Archive for May, 2011

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day, American Squiders.  I have returned to you, albeit slightly more sun-roasted than I left you.  The sun and I have an understanding.  I slather myself in sunscreen, it burns me in places I have never burned before or in places where I swear I put sunscreen.

Memorial Day always reminds me of my grandfather.  He’s been gone eleven years now, but I still miss him and think of him often.  You know, I sometimes hear my grandparents’ generation referred to as the Greatest Generation, and I have to agree.  By the time my grandfather was my age, he’d fought in WWII, lost an arm, gotten his masters’ degree, was married, and had the first of his children.  What do I have to show for myself?  Sure, I have a college degree, and I’m married, but I still feel like I’m not really an adult, that I haven’t done anything with my life.

My grandfather went on to be vice president of an engineering company, help design NASA’s crawler, be part of a diplomatic mission to Russia, be head of the Mechanical Engineering department at a major university, raise five children and nine grandchildren, and ran his own company for years.  Today people are more concerned with making sure they have the latest iPhone and are not taking responsibility for anything.

We owe a lot to the generations that came before us, that defended this country and worked hard to make it what it is today.  Happy Memorial Day to them too, and I thank them for all that they’ve done.


Get Out and Live

As we speak, my husband and I are somewhere deep in the Rocky Mountains.  I’m using his cell phone as a modem – it’s like being on dial-up again – and we’re jamming to Falconer as my husband drives my automatic Subaru Forester like a manual.  (Previously we were unaware that this was possible, so we’ve already learned something this trip.)

Most of the other writers I’ve met tend to be similar to me – introverted, like to spend an evening curled up with a good book, perfectly happy to be left to their own devices.  (Not saying all writers are like this, but it certainly seems to be a decent majority.)

I think some level of introversion is necessary – it takes some time to write a book, and it’s hard to do in a social setting – but I feel like you have to go out and live a little, or you don’t have the experience needed to weave a believable story.  If you’ve never experienced love and loss, it’s much harder to have your characters portray it.  If you’ve never stood at the top of a mountain and wondered at the might of nature, if you’ve never had a conversation with someone without use of a mutual language, if you’ve never jumped off a waterfall into the frigid natural pool below, I think you lose something.

The world is great and wonderful.  As nice as it is at home, it’s worth it to go out and do and accomplish.  Take every opportunity you get.  Anything can help you out later.

As for me, I’m going to spend my weekend in canyons and mountains, wineries and dinosaurs.

For those of you in the States, I hope you have a lovely holiday weekend full of adventure and experiences.

Rabbits and Snakes

So, now that Spring has sprung (or so I assume – it’s hard to tell around the rain) I am getting a better idea of how my yard works.

We have a ridiculous amount of wildlife.  Foxes, coyotes, raccoons, birds (and spiders and centipedes and the largest earthworm I have ever seen, all of which I hope the birds are eating), but what I have the most of are rabbits and snakes.

Every morning, when I go out to get the newspaper, there’s a rabbit in my front yard eating some part of my foliage.  “Fred,” I say, because there are multiple rabbits but I have named them all Fred, “you’d better not be eating my grass seed.”  (And then, if I suspect he is, in fact, eating my grass seed, I will go and deal with it.  Grass seed is a precious commodity.)

I have seen four snakes since Saturday.  (Or two snakes twice.  Anyway.)  So far they have all been garter snakes which is good news, because I never notice them until I’m practically on top of them and they have to slither away for their own safety.

Kit, you ask, what does this have to do with writing?  Well, Squiders, I will tell you.

Rabbits are like story premises.  They’re cute, they’re everywhere, they will invariably eat everything in your garden, but they’re kind of useless.  A story premise looks nice, but it won’t get you very far.

Snakes are like plot.  They’re there, but sometimes you don’t know it until you almost step on them.  Plot burrows through the entire story, intricately twisted around all the other elements.

