Conversations Between Writers


Nathan Crowder

Nathan is directly responsible for my finally knuckling down and submitting stories. Turns out you actually have to do that if you want to get published (weird, I know…). I ran into him at a reading thirteen years or so after we’d both worked the same service job and gamed together. After his reading he mentioned was seeking submissions for an anthology and since I knew he actually gets my wacked out sense of humor, I felt comfortable sending him a story where I destroyed the world with tiny unicorns. And then I kept submitting… and that’s how babby, I mean books get made.

Nathan is a genre writer, small press publisher, and architect of the Cobalt City Universe. You can find out more at his website or follow him on Twitter 



Minerva Zimmerman: How are things?

Nathan Crowder: Good! Feels like the calm between storms, but I’ll take it.

how are things down your way?

MZ: A little drizzly with a side of weird.

NC: Yeah…this weather. It was 60 the last few days. My co-worker thinks it’s the end times.

MZ: It’s been that nice here too, today it finally greyed up today

We got a weather station attached to the house after christmas, so I’ve been linking my house weather to people on the East Coast.

NC: That’s…let’s not gild that lily and just call it “evil.”

MZ: oh yeah. Totally. :D

NC: As long as we’re on the same page, then.  :-)

MZ: No one was fooled that I was just showing off our spiffy weather station.

NC: I’ll be honest, I see the blizzard on the news and I feel a little cheated.

MZ: I wondered briefly if I could call in, “other people are snowed in” this morning. Somehow I didn’t think my boss would buy it. “I live on a steep hill, weather is worse here… on the opposite side of the country from where the snow actually is.”

NC: no. Most likely, no. How are things at the Museum that is Almost Certainly Haunted?

MZ: It isn’t haunted, it just has boiler heat so it has those old clanky radiators

NC: All museums are haunted. This is known.

MZ: It is pretty gosh darn scary to be there in the dark, by yourself. but not haunted.

NC:I remain skeptical, but you’re the expert on the place. But if I come to visit, I’m totally bringing my pendulum and ghost hunting gear. You working on anything fun these days?

MZ: Oh, I’ve got a couple things going on.   Working on a draft of my madcap Rural Fantasy

NC: You’ve mentioned the Rural Fantasy idea to me before, I think. I love it!

MZ: Yeah, I’m having a lot of fun with it. It’s set up in the mountains near Snoqualmie Pass.

NC: Have you zeroed in on a likely length yet?

MZ: Eh, probably less than 90k it moves pretty quick, but I have a few scenes I need to go back in fill in. What are you working on?

NC: Excellent! Best of luck wrapping it up! I just finished edits on a pulp sci-fi novel I need to get sent out, and deciding if I want to do edits on something else or get back to writing the next epic fantasy novel.

MZ: Ooo, I didn’t know you’d gotten into writing epic fantasy.

NC: Yeah! I have this triptych. The first one is done, called Of Rooks and Ravens. About a young academic forced to flee the destruction of her college and home town who throws her lot in with a crusty tactics professor / probable spy.

MZ: Oh cool! Is it out, or are you shopping it?

NC: I will be shopping it.

NC: The idea is to tell about the fall and rescue of this city from the POV of 3 different groups of heroes. Each has their own part to tell.

MZ: I love that technique of storytelling!

NC: And in a perfect world, the 3 covers will form one complete picture. assuming, of course, that someone publishes it.

MZ: Oooo, well, it sounds like a great project.

NC: I’m excited about it. Early word from beta readers is very positive.

MZ: I wish you good hunting with it.

NC: Many thanks!

MZ: I read your Fringe Candy entry for today, sounds like you’re about doomed with a new specialty candy store.

NC: My one hope for rescue is that their hours seem, at best, random.

MZ: ooo a magic candy store

NC: Absolutely. And the fact that the candy is also mysterious…it’s the kind of shop you’d buy a Djinni lamp in if it were a Harlan Ellison story.

NC: Like, I KNOW candy. A good 80% of the stuff there? Never heard if it. Chances of me getting cursed or selling my soul for rare, Fringe Candy is kind of astronomical right now.

MZ: It might be worth it though…

NC: No doubt!

MZ: What else has been burning up your brain of late? Any new horrors creeping up your spine?

NC: I need to do a few more Fringe Candy posts before I go all Agustus Gloop. Ooo new horrors! My last few horror pieces are also kind of fringe. Like, is it supernatural or is there something else going on? They’re the stories I want to tell, about young women turned into pop culture princesses to be sacrificed to benefit the industry, or a brutal revenge piece about pageant princesses that takes place entirely during a small town parade. Most of my horror lately is informed by horrors I’m seeing in the real world, how we treat each other in this culture, what we value. And I try to exorcise that in my fiction.

MZ: yeah that does seem to be a real problem in the last while

NC: It’s hard to confront. Sometimes hard to read. “Hell is a Parade” might be the meanest story I’ve ever written. And I kind of love it for that.

MZ: Mean stories are weird to write. Like, you feel so much better for writing them… but then people worry about you more. :)

NC: Looking forward to reading that at Norwescon Oh yeah. “I’m perfectly normal, folks! It’s just a story!”

MZ: I worry more about people who never write that kind of thing.

NC: same. Bottle it up and you’re bound to go nutty.

MZ: Yeah, horror writers are the nicest people you could ever meet. It’s kind of odd.

NC: we have a great understanding of just how BAD things can go. It recalibrates our expectations.

MZ: I think it makes you a little more optimistic on a weird level. “Well, at least there aren’t earwigs eating my brain.”

NC: yeah. Like “Well, it’s a long line and my boss is a dick, but he’s not exactly wearing anyone’s skin for a mask”

MZ: …no that’s a Thursday only thing. Is there anything you want to make sure we talk about?

NC:The only thing that comes to mind would be the “That Ain’t Right” anthology that Mad Scientist Journal published last year. Great collection. PLUS it has my football/Cthulhu story “Goat” in it. Just in time for the Superbowl


Self-Study Project Short Stories 2014

Rating System


  • * = has potential but has technical, cultural, or voice problems.
  • ** = Good story that didn’t quite live up to potential or could have used light revisions
  • *** = Good story, I see it as publishable quality even if it didn’t work for me.
  • **** = Great story, does some really neat things
  • ***** = I would nominate/vote for this story. Excellent quality, builds a full world, drags you into it for the full duration of the story and leaves fingernail marks on your soul.


Total stories read in 2014 = 504

NO STARS = 1 (I will never willingly read a story by this author again and will likely avoid places they are published)

*: 7

**: 54

***: 293 (I enjoyed many at this level greatly and disliked some of them on a personal level)

****: 146 (With a few exceptions I enjoyed these stories as well as felt an emotional reaction)

*****:  3 (I felt changed for having read these stories)

Monteverde Invincia Color Fusion Fountain Pen


BEHOLD! This is my holiday present from my in-laws and it is awesome.


It is STEALTH BLACK. In case I need to write some super secret messages in the dark and not be seen? Whatever. IT MATCHES EVERYTHING. Also, it’s all black so it always looks good.


I was sitting next to the candy bowl so you get a Bazooka Joe comic and a mini box of Nerds for scale.


LOOK AT IT!!! So sleek. So black. So fountain. Pen. Wow.


It is a metal body so it’s very sturdy and a too heavy for me to use with the cap attached like this for very long.


Without the cap on the back, it is very comfortable to use and it looks pretty bad ass.



The Good

  • NO PARENTS…er wait, no that’s Batman.
  • standard cartridge/converter
  • matches everything
  • Looks like Batman’s fountain pen

The Bad

  • Heavy

Overall grade: A


Conversations Between Writers


A.C. Buchanan

Andi is a genre writer living in New Zealand and a TOC mate of mine from Winter Well. You can check out their website and follow on Twitter. Andi is a fan of eating cheese, befriending lobsters, and writing awesome genre fiction about queer, and neurodiverse characters. I’ve been a fan since Winter Well and am excited to share our conversation.

Andi Buchanan: Hi!

Minerva Zimmerman: Hi! How was your day

AB: Full on! But I have tomorrow off. It’s my birthday and we’re going to see either red pandas or dinosaurs! How about yours?

MZ: Happy Birthday! Both choices are excellent. Not too bad, just winding down. My dogs think it is time for snuggling on the bed. You’re all finished with your Master’s!!!!

AB: Yes, finally! It dragged out a bit at the end, but got there in the end.

MZ: I know your subject was about disability in fiction, but I don’t actually know what your discipline/department is

AB: It’s English Lit – though it wasn’t a project that ended up being neatly contained. That was tough in some ways – I know I’d have ended up with a better theoretical basis in some aspects had I been based in a Disability Studies department, for example, but it was really good that I was allowed to just do my thing and follow my ideas.

MZ: Yeah even something like Anthropology was a possibility, so I didn’t want to speculate :D

have you gotten to hold it all bound and printed?

AB: Yes, very shiny! Took it up to the library last week.

MZ: /squee I sometimes get all verklempt about not doing a Masters, but now I have over 5 years of experience in museum collections, so it’s hard to justify it when it wouldn’t mean any more pay. Also I live very far from any universities

AB: Yeah, fair enough! It took me a few years to properly want to do one – and I certainly don’t expect it to increase my pay – but I work on a university campus and I could do it part time and pay the fees by installments so, hey, why not.

MZ: Oooo I’m kind of jealous. I love school.

AB: I… may have got stuck! Which is fine, I guess.

MZ: at school? :D

AB: Between work and study… yep, pretty much.

MZ: but lots and lots of ideas for fiction! it’s like… a nexus of ideas

AB: I have occasionally been tempted to write – you know those Hotel Babylon, Wedding Planning Babylon etc – books that compress alllll the dramas down into a single day? If I wasn’t bound by confidentiality I’d totally write a University Babylon one.

MZ: :D

AB: But maybe you were talking about being in the intellectual heart of the city, the free exchange of ideas…

MZ: Both! You need both for good fiction (in my opinion)

AB: On the more serious side, holding on to a university library card is definitely for a bonus for someone who is (a) a complete nerd and (b) wants to research fiction.

MZ: Ok, that I am TOTALLY jealous of. You can do a lot more online these days, but I miss having access to article databases, and just… randomly finding books.

AB: Yeah, it’s the journal databases that are the big draw… but being able to hunt through the shelves is pretty fun too, even though I don’t do it as often as I should.

MZ: and nice little nooks to write. You have a novel coming out in march

AB: Yes – a novella, technically – it’s called Liquid City and it’s mostly steampunk-ish with some space opera and new weird type elements (I find genre classification hard).

MZ: …do I detect lobsters?

AB: It’s about the people who transport cargo through the tunnels underneath a rapidly-industrializing city, and what they find when they head into unexplored territory.

No lobsters this time, but a rather grumpy cephalopod.

MZ: that’s sort of kind of a little lobstery.. well, more tentacles and less shell

AB: I’ll give him a couple of pincers in the edits.

MZ: and ok, totally not the same :D What are you working on right now?

AB: ALL the things! Aside from a round of edits on Liquid City, I’m focused on a couple of short stories at the moment. Then I have another novella I want to take a look at editing – it’s near future queer romance, with heaps of magic and the odd sunken village.

MZ: As you do…

AB: I have a novel on the go, very slowly, and at some point I’m going to be thinking about a sequel for Liquid City.

MZ: cool! Is there anything else you want to make sure we talk about?

AB: Nothing springs to mind, sorry! I know that’s not very helpful…

MZ: That’s Ok! I just want to make sure I’m not monopolizing the conversation.

AB: No go for it! You’re not monopolising, you’re guiding!

MZ: I’m kind of curious about the choice between Red Pandas and Dinosaurs. I mean those aren’t usually at the same place.

AB: Nah – it’s a case of the zoo if it’s good weather, the museum if not. Or, maybe the red pandas have discovered a lost colony of dinosaurs and formed a symbiotic relationship.

MZ: That’d be pretty cool actually… I’d watch that movie

AB: We have a rogue swarm of bees on the loose by my workplace, so there are going to be animals wherever I go.

MZ: rogue bees? like, Africanized bees?


MZ: sneaky bees. I imagine they were buzzing the theme song to Mission Impossible

AB: I expect so.

MZ: I wonder if the person sent to capture the bees just forgot where they put the box and were like “uhhh they escaped. Yeah, that’s it”

AB: Have you seen the cartoon about the scientists eating bees? It’s one of my favourites.

MZ: no! Where can I see it?

AB: Ah can’t find the picture but the joke works fine without it:

Scientist: But WHY is the bee population dying?
Scientist: No idea. *eats bee*
Scientist: Did you just eat a bee? Scientist: *eats bee* No.

MZ: hahahaha

AB: This makes me laugh probably out of proportion to its actually funniness.

MZ: I dunno, I think it is pretty funny. Not sure why, it just is.

AB: *eats bee*

MZ: hahahahha

Well, I should probably let you get a cider and start in on your birthday celebrations

AB: Mmm cider! Celebrations are tomorrow but cider is any day.

MZ: I’ve been hoarding all my seasonal spiced cider

AB: Oooh. I had a nice pear and ginger one last week.

MZ: Oooo I love pear cider.

AB: Anyway, thank you for listening to me talk about bees.

MZ: *eats bee* :D

AB: om nom nom


Pelikan Pelikano School Fountain Pen F (right handed)





This is the first pen that’s really surprised me. I’ve put off buying this one for a long time because I didn’t have high hopes. The fact that it comes in left and right handed just seemed weird to me.



It comes with an extra long standard cartridge and has an all plastic body.



The cap is a little funny. I’m not fond of using it posted, but its odd design does keep it from rolling around and disappearing.


The cap has the Pelikan Pelican on the end.





So here’s where the handed part figures in. The grip is a softish rubbery thing that’s specially handed so that your pointer finger side has ridges for extra control.



The ridges DO give a lot more control the point where I don’t grip this pen as hard because I don’t have to. It doesn’t slip because the rubber has good traction and the ridges really help.




The rubber grip wraps under the pen so where it rests on the inside of your middle finger is a lot more comfortable than on many pens, it doesn’t feel heavy and I don’t find myself indenting my middle finger with the pen while using this one.



My handwriting is especially bad this week. It isn’t the finest nib but it works great in my writing notebook.

The Good

  • awesome grip
  • light
  • sturdy. This pen is made for students.
  • comes in right and left handed versions
  • standard cartridge/converter
  • can use an extra long cartridge

The Bad

  • not the most attractive pen
  • cap is a weird design

Overall grade: A


Conversations Between Writers

photo by Folly Blaine

photo by Folly Blaine

Randy Henderson

This week I’m delighted to bring you a conversation with Randy Henderson whose first novel FINN FANCY NECROMANCY comes out from Tor on February 10th. I’ve heard him read from it a couple times and one time I even got a pack of vintage Goonies trading cards from him that is still unopened because I promised he could watch me eat the gum. In my defense this was before I knew just how bad vintage trading card gum tastes…

Anyway, check out his website, follow him on Twitter, and preorder his book!

Minerva Zimmerman: hello

Randy Henderson: Greetings, program.

MZ: Man, I can’t remember the right Tron response to that. I am ashamed.

RH: To the MCP with you.

MZ: :P How are you holding up with all of the pending publication stuff?

RH: Using pillars. And a table with a book under one leg.

It’s good problems to have, but the publishing cycle is a tough one. I have to turn in book 2 while promoting book 1 and then jump right into writing book 3.

MZ: That’s really rough.

RH: I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Well, except doing it without having to work full time and deal with life stuff. And by doing it, I mean writing. And by writing, I mean crying a lot and eating lots of junk food and then pouring out words and chuckling at my own cleverness before realizing I’m a complete impostor.

MZ: How far apart are the books coming out?

RH: One year apart. So I have to write a book a year.

MZ: …and promote, and not go nuts, and like, feed and bathe yourself etc.

RH: Which isn’t so bad, if you pace yourself right, and life stuff doesn’t throw you off too much.

Wait, I’m supposed to bathe? Myself?

MZ: fraid so, didn’t you get the memo?

RH: About the TPS reports?

MZ: No no, this was the one about how sponge baths will no longer be provided because of The Incident.

RH: Oh. That. Look, I’d had a lot of cocoa and was a bit high on sugar. I’m sure the bite marks will fade. And with the fur, you can’t even see them on the rabbit anyway. Have you ever been bathed with a live rabbit? So decadent. But I’ve said too much.

