Wanted: Belly Rubs

adorable animal breed canine

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So I’ve already introduced you to the main character of my new book ‘Body In The Bush’, now let me introduce you to another important member of the cast.

Some characters come to me already formed, needing only a few details to be “fleshed out” as it were. Anais was like that. Her Aunt Anne, who you’ll meet next, was more or less like that. She needed a few more details that her neice did. But one character came galloping at me, ready to play ball and beg for a belly rub.

Here’s what my initial notes say for Frodo: Anne’s German Shepherd. Fiercely protective but is a big fan of Anais since being bribed with Timbits. Likes chasing tennis balls, car rides in the passenger seat of her Jeep, belly rubs and Anais’ partner, Lorne.

animal animal photography blur breed

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(You didn’t think I wanted the belly rubs I mentioned above, did you?)

Frodo was initially only supposed to be a drooling, non-judgemental companion for Anais, but he is already becoming so much more. He even has a role in solving the crime.

Lately, he’s been begging for a turn at the blog, but we’ll see.

Have you ever had a pet that took over more real estate in your heart than you expected?

There’s A New Voice In My Head


Bet that title up above grabbed your attention, did it? As attention-getting, as it is, it is also the truth.

I’ve put out a new issue of my newsletter, did you get it?

Yes? Good!

No? Do you want to be among the first to know about new fiction, occasional giveaways and subscriber-only freebies? You can either sign up for my newsletter here on my blog (look for the newsletter link under the logo) or by going here

Enquiring minds want to know…have you ever been called upon to solve a mystery? Let me know in the comments section below, no matter how small.

What Can Anthropology Teach Authors?

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Cultural Anthropology is the study of human cultures, beliefs, practices, values, ideas, technologies, economies and other domains of social and cognitive organization, and it has a lot to teach authors. This occurred to me the other day while I was knitting. To understand, you need a little background.

I, along with a friend, manage a group of crafters that have wonderful imaginations. We imagine that we are all students at Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, a la Harry Potter and Hogwarts. Hogwarts creator, J.K Rowling, invented Ilvermorny, but she’s never said much about it, leaving us free to take our version of the school in wonderful new directions. On Ravelry (an enormous crafting-oriented website), there are other “schools” that are magic and crafting related, but we’ve taken our Ilvermorny in a direction that none of them have. We’re injecting a lot of realist education theories and practises into Ilvermorny. The one that concerns us today is the concept of “Majors”.

For those who may not know, a Major is simply a specific subject that students can specialize in while aspiring to a degree. At Ilvermorny, one of the five degrees that our students can pursue is a ‘Cultural Anthropologist Specialty’. The Majors program is a pet project of mine, so I’ve spent a lot of time putting it together. As I worked, anthropology began to look more and more interesting. So naturally, I fell down the internet rabbit hole, as we sometimes do. When I came up for air and coffee, I was struck with the realization that this field was what I could see myself doing in an alternate universe, you know if family dynamics, money, education and all kinds of other barriers weren’t in play. Friends, I honestly got chills.

So what does this have to do with my opening statement? I’m a writer, one stuck in countless edits and rewrites, but a writer all the same. So after I emerged from that rabbit hole, I got to wondering…what does the field have to offer writers? Further, can one study anthropology without the cost? The answer to my first question is easier than to the second. Writers, most especially in speculative fiction, create entire cultures. Those that are more easily visualized are the ones more developed in the writer’s mind, the ones with an economy, religion, social structure, and so on. Instead of relying on twenty or a hundred questions, we writers could learn a lot from anthropological studies already done. In my case, that means that my characters on New Olympus are currently in need of some more culture. Like, a lot more. It’s not really fair to compare a culture only developed within a few hundred years to an indigenous culture thousands of years in the making, but in a side by side comparison, I can see where my New Olympians are lacking. So I begin to get an idea of what I need to study in anthropology to bring my New Olympians more fully to life. To begin to bring them to the level of Tolkien’s ancient races of Elves and Hobbits. And isn’t that what many speculative fiction writers quest for? To create characters that will be remembered a hundred years from now alongside Tolkien’s? Well…it is for me.


