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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Writing Update

A few small things.

I finished the less-than-rough draft of Knight of Cups. Is it a zero draft? A first draft? Not quite? Maybe it’s a zero-point-five draft. I’d throw confetti if I had some.

Good news and bad news about the thing: good news, I have the whole shape of the story and I think it doesn’t suck; bad news, the length. It’s “that awkward stage,” 70K words. Too long for a novella by about ten thousand words… and a very very short novel. I’m not sure what to do about that right now. I know I’m wordy but I don’t see chopping 10K words out of it without doing violence to the story. I certainly could spend some time on the backstory between Gabe and Philippe, my main characters… but the pacing of the story seems about right now and I’m not sure where that would go.

My next task is to find a first reader willing to take a look at the whole thing.

In other writing-related news:

  • The Wand that Rocks the Cradle is due out in October. “Bellwethers Know Best” will appear in it. They’re working on the cover right now.
  • I sent off 2500 words to the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference Contest, in the Speculative Fiction category.
  • My Falstaff editor let me know that Aluminum Leaves should be out in late fall, in time to debut at ConFusion in Michigan, in January. Yes, I think I’ll be going to Michigan in January. Please send thoughts and prayers.
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If You Like Fantasy, or Love Language, You Should Read The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Don’t take my word for it. Read Jana’s review.

I’ll be adding my thoughts to hers in the next few days, but I wanted to leave a note about the book here because it is so beguiling and good.

The first thing of Leckie’s that I read was Ancillary Justice. I was caught up in the strange mindset of the unusual main character, intrigued by the world she inhabited, and challenged by the pronouns Leckie used. Leckie gave us an empire; the imperial language was gendered, with only one gender specified, the female one. If you don’t understand how this could work, remember back to when people in school told you that in English, words like “he,” or “man” or “mankind” were considered inclusive of women and were in effect gender neutral. Now, imagine a language where words like “she” or “daughter” encompassed both genders. Not confusing at all, right? Proves conclusively that the whole “‘he’ is gender-neutral” thing is true, right? Think again.

The Raven Tower does not have a conquering empire imposing its language on the colonized, but language, at least in the minds of the gods — and there are gods — can change reality, and gods speak with caution, and convolutions.

And that’s only part of the story. The two storylines, one in first person, one in second person, one covering millennia, one covering weeks, converge in an ending that is satisfying, startling and perfectly developed over the course of the book.

The biggest draw, of course, is not necessarily the elliptical language of the gods or the patient, careful plotting of the narrator, but the characters, and the intriguing nation– and world — Leckie creates.

Check out Jana’s review, and then go check out the book.

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NOS4A2: The TV Adaptation Commits the Cardinal Sin of Horror

Horror may scare you; it may disgust you. It may create a sense of creeping dread. There are many kinds of horror; psychological horror, morbid horror, splatter horror, post-apocalyptic horror, body horror (which is different from splatter). Whatever type of horror a book, a film or a TV show is, it mustn’t be boring. AMC’s adaptation of NOS4A2, by Joe Hill, is boring. I binge-watched it, and I’m tempted to whine and say that I wish I could get those ten hours back.

I hadn’t read the book, although I bought a copy and started it earlier this week. It’s already about fifty times less boring than the first season of NOS4A2.

Part of the problem is in that sentence –“first season.” Not having read or even looked closely at the book, I didn’t know it was 700 pages long. The joke’s on me. There is no way this story could be encapsulated in 10 episodes. Probably, it needs at least 3 seasons, and more likely 5. And I won’t be there for them.

I’ll say this; production values are good. The 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith which is the villain’s car (or maybe something more) is thing of beauty. Ashleigh Cummings, who plays Vic McQueen (short for Victoria), is an excellent young actor who is doing the best she can to keep this turgid drama afloat. Jakhara Smith who plays the psychic medium Maggie also does a fine job. Zachary Quinto plays Charlie Manx, the villain and CEO of Christmasland, a place where children who are stolen from their parents are spirited off to.

Like Charlie Manx, Vic is a “strong creative,” able to part the membrane between the “real world and the world of thought,” and to create “inscapes,” other realities. Christmasland is an inscape. Vic’s is an old covered bridge that was long ago torn down in “the real world;” the bridge also helps her find lost things. A strong creative needs a way to part the veil between worlds. Maggie calls this “a knife.” Vic’s is a motorcycle. Manx’s is the Wraith — except there’s a strong sense that the Wraith is something more.

So, really, it seems like there’s a lot here that should be scary: kidnapped children trapped in the backseat of the Wraith, who slowly turn into vampires; mothers drugged, raped and killed, and eerie Christmas images. Charlie Manx, a parasitic child-stealer, always offers his child victims a candy cane.

Other than a plodding approach to the story-telling, there are a couple of obvious problems with the adaptation. The first is the interpretation of Manx. Manx in the book is creepily fake-jolly, as befits a Christmas-themed demon. Quinto, obviously following direction, pays Manx as a Zachary Quinto Villain. He’s stern, menacing and intense. It’s hard to see how this villain became so enamored of Christmas.

