Archive for April, 2013

First, a FACTOID.

Sometimes I come across odd little facts that may not be right for me but  might come in handy for a fellow writer, so I’ll present them here.  This one is from the January issue of National Geographic

Evolutionary biologist Jaroslav Flegr (I couldn’t invent a name like that) discovered he was infected with a parasite that can jump from cat to cat by using rats.  When “toxo” infects a rat, it hijacks its brain, making the rat more active, less risk averse, and sexually attracted to the scent of cat urine.

Why did Flegr think he was infected?  Because he’d been exhibiting strange behavior.  “I would cross the street in traffic but not jump out of the way when cars honked… People infected with toxo are 2.6 times more likely to get into a traffic accident.”  See, in humans toxo greatly slows reaction time, makes them less conscientious and more prone to risks.  Oh, and male subjects like the smell of cat urine.  Sadly, there’s no cure, and this parasite may be causing many deaths and also cases of schizophrenia.

Sounds like something out of Stephen King novel, doesn’t it?  Only this is real and especially scary when you consider the statistical likelihood that there are other parasites, viruses, or other tiny bugs that can alter human behavior while remaining virtually undetectable.

And now for the BLURB…

As most of you know — ’cause I’ve been talking about them more than I’ve been working on them — I’ve got two manuscripts I’m going to publish this year:  Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar and its sequel, Charity MacCay and Holy Relations.

Well, I’ve finally written the blurb for the first book.  It’s still rough, and I’d really appreciate any feedback you might have for me.  Here it is:

The Civil War has ended, Charity MacCay is eighteen years old, and everyone in her hometown expects her to settle down and become a dutiful wife.  But what Charity wants is the thrills, fortune and romance she reads about in dime novels.  One night they inspire her to perform “a courageous act” that backfires and lands her in a scandal.  To save the family reputation, her mother packs her off to live with relatives in New York City.  Once there, Charity wastes no time falling in love with a dashing, mysterious man, inspires a friend to become a pool shark, and adopts the new American philosophy of getting rich quick while pulling herself up by her high-heeled bootstraps.

This is a rollicking memoir of a woman coming of age just as modern America is being born.  A time when greed spins out of control on unregulated Wall Street.  When Charity can make a small fortune, lose it in a stock scheme engineered by corporate Robber Barons, and plot to get back every penny while trying to stay out of jail.  All she needs is the help of the man she loves and that of the richest man in America, Cornelius Vanderbilt himself. The problem is, she doesn’t really trust either one.

So waddya think?  Pretty good?  Sucks like a sponge?  Start all over or just tweak it?  Whatever your reaction is, I’d love to hear it.

Have a great week.

Prediction.  Premonition.  Forewarning.  Foreshadowing.

People have always wanted to look into the future.  All this last week I kept wishing that someone standing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon had been able to time travel a mere half minute into the future.  And then go back in time by that same half minute.  That’s all it would have taken to get so many people out of the way of the bombs.  Same thing with the Aurora theater shootings.  Or Newton.  9/11.

This is such a natural, desperate wish for us, isn’t?  If only we were able to catch fleeting glimpses into the future and prevent so many tragedies.  There are probably a million stories or shows or movies written around just this premise.

I think one of the best is the movie The Minority Report.  It was based on a 1956 science fiction short story about how the state prevents murders by using psychic mutants who can see the crimes before they happen.

So far that hasn’t happened in reality (and the movie certainly shows the dark side of this phenomenon).  But we all come across books or stories that really do seem prophetic.

A few weeks ago I read an article in about the “Weird 1969… Sci Fi Novel” that was weirdly accurate about the future we’re now living in.  The book is Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner.

Maybe you science fiction writers (hello, Michael Offut and Alex J. Cavanaugh) know this book, but I’d never heard of it.  Anyway, the article lists a lot of Brunner’s predictions for the year 2010 that came true.  To list just a few:

  • Gay and Bisexuals have gone mainstream
  • Cars run more and more on electric fuel cells
  • Detroit is almost a ghost town because of all the closed factories
  • People use avatars for themselves on video screens
  • Terrorists have been attacking buildings in the U.S.
  • Inflation means prices have gone up sixfold (reality: sevenfold)
  • The Soviet Union doesn’t much matter anymore, but China is an economic power
  • Computer documents are printed with laser technology

I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of you don’t remember 1969 or weren’t even around.  But I was a teenager and I can tell you that NONE of this stuff was on our radar back then.  I mean, Detroit falling apart and shrinking?  Mao’s backward China becoming a capitalist power?

