Jeanette Bennett

The Blog of JEANETTE M. BENNETT - Indie Author from the Scablands of Eastern Washington

Friday, November 22, 2013

Indies First Day - Support Your Local Indie Bookstore

Saturday, November 30th (the day after Black Friday) is Small Business Saturday—aka “Indies First” Day. Indie authors aren’t the only Indies. There are indie musicians, indie film-makers or in this case Indie Bookstores. The mark up on books is one of the lowest in retail, so a person opens a bookstore as an act of love rather than to get rich. And with corporate booksellers and Amazon, Indie Bookstores are becoming an endangered species. They are too endearing to be allowed to disappear.

So Sherman Alexie has called all authors to help support their local Indie Bookstore. (Here is his letter to all of us.) Go to your friendly neighborhood book dealer. Sell your books. Sell other people’s books. But most importantly “sell” the store!

I’m going to be at Adventures Underground on Indie’s First Day. I will be sharing the limelight with Patricia Briggs...okay, the edge of the limelight. Patty has made the New York Times Bestsellers list and I am a big fan (go buy her books!) Her most popular series is about werewolves, vampires and faes all living in the Tri-Cities, urban hub of the Scablands. She has probably done more than anyone to let the world know we do exist—although I’m sure everyone outside the Scablands thinks she made this place up. Patty is a nice person--she will be spending most of her time at the store suggesting others peoples’ books to shoppers. Tis a noble shadow I shall stand in.

If you are in the Tri-Cities drop by. If you are not in the area (and 99.99% of you aren’t) please do your part to help your local Indie Bookstore. If you are an author find a local mom and pop establishment and offer your help November 30th. Write a blog to promote “Indie First Day.” As for you readers, go to your local Indie and buy Christmas presents. My book can now be ordered by most bookstores (hint, hint.) Well, at least buy one of Patricia Briggs books.

Adventures Underground - a geek friendly store that has a place for gamers to meet. They also are nice to Indie Authors. They have a huge selection of new and used book and can ship anywhere in the world! (So you can be there in spirit.)

Patricia Briggs -  If you haven’t read her, start with Moon Called, the first of her Mercedes Thompson series. (Mercy is an auto mechanic by day, coyote shape-shifter by night.) Patty really captures the Tri-Cities. It’s the perfect place for werewolves, vampires and fairy folk to hide since no one seems to know the place exists.

Sherman Alexie - for those of you who don’t know who Sherman Alexie is, don’t worry. Your great grandkids will be reading him in Lit Class.
A conversation with Sherman Alexie

In my book, Walking a Fine Timeline, I have my character, Dr. Serendipity Brown, speaking at an Energy Symposium at the University of Washington in the Sherman Alexie Theater in the year 2353. I’m not sure when they built that theater to the state’s illustrious native son, but it will be built someday.

Saturday, November 30, 2013 (9:44 p.m.) update:

Photo by author Ellen Tomaszewski
The event went well. The owner was delighted. I think we helped sales. I hoped all of you helped out your friendly neighborhood Indie Bookstore wherever you may be. (If not, makeup days will be accepted.)

I had a fan come up and gush over me. She said she loved my stories so much. I was quite thrilled by this and thanked her. Then she said "I've read all your Mercedes Thompson books!" I explained I wasn't Patricia Briggs and pointed her over to Patty. Hey, I'll take any praise...even that meant for someone else.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Don't Kill the Kitten!

I had an odd dream last night. I usually don’t remember much of my dreams, but this seemed especially vivid. I ran into Mark Lindsay walking down a country road. Most of you don’t know who he is, but Mark was the lead singer for Paul Revere and the Raiders way back when. I had a crush on him at 14, I suppose because I felt a connection to him. He too is from the Pacific Northwest, a Pisces and part Cherokee.

Yeah, you are saying “fantasy old flame,” we know where this is leading, but it was nothing like that. Mark looked older than I remember him as a kid. He was wearing jeans, a flannel shirt and a serene expression. He seemed surprised that I remembered him, because so few do nowadays. But he wasn’t bitter. He said he didn’t have to be on top. We discussed the fleetingness of fame and how it wasn’t that important.

