Vampires, movie magic, and best books: 2016 in review

Every December, I do inventory of what the hell happened over the course of the previous twelve months. As you may have noticed, 2016 was (by far) the most chaotic and successful of my life … which might be why I refuse to get dressed today. In fact, you’re lucky I’m even sitting upright. In homage to a year of utter, beautiful insanity, I offer you a look back.

1. BITE SOMEBODY

bitesomebody_final

Dreams do come true. After years of angst, in June, my first published novel was released into the innocent, unsuspecting world. Bite Somebody–a ridiculous paranormal romantic comedy about an awkward vampire, her sexy human surfer boy, and a psychotic blood-sucking best friend–found fans the world over. I hosted two massively successful (and anxiety-inducing) launch parties and attended my first conventions as an author. If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, click HERE, because as you may have heard, the sequel, Bite Somebody Else, comes out in 2017. The rodeo is far from over, folks. With all the upcoming promo and additional events, let’s just hope I don’t start looking rode hard and put away wet.

2. DECENT PEOPLE

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Once upon a time, I was an actress, so when my high school buddy asked me to be in a movie, I agreed. I had an absolute blast making Decent People, but I had no idea how hard it is to make a full-length film. (You can read all about it HERE.) Despite the laughs and new friends made, I walked away from the experience with bronchitis, laryngitis, and a phobia of having to smoke on screen ever again. (The reality just isn’t as sexy as it looks.) The film should be released in spring or summer of 2017. Since I refused to watch the dailies, I’ll surely watch the film from between my fingers, but I’m so glad I got the opportunity to slip back into my acting shoes–and have a damn good time playing a bitch in the process.

3. MODELING

modeling2016

Moving to Ohio from Phoenix (where I had a full, colorful cast of photographer friends), I wasn’t sure how much modeling I would do in my new state. Surprise! About a ton. Thanks to networking, I’ve gotten to shoot in a famous cemetery, in a creepy church basement, and yes, in my underwear. I even got to do a runway show in Cleveland. As always, I encourage everyone to do a photo shoot at least once. You won’t believe what you look like on camera, and when you’re old and crinkly, you’ll be amazed at how beautiful you are and always have been. (Above photos thanks to Bill Thornhill, Devon Adams, Steph Gentry, and Dennis Mong.)

4. SHORT STORIES

Other than Bite Somebody, what else got thrown into the world this year?

Wolf Among Sheep (Hot Ink Press)
“I was not at all prepared for what I deduce you proposed yesterday,” he says. I just adore that strange accent, so much like my husband’s: a mismatch of places and times, trapped somewhere between New York and the low south—musical yet clipped and precise.
“What exactly do you deduce we proposed?” I ask.
“That I enter into a sexual relationship with a married couple.”
I laugh; people around us turn to stare. I take Timothy’s hand. “Well. Perhaps these Americans aren’t quite as close-minded as I thought.”

I Hate Myself for Loving You (Lunch Ticket Magazine)
Timmy shoves him over and joins him in the dirt. He thumps Jason in the side of the face. I think I should tell them to stop—scream it even. Instead, coward that I am, my boys keep going until they see blood. Then, they fall back. They yell about catching Jason’s “gay disease,” named by some mad scientists a couple years back in ‘82. My best friends drag me away.
Jason rolls onto his side in the dirt and wipes at the split skin below his right eye. He doesn’t look up at me, but I keep watching as we hurry from the scene of the crime. I keep watching Jason and think I’d like to wipe his blood all over me.

The Saguaro Apocalypse (Stoneslide Corrective “Striking Use of Wit” Winner)
I opened the door. At first I thought it was some really tall, skinny dude with short arms.
Then, I realized it was a saguaro cactus. Must have been a young one, since its limbs were only about two feet long and pin wheeling in my face. I had the momentary thought: What the hell was in that weed? The cactus kept brandishing its T-Rex arms at me.
“Thomas?”
“What now?” I heard the shuffling of his sock-clad feet.
By the time Thomas reached me, the cactus was banging its rounded top against the doorframe; guess it couldn’t figure how to duck.

You’re Glowing (Omnia Veritas Review)
I haven’t had sex in two years. This unfortunate situation could be ignored except men have started glowing. The doorman outside my apartment glows dark blue, like his nicely tailored suits. I shudder beneath his smile and barely acknowledge his mannerly door holding.
The cop on the corner near the elementary school, he glows green. I don’t know if he’s supposed to, but he always holds up his orange “Don’t Walk” sign when I pass his crosswalk. He winks at me every day, which makes my forehead sweat.
The guy who makes my morning coffee glows pink. I hate the color pink, but I don’t hold it against him. He’s always nice to me. He tells me I smell good. I’m probably old enough to be his mother.

Forget Me Do (Red Rose Review)
Her friends called her a witch. It was only a joke. Whenever one of the girls posted on Facebook that she felt a cold coming on, Debra was on the road with her herbal tea mixtures and tinctures. Then, miraculously, within days, her girlfriends would be completely healed and winning track meets. That was why they called her a witch. That and, well …
“You just made out with Stan in the back of his dad’s car.”
“I hate when you do that,” Rebecca said.
Debra couldn’t help knowing things.

If It Ain’t Broke (Marked by Scorn Anthology)
“This thing for Henry Oliver … You’ve got it under control, right?”
“Of course. I’d never do anything about it.”
“You are kind of touchy-feely with the kid.”
Nate slowly turned his mug on the sticky, wooden table. “God, am I?”
Ella shrugged one shoulder. “A little. I think it’s cute, but other people might not.”