I could go on all day (characters are like birds – nice to look at but chirp incessantly) but I will spare you.

(There is a baby Fred that lives under the back deck.  He is the most adorable thing ever but I suspect he’s the one eating my spinach.)

When is a Story Truly Dead?

I hear it in interviews, from my writer friends, at book signings – the novel that went into a drawer, never to come out again.  Their first or third or eighth novel that was so bad it didn’t deserve to see the light of day.  The novel that, for all intents and purposes, was dead.

But do stories ever truly die?

I admit I can be somewhat unfocused.  For every finished story I have there lies four more abandoned, forgotten, lost to time and space.  They’re dead, right?  If I haven’t thought about them in a decade, then obviously they’ve kicked the bucket, shuffled off their mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible, right?

Wrong.  So very very wrong.

It seems that any story I put real thought into, where I spent any time at all thinking about plot and/or characters, whether I got two pages or ten chapters, never dies.

Recently my muse blessed me with a plot for a story that I considered so dead I had already stolen two of the main characters for another story.  The scifi series I worked on as a teenager continues to give me scenebunnies.

Perhaps most telling of all, the dragon story I wrote when I was twelve (starring my and my cousins’ extremely thinly veiled counterparts) occasionally rears its head, bringing promises of intrigue and betrayal.

What do you do when old stories won’t die?  Maybe it’s not worth it to kill them, but I feel bad when I’ve got a story idea that’s been sitting there for a decade and I haven’t gotten around to it.

Do you have stories that are really, truly, dead?  What was it that killed them – plot, characters, marauding alpaca? What’s the longest you’ve gone from putting a story away for “good” and when they reared their head again?  (It’s 16 years for me on the dragon story.)

Comfort Books

Sometimes life kicks you in the stomach and then sits on you and pokes you repeatedly in the face.

Those times sucks.

It seems to be human instinct to wallow, at least for a short while, during these times.  To lay on the couch eating ice cream by the pint while watching bad daytime soap operas.  (I imagine back in the 1700s it was probably more fashionable to spend days on the fainting couch and complain of nerve issues.  Before that people, I don’t know, invented poetry or something.)

And we develop coping mechanisms.  Movies, games, people, books that we count on to, if not cheer us up, at least make things feel a little better for a little while.

I have a theory.  To see if it is true or not, what book do you turn to first when you’re feeling down?  How long has this been your go-to book?

My comfort book is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.  I read it first in middle school and have read it so many times since I can quote large swaths of it from memory.  (I also have fond thoughts of LOTR which helped me through a rough spot in high school, but it doesn’t lend itself too well to general comfort reading.)

The Writer’s Dream

I thought about changing the title of the blog to “Where Sky Sharks Fear to Tread” but then I realized that there is nowhere that Sky Sharks fear to tread, and also that they would probably eat me for even implying it.  So.

We’ve all thought it.

If only I didn’t have to go to a day job and stay home and write all the time.

Some of us like our day jobs.  I do, but I would still give it up in a moment for the chance to write.

But then the doubts creep in.  Let’s say I took the plunge, quit my job, and decided I was going to write full-time – would I be able to?  Or would I procrastinate on Twitter for hours and play Pokemon?

I would hope that I’d be able to impose some sort of organizational structure, but I am really easy to distract.  (My husband says I have ADD but I like to think that I am just too awesome to do one thing at a time.)

Still, I dream.

At what point would you make that leap?  When you hit the bestsellers’ list?  When you sell a book?  As soon as you can manage it without your spouse throttling you?

Any ideas on how you’d lay out your day?  How many projects you’d work on at a time?

While we’re dreaming, we might as well plan out the entire thing.

Alpaca vs. Landsquid: The Aftermath

Phew!  I am exhausted, but I am home, and it seems like a good time was had by all with my lovely guest bloggers.  Much thanks and love to KD, Ian, and Anne, for their stimulating pieces on interspecies warfare.

