Writers and their Beasts: Beth Cato


Today my guest is Beth Cato, Nebula Finalist and Author of the Clockwork Dagger series as well as a new series that debuts in August with Breath of Earth (which I’ve been fortunate enough to read already!)

And today she has a new novella out (which I’ve also read!), another from the Clockwork Dagger world: Final Flight: A Clockwork Dagger Story



Another breathtaking short story from the author of The Clockwork Dagger and The Clockwork Crown, set in the same world…

Captain Hue hoped he was rid of his troubles once Octavia Leander and Alonzo Garrett disembarked from his airship Argus. But he was quickly proved wrong when his ship was commandeered by Caskentian soldiers. He is ordered on a covert and deadly mission by the smarmy Julius Corrado, an elite Clockwork Dagger.

Now Captain Hue must start a mutiny to regain control of his airship, which means putting his entire crew at risk—including his teenage son Sheridan. As the weather worsens and time runs out, it’ll take incredible bravery to bring the Argus down….perhaps for good.

Buy on  Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iTunes

iconddNow…on to the Beasts!

1) Let’s start with the obvious: Tell us about your pet.

Porom is my cranky old lady cat. She turns sixteen in May; she was diagnosed with kidney and thyroid deficiencies last year, but the medication and low-protein diet have actually made her healthier now than she’s been in years.


We adopted Porom and her brother Palom in June 2000. I had been married all of a month to my Navy sailor husband, and had a hard transition to South Carolina. We were dirt poor–literally living on ramen and cake mix–but we had some spare money, so we adopted two kittens from the SPCA. We all moved to Washington state in 2003, where my two kitties kept me company during deployments and pregnancy, and then to Arizona when my husband became a civilian.

Palom was my buddy cat, the most extroverted, happy cat I have ever known. He developed cancer in 2012 and quickly succumbed. I still miss him every day, though Porom has actually thrived as a solo cat.


2) How does she help/hinder your writing?

Porom likes to hang out near me. Right now, for example, she’s snoring in an Amazon box a few feet from my computer. She’ll demand affection a few times a day, and she is ardent about getting her canned food and medication at exactly 6am and 6pm. Our big cuddle time is before I go to bed. If I’m not in my appropriate chair by 8:30pm, she will find me and scream at me. Once I’m in my chair, with tea and a book, I help her arthritic body make the jump so she can cuddle at my hip.

3) Do they appear in any of your works?

Palom was a major inspiration for the gremlins in my Clockwork Dagger series. Porom was a direct inspiration for a recent story published in Nature: “The Human is Late to Feed the Cat.”

4) How does being a pet owner affect your writing (philosophically?)

Oh, it’s huge. My cats have taught me so much about compassion and love, and those are certainly themes in my writing. My Nebula-nominated novella Wings of Sorrow and Bone is all about saving gremlins from foul experimentation, and that directly goes to my affection for cats and other animals. I will never be one of those people who goes bonkers over babies, but if you bring out kittens? Oh yeah. My book heroines are distinct people, but they do take after me with reactions like that, too.

BethCato-HCV-smBeth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.

She’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER (a 2015 Locus Award finalist for First Novel) and THE CLOCKWORK CROWN (an RT Reviewers’ Choice Finalist) from Harper Voyager. Her novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE is a Nebula nominee. BREATH OF EARTH begins a new steampunk series set in an alternate history 1906 San Francisco.

Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

Facebook / Twitter / Website



Writers and their Beasts: Josh Vogt

My guest today is Josh Vogt, who’s newest book, The Maids of Wrath, comes out next week!:

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From the back cover:

Having survived employee orientation, Dani is now a full-fledged Cleaner and is excited to launch straight into…full-time tool training. After all, what good are magical mops and squeegees if she doesn’t know how to wield them well on a job?

But when a maid goes berserk during a training session and tries to slaughter her coworkers with deadly feather dusters, the Cleaners realize something is horribly wrong within their own ranks. They must track down the source of the growing madness before it’s too late—or watch their entire operation get flushed down the drain.

(If you haven’t seen his first novel, Enter the Janitor, it’s also awesome!)

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1) Let’s start with the obvious: Tell us about your pets.

