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Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Christmas Medley

Maya's Gingerbread Tree

My "Charlie Brown" Tree

It's been a whirlwind holiday season for me, as usual. My current job does not allow me the luxury of a flextime schedule, which in the past allowed me to take the entire week before Christmas off to finish shopping, wrapping, decorating, and attending a myriad of holiday events.

Alas, I am frazzled, and missed all the parties, and didn't get to bake cookies. But I did get to my son's holiday concert (he plays first trombone), and my daughter's karaoke dance show. Plus an awesome concert by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Nassau Coliseum, complete with both musical and actual. pyrotechnics. Their frenetic blend of classical and rock music, dulcet and discordant, matches my personality in general, and my mood this holiday season.

Anyone who has read my essay "Tis the Season," published last year, might remember details of a particularly awesome effort by the shopping goddess to snag a Wii when there were simply none to be had. This year, there were no armed guards in Toys R Us in the Bronx when I went in to get a Zoobles Razoo's Tree House (use your imagination) for my daughter, and a wireless headset and controller for my son's new X box. In fact, there were not even that many sales associates. Those that were tended to labyrinthine queues of frantic shoppers. I dared approach two who seemed to be available

"Where can I find Zoobles?" I asked.

"Zoobles? What are they?" a dazed young man answered.

"Never mind." I headed for electronics.

"Do you have wireless controllers and headsets for Xbox?" I was hopeful to snag at least something on my list.

After that guy, old enough to know better, stopped laughing, he pointed to the a ravaged display on a back wall with a few tattered packages dangling from crooked hooks.. "You can check that wall." He laughed some more, holding onto his sides and I didn't even kick him.

I headed for Target where a sales associate actually knew what I was talking about. He directed me to an aisle for the Zoobles. On my way there, a woman passed by carrying Razoo's Treehouse! Counting on the empathic bond between frantic mothers, I ran to her.

"Where did you get that?" I was sure she had gotten the last one.

"Right over here." She led me there, and you go, goddess, there was one left, which I clutched close for safekeeping.

Divide and conquer when desperate. Hubby scored the headset in Target as well, and good old Amazon mopped up the operation.

I'll spare the mundane details of the Old Navy and Marshalls experience, but suffice it to say everyone behaved very well on the very long lines. And the cashiers were were efficient and wished me happy holidays.

At work, we play music in exam rooms to offer a bit more privacy to patients, who are often upset and let's just say a bit loud as they share details of their latest travails and heartbreaks. 106.7 FM plays Christmas music from before Thanksgiving, so I know their playlists by heart.

Here are a few snippets of popular Christmas lyrics that have resonated with me over the last month.

I can't buy peace and contentment for all the kids I care for who need comfort as they struggle with poverty, deprivation, neglect, violence, loss and grief that not even many adults I know can fathom. But I do the best I can, one child at time.

From Kenny Chesney's Mama's Shoes

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out
I'll never forget the look on his face when he said
Mama's gonna look so great

I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about

This one is for the Republicans, particularly those who opposed the 9/11 Health Care Act, strong armed our not so strong armed President into big tax breaks for the rich, corrupted the Affordable Care Act beyond any measure of reason, turning it into a virtually tasteless, fatty piece of pork, and only voted to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell because they needed to send the lame ducks home with some dry bread to gnaw on for Christmas.

You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel,
Mr. Grinch!
You're a bad banana,
With a greasy black peel!

And this stanza goes out to the Catholic Bishops who excommunicated a nun and stripped a hospital of its right to keep the Blessed Sacrament on the premises because they terminated a woman's 11 week pregnancy to save her life. So no one can go to Mass and in that hospital anymore. Hmm. That's an interesting contradiction. More about it here.

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch!
Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders.
You've got garlic in your soul,
Mr. Grinch!
I go to work in the dark, come home in the dark, and am feeling rather dark these days. My Dad is sick, Mom is failing, and there always seems to be something lurking in the shadows waiting to jump out and waylay me.

Here's one for my ex, if he's reading anything I write these days. Dan Fogelberg's Auld Lang Syne always reduces me to tears, conjuring memories of the wonderful Christmases we spent together as high school and college sweethearts, in the days when things were simple, and life was filled with endless possibilities.

The beer was empty and our tongues were tired, running out of things to say. She gave a kiss to me as I got out, and I watched her drive away. For a moment I was back in school and felt that same familiar pain. As I turned to make my way back home again, the snow turned into rain.

All the shopping got done, the tree is up. Christmas Eve was a great celebration for two birthdays--Jesus' and my husband's--beginning with Family Mass and continuing to after midnight with my Jewish friends.

Christmas Day was spent at my sister's. Talk about awesome, she and my brother-in-law still hosted, though their house was hit by a huge tree in a windstorm two weeks ago and there is hole in the roof. It's all about my mom and dad, and we all need to be with them, even if it's under a tarp instead of mistletoe.

It's snowing today, the ground is already covered, and it promises to be a big storm. Mother Nature has concealed the dead leaves I never got a chance to rake up and brightened my world and black mood. I'm defying the dire warnings and headed to dance class to work off those cookies for breakfast extra pounds. Then I'll hole up for the rest of the week to clean up, catch up, finish that novel, and get ready for the new year and all the good, bad, and ugly it might bring.

I wish you all the greetings of the season, no matter what you celebrate.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What I'm Thankful For Today

Turkey in A Nest by Maya Virzi, class 3-204.

Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating. And for those who aren't, this traditional American holiday provides us Yanks an opportunity to focus on what we're thankful for rather than complain about what we don't have.

I'm really lucky. First off, I have my health and my family, without which nothing else matters. I have a job, a house, a wonderful husband, three happy, healthy kids, a big sloppy hound, and a sassy cat who sleeps on my feet every night. If you're interested there is more on the personal things, and an excerpt of Someday I'm Going to Write a Book: Diary of an Urban Missionary here.

Writing wise, I also have a lot to be thankful for. Progress along the path to publication, wonderful literary friends and partners on several groups and loops, and a bunch of editors who've been generous with advice, support, and venues for me to prove myself. Writers Eugie Foster, Michaela Roessner, Marta Randall, Mary Buckham, Margie Lawson, and Ana Maria Spagna who truly taught me everything I know about how to write and give me encouragement to keep going.

So to all my friends and followers, crit partners, group mates, soul mates I am thankful for YOU today. There are too many names to list here, but you know who you are.

If you've noticed my absence, well this month has been quite busy--and trying.

Please visit and "like"my writing and professional Facebook Fan Pages.

The Widow's Walk (paranormal romance novel/sequel) is almost done! Look for it on the newly expanded Critters and OWW soon. Anticiworkshoppers, no snitching about the first draft.

Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams (first book in my urban fantasy series) is fully plotted, outlined, and research is completed.

My alter ego has completed final edits and marketing of the novella. Now it's time to enjoy the release party. Email me for an invite.

Reviews have been posted on Tangent Online and The Portal.


To Wordrunner E-chapbooks: Six excerpts of Someday I'm Going to Write a Book
To Alimentum: "Artichokes," a tribute to Grandma Clo, who died 11/18/99 leaving a big hole in my life--and my heart.

To agents:

Requested proposal for Someday I'm Going to Write a Book
Requested partial of Unfinished Business

And I'm very thankful that only one (so far) was a lovely, personalized rejection.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Welcoming Karina Fabian, Co-editor of Infinite Space Infinite God II

My guest today is Karina Fabian, most notably an author and editor of Catholic science fiction and fantasy. She and her husband, Rob, are co-editors of the new anthology Infinite Space, Infinite God II, a companion to ISIG I, which I reviewed for Noneuclidean Café in 2008. Page down to read my entry.

Infinite Space Infinite God II has twelve science fiction stories that span the gamut of the genre, from time travel to alien abduction, space opera and near-future space exploration stories. The stories all have one twist in common: each features a Catholic hero or theme. Just like with Infinite Space Infinite God I (known as ISIG), the Fabians had a three-fold requirement: great sci-fi, great story, and great display of the Catholic faith. The combination garnered ISIG literary and popular acclaim; it won the EPPIE for best science fiction and was a top ten finalist for best science fiction in the Predator and Editor polls. Read the full press release

I have "known" Karina for about three years through our association with the Muse Conference Board and the Muse Online Conference. We've connected many times, and in many different forums. I believe that's because we share the joys, challenges and frustrations of being writers at the same time as we juggle family, home, and other work responsibilities.

This year, I had the distinct pleasure of participating in a live chat at MuseCon with Karina and Rob, the topic being one near and dear to my heart: "Care of the Writer's Spouse, " the title of which they both quickly amended to "Care of the Writing Couple." It was great to participate, along with my husband and a lot of other couples, in a very dynamic discussion about how to manage family writing lives.

Being Catholic (stop laughing, I go to church regularly and they haven't thrown me out yet), I was very interested in what the Catholic science fiction and fantasy genre would be like and enjoyed Infinite Space Infinite God I. I haven't had the time to read Infinite Space Infinite God II yet, so I'll have to let Karina tell us how they differ-or how they are similar.

Welcome, Karina! Congratulations on the release of Infinite Space, Infinite God II. Can you tell us about the series in general, and this book in particular?

The Infinite Space Infinite God series (or ISIGs) are science fiction stories with Catholic characters, themes and situations. They span the gamut of science fiction subgenres--from time travel to space opera--and all have a very positive look at the Catholic faith as well as faith and science coexisting or working together.

ISIG II has a more hero-based focus than it's predecessor, which means more adventure and more fun, and a little less introspection. It's a great companion to ISIG.

You've been a professional writer for a long time, and your husband is a colonel in the Air Force. I know he is very supportive of your career, and you of his. Can you tell us a little about how you decided to collaborate on the Infinite Space, Infinite God series?

It was a date night activity, really. I was starting to write as a career and Rob's always enjoyed writing, so we decided to work on projects together. We've written some short stories as a team and ISIG II is the third book we've edited. (Leaps of Faith is our anthology of Christian science fiction.)

How do you define the genre of Catholic science fiction/fantasy, and are there any subjects or story lines that are taboo? How does it differ from Christian or inspirational fiction?

A good rule of thumb is "If you take an element out and the story falls apart, that's the genre." So for Catholic science fiction, if you take out the science or the Catholicism, and the story fails, then you're writing Catholic science fiction. However, in my opinion, if you're not writing a story that is supportive or at least positive toward Catholicism, then you fail the test, too. I would not consider Dan Brown's book Catholic fiction, for example, even if his version of Catholicism is necessary for the story.

Christian fiction is a larger set and covers more ground. Catholic science fiction can be a part of that (and is where publishers allow it, but many Christian publishers do not want Catholic elements in their Christian fiction for a variety of reasons.) Inspirational fiction has a purpose: to inspire, usually spiritually. Catholic science fiction does not have to have that goal. It can merely entertain or make someone think.

What was your search for a publisher like, and what are some of the marketing venues/writer's groups available for those interested in Catholic science fiction and fantasy?

For ISIG II, the publisher came to us, which is always a nice deal! However, to find Twilight Times for ISIG took a year or so of searching for publishers, submitting, waiting, and searching again.

What are some of the other projects you're working on now? What is Vern up to these days?

I'm "between projects" right now, meaning I have several ideas partly started and am not sure what I'm going to do next. I've been spoiled the past few years with publishers who wanted something from me; this year, I have no requests pulling at me. So I may finish my Catholic sci-fi novel, or work on one of the fantasy novels, or start a new children's series about some animals in a church learning about Catholicism.

Vern is grumbling about my not finding a publisher for the next DragonEye novel. I am waiting on a few more replies, then I'm going to look at smaller press in January. In the meantime, I have several DragonEye, PI stories coming out, plus a few without Vern but in that universe. "Christmas Spirits" is about Vern and Sister Grace's first Christmas, where they have to stop an enchanted theater from using the ghosts of Christmas past, Present and Future to a land developer, is out in FlagShip this month. You can purchase it here

Wow, a date night to write! My husband has an idea for a historical novel. He'll research it, but he wants me to write it. That's hard, especially because it's not my idea so I have no inspiration. Then I thought of making it Steampunk, which made his head spin. After reading about making it a date, I might resurrect the idea and start work on a plot outline.

