Friday, February 28, 2014

Weather Report

Southern California doesn't have a winter. That part of the year can resemble spring or fall, or even summer, but never winter. This year while several feet of snow covered most of the country we had eighty-plus degree temperatures, sunny skies, and wildfires. The rain arrived at last, and while it won't be enough to end our epic drought, it's better than nothing.

Rain does strange things to L.A. Needless to say, many people forget how to drive, but that's not all. My neighborhood doesn't have storm drains. I recall someone telling me the streets all slant toward the L.A. River and rainwater eventually finds its way there. I have no idea if this is true, but whenever it's raining the streets turn into canals. Especially the intersections. There's much splashing. You don't want to be a pedestrian around here, trust me.

I like the near-constant sunshine—it keeps me sane—but it's nice to have something else for a change. Gloomy weather inspires a cozy melancholy. My plan for the weekend is to stay inside, drink copious amounts of tea and cocoa, and edit. It would be nice to have the second draft of Dead Man and the Army of Frogs done by Monday.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wednesday Word: Bollocks

bollocks |ˈbäləks| (also ballocks or bollix)vulgar slang chiefly Brit.noun[in pl. the testicles.used to express contempt, annoyance, or defiance.ORIGIN mid 18th cent.: plural of bollock, variant of earlier ballock, of Germanic origin; related to ball.

This is another word I want to liberate from the Brits.

I recently got rights back from a book, Academic Pursuits, and republished it myself. Of course, Amazon bollocksed it up, and I lost all my original reviews. Normally, that's exactly what I'd expect, but when I did the same thing with Hanging Loose, all my all reviews magically transferred to the new edition. There's no rhyme or reason.

So here comes the begging part: Dear Reader, if you've read and liked--or didn't--Academic Pursuits, would you please post a review on Amazon? It doesn't have to be long. Mucho Gracias!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Vintage Monday: Vintage Antics

So there's another author meltdown going on, because we haven't had one in a while, and they're like the wild fires of Southern California—you may not know when and where but they will happen. The author in question has started it by attacking people making negative reviews on her books, and is currently busy spinning out of control on Goodreads and Facebook.

What struck me this time is how rude and crude the ABB (Author Behaving Badly) is. The whole thing is so turgid and over the top, you wonder if the author is channeling Tony Clifton. Could this whole kablooey be an elaborate publicity stunt?

These stupid fracases make me sad, because they always turn into an authors vs. readers skirmish, for no good reason. Yes, some authors are nut fuck crazy, and should be banned from the internet. As are some readers, I'm sure. But the vast majority of people in both groups are mostly sane, and even their occasional lunacy is of the inoffensive variety.

Well, frak. This drama is giving me a headache. I'm off to edit.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wednesday Word: Boondoggle

boondoggle |ˈboōnˌdägəl; -ˌdôgəl| informalnounwork or activity that is wasteful or pointless but givesthe appearance of having value writing off the cold fusion phenomenon as a boondoggle best buried in literature.• a public project of questionable merit that typicallyinvolves political patronage and graft:they each drew $600,000 in the final months of the greatboondoggle.verb [ intrans. ]waste money or time on such projects.ORIGIN 1930s: of unknown origin.

Sometimes I wonder if most book promos are boondoggles.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Vintage Monday: Color

Black and white photographs hold up impressively well over time. Color not so much. They tend to fade and shift colors, especially the ones from the early days of this process. The chemicals making them possible weren't as stable as the silver of BW photos.

Above is a picture probably from the fifties or sixties. Original on the left, and Photoshop manipulated version on the right--less muddy, but still far from perfect.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wednesday Word: Soporific

soporificadjectivesoporific drugssleep-inducingsedativesomnolent,calmativetranquilizingnarcoticopiatedrowsy,sleepysomniferousMedicine hypnotic. ANTONYMSinvigorating.a soporific TV dramaboringtedioustireddreary,turgiddrymind-numbing.nounshe was given a soporificsleeping pillsedative,calmativetranquilizernarcoticopiateMedicinehypnotic. ANTONYMS stimulant.
Soporific is not exactly an obscure word, but not one that gets thrown around in everyday conversation either. More the pity.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tuesday Teaser: Ass Prints and Chinese Gymnasts

This one is from Academic Pursuits:

I kept my eye on Bryan. He was the deadly serious sort—good thing considering he was pre-med. How he’d ended up roommates with Marcus, the party animal, was beyond me. As flashy as Marcus was with his carefully maintained three-day stubble and persistently “hip” T-shirts, Bryan was plain, subdued, and studious. I found the whole package very sexy. Of course, I found many things sexy.

“You going?” I asked Bryan very casually, referring to the Friday night plans.

“Yeah, that’s the plan,” he replied with equal casualness.

“Cool. See you there.”