Ghosts of Ice Cream (Bop Dead City)
My fingers rest like a sleeping spider against his collarbone. I breathe the scent of him: salty sweat with an undercurrent of men’s cologne, leftover from his day at the office. He take small inhales, exhales, and hums a little when my fingers touch his throat.
And then I hear it: the ice cream truck. I finally recognize the song: an off-key, off-tempo version of “Beyond the Sea” that comes to me like screams through water. It was our wedding song. I shiver and pull closer to Michael, who falls apart, a pile of ash in my hands.

Sick Like Me (Honeydew Erotic Review)
“What kind of help do you need exactly?”
Evan shrugged. He played with the strap on his motorcycle helmet. He had long, skeletal fingers with squeaky-clean nails. He chewed on his bottom lip. “You think I’m attractive.”
“I’m sure a lot of people think you’re attractive.”
Evan shook his head. “I’m not talking about them.”
Cam sighed. “You’re making this too easy.”

5. BOOKS READ: 58!!

bestbooks2016

Best of the best:
The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Wreck You by Randi Perrin
The Train Derails in Boston by Jessica McHugh
Captive Prince Trilogy by CS Pacat

6. COMING IN 2017

Bite Somebody Else (Bite Somebody, #2). Read all about it HERE.
“Not Again” – LEGENDARY Anthology (January 13)
“They Lived in the House On Cherry Street” – Black Denim Lit
“The Emmett File” – Stoneslide Corrective
“Painted Red” – kINKED Anthology
Enchanted Series: Magic SparkPen and Kink Publishing

Frankly, I’m exhausted just reading all this. I guess I should go take a nap, duck and cover until 2017 officially rolls around. I do want to thank everyone who supported me this year, whether that involved a Tweet or a glass of whiskey. I have wonderful friends, family, and fans, and I could not have achieved all of this without YOU. So here comes my British boyfriend to blow you a kiss … Cheers!

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Announcing Bite Somebody Else

Oh, joy of joys! Just in time for Christmas, Bite Somebody Else has magically appeared on Goodreads, and I’m … well …

sher

The official release date isn’t set in stone yet, but the back cover copy is. Read all about Imogene’s mad adventures in Bite Somebody, Book #2, and be sure to add this one to your Goodreads “Want To Read” list by clicking HERE.  #Imogene4Life


Imogene helped her newbie vampire friend Celia hook up with an adorable human, but now Celia has dropped an atomic bomb of surprise: she has a possibly blood-sucking baby on the way. Imogene is not pleased, especially when a mysterious, ancient, and annoyingly gorgeous vampire historian shows up to monitor Celia’s unprecedented pregnancy.

Lord Nicholas Christopher Cuthbert III is everything Imogene hates: posh, mannerly, and totally uninterested in her. Plus, she thinks he’s hiding something. So what if he smells like a fresh garden and looks like a rich boarding school kid just begging to be debauched? Imogene has self-control. Or something.

As Celia’s pregnancy progresses at a freakishly fast pace, Imogene and Nicholas play an ever-escalating game of will they or won’t they, until his sexy maker shows up on Admiral Key, forcing Nicholas to reveal his true intentions toward Celia’s soon-to-arrive infant.

COMING IN 2017 …

bse-tease

Why write Sherlock fan fiction?

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Most people don’t know there’s a community of writers out there who pen what’s known as “fan fiction.” Fan fiction is when you take your favorite show (in my case, BBC’s Sherlock), steal the ready-made characters, and put them in whatever situations and scenarios you can imagine.

As devout fans, we know our shows and their characters, so we’re best suited for writing fan fiction. For instance, I know literally everything about Sherlock. I’ve watched every episode a million times. I can practically think like the lead characters, which is why I gave Sherlock fan fiction a try. That and, oh, I GET REALLY FREAKING TIRED OF WAITING A YEAR FOR A NEW EPISODE!

Ahem.

Excuse my outburst, but see, this is part of the draw of writing fan fiction: During the off time between seasons, we as a community band together and keep each other warm and fed via the medium of the written word. My favorite community is called Archive of Our Own (or AO3), where my work is not only read but applauded, championed, and followed by other Sherlock nerds like me. (But don’t feel left out. There’s fan fiction for Supernatural, The X-Files, Harry Potter, the list goes on, too.)

It’s amazing, really. An example: I saw a picture on Tumblr last week that inspired a quick, little thousand word one-shot called “Making History.” I typed up the story, posted it on AO3, and congratulated myself on a job well done.

The next morning, though, I received reviews. Here’s a taste:
Oh my god you have to continue that was so great.
You’re doing the Lord’s work here. You’re a hero.
WORDS NOT WORKING. FIC TOO AMAZING.
I didn’t know I needed this until now. Oh God, yes, this was wonderful.
You are so amazzzing. It’s so beautiful I can’t even …

I had never planned on writing a chapter two, but I couldn’t just let my fellow Sherlockians stew. I posted chapter four yesterday, and the dialogue between writer and reader continues, because that’s a big part of writing fan fiction: the reviews and conversation between fans.

Fan fiction is an outlet for fan imaginations, and it feeds our addiction (especially us poor, desperate Sherlock fans). In our case, fan fiction also allows us to entertain the infamous idea of Johnlock: that Sherlock and John are actually romantically interested in each other. Trust me: this craze is devouring Tumblr–and, honestly, it’s practically written into the actual TV show …

johnloc

For the curious reader, you’ll find names, synopses, and links to my fan fiction on AO3 below. Most of it is for mature audiences only, because another thing about Sherlock: the sexual tension is everywhere and yet it seems no one is getting laid. We fan fiction authors make damn sure everyone gets laid.

