Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Writing Goals for 2015

I have a couple things this year in “Dependent” status that might change OTHER plans depending on what happens. I will do my best to double plan so I can be adaptive...

First Quarter

IN my control:

January I will do two more rounds of revision on Also Appearing for ABNA and then enter.

January/February I will read Kahlotus Disposal Site and Medium Wrong, then revise the one I am closes to happy with for Querying.

And in March I plan to write a mystery... WHICH mystery depends on...

Somewhat out of my control: What Ales Me is with Ellen. If she LIKES it, hopefully she can sell it (meaning a focus on this series all year). If she DOESN'T like it, I think it is still good enough to query. My agreement with Ellen is project by project and I like working with her, but she will do the best job for me if she really likes it. Most of her suggestions last time she saw it I totally agreed with, but I will have to see if I managed the tweaks where I didn't agree with her (my approach is to generally think I didn't get what I meant across right so I need to do a better job rather than to make it something I didn't mean in the first place... usually it works, not always).

IFF I sell it, I will write the 2nd in March (March Madness). If I DONT sell it, I will write my 2nd Corset Cop one, strictly because I have one for THAT already started)

Historic postcard from Lake Chatcolet
Second Quarter

April and May will again be revision months, one for a YA, one for the first Corset Cop (unless I have requested revisions for What Ales Me or the YA I submitted in February). Then June, as usual (as it is BuNoWriMo, I will write a book... I have a YA I've been thinking about for a long time and really want to get to called Summer Bones—it is part of my Chatcolet series, of which Also Appearing is the first—they are standalone novels, but connected by location—the lake and small communities nearby where I spent much of my growing up. This one is a bit of a prank gone wrong/bullying tale. BUT if I've sold What Ales Me, I MAY be in a position of needing to write one from that series (the 3rd).

Third Quarter...

July and August tend to be months I reserve for winding stuff up that needs doing. If I've sold the Artful Ales series, it will be a polish time there—getting book 2 really totally ready. If I haven't (or my timing is farther out) I may invest it to make progress on either Undoing or Endangered—both of these are huge projects and both need a lot of work still. Undoing is 3 books in three acts and I've written 2 of the 9 total acts. Endangered I am closer to half done but have done a lot of reconceiving. I may structure it more like I did A Shot in the Light—as written I rotate 4 PoVs but the action doesn't distribute that nicely, so I need to restructure.

September will hopefully be a polish/submit time... (TBD--maybe first Corset Cop)

Fourth Quarter:
October a revision TBD.
November write a mystery for NaNoWriMo
December pick my ABNA book and work on revisions for THAT...

Hopefully there is enough flexibility built in here that I can manage... It is a total of 3 new books, polishing and querying 2 and major edits on 2, plus progress on a big project...

Ready, set... GOOOO!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Non-Writing Goals for 2015


Know what I've realized? I haven't been truly fit since I started writing. Don't worry. It's not you, it's me... and what I mean by that is I am capable of total and utter obsession, but with a limited number of things. And fitness, to my poor addled brain, requires this obsession. I've never been able to do it unless it is the THING I am doing.

This has to change and I know I need to figure out how, but in the short run, I think I really need to allow the obsession in January so I can get some habits formed. I followed Weight Watchers SO CAREFULLY and SO SPECIFICALLY in September and October and lost a grand total of two pounds. That is a lot of work for a whole lotta nothin... I'm thinking this time around I need to do something I've thought was taboo since I was about 16. I need to get drastic. I'm thinking I will start with a cleanse. I've never done one, but hey, why not? I will look for one that is said to be a nice metabolism re-set.

The other trick I plan to mix into following low-end Weight Watcher points is NO REFINED... no white flour or sugar, no highly processed anything, no fake sugars (really the only sugar source I''m going to permit is fruit and the bit of brown sugar I can't skip on my oatmeal). I think the chemistry ban may help... a bit caveman-ish, but NOT skipping the fruit. Anyone who tells you cavemen didn't eat fruit doesn't understand hunter/gatherer culture. I DO get though, how carbs can prime you for hunger, so I think I may segregate fruit to the early hours of the day (fruit and carbs before noon, none after? Still working on this)

The final eating trick I learned from my friend Leslie... mini-fasts, she called them... confining all food to an 8-hour period. Our bodies, biologically, expect feast famine cycles and work most efficiently this way, so I intend to eat all my food between 10 AM and 6 PM...

Part of that trick ALSO wants you to exercise while your body is depleted to burn of the last of the prior day's food, but walking to work sets me up for this—though I will need to add something weekends.

The gym is also going to make a reappearance. Hell, I'm paying for it already and haven't been since October... And that Flex and Strengthen thing... I need to work it in... I will spend some time New Year's Day hammering this out...

The Day Job:

I know I grumble about this because it interferes with my writing, but I honestly consider what I do very important. I do research geared at reducing health disparities and making my med school and health system a more equitable and welcoming place to work and study for people of all backgrounds. It is stuff that matters.

And I've struggled since our office became this big behemoth. I went from being the single researcher for a physician with disparities interests to being part of a 20-person team with a cubicle. I am an introvert who needs to dive into my tunnel to be productive and I feel like I've really fallen down on this, so this year I pledge to work out a system whereby I can be more productive at this important work—productive enough by day that I can leave it at the office, which is something I've struggled with this year.

My cousins and our families rafting this summer

Some of this has to do with HWMNBMOTI so does not belong online... suffice it to say we've talked and have a plan that I am committed to. The other is my kids. At 19 and 16 they often seem to not need me, but I feel like my daughter has spun her wheels a bit this year and needs some help finding traction and my son is just entering the 'get that application ready for college' part of his life, so they deserve my diligence.


Remember my pledge for one book a month by a blog buddy? If NOT, you can join this, TOO. It is HERE. I really encourage you to--it is a great way to be mutually supportive. I ALSO intend to read a classic every month. And then a third book (when the classic isn't super long) that falls into the genres I try to write in so I can keep up a bit. Three books a month seems about right for my reading speed when I consider I also read a book of my own most months as part of the editing process...


