Cover Reveal: Aluminum Leaves

And here it is.

Since the title is “Aluminum Leaves,” I really like the color of the font, and the font itself. It’s got a nice weathered-industrial look to it which does fit the story.

And I love that book!

The browns and grays fit in very well with the tone of the story, too.

The female figure is far from an exact match for Erin, but I love that they chose a female figure, she’s in the right place in relation to the book.

And they spelled my name right!

At the risk of being tedious, the release date is still August 1, 2019. And watch this space for Release Party information!

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ReaderCon 30; The Best and the Rest

"Let us dare to read, think, speak and write." John Adams, 1765
Sign at the John Adams House

Everything that was good about ReaderCon30 would be a long, long list. The convention is held at the Boston Marriott in Quincy, (which might be why I was confused for a while and thought I was going to Boston). It’s larger than the Walnut Creek convention, FogCon, that I love, but it’s not overwhelming. The layout, in the hotel’s concourse and convention space, is well suited to this kind of event, and well-utilized.

I came to ReaderCon with Terry Weyna, who had been to one a few years ago. It was nice to travel with a friend!

Rather than labor through a critique, I’ll share a few personal bests (and worsts. There were some; they weren’t at the convention).

Michael J De Luca, Rob Cameron, Tananarive Due, Cadwell Turnbull (l to r) discuss solarpunk and afrofuturism.
Michael J De Luca, Rob Cameron, Tananarive Due, Cadwell Turnbull (l to r) discuss solarpunk and afrofuturism.

The convention started at 7:00 pm Thursday night, and Thursday’s events were free and open to the public. The Afro-futurism and solarpunk panel was enlightening, and the high point came when Cameron talked about the Green Wall Project in West Africa. It’s a reforestation project, and it is wonderful.

Since we’d arrived on Wednesday, Thursday morning I took a rideshare down to the center of town, the John Adams Commons area. The commons is lovely. About five blocks away is the John Adams house, which is a national park. I got to go inside the Adams library but I didn’t have a ticket for the entire tour. The garden, though, is open to everyone.

The Adams House library exterior.
The Adams House library exterior.

Personal Best Moments:

  • Hearing John Crowley Read.
  • Having John Crowley sign a book.
  • Talking with John Crowley about his shirt with the woodpecker figures on it.

Yes, there is a theme emerging.

  • Getting to visit with Ezzy Languzzi, with whom I share space in Strange California, with whom I tweet and who I had never met.
  • Austin Grossman’s hilarious and educational slide presentation about how we ended up with Science Fiction and Fantasy.
  • Anything Tananarive Due said.

All of the readings I attended I enjoyed. I loved getting a chance to talk to Dr. Malka Older about the statistics of book selling (no, really, it’s interesting) and her work. I liked the kaffeeklatche with Vylar Kaftan. The majority of panels I attended had good information and a few laughs.

In “The Etiquette of Criticism,” the don of SF criticism, John Clute, took exception to something writer and reviewer John Langan said, and there was… a spat. Moments later the moderator asked each panelist to name a critic they admired, and Langan said, “Well, I was going to say John Clute!” I was there, people, when that happened!

Elizabeth Hand’s forthcoming book is about “outsider” artist Henry Darger. I am really looking forward to that.

I thought the mobile app for the program was elegant and easy to use. One commenter pointed out that you could not get to the bios of the panelists from the app, and that was true, but I hadn’t noticed that until I read the comment. There was also a paper pocket-program which had the biographies.

The rest:

Some things weren’t as good. Here are some:

My Verizon mini-router (Jetpack) that I brought specifically in case the Marriott charged for interet access, which they do, decided on Thursday that it wasn’t going to function. I powered it down and paid for one day’s worth of hotel internet. The next day it worked fine. I hate that. Not the working fine part, the intermittent not-going-to-work part.

The Con committee said, “Regardless of the weather outside, the Marriott has one temperature: cold.” That statement was completely accurate.

