Ghosts in the IM: Conversations With Writers


Sunil Patel

Sunil just recently sold his very first short story! He’s a playwright and an actor in the Bay Area and soon he will be reviewing books for Lightspeed Magazine. He can be found on the internet at and I highly recommend following him on Twitter.



Minerva Zimmerman: So you just sold your very first short story!

Sunil Patel: I did! I keep telling people this and I still don’t believe it.

MZ: That’s so awesome. It’s a big step.

SP: And I’m sharing a table of contents with some unbelievable names, like Ken Liu, Cat Rambo, Seanan McGuire, Andy Duncan…people with AWARDS AND SHIT.

MZ: And you just got back from LonCon

SP: My second Worldcon!

MZ: I really like following you on Twitter because you just get so exuberant about everything. It’s like getting the cliff notes about the stuff I care about

SP: I love turning people on to things I love. I always think about the mark I make on the world, and I want it to be a positive one. Even if I do nothing else before I die, if I was the reason you watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, then I did something good in this world.

MZ: :) I feel like there’s a good chance that if you like something I’ll like something.

SP: And that’s good! It’s good to be aware of people’s tastes. I like to think my recommendations are the best, but they’re only the best if you agree with me and what I look for in things. I tend to be more positive in general than most people, I think, which means I even like things that are generally derided, like the first Transformers movie.

MZ: What was your favorite part about your trip. You seemed to be eating your way through Paris prior to the con

SP: And I just hope the fact that I like some things that may not be objectively good doesn’t invalidate my recommending genuinely amazing things. With regards to Paris, the dinner I had on my last night was definitely a highlight, one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Foie gras (I’M SORRY DUCKS I’M REALLY SORRY BUT OH MY GOD), roast duck, pain perdu, and…you know, I just had Subway. Sorry, stomach, please forgive me, I’ll put something wonderful in you again soon enough.

But another highlight was acquiring some single-serving travel buddies at the Eiffel Tower. Two 19-year-old girls, both from England, I believe, and one of Iranian descent. And they were the BIGGEST NERDS EVER. At one point they were singing the Pokémon theme song. On the Eiffel Tower.

I loved that our geekery bonded us strangers together for one night.

MZ: So random, but so awesome that geekery can bring people together. Though I am realizing that 19 year olds probably don’t remember a world in which Pokemon didn’t exist and that’s sort of weirding me out

SP: And there are so many kids who have never known a world without The Simpsons.

MZ: Yeah, I’ve been watching the marathon sitting here sick on the sofa.

SP: Kids? Adults. Shit.

MZ: And realizing that some of these episodes I remember airing, aired like 20+ years ago

SP: I feel really old all the time, even though I know I’m young. And I keep feeling like I should have started getting serious about writing and submitting years ago. I should have written FIFTEEN BOOKS at my age or whatever.

MZ: Yeah. I get that feeling too.

SP: I know every writer has a different path. There are plenty of stories of successful writers who started late in life, and they’re heartening. But then I hear the stories of people who wrote their first novels as teenagers and I’m like SHUT UP.

MZ: Well, I think there’s partly a thing where you can’t generally start too young because there’s some fundamental amount of work that needs to come first. I mean most people wrote young, but that doesn’t mean they’d learned yet

SP: I wrote a book called The Disastrous Dino War when I was nine. I also illustrated it. I’ll bet you can’t guess what it’s about.

MZ: clowns?

SP: Close! It’s about a dino war. It was disastrous.

MZ: Hehehehe

SP: I will never misspell that word. Never ever.

MZ: I’m on cold medicine, so that’s really funny to me today.

SP: Because the day before I was to submit that book for a contest, I realized I had “Disasterous” on the cover and title page and that was not the correct spelling and I had to redo them both. Disaster-ous! Like a disaster! IT MAKES SENSE. Goddammit, English language.

MZ: oh no. I wrote a book of poetry for a young writer’s contest at like 7, it’s terrible stuff like: “A bear makes tears, A Mom repairs”

SP: “Sandy ate pears”

MZ: but Dear Mr. Henshaw was my favorite book ever, and I HAD to go to the young author’s meeting

SP: “They fell on their derrieres” I loved that book!

MZ: and like you had to turn in a book to go!

SP: (There are so many books today where I say, “I loved that book!” but I was a kid and I have literally no memory of the book, I just know I read it.)

MZ: I was working at the kitchen table trying to come up with a story and I truly thought my life was ending when I couldn’t make anything work. At 7!

SP: What a tragedy!

MZ: I was like knocking back shots of apple juice in despair!

SP: Despair, see, that’s another good rhyme.

MZ: pretty sure I used that, also something about a goblin

SP: “The goblin scares”

MZ: yep, that was it

SP: I feel pretty good about being as talented as a 7-year-old.

MZ: :D So, I try to keep that in mind when everthing seems terrible and I’m never going to be a “real” writer.

SP: For me, it’s trying to put into perspective my writing path as opposed to other people’s. Some people just wrote and wrote and wrote continually since they were children, and then they wrote all the time, and they wrote books, and they couldn’t stop.

MZ: Yeah if you try to navigate by other people’s milestones, you’re going to end up lost.

SP: That wasn’t me. For me, I only wrote for contests as I was growing up. That was what motivated me to write something. The first major story I wrote just because I had an idea and I wanted to write it was called “Polter-Cow,” which I then adopted as my online persona, hence my Twitter handle of ghostwritingcow.

MZ: Heh, I really like the idea of Ghost Cows there is apparently a place here in Oregon that gets them

SP: It came from an enemy in the Sega Genesis game Toejam and Earl 2: Panic on Funkatron.

MZ: ohhhh yeah

SP: But anyway, after that first story I wrote just to write a story, I ended up taking creative writing courses in college, and I wrote a lot in college.

MZ: didn’t that have a really spooky sound effect?

SP: I remembered the other day that I even wrote a short screenplay.

MZ: You’re also really active in theater

SP: I don’t remember the sound effect! Possibly.

Right, I got hooked on theater in college and took a dramatic writing course, and once I got to the Bay Area, I started writing monologues and short plays. And I have to keep reminding myself: all of that, ALL OF THAT was writing. I didn’t just start writing last year and then sell a story nine months later.

MZ: Yeah, I don’t think anyone really does that. I mean everything has to be in your brain first.

SP: I’m in a weird paradoxical mode where it feels like I did that since I only started submitting to SFF magazines recently. But I’ve been writing for years and years, in so many different forms. I wrote a lot in online journals as well.

 MZ: Right, but I mean it’s kind of like making gumbo. First you make a roux, then you start cooking your onions and garlic, and then you start throwing in ingredients from all over and you have something sorta in mind, but it isn’t the same every time.

SP: That metaphor is going way over my head because the most complicated thing I can make is chili and that is dumping things into a pot.

MZ: hahahaha, so is this sorta, but in an order

SP: First you drop in your terrible dinosaur book, mix in a story about a ghost cow, sprinkle in some theater…

 MZ: I mean everyone has their basic writing skills, and then all the books and stuff they’ve ever read, then all their experiences

SP: Who even knows where words come from?

MZ: and then there’s so much writing that has to happen in all different kinds of things before you can put something together good enough to publish

SP: Every time I look at a story I’ve written I don’t really understand where it came from. Words are weird.

MZ: Words are weird. Brains too.

SP: I tried to add up if I’d written my million words of crap. I forget the total I came to but I hadn’t included all my online journal stuff and I think that counts because that was a lot of crap.

MZ: I have a weird question. Have you read a lot of plays?

SP: I have read a lot of plays! Both for class and for fun.

MZ: I had a weird TA gig where I had a lot of free time in the drama department, so I ended up reading all the plays starting with A. I think I got to about S

SP: What was your favorite?

 MZ: I really liked the original Arsenic and Old Lace because all the Boris Karloff jokes make more sense in that character was actually portrayed by Boris Karloff

SP: That play is hilarious. The movie’s great too.

MZ: Auntie Mame too

SP: Really like those A plays, then.

MZ: I did apparently. I wish I’d kept better track of what I’d read

SP: I need to go back through time and ask my past self to update my Goodreads.

MZ: my past self is such a pain in my ass

SP: I like to think that I am currently the best version of me that has ever been because, hoo boy, some of my past selves.

MZ: ahahahaha I just wish I could delegate more or at least have them undo some of their mistakes. I work at a museum, and I’m always telling people to write the records and notes in the records as letters to their future selves telling them what they were thinking at the time. Cause your future self will curse you otherwise.

SP: I am so incredibly grateful for all the journaling I did because it was basically offloading my memory into digital form.

MZ: Yeah I’ve gotten out of the habit

SP: I can read past entries and there are so many details of good times I had with friends that I cannot access in my brain anymore. So I guess they happened. Probably. I can’t really trust what I wrote to be accurate though.

MZ: I wonder if it is a thing that happens in life or not

SP: I think it’s also because now there is so much more Internet. LiveJournal used to be The Place and then Facebook and Twitter sort of became the way people communicated instead. And now Tumblr.

MZ: it’s true. I remember when LJ was most of my internet. I prefer Twitter in a lot of ways, but I can’t deal with Facebook at all.

SP: I feel that I have been neglecting Facebook for Twitter, which is sad because I love Facebook. Facebook is where my friends are. Not that I don’t have friends on Twitter, but Facebook is where the people I have known for years in real life—mostly my college friends and theater friends—talk.

MZ: I never liked the user interface, so I never really got into it.

SP: The response to my Facebook post announcing that I sold my first short story was tremendous. I felt so supported, even by people I hadn’t actually talked to in years. Also being able to use more than 140 characters when communicating is a plus.

MZ: Yeah, I do miss LJ for that. But I feel like people just don’t really comment on journal posts anymore

SP: Which saddens me because it’s the only way I know someone has actually read it. Otherwise I feel like I’m shouting into the void.

MZ: Yeah, but I mean I guess that’s what writing is a lot of the time, so it isn’t necessarily bad… just feedback is nice.

SP: Writing—all art—is a form of communication, an expression of ideas, so it’s nice to know that you’ve reached someone in some way. Even if it’s simply “I have no reaction to this at all but I have heard you and internalized your words and I have no choice but to be irrevocably changed by this experience because that is how life works.”

MZ: I’m looking forward to reading your short

SP: I’m looking forward to you reading my short story! Also dreading. I’m excited/terrified.

MZ: Sounds about right :)

SP: I hear it never gets any easier.

MZ: nope, fraid not

SP: Lord, what fools these writers be.

MZ: Hark, but I do hear the morning lark

wait, no… that’s just a cold medicine hallucination

SP: Nay, ’tis the afternoon ibis.

MZ: /coughcoughcoughlaughcough

SP: That joke is only funny to me because we were all birds on Twitter earlier today because, you know, Twitter.

 MZ: Makes sense. I’m still sort of sneaking up on today. I really don’t recommend this cold.

SP: I resolve not to get it, and I will not recommend it to others.

MZ: Good plan. Well, I think that about wraps it up for this. Anything you want to make sure to talk about?

SP: I did want to put in a plug for Worldcon as a fantastic convention to go to, as last year’s Worldcon was what showed me how lovely and supportive the SFF community is and inspired me to officially join it as a writer.

MZ: Cool. That is a much stronger recommendation to go next year than a lot of things.

SP: I’ve already registered for next year. Hope to see you there!

MZ: Kind of curious how that’s going to go with it being not close to a hub airport

SP: Perhaps they will organize mammoth caravans or dragon rides.

MZ: ooo dragons. that would make it memorable

SP: Make it happen, George R.R. Martin.




Update – I am a talented klutz

Well, it finally happened. I broke a cell phone. I put a bottle of coke in my purse that wasn’t quite fastened and that purse turned out to be water-resistant enough on the inside to send all of the contents swimming. This has put a major crimp on my ability to take terrible pictures of pens and things to update the blog because I had 4 weeks of pictures on my phone. I should hopefully be getting a refurb replacement in the next couple days and I endeavor to figure out what pictures I lost and replace them.

The same day I broke my phone I also managed to flush a piece of our steam cleaner which required a plumber to clear from the toilet. I am REALLY talented. I just wish I was as talented at writing stuff.

Ghosts In the IM: Conversations Between Writers

Andi Newton



Andi is a writer of spooky and unnatural things. She enjoys many things including geocaching and fountain pens. She can be found at and on Twitter as @AndiMN


Minerva Zimmerman: I’ve been looking forward to talking to you because you’re also a fountain pen person!

Andi Newton: Same here! I love meeting new pen peeps!

MZ: And you’re a different kind of fountain pen person than me, so I get to pick your brain about stuff I don’t know hardly anything about.

AN: Different in what way?

MZ: you go to pen shows and get classic pens, which I don’t know hardly anything about

AN: Ah! If you ever get to go to a pen show, you should. It’s great fun, you get to see some really cool pens, and you get to chat with lots of people who really get how much we all love pens.

MZ: It sounds awesome. I just never seem to be anywhere near one

AN: Yeah, I’m lucky that we have one a couple of hours from me in Raleigh each year. And one of these days I’m going to make it to the DC show, which I hear is fantastic.

MZ: I keep looking at antique stores, but they don’t seem to turn up much around here.

AN: I know the feeling. My husband and I used to hit the antique stores a lot looking for pens, but we rarely find any in this area. BTW, I’ve really been enjoying your blog posts about your fountain pens.

MZ: I don’t even know what to look for in classic pens. Thank you, I’m enjoying sharing a writer perspective on using the easily available pens.

AN: It depends on why you’re getting them and what you like. If you’re getting them to collect, you’ll look for a specific type or brand that you like. If you’re getting them to use, you’ll eventually settle on a nib/body/filling system that you like. A good classic pen to try is an Esterbrook. Real workhorses, and not too expensive. You can find them for $15-20 on ebay. If you need to restore it, that’s really easy with an Estie and only takes a little time and about $4 in supplies.

MZ: Cool. I’ll have to look for one. That sounds like a fun project

AN: One of the really cool things about Esties is that the nibs are interchangeable. The Esterbrook company made about 34 different nibs for their pens. To change nibs, you just unscrew the one in the pen and screw in the new one. Fine, medium, even flex! Pretty cool!

MZ: Do you handwrite your first drafts of stories? That’s normally when I use my pens.

AN: Yes, I do. That’s why I started using fountain pens. I was going through a pen or two a week, and I felt bad about tossing so much plastic into landfills. I needed something refillable, so fountain pens it was!

MZ: I like using non-standard ink colors

AN: I’m weird that way. I can only write fiction in black ink. Anything else distracts me. But I love different colors for writing lists or notes or letters. And of course I mark my edits in red ink.

MZ: I use black and blue ink at work a lot, so I like using colors to delineate fiction writing as a different beast

AN: That makes sense.

MZ: I even tend to write different POV in different colors in the same story

AN: BTW, if I’ve never said it before, it is ultra cool that you work in a museum. I’m jealous!

MZ: It has its moments. There’s a lot of unglamorous paperwork I don’t talk much about. :)

AN: Like any job.

MZ: Just my inbox is weirder

AN: One person’s weird is another person’s interesting.  Bear in mind that my husband has a bachelor’s in archaeology and a master’s in history. We’re big museum people.

MZ: I bet you visit all the museums when you go on vacation. I know I do.

AN: We make a list of the ones in the area before we hit the road, and try to schedule our days so we can get to all of them.

MZ: Mondays are bad for most museums. I’m almost always trying to visit a closed museum on a Monday, it’s cosmic irony.

AN: Yeah, I’ve noticed that. Why are most museums closed on Mondays?

MZ: I dunno. I think they have to be closed one day a week and Monday got nominated?

AN: Could be. Especially since they have to be open on the weekend.

MZ: Also lots of museums have relatively small staffs.

AN: True. There’s a historical building in my town, and I think most of their staff is volunteers. So their hours sometimes get reduced when they don’t have many volunteers.

MZ: Our weekday front desk staff is 100% volunteer in fact we only have 1 full-time employee. The rest of us are part-time including the director

AN: Wow. I’m officially adding museums to my list of things that should get far more funding — along with schools and libraries.

MZ: absolutely, but museums have found lots of creative ways to keep going with less. It helps that people feel very strongly about history. I suppose we should talk a little about writing too :)

AN: Sure!

MZ: Are you working on anything right now?

AN: I am. A novel. Which is tough for me because I’m primarily a short fiction writer.

MZ: I’ve been focusing on short fiction lately but think of myself as a longer fiction writer.

AN: Do you find it tough to write short fiction?

MZ: I do because I am a very dialog-heavy writer and that takes space to do a lot of character and world building, which you don’t always get in short fiction.

AN: I know exactly what you mean — because I’m having the opposite problem. I’m so used to writing tight, keeping everything lean because you have such limited word count in short fiction, that expanding it out to novel length without everything falling apart or becoming a contrived, convoluted mess is… UGH!

MZ: I tend to outline longer projects at the half-way or 2/3rds point so I can see where all the dangling threads that need to be fleshed out or built on I don’t like outlining before I write though

AN: I’m definitely a plotter. I like to start with a basic summary, then do a rough outline, and then a step outline. Then write the story. Kind of like building it up into more detail little by little.

In fact, the novel I’m working on right now was originally a short story, so I guess that could be part of the planning stage, too.

MZ: Oooo. Did the story just get away and become bigger?

AN: No,some of my beta readers weren’t really sure what was going on in the story. In trying to figure out how to fix that, I realized that there was a lot more that I wanted to show in that world. And it worked really well as the opening for another story idea I’d been toying with. Plus, NaNoWriMo was coming up, so… For all the headaches this book is giving me, it’s a really fun world to play in. Carnivals, magic, a boy who helps the dead, a little girl who’s a prison. And a female sheriff who isn’t who she thinks she is.

MZ: I’m intrigued.

AN: (And, yes, that’s a little girl who IS a prison, not in a prison. Her name is Oubliette.)

MZ: I’m VERY intrigued.

AN: Cool! Now if I could just get the darn thing to behave itself so I could get it written! LOL

MZ: Wiley stories.