Maybe one of these days I’ll read Zanzibar.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you about books or shows or short stories that you think really did seem to look into the future.

So maybe it’s time to ‘fess up…

Do you ever get so discouraged with writing you just want to chuck it all and take up something more sensible?  Like, say… hunting wild boar with a knife.

(Seriously, someone told me there’s a former University of Colorado football player who does that back home in Hawaii.  Talk about a fearless manly man.)

You know what I mean.  Give up writing stories.  Writing a blog.  Using words to express yourself any which way ’cause sometimes stringing just a few words together seems to take far too much effort.   When taking a vow of silence like some hermit monk sounds way too tempting.

Now as y’all know, I told you back at the beginning of the year that this is my last year of writing.  But lately I haven’t even been able to make myself edit and polish my final two manuscripts.   On better days I know deep down that I love these two literary babies so much that I will soon follow through and see them in print.   Then, and only then, will I take a permanent literary rest…

Unless of course the sky falls in and one or all of my books become bestsellers and my faith is renewed and my bank account is stuffed to the gills and…

Hey, we all have our silly literary fantasies.  What’s yours?

On a more practical note, I know I’ll get my writing chops back before this summer when I can take a couple short much needed vacations.  They’ll only be cheapie road trips around the mountains and such, but that’s fine ’cause I’ll get to test out my new fancy schmancy tent.  See, REI was having a super sale so I got a nice one way cheap (the price is now back up there).  I plan to camp, for the first time in an embarrassingly long time, because I really can’t afford a posh hotel this year because my dentist has decided that a bunch of my spending money is gonna be spent on him doing a bunch of stuff to my teeth.

Sigh. Why do our bodies cost so damn much to maintain? Even when we have insurance?

I hope none of you have any painful expenses coming your way.  Or frustration with writing.  But odds are, you do.  I feel for you.

Psycho Kitty

on April 8, 2013 in Misc 16 Comments »

My cat has what I call “Psycho Kitty” moments.  And I’ve never read about the phenomenon in any novel.

See, most of the time Kelly Kel is a typical middle-aged cat:  she can’t be bothered with vigorous play and spends her time sleeping or ambling around.  Bored coolness is her game.

Yet almost every night when my place is peaceful, this calm cat will suddenly TEAR OUT OF THE BEDROOM LIKE A FREAKING MANIAC and RIP THROUGH the living room and under the Parson’s bench and over the Thai pillows on the floor and up onto the top of the ratty old armchair dubbed the cat’s chair where she SCRATCHES THE HELL OUT OF THE STUFFING and then she LEAPS OFF and bounds away back into the darkness of the bedroom…

…And a minute later she plods slowly back into the living room and looks around as if bored again.

Maybe it’s a cat’s version of bipolar disorder.  Or momentary devil possession.

Trouble is, my former kitty (Squeaky, R.I.P.) had the same bizarro habit. I’ve also seen some dogs in their PK moments.  That means it will suddenly start CHASING ITS TAIL or JUMP UP and RUN AROUND THE HOUSE OR YARD in a frantic and gleeful chase of an imaginary SQUIRREL SQUIRREL SQUIRREL or because it’s so FREAKING HAPPY TO SEE YOU even if you only went out to the grocery store.  It’s like this burst of pure, uninhibited animal emotion that’s pretty harmless and funny and seems to act like a safety valve.  The kind of safety valve that maybe some of us humans could use.

So here’s the thing about PK and books…

I can’t think of any fiction where the Psycho Kitty phenomenon occurs.  There are descriptions all over the Internet and funny photos, but no crazy cats popping up in novels.  For dogs, there’s Stephen King’s Cujo, which I haven’t read, but I know the St. Bernard in it is just flat-out psychotic and not in a cute way.

Non-fiction about dogs can describe PK – think of the bestseller Marley and Me in which the namesake pooch has wild PK moments over and over, and readers loved that book so much they bought approximately 200 million copies.  But a true story about a cat that suddenly goes apeshit in a funny way?  Doesn’t seem to exist in short stories or books.

