More good news! My short story “Nest,” which has been adapted as a radio play, will be one of the works featured in the 2021 season of St. Lou Fringe (Aug 13-22). More details to come!


Kick in the Pants

It’s official! My play “Kick in the Pants” will be produced by First Run Theatre for their Spectrum 2021 season. This is the first time one of my works has been produced on stage.

Perfomance dates are Sept 24-26 and Oct 1-3 and will be at Bethel Lutheran Church.

More details later!

New Series

I’m wrapping up draft #1 of the first book of my new series, Escaping Normal. This series will be non-fiction and will focus on the paranormal phenomenon people report experiencing. You can even submit your story to be featured in the books!

The cover of the first book is almost finished. Take a look at the current draft.

Got words?

Here’s my newest release: a Twi-English dictionary! Forming a word list of my own became a necessity shortly after I started studying Twi, because none of the dictionaries I had were very helpful. Twi words can change their initial letters (or even drop them) under certain circumstances, which is very confusing for a beginner. Now you can have my word list, too!

Got Stories?

I’m looking for some personal stories on UFO encounters, cryptid encounters, or other paranormal events. I’m especially interested in the Nevada Triangle (can’t find too much on that yet) but other stories also welcomed!

If you’re willing to share, let me know by emailing me.

Here is a link to a release form here so you can download it for yourself. I would love to feature you and your story in my upcoming works!

So colorful!

Lately, I have been learning a little bit about Ghanaian fabrics and what the designs they feature mean. Here are a few. Hope you find them as interesting as I do.

Gramophone Mpaawa shows the shape of a record or a CD (a CD is apaawa in Twi; mpaawa is the plural form). This pattern would be appropriate for a musician to wear!
The akyekyedeɛ akyi pattern represents the back of a turtle. The shell is a good symbol of protection.
This pattern is called bonsu, or whale. If you wore this pattern, you might want to communicate that you are someone who can’t be pushed around!
This pattern is called ɔdehyeɛ ɛnsu, royals don’t cry. It means that, while you might cry in private, in public you are able to put your personal feelings aside and take care of business.

For advice on how to pronounce Twi, one of the most widely spoken languages in Ghana, check out LearnAkan.com!

2021 Playlists

I’m still making videos for my YouTube channel. You could be featured in one if you want! Here are the playlists I have right now:

Peering at Passion: The newest playlist. I was wondering how I could help support small businesses during the Time of Pandemic. It’s difficult to start up a new business in the best of times, and these are not the best of times. If you have a business you’re trying to keep afloat (no MLMs, please, just YOUR small business), contact me and let’s boost the signal, even if only a tiny bit. We’ll get through this pandemic by sticking together and supporting each other whenever we can. So let’s do this!

Infernal Intercourse: Pastor Brian and I discuss theology and the TV show Lucifer. Sometimes, we get a little far afield and discuss topics like, Where did the tradition of hell come from? How did the character of Satan develop? What is queer theology? If you’d like to discuss either the television show and/or a certain theological topic, contact me and let’s see if we can get the three of us in a Zoom call to discuss.

Getting Nosy With It: This playlist is for the topics that interest me and/or my audience. Do you have a hobby you just adore? Have you traveled to some exotic place? Have you learned something really cool? If you have an interest in discussing almost any topic, this is the playlist for you.

Writers Wroom: This is a place for me and/or others to discuss their own writing, or writing topics in general. If you have a book you’d like to push, here’s your playlist. Contact me and let’s chat about your release.

Spoilers With Friends: My friend Anne Willis and I discuss horror movies. Mostly we discuss the ones we liked and would recommend, although sometimes not. We rate the movies (and sometimes documentaries) on a scale of 1-5 creepy doll heads.

Nnimdeɛ Apata (Knowledge Store): This is the playlist for all things Akan-related. Here you’ll find puzzles to help you build you Twi vocabulary, stories read in both English and Twi by native speakers, interviews with Akans on Akan culture, and more.

Sounds of Sands: My work, read by people with better speaking voices than I have.

Phantom Force: My ghostbusting spoof webseries, which is progressing at a slower pace than I thought it would because getting out to film episodes isn’t happening. This play list also has a Phantom Force: BTS playlist where I discuss various topics relating to the paranormal.

Junque: This is for things, like updates on the channel, that don’t fit in anywhere else. Look here for information on me, the channel, or anything else I think needs to be out there, but is more an announcement than an episode of a playlist.

That’s it for now! If you have something interesting that you want to talk about, let me know! Ways to contact me are in the column to the right of the screen.

Have a happy, healthy, and wonderful 2021, and while you’re at it, stop by my YouTube channel! Let’s chat about something important to you, and also build that subscriber list. I’m grateful for every one of the 185 subscribers I have now, but let’s see if we can’t crank that number at least a little higher.

Thanks for your support!

Good-bye 2020!

We’re about to ring out the old year and ring in the new. And what a year it has been. I hardly think I need to reiterate anything about the pandemic. We’ve buried far too many people who didn’t have to die, and that sucks.