See, Karina is very inspiring—on many levels. Where can people get Infinite Space Infinite God II?
They can purchase it from Twilight Times or from Barnes and Noble or

Where are your next few stops on the tour?

For a complete list of all my upcoming appearances, please visit my blog.
Thanks for making this one of the stops on your tour, Karina. Best of luck with all your endeavors. ISIG II is on my "to read" list.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Portal has Opened!

The Portal has made its debut at the World Fantasy Convention, and my review of Strange Horizons is in the starting lineup. I’m really excited about being involved with this new venture, since it will eventually include the often overlooked semi pro zines, as well as a wide range of fiction published in languages other than English.

Here’s the official announcement from Editor-in Chief, Val Grimm:

The inaugural issue of The Portal, an international online review of
short-form science fiction, fantasy, and horror, is now live at

It includes contributions from Elizabeth Allen, Alex Donald, Miguel
Esquirol, Fábio Fernandes , David Hebblethwaite, Annaïg Houesnard, Stig W. Jørgensen, Leonid Korogodski, Knud Larn, Marlin May, Carole Moleti,
and Alison Sinclair, and coverage of Sybil's Garage, Shimmer, Strange
Horizons, Bull Spec, F&SF, and Ideomancer,
as well as a magazine from
Russia, collections from Brazil and Denmark, and overviews of the
French, Bolivian, and Danish SF/F scenes.

If you happen to be at the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio
this weekend, there'll be a launch party at 10PM/22H Saturday night
hosted by our Editor-in-Chief, Val Grimm. Look for signs around the

If you are interested in contributing, please contact us at

Check it out!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Apocolypse: Fact or Fiction?

Where have I been and what have I been doing for the last month? It's a blur. September began with the unrealized advance of Hurricane Earl and culminated with a very impressive and mix-it-up of wind and rain by the tail end of Hurricane Nicole. Mother Nature is tired of the insults and pretty pissed off right now.

In between, three tornadoes laid waste to three thousand trees in Queens and Brooklyn, many in my neighborhood. They knocked power out for almost five full days, and seriously tested my ability to keep up my daily word count goal, what with the clean up, dealing with two refrigerators and freezers not refrigerating and freezing, and typing on an AlphaSmart Neo by flashlight.

I netted 8500 words on my latest novel in progress. The Widow's Walk (the sequel to Unfinished Business) and should be done by the end of October.

The odd weather (well, hurricanes aren't odd but we've had three episodes of tornadic activity in New York City in the last few years) has me in a decided apocalyptic mood. In addition to stockpiling batteries, matches, ice cubes, non fat dry milk and drip coffee filters (I can live without power, but not coffee), I've begun work in earnest on an urban fantasy, Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams, set in the near-future Bronx engaged in a epic battle between dark and light magic, which has been waged since the late 1960s. Thanks to a fantastic two day plotting intensive with Mary Buckham last weekend, I'm ready to get going by January and expect to complete the first draft sometime in the spring/early summer of 2011. Yep, writing nonfiction is too scary right now.

All that, and the back to work, back to school crazies has made for a very tight schedule, and the only way I can keep to it by staying off social networking. Of course, the frustration of trying to do all online correspondence on a tiny mobile device until the lights came back on made that much easier.

I'm back to work at the day job, and quite busy. Which brings up my equally grim mood over health care and politics which you can find on my health related blog at

Good stuff I’ve been doing on the literary end of life:

I did get to Fantastic Fiction in New York City the night before the lights went out, and to see Margaret Atwood at the 92nd Street YMCA the day after they came back on. The fact that the UN General Assembly shut midtown east down was daunting, but I couldn't miss that.

Ms. Atwood signed my first edition hardcover copy of The Handmaid's Tale, which has joined the signed first edition copies of Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin and World's Fair by E.L. Doctorow. And to think I missed Frank McCourt signing my copy of Teacher Man when his appearance at Symphony Space was cancelled due to the illness, which claimed his life a short while after. Being that close to some of my favorite authors of all time is such a thrill.

Reviews in progress:

Bad Ass Faeries, Volume III, for Tangent
Strange Horizons, for The Portal, a new review venue making its debut at the World Fantasy Convention in October. (I can't go, grr)


I'll be taking in a full day workshop with Margie Lawson on November 20, sponsored by the Connecticut Romance Writers Chapter of RWA in North Haven.

Fantastic Fiction October 20: doubtful, but I always give it a try.

LunaCon, Westchester, NY in March, 2011: A good bet.

Renovation (WorldCon), in August, 2011: In the planning stages, just scouting out the logistics, costs, and timing of another trip to the West Coast.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My 9/11 Remembrance

This is a reprint of a post from last year. I don't have it in me to write something new. There really isn't much more to say. The hole in the skyline is still there. And so is the one in our hearts.

My 9/11 Remembrance

You had to be there to understand. 9/12/01. The stench of burning jet fuel, plastic, paper, and human beings wafted over the City. Every rear car window and front door sported an American flag poster, as did fences around schools, churches, security grates on storefronts.

Everyone waited patiently in security checkpoint lines at the bridges and tunnels. No bosses said a word if you were late for work. No horns, no reckless driving-there wasn't anyplace that seemed important enough to hurry to anymore.

The sounds of commercial jets had been replaced by F-16's flying over the City at regular intervals. The wail of sirens sent people into fits of tears, and there was always someone, often a stranger, there to comfort them, help them.

Candles started appearing at dusk. In windows, on front porches. In my Queens neighborhood, people were spontaneously drawn, carrying anything they could find with a light source, to an impromptu march down the main drag, Bell Boulevard, led by a fire truck, a parish priest from Sacred Heart Parish about to be recalled to active duty, and exhausted police officers and firefighters. We lined the sidewalks, waving flags, burning our fingers, holding hands, singing God Bless America.

I didn't think to take a camera to record it. I was too busy comforting a bereft friend and my kids, barely restraining my own emotions after the horror of the previous day.

