Friday, September 30, 2011

Ending on a High Note and a Somber Note – Goodbye to/from Urban Psychopomp

The final day of Urban Psychopomp has arrived, and I will today commit the modern cardinal sin of shutting down the most long-running and most followed of the blogs where I regularly post. What can I say? Some things are more important than platform-building, like actually writing and spending time with people we love.

I’ll start off by saying a great big thank you to the bloggers who played with me yesterday during the I AM LEGEND Blogfest. I loved all the posts. I will not keep you in suspense, my fellows. Caitlin Nicoll of Logically has won the favor of the Random Number Generator Gods and her choice between Donald Maass’s The Fire in Fiction or a hardcover edition of George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons.

As mentioned in the title of this post, Urban Psychopomp is going out on a nice little high note, having recently received the 7x7 Blog award from L.G. Smith at Bards and Prophets.

It was a perfect time to receive this award, as I was planning on discussing my favorite posts anyway. The blog award has several categories of posts it asks about:

Most Beautiful: Hmm, I’m not sure I’ve ever done a beautiful post. Who am I, Hektor Karl? :) In this case, I think I’ll interpret beautiful as elegantly simple. For that, I’ll go with Dividing the Story – An Outlining Tool.

Most Helpful: Crap, another hard one. I don’t have time to take a survey, so I’m going to go with a short series of posts that I think discuss something that confounds a fair number of writers, story structure: Inciting Incident, The First Plot Point, The First Pitch Point, The Mid-Point Twist, The Second Plot Point, The Final Confrontation, and Aftermath.

Most Popular: This one always surprises me, because it’s not one of the most commented on. In the course of a year I got hundreds of pageviews on Overplayed Urban Fantasy Cliché #1 – Supernatural Cops and Private Detective. If I go by comment activity instead, that would be an A-to-Z Challenge post, U is for Utopia.

Most Controversial: Probably a tie between another of my A-to-Z Challenge posts, C is for Cultural Appropriation and that whole story structure series. Structure is still a four-letter word for many a writer.

Most Successful: Wow, how to judge some of these? I think Voice in Description turned a little light on for a few people, so I’ll go with that one.

Most Underrated: Ah, this one is easy. Any post I’ve ever done on backstory, specifically Putting Backstory in its Place, and The Purpose of Backstory.

Most Prideworthy: Heehee. Punctuation Love.

Now I need to pass the award to seven deserving bloggy friends. Well, I have more than seven fellows who fit that description, but I know some of them don’t like to receive awards or have other reasons they wouldn’t want me to tag them. Decisions, decisions.

Coral Moore at Chaos & Insanity
Matt Larkin at Incandescent Phoenix
Jennifer Burke at Jen’s Bookshelf
Steph Sinkhorn at maybe genius
Miss Cole at Miss Cole Seeks Publisher
Tricia Conway at TL Conway writes here
S.B. Stewart-Laing at Writing the Other

That done, Urban Psychopomp is also ending on a note of sadness. Part of it is simply the natural sadness of anything that is ending. Part of it is due to the fact that I recently lost a close friend unexpectedly. He was too young to go, too important to me, too beloved of too many people. His passing has caused many people, myself included, to reassess many things about out lives.

One of things I feel I need to change is the number of activities I let distract me from writing, like blogging three times a week, among other kinds of social networking and platform-building. For me, the platform must be secondary to the actual writing. I know so many of us say it is, but so few of us actually act on that assertion.

I had, of course, already made the decision to shutter Urban Psychopomp by the time my friend passed away, but the event served to convince me I’ve been directing my energies away from their most appropriate use.

What does that mean in concrete terms? It means this will be my last post on Urban Psychopomp, though the site will remain up for those who might find the posts helpful.

It means I’ll be trying to decide what I want to do with Unsafe Haven, my blog about my writing, aimed at readers. I’m not entirely convinced one way or the other that I need to continue blogging there once a week. No decision yet on that one.

It means I will have to be content with visiting you, my fellows, on your blogs. It is quite likely, however, that I will actively avoid being online everyday. I might have to catch up on all your posts on the weekends or on one or two weekend evenings. I will also continue to blog on Wednesdays on Wicked & Tricksy.

It means I’ll be focusing a lot more of my time for the next couple of years on writing—not blogging or tweeting or networking or marketing or platform-building. Writing.

Once made, the decision feels right.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Farewell to Legends

Today is the I AM LEGEND Blogfest celebrating 1 year of posts on Urban Psychopomp. When I came up with the blogfest concept, I wanted to invite people to talk about what was EPIC LEGEND about their WIP or their favorite book. Is it a hero beyond compare? A creature like no other? Earth-shattering events?

My thanks to all those who signed up, all of whom are eligible to win either a copy of Donald Maass’s The Fire in Fiction or George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons. Unfortunately, something has made the linky list of blogfest participants DISAPPEAR!!! (Blogger, I'm looking at you.) If you are taking part, please leave a comment here so I will be sure to check out your post and enter you in the contest. I will announce the winner here tomorrow when I make the farewell post for Urban Psychopomp. Those of you who may be interested in my writing will still be able to find me at Unsafe Haven.

So, to the blogfest (linky glitch de damned)!

What’s my WIP, and what is LEGEND about it?

My current project, not including the short story going through the editing process right now, is The Norn Convergence. My heroine, Colbie Moss, is a lesser norn, the agent of a Greater Norn whose direct touch would shatter the world of men. I’m doing my best to make Colbie an epic heroine. Here’s what I like best about her.

Epic Flaws
As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Colbie is a prisoner of her past, fitting for a lesser norn associated with Urd, the Norse Fate who represents the past.

For Colbie, past hurts come with a the deep-seated sense of insecurity of knowing that everything is not necessarily going to be all right. She can be controlling, domineering, stubborn to a foolhardy extent, and habitually looks for signs that people close to her will let her down in the end. Her tendency to jump the gun and assume she has to take care of everything herself will result in alienation among those who love her and incur huge costs to her over the course of the novel.

Sometimes, I’m going to let her make readers wince, make them wish she hadn’t said or done something they just know is going to come back to bite her.

Epic Lack of Invulnerability
The original Norns, the three Fates of Norse Mythology, are so powerful that even the gods fear them. They are most likely born of the giants who have been at war with the Norse gods throughout history, but they do not ally themselves with either side. If they have a side, I’d say it is the side of man, the mortals who so often die in the crossfire.

Lesser norns are drawn from the dísir, the spirits of deceased women descended from certain supernatural Norse beings. Colbie is such a woman, still in possession of her body, Dead with a capital D. She’s not quite the sort of undead being that most people might expect, though.

The upside of being a dís would include no more aging (freezing her at 30-years-old), the ability to get by with limited sleep, the ability to sense when someone has sidestepped their fate, heightened physical senses when in proximity to the Greater Norn she serves, some degree of talent for rune magic, and the ability to draw on or outright drink the life energy of someone they make physical contact with, which comes with the ability to see that person’s past, present, or future, depending on the Greater Norn associated with the Lesser.

The downside, for Colbie anyway, would be constant physical pain from a botched reanimation ritual, the need to induce regular endorphin rushes to cope with neurological and muscular damage, the need to remember to make her heart beat often enough to maintain the flush of living flesh, and the fact that her offensive abilities can only be used in extremely close contact. Specific to Colbie is the fact that she can’t aim worth a crap and couldn’t hit a bullet with the side of a barn, even if her undeath depended on it.

So basically, Colbie’s not the typical Angry Chick in Leather tearing through town kicking butt and taking names. She has to rely on quick thinking and deception much more than supernatural abilities when danger presents itself.

In Other Words
I think my heroine is EPIC because…well…she’s not all that legendary, not all-powerful, not especially easy to deal with sometimes, but she’s still going to have to try to save the world. If she manages to do it, that will make her LEGEND.

I’ll wrap up by mentioning that, as well as checking out the other blogs participating in the I AM LEGEND Blogfest, I’ll be posting on Unsafe Haven a little later today as part of the Superheroes of Science Blogfest hosted by Claudie A. My post will be on my favorite fictional scientist, Dr. Frankenstein (a la Kenneth Branagh).