To wrap up our epic battle, I thought I’d let you, Squiders, vote on which creature you think would win in a fight.  (Also, I must figure out how on Earth I’m going to follow that.)

Quick reference: Landsquid, Alpaca, Sky Shark

Alpaca vs. Landsquid: A New Challenger Appears!

Today’s post is brought to you by the effervescent Anne Marie.  Anne writes YA urban fantasy and allows me to foist new music on her on a regular basis without complaint.  She also adores pancakes despite being allergic to them.  You can follow Anne on Twitter at and stalk her at

I must apologize to both KD and Ian, as this whole week was a lead-up to today. Kit and I are nefarious and clever. You see, no one really cares about landsquid or alpacas when there are SKY SHARKS in the air. 
1. How can anyone feel threatened by landsquid when you can ply them with a thimble full of dry scotch? You don’t even have to buy the good stuff. And it’s not like they do topless dances on the bar afterward for the entertainment value alone. They slump over in the booth and talk about how no one likes their shoes. Sky Sharks make their own hooch in cloud distilleries.

2.    Landsquid will help you if you give them Cheese-Its. Sky Sharks don’t need help. They’ll take your Cheese-Its, and maybe your arm. Depends on their mood.

3.    Landsquid giggle like hamsters but worse. So much worse. Add in cheesy crumbs and all that drunken sobbing and you’ve got a whole lot of squidly mess. When drinking, they’re prone to inky discharges. Doesn’t that one word alone put you off landsquid for life? Discharge!

4.    Then there are alpacas. Hooves of Doom vs Jaws of Doom, who do you thinks going to win that one? Like I need to tell you how delicious shredded alpaca meat is. It goes great with everything from rice to Cheese-Its to sides of landsquid eggs.

5.    Alpacas think they’re so high class with their monocles and canes. This is only to hide the terrible smell of their unwashed fur. This is what happens when you take a filthy pack animal and put a silver spoon in its mouth. In the morning, they’ll still be filthy and you’ll be wondering what happened to your spoon.

6.    Alpacas think they have the element of disguise. You only need a disguise when you’re hiding something. Sky Sharks need no such pretense. They rule the *expletive deleted* sky. (See “Snakes On a Plane” for clues to that one.) They’ll sneak up on you before you even know what’s happening and you’ll be worse than Jonah.

7.    Sky Sharks are the most graceful of creatures. They combine aquatic fluidity of motion with lightness of air. In the same movement, they can dive from great heights and level out faster and more delicate than a jet engine. They have row after row of razor sharp teeth to make any fight a little pointless. You don’t want to mess with a Sky Shark. Fighting a Sky Shark with any weapon is like going into a nuke war with a toothpick. They will pwn you. Then they will tell their friends about it.

8.    No one who has ever seen a Sky Shark has lived to tell the tale. No really, do you know anyone? They’d knock at your door and say, “Pizza delivery.” You’d ask, “Who’s there?” Sky Shark, “Candy-gram.” And then you’re dead! Not only are you dead, but there isn’t a body to collect evidence.

9.    This hasn’t, however, touched on the scariest fact involving Sky Sharks. This thing is so scary that only the highest echelon of the Australian government has knowledge. Well, and me … and now you too. The only reason I know is because I am a mad hacker. Okay, everyone, brace yourselves. The secondary flag of the country of Australia has nothing to do with Union Jacks or six stars on a blue background. The secondary flag is, in fact, a Sky Shark riding a Giant Spider. Hide your kids! Hide your wife!

10.  So’s your face.
It’s a dangerous place out there, kids. Keep your eyes on the skies. And if you do see a Sky Shark, I don’t really have any advice for you. Guess I’ll see you on the other side, brother.

Alpaca vs. Landsquid: The Elusive Alpaca

Today’s post is brought to you by the mildly insane Ian Dudley.  Ian writes dark comedic science fiction (mostly) and is presumed to be armed and dangerous.  You should never look him directly in the eye, as he sees that as a sign of aggression.  He has taken to Team Alpaca rather more dearly than I had suspected he would.  You can follow Ian on Twitter at or read his mad ramblings at

“And I for one welcome our new alpaca overlords.”