MZ: So for people who don’t know, you’ve got a book coming out about a Necromancer who has just been returned home after spending 25? years in Faerie and is kind of well, stuck in the 80s.

RH: Do I? Holy crap, that’s awesome!

MZ: You do!

RH: I mean, yes, yes I do.

MZ: and when he gets back… things are not as they are supposed to be and… hilarity and horror ensue. Is that a pretty good introduction?

RH: That about sums it up, yep :) I keep being surprised it sold. I keep thinking, I had too much fun writing it, it can’t be good. And it certainly isn’t going to win any awards or anything, but the reviews thus far have all been largely “this is a fun, fast read.” So, phew.

MZ: I’m super glad it sold I’ve been waiting to read the rest for awhile :)

RH: Thanks! I’m moderately pleased as well ;) It’s weird to talk about Finn Fancy when I’ve been immersed in writing the next book for the last 6 months.

MZ: Also, I’d say that your style at least on this book is pretty similar to how I write urban fantasy, so I’m glad it’s marketable :D

RH: That’s why I did it. I was like, I shall be the Sugarhill Gang to Minerva’s LL Cool J. Or more accurately, I’m like the Joy Division to your Depeche Mode. Or Television to your Strokes? Anyway …

MZ: As long as Love Doesn’t Tear Us Apart and People are People… we should be fine (ugh ok, that was pretty forced and terrible)

RH: Pretty damn good on the fly!

You’re like my own personal Jesus.

MZ: :D

RH: And right about now, the readers are like, “I’m feeling more Enjoy the Silence” …

MZ: Probably true… Anyway people, if you’ve liked any of my urban fantasy stuff you’re going to love Randy’s Finn Fancy

RH: Aww, thanks. And if you like my peanut butter, you’ll like … no, that doesn’t sound right. But I do think we will likely end up on many panels and book tours together in the years to come.

MZ: I hope so, we shall create much gleeful chaos.

RH: I did finally put a vampire in book 2. Not to spoil anything. I think people will assume from the Necromancy part there will be lots of zombies and vamps and stuff, but I kind of went a different direction for the most part. Left, mostly, and then rapidly downhill.

MZ: with no brakes! I mean, brakes didn’t seem important at the top of the hill…

RH: And a banana cream pie. What could go wrong? So I know you’ve got a sekret project. Anything you can share about it? And I don’t mean that container in the back of the fridge. Or the moans coming from your basement.

MZ: Not too much yet, hopefully the cat will be out of the bag before too much longer. And no we won’t talk about that container. That is staying put. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for the moans… which I just am not going to talk about because THEY might be listening.

Let’s just say I’m a huge fan of fun fast reads and will have something later in the year.

RH: Suh-Weet!

MZ: What else has been burning up your brain in between the pending publication and your responsibilities fighting the forces of inky darkness?

RH: The unfairness of only having egg nog in stores during the holidays. I’ve been thinking about starting a kickstarter, and a campaign, maybe trying to get Bono involved. Because I can think of no more pressing issue in our time than inconsistent access to egg nog.

MZ: Ooo sign me up. Especially if you add non-dairy egg nog

RH: Really, I’ve been seriously consumed with the book stuff these past months. I feel really boring when I talk to anyone, because I’m barely aware of anything outside the little world I created in my brain. Which some would say is the story of my life, but it is even worse right now.

MZ: I had some horded in the fridge but it expired while I was on vacation and I can’t bring myself to throw it away or risk drinking it.

RH: That’s the worst. Undrunk egg nog. Mocking you from the fridge. Shaming you.

MZ: I was going to make chia pudding out of it and pretend it was healthy


MZ: and not slowly killing me with its deliciousness

RH: Yeah. Slow, creamy, delicious death. Mmmmm.

MZ: I mean they probably ration it so we aren’t easily invaded. I bet having year round egg nog would be a pretty good invasion strategy

RH: For elves?

MZ: but you’d have to convince the invaders not to take the offered egg nog when they get there…

RH: I don’t trust elves. Shifty.

MZ: hmmm there is a serious problem with my cunning plan. Maybe pod people would be able to refuse egg nog. Pretty sure elves just want any excuse to party. Also, to buy shoes.

