Month: February 2014

The Man Who Ate Gene Wolfe: A Story


When I was a boy I lived in England and considered it the most ordinary place in the world.  It was America that I was fascinated with, if you can imagine that.  I thought that you could find anything in America.  Did you know that the Jolly Green Giant lives in America?  Most of you do not, because you are used to that kind of thing.  Everywhere you go in America, there is something wonderful to see.  Here you have creatures like the Blue Demon Horse, which fell on its creator and killed him.  In England such a thing never would have happened, because nobody would have thought to build a Blue Demon Horse in the first place, and it would have been destroyed if it had killed the hand that made it.  The English take our beliefs very seriously, in a way you Americans do not, and we are the poorer for it.

Being bored and growing up in England as I did, I retreated into my imagination, and because I did not grow up with video games or the Internet, I instead turned to reading books and comic books in my spare time.  Later on, I was also very interested in music, but that is another story.

I read many authors, and, when I found them especially good, I would read everything of theirs that I could, from the first words they had written until their last.  I would beg Mother for pocket money to buy books and comic books, which were a great deal cheaper then.  Sometimes I wonder–but, again, that is a different story.

I could tell you the names of dozens of authors that I read from beginning to end, but today I wish to speak of one particular one.  I think you know of whom I speak.

The first book of his that I read was a book with which I quickly became obsessed.  It is unnecessary to name the book; the fact that you are here, today, tells me that you, too, have had a similar experience, with one book or another of his.  Perhaps it was not even the first book of his you read; his are not books to simply read and  set aside, if you are to discover any particular pleasure in them.   All of us know of someone who had read one of his books through once and taken nothing more from it than a confusion of images, a kind of shimmering, incomprehensible dream.

But to read one of his books a second time–then you have begun to enter into the spirit of the thing.  One of his great gifts has been to show us that everything has meaning.  Perhaps you agree with him on the source and implications of that meaning; perhaps you do not.   Nevertheless, we had never been before given such a gift by a writer–unless it was in Chesterton or Borges, or some obscure French writer of whom no one has heard except the French and other, even more obscure writers.  Everything has meaning.   Think of it.   When someone is born, they are born already imbued with significance; every death has a purpose.   Meaning is not the same thing as destiny; otherwise, there would be only one story, and anyone who has ever written knows that all stories could have just as easily gone in a different direction.

God sees–or, rather, reads–the fall of every sparrow, as well as every sparrow that never fell.   Perhaps Heaven is merely the best of all worlds, and the reason for every suffering we experience is –but that, too, is a different story.

At any rate, although everything has meaning, it does not necessarily follow that any given event only has one meaning.  An event may have many meanings:  it may, for example, juxtapose Through the Looking-Glass and the idea of a technological crutch; it may combine Greek mythology along with South American.  And, while some would argue because of the transient nature of what we read into one of his stories–some of the earlier interpretations now seem dated indeed–I would say that the meaning itself is fixed, and it was never intended for our vision, but the vision of God.

What that word means, I cannot pretend to know.  But I learned to believe in it while reading that first book of his, not for the first time, nor even the tenth, but upon further study, in which I dissected the story, character by character, scene by scene, reference by reference.  The more deeply, the more fully I read, the more I realized that the meanings that I has so assiduously gleaned from his stories before were only flimsy veils before the true meaning of his story.

Did I understand the true meaning of his story–then, or ever?  I did not.  But I glimpsed it.

I have heard his stories called “irreducible,” the implication being that the meaning of the story is the story itself; that any map drawn of one of his stories must necessarily be as long as, if not longer than, the story itself; that, in order to characterize his stories with any accuracy, one must not comment upon them at all.

This is not true.

I mentioned earlier that I would read certain authors from beginning to end, from first word to last.  He has been one of them, and has perhaps been the greatest influence on my work, or at least an increasingly important influence on my work.  I still cannot say that I can understand his stories, but I feel that I can characterize them.

In consuming his words thoroughly and repeatedly, as I have, I feel that I have consumed the man himself.  Not literally, of course.  But I have, within myself, created a kind of icon of him, an eidolon.  A kind of small god, of the genus mentoris, an irreducible belief in the man himself.  My soul, despite not being any larger than it is, contains his, as well as the souls of other writers and mentors I have known.   If I were a topologist it would be an interesting conundrum–how something only so large can contain something, in toto, larger than itself, but, as I am a writer, I am used to containing worlds within my imagination; I am used to the map being as large as the territory, if not larger; I am used to working with infinities on a regular basis.

And so it is with confidence that I can say that his stories are as accurately read by the first-time reader as by the one who reads them for the thousandth:  a kind of shimmering, incomprehensible dream; that is, a direct experience of Mystery itself, which contains itself, and yet is larger than itself.  The more we discover his stories, the more we are lost; the more we consume of him, the more we are consumed.

And that is why I came to America, in the end.  Because of the monsters I expected, and have not failed, to find.

Tumi: Ritual Dagger Shovels

This was just too weird not to share.


