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Penny Dreadful Press – It Lives! September 16, 2014

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Woohoo!  After a lot of detours, I am finally getting my new site up and running!  Stop by http://www.pennydreadfulpress.com to see where you can find e-books with my stories!   The soapbox will still be here for a while, but I’ll be slowly moving things over to the new site.  Here’s to the start of great new things!




Guest Post – R. J. Blain – Inquisitor Book Launch May 17, 2014

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Inquisitor - RJ BlainI’ve decided to start doing regular shout-outs for indy/self-pub authors. Why? Because they’re cool and groovy people, and I adore their writing! I’m definitely looking forward to sharing more of their work. 🙂

This week R. J. Blain is celebrating both her birthday, and the launch of her urban fantasy novel, Inquisitor.  Here’s a quick peek at the story:

When Allison is asked to play Cinderella-turned-Fiancee at a Halloween ball, the last thing she expected was to be accused of murder on the same night. She has to find the killer and quick, or she’ll be put to death for the crimes she didn’t commit. To make matters worse, the victims are all werewolves.

On the short list of potential victims, Allison has to act fast, or the killer will have one more body to add to his little black book of corpses.

There’s only one problem: One of the deaths has struck too close to home, and Allison’s desire for self-preservation may very well transform into a quest for vengeance…


R. J., like so many of my writer friends is addicted to moleskine’s and pens.  And telling bad puns.

When she isn’t playing pretend, she likes to think she’s a cartographer and a sumi-e painter. In reality, she herds cats and a husband. She also has a tendency to play MMOs and other computer games.

In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Should that fail, her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until she is satisfied.

If you’d like to own a copy of Inquisitor, you can find it by clicking here.

Guest Blog by Johanna Harness – Writer Shaming May 2, 2014

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In honor of the release of Johanna’s book “Spillworthy,”  the Soapbox is proud to share her story –  a very brave, and candid look at the choice to self publish.

writershameComing from a traditional, big-publishing path, I believed agents and editors spent their time making books better. When books were good enough, they’d be published.

I feel somewhat naïve for believing this. In truth, big publishers focus on making books marketable. Better and marketable are not synonymous. If they were, celebrities who make us cringe would not be offered massive book deals. If they were, Firefly would not have been cancelled after season one. Sometimes we don’t get what we want.

I had a good agent. She was doing her job well when I fired her.  Like many relationship break-ups, we just didn’t want the same things anymore.  I hired her to sell my work to a big publisher and she gave me the advice needed to make my work more marketable. I decided to go another direction.

If authors don’t want to change their writing to fit the market, we’re called bad names. After all, a real writer would do it. A writer with enough talent would think nothing of it. If a writer won’t change, she’s either too proud or too arrogant. She shows a lack of respect for everyone ever published by traditional publishers, and risks the possibility her friends inside the industry will quit talking to her.  She’s not willing to play by the rules. She must want publishers to fail, and by association, libraries. She wants to put independent bookstore owners on the street.  And probably she doesn’t care about the coffee shops where they buy their mochas. She’s committing career suicide.  She’s such a loser she has to self-publish.

Writer shaming.

Just change the book.  Sell your rights. Ignore the cover with the black kid set in shadow. It’s not like you had any say in the matter. Don’t make the kids so smart. You’d do it if you were a real writer.  You’d do it if you were hungry.  There are a lot of people who will do it if you won’t.

Yeah.  That’s me. I’m taking my writer shame, boxing it up, and setting it on a shelf.  There’s a door to the side of the room, the one that leads to self-publishing, the one that everyone says not to open. Sometimes it glows white hot with possibility and that’s when we’re told to fear it the most.

I’m tired of fear and shame.  I need to know for myself.

I walk through with the worst expectations.  I accept the future predicted for me and, instead. . .

I find a world good, and sweet, and generous.  I cry when readers write to me and tell me they loved my book.  I cry when I get good reviews. I cry when people tell me they love my cover. I cry when they ask about my next book. I cry when I am loved.

I cry even more when someone says I’ve inspired them, that they’ve come to believe they might also be worthy of love.

Writer shame be damned.

“It’s good?” they ask from the other side of the door.

“Yes.”  My answer is unequivocal. “It’s very good.”

– – –

Johanna Harness lives in Idaho in a life filled with beauty and generosity. The corners of her world are filled with chickens, cats, guinea pigs, sheep, and children.  Her debut, middle-grade novel, Spillworthy, is independently-published. It contains smart kids thinking smart thoughts, homeless people who are not burned out with despair, and caring adults who don’t die in the first chapter.

You can buy her book here: http://www.amazon.com/Spillworthy-Johanna-Harness-ebook/dp/B00JZ6PHKI

Bloodlines #1 October 9, 2012

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Virgil wanted to spend the weekend with a grieving family about as much as he wanted his skin flayed off in one inch strips. He glanced over at the woman driving their car, sunglasses hiding the tears welling in her dark brown eyes. If anyone but Lares had asked him to attend a funeral he would have told them how far up their ass they could shove the idea. Forget all those actors playing psychics on TV; real psychics avoided the bereaved like the plague. He had already locked down his empathic sense to the point where it was giving him a headache.

He owed her, though. Their job at the Tactical Paranormal Response Unit was damned dangerous, and she had saved his bacon on more than one occasion. He just wished she had picked some other reason—any other reason—to call in the debt.

Lares guided the car off the highway onto a snow covered exit ramp. The sedan held gamely to the road despite a few icy patches, and they cruised along tree lined streets into a picturesque downtown.

“Aunt Honora’s house was always so pretty in winter time,” she said. “The wake will be held there instead of at a funeral home. She would have wanted it that way.”

Virgil hardened his psy-shields against the flood of emotions that those words had brought out in her. “Didn’t you say her place was haunted?” he said, trying to steer the conversation to a safer topic.

“Yes, but it’s nothing serious. Those ghosts are lightweights compared to the ones we work with.”

Virgil snorted in disbelief. “I’m sure they’re tame as kittens.”

Lares gave him a wan smile. “Ghosts I can handle. I’m more worried about the living. Normally I’d be the one who keeps things civil, but I may be a little distracted.”

“Don’t worry your pretty little head about it. The living I can deal with,” Virgil said, smiling to hide his dismay. Distracted didn’t cover what he was sensing from her. It was more like Issues, with a capital I. And that meant the rest of the family was going to be a disaster waiting to happen. But it was too late to back out now.

As they headed into the hills outside of town the trees leaned over the road, blocking the grey sky from view. Lares made a turn onto a steep, slushy road, and the tires spun as they worked to find traction. She turned into the skid, keeping the car from fishtailing too badly, and Virgil clamped down on his nervous thoughts to keep from projecting anything that might distract her. A few hairy minutes later they made another turn down a long driveway that only had one pair of tire tracks cut into the white blanket of snow.

The first thing Virgil noticed as they pulled up to the house was how oppressively quiet it was. Even with his psy-shields up he always heard the ever-present rush of people’s thoughts around him—thousands of them in a low, endless roar like an ocean tide. Not here. There were only a few faint whispers of thought from deep within the house. He popped open the car door, and the icy cold air hit his lungs in a frozen sucker punch. He wheezed and his breath came out in a white plume. The silence weighed down on everything—the snow laden branches of the pine trees bowed beneath it, and a thick layer of snow and ice sagged down over the eaves of the faded old Victorian, making the house seem to frown at him.

Lares took a deep breath and smiled. “Isn’t it lovely? It’s just like I remembered it.”

Virgil moved to get the bags from the trunk, firmly telling himself that the icicles over the porch did not look like teeth. “Sure, it’s a Hallmark moment waiting to happen.”

He wasn’t sure if Lares had missed the sarcasm or was ignoring it. “Wait till you see the inside,” she said, slinging her purse over her shoulder and heading up the stairs to the porch. “It’s an authentic painted lady, on the register of historic houses. It’s been in our family since the mid-1800s.” She rang the doorbell, and a set of chimes bonged slightly out of key.

“Are the original owners still here?” he asked, giving the brooding façade a wary look.

The door opened before she could answer him. The light that spilled out was cheerful enough, as was the motherly brunette who answered the door. She held it open and simultaneously pulled Lares into a one-armed hug. “Sophie, it’s so good to see you again! I only wish it was under better circumstances.”

Sophie? Virgil filed away that bit of info as he shuffled in after her. He knew that Lares wasn’t her real name, any more than Virgil was his. The Agency always used Greco-Roman code names for their operatives. He just hadn’t realized how little he knew about her, despite all the years they had worked together. He certainly hadn’t known she had any family besides her father, until the call came about her aunt’s death.

He looked over the group waiting for them in the hallway – the deceased’s side of the family was white. Lares took after her father, a soft-spoken southerner who taught foreign languages at a university in Georgia. The guarded looks Virgil got as he lugged their bags inside spoke volumes for how the family felt about Lares’ mixed heritage. He was beginning to see why she didn’t talk about them.

A burly man with a buzz-cut, dressed in fatigue pants and a white t-shirt pushed past a gaggle of kids. “You goin’ to introduce us to your ‘friend’, Soph?”

Virgil caught a quick burst of thoughts from him. ::scruffy blond boy-toy probably slacker/loser Sophie slumming again::

Oh yeah, Virgil thought. This was going to be a fun weekend.

Lares pasted on a false, bright smile. “I’m sorry, Alex, everyone, this is Virgil. He’s my business partner.”

Alex gave Virgil a handshake that was more of a vice-grip than a welcome. “You never did tell us what kind of business you were in.”

The motherly woman let out an exasperated sound. “Alex, we are all upset enough without your macho nonsense. Mother would be ashamed of you, acting like this toward a guest.” She gave Virgil a more polite handshake. “You are very welcome here, Virgil. I’m Linda, Sophie’s cousin. Honora was my and Alex’s mother. Desiree is in the kitchen. She’s Uncle Bryant’s daughter, and he’ll be here later tonight. The three boys there are Alex’s brood, Alex Jr., Danny, and Tommy.”

Virgil quickly memorized the family tree, a trick he had learned in his first career as an actor. He was always amused at how often that early PR training came in handy while working for the government. “Thank you, Linda,” he said, giving her his best Hollywood smile. “I appreciate you letting me stay here for the night, but I don’t want to intrude on your grief. Just show me where to put the bags and I’ll stay out from underfoot. You won’t even know I’m here.” Which was the literal truth. He planned on putting up a psychic no-fly zone around his room to keep the nosy relatives out.

Lares gave him a grateful look as he smoothed things over. “You said I’d have the ground floor bedroom, right, Linda? There’s room for a cot in there, and it won’t be the first time Virgil and I have had to bunk in the same room.”

Virgil sighed inwardly at the dirty look buzz-cut Alex gave him. He was tired, cold, and all he wanted was a freaking cigarette. He had no patience left for a prejudiced rube, and he sent out a telepathic suggestion to make Alex find something else to do.

The reaction was immediate, and not exactly what he had planned. The front door banged open and shut behind him, and shadows danced along the hallway just before the lights flickered and died. Alex cussed about the crappy fuse box and stomped off to find it. His boys whooped and ran into the depths of the house, crashing into things that sounded expensive.

Then again, maybe it wasn’t the boys smashing things. The shadows had not matched the people standing next to them…

Nox and Grimm – A Quick Update August 24, 2012

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Hellooo everyone!  As I’m sure you’ve noticed Nox and Grimm has been running on a bi-weekly basis this summer. My apologies for not warning you in advance, but I honestly hadn’t planned on it that way. Life is funny like that 😉

The good news is, there is lots more N&G to come!  Our intrepid heroes are about to get pulled onto the political stage in a big way, with Nox the temporary ruler of Ice in her father’s absence, and Loki getting ready to claim his own inheritance. And you know Grimm will not give up on his hopes of bringing back the House of Winds.

The main story will be taking a brief hiatus  while I am on vacation however, but fear not!  There will still be stories while I am away! I have been compiling my notes on Grimm’s history into a mini-series, so we will finally get to see where he came from and how he went from Aurengrey, to Grimmalkyn.  It should be a lot of fun and I hope you’ll enjoy it . Look for the first installment of “The Wanderers Tale” tonight! 🙂


oh the weather outside is frightful… December 19, 2011

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But sunny florida was delightful!  Sorry about the lack of a Nox and Grimm on friday, but in all fairness I was a little distracted at Hogwarts 😀


I could have taken or left the rest of Universal Studios, but the Harry Potter theme park was brilliant!  And yes, butterbeer is every bit as tasty as they make it out to be in the books.  Well, I must go off to finish writing my annual holiday one-shot for Nox and Grimm (post on friday), but I will leave you with a peek at one of the shop windows in Hogsmeade. 🙂

It’s a Major Award! :) February 11, 2010

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Wow, you like me, you really like me!  (or you think I’m a fantastic liar…I’m not sure which *heh*)
Laura Eno over at A Shift in Dimensions, and Mariana Blaser at Mariblasers Randomities awarded me with Lesa’s Bald Faced Liar “Creative Liar” Award. Thank you??…

The rules for the award are simple:
1. Thank the person who gave this to you.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you.
4. Tell up to six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth – or – switch it around and tell six outrageous truths and one outrageous lie.
5. Nominate seven “Creative Writers” who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies.
6. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.

Ahh… but are these 6 lies and 1 truth, or the opposite?  Let the games begin!

1. I, like Garfield, enjoy kippered herring snacks
2. I was once seen rappelling from the top of an amusement park ride
3. My other half is called Captain Freakin’ America
4. I have raced with ducks
5. I once fished for ‘skivvies’ with pirates
6. I own the grade-school edition of the Necronomicon
7. I rode an inflatable alligator inside of a hotel elevator

Now to pick victims awardees. Hmm…let’s see. Who might be good liars?

@cafenirvana – you knew I was going to hit you with this, right? 🙂
@wisneski – you too! 😉
@oodja – makes 3!
bah, too tired from shoveling snow to do more.  Take the meme and run with it, tweeples! *lol*

The Human Touch – Using Body Language in Writing November 18, 2009

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Did you ever look at your manuscript and realize that your characters have been grinning, frowning and glaring at each other for the past 40 pages? I know I am one of the worst offenders when it comes to using the dreaded ‘ing’ and ‘ly’ in a story. Yeah, sure, the eyes are the key to the soul, and a smile is worth a thousand words but what is the rest of their body doing? We don’t all just walk around grinning at each other all day.

I think the reason so many new writers like myself fall into this trap, is that our reaction to body language is more instinctual than intellectual. Writing is an intellectual exercise, you sit for hours and think about how to string words together. It’s all too easy to forget that the physical body interacts with the world around it.

For example, you can say ‘she whispered seductively in his ear’ and you’ll get the point across. The problem is that your brain thinks only about how the voice sounds, the rest of body is left out. Now, try this: her lips brushed his ear as she whispered, “yes.” Yeowza, fireworks! Your body reacts in a more visceral way to the physical interaction.

This is something I’ve been working on in my writing. Every time I come across an ing, ly, or mere facial expression I try to think of what else their body is doing while they talk. They don’t say something teasingly, they tweak the other person’s nose. They don’t look bored, they check their watch. Take time to pay attention to what you do when you’re feeling sheepish, do you shuffle your feet? Rub the back of your head?

Another thing to remember is that things make sounds when you interact with them. The world is a noisy place. You don’t just lean back in a chair, the chair creaks as you lean back in it. You don’t just walk through snow, it crunches beneath your feet.

And don’t forget textures, describing how something feels can be an important cue for your reader. If your character is studying something carefully, have them run their finger along the slick surface, or recoil from the sharp spines. Just try not to over-use the word ‘like’ when you describe things. I remove that word as much as possible from my stories. If you use like, you’re not engaging the body, you are intellectually describing an object. Again, no visceral reaction. “His pants got soaked, and clung like soggy newspaper.” vs “The damp fabric clung to his legs.” It’s easy to see which gets more of a reaction.

Another trick I like to use is mixing body language with dialogue. This is an example from a flash fiction story I’m in the midst of editing. I started with this:

He grinned at her. “You have the prettiest blue eyes.”

The blue eyes glared back at him.

That’s fun, but I wanted to turn up heat between the characters. Here is the edit:

He leaned against the doorway. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re beautiful when you glare? It’s those blue eyes, they cut right through you.”

In two lines we have a description how he interacts with the room, and the playful tone comes through without the grin. You even get a description of how she looks (blue eyes) and what she’s doing (glaring). It’s all done with body language and physical descriptions. Sure, you can use facial expressions from time to time, but don’t let your readers ride passively along through the whole story. Make them feel it. That’s the heart of the whole ‘show don’t tell’ thing. We are creatures of instinct, and body language is the key to putting your readers right inside the scene.

Waiter, there’s a Troll in my Blog! September 25, 2009

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Writers, by nature, tend to be sensitive souls. They pour their heart into every word, lovingly polish each phrase and hold the final piece up to the muse to bless.  And the muse says, ‘It’s beautiful honey! I love it!”  But sadly, the rest of the world is neither so kind, nor so careful of your feelings.  And while honest critiques can be good for a writer, there will always be those who feel the need to tell you what they think whether you asked them to or not.  These gutter slime take advantage of the anonymity of the web to verbally assault you  – they leave nasty, personal comments on your blog, they try to bait you into pointless arguments on chats, they trash your book on Amazon –  these, dear writer, are Trolls. 

vacuumSo what do you do if you have a troll infestation?  First off, don’t reply to them.  Nature abhors a vacuum and so do trolls.  If you ignore them they will often wander off to find an easier target.  Remember, they want to wind you up, they get off on making people miserable, so don’t give them any fuel to work with.  On your blog, you can always apply the Mighty Sword of Comment Deletion.  It works, and it’s fun to do.  Hah, take that Troll!  (Imagine Errol Flynn as Robin Hood while you delete, I know that makes the Muse feel better, she’s a fan of his…work…heh.)

But sometimes, even if you get them to go away their hurtful comments stick with you.  We all have that little scared voice inside that says, what if they’re right, what if my story really is that bad?  Fear not dear writer, there are fun and easy things you can do to patch up your battered ego, and even come out the better for having encountered your personal boogeyman.  Here is my patented 3 step method to recover from Troll attacks:

The Zen Approach

Try to think of trolls with compassion – the enlightened soul realizes that pouring out vitriol is what this poor, benighted troll needs right now.   There must be some pain in their life, some deep seated hurt inflicted on them that goads them to behave so badly.  And you understand, you’ve lashed out when life has poured salt into your wounds.  You, the zen Buddha saint in training, know that this person is not angry with you, nor do they hate you, it is instead themselves that they are at odds with. 

Whoa, deep, eh?

Sadly, I am not usually quite so enlightened.  When someone is being an ass I immediately want borrow a hat pin from the Muse and play pin the tail on the donkey.  Which brings me to step two:

The Comedian

PrintTake a moment to contemplate the lighter side of trolls.  Just who whizzed in their wheaties today? Did they wake up to find their pooch dry-humping their leg?  Did the cat hork a hairball onto their lap?  Go ahead, let your muse have some fun at their expense.   Don’t let that lady-like exterior fool you, she packs a wicked sucker punch. And when you see those nasty-grams in your inbox, just remember:   Opinions are like assholes – everybody has one.  Some are just louder than others.

Right, let me just hand the hat pin back and get the Muse to stop giggling madly so we can move on to step three:

Use Your Trolls Wisely

The muse is really into recycling.  Everything in life is grist for her mill, and trolls are especially good when reduced, reused, and re-characterized.  If you ever wondered how to make your antagonists more antagonistic, keep a file with notes about trolls. Real life is filled with petty jerks, and the world your characters inhabit should have them too.  Just remember, no naming names.  Lawyers have these fun little toys called libel and defamation of character, avoid them at all costs.  Your muse is creative though, I’m sure she can find ways to use their character traits without going into recognizable details.   Odds are if something makes you cringe or grit your teeth, you can use it to gain sympathy for your main character and build tension in your story.  Keep your eyes open for trolls, they may be the inspiration for your next really juicy villain. 

Okay, that’s enough from me, what do you do to deal with trolls?  Share your ideas in the comments section, let’s try to make Troll an endangered species!

PS:  Yes, comments are being moderated, because you know the Village Idiot Troll will think it’s funny to try and post nasty-grams here.  So you won’t see your comments right away.

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