TT Profile #10: Pat Scaramuzza

Hold on tight! It’s time for a journey into the mind of Pat Scaramuzza.



Tamago: When do you remember wanting to become a writer? Do you remember the first thing that you wrote?

Pat: The first fiction I wrote was for an English class back in 7th grade. It was based on a D&D campaign. The teacher was impressed although she didn’t like my handwriting or swearing.

I wrote stories for fun for years. I joined alt.devilbunnies — a shared universe about evil, toe-eating rabbits — in 1994, and that lead to dozens of great stories and collaborations.

But the first story that got me on the road to publishing was a Magic: The Gathering story I wrote for fun, titled _Starfish Wars_. I posted it to the MTG newsgroup on Usenet. An editor at Inquest magazine saw it, liked it, and paid me 10 cents a word to publish it, adding great artwork! That’s the moment that convinced me to write professionally, because obviously publishing these stories of mine would be easy. HAHAHAHA.

As a side note, that editor offered to hire me to write an ongoing column in Inquest. Because I was young and naive and going through a divorce at the time, I turned him down. That was probably the third worst mistake I’ve ever made in my life. (My marriage being the second worst.) The lesson I learned there was when an opportunity comes up, grab it.

Tamago: Who are your writing influences?

Pat: I really don’t know. As a child I read widely, but as an adult with too much knowledge about how books are made I read sporadically and am too harsh a critic. If I look at my bookshelves and give you author’s names, they would be Heinlein, Vernor Vinge, Alfred Bester, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven and so on. But I also read a lot of comic books, and should put Gaiman, Ellis, Chris Claremont and Reed Waller on the list as well. It’s all jumbled together in my brain, now.

Tamago: As a writer, you play around in many genres. Do you have a favorite? Why or why not?

Pat: I never stray too far from science fiction. I’ve dabbled in magic realism (_Indefensible Positions_) and paranatural horror (_Chipper_), but I like explaining how the world works, so even my magic systems have strict rules and a full history. Because I am a scientist in my day job, I tend to look at the rules of the universe and how they can be bent to achieve an effect. That perspective lends itself to speculative science.

I do like to vary how ‘hard’ — or realistic — my science fiction stories are. _Genocide Man_ is pretty hard sci-fi, and while I’m working on that I also have a prose novel in progress that’s soft, squishy, fun science fiction.

Tamago: You also publish a web cartoon. Tell us about that.

Pat: I have two webcomics, both of which I write and draw. One comic is finished Indefensible Positions. It’s a magical realism story that examines the value and role of myth in the modern world, with a superhero slant.

My current webcomic is Genocide Man. It’s a hard-science look at issues coming up in the 21st century, especially genetic engineering and biowarfare. It’s also funny. Yes, I’m writing and drawing a humorous comic about genocide and global pandemics. That’s the kind of challenge which I like, and which has kept me out of the really good magazines.

Tamago: Why did you apply to Taos Toolbox? What did you take away from the workshop?

Pat: That’s a long story. The distilled version is that I needed a better statistical sample of opinions about my work. (Scientist, remember?)

The long story is…I agonized over applying to Taos Toolbox. I had already been to Viable Paradise and I had concerns over how helpful they were. Of the four instructors who read my stories there, two of them returned the manuscript with no markings — they said that there was nothing to correct. I walked out of VP thinking that I was on the cusp, that I had real talent, that my ascension into true published author status was imminent and inevitable.

Continue reading “TT Profile #10: Pat Scaramuzza”


Everything cancelled today because of a nasty, nasty blizzard. I’ve spent the day watching Jeeves and Wooster and catching up on work email. Now, to go help the husband dig out, and then probably write or read tonight.

Interview, I think, for tomorrow.

Winter, Discontent, Stuff Like That–A Story about Support

I keep starting this, and think I sound whiny. So, let’s just rapid fire a few things off.

Yesterday was stressful. Today is Xanax. This means I don’t give a damn. It also means that I’m not getting stuff done. See previous sentence.

Arthritis after Vegas and planes. Bad news=Cath on ice last night, as in freezing packs on ankle and knee. Good news? Recovery in about a day. Much less problematic today, so it looks like walking trips can still be on the menu. I will baby the joints this week, and ease back into stretching and walking next week. Usual procedure.

Rejection. Another one bites the dust. The new book is still the best thing I’ve done, thanks to Walter and Nancy. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to sell. Still, forward movement. It’s back out there.


Today I had a meeting in the business department. It was the boss’ idea. We’ve been having some issues with a course we’re collaborating on with the business folks, and Allison thought that it would be worth our while to get together with them and talk it through. It does, in fact, work better, the idea of seeing someone face to face and working through issues. Similarly, I’m going to see the baseball coach on Thursday for a meeting. He has some things he’s not clear on, as do I. Face to face.

Here’s Miranda Suri writing about our Vegas retreat. She says many of the same things about the virtue of getting together. My experiences this weekend and today seem to underscore her main point. Oh, Internet, amazing you may be, but sometimes we just have to go outside and have some human contact.


As I was retreating in Vegas, there were some pretty great conversations. I mentioned that one of the ways I get fired up about writing is to hear what other people are doing. Every time one of the writers would talk about the project, the more I was interested in reading that project. I have the same sense from them that they were interested in what I was telling one them. One breakfast stands out particularly, where Miranda was talking about her book Absent, and I was telling about The Poison of Thy Flesh (yup. Klarion Book One finally has a name. Thank you, retreat!) Julia Rios was saying all sorts of sage things about each book. I was fired up about both projects. It was delightful to talk about them! Julia and I dropped something off at our room, and Julia was talking about her second idea for a novel.And I was just as fascinated.

The only reason I mentioned today’s rejection is so I could pull this experience back to that rejection. Writers get rejected and rejected and rejected and rejected and rejected and (I can do this all day!). What can we do in the face of such adversity?

The answer is….support each other! Find a good, solid, like-minded group of writing friends, give them honest feedback, and support them. Not only do you get the benefit of saying that you knew Famous Author X when, but you also get to share enthusiasm and hopes and dreams. You know, just because the rest of the world doesn’t think/know your writing is all that, doesn’t mean it’s bad. There are a lot of good writers out there working on it. We need to scaffold each other when we are, to keep going in the right direction.

So, the take home message? I guess I’m grateful for all of the writers and readers who support me in my work, who believe in what I’m doing and want to read my stuff, and keep me moving. I’m grateful for the inspiration they give me for my work because they are inspired for their own. And I have access to the world’s coolest secret library. For now, until the rest of the world inevitably finds out my secret.

Be excellent to each other.


Retreat, Recap

I returned from Vegas with very little trouble yesterday, in spite of an ice storm. I was concerned that planes would be cancelled and I might be banished to Detroit for a day, but I flew in a mere half an hour late, Bryon came and picked me up, and we made it home. The big issue right now in the state seems to be fog rather than ice. Yay?


I had a glorious time in Vegas. The retreat’s basic pattern was this: breakfast and conversate, write, quick lunch, write some more, spa, gussy up and eat. The next day? breakfast and brainstorm, write, lunch, write some more, get feedback on novella, supper, see a show, ride a gondola. Everyone else barred after that, but I had to get up at 2:30 am to get through the airport process, so that was it.

As you might know, I have spent most writer retreats in workshopping mode. While a couple of nice fellow writers gave me feedback on a novella, most of this retreat was spent producing new material, and/or editing, depending on what individual writers felt they needed to do. How did that work?

The feedback was positive. Most of the writers who attended wanted some writing time, time to just put their fingers on the keys and go at it. Also, being in an environment with writers sparked creativity, and made people want to work on their own projects more, plus get excited about other people’s work (there are several projects I am now hot to read.) Everyone was friendly and got along well. We seemed to all feel comfortable with each other, and that also helped.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. Las Vegas? Really? That’s what I thought back when Lou and Danielle and Eric took us in 2011, and I was so wrong. Las Vegas, while a bit of overload, really *is* a good place to retreat. There’s not so much to do there that we are distracted from doing it, but enough to do there so when we are sick of writing we can do something else. I would definitely recommend it.


More I want to say about the projects I’m working on, and so forth (especially since the wimmen on the retreat pumped me up!). I hope to get a chance to write more this week. Regrettably, everything’s an emergency right now at work, and while that means nothing is, it also means I have to roll up my sleeves, so we’ll do this as we can.

Hope to see you soon.


Immediately after work tonight, I hop a plane to Vegas for a writing retreat with some excellent authors: Danielle Burkhart, Lisa Morton, Julia Rios, Miranda Suri and Christie Yant. We’ll be hanging out and writing at each other. And there will be some spaing, some dining, and some viewing of Vegas-like entertainment.

I regret, as always, leaving the husband behind. He’s heading out to visit his mom and some friends, and he will return to Cedar Rapids for the Robert Burns dinner Saturday night.

So, expect tales when I get back. Now, off to a meeting, some teaching, and then I’m gone.

Happy weekend, all.

Klarion Book One: Naming Conventions

One of the ideas that has evolved as the Klarion books have evolved is the migration of a family over centuries. I’m not writing a family over centuries; I’m only taking a slice of about 100 years and detailing the events of 3 generations that change the balance of the Klarion story. An introducing idea that was thrown out this summer at Taos was that maybe the OTHER sorcerers had the scroll in the Middle Ages, but I’m not going near that idea for several other books. What I need are MORE characters. Yeah.


So, this takes us to the journey of the Klarion family. Our story begins when Erasmus Klarion, who lives in Alexandria, Egpyt, finds the scroll of Solomon that controls demons in the Library of Alexandria. Through a series of events, it’s decided by the supernatural powers involved in all of this political infighting that he will guard the scroll through the generations, and that demons will be subservient to the Klarions. More on this in cosmological notes.

Eramus’ family is Roman. He has moved to Alexandria to follow his scholarly potential. The family moves from Rome to Egypt back to Italy. They remain in Italy through the Holy Roman Empire, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and then make their way to England, during the peak of the Renaissance there. The Klarions remain in England but they have ties in Egypt always, given the cosmological issues involved with their charge.