Scene change: I decide I better go back to work as a graphic artist. I create a form from a template which got printed wrong and I try to show my employer it was not the fault of my setup. For some reason the only way to correct this is to kill a kitten. I reluctantly give him poison, and hold the dying creature, trying to comfort him. As I watch him get weaker I decide I can’t go through with it. I shove my finger down his throat, getting him to throw up the poison and tell the print shop I work for that I quit. I go back to trying to save the kitten I had just tried to kill. At that point I wake up.

Now I was a graphic artist for about 25 years and I never had to kill a kitten. I asked my psyche-major husband what this all meant. He said it was simple. The kitten was my book.

Yeah, about twenty-five years ago I had tried to kill my need to write. I thought it was dead but it was just comatose. Five years ago I made it vomit up the poison and have worked hard to revive it into a lively kitten again. And I have felt guilty that I am playing with it, instead of getting rid of it and getting a real job. No, let the kitten live.

Yet so many of us feel we can’t be writers unless we are on the New York Times Best Seller’s List. I think that’s why Mark Lindsay showed up to act as Shaman. But why Mark Lindsay? Did my subconscious feel I was so shallow I would only listen to a cute guy? Or was there some other reason? The next day I Googled Mark Lindsay and found he hadn’t lied to me. After his star fell to earth, he just picked himself up and strolled off to find new adventures. He worked behind the scenes at record companies, wrote music scores for movies and did commercial jingles. He is currently performing around the country, letting older fans feel like teeny-boppers again and letting younger ones see what all the fuss was about. He looks content. So apparently Mark wasn’t lying to me. You don’t have to be number one to be successful. You just have to follow your bliss.

Maybe that’s why my writing career was a kitten. I thought it was because I love kittens, but perhaps it has a deeper meaning. Kittens can grow up to be cats but never tigers or lions. And that’s okay. Cats may be more common than tigers but they will never devour you. They are much easier to live with.

So whatever your dream, let it live. Don’t kill the kitten. Pet it until it purrs.

Of course kittens can grow up to be pretty dang big!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Scablands Sandstorm photos

As you probably know, I live in the Scablands of Eastern Washington, or as it is politically correctly called, the Columbia Basin. Most people are surprised to find there is a desert in the Evergreen State. I have on occasion Tweeted about a dust storm outside. Here is what it looks like.

 These photos were taken Sunday evening, September 15, 2013 from Artemis Ridge in West Richland, looking toward Kennewick by Dennis L. Homan braving the 70 mile an hour winds.
Looks like something out of the Sahara Desert, huh.
I'm happy to say I missed this. I was in Montana at the time. I probably won't miss the next one.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Making the Stinkers Dance: Writing with Dyslexia

Words are those things that get stuck on my tongue and make me stammer. Or they jump out of my head when I need them, making me look stupid. Or they bounce around on the page and I feel like I am stabbing them with a toad sticker so I can pin them down to read them. For me words are not magic fairies--they are nasty gremlins. And that is why I love making the little fiends jump through hoops for me.

No, I’m not dyslexic because “b” and “d” don’t flip on me. Okay so letters can jump around a bit and trick me into thinking they are another word. Dyslexics do terrible in school, and I did well. All right, I am a slow reader. I discovered that in sixth grade when it turned out that I and the kid with the really thick glasses were the slowest readers in the class. If the teacher had given us books we could take home instead of those silly cards in those boxes, no one would have been the wiser. Still I knew I wasn’t stupid because my mom kept telling me I just read slow so I could retain more.

Guess what. All that stuff in the first paragraph are signs of dyslexia. It’s far more common than you might think. It's estimated 10-20% of the population is dyslexic. Most people, except those who have very severe dyslexia, go undiagnosed. They just assume they are a little dim-witted and get jobs at Burger King. Others realize they just think differently and become engineers or scientists.

I am just mildly dyslexic, which makes it more of an annoyance than a real handicap--a speed bump rather than a barrier. Still I hate to tell people that I’m even mildly dyslexic because they assume I can’t read. I can read. I can read just fine--I just take longer.

