling (which can lead to believing you're a fish and leaping about in the water).


River floating (which can lead to socializing and goofing off).


Kayaking (which can lead to lengthy adventures at sea).


Those are just a few of the ways water can steal away hours and even days of productive writing time. My advice to you? Avoid it. Even showering could be considered a gateway activity. Sure, you might drive away friends and family with the stench if you don’t shower, but that will give you even more time to yourself for writing. Win all around.

Happy writing!

An Irish Ditty

The first part of the Europe trip I was either jet-lagged and/or sick, a state that I think came through all too well in my post about London (Walking in my Protagonist’s Shoes).h3025B033The second part of the trip I wasn’t in such bad shape. I was on the upside of the cold and, although I was heading into a sinus infection, I was a bit more coherent. That part of the trip we spent in Dublin. What’s not to like about Dublin? You go out sightseeing around town and it goes pretty much like this. Sing with me if you know it!


A church and a pub and a church and a church and a pub and a pub and a pub.

That’s not really an Irish Ditty, but it should be. (Oddly, some pubs got blurrier as the day went on.)

Christ Church Cathedral


St. Audoen's Church

St. Patrick's Cathedral




Proper Irish breakfast for the next morning.

Irish Breakfast.

I don’t have any stories set in Ireland yet, but there was plenty of inspiration to be found, including some fantastic old castles and ruins.

Trim Castle

Malahide Castle

Monastic Settlement at Glendalough

One of my favorite stops was the Trinity Library because…

Trinity Library

Books! Lots of books with lots of history woven into their dusty old pages. The best was the Book of Kells and its companions (of which I was not allowed to take pictures). This book is amazing both for the art and labor that went into its creation and for the efforts that went into keeping it safe (also, there is a great little animated movie that the book features in called The Secret of the Kells).

[youtube] We also made it out to Knowth and Newgrange, two of the largest of many burial mounds originally constructed around 3200BC and around which there is still much mystery. Getting to walk inside Newgrange was truly an opportunity to walk into history (yeah, that sounds corny, but it’s so very true).

Knowth site

Passage into large mound at Knowth


Newgrange entrance

As I was looking at these magnificent structures, a new story idea came into my head of… Oh, sorry, no spoilers. ;-)

Double Rainbow!!!

To wrap up, I wanted to share a little clip of live music from one of the pubs in Dublin because you always wrap up at a pub.


For a little more travel fun, you can visit these writer blogs answering the question: If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

Walking in my Protagonist's Shoes

Big Ben's Tower

As promised, I am posting some of my trip to London where my novel The Girl and the Clockwork Cat takes place. Since the setting for the novel is alternate history (steampunk Victorian London) modified for the purposes of the story many things don’t look the same as they did in my protagonist’s time and some things never looked the way they do in the novel. Still, getting a chance to walk down many of the same streets and see some of the places my protagonist would have seen was a magical experience. In spite of being jet-lagged and sick, I don't think we ever stopped walking.

Jet-lagged and sick in the Tower of London.Pretending there isn't a creepy old operating table behind me.

Walking the streets my protagonist walked in the novel also had the comforting effect of proving that none of the distances she covered were unreasonable. Since she makes her dubious living as a pickpocket, she doesn't have the means to pay for transportation much of the time. I did considerable research on the distances, but on paper, things don’t always work the same as they do in reality.

Fleet StreetStreet viewAnd more

Much of London’s history butts right up against the modern city, as you’ll see in many photos. In spite of this, you can still get a great feel for what the city looked like in Victorian times.

Tower of London across the water.A pocket of history.

Old house 1Old house 2

ParliamentTower of London

And, because I write science fiction and fantasy, I felt it only appropriate to pay homage to Douglas Adams while I was in the area.

Douglas Adams - Writer

Happy adventuring!

Writing Compromised and the Liebster Award


Ever have that experience where you’re editing a manuscript and you come across a section that’s horribly written compared to the rest. After some thought you recall that you wrote that section when you were sick with a bad cold, sinus infection, flu or whatever. You make a vow to yourself as you slog through trying to fix it that you will never ever again let yourself write while sick. Only you know, deep down inside, that when that time comes you’ll try not to work and big guilt-wielding fists inside your mind will beat you up over the work that isn’t getting done until you give in and start writing.


I’m at that point now, that sick point. In a valiant effort to mitigate damage, however, I am letting those guilt-wielding fists win in the form of a blog post because I have an easy one in the queue thanks to the fantastic Briana Vedsted who recently nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award. Thanks Briana!

The Rules

  1. Accept the award, post the picture of the Liebster Award on the top of post, say who nominated you for the award, and list their blog site (see above).
  2. List 11 random facts about me.
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers for the Liebster Award and list their blog sites.
  4. Notify the bloggers of their award.
  5. Ask the award winners 11 questions to answer when they accept their Liebster Award.
  6. Answer the questions left for me by the blogger who gave me the award.