A whole block of parking meters was adorned with votives, flames dancing in the warm breeze. While the fires raged downtown and frantic rescue efforts were underway, candle wax dripped over glass and metal onto the concrete sidewalks while viewfinders flashed "time expired."

I could never re-create that moment, and the feeling of comfort those flickering points of light in the darkness inspired in me, and no doubt many others.

Before the old-fashioned parking meters disappeared, to be replaced by muni-meter boxes that issue tickets for your car window, I immortalized a few as a reminder of that moment in time.

There is still a big empty pit at Ground Zero. The smell is long gone, but every time I look into that hole filled with construction activity, surrounded by a chain link fence, the memory of the stench returns, I gag. My heart still races when I hear a siren in the night, a low flying jet screams over my house, or a helicopter hovers with beacons flashing, looking for someone or something.

I will never forget the routine morning that turned into one of the most horrible I ever experienced, making me wonder how people in Israel, Gaza, and other war-ravaged nations survive.

I will never forget The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the lowly parking meter, forever linked in my memory.

Monday, August 16, 2010

My Kayaking Cape Cod Article Series

Here's what I've done on my summer vacation:

The third installment of my Kayaking Cape Cod Series has been posted, and there are three more to come.

Plus, I've now got a
Facebook Fan Page where I've posted more pictures, plus all my book covers and writing related news.

The links to the articles are on my Facebook wall, but here are they are in case you want to go there direct.

The Family That Plays Together Stays Together

Kayaking the Salt Marshes in Cape Cod

Beach to Beach Kayaking in Brewster Massachusetts

I'd love it if you'd leave a comment (so would the editor)

Coming up:

Kayaking the Kettle Ponds, Brewster Massachusetts
Kayaking the Bass River, Dennis Massachusetts
Kayaking Salt Pond to Nauset Marsh, Eastham, Massachusetts

Big bonus: I just got back from a trip up the California Coast from LA to San Francisco. Wait until you see read the account of my kayak tour on Monterey Bay and see the pictures of the sea lions and otters up close! Stay tuned for more details.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Review of Miss Foster's Folly by Alice Gaines

Manhattan, July 2010

Carole Ann Moleti is baking in the Big Apple, where the temperature today reached 101ºF in Central Park. The thermostat in her car read 105ºF. Rumor has it that it could be as high as 120º on a subway platform, but she was not about to go down there to check it out.

Sure it gets hotter in places like Las Vegas and Death Valley, but its dry heat—right? Here the humidity closes in around you like a shroud, making it hard to breath, to think, to do much of anything.

Carole's suggestions to beat the heat: Sit in a pool, or in your bathtub, or in your air conditioned apartment and read Alice Gaines' latest novel, Miss Foster's Folly, a recent release from Carina Press.

Warning, it's as hot as New York City on July 6 2010, but Alice's silky smooth prose will soothe the burn.

Manhattan, 1886
Juliet Foster has just become the wealthiest spinster in town. Her domineering and thoroughly unpleasant father has died and left her millions. She's free to be her own woman and seek a life of adventure.

David Winslow, Marquess of Derrington, is in search of a wife who can break the Winslow Curse. Every second-generation heir inherits a restless, defiant nature that can only be tamed by a mate as independent and rebellious as himself.

Miss Juliet Foster is perfect and eager for seduction. But when he wants more than a few nights of passion, Juliet runs like the devil's on her heels. Can the marquess convince her that marriage isn't a trap, but the greatest freedom of all?

And so begins Miss Foster's Folly: a rollicking trip across the Atlantic through the English countryside. Along the way, the reader meets a gaggle of quirky noblemen and women, including David's grandmother, Lady Harriet Winslow, the Dowager Marchioness of Derrington who redefines the meaning of a little old lady.

"I understand perfectly well. I was the same as you. I resisted with all my might until I finally didn’t want to fight any longer,” Lady Derrington said. “You wouldn’t believe how my Hugh finally convinced me.”

“I don’t think I want to know.”

“Let’s just say that feathers can be instruments of torture, and silk ties leave no marks.” Lady Derrington circled her wrist with the fingers of her other hand. “After that, we were inseparable for the rest of our lives.”

Juliet did her best to keep her expression bland, but from the smile of victory in the other woman’s eyes, she hadn’t managed completely. Feathers and silk bonds, oh dear.

And Juliet herself is no romantic, determined to get her way and spoil the Marquis' fun. Here's one of the PG-13 scenes, when Juliet decides to show off her knowledge of orchids while on a tour of a conservatory:

“You see, orchids like this one grow on trees. People think they’re parasites, but they actually only use the branches for support.

Derrington relaxed a bit, his shoulders lowering slowly to their normal position.

“Instead of fibrous roots, like most plants have, orchids have thick, fleshy ones,” she went on. “With tips that extend past their absorbent coating.”

Millie pried her way through the group until she’d reached Juliet’s side. “I don’t think our hosts really want a lecture in botany.”

“I do,” Blandings said. This time, Derrington glared at him.

"What?” Blandings sputtered. “What did I say?”

She pointed toward the beginning of a root appearing from the base of the plant in Derrington’s hand. “This little protuberance, for example.”

Anger flashed in Derrington’s eyes as he dared her with his expression to continue. Fine. She liked dares.

“It’s small now,” she said. “But soon, it’ll elongate and thicken.”

Lady Mitford laughed in earnest this time. Lord Mitford covered his mouth and coughed, but he couldn’t cover his mirth completely.

Juliet glanced toward the bench. “Oh, look. This plant’s root has grown so far it’s plunged deep into its neighbor’s pot.”

Millie stood close enough to touch her without the others seeing, and she reached out and pinched Juliet in the ribs. Hard.

Juliet smiled back at her for a moment and then turned to Derrington. She took the plant from his hand and held it up nearly under his nose. “But the most remarkable thing about this flower is this structure.” She trailed a fingertip along the blossom’s column in a slow caress. “It holds the reproductive organs, both male and female.”