According to studies all students start out a little dyslexic, which is why so many kids write letters backwards occasionally, but soon grow out of it. Children at first read with both sides of their brain, both the left side that thinks in words and the right side that thinks in images. As they get older most people have their verbal left side shove the non-verbal right side out of the way, allowing them to read faster. With dyslexics the right side is just too strong to be shoved aside, and sometimes shoves back. Unfortunately Western education is geared toward left-brained people. (At least I had the advantage of a brain where the left-side got to participate even if the right side had the stronger personality.)

I discovered I was predominantly right brained in eighth grade. For several days we all had to take a battery of timed tests covering various subjects. I did okay. Then we got to the spatial rotation test. No words, just drawings of funny shaped boxes. In each question we had to guess which of the four drawings was the first box from a different angle. When I finished, I carefully reviewed my answers, then I drummed my fingers. Impatient, I just handed it in early. Turns out I not only got every answer right, but finished the test faster than anyone else. Right brained people think three dimensionally. (Maybe if I wasn’t a slow reader I might have done a little better on those other tests.)

So why would a person with poor verbal skills want to be a writer? If you are dyslexic, you might have trouble finding the words but you still have an unfair advantage over other writers. I have read so many blogs by left-brained articulate authors bemoaning the fact that they can write anything--except fiction. Imagination is in the right side of your brain.

I gave up writing at one point because I couldn’t follow the rules of outlining. I read about character development and how you are supposed to carefully craft a person, jury-rigging him together from several people you know in real life, figuring out how you want him to look, plotting out his life before you ever begin writing about him. Me, I prefer to go on blind dates with my characters. They show up in my head and I just watch and listen, getting to know them. The real fun comes with the surprises, finding out something about them I never would have guessed. I wind up with characters more real than something I could have planned. I don’t think I’m really that clever or unique. I think it might just be right-brained thing. We think three-dimensionally in images and sounds more than words.

Even though I am tongue-tied in real life, writing dialogue is easy for me. I just write down what the characters are saying. Like a good interviewer, I will go back and cut out irrelevant bits of the conversation so I don’t bore the reader. For me the hard part is descriptions. I can see things vividly, but I have to find the right words to describe a scene and also decide what needs to be mentioned. Does the reader really want to see every little detail? If I was left-brained, I could just look at a photo or a scene outside my window and wax eloquently. (There are advantages and disadvantages to both sides.)

As I said I am only mildly dyslexic, but there are still big disadvantages even for me. Reading a page out loud to catch typos may work for someone who can gulp prose, sentences at a time, but I will often read aloud what isn’t there. Sever dyslexics can stand in front of a class and read wonderful essays they have written, but when they hand it in, the teacher finds it’s gibberish. I am so paranoid of leaving in or out a word I will have someone proofread even my smallest changes. I live in fear of that typo staring me in the face, laughing at me because I can’t see it, so some Grammar Nazi can call me lazy or stupid. Rule number one for dyslexics: Get an editor and a proofreader, as many as you need.

Another thing that helps is a computer. Most dyslexics have lousy cursive handwriting and actually do better with a keyboard. (Amen!) Added bonus is most word processor software has spellcheck to catch your transposed letters and misspelled words (huge problem for dyslexics.) Forget the journal. What I found really useful is a netbook. Mine may only have a ten-inch screen, and I have to plug in an external DVD drive, but it’s only three pounds, has a six-hour battery, can fit in a large purse and I can carry it anywhere. Netbooks are also one of the cheapest computers out there. Okay not so good for graphic programs and fancy games but I’ve had mine more than three and a half years and I’m rubbing the paint off the keys writing my little heart out.

My beloved netbook. You can see where I rubbed the paint off the keys.
Writers have to be prolific readers. I read a lot--I just don’t read a lot. I spend twice as long reading half as much. Remember audio books are not cheating. (You can find free audiobooks of the classics at LibriVox.) There is also software that reads text aloud. I also found bookmarks help keep words from jumping around so much, despite my third grade teacher telling me they are for babies. I’m a grown up, I can do what I want.

Despite the problems I have writing, for me it’s actually my best way to communicate. I am so tongue-tied that if I have something important to say, I will write a letter--even if I have to stand there and read it aloud. When I took up writing again my husband was shocked that I could be so articulate on paper. He says my words are in my fingers, not my tongue.