I currently don’t have any with me, but I’ve had many over the years. Those have included two cats, three dogs, two bearded dragons, and countless snakes, lizards, and turtles I gathered as a kid in Florida. My first cat, Muse, was diagnosed with feline leukemia and passed away after a year, but he was a lot of fun. The second, Munchkin, had to be given to friends during a move since, as a more outdoor cat, he wouldn’t have contended well with the new area’s hawks, cougars, bears, coyotes, and other wildlife.

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Dogs have included a black lab, Snoopy, a shar pei/lab mix, China, and a beagle mix, Guinness. All have been fantastic, fun pups that I was honored to have in my life.

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Oh, and the bearded dragons were Levi and Malachi, and were quite cuddly despite their scaly nature.

2) How do they help/hinder your writing?

Well, cats are infamous for lying or strolling across keyboards at the worst possible moment, or demanding attention when a writer is trying to focus, and mine certainly were no exception. You just have to learn to “write around” them when they’re curled up in your lap and using your leg as a scratching post.

Dogs, I feel, can remind us of how much the world is a full-sensory experience. They can be alert to every little thing, which can encourage us to pay attention to unexpected details in our environment and include them in a story. Plus, taking a dog for a walk is a great opportunity to brainstorm a troublesome scene (and they also make attentive audiences when you need someone to read a chapter out loud to).

3) Do they appear in any of your works?

I haven’t done dogs or cats in my works, no. However, in my urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, one main character does have a pet bearded dragon named Tetris. As a germaphobe, she got him to prove that she could deal with certain responsibilities in life, even if she had to wear extremely thick gloves when first learning to handle him. As time went on, he’s become quite special to her, and her wrath boils over for anyone who might ever threaten her lizard.

4) How does being a pet owner affect your writing (philosophically?)

It’s one of those little (or big) details I think you can add to a character’s life to make them feel more real—even if their pet isn’t magic, doesn’t talk, or other unique qualities. However, pets do often remind us of how little we understand our own world in the way they sense things we don’t, and how often we ascribe even mythical aspects to them. They can hold special places in our lives, seem to have a sixth sense for when things are wrong, and share in our joyful and happy times.




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Author and editor Josh Vogt’s work covers fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel is Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes, published alongside his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor and The Maids of Wrath. He’s an editor at Paizo, a Scribe Award finalist, and a member of both SFWA and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. Find him at JRVogt.com or on Twitter @JRVogt.

Find Josh:  Webpage / Facebook / Twitter





Today’s the Day!

Yep, today is the day Dreaming Death comes out! I’ve been posting about this book a lot, so I’m sure some of you will be relieved.

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It’s available at all the usual places, although Amazon claims they only have a handful left.

From the blurb:

Shironne Anjir’s status as a sensitive is both a gift and a curse. Her augmented senses allow her to discover and feel things others can’t, but her talents come with a price: a constant assault of emotions and sensations has left her blind. Determined to use her abilities as best she can, Shironne works tirelessly as an investigator for the Larossan army.
A member of the royal family’s guard, Mikael Lee also possesses an overwhelming power—he dreams of the deaths of others, sometimes in vivid, shocking detail, and sometimes in cryptic fragments and half-remembered images.
But then a killer brings a reign of terror to the city, snuffing out his victims with an arcane and deadly blood magic. Only Shironne can sense and interpret Mikael’s dim, dark dreams of the murders. And what they find together will lead them into a nightmare…


If you want a tl:dr version: A blind girl uses her enhanced sense of touch to solve crimes! 


And if you’re looking for other books to fill out a $25 basket to get free shipping, may I suggest two others which are out today:

Rachel A. Marks’ Darkness Fair (the sequel to Darkness Brutal), and Marshall Ryan Maresca’s The Alchemy of Chaos!

Now, please go forth and buy things! We authors need your support!


Writers and their Beasts: Tina Gower/Alice Faris

My guest today writes under more than one name, which can cause confusion, but I know her as Tina, so that’s what I’ll use. And she’s kindly here today to tell us about her Beast.

1) Let’s start with the obvious: Tell us about your pets.

I have an 8 month old Chocolate Labrador puppy [Napa, pictured below]. She’s sweet, but also has a goofy streak (Typical Lab!).

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We got her over the summer and my intention was to train her as a therapy dog. I’d love to do volunteer work visiting rehabilitation facilities or a children’s reading with dogs program. It all depends on how her training goes for the next few years and if she can manage to calm a bit as she matures. Napa will be my first therapy dog, but not the first working dog I’ve trained. I also have trained Guide Dogs for the Blind.

2) How do they help/hinder your writing?

At first, it seemed like any writing would be impossible, but we crate trained and that helped a lot in those first few weeks. I also go used to sprinting for word counts when she’d fall asleep. It became a game on how many more words I could get before she’d wake up. And because the weather was beautiful over the fall I would take outside in our fenced yard and let her roam while I sat in the shade with my laptop. I got creative, so I wouldn’t fall behind.

3) Do they appear in any of your works?

She doesn’t appear in my work, but some of her personality aspects maybe do at times. I’ve had dogs in my stories, but they don’t resemble her or any other pet I’ve had at all. I tend to be the same with my characters. I don’t use any people I know in real life to model a character after and I guess it’s the same with my pets.

4) How does being a pet owner affect your writing?

In my opinion, animals teach us a lot about empathy. They show love in a different, maybe sometimes purer way. Also how they read our body language. Watching animals helps me understand those more emotional parts of life and ultimately fuels those scenes that need the extra emotional boost.



Upcoming from Tina Gower!

Romancing the Null (coming soon in February 2016)—The Outlier Prophecies Book One:

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There are three kinds of lies.

Lies the fates spin as half truths.

Lies of destined love.

And statistics.

As a fateless, Kate Hale is immune to the first two, but the third kind of lie is her profession. After spending years as an actuary for the Traffic Department, Kate is promoted to Accidental Death Predictions. It’s all she’s worked toward, and her career is finally on track. But when an oracle delivers an impossible death prediction and insists on her help to solve the case, she might lose any chance of impressing the brass.

Her only hope comes in the form of the police liaison assigned to her department, latent werewolf Ian Becker. Becker can grant her the clearance to find answers, but he’s a wild card with a shady past who doesn’t play well with others.

Every prediction has a loophole, but if Kate can’t solve the case before the crime is fated to occur she won’t just lose her job–she’ll have the blood of an oracle on her hands.



CnpvipvrTina Gower grew up in a small community in Northern California that proudly boasts of having more cows than people. She raised guide dogs for the blind, is dyslexic, and can shoot a gun or bow and miraculously never hit the target (which at some point becomes a statistical improbability). Tina also won the Writers of the Future, the Daphne du Maurier Award for Mystery and Suspense (paranormal category), and was nominated for the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart (writing as Alice Faris). She has professionally published several short stories in a variety of magazines. Tina is represented by Rebecca Strauss at DeFiore and Company.

You can find Tina at:

www.smashedpicketfences.com (blog) and www.tinagower.com (author website)


Twitter(Tina Gower) / Twitter (Alice Faris) / Facebook:




(I will be suspending this feature until Mid February, since I have a book coming out next week and will probably be horribly self-centered for a while! I will be resuming with Lawrence M. Schoen on the 9th and Pat Esden onf the 16th.)


Writers and their Beasts: Kat Otis

Today my guest is Kat Otis, short fiction author, fellow Codexian, and cat owner:

1) Let’s start with the obvious: Tell us about your pets.

I have two cats.  Aurora is the calico (well, technically a “tortoiseshell-over-white”) and her favorite activities include climbing trees, climbing on her human, climbing on furniture, and chasing acorns.rao_26640A (2)

(This gets my vote, by the way, for Most Photogenic Pet Photo)

Macavity is the black cat and his favorite activities include eating, napping, destroying cardboard boxes, and escaping to run amok through the neighbors’ yards.  They both feature in my standard author bio as they are amazingly tolerant of my peripatetic lifestyle, which means they generally spend at least 10 hours a month in the car.IMG_1178 (2)


2) How do they help/hinder your writing?

Aurora is an accomplished author in her own right!  She often steals my computer to edit my prose, visit chatrooms, Tweet, and write long, impassioned emails to her grandparents complaining that I don’t let her outside enough.  She even ghost-wrote a few words for a friend’s story – for which she was of course paid professional rates of 6 cat treats per word.  She’s also quite skilled in opening iTunes when I need inspiration and shutting down my laptop when it’s obviously time to take a break and pet her.

Macavity is less literarily-inclined but he has been known to prop up books for me when I’m researching.  He would prefer to prop up something lighter – like an iPad – but unfortunately only his grandmother regularly reads e-books.

3) Do they appear in any of your works?

Neither of them appear in my works explicitly, but their personalities have snuck into a human character or two and the experiences they’ve put me through definitely inform some of the experiences my characters have. If you ever see a POV character panicking about another POV character being lost, injured, or dying, I’m probably drawing on my experience as a cat-mommy!

4) How does being a pet owner affect your writing (philosophically?)

One of the hardest part of being a pet owner is knowing that you’re investing all your time, energy, and love in someone who is going to pre-decease you.  Unless you have a pet tortoise, your pet is going to have a significantly lower life expectancy than humans.  My fiction often grapples with questions of mortality and immortality – or at least extremely long lifespans – and how that shapes the relationships between my characters.

How does your immortal cope with the fact that most of the people around them are going to die and their relationships can’t be anything but fleeting?  Do they withdraw from mortal society?  Do they set themselves up as gods and see mortals as inferior?  Do they bash themselves against the cliffs of loss until they’ve broken themselves entirely?  And on the flip side, relationships between immortals must have thousands of years of history behind them.  How do those relationships morph and change over the centuries?  How much strife can they endure before they are irreparably broken?  And is there such a thing as “never” when you’re going to live “forever”?


Kat Otis lives a peripatetic life with a pair of cats who enjoy riding in the car as long as there’s no country music involved.  Her fiction has appeared in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, and Flash Fiction Online.  She can be found online at katotis.com or on Twitter as @kat_otis.

And about some of her recent work:

One of my favorite new stories, first published in 2015, is “Whistles and Trills”.  In a fantastical version of World War II with giants, sea serpents, and intelligent birds, a plane goes down in a blizzard over the Alps.  How will the passengers survive?  Pick up World Weaver Press’s Corvidae anthology to find out!



#SFWA pro





Writers and their Beasts: Laura Pearlman

In the continuing study of why authors need animal assistance, today my guest is Laura Pearlman, so let’s get right to it!

1) Let’s start with the obvious: Tell us about your pets.

I have two cats, Thunder and Seffie. Thunder’s eleven years old; I’ve had him since he was a ten-week-old kitten. One of the first things I noticed about him was that he was loud: his meow was loud, his purr was loud, and whenever he ran across my wooden living-room floor, he sounded like a herd of wildebeest. So I named him after something loud.

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Thunder’s worst habit is chewing on plastic–I have to keep anything plastic out of his reach. His favorite toy is anything that looks like it’s trying to hide from him; he likes it when I push a toy mouse a few inches under the couch, so he can reach it but has to work for it. He also loves treats, but I make the cats work for them. I scatter their treats on an “activity board”, and they have to maneuver around obstacles to get them out.

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Thunder’s other favorite activity is cuddling with me and/or Seffie. I’ve had Seffie for three years; she was about six or eight months old when I adopted her. Seffie is short for Purrsephone: she divides her time between the sunny areas of the house and the dark nether regions of my closet, so I named after Persephone from Greek mythology (the “Purr” is because she purrs a lot). Her favorite things are cuddling, being petted, chasing the laser pointer, and playing with a plastic spring toy. One of her previous favorite activities was dropping her toys into her water bowl, but she seems to have outgrown that.

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The two cats get along pretty well; they’ll often cuddle and groom each other, and they never really fight–but that’s mostly because, any time a dispute seems to be brewing, Seffie will back off. Seffie’s a little fearful in general, but she seems to be slowly growing more confident. Seffie and Thunder cuddle together and play separately; they almost never play together.

2) How do they help/hinder your writing?

Thunder is very assertive when he wants something; he’ll meow, paw at me, paw at my laptop, jump on the keyboard–anything to get my attention.

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(Yes, this looks like an assertive cat.)

So that’s a bit of a hindrance. Seffie will also jump on me and start purring, which leaves me no choice but to stop whatever I’m doing and pet her. On the other hand, sometimes they’re the perfect writer’s cats, curling up next to me or nearby.

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3) Do they appear in any of your works?

Thunder was in my first publication, sort of. The McSweeney’s humor website ran a list I wrote of overly wordy LOLcat captions, one of which was inspired by a picture of Thunder.

The cat in “In the End, You Get Clarity”* was a composite of several cats from my past.

I also sometimes write about my cats on my blog, but that doesn’t count.

4) How does being a pet owner affect your writing (philosophically?)

After I adopted Seffie, I started volunteering at a cat shelter. Most of the cats live in communal cat rooms, and it’s a no-kill shelter, so some of the cats have been living together for years. Observing those relationships (and how they change over time) often reminds me that social structures can be much more complex than they appear at first.


*Laura’s most recent publication, her darkly humorous short story “In the End, You Get Clarity” in the anthology Unidentified Funny Objects 4.

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Laura writes stories about revenge, radishes,and regret. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Shimmer, Flash Fiction Online, the Drabblecast, Unidentified Funny Objects 4, Daily Science Fiction, and Mothership Zeta.

You can find her at: Webpage I Twitter I  FaceBook




Interview with Lawrence M. Schoen, author of Barsk

Today my guest is Lawrence M. Schoen, author of a new book just out from Tor, Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard.  

It’s an exciting new series (and getting a lot of amazing press), and I’ll be able to chat with Lawrence in person about his book when he comes to Texas in February for ConDFW!  (And you should come see him there, too!)

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The Sixth Sense meets Planet of the Apes in a moving science fiction novel set so far in the future, humanity is gone and forgotten in Lawrence M. Schoen’s Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard

An historian who speaks with the dead is ensnared by the past. A child who feels no pain and who should not exist sees the future. Between them are truths that will shake worlds.

In a distant future, no remnants of human beings remain, but their successors thrive throughout the galaxy. These are the offspring of humanity’s genius-animals uplifted into walking, talking, sentient beings. The Fant are one such species: anthropomorphic elephants ostracized by other races, and long ago exiled to the rainy ghetto world of Barsk. There, they develop medicines upon which all species now depend. The most coveted of these drugs is koph, which allows a small number of users to interact with the recently deceased and learn their secrets.

To break the Fant’s control of koph, an offworld shadow group attempts to force the Fant to surrender their knowledge. Jorl, a Fant Speaker with the dead, is compelled to question his deceased best friend, who years ago mysteriously committed suicide. In so doing, Jorl unearths a secret the powers that be would prefer to keep buried forever. Meanwhile, his dead friend’s son, a physically challenged young Fant named Pizlo, is driven by disturbing visions to take his first unsteady steps toward an uncertain future.


I was lucky enough to get a chance to chat with Lawrence before the book came out (and he got too busy!), so I ran a few questions by him about this book (and a few of his earlier ones as well.) So without ado, here’s Lawrence:

Tell us a little about your upcoming book, Barsk, something that’s not in the blurb.

People are finding all sorts of subtext in the novel that I don’t remember putting into it. I suppose at some level, all books are a projective test and readers will discover something of themselves within the pages. For me, one of the most important ideas that I did include is that some friendships can transcend even death.

How long has this book been in your head? What led to it coming out in it’s final form?

I started writing this book more than twenty-five years ago. It’s actually the first novel I ever completed. Which is probably why it was so bad. I hadn’t learned enough to know just how badly written it was. Thankfully, despite my attempts to sell it, no publisher bought it, and I eventually stuck it in a drawer. I just didn’t have enough skill to tell the story the way it needed to be told. Fast forward a couple decades and when I had an opportunity to pitch it to an interested editor I’d grown enough as an author to do the story justice, keeping the awesome ideas and rewriting everything else.

Which was your favorite character to write? Why?

That is such a cruel question. I don’t tend to think in terms of favorites in any aspect of my life. That said, I’m more fond of some characters than others. There’s a lot of me in Jorl (or a lot of Jorl in me?). He has an amazing life and so do I.

Pizlo is the obvious underdog (under-elephant?) in the book. How can you not love him? He’s so damaged and he doesn’t know it, and he’s overflowing with potential. Keep an eye on him; he’s only six, and he’s destined for greatness, if he survives.

The Matriarch is an intense character. She’s so sure she’s right that most of the time she can’t even make room in her reality for the possibility that she might be mistaken.

I really like Druz because she makes the Sloths proud, and of all the other races of the Alliance her people seem to have the least dislike of the Fant. Maybe their slower metabolism makes them more sensible.

And I adore Lirlowil, my sybaritic Otter. She really deserves the chance to be the hero of her own story for all the grief I put her through in this book. Maybe some day…

Can we expect  to see more in this setting after this book?

I hope so! I’ve written proposals for two sequels and they are sitting on my editor’s desk. I’d also like to write some side stories — maybe even a novella — from the perspective of one or more of the other races of the Alliance. I’ve barely scratched the surface.

What about your previous series? Will you be adding more tales to the Buffalito Saga?

There are five more novels in my head to complete the story arc that I set up with the end of the second book. There’s a galactic war coming that almost no one in the galaxy knows about, and Conroy is being maneuvered to be a general. Whether or not I get to write those five books may well depend on how well Barsk does, and if I can use it to leverage a deal with a publisher.

At a minimum though, I have a fourth novella already outlined and waiting to be written. It includes a popular supporting character, LeftJohn Mocker, and features the return of a previous character. It’s also intended as backstory for a possible spin-off series.

And what’s one thing about you that every reader needs to know?

It’s taken me a long time to reach this realization, but I no longer engage in any kind of “zero sum” games. My success or happiness should never be dependent on beating someone else, or taking anything from anyone. Every situation I encounter nowadays, I ask myself how I can reframe it into a win-win scenario. I believe this above all else is why my life is so blessed.


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Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics. He spent ten years as a college professor, and has done extensive research in the areas of human memory and language. This background provides a principal metaphor for his fiction. He currently works as the director of research and analytics for a series of mental health and addiction recovery facilities in Philadelphia.

He’s also one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Klingon language, and since 1992 has championed the exploration and use of this constructed tongue throughout the world. In addition, he’s the publisher behind a speculative fiction small press, Paper Golem, aimed at showcasing up-and-coming new writers as well as providing a market for novellas. And too, he performs occasionally as a hypnotherapist specializing in authors’ issues.

In 2007, he was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He received a Hugo Award nomination for Best Short Story in 2010 and Nebula Award nominations for Best Novella in 2013, 2014, and again in 2015. Some of his most popular writing deals with the ongoing adventures of a space-faring stage hypnotist named the Amazing Conroy and his animal companion Reggie, an alien buffalito that can eat anything and farts oxygen. His latest work is a very different kind of book, an anthropomorphic SF novel that explores prophecy, intolerance, friendship, conspiracy, and loyalty, and a drug that lets you talk to the dead.

Lawrence lives near Philadelphia with his wife, Valerie, who is neither a psychologist nor a Klingon speaker.


Where to find him:

Website: http://www.lawrencemschoen.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lawrencemschoen

Twitter: @klingonguy


Writers and their Beasts: Nicola Cameron

Today my guest is my good friend, Melanie Fletcher, AKA Nicola Cameron, and yes, she, too, has beasts at home who require that she write more so they’ll be fed.

So here I present Melanie and her troop…

1) Let’s start with the obvious: Tell us about your pets.

JJ, the Black Velvet Purrmonster, AKA my bodyguard, AKA A Gentleman of a Certain Age. A black American Shorthair, he’s the old guy – just wants to eat, lick his belly, get ear scritchings and cuddles from me, and snooze in a warm spot. That being said, he will still defend me against all comers, swatting (with claws in, mind you) at anyone new in the house in order to establish his place in the pecking order. My sister calls him Baldy and the Dark Lord. He goes out of his way to smack her when she visits. He understands English just fine.

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Jessica, the Grey Lady, AKA Jessie, AKA, Jessicle Vessicle. Solid grey tabby and alpha female of the bunch, adores J.J. to bits, loathes her brother Jeremy with a passion that passeth understanding, has found a minion in our tortie Jemma, and is the unwitting nemesis of Jemma’s sister Jasmine. Jessie loves to sleep at the foot of my bed, and can usually be found wherever I am (unless she’s sleeping). She tends to get cranky at times, and then pees on things to express her displeasure.

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Jeremy, the Big Orange Lump, AKA Jeremy You Idiot, AKA The Hoover on Four Legs. Jeremy is an orange tabby, which means he’s…rambunctious. Yeah, let’s go with rambunctious. He will eat anything that’s not pinned down, including lettuce, oatmeal, and the other cats’ food, likes to chase the girls, LOVES his automatic laser toy, mows VERY loudly when he’s bored, and likes to sleep a lot, usually when I want to vacuum the living room. But he’s a sweetie at heart, so I put up with the linebacker activity.