And to continue the weather theme… can we discuss humidity, people? Who thought this was a good idea? It was never as hot here as it was at home, but the humidity was more than 50%. I had a bad few moments on Saturday when I went for a walk. I got into a mixed residential/commercial neighborhood and it was interesting so I walked farther than I realized. Then I was in a hurry to get back. Halfway up the hill to the hotel, I had to stop and drink some water, and I was pretty shaky when I got back to my room in the arctic zone.

Today was the final day. I am still in a state of euphoria. When I get home and settled, I’ll look over my notes and post something with more actual content. But for now, Terry and I are off to dinner in Braintree. In the humidity.

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The First Part of the Journey

We’re riding along in an older residential section of Quincey, Massachussetts, on our way to the Marriott. Ed, our Uber driver, is diligently following the directions from his GPS. We drive along a narrow street lined with various ethnics diners and cafes. Looks interesting. We can see the waterfront. I reflect how odd it is that the Marriott didn’t mention they were close to the waterfront. “Continue on Water Street. Make a slight right on Water Street.”

Ed makes a sound, the kind of sound people make when they think something’s not quite right.

“In 200 yards, turn right. Turn Right.” Turning right takes us onto the shipyard, where a large A-fame sign advertises tours of the USS Salem.

“No,” says Ed. “This is not right. Where is it taking me?”

1930s Art Deco
This will get your carry on luggage hand searched.

Terry, a friend, writer and fellow Fantasy Literature reviewer, and I flew out of SFO on Alaska Airlines that morning. We had to walk a gauntlet with a chemical-sniffing dog, a handsome black lab wearing a vest with the words Do Not Pet on each side. I made it through that just fine, as I expected. No, it was my carry on that made the TSA go, “Hmmm…” and pull it off the line for a hand search. The professional and patient TSA lady with the cornrowed hair said, in an only slightly weary voice, “Do you have a letter opener in here?”

“No, I don’t.” I mean, geez, I’m not that stupid.

“Well, what you have looks like a knife.” She turned the screen so I could see the X-ray. Sure enough, there was a pointy-ended thing that looked filagreed, right there, somewhere, in the luggage. I had no idea what it was. “Is it the Kind bars?” I said, thinking that the cellophane might be creating the filagree effect. (Okay, so maybe I am that stupid.)

It wasn’t the Kind bars, it wasn’t the six sets of electrical cords and connectors, it wasn’t the trio of pens banded together. I finally told her, “Open anything you have to,” and when she reached for my little fuchsia-colored jewelry roll she found my mother’s clasp, which I had forgotten was in there since I had worn it once in the last year, on New Year’s Eve.

My mother’s beautiful clip will ride in my checked luggage on the trip home.

“I’m not listening to you anymore,” Ed says the GPS. He calls the hotel, and askes if they were near the T station. When the desk person tells him yes, he drives us to the hotel in five minutes.

Ed came here from Haiti. He has two children, and a full-time other job. He picks up a few Uber drives in a week to supplement his income. At about 6:40 pm Boston time, we were his last drive of the day. And we were his only drive of the day.

We flew first class in a plane that was a former Virgin Airlines plane. (An airbus, not a Boeing Max, of course.) First class had fuchsia-pink mood lighting and the shades were down the entire trip. This created a surreal sensation for me, but Terry pointed out that every single person in first class (except me, pointy-ended-fine-jewelry-wielding dinosaur that I am) was watching/reading from a screen. It was kind of like being in a high-end, super-quiet cocktail lounge at 35,000 feet.

The Boston Marriott, in Quincey, is on a hill on a street named Marriott Drive. The hill may have been artificially constructed for the hotel, I don’ t know.

On second thought, that's not an artificial hill.
On second thought, that’s not an artificial hill. Is it the granite Quincey was once famous for?

My room is a Marriott room. It’s comfortable and nicely laid out. I worry sometimes that I’m becoming an accidental tourist; all airports look much the same, all hotel interiors look similar, at least. On the other hand, I’m here for a convention. So that’s all right then.

