Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Oops! Wrong link on the Lost Genre Guild. Try this:
Touring Lost Genre Guild--Christian sci-fi, fantasy, horror! Great group 4 writers and readers.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Amish Friendship Bread--Great Gift or Low-Tech Chain Mail with Food?

Amish Friendship Bread--Chain Mail as Food!

If you've read my blogs for awhile--or if you just know me--you know my low opinion of those "forward me" e-mails that never seem to die. You know--the kind that beseech you to pass it on to 5 or 10 or 50 of your "closest" friends--but only if you truly love them? The gift that keeps on cursing!

Little did I know that the Amish have their own low-tech version of the "forward to your friends" curse.

At after-Mass fellowship early in December, Rob brought over a bag full of dough and a sheet of paper: Amish Friendship Bread.

"Thought you might like to try it. Could be fun," he said.

Warning bells should have gone off. After all, was he going to make the bread? Was he going to clean up afterwards? Did he read the instructions? But no, naïve and trusting, I thought, "Sounds neat," and took the little bag of trouble home.

And actually, it was kind of fun. For five days, all you do is squish the bag. Kind of takes you back to when you were a kid and got to play with dough--only not as messy. Day five, you add more ingredients and continue to squish the bag for five days more. (And of course, realize that I have not read ahead in the directions.)

Day ten, they drop the bomb--or, to keep it Amish, swing the scythe.

Now you pour the bag into the bowl, add more ingredients and separate out four more bags of the stuff to give your friends!

It's a chain letter with food guilt!

It gets better: The instructions for actually making the bread are more complex than any I've worked with in a long time--with 11 ingredients, plus the starter. One of the ingredients is Instant Vanilla Pudding! (So much for being Amish. Or did they take pity on us "gentiles"? So Amish women really make vanilla pudding from scratch just to toss into this bread recipe?)

I was a sport. I made the bread. It's not bread. It's dessert! It's so wonderful, it's almost sinful. If I'd been on a diet, it would have ruined it totally. I decided to save one bag of starter for myself and give the other three away.

Did I mention that most of my friends are long-distance? By the end of the week, I'd only managed to find two victims--er, friends--and those were the boys' teachers, who would never turn down such a loving gift from such a sweet face. (The boys', not mine.) Meanwhile, squish, squish, squish.

Christmas rolled around, and I still had two bags of the stuff. I decided to go ahead and do a mega-bake-off, cook the entire contents of one and split the other. I'd give folks a completed bread and the starter and the instructions--with the additional instruction of "If you don’t want to hassle, just toss it. I won't be offended!"

That was three days ago. I've managed to give one bag away.

Which reminds me. I'd better go squish the dough.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Vern on post-Christmas sales: Competing to acquire stuff? Sure! Tinsel&plastic santas@75% off? Not motivating enough.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wondering what to get the Author in your life?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

10 books sold! Is it the weather, the season or the prayers? Either way, hooray! PS-Scraped the inside of the windshield again.
Another book signing today--no blizzard this time. Pray it helps.

Friday, December 19, 2008

-15 and 6" snow and no sign of stopping! Didn't know Al Gore was in ND!
Humbug or Holy Night? "Christmas Spirits" the DragonEye, PI mystery, on sale for $1.50. (short story):

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Novel's Journey: Reactions and Writing Group Reactions

You're on an asteroid mining team has just been hired for a secret mission. Your supervisor will only tell you that it's the most amazing thing you'll ever do and that it'll pay a wonderfully obscene amount of money plus a percentage of what you recover.

Your team boards a ship heading to the edge of the solar system. You find it populated with a minimal crew and a bunch of scientists who lord it over you like you're some kind of ditch digger from Earth. No one will tell you anything until the mission commander (an astronomy professor who's enjoying his time as King of the Hill) decides to brief the entire team.

The time comes--and you learn you're about to excavate the first-ever discovered alien spacecraft.

How do you react?

This is the question I was struggling with for Discovery. My group of miners were on the ship Edwina Thomas heading to the Kuiper Belt for a week before the Rescue Sisters could join them, and only then would Dr. Thoren agree to brief everyone. In the first draft, he had already briefed everyone but the sisters, but I thought it'd show his controlling nature to make them all wait. Besides, it'd be fun to write the reactions.

I wanted a range of reactions, so I asked some of my favorite groups. I got surprisingly similar answers. As one friend summed it, "Fear or excitement. that's about it."

