Happy Cyber Monday! For those of you who, like me, celebrate Christmas, the season is officially underway. I’m spending a good part of my day on pretty mundane things. You know, writing out Christmas cards, decorating my house.

Oh, and launching my third book, Seeming.

I’ll be active on Facebook and Twitter all day, if you want to drop in and say hi. If you didn’t already order your copy, I have three ways for you to win a free one.

  1. Comment on this blog post.
  2. Tweet me telling me that you’d like a chance to win, using #station86.
  3. Leave a message on Paper Beats World’s Facebook wall.

I’ll be picking winners tomorrow morning, so you’ve got all day to get in there.

If you want to be sure to win a copy, the offer code s861 will still work until Tuesday. That gives you half off the cover price, making it only $1.50. Here’s a link if you want to buy it.

As always, I can’t be more grateful to all of you for the support you show me every day. Thank all of you for reading, commenting and liking my writing. I hope you loved Seeming.

Of course, I couldn’t go through Launch Day without giving a ton of love and thanks to Jeremy McClemmins, who did the amazing cover art. Here’s a link to his site if you want to check out more of his work.

Thank you all so much again. You Can’t Trust The AI will be launching early next year, if you can’t wait to see what’s next for Sennett and Godfrey.

Writing, Like Yoga, Is A Practice

I’ve been going to yoga once a week for the last few months. I’ve always done yoga, since I was thirteen, actually. I enjoy it, it’s peaceful and it keeps my chronic back issues in check. But for the first time in my life, I have a class that I can go to. I’ve really loved it.

My yoga instructor is a great woman named Mickey. She likes to tell us little inspirational things while we’re in savasana. This is supposed to be the hardest pose for the Western Yogi. I understand this entirely. When I’ve got every reason to be running, lying still is really freaking hard. It’s also rather strange for me in a personal way. I’m going to class at the YMCA, in the same building I went to day care at when I was a kid. I took naps there, on mats that I swear weren’t much thicker than my yoga mat. It’s weird, as a thirty year old woman, to find myself in the same place, doing the same thing, just this time on purpose.

I’m getting off topic, though.

Mickey said something to us in my last class that hit home. It was just the thing I needed to hear. “Yoga is a practice. Every time you come to your mat it’s the first time you’ve come to your mat.”

I didn’t actually need to be told that. I’ve been doing yoga since I was thirteen and I still have all the balance of a two second old giraffe. But I kind of needed to be told that about my writing.

This year I’ve published three books. I have a fourth book being traditionally published, and a fifth book coming out early next year. This is awesome!

But it’s also terrifying. Because now, when I come to the blank page, I feel those books. I feel as though, because I’ve written five books, I should be really good at that. I should be a great writer and everything that I write should be, must be, better than what I’ve written before. It’s got to live up to its brothers, right out of the gate.

This is fucking stupid, and as a grown woman I should know better. But sometimes, we need to be told by someone wiser. I’m not wiser than you, I’m sure. But Mickey might be, so I’ll pass along her words to you.

Come to the blank page as a practice, as if for the first time. No matter how many stories you write, no matter how many books are behind you. The blank page is a practice.

Red Lipstick

Hey, guys, just a quick announcement before we get to the story today. This will be the last scheduled short story for now. I’ve got a ton of huge projects and I find that I have less and less time to commit to short and flash fiction. Honestly, I’d rather give you something awesome once in awhile than something sub par every week.

Will I still post on Wednesdays? Maybe. If I’ve written a short piece I’ll post it. And I’ll often be giving out bonus content and sneak peeks of what I’m working on here. Of course, when I’m done with ‘You Can’t Trust the AI’ and all further Station 86 stories, you’ll find them here. 

I also have a special surprise for you. You can now get ‘Days And Other Stories’ for free. That’s right, for total free. Here’s a link. It’s my way of thanking all of you for being so supportive.

Alright, that’s over. Here is Red Lipstick.

Sasha knew, as soon as she walked in, that every eye was on her. She’d planned it just that way, with her red lipstick, high heels and short black dress. She gave the men who couldn’t take their eyes off of her a demure smile, but nothing more. She was looking for someone specific.