Man, has my blogging commitment fallen off. Part of this is the stress of that reciprocity that I KNEW with the day job I couldn't do as well. And I think that is right. I really can't keep up several days a week if I intend to do it right. So I think my plan is this: Twice a week, plus a guest here and there (maybe twice a month). Monday and Thursday seems to make the most sense (except the first week of the month where Insecure Writer Support Group would move me by a day). That gives me three days to do my reciprocity attempt, eh? That is the part I really need to be diligent about—visiting a few (6-10) blogs EVERY day instead of just the days I blog. I should probably clean up my blog roll, too, to better reflect who is still visiting ME regularly so I see your new stuff as it goes up and not just when I am “back-visiting”


This is the trickiest part and I know it. I am STILL suffering burn-out from that serial and the shifts at work. I haven't found my balance yet, but by-golly, I MUST. For me this means getting a bit rigid about a schedule for a while, I think. I can't seem to fit it all in if I haven't given it a place. Everything takes more time than it seems like it should, unless I've set the timer and said “it only gets this today”... So January I am going to SCHEDULE my balance, tweak that schedule in February, and hopefully by March I will have fallen into it more naturally.


Monday, December 29, 2014

I Did WHAT? An Assessment of my 2014 Goals

The first thing I note in this supposed PLAN of mine is how pathetically unplanned it was compared to prior years. Maybe THIS is why I felt like my wheels spun much of the year. If anyone is curious, they are here, assessment of 2013 and plans for 2014 all in one...

Well... even before Christmas, really...
So how did I DO?

Fitness plans? I SUCKED. I had a bad year on that front. I really tried twice, but I have reached that age where I need to really REALLY try and maybe get a bit of formal help. I will call this a big fat fail. And I mean that literally. Okay, maybe a D. And I am only not failing myself totally because I DID have about 4 months of real effort in there... It just didn't help. At all.

Family Stuff... hmmm... it went okay, not fabulous, but not horrible... I will give this a B.

Reading: I read 22 out of 26 letters for my goal with Escape with Dollycas... I got sidetracked with rereading Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter, which I do occasionally, and there are some letters with very few books (I was missing Q, X, Y and Z)—here at the end the Library failed me on a couple. My Q book never came in. Had I been more diligent up front I would have made it, but I left the hard letters to the end and I just couldn't quite pull it out. I DID read probably 30 books (in addition to all the rereads of my own as part of editing rounds) but there were letters missing from the goal. I give it a B-.''

And the Writing...

The real trouble is building the darned boat...
A Shot in the Light ALL got out and is finally into anthologies, too (final paperback pending), but I have NOT gotten it into other formats and forums as planned (Nook, iTunes, Kobo). I am still just on CreateSpace and Amazon. That is sort of a failure, but I am looking at it more as a lesson learned. As a full time worker I just don't have time for all this formatting and editing stuff. I don't think I was meant to self publish... so this little detour for me was like doing 30 credits then changing majors. I am wiser and more rounded for it... it wasn't a WASTE of time, but I have sorted my priorities and think that isn't the track for me. At least not at this time.

That detour cost me in terms of some of my other goals, too. The one that I regret is not putting in the time I needed for releasing Keeping Mum. I have not been invited for a fourth in my series and I suspect it is because I have not been the go-getter marketer they needed me to be. Reviews for it were the best of all the books, but I just couldn't seem to do all the things to create the buzz and get more reviews and I suspect that was because I was trying to do too much (and substantially burned out).

In addition to finishing A Shot in the Light this year I wrote about 2/3 of the first book in my Undoing series and the first in the Corset Cop Series: Teddy Trouble. Both are very first drafty. I revised What Ales Me substantially and Ellen has it once again. And I am almost done with first revisions of Also Appearing which will be my ABNA Entry this year.

I am not sure how to grade my writing year... I did a lot of work, but a lot of it was maybe in the wrong direction and caused distractions to what is going to progress my career. I'd probably give it a B because those were lessons I needed to learn, but I consider the year a bit of a setback on my path.

The next few days I will work out my goals for 2015... Probably non-writing tomorrow and writing on Wednesday.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

12th Day of Christmas

On the 12th Day of Christmas the Tart's true wish for you is 12 Warm Emotions
11 Christmas Presents
10 Quiet Minutes
9 Aches from Laughing
8 Resolutions
7 Nice surprises
6 Inspirations
5 Brand New Books!
4 Old Connections
3 Second helpings
2 Christmas parties
And the patience to shop and stay sane!

WHICH 12 emotions, you ask? Compassion, generosity, tolerance, forgiveness, gratitude, wonder, perseverance, strength, openness, joy, inclusiveness, and love. I wish for you to be on the giving and receiving end of all of these this year. Wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas.

I will see all of you next week for a review of 2014 goals and my resolutions for 2015!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

11th Day of Christmas

On the 11th day of Christmas, the Tart's true wish for you is... 11 Christmas Presents
10 Quiet Minutes
9 Aches from Laughing
8 Resolutions
7 Nice surprises
6 Inspirations
5 Brand New Books!
4 Old Connections
3 Second helpings
2 Christmas parties
And the patience to shop and stay sane!

Somehow 11 seems a nice balance between not enough and excess, yes?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Eve Eve and the 10th Day of Christmas

So historically, this is actually my favorite day... it is the same theory as Thursday... it's all about anticipation... I love ALMOST being on the verge... if you will. Tomorrow it is really on top of us, but TODAY, it is only ALMOST here. I love almost.

This peak of anticipation might be confounded by a family “23rd” thing... My family of origin has a lot of birth dates now, but when I was little, it seemed like most of us had birthdays on the 23rd of SOMETHING. (me included) So ANYWAY, happy Christmas Eve Eve, and Happy Anticipating!!!

It is ALSO the 10th Day of Christmas... and so...

On the 10th Day of Christmas, the Tart's true wish for you is, 10 Quiet Minutes
9 Aches from Laughing
8 Resolutions
7 Nice surprises
6 Inspirations
5 Brand New Books!
4 Old Connections
3 Second helpings
2 Christmas parties
And the patience to shop and stay sane!

This wish comes from the Christmas chaos. Crowds. Shopping. Parties. I hope you get in a little down time so you don't burn out and can still enjoy your holidays.

Monday, December 22, 2014

9th Day of Christmas

On the 9th Day of Christmas the Tart's true wish for you, is 9 Aches from Laughing
8 Resolutions
7 Nice surprises
6 Inspirations
5 Brand New Books!
4 Old Connections
3 Second helpings
2 Christmas parties
And the patience to shop and stay sane!