Next time, what can I learn from comparison? Quite a lot apparently!

A Return…With Friends!

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I’ve been away this past week due to two failures.

A hardware failure, and a failure to communicate.

The first was a stuttering failure of the household router. In an effort to fix it, a tech that shall remain nameless failed to communicate correctly and we had to go nearly a week without the internet. It was getting pretty nerve-jangling by the time a knowledgable tech showed up to configure a newer router. You’ve never seen an entire household go from stressed out to happy in so short a time!

Last night, I had a dream. No, nothing of Martin Luther King importance, but for me, it was fairly significant. I don’t normally remember my dreams, but this one concerned my novel-in-progress, ‘Infinite Worlds’. You might remember that IW is set on an Earth-like parallel world, New Olympus. Devi Aradesta and Coriander Wolf have to find a way to get to New Olympus and retrieve a missing team of Earth scientists. Last night, I dreamed of a side-story to ‘Infinite Worlds’, and this morning I started writing.

Friends, I can’t properly express how excited I am about this tale, which as yet has no name. Here’s the plot in a nutshell…

In a parallel universe, there is a world very much like Earth. New Olympus is ruled by a strong-willed woman who has a plan for her world’s future. That future includes the immigration of potentially thousands of Earthers. But there are some in her government who would rather see her dead than share New Olympus with off-worlders.

Despite the best warriors protecting her, and a watchful and dedicated bodyguard at her side, the Chancellor of New Olympus, Bia Andosian is growing increasingly ill. With no heir named to follow in her footsteps, and no second in command, a corrupt Minister plots to take her place as Ruler. And his plan for New Olympus includes death for all Earthers. Even the ones already on New Olympus.

Emery Mai’s day to day job is to keep Chancellor Andosian safe. While she struggles to learn why the Chancellor is growing increasingly ill, she must also discover who is behind a newly created faction of anti-Earthers. She has to find a way to save her friend’s life, as well as the future of her world. Two worlds, and their inhabitants, stand to lose everything if Emery fails.

Does this sound like something you might be interested in reading? Have any suggestions for a title? Let me know in the comments section below!

The Cranky Cartographer Is Reborn

beige analog gauge

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I know folks talk about authors being God-like, and to some extent it’s true. We build worlds, we create people, animals and then give them lives. It crosses my mind every now and then.

Today though, it has been at the forefront of my mind.

Many of you know that I’m elbow-deep in my book ‘Infinite Worlds’, and one of the things that I have always struggled with is character motivations. Why are they there? What are they meant to do? Are they doing what they should be or are they standing around being a participant? (This always puts me in mind of the folks that stand around watching at a disaster, but never contribute anything productive.)

I had this come up in IW when I had killed off a character. My editor left this note in the sidebar, “You’ve now killed off the only male character you had.”

It was an eye-opening moment for me. I literally sat back in my chair, blinked and said aloud, “Well, crap. Now what?”

After days of soul-searching, I realized I did not want to kill him off. Yeah, he was a whiner, but I wanted him back. But what to do with him? What role would he serve in the overall plot? Could he develop as a better person over the duration of the plot? Was there any real reason to bring him back?

Yup, there was. So I did. But now what to do with him? More days of soul-searching, followed by charting his personality so I could get to the bottom of why he was a complaining, irritating crank. Then I delved into the research books to find out what sorts of things would make a whiny cartographer…whiny. Boom, he had a backstory. Boom, he had a past bleak enough to make me cranky about it. Then all I had to decide was what he wanted. Out of life and out of the mission he’d been thrust into against his will. Then I decided how he could contribute to the mission, quit his bitching and become a person I could actually like. Now, he’s made a friend! One I didn’t plan on in the slightest. She literally sat down beside him at a feast, and they’ve hit it off.

(It feels a little like when my boys made their first friends at school or on the T-Ball team)

So why am I telling you all this?

To share the wonder of creating worlds and people, I suppose. To reassure even the shyest reader out there that if Villpe Jarvus, cranky cartographer, can be a better man and make a friend, so can we all.

Do you remember how you met your best friend? Let me know in the comments section below!