Archive for the ‘Cool Stuff’Category

The Cat with No Friends

So, this is apparently one of my first big writing pieces.  I couldn’t have been older than 7 when I wrote this.



10 2013

Ph.D. Madness, RPGs, and Mass Chaos!


This title sounds like a call-out for some monster truck commercial.  MASS CHAOS!

As I am nearing the beginning of a long journey into doctorate academics, I’m also trying to narrow my research focus. Right now, I’m interested in video games, yes, but specifically MMORPGs (like WoW, Everquest, Rift, etc.). I want to look at the narratives of these games.

My theory is that gamers care less and less about the storylines and are more goal-oriented. I hope to try and procure some time on the CSU WoW server (they have their own World of Warcraft server for research).  Or, perhaps find another way to set up the following research. I four conditions in mind.

  1. Low narrative quests.
  2. High narrative quests. (Same quest with more “storyline”)
  3. Low narrative quests WITH CURSE addons (CURSE will show players where to go to complete quests, taking all the guesswork out of where and what).
  4. High narrative quests WITH CURSE addons.


I want to see how long people are reading (and where that fits into an average). Are they clicking through the quest text quickly? Are they taking a long time to read it?  Maybe a short quiz at the end (or open-ended question) that asks them what they remember about the narrative.

I have a feeling that when given the “cheat” addons, people will be less interested in narrative and will simply go for the end result.

First step? Finding studies who have either done this already, or, have done something similar.

I can also look at transcripts to content analyze for things like gender, age, education–to see if that plays any part in how closely gamers look at narrative. Maybe women pay more attention to it. Maybe men do. Maybe younger people do.

Some great shift happened in MMORPGs where it became less about narrative and more about goals, raiding, flagging, and working through a progression. Back in the old Everquest days, there was still attention to quest lore and material. I remember reading quests and being interested in the storylines. Sometime around Planes of Power (and after) I read the lore material less and less.


What is also cool about all of this is that I think RPGs in general (tabletop games like D&D) have some answers. I consider the RPG “heyday” to be AD&D time, when they were cranking out boxed sets with new worlds and new stories: Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Birthright, etc. Instead of revamping rules and stat-keeping, they were simply giving players new worlds to play in. Along with that came new mysteries and new things to explore. The cool part? Most of those boxed sets had extremely successful novels that accompanied the set. Dark Sun, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance. There was narrative everywhere.

Then, RPGs changed, too. D&D came out with 3.0, and 3.5 and 4.0 and on and on. RPGs went D20 and tried to standardized game mechanics. They seemed to become so focused on getting the perfect game system that people stopped caring about the storylines and narratives.

AD&D (and 2nd edition) to some extent wasn’t perfect, but most people came up with homemade fixes that worked well enough for their campaigns.

Perhaps mechanics took front seat to narrative enjoyment.  I don’t know, but I aim to find out.


08 2013

A Constant Stream of Abrupt Movements

I met Jonathan in the MFA program at CSU.  From his very first story, I knew he had it.   Raw talent mixed with sublime technique.  Most of us only get one of those and have to work our butts off for the other.

Me?  Raw talent. Intuition.  Voice.

The technique is still a work in progress, but coming along.

A Constant Stream of Abrupt Movements is a story by Jonathan that really stuck with me after I read it.  You can find it [HERE] at Passages North.  In the piece, the narrator reflects on his mother running off when he was a boy.  This spoke to the child in me, a reminder of a time when my own father ran out.  The only difference was that my father always came back home–at least in the beginning.

I was seven or eight and we’d just gotten our television set hooked up to HBO.  New, exciting!  Back then, they ran the same movie over and over again at night.  It went from 6pm until the wee hours of the morning.

“I’m going to the grocery store,” my dad would say on his way out the door.

I remember watching Coal Miner’s Daughter 3 times in a row before he came back home one night.  Being so young, I didn’t understand some of the more adult scenes, but I liked hearing Sissy Spacek sing.  I’d get out my cassette tape recorder and sing, “Mamaaaas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowbooyyyysss,” then play it back. The more twang I used, the better I sounded.