But is it? There's denial, stunned silence, awe, even greed for what they might find and sell. (In this future, which has become highly commercialized in the academic circles, that's actually the prevailing motivation: how can this turn a profit and improve my stature?) Then there're those like Sister Thomas, who simply look at it from a practical standpoint; or Sister Ann, who immediately empathizes with the aliens who have died and starts praying a rosary for them.

And of course, humor, because I don't write anything without a little bit of fun.

It's always interesting to ask questions like this and see what ideas you get, but when it comes to writing, you have to know your characters' personalities to get their reactions. No one can dictate those for you.

Fave Phrase: Here's how the scene panned out. I don't see Thorem saying "all right!" so I need some more pompous exclamation for him.

"Ladies and gentlemen--"

He put a hologram of the alien ship.

Sleek and dark against the gray of the asteroid, the ship rested. Six arms, like crescent moons arched away then back toward a roughly ball-shaped center, then ends of one settling on the join of the next, except for one that was half-buried under rubble from the crash. Even after months of studying it, Kris never tired of admiring the design, or what it meant for humankind:

"--we are not alone."

There was a moment of silence, then.

"Oh, vac! How long are you going to yank our chain?"

"He's serious, Harper," Hayden said.

"You're kidding right? Why wouldn't we have seen it by now?" Fred Harper griped.

"No one's looked!" Kris said. He almost yelled; the answer seemed so blindingly obvious. He pulled up another hologram--this one of the solar system and the route taken by the Seeker probe. While he tried to explain about the probe and how he'd happened upon this discovery, the miners started talking amongst themselves. Some were hooting with joy, others shaking their heads, but a few were snarling. Did they think he was still lying? He kept talking, but cast an uneasy glance at Dr. Thoren.

Hayden snapped, "All right, people, focus. You can gripe about the bet later."

"--on the far side of the asteroid when it crashed-- Wait a minute. You had a bet?"

"Sure. On what we were digging up."

"And I won," Dale Michaels said smugly.

"Right and I don't believe for a minute you--"

"Mr. David!" Sister Ann spoke up. "Your ship didn't crash. Did it, Tommie?"

Sr. Thomas mashed her lips together a moment, then said, "No. It's not a great landing, but it's not a crash. An uncontrolled collision and that ship would have blasted that rock apart. Instead..." She got up and walked to the display. By setting her hands on the section she wanted, she was able to rotate it toward the miners and enlarge. She pointed to one area. Kris walked around so he could see as well.

"Instead, you have this one spoke that's dug into the side of the asteroid. They had to have been going pretty slow at this point, or they'd have sheared off that part of the rock. More of an angle, and they might have caught and flipped. Of course this is all looking at it like a human pilot."

"What if it's an anchor, like the screw on a MiGR?" Sr. Rita asked.

Sr. Thomas was looking over the ship carefully, causing the miners to holler for her to move away so they could see. "I don't see much damage at all. Are we sure it's a ship and not a station?"

"Uh, we're really not sure of anything," Kris answered. From the corner of his eye, he saw Andy grinning. Did she wink at him? He looked hear way, but she'd turned to the youngest nun.

Sr. Thomas grunted. "Hope for a ship. Easier to move."

"I'm all for easy!" one of the miners called out and promptly received a number of derogatory comments from his peers. Side conversations started as the miners, now accepting that these people at least believed they'd found an alien ship and weren't pulling some kind of sick practical joke, speculated on what they'd find, how they'd extract it...

The noise rose, but Kris didn't care. Interspersed among the mundane discussions of equipment and procedures, he heard comments like "I hope it's a station; we'll see how they lived," "What do you think they looked like?" and "Can you imagine if we find..."

Some people were almost shouting in their excitement, but under it was the whisper Kris had longed to hear: kindred spirits...

George Powers, a loudmouth even in the best of circumstances, stood and hollered, "I cannot believe we are going to be the first to encounter aliens! Actual Goddamn, fuckin' aliens!"

Sr. Ann stood and turned on the miner. "Shame on you! We don't know what God's plan is for those poor souls."

"Or how they reproduce," Galen added dryly, causing the room to erupt with laughter and a speculation of a different kind.

"All right!" Thoren called out. "Let's get back on topic, shall we?"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Faerie Dragons celebrate the season with a long winter's nap--say 2, 3 months. --Vern,
Faerie dragons celebrate the season with a long winter's nap--like 2, 3 months. --Vern,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ever had to scrape the INSIDE of your windshield? It's an interesting experience. -5 right now. Love ND

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christian writers of speculative fiction (fantasy/sci-fi/horror)--check out my post on the Lost Genre Guild.

Book signing in a Snowstorm

Saturday, I had a book signing at the BX, our on-base department store/mall. I'd thought about backing out, as it was snowing and a blizzard was expected that afternoon. (It never really hit, though we got a lot of blowing snow and it's been -10 to -50 all weekend.) However, they'd advertised it, and I had at least one person who'd said they'd come, so I packed my stuff in the car and braved the bitter cold. (Rob came to help me unpack. Love that man.)

As it turns out, I sold 6 books. This was the weekend for fantasy, it seemed, so five of those six were Firestorm of Dragons, although I had two folks ask for the ordering information for Infinite Space, Infinite God. I also had an interesting conversation with a lady who was completely convinced that dragons are Satan. Needless to say, I did not make a sale, but I did get a great start for Vern's first article in his newsletter, A Dragon's Eye View. (The newsletter comes out in January--to subscribe, register on the website at

I also had the chance to use the terrific poster my daughter made for me:

As you can see, I have made it so I can adapt it for different events. You can't tell on the photo (and not live, either), but there are three page protectors in the frame. I can print up event-appropriate flyers and insert them. In this case, I was also doing a charity booksale for St. Paul the Apostle Parish, so the CWG flyer is there to advertise that.

Amber would like to make this a business, so if you'd like to have a basic background designed for your book signing poster, e-mail me and I'll get you in touch with her.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sold 5 copies of Firestorm of Dragons and 1 of Leaps of Faith. Not bad for an impending blizzard day! (PS-Vern's 1st book comes out Mar.)
Have a book signing today at the BX (military mall.) Say a little prayer and wish me luck.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Biggest Full Moon in 15 years TONIGHT!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Check out the DragonEye, PI Christmas Carol.

My Novel's Journey: Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite

Discovery is going far more slowly than I'd anticipated. There's something daunting about taking a two-year-old manuscript and re-writing it. On the one hand, you'd think it'd be easy, since I'm 55,000 words ahead and have the plot all lined out. However, the rehashing of scenes, the decision to keep this, scrap that, move the other is more mentally taxing than just sitting and writing afresh. Must be because I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer and not a big outliner. (LOL--I wrote "poutliner" at first--you can see my mindset.)

At any rate, with all the cutting, I've probably written 10,000 words and only have 3,000 to show for it. That's OK--they're better words. Right now, I'm re-writing a scene for the second time. It's a rather comic scene, where I illustrate some of the problems Sisters Thomas, Rita and Ann will have to deal with as far as the attitudes of the research team and the asteroid miners. The first time, I had a walk-and-talk as Andy tells them the problems. This time, I have Sister Rita have to deal with them--miners grumbling about cleaning up the messes the researchers are leaving, researchers pouting about having to keep the place so hyper-neat, researchers scattered all over the ship as they pick whatever room they feel like, and one adventurous professor who thinks handling a exoskeleton should be easy. That scene is fun--in the first write, I just mentioned that he pulled his shoulder trying to use the mechsuit. This time, I have him losing his balance, falling on his back like a turtle and putting dents in the walls as he struggles to get up, calling the whole time, "I'm OK! I can do this! I--ow!"

Second writing was from Kris David's POV. Kris is a grad student at Luna Technological Institue (yes, he's a LunaTech). He discovered the alien ship that they're going to explore. His supervisor is the leader, and a bit of a pompous jerk, so Kris is going to get slowly pushed into a leadership role. This is his first "push." I did it as a flashback, but that didn't work, so I did it again as he experienced it. However, that's not working out--there's too much him reacting to what Sister Rita does. So, I'm going to re-write it with Sister Rita in the limelight and have her observing him floundering. Then at the end, I may have his overall reaction when Andy comes over to talk to him.

In the meantime, I have my Christmas story up on the DragonEye, PI website. "Christmas Spirits: From the Case Files of DragonEye, PI" is available for download for $1.50.

Fave Phrase: Since I'm re-writing the mech suit scene, here's Sister Rita's, Sister Ann's and Sister Thomas' first view of the Edwina Thomas, the interplanetary cruise ship ColeCorp bought to carry the research team to the alien ship:

The Edwina Thomas, so named for the actress who starred in a successful series of holographic games called Lola Quintain and the Star of Vengeance, was a bullet-shaped behemoth with a shiny metallic finish and red piping along the three fins that flared over the "bottom" third of the ship.

"It's almost as big as the convent," Rita whispered, then laughed. "I can't get over the stabilizer fins, though! 'Pre-millennial motif,' indeed!"

"It gets better--look!" Tommie focused the forward screens on the stories-high painting splashed over the nose cone: A buxom woman with skin the color of expensive coffee dressed in a hardshell spacesuit posing in front of the words Edwina Thomas.
"Well, that's certainly..." She tried to think of an appropriate word and ended up snorting through her nose and falling into giggles.

"And this is what ColeCorp bought to explore an alien ship?" Tommie asked. She tried--and failed--to sound stern.

"I guess the secret's safe!" Rita managed to gasp out. The magnitude of their mission and the lack of sleep from the preparation had left her feeling punchy. She'd taken a nap, but it had been short and full of weird dreams she only half-remembered. At least the only time she had thought of James was when she prayed, and then only to notice that she hadn't thought of him. Still, laughter brought welcome release.

Testing out Ping to see how it works for updating the social networks.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas Houses--Fun to watch!

This has been the craziest year for Christmas events. In the past weekend, we attended four parties, one of which I coordinated with my friend Melissa Healy, and we hosted the after-Mass fellowship. Further, in addition to the Christmas presents to our-of-towners, I sent out about 20 copies of Leaps of Faith and Infinite Space,Infinite God to contributors and reviewers--and the first royalty checks for ISIG! (Imagine splitting royalties 17 ways--it takes a while to build past pennies.)

At any rate, I have neither the time nor the inclination to decorate the outside of my house. I'd rather use that time to some much needed prayer and playing a game or watching TV with the kids. And maybe mopping my floor...

However, here are some folks with time and inclination. I love to watch these!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gift Giving Ideas for Authors and Fantasy Readers

I'm taking the week off of writing to do all the Christmas "stuff": gifts, getting ready for parties and events, etc. I'm also working on building up the DragonEye, PI website, in which I have posted a short story for sale.

When FlintCorp Developing threatens to destroy the businesses and homes of Territory to build a mall and luxury condos, neither Vern nor Grace are feeling the Christmas spirit. But when Flint is threatened by the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, they put aside their humbug feelings in order to solve the mystery. Will they succeed before the Ghost of Christmas Future makes a lethal visit? And will their modern-day Scrooge have a change of heart?

This is my first experiment with selling my DragonEye, PI stories online. Vern, the cynical dragon private detective made his debut in Firestorm of Dragons and has garnered many fans who enjoy is witty satirical perspective. This story looks at his and Grace's first Christmas together, a tough one for Grace, who is not used to the bluster and commercialism of the Mundane world.

A nice little electronic "stocking stuffer" for the fantasy lover on your e-list.

$1.50 for PDF Download at

My daughter also designed this great poster background for me.

I'm going to use it for book signings. I've got a frame for it (22 x 28) and will have three page protectors attached to the frame. Then I can slip in a printout of whatever I need for a booksigning or event. In this way, I can use the same general poster and customize to the occasion. The local BX (military mall) has one like it for book signings, and it looks great. Amber will make one for you for $12.50-$20, depending on the complexity. (Mine is a $12.50 job.) Contact me if interested.

Monday, December 01, 2008

My Novel's Journey: Off to the Publisher

Live and Let Fly went to the publisher at 10:30 CST last night!

I want to thank those who took the time to proof and critique the manuscript, especially my friend Ann Lewis. Ann's mother died last month, so she only got through the first chapter before her life went topsy-turvy. However, she pegged me on my main weakness--the early data dump--and called me on it. As I looked it over, I decided I liked the narrative, and didn't see a way to weave it into the action of the first chapter, so I made it the prologue, which is a much nicer fit for the information, anyway. Then I needed a title for that, and Ann came through again.

Everyone who read the manuscript and got me back comments made a difference. When you read it, know that you have them to thank.

Of course, another great help to a manuscript is to read it after not having laid eyes on it for a few weeks. As I went through it for the last time this weekend, I found even more repeated words (that's becoming my pet peeve!) and a few places where I missed a detail or felt, now that I saw the action with new eyes, that I hadn't explained enough. No matter how much you tweak a manuscript, there's always something more you can do.

However, there's also a point where you say, "Good enough!" and send it off. That time was late last night. I feel really good about Live and Let Fly.

What's next? Christmas decorating, editing Infinite Space, Infinite God II, and finishing my sci-fi novel, Discovery. I had planned to make Discovery hard sci-fi, but given the publisher I hope to send it to, I'm going to soften it up by putting more of the tech behind-the-scenes. It's less pressure on me, too. Stay tuned Thursday evenings or Friday mornings for my next Novel's Journey as we explore writing Catholic sci-fi.