Kit recently begged me to write a piece about alpacas for her blog, and in particular their effectiveness as a landsquid deterrent.  Kit was right to come crawling to me, for in addition to being widely recognized as a premiere Beethoven scholar, my name is also whispered with reverence within the alpaca scientific research community.  This community is much larger than you think – chances are you unwittingly know at least two of us.  We are legion.

I will start by saying this: the alpaca (and, if painstakingly trained, its bastard second cousin twice removed, the llama) is the ultimate landsquid deterrent.  You put an alpaca up against a landsquid, and you’re having calamari for dinner.  Heck, put an alpaca up against a dozen of the formerly-aquatic-now-terrestrial scourge, and the alpaca STILL wins.  Why?

Because I believe knowledge is power, I will share the answer with you.  Normally I’d direct you to my pay site ( to see this information, but because it always pains me to see an intelligent woman like Kit grovel, I will tell you here, on her blog, for free.

The alpaca concedes the fight.

Yes, you read that correctly.  The alpaca concedes the fight.

It then waits for the triumphant landsquid to turn its back, and at this moment, and only this moment, the alpaca strikes.

Some call this behavior cowardly.  I call it brilliant.  The wily alpaca defeats many a foe, both superior and inferior, through the well-honed application of backstabbing (literally – alpacas are famous for their knife play).

Of course, it hardly needs saying that the landsquid falls into the latter, inferior opponent category.  And not just because it is a spineless invertebrate (and no, that is NOT redundant).  Landsquid also lack blunt-trauma-inducing hooves (sneak up on enough alpacas like I have and you’ll learn first hand – those hooves, swiftly presented, hurt), and are incapable of growing beards (you can’t look intimidating without a goatee).

More specifically in the case of a match-up with an alpaca, their suckers won’t attach to fur-covered skin.  I’ve watched many an alpaca / landsquid cage match, and this sucker problem invariably proves a fatal flaw for the landsquid.  It also proves expensive for the fool who bets against the alpaca.

But the biggest disadvantage the landsquid has is a debilitating lack of guile.  This not only diminishes the effectiveness of the landsquid’s melee moves, but also blinds it to the possibility it is being scammed.

I’ve seen an alpaca lull a pack of wolves into a false sense of security by pretending to be a pygmy llama – less terrifying than an alpaca, but not so terrifying that the wolves turned tail and run.  When the rest of the alpaca’s herd arrived on the scene, there was a brief huddle, and then they all began to “baa” like sheep.  The hungry wolves, anticipating an easy meal, were very surprised when those ‘sheep’ suddenly turned on them, mashing them with their hooves and then tearing them limb from limb with those famous oversize alpaca teeth.

I’ve also witnessed alpacas masquerading as a poodle, a pony, and a hairless cat (I have no idea how that one shaved itself), all to confuse and ultimately disadvantage the opponents they faced.  This is an ingenious evolutionary development, and I fear Humankind should pay more attention to the species lest we fall victim to the same subterfuge. We’ve already missed one opportunity.

When William Goldman translated S. Morgenstern’s The Princess Bride, he did more than edit out the ‘boring’ parts.  He changed one of the antagonists, and in so doing, removed a vital warning Morgenstern was stealthily trying to pass down to future generations.  In the original version, there was no Sicilian (this was an abominable invention of Goldman, who I suspect serves the alpaca cause).  Morgenstern’s book contained the Alpacan, who famously taunts Westley with the line:

“Never go up against an alpaca when death is on the line!”

We would all do well to remember that.

