Clarion Write-a-Thon!

ClarionBack in 1995, just a year out of college, I managed to nab a spot in the Clarion Workshop. I will never forget what I learned there. It made me a far better writer. I also made lasting friendships and connections within the science fiction community.

Now I’m giving back. Clarion runs largely on donations, and every year, they run a Write-a-Thon. Writers pledge to write a certain amount of work, counted in words or chapters or hours or edits, and supporters pledge money if those writers complete their goals. I’m hereby pledging to write five chapters of A PIXIE’S PROMISE during Clarion this summer – that is, between June 25 and August 5. My plan is to write one chapter per week, except for the week when I’m off on vacation. I’m hoping to raise $125 from my efforts – that’s just $25/chapter!

But it all depends on YOU, my readers. Can ten of you spare $12.50? Can 125 of you spare a buck? What are you willing to pay to see not only the sequel to A Witch’s Kitchen written, but also to support the next generation of great science fiction and fantasy writers? What is that worth to you? I’m betting it’s worth at least a dollar.

So please, go to the Clarion Write-a-Thon page and sign up to pledge your support, for me and other fantastic writers as we work to support excellence in science fiction and fantasy.

This Blog is for YOU

Hi, all. I have recently been informed by my daughters that this blog is boooooooring and not at all interesting for kids. So I’d really like to know: what would you like me to write about on this blog? What’s fun and interesting to you? Parents, please ask your young readers what they look for on authors’ blogs. As an incentive, I will a send a FREE signed copy of A Witch’s Kitchen to one person who comments on this post. Thanks!

Cafés for Writers: A Review of Bloc

 

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Bloc Cafe street sign

I promised I’d review the area cafés I’ve tried for writing purposes, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. Today, I’ll start making good on that promise. I’m at Bloc in Union Sq., Somerville. I used to come here once/week for a writers’ meetup, back when it was known as Bloc 11, but driving in from Beverly proved too daunting a task. It’s been several years now since I was last here, but I’m pleasantly surprised that all the good things I remember are still good, and the bad things are not as bad as I thought.

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Bloc Cafe vault seating

First, the seating: I remember Bloc 11 being very crowded at the meetups, but in fact this was an artifact of the meetup taking over the cramped front of the café, close to the windows. In fact, there’s a vast amount of space in the rear, including a former bank vault converted into cozy, semi-private seating. The metal chairs are hard, and the café tables are wobbly, but the built-in wooden benches in the vault and rearmost room are more stable and comfortable. They also have picnic tables outside, and it was even nice enough today that a few people were making use of them.

Second, the food: I remember the sandwiches being excellent, and I am not disappointed. I’m contentedly munching on a Safehaven, consisting of goat cheese, avocado, roasted fennel, lettuce, tomato, and cheddar, which I chose to have on a honey wheat bagel. That was a bit of a mistake. The sandwich is so hugely thick, I can barely stuff it into my mouth. The fennel is delicious, sweet and crunchy, the perfect counterpoint to the smooth, soft avocado and goat cheese. Note: I’m not a vegetarian, I just love good vegetables, and this sandwich really delivers. A nice pasta side salad with chunks of cucumber and pepper in a slightly spicy vinaigrette complements the sandwich nicely.

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Bloc Cafe counter and menu

My mint matcha latte is pretty good, frothy and not too sweet, but slightly overbrewed so that it tastes a bit mossy. Still, it’s better than most matchas I’ve had around here. I should try the chai latte to see if it’s still as good as I remember.

There’s internet available, but you have to pay to use it, so I’m leaving it turned off for now. I kind of like this; if I really, absolutely have to look something up, I can use my phone. Meanwhile, I can write distraction-free.

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Exterior seating at Bloc Cafe

The background music is eclectic and funky but not intrusive. I am loving all the elbow room I have, lots of space to sprawl out with my plate and my laptop. I’m expecting friends to join me any minute, and I had no trouble snagging a larger table to accommodate us all. My one complaint is that the temperature is a bit chilly. It’ll be nice in the summertime, I suspect. I may come back here and hide in the vault when I really need to focus on something.

The location is good, though not perfect. It’s a slight hike from Central Sq., but the 83 bus comes right through here. Hub Comics is next door, and if you want something more substantial than a sandwich or salad, there are plentiful excellent restaurants all around. I’m sad to see that locavore favorites Sherman Market and Sherman Café are both gone, the former replaced by an ice cream joint that I may go try when I’m done here.

Overall, a good choice for a place to get some serious work done.

In Praise of Librarians

I had a tremendous amount of fun last weekend at Bubonicon in my home town, Albuquerque, NM. I met a lot of great people and learned much more about the publishing process. I sat on a panel with two Hugo Award winners – no pressure – and read a chapter of A Witch’s Kitchen before an audience for the first time. People came up to me after that to tell me they’d preordered my book, which completely amazed me.

And one panel reminded me of my origins. Melinda Snodgrass, an extraordinary writer responsible for several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, described her early childhood and how she discovered science fiction through her local library, the Ernie Pyle branch in Albuquerque.

A shiver went down my back. That was my branch! I know the converted home of war journalist Ernie Pyle like the back of my hand, and thinking of it brings back the musty smell of the card catalog. I was nine years old, and I’d pretty much read everything in the children’s section of the library when I came across a new book: Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight.

Yes, that’s an adult book. Someone had mistaken it for one of her juveniles and shelved it in the wrong place. But all I saw was a tantalizingly thick book with a dragon on the cover, so I checked it out and devoured it. When I returned it to the library, the librarian gave me a strange look.

“You read this?” she asked. I nodded. “Did you understand it?” I nodded again. She paused. “Could I speak with your mother?”

I brought my mother over, and they chatted for a moment. Then the librarian turned to me and said, “Come with me.”

She led me into the adult section of the library, reached up to a high shelf, took down a paperback, and handed it to me: The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Sitting in the panel, listening to Melinda Snodgrass, I wondered whether she’d read the same book. I wondered whether the same librarian had placed it in her hands, though there’s at least ten years’ difference in our ages. I wondered again who that librarian had been. I don’t recall her name. I don’t even recall what she looked like. But I owe that librarian an incredible debt of gratitude for guiding me to a lifelong love of fantasy and science fiction and endless possibility.

The next time I visit my local library, I’m going to make a point of thanking the librarian. And I’m going to donate books, not just my book. LOTS of books. Maybe one of them will be someone else’s gateway to the future.

Behold the Glory of the New Site Design!

This has been a crazy, crazy summer, taken up mostly by packing up my entire household and moving. What spare time I’ve had I’ve been pouring into preparations for the release of A Witch’s Kitchen. I realized early in the summer that there was NO WAY I would also have time to revamp my web site. I wanted something fun and inviting for my young readers, but my web design skills are very, very rusty.

Fortunately, I noticed a Facebook post from Erica Schultz Yakovetz, an old friend looking for freelance work, and I swiftly hired her to do the redesign. I am DELIGHTED with the results, and I hope you are, too! We rushed the launch to coincide with Bubonicon, which I’m attending all this weekend. There are even more, cooler features that we’re planning, so this site is still somewhat under construction. Keep checking back for new content, or better yet, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up with all the changes.

In the meanwhile, I’d like to express my undying gratitude to Erica for going above and beyond to get this gorgeous site up. Erica also does book design and production. If you’d like to contact her, she can be reached at: