Amused Authors

Urban Fantasy
April 23, 2009, 1:38 pm
Filed under: funny, life | Tags: , ,

It’s spring in the heart of Denver. Yes, that often means snow, but a more frequent hazard is wildlife. You heard right. Wildlife. In spring, the squirrels around my house are pretty wild!

Worse than that, they’re armed. They love pine nuts, and they enjoy sitting in the big pine tree outside my parking space and systematically destroying a pinecone to get at the nuts. The big fat one from next door will sit on a branch, turn the cone around, strip off a piece, eat the nut, drop the remainder, turn it again, as businesslike as a child eating corn.

But if you’re foolish enough to walk by during this process, the squirrel, angered by the fact that you dare to exist, will begin scolding and jerking his tail, and will strafe you with pieces of deconstructed pinecones. There’s nothing like walking hurriedly along to the car, ducking your head as you are called horrible names in Squirrel and being pelted with pinecone bits.

This spring, we have a new addition to urban hazards. Woodpeckers are eating my house! These are big, fluffy birds the size of robins, with stripes and spots on their tails and red under their wings, not the redheaded kind made famous in cartoons. They don’t drill, either, they knock. Sounds EXACTLY like they want to get in.

Now, at 5:30 a.m. that’s bad enough. But I went outside the other day to discover that they were making holes in the side of the house! Now, one expects holes from termites, but not from woodpeckers! Perhaps they’re trying to dig FOR termites, who knows. Taking a hint from the squirrels, I heaved a pinecone at them, and they flew away.

But they’ll be back.

Now, I can’t very well sit up from 4 a.m. on, shivering and breathing frost, with a pinecone in my hand, standing vigil outside. Nor can I allow my house to become a woodpecker drive-thru. So here’s my urban fantasy: can I learn to speak Squirrel? Perhaps if I bribe the fluffy-tailed, big-eyed terrorists with some Cheetos, they could throw pinecones at the woodpeckers instead?

They have damn good aim.


Bread and Snow
January 12, 2009, 4:33 pm
Filed under: writing | Tags: , , ,

I spend a lot of time in my local Panera Bread. In fact when I have a project I’m working on, I spend a couple hours a day there. I get breakfast and do my writing stuff. (If I could work at home, this would be an unnecessary expense. But consider–could I get an office with friendly greetings, drinks, bathrooms, wi-fi and people to watch as they wander about, for 300 bucks a month? No.)

At the moment I’m just working out the plot of my next novel. It’s ironic, because I’m working out the plot ahead of time so I won’t get stuck at the three-quarters point, which happens if I don’t know what’s going to happen in the story. So I write a synopsis ahead of time. But now I’m three-quarters of the way through the synopsis and guess what? I’m stuck in exactly the same way. But I persevere.

Bread helps. There’s something fundamental about bread. It’s sesame semolina bread at the moment that I’m nomming on, and it’s extremely tasty. Sesame is such a subtle flavor, but it really makes the whole thing wonderful. And it’s warm, and there’s real butter, and outside it is just drenching down snow. Wet, fluffy flakes that are piling up, soaking down in a straight curtain and showing where every finger of every branch of every tree is.

So I’m sitting here stuck on my project and making silly comparisons. Writing is like bread. It’s made in several stages, with love and care, and sometimes it doesn’t quite rise properly and you get an inedible rock, but for the most part it comes out right–different every time, though. And writing’s like snow. Ideas are all around, falling in clusters and clumps, but it takes skill to pick out one snowflake and develop it properly–if you don’t do that, it’s all just a big lump of white.

I think I’d better get back to work, don’t you?

Oh, and I should mention–Part Two of Fear and Desire, a free read, is currently up on my website. If you didn’t get to Part One, hang on tight. I’m revamping the site currently, and soon Part One will be up on the site itself, instead of being backlogged at Deviant. So will all my other previous free reads. Joy!

Kathleen –

Breaking the Box
January 3, 2009, 4:35 pm
Filed under: fiction, romance, writing | Tags: , ,

I’d like to encourage everyone who reads genre fiction to stop.

Okay, that sounds really counterintuitive, doesn’t it? And in fact, I would never tell anyone to stop reading. Ever. In fact, I don’t think you read enough. I don’t care who you are, we can all read more! And as a person who writes and sells and lives and breathes genre fiction, how can I tell you to stop reading it?

Well, it’s simple. It’s not the word ‘fiction’ that bothers me. It’s that other word. Genre. I know that marketing conventions require us to fit our work into these little boxes. A box marked romance, a box marked fantasy, to that Tolkien and Danielle Steele don’t end up on the same shelf and confuse the poor muddled reader. Writers, publishers, editors and marketers are pretty much stuck with that, for now (although there is some encouraging evidence that the lines are blurring).

However, as readers, I think we must actively work to erase those lines in our reading. There is much that can be learned by going outside your genre! Learning how the mystery writers do it can improve your romance. Deciding that mainstream fiction is not your bag cuts out so many wonderful authors that you might learn a great deal from.

Confession time, folks: I spent most of my life believing that romance was the lesser genre. That it was formulaic, overly sentimental, and allowed a much lower standard of writing excellence than science fiction, mystery or mainstream. (Imagine my chagrin when I found out I’d written one!) Now, can you guess how much romance I’d read, when I still held this opinion? You got it: not much.

Break the boxes, move outside your genres, and discover the worlds that are waiting for you.

Kathleen –

Happy Holidays
December 22, 2008, 11:36 pm
Filed under: life | Tags: , ,

I hope everyone has a great Chrismayulakwannukah! No, seriously, whatever your holiday season, may it be merry, bright and warm this coming week. I wish you everything you ever wanted–only not quite, because then what would you spend the rest of your life doing?

Instead, I wish you joyful struggle, less stress than you have now, difficulties you can meet, obstacles you can manage, and something to strive for. I wish you the vision to see beauty all around you, the strength to achieve nearly everything you set out to do, and the ability to accept the love that is offered you.

In short, I wish you wishes.

Kathleen –

It’s Not A Good Party Till Somebody Bleeds
December 15, 2008, 5:58 pm
Filed under: funny | Tags: , , , , ,

I had the annual Christmas party at my house last night. I throw this for my kids and their friends, and any parents are also invited to come along and hang out with me, for moral support. The kids sometimes exchange presents, and I make all kinds of good food including my celebrated spinach sausage balls. Here’s the recipe for those:

A tube of ground breakfast sausage – your favorite flavor
A pile of cheddar, sharp, or swiss, whatever you like
A box or bag of frozen chopped spinach, or you can use fresh if you prefer
An egg or two
Enough Bisquick to make the whole mess clump together

Throw all this in a big bowl and squish together. You have to do the squishing together with your hands; no other tool will do the job. Then wander around the house waving your sausage-gooed hands at small children and going “Braaaaaains!” (this is a crucial part of the recipe). Shape into balls and cook at 375 until done, usually 20 minutes depending on the size of your balls. The ones in the oven. Optional add-ins: for sweeter taste, add chopped apples, raisins, nuts; for savory taste, add garlic, pepper, mushrooms, or use hot sausage and add chili pepper.

So along with the usual cheese log and fruits and baklava and other traditional Christmas goodies (you make your own traditions at my house) we had crazed children. Five of them. My 15 year old had invited all her friends, but only her boyfriend and her best friend showed up. My 18 year old’s best friend is in fact the sister of the aforementioned best friend, so she showed up too. The weather was abysmal, so nobody else came. If you’re counting, you’ve realized the Awful Truth: my 15 year old’s boyfriend was the only male in a house full of crazed teenage girls, trapped by ice and snow.

Cut to the video. It won’t be on YouTube, but only because I don’t allow them to post videos showing their faces. But it was well worthy of it. Poor red-faced teenage boy struggling against the merciless hands of three teenagers determined to get one of my dresses on him. Much giggling from the teenager holding the camera. I feel quite inclined to get a copy of the video to his mother on DVD, so she’ll have blackmail potential for when he wants to marry that unsuitable girlfriend. “He’s a crossdresser,” she can shriek, and show the video…

But that’s not the night’s only video. Nor is it the most foolish thing to happen to that poor boy. (There’s a reason I’m naming no names.) No, after a while, the older ones retired downstairs to do their giggling in peace, and the younger ones, being certifiably insane, turned out to play outside and make snow angels. The temperature was now down to -9 degrees, the night was clear and glowing from the reflection of a nearly full moon on all that snow. We made them wear coats and out they went. Camera in hand.

Next thing we know, my daughter comes back into the kitchen and gets a glass of water. Peculiar. When she comes back in, getting more hot water in the glass, we ask what happened and the Even More Awful Truth comes out.

Cut to the video. Darkness, swinging camera, giggling. The kids have put their hands on a car and found that they stuck a little, the condensation moisture on their fingers instantly freezing to the metal, easily pulled away. So the poor boy, not done with being foolish for the night, licks the car. Same thing: tongue sticks but is pulled away. Then they dare one another to lick a pole.

The next thing you see on the video, over much giggling from my daughter, is the two of them, heads to the pole, passionately embracing it, bent over because it’s a short pole, and you hear (muffled) from the boy: “Yay!” Then from the girl, my younger daughter’s friend, “Yay!” Then silence for a moment. Then in unison… “Uh oh.”

“Go geh hoh waa,” says the girl. The camera view swings down and you hear crunching in the snow as my daughter walks into the house, gets water, comes back. The camera is set down in the snow. Then, a scene right out of Blair Witch Project. The camera looks innocently off at a row of parked cars, and in the background there is screaming and crunching of snow, and pouring of water, and “Ow… ow ow… ow…”

They came back in looking very sheepish and tokking wike diff, and the adults in the room displayed shamefully little sympathy, and there was a great deal of laughter and falling about. The kids will be all right, of course, and hopefully they’ve learned a Little Lesson About Life. They’re really lucky, with temperatures in the negatives, that they didn’t simply end up with their faces in an icicle as the hot water froze around them. But their swollen tongues will diminish, and the blood left on the pole will eventually melt, I’m sure.

All in all, it was a very successful party, and we all had a great time except for the blithering idiots with their tongues stuck to poles, and they had a great time too really. They’ll look back on it and laugh. Or at least wince.

As for me, I had a blast, but there’s one nagging question that continues to haunt me. I’ve learned a little bit about the stupidity of teenagers, and I am fortunate enough to say that my daughter did not stick her tongue to a pole. However, the haunting question remains: did she refrain because she’s marginally more intelligent… or because someone had to hold the camera?

Happy Thanksgiving
November 27, 2008, 3:21 pm
Filed under: life | Tags:

Wherever you are, take a moment to consider what you have to be thankful for. Start with that moment, the fact that you have an instant to pause, that you’re breathing all the while. Like a pearl dropped in clear water, that instant of breath and life and thanks can ripple outward into the rest of your life. Other things you are grateful for might occur to you. I don’t need to point out friends, family, health, wealth or the gift of time. The right things will ripple and respond within your own spirit. Think… thank… and breathe.

Kathleen Brandt –

Favorite Authors
November 23, 2008, 1:19 am
Filed under: fiction | Tags: ,

Who are your favorites, and why?

I come from a largely fantasy reader background. Many of my favorites have romantic elements, some stronger than others. The one with the most romance is undoubtedly Lois McMaster Bujold, whose newest series ‘The Sharing Knife’ is an out and out romantic fantasy. Well worth reading, as are her space operas and regular fantasies.

Another favorite is Peter S. Beagle, author of the well known fantasy classic The Last Unicorn. This book, while an excellent example of his work, is far from the only sort of piece he writes. Do check it out. It’s hard to say what his best work is, but I’m in absolute awe of Tamsin, which is written, and well-written, from the perspective of a teenage girl. Given that the writer is male and in his 60s, it’s fantastically impressive in that regard as well as being a wonderful novel. Don’t miss his short stories, gems all.

The other author I reserve a top spot in my heart for — and they all share the top, there’s no precedence here — is Connie Willis. Author of Tales From Marble Arch, she is one of the most decorated science fiction/fantasy authors in the field, and local to me as well. I’ve seen her at conventions a few times now, and she continues to be a delight personally as well as through her writing. Don’t miss her time travel novels, including To Say Nothing of the Dog.

Other authors, leaning toward the romantic elements, include Robin McKinley (read Sunshine if you don’t read anything else), Elizabeth Moon, Barbara Hambly, RA MacAvoy and Theodore Sturgeon. So who’s your favorite, and why?

Kathleen –