It’s time to talk about shootings again.

Been awhile since we talked about shootings. It hasn’t been a while since we had one, but it has been a while since we talked about it.

Seems like, since Pittsburgh was a recent target, I’d go ahead and bring it up again. Because that’s my city, and I’m pissed off.

Full disclosure, I don’t live within the city of Pittsburgh. I live in a little town about an hour away. But even so, it is my city. It’s my home.

And it’s better than this. Every single day it’s full of love, tolerance, and acceptance. Unless you’re a Patriots fan. But this shooting cut deep. It hurt. We’re stronger than hate, but it still hurt deeply.

I don’t want to hear one person saying thoughts and prayers for the families of those affected. Not a single one. Those families don’t need our thoughts, and they don’t need our prayers. They need action. As do the families of the people killed in California. And the people in Florida.

Now’s a good time, too. We’ve got a whole lot of new politicians, and the election’s over.

So, here’s a link to your new local representatives. Feel free to email them, or call them, and ask them what they’re doing about gun violence. Most people agree that universal background checks are a great place to start. Do you agree? Do they? If not, what’s their plan?

Because thoughts and prayers aren’t enough anymore. We need action from the people who represent us. Don’t forget, they work for us. And this situation isn’t working for us. At least, it’s not working for me.

How about you?

2018 Gift Guide for readers and writers

It’s that time again. Time to start getting Christmas gifts for the people you love. Or maybe just like.

Writers and readers aren’t too hard to shop for. I’m lying, we’re horribly to shop for. The problem is that every reader has a list of books in our heads that we want to read, and it doesn’t always match what we’ve got posted on Goodreads. And then, there’s the fact that people are broke. I mean, hella broke.

Every year I like to help by sharing a list of gifts to give writers and readers that include both things that cost money dollars and things that cost nothing but your time and creativity. I’ll try not to duplicate anything on a previous list. Here are links to the other years I’ve done this.

2015, 2016, 2017

I’ve tried to stick with meaningful gifts that will matter. Because honestly, what’s the point of giving someone a gift if it doesn’t mean something?

For writers

Things that cost nothing but time and love

Do some maintenance on their computer, if they’re not so inclined. Writers are completely dependent on our computers, but not all of us are great with our computers. Some of us don’t know how to do things like clear our cache, update our antivirus or run simple necessary updates. If you have a writer like that in your life, help them. Hell, if you have a person in your life like that, help them. This is a good gift for anyone who’s bad with computers from anyone who’s good with computers.

Help them with a smart device. This is kind of the same thing. I need my tablet as much as my computer, and many other writers are the same. But people who know how to take care of a computer don’t have a clue about taking care of a tablet. Fun fact, they also need antivirus software!

Fix something broken in their house. Or, find someone who is handy to do it. For instance, if you’re handy with a sewing needle and you know they’ve got a stack of sewing waiting, do it for them. If their sink’s been leaking for a week, grab some plumber putty and see what you can do. As a quick side note to this, only do this if you’re actually good at fixing the thing in question. Please don’t break anyone’s sink and then say I told you to do it. Please.

If you’re artistic, make some fan art for their books. I have a great drawing of Sultiana a friend made for me, and I just love it.

Download some writing podcasts for them, so they don’t have to find them themselves. I love podcasts, but I forever forget to download them before I go somewhere that doesn’t have wifi. If someone would just download a bunch of episodes of Ditch Diggers, that would be great.

Things that cost money dollars

The Bullet Journal Method, by Ryder Carroll. Every writer should be bullet journaling. Actually, everyone should be bullet journaling.

Wild Mind, by Natalie Goldberg. Such an inspiring book.

Writing Down the Bones. Actually, make sure they don’t have this book first.

A subscription to Grammarly premium or Evernote. These are both services that I use myself, but I use the free version. The premium version of both is well worth it. (This is not sponsored, I just like both of these companies.)

A lovely fountain pen for their book signings. Bonus points if they haven’t had a signing yet, because it proves that you know that the signings are coming.

Make a collage of their bookish sm posts. I mean any time they’ve taken pictures of their books, or at a signing or event.

Get them a poster of their book cover. If they don’t have a book out yet, then put some thought into what their cover should look like. Then, have that made.

For readers

Things that cost nothing but time and love

Some homemade bookmarks are always appreciated. These don’t have to be crappy paper things. There are a bunch of different ways to make some nice origami bookmarks. Or, if you’ve got some string and beads, you can make a fancy one.

Set up a reading nook if you live together. This can be as easy as moving a comfy chair and a table in a corner with good lighting and maybe a plant.

Start a walking book club date. Most readers don’t get enough exercise. But if bribed with a promise of talking about their favorite book, they will probably consent to go for a walk.

Have a book date. Personally, I’d say this should take place at a coffee shop. Go somewhere quiet, and bring a book. Sit together and read for a while.

Help make their home more hygge friendly. Have you heard about hygge? It’s this wonderful theory that life should be comfortable. Help them set up some candles, fill the house with blankets. Have a fire and help them make a warm dinner at home.

Things that cost money dollars

Go on a trip with them to a second-hand bookstore. Second-hand stores are so much better than new bookstores. Not that I don’t love new bookstores, I just like second-hand bookstores better.

A copy of your favorite book, either now or as a child. This is maybe the most intimate gift I can imagine getting. A person’s favorite book tells you a lot about them. By sharing your favorite book with your favorite reader will mean so much.

Get them a new bookshelf. Trust me, they need one.

Build a warm drink basket. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, these are all good ideas. This is also a good clutter-free gift.

Make a collage from their favorite book pictures from the past year on social media. I know many readers love posting pictures of their favorite books, them with books, them in bookstores. Track down a bunch of those pictures, and make them into a collage.

So now I want to hear from you. What’s the best gift you’ve ever gotten or received? Let us know in the comments below.

Twelve little Christmas stories, ranging from heartfelt to horrifying. Meet a young woman Blue Woodon the streets on Christmas Eve, a woman handing out Christmas cookies, and a little boy getting an unexpected visit from Santa.

Get it on Amazon or Smashwords

Get Twelve Christmas Stories today!

Merry Christmas!

It’s finally the Christmas season, and I’m spending the day writing my Christmas cards and baking things.

I’m also celebrating the launch of my last book of 2018, Twelve Little Christmas Stories.

Twelve Little Christmas Tales includes a blend of terror and treat, magic and maniacal. In it, you will find a woman who receives an unwanted group of carolers, a young witch looking after her little brother, and a girl who gets a new coat on Christmas Eve that leads her to an amazing discovery.

Also, for Woven fans, there’s a story about Lenore’s friend Emily and her little boy Todd.

Do you love Station 86? Ever wonder how Sennett and Godfrey spend Christmas on the station? In this book, you will find Sennett’s first Christmas without her mom.

Get it now on Amazon or Smashwords.

I hope your holidays are full of wonder, joy, and family. And I hope you take some time to relax with a cup of something hot and wonderful and a great story.

I also want to let you know that the entire Station 86 series will be on sale this weekend. Seeming is free, it’s always free. But You Can’t Trust The AI and Virus will both be 99 cents until Monday on both Amazon and Smashwords. And the paperback will be on sale for just $5.00. You know, if you’re looking for a good Christmas gift.

If you get a chance, hit me up on social media and share a picture of you reading next to your holiday decorations. I’d love to see what you’re all reading this time of year.

I’m a Hufflepuff, if you’re wondering

Alright, so we all know I’m a huge nerd, right? Like super huge. Okay, so now that we’ve got that settled, what I’m about to say next shouldn’t shock anyone.

So, I was on the official Harry Potter website a few months ago, and I decided to take the quiz to see what my Hogwarts House is. I guess that the only surprising thing is that I hadn’t done this before. But, I digress.

I guess I’ve always assumed that I would be in Ravenclaw. I mean, I’m smart. I love books. I’m logical. My favorite color is blue. Ravens are awesome. Why wouldn’t I be in Ravenclaw?

In fairness, I guess we all think we’d be in Gryffindor or Ravenclaw. Some people, angsty people, will say they think they’d been in Slytherin.

No one, fucking no one ever says they want to be in Hufflepuff. Guess what house I’m in, according to the official website?

Now, my husband (who is in Ravenclaw) reminded me that these questions were really random, don’t really tell me anything about my personality, and don’t really mean anything. Also, this is all fiction and doesn’t say anything about me at all.

I let that soothe me for a little. Then, I started really thinking about the virtues of the Hufflepuff house.

They’re loyal.

They’re hard workers.

They’re dedicated.

They’re tenacious.

And I realized, that sounds like me. As much as I’d love to say I’m someone who’s forever reading about hufflepuffsome fascinating point of history, or learning a language or things like that, I’m just not. I’ve tried to be. I do love learning. But when it comes to my own inclinations, I’d rather be getting shit done. I prefer if I’m going to spend time learning, if it’s learning something I can actually use.

I tried to learn code, but I don’t use code. I tried to learn German, but I don’t have a need to speak German.

I can learn all sorts of things if it’s to help my writing. I’ve been learning all sorts of science because it’ll help my writing. I’ve been learning about marketing for years now. I bet if I started to learn Spanish, I’d do it. Because I can see a use for that.

So maybe, instead of fighting against my nature, I should accept that I’m never going to be the sort of person who learns just for the sake of learning. That’s an admirable trait, but it’s not me.

I am loyal. I am determined. When I want something, I sink my teeth in and I never give up. I learn, and I learn quickly, anything I can put to use. I will be the one putting in the long hours, the hard work, and I’ll prevail.

I am Hufflepuff, hear me roar. My tiny, squeaky, mighty roar.

What better time of the year could there be for a Christmas story? Enjoy twelve little Blue WoodChristmas tales, ranging from heart felt to horrifying. Meet a young man who recieves a surprise Christmas gift, a little boy who gets an unexpected visit from Santa, and a young woman spending Christmas Eve in a new coat.

Pre-order it here now!

You can pick one of these

My husband loves The Office. I’m lukewarm on it, to be honest. It’s good, but it’s not my favorite. Even so, there are some scenes that just strike me. They’re hilarious, or meaningful, or just really, absolutely true.

One such scene takes place in an episode where two characters, Phyllis and Angela, are planning an office party to celebrate the launch of the new Dunder Mifflin website. Angela is going through sort of a thing, which isn’t uncommon. And she’s taking it out on Phyllis, also not uncommon. She’s being stupidly unreasonable with her. Now, I despise Phyllis and I think she deserves terrible things. But not from Angela.

At one point, Angela has given her a list of difficult, time-consuming, nearly impossible things to accomplish in roughly half an hour. Phyllis, who’s been researching conflict resolution online, shows up with the different tasks written on sticky notes, one on each finger.

You can pick one of these,” she says. “It’s unreasonable to ask me to do all of it.”

I don’t actually remember Angela’s response, but I know what it drove Phyllis to do. She balled up all the stickie notes and threw them in Angela’s face.

And I immediately reacted to that, because that’s me. Both sides of it, that’s me. I’m Angela, setting unrealistic expectations for myself. And, more and more, I’m Phyllis, coming back and saying, “You can pick one of these.”

This is part of my struggling against my too much gene. I feel constantly that I need to do all of the things at once. Even though I know that’s dumb. Even though I know it’s damaging to my physical well-being. Even though I know it’s damaging to my emotional wellbeing, and it makes me ignore my husband and pets.

I do this, even though I know it means I end up putting out less than great stories when I should be putting out better and better material.

It’s really hard not to because there are so many things I want to do. This is what led me to writing two novels in a row. This is what makes me think it’s a good idea to write a novel in November, during Thanksgiving, when I’ve already scheduled a three-day vacation. This is why I’ve got five novels currently going in a circle of drafts around my desk. (2019 goals, finish all five.) This is why I’ve already got a list of short stories waiting to be written as soon as I’m done with this novel. I do too much, I do way too much because I want all the shiny things. I want all the books, all the short stories. I want a novella with Tor, and to be featured in three magazines a month in addition to putting out my own novels. I want it all, and to have a spotless house. And to have a beautiful crocheted afghan, and read two novels a month, and start running. And get involved in charity work, and start putting videos on Youtube.

But, fortunately, I’m not doing this as much anymore. I’m finding that inner Phyllis to combat my inner Angela. And I’m saying to myself, “You can pick one of these.” At least, just one at a time.

What better time of the year could there be for a Christmas story? Enjoy twelve little Blue WoodChristmas tales, ranging from heart felt to horrifying. Meet a young man who recieves a surprise Christmas gift, a little boy who gets an unexpected visit from Santa, and a young woman spending Christmas Eve in a new coat.

Pre-order Twelve Little Christmas Stories today.

Writing lives that aren’t our own

Here are some things you probably know about me. I’m a white straight woman. Christian, too. And while it’s kind of a weird version (Unitarian), it’s still part of the religion that pretty much designed the calendar here in America.

My characters don’t look like me. In Woven, two of the main characters are men, and one is a black woman. In fact, in book two half the cast are black. In Station 86, white people are the minority. Sennett is a black woman, and Godfrey is a culturally ambiguous man. I also include homosexual characters, atheists and polytheists.

I don’t write people who don’t look like me to pander. I don’t do it because I’m trying to be PC.

I do this because writing just straight white girls is boring. I’m a straight white girl, I don’t want to write about myself all the time. Also, there’s enough of us in stories.

I also do this because I grew up seeing some of the coolest, most badass characters in shows I loved as women of color. I saw women in general very well represented in science fiction, to be honest. In fantasy, too. Sure, I can go on about movies that don’t pass the Bechdel test and I have. But good fiction has never had that problem because they wrote real characters who were real people and didn’t rely on shitty old-fashioned stereotypes.

I do this as well because I wanted to see more of people I don’t think we see often enough. What I didn’t see much of was men who were actual people instead of just meathead heroes. I didn’t see a lot of gay people who were reflective of the gay people I knew in real life. I didn’t see a lot of other religions in anything, literally everything. Seriously, why aren’t there more Hanukkah movies? It’s a cool holiday, why don’t we have movies, damn it?

I do it mostly because I want to write real worlds with real characters. And the reality is that more than just white people exist.

All that being said, writing for a gender, race or creed that isn’t my own takes some consideration. I grew up in a very specific way, and have a very specific life experience. So it behooves me to keep that in mind when I’m writing characters that have very different life experiences than me. Here’s what I do.

Do some research

I mean, you really should be researching any character you write. Unless you’re making up an entirely new culture. Which, by the way, is stupid hard. So, if you have questions, ask.

Fun fact, I didn’t grow up with a lot of black people around. I live in Western PA, it’s pretty vanilla. So when my life expanded and I started making friends who didn’t look like me, they had a good time making fun of me for understanding little to nothing about their worlds, but wanting desperately not to offend them. I’ve spent a lot of my time around minorities just trying to not accidentally make an ass out of myself.

That should tell you that I’m not really going to seek out a person who happens to be a member of the minority in question and ask them a bunch of awkward questions. I don’t like ordering pizza, let alone sitting down with someone I don’t know that well and asking them to explain to me how their culture differs from mine. Fortunately, the internet exists. So if you don’t know, find out!

Don’t assume you know what you’re talking about

And by the way, if you didn’t grow up as part of a certain demographic, please don’t assume that you know. You probably don’t. At least, it’s better to assume you don’t know. The worst that can happen there is that you’ll find out you were actually right. The worst thing that can happen if you make an assumption is that you’ll reinforce a harmful stereotype. We’ve got enough of that.

Understand that you’re telling a story that’s not yours

I can tell a story about the Vietnam war, or about the Holocaust. I can do tons of research, which I have, listen to people who lived through those events, which I have, and still not understand what it was to live that life. I need to understand that if I write those stories, they don’t belong to me. So I need to represent the people who really lived through it honestly.

I can also do a ton of research about another faith or demographic, but not know what it was like to grow up living in that world. I don’t know what it was like to have racial slurs thrown in my face, or have to listen to the constant war on Christmas bullshit while having the Christian faith enforced at every turn. I have blended into every crowd I’ve ever been in, and I don’t know what it’s like to stand out just because of how I look. I don’t wear a hijab, or have to make sure that the food I’m eating doesn’t include anything I’m forbidden to eat. These stories don’t belong to me. I need to remember that.

Understand that there’s a whole world of experiences in any demographic

Something that was brought up to me when I was listening to a great episode of Writing Excuses is that you can’t just listen to the story of one person and assume you know the entire culture. That’s dumb as hell if you think about it. I mean, should we all assume that just because I like American Horror Story, Starbucks, and Neil Gaiman that means all white American women like those things? (Yeah, most of us do like Starbucks. It’s damn delicious, leave me alone.) So if you’re going to ask questions about a faith or another culture, please seek out multiple voices. I can’t just read Mya Angelou and assume she speaks for all black women. Though, if you haven’t read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, do it right now. That book is a work of art, encompassing a life that mirrored and contrasted my own. Read it.

Write a person first

Finally, and I know this is something I’ve said a thousand times, but I’ll say it over and over again until every writer get it. Write a person first. Don’t feel like you have to write a character that represents all gay people, all Muslim people, all black people. Write a full person with likes, dislikes, hopes, and dreams. Write a man who loves memes, dark coffee and cats, who happens to be black. Write a woman who paints and has collected a sea shell from every ocean she’s visited, and she’s visited a lot. She just happens to be from the Middle East.

Honestly, a lot of this just comes down to understanding that there are people who live a very different life than yours. Almost all of them, actually. And your characters should reflect that none of us walks in the same world we do. We all have our pasts, our pains, our scares on our hearts. Write your characters with that understanding firmly in place.

Please, whatever you do, don’t write another cookie cutter character that just shows another stereotype. That’s the last thing your story, or the world needs.

What better time of the year could there be for a Christmas story? Enjoy twelve little Blue WoodChristmas tales, ranging from heart felt to horrifying. Meet a young man who recieves a surprise Christmas gift, a little boy who gets an unexpected visit from Santa, and a young woman spending Christmas Eve in a new coat.

Pre-order it today.

Your holiday survival guide

I do this every year. Literally every year, and I’m totally okay with that. I do this because not everyone reads the massive backlog of blog posts that four years creates. I do this because we have a lot of new readers this year. (And I love you all). I do this because everyone needs to hear this and I do this because I need a yearly reminder too.

The holidays are awesome fun-filled events that can remind us of our childhood and gives us time to spend with our families. It’s a necessary and much-loved break.

It’s also a huge ass money pit, emotionally devastating and a time when many of us have to deal with relatives we don’t like. It’s full of obligations to people we don’t care about. It brings up loneliness, bad memories, and dark, dark feels.

For someone like me, who suffers from seasonal stuff as it is and recently went through a serious family upheaval, the holidays can be the emotional equivalent of rubbing your face on a cheese grater.

I want to love the holidays. And I want to help you love the holidays too. Here are four hard and fast rules I have set in place over the years to help me not only survive the holidays but to enjoy them.

Don’t do anything for the holidays that you don’t like.

Let me teach you my favorite word for the holidays, ‘no’. No to anything that doesn’t bring you joy. No to anything that doesn’t fit into your schedule. No to anyone who doesn’t respect your needs.

I love no, it’s a complete sentence all by itself. You don’t owe an explanation to anyone. If you don’t want to do the cookie exchange, write Christmas cards, host a potluck, watch A Christmas Story for the 157th damn time, then respectfully and lovingly say no. This leaves time available for all the great holiday things that you want to do.

Make allowances for your family.

There is an addendum to this, of course. Your direct family gets to ask to do things that you want to say no to, and sometimes you have to say yes. But not always! Yes, we’ll watch this Christmas movie that you love, but please watch that one while I’m doing something else. Yes, your mom can come to Thanksgiving, but not your uncle because he’s racist every year. If you want to see him, please take him out to lunch. Okay, we can do Christmas Eve breakfast with your parents, but I want to have brunch on Boxing Day.

Make time for you to do non-holiday stuff too.

For me, this means writing and reading on basically my normal schedule. But Nicole, you might say, aren’t the holidays a time for family? Why are you working on your writing through them?

Well, because writing isn’t a job for me, it’s my art. It’s how I express a well of deep and humongous emotions and exorcize my demons. And I really freaking need that escapes hatch in the holidays, more than any other time of year. I also need to spend time reading, just as much now as I do in July. Don’t put away the things that you love just because you think you’re too busy. Make time to take care of yourself.

Start planning right now.

Today is November ninth. We’re two weeks away from Thanksgiving. Do you know what you’re doing? I’ve known since October 30th. I’ve been working on Christmas presents, ordering, and planning since the 15th of October.

Start planning early, so you’re not scrambling in December. Nothing ruins Christmas Eve like running around on last minute errands. Nothing ruins Thanksgiving like finding out you’re missing the necessary can of cranberries.

Sit down today with a cup of something wonderful and make a list of everything you want to do for the holidays. Gifts you want to buy, treats you want to make, cards you want to send, movies you want to watch, events you want to plan. Now, make a plan either by yourself or with your partner to make these things happen. Be realistic, and accept that you might not have time for everything. (Do we ever have time for everything we want to do with our lives? I don’t.) The important part is that you make a plan.

Most of the people who read my blog are adults. At least I think so, it’s been a while since I’ve done a survey. Shout out in the comments if you’re under 18, that should be fun. But for the rest of us, we have got to remember that we make what we want out of our lives. That doesn’t change when we hang tinsel around the house. If you hang tinsel. I don’t, Harper would eat it. When it comes down to it, the holidays are about love. Love your family, and love yourself.

Twelve little Christmas stories, ranging from heartfelt to horrifying. Meet a young Blue Woodwoman on the streets on Christmas Eve, a woman handing out Christmas cookies, and a little boy getting an unexpected visit from Santa.

Preorder it here now

Announcing Twelve Little Christmas Stories

I’m super excited to announce today that I have one more book launch this year.

Christmas is a great time of year for stories. Sweet stories that remind us of miracles and magic. Frightening stories that make us cuddle together in the cold of winter. Stories that make us feel like children again.

Twelve Little Christmas Tales includes a blend of terror and treat, magic and maniacal. In it, you will find a woman who receives an unwanted group of carolers, a young witch looking after her little brother, and a girl who gets a new coat on Christmas Eve that leads her to an amazing discovery.

Also, for Woven fans, there’s a story about Lenore’s friend Emily and her little boy Todd.

Do you love Station 86? Ever wonder how Sennett and Godfrey spend Christmas on the station? In this book, you will find Sennett’s first Christmas without her mom.

Twelve Little Christmas Tales is available for pre-order now, with an official launch date of November 23rd. Get it for yourself, or as a gift for someone you love.

Get it on Smashwords

Or, get it on Amazon

Happy holidays, guys. Hope it’s a great one.

Go Vote!

If you’re doing Nanowrimo, you should have 8,335 words by the end of today.

I am doing Nanowrimo, and I’ve got a write-in today. So I’m not going to take up too much of your time. I just want you to do something for me.

Grab your calendar right now, and take a look at what you’re doing tomorrow.

Have you already made a plan to vote? Do you remember where your polling place is? Find out today, make plans now to go and vote.

Never for a second think that your vote doesn’t count. Every vote counts, and every single American needs to get out and vote!

See you at the polls. I’ll be watching for your voting selfies tomorrow.

You Can’t Trust The AI is now on Smashwords!

Okay, so it’s the third day of Nanowrimo so I’m sure that either A. you’re pumped to get started or B. you already wish all of us doing Nano would shut the hell up about it. So either way, I’ll be quick today.

I just wanted to let you know that You Can’t Trust The AI, book two of Station 86 is now available on Smashwords. I’m so excited to see the ever-growing list of my books that you can now get no matter what sort of e-reader you have.

In case you missed it, here’s a list of books of mine you can now get on Smashwords.

Seeming (By the way, this one is free.)

You Can’t Trust the AI

The Man in the Woods


Broken Patterns

More to come soon. Thank you as always for reading.

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