Incan ritual dagger-shovel, known as a Tumi, that was used to a) pry open/crack open ribs, b) shovel out innards.  Obviously, the one pictured here (from Wikipedia) is a recreation (P E R U) but it’s still disturbing.

The godlings on top of the tumi are named after the hero Tumi, aka Ñaylamp, who was sired by the mythic bird creature Ñaylamp and sprouted wings and turned into a bird.  This is why if you look closely, you can see the eyes on the tumi are shaped like birds.  The hands always seem to be folded in front, too.   I didn’t see anything saying why, but to me it looks like the guy’s going, “Please, sir, can I have some more?”

I need to come up with a story for this.  Tumi, son of Tumi, whose eyes were made of birds and who, upon his death, became Tumi again.  We worship him now by cutting out the tumis of sacrifices with this sacred shovel, whose bird-eyes aske pitifully for more, more, more…

I should probably do more research, though.

Incidentally, if you were possessed by demons or otherwise crazy, they might just take the  sacrifice shovel and trepanne your brain with it, too.


Fiction: Things You Must Not Think When Visiting Mme. Bientot


Welcome to the Containment Facility of The Criminal Currently Known as Mme. Bientot

  • No pictures, film, or sketches of any kind.  No Exceptions.
  • No metal, glass, or other shiny objects, including pens and eyeglasses.
  • Do not think of your name, any nicknames or aliases; do not think of the names of your parents, children, or other loved ones; do not think of their faces.
  • Do not think of your worst fear, or, in fact, any other fear; Mme. Bientot will subtly guide you in manner that increases your fear into madness and/or hysteria.
  • Do not think about Mme. Bientot’s face; she has been known to use mirrors, windows, the reflections from diamond earrings, and the multifaceted eyes of insects in order to escape.  We believe she may develop the ability to escape via photographs, film, and nightmares soon.
  • You may consider Mme. Bientot’s name, as it is a false one which changes weekly.
  • In articles, you may refer to her as “the criminal currently known as Mme. Bientot” or the italicized female pronoun she or her.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, refer to Mme. Bientot as a “monster” or “freak,” as such claims only give her power in a literal and radioactive fashion.
  • If she hisses, you must immediately look at the floor and back slowly out of the room.  While it may seem as though Mme. Bientot is completely and entirely restrained with no possibility of escape, this is not, and shall never be, the case.
  • Ignore the screams.
  • All persons who pass this sign are required to take a battery of blood and urine tests, including a pregnancy test, upon leaving.   No Exceptions.
  • Any person who is, or suspects they may be, pregnant may not enter.  All fetuses discovered upon leaving the area will be aborted, and the bodies (including the host’s) destroyed.
  • Partial fetuses will also be destroyed.
  • Any person claiming Mme. Bientot is unjustly imprisoned will be destroyed.
  • Nonreflective goggles (provided in the bin below) are strongly recommended, due to the sudden urge to impale pens, pencils, and even crayons in the eyes.
  • It should go without saying that any person feeling urges toward self-harm are strongly recommended to look at the floor and back slowly out of the room; unfortunately, we lose at least one person per month to suicide.  Know the Warning Signs.
  • You must not think upon the following subjects:  women, sex, childbirth, oral sex, homosexual relations (whether involving males or females), current political events especially of a violent or rebellious nature, people of races other than your own (as the case may be), people of genders other than your own, tranvestites, people of different classes other than your own (especially of lower classes), vampires, ghosts, hauntings, demons, angels, rapists, centaurs, psychologists, anal sex, repression, loneliness, depression, suicide, amusing photos of kittens who cannot spell correctly, religion, anti-religion, mermaids, harpies, mythological figures, bodily fluids (e.g., semen, feminine bodily secretions, mucous, vomit), internal organs, external organs (especially those related to reproduction and nutrition/excretion), the importance of laughing at jokes in which a man is horrifically turned into a female, the importance of laughing at jokes in which a white person is turned into a person of another race, the importance of laughing at jokes in which a heterosexual male is forced or tricked into behaving in a feminine or homosexual manner, the importance of sexual dominance, the importance of social dominance in matters religion and race, the importance of molding children to behave in accordance with current moral aspirations regardless of the evil this brings, the importance of repudiating new and/or unusual experiences as being “gay,” the importance of repudiating the existance of moral gray areas, the importance of mocking persons more concerned with ethics than morals, the importance of knowing one’s place in a heirarchy without ever naming this place “slavery,” the importance of possessing the appearance of strength and dominance while simultaneously yielding to one’s superiors, the belief in superiors, the belief in separate but equal treatment or “viva la difference,” the belief that the assignment of specializations (e.g., “jobs”) is the pinnacle of human development, the belief that the world is evil and shall soon be destroyed and replaced with a better world, a kinder world, a cleaner world, or no world at all; the belief that the world is good enough; any belief at all.  Our most successful visitors are often Buddhists, neuro-atypicals, or “shopoholic” coupon clippers/bargain shoppers.
  • While Mme. Bientot’s containment unit may appear empty, it is not.
  • While Mme. Bientot’s containment unit may appear occupied, that does not mean that she has not escaped.
  • While Mme. Bientot’s containment unit may appear to contain yourself or some variation of yourself (e.g., older, younger, of a different race, class, or gender), you must not think that you are in any way inside the containment unit yourself.  In some ways, this is the most important thought not to think of all.

 Thank you, and enjoy your visit.


Tentative Outline: Chez Moi

Title?  Tentative.

1.  Intro

  • Purpose:  Spend less money, spend less time cooking when you don’t want to, spend more time with the people you love.
  • Sweet spot:  finding the restaurants where you go when you don’t feel like cooking but don’t have a special reason to go out to eat.
  • Past vs. present:  We used to spend more time cooking rather than eating out, and more time eating together…but this time we’re not going to make ourselves miserable doing it.
  • Determining success:  nobody’s in tears and we spent less time/money than we would have at a restaurant.

2.  Determining your perfect fallback recipes

  • A flowchart to help you find out your top Chez Moi recipes for main dishes, side dishes, and desserts:  likability, adaptability, cost, time, and PITA factor
  • Creating a pantry list
  • Creating a menu for apathy nights: the regular menu
  • Advanced: Should you buy equipment?
  • Advanced:  Eating more healthfully

3.  Cooking like you just don’t care

  • Cooking on autopilot (crockpots, rice cookers, minimizing prep time)
  • Surplus cooking:  once a month vs. the double batch
  • Food prep and storage
  • Magically all better sauces
  • Eating:  picking your base rules for behavior (yours and your family’s) and getting through a crappy night
  • Advanced:  Kitchen slavery–how to make your family do the work for you
  • Advanced:  Throw it in the freezer–what raw materials to toss, and what to save for a day with ambition
  • Advanced:  What not to keep in the house to make at the apathy level

4.  Recipes (Apathy-level suggestions; the regular menu)

  • Suggested pantry list
  • Make it or buy it?  Cost vs. hassle
  • Pull it out of the fridge/cupboard (five minute or less with fridge and microwave)
  • Breakfast
  • Crock pot
  • Rice cooker
  • Freezable delights
  • Guilty pleasures:  questionable food proudly eaten solo
  • Baking (yes, baking–for those days when you’re stuck with an unprepared birthday or a @#$%ing bake sale)
  • Seasonal (grilling!)
  • Advanced:  Lunch at work

5.  Developing Chez Moi beyond the apathy level

  • Cooking and eating for fun, not fuel
  • Designing a cooking/eating space on a piecemeal budget
  • Identifying personal flavor profiles
  • Adding favorite meals and the special of the day
  • Cooking ahead
  • Experimenting
  • Cooking as a team
  • When people come over: what to find out first, what to make, how to adapt on the fly, how to force them to do your will (i.e., clean up the kitchen)
  • Deliberately inviting people to come over and trying to impress them (what were you thinking?!?)
  • Cooking parties

6.  Advanced recipes:  The Specials

  • Most common takeout and delivery
  • It looks like more work than it really is
  • Fancy restaurant foodie food
  • Ethnic crack
  • Cooking as therapy:  broth, bread, red sauce, pasta, and more.
  • Cooking party suggested menus

7.  Recipe index (by cooking time)

Marketing Brain

Right, this is a ramble.  I was going to put it up on Facebook instead, but…lemme get to that.

I wish I’d been posting about this kind of stuff more regularly, because now I have like this huge stack of thoughts, and it feels like to have the last thought make sense, I have to explain all the rest of the thoughts.  Maybe that isn’t the case.  At any rate, I’m going to justify this loose exploratory ramble by noting that I’m posting this on a Saturday.

Marketing brain.

I’m starting to see some weird generational things about the idea of selling your stuff.  People my age and older got raised to believe that there was a split between people who made stuff (from blue-collar workers on an assembly line to fine art) and the people who sold stuff (salespeople).

“I just make the widgets.”  “I just want to be an artist.”  “Location, location, location!”  “What we need to do here is send out a bunch of flyers!”

There was a real split there, a belief in almost a right-brain/left-brain duality.

So now that we, as indie writers and publishers and all that, are trying to do both sides of this stuff, it feels like we’re doubling our work.  My guess is that a couple of generations from now, that won’t even be an issue; it’ll feel like it’s one and the same breath.  A lot of the process of selling stuff will be less exclusive (bookstore-like) and more automated (Amazon-like).  There will be jobs lost in the sales arena, not because people won’t be selling things, but because the makers will be more likely to be sellers, and the consumers won’t have a lot of problem interacting with them either as makers or sellers.  We’ll be excited to meet our favorite authors–not gobsmacked/flabbergasted–because we, too, will be people who make and do amazing things.