On a personal level, 2020 wasn’t so bad. I wanted to write 5 books, but got to 4 1/3. Perfection, With Sleepless Eye, and Past the Isle of Dogs are available on Amazon. Paradise has been turned in to Ring of Fire Press for a 2021 release. I am now 1/3 of the way through When We Had Feathers.

Once I finish that book, I’ve got the next Ring of Fire Press book, Promised Land, to get done. As well as the next Angels’ Share book, Feeding the Bird of Tondal, and an anthology, Bone Orchard. Then, if I manage that in 2021, in 2022 I hope to start up a new series for Ring of Fire Press. More details on that later!

Other things that happened in 2020:

One of my short stories, Featherfall, was one of the featured pieces in the St. Louis Fringe Fest. Thanks, Matt!

I had surgery on my right foot, which, so far, has not produced the improvement my podiatrist and I had hoped for, so surgery on the left foot is not currently in the works. I am seeing a physical therapist at the moment. Despite not having the positive results I had wanted, I would recommend Dr. McFarland, who seems to have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of her own field as well as other topics. Also, she came to the surgery in a t-shirt that said, In my defense, it was a full moon and I was left unsupervised. Gotta love it.

Todd and I had just returned from our trip to visit his parents in Florida when COVID blew the world apart, so our trips to Nashville, El Paso, Miami, the Keys, and Kansas City all ended up being canceled. We are hoping to be able to travel this summer. Fingers crossed!

I started a YouTube channel, which is still tiny (185 subscribers as of this writing), but which has been a lot of fun to do. I would bore quickly only focusing on one thing, so I have multiple playlists that feature multiple subjects. That may be one thing that keeps subscriber numbers down, but it makes things seem fresh to me. I had hoped, back in January, that I might, might, be able to put up 4 videos per month, which would have resulted in 48 videos in a year. But YouTube currently tells me I have 113 videos up. One hundred and thirteen! How did that happen?

One thing that didn’t happen on my YouTube channel the way I’d hoped was that I thought I’d have far more episodes of Phantom Force filmed by now. But since travel and meeting in groups is out for now, I only have a couple of episodes completed.

As for skill sets, I learned to do water bath canning (thanks Debbie!) and pickling. I’ve gotten a lot more “fluent” in Zoom. I continue to work on learning Twi and even have an Akan-oriented playlist on my YouTube channel. I’ve even managed to read a few fiction books, which is something I have a hard time finding time for these days. I’d recommend Lovecraft Country if you haven’t read it. For 2021, I intend to watch the TV program, which I’ve heard good things about.

So, welcome 2021. Let’s hope it’s a far better year for everyone than 2020 was.

Collaborators by Deborah J. Ross

Deborah J. Ross. Click on pic to go to her blog.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Deborah about her latest book. Here are the results of that interview. (Now go buy the book!)

What prompted you to write this book?

I lived the better part of 1991 in Lyons, France, and I was repeatedly struck by how history permeated every aspect. Some buildings showed damage from cannon balls during the French Revolution. Plaques marked places where citizens were executed by the Nazis or Jewish families were deported. After visiting the tiny Musée de la Résistance, I became interested in how many varied ways the French responded to the German occupation. Some protested from the very beginning for religious or ethical reasons, but others went along, whether from fear or apathy or entrenched anti-Semitism, or simply because the war did not affect them personally. Yet others more sought to exploit the situation for personal power or financial gain. Some became active only when their own personal lives were affected.

I knew then that I had to tell this story. Because I’m not a writer of history or historical fiction, but of science fiction and fantasy, I would tell it in the genre I know. I would set my tale on an alien planet, in an alien city . . . but one that I love even as I had come to love Lyons.

How did you develop the motivations of the main characters?

The central inspiration for Collaborators – that individuals respond in a variety of complex and contradictory ways to a situation of occupation and resistance – immediately suggested many types of characters: the rebel, the idealist, the opportunist, the political player, the merchant willing to sell to anyone if the profit is high enough, sadist who exploits the powerlessness of others for his own gratification, the ambitious person who doesn’t care who his allies are, the negotiator, the peace-maker, the patriot.

One of the first characters to speak to me arose from an unexpected source. I never knew either of my paternal grandparents, for both had perished in the lawlessness and pogroms in the Ukraine shortly after the first World War. My father told me about  how his mother ran a bookstore that was the center of intellectual (and revolutionary!) thought in their village, how when that village was destroyed, she kept her two children alive as they wandered the countryside for two years, going from one cousin’s house to another but never staying very long. He spoke of her courage, her idealism, and her unfailing love. Some piece of her, or her-as-remembered, stayed with me, and I wondered if I could create a character with that strength and devotion to her children. I began to write about Hayke, who opens the book as he lies in a field with his two children, gazing up at the stars and wondering what these star-people might be like. Hayke had other ideas about what his life was like besides merely following in my grandmother’s footsteps, and everything changed once it became clear to me that the alien race – the Bandari – were gender-fluid. Hayke, like my grandmother, was a widow (using the term generically to include both sexes), and one of his children was born of his own body, but the other of his dead spouse’s, and he told me he felt an especial tenderness for the latter child.