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Jemma, the Brown Girl, AKA Sugar in a Plum, AKA Brown Sugar. A gorgeous little tortie who is a friend to all, loves sleeping on my chest so that her fine fur gets right up my nose, and is the apple of her daddy’s eye. She and Jessie now get along fairly well, although every so often Jessie will growl at her and she has to kowtow until Jessie’s satisfied. Is addicted to rolling on my husband’s towels after he takes a shower, can usually be found napping in said shower, and also likes to roll in the litter box. We’re trying to break that little habit.

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Jasmine, the Skitty Kitty, AKA Jazz Hands, AKA Jazzy. A classic grey tabby, she lives on our kitchen counter because it’s the only place she feels safe from Jessie, who wouldn’t even notice her if she didn’t immediately crouch and hiss every time Jessie hoves into view. Is addicted to mint and would gladly stick her head in my mouth after I brush my teeth. Spends 50% of her time trying to sit on my lap.

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2) How do they help/hinder your writing?

I’m still waiting on the help part. Hinder, that’s super easy. If I’m writing downstairs in the living room I can’t go twenty minutes without at least one of them (usually Jasmine the Needy) jumping up and wanting attention. Jasmine is the most hindering because she wants to sprawl on my lap and have me pet her with two hands. Jessie wants to sit in the crook of my left arm, which at least gives me one hand free for typing, Both Jemma and J.J. just want a bit of attention then are happy to sit on the arm of the chair and snooze. Jeremy keeps trying to rub his cheek glands on the laptop screen and make it his when he’s not camping out on my lap (and he’s impossible to see over).

Working in my office doesn’t cut down on the traffic, either. If I close the door and keep them out they head butt the door until the noise drives me crazy. If I let them in, one of them (usually Jemma) tries to climb on my desk while I’m working. Eventually they get the hint and snooze in the background.


3) Do they appear in any of your works?

I’ve tuckerized our late tuxedo cat Jordan by naming a spaceship after him in one of my books. So far, that’s the only appearance that any of them have made. So far.


4) How does being a pet owner affect your writing (philosophically?)


It helps when describing pets in stories. Apart from that, I can’t really say that being cat staff has an effect on my writing, other than learning how to turf an insistent cat off my lap so that I CAN write.


About Melanie Fletcher:

I write spec fic as Melanie Fletcher and SF, fantasy, and paranormal erotic romance as Nicola Cameron. The nice thing about writing SF/Fantasy/paranormal erotic romance is that it’s spec fic with all the explicit sex I wanted to put in but couldn’t.


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Empress of Storms (as Nicola Cameron):

When King Matthias of Ypres has to fulfill a treaty and provide a royal consort for young Queen Danaë of Hellas, the only royal available for marriage is … him. Can he risk letting a blue-haired witch queen into his heart?

From political necessity, Queen Danaë finds herself marrying the man she secretly loves. Now she must win the heart of a king, prove herself as a mage, and defeat the enemies that threaten them both.



You can find Nicola/Melanie at:



Twitter: https://twitter.com/melaniemf

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/melanie.fletcher.790

Nicola’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nicolacameronwrites/

Outside my area of expertise…

I have, in the past few months, been approached by 3 different people who want to write a book that is semi-biographical. In two cases, they wanted to know how to find a ghost writer to write it for them. All three  also wanted to ask about the legal ramifications of writing about real people they know, even when posed as fiction.

Sadly, I’m no help here.  I don’t know anyone who does ghostwriting, and have no idea how to find such a person.  Nor do I know anything about the literary/biographical fiction market and the legal ramifications of those people’s suggested stories.

I told my husband that although, yes, I’m a writer…I’m the wrong kind of writer to help those people.

It’s a bit like asking your Obstetrician to answer questions about your grandmother’s rheumatoid arthritis.

Sorry, folks.

If you want to talk about writing Speculative Fiction, then I can answer questions.  And I have some knowledge about Romance Fiction as well.  But pretty much everything else is outside my purview, and the only answers I can give you will be unsatisfactory.


Set Your Phasers to Destroy: Unnecessary Verbs, by Tina Gower

Just like everyone else, writers have their pet peeves. Our are just stranger…

Set Your Phasers to Destroy: Unnecessary Verbs

by Tina Gower

Hi ho grammarly types! I’m dyslexic and I’m here to infiltrate your peaceful paradise of complaints and peeves. Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle.

My beef concerns writing weaknesses. Weaknesses in imagery with the verbs we choose and how we use them. As a school psychologist I was trained to help people with learning disabilities (like disabilities that hinder reading phonics, syntax, and comprehension). I picked up a few tricks to help people boost reading fluency and comprehension.

Along the way I discovered a funny problem that causes a mental roadblock. It’s something that I first stumbled across in other writing. Then, like a flu virus, it spread into my stories when I first started the craft and it’s a bad habit.

It’s the use of the double verb. It poses an imagery problem and puts in extra words that are unnecessary. It messes with clarity and gums up our sentences. Your mission is to seek and destroy the double verb.

Type these words into your document search tool:

Began/begin to
Tried to
Attempted to
Started to

I’ll use examples of this offense in a few sentences:

Helen tried to walk away from Harry.
Margaret began to sit on the couch.
Bob started to shake Mary’s hand.
The dog attempted to steal the cake.

I hope you’re awesome and you found none, but if you did find these and you’re wondering what’s the big deal, I’ll tell you.

First of all, it’s a logic flow problem. Imagine “trying to walk” okay maybe you can imagine it. Maybe you’re shaking your head and think I’m being silly. Now get up and “try to walk.” Show me what a “try to walk” looks like. Did you stumble? Did to stand paused in place wondering what to do next? Was your foot hovered in the air?

When I tried this on myself I wanted to know what a “started to sit” was. I decided physically get up out of my chair and “start to sit.” My butt hovered comically in the air. Most of the time those words can be taken out with no problem. Have people go ahead and sit (Margaret sat on the couch). Let them shake hands (Bob shook Mary’s hand). If they don’t complete the motion it will add more tension and conflict to come up with better way of showing this in body language. For example, what if someone went to shake hands and the other person carefully folded their hands behind their back. Whoa! Total awkwardness and much more interesting than a “tried to shake” situation.

Also, some writers are cheating cheaters. They know this rule and they find ways around it (or maybe don’t know the rule and just have other problems). So they’ll say, “he started sitting,” or “he tried talking.” Nice save, but we can do better. Again, a focus on the interesting body language will bring out more emotion and strengthen writing. It will paint a better picture of what is actually happening in the story. Ideally, we’d have no throw away words in a story—double verbs are so easily thrown away and don’t bring any emotional power.

Bonus Peeve:

The word “felt.” Run a search in your current work in progress. Unless it’s referring to felt as in the material (wool felting), or another word for touch, it might be clogging your opportunity to show emotion on the page.

She felt angry.
He felt sad.
Maria felt as though she were in a pit of eternal sadness, like a hole of nothing opened up and swallowed her.

Felt is usually followed by the naming of an emotion. Readers get told how the characters feel. Imagine how fun it is to sit on the bench at a park and people-watch. We watch some guy stomping around and screaming and we think, “oh, he’s mad!!” A little thrill zings up our spine. But we don’t get the guy stomping in the park saying, “I am angry!” Well, maybe, but that’s not as interesting. I’m giggling sort of thinking about it. I imagine Will Ferrell delivering those lines and automatically add “whirling tornado” (embedded link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhUepjZSlKM) to the end of it. Instead use body language, use internal thoughts, use setting, use a visceral response. Much more interesting. Much stronger. Readers get to make the connection. It’s more fun for readers and writers.


photo-283x300In her youth, Tina lived her life in a land of fantasy called the State of Jefferson. No really, her home state technically didn’t exist (except in the minds of the community members and locals). With a zip code borrowed from a town a half hour away and a state that never quite became recognized in the Union, Tina still managed to find footing in the real world. She earned a master’s degree in school psychology, raised guide dogs, and eventually decided to train her own two children. She believes them to be perfect, but that depends on if her children are as real as her hometown. Tina has sold short fiction to professional science fiction markets, won writing awards, and is represented by Rebecca Strauss at DeFiore and Company.

You can follow her on
Facebook: http://www.facebook/gowertina
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/TinaGower
Blog: http://www.smashedpicketfences.com