(Or maybe that’s just my dream, more people doing interesting things instead of pushing paper.  Not that contributing to a larger effort isn’t valuable.  But a lot of time gets wasted, a lot of lives.  Our important work–raising families, making things that interest us, understanding the world and sharing it with others–gets taken for granted, and weight is put on meetings, paperwork, routine.  Meh.  That’s my hope and my bias here:  less meh.  I forget where I read it:  but I’m loving this theory I heard that the more valuable your job is, the less you get paid…because “job satisfaction” is part of your pay.)

I really hope that kind of thing goes away, as more people make things and get used to the idea of spreading them through the world.   But for now, people (especially my age and up) have to think in terms of duality:  creation brain and marketing brain.

I focus more on creation brain.  I make stuff.  I shed content.*  I know how to package up that content pretty damn well.  And I get better at making and packaging and presenting as I go along.


Look at it. Just look at it.

However, I was talking to Becky Clark last weekend about marketing stuff and I kept saying that I don’t get marketing stuff…until we went to lay out our talk about indie publishing, and we kept getting in arguments over which thing went where.

I said figuring out your genre was marketing (and thus her job).  She said it wasn’t.  I said cover design is marketing.  Huh-uh, she said.  Blurbs?  Nooooo, that’s creation, she said with this puppy dog look on her face.  In the end we agreed to disagree, and while I think we’re having this talk organized as if there were a difference between creation and marketing, the real split is “stuff I want to talk more about vs. stuff Becky wants to talk more about.”  We’ll play to our strengths rather than to some kind of purity of concept.

My point being:  there really isn’t much of a difference between making something and selling it.  We’ve just decided there is, by pointing at the far ends of a spectrum instead of the huge range in the middle.

BUT.  One of the things that came out of our discussion was this idea that, if you’re going to be an indie writer, the main thing you gotta do is maintain control over your work.  (Side note: something that made me laugh out loud:  realizing that big publishing is just another arm of indie publishing, one tactic in an ocean full of them.)

This is simple to say but crrrrrazy in practice.

For instance:  not putting this post up on Facebook.  Oh, I’ll post the link to Facebook.  But I am not going to leave all this good stuff on someone else’s property.  I shouldn’t be leaving all this good stuff on someone else’s property, anyway.  I was talking to Becky about it, and I (rambling as usual) mentioned my friend Dave Hill:  he rarely puts anything up natively on a social media site.  He’s always putting up stuff that leads back to his blog.  Unless it’s a conversation–and then he uses social media to socialize.  Every time he mentions how his blog’s doing, how long it’s been up, etc., he has a solid block of followers.  He has a sales platform to be envied.  (Now, if I could just get him to put up some of the books he’s been writing as ebooks for sale…or maybe raising money with his comics podcast…)  Anyway, I decided that in this respect, I should be more like Dave.  I should keep control over my content.

For example, I’m writing a line-by-line analysis of Gene Wolfe’s “Fifth Head of Cerberus” on Twitter.  Why am I not doing that here?  I bet most of the people who come here haven’t the slightest idea that the airhead who writes about murderous bunnies for kids is obsessed yet usually overwhelmed by a guy who doesn’t think twice about putting the midpoint at the end of his books so you have to read the damn things twice.  (Guess what?  There’s a huge Alice reference in Fifth Head.  So cool.)

Another part of marketing brain that we creators struggle with:  “content isn’t a virgin.”  I’ve had people ask me:  “If I put something up for free, can I also sell it myself?”  Of course you can; content isn’t a virgin.  We get into this habit because we’ve split creation and selling into two arbitrary categories, and there are some people who don’t want non-virginal content (like a medieval prince, they want first rights).  Unless you’re trying to sell to those people as part of your indie publishing strategy, and unless you’ve given away rights stupidly to one of those people, the answer is yes, of course you can resell content.

Here’s yet another marketing brain idea that I struggled with recently (in fact, yesterday):  you don’t need to be an expert to turn ideas into content.  We’re so invested in the idea that you have to have a sales platform with a bunch of letters after your name that it’s hard for us to think in terms of knowing enough to write it, or write about it.

To people with the creative/marketing split, we think, “I can’t publish my own short stories.  How am I supposed to know if they’re good enough?”  We think, “Sure, people like when I talk about X (in person, on blogs, over social media), but why would I want to make money off that?  That’s just stuff that I give away for free.”

The thing that hit me a couple of days ago:  if I’m going to research something well enough to do it myself, I should be writing about it.  Duh, right?  So what am I researching?

  • Marketing.
  • How to make your house your favorite restaurant.
  • Whether or not I want to sell pr0n.
  • Minecraft, for a freelance project.
  • I’m also researching for worldbuilding on an astral plane–huh.  Now that I think about it, I’m always coming up with complete bug@#$% settings that I flail around in, and I’m trying to work out how to pull off those settings without freaking myself out every time.  “How to write imaginary worlds that have nothing to do with medievalism.”  Purely imaginary worlds?  Hm…
  • A few dribs and drabs of last-minute Victorian/Alice stuff.