RH: The first short story I wrote, back when I had to walk uphill through the snow both ways to my electric typewriter, involved inoculating the populace using He-Man Slime Pit refill slime so that when the aliens tried to slime us and take over our brains we were immune.

My writing got silly after that. I can’t believe I never published that one. Sigh.

MZ: It’d be a weird thing to have to build a time machine to go back and get to save the Earth… but it JUST MIGHT WORK.

RH: Well, there is the Star Trek reboot. They’ve done Kahn. Now they can skip Search for Spock and just go right to IV, only instead of whales, they have to go back and get Egg Nog! Or He-Man Slime! Or Elves! Okay, I think I’ve kind of lost track of what the heck we’re talking about here. :P

MZ: It’s Ok, that’s kind of a feature. My first sort of serious short story I wrote was about sentient potato chip bag glue.You know those writing exercises where they ask you to fill in a bunch of questions?

RH: Ooooo. I hear MIT is working on that. You’re a visionary you are. Is that a writing exercise? Your question?

MZ: There was one that was “I wonder why _______?” and I put “potato chip bags are so hard to open”

RH: Wow. You must be able to write really small. Because those words are, like, five times as long as the blank ;)

MZ: teeny tiny fingers. It helps.

RH: And fountain pens with fine nibs.

MZ: Indeed. Well, is there anything else you want to make sure we talk about?

RH: I’m bummed about missing Rainforest Writing Retreat this year. All my friends from far away magical lands are going to be there (at least the ones who don’t already live in my head) while I’m visiting their far away magical lands on my book tour. But I will be guest-teaching at Cascade Writers again, I do believe. And I’m planning a series of free workshop on writing genre fiction to go with my book tour, trying to pay it back a bit and connect with folks on a real level in person.

MZ: Are you going to make it to WorldCon in August?

RH: Yup! Sasquan! My book has sasquatches, so seemed appropriate. :)

MZ: Sweet! I just registered this morning. I’ll get to see you there if we don’t meet up before that.

RH: Yay-ness!

MZ: Well, I suppose we should go do that thing where we sit in a room and make words appear and giggle quietly to ourselves. Manly giggles. Very manly.

RH: Oh, was that me giggling? Phew. I was getting worried, since there was nobody else in the room…

MZ: And when is the official launch of Finn Fancy?

RH: February 10, 2015 from Tor in North America. And it is also being released by Titan in the UK on February 13th. And I’ll be touring the US West Coast to support the launch.

Sadly I shan’t be touring the UK. Yet.

MZ: Sweet! I will have to try and get to Powells when you hit there.

RH: Do. Because if you wait until afterwards, you will find only rubble. And dead elves. And a crying clown. And that is all. Except a banana cream pie. But that is it. So don’t miss it. Because the pie will be past its expiration. But still look mostly edible. But it isn’t. Because it’s expired. The pie. Not the clown. Why would you eat a clown?

MZ: not because of the dead elf in the pie?

RH: Damn it Minerva, you spoiled the whole prank. Sigh.

(UPDATE: You can now read the first 3 chapters of FINN FANCY NECROMANCY )

Fountain Pen Friday: Ohto Poche




This week’s pen is the Ohto Poche (Jet Pens, Amazon), another one of my Uwajimaya purchases. It comes in a couple different engraved designs (I debated between this wiggly line zebra and the diamond pattern) all of which are pretty snazzy looking.


This weeks random item for scale is a Zesty Sauce cup from BK




This is one of the few pens I prefer to use with the cap posted on the back, it’s just very short and rubs on my hand weird if I don’t… plus it keeps me from having to figure out where I set down the cap. However, when you close the pen it is very small.



it also has this really nice jewel adornment on the cap. Normally I hate this kind of thing, but on this pen it works.



See! TIny!







It is unfortunately so small that it is cartridge only, but for travel that’s not really a problem. I meant to do a normal writing test, but I took it on vacation with me and wrote it dry before I remembered that I needed to do it, so for this week only you actually get a page of WIP.


The Good

  • snazzy looking
  • thin
  • very light
  • uses standard cartridges
  • nice travel pen
  • actually comfortable to use posted even for my tiny hands and arthritic fingers

The Bad

  • can’t use a converter
  • not comfortable to use unposted

Overall grade: A


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