Bryan and Marcus shuffled off, and I returned to my food. Or would have if I hadn’t had the odd sensation of being a butterfly pinned to a cork board under Jo’s sharp gaze. All the women in our family have it: her mom, my mom, even Grandma Adler. It’s like the beam of a laser boring straight through your skull. I had twenty-two years of practice of dealing with it, but it still made my brain itch.

I gave Jo my most innocent look. She dismissed it with a flicker of her eyes.

“I can’t believe you!” she erupted.


“Hollins’s ass-print is still warm in your bed and you’re already chasing after another straight guy!”

Oh, hell, and I’d thought I was subtle. It’s not like I didn’t confide in Jo about most things, but Bryan was a tricky one. I kept him to myself. Too late, though: the cat was out of the bag.

“You’re wrong on two counts. One: I’m not chasing after Bryan. Two: he’s not straight,” I explained.

“What the hell do you mean, not straight?”

“Bryan Grant is bendier than a Chinese gymnast.”

“Oh, I didn’t know he was gay.”

“Neither does he.”

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Outtakes: Ghastly Business

My free short story, Dead Man and the Lustful Spirit, takes place on New Year's Eve, after the events of Dead Man and the Restless Spirits. Denton and Bran go to a costume party dressed as a necromancer and a mage from Denton's favorite hack-and-slash computer game.

Originally I had the idea of Joy helping with Denton's makeup, but it dragged and I ended up cutting the whole scene. In the spirit of not letting things go to waste, here are two snippets from it:

The very tip of Denton’s nose itched something wicked, and, of course, he couldn’t scratch it. He was trying very hard to remain still but failed terribly.

“Stop fidgeting, or I’ll tie you to the chair,” Joy snapped and grasped Denton’s chin harder.

“I love it when you talk dirty, Mistress,” Denton mumbled barely opening his lips. He quickly pressed them together when the makeup sponge Joy was dabbing his face with landed dangerously close.

She only snorted in reply and kept working. Sitting still had never been Denton’s strong suit but he did his best. For a few minutes there was silence.

At last, Joy let go and stepped back. She stood there with a jar of white make up in one hand and sponge wedge in  the other. She cocked her head to the side, pursed her lips, and surveyed him with the eyes of an artist trying to decide if her masterpiece was complete yet. “It’ll do, You’re suitably ghoulish,” she declared, picking up the round mirror from the coffee table next to her and holding it so Denton could see himself in it. “What do you think?”

The ashen face of a wraith stared back at Denton, yellowish eyes glowing from dark, sunken eye sockets. Raven hair framed his face in shocking contrast. “Wow. Awesome job.” he announced grinning, although it ruined the overall effect of creepiness they were going for. “Way better I could’ve done.” He surreptitiously rubbed his nose.

“Well, that’s why I’m the artist and you the code monkey, my dear.” She put the mirror back down, stepped back, keeping her observant gaze on him. “It’s really simple if you know what you’re doing—a little makeup and color contact lenses, and voilà, scrawny web programmer is transformed into a minion of hell. Or something. You look ghastly.”


A short while later as they shuffled into the elevator, all of them bundled in heavy coats, Joy seemed deep in thought. “I’d like to have you over for dinner next month. You know, to make up for the Thanksgiving disaster.”

Bran didn’t have the most expressive face but the way he stiffened, practically shouted alarm. Denton sympathized, but he didn’t want to risk hurting Joy’s feelings. “It was no disaster. We had a great time, right Bran? Once we opened the windows the smell wasn’t so bad.”

“I burned the yams, and the turkey was still frozen inside. We ended up going out for Chinese,” Joy replied.

“Um yeah, sure, but it was very good Chinese.”

“No buts. You’re coming over. I have something new cooking. You’ll see.” The elevator door opened with a ding and Joy swept out, leaving no chance for objection, not that it would’ve done any good.

Denton gave Bran and apologetic shrug and followed.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


It might sound like a sacrilege to some, but season three of Sherlock is not working for me at all. It's like a directionless whirlwind of implausible things. The very end of episode three, including the last frame, made me groan.

Here's thing: I don't care for supervillains. I also don't care for saving the world, or even a country. Upping the stakes doesn't necessarily up the drama, because the source of drama and suspense comes from following that one fictional character we came to care about. Hitchcock knew it, Raymond Chandler knew it. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wednesday Word: Frisson

frisson |frēˈsô n |nouna sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill :a frisson of excitement.ORIGIN late 18th cent.French, literally ‘a shiver or thrill.’

Those French know how to make spine-tingling words.

Monday, February 3, 2014

About Self-Publishing

Self-publishing is not as simple as many people think. Not if you do it right. I'm far from being the ultimate guide on the subject, but have learned enough to know the amount of work involved. A blog post on the subject had been brewing in me for a long time, and when Tracy announced her plans to expand the GRNW website to include articles, I offered her to actually write it down. Here it is: