Hi guys!

Well, it’s registration week, so I won’t be around too much, or writing too much. Well, writing mostly at night, anyway.

Portland was good. I got to see Sara and Catherine (Maura had to bow out because of novovirus), and had a jolly time at a great restaurant. With my colleagues Ryan and Olga, we did Voodoo Donuts, Alexis (Greek), and the Ringler Bar. We also took a trip to Powell’s and the famous Voodoo Doughnuts.

And my head is full of such professional stuff that I have a lot to digest and think about for the day job. So, it was successful. In spite of the fact that you feel like you are constantly swimming as you walk around Portland. Next time=better boots.

Off to Portland!

And our final announcement for a few days…

I go to Portland to play professor for the next four days. In my day job I teach English to Speakers of Other Languages, and in a generous move, the college has decided to send all of us full-timers to Portland at the same time this year. I believe the word synergy was used.


It won’t be all business. On Saturday night I intend to see some of my Taos classmates from 2012 as well. My roommate Catherine Evleshin, Sara Mueller, and Maura Glynn-Thami. So there’ll probably be something about that.

You guys have a great weekend.

Getting in Shape: End of Week 22

And we skipped a week, because I was really, really busy with fiction.

I weighed in yesterday, so I could spend some quality time tonight with the husband before I ran off on my TESOL trip.

Here’s the stats:

eginning Wii Weight: 223.8 (My heaviest ever after this summer.)
Wii Weight on 3-25-14: 204.4 (a loss of 0.4)
Total: 19.3 pounds LOST

Weight Watchers on Initial Weigh In: 224
Weight Watchers on 3-25-14: 208 (a loss of 1.2)
Total: 16 pounds

Weight analysis: I actually lost about a pound last week, and gained 0.2 this week on the Weight Watchers scale, but that is overall down.

Exercise analysis: Just tuned into the Wii Fit Meter, and I’m trying to get up to 500 calories burned a day, which is doubling my physical activity.

Food analysis: No amount of exercise can counteract bad food habits. I’m still coming in on too many points, and you’ve probably noticed me hovering in the 203-206 range. I was hoping to be about 201 April 1st, and I don’t think I can do that now. Today I weighed 205.5, for example, so that’s a bit much to shed in a matter of days.

My adjusted goal, therefore, is to be below 200 by the time I go to Wiscon Memorial day weekend. I believe I can do that. I will be eating many more vegetables and substituting light popcorn for all afternoon munchies, instead of occasionally grabbing a cookie. It’s the new plan, and it’s still calories, but it’s about 1/2-1/4 the calories. I will also try packing better snacks, but this seems a good place to start for now.

The Writer Writes

I mentioned last week that I was writing and that’s why I wasn’t here. It looks like that trend will continue. Here’s sort of an update of what’s lined up.

Both of my submissions for Women Destroy Horror! and Women Destroy Fantasy! are off. I met my goal of getting them out the door before I head off tomorrow to go to TESOL in Portland, Oregon. I’d like to thank my many readers of first and second drafts.

Over spring break, I received some advice from Lawrence over at Paper Golem about a novella I sent there, and that revision will be my next project. I’m really ready to buckle down and get this sucker into good shape. I’d like to see it have a home somewhere.

I did start a troll revision initially for Women Destroy Horror!, but it wasn’t going where I wanted it to, and it didn’t seem adult enough for the magazine, so I shelved it. Since it’s already in progress, I will return to it before the novel. Also, there’s a Dieselpunk anthology that has a deadline of August 1st, and I think I’m gonna fold my superhero story into an Atompunk environment, which will be more fun for everyone.

So it looks like I’ve been sidetracked from the novel for a while. That’s okay. I’ll be right back to it ASAP, and it’ll be nice to have some shorts circulating again.


I still have one story at the Kaleidoscope Anthology that isn’t rejected, sitting at about 165 days (I sent early). In all fairness, I think it only counts after 12-31, which means 83 days. Hoping that’s a good sign.

And in today’s category of nicest rejection received in a while, an agent writes this about Abigail Rath:

I think this is wonderful. I do think you’ll find an agent. It just didn’t connect with me. I can’t wait to see it in print and buy it for my daughter.

Alas. Always the bridesmaid. 🙂


I think I have enough battery to give you a weight update. Here we go.

I’m off to Portland, Or this week for TESOL, so I’d best put my professor hat on and tie it under my chin.

How I Spent My Spring Break


What follows is the report I had to write for my fire fighting class regarding the ride along I took with the Cedar Rapids Fire Department last Friday. I like the outfit in the picture so much, I’ve started wearing it to work!


On Friday, March 21st, 2014, I reported to the Cedar Rapids Central Fire Station at 8:00 am. The fire station is new and state of the art. The facility looks sharp, with a modern kitchen, a weight room and a workout room. Large flat screen televisions and fire helmets cover the walls of the living areas and hallways. The center piece is the large staging area where the apparatus are kept.

I was greeted by a busy crew preparing for their day. Two things were going on: breakfast and getting their blood drawn. The crew eat breakfast and lunch together, although they prepare their own individual meals. Dinner is usually a group affair, and today the drivers of the rescue truck were preparing fish for Lent. The blood work was part of the emphasis on keeping the fire fighters safe and healthy.

On duty was a sizeable crew, all male, although there was a female intern, Jessica, who is finishing her degree, and works with all the shifts. There are three shifts that work at the Central Fire Station, and each shift is 24 hours on and 48 hours off, the classic textbook schedule that we read about for paid departments. While I didn’t catch the names of all the crew, I caught enough of them to be able to talk cogently about our activities.

The first fire fighter to help me out was Captain Matt Woerner. Matt sat down and talked to me about work schedules, shifts, and benefits. He was also responsible for making sure that Captain Joel Miles had me sign off on the paper work for the city. Around the table, the fire fighters introduced themselves: Chief Andy Oleson, Captain Matt Woerner, Probationary Fire Fighter Lucas Kennedy, Brad Cowden, Josh, Jensen, Jessica Miller, and Loren Corrigan. Mike, the driver of the truck also made a brief appearance, although I didn’t meet him until later. I also met Mick Wightman, who was subbing that day at Central. It turns out I know his wife, who works at Kirkwood.

While breakfast was being served, I took the opportunity to ask Probationary Fire Fighter Kennedy some questions. Lucas filled me in on what it’s like to be a probationary fire fighter. “Imagine,” he said, “that you’ve met the girl of your dreams, and she’s finally said that she’s going to marry you. Then imagine that you have to spend the next year or two convincing her 120 older brothers that you are the right man for her.” Lucas essentially is the first to come and the last to leave. He cleans up after all the other fire fighters. He gives most of the community tours and basically is the man who does whatever needs doing that the others don’t do. Lucas also has a training regimen that he must keep practicing until he is cleared to be a fully-fledged fire fighter in September. A short man, Lucas takes a lot of ribbing about his height.

Continue reading “How I Spent My Spring Break”

Venice Back and Forth

As Venice continued to decay, it no longer had the strength to protect itself from exploitation by European colonial forces. In the great chess games of 18th and 19th century Europe, Venice was conquered by Napoleon, given away to the Austrians by the French in a treaty, then given back to the French in another treaty as part of Napoleon’s Kingdom of Italy, and then returned to the Austrians. Both occupying armies made modifications to the city.

All around the Italian peninsula, Italian city states were forming a unified Italy, and Venice ultimately became part of a unified Italy, albeit a little late. But the Austrians were force to give up Venice in 1866.

From there on out, Italy’s history is Venice’s history. Venice remains unique in its flavor among Italian cities due to its early origins of trade and interactions with parts of the Byzantine world. The bulk of Venice’s income and fame in the modern world is due to tourism, which swells Venice’s actual population to about three times its real size.

Where Have You Been?

Or technically, where have I been?

This week I’ve been on spring break, and I’ve been using my time to crank out/modify some stories for Women Destroy Fantasy and Women Destroy Horror. I had thought to initially revamp a couple of old pieces, and this is what I did with the fantasy story. The horror story was not right for the venue, I thought, and so I sat down and wrote this new thing in four hours that disturbs me, but horror should do that, so we’re all good.

Since I’ve spent a huge amount of time at the keyboard writing, that means I haven’t been entertaining you all. I’ll get back to that next week, as soon as both of these stories are in the bag and sent off by or before their March 31st deadline.

I also have to go through the novella previously known as The Were-Humans again. I have a list of suggested revisions, and there’s a lot I need to think about. The novel will wait a little longer.

I go back to work tomorrow. Technically, I should be off until next Monday, but we coordinators have to go in when things come up, and then Friday is the fire fighting ride along, which you will all get to hear about, because that’s cool. It’s still work, but it’s cool.

So, this productive writer salutes you, and regular programming should resume shortly. See you on the other side of spring break.

Getting in Shape: End of Week 20

It’s taken me a little while to get here this week. First of all, let’s go back to the day I did weigh in.

Beginning Wii Weight: 223.8 (My heaviest ever after this summer.)
Wii Weight on 3-12-14: 204.8 (a loss of 0.7)
Total: 19 pounds LOST

Weight Watchers on Initial Weigh In: 224
Weight Watchers on 3-12-14: 209.2 (the same)
Total: 14.8 pounds

And now, the truth. My trend is overall down, but I am experiencing what people who weigh themselves every day experience…the weight ping pong! I do my Wii tests every morning, so I’m not likely to stop weighing myself every day. That said, your weight can fluctuate quite a bit in a week. Today, for example, I am 206.1. The highest I’ve been in the last two weeks is 206.8. The lowest? The coveted 203.5, which I was for two days in a row! YES!!!

What conclusions can I draw? That as long as the overall trend is downward, no matter how slowly it’s coming off, that’s good.

This week, I’m playing with the way my WW points are allotted. I’ve automatically added 7 points in a day for the points pool, and count on six points a day for exercise. I DON’T skip exercise unless there’s no way out. Like, tomorrow I’m in the car all day. So, I’ve planned for six less points. If I’m REALLY hungry, I will borrow points from another day, but usually I end up with some points leftover that I can move into the next day. For example, today I’m allotted 39 points (29 + 7 exercise (stepping and tai chi) + 3 flex points remaining). By the end of the day I will have 5 points left to move into tomorrow, which is good, because every meal tomorrow is a mystery. I have an allotment of points for each meal.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. 🙂

I’m hoping the new accounting system helps me not spend my extra points so quickly early in the week, and helps me stay within the totals I truly have.

Next week is spring break, so I will be weighing in on Thursday in the morning. That will be an automatic weight loss, followed by a gain the following week when I return to Wednesday at 4:30 pm.

Zen and the Art of Getting an Agent

First, I think I’d like you to visit this link. Then come back, and we’ll talk.


Did you look over there? Good. Just two short days ago, Ferret was writing blog posts that were sort of low about his chances of getting an agent. I’m glad that this story had a happy ending. I think more so, because I’ve watched this struggle over a matter of years. I met him in 2009, and I know he’s been working on his writing career long before that.

This would be the point where I would normally do a reversal, and talk about myself. But since I’m so damn zen now (!), instead, I’d like to suggest that this experience is one that a lot of us can identify this. Why do I think Ferret finally got his agent? It’s the same old, sort of like the same old advice on how to lose weight. Which is a different post. Here’s what I see happening.

1. Ferret actively and continually improved his craft. He went to workshops and participated in other workshops, and tried to learn new tricks. He got educated.

2. Ferret ripped his stories to shreds and put them back together, a lot. He didn’t send out crap. He sent out solid stories that were worth reading. Strange, yeah, but worth reading. 🙂

3. Ferret kept writing and submitting. Even in his darkest hours of doubt, depression, and rejection, he kept at it. Persistence was Ferret’s mantra.

4. Ferret published short stories. He gained some recognition for it. Through this venue, he became a respected writer.

5. Ferret has an online presence as a writer, so people know what he’s like and can access him. This tends to give a writer a boost.

6. Ferret wrote a couple of novels. He sent them out. And got rejected. And sent them out. And got rejected. And sent them out. And didn’t get rejected.


There’s probably a lot more than this I don’t know. But you know, there’s a lot of blog over in the Ferret-verse to get the whole picture. The point is, the salient points to me, my friends, is this one: all of this took time, and this man put in the time. He put in the work. He didn’t let the rejection and the depression keep him from doing that. He’s often said that it’s work for him, that he doesn’t have a natural sense of what to do. I can relate. I often intuit my way through a story, but costuming? Man, I had to build that skill through much trial and error. That ain’t easy. There was no magic bullet here, or overnight success. He worked hard.

And I’m more puritan than I like to admit, because that whole work ethic thing just works for me. Also, it should give you hope. It gives me hope. Because this is what I’m doing too–creeping closer and trying to stay on track, and working my way to my goal.

I like to see success for someone when they’ve put in time and effort. It makes me happy. And you know, if Ferret can do it, we can follow his path. In the best sense, this guy deserves the blue ribbon.

Now, I gotta go wrestle some stories to the ground. It’s my daily writing time.

The Writing Process and Christopher Kastensmidt

One of my favorite writers is Nebula-nominated Chris Kastensmidt. Chris has been a good friend over the years. He’s the person that motivated me to go to Viable Paradise, and he writes historical fantasy. We both published at Cats Curious back in the day. Obviously, we have a bit in common. I would really like you to get fired up about his work and seek it out. Thanks, Chris, for answering a few questions!


Tamago: Do you have a regular drafting process, or does your drafting process vary from book to book. Can you describe it to us generally, or at least for one project?

Chris: My process is pretty standard for all my writing projects. First comes the idea: it may be the start of a story, or the end, or the whole thing all at once. I’ll write down whatever comes into my head, then set it aside to let it simmer. In some cases, I never go back to that idea, which means it probably wasn’t worth a whole lot in the first place. In other cases, the idea will stick in my head, and, piecemeal, the scenes will start taking form in my imagination. Every time I picture something new, I’ll go back to my notes and drop it in. Once the story starts taking place, I’ll sit down and make sure everything is in the right place, filling in gaps where I need to. That leaves me with a complete outline. Only then, after everything is in place, start to finish, is when I finally start writing the story.

At that point, the actual writing is fast. I usually write five to ten thousand words per day. So, in the end, I might spend a day or two writing out a story which I spent a year piecing together. It is a long process, not for the impatient, but it tends to give me solid results. I always know I have a complete story before I write it.

Tamago: Since you are writing historical fantasy, I know that you research a great deal to get the feeling right in your story? When is research a step in your writing process?

Chris: The research, besides providing detail, is also an integral part of piecing together the story. Research often helps me invent the individual scenes. For example, I was recently researching the city of Olinda in the late sixteenth century for my latest novel. I discovered that poetry competitions called outeiros were a popular form of entertainment at the time. That tiny detail inspired what, to me, became one of the more memorable scenes in the novel.

Continue reading “The Writing Process and Christopher Kastensmidt”