If you have a fandom you follow, I suggest searching A03 and finding your niche. I will warn you, though: it’s a dangerous game, as fan fiction is terribly addicting.

Making History
Sherlock Holmes lay unconscious and handcuffed to John’s bed. John had been waiting for this day ever since he’d first met the consulting detective. He’d been waiting for centuries really. (John/Sherlock. Vampire John. Things get dark.)

This is Not a Safe House, Part I
Sherlock is shot while rescuing Irene Adler in Karachi. Fighting to stay alive, they seek shelter in a safe house, and Irene must help the consulting detective who needs help from no one. (Irene/Sherlock. First of a popular series of three.)

You Were Wrong About Him
An aging John Watson looks back on how he fell in love with his husband—and how it was all due to a nightmare. (John/Sherlock. A real tear-jerker.)

Promise
Sherlock takes a bullet for John, and John forces him to make a promise he can’t possibly keep. (John/Sherlock just friends.)

Mating Habits
At twenty, Sherlock Holmes was already handsome. Luella suspected he would one day be decadent. He would one day be very bad for someone. (Fictional female character/Sherlock. Angst!)

Mine
Having only lived in 221B for a month, John Watson is still learning the ways of his bizarre yet entrancing flat mate. However, one night, when he finds Sherlock Holmes being kissed by a married man, John realizes he doesn’t want to share his brilliant consulting detective with anyone. (John/Sherlock. Lestrade/Sherlock.)

Catching His Scent
After the fall, Molly Hooper is alone in the morgue when she catches Sherlock’s scent. (Molly/Sherlock.)

Hidden in Plain Sight
What if Sherlock Holmes isn’t as asexual as John Watson thinks? Following a near death experience, John’s anger at his flat mate leads to an admission, followed by a slight sexual identity crisis. (John/Sherlock.)

Touch
Sherlock notices how much John likes to touch him. Nothing deviant or anything; there’s just a gentle intimacy between them. Men have always liked touching Sherlock—touching and tasting—but not like this. Not like John Watson. (John/Sherlock.)

That’s a smattering of my stuff. To see the full list of my fan fiction works, go HERE. See what I mean? Writing and reading this stuff is addicting, but it is a nice break from real life and work, isn’t it?

The perils of writing a character with mental illness

Photo by Chris Loomis.

Photo by Chris Loomis.

A week ago, I finished writing my third novel of the year. “Hambden” (working title) was the most difficult novel I’ve ever written. It took me a little over two months to write, but the short birthing period says very little about the emotional toil it took for me to reach The End.

The plot evolved from watching news coverage of the Paris attacks last year. Then, the attacks didn’t stop. The shootings increased. Living in Chardon, Ohio–a small town that suffered its own school shooting in 2012–kept me surrounded by red, cardboard hearts, silently commanding all of us to “Remember.”

I suppose my husband is the only person who can speak from experience about my consistent emotional breakdowns whenever I heard about some other psycho with a gun. Although he perhaps didn’t understand my hysteria, people with anxiety disorder surely do. When you’re already afraid to leave your house just because, multiply that with the fear of getting murdered by some asshole teenager with “Killer” written on his cheap, white t-shirt.

Buried beneath my anxiety and depression, an idea bloomed. Instead of ignoring what was going on in the world, I would write about it–namely, I would write about a shooting at an Ohio college, only I would write about the aftermath of the tragedy instead of the tragedy itself. How does a community rebuild? How are individuals affected?

My “individuals” (we writers call ’em “characters”) soon echoed in my head like gunshots. Meet Isaac Twain: emergency English Department hire who’s new to Hambden University and knows very little about the shooting that stole six lives the prior June. Meet John Conlon: hero teacher who stopped the shooting and desperately tries to hide how fucked up he is by being charismatic, funny, and brave.

I’m not giving anything away when I tell you surviving the school shooting messed John up big time, and, as I wrote my novel, I found it alarmingly easy to slip into his shoes day after day as he battled depression, PTSD, anxiety, and night terrors. However, what surprised me was how hard it was to take those shoes off at the end of the day.

In my past and present, I’ve battled the same demons as John Conlon. No one’s ever put a gun in my face, but depression is in my genes. A hellish job shoved me into PTSD and anxiety. My colorful imagination makes me a writer by day and sufferer of vivid, bloody dreams at night. Immersing myself in “Hambden,” in John and Isaac’s world of broken pieces, was more destructive than I’d expected.

I would never suggest we only write about happy things. I would never suggest we stop writing about mental illness. I’ve found that sharing my own mental health problems has helped my readers be open about their own–and that’s important, having that open dialogue. The more we talk about mental illness, the better we can deal with it. The more likely we are to heal. And yet, writer beware. There must be a strict delineation between the fiction you create and the life you live.

Halfway through “Hambden,” I came to the realization that writing is my job. It’s not my life (no matter what the passionate cliches on Pinterest want you to think). It is necessary for all of us to keep our work and our lives separate. Once I came to terms with that–once I made an agreement with Isaac and John that they had my mornings and life had my afternoons–I stopped feeling so comfortable in John’s sad, cold shoes. I could escape and stop thinking about the book as soon as I hit “Save” every morning.

Due to editing deadlines for next year’s Bite Somebody Else, “Hambden” will not be touched again until December. Then, I will revisit that world of violence and tragedy. Yet, even in that world, there are laughs and there is love. Writing might not be life, but sometimes, it sure does imitate it.

The “Hambden” theme song:

Bittersweet teen love story featured in Lunch Ticket

I don’t know how he figured it was me who told the school he had AIDS, but he found out—and finds me under the bleachers, smoking a cigarette. He even throws the first punch, which I think is out of character for the rich bitch star of our high school track team, headed to Yale come fall. I’ve been in a couple fights, but Jason Kemp can hit hard, and as I eat dirt, I wonder how many fights he’s been in.

Lucky I have my pals with me to pull him back, so by the time I stand up, Vince and Timmy are thrashing on Jason like they want to break his ribs one at a time. I taste blood in my mouth as I wipe my lip and watch. Jason barely makes a noise, just calls me a “son of a bitch” over Vince’s shoulder. Vince punches him again, and this time Jason lands on his knees in his perfectly pressed school uniform.

Timmy shoves him over and joins him in the dirt. He thumps Jason in the side of the face. I think I should tell them to stop—scream it even. Instead, coward that I am, my boys keep going until they see blood. Then, they fall back. They yell about catching Jason’s “gay disease,” named by some mad scientists a couple years back in ‘82. My best friends drag me away.

Jason rolls onto his side in the dirt and wipes at the split skin below his right eye. He doesn’t look up at me, but I keep watching as we hurry from the scene of the crime. I keep watching Jason and think I’d like to wipe his blood all over me.

***

He showed up earlier this year, a senior at a new school. Nobody wants to change schools their senior year, so I could have felt bad for the guy. Instead, I hated him the moment he walked into Mr. Harvey’s trigonometry class.

Harvey was one of my favorite teachers. He was this big bald guy who told everyone, first day, “Nobody gets above a C in my class,” which just made kids want to bust their asses even harder to prove him wrong. I had a solid A- when Jason Kemp walked in the first week of class. My grades started dropping soon after.

prepJason was the pretty boy hero in every John Hughes romance. He had curly, blond hair and blue eyes like some Nazi recruit. He was tall, basketball tall. His school uniform—navy blue slacks, white dress shirt, blue blazer, and red and yellow striped tie—all of it looked perfect. He introduced himself and didn’t sound nervous. A girl behind me giggled.

When Harvey said, “Take the empty desk next to Shawn,” I hid behind my hand and sneered like Billy Idol.

Jason wasn’t discouraged, because when he sat, he greeted me and even introduced himself as if he hadn’t just told the whole class his name. I ignored him, but it was hard not to notice he wore cologne. None of the guys I knew wore cologne.

Word traveled fast that day at Hinckley High. Even though Vince, Timmy, and me tended to sit alone at lunch, it was hard to miss the high-pitched whispers when Jason Kemp walked in. One of the football cheerleaders a table over said he was some kind of track star, won state at his last school. Another girl called him “a dream.”

After school, I met up with the other punk kids under the bleachers. We wore combat boots under our slacks and liked to talk music. We bummed cigarettes off whoever had the fullest pack.

Then, Vince said, “Hey, Shawn. Check out the new stooge.”

I squinted between silver bleachers toward the track field, and even though it wasn’t track season yet, there was one guy running like he was being chased—and there was Mr. Harvey, math teacher and also track coach, with a stopwatch.

Out of school uniform, in shorts and a t-shirt, Jason looked even taller, and man, the dude could move. I’d never seen a guy run that fast, and after he did a couple loops, Harvey looked like he wanted to build a golden idol. Even the football cheerleaders crowded around Jason with their pom-poms. Beatrix Waters, the hottest girl in school, squeezed his upper arm.

***

I can’t taste blood anymore, but I’m still wiping dirt off my clothes when I break away from Timmy and Vince and tell them to buzz off. They always listen when I give orders.

I go back behind the bleachers, but Jason isn’t there anymore. I head to the next best place: the locker room, where I find him. He has both hands planted on either side of an open locker. His head is tilted down, and he’s breathing hard. There’s dust all over his trousers. His tie is gone, and his shirt is unbuttoned. There’s a cut under his eye that’ll end up a bruise.

I stand there until he notices me, and when he does, I swear to God, his eyes glow red. He slams his locker. “Want another round? Won’t be so easy one on one.”

In my head, I want to apologize, but the words taste like my pop’s moonshine in the back of my throat. I let him grab me by the lapels. He slams my back against the lockers so hard, my teeth rattle.

“What did I ever do to you, huh?” he screams.

I’ve never heard him cuss, and I’ve been listening, close, for the past year.

“Is it because I’m gay? Is that it?”

I want to shake my head, say no, but his mouth has never been this close to me before. I can’t think.

He rattles my skull with another pounding against the cold, metal locker at my back and looks like he’s prepping to punch, so I move. I take hurried steps forward, which seems to catch Jason off guard. I keep him from falling by holding onto his suit coat and finally smash him into the lockers on the opposite wall.

Before he can scream at me again, I kiss him.

(To read the rest of “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” head over to Lunch Ticket by clicking HERE. Be warned: angst ahead.)