In the meantime, I’m going to spend a couple of minutes honoring another kind of legend. Some of you who know me in real life will appreciate this, I know. It's a song by Loreena McKennitt, a favorite of Chris Greenwood, whose open heart was legendary among his friends. Until we meet again, Brother Chris.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Interview with Historical Fantasy Author S.B. Stewart-Laing

Today Urban Psychopomp is featuring an author interview with S.B. Stewart-Laing. S.B. and co-author Michael J. Chernicoff recently released an historical fantasy titled Forgotten Gods:

Winter, 1745. Scotland is losing a war for independence. Robert Maxwell and his fellow soldiers beg for supernatural aid from the daione sìdhe, magical inhabitants of Scotland exiled in ancient times to a parallel plane of existence. The sìdhe ask to negotiate with the Scottish leaders, who rashly enter into a magical contract promising the sìdhe a permanent return to Britain in exchange for their help in the war.

Access to sìdhe soldiers and magical weapons gives the Scots a temporary advantage, but their agreement lacks stipulations to prevent lone sìdhe creatures from hunting humans, stealing children, or riddling the countryside with hidden portals that can whisk passers-by into parallel dimensions. Worse, the sìdhe leaders seem unable to stop the chaos.

The Scottish leadership work to understand the sidhe and find a way to coexist. But they find sìdhe are not as disorganized as they appear, and harbor a sinister goal: to end the war on their own terms and secure their claim on Britain, no matter what the cost to their human allies.

Forgotten Gods is available at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

U.P.: Could you give us a little historical background on the events that lead up to this story? What's going on in Scotland in the early 1740's? Who are the key historical figures who play a role on the world's stage during these events?

S.B.: In 1688, William of Orange conspired with a number of English lords to take over the English throne from James VII, who was forced to flee to the continent with his wife and infant son (the future James VIII). Contrary to many portrayals, James VII had lived modestly, lowered taxes, freed prisoners of conscience, and tried to promote religious tolerance; by the time William’s reign was at an end, the country was deep in debt.

In 1707, the separate countries of Scotland and England were joined by treaty to form Great Britain. The process involved a huge degree of economic blackmail, and stripped Scottish people of any voice in their government (going from a Scottish parliament to one representative in Westminster (who was of course hand-picked by the English members of Parliament). The Scottish public was reasonably literate and knowledgeable about current events, so the outrage following the Union was loud and clear.

At that time, the big issues in Europe were religion—a Catholic versus Protestant power struggle—and colonization of the Americas. This had exploded as the War of Austrian Succession, which was ostensibly about a woman inheriting the Austrian crown but was basically an extension of the religious rivalry. By 1744, France saw that funding an uprising in Scotland, with the ultimate goal of restoring the Stuarts to power, would divert English forces from the European front, and possibly install a monarch who was sympathetic to France. However, they withdrew support at the last minute when the English began losing on the continent, leaving Scotland holding the bag.

U.P.: You've discussed on your blog how your frustration with the depiction of Scots in historical literature led you to begin this project. Could you go into that a little? Do you think you felt any additional pressure as a writer because you were also dealing with cultural issues that are important to you?

S.B.: As a friend of mine put it, ‘I want to read a kickass adventure story about Scots without being totally offended’. It’s very tiresome to pick up a book or watch a movie—even recent ones—and find the Scottish characters portrayed as either servile sidekicks to the main character, noble savages, villains or all of the above. That’s discounting how much of our history gets erased or altered to fit the idea that we were gently and altruistically ‘civilized’ by the English.

U.P.: You wrote Forgotten Gods with a co-author. How did the two of you divide the labor? What were your favorite and least favorite parts of writing with a co-author?

S.B.: We both worked together on the plotting and character backstories, and did extensive outlining and character sheets before actually writing. We wrote two characters each, with Michael tackling Alfred and Marian, and myself writing Ina and Robert. Once we had written a chapter, we’d give it to the other person to revise, so by the end everything was a mix of our writing.

U.P.: How does the novel's name, Forgotten Gods, relate to the story?

S.B.: The line was taken from a fictional sermon given by the (real) Rev. John Blair partway through the novel, when he is warning the public not to worship the daione sìdhe. The idea is that the sìdhe represent a heritage and way of life that has faded into collective memory.

U.P.: What was your favorite scene to write?

