This is my personal blog and does not necessarily reflect the collective views of Hard Limits Press

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A handy list of Macklemore/Grammys articles

So of course I, like everyone else, have an opinion about the Grammys and Macklemore and so on and so forth, but I thought it would be more productive to just give you guys a big bowl of link salad instead. Especially because even though I have absorbed over twenty articles on this subject, I have no easy to digest opinion. I'm still thinking deeply on all of these issues and the amazing writing so many people have done on this. This is a multifaceted issue and it's inspiring a lot of awesome deep thinking, so check it out. I've read every one of these start to finish and have done my best to assess them, but they're for you to read and think about on your own. If you think there's an article I should check out and/or add to this list, please let me know in a comment!
Evan Flory-Barnes on the 2014 Grammys

Hip Hop's Anger Over Macklemore's Grammy Win is About Respect Not Race

Dave Brubeck Was the Macklemore of 1954

Macklemore's Grammy Winning 16 Bars and the Search for Our Forty Acres

Macklemore Says He Had "An Unfair Advantage Due to Race" at Grammys

Macklemore's Useless Apology and the myth of meritocracy

Finding a Place in the Hip Hop Eco System

True Colors: Race, and the Misnomer of Hip Hop as "Black Music"

Don't Hate Macklemore Because He's White, Hate Him Because His Music is Terrible

Why Racism Haunts Macklemore's Grammy Victory Over Kendrick Lamar

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

chapter one of the historical novel, rough draft

Ixtab fled through the Underworld, the pack of jaguar wayob so close on her heels she could smell the scent of rotted meat on their lolling tongues. Larger and more powerful still than even a natural jaguar, the skin changers enjoyed vigor and battle prowess that she could never hope to match. Only the knowledge that the traditions of the bat wayob would die with her if she fell kept her bare soles hammering the ground.

The last one.

The thought stuck like a rag stuffed down her throat, suffocating her. If she couldn’t find The White Path, The World Tree, all was lost. She prayed for a glimpse of the the great Ceiba, its many worlds hanging heavy from its branches like ripe fruits, colors and smells and textures so varied that the average human could never have comprehended it. If she could change her fortunes and find a new reality to hide in, there was hope.

She wanted to shift to her smallest most difficult to spot form, the second soul that gifted her with the form of a great spectral bat, but the magic of her enemies kept her trapped in her weak human wrapping. Her all too mortal body felt the limitations imposed on her even here in the spirit world, trembling limbs that threatened to send her to the ground, lungs deflated and seizing. With each hard won breath the merciless thorns of exertion ripped at her windpipe. Whatever hideous thing the Jaguar Queen had done to gain such power, she could only imagine. No atrocity was beneath the traitorous priestess of the Moon Goddess, the beautiful face that hid a withered heart.

Shadows clung to her, the wispy essences of those who had found only torment after death. The murmurings of ghosts awakened the memories of her slain brothers and sisters, memories she held deep within her many souls. If she died like all the others, rent apart by jaguar claws, the essence of every spirit she had ever guided to the afterlife would be lost with her. If it weren’t for the fact that she was more than the sum of her parts, that she carried all that remained of her people, she would have laid down in the loam and let her enemies tear her throat out. At least it would be an escape from the misery of what she had seen only a few mornings before, the red day when the jaguars had come.

Even though she embodied a death goddess, the creeping horror inherent in this place tangled up in her hair and slapped a cruel hand across her mouth. Whatever sacred words had been on her lips died stillborn. The humid air itself carried the scent of despair; sweat, decay, burning straw and the dust from cracked stones. Not even Rope Woman could protect her here. The goddess of suicide took lost souls to paradise and this was no paradise; She had little sway over the other pathways to the afterlife, to this place of fear.

There was nothing of the high