This is self explanatory. I want you to laugh so hard that it makes your belly ache. We all need a good laugh. Often.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

8th Day of Christmas

On the 8th Day of Christmas the Tart's true wish for you is 8 Resolutions
7 Nice surprises
6 Inspirations
5 Brand New Books!
4 Old Connections
3 Second helpings
2 Christmas parties
And the patience to shop and stay sane!

Say what? You say.... Well I figure 8 is about the right number of goals to hit for the year. Maybe three writing or professional goals, three self-improvement habity things, and two interpersonal... or something like that. And I am wishing for you not just to make them, but to manage them. MEET those resolutions, friends!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

7th Day of Christmas

On the 7th day of Christmas the Tart's true wish for you, is 7 Nice surprises
6 Inspirations
5 Brand New Books!
4 Old Connections
3 Second helpings
2 Christmas parties
And the patience to shop and stay sane!

Why 7 surprises? Lemme esplain. No... is too much. Lemme sum up...

Surprises raise the heart rate and force us to adapt, no matter how small the way... this is something that, even in the case of GOOD surprises can end up hard on your health. If you are a person who likes LOTS of surprises, then more power to you, but I think most of us just want a moderate number, and PLEASE, let those be of the positive sort...

Friday, December 19, 2014

6th Day of Christmas

On the 6th Day of Christmas the Tart's true wish for you, is 6 Inspirations
5 Brand New Books!
4 Old Connections
3 Second helpings
2 Christmas parties
And the patience to shop and stay sane!

Why 6 inspirations? Because if inspiration was an everyday thing it would become the ordinary. The expected. I mean those grand inspirations that make us feel like demi-gods. INSPIRATION. I figure about every other month is the pace at which we could experience this and still have it be extraordinary...

Besides, if it happened to often, we'd all be sleep deprived...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

5th Day of Christmas

Possibly too many books
On the 5th day of Christmas the Tart's True wish for you, is 5 Brand New Books!
4 Old Connections
3 Second helpings
2 Christmas parties
And the patience to shop and stay sane!

Nobody needs to ask why books. What would just be a silly question. But maybe I should explain why 5... See, I LOVE books. But I know over the course of the year I will learn of NEW books I want to read. So I don't want a pile larger than about 5 new ones NOW or I will feel like I can't add new titles later...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

4th Day of Christmas

Hug your loved ones!
On the 4th Day of Christmas the Tart's True wish for you is 4 Old Connections
3 Second helpings
2 Christmas parties
And the patience to shop and stay sane!

Why old connections, you ask? I love the holidays for a few reunions. Whether you get back to your home town and see an old friend, or talk to family you haven't talked to for ages, the holidays are a wonderful time for this. And a much less sad time to do it than say, a funeral or something. So reach out to someone you haven't talked to for too long.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

3rd Day of Christmas

On the 3rd Day of Christmas the Tart's true wish for you is 3 Second helpings
2 Christmas parties
And the patience to shop and stay sane!

I say this because Christmas is a time it is SO HARD to find moderation... And I find if I am in total denial of all the extra stuff I just feel... either self righteous but food obsessed or resentful and crabby. So I am wishing for you the ability to splurge A LITTLE, but not so much you regret it...

Monday, December 15, 2014

2nd Day of Christmas and News

On the 2nd Day of Christmas the Tart's true wish for you is 2 Christmas parties
And the patience to shop and stay sane!

Why two parties you ask...

Because a lot of parties ends up a stressful madhouse and none seems like you miss the mood of the season. Two to me seems just right—one with coworkers, maybe, and another with family and friends.

(each day I will say WHY for the new ones, in case you are interested in checking out the why for any already on the list...

A wee bit of NEWS

A Shot in the Light: The bundled set is available. It is value-priced—half what the 12 separate issues would have been and $3 less than the trilogy purchased separately, so if anyone is interested and has faith to get the full thing all at once...

If you are interested in the paperbacks, they are COMING... I have wee things to fix on the 2nd and 3rd, but hopefully by the end of the week...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

1st Day of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas the Tart's True wish for you is the patience to shop and stay sane!

I am going to post a Christmas wish for you every day until Christmas, but I will keep it short and sweet (a drabble worth or less for the wishes). I DO however, have additional blog content on a few days (my normal Mondays and a couple others) just so we all know what's going on around here.

Nope. Nope. Nope. NOT my favorite thing.
Why patience?

Have you BEEN shopping? Crowds can bring out the worst in people, but for us, people with stories in our head, if you can step back and look at all this as content opportunity: character, plot, human interaction, I think it is easier to keep our own emotional responses in the positive range. No, it's no fun to wait in line, but imagine full lives for the people around you and it can suddenly be very interesting. Almost enjoyable.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Lost Art of Anticipation

We have FINALLY reached the time of year where I can get excited about Christmas. I have a couple friends—my Couch to Keg buddies—who are all into all that early crap. I give them a bad time as they start to get all excited around Halloween. Christmas stuff before December tends to just make me Scroogish. And here is why...

Know how Thursday is my favorite day? I actually enjoy my weekends best, but the BEST part is anticipating all that POTENTIAL fabulousity from BEFORE hand. On THURSDAY, the weekend could hold ANYTHING. It is all-encompassing wonder.

Well see, December leading up to Christmas is like that, but all these nuts are like... getting giddy for the weekend on Tuesday and there is SO MUCH STUFF to do between now and then... It makes all the WAITING harder if there is more of it.

I have a theory...

My buddy Jackie ALSO likes spoilers—she wants to know what is going to happen before it happens. The stuff associated with opening your packages and re-wrapping them in my mind, but it is just how she is. Me, if I know AHEAD it makes the actual experience less sweet... I am back to that POTENTIAL thing... I LOVE potential. These non-anticipators go to the last page of books and they peek when someone says “close your eyes”. I think there may be some fear at the element of surprise.

But now that I am in the holiday spirit, I wanted to share a couple things that are making me happy...


I ordered their Christmas CD and they are amazing. I fell in love with them last year with their rendition of Little Drummer Boy. These guys won Sing Off in 2012—5 people acapella. From the CD I particularly love their Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and their original Mary, Did You Know. I've really enjoyed listening to these guys a lot.

Pretty Lights

I'm a bit of a nut for sparkly and Christmas Lights fit right in there—I love when all the lights are up.

And I love that stuff like this happens
A Couple Neighborhood Fun Events

We have, as a neighborhood, a caroling night that is a blast—we wander en masse and sing a song for people who are at home. Typically we carry a mug of spiked cocoa or something. We ALSO have a Winter Solstice Party we attend, and a Karaoke party...

How about all of you? Have you mastered anticipation enough to HOLD OFF on celebrating, or do you jump in as soon as possible because you have no self control? Erm... What are your seasonal things you love?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Making a Muck Of It

Halo, friends! Welcome to Insecure Writer Support Group First Wednesday!

Have you heard the saying we rise to our lowest level of incompetence? It means in regular jobs that we keep getting promoted until we reach a job we really can't do all that well and then there we stay, no longer proving we deserve promotion, so we are stuck in the job we are bad at...

I feel a lot like I've somewhat mastered writing a pretty good story, and I am pretty decent at getting an edit done, and so I am forever doomed trying to get the darned things OUT THERE. I suck at the query or the framing and promotion for self publishing, or any of these other things that are supposedly necessary, so here I am stuck with this stuff I HATE.

Then again I am facing a rewrite for the Amazon Contest right now and I am not even quite convinced anymore I can write a book...

But I AM making progress (FINALLY) on getting the later books of A Shot in the Light up and out, so that is something.

How about you? Have you hit your lowest level of incompetence? What is it? What do you do to master it?

And if any of you are interested in being supportive reader friends as a resolution next year, I encourage you to look at my LAST post. I'd love you to join!

Now go see some MORE insecure people.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Blog Book Buddy Resolution

So know how I sometimes have really good ideas but am sort of crap for execution? This is one of those... I have recently read a couple GREAT books by author friends and it occurred to me I should make a better POINT of it. And I want to be HELPFUL and what is more helpful to author friends than REVIEWS. So I am making a resolution for 2015 to read at least a BOOK every MONTH by by blogging author friend.

And I am inviting YOU to do the SAME.

See, and hopefully it ALSO means we all get more reviews
Here is how it will work.

1)  Sign up with the McLinky below but link YOUR PAGE that lists your BOOKS so anyone wanting to read from the list of participants can use that. ALSO—when you name your page, include GENRE(s) so it is user friendly

Like this: Hart Johnson—mystery and suspense

2)  I don't want this to be cost prohibitive—some of us struggle, so if you are willing to give any books for FREE email me ( with the book name and how people would get it (your email or a link to the freebie). I will keep a running list on the page with the tab above for Blog Buddy Book Resolution—feel free to add to the list if you publish more books. You may ALSO want to note how they could get it for free on your linked page listing your books, but you don't have to.

3)  I am asking those who participate to leave HONEST reviews about the BOOK. Anyone who thinks they might be tempted to 'respond in kind' if someone leaves a less than sparkly review, this is not your gig... move along. No harm, no foul. We all honestly benefit more from these honest reviews

4) Next December maybe we can have a party where we all share our reviews on the same day and if we GOT more reviews, share about THAT... And if it was successful, we can renew it for the following year.

How YOU can help:

1)  SIGN UP! Participate! These things are always more fun with friends. If you aren't published, you can still play—just put FRIEND instead of your genre with your name so everyone knows you are being supportive.

2)  I could use a clever badge and my art skills seized when I was about 8, so if someone wants to make one...

3)  SHARE! Invite people! Be sure to note though, what link we want—it can be confusing if people just link their blogs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Immortality Game by Ted Cross: An Interview and Review

So Ted Cross is one of the more fascinating people I've managed to meet anywhere. Seriously. He is a US diplomat who has lived in capitals around the world, speaks several languages, is a world-class chess player, managed to be an extra in the latest Die-Hard Movie, arranges for his son to play guitar with famous musicians... I mean SERIOUSLY interesting. Definitely more interesting than me, and I mean no disrespect when I say he is PROBABLY more interesting than you...

So when he announced he was releasing his Cyberpunk Thriller, The Immortality Game, I thought it was a great opportunity to introduce all of YOU to him (and his work) too. So today I am interviewing him and then I've got a review of The Immortality Game—it came out yesterday, I believe, but I was lucky enough to get an advance copy.

To orient you a bit...
Great cover, eh?
The Immortality Game blurb: Moscow, 2138. With the world only beginning to recover from the complete societal collapse of the late 21st Century, Zoya scrapes by prepping corpses for funerals and dreams of saving enough money to have a child. When her brother forces her to bring him a mysterious package, she witnesses his murder and finds herself on the run from ruthless mobsters. Frantically trying to stay alive and save her loved ones, Zoya opens the package and discovers two unusual data cards, one that allows her to fight back against the mafia and another which may hold the key to everlasting life.

So without further ado, the Interview:

Hi, Ted. You've got a great rounded story here—great characters, great setting, great plot... where did it start for you?

Hart, thank you so much for hosting me on your blog. I’ve followed it for years and you are one of my favorites.

This story developed in three stages. First it was just a Russian mafia story set in the 1990’s, since that’s when I lived there and experienced how crazy it was. I had several scenes envisioned, but I was never able to figure out a whole arc, so the story languished in my mind for many years.

Later I developed some interesting ideas based on new twists to old science fiction tropes. I had never seen anyone use these ideas before and they felt realistic to me; I could actually imagine a future in which these ideas could end up being real. But having great technology ideas still doesn’t make for a great story, so that idea also went into mothballs.

In 2007 I began writing my first novel, an epic fantasy that I’m still editing after all this time and finally intend to release next year. I develop extensive backstory, and the backstory of one character, the wizard Xax, intrigued me more than any other. He had been a scientist back on Earth and was part of the first ever expedition to settle a habitable planet outside of our solar system. I don’t remember when it happened, but something clicked with his backstory when I realized I could add the mafia storyline into the mix and it would fill in the missing arc I had always needed.

I love this future world you've created where so many people have checked out of reality to live their fantasy lives in their heads. Do you see this as a real possibility? And how did this setup come to you?

I see it happening already, on the metro or walking down the street, with everyone having their heads buried in their mobile devices. I have read several times of gamers in China or Korea dying from binging too much on their games. Imagine if wireless in your mind could touch your senses directly in your brain and cause virtual reality to feel no less real than reality itself. If the virtual world is so much better than ours, it can easily become addictive, so that was where Meshing came from.

Your unlikely set of heroes was delightful and the way you believably gave them the skills they needed in spite of their being so ordinary was creative genius. Did you set out to do that intentionally (making heroes of ordinary people)? Can you share some of your thinking in character development?

Absolutely. Hey, I love a great hero story as much as anyone, so I’m not knocking all the fantastically gifted and gorgeous heroes out there. But I did want something different. I enjoy verisimilitude in just about everything. For example, I don’t really like any art except realism, and my favorite books, even when set in fantasy worlds, are those that portray the story in a realistic manner, such as A Game of Thrones. So both with my fantasy novel and this cyberpunk thriller I strove for realism.

I based Zoya loosely off of my wife at the same age she was when I met her in Moscow. Marcus I chose because I wanted his arc to begin in my home city of Phoenix, and Mexican-Americans are a huge part of the population there, not to mention that they are terribly underrepresented in our entertainment. Tyoma needed to be there because he goes on to become a wizard in later books. Tavik was interesting because I hadn’t intended to do a POV from the side of the antagonists, but I was feeling that they (the mafia) didn’t get to be a big enough part of the storyline early on, so they felt a tad flat and clichéd and it suddenly made sense to me to throw his story into the mix to help flesh their side out.

Note the chess pieces... or the dreamboat, your choice
As a diplomat, I have to think you have some insight into how politics go... and you have such an interesting set up for the politics in the US with the new America West government established in Salt Lake—I'd love to know your thought process arriving at the state of things 120 years in the future. (how much of the idea was in fun and how much political satire/warning?)

I have always been in love with history, and I’ve seen how history repeats itself. Humans have a tendency to ignore problems until the problem becomes too big to ignore. I dream a lot about the future, and in one of my dreams I imagined what might happen in a lot of today’s problems not only continued to grow worse but their peaks converged to all happen at once. What if in just a few short years the Earth had to experience many refugees from rising ocean levels, lack of potable water, a mutation of swine flu that became a pandemic, and general economic collapse due to wealth disparity? I pictured a period I call the Dark Times where everything collapses into utter chaos and ‘survival of the fittest’. This period of warlords lasts for around four decades before governments slowly begin to piece themselves back together again.

When I imagined what might happen to America, I assumed Alaska and Hawaii would break off on their own. I imagined Texas becoming a power and gobbling up some neighbor states to create a hard rightwing dystopia. With America West it was simple. When mind-data interfaces, which I call slots, became advanced enough and cheap enough that governments felt it was in their best interests to provide slots for all citizens, I knew some religious groups would object to that. Since I was dealing with the West, where there are many Mormons, it felt natural to make them be one of the groups that refused to allow their members to get slots. So when Meshing turns into an epidemic, the Mormons are the largest unaffected group and it’s only natural that the leadership of America West falls to them.

The experience in Moscow was so realistic—I could tell it's a city you know, yet you futurized it, too. What was your process for deciding what to change and what to keep the same? In particular, I love the 'elite' living high and the rabble living low, so I'd love it if you'd include about that.

Moscow, both when I lived there and when I have returned for visits, is an extreme of poverty and wealth. You can see fabulous buildings, but they are surrounded by the decay of ancient Soviet architecture. I don’t see much changing, so all I did was imagine a progression forward in time. The center of Moscow is its heart, so it’s natural that the wealthy would turn the center into their ‘realm’, while the rest of the city would be much like today only further decayed. With so many millions of the poor and no new places to build, the wealthy would, in my estimation, create their new realm by building upwards, and that is what turns Moscow into a divide of those who live in the sky and those who dwell in ‘the muck’. And since the metro was such an integral part of life in Moscow, I had to include it. I decided that with the advent of air cars the metro would die out, so to me it seemed natural that the very poorest would move down there and become their own tribe—troglodites, or ‘trogs’ as I call them.

You're a super smart guy—I'm curious which technology you used is really stuff in development and which you totally came up with on your own (at least to your knowledge).

Much of the technology was simply me reading books set far in the future and wondering what that same technology would have been like in its infancy. For example the idea of being able to digitally store the data from a brain and transfer a person to a new body came from reading the Takeshi Kovacs novels by Richard K. Morgan. It’s not a new idea but I particularly enjoyed his usage of it, and the slot technology in my story is my idea for how that may have begun. People might say that a direct mind-data interface is ludicrous, but people have been saying such things are impossible for many centuries only to be proven wrong. The average imagination just isn’t strong enough to comprehend some of the wonders that are coming in the future. But there really are rudimentary mind-data interfaces already in our time! I have been reading stories of implants directly into the brain, allowing scientists to read signals and learn how to interpret them. Of course this technology will advance and become a part of our lives at some point.

And finally, what are you working on now?

Two things—I am editing my first fantasy novel in order to publish it sometime next year, and I have a great new story idea that I’m very excited to write. It is set in the same ‘universe’ but is much, much further in the future. Honestly I think it could be my breakout novel and even turn into a blockbuster movie, that’s how amazing I think the story concept is. Only time will tell if I am delusional!

Tart Review: It is gratifying to me, and it comes along so rarely, that a story has the trifecta of important pieces, all developed well: character, setting and plot. Zoya and Marcus are 'everyman' in different ways, Marcus in recovery from a “Mesh” addiction (that escape to a fantasy world of his choosing where his body is stabilized in a bed and his head hooked into escape instead of reality), son of a very wealthy (but mostly dead) man who had managed to finally eradicate viruses from the online world. Zoya is working poor in a place with DRASTIC disparities between people who can do pretty much anything they want and people barely getting by. And Ted manages to give them realistic motive to get involved and realistic means to 'up their game' to the necessary skills. The setting is fascinating and seems realistic, given the distance in the future, and the plot is highly tense and comes together (several PoV characters start in different places) well.

More than all this though, this is the first book I've read in quite some time that was completely Un-put-downable. I found myself reaching for it every chance I got. Even if you are not a Sci-Fi or Cyberpunk fan normally, the thriller nature of this and the great characters will pull you in.

You can find Ted at these places:

Blog: Cross Words
Facebook page: Ted.Cross.Author
Goodreads author page: Ted Cross
Twitter: tedacross
Amazon: Ted A Cross and The Immortality Game

Monday, November 24, 2014

How I Miss You Blogfest

So today Alex, Andrew and Matt are hosting the How I Miss You Blogfest where we send out “Miss you” for up to three people who used to blog, and up to three people we'd really miss if they LEFT blogging... and then we go let those people know... a little outreach and appreciation, if you will.

You know how I have trouble following rules, right? Instead of 3 and 3, I am going to go with 4 and 1, so the total is less, but I couldn't do 3 without 4 for the missed...

Who I Miss

Once upon a time, before I was OUT as a writer, I was a super secret Harry Potter Fan Fiction writer under the screen name Gnargles&Snorkaks. In that little safe haven I was observed and encouraged by a few OTHER people who liked to write, and who thought I should write REAL books. Some of these fine folks joined the blogging world when I did, but they are nearly never around anymore and I really miss them...

So my missed gals are my fellow Burrowers who have not DISABLLED their blogs, but have not blogged for WAY too long:

Jess, Leanne, Me, Tara and Mari in Cardiff, 2008
Procrastinating Princess, Tara/Amber T Smith: Tara released a book and a novella, but life sort of took over. I still talk to Tara via Facebook, but I miss her quirky, silly blogs.

Giraffability of Digressions, Cruella Colett: Mari/Cruella finished her Master's degree, met a boy who has become important, and her professional and personal stuff just took over. I loved Mari's take though, on topics both silly and serious. She is from Norway with an international studies degree and has traveled widely, so she was always BRILLIANT at putting things in perspective. And always in a way that was open (and often funny) so people could really take in some heavy stuff. Even now, posting about missing her, I've gotten sucked into reading old blogs... man how I love her way with words.

Bronx Tales and Inner Musings, Shaharizan Perez: Chary went back to school (2nd Masters or EdD, I'm not sure) but to be a school administrator... all while working and raising kids, so she just hasn't had time, but Chary has STORIES. Real stories. Heart stories. And as proud as I am in her accomplishments, I really wish she had more time to write.

Coffee Rings Everywhere, Natasha: Natasha, my twin and the first person ever who told me I should write real books, and like my other friends, her life has just gotten crazy-busy. I see her so much less often than I did once upon a time and it's been several months since she blogged.

I wish life didn't so often interfere... and I am so grateful that SOMEHOW life allowed these ladies to all have the time to come together at least briefly so I got to know them so well...

Who I'd Miss... and by MISS, I mean the blogging community would IMPLODE because he's become so central to our nervous system... Plus there is the very critical fact he's not on Facebook so I'd lose networking interaction altogether...

Alex Cavanaugh: Alex is the heart of us. Really. I mean there are hundreds of you I really like and care about and would miss, but I think our whole network would shift for the worse without Alex.

And in OTHER exciting news, Tomorrow I am posting a review and Interview for Ted Cross's release of The Immortality Game—you won't want to miss it!!!

Now go see who some other people miss!

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Worry of Bloggers (and other Assorted Madness)

So you know about Misattributing, right?


See, it's my superpower. I can hear what YOU say and give it a new context so it means something different (usually dirty and I wouldn't bother if the new thing wasn't funny)

So last weekend I was reading a link to a blog post and it began, “A worry of bloggers is...”

And I just stopped reading. I would SO MUCH rather think that bloggers, collectively, can be called a worry and that this worry is doing something COOL than to have yet another thing to worry about... So I have dibbed it so. We, COLLECTIVELY, are now a Worry.

My buddy Joris did these
There is precedence, you know...

A flamboyance of flamingos?

A murder of crows?

These names are OBVIOUSLY the result of somebody having way too much fun.

What about An Anxiety of Authors?
A Rascal of Writers?
A Significance of Statisticians?

Go ahead. You try it!
See--aren't these great? He's a talented guy.

In Other News...

Still WriMoing. My sad news of last week gave me some slow days in there when the muse really just wanted to be mopey, but I still wrote at least a little every day, and my super start padded the down time. I have confidence that at some point this week I will pass the mark where I only need to do less than a thousand words a day to make it.

I am experimenting with this one. It is the first true mystery I've done where I am including multiple PoV including the person(s) who dunnit... I'm not sure whether I like it or not, or whether it takes the whole MYSTERY out of the mystery... U is for Undertow (Sue Grafton) did it and I liked the effect, but it may be I need to do something different on the rewrite. Even if I do though, I feel like I understand my killer better this time than I have. I think it will prove a useful exercise even if it DOES get dropped.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 (she is 5'8")
And TOMORROW, my baby boy turns 16. Poor kid has finals Wednesday and Thursday, so it is lousy timing (his high school is on trimesters). Measured him Friday—he is 6'6” tall. He has a driver's permit and has to fold himself into our car—it's not like my husband and I are tiny people, but 5 inches is a pretty big deal.

I have a swamped week at work with deadlines Thursday and Friday, so this will be the only blog, but hopefully once I am past that, I can get back to a little more.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lonnie Lindquist: A Heartbroken Tribute

A light went out this week. I hope my writing followers will excuse this personal sidebar, as writing is how I process and this seems to be all that has been on my mind for a couple days.

A recent pic, stolen from Facebook

I hadn't seen Lonnie since we graduated high school a thousand years ago (he only attended one reunion--sadly, the one I missed), but he was my friend when I was only first beginning to understand who I was or what I wanted. I had a giant crush on him for a while there, when I was about 12, and while he wasn't my first kiss, he was the first boy I kissed and really meant it. (one-way, most assuredly—he liked me only as a friend—that is how those things went for me in the early teens)

You see, back before all the girls started dating older boys, back when even talking to a boy made me blush—clear back to Junior High, my group of girlfriends had a group of boys we did things with. I can credit Kim, I'm sure, my friend who was born with social skills from here to the moon. She knew how to talk BACK, so the boys came around in spite of my sputtering and gawking.

Lonnie moved back to Moscow after some time away when I was in 7th grade. He had straight teeth, the thickest hair you ever saw, and big blue eyes that always had a spark of mischief. More importantly, he had an easy social friendliness—teasing some, but in a nice way—that made him less intimidating than a lot of the other boys.

Excuse the quality of these old pics...
The boys had gone to a different elementary, but lived close to our neighborhood. I lived immediately next to the Junior High, so my house became the gathering spot. At lunch, after school—when I had a slumber party, those boys snuck over MANY times. They played pranks on us (more on this in a minute) or goofed around... teenaged boys and girls being teenaged boys and girls.

Lonnie and I had an odd bond, too. Both of us had lost our dads to accidents in relatively recent years and had young, pretty moms doing the best they could. We never actually talked about it, but I always felt a little more understood by him than by my friends with big “whole” families.

His house was only a few blocks from mine and was on the way to my best friend Shannon's, so during that crush era, I had a good excuse to walk by a lot—which mostly just forged a friendship with his younger brother, but did show my dedication.

Lonnie could nearly always be spotted with his basketball—he wanted to be Larry Byrd. And our friend Bruce claimed he was jinxed in the 'sneaking in' department—any time those boys got busted, Lonnie was one of them. But when I think back to some of the pranks...

REDRUM: Best Prank Ever

I've written before about the Redrum Caper, but thought it worth a rewrite, as the important pieces seem to have shifted, but forgive me if you've seen this before:

The Shining was made into a movie (for the first time) in spring of 1980. Of note is the fact that the movie came out 5 days after Mt. St. Helen's blew. In Moscow, Idaho, where we all lived, we got almost an inch of ash settling on the streets, creating a spooky apocalyptic feel and canceling school for the rest of the year, so there was a MOOD present, as well as the antsiness that comes from not being able to get out much.

Three friends and I decided to go to the movie (only my second R movie, if I remember right) and then spend the night at Shannon's house. [girls of 13 and 14 come in packs and rarely have a weekend without a sleepover, so this is all run-of-the-mill...] Kim and I had read the book, Shannon and Sharyl had not, but Kim and I had talked about it enough, they knew the basic plot, and the movie did not disappoint.

After the movie we all sat around Shannon's kitchen table doing that finger thing Danny does, saying “REDRUM, REDRUM,” and “Heeeeeeeere's Johnny!”

Kim was pretty spooked, telling the rest of us to stop. Sharyl was hysterically amused, Shannon and I... middle grounders... but still, we went back and forth a little. After a while we all went upstairs to get ready for for bed. As we walked into Shannon's room (on the second floor, mind you) across her bedroom window was REDRUM in red.

Kim screamed... and screamed and screamed and screamed. I think I screamed at first.  Sharyl continued to laugh hysterically. (she has a big brother and was used to this sort of thing, I think). Shannon screamed but then got MAD (seeing this as a mean prank), her mother ran in, to see who was dying... all the while Sharyl still laughing...

In the aftermath...

We learned that the Marauders (Lonnie, Bruce and Craig--the three you can see faces for to the right), who knew we'd gone to the movie that night, sat outside the kitchen window and listened to us scaring each other (laughing all the while). Lonnie and Craig (at the very least... I don't think Bruce made it to the roof) then climbed onto the garage roof with a tube of lipstick stolen from one of their mothers (probably Marilyn, Craig's mom), and wrote REDRUM (of course they remembered that from the OUTSIDE for it to look right, what they really had to write was MURDER. They didn't make it off the roof before we came in, and Lonnie twisted his ankle leaping off the roof.

And I'm pretty darned sure Shannon's mom called and made them come over and get on the roof to clean the lipstick off the window a few days later, but I might be making that part up... it would be very in character, though--Jessie has a certain undeniable authority when she gets that look in her eye, even today.

While that was the biggie, there was also the time Lonnie and Craig filled all the glasses in my mom's cupboard with water and turned them upside-down on the counter...

Weren't we terrible?
But we got even. Spanish club sold people as a fundraiser and we got to then dress them as we wished...

I wouldn't go back to Jr. High for anything. It was such an insecure time for me, but there were definitely bright spots, and for me, Lonnie was one of them.

These were great friendships. I was sad when we all shifted and drifted—high school we didn't really have classes together and my group of girlfriends shifted to an older group of guys we hung out with, but my fondness has never gone away.

Rest in peace, my friend.

If anyone else has memories to share, I would love you to do that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Guy Fawksin the WriMo

Burn Baby Burn!

Erm... I meal Hello! Welcome to Insecure Writer's Support Group First Wednesday! And yes, I do plan to tie these three themes together with lesser ado than you might think would be required. But first, to set the mood:

Burning the Guy: a British tradition
The Fifth of November
    Remember, remember! 
    The fifth of November, 
    The Gunpowder treason and plot; 
    I know of no reason 
    Why the Gunpowder treason 
    Should ever be forgot! 
    Guy Fawkes and his companions 
    Did the scheme contrive, 
    To blow the King and Parliament 
    All up alive. 
    Threescore barrels, laid below, 
    To prove old England's overthrow. 
    But, by God's providence, him they catch, 
    With a dark lantern, lighting a match! 
    A stick and a stake 
    For King James's sake! 
    If you won't give me one, 
    I'll take two, 
    The better for me, 
    And the worse for you. 
    A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope, 
    A penn'orth of cheese to choke him, 
    A pint of beer to wash it down, 
    And a jolly good fire to burn him. 
    Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring! 
    Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King! 
    Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

Know how I love NaNoWriMo?
Know how NaNoWriMo is all about setting aside your inner editor to just write FAST?
Know how it is permission to write CRAP?

NaNoWriMo is like Guy Fawkes, writing a book and the idea was probably pretty good, but the execution is CRAP. But that doesn't mean it doesn't need to be done.

Now Guy went and got hanged and burned and all that, and I don't want you to do that to yourself. But maybe consider that NaNoWriMo isn't actually writing a BOOK so much as a first pass at your PLAN of what will eventually be your book.

So this is NOT wasted time, but if you act like you are done after this, you are libel to get burned. Got it? (this lecture is to myself as much as you--I have a few WriMos that I've never touched again, but it IS worth it anyway)

(was that such a stretch?)

Monday, November 3, 2014

My Mysterious Year

So I write REALLY a lot of books... and my writing career seems to be doing not a terrible lot. My contract is over—three books, the first sold through and I still get a little check from it every six months... the other two have NOT sold through, which means they don't ask for more, I guess...

My YA books have not sold. Only got close on ONE (had an agent, submitted, no buyer). My serial thriller (self pubbed) has grossed me all of about $40... (which is a significant loss when I look at paying for editing and covers)

So how does one jump start a writing career? Have I been doing this long enough to figure it out?

Tangent #1

Ever scraped a house? Trying to get the old paint off before you are ready to sand, prep and paint again? Know how it's easier to chip away at the old if you start where there is a bubble in the paint or where something has already been chipped away?


I've decided the most promising route to getting there is starting where I have a little traction. Feels like VERY little at the moment, but I think if I really dig in and focus for a while, I might manage it.

Tangent #2

I am belatedly reading a Sue Grafton book at the moment. It is my first time—not sure what I was waiting for except she really was getting big when I was still in my YA with my kids phase and by the time she got to about M I thought she seemed too gimmicky. What did I know? I think she is speaking to my audience. Some humor. Some quirk. But REAL issues. Real psychology, real violence. I don't use a PI for a sleuth, but otherwise I think the feel is right. I finally have a comparable to give my agent and publishers an idea how to frame me.

Why Not Self-Publish?

You know... I honestly don't have the time at the moment. If I didn't have to work a day job, I could handle all the details. But if I had that kind of time, I ALSO might have already made some progress on my YA stuff—the spit polish agent quest or contests or small publishers.

So Why This Focus Now?

I spent the last year writing, polishing and publishing a serial totally more than 300,000 words. And while part of me felt a little burned out focusing THAT heavily on one thing for a whole year, I know now I can keep up the pace, and THIS year, I am not going to do all one project. And I will have the leeway to alternate writing and editing in long spurts...

And What is the PLAN?

BUWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (you know I can't say plan without a maniacal laugh, right?)

Well right now Ellen has What Ales Me.

And right now I'm WRITING the first in a DIFFERENT series: the Corset Cop Chronicles...

What the heck is THAT? Well, my sleuth is a retired cop who, upon retirement, decided to open a lingerie store... She is in her early 60s and sassy and smart. She has five sons and varied relationships with them. She is to some degree based on a real woman, a woman I knew growing up because the real woman's youngest son is my age... but only the set up... former cop, now selling lingerie, five sons. Everything else (aside from a bit of sass) is fiction.

I managed over 14,000 words of this puppy in my first two days of NaNoWriMo... Progress, baby!

The second series fits the cozy profile better than the ale series, but they honestly have similar tone. It is where I am most comfortable I need the danger to feel real. I need the character flaws to be real.

And I think if I get two series going, I might finally feel myself launched... or that is the hope anyway.

In the meantime I may polish some of my YA. But I am going to hold off on WRITING new YA, even though I have a ton I want to do. I just feel like until I get my real traction, spreading myself too thin means I won't EVER be able to support myself at this. So in the next 14 months... until the end of 2015, my plan is to write THREE new mysteries. One this month, one for BuNoWriMo and one for NaNo next year. That gives me two in each series or, if What Ales Me sells, three Artful Ale and one Corset Cop.

Since Ellen HAS What Ales Me, I hope that will sell right away. But having a couple ready will help my case regardless.

Know What I Didn't Quite Believe Until Recently?

Besides the fact I couldn't do it all?

That a coherent plan was really a prerequisite. My observation was most people had managed anyway. But I think that is because until they take off, there is no way to KNOW what they've been doing.

Do YOU have a plan? How are you coming on it?

Monday, October 27, 2014

NaNoWriMo Countdown

Okay kids... are you READY!?

I finished my hard copy edits on What Ales Me last night. A few small things to address per the DIVINE Elizabeth Spann Craig, plus a read to make sure my chapters all end on a BOOM pageturner... but I should be able to send it to Ellen tonight.

That leaves me the PERFECT amount of time to prep for NaNoWriMo, eh?

This is NOT my backstory
I already HAVE:

character sketches


some backstory


Chart my suspects with their motives and the clues my sleuth will uncover

Make my 'goal spreadsheet'

Clean off my desk

Erm... and I might be having trouble committing solidly to one story, as part of me wants to write the second in the series for the one I just finished... I've been immersed in this world, the characters are solid, and if it SELLS I will need more of them...

Always something exciting around here, eh?

Unfortunately, that's all I have time for right now, as this other project is BIG, but once it is done, I hope to have more to say...

Anybody else WriMoing? What do YOU do to prepare?

Buddy me if you want: hartjohnson

Monday, October 20, 2014

Survive For the Bucket List (Two Blogfests)

Halo, fine friends! Today I am participating in TWO blogfests, but they go together well, so I figure its all good. First is the Survive and Thrive Blogfest about taking care of ourselves—disease awareness, prevention, annallat.

It's hosted by
Stephen Tremp
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Michael Di Gesu
L. Diane Wolfe

And then, since we are all surviving so much longer... there is the BUCKET LIST... stuff we want to be sure to do before we die...

Survive and Thrive: Stubbornness Doesn't Pay

Know how some people 'refuse to be sick'? I am one of these—I don't give into small bugs, I don't take sick days, and I refuse to let stuff get me down.

Two years ago I had a hard lesson about why this isn't always smart.

Those of you who have been around a while may remember my aunt passing away in 2012. She was only 60 and had cancer of both colon and uterus, but based on family history, I suspect she had colon cancer first—a cancer that can be cured if caught early. There was some investigation into a syndrome, which she was negative for (thankfully), but (also thankfully) sent me to a genetics counselor for advice on how to look into my own risk.

It has set me on a course of earlier and more frequent screenings for colon cancer—something that short of the information about my family I might have resisted. And already those screenings have found and allowed for removal of 'something suspicious'.

So what I'm saying is LOOK AT YOUR HISTORY. If you know what runs in your family then you can identify if you are a case where “run of the mill” is too little.

And with All this Extra TIME.... Let's figure out what we want to DO!!!

Bucket List

I've done most of the physical stuff, so most of what is on my list is stuff I want to SEE, which means I am going to SHOW you... Here are the highlights of my Bucket List.

A slow tour all the way around the Meditterenean

Angel Falls Venezueala

An Ancestral trip (including Norway and Sweden)
A UK trip of all my favorite stuff... (Monty Python, Harry Potter, etc.)

Private Writing Retreat with a couple of my buds

And then there are a couple things way out of my control that I REALLY REALLY want to experience:

Having a runaway best seller and having a book made into a movie.