There is one big advantage dyslexic writers have. We aren’t afraid of hard work--just the thing you need to write a novel. Most would never tackle such a momentous task, but compared to the extra hours we had to put in to homework to keep up with the rest of the students--easy-squeezy.

Would I want to fix my “affliction?” Would I want to be left-brained and be able to make love to words instead of this constant fighting? There are days I would give anything to be able to breeze through a book and gobble up novels like popcorn the way some can. To see all those elusive typos that I can’t find no matter what I do. To be able to get into a web account without having to type my password three times because I keep transposing a letter. To be able to confidently sign a book without misspelling a word including my own name. To be able to give a book pitch without sounding like a stammering idiot. I live in fear that the Writing Police are going to show up and arrest me for impersonating an author.

On the other hand would the tradeoff would be worth it? I have a friend who has just the opposite problem--she is predominantly left-brained. Spatial tests completely baffle her. She can’t think in 3-D. That scares me. Being more articulate isn’t worth losing the world in my head. I think my readers would miss it, too. (You can download a preview of my book to the right and see if it's a world worth saving. End of plug.)

Even if you are more dyslexic than me, take heart. There are a lot of writers with a lot worse dyslexia and a lot more talent than me (see list below.) So if you want to be a writer don’t let those nasty fiends called words stop you. Get a whip and make the stinkers dance!

Please feel free to leave comments below. Tell us of your own experiences and tricks you have used. Give any encouragements to other dyslexic writers to find the courage to thumb their nose at the “speed bump.” All mean comments will be deleted because while I was able to hide my problem, too many live with the stigma of being told they are stupid or lazy or inadequate.

Also be sure to visit Dyslexic Advantage: Unleashing the Power of the Dyslexic Mind website. It is far more than just an ad for their book, The Dyslexic Advantage.The book is worth the struggle to read it--also available in audiobook. Check out their videos on YouTube.

From the UK is Dyslexia Way of Thinking with suggestions of working around dyslexia. Also has videos on YouTube.

The Happy Dyslexic - Understanding dyslexia and how a dyslexic can reach his potential

Are you a Dyslexic? Here are a few online tests:
Adult Dyslexia Checklist - from the British Dyslexia Association website
Adult Self-Assessment Tool: Are You Dyslexic? - from the International Dyslexia Association website
37 Common Characteristics of Dyslexia - from Dyslexia the Gift website
Dyslexia Test - from Dyslexia Advantage website


A partial list of famous dyslexic writers:
Scott Adams - Dilbert comic strip
Louise Arnold - children’s writer Grey Arthur series
Michael “Atters” Attree - satirist and comedy writer
Avi - historical fiction for middle school readers
Robert Benton - screenwriter and director
Jeanne Betancourt - children’s writer My Name is Brain Brian, the Pony Pals series
Roberto Bolano -novelist and poet
Octavia Estelle Butler - science fiction writer
Dame Agatha Christie - mystery writer
Stephen Cannell - TV writer Rockford Files, A-Team, 21-Jump Street
Lewis Carroll - Alice in Wonderland
Samuel R. Delany - science-fiction writer
Albert Einstein - Relativity: The Special and General Theory
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
Fannie Flagg - Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (also actress)
Gustave Flaubert - Madame Bovary
Vince Flynn - Mitch Rapp Series
Richard Ford - Pulitzer Prize winning author
Sally Gardner - Maggot Moon (winner of the Carnegie Medal)
Terry Goodkind - Sword of Truth series
Stephen Hawking - A Brief History of Time
John Irving - screen writer The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules
Sherrilyn Kenyon - Dark-Hunter vampire series
Lynda La Plante - TV writer Prime Suspects
J.F. Lawton - screen writer of Pretty Woman and Under Siege
John Lennon - song writer Paperback Writer
Don Mullan - Eyewitness Bloody Sunday
Dav Pilkey - writer and illustrator of Captain Underpants
Patricia Polacco - children’s author and illustrator
Anne Rice - Interview With a Vampire
Bernard Taylor - playwright and novelist of crime, horror, suspense and romance
Mark Twain - Huckleberry Finn, Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Jules Verne - science fiction writer
Victor Villoasenor - Rain of Gold
Ben Way - Jobocalypse: The End of Human Jobs and How Robots will Replace Them
Henry Winkler - Hank Zipzer series (also actor)
W.B. Yeats - poet and playwright
Benjamin Zephaniah - poet

You are in very good company!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Everything You Need to Know About Writing You Can Learn From Kung Fu Panda

Okay, I confess--I love good animation. It’s an art form that is looked down upon as being too “childish.” Only recently has the Academy Awards deemed full-length animation worthy of an Oscar. Philistines!