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4:10 AM

(I wrote this in June, and forgot to post it.)

At 4:10 am it’s still dark. It’s quiet, the quietest it gets during the entire day. All the neighborhood dogs are asleep. The house no longer creaks and pops as it makes the transition from a ninety-degree day to a forty-seven degree night. If people are driving, they are doing it far from this neighborhood. Even the male mockingbird guarding his nest has not started up his song yet. There are no televisions running, no washers or dryers, no lawn mowers. The neighbor’s children are sleeping and their basketball lies quiet underneath its basket stand. Even, at last, the wind has fallen still.

I shift position and hear the sheets rub against my leg. If I lie with one ear against the pillow, I can hear my own heartbeat. The house is silent, but the bed frame rubs against the headboard with a quiet groan.

It’s dark and cool. I lie awake, but not for long. I know when I wake again the room will be filled with pre-sunrise light, and the crows will be calling.

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ReaderCon 2019!

I will be on my way tomorrow to Quincey, Massachusetts for the annual book-based speculative fiction convention ReaderCon. I’ve never been before, but I’m going with Terry Weyna, who has attended a few times.

The program is jammed with wonderful presentations (many of which conflict with other wonderful presentations) and it’s going to be a busy four days. I can hardly wait!

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Aluminum Leaves: Where You Can Get It

Here are The Deets, or at least the ones I have:

Aluminum Leaves, a Broken Cities Novella, will be available from Falstaff Books on August 1, 2019.

It will be for sale on Amazon, both hard-copy and electronic. Since it is distributed by Ingram, your local bookstore can order it for you. Right now pre-order isn’t available.

If you want to review it, I have 3 electronic ARCS available. Let me know!

I plan for cover reveal around Wednesday, July 17. You’ll be able to see the cover here, on my Facebook page and on the Fantasy Literature Facebook Page. I’ll provide a link in my weekly World-wide Wednesday column too.

I am planning to have some copies for sale at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference bookstore, and if that doesn’t work out I may return to the time-honored tradition of selling books out of the trunk of my car.

There will be a release party! I don’t know when yet, but right now Second Chances Used Books is the planned venue. It will be simple (but fun! I hope). You will be able to buy a copy of the book at the party.

As I know more, you’ll know more!

Just for the twirl.

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Low-Effort Greek Chicken Salad

Most of this recipe came from an episode of The Kitchen on the Food Network. I made a few changes to make it easier. It’s a good meal for two, can scale for 4 probably, (or you can use these amounts as a side salad for four with some other entree).

This salad is pretty high in sodium and with the dressing it’s not “skinny.”

The main point is that there’s little cooking at the time of prep, so if it’s a hot summer day you don’t contribute to the swelter. There is some cooking required though. Learn from my error; if convenient, cook the chicken the day before, or grill it outside.

This served two people generously.


  • 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 heads or one bag baby romaine lettuce
  • Baby kale or spinach (optional)
  • 3/4 pound Feta cheese
  • Creamy Herbed Greek Salad Dressing (I used a brand called Tobey’s)
  • Pitted Kalamata olives
  • Garbanzo Beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Shallots or red onions

The lady on the The Kitchen used baby kale as the leafy base. I like but don’t love raw kale, and Spouse tolerates but does not like it, so that wasn’t a good choice for us. Certainly you can throw in a few leaves if you want. I had some left over Russian kale which I shredded and added to the lettuce, It added texture and minerals and wasn’t overwhelming.

Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper. Put it in a large ziplock bag. Add 1/4 cup of the dressing . Seal the bag and squish around the dressing until the chicken is completely covered. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

I didn’t grill the chicken outside, so I let excess dressing drip off, then browned it in a cast iron pan with one TBSP of sunflower oil, medium high heat for five minutes on a side, then finished it in the over at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

If it’s a really hot day, chill the chicken. It would also be fine to serve slightly warm over the salad, your choice.

Cut the chicken into about 3/4-inch cubes.

Cut the Feta into about 3/4 inch cubes. You don’t have to use all of it, do it to your personal taste.

Drain the garbanzos and the olives if necessary.

Chop the romaine or open the bag and dump the lettuce into a large bowl. Based on your taste and preference, layer the following; thinly sliced red onion/shallot; cuumbers, kalamata olives, cheese cubes, and chicken. I didn’t toss this; when I got out the salad tongs and served it into smaller bowls the ingredients shifted on their own.

By the way, another area to learn from my error; I set aside some of the dressing and thinned it with red wine vinegar and olive oil. I was afraid it would be too strongly flavored and too goopy on the salad itself. It was not and the thinned dressing was a waste of effort, although not a waste of food since I had some on some cucumber slices the next day and it was good.

This is not a cheap salad to make. Kalamata olives are expensive; so is Feta and both might be subject to tariffs in the near future. I was a little surprised at the price of a jar of salad dressing. I’d recommend as an alternative, looking in a book like Michele Anna Jordan’s Vinaigrettes for one you can make yourself. (The one on page 120 looks pretty good.) I was following the TV show and going for minimum work, but I may try her dressing next time.

We had Revolution Bakery’s Einkorn bread with our salad, and it was good.


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Aluminum Leaves has a Release Date!

Falstaff Books will release Aluminum Leaves on August 1, 2019!

Before then, I will get page-proofs. This will the closest to what the book will really look like when it comes into the world! (I made that sound like an ultrasound, and that’s kinda how I feel.)

They will have e-ARCS available. I already had one FanLit reviewer say they’ll take one, so that’s exciting… and nerve-wracking.

Falstaff recommends I do a “cover reveal” about two weeks before the book is released. That’ll be here, on Facebook, on Twitter and maybe on the FanLit facebook page if Kat will let me… and I might include an item in my weekly column.

I assume (but haven’t confirmed) that the story will be available on Amazon, as well as on Falstaff’s website. The line it’s part of is Broken Cities, which, I’m told, will have its one page here pretty soon.

As I know more, you’ll know more!

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Cover Artist Chosen

The publisher of the fantasy anthology The Wand That Rocks the Cradle has chosen a cover artist. Her name is Melody Knighton.

I confused myself. When I did a search, I found another Knighton, Monica Knighton, who is also an illustrator, also mostly dealing with the fantastical. I was sort of surprised until I realized She Was Not the Artist I Was Looking For.

I like Melody Knighton’s color palettes very much. Her figures are quite youthful, which certainly leans toward a “family” vibe, and they are definitely “family friendly,” which most (but not all) of the stories in the book are. (I’m wondering if reviewers of the book are going to comment, actually — while there’s no foul language, two of the stories are very, very dark).

Anyway, there’s her work. It may not be perfectly to my taste, but it’s lively and inviting, which is what we want, right?

If time and circumstances permit, I’ll do a “cover reveal,” so watch this space!

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Living Room to Library; the Final Phase

Please notice that I did not title this “Project Complete.”

Scandinavian Designs delivered a chair in the correct color and a functioning lamp this morning.

The chair is very comfortable for me. Spouse tried it and thought it was good, except the seat pan inclines down in the back in a way he didn’t love. The back support is great.

The inkwell belonged to my maternal grandfather, and I’m happy to finally have a place for it where it gets seen and has some respect.

There is one more new-to-me addition to the room, the desk lamp I bought at an antique shop in Benicia. No, it doesn’t match the color scheme, and no, I don’t care, and yes, I like it very much.

What’s left? There is an artwork to be hung that I need Spouse’s help with. And there are two old wooden chairs to either be rearranged or replaced. I haven’t decided which yet.

The charging station is unsightly. Honestly, I don’t know why I care — how attractive a power strip, ever?– but I do. The search continues for a box long enough to store a power strip and high enough to prove room and ventilation. Another bit that will require Spouse’s help, I think.

And… there are still books!

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