For just a moment, she could have sworn she could hear Derrington’s teeth grinding. “And behind this cap on the head. Ah, yes, here.” She ran her fingernail along the underside of the column up to the anther cap. When she removed it, the pollinia came away stuck to her skin. “See, two little nubbins of pollen.”

Derrington’s face turned three shades of red, but he kept his features even. He took the plant back and held it out toward Lady Mitford. “Would you hold this, please?”

She took it from him. “Certainly.”

He grasped Juliet’s elbow, using as much or more force as he had the night of the ball. “Excuse us for a moment.”

Miss Foster's Folly is totally Victorian, and a hilarious, sexy read that will have you laughing your butt off and reaching for your marquis or marchioness.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Play Together, Stay Together in the Great Outdoors

I was away for my yearly vacation on the Cape, doing, ahem, research for my Kayaking on Cape Cod blog article series. If all work could be this fun...

The first installment
Play Together, Stay Together in the Great Outdoors is posted and there are five more to come. I've been practicing what I preach.

The heat has threatened to melt my brain but since I got back there has been significant progress on my new novel. Look for a full update in the next week, once I get all links together.
Finally, my website is down for maintenance this week, so if you're looking for me rest assured I have not disappeared. You can always reach me here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I'm Back!

I can't remember exactly when I fell into the black hole, but seem to recall it was sometime late last summer.

A victim of my own success, covering Worldcon and being away for eleven days last August, really set me back on writing activities. I had four nonfiction pieces come out between September and November, and a piece of fiction in January so my focus was on promotion and meeting deadlines for reviews and freelance assignments, not doing what I wanted to which was write some new fiction.

My job responsibilities and family demands and some bad stuff like dealing with my parents' health problems, have been a steady drain on my time and energy since last September.

It's taken me nearly a year to revise a paranormal novella and my novel Unfinished Business, and get the jump start the stalled process of selling them. I recently sent the full manuscripts for both to publishers that requested them (bites nails) and frankly, I'm very glad that I don't have to look at them for a while. The stories are solid, and I'm proud of them, but I need a change.

I've begun work on The Widow's Walk, a sequel to Unfinished Business, and since I know the characters so well, they're spilling their guts. I'm also doing some research to flesh out the plot of my urban fantasy Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams, which I'm really excited about since it's so different than the paranormal romances.

I'm celebrating the five-year anniversary of my entrée into creative writing, and the four year anniversary of Specfictionfledglings, a Yahoo group formed by myself and several other workshop buddies. It's been such a delight to see folks who, like me, started at the beginning are now writing (and publishing) such diverse works as novels, short stories, graphic novels, and screenplays. Where else could I find people debating how and when bananas were cultivated in the Caribbean? How's that for fact checking?

And I can't be more thankful for groups like Professional Authors and its many spin-offs, all moderated by Rayne Hall, and the Anticiworkshop (born after Worldcon) where I've gotten super-solid help with all my works in progress. Special shout outs to Rayne and Barbara G. whose detailed critiques and background knowledge on a vast number of subjects helped immeasurably with both works. Oliver helped me sink the boat, and when Alice, who's a pro romance writer, says she likes something--wow, what a boost.

Right now, I'm shell shocked, wandering around the house looking for this big monkey that's been hanging on my back. It's going to take me some time to get back into the writing mode--but I'm really looking forward to it.

No reviews this month and my report on the Fantastic Fiction readings for June are at:

Coming soon:
A review of Alice Gaines newest novel Miss Foster's Folly--just released by Carina Press. I give it a five star rating for delicious, Victorian humor. Five flame warning for the less adventurous reader.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I've Been Abducted by Aliens

I decided to post a quick post explanation for my absence from crit circles and social networking. Actually, my absence from anything but my office, car, or kitchen.

Alien being, in the form of teenagers, have sucked me into their world and are holding me hostage.
My own two teenagers (and all their associated drama including mischief, college selection/auditions, sports, birthdays, school events, concerts…) plus the 1000 or so entrusted to me in the school based health center I staff in a New York City public high school (lots of mischief and mayhem, asthma and viruses, but thankfully no swine flu this year).

Any spare time, and it isn't much, has been spent on another revision of Unfinished Business, based up comments I got from an editor at Anticipation last year, as well as some superb crit partners helping me re-work the opening. I'm up to Chapter 36 of 42 and on target for another round of submissions by June 1. But if I don't stay focused and off the Internet, that rather unpalatable task will never get done.

Except for some contracted assignments and reviews already promised, I will not be doing new writing, marketing, critting, or subbing until the end of the school year on June 30. Haven't made it to Fantastic Fiction since February, and May doesn't look good with a 6 p.m. ball game scheduled.

Here's what has been published over the last month or so:


Tails of Wonder and Imagination, edited by Ellen Datlow

Articles: "What Not to Drink When Kayaking"


An excerpt of Unfinished Business that really did have a kayak in it before this gig (not an inflatable with the buy link embedded) but this is ad copy after all.

Time to make my captors breakfast and get going on today's activities.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Women's Fiction, Romance and Erotica

I've just done a guest spot on Rachel Brimble's blog, and there is quite a discusion going. I thought some of my friends on LJ might be interested.

I'm talking about the derision romance and erotica writers experience, and pose an interesting question: Why do we call it "women's fiction" when the majority of readers are women.

Join us as I list some of my all time favorite chicklit/romance/erotica stories, some relevant nonfiction, and reviews I've done for The Fix and Tangent Online, including that of Best Fantastic Erotica edited by Cecilia Tan. Included in that list are three male authors, two of whom were Hugo nominated for their stories, one of whom won the award in 2007. One is chick lit, the other paranormal romance. Hop on over to Rachel's blog and join the discussion.
Carole Ann Moleti probes a little deeper into "Women's Fiction"

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Of Back Rooms, Back Alleys, Clowns, Roulette, Magic Mirrors and Viagra

The passage of Health Care Deform, as I call it, isn't really writing related, but since my memoir Someday I'm Going To Write a Book just gained another chapter, I decided to post a teaser on my writing blog.

Here's just one of the recent up to the minute reports on the political roulette wheel:

By 57-42, Democrats rejected an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., barring federal purchases of Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs for sex offenders. Coburn said it would save millions, while Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., called it "a crass political stunt."

Hold that thought.

I don't think I'm the only one baffled, bamboozled, and disgusted with the carnival known as health care reform. Back room deals, under the table nudges, and whispered expletives have exposed the true reflection of our President and Vice-President, Senators, and Representatives. Magic mirrors fill the Fun House of Representatives and they’ve relied on dizzying spins to gain political advantage.

Read More:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Frances Pauli on Electronic Publishing-And Her New Release

Science fiction romance. It's not just space opera. Author Frances Pauli stopped by to visit me today with news of her new release Roarke, just published by Divine Destinies.

They have to be lying when they tell her she was dead. With no memory of her past, and no idea who she actually is, Nora has few options. Alone, and at the mercy of the Mercenary Defense Conglomerate, she searches for clues into her past, and the truth about her supposed demise.

If she is a prisoner, robbed of memory and held against her will, then she must trust no one. If she has, in fact, returned from the dead, then who could possibly help her? Armed with only her wits and her inexplicably sharpened senses, she is forced to play along, to search for the holes in their story, and to piece together the flashes of memory that serve only to taunt her.

But the visions seem to confirm the impossible. The man who is supposed to be her fiancé seems bent on confusing her, and the one person she is desperate to be near may very well be responsible for her death. If the silent Roarke is her enemy, why do her visions draw her closer to him? And why, when nothing else seems remotely familiar, does Nora find herself remembering, or wanting to remember only him?

Roarke is an e-book. Frances, do you have any thoughts about electronic publishing? I've had both electronic and print publications. While it's nice to hold a book in your hand, I think the electronic versions enable readers to get their hands on stories quickly and easily.

I am an author of electronic books. I also happen to be a reader of, and big believer in e-books. I’ve sold my stories to two different royalty-paying electronic houses, (three imprints) one of which solely deals with electronic formats, and the other which produces both print and electronic books. None of this was easy. Neither was it without risk, though I’m happy to say that the houses my books are contracted with are fantastic, professional and legitimate, and I am thrilled and proud to be involved with both of them.

If you’ve decided to try for electronic publication, or if you’re just considering it as a possibility, you may soon discover that the world of electronic publishing can be complicated, confusing and sometimes misleading. Aside from the wealth of solid, upstanding publishing houses, sharks and scams abound. Unfortunately their prey of choice is the aspiring author.

Anyone looking into electronic print would do well to learn as much as possible about the industry. Learning from other authors and industry professionals isn’t difficult, but it takes time. E-book author groups and guilds, author and publisher blogs and web pages and online articles can not only save you time, but they can save you from making a costly mistake.

While I’m not anywhere near being an expert in the field, I can start you out with a few pointers and some warnings about what to watch out for along the way.

#1 Don’t deal with anyone you haven’t Googled. A simple search of a company’s name saved me from signing with a very shady organization early on. If you get any kind of interest or offer from anyone, just punch them into a search engine of your choice. In my case, the first forty or so entries contained words like: scam, hoax, lawsuit…you get the idea.

#2 The money flows to the author, NOT from the author. If a company, publisher, or agent is asking you to pay for anything, be wary. Most likely this is not a legitimat e-publishing situation. The only time I think industry standard approves of the author paying for anything is in the case of self-publishing. As we’ll see, in that arena, the author pretty much pays for everything.

#3 Learn the difference between POD and Vanity Publishing. The first is a legitimate printing model. The second is usually a way to steal your money. (see number two)

#4 Self published is not a dirty word, but it won’t likely make you rich and famous either. For some books--small run, niche markets, specialty interests—self publishing may be a good idea. However, deciding to self-publish should be an educated and well-understood choice. Self-published doesn’t mean inferior, but it does mean a long, hard and expensive road for the author. While self-publishing an e-book can be done for a lot less money upfront, thanks to a host of online services, there is still an uphill battle to follow. All the marketing, sales, and promotion will be the author’s responsibility. Unfortunately, there is an abiding stigma against self-published books, and the author who chooses this route should be aware of this at the start and willing to face down and deal with a lot of prejudice.

#5 Use the resources available. The Internet is a universe of helpful information. Find Preditors and Editors, Writer’s Beware, and other scam warning sites and monitor them. Find author’s you like and follow their blogs. Do the same thing with publishers. The advice they give may just get your foot in the right door. Look for books with covers you like, with designs and exposure that you’d like to have and then check out who publishes them. Join a lot of groups, forums and boards and listen. Ask questions. Make friends. Perhaps most importantly of all…

#6 Relax and take your time. Don’t rush this process. The author in a hurry is more likely to sign with the first fly-by-night Vanity Publisher that finds them. Don’t think you have to be published any time soon. Enjoy your journey, have fun and take things slow. While you’re waiting—and there will be waiting—write your next book.

In either the electronic or print publishing industry, there is always waiting. Practice patience and persistence (I’m awful at both) and have as much fun as you can along the way. I wish you the best of luck!

About Frances Pauli:

Though she always held aspirations to be a writer, Frances originally chose to pursue a career in visual arts. Her stories, however, had other plans for her. By the time she entered her thirties, they were no longer content existing solely in her head. Compelled to free them, she set aside her easel and began to write in earnest

She currently resides smack in the center of Washington State with her husband and two children. When not writing she dabbles in insane things like puppetry, belly dance and playing the ukulele. She collects rocks, and is a firm believer in good wine, fine chocolate and dangerous men.

Her short fiction has appeared in Alternative Coordinates magazine.

More about Frances and her writing can be found at

She offers a free online serial at

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Respect for the Lion

We’ve had a real winter here in the Northeast—temperatures appropriate for the time of year and a reasonable amount of snow. Now don’t go all “see, there is no such thing as global warming” on me. We used to get A LOT more snow. I remember the winter of 1993-94 (I had an infant and a toddler and it snowed every Wednesday and the daycare center was closed and it was a real pain since I had to find child care so I could go to work).

And that same year, a huge Noreaster ushered in the winter season on December 10 with one of the worst coastal flooding events in my memory. My childhood home in the Northeast Bronx took a direct hit. The flooding was legendary and the property damage monumental. My parents moved two years later, not willing to take that risk again. If I'm not mistaken, that was also the year we had a major snowfall at Easter, sometime in early April.