Even though the ground action takes place in an area roughly the size of Western Europe and most of the characters live or come from Chacarre, I didn’t want all the national territories to be the same. I wanted differences in language, dress, attitudes toward authority, etc., between Chacarre and its rival, Erlind, and also within Chacarre itself. Every once in a while, a new character would surprise me, like Na-chee-nal with his “barbarian” vigor and his smelly woolen vest, or Lexis, the dangerously repressed academic poet.

The Terrans presented a different challenge because they were more homogeneous than the Bandari. They inhabit a single spacecraft and although there is a natural division between crew and scientific personnel, for the most part their goals are shared and their hierarchies are well-defined. Left unchecked, that’s a recipe for boring, so I added some friction, a few divergent motives, a highly stressed environment . . . and into this walked Dr. Vera Eisenstein, eccentric genius. Most of the inspiration for her character came from the women engineers and physicists I’d gotten to know (thank you, Society of Women Engineers!) with a touch of Dr. Richard Feynmann thrown in. She doesn’t play by anyone’s rules, she cares far more about science than diplomacy, she’s simply too good at what she does to disregard, and her mind never stays still. I had a ball cooping her up in the infirmary and watching what kind of trouble she’d get into, but I didn’t realize at first that she would become a pivotal character, one capable of acting for the greatest good despite the depth of her loss. I’d been thinking about her passion in terms of science, not in terms of her capacity for love nor in terms of her ruthless commitment to understanding everything she sees around her, whether it is a problem in laser spectroscopy or alien psychology or the nature of her own grief.

What is the best animal and why is it the cat?

The most amazing pet I’ve ever had was a retired seeing eye German Shepherd Dog. Tajji’s lineage had been bred (for 40+ years) for the kind of bonding, intelligence, and self-reliance necessary to do this difficult work. She’d served for 8 years, a long time for a guide dog, and her mental health had suffered.  When we communicated to her that she was now free to sniff and romp and play, things she was never allowed to do in harness, and that we could “read” her body language and respond to her emotional needs, her joy was boundless. We had her for only 2 ½ years, but every day with this super-smart, human-focused dog was a gift.

How does setting this story on another planet help or hinder you as a writer?

Collaborators is an occupation-and-resistance story, which at its heart is about the uses and abuses of power. In order to talk about power, I had to talk about gender. Rather than delve into 20th Century human gender politics (I wrote the book mostly in 1992-95) I chose to create a gender-fluid alien race to pit against the assumptions humans make. I wanted to create a resonance between the tensions arising from First Contact and those arising from gender expectations. What if the native race did not divide themselves into male and female? How would that work – biologically? romantically? socially? politically? How would it affect the division of labor? child-rearing? How many ways would Terrans misinterpret a race for whom every other age-appropriate person is a potential lover? Or, in a life-paired couple, each partner equally likely to engender or gestate a child? Maybe by the time we achieve interstellar space flight, we’ll have evolved beyond sexism. One can only hope.

At what point in writing a book do you feel like you want to pack it all in?

I don’t think that’s ever happened to me since I began writing novels on a pro level. Oh, back in the early ‘90s. I sell mostly on proposal now, so having to write a synopsis weeds out a lot of haring off after dead ends. I’ve learned to identify when I’ve gone astray (before having to revise a piece 5 or 12 times), which is the most likely source of frustration. Even with an outline, there is so much to discover. That uncovering of the deeper story is the source of so much delight. That’s more likely to happen as I get further into the story, and I always look forward to it.

Electric or gas stove? Why?

I used to think gas, but after having survived the 2020 California wildfires, I’m not a big fan of flames. The newer electric ranges are just fine, thank you, even if I don’t entirely trust the smooth-topped kind.

What’s the most important thing for people to understand about developing the skills needed to write a novel?

Be gentle with yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a feat of cognitive dexterity to hold 500 pages of plot, character, and theme in your head all at once, so find out whatever helps — a notebook, flow charts, diagrams, scene-by-scene outline (not a bad strategy for revision, by the way). If you write 5 pages or 5 words a day, be sure you write them well, and with heart.

What was your first sale and how did that change things for you?

I’d submitted Jaydium to DAW about a year and a half before I lived in France (see above). When I returned, after having written every day and not seen clients at all, I took a leap in deciding to officially switch careers. The economy was in a recession and it was a very scary thing to do. Three months later, DAW made me an offer. The universe was telling me I’d made the right choice. Since then I’ve found myself in the position of needing a full time day job but have never stopped writing.

Click on the cover image to go to the Amazon page to make your purchase.

Do Shirts Go in the Woods?

We all know the old saw about bears, but what about shirts? Turns out our shirts work well while you’re setting up camp, hiking in the wilderness, or packing all your things back to for the return to civilization. Shirt quantities are not limited, but you should still get yours today!

The Wraith Shirt
Ghost Mimi Shirt
Everybody’s on Team Kevin!

Shirts available on the teespring store.