Secondly, it seems as if, to compress the story (which in the books covers decades, with Vic maturing from an eight-year-old to a mother in her mid-thirties), the showrunners opt for a Chosen One trope, or at least a Special Girl. When Vic first uses her “knife” to find something lost, the Wraith reacts. Manx pulls out a magical map and a section lights up. At that point, he begins to search for Vic. This changes a vital dynamic from the book. In the book, an angry, rebellious, teenage Vic gets on her bike and goes, specifically, “looking for trouble.” Her knife takes her to Manx.

Turning Vic into an object of Manx’s desire, to a Special Girl, removes her self-determination and, to use a hackneyed expression, her agency. It turns supernaturally frightening Manx into a proficient sexual harasser and little more.

I was deeply disappointed in Manx’s human minion, the Gasmask Man, who is intellectually disabled. Played with virtuosity by Olafur Darri Olafsson, the character is a negative stereotype. To my surprise, the character in the book is a negative stereotype too. Part of the problem is that the show insists on making Gasmask Man a school custodian at Vic’s school, and they are friends. But he’s also a rapist and serial murderer, so the friendship is nasty — not scary, just nasty.

Those are the big problems. Smaller problems include the dismal pace and the constant argument between Vic’s troubled parents (it’s one argument over and over); the townie-versus-rich-kid-romance that goes nowhere, the art school application and desperately labored attempt to make it dramatic (everyone who thinks that Vic is going to graduate and go off to art school, raise your hand) and the overuse of symbols and lingering shots meant to convey Depth and Meaning. (I’m looking at you, pinwheel flowers in Gasmask Man’s front yard.)

Christmasland had the opportunity to be something crazy-wild, beautiful and frightening. Instead, it’s a tawdry amusement park. In a way, it’s the best example of what’s wrong here.

I’ll keep reading Joe Hill’s 700-page book because the troubled, damaged Vic is a compelling character; Manx of the book is a jovial, conniving horror and the Wraith is a powerful demon in its own right. Now this is horror.

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Almost Nearly Pretty Close to Done

Nope, not a work of fiction: the living-room-to-library process.

Today I sat in the converted room with my baby laptop, writing, pausing now and then to glance up at the bookshelves, listening to KDFC on an old-fashioned boombox. I could have listened through the laptop (I’ve done it before) but I liked the boombox better.

On the other side of the room, the east-facing window-wall, are two single book cases that used to hold only mass market paperbacks. One now holds the books I have designated as Giveaway books for Fantasy Literature, and my To Be Read (TBR) pile. (This is optimistic and misleading, since I’m not including the pile by the chair, the two books in my car, and the stack by the bed, all of which are To Be Read.)

I don’t know what I’m going to do with the other case yet.

It doesn’t look like very many books, but admittedly this is after a several-week process of winnowing (and doesn’t include the books still on the other two cases). There is a rudimentary charging station at the lower left, which still looks unsightly. I haven’t quite figured out how to address that yet, but I will.

I’m surprised that of the fiction I’ve decided to keep so far, I only have about 200 books. That comprises about 96 authors. To my pleasant surprise, 55 of those authors are women (57%). I suspect that if I counted books by men versus books by women, that percentage would flip, though — more than flip. I still think I read more novels and short fiction by men than by women.

Not pictured is the section with poetry, where the Romantics are (lamentably) over-represented; and the measly little section containing My Works. I hope that grows with time.

I now await the infamous Comfy Chair, which should be delivered o June 11. I am debating getting two comfy chairs. It wouldn’t break the budget.

Updates will continue as needed.

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Living Room to Library; Phase Three

An update to the leisurely upgrade of our step-down living room into a library space. Phase Three has begun. The bookcases have arrived!

The four cases arrived on Saturday, May 25. The cabinet maker who made them said he was sure they’d be delivered by 1:30 pm that day. None of us was ready for the volume of holiday weekend traffic on Saturday, which oozed northward at the speed of sludge. I saw this firsthand as I drove down to Martinez to pick up a friend; NB 101 was a parking lot at 12:30, and there was no way a truck coming from San Francisco would be at our house by 1:30. Sure enough, when our friend and I got home at 4:30, Spouse informed us that the cases had beaten us by about half an hour.

The figurine, craft cart and rolls of paper have been relocated. I’d originally planned to put one of the new cases along the north wall but on reconsideration we’ve decided all four will go along this one. Spouse plans to cut out a rectangle from the bottom of the third from the left, so that the heat register is not blocked.

The horizontal piece across the top, which Spouse calls a cleat, is so that he can bolt the cases without risking splintering the backs.

Bookcases aren’t bookcases without shelves.

Anyone who has assembled bookcases probably recognizes these. I don’t know what the name for them is (brackets, maybe?) but they hold up the shelves.

Four of these go into the drilled holes along the walls (at the same height) to hold the shelf.

Arranging the various heights of the shelves will be my job. Shelving the books will also be my job. Figuring out where the lamps go, and making the final decisions on the Chair Question, are my jobs too.

Speaking of books, the two on the coffee table, left to right, are A Fire Story, by Brian Fies, and Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow, and it is an advanced reader copy. You can preorder it here.

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