If you haven’t seen Dreamworks Kung Fu Panda yet, go rent it. The detail on the fur and fluid motion are impressive. But pay attention to the story. I don’t know if the writers, Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, were writing about writing, but maybe they were on a subconscious level and didn’t know it.

The basic plot is Po the Panda dreams of becoming a Kung Fu master. But since he is just a fat clumsy panda, he has resigned himself to working in his adopted father’s noodle shop. (Mr. Ping is a goose, but Po hasn’t figured out he’s adopted yet.)

Po and "dad" Mr. Ping who is already proud of Po's skills
Oogway, the gentle and wise old tortoise kung fu master, has a prophetic dream that a former student, the deranged Tai Lung, will escape from prison and destroy the Valley of Peace that he and his school guards. He tells his second-in-command Shifu to round up his current students so he can select the Dragon Warrior who will save them all. The entire village comes to watch, but Po, burdened with a heavy noodle cart, doesn’t get there in time before the gate is closed. Determined to watch, he straps rockets to a chair to propel himself over the wall. It doesn’t go quite as planned, and Po literally drops from the sky at Oogway’s feet. Everyone, including Po, is shocked when Oogway proclaims Po the Dragon Warrior. Has Oogway gone senile?

Po symbolizes the person who wants to write, but doesn’t feel they can ever be good enough. The seemingly-foolish but very wise Ooway is the right side of his brain saying “yes, you can.” Shifu, the left side, keeps telling Po “no, he can’t.” He has no talent. (Is it an accident that Shifui is a red panda, also known as a lesser panda?)

left-brained Shifu and right-brained Oogway
Shifu is finally convinced by Oogway to train Po. The left side of your brain controls language. You need to learn the rules of grammar, sentence structure, spelling, etc. or your writing will either not make sense, or the mistakes will distract from your story. However the left side of you brain is too rigid to come up with original ideas. It can be a great writer, but it’s a lousy story teller.

Shifu’s other students are Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey (all actual Kung Fu styles.) Po can never become like them. He must develop his own style--Panda Style. As it turns out Oogway was right. Tai Lung will have the hardest time fighting against a style he has never seen. In the same way don’t let your left-side try to make you another Hemmingway or Virginia Wolf or Mark Twain. Be something the world has never seen--be yourself.

Viper, Crane, Tigress, Monkey & Mantis Styles of Kung Fu
At first Po is hopeless. He is clumsy and out-of-shape. But he persists. In fact he is downright stubborn. Shifu finally turns Po into a good Kung Fu fighter. But to become the great Dragon Warrior, Po must learn the secret of the Dragon Scroll left by the now departed Oogway.

The scroll turns out to be blank. Just metallic gold foil reflecting the viewer’s face. Even Shifu is baffled by this. Po feels defeated and goes back to his father’s noodle shop. To cheer him up, Mr. Ping tells Po the great family secret--the secret ingredient in his famous Secret Ingredient Soup. The secret is there is no secret ingredient. People expect there to be one so they imagine whatever flavor they crave. They put themselves into the soup. It’s then Po understands the Dragon Scroll and becomes the Dragon Warrior. He goes forth to face the terrible onslaught of the vicious Tai Lung (a.k.a. the critics of the world.)

Tai Lung who can't appreciate Panda Style
You can have a PhD in English and able to do the mechanics of writing. But until you put in the secret ingredient, yourself, you can never be a writer of fiction that people will want to read. Don’t try to channel your favorite writer, just be you. No one has exactly the same experiences, same background, same perspective, same mind as you--not even your twin. Give the world your secret ingredient--your own voice.