S.B.: The scene where Robert is captured by the English and ends up facing off with Alfred—the English character—was weirdly fun to write. Because there is a language barrier between the characters, we decided to write the scene in real time over Skype chat, with me typing Robert’s part in the broadest possible Scots, and Michael responding without asking for my meaning. By the time we were done, we were both laughing (even though it’s a fairly serious scene).

U.P.: Are you working on any more historical fantasy? What's in store for the future?

S.B.: Right now, Michael and I are writing a sequel to Forgotten Gods, which will follow two established characters and add two new ones (who were minor characters in the first book). It focuses a lot on scientific and medical ethics, so we got to delve into 18th century medicine. We’re also tentatively planning another book in that universe set in the Americas, which would feature a predominantly black and Native American cast of characters.

S.B. Stewart-Laing is a Scottish/Native American ecologist and writer of historical fantasy. S.B. likes distance running, punk rock, birdwatching, and penning rants about cultural appropriation in fiction at Writing the Other.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Figurative Language in Speculative Fiction

Happy Monday, my fellows.

Yeah, I didn't sound convincing to myself either when I put those two words together, but it is what it is. Let us take our merriment where we can find it.

Quick updates before the topic of the day.

My cover designer is working on the cover for "City of Dis", in the same style as "Dis". The comp I saw was awesome, I kid you not.

I'm hoping to get "City of Dis", sequel to "Dis", to my editor today (depending on her schedule), which means...dadadada!...I did finish the story over the weekend. Early feedback from my fearless guinea readers says "City of Dis" is better than "Dis". How could I not be happy with that? I still have hope for a release date prior to a review I have coming up on Monday, Sept. 26.

The drafting process for "City of Dis" was an illustration of how someone can be an extreme planner and still have a story develop in ways they hadn't intended. I outlined "City of Dis", of course, though I do outline short stories in less detail than novels. I knew what I wanted to have happen at each stage. However, in the process of filling in that framework, a lot more of Colbie's character and her relationship with men and with her estranged husband came out than I had intended. I'm really pleased.

Just goes to show, outlining doesn't have to hamper creativity or natural development. It can just be a guide rail that keeps a story from ending up rolling off the tracks in a fireball of fail.

Which, in a very roundabout way, brings me to today's topic, the use of figurative language in science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc. For instance...

I froze in place.
His expression turned to stone.
He was tearing out my soul.

If we saw any of those lines in a literary or chick lit novel, we'd feel comfortable that the POV character was speaking figuratively. But in a genre where faster-than-light travel, interspecies procreation, energy manipulation, vampirism, mythological creatures, ghosts, superheroes, and invisible mutants in ponchos (virtual cookies for getting that reference) are the norm, figurative language can leave a reader wondering...and not in a good way.

However, the use of figurative language, of metaphor and simile, etc., is such an evocative tool, I doubt any speculative fiction writer would ever want to give it up entirely. So what's a writer to do?

First, I think we need to be close readers of our own work, aware of what we are doing in every sentence, either while we are writing or during the revision process. We need to pay attention to the structure and variation of sentences, to unnecessary wordiness, to unintentional repetition, and to how much is or is not obvious to a reader who is seeing our words for the first time and without the benefit of knowing what's going to happen five pages later.

There are questions most modern readers are comfortable with and those that leave them just plain confused. A reader might be comfortable wondering about the intensity of a character's reaction to an event, so long as the reaction is basically understandable. In other words, the reader understands what about the situation would make the character angry/sad/happy but doesn't quite understand yet why the character is that angry/sad/happy.

Give a reader something they can't relate to at all or outright confuse them, and we diminish their trust in us as the author. They begin to wonder if we know where the story is going.

That reaction is bad enough, but it's another thing to thoughtlessly mislead a reader, even accidentally. When they discover half a page (or more) later that our figurative language was literal (or vice versa), it not only jars the reader's understanding of what's been going on, it runs the risk of throwing them so far out of the story that they won't want to come back. Sometimes they might even get angry at the writer for not being clearer, more in control of...well...their language.

So right, be aware. What else? Be clear about what's figurative and what isn't. Sometimes it just a matter of being certain the distinction is immediately clear from context. Sometimes that's as easy as reworking a sentence. For instance...