Anyway.  A long time ago, Becky tried to explain this to me, that what I should be doing is forcing other sites to take my research and pay me for it.  I didn’t get it.  Now I’m starting to see it.

  • Minimal Marketing:  How to create more and market less, for less money, and with less stress.
  • Chez Moi:  How to save money and time and spend more, better time with the people you love.
  • Sexy Stories:  Everything about writing and selling pr0n you were afraid to ask.
  • “Minecraft:  A Writer’s Reference”
  • “Purely Imaginary Worlds:  Tips for Building Realities that Aren’t Based on the Real”
  • Various Alice articles to put in with the ebooks and send to Alice sites to seduce people back to them…muahahaha…

More projects than I can ever accomplish.  What should I do?

Hah!  I’m an indie.  Whatever I want…as long as I finish it and sell it.


*I was talking to Doyce Testerman a while back and he was talking about how it was easier for him to write novels than short stories, because short stories were something that he could conceive of as being perfect.  I had to laugh:  I’m the other way around.  I shed short stories.  Okay, yeah, maybe I’d be better served by analyzing them and fixing them, but to me a short story (up to about 5K, say) is a snakeskin, something that I peel off because I have an itch to write.  Or (to completely switch metaphors here) short stories are like being a sumo wrestler.  You can’t really analyze from the sumo wrestler’s point of view until after the match.  It’s one big shove, most of the time.  Novels?  That’s where I overthink.

Zombie Love


I don’t want to lecture you about your boyfriend.  You already know what I think.  Instead, let me tell you how we met.  It’s either that or you’re grounded.

Okay, Dad.

So I’d gone to the zoo a week ago when the zombie apocalypse started.  Your mom was wearing a leopard-skin wrap with the claws still on and she was climbing through the penguin exhibit to get to a couple of zookeepers who’d locked themselves in off-exhibit cages.  She was enchanting.  Her legs were covered to the knee with dried blood and she had brains in her hair.  I couldn’t help following her.

You were stalking me, you mean.

Oh, I admit it.  I was stalking her.  By then we’d mostly run out of humans and were starting to eat the fresher zombies.

Your father.  He was one of the first to turn.  Tell her, Rich.  Tell her how you became a zombie.

Who’s telling this story, you or me?  I was one of the original volunteers.  They warned me at the clinic.  “Look, this will cure your cancer, but there are going to be side effects.  Extremely negative side effects.”  “Like what,” I asked, ready for about anything.  “Hair loss?  Erectile dysfunction?”  “Zombieism,” they said.  “Sign me up,” I said.   I was always a big fan of zombies.

So I was stalking your mother in the penguin exhibit when a horde of humans burst into the building and sharted shooting.  I mean, it was inevitable.  The survivors were bound to get their act together eventually.  Your mom, of course, didn’t have the least bit of cover whatsoever.  There was no fading into the background for her.  Gorgeous, curvy, red dress, leopard skin…there was no missing her.  The humans went straight for her.

I was terrified.

Were you?  I’ve always wondered.

Distracted by the humans, she fell into the penguin pool and had to duck down under a cement outcropping to keep them from shooting her.

I had to decide, right then and there, what I wanted more.  To eat that delicious zombie woman…or to go after the humans.

People pretty much always taste like people, but I’d acquired a taste for zombie meat.  It’s aged, you know.  It’s an acquired taste, but that’s where the gourmets always gravitate, to the rare, the unwanted, the unappreciated.

Are you saying I’m unappreciated?

Oh, you know I appreciate you, babe.  [Growls.] And as soon as Amber’s out of the house…Imma appreciate you all over the place.


Instead of trying to eat one of those humans–look, I know how most people your age think.  Eat the fat ones, nibble the cute ones, and injure the kids and leave them out for bait.  But the thing is, sometimes you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be with your soul mate.  That’s what you should go for.  Not some scumbag in a tattooed human-skin jacket.

Oh, Dad.  Andy isn’t a scumbag.  He’s a poet.

Yeah, yeah, so you say now.  Someday you’re going to see that he only love you for your brains.

–Oh, Dad.

But this isn’t really about you and scumbag, I mean, Andy.  This is about me and your mom.  Being one of the original zombies, I’ve always had a better nervous system than most zombies.  I can shoot guns, drive cars…open doors.  Can Andy open doors?

–Just leave it alone, Dad.

All right, all right.  I mowed down those humans with a pair of .45s.  I didn’t even stop to lick ’em.  Except the last one.

Him, I just shot out a knee.  Then I did the first, best act of self-sacrifice that I’ve ever done.  I smashed my skull open, infected Mr. Kneecap with my brains by shoving about half of them down his throat, and with my last, feeble motions, stumbled over to where your mom had fallen into the penguin pool.  It was empty, of course, and full of stripped penguin carcasses.  And she just wasn’t agile enough to climb up the disguised ladder, which was really just a set of grooves cut into the cement of the pool.  I jumped right in with her.

And then she ate me.


That’s right, missy, you heard me.  Your mother ate me.  And in eating me, she acquired the nervous system that I’ve always had.  Which is why she–and now you–are one of the top predators in the world.  You’re at the top of the foodchain because of your parents.

I won’t say it wasn’t painful.  It was.  As my consciousness infected Mr. Kneecap, I saw myself scream, and suffer, and die.  I did that for your mom, and, later, I did that for you.  When you were a baby, I let you eat my brains on a regular basis.  I’m on my, what?

That’s your twelfth body now, dear.

My twelfth body.  So when you look at Mr. Poetry, Mr. Scumbag the Poet Master, I want you to ask yourself two questions.

One, would you want to eat his brains?

And two, would he die for you?  Could he watch himself get eaten by you, see you at your worst, and still love you?

I got no problem with you toying with him.  Gettin’ a little nookie.  I’d have to be a hypocrite to say otherwise.  I mean, me and your mom get it on all the time, am I right?

[Lisa giggles.]

Oh, Dad.

But when it comes to true love…you gotta think in terms of sharing your brain, and him sharing his brain.  You’re bright.  I’m not worried about you supporting yourself or even supporting that loser for the rest of your lives.  But–hear me out, I’m almost done–I am worried about you spending the rest of your life with someone you wouldn’t really want inside your head.  Really deep inside your head.  Love isn’t about the sex.  It isn’t even about chewing off each others’ limbs.  It’s about brains.  It all comes down to brains.  And who you want to share them with.

Someday you’ll understand.

Okay, Dad.

Now go out and have fun on your date with scumbag.

[She kisses him, laughing.]  I love you too, Dad.  I love you too.



Write Your Heart Out

This is for the folks from the Pike’s Peak Writers’ “Write Your Heart Out” event, but you can play along anyway.

IF YOU KNOW THESE BOOKS OR HAVE PLAYED THIS GAME BEFORE, DO NOT BLOW IT FOR THE REST OF THE PLAYERS IN THE COMMENTS.  Email me personally if you like and I’ll confirm how smart and/or cool you are 🙂  Also, if you do know these books, you can still play–just don’t cheat and look up the passage before you take a shot at it.

The exercise:  I provide three samples from bestselling writers’ work.  You punctuate, capitalize, italicize, and paragraph them.  Then you send me an email at, and I send you back the “correct” answers along with the author/book titles.  (Or you can wait a week and come back here and I’ll post them.)  When you get the answers back…try to work out why the bestselling author chose differently than you did.

What’s the point of this?  There are a ton of benefits to doing this exercise that I won’t get into here–but for my purposes at the workshop, it’s to reinforce that a) not all professional authors do things the same way, and b) professional writers break rules when it’s to the readers’ benefit.

Thanks for stopping by, and I have a coupon for you, for the first episode of Alice’s Adventures in Underland:  The Queen of Stilled Hearts.  Click here for the Smashwords link.  Your free coupon code is KX26N.

Thanks and have fun!


pam tibbs was hackberrys chief deputy her mahogany colored hair was sunburned white at the tips and it hung on her cheeks in the indifferent way it might have on a teenage girl she wore wide ass jeans and half topped boots and a polished gun belt and a khaki shirt with an american flag sewn on one sleeve her moods were mercurial her words often confrontational her potential for violence seldom registered on her adversaries until things happened that should not have happened when she was angry she sucked in her cheeks accentuating a mole by her mouth turning her lips into a button men often thought she was trying to be cute they were mistaken at noon she was drinking a cup of coffee at her office window when she saw dany boy lorca stumbling down the street toward the department bent at the torso as though waging war against invisible forces a piece of newspaper matting against his chest before it flapped loose and scudded across the intersection when danny boy tripped on the curb and fell hard on one knee then fell again when he tried ot pick himself up pam tibbs set down her coffee cup and went outside the wind blowing lines in her hair she bent down her breasts hanging heavy against her shirt and lifted him to his feet and walked him inside i messed myself i got to get in the shower he said you know where it is she said they killed a man she didnt seem to hear what he said she glanced at the cast iron spiral of steps that led upstairs to the jail can you make it by yourself i aint drunk i was this morning but i aint now the guy in charge i remember his name danny boy closed his eyes and opened them again i think i do ill be upstairs in a minute and open the cell i hid all the time they was doing it say again i hid behind a big rock maybe for fifteen minutes he was screaming all the while she nodded her expression neutral danny boys eyes were scorched with hangover his mouth white at the corners with dried mucus his breath dense and sedimentary like a load of fruit that had been dumped down a stone well he waited although she didnt know for what was it absolution dont slip on the steps she said



 there were about thirty six men sitting around when warwick came inwearing a pair of old jeans tucked into high rubber boots hall had been listening to harry wisconsky who was enormously fat enormously lazy and enormously gloomy its gonna be a miss wisconsky was saying when mr foreman came in you wait and see were all gonna go home blackern midnight in persia okay warwick said we strung sixty lightbulbs down there so it should be bright enough for you to see what youre doing you guys he pointed to a bunch of men that had been leaning against the drying spools i want you to hook up the hoses over there to the main water conduit by the stairwell you can unroll them down the stairs we got about eighty yards for each man and that should be plenty dont get cute and spray one of your buddies or youll send him to the hospital they pack a wallop somebodyll get hurt wisconsky prophesied sourly wait and see you other guys warwick said pointing to the group that hall and wisconsky were a part of youre the crap crew tonight you go in paiirs with an electric wagon for each team theres old office furniture bags of cloth hunks of busted machinery you name it were gonna pile it by the airshaft at the west end anyone who doesnt know how to run a wagon no one raised a hand the electric wagons were battery driven contraptions like miniature dump trucks they developed a nauseating stink after continual use that reminded hall of burning power lines okay warwick said we got the basement divided up into section and well be done by thursday friday well chain hoist the crap out questions there were none hall studied the foremans face closely and he had a sudden premonition of a strange thingcoming the idea pleased him he did not like warwick very much fine warwick said lets get at it



 no fainting in the middle of the road said a voice close to my ear as a heavy arm landed across my shoulders and gave me a squeeze i looked up to see mals familir face a smile in his bright blue eyes as he fell into step beside me cmon he said one foot in front of the other you know how its done youre interfering with my plan oh really yes faint get trampled grievous injuries all around that sounds like a brilliant plan ah but if im horribly maimed i wont be able to cross the fold mal nodded slowly i see i can shove you under a cart if that would help ill think about it i grumbled but i felt my mood lifting all the same despite my best efforts mal still had that effect on me and i wasnt the only one a pretty blond girl strolled by and waved throwing mal a flirtatious glance over her shoulder hey ruby he called see you later ruby giggled and scampered off into the crowd mal grinned broadly until he caught my eye roll what i thought you liked ruby as it happens we dont have much to talk about i said drily i actually had liked ruby at first when mal and i left the orphanage at keramzin to train for our military service in poliznaya id been nervous about meeting new people but lots of of girls had been excited to befriend me and ruby had been the most eager those friendships lasted as long as it took me to figure out that their only interest in me lay in my proximity to mal now i watched him stretch his arms expansively and turn his face up to the autumn sky looking perfectly content there was even i noted with some disgust a little bounce in his step what is wrong with you i whispered furiously nothing he said surprised i feel great but how can you be soso jaunty jaunty ive never been jaunty i hope never to be jaunty well then whats all this i asked waving a hand at him you look like youre on your way to a really good dinner instead of possible death and dismemberment mal laughed you worry too much the kings sent a whole group of grisha pyros to cover the skiffs and even a few of those creepy heartrenders we have our rifles he said patting the one on his back well be fine a rifle wont make much difference if theres a bad attack mal gave me a bemused glance whats with you lately youre even grumpier than usual and you look terrible thanks i groused i havent been sleeping well what else is new





Tentative Outline: Indie Publishing

Right, this weekend (after talking about flaws in front of PPW) I have to meet up with Becky Clark and talk about indie publishing, soup to nuts.  She’s funnier than I am, so I want to make sure she doesn’t distract me too much with her jokes, and so therefore I’m writing a possible outline for our talk at PPWC before she can, because I won’t get two words in once I see her…

I mean, that is not the case and I’m just getting my thoughts organized.  I expect to learn a TON from her, and from putting this all together.  Plus, if it goes well, maybe we’ll turn our notes into a book and voila! Brilliant.

IF YOU HAVE FEEDBACK:  Marvin K. Mooney, I don’t care where and I don’t care how, but share your feedback with me now!  Items to add, books you want to recommend, people who disagree with me, techniques and websites to check out:  cough them up.  


Indie Publishing:  Who, What, Where, Why, and WTF?

1.  Intro

  • Is indie publishing for me?  What if I want to do it differently?
  • Note on Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced tracks.
  • Should I DIY?  What should I DIY?  And what should I pay if I don’t?
  • Gaming the system (tactics) vs. long-term strategies.
  • In general, how not to get screwed.

2.  Before you write.

  • But I hate all this stuff! I just want to write!
  • Establishing a promise to readers (and picking readers who give a crap).
  • How to start thinking in terms of selling books instead of being a precious snowflake (I probably won’t call it this, but…oh man is it true for most of us).
  • Time management.

3.  Writing.

  • Should I start with backlist or new work?
  • Should I change what I write?
  • Increasing writing speed.
  • Taking advantage of indie publishing opportunities (series, serials, tie-ins, collections vs. short story singles, pseudonyms)
  • Writing with other people
  • What can I legally get away with? (Product references, fan fiction, using other authors’ worlds, non-compete clauses, when do I get rights back on previously published material)
  • Should I indie publish or go with an outside publisher on this particular project (hybrid authorship).
  • What writing software should I use?
  • Should I publish on my website first or not?