Over the weekend, the tristate area was hit with a storm that reached hurricane status, but not one weather forecaster I heard predicted more than heavy rains and gusts. Four inches of wind driven rain and winds as high as 75 mph left trees and tangled umbrellas scattered in the streets like skeletons. Seven people died. Houses are underwater. Thousands have no power. And no one was prepared.

It was much worse that the two most recent super-hyped snowstorms. Even if they had gotten the forecast correct, I am so inured to predictions of disaster and doom I still would have gone to my ballet class. (The studio canceled classes for the almost two feet of snow a couple weeks back but was running full schedule Saturday).

The subways were flooded, rain poured down in buckets onto the platforms and tracks making things uncomfortable, slippery, dangerous, and vulnerable to loss of power. I have never seen such miserable, soaking wet passengers wrapped in garbage bags and slickers, dripping all over the floors, seats and each other. Good thing I could change clothes and leave them hanging to dry out while in class, but I was just as wet by the time I got home. At one point my umbrella wrapped around my head as I struggled against a gust that pushed me backwards. RIP to that one.

The drive home over the Throggs Neck Bridge was simultaneously frightening and gorgeous. Winds pushed cars out of their lanes, rain blew sideways like fine snowflakes, a dense fog swirled around the towers and decorative lacing. Whitecaps frothed near the tops of seawalls along the shore, battering the homes and the ramparts at Fort Schuyler and the Maritime College. I wonder if it was even high tide.
No doubt, if it was a weekday school would have been in session, even though the risk to kids from falling trees and power lines was much greater than during the eight inch snowstorm a month ago for which they canceled flights and schools a day in advance. That storm never reached its full potential, and the next day was even more dangerous due to icing, falling trees and slippery roads but schools were open.

Schools weren’t closed until the last minute on the day of our two foot snowfall on February 25-26, even though the winds were howling all night and drifts piled up against everyone’s doorways. King Bloomberg felt the kids needed to be in school and could take vacations when they got older. (Read: the kids need to be in school because the City of New York only gets money from the State for days when school is in session, even if no one, including the teachers, show up).

Only reason convinced him otherwise. Any sane person just had to look out the window and know not to send kids on school buses. I peeked out at the 5 a.m. alarm and decided no matter what, it was a snow day for us. And I should have stayed home yesterday, for both my own comfort and safety. I'm still chilled and achy after being drenched and marinated twice in ice cold water.

Family obligations compelled us to drive to Ithaca as the monster storm wound down on February 26, so we braved it. The roads were clear and the worst was over by afternoon, but it snowed all weekend in upstate New York. Belleayre Mountain in the Catskills got five feet.

As you can see from his picture, the summit lodge is covered. Outdoor picnic tables are invisible on the back deck overlooking Cathedral Brook Glades. But was the skiing awesome when we got there on March 7? Hell yeah, the most glorious snow I've skied in a long time complete with 40 degree temperatures and outdoor barbecues.

Unfortunately I can only describe the picture around town right now as streets filled with huge puddles, killer potholes, scattered tree limbs and soggy garbage, all dressed by a light drizzle.

I love the outdoors, but I have both reverence and respect for Mother Nature. We would all do well to set our priorities and respect the power and danger of weather, while at the same time not exploiting or becoming enslaved by it. And the media should stop making storms into news items with roving reporters and hyperbole, and give people the information they need to stay out of harm's way.

Movie Review-Alice In Wonderland

I saw Alice in Wonderland last night and was blown away. If it wasn’t for my daughter pleading to go, I would have begged off. Tim Burton isn’t my favorite director-his stuff is too creepy and weird for me.

The screenplay was flawless-even to me who has only minimal knowledge of how screenplays are written. By engineering Alice as young adult, drawn back to Wonderland to complete a predestined quest, and linking that metaphorically to her life as a young woman in eighteenth century England, Burton put in a lovely twist which took this out of the fairytale realm and made a heroine worthy of Joan of Arc status.

I am continually amazed by the range of Burton’s wife, Helena Bonham Carter. Though I prefer to immortalize her as Lucy Honeychurch in the sumptuous Merchant-Ivory production of E M Forester’s Room With A View (one of my all-time favorite movies), Ms. Carter does bad sooooo good. The Red Queen was both dastardly and amusing in her absurdity, nothing like her role as the elegantly evil Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter flicks-but she deserves credit for allowing them to make her up to look like such a caricature as well as for her skill. All the acting was great, and the special effects classic Burton creepy (my daughter’s words, not mine) but stunning.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Let It Snow!

Yet another winter storm is bearing down on the Northeast. I went skiing last weekend and hope to get more in next Sunday. The Olympics have me psyched for the challenge, though it won’t be along the lines of downhill racing. I just have to survive getting the kids there and up and down the mountain, and back home.

I think a weekly snowstorm is just grand-it is supposed to be cold in the winter-and my whole family has enjoyed snow days. We’ve sledded, cross country skied down the city streets, built a snow fort and a snowman, and savored the beauty of snow laden pine trees on a stormy morning.

I’ve got two new novel projects in progress, one further along than the other, but it’s been fun starting something fresh.

Marketing my other novel, memoir, and a few shorts is a time consuming black hole which I fell into about two years ago and have just emerged from. There were a breaths of fresh air along the way with lots of nonfiction publications and one piece of fiction released in January with reviewers asking to "see more from this author."

Two other pieces of fiction are under serious consideration with independent publishers.While I’m not giving up the agent search, it seems ridiculous to not query those who will accept unagented submissions. I'd love an agent, but not at the expense of never seeing my work in print because it "doesn't fit my list."

I’m doing anthology and collection reviews now for Tangent and the reading has been challenging but worthwhile. Check out my latest two reviews: Ars Memoraie by Beth Bernobich (alternate history/steampunk)and Slightly Behind and to the Left by Claire Light (hardcore feminist sci fi, for those willing to work a bit). I’m now working on Tails of Wonder edited by Ellen Datlow. Sneak preview: missed a subway stopped while engrossed in story # 3.