I stopped when I saw him, my every muscle tensed, frozen.
His expression grew so hard, so cold, that handsome patrician face could have been carved from stone.
I couldn't have felt more empty if he's torn out my very soul.

But what if we're not 'speaking' figuratively? What if we're describing 'literal' fantastic events? For that, the character reaction can go a long way. Maybe an onlooker or the POV character is amazed when the extraordinary event occurs. Or maybe it's not that uncommon, and the POV character just has that moment of thinking, this never happens to humans.

Whatever we choose to do about making this differentiation, it's really only important that we do make it clear what's what and what isn't. If the reader were really there, in our setting with our characters, they'd be able to see firsthand what's literal and what's figurative. But they rely on us, on the writers, to be their senses, to tell them what is real and what isn't.

There are good reasons for playing against reader expectation in a scene, absolutely. But that's not the same thing as withholding information that reader would know if they were standing in the room. That's an important distinction.

That's it! Hopefully I'll see some of you next week for my I AM LEGEND blogfest and the final curtain call of Urban Psychopomp. The lovely L.G. Smith of Bards and Prophets passed me the perfect blog award for the blog's last day. Should be fun. I'm working on something special for a week from today, but I won't share until I know for sure my target is willing. (Just thought I'd wet your appetites there, my pretties.)

Have a good week, my fellows.

Edit: Apologies for the typos. I got going so fast over the weekend while trying to finish "City of Dis" that spelling and proofreading became an unfortunate casualties.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Establishing a Character’s Unique Perspective

I’ve mentioned before that no two characters will see the same item or person or situation in exactly the same way.

A professional mercenary walking down the street might not be able to help himself from mentally picking out the best places to take cover if he needed to, people who look suspicious, the best vantage point to survey an area. An older woman who is just getting back on her feet after hurting her hip might walk down that same street looking for uneven pavement she could trip on and benches in case she needs to rest.

He might see a bright commercial street full of carefree people he can’t relate to, bright colors and smells that confuse and assault his senses, an open building pattern that makes him feel exposed. She might instead see swells of young hipsters with no time for older people, shops that cater only to edgy teen and young adult tastes, a world that is done with her.

I wanted to go a little more in-depth with this idea with today’s post.

It can be hard to remember, especially when using a third person POV, that descriptions and impressions still have to come from the POV character’s perspective, in terminology that character would understand and use, tied to concepts familiar to that character.

For instance, if your POV character is a young child standing in front of a house, including details and history about Georgian architecture in the description of the house would constitute a POV violation (unless we have an awfully good explanation for how and why a child would be familiar with a style of architecture). To bring forward that child’s voice in the description, we need to take into consideration what he is studying in school, maybe what his hobbies are, what other buildings he has seen in this style and what those buildings symbolize to him.

Maybe the house reminds him of the one his mother’s parents have in England, with the huge windows and heavy drapes his grandmother forbade him to touch with his dirty little boy hands. Maybe the house has the same chimneys on either side that his grandparents’ house has, reminding him of a monster’s horns. Little details like this are going to establish what the character expects to happen to him in that house, based on his association with a previous experience.

Sometimes, the way a character chooses to describe something comes from their education or upbringing or what they do for a living. An example would be the heroine for the urban fantasy short stories I’ve been doing. Colbie is an assistant curator at an art museum. She recognizes art and architectural styles and a variety of famous and semi-famous works of art. It would be one thing to have Colbie look up into the overcast sky an hour before sunrise and see gray clouds mixed with the darkness. That sounds nice enough. Instead, she sees a sky that is “a Van Gogh hallucination of darkness swirled with pre-dawn cloud cover”. Later, as she’s entering a dangerous place, she can’t help thinking of it as hell on earth, “Bosch-style”.

When our characters are coming to a place for the first time, meeting someone new, trying to describe the precise color of something, do the details do everything they could and should be doing?

Do they bring the image to life?

Do they highlight the character’s impression of or feelings about the thing or place or person he’s describing?

And finally, do they do so in terms that have particular context for the character?

I’ll close by reminding you, my fellows, that we’re only a little more than a couple of weeks from my blog anniversary and the I AM LEGEND blogfest on September 29th. It will be the last big hurrah for Urban Psychopomp. I’d love it if you’d help UP go out with a bang.