When you see the names of the Klarion characters, you will find classical names: Drusus, Octavia, Gregorius, Flavia, Marcellus, Lucia. Alternative names will begin to find their way in as generations change: both Esme and Errol are named by their British mothers. The Galt characters tend to integrate a bit of Greek into their traditional names, although classical Roman names are still present: Eurydice, Atreus, Stephanus, Tiberius.

Whether readers will care about this or not, what I am trying to do is import a sense of history and human journey. I’m also trying to get away from making up fantasy names, and doing something just a tad different in flavor.

Next: demon naming conventions. Why are they all named after members of the Egyptian pantheon(s)?

Busy McBusy

Look! Other people on campus! And tomorrow, students!

It’s the first day that (the other) faculty return, and we’ve been having meetings. Lots and lots of meetings.

The next entry, whenever I get there, is gonna be a little bit of Egyptian mythology. Meanwhile, I go to deal with student email.

Me and Elizabeth Gaskell, Hanging Out

Before I sit down to do some exciting afternoon tasks (work on the tutoring schedule, get my back up test schedule designed for next Friday while I’m in Vegas), I think I’ll take a few moments to write a piece of writer meta that’s been on my mind for a bit. I’m pretty sure that I’ve written about this before, but sometimes things bear repeating if only to make sure they’re still in your head.

I think about the personal writing journey a lot, especially when I discover a semi-famous writer I’ve never heard of. Like, for example, Graham Greene. Yes, prolific thriller writer Graham Green, who’d never come across my radar until the film, The Quiet American. Or Elizabeth Gaskell, author of Cranford, as popular as Dickens in her day? Yeah, hadn’t heard of her until two years ago.

I consider myself fairly well-educated and informed, but you can’t know everything. Nope. Not even me. And so…it has long been apparent to me that an individual’s writing journey must be an intrinsic one, because there is something you’d like to say, and you hope you get the privilege to share. Fame isn’t part of the package. Love what you do. Write for the joy of telling a story.


I’ve been thinking a lot about social media lately. Social media is a great way to put yourself out there, but social media really only works if someone wants to find you for whatever reasons. You can’t get a giant cane and pull people to your site. So, you know, you put out a story and someone likes it, and they come looking for you, and there you are! Also, social media can work if you are writing about something in particular that someone wants to know. The number 4 post on my site is still: Why I Read the Classics: Arthur Clennam in Little Dorrit. I strongly suspect I get a lot of term paper traffic. And my number 7 post is called Seams of Reality, about the new Harry Potter theme park when it first opened, and also linked by a friend who has more traffic than me (Hello, Ferret.) People are also known to look for themselves, and an interesting cast of characters and interviewees means that they might find themselves here.

The salient point? If someone is visiting my site, chances are good its to find out about something that I’ve written for the site (research! reviews!), or something that I’ve maybe said about them. I strongly suspect this, because my footprint as a writer is minute. There are people who come to find out more about me (my author page is number 6; my home and archive pages are number 1), but I suspect that I pull in people not because of who I am, but because of the topics here.

That’s part of the long game too. I should be writing because what I do is something I enjoy. I should be doing social media because I enjoy it too. I like writing about the things I write about, and connecting with the people I know. I’m not a climber. I suspect that this might make me an obscure writer. Yeah, me and Elizabeth Gaskell, hanging out. Because I’m not a squeaky wheel, I won’t get the grease.

Continue reading “Me and Elizabeth Gaskell, Hanging Out”

TT Profile #9: Sandra Wickham

Sandra Wickham, physical trainer, writer, Inkpunk, and all around pleasant human being (don’t believe the picture) is our next Taos Toolbox profile.


Tamago: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

Sandra: I wrote my first full-length novel when I was nine years old. It was awful, I’m sure and exactly like the books I was reading at the time by George MacDonald. My grandmother typed it up for me and I remember her asking me not to write in yellow pencil crayon because it was hard for her to read. I used to write with and on anything and everything I could find back then. My parents still have a copy of it. I got away from writing for a long time and have just returned to it in 2008.

Tamago: How did you come to join the Inkpunks?

Sandra: We were a group of friends before we were the Inkpunks. We met through conventions and social media, people started to notice us as a group online so I came up with the idea of starting up a blog together. (yes, I’ll take credit for that!) We have since had a couple extra awesome people join us and we continue to be a group of friends that happen to blog together and support each other in writing and in life.

Continue reading “TT Profile #9: Sandra Wickham”

The Flip Side of the Power Differential

Yesterday, I did the first truly negative thing I have done in my tenure as ELA Coordinator. I have canceled a class here, or there for a teacher, but yesterday, I canceled many classes for many teachers. Some of them were not expecting it. A brief background as to why? Fewer students in ELA and college conservatism for class numbers as our enrollment shrinks. So, classes that might have been okay to offer a semester ago were not okay to offer this time.

I feel horrible. Friends and spouses have been trying to cheer me up, and I know that this is the flip side of the power differential. I can only do what the college lets me do. Some people would let that absolve them from responsibility, and it does. I had no power over this decision at all (which makes me feel like a total tool. I won’t lie there.), so it is done. It had to be done.

And yet…

Continue reading “The Flip Side of the Power Differential”