National Poetry Month

April is officially National Poetry Month. As a poet, I can't let that slide without recognition, now can I? Take a moment sometime this month, when you need a respite from taxes and tedium and read a poem. Maybe you'll find something new over at Author's Den or Amazon. Maybe there is a poetry slam going on in your location. Maybe you just take a moment to sit and try your hand at a poem yourself. However you choose to celebrate, take a moment and make poetry your own!


There is a power –
a passion –
in poetry
that allows you
to express the
frustration –
love –
you feel
in your own way.

To put it
on paper
defuses the
you'll only
regret later –

but makes the
moment permanent -
public -
so no one
gets away

(from the Dancing on the Edge collection)

And don't forget to check out the rest of my poetry if you are so inclined. 

(no subject)

I finally had a chance to see Zombieland last night, something I had been looking forward to since it came out, but never got marked off my list. I was not disappointed. (So why not 5 stars? Well, there weren’t that many zombies….)

Seriously though, I thought the movie was charming on many levels. The awkward relationships blooming into enough trust to tell your deepest secrets; the coping mechanisms for dealing with a post-apocalyptic reality; the rules — these things were great. And the Bill Murray role was small but brilliant.

A bit of a warning though, to those with weak stomachs — the first time we tried to watch this (as we inevitably are watching movies with dinner) we had to turn it off, because the gore in the opening credit sequence was a bit much with a meal. However, that was the only really gory section of the film, and once the credits were out of the way, it was easy to sit back and enjoy the mayhem.

The cast was great. Loved Woody Harrelson for the first time in a long time. Jesse Eisenberg was not really someone I had seen much, if anything, of prior to this, but now I might be willing to sit through The Social Network. Emma Stone is someone else whose name I had seen, but none of her work. Now, I might go looking. And, of course, Abigail Breslin is always dynamite. She is definitely an actress to pay attention to.

All in all, I enjoyed the film immensely, and recommend it highly.

Do Your Characters Ever Take Over the Writing?

Sometimes, if I am really in the zone writing, something will happen completely out of left field that I had no intention of putting in the piece. Do that ever happen to you?

For example, many years ago, writing "Grandmother Clause" (one of the short stories in RieVisions), the main character buys a potion that will give his Grandmother several more years of life in exchange for some of his own. She refuses it, and tells him to pour it out. As he goes to obey, he meets a little girl in the hallway who is suffering from a terminal illness and has come out of her room for a drink of water. And he gives her the glass with the potion mixed in it. I had no idea he was about to do that until he handed her the glass. It was an in-character thing to do, but it was not something I had planned for the story.

Another example is my upcoming book, The Luckless Prince. When I first started writing it, all those many moons ago, it was the story of Roland and what happened to him. But as the book came to life, the character of Stefan became more and more compelling, and he is now the main focus. In this case, it isn't so much any one detail, but many little actions that were surprises.

What about you? Do you ever get unexpected dialog whispered in your ear? Do characters suddenly turn down a path you meant to pass by? Do you listen, or do you rein them in? What works best?



What Do You Do With a Review?

 I’ve seen a lot of discussion on the topic of negative reviews lately. This was set off by one author’s inappropriate public reaction to a review. It was not even a particularly bad review, and it has cost her dearly — whether she fully realizes it or not. There are more than enough links to the site and it will probably be immortalized as the top result for a generic search like “bad review meltdown” for a long time. That is the curse of the Internet. That overreaction will never go away. Years from now, if she wants to be taken seriously, that poor professionalism is likely to turn up and ruin it for her.

Of course, no one likes a bad review. I had one for The Blood that Binds that I felt was entirely unfair and vitriolic. I went ballistic over it. It was my first book–my baby. I cried. I groused to friends and family. I’ve held a grudge for a decade, but I kept it off the net.

When I was editing some of that first book to be included in The Luckless Prince, I read that review again…and do you know what? That review had changed. This time, it actually had valid, useful points that helped during the edit. I still didn’t agree with everything the reviewer said, but time and distance granted me perspective enough to realize she might not have been totally wrong.