I have heard so many newbies ask a famous writer what is the secret to writing, and they always answer “just write.” The student walks away mumbling “Fine, don’t tell me.” But that is the secret--just write. Don’t expect to be any good at first, just keep writing. Trip, fall on your face, get up and keep going. And even when you get good you will still trip, but you will have learned to just get back up instead of whining about it first.

Learn the rules of grammar and writing, but use them as tools not as handcuffs. Write with the go-with-the-flow right-side of your brain, then edit with the rigid no-nonsense left. Write because you have to--not because someone else is making you but because there is something in you that needs to. And most importantly, stop dreaming and start writing.

Go forth Dragon Writer and conquer the world with your awesomeness!

All pictures are from the movie Kung Fu Panda and property of DreamWorks. And I can't imagine they would want to sue me for using them.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I'm Back

In my February 25th blog I promised you a post a week at my Association of Temporal Anthropologists blogsite. My last post was March 25th and it is now May. I apologize for the neglect but I cannot say I am sorry. I have been busy on family business.

I spent April in Montana helping my sister-in-law to take care of my mother-in-law, Jo, dying of cancer. My sister-in-law is disabled and couldn’t do it on her own. I was not the only one helping, but I was the only one without a nine-to-five job I had to get back to. Indeed my nephew and his fiancée postponed their wedding to help.

Before you say what a nice person I am, I did it for the sake of Karma--not my Karma but for Jo’s Karma. My mother-in-law has been the primary care giver for at least three people dying of cancer. Indeed her biggest regret was that she had brought my sister-in-law to Hamilton to take care of her, and now her daughter was taking care of her. Jo was an excellent patient, always cooperative (at least as much as her failing body would allow her to be) and she forced herself to stay upbeat. To the end she was doing what she could to take care of those caring for her.

April 1st Jo was given the final diagnosis of 4 to 6 weeks. She slowly slipped into a coma and passed away peacefully on May 1st. Her last words to me were “I love you.” She was the best mother-in-law one could ask for, never treating me as if I was not good enough for her son, but rather treating me like I was somehow special.

It’s difficult to write when you are hovering over someone who is too weak to press a call button or yell for help. And grief is a bit distracting. However life goes on. I have a second book to edit, which I promised Jo I would dedicate to her. And of course I need to keep up my blog--my attempt at getting attention without being too obnoxious.

To make up for the silence I am posting a short story I have been working on: High Stakes Poker on the Mississippi. This is one of Dr. Wendell Howe’s last projects as a Temporal Anthropologist before disappearing and presumed dead by the 27th century. This tale takes place a couple of months before my book Walking a Fine Timeline.

Click here to link to my short story. I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What is Steambunk?

In my book Walking a Fine Timeline I have a character named Dr. Wendell Howe. When Dr. Serendipity Brown and her assistant, Sherman Conrad, get stuck in the year 1851, they run into a gentleman in a top hat and frockcoat calling himself Dr. Howe. They assume he is a native, until he recognizes Serendipity as the inventor of time travel. She has not announced her invention to anyone, save Sherman. How could Howe know who she is unless he himself is from the future?--Serendipity’s future!

Wendell tells them he is a Temporal Anthropologist from the 27th century. Temporal Anthropologists are trained to fit so well into their chosen time period of study that they no longer fits in their own. Wendell can’t stand 27th century clothes and wears a frockcoat in 2660. He even shaves with a straight razor. What necessary future technology he has with him is carefully disguised to look Victorian.

A lot of people have told me Wendell is steampunk. Purists would beg to differ. Steampunk is Victorians with futuristic things like computers and rockets created with Victorian technology. Think H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. Wendell is just the opposite. He is a man from the future with Victorian things like pocket Bibles and glasses that are really a computer and camera using 27th century technology. He is faux-Victorian. Wendell is what I call “steambunk.”

I wrote a story called “The Spirit of Tea,” which features Wendell throwing a tea party for the Wild Bunch (the real Wild Bunch, not the warm fuzzies of popular culture) and living to tell the tale. I was surprised when it was accepted into Gears & Levers 2: A Steampunk Anthology. So I guess steambunk is now an “official” subgenre of steampunk.