AN: It’s like they don’t even care that we’re supposed to be in charge.

MZ:*shakes tiny impotent fist*

AN:*threatens manuscript with red pen*



Ghosts in the IM: Conversations Between Writers


Luna Lindsey and Jennifer Brozek


Luna Lindsey

Luna Lindsey

Jennifer Brozek

Jennifer Brozek

Luna Lindsey has self-published her novel Emerald City Dreamer and the recent non-fiction Recovering Agency Her blog is at and Twitter is

Jennifer Brozek runs the micro-press on top of working with various publishers of all sizes as a writer, game designer, and editor. Website: Twitter:


Luna Lindsey: How’s it going today?
Jennifer Brozek: I’m finally getting over being sick. Travel takes it out of me sometimes. I don’t usually get sick after a con but when I do, it really messes with me.
Luna: Oh man, that sucks. Yeah, I hate getting con plague. I try to switch into obsessive hand washing mode as soon as I enter the airport :)
Jennifer: Jeff got sick at the con. I catch something on the way home.
Luna: Airports are the worst
Jennifer: Me too. And lots of hand sanitizer. So many people want to shake my hand at conventions.
Luna: But cons are bad, too. I got Swine Flu from PAX, and Norro Virus from Radcon. So.
Jennifer: Yikes!
Luna: I’m still alive to tell the tale! How was the con? It was Gencon right?
Jennifer: People forget that menus at restaurants are teeming with little nasties.
Luna: Worldcon? One of those big cons I’ve not been to yet
Jennifer: Gen Con was great. Tiring.
Luna: I need to get to one of those someday.
Jennifer: Worldcon is in Spokane next year!
Luna: WHOA. ok putting that on my calendar
Jennifer: It’s practically in our backyard.
Luna: Totally. lol from London to Spokane.
Jennifer: And if people love Chicks Dig Gaming like I hope they will, I have a half of a percentage of a chance of maybe being nommed for a Hugo.
Luna: Oh that would be great. Is that your latest release?
Jennifer: That will be released in November along with my Baen anthology Shattered Shields. November will be a good month.
Luna: Very nice. You’ll be quite busy. I’m reading the description. It looks interesting.
Jennifer: I usually am.
Luna: It’s always extra busy the month around a release.
Jennifer: How’s things since your latest book came out? Any hate mail?
Luna: Going well! The aforementioned extra-busy seems to finally be dying down, but it will pick up again if I manage to do more guest posts. No hate mail. Some hate tweets when I advertise, but it’s all manageable. Lots of really good feedback so far. It seems to be accomplishing my primary goal, which was to help exmormons adjust.
Jennifer: I’m happy for you. I was a little afraid that people might jump on you for it. Religion is a very touchy subject.
Luna: I’m still braced for it. If it hits any mainstream outlets, it could still happen. So far, only a few people know about it, which is both good and bad :)
Jennifer: Is that by design or are you looking to push the PR?
Luna: I did get a DEFCON (hacker con) talk rejected because religion was too controversial haha.No, I’ve done my main PR push. I’ve spent a bit on Twitter ads, and had a small investment in a publicist. Time will tell if it pays off? This seems to be a word of mouth kind of book
Jennifer: That works.
Luna: I’m kind of new to the publicity end of things, too :) I’ve only marketed one other book before this
Jennifer: You’ve got a good cover. I recently read an article about most people still shopping online with their eyes. So a good cover is must.
Luna: Yes. Thank you. :) I knew cover would be important.
My artist, BTW, is Ana Cruz. She’s great to work with, and totally reasonably priced.
Jennifer: Blurbs are the second most influential selling point. IE: Hey, I read this and it’s not crap!
Nice! How reasonable?
Luna: lol yes. And I’m starting to get good blurbs now.
$180 for this cover. I think Emerald City Dreamer was $150? something like that. I did my own layout, so that’s just for the art
Jennifer: That’s on part for my cover budget for AIP.
Luna: What I like is she works with me. I tell her my concept, and she does a sketch, and I let her know what to change before she does the post-production I had SO many tweaks to this cover, and she was very patient hehe
Jennifer: Heh. Cool.
Luna: I like the cover on Chicks. It’s nice. What else are you working on right now?
Jennifer: Me too. Mad Norwegian Press commissioned it but the artist, Katy Shuttleworth, worked with me on it. Right now?
Luna: (It looks great.)

Jennifer: I’m writing Karen Wilson Chronicles #4 – Chimera Incarnate. It’s the last in the series. Then I’m going to be writing Never Let Me Leave, which is Melissa Allen #2 – my young adult SF-Thriller series. Plus, I’m editing 2 books for AIP – Frost from Peter M. Ball and The Bringer of War from Dylan Birtolo. Also have a couple of short stories on the horizon.