So now I’m starting to wonder… I know I’m not the only person who’s had cats afflicted with Psycho Kitty, but what if there’s something about me that can repeatedly drive a feline over a mental cliff like a lemming on a bungee cord?  What if I happen to be a magnet for crazy animals?

Please tell me you have bizarro pet moments too…

Within just the opening pages, it’s easy to get hooked on Ciara Knight’s warrior fantasy romance The Curse of Gremdon. Arianna is wiping her sweat on her leather skirt, gripping a sword, and battling the manly Tardon in a test to determine if she can earn Elite Warrior status.  As they fight, Tardon’s “copper eyes” go straight to her soul, an elder stands in judgment, and a mist swirls up from the outer land beyond the castle tower.

Here in the castle life may be desperate and edged with danger, but beyond it lies a blasted landscape populated with grotesque monsters called the Cursed.  Only the amulets worn by the citizens of the castle and given to them by the elders can keep them safe – or so they and the reader think.  But when Arianna’s amulet cracks and she finds herself having strange visions, we realize that something isn’t right about “reality” within the castle.  The ruling elders are creepy, their laws are cruel, and too many relatives and loved ones have vanished or died.  What’s going on?

The twists and turns in the story come fast and hard.  There’s the violent life of the warriors, the sensuous rewards they’re given, and the outcast status of the lone female warrior Arianna.  She and Tardon have already fallen in love, but that love is forbidden and must be resisted – and as we all know trying to sexually resist the one you’re mad for can make for some steamy scenes.  Now too Arianna’s only living relative, her brother, is dying, and to save him and the castle the elders send her and Tardon on a near suicidal quest into the outer land.  But there’s something suspicious about this quest.  The outer land is also where Arianna’s sweet childhood memories haunt her and where she and the reader are in for a shocking revelation.

The romantic tension between Arianna and Tardon is palpable, yet as veterans of too many battles these two also have emotional baggage and a poignant vulnerability.  Although they long for a normal life with family and a future, these simple things seem too much to ask for after all the killing they’ve done – a message that can hit home for readers in our own modern world.  Granted, sometimes Tardon was so jealous and stubborn I wanted to slap him up the side of the head, but essentially he was a good man so I forgave him.

The Curse of Gremdon is a swashbuckling romance and adventure that gives us a memorable heroine and a story with several terrific twists.  It’s also just plain fun to read.  So read it, please.

Oh, and as a fencer (okay, only with an epee and not a big honkin’ broadsword) I can tell you that the sword-fighting scenes are solid.


First off, I want to say that I’m gonna have TWO, that’s right, TWO whole posts this week.  Wow — I am so ambitious.

My second post will appear on Wednesday and it’s to give a review (FINALLY) to Ciara Knight’s action-packed The Curse of Gremdon.  (Yes I know, the prolific Ciara has written Escapement since Gremdon came out.  Sorry I’m so behind in my reading.)

Today’s post is a shout-out for the lovely Hart Johnson — aka, Alyse Carlson — and the second book in her Garden Society Cozy mystery series, The Begonia Bribe, which will be released on May 7 by Berkley Press.


Begonia Bribe - The Book



Roanoke, Virginia, is home to some of the country’s most exquisite gardens, and it’s Camellia Harris’s job to promote them. But when a pint-sized beauty contest comes to town, someone decides to deliver a final judgment …

A beauty pageant for little girls—the Little Miss Begonia Pageant—has decided to hold their event in a Roanoke park. Camellia is called in to help deal with the botanical details, the cute contestants, and their catty mothers. She soon realizes that the drama onstage is nothing compared to the judges row. There’s jealousy, betrayal, and a love triangle involving local newsman—and known lothario—Telly Stevens. And a mysterious saboteur is trying to stop the pageant from happening at all.

But the drama turns deadly when Stevens is found dead, poisoned by some sort of plant. With a full flowerbed of potential suspects, Cam needs to dig through the evidence to uproot a killer with a deadly green thumb.





I can tell you that the first book in Hart’s series, The Azalea Assault, was a fun romp with lots of twists, and I really liked her heroine and star of this series, the sexy, smart and sassy Cam Harris.  And since Begonia has a child’s beauty pageant for the premise and we ALL (us normal people) hate those freaky things, this story promises to be even more fun.

Remember, the book is available May 7 but can be pre-ordered now.  Here are some helpful links.


Pre-order this book from:     Amazon      -or-      Barnes and Noble


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