11 Random Facts about Me

  1. I love stacking things to the point that if you put a board game in front of me I would almost rather make sculptures out of the dice and game pieces than actually play the game.
  2. I love playing board games (Arkham Horror or Dominion anyone?), almost as much as I love stacking the pieces.
  3. I also love video games. Single player RPGs mostly, though I can be talked into a good adventure game now and then.
  4. I don’t drink beer, but I have discovered a soft spot for good cider.
  5. I’m afraid of heights unless I’m in a cave.
  6. I love history, especially in the form of historical structures and artifacts. The true stories behind such things give me a world of ideas.
  7. I love to prompt conversation then sit back and listen (unless someone asks me about my writing, then I never shut up).
  8. My favorite instrument is the violin.
  9. I’m addicted to Burt’s Bees lip balm. Seriously. There are 2 by my bed, one in my truck, one in my purse, one on my desk, one by where I sit in the living room, one in my kayak emergency kit,  and a few in a drawer in the kitchen in case I run out.
  10. I’m addicted to Science Fiction television to the point of throwing a Firefly screening party and loosing considerable sleep over the occasional Doctor Who marathon.
  11. I don’t sing in the shower, but I do sing in my truck (all the time).

My traveling stereo.

My Questions from Briana

  1. What is your favorite movie? The Fifth Element maybe, or Howl’s Moving Castle, or How to Train Your Dragon. Too many great movies to choose from really.
  2. What is your favorite book? Again, too many to choose from, but I think the Last Herald Mage trilogy would be one of the top picks (yeah, I cheated and picked a trilogy).
  3. Do you like sunset or sunrise better? Sunrise. It marks the start of a new day with tons of potential.
  4. Are you a cat person, or a dog person? Cats. Nothing against dogs, but I am very much a cat person.
  5. Have you ever eaten any wild game? Yes. It has happened.
  6. If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be? I would be in less pain all the time I suppose (too many injuries).
  7. Do you have someone in your life that is your best friend? Who is it? I’m fortunate to have many people in my life who I would call my best friends for varying reasons. I think different people play different roles in our lives so calling only one person a best friend is really rather misleading in a way. If I had to pick, I imagine my husband and my mom would top the list.
  8. Where would you like to go on vacation? Just got back from London (where I finally got to see in person many of the places I wrote about in The Girl and The Clockwork Cat and get ideas for use in books two and three) and Dublin (where I got to see places that may show up in future books). I would like to go to Japan or Malta next.
  9. Are you happy or sad when it rains? Depends on the day. Rain can be fun or depressing or indifferent depending on my mood that day.
  10. What is your favorite food? Popcorn. That’s a dietary staple, right?
  11. Do you have a hobby? What is it? I have many hobbies including kayaking, horseback riding, caving, dancing, iaido, and so on. Too many perhaps.

A sea of popcorn.

My Nominees

My Questions to those Nominees

  1. What’s one odd quirk or habit you have?
  2. Do you have any collections and what are they?
  3. When you get free time alone, how do you like to spend it?
  4. What’s your favorite season and why?
  5. What’s your favorite instrument?
  6. Do you prefer drama or comedy and what appeals to you about that preference?
  7. Beer or wine (or something else entirely)?
  8. What makes a party good?
  9. What do you typically do on vacation?
  10. Are you a morning person or an evening person?
  11. My cat wants to know if you prefer sparkly toys or feather toys and why?


Next week I'll take you with me (virtually of course) on my adventure traveling through many of the areas of London that played prominent roles in my novel The Girl and the Clockwork Cat complete with many photos.

Happy living!

One New Thing: July 2012 - Graveyard Spit

I know what your thinking. Graveyard spit? What the hell? Is she spitting on graves now? How incredibly rude. Actually, no. Today we’re talking about spit as in the land formation. Per a narrow point of land projecting into the water. Simple enough.

The main spit is actually Dungeness Spit. Graveyard is the fork that shoots off to the right before the lighthouse at the end (yes, the white spec in the distance is a lighthouse). I didn’t use Dungeness Spit in the title, however, because Graveyard Spit sounded more interesting and ominous. To be honest though, I didn’t set foot on Graveyard Spit or make it anywhere near the lighthouse

because I rolled my ankle the friday before this hike (dancing swing, which is apparently quite dangerous) and walking on the sand was a challenge.

Now for some facts and history on this gorgeous spit (that just sounds wrong).

Dungeness Spit is the longest natural sand spit in the United States. Extending 5 miles into the Strait of Juan De Fuca, Dungeness Spit has grown about 15 feet per year for the past 120 years. (Information from the Washington Department of Ecology site.)