He was at the bar, nursing a gin and soda. He was the tall and dangerous looking kind, the outline of his arms visible through his tuxedo. His hair was graying at the temples, in that subtle way that make older men so irresistible to some types. She tried very hard to not purse her lips together in worry. “Hey,” she said, leaning against the bar next to him. “What are you drinking?”

“Something I’d prefer to drink alone,” he replied, barely looking at her.

“That doesn’t sound right,” Sasha said, giving him a smile. “It’s a party. Aren’t you having fun?”

He was well versed, she was sure, in ignoring women like her. Even so, he looked over and smiled. “Are you here alone?” he asked.

“I am,” she said, smiling at him. “Will you dance with me?”

He glanced at his watch. “Just a dance,” he said. He offered her his hand, and they made their way out onto the dance floor.

“I can’t believe you’re here alone,” Sasha said, pressing herself against him as much as she dared.

“I am not here for pleasure, I’m afraid,” he said. “You seem to be, though. Why don’t you find a handsome young man who is here for the same? A pretty girl like you won’t be lonely long, I’m sure.”

“That would be too easy,” Sasha said. He hadn’t offered her his name. She hadn’t expected him to. He was slipping, as old spies did sometimes, but he wasn’t slipping that much.

The song ended, and he started to pull away. She kept hold of his hand, though. “Miss, I have to get back to work,” he said, “You don’t want to get me in trouble, do you?”

“Ah,” she said, giving him what she hoped looked like a defeated smile. “Can I have a kiss, at least?”

“I’ve never been a fan of forward women,” the man said, raising an eyebrow.

“I’ve never understood men who don’t like that,” Sasha said, “Doesn’t it take the guesswork out of flirting?”

He sighed, and pulled her in close to him. He kissed her mouth, and she pressed against him. She made sure to hold the back of his head a moment, making sure to transfer her red lipstick onto him.

The man pulled away from her, looking dazed. He seemed surprised when she pulled away from him, and walked quickly in the other direction.

The antidote from her lips had hopefully been enough to offset the poison someone had slipped into his drink. They needed him to survive, at least for tonight. Though after Mr. Maxwell’s actions, this would certainly be his last mission before retirement.

Geeks and Girls

Full disclosure, I haven’t seen the new Ghostbusters movie yet. I’m not going to judge it based on other people’s opinions, but I’ve been hearing some pretty disturbing things. Not about the movie, but about people’s reactions to the movie.

It seems like anyone who has anything bad to say about it is being labeled sexist.

Here’s my problem with this. It ties into an overlaying opinion that geek culture in general is sexist. I’ve been a geek my whole life. I came by it honestly, watching Star Trek Next Generation and X-Files with my grandma and reading copious amounts of comic books my uncle’s left in her house when they left. Early on I fell in love with X-men, watching the cartoon right along with Magic School Bus after school. I played Commander Keen, and actually had AOL. I write speculative fiction and I’m tech support at my day job. I am a geek, and I’m the mother of two geek girls. I’m not going to tell you that I haven’t had the occasional sexist moment in my life. I’ve been harassed, mansplained to, and treated as less of a geek than my male peers. Sadly, every woman has.

But it isn’t geek culture that did that to me. In fact, I’m far more likely to have a man who’s not a geek talk down to me. I’m more likely to school a man who was condescending to me about computers than one who approached me as an equal. I think it’s because they jeer to cover up their own inadequacies.

The truth of it is, it’s a great time to be a geek, but it’s always been great to be a geek girl. I’m honestly insulted by the insinuation that the geek community is sexist. Here’s why.

Fan service abounds and there is eye candy to be had by all.

I really don’t love to see a woman running around in dental floss, being a straight woman and all. But I do, sorry to tell you, like to see a guy running around without his shirt on. And there’s a lot of that in geek movies. Damn, there’s a lot, and it makes me happy. So who am I to grudge a man the sight of the girl in the dental floss?

Geeks were all about equality long before anyone else.

It’s always been either the geeks or the comedians that broke ground. The X-Men were talking about equality long before anyone else cared. Archie Comics showed the first gay wedding, with X-Men soon after. Wonder Woman was talking about gender equality since the beginning. So don’t tell us about equality. Chances are we told you already.

Let’s go way back.

For instance, let’s look at the original Star Trek and Liutenent Uhura. She was strong, smart and not mention was ever made of her gender. Except when she went all gooey over the tribbles. In fairness, they were damn cute.

We’ll also look at the first appearance og Jean Grey, in the very first X-men cartoon. The boys, Cyclops, Iceman and Beast, made fools of themselves over her. She was so ready to toss them across the room when they started getting too frisky.

Now, I do want to talk for a minute about the first two Ghostbuster movies. In particular, let’s talk about Janine Malnitz, the secretary. You know, the sassy, no nonsense lady who had a huge crush on Egon? The one who was totally ready when ghosts started appearing in the station? The one who was just as badass as the guys? You remember her? Let’s take a look at her character in the remake.

His name is Kevin Beckman, played by the amazingly hot Chris Hemsworth. Here’s the thing, Janine wasn’t hot. She certainly wasn’t brainless, ditzy or eye candy. Which is exactly how Kevin is portrayed.

Representation matters.

When I was little, raised by a mother who didn’t believe in sexual equality, I took comfort in characters like Agent Scully, Lieutenant Uhura, Jean Grey and all the rest. I wasn’t weak, I wasn’t less than a man. I was just as capable as anyone else.

I would hate to think that some little boy would watch the new Ghostbusters movie, and think that he couldn’t be as smart or a strong as a girl.

My Hat Trick

I guess it’s really no surprise to any of you that I’m kind of obsessed with Hockey recently. Oh well, it could be worse. I could be a drug addict.

One thing I haven’t seen yet is a hat trick. I just love the thought, one player getting three scores in the same game. Then, everyone throws hats at the rink. I mean, how cool is that? I’m waiting, with baited breath, for a hat trick.

And, because I’m kind of weird, I had to find a way to make this new obsession work for me. Now, I have to share this will all of you, because that’s the sort of person that I am.

My to do lists are blowing up every day. And, for reasons even I don’t understand, I keep adding new projects! But I find, as I’m sure you do, that there are some things on my list that are more important than the rest. So, I mark three things, the most important three things of the day, as my hat trick goals.

So, for instance, today my list looks like this.

  • Write PBW posts *
  • Post PBW posts *
  • Make plans for charity event
  • Write up two character pages
  • Write a new short story
  • Make plans for cyber Monday/ Seeming launch.
  • Clean the house *
  • Work on Starting Chains for 25 minutes
  • Social media time

Yeah, I don’t overextend myself at all. Actually, that’s kind of why I have my hat trick rules. You see the three things that have the stars next to them? Those are my first priority. So if I get those things done, then get distracted roasting chestnuts with the kids or watching Futurama, that’s okay. I got the important stuff done.

It’s a little thing, and honestly it’s nothing dissimilar to advice I’ve read on other sites. But It makes me feel better to have this sport comparison in my everyday life. So if that sort of thing helps you, like it helps me, give it a try.

Pre Nano Pep Talk

I’m wrist deep in NanoEdmo right now, so I didn’t have time to write a short story this week. I have a great idea, a really creepy tale, but I want to do it right. Right means not rushed. So instead of a story this week, I want to say something to all of you that I think needs said right now.

I’m not going to give you a Nano pep talk. There are blogs upon blogs that will do that for you. If you want the truth, I need one myself right now. I’m getting up early, going to bed late and missing out on other projects that are calling to me. It’s one month out of the year, I tell myself, that I focus all of my efforts on editing. I can do it. I did it last year. I reached my Nanoedmo goals for three years in a row before that. But I’ll tell you that right now I’m sick to death of adulting. So when I’m done writing this I’m going to go work through two hours of edits, then go read some of those Nano pep talks.

But if you’re doing Nano, you don’t need a pep talk nearly as much as some other writers. That’s who I’m going to talk to today.

To the writer who isn’t sure where to start. yes, you’re still a writer, my friend. You’re just at the very first stage. The stage that every writer was once at. Maybe you didn’t do Nano this year, maybe you just weren’t sure that you could pull it off. Start writing today! Go, right now, buy a notebook and a pen. Start writing every day, no matter what it is! Write stupid shit, write down that thing your friend said that really hit you. Write anything and everything, for some amount of time today. Maybe there’s a book there, maybe there isn’t. Just write something! It’s a step, one small step. And I know you’re wondering what the point of starting is when you don’t think you’ll ever be published. I can’t promise you that you’ll end up published. I can sure as hell promise you that you’ll never be published if you don’t start!

To the writer who can’t seem to get that first project done. I feel you, I was you. I started more books that were never finished than I really care to count. But none of that writing was wasted. I learned from all of it, even if what I learned was that those ideas didn’t work. I’ll tell you a secret, the worst kept secret in the industry. Every writer has at least one novel that will never see the light of day because it was shitty and they tossed it. Books on the shelves are usually second or third books. So spend time on your work in progress today. Either make progress or cut it loose so that you can work on a new, better project. But I do want to caution you against taking that second path. A shitty project can be fixed in rewrites. What I’m saying is just get something done. It’s good for you.

To the writer who’s struggling to sell their work. Oh, that’s right. Now the creative wonderful part is over, and you’re reminded that this is a business. Yeah, that blows. But it is what it is. We are in the entertainment industry, and the sooner you realize that it is an industry the better your going to feel. Keep collecting those rejection letters, my friends. Read articles about query letters, polish your work until it shines. Send it to agents and publishers until someone bites. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking but you won’t get there any other way. However, can I also suggest that you do something else? Write another book! While I was waiting for someone to bite on Broken Patterns I finished Starting Chains and wrote the rough draft of Missing Stitches. There’s two great old sayings in the writing business about this. The first one is from Michael Connelly. “You know what I did after I wrote my first novel? I shut up and wrote twenty-three more.” Another good thing to remember, and I don’t know who said it first, is that nothing sells the first book like the second. So chin up, and keep writing!

Here’s the thing. We need stories. If you live in America like me, you know that we are so divided. You all know that I’ve got no problem getting loud about important subjects, but we’ve got people physically hurting others over this mess. We have people who are scared to leave their homes, and I don’t have words of comfort for them. I’m afraid for friends and family members. I don’t have any political power, but what I have is a voice. What I have is my voice. You have yours too. But even if you don’t want to talk about what’s going on, your writing can still help. Write something funny, something spooky, something irreverent that will make someone smile. Even if it’s just you.

Defending Sequels

Being the big nerd that I am, I’m already seeking out lists of movies that are coming out in 2017. And there are a lot of movies coming out in 2017 that I can’t wait to see.

But I’ve noticed something that I guess should trouble me, but it really doesn’t. Looking through the movies scheduled to come out next year, I see a ton of remakes, sequels and adaptations of books or comic books. I guess this is nothing new. This bothers a lot of people, and it kind of should. Remakes, sequels and movie versions of novels all lack the originality of the source material.

Actually, it doesn’t necessarily. While I can say, with no hesitation, that some remakes and sequels would have done better to remain unwritten, there are a lot that do great things for the story. So, sorry not sorry, I’m going to defend them today.

Sequels continue a story.

As a fantasy fan, I can’t think of a single book I love that isn’t part of a series. Harry Potter, Song of The Lioness, Hunger Games, Divergent, Dragonriders of Pern, Chronicles of Narnia. Literally I could fill a page with examples, but you get my point. So, why do people get so bent out of shape when a movie has a sequel?

I do want to stress that there is a world of difference between a sequel and a ‘cheapquel’. Allow me to demonstrate.

Paranormal Activities was a great movie. I loved the first one, but it left a lot of questions. Honestly, I’ve seen all of the Paranormal Activity movies, including The Marked Ones, and I still have questions. That’s the fun of the series, though. The whole story fits together like wonderful, bloody puzzle pieces.

Now, let’s compare that to another classic in the genre, Saw. I’ve seen them all, and I don’t feel that any of them added any deeper understanding to the situation. Really, I feel like we could have stopped after three. This isn’t to say that the first Saw wasn’t great. It really was. That twist at the end blew my mind! We didn’t need a second movie. We only got one because the first movie did so well.

Remakes help a new generation of fans fall in love.

Every now and then I actually watch something wholesome with my kids. Not often, but sometimes. One example is Annie. My kids loved the original with Carol Burnette as Ms. Hannigan. We loved the new one just as much. The new one was, in fact, incredible. It paid homage to the original while still standing on its own two feet. The remake of Rocky Horror Picture show was also great.

I love watching remakes with my kids because, frankly, some things don’t age well. It’s a lot easier getting the kids to give something a try if I’m not trying to explain 80s and 90 fashions. They can experience the story for what it is.

I can actually think of at least one case where a remake was way better than the original. That example is Poltergeist. There was no sex scene, the special effects were boss and the ending was way happier. I was always lukewarm on the original series, but the new one was really good.

Movie versions can be magical.

We have a rule in our house. If you didn’t read the book, you don’t get to watch the movie. (With the exception of Forrest Gump. Don’t read that book, don’t do that to yourself.) This rule works really well for us. The monsters and I read then watched Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Chronicles of Narnia, Spiderwick Chronicles and Percy Jackson. Sometimes the movies are great, like Harry Potter. Sometimes I want to wrap my hands around the director’s neck and squeeze until there’s no breath left in him, like Memoirs of a Geisha. Sometimes it’s just fun as hell to watch a movie version of characters I already love, like all of the Avengers movies, First Class and Days of Future Past. (Batman Vs. Superman was terrible. Sorry, Ben Affleck, it’s not your fault.) Sometimes loving the movies inspire people to read the books. I have a lot of friends who watched Game of Thrones and had to read the books after. I also have a lot of friends who didn’t read the books before watching the show and didn’t know the Red Wedding was coming, hehehe.

Finally, let me give you what I think is the best example of a screen adaptation. It’s kind of unique, and I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

The Walking Dead. Now, I read this comic book religiously for a while. It’s interesting. Most zombie movies revolve around the first wave of terror. It’s kind of fun seeing people just try to live their lives alongside zombies. The tv version is quite different from the comics. Some characters, like your precious Daryl, don’t even exist in the comics. Some things are the same, but other things vary wildly. This comes from the fact that a different writing team is creating the show. Neither are, in my opinion, better or worse than the other. It’s just a great example of something I wish more writers would realize. You know, the writers who will probably give up eventually because ‘it’s all been done already’.

Everything has already been done. That’s true. You can never ever come up with an original story. What is original is your telling of it, your voice. That’s why we keep making remakes. We keep telling the same stories in new mediums. Because while the stories may be as old as time, the writer’s voice isn’t.

Tell Me What You Don’t Like about Yourself

Did you ever see the show Nip Tuck? I never watched it, but I used to see commercials for it during Charmed, because they had an actor in common. Overall, it didn’t strike me as a worthwhile use of my time. It still doesn’t. I really hated how the main character would ask women, at the start of the cosmetic surgery consultation, “Tell me what you don’t like about yourself.” I mean, I have my issues with cosmetic surgery as it is. When it’s approached in that self-hating way, I really loath it.

Even so, that question stuck with me. Tell me what you don’t like about yourself. I think it’s a good question to ask yourself sometimes, now that I’m older. Not about my appearance, but about my actions.

I don’t mean this to come off as derogatory. For the most part I think that I, like most people, am doing the best I can with the resources I have.

But I know for sure that I have some really bad habits that are causing me some grief. I love me, but there are still things that I don’t like about me. It’s getting toward that time of the year when we all make promises to ourselves about how we’re going to be better people. Quit smoking, lose weight, start reading more, eat healthier. While those are great goals, I wonder if they’re really what’s going to make the most impact on your life. Maybe you’re health is just freaking fine. (Unless you’re smoking. Go ahead and quit that, please. I like you and I’d like to see you stick around.) So, rather than making the same goals everyone else is making, let’s make some that are based on that simple question.

Tell me (you) what you don’t like about yourself.

What don’t you like about your home life?

What don’t you like about your current financial situation?

What don’t you like about your self-care regiment?

What don’t you like about your creative outlet/side hustle?

I chose those four because they represent the four corners of what I feel are a balanced life. My home, my finances, my self-care and my writing are the four areas that I feel that I can focus on and improve in my life. You might have totally different categories, and that’s fine. This is your life. How you want to improve it is personal.

So, what don’t you like about yourself? More importantly, what can you do to change it?

The State Vs. Abigail

Abigail looked defiant, sitting behind the defendant’s table. Even in prison orange, she looked haughty. I couldn’t understand how she could look so sure of herself. She was a big woman. Not fat, just broad and tall. Her hair was thick, hanging like a heavy curtain around her face.

She wasn’t doing herself any favors to the people in the jury. She sat, looking straight ahead, calm determination etched on her face.

I’d just delivered my closing arguments against her and taken my seat. The jury looked like they were going to be sick. The things she’d been accused of was more than I could stomach, and I’d seen more than most people.

I had to remind myself to not look at Emily behind me. She didn’t always come to see me at work, it was frowned upon. But I liked having her here for this one. It was just too chilling.

You don’t get used to dead kids, no matter how often you see them. This death was especially horrific. The little boy was found in pieces, with bite marks all over his body. His poor mother, I still haven’t seen her without tears. And the father hadn’t been able to take it. He’d killed himself before the trial had even started.

Abigail insisted that she was innocent. She’d put on a great show of being physically ill when shown pictures of the boy. But when the police searched her car, they’d found the child’s bloody shirt in her trunk, under her spare tire. She insisted that she had only gone to the convenience store, then right home. But she lived alone, so there was no one to confirm that.

She was a horrific woman, there was no way around it. She worked at a packing factory for some furniture store. She wasn’t in any sort of relationship, didn’t have any close friends. She didn’t have any family that she was close with. I’d made sure to tell the jury all of that, painting a picture of the monster that had attacked a child.

I was glad that Emily was here. It made me feel better, knowing that she was behind me. She was what a real woman should be. She was quiet, petite and lovely. I loved her so much. It was laughable to even compare her to Abigail. They seemed to be two different species.

The jury was going to convict Abigail. I’d seen enough of these to know it. Abigail showed no remorse, no sense that she’d done anything wrong. She steadfastly professed her innocence, despite the damning evidence. The jury could barely stand to look at her. Often the thought that someone was eligible for the death sentence deterred people from voting guilty. I didn’t think it would deter this jury, though.

It made things easier. Normally, Emily was more careful. I almost hadn’t gotten the shirt into the car in time. It was lucky that Abigail had been at the convenience store that night.

Football and Heritage

If you’re a sports fan, this is your favorite time of year. Football is in full swing, and hockey is just starting up. As a Steelers and Penguins fan, I’m finding that my schedule is dictated by the game nights. This is a far cry from when I was a kid and couldn’t have cared less about sports. The older I get, though, the more I like it. Because it’s me, I have to overthink this. But I finally realized that the reason why I love sports is simple.

As many of you know, I don’t have a great relationship with my extended family. I often feel like a tree without deep roots, unsteady. As though a strong gust of wind might blow me down. The way I’ve learned to cope with that is to build a foundation, to take the place of roots I don’t have. This little Western PA town holds all of my memories. And this town bleeds black and gold. That is my heritage.

Here’s the great thing about following a sports team. It’s not about wanting to win. If that were the case, everyone would cheer for the Steelers, Cowboys or 49ers. It’s about your home town. People move all over the world, and carry their home town colors along with them.

I’ll cheer for the Steelers and Penguins for the rest of my life, whether they’re winning or losing. I’ll feel an instant warmth for others who cheer those teams. I’ll feel like I belong, because of my team. I hope my daughters have that, too.

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