To discuss or quibble about reviews or to find out more about my literary adventures, including the Fantastic Fiction reading series in New York City hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matt Kressel, please stop by my website forums:

Keep up with postings, new projects, publications, where I’ve been and where I’m going:

For my take on health care reform/politics/women’s and children’s health:

I'm also on Facebook (more pictures!)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Almost Caught Up

This week, the NYC High Schools were giving Regents exams so I was "off." On Monday, I reviewed 70 charts for quality assurance. Rather tedious. Tuesday I had a training in Manhattan all day.

I spent Wednesday and Thursday, my "vacation" days getting proposals out for the memoir. Exhausting since it's a 60 page document and they all want different formats. Three agents only take hard copy, one wanted clips and a photo as well. Not very green-including two trips to the post office.

Friday I did a Basic Life Support refresher (not related to the aggravating submissions but rather a job requirement). I am SORE from all that CPR! In the afternoon, I finally finished the required online Electronic Fetal Monitoring Course. Got six hours of continuing education credit but it took me nearly ten including studying. Then I went to Maya's school for the Blood Drive and rolled up my sleeve.

The best part of the week was a date with my husband Friday night. We saw "It's Complicated." ROTFLMAO! I really needed that.

Saturday I cleaned the house (which after months of re-organization is on the cusp of being under control), unstopped two toilets, did five loads of laundry and went grocery shopping. I wonder why I didn't feel like doing novel revisions.

But I made myself sit down and made very good progress. The revised opening held up, getting only a few characterization tweaks. The EDITS system markup on chapters 4-7 and the changes I'd put in were surprisingly good.

Today I finished up some crits I owed, made a dent in my marketing tasks, and prepped two things for workshop submissions later in the week. Tonight I hope to polish off the EDITS on Chapters 8-17 of the novel. A big chunk, but if yesterday's experience is repeated, I can do it. That will get me almost half way through this pass (and the latter half is in much better shape). Once I finish this I can focus on new writing.

I didn't get to dance classes this weekend, and I've given up on two long languishing features now that my major market IROSF has dried up. It's hard for me to admit defeat, but I just can't do it all.

Monday, January 18, 2010

During the holiday season, deep in edits and marketing my recent publications, I was also struggling to keep up with fast breaking news and political action as the health care reform bill went to the Senate.

I had to drastically cut back all social networking to stay on top of what needed to be done and expected things would calm down, but they haven't. In order to tick off the many things on my "to do" list, I am staying on task and off-line as much as I can.

But, I have been working. Several submissions, queries, pitches have gone out. I'm now back at Tangent Online (since The Fix went on hiatus) and working on reviews of a novella and three collections. The saddening news that The Internet Review of Science Fiction is ceasing publication after the February issue is another indicator of how difficult things are in the publishing business, and I am scrambling to find new markets who pay me at least something for the incredible amounts of time I invest in preparing reviews, criticism, and features of interest to readers in the speculative genres.

Aside from a few short nonfiction pieces, most of my new writing has been empassioned letters to my Senators and Representatives pleading for them to do the right thing regarding the poor excuse for health care reform limping toward the finish line. These quotes, from a January 11 article in The New York Times, pretty much sum up the way a lot of us feel:

Ron Vaughn who provides health insurance to his 60 employees at Argonaut Wine and Liquor in Denver.

"I’m a middle-of-the-road kind of guy. I want the Democrats out of my pocket and Republicans out of my bedroom. The one word I would use for what’s going on in Washington is embarrassing."

James W. Noon, who runs a packaging supply business here, said he was irked to see Senate leaders secure votes by promising extra Medicaid money to Nebraska and Louisiana. “Don’t they realize how dumb that looks?” said Mr. Noon, a Republican.

Michael R. Stone, a private investigator who describes himself as a political independent, was bothered by those deals, too. “President Obama campaigned on a promise to change the way things are done in Washington,” Mr. Stone said. “But it seems like business as usual to me."

Anyone interested in more, check out my professional blogs:

Having pretty much given up on health care reform efforts out of sheer disgust, I've been making good progress. Then yesterday morning, while answering email, a virus invaded my computer. This porn site took over Internet Explorer and I started getting multiple messages, disguised as Microsoft Word, telling me to click here to allow a virus removal program to run. I played a game of "whack a mole," turning off the rapid succession of pop-ups, which got more rapid as time went on.

Thanks to the fact I was sitting there when it happened, and to my quick thinking husband who responded to my distress call, turned off the wireless router and then got Malware to run before it was hijacked, the four offending files were sequestered and deleted. I've been using another computer since 11 am, since we then had to run full scans on three different anti-virus/ anti-malware programs. Now, I can't connect to the Internet on that computer. But all my files are safe (I back them up every night on Mozy anyway) and I have almost everything on a flash drive as well. So, if I owe you a crit or something else, please be patient.

Things have been very crazy for me since late summer. Since then I've only been able to read about one-third through Neal Stephenson's Anathem and feel like I will never finish it. Like a metaphor for my life, I'm trapped in a world I don't quite get. I've read Acacia (Durham), Thunderer, (Gilman) and A Short History of Women (Walbert) in the interim, so it isn't the page count, but rather the dense plot and ponderous pace.

I am a fast reader, and uber organized, and so this inertia and chaos is very unsettling. But I've succeeded at doing what I do for a long time, so I have hope that, by the beginning of February to have the backlog of revision and marketing work done and get back to writing NEW material. And reading something else.

I'm trying out a new Bravenet Forum on my webpage. Join me to discuss any of those works of fiction under the tab Fantastic Fiction. David Anthony Durham and Lev Grossman will be there on January 20.

Finally, all this aggravation is nothing compared to what the Haitian people are going through right now. if you haven't already given a donation to help the earthquake victims, might I suggest Doctors Without Borders? I have an acquaintance who works for them, and I'm sure she's on her way if not already there. They have an established hospital in Port Au Prince, which I've heard was destroyed, but they are working under makeshift conditions. I'm sure there are a lot of places to donate, but here's an easy link.