Since 1915, this area has been part of a 756 acre wildlife refuge visited by over 250 species of birds.

Graveyard spit also has a bit of history that explains its name.

Just before dawn on September 21, 1868, a band of 26 S’Klallam Indians conducted a raid on a party of 18 Tsimshian Indians camped on New Dungeness Spit waiting for daylight and good weather before making the 22-mile journey north, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island. During the attack, 17 Tsimshians were killed and one, a pregnant woman, was wounded and left for dead. The injured woman managed to make it to the lighthouse, where the Blakes gave her refuge. Later, Henry Blake took the woman to the home of Benjamin Rainey, whose wife was from the Tsimshian tribe.

The Tsimshian murder victims were buried on a branch of the spit that became known as Graveyard Spit.

Visit to read more about it.

Despite the deaths here, it's clearly a happy place.

And these birds were quite happy, waiting for the dead seal at the edge of the beach to finish washing in.

This scene reminded me a little of the seagulls in Finding Nemo.


And just to prove that I actually did go here, this is me posing with some of the spectacular driftwood piled along the middle of the spit.

While we didn’t get far on this hike due to my injury, I’m hoping to come back with the kayaks and explore the area from the water soon. True to the great northwest, this area was breathtakingly beautiful and worth a trip, or maybe several.

Happy Adventuring!

One New Thing: June 2012 - Zombie Movie and Big Guns

June was full of new things. I went into the month with a clear plan of what my one new thing was going to be, but my plans are like my book plots, they always work out differently than I expected. I guess that’s because the people in my life, like the people in my head, have their own ideas about how things should go. The Plan: Go hang with my family in Indiana. Simple enough.

The trip opened with a visit to one of the coolest structures in the US. How many structures look this interesting from any angle?

This was my favorite photo, snapped out the car window on the way out of town.

On to Indiana. It’s always awesome hanging out with my sister and her family who I don’t get to see anywhere near often enough and I always love spending time with my mom who also flew out to Indiana for the week. However, since I’m sure you don’t want a blow-by-blow of the family visit, we’ll skip to the highlights.

For a portion of the trip, we went out to stay at my brother-in-laws family’s property out near the Shawnee National Forest.

There was the ‘civilized’ hunting cabin complete with showers and working toilets where we ‘roughed it’ for a few days.

And the not-so-civilized hunting cabin complete with a room of death (which I opted not to show here out of good taste) and some questionable eraser board art (which I also opted not to show because I write some young adult and it’s more fun to let you imagine what a pack of brave hunters settled to drinking and playing darts after a long day of chasing vicious deer around the countryside might come up with to draw on their eraser board).

Yes, the image is sideways and blurry. Just pretend you’re a drunken hunter.

This is where I discovered video. My mom had purchased a tiny video camera to take videos for my grandma who couldn’t come. I promptly commandeered the camera and began shooting a zombie flick, because that is so much more interesting and who's grandma wouldn't prefer some excitement in their family films.

For the sake of my loved ones (I don’t wish to be disowned), I will not share most of those videos, but here is a little bit of the setting that inspired my film project.

The creepy deserted cabin. Somebody needs to hide from zombies in this place. (Although they'd be lucky to make it this far without being sucked dry by ticks. We almost didn't.)

A fine array of victims. My little niece is the survivor, though I haven’t quite worked out how she gets away and continues shooting film once we’re all dead.

Outside of filming and creating impromptu ice sculptures

the entertainment included shooting clay pigeons and various dishware from previous marriages (not mine). This was beneficial to the movie as it meant that, by the time the zombies arrive, we would obviously be out of ammo. I’m better off not shooting a gun anyway as the video below shows. Though, to be fair, I did hit my target. If you're bored enough to watch the whole thing, you can see my sister vaporizing a plate that I didn't even have time to acknowledge was there when I went back to filming.


Nope. Not a gun person. Give me a sword. When everyone else runs out of ammo, I’ll take the stage.

We also visited the remarkable Garden of the Gods

where my sister and niece became lost briefly and our array of imaginative brains had them lying dead at the bottom of some beautiful cliff. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. They were eaten by zombies! (Okay, not really.)

From there, we moved on to Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana,—I know, I thought he lived at the North Pole too—a theme park with plenty of insane wooden roller coasters like The Voyage designed to give you whiplash, a vile headache, and drastically compress your spine. Truly, a great deal of fun. The Pilgrims Plunge, the world’s tallest water ride, provides an exciting transition into the water park side, Splashin’ Safari, which boasts a wide array of delightful water rides from the mellow Bahari River to the Mammoth, the world’s longest water coaster where we shared our boat with a woman who clearly expected to die there.

Unfortunately, by this point in the trip, my mom and I were already both very sick and getting sicker, hence the lack of photos. Some nasty virus that people from Indiana are apparently immune to as no one in my sister’s family got sick. It was still a good adventure.