4.  Ongoing tasks to do while experiencing writers’ block.

  • Setting up as a business.
  • Networking (web presence, social media, newsletters, writers’ groups/sites)
  • Deciding where to publish and how (paypal, publishers, pseudonyms, porn, and more)
  • How knowing copyright can save your butt.
  • Freelancing (quitting your job, supplementing your income, increasing web presence and networking) vs. working for free.
  • Continuing education (writers’ groups, classes, books, advanced study)
  • Crowdfunding (kickstarter, patreon, donations)

5.  Editing.

  • When is it done?/Is it good enough?
  • How to find beta readers/writers’ groups.
  • Hiring an editor.
  • How to work with an editor.
  • A note on series:  start a series file!

6.  Design and layout.

  • Ebook, print, or both?
  • Picking comps for fun and profit
  • Hiring artists/designers
  • How to work with artists and designers
  • The importance of staying legal
  • Marketing materials:  cover taglines (book tags, author tags, series tags), back cover blurbs, keywords

7.  Planning for release day.

  • Cross-marketing.
  • Getting reviews.
  • Blog tours.
  • Paid advertising
  • DRM or not?
  •  Prereleases and soft release days (is that the term?  I can’t remember now)
  • Should I copyright/register with the Library of Congress/get an ISBN?
  • Doing a prerelease check

8.  Release day.

  • Gaming the system.
  • Minimizing the work you need to do on release day (preventing as many ulcers as possible)

9.  Post-release day.

  • Customer Reviews:  Good, Bad, and Ugly (Author responses).
  • What to do about flagging sales (free, giveaways, price dropping)
  • Why am I not getting the sales I want?  A checklist.
  • How to handle corrections.
  • What if someone contacts me? (Agents, publishers, foreign rights, movie deals, merchandise)
  • What if someone’s stealing my ebook?
  • How to deal with growth (looking back at old work that sucks)
  • Should I do an audiobook?

10.  Appendices (& handouts?).

  • What genre is my book?  The flowchart.
  • Where to find indie book reviewers.
  • Editing checklist.
  • Cover/Interior checklist for design and layout.
  • Prerelease checklist
  • Release day troubleshooting checklist
  • How to contact independent bookstores to discuss stocking your book

New Release: Alice’s Adventures in Underland: The Queen of Stilled Hearts #2

Now available at AmazonB&NSmashwordsGumroad, and more.

Episode 1 can be found at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, Gumroad, Apple, and more.


“Cro-quet. Croooooquet,” Alice responded. “An invitation to play croooooo-quet to His Highness from Miss Liddell.”


“I invited you first,” he said. “An invitation to play croooo-quet to Miss Liddell from Prince Leopold.”


“Here’s your invitation to play croooooquet.” Alice held out an imaginary invitation.


Leopold took it and handed her one back. “And here is yoooours. Cro-quet, cro-quet.”

With the invention of a serum that prevents most people infected with the zombie sickness from becoming raving cannibals, Victorian society finds itself in need of more standards:  to separate the infected from the whole, to  control when and how the infected can come into contact with the pure, to establish legal contracts, precedence, employment, and more, with regards to the walking dead.

The very backbone of the British Empire is its standards.

The middle daughter of the Dean of Christ Church in Oxford, Alice Liddell, finds a certain lack of charm in the standards she must follow, with increasing strictness, day after day.  Wild and rebellious, she battles her father’s cold discipline, her mother’s striving to hide her middle-class origins, and the hollow madness of the world around her, in which the teetering Empire desperately pretends that nothing is, in fact, the matter.

Enter Mr. Charles Dodgson:  one of the chaste Dons of Oxford, married to his mathematics.  He charms Alice and her sisters, often taking them on walks and boat rides (chaperoned, of course), and telling them jokes and stories.  He is twenty-four when he first meets them.

And he is dead.

Turned in a tragic accident at Rugby, Charles uses the serum to keep him from the ordinary sort of madness that affects zombies.

But it doesn’t affect the elegant madness of his brain.

And one day, as he sees Alice struggle against the chains that constrict her, chains so similar to his own…

…one of his playful stories becomes something more.

Episode 2: In which Alice meets the Queen and her son, Prince Leopold; a game of croquet is played; and an arbitrary judgment is meted out.

An sample may be obtained (fingers crossed) at any of the links given above.  If you happen to be interested in a free review copy, please do let me know.




Episode 1 of The Queen of Stilled Hearts showed the first time that Alice met Charles Dodgson, upon his arrival at the Christchurch Deanery to take the pictures of the Dean’s three daughters: Ina, Alice, and Edith.

Alice found Mr. Dodgson, a zombie, quite fascinating, as was his story of being turned into a zombie…by no less than a rabbit!

Now, Alice is older, age eight, and awaits the arrival of Queen Victoria for a visit.*

A word of caution: sometimes the greatest of friendships are occasioned by the direst of cruelties.

*Which she actually did do, in 1856. I couldn’t find out whether Leopold had accompanied her, but he might have, I suppose.

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