New collection The Cut Worm encompasses the things you fear

“That night it is something of joke. On TV there is a reporter standing outside with a crowd of people. The news station turns one of their giant lights into the road. One person after the other stands in front of the light. Their shadows grow and stretch the width of the street, then vanish as they move back into the darkness, all except one boy’s, fourteen year-old Myles Veech. He dances and laughs, moving in and out of the light, it making no difference. The light never changes. His silhouette never comes to life, yet he laughs. He looks … free. Nothing about Myles, his laughter, his dancing, his glee, makes you have any reason to believe that three days later he will hang himself with a guitar string, a sun lamp in the corner of the room, shining right on him, no proof of his corpse in the light.”

scary

Gulp. Yeah. Ready for more? Author Mitch James is a skilled writer with the capability to terrify you down to your toes. In his new collection, The Cut Worm, he’s not writing about vampires or werewolves. He writes about us–what would happen to us if we thought the world was ending, if we lost our shadows, if we embraced despair in the snow. Read on for a look into the talented mind of a master of pain in prose.

How’d you come up with the title?

When I was a sophomore in college, I took a literature course where we read William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell,” and in that poem, one of his proverbs is, “The cut worm forgives the plow.” That line has stuck with me, partly because I grew up in the Midwest, and at that time in my life (and earlier) I did some work on farms, and partly because that line just really made me think in a lot of different ways.

cut-wormOne way to see the world is that there is beautiful growth, development, and life all around, meaning life is good. Another is that there is beautiful growth, development, and life all around, but, in nearly every case, something must be drastically altered, maimed, or destroyed in order for that growth, development, and life to occur, yet life is still good.

And yet another way of looking at the world is that because something must be altered, maimed, or destroyed for there to be good in life, life is actually just a really f***ed up jest.

Blake said the cut worm forgives the plow. I wonder, does it? Every time? This chapbook is full of people absorbing the damage of living, but the question remains in each case, is the sacrifice truly bearable? Do we have it in us to always forgive the plow?

Do you have a favorite story in the chapbook … or are you not allowed to say?

There’s not one story that I necessarily like more than another, but I like each for a particular reason and am satisfied with how certain approaches or techniques worked out. For example, “Snow Blind,” “What We Always Did But More,” and “Without a Shadow” are all written very differently, despite the heart of the content in each piece being quite similar. I’m happy with the brevity and power of “What We Always Did But More;” with the success of the generally scorned, second-person perspective in “Without a Shadow;” and ”Snow Blind”, while being its own story, is also in homage to Raymond Carver, and to have somebody say, “Yeah, I want to publish that,” is rewarding. In fact, the editor liked “Snow Blind” the best, which is why the chapbook cover is what it is.

What’s your daily writing routine look like?    

I’m a pretty firm believer that writing is a process that starts way before “ink” hits page, so my most important routine is to pay attention. Every person, movement, and change has a cause, and that cause is a story. At some point, though, one must put his or her ass in the chair and write, and that part of my writing routine is like clockwork.

mitchFor four to six weeks, I will write Monday through Friday, 3 AM to 5AM. Then, the next two to four weeks (it depends on how much material I have circulating), I will revise old work and send it out for publication. It’s not the amount of time I would like to spend writing and editing, but I learned early on that the people who want money from me don’t give a shit about my fiction or poetry.

Once, in lieu of a check for a water bill, I sent the water company a series of three poems. Three days later, when I flushed the toilet at 3 AM and it didn’t fill back up, I assumed they didn’t care very much for my writing. So it goes.

You’re a teacher, too. What’s harder: writing or teaching?

Teaching is more challenging. The writing part is up to me. I either do it or don’t, so writing is easy. When you’re teaching, you’re working with several people who, like everyone else, have lots of things going on in their lives, things that oftentimes overshadow your class. But I find teaching insanely rewarding and don’t see myself doing anything different for a while, unless, of course, a big publisher wants to write me fat checks for my work.

Who are your biggest literary influences and why?    

There are a few. I would say the writer whose work I’m most floored by, the writer who makes me feel it’s a waste of my time to write because my work will always pale in comparison, is Cormac McCarthy. He’s an absolute master. Period. But I also study writers, sometimes even those whose work I’m not overly fond of, so that I can understand the skills they have that make them so unique. I’ve learned the most from Raymond Carver. But sometimes as a writer it is stylistically better to tell than show, and for that I’ve been influenced pretty heavily by John Updike and especially John Cheever, neither of which are my favorite writers but are great when trying to locate and study long pieces of narration that effectively tell rather than show.

Does your wife ever get annoyed being married to a literary geek?  

I annoy her for many other reasons, but my love of books and writing is both welcomed and reciprocated by her. I think that having the right kind of partner does matter if you’re an artist. I have a wife who actually admires my drive and dedication to writing and thinking. It’s part of what she loves about me. She is by biggest supporter, hands down. She doesn’t feel like she’s playing second fiddle to my work or intellectual aspirations. But I also consider her too. For example, I write at 3 AM because she will never be awake from 3 AM to 5 AM. I try to do most of my work when we can’t be together, even if that means starting my day at an ungodly time. A little give and take on both sides goes a long way.

Why are books important?

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. There are two reasons.


Check out Mitch’s short story collection, The Cut Worm, on Amazon and get your copy today by clicking HERE. You will not be disappointed!

Sol LeWitt rants about art via the medium of Benedict Cumberbatch

benSol LeWitt was an American artist linked to conceptual art and minimalism who came to fame in the 1960s. He passed away in 2007, but more than just a visual artist, he was apparently a writer, based on a fantastic letter penned to fellow artist Eva Hesse.