Luna: Do you find it’s better to have lots of pans in the fire? Or would you rather focus on one thing at a time?
Jennifer: Weirdly, the general answer is “Yes.” I like to work on one thing at a time but I like to have multiple projects going on. For example, I spend 3 days on Frost, doing an editorial letter but I didn’t write. That was on purpose. But this week, I’m doing copy edits on The Bringer of War while I write on Chimera. I write in the morning. Edit in the afternoon.
Luna: That sounds awesome. I have trouble switching gears. So I do better if I can have 5-7 days in a row where I do nothing but the one project, and then maybe take a couple days off or to do “must do” tasks, and then try to get back into the same project again. Which makes it hard to strategically get things done as they’re needed. especially for huge projects like Recovering Agency was.
Jennifer: *nod* Do you have a day job?
Luna: Nope. My partners support me.
So when I’m at the peak of that 5-7 ramp up, I’m writing 8000, 9000 words a day
Jennifer: Or, as I like to say “pays the bills” job. And that’s awesome. I recently figured out that without the Husband, I could make it on my own but I’d be living hand-to-mouth. I’m happy he supports my publishing habit.
Luna: or editing 5-15k words a day. Hehe yes. It’s a shame that writers don’t get paid more. Especially for those of us who work hard and produce solid work.
Jennifer: Nice! I do a steady 2000 a day or so. As for editing, usually 50-60 pages is optimum.
Luna: It’s that myth that creativity isn’t work because “Anyone can do it”
Jennifer: True. The intern at the game store shamefully admitted to me that she wrote fan fiction and I applauded. Fan fiction teaches writers about writing and world building and showed this both how to do it and how hard it is all at one time. Writing is one of the hardest jobs a person can do.
Luna: Yes, and in the end, I think it’s all fan fiction ;) It is. And it’s more than full time. I’m working even when I’m not working I can’t just watch a movie anymore without analyzing plot structure.
Jennifer: Hey, I write media tie-in fiction… which means I get paid to write canon fan fiction! :)
Luna: Yay! I think that since we are building on the concepts of giants, even when we have totally new ideas, they can’t exist without the foundation laid before. So that’s what I mean by, “it’s all fan fic”.
Jennifer: You can’t. You must write well. Tie-in fiction has a built-in audience that will know when you mess up. Plot structure, story, characterization all must be there.
Luna: Exactly. :) I haven’t really written any fan fic or tie-in, so.. Well, okay I wrote some Changeling: The Dreaming stuff 15 years ago. I guess that counts.
Jennifer: It does.
Luna: I thought my ideas were the best, of course ;)
Jennifer: I’ve done Battletech, Shadowrun, Valdemar, Elemental Masters, and I have one coming up that I’m super excited about but, of course, can’t talk about. NDAs and all that. But I tell you, I’d kill to write a Haven book. I really would.
Luna:- Haven? This?
Jennifer: The TV show that was vaguely based on Stephen King’s Colorado Kid. Yep. That’s the one. And I will admit, the only unpaid fan fiction I’ve every written has been Haven fan fiction.
Luna: Ok I’ve somehow not heard of this. I like to get into shows. I’ll have to check it out.
Jennifer: It’s good. Pure Stephen King (whom I adore). 4 seasons out now? Or is it 3? I can’t remember.
Luna: I like some Stephen King, not others. It seems like the “flavor” of King I prefer.
Ok that’s a great start :) I’m starting to finally run low on shows to watch so I’ll add it to my list
Jennifer: You watch Hannibal?
Luna: Not yet. It’s also on my list.
Jennifer: :)
Luna: There are a few shows I have on my list to watch with my partner, Roland, and that’s one. So I’m saving it. I might go ahead and watch it anyway if he doesn’t get a move on hehe
Jennifer: Heh. It’s good. But where Haven is almost pure popcorn, Hannibal? You have to pay attention to the body language. A good half of the conversations are non-verbal.
Luna: Ah, so it’s like Downton Abbey (maybe only in that one way)
Jennifer: I don’t actually watch that one.
Luna: I wouldn’t normally have watched it, but we started watching it as a family. It was pretty good. I was surprised. It hooked me and I watched all four seasons.
So let’s see. I love talking about autism. You mentioned you’re high functioning? When did you get diagnosed?
Jennifer: Cool.
Luna: (speaking of body language lol)(I guess I shouldn’t assume you got diagnosed.)
Jennifer: Let’s see… I was diagnosed shortly after I got here… so around 2003. I was part of a study for adult Asperger’s. I got paid something like $250 to have stuff glued to my head and to answer questions.
Luna: Oh wow
Jennifer: My twin brother has Asperger’s too. His daughter is full blown autistic. She’ll never be able to live on her own.
Luna: So, you didn’t know before you started in the study? It does run in families. My son is most likely on the spectrum. And one of my step kids, which there’s no genetic link there, but it does imply people tend to be attracted to that DNA somehow.
Jennifer: No. But when the study asked for people who did things like: rocking (to get to sleep or when in a specific situation), OCD tendencies, and other such things… also, a couple of friends pointed out that I had a lot of the hallmarks, signed up. But none of my family knew and that was in a tense period between me and my family. So… I was the only one not surprised when my brother’s daughter was diagnosed.
Luna: Ah. Wow that is the most unique way I’ve ever heard of someone finding out. That’s a great story.
Jennifer: I rock when I’m intensely focused, tired, or hungry. I have a thing about sets… and comfort reading/watching the same things over and over. Well, I didn’t want to be … hm. Broken. :\
Luna: I started letting myself rock once I’d figured it out. I didn’t get diagnosed until last year, and hadn’t even suspected until the year prior to that. For me, finding out was both a relief and a grieving process.
Jennifer: But it explains why I didn’t respond to yelling or high praise as a child. My mom used to get so mad because she couldn’t figure out why I didn’t show emotion. She used to call me fish face / stone face to try to get a reaction. That was an interesting conversation to have after the whole thing was discovered. Relief and grieving… I don’t know if I ever went through that.
Luna: Yes, there’s that whole thing where people suddenly “get” you. My sister was able to forgive me of a bunch of stuff I didn’t even realize she was hung up on, after I told her.
Jennifer: It was more. “Oh. So, that’s why I’m like this.”
Luna: Yeah.. Relief for knowing there was an explanation for the many ways I am, and relief for finally being able to learn some new coping mechanisms, and relief that those around me could finally understand me better. Grief in that, many things I thought I could eventually “overcome” were intrinsically part of me and I’d probably always be that way.
Jennifer: It did explain why I did things. Why I spend so much time watching people.
I had to train myself to recognize that certain cues meant certain things.
Luna: Yes, the conscious learning of rules. I’ve always done it. But now I can forgive myself when I fail to do it.
Jennifer: I have slips now and then.
Luna: It also allowed me to be okay with getting medicated for my anxiety. That’s been a huge improvement.
Jennifer: That’s good. I’m glad.
Luna: Yes. :) I still slip up, too. In any situation I’m not familiar with. Having decreased anxiety helps. Plus self-acceptance. And the ability to explain it to people. Do you also have synesthesia? Lots of autists do.
Jennifer: I forget that people get uncomfortable when I openly watch them. No. No synesthesia. But I am a super taster. :)
Luna: Well, you can also say you’re a writer to excuse that hehe Oh nice! Yes, that’s a common trait. It’s nice of course when it means you can enjoy food better. It’s not so nice when all food seems overpowering and gross. I oscillate between the two modes.\ I go to Rainforest Retreat (I think you do, too, but a different session?) and I’ve noticed some common aspie-like traits among writers. Like a tendency to eavesdrop (and the ability to do so because of super-hearing), difficulty in discerning people talking when in a loud area, sensitivity to senses.
Jennifer: I’m getting a new tattoo to celebrate the sale of my Melissa Allen series and I made my tattooist uncomfortable watching him set up. He admitted that and I had to apologize. I do want to have a tattooist in a new series I’m planning. Later we talked about it and I thanked him for reminding me of the social cue.
Luna: And it seems like for some autists, writing can be a huge outlet. So there are some interesting correlations there.
Jennifer: Rainforest! My favorite writers retreat!
Luna: Oh that’s awesome. Congrats on the new tat AND on the sale. Yes :) I <3 it.
Jennifer: Thanks.
Luna: It was my 2nd year this year. I’m in 3rd session next. It’s sad because 2nd session got split. So I couldn’t decide who I wanted to see more.
Jennifer: I use it to train myself to write with people around. I think I do pretty well.
I ended up in the 2nd session for 2015.
Luna: I use it to make great contacts. I do my most productive writing back in the room. Nice. Lots of good people there :) People I will miss!
Jennifer: I average about 10-15K each weekend. And, so far, I’ve sold everything I’ve ever written there. :)
Luna: Nice. Yes, I write my best stuff there, too. I try to focus on short stories so I can have quantity. I usually work on many many projects while there. It lets me break out of my rigid structure and planned projects to go off on tangents and whims.
Jennifer: There’s something about being around a bunch of enthusiastic, productive authors that fills the creative well for me.
Luna: Totally. Hm I think I’m out of questions for you. Got any for me? (I didn’t really plan any questions, but the little thing that pops up ideas is out of ideas hehe)
Jennifer: How’d you get into self publishing? It’s not a career for the weak.
Luna: Oh, good question. I’ve been familiar with the publishing industry my whole life. My parents were both writers (not professionally, but my dad made a sale to Galaxy). So I knew if I ever went fulltime, there’d be this incredibly long arc to getting an agent, making the sale, and finally seeing it on shelves. So when I lost my job in 2010, and was kicking around the idea of writing fulltime, I stared at this really long track. My girlfriend is a huge reader. And she had a Kindle, and suggested I look into it. She mentioned a number of good books she’d read that were published thru KDP.
Jennifer: Neat. You got a kick in the pants from life.
Luna: So I decided to give it a shot. I didn’t even try to get an agent. Just went straight for it. (I do hybrid, tho so I still sell stories to magazines) Yes. :) And my partners were willing to support me through it, which is beautiful and amazing.
Jennifer: I do hybrid, too. You have great partners!
Luna: I do! :D
Jennifer: A writer’s best friend is the one who will support their impossible dream.
Luna: Exactly.
Jennifer: I self pub because I can’t sell the Karen Wilson Chronicles because they started out as a webseries. But, in truth, I do prefer small press and traditional publishing. I guess it’s the pat on the head and the belief the publisher puts in you to do a good job. I’m super excited with Permuted Press.
Luna: That’s awesome. Yes, small press is pretty cool, too.
Jennifer: What is the next thing on your plate?
Luna: I’m glad there are so many options. Once I’m done promoting Recovering Agency, I’ll start edits for Emerald City Iron. I’ve got a number of people pushing me to do it. So that. :) I’d also like to catch up on a pile of blog post ideas, particularly ones on autism I’ve been putting off.
And I need to spend a couple weeks getting more short story submissions out the door. :) But ECI is the next big project.
Jennifer: I still have your first one in my kindle. It’s on my to-read pile.
Luna: Nice :) I read the first one in your series as well :) couple years ago I think
Jennifer: I hope you liked it.
Luna: All these huge to-read piles we all have. I did :)
Jennifer: I’m having so much fun wrapping up the series but I had to remember things like… Oh, I left 2 people in comas. One from book 2 and one from book 3. I need to do something about it.
Luna: haha yes, the tying up loose ends business. I’m reading the Anita Blake series right now and I was like, Oh, Anita’s friend Catherine. I haven’t seen her for a couple of books. I don’t like her. Why is she back? I liked her better when she was just forgotten about.
Jennifer: Speaking of loose ends, I’m sorry but I need to cut this short now. I still have words to get down on Chimera Incarnate to make today’s word count.
Luna: Yes. It was great chatting with you :)
Jennifer: Wonderful chatting with you, too.

Ghosts in the IM: Conversations Between Writers (and Editors)

First of all– I am not dead. I got a cold which tried to take me out like a ninja rhinoceros and had me in bed for a full week. I’m now on prescription cough syrup so I’m going to go quickly to the Conversation here.

Brian White and Wendy Wagner


picWendy N Wagner


Brian White is the editor of Fireside Fiction Magazine and terrorizes Twitter as @talkwordy and blogs at

Wendy Wagner is the Managing/Associate Editor of both Lightspeed Magazine and Nightmare Magazine, a regular blogger on the Inkpunks publishing blog and her recent Pathfinder novel is Skinwalkers and she can be found on Twitter as @wnwagner

Brian J. White:  /waves/

 Wendy N. Wagner:  Hi! Wow, I almost forgot how to use chat. I just realized I haven’t chatted or hung out online in, like, over a year.

Brian:  Where have you been hanging out? In meatspace? You know about the germs, right?

Wendy:  You mean GO OUTSIDE?!? Ack! No! Apparently there’s this giant ball of radiation out there, and it will cook you if you’re not careful.

Brian:  I have heard of this infernal device. I work nights so I only see it as it sinks beneath the hills.

Wendy:  Living in Oregon, I only see it 3 or 4 months a year. It’s pretty terrifying. So how are you this morning?

Brian:  I used to think Oregon was an imaginary place, like Nebraska. But I have met too many people from there at this point, and I am starting to doubt my belief.

Wendy:  If you ever meet Andrew Fuller (editor of 3 Lobed Burning Eye Mag), it’ll blow your mind. He’s a Nebraskan who now lives in Oregon. I’m pretty sure he’s a semi-mythical being.