A few other new things in June:

My iaito, fresh from Japan and barely used, still, because I’ve been sick almost since I got it.

To answer your question, yes, it is.

Happy adventuring!

One New Thing: May 2012 - Visiting Diablo

For the game geeks out there, I'm not talking about the newly released Diablo III, but I will admit that a chunk of Memorial Day weekend was dedicated to that worthy pursuit. Sadly, my first hardcore character died at level 7. (Cue mournful violin music.)

Anyway, on to the one new thing. May was a rather crazy month (a theme that seems to be bleeding into June), so finding time to squeeze in a new experience was a challenge. However, my kayak was up to the task.

Yeah, that gorgeous thing in the foreground is my kayak. Because I name everything (not much of an exaggeration, actually), I have given my kayak the name Umi Tonbo (海蜻蛉) or Sea Dragonfly for those not versed in Japanese.

Umi and I and our partner in crime...

embarked on an exploration of Diablo Lake, a much underused and remarkably beautiful lake in the spectacular North Cascades. Unfortunately, everything went perfectly, which doesn't make for much of a story. No one capsized in the jade colored glacial waters and the weather was so fantastic we were able to play in the paddle-thru boat wash.

The full trip tallied up to almost 10 miles of paddling out to the dam (or as far as they would let us go)

and around other parts of the lake with a stop off at an island for lunch. All around, it was a fabulous way to kick off the Memorial Day weekend. What adventures have you had lately?

One New Thing: April 2012

Here we are again. It’s time to share my new experience for April. I got through most of the month without a real plan for this. Fortunately, I live in an amazing place full of adventures waiting to be had and my mom was in town, ready to be dragged around the countryside. A short ferry ride, can take you to any number of fantastic new places. This one took us to Orcas Island, one of the beautiful San Juan Islands that we hadn’t yet visited. From above, Orcas Island looks a bit like a clump of floating detritus that got wrapped around a tree (or two).

Since the ferry landing is on the bottom of the large left lobe, it is clearly necessary to drive around to the end of the large right lobe in order to maximize ones experience. 

Upon arriving on the island, we drove around to the city of Eastsound in the narrow middle section where the spotting of a bookstore inspired us to stop and have a look around. (Because that’s why you go to beautiful islands, isn’t it? To visit the little bookstores). In addition to the bookstore, there were a number of fun little art galleries and a nice place to pick up lunch by the water.

We continued around through Moran State Park toward Obstruction Pass and hunted down a beach, which is what you do when you’re surrounded on all sides by salt water. A nice rocky beach is great for strolling, poking at creepy looking dead crabs, and viewing gatherings of starfish.

Wet sand and pebbles are not the best, it turns out, for practicing iaido, but how could I resist. Since I'm used to doing this on hard floor with a bokken, trying to look smooth and flowing on the beach with a poorly balanced, waterlogged branch was a challenge, but I’ll swallow my pride and let you chuckle at my efforts. (For more on what iaido is, visit my One New Thing: March 2012 post.)


From there, we turned back and revisited Moran State Park, taking a side trip up to the top of Mt. Constitution where we discovered this lovely somewhat medieval looking Mt. Constitution Tower and some amazing views.

Happy adventuring!


One New Thing: February 2012

We’ve had an ongoing goal of visiting one new place every month as a way to experience the world and life in general. Over time, this goal has broadened to discovering a new place or activity every month, opening the door to learning new things and keeping the mind, as well as the body, active. To keep myself honest with this goal, I’ve decided to do a post at the beginning of each month about the place or activity discovered the previous month. This is the kickoff for that. In the past, discoveries have included anything from finding a new place to take the horses or kayaks to going to a new city.

Last month took a new direction. Thanks to the new world of great deals that can be delivered to your inbox through Livingsocial, Groupon, and many other such services, you can now discover a whole variety of new experiences at a discount. How great is that?

In February, I finally took advantage of a Livingsocial deal I had picked up almost a year ago (you can’t rush these things) and set up some introductory ballroom dancing classes with Arthur Murray Dance Studios.  I love music and I have always loved to dance, I’ve just never really known how, so this sounded like something worth trying.

funny pictures of cats with captions

I have to admit that I tried not to like it because, let’s face it, once the Livingsocial deal is used up, you have to pay real money for these lessons. However, after learning the basic steps to the rumba, salsa, waltz, and tango, the whole idea had danced its way into my little heart and I’m sure I could be seen grinning like a fool when I managed my first decent underarm turn. So now, yeah, you guessed it, dance lessons and group lessons every week.

So, who wants to go dancing?

That is my new thing for February. I can’t wait to tell you about March. ;-)

I would love to hear what things you do to experience life. What places or activities have you discovered lately?