Also an American artist, Hesse was a little younger than Sol and seeking guidance as she ushered in the postminimal art movement of the same era—but a brain tumor cut her life short. She died at 34 after a career spanning only ten years.

A passionate letter from Sol to Eva was read at the recent British event Letters Live, during which actors “perform” letters to a live audience. The synopsis of Sol’s letter reads as follows:

In 1960, pioneering American artists Sol LeWitt and Eva Hesse met for the first time and became close friends. In 1965, Eva found herself facing a creative block during a period of self-doubt, and told Sol of her frustrating predicament. Sol replied with this letter. 

As an artist, have you ever been there? Ever wanted to give up? Ever wanted to just stop? Read by my beloved Benedict Cumberbatch (with an American accent and a noteworthy Chevy Chase/Christmas Vacation meltdown), this letter speaks to me.

As I currently struggle to write a very difficult novel, I command all the creatives out there, all the artists, listen … and DO. Watch the video. (And below the video, I’ve included my favorite quotes from Sol.)

“Stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting. Hoping for some easy way out … and just DO.”

“Don’t worry about cool. Make your own uncool.”

“If life would be easier for you if you stopped working, then stop. Don’t punish yourself. However, I think that this is so deeply ingrained in you that it would be better for you to DO.”

“Learn to say FUCK YOU to the world every once in a while.”

“Relax and let everything go to hell. You are not responsible for the world. You’re only responsible for your work, so just DO IT.”

“When you work or before you work, you have to empty your mind and concentrate on what you’re doing.”

“You don’t have to justify your work, not even to yourself.”

“Try the most outrageous things you can. Shock yourself. You have at your power the ability to DO anything.”

Breath of Earth author Beth Cato talks historic San Fran earthquakes and … foxes?

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Author Beth Cato creates steampunk worlds of mystery and excitement, starting with her Clockwork Dagger series and now with her new book, Breath of Earth, released yesterday.

Beth has created SUCH an amazingly beautiful (and terrifying) world of earthquakes and magic in Breath of Earth. Her heroine, Ingrid, is strong and vivacious with the occasional weaknesses and romantic reveries of all young women. Cy is a delicious, Southern dreamboat as her brave sidekick. The action never stops, nor does the mystery. This book is a real thriller for fans of steampunk, adventure, tough chicks, and gorgeous writing.

Let’s sit down for a quick chat with Beth and see what she has to say about her newest steampunk duology …

Earthquakes are magical (and deadly) in Breath of Earth. What’s your personal experience with them, and why did you choose to focus on earthquakes in this book?

I’m a native Californian, so I have plenty of personal experience with earthquakes. The first and most devastating one occurred when I was three years old, in the bathtub, with the epicenter of the 6.2 quake only about 40 miles away. It pretty much obliterated the nearby city of Coalinga. My mom and grandparents used to live there, so we drove to see the devastation. Buildings had their walls sheared off and resembled dollhouses. From then on, I was fascinated by earthquakes.

A few years ago, I mulled over ideas for a new steampunk series. I realized that no one had explored the 1906 San Francisco earthquake from that angle, so I resolved to take on the challenge!

beth-headshotOver the past few years, you’ve acquired award nominations and many accolades for your Clockwork Dagger series. What has been the most surprising thing about having a dream come true?

That strangers have read my works. I’m like, “Whoa, someone other than my mom and my husband has read this?” I don’t know how long it takes to work past that stage of disbelief, but I have been a published novelist for almost two years at this point and I am still baffled by it all.

I love that Breath of Earth is a bit sexier than your previous series. What made you decide to heat things up in your newest opus?

I wanted to write about a strong woman who was very different than Octavia in my Clockwork Dagger books. Octavia is very frank about the human body because of her experience doctoring, but she is also quite proper, too. I wanted to set Ingrid apart and make her a distinct person. Along those lines, she’s a very passionate person in most every way. She has a knack for surprising me even though I’m a heavy duty outliner!

What is your favorite thing you’ve EVER written?

I have a story called “The Souls of Horses” that is set against a more steampunk American Civil War. It had the most “almosts” of any of my stories at all the major magazines. It broke my heart. I loved this story, and it was rejected at about a dozen places until it was finally accepted for Clockwork Phoenix 5. The story is the only one of my works to be called out in a starred review on Publisher’s Weekly, and even Ellen Datlow recommended it on Twitter. Vindication! Here’s hoping it can get some nice attention in the upcoming award season.

Fantasy movie cast: Who’s playing brave, snarky Ingrid and sexy, sexy Cy?

I haven’t seen a good actress to play Ingrid! For that, I blame Hollywood and its lack of diversity. For Cy, I could envision a younger Viggo Mortenson. I should also add that his appearance was inspired by Daniel on Stargate (movie and series) who was a teenage crush of mine.

"Ms. Cato, I answer your call."

“Ms. Cato, I answer your call.”

What’s it really like being a published writer? Give us the honest truth, good and bad.

It’s exciting, humbling, and depressing all at once. I have actual FANS, and not just the kind attached to my ceiling. My publisher is fantastic and my publicist is magical. On the flip side: I have had signing events where all of one person shows up. I still get tons of rejections on my stories and poems. Writing and editing and waiting for feedback is the same as ever: utterly terrifying. My cat pees on the carpet.

Is Breath of Earth a duology? Trilogy? Do you know exactly where the series is headed and where it will end up? No spoilers haha …

It is a two book deal, but I think I’ll need three books to wrap up the arc. That means Breath of Earth needs to sell well so I can write another book! The second book is written and I’m awaiting edits; I have ideas about the major events for book three and where I want action to take place, but I am still reading through a lot of research material. As for an evil hint: foxes are excellent predators.