990919 Millennium - Spacek

I watched a lot of movies on HBO, and my dad went to the store a lot.  The thing is, he wouldn’t come back home with any food.  He’d stumble in, slur a goodnight and pass out on the couch.

It’s these small, lonely moments that stick with us.  I can’t hear Loretta Lynn without thinking about those nights.

Perhaps that’s why I write, to capture those memories in a jar like lightning bugs and save them for a scene that needs a little bit of that pit in the bottom of my stomach that wouldn’t stop churning as I watched a woman sitting on her front porch strumming a guitar.  Writers are cannibals.  We scavenge scenes from discarded stories, we pull our inspiration from a conversation overheard at Dennys (or the waiting room at the breast imagining center).  And we know when to flip through the pages of our past and find the string that connects us to our characters.

I think we can surprise ourselves when we realize how much we’ve felt across a lifetime.  What’s buried there now, waiting to be found?


07 2013

Fiend: A Novel


Fellow MFA alum, Peter Stenson, has a zombie novel on its way into bookstores. FIEND will hit the market on July 9th and is already getting some amazing buzz.  (From Amazon)

“Certain to invite comparisons to Hubert Selby and Cormac McCarthy…one scalding pressure cooker of a novel, and I advise you to buckle up and hold on tight because you’re in for one hell of a ride.  –Donald Ray Pollock, author of The Devil All the Time and Knockemstiff 

“This is the real meat. The last zombie novel you’ll ever need.”—Warren Ellis, New York Times bestselling author of Gun Machine and Twisted Little Vein

“Peter Stenson has done the near impossible in delivering a savage fire-storm of a page-turner while also enabling a hard and earnest look at addiction and love.  I tore through Fiend with the crazed fervor of an addict, but like all great stories these characters lingered in my thoughts long after I turned the last beautiful and brutal page.”—Alan Heathcock, National Magazine Award-winning author of Volt

“Peter Stenson is the bastard child of Cormac McCarthy and George Romero. In Fiend, he takes the reader on a dark joyride replete with junkies, zombies, and buckets of gore. Here is a novel that will jack your pulse and break your heart all at once.”—Steve Almond, New York Times bestselling author of Candyfreak and Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life

Having written with Peter, I know that I’m in for one hell of a ride.  He writing grabs on and doesn’t let go.  This was evident during our time together in the writing workshop.  Cannot wait to dig in.


06 2013

Phoenix Comic Con – 2013



At the end of May this year, I attended the Phoenix Comic Con.  The biggest draw for me?  The 20th Anniversary of Babylon 5.  In my humble writer’s opinion, this is one of the best science fiction stories (television, movies, books) of all time.  Sure, there are flaws, but overall?  Stunning series with characters both sly and Shakespearean.

I met some of the cast members and obtained a fair share of autographs.  (Click image below to see full-size version of the names I wrangled).


All were friendly and warm.  A few were downright joyful, namely Claudia Christian and Peter Jurasik.  Claudia was the first autograph I received and she refused to charge me for it.  Most of these events require $20-$50 per autograph and while I get that this is the way that some actors make money at these conventions, smallfolk (and not-s0-rich-folk) like me, cannot always afford to dole out hundreds of dollars.

She was very mindful, very present, smiled and joked.  I purchased her book and read that on the plane back home.  Great, fun read.  This is a woman who has lived to the hilt and has experienced the good and bad that comes along with that.  I hope it’s really just the first stage of her career.  Her screenplay, “The White Buffalo,” sounds fascinating.  Hollywood needs to step up.

Peter Jurasik was a blast.  We probably spoke to him for a good 15 minutes (he and Stephen Furst).

Here is a pic taken of my husband (left), Stephen, Peter, and myself.


I put it in black and white because the florescent lights inside the convention center were truly horrific.  My blonde hair looked canary yellow and Peter and Stephen looked like they were both wearing orange makeup (they weren’t, I assure you!).  Not pretty.


Peter’s run as Ambassador Londo Mollari in the series is one of the greatest of sci-fi series performances.  What’s even more grand is that Jurasik seemed to embrace this role, had fun with it, and loved talking about it.  He even spoke to us in Londo’s dialect just for fun.  He also told us that it’s the fans who make this whole experience worthwhile.  He seemed so sincere and gracious.  He and Stephen both.

JMS was very attentive when I approached him.  He’s one of those writers that you look in the eye and see things working, see that sparkle.  Smart, clever, and a little mischevous.  That’s what I got from my meeting with B5’s creator.

Pat Tallman was a hoot.  Very sparkly and shiny.  Apparently, she also doesn’t age because she looked so healthy and vibrant.  Funny.  Liked to joke around a lot.


We also talked to Jerry Doyle (Garibaldi in the series).  Very genial guy, very easy to talk to.  He made some great jokes about politics, talked about his radio show and such.


Walter Koenig (Chekhov from Star Trek and Bester from B5) was soft-spoken and friendly.  Mira Furlan (Delenn, and Danielle Rousseau from LOST) was very kind.  She said that she is into science fiction now and was reading a lot of dystopian/apocalyptic works.  Here she’s telling my husband about why she likes science fiction so much.



Again, had to gray-scale it because the lighting was awful!

Overall, a great convention.  I read somewhere that over 50,000 people attended. I think that’s a record-breaker for Phoenix.  Loved the city.  Loved the people and the celebs.

We chatted with Sam Witwer (Being Human, Clone Wars, Battlestar Galactica) and he was probably the most down-to-earth of all the celebs we met.  Smiled, had fun with his fans, talked to us for a while.



In terms of dining, I highly recommend Barrio Cafe (as known from Dives, Drive-Ins and Diners on the Food Network).  I’ve never had better Mexican cuisine.


Fantastic guacamole.


Even more fantastic tequila bar. While I’m not a drinker, my husband is.  Everything from $5 a shot to $400.



The outside had some breathtaking graffiti art as well.  You need to click the images below to see the larger versions. They’re stunning.











Definitely heading back to Phoenix next year!






06 2013

Writers of the Future Press Release

Here’s the press release (finalists) for the Writers of the Future.  Quarter 2 (volume 30).

Congrats to all of the other finalists!  Good luck to all.  May the literary gods smile upon you.  I kind of picture that looking like this:


Yes, I have a cat thing.


06 2013

Go Go Good Team!





Or am I?


Great news!  I can finally share it.  I am a finalist in the Writers of the Future contest for Quarter 2 (volume 30).  That means top 8 out of thousands of entries.  They will choose the winner (and 2nd/3rd place) in three weeks.

Now, I went into this thinking, “Someone cool might read my work,” and as a geek genre writer, that (in and of itself) is better than waking up on Christmas morning with a hot pink Huffy bicycle under the tree.  The one with glitter-streamers and a mini license place that read “Hot Stuff.”

Don’t razz me.  This was the 70’s.

Naturally, when I received a call from Joni at Writers of the Future, I thought, “Oh (bleep) there’s something wrong with my story.  It got lost.  They forgot to have the judges read it.  A band of raccoons hopped-up on bath salts stormed WOTF headquarters and tore up the servers, then they went house-to-house looking for judges, destroying all evidence of my story. Epic FAIL!”

But then, she gave me the news.  I felt my heart grow three sizes, then it started beating really loud and my hands shook and I lost my breath and then, and then, and then . . . .

Breeeeatheeee . . . 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . .

Ellipses abuse!

Who knows if I’ll make the top three, but it’s exciting to know I have chance.

Funny how these things come when you need them the most.  I was just sitting down the other day to write a scene that is kicking my ass and I thought, “Self, this sucks.  Writing is hard.  How do I spell T-H-E?  What is the capital of Missouri?  Why am I watching Dance Moms?”

Hard stuff.

Now?  I feel like what I’ve been doing for the last few years just might be worth something.

Anyway, I’m here in the moment.  Will update when I get it.  Until then, this is me:



06 2013

How Would Louis L’Amour Get Me Next to That Girl?