I invented the term just as I invented Temporal Anthropology. I have since learned a few other people who never heard of me have also invented Temporal Anthropology. Let’s face it, it’s a no-brainer term. What else would you call someone who travels into another time to study another culture? And even though Wendell is from England, Victorian England is a totally different culture than 27th century England (or even 21st century England.)

Perhaps all those folks who show up to steampunk conventions in carefully recreated period Victorian garb and not the pseudo-Victorian that is true steampunk are really steambunk.

Now here is the kicker. After I wrote my book I ran across a forgotten novel called The British Barbarians by Grant Allen. Published in 1895, the exact same time as H.G. Wells The Time Machine, it is also a time travel story. While Wells has a Victorian inventing a time machine and traveling into the future, Allen has a man from the 25th century travel back to the Victorian Age and try to pass himself off as a native. By the way the time traveler, Bertram Ingledew, talks he appears to be an anthropologist. He later admits he has come back in time to study the barbarians of Victorian England. Allen never uses the term Temporal Anthropologist but that is what his hero is. (Just goes to show you, no matter how clever you are, someone else has already came up with the idea.)

So if H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine is steampunk, then Grant Allen’s The British Barbarians is steambunk. There you go, my newly invented term has a long and illustrious history.

Grant Allen - the first steambunk author?
(He stole my idea 113 years before I invented it.)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Support Your Local Indie Author

Okay, I don’t like bugging people because you all have lives of your own, but if you read my book and like it, please tell someone. Put a review on Amazon, Good Reads, SmashWords or your own blog. Then let me know about it so I can put it on my website.

Now you are saying “I don’t know how to write a review.” You don’t have to be a literary major with a detailed critique. It doesn’t have to be long. A few sentences are fine. It also doesn’t and shouldn’t be over the top like “the greatest book I ever read.” Just give your honest opinion. What would you tell a friend if you recommended the book to them?

The New Yorker sure as heck won’t review an Indie author. We are rebels, an underground movement fighting the establishment. And when you support an Indie author instead of some big publishing house telling you what to read, then you are a rebel, too. We don’t have the backing of mass media, we need a grassroots campaign.

Most people probably assume I am self-published because no publisher wanted me. It’s just the opposite. I never submitted my book to anyone. I have heard too many horror stories. The New York Publishers are using practices that would not be tolerated in other business community, like contracts a lawyer couldn’t understand (you have to get a specialized one) or tricking writers over the phone into “signing” verbal contracts (legal in New York.) Even if they play fair the best you can ever hope for is 8% of the profits (and that’s only if you are a superstar.) I’m a small town girl who is used to being treated fairly. I decided I didn’t want to deal with these guys.

Another problem is I’ve heard so many authors complain about how they get rewritten by publishers--not to make a better book but to sell more copies. They don’t recognize their book anymore. Throw in some S&M scenes and some zombies. I have heard of many authors being turned down with “we love the book, but we don’t think the general public (who we think are morons) would like it.” I am willing to rewrite to make a scene better, but not to make it “sell better” to people who watch slash films.

Thanks to Print On Demand and ebooks, authors can circumvent the big boys to get to the readers. The good news anyone can publish now. The bad news is anyone can publish now. There is a lot junk out there from writers who don’t bother to get an editor and polish their first draft. So Indies need reviews, word of mouth, to let other readers know what is worth reading.

If you don’t like my writing, that’s fine. It just means you prefer a different genre or style. (If everyone liked the same thing I would have to write about sparkly vampires.) However, I do want you to support the Indies you do like, since they are in the same boat as me. At least hit the “like” button on their Amazon page.

Be part of the Indie Uprising. Viva la Revolution!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Where's Wendell?

TimeTweets, which allowed Dr. Wendell Howe to tweet to the folks back in the 27th century from the 19th was an experimental application. Unfortunately the Institute of Time Travel Enforcement Agency has found out those tweets were somehow bleeding into the 21st century! They had no choice but to try to convince everyone on Twitter this was all a hoax. The Enforcers were also forced to erase Wendell’s memory of Twitter and all the friends he made. He will miss not being able to Tweet on those lonely nights in the field...except he doesn’t remember so he can’t really miss it. He will however feel there is a void in his life.

Soon Wendell will disappear mysteriously on his trip to 1851 in a few months. After a long hunt, the Institute will announce they found bits of him in the past. The University of Cambridge and the whole town will have Wendell’s funeral in 2662, but don’t worry, he is very much alive. And you will just have to read my book to find out what happens to Wendell. (Okay, the free 14 chapter preview will tell you where he went, but not the whole story. For that you have to buy the book.)

My @Wendell_Howe Twitter site was an experiment in marketing. (Gawd, I feel cheap.) But writers have to market their own books nowadays, no matter how they publish. In reality, the aim of a writer is not to make everyone buy his book, since not everyone will like it, but to just let as many people as possible know it exists.

I was going to promote myself on Twitter back in 2009, but after a couple of months I discovered just how boring my life is. So I decided to Tweet as one of my characters. I set Wendell back four years before the events of the book. I figured I would have the book published in a year (naïve me.) Now I have to stop Wendell's Tweets, or I will have to rewrite the book with him Tweeting all the way through it. If I had been smart I would have set @Wendell_Howe back twenty years.

But then maybe that would not have been good, either. Wendell’s tweets were taking up a LOT of my time. I had to do a lot of detective work to find out if a certain building was where Wendell was in the past. What did it look like then? What sort of food would he be eating? How long would it take in 1894 to go from point A to point B by ship? Could he run into a certain person on that date or were they somewhere else? I would spend hours tracking someone down only to learn they were out of town that month. And I’m such a stickler for accuracy, it had to be right.

Not that it wasn’t fun. I’m one of those crazy people that actually likes doing research. I also learned more about Wendell. If you have been following @Wendell_Howe all this time you will recognize some of the things he mentions in the book as things he did while on Twitter. (Like seeing Central Park being built or the driving of the Last Spike on the Canadian Railway.)

@Wendell_Howe was cutting into time I could have been working on my novels. I have a first draft for my second book I need to rewrite, polish and get edited. I also need to finish the draft on my third book, but keep getting distracted by scenes in my head from the fourth book I have to write down. (Yes, there are voices in my head and it’s usually my characters having conversations.)

Also things have come up in my personal life that require more attention. No, thank God, my husband doesn’t want a divorce. My Mom is pushing 80, is having health problems and needs more of my help.

Though Wendell is gone, he is not forgotten. Archibald Cocker, the student Wendell was mentoring to become a temporal anthropologist, will have a Dr. Wendell Howe (@Wendell_Howe) memorial Tweet site. He will also be the webmaster of the Association of Temporal Anthropologists blog. On the blog will be articles by other temporal anthropologists out in the field, doing things Wendell could never do in eras he could never go to. Archie will also occasionally put up old articles written by Wendell before his disappearance. Since I won’t need to know where every building and person in town is, I can just concentrate on one event. I plan to do a post a week. And Archie will announce it on Twitter.

Keep in mind I love forgotten historic trivia, so I promise some surprises. I also have other Temporal Anthropologists I want you to meet. They are from my next book (as well as in my head.)

Thank you for following Wendell and keeping him company...yes, I do think of him in the third person (and so does my husband.) And I know you will all make Archie feel welcome.

Go to and download the 14 chapter preview of Walking a Fine Timeline. Try it on for size; see if you like it.

Ebook available for $2.99 at Smashwords, Amazon, AmazonUK, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iTunes.

Trade Paperback available for $13.99 at Amazon and AmazonUK.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Okay, this has nothing to do with anything except it's just neat-o. Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual has an onsite application called a Pulp-O-Miser. With it you can make mock covers of mid-twentieth century science fiction magazines. You simply choose a mag title, foreground figure, background, and come up with your own story titles, or just let the mad scientist who designed this generate random ones. Here are a couple I made:

As you can see they are even look pre-worn to give it a more authentic appearance.

Pulp-O-Miser claims to be the brain-child of mad scientist Cornelius Zappencackler but is fact from writer and illustrator,  Bradley W. Schenck. Bradley is also the talent behind Retropolis: Art of the Future That Never Was

So go ahead and create your own circa 1950 sci-fi mag cover with Pulp-O-Miser.