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“I … GOTCHA!”

If you could hand Breath of Earth to anyone, alive or dead, and have them read it, who would it be?

Well, when it comes to selling books and expanding readership, there is really only one person who wields that god-like power: Oprah. So yep. I’m going with Oprah.


I gave Breath of Earth five big, shining stars on Goodreads, so pick up your copy today by heading HERE. Learn more about Beth (and get some amazing recipes) by visiting her website, http://www.bethcato.com/.

Rust City 2016: Why do we go to book conferences?

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Last Thursday, I told my husband I was terrified. I had to drive up to Detroit for the very first Rust City Book Con, and I did not want to go. I wanted, in fact, to curl into a tiny ball and cry all weekend. Instead, I had a four hour drive, followed by three days of panels, workshops, and socializing.

Jake, ever patient, said, “You’re going to have fun.”

Of course, he was right. I arrived at Rust City Friday morning, one workshop already under way. The organizer met me barefoot and with a smile, which made me think, “Okay, if Jackie’s barefoot, I’m going to be all right.” (Don’t ask me why this was so comforting, but it was.) Then, fellow author Cali helped me carry stuff up to my hotel room. I’d made a friend.

I sat in on some panels that morning and learned fantastic things about character motivation and the industry. I laughed with other audience members. During the long lunch, I had a beer and was invited to join a table of women with whom I immediately fit. I could cuss and say silly things, and they laughed. They actually LAUGHED.

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Pin the fangs on Bela!

Over the course of the weekend, I sat on some panels of my own. I gave an 8 AM workshop on planning the novel. I did a book signing. A fan ran up and called me “Ms. Bauer,” which made me giggle because no one calls me that. I organized a “Pin the Teeth on Bela Lugosi” game, because why not? I sold some books, but mostly, I guess I networked.

As authors, why do we go to book conferences? Since Rust City was my first as an official author person (thanks to Bite Somebody), I wasn’t sure going in. Now, I think I’m getting an idea as to why conferences are necessary.

It’s not for the money. I did not come close to breaking even, when you consider travel costs, conference costs, and oh, beer costs. Although I learned a few things, the conference was not about education for me, as most of the topics discussed were things I already knew.

Networking? Yes. I think we go to book conferences to network. I was lucky enough to have breakfast with one lovely lady who plans to refer me to her agent. I met authors who think like me, write like me. I have a cornucopia of new Facebook and Twitter pals, and yes, I found a few new readers.

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Roselynn and me

However, maybe just maybe, we authors go to book conferences to feel not so alone. Yes, as writers, we are “high-functioning introverts.” New soul mate Roselynn had a shirt that said, “I’m Done Peopling Today.” I get it; I hid in my hotel room as often as was appropriate.

Despite our general tilt toward the anti-social, though, we need each other because we need to talk about writing. We need to talk about books we love. We need to talk about rejection and how much it can suck being an author, even once you’ve been published.

It’s wonderful to meet our readers, but it’s wonderful to meet other authors, too, and commiserate. And for those of us who write about sex, how nice to have our jokes actually land.

I made the mistake of leaving Rust City Saturday night. I had a lovely, wonderful dinner with old Detroit friends, until a lady at the table behind us complained about me saying “orgasm” in public. Funny how empty it feels when you’re no longer surrounded by “your people.”

I drove home yesterday completely exhausted and “done peopling.” I have a stack of new books to read. I have new friends across the country to keep in touch with. For my first book con as a published author, I’ll call this one a win, not because I made any money but because I felt the love. I laughed. I connected. That’s what Rust City Book Con was really about.

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Marked by Scorn anthology: For the love of non-traditional relationships

So what’s a non-traditional relationship anyway? Let me give you some examples:
Lesbians, both open and hidden.
Gay couples in Southeast Asia.
Transgender and intersex people in the West.
Interracial relationships throughout the world.
Non-monogamy in its varying forms.
Or, in the case of my short story, a college professor and his soon-to-graduate male student.

scornEdited by Dominica Malcolm, I’m honored to be part of this ground-breaking, international anthology because it opens doors that are often left closed. Marked by Scorn sheds light on all sorts of different relationships, ones you don’t often hear about in mainstream culture. Told through a sampling of genres–including contemporary fiction, romance, speculative fiction, and memoir–readers delve into the narratives of people who have been part of non-traditional relationships and what living outside the norm has cost them, both good and bad.

Available today, Marked by Scorn from Solarwyrm Press includes an introspective, invigorating collection of writers from all over the world that will make you think twice about judgement and ridicule and make you think more about acceptance and love.

Now, meet my characters, Nate and his oddball student Henry, as they find their own way to embrace an icy Christmas Eve in southern Ohio.

“If It Ain’t Broke”
By Sara Dobie Bauer
An excerpt from the Marked by Scorn anthology

When the weatherman said they’d have an “icy Christmas,” he was not joking. Nate stood by his front window and watched the constant precipitation outside: a mixture of white and wet. His mistake? Not getting Henry Oliver’s phone number. He’d tried calling Ella to no avail, and despite creeping disappointment, Nate knew it was dangerous to be walking around out there. He needed to cancel with Henry to keep the young man safe. Maybe he just wouldn’t show, which would be the intelligent thing to do, considering there was a stage three weather emergency.