EDIT: Ack! I forgot to mention I'm playing MadLibs at Coral Moore's fun blog, Chaos and Insanity. Come see what A Tale of Two Cities looks like once I've gotten my hands on it!

Edit again: sorry for the multiple reposts. Blogger doesn't like my formatting, not enough lines between paragraphs! &%&$^

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Changing Up Our Writing Process

Morning, my fellows. I’m posting a day late due to the holiday and because I’ve been swamped with writing I need to get done. Aside from trying to finish “City of Dis”, follow-up to “Dis”, and get back to outlining The Norn Convergence, I’m talking to an editor about a couple of projects. Keep an eye on Unsafe Haven for updates on what comes of those discussions.

Today I want to talk about how easily we writers fall into routines in our writing process, even when a part of that routine doesn’t really work for us.

For instance, most if not all of us have heard the advice from One Very Famous Writer (or another) that we must write every day, even if it’s only 500-1,000 words. I think that sounds like really good advice. However, I have struggled for most of the last thirty years to actually do it, and I’ve failed miserably the majority of the time.

It wasn’t until I heard a writer I admire very much--China Mieville--joke about the amount of guilt Stephen King instilled in generations of writers with that advice that I realized this was a piece of process advice that might not work for everyone. Mieville himself admits he doesn’t write every day and is much more likely instead to unplug the phone and isolate himself for seven or ten days during which he writes very intensely for hours on end. I also recently learned that Neil Gaiman, another of my favorite authors, also tends to borrow someone’s holiday home so he can get away from everything to work uninterrupted on a project for a couple weeks at a time.

Over the last few days I have asked myself if I should try this, to the extent it is possible for a person with a standard 9-to-5 job and/or other household and family responsibilities. With the write-every-day method, I have struggled to complete my projects, even my short stories. In contrast, when I was attending Viable Paradise, I drafted and edited an assigned short story in about a day and a half of intense effort. Yet it still never occurred to me that the classic advice to write every day might not be the most effective way for me to write.

So I ask you, my fellows, have you (without realizing, perhaps) borrowed someone else’s process as your own? My suggestion would be to look at each element of your process—how you choose among projects, how you develop your characters and plot, the many steps that go into the way you draft and revise a project—and ask yourself if there are aspects that don’t work as well as you’d like.

Are you a pantser who gets lost a third of the way into your project? Try an outline instead (there are many different levels of outlining). Are you an outliner who finds himself getting so bored by the middle of a project that you can hardly finish it? Try outlining a little less and improvising a little more.

Have you been dragging your butt out of bed at 4am to try to grab a couple of hours of writing time before the family gets up, only to find you sit there in front of the computer in a sleepy stupor? Perhaps it would be better for you to do the prep work for that night’s dinner or the cleanup from the previous night’s meal and use the extra after-dinner time (when the spouse goes off to watch a favorite tv show and the kids are doing homework or playing video games) to write in a more alert state of mind. Or perhaps the opposite routine would be better for you early birds, getting portions of the family breakfast together the night before so you can have a little bit of free writing time in the morning.

Do you struggle with maintaining the level of focus necessary to write for several hours at a time? Perhaps it would be better for you to write a half-hour at a time, a little before work, a little at lunch, fifteen minutes here, thirty minutes there. Or perhaps you’re the opposite and really need one or two uninterrupted hours. Take those little snippets of time and get as many chores and small tasks completed as possible to clear a couple of hours in your day for writing.

In the end, no matter how much we admire A Very Famous Writer, we don’t need to make the entirety of their writing process our own. As much as we might dislike Another Famous Author’s writing, we shouldn’t necessarily discount the possibility that some of their best practices might be perfect for us.

And over to you, my fellows. Have you really looked at each stage of your writing process? Can you think of an aspect that doesn’t work as well for you as other parts of the process? What other ways can you think of to approach that aspect of your work? Have you tried doing the exact opposite? Have you changed up your process and found something that really works well for you? How did you come to the decision to change, and how did you decide what and how to change?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Life Cycle of Urban Psychopomp

I’m posting off schedule today to do some blog-tending.

First, many thanks to Jen At Jen’s Bookshelf for giving me the Blog on Fire Award. I’ve received this award once before, but this time it comes with funny questions. I love funny questions! Let them begin!

1. Are you a rutabaga?

Uh, well. Hm. [pause while I consult online source for a description of a rutabaga—talk amongst yourselves]

Hmm, a root vegetable that is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. Oh, dear, that sounds unpleasant. Also known as a “Swede”. Oh, well, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it? I mean, Alexander Skarsgard is a Swede, and he’s pretty easy on the eyes.

That being said, I’ll have to go with no, I am not a rutabaga. Final answer.

2. Who is your current crush?

See the Swede from the previous response—the actor, not the root vegetable.

3. Upload a heartwarming picture that makes you smile.

Ah, small evil is so cute!

4. When was the last time you ate a vine-ripened tomato?

About a week ago. I live in the most fertile agricultural valley in the world. We grow about 25% of the country’s food, just about everything but bananas.

5. Name one habit that causes other people to plot your demise.

I’m backing away from the tendency as I get older, but I have a reputation for decimating the opposition in any debate or argument and especially turning their own words against them. If I dig in, it’s fairly impossible to win an argument with me. It makes people REALLY mad.

6. What’s the weirdest, most disgusting job you’ve ever had to do?

It’s a tie. One was being a certified nursing assistant before college in a convalescent home. It took quitting and being away from the job about a week before I stopped smelling nursing home everywhere I went—the industrial cleaners, the bathroom smell, the bodily fluids. The other was being a 911 police dispatcher. Nothing will erode your faith in humanity faster.

7. Where da muffin top at?

If it’s a carrot raisin muffin, in mah tummeh!

8. What author introduced you to your genre?

For urban fantasy, I can’t recall which came first, Neil Gaiman or Charles de Lint. For epic fantasy…wow, I would have been really young. Probably Ursula K. Le Guin, which is a little embarrassing as I don’t actually enjoy her work anymore. I know, I know, sacrilege.

9. Describe yourself using obscure Latin words.

Don’t mind if I do. In modestia pax. You can interpret this in a few ways. Literally, it means “in moderation, peace”. Sometimes it means I find peace in moderation, and sometimes it means I seek/yeild peace, but only in moderate amounts.

Now who else deserves this award? Well, lots of the bloggers I know, but so many of us frequent one another’s blogs, and you don’t really need an assist discovering how cool they are. I’m choosing someone I think some of you might not be familiar with, but in the past week and a half, she has had two posts that just blew me away with the helpful info. I pass this award to Sylvia Ney of Writing in Wonderland.

And now there is one other matter of blog-tending to, well, tend to.

It is at this time my intention that, the day after the anniversary blogfest and after I have announced the winner of the book prize, Urban Psychopomp will go dark. I’ll leave it up but will no longer be posting here. There will be changes, too, to the kind of posts I make on Wicked & Tricksy.

I’ve had unusual and brilliant adventures from the time I was twelve and decided to write my first novel. I’ve had no less than three professional novelists take me under their wing out of pure kindness. I’ve had PNH, Jim MacDonald, Steve Gould, and Laura Mixon say things to me about my writing that I will never forget (teaching me a great deal along the way). I’ve had a great agent to call my own and received incredibly generous feedback from Donald Maass and Lisa Rector. My first writing conferences were while I was still in high school. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the funding to go to everywhere from Chicago to Martha’s Vineyard for workshops, from Viable Paradise to the last High Tension Workshop taught by Donald Maass. I’ve collected short story credits and reader’s choice awards, been asked by editors to contribute to their magazines and anthologies, and known agents supportive and generous enough to offer to look at partials for a book I haven’t even written. I’ve had a LOT of good luck and advantage passed my way over this time. I’ve also been lucky enough to make quite a few mistakes, so I could learn from those as well.

I’ve spent the last year sharing quite a bit of what ended up in my writing pack with my fellows here. I think an awful lot of you have what you need. Most of you know how to get ahold of me should the occasion arise. And, of course, I’ll still be seeing most of you on your own blogs and at Wicked & Tricksy.

But it’s time, I think, for the psychopomp to go back into the Between.

It’s been a pleasure. And I am here for a few more weeks. :)