A second reviewer objected to Prince Roland’s vacillation, running hither and yon and back again. With this in mind, I strengthened his motivation for each leg of his journey, and it made a positive difference. Roland is a more sympathetic, likable character when he behaves rationally.

So, what do you do with a review? If it is a good review, thank the reviewer and link to it proudly. If it is a bad review, accept the lumps and move on. Making a spectacle of yourself is the last thing that you want to do. It will win you few friends, and sell even fewer books in most cases.

That still leaves the question of the genuinely destructive review, If this happens to you — whether it’s caused by a technical glitch, a sloppy reviewer or a jealous peer — you may feel compelled to take action. How do you deal with a review that’s beyond unhelpful, perhaps even damaging to your career? If it is actually potentially going to cost you money, as opposed to just something you don’t agree with, what do you do?

Slinging It

 Apparently, everyone needs a day off now and then, and yesterday was mine. Sorry there was no post. I’ve been trying to be consistent.

Today’s discussion is one of my favorite weapons for a youthful character, the sling. The best thing about a sling — not to be confused with a slingshot, which is not as universal — is its ease of construction and inexpensive materials and the ammo is literally lying on the ground in front of you. Of course, it is not a weapon that you want to put into someone’s hands for the first time and expect accuracy. Using a sling to good effect takes a lot of practice. At least the ammo is free.

There is evidence of slings being used all the way back to the Neolithic era. A pair of hunting slings, much like this modern recreation were found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb. Some other historical slings can be seen on the Project Goliath wiki.

Slings have been found in almost every country and culture in the world throughout history, though it is more common to find sling bullets or stones in ancient sites than the slings themselves because of the fragile nature of their materials.

In The Right Hand of Velachaz, Sally — one of the main character’s companions uses a sling to save the party from attacking brigands. It makes her very useful to have around. A sling can add ranged attacks to a group armed only with swords.

In my upcoming novel The Luckless Prince, the mysterious thief, Daerci, uses one to great effect on several occasions explaining “A scrap o’ leather and a bag o’ rocks are practically free, milord—even I could afford that.”

What about you? Do you have a favorite weapon for your characters to use? And why?

If you would like to make your own sling, this site has instructions on how to make one from a plastic grocery bag — efficient and recyclable!

What is YOUR One Essential Reference?

 It’s Saturday, so we won’t get too cerebral today, but this is a question I have been pondering for the last couple of days. If you were moving across the country in a covered wagon (this is an exercise I have played with since childhood when I was fascinated with Little House on the Prairie) and space was extremely limited — and there were not any Kindles, Nooks, etc. to make the question irrelevant — what is the ONE reference book that you could not live without?

Would it be 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them? Or perhaps Historic Costume for the Stage by Lucy Barton? One of my favorites to turn to is A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor: in All Countries and in All Times, though it is only a starting point for detail.

Would you carry a dictionary? A thesaurus? (or get tricksy and find a copy of Reader’s Digest Oxford Complete Wordfinder: A Unique and Powerful Combination of Dictionary and Thesaurus so you would have both?)

When I look at my bookshelves, and see the myriad references on everything from herbs to shipbuilding, I am really glad that I don’t have to make this decision in real life. And that the Kindle has offerings like What Shall We Do Now?: Five Hundred Games and Pastimes for free if you look hard enough. Great for adding a bit of spice to the plot (or unexpected baby-sitting.)

So, what is YOUR one essential reference you would carry across country?

Looking at Daggers

So, you have a character you think would use a dagger as a weapon--it sounds so much cooler than “knife”, and they are just different names for the same thing, right?

Not really. A knife is primarily a single-edged weapon, and used for cutting more than stabbing. A dagger is double-edged and intended to stab. The first thing you have to decide is what the tool will be used to do. If it is only used to eat, you probably want a knife -- your noble fop can carry an ivory-handled knife with gold and gem inlays that is only intended to show his status at the dinner table, but your street rat might want something more practical.

Okay, so definitely dagger, yeah -- because he (or she) often has to defend against those who would see him imprisoned, or worse. You could stop there. “A dagger” forms a picture in your reader’s mind but doesn’t really spice the scene.