I honestly don’t know, but I do know that you should read The Walking Drum.  Forget Louis’ westerns. This book rocks.  And it’s a fast read.  Lightning fast.  I learned a thing or two from Louis about pacing. Precise. Efficient. Just what the doctor ordered.



Amazon’s description:

Here is an historic adventure of extraordinary power waiting to sweep you away to exotic lands as one of the most popular writers of our time conquers new storytelling worlds. Louis L’Amour has been best known for his ability to capture the spirit and drama of the authentic American West. Now he guides his readers to an even more distant frontier — the enthralling lands of the 12th century.

At the center of The Walking Drum is Kerbouchard, one of L’Amour’s greatest heroes. Warrior, lover, scholar, Kerbouchard is a daring seeker of knowledge and fortune bound on a journey of enormous challenge, danger and revenge. Across the Europe, the Russian steppes and through the Byzantine wonder of Constantinople, gateway to Asia, Kerbouchard is thrust into the heart of the treacheries, passions, violence and dazzling wonders of a magnificent time. From castle to slave gallery, from sword-racked battlefields to a princess’s secret chamber, and ultimately, to the impregnable fortress of the Valley of Assassins, The Walking Drum is a powerful adventure of an ancient world you will find every bit as riveting as Louis L’Amour’s stories of the American West.


01 2013

All Work and No Play….

God, I’ve been a bad blogger, but, this also means that I have been quite the prolific writer over the last few months.  Not just crap, but some decent stuff.  I’m on another draft with a new beginning (changed the first 1/3 of the book).

The characters are better.  The story is better.  Last time the writing group saw it, they said, “This is it.  This is THE book.”  Good news.  What also rocks is that the changes I have made will send some exciting ripples into the sequels (and stories beyond all set in the world of Feyn).

I’m nearly finished with my M.Ed. in adult education and am considering applying to a Ph.D. program for next year.  I have funding that is good through 2015 and that can carry over into my Ph.D. program, provided I’m accepted.  It will mean a lot more work, less time to write, but where there is a will . . .

. . . there is a creepy baby picture.

In health news, I had sinus surgery.  Recovery was hardcore with lots of percocet.  I also developed early onset of cataracts and will be having lens transplants soon.  It means two things (in order of importance):

  1. I will get to wear a cool eye patch.
  2. I might not need glasses anymore.


As far as Television goes . . .

  • The Walking Dead rocks this season.
  • Once Upon a Time still sucks and I still watch it, thus I suck.  (Fallacy!)
  • The Winchester boys always satisfy on Supernatural.
  • Being Human season 2 was not as bad as the internet led me to believe.
  • Homeland is awesome, and creepy, and scary and uncomfortable.
  • Fringe was my great find last year.  I am officially a Fringe-o-phile.  Last season is on air now.  (Sniff)
  • Arrow is pretty damn cool.
  • Person of Interest is good.
  • Game of Thrones!!111!!!



Movies . . .

  • Loved the Hobbit.  Interesting additions.  Cannot wait to see Smaug next year.
  • Looper was badass.
  • Spiderman reboot was actually good.  Really good.  I liked it better than the Raimi versions.
  • The Avengers.  Yes.  Just yes.


I have this new blog/website.  I’m struggling to figure out the theme.  It’s donking up my media when I try to add pictures (see baby up top) to my blog posts.  This forces me to whip out the html which is not okay.

Writing group tomorrow.  I gave them 3 chapters. Two of them have sex scenes.  I think I’m just a big, dirty, rotten perv.




12 2012

“The Girls” is Out!

The Berkeley Fiction Review #32 is finally out.  You’ll find one of my short stories inside, “The Girls.”  Quite timely if I don’t say so myself as the story is about a  man who grows marijuana for his cancer-stricken mother.

No way to order it online, sadly, it’s all check-and-envelope.

Or, if you live in California, you can buy it where they sell the BFR.

Update: Circulation seems to have been dwindling a bit over the years.  Listed as 2500, but #32 seemed to have some snafus with distribution.  Still, it’s my highest circulation yet.

Archived from: 11/7/2012


12 2012