Alpaca vs. Landsquid: The Noble Landsquid

Today’s entry is brought to you by KD Sarge.  KD writes science fiction and fantasy. She is the author of Knight Errant and His Faithful Squire (coming in August), both from Turtleduck Press. Neither contains landsquid, but she does have two-thirds of a fantasy trilogy that includes a few. Follow KD on Twitter at or lurk on her site at

In Defense of Landsquid

When the lovely Kit Campbell asked me to do a guest post in defense of landsquid during Landsquid Versus Alpaca week, I jumped on the chance. Once I’d squished that chance flat, though, I wondered. Landsquid versus alpaca? Like in a fight? That’s easy.

Too easy.

Anyone knows that in a battle to the death, the landsquid is going to win every time. Yes, the alpaca has a weight advantage and that killer instinct, but the landsquid has tentacles. As anyone who has faced the Kraken can tell you (probably through a seance), it’s the tentacles that get you. Once the landsquid has latched onto the soft underbelly of the unwary alpaca…

But that is a gory scene, and one easily avoided by never letting a landsquid scent the smug self-satisfaction of your average alpaca. So rather than detail such a doomed match, I thought I’d expand on the awesomeness that is the common landsquid.

Did you know there is another area, besides cage-fighter and pet, where the landsquid surpasses all other animals? Indeed! It’s travel. Certainly the common landsquid cannot carry the weight an alpaca can, but consider its many advantages:

1) It will never step on your foot. It may wriggle across, but the landsquid’s mass is spread out, and this does not hurt nearly as much as the toe-smashing you’ll get from any alpaca.

2) Less food to carry. Sure, an alpaca can graze, but what if there’s nothing for it to eat? Lie down by a hungry alpaca and you’ll wake up wearing nothing but your boots and garters. The landsquid, on the other hand, can subsist on a diet of nothing but dry scotch and small rocks.

3) The landsquid, as mentioned, spreads weight across its many legs, allowing for safer travel on steep terrain. Ever had an alpaca trip over its own feet and pitch you into a near-bottomless canyon? That won’t happen with the landsquid. A means of transit more reliable than tentacles may not exist.

4) Landsquid are great climbers. That rare and valuable cliff-flower growing fifty feet above your head? Gain your landsquid’s cooperation (see: dry scotch) and that flower is yours. (Note: the beasts are not useful in mining. Not unless you like cave-ins, anyway. Also, do not use in lieu of a canary. You will be dead long before the landsquid begins twirling its tentacles and whistling showtunes.)

5) Alpacas spit.

6) Most livestock are banned from taverns, but landsquid are welcome. The reason? Before they are weaned, landsquid learn that washing dishes = getting dry scotch. What other beastly companion can not only earn its own refreshment, but possibly yours as well?

7) In dire straits, you can wear a furry landsquid with no damage to yourself or the squid. Try doing that with an alpaca. (Note: apply dry scotch before attempting.) Sure, you can shave an alpaca for a warm coat, but do that in the high country and that beast will be toes-up by dawn.

8.) Landsquid can go anywhere. Take an alpaca in the desert and it will melt, take it on a ship-journey and it will spend the trip hanging that long neck over the side. Landsquid love playing in the rigging of a sailing vessel. They adore desert sand (If your landsquid vanishes, do not fall for the ant-lion* trick. Simple bring out your scotch bottle, shake it, and move on. The squid will follow and you won’t have painful sucker-marks to tend.) They swim. They swing through jungles as handily as any ape.

9) Landsquid are a dude- (or chick-, if such be your preference) magnet. I’m telling you. Those big, staring eyes, the soft, pettable fur, the restless tentacles…the hotties can’t keep their hands off. Play your cards–and your squid-earned booze–right, and you won’t sleep cold a night of your journey. If the locals don’t meet your exacting standards, you always have a landsquid to snuggle! (Further note: warmth is the only reason to take a landsquid to your bed. Versatile they may be, and easily plied with liquor, but they do have limits.)

Now you know. Leave the alpaca to the hipster, the flashy wanderer with his trendy sandals and multi-functional tent. The well-seasoned traveler chooses landsquid.