It is so much more interesting to know that your Malaysian urchin is wielding a kris handed down through his family, despite its curse. Or that your Italian noble has a stiletto stuck in his boot for emergencies. Whether the character carries a dirk or a poniard is just one more detail that can bring a flat world to life.

Does the character carry his weapon concealed in a sheath in the small of his back? He probably wouldn’t feel very comfortable with a foot long piece of steel sticking down his pants. And what about the ever-handy dagger in the sleeve? Probably want that one under six inches. There are as many sizes of daggers as there are types, so it is important to choose one that is appropriate for the character and the situation. A small child may use a long dagger like a short sword if her life depends on it. A large man may carry several three inch blades concealed for throwing. These are decisions to keep in mind as you write.

In The Luckless Prince, one of the elves carries a stiletto in his boot -- which comes as a surprise to one of the other characters. Collyn Silverbrook, on the other hand, has only his eating knife when he finds himself in a sticky situation -- and it is explained why. The villainous Norfulk Roderickson puts a sleeve dagger to deadly use. Making sure the right weapon is used for the right circumstance is one of the things that makes writing so much fun.

Details, details, details. They are the stuff art is made of. :)

For a list of daggers, go to 

Cabochon versus Facets

 In my upcoming novel, The Luckless Prince, there are several extremely important pieces of jewelry. In fact, in a long ago incarnation, the book was tentatively named after them.

Two of these pieces are described in great detail, and as I was going through the edits, I realized that there was something interesting about them. Each is set with a large stone, and one is faceted, while the other holds a cabochon. And making sure that the correct cut is in each piece was more than just a whim -- it adds yet another dimension to the story.

One of the pieces is known in legends as the Sunstone. It is a heavy golden pendant in the likeness of a gryphon carrying a large topaz-like stone on its back. In this case, with a fairly transparent stone, a faceted cut is most logical. The reason that transparent or translucent stones are usually faceted is to enhance their reflective properties. The facets are what gives these gems their "sparkle." Facets also tend to be cut in the harder stones, like diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and topazes because they do not scratch as easy as the opaque gems tend to do.

The second key piece is known as the Moonstone. It is a scribed silver disk depicting a half-moon with a moonstone held between the horns of the crescent to complete the circle. The stone in this case is cut into a cabochon. This cut is generally a flat base with a domed, polished top. It is often oval in shape because it is easier to fool the eye to slight imperfections than to shape a completely round circle in stone. Cabochon cuts are usually used in the opaque, softer gems, because the polished finish helps hide scratches in the more easily damaged rock. Opals, amber, and tiger eye are stones that are often seen as cabochons.

In the book, there are definite correlations between the brilliant, refracted light of the sun and its representation by the faceted Sunstone, and the cool, polished glow of the moon encapsulated in the Moonstone. Using the correct cut in each is just one more way to point up the differences and throw in a bit of authenticity. The devil is in the details.

For more information on Cabochons, here is an interesting website showing how they are made:

To learn more about faceted stones, here is a how-to for creating one:

Well obviously...

I don't get here much any more...but I do have a question for you. What are the key elements of Steampunk from your perspective? I have a notion of some of them: Victorian sensibilities, machinery out-of-time, adventuresome ideals…but I know that I don’t fully understand the genre. Having received a challenge to write a Steampunk novel for NaNoWriMo and having gleefully accepted (because I’ve wanted to write one for some time), I am looking for a more concrete definition. What would you add? Leave me a comment below…and thanks for the help!'s been awhile

In my defense, I was busy at the end of last year. First of all, with determination I managed to finish NaNoWriMo for the first time in four years, and it gave me a complete draft of my first full-length horror novel. Working on the polish of it now. I took December off from writing, but did a lot of photography. Starting off this year right by getting THE LUCKLESS PRINCE out to a publisher, and brainstorming an idea for an anthology story. Also gearing up for the convention season to start in February. Looking forward to getting back in the circuit.

Aside from the artistic, I have made a goal to lose a LOT of weight this year, so I have been exercising with my Christmas Wii for the last couple of weeks. I'll keep you posted!

Short for now, but recovering from the Longhorn loss. It was a valiant fight, but losing your quarterback in the first possession of the game...well, all I can say is Garrett Gilbert will have a great career ahead of him if tonight is any indication.