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But then, the doorbell rang at seven-fifteen, and Nate opened the door to someone he didn’t quite recognize. The tussled blond hair was there, dotted with as yet unmelted snowflakes, as were those wide-set blue eyes and pale skin. Henry didn’t wear the awkward-fitting coat, though; no, he wore something Nate himself might have donned: a black wool suit jacket over a perfectly fitted white button-down with dark jeans and shiny leather shoes. He looked older and almost handsome.

He walked inside without an invitation and kept his hands in his pockets.

“I can’t believe you made it here in this weather. I was going to tell you to stay home and stay warm,” Nate said as he shut the door.

“What weather?” Henry asked.

Nate walked toward the stereo against the sidewall of his small apartment to hide the amused roll of his eyes. Through the front windows, he saw the snow continue to fall on Main Street. He had a single candle lit, pine-scented, although it battled with the smell of garlic and pasta sauce in the kitchen. Nate wasn’t one for decorating, but he did have Nat King Cole prepped and ready to sing about the Christ child and Christmas trees. He started the music and turned around to find Henry in his face and the young man’s lips on his mouth.

“Henry,” Nate murmured and gently pushed Henry back with a hand on his shoulder.

For the first time in their relationship as teacher-student, Henry Oliver looked confused. “Did you want me to take off my clothes first?”

“What? No.” Nate shook his head.

Still confused: “Didn’t you invite me here for sex?”

“No, Henry, I invited you here for dinner.”

“Oh.” He cleared his throat and stared at the floor. Seemingly unsure of what to do with his hands, he put them back in his pockets.

“Have other professors …”

Henry shrugged. “We usually just have sex, and I go home. Older men have always liked me, and since I’m not your student anymore, I figured …”

Nate ran his hand through his brown hair and clenched his fist at his side. He felt an unwelcome pressure in his chest: rage.

“Do you want me to go?”

“No.” Nate took a deep breath. “Can I get you some wine?”

Henry stared at him and then smiled: a massive, unfamiliar grin that made his eyes crinkle. “Yeah.”

Nate took heavy steps toward the kitchen, trying to calm himself and erase the picture of other men like him—his coworkers, for Christ’s sake—using Henry as a pretty little f*** toy. His hands shook as he poured two glasses of red, but when he returned to the living room, he found it empty.

“Henry?”

“Mm?” The sound came from Nate’s office.

He walked in to find Henry in his stocking feet, standing on an ottoman, inspecting the top shelves of Nate’s private bookcase. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing more telling than a man’s bookshelf.”

boysNate handed a wine glass to his student and watched Henry study each book. Occasionally, he plucked one from the shelf, only to put it back a moment later.

“You’re a romantic,” Henry said.

“How do you know that?”

“Byron. Shelley. A practically destroyed copy of Fahrenheit 451.”

Nate sipped his wine and took a slow, calm breath. “There’s nothing romantic about Fahrenheit 451.”

Henry stepped down from the ottoman and sat. “Of course there is. How much would you give up for the love of books?” He drank the wine like beer and emptied his glass.

“Why aren’t you with your family at Christmas?”

“Why aren’t you?”

Nate smiled and sat down in his reading chair: a faded recliner that no longer reclined. The piece of furniture was close to breaking apart, but it fit Nate’s body perfectly. Most nights, he fell asleep in that chair reading.

“I like Christmas,” Henry whispered. “But I don’t need all the trappings. I like the quiet and the cold. It’s so loud most of the time. Makes it hard to read.” He sipped from his empty cup, which made Nate stand and return with the bottle, happy he’d decided to buy two.

“What do you plan to do now that you’re graduating?”

Henry took another gulp of wine and smiled.

“What’s so funny?”

“No one’s asked me that except you and Ella.”

“You two are close?”

Henry shrugged with one shoulder. “She doesn’t judge. Or use me.”

“Do you feel like I’m using you?”

“Maybe a little.” He paused. “Ella says you like to fix people.”

“I’m not trying to fix you, Henry.”

The young man bit his bottom lip. “She says you like puzzles and projects. You like to save people.”

“I just like to make sure people are all right.”

“What does that mean? To be all right?”

Nate considered the question and thought back over all the troubled men he’d loved in the past, the work he’d done to make things all right when they never were.

Henry must have construed his silence as an end to the conversation. “Did you know they’re playing The Christmas Story on repeat for twenty-four hours?”

Instead of eating at the carefully set dinner table in Nate’s small kitchen, they loaded their plates with spaghetti and meatballs and kale salad, sprinkled with oil and vinegar, and headed for the living room. Henry sought the film and soon found it, mid-way through. They sat down to the stuck tongue scene, and Henry laughed quietly as Ralphie and his friends escaped punishment from poor Flick. Nate had never heard Henry laugh before.

Henry only finished half his plate before setting the remainder on the coffee table between the couch and TV. He sipped from his wine glass. Once Nate was done eating, his plate joined Henry’s. He was surprised when Henry slouched down on the couch and rested the side of his head against Nate’s shoulder. He wound his long fingers around Nate’s hand, and they watched the rest of the movie that way, over the sound of ice tink-tinking against the front window.

When the credits rolled before a backdrop of Ohio snowflakes outside, Henry said, “I’d better go home.”

Yes, you’d better, Nate thought. He liked the feel of Henry’s hand too much, and he would not be one of those professors. No, he would not …

(If you want to read “If It Ain’t Broke” in its entirety and the rest of this amazing anthology, get your copy of Marked by Scorn today HERE.)

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