Brian:  Oh my GOD. This can’t happen. I am still trying to cope with Pluto’s de-planetting. Too much change is bad.

Wendy:  The mind is a fragile thing. That’s why they invented whisky. (As an aside, if you play the game Arkham Horror, you can get the whiskey card and use it restore sanity points. Best. Game. Feature. Ever!)

Brian:  They are wise. (I definitely need a whiskey card.) /hides flask/ But, to your question I am well this morning. Just got a load of postcards to send out to the backers of Fireside’s Year 3 Kickstarter.

Wendy:  Do you actually write on them, like with a pen?

Brian:  Last time I did this, I had, like maybe less than 100 to do, and I handwrote on each. This time I have probably like 600 to send, so I had text printed, and I will sign with a Sharpie. I already have screwed-up wrists, and also shreds of sanity left.

Wendy:  Wow. Thank goodness for self-adhesive stamps!

Brian:  Oh man. I hadn’t even thought of that. /pets tongue/

Wendy:  * giggles at the thought * Do you have a special “editorial” signature that you use? I took Mary Kowal’s advice from her beginning writer’s series and invented a special signature for signing books. Of course, after one or two uses, it just devolves into a squiggly line, like my real signature, so I’m not sure how effective it is.

Brian:  Haha. I do not, but I think I would have the same nice-to-squiggly speed. Focusing is overrated. But my handwriting is so bad, I just aim for a legible B at the beginning.

Wendy:  I was a write-in yesterday, and I currently am without a laptop, so I just write manually. I dread reading the stuff! I can usually make out about 1 out of every 7 letters.

Brian:  Heh. That sounds about right. Do you usually write manually, or is that just a without-laptop-induced thing?

Wendy:  I have a desktop computer, and that’s usually what I work on. But sometimes the world just gets too distracting, so I retreat to the porch or the coffee shop with the notebook and the ball point pen. I don’t usually write a lot when I go to manual, but it really helps me refocus.

Brian:  I am still at kind of the hesitant, beginner, stop and start stage as a writer. Which has meant I have fooled around with a lot of tools, often as a form of procrastination. I love the idea of writing by hand, but it’s hardest on my wrists. I have also used things like Dragon to speak words into text. I kind of like that, but it requires a big mental shift.

Wendy:  I like the idea of dictation, but I am really not an audio person. If I had to dictate a book, it would read like this “The dude looked at her. ‘Like, you’re really cool.’ ‘Uh,’ she said. ‘There’s a thing behind you. One of those dead things that eat you know, the stuff inside your head.'” There would be zero metaphor, no depth, and it would be a babbling, incoherent mess!

Brian:  Yeah, it kind of has the opposite effect of writing by hand for me. Dictation can go so fast, you really have to think rather than just fill up a page of rambling. Writing by hand, I sometimes feel like it takes so long I lose the thread of the next sentence before I get finished writing the previous one. I guess I grew up typing, so that is how my brain works. And is probably also why I have tendinitis.

Wendy:  I think we just need titanium alloy tendons or something. I’m ready for a more indestructible physique! So, complete change of chat topic: what made you start Fireside? I can only assume a head injury was involved.

Brian:  That would make it easier to explain, I guess. It was … the best way I can explain it is I kind of had this slowly growing stew of ideas in my head 2011. I had been on Twitter for a few years, starting out mostly talking about copy editing and with copy editors (my “day” job is as a newspaper copy editor) but I had started to follow some writers and stuff too — Gaiman, Scalzi, Wendig first, and then others. So I was starting to see discussions of a lot of things, and they each got plopped into the stew. “Digital publishing models.” PLOP “Payment rates for writers.” PLOP “Make good art.” PLOP And then the thing that made the stew taste just right. “Kickstarter. Crowd funding.” PLOP PLOP. And I thought, “Hey I could do a magazine.” So I started talking to people — Chuck Wendig, Ken Liu, Christie Yant, and Tobias Buckell — about writing for the first issue. And to my surprise, they said yes. And it just kind of snowballed from there. It’s kind of amazing, how with the tools we have available now, some guy can just say, “Hey I want to have a magazine.” And then he does.

Wendy:  That’s pretty fucking awesome. How many other staff members do you have?

Brian:  As far as putting the magazine out, I do most of that myself. Pablo Defendini designed our website and handles the technical issues. Matt White is our submissions manager, and he and our volunteer slush readers are invaluable. I don’t think I could stay alive if I had to organize that. And, of course, there’s the amazing Galen Dara, who does all of our artwork.

Wendy:  Wow, that’s awesome! We have a fairly gigantic staff of volunteers at Lightspeed and Nightmare. I’d guess that I put in over 20 hours a week working on the magazines (I used to keep track, but I have gotten kind of lazy about it), and I can’t even imagine how many hours they put in. It takes SO MUCH WORK to run a magazine. It’s kind of mind-boggling.

Brian:  It really does. Working at a newspaper, where everything is broken down into small tasks, each done at a different person, it’s been really interesting to do it all, rather than just turn my own widget. What sort of things do you handle at Lightspeed?

Wendy:  Well, I have two jobs–Managing Editor and Associate Editor. On the management side, I maintain the production schedule, so I’m setting everyone’s deadlines and making sure everyone comes through on time. I also deal with a big chunk of the website, uploading the ebooks and all the stories/articles/spotlights. I also produce all of our contracts and make sure they get signed and returned on time. On the Associate side, I oversee the submissions and editorial teams. When we have open submissions, I screen all the story recommendations from the slush readers. I work with most of the authors on the line edits for their pieces, and I work with the copy editor to make sure that any questions about the story’s formatting or errors I missed in my first round of editing get resolved.

Most of my job is poking people, cracking whips, and reminding people about their deadlines. Oh, and I’m the Chief Executive Hugger.

Brian:  Face hugger or regular hugger?

Wendy:  Ha ha! Regular hugger! We artistic types require a lot of hugs to keep going.

Brian:  Yes this is true. I may have a mild sickness here, but that all sounds like a lot of fun, what you’re doing at Lightspeed. I like doing publishing production and background work.

Wendy:  It is fun! I love my job. Of course, the best part is working with all the awesome people. Our staff and writers are some of the coolest, smartest, kindest folks I’ve ever met.

Brian:  That’s something I have come to learn and love about the writing and editing types I have met through Twitter and Fireside, is there are so many smart, nice, and supportive people. Everyone wants to help each other. I guess if none of use are going to make any money, we might as well be kind.

Wendy:  Exactly!

Brian:  So you had your first book, Skinwalkers, come out in March. What’s that been like?

Wendy:  Pretty good. There was some confusion about the release date, so it had kind of a soft roll-out. And I’m kind of a newb about book marketing, so I was really overwhelmed by the whole experience. I really don’t know if I did a very good job promoting the book. But I’ve gotten some good responses to the book, so that’s been nice.

Brian:  Now that you have gotten to the other side of the wall and are a publishing insider, can you share the secret of what kind of cake they serve at the Publishing Gatekeepers Society functions?

Wendy:  I hate to break it to you, but the cake is a lie.



Wendy:  Well, now that I’ve crushed your spirit, I suppose I should sign off. I’ve got parenting to do!

Brian:  /twitches/

It was great talking to you.

Wendy:  It WAS! We should hang out more often. Fingers are crossed that some day we actually meet in real life.

Brian:  Yessss. This will happen.

Wendy:  Have a great day!


Pilot Parallel Pen 1.5mm

Some of you may remember how disappointed I was in the Scheaffer Calligraphy pens. Well, I still liked the IDEA of having a Calligraphy pen so I decided to give the Pilot Parallel a shot, as I’ve been extremely happy with Pilot pens so far. I got the 1.5mm because I want to write with it still, not just do Calligraphy.


Here it is assembled out of the package. It comes with two ink cartridges, a squeeze converter for cleaning (though I’m sure it would work just fine), and a nib cleaner (Oh HEY I had no idea this was a thing and have just been using the edge of my paper for the same purpose. This is way better).

Pilot Parallel with items for scale

Pilot Parallel with items for scale








This pen is designed to sorta resemble a dip pen and has the paint brush-style taper body. I’m not a huge fan of the look, but it works just fine. It isn’t as awkward as you might fear for being so long.




I'm not a huge person, but it's still pretty long.

I’m not a huge person, but it’s still pretty long.



It really is quite a long pen. It is completely convertible into an eyedropper pen, though I’m not sure I’d suggest it… simply because the barrel seems to untwist slightly when I untwist the cap and I think it might occasionally leak because of this even with silicone grease.


nib comparison between Parallel 1.5mm and Scheaffer Fine

nib comparison between Parallel 1.5mm and Scheaffer Fine

width of line drawn with said pens. The stutter on the Parallel is user error not pen.


The Good

  • 3 nib sizes
  • writes nice and wet, great for calligraphy (but bad for cheap paper)
  • nice smooth round grip
  • is FUN to write with

The Bad

  • Looooooooooong Pen is Long
  • requires a proprietary cartridge and converter
  • not really practical for everyday writing, but that’s not what it’s made for

Overall grade: A for Calligraphy Pen, B for occasional wanting to write all swoopy for no practical reason



Ghosts In the IM: Conversations Between Writers

Today’s writers are both photographers as well as writers. They are two people I thought should know each other better but who hadn’t really crossed paths. I’m pretty tickled with how their Conversation went.

Andrew Williams and Elsa S. Henry

Andrew Williams - Photograph by Jon Lavinder

Andrew Williams – Photograph by Jon Lavinder

Elsa S. Henry - Photograph by Andrew Williams

Elsa S. Henry -
Photograph by Andrew Williams












Elsa blogs at is on Twitter

Andrew Williams blogs at: is on Twitter, and has his photoblog

Andrew Williams:  Hey Elsa– I’m ready to do this thing if you are.

Elsa S. Henry:  I’m ready! (Just put my dog up for a nap so I could focus)

Andrew:  Excellent! Surviving the weekend and GenCon preparation then?

Elsa:  Trying to! I have almost all my clothes packed and now it’s just the Other Stuff

Andrew:  Cool. Are you doing any programming at GenCon?

Elsa:  I am, yeah. I’m teaching a class on accessibility for disabilities in game design and then I’m on a panel about inclusivity in gaming and then I’m running the Storium meet & greet as the official community manager of Storium, and then I am running into a panel on cultural appropriation. SOBUSY

Andrew:  Awesome! I didn’t realize you were involved with Storium. And yeah, that sounds kinda crazy-busy… in a good way (hopefully)

Elsa:  Yeah, I was hired as their community manager about 2 months ago. It’s a good gig. And yeah, it’s all good. I’ve just never been to Gen Con before. Have you?

Andrew:  No, I haven’t. Everyone I talk to seems to have a good time, but gaming is one of my weaker links in the geek continuum, as it were. That said, I will be at PAX this year and am looking forward to it

Elsa:  What part of the geek continuum have you fallen down the wormhole for?

Andrew:  I’m primarily a reader and sci-fi/fantasy writer. I love me my John Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Mira Grant… The last game I played hardcore was WoW, and I escaped with kind of a sigh of relief. That said, I do love playing games with friends, and have been involved doing photography with a company called GamesToGo at their booth at some recent conventions (They sell board games and the like)

Elsa:  And yeah, I hear you on running away from WoW, Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire is currently my new favorite author

Andrew:  I really liked the Feed series. Her urban fantasy stuff is on my to-read list

Elsa:  Feed was SO GOOD it definitely inspired me for some of Dead Scare (the RPG I’m writing right now)

Andrew:  Sweet! Can you give me the thirty-second pitch for Dead Scare?

Elsa:  It is 1953, you’re a housewife alone at home when the Emergency Broadcast goes off and tells you the United States has been attacked and the President is dead.  Then the undead rise, and you have to stay alive. Better red than zed.

Andrew:  Heh. Awesome

Elsa:  Essentially the Soviet Union drops a biological weapon on the United States turning everyone in major city centers into zombies. AN almost entirely female cast for every game. Armed with lawn mowers, cadillacs, and rolling pins

Andrew:  Nice. Sounds like all the old 1950s tropes turned on their heads… with zombies.

Elsa:  Yep, that’s the exact concept

Andrew:  Do you write prose as well or mostly games? (I assume writing games must involve some prose writing, but I’ve never done it)

Elsa:  This is actually my first game I’ve ever written. I primarily do fiction and nonfiction writing

Andrew:  Cool! Yeah, I read some of your blog. You do a good job of tackling major, blood-pressure-raising but very important issues

Elsa:  it is not easy

Andrew:  The sort of stuff I can only blog about once a month or so before my head explodes

Elsa:  I haven’t been posting much recently because of Lots of Life Changes, but I’m hoping to resume a more regular schedule soon

Andrew:  Yeah, my regular blog has fallen off a lot as I’ve been working more on photography this year and trying to something resembling a business running

Elsa:  I saw on your blog that you’re going to Nepal in a few weeks, is that for writing inspiration or photography or…

Andrew:  Yes. Actually, it’s mostly because I love to travel, so when a friend happened to ask if I wanted to go to Nepal, I figured out if I could possibly wing it, and the answer was yes. The sort of trip I’d seriously regret if I didn’t go. I’ve actually never been to Asia, or to a non-English-speaking country outside of Europe before, so I’m really looking to it. Of course, I will be lugging along several pounds of camera gear as I hike through the Himalayas, because ZOMG PHOTOS

Elsa:  Uh. Yeah. Those photos.

Andrew:  And I also have a story I’m writing where one of the cultures is Tibetan-inspired, so I’m hoping to see some things that may inspire me along the way.

Elsa:  Will be amazing.

Andrew:  I CAN’T WAIT. Actually, I leave five weeks from today

Elsa:  EEK you must have so much prep to do.

Andrew:  Mostly just getting stuff together (a lot of backpacking gear which I generally already have). And luckily I won’t have to bring a tent because even though the trek is three weeks long, you stay in teahouses every night at villages along the way

Elsa:  I miss travelling a lots, out of the country anyway. Hoping to go to Sweden next year

Andrew:  That’d be awesome. Scandinavia is on my to-visit list. I’m hoping Finland wins the WorldCon bid in 2017 After Nepal, I’m planning to swing back through Hong Kong and Seoul before coming home

Elsa:  You do WorldCon? I’m considering going to Spokane next year. I went to college out there and haven’t been back since graduation

Andrew:  Yeah, I’ve been to a couple. And of course, being a Seattleite, I’ll do Spokane. I’ve never been there except as a transit point on my way to Montana

Elsa:  I think WorldCon sounds like fun. But granted, I’m terrified of Gen Con, soooo I’m not sure WorldCon would be kinder

Andrew:  Gen Con is really big, isn’t it? Like 40K-ish people?

Elsa:  On the other hand I know Spokane really well. Yeah, Gen Con is ENORMOUS. Not SDCC enormous, but big enough to be a little anxiety attack-y

Andrew:  Yeah, WorldCon generally runs about 7-10K. The tough thing is, because a different group runs it every year, you’re never entirely sure what you’re getting

Elsa:  Interesting

Andrew:  What school did you go to out there?

Elsa:  People give me funny looks when I tell them – I went to Gonzaga

Andrew:  Heh. Y’know, I didn’t even realize Gonzaga was in Spokane until I happened to be reading an article about Desmond Tutu earlier today (he apparently gave a commencement speech there a couple of years ago)

Elsa:  He did! Yeah, super Conservative Catholic Very Not Where People Expect Me To Have Gone

Andrew:  Were you super conservative Catholic at the time?

Elsa:  I raised a lot of hell. Nope. They offered me a very nice scholarship

Andrew:  Heh. That must’ve been an interesting four years (for certain values of “interesting”)

Elsa:  But I credit my time there with why I can talk about blood raising things in a relatively reasonable manner. Interesting is most certainly a word I would use to describe my time

Andrew:  Not planning to go to graduate school at BYU or anything, are you?

Elsa:  I went to grad school at Sarah Lawrence College. My ability to stay calm when people were screaming at me was useful there, too!

Andrew:  It’s a useful ability to have, even if practicing it is a pain in the ass

Elsa:  seriously

Andrew:  I consider myself lucky that I’ve never really had to… part of why I try to jump in now when I see such things going on

Elsa:  I think that’s lucky. I mean, ok ,in undergrad I ran the first ever AIDS Awareness program at Gonzaga my father died from HIV/AIDS in 1993, so educating people on care and prevention is very close to my heart and very important to me. The pro life student group actually protested the event

Andrew:  headdesk

Elsa:  It was one of the harder examples of “Deal with the screaming crazy people without stabbing someone” situations I’ve had to deal with

Andrew:  Wow. I can’t even imagine. Protesting AIDS Awareness is wrong on so many levels I just can’t… even…. but that’s awesome that you followed through on a cause so close to your heart

Elsa:  The fact that I managed to get the Vice President for Mission at a Catholic University to approve me MENTIONING CONDOMS during my talk was a miracle. And that is why they protested

Andrew:  That is, indeed, quite the miracle. I seem to remember reading in the past couple of years that even the Catholic church in Rome has slowly begun to make noises that maybe such things aren’t totally evil in all circumstances

Elsa:  YEP. Also, Pope Francis is almost reasonable on some matters

Andrew: There’s still a heck of a lot to disagree with, but he’s a breath of fresh air compared to Benedict

Elsa:  RIGHT? I’m not Catholic – I’m actually Jewish at this point. But having spent so much time in a culture of Catholicism I actually care deeply about progression and change

Andrew:  I mostly like Pope Francis for his focus on aiding the poor and the less fortunate, and the way he seems to focus on a lot of what Jesus actually said in that regard. I was raised Protestant Christian but I’m an atheist these days.

Elsa:  I married an atheist Jew, but I have faith so I ended up going to Temple

Andrew:  That’s cool. It must have been an interesting experience (sorry to overuse the word, but I mean it in a more positive sense than earlier)

Elsa:  Considerably more interesting, also hilarious

Andrew:  Heh heh. Ironically, I find being an atheist has made me more spiritual than I used to be. In that my own ideas and spirituality feels more internal and rooted in who I am, rather than something imposed by outside

Elsa:  SO, you’re writing your own beliefs

Andrew:  Sort of. I feel like I’m more interested in what might be than in what is. Religion, and different aspects of God, are more interesting to me as stories than as explanations.

Elsa:  Yeah, I minored in religious studies because religion is interesting to me. I find people fascinating

Andrew:  (Most people would call me agnostic, but I prefer “atheist” because agnostic implies that you think the deep truths are unknowable, and I’m not sure that’s the case)

Elsa:  Heh

Andrew:  Oh, totally. I love talking about this sort of stuff with people and hearing their thoughts and ideas. As long as they aren’t screaming them at me. I wrote a long blog post on that once that I sort of considered my “coming out” as an atheist, on stories and beliefs and the nature of what might be vs. what is

Elsa:  Link? I’d be curious to read it

Andrew:  Pretty sure I can find it… one sec

Elsa:  I’m curious how you feel about the skeptic community.

Andrew:  cue headsplode


Andrew:  I actually got involved in the skeptic and atheist community after I moved to Seattle a few years ago… looking for friends and community and the like. And that blog post was part of my reaction/eventual recoiling. It’s a completely cliche thing to say, but I see in the organized atheist/skeptic community a lot of the same things that drive me nuts about organized religion

Elsa:  TRUTH

Andrew:  Putting one’s own personal opinions/beliefs on a pedestal, and defending them with hardcore tenacity while discounting other people’s experiences and feelings, for one. Obviously it’s not everybody in the community (#notallatheists), but I just couldn’t stand the lack of empathy I saw from lots of people. The refusal to see things from other perspectives or recognize that other people have valid emotions and experiences.  I found I didn’t relate to much of the skeptic community. I like being independent, and finding my own way to various truths, which might occasionally include dabbling in things that skeptics would laugh at me for but that I find extremely intriguing (for example, I’ve taken a lot of classes in hypnotherapy)

Elsa:  I know a lot of people both in and out of the skeptic community feel the way you do about the pedestal thing

Andrew:  Part of why I love being a storyteller and creative person is empathizing with other people, in understanding their experiences and perspectives, and seeing certain things (like how that community treated some of the social justice-oriented folks in their midst) sent me running away

Elsa:  Yeeeaaaah

Andrew:  Which makes me sad. Part of why I call myself atheist is that I see so many asshats use the term, and I want to keep them from claiming it entirely

Elsa:  SRSLY

Andrew:  Nor do I particularly like the term humanist or freethinker, for various reasons. So yeah, I don’t know what I am. I’m just a writer.  Oh man, I could totally go off on another rant about how I hate labels, but that’s a whole other three-hour chat. So, what creative project are you working on right now that you’re most excited about?

Elsa:  Definitely Dead Scare. I think its going to be one of those games that makes people think, because I’ve designed it to push people to think in terms of morality and choice

Andrew:  That’s awesome. Good luck with it!

Elsa:  What about you?

Andrew:  Hmm. At the moment, it’s probably my photography. I’m working on a yearlong project where I try to make at least one photographic expedition to a Seattle-area landmark or event every week (you can follow it at And of course Nepal is coming up. For writing, I’m working on a steampunk novel that takes place in colonial Hong Kong called Noah’s Dragon. So I’m excited about that too, and I’m trying to squeeze it whenever I’m not working on photography.

Elsa:  This is my first con I’m going to WITHOUT my camera

Andrew:  What? A con without a camera? /recoils in horror But given your schedule, I can kind of see why

Elsa:  and also, that book sounds awesome

Andrew:  Thanks! It’s partly why I routed my return trip through Hong Kong.

Elsa:  Makes sense

Andrew:  Plus, there’s a British privateer captain in it who’s a mix of Mal Reynolds and Blackbeard, and she is hands-down my favorite character I’ve ever written into a story

Elsa:  Nice!

Fountain Pen Friday: Pilot Prera

Doods. This is my absolutely favorite pen. Aaron bought it for my birthday a year or two back and I really adore it. I don’t have a picture of it without ink because it was half-full when I went to write this entry.


Pilot Prera Clear Light Blue with items for scale

I don’t really feel comfortable carrying it with me all the time because I’d be absolutely heart-broken if I lost it.


It’s a lovely clear pen with clear blue accents, chrome, and an opaque pen cap inner sheath so errant drips of ink don’t muck up the look of the pen.

Pen in hand with cap on the back

Pen in hand with cap on the back

It’s really well balanced and is neither heavy nor light.


Pen in hand without cap.

Pen in hand without cap.

You can get one yourself in fine, medium or calligraphy nibs at Jet Pens or Goulet Pens

Write write writing along

Write write writing along

There’s something about this pen that just fits really nicely with my hand.


The Good

  • variety of nib options and color accents
  • firm snap-on cap – doesn’t dry out
  • nice smooth round grip
  • feels good to use

The Bad

  • can collect ink in the cap (though I personally haven’t had this problem)
  • requires a proprietary cartridge and converter
  • a little expensive for every-day carry

Overall grade: A

I really love this pen and use it all the time.


Ghosts in the IM: Conversations Between Writers


Lillian Cohen-Moore and Elizabeth Thorne

Part of this Ghosts in the IM thing is for me to get to know writers a little better. So for people I already know I decided to share the love and match them up with other writers I thought they should know better. Our first conversation is with two of my very good friends and devoted Beta Readers. They have similar senses of humor and both do a lot of health-related non-fiction writing, so it made a lot of sense to have them get to know each other a little better. I’m sure this will eventually cause me consternation when they gang up on me, but for now I’m very happy to bring you their conversation.

Lillian is a writer, editor, game designer, and  journalist. Her website is and she is very active on Twitter.

Elizabeth is a writer, actress, and voiceover artist. You can find out about her erotica at  and follow her on Twitter.

















Elizabeth Thorne:  Is it time to commence nerding? Well, joint nerding.

Lillian Cohen-Moore:  Yes!

 ET:  Excellent!

LCM:  It is sunny and the sky is full of lightning today. Oh, Seattle.

 ET:  The town that regularly thumbs its nose at weather physics. We have a delightful drizzle going. I just went for a walk in it and the cool water is a nice antidote to the hot sticky.

LCM:  I’m hoping the “rain” part of “rain and lighting and thunder” part arrives later. It tried its best this morning but it managed about 10 minutes of rain before it stopped.

 ET:  That was terribly inconsiderate of it

LCM:  Exactly!

ET:  Promise rain, deliver rain. Sadly, the weather gods do not offer refunds. Retribution, sure. Refunds? Never. Terrible customer service. To be fair, I rarely offer human sacrifices, so I probably can’t complain.

LCM:  Y’know, that seems to be a theme with deities in general. Human sacrifices or no.

 ET:  Its true. Human pantheons are far less responsive than most call centers, even bad ones.

LCM:  Truly, the tragedy of humankind. That and we created Twinkies.

 ET:  Both are eternal and eternally disappointing although I don’t think most gods have a creamy center. Not that I’ve checked.

LCM:  We should probably avoid that. Goodness only knows what would happen if you ate a deity.

 ET:  To be fair, I haven’t checked with Twinkies either. They’ve always scared me.If their powers are like prions? Terrifying

LCM:  Oh Lord. That’s fearsome in its awfulness to contemplate.

 ET:  Although it vaguely reminds me of the first season of Heroes

LCM:  I’m so glad I hadn’t made a cup of cocoa yet, I’d have dropped my mug. That first season was honestly terrifying. Going around eating people for their power.

 ET:  It was incredibly squicky, and I couldn’t stop watching. Half the time I wanted to hide under the table, but I couldn’t stop watching.

LCM:  I felt the same way. That first season was so good.

 ET:  Really effective storytelling. And then there was the second season… and I stopped watching.

LCM:  Yeeeah, I mic dropped around there too. It reminded me some of Continuum, with the strong first season, really uneven second season deal.

 ET:  I’m just starting the second episode of the second season of that!

LCM:  Well, Continuum would remind me of it, since it came after. OMG THAT SHOW I LOVE THAT SHOW


LCM:  eeeeeeeeee

 ET:  Warren kept telling me to watch it. Then I had to apologize to him when I finally did, because I wished I’d seen it sooner.

LCM:  I adore the first season so much. I thought it was interesting how they took so many typically male archetypes, and gave it to a female character. The former military turned cop, the spouse who just wants to get back to their family.

 ET:  I hate having to tell him he’s right :) That’s what I love about it too. She’s a strong protagonist who happens to be female. As opposed to a strong female protagonist.

LCM:  And she’s allowed to cry, which is a bonus.

Kiera’s really human, and well rounded, which is nice to see in sci-fi.

 ET:  Yup. She feels like a real person. Although I just started running a Bechdel test in my head I think the show passes, but not necessarily on an episode by episode basis.

LCM:  I think that’s forgivable in episodic format, though.

 ET:  Although there is the female tech officer as well, which helps. I think it is too. It feels like a very feminist show, in many ways. And you have female and male villains. People of color. Age variation in main characters. It’s a well rounded universe.

LCM:  It’s on my go-to list a lot lately, when people ask me what media I’ve seen that

captures a lot of the cyberpunk genre. It may not be as glitzy-neon as some cyberpunk, but I think it touches on a lot of the other elements.

 ET:  And the science in the fiction doesn’t usually make me glare at the screen. Which, to be fair, happens more with bio-based shows than technology shows. The one that came out last year, with the CDC in Alaska, made me want to strangle the authors. They started out with the classic epidemiology story about John Snow, and then the science quickly went downhill from there. Helix! It was called Helix.

LCM:  I’ve been doing some writing recently for a cyberpunk RPG, and when I explained where the tsunami and earthquakes in the setting came from to a friend who’s a planetary geologist she just breeeeeathed, looked up at the ceiling, exclaimed “THAT IS HIGHLY IMPROBABLE!”

 ET:  nod Highly improbable I can live with. It’s outright impossible that makes me nuts.

LCM:  Yes! I’m trying to think of the last impossible thing I watched.

 ET:  You can’t look at the structure of DNA at the scale at which they were looking at it and see sequence variations.

LCM:  Oh lord.

 ET:  Yeah. As I’ve aged into my science degrees, I’ve started to understand why my father, who was a laywer, could never watch legal dramas.

LCM:  I could imagine that’s a peculiar brand of hell.

 ET:  I can suspend my disbelief. I can’t leave it hanging in midair without a net.

Or a tether, which is more relevant to that analogy.

LCM:  Right. It’s so weird, though, that our estimation of the impossible is changing so dramatically the older we get. When I was a kid, I hoped for really cool science like on sci-fi shows, but figured we’d never get there. But I’m typing on a laptop, which seemed impossibly

beyond reach, in terms of tech and cost when I was 8.

 ET:  And Top Gear made hovercars! I mean, they didn’t work particularly well, but they made them. My mom and I decided a while back that, in the biological sciences, the technology to do something automatically takes 6 months less time than writing a thesis while doing it the hard way.

LCM:  That makes sense.

 ET:  Only because three of her students could have done the entire first 5 years of their Ph.D. research in the last 6 months when things like automatic sequencers became

available. I like to call them automagic.

LCM:  That’s a beautiful term. I’ve spent a lot of time with fiction and games work this year around my medical writing, and it feels…spooky? The march of technologic progress we’re seeing. I’m starting to feel like sci-fi RPGs are dress rehearsals.

 ET:  Yeah. It’s a little creepy sometimes how fast progress moves in medicine. The stuff we can do today is astounding.

LCM:  It feels a bit Pandoric. That sense that there’s no putting all this stuff back in the box, and we have to forgive out things in-process.

 ET:  And sometimes I read research papers and feel like I’ve stepped into a novel. We could certainly benefit from more projection out of the possible ethical implications of things.

Because while science fiction is good at evaluating how not all progress is good, we’re not as good at it in the real world. I spend a lot of time writing about the downsides of progress in cancer screening. Just because we can do things, doesn’t mean we should. However, as soon as the technology exists… Pandoric indeed.

LCM:  My first year as a reporter, I got put on a couple of health stories by the paper I was at. This was four years ago. When one of the women I was interviewing found out I was Jewish, she asked if I was going to get tested for BRCA mutations. And I was floored.

 ET:  That’s a rather personal question.

LCM:  Yeaaah. And outside that, deciding whether or not to go for that screening is a big decision. I don’t feel like I’d benefit from that decision, particularly since finding out isn’t exactly something that makes all that comes after easier. But I’ve interviewed women who got mastectomies after they came up with BRCA mutations in testing.

 ET:  Yeah. There’s a horrible radio show that airs out here that was talking about prophylactic double mastectomies after Angelina Jolie got hers. And while I think it can be a reasoned choice, for some women, I also think there are many women who don’t understand that mutation does not mean cancer.


 ET:  It’s hard to make good decision about risks even when you understand the science. There was a great NPR story the other day about making visual representations of health risks in order to help patients make better decisions.

LCM:  That sounds amazing.

 ET:  It’s a pilot program that they said they were hoping to roll out to broader populations. I thought it sounded brilliant. It shows that halving your risk isn’t that big a deal if your risk is already tiny. It sounds like an amazing thing, but numerically significant isn’t always life significant.

LCM:  Exactly.

 ET:  I also feel very strongly about the need to destigmatize the word cancer.

LCM:  I’d be relieved if we could get to that point.

 ET:  I’m now sitting here thinking about ways to use sci-fi to make cancer less scary.

LCM:  Be an excellent application.

 ET:  People choosing to inject themselves with an oncogenic substance because some fraction of them will also develop some interesting positive mutation. They’ll all get cancer, as well, but for many of them it will be entirely treatable. And then don’t focus the story on the few who die!

LCM:   :D That’s a story to put on your to-do list of acts of fiction to commit before you die.

 ET:  It’s such a weird to do list! And much of it comes from twitter. And weird conversations like this one.

LCM:  I think talking to people online is one of the best sparks for inspiration. If only because the chance at widespread new things hitting your brain is so much higher on the internet than most daily living.

 ET:  Oh yes. Anything to shake up the brain. Although having just added that to the list, and looked at the list, I’m reminded that perhaps my brain needs to be more shaken and less stirred. The downside of writing science fiction erotica is that the “erotica” parts makes some of the really bad ideas even worse. On the other hand, some of my favorite stories to write have come from some of the truly awful ideas. I like writing things that start out as a “no one in their right mind would write that” joke :)

LCM:  :  :)

 ET:  There may be a reason that Minerva and I are friends.

LCM:  It’s a good one. I met her because we were both in the same biopunk anthology.

The one where she ended the world with unicorns.

 ET:  I love that story!

LCM:  Me too!

 ET:  I’m going to have to go back and read your story now. I think I read hers under the table.

LCM:  I used implants and tailored viruses to network 3 people’s brains together, a bit like the psychics in Minority Report.

 ET:  Ooooh. Fun! I met her through Warren, who I met through twitter… although I can’t remember how.

LCM:  I’m actually writing for a game with a similar premise.

 ET:  RPG?

LCM:  Mark Richardson’s Headspace, it’s a tabletop RPG.

 ET:  I would totally play that

LCM:  You washed out of the soul-corrupting corrupt sector and band together with a few other top of their field operatives to form a “Headspace,” an implant driven connection that ties you all together, mind to mind, 24/7, to the point that you can even borrow skills. You also have to manage each other’s psychological traumas.

 ET:  Oh wow. That is both awesome and terrifying

LCM:  Right? It’s been amazing to write for. And a little scary, because of sections like “What does shared consciousness really mean?”

 ET:  I’m now thinking about cross wiring PTSD.

LCM:  Which can happen in Headspace!

 ET:  And how you could both benefit from shared resilience and get knocked out by sudden triggers. That would be really fun to play and horrible to live

LCM:  Exactly.

 ET:  I had a conversation just the other day about my utter lack of interest in being a telepath.

I can’t write telepathy or empathy without it turning into a horror story.

LCM:  I think I’d go crazy. I already make interview subjects feel bad when they talk about sad things and I get all sad-faced.

 ET:  I’ve started training as a therapist lately, and empathy management is hard!!!

LCM:  There’s a book for newsies on interviewing people who’ve been through trauma (Covering Violence) and sometimes I have to go back to it and take a deeeep breath because it’s so easy to feel so horrible for people!

 ET:  And yet, it burdens them in many ways.

Or, at least it can

LCM:  Yeah.

 ET:  I think only extroverts write happy telepathy stories


Water, Water Everywhere


Last week we talked about fire. So let’s assume your museum/house/secret lair has had a fire and now the fire has been put out. What is the majority of your clean-up activity going to be focused on? That’s right, dealing with water damage. I mean, the stuff that burned is gone baby gone, but the damp and soaked items? You can still lose them all if you don’t act quick. Other reasons you may have wet items to salvage in your museum/house/secret lair: Broken pipes, leaky roof, or a local flooding event.

Wet items have to be dried carefully in a controlled manner as quickly as possible to prevent mold and additional damage. Water-sodden items will be more fragile than normal and heavier than normal. Take care to stabilize items when moving them. DO NOT MOVE WET CARDBOARD BOXES WITHOUT STABILIZING THEM IN A WATERPROOF CONTAINER FIRST. You never know when the wet cardboard will give way damaging items and injuring people.

The first 24 hours are pretty crucial. You need to clean up as much water as possible. Use wet-vacs, pumps, and mops to get rid of as much water out of the area as possible. Items should be spread out to dry and rotated frequently to avoid damage.Try to get good airflow in your drying area by using fans to circulate air without pointing them directly at objects. If you have the misfortune to have a flood event involving contaminated water such as a broken sewage pipe or saltwater items will need to be rinsed prior to drying in containers of progressively cleaner water.

If you have too many items to process before they start drying, many kinds of items can be wrapped in clean paper and frozen to be processed later when you have more time and people. If you have more items than available freezer space, time, or people, it is crucial to call in professionals as soon as possible to prevent as much damage and loss as possible. Many salvage companies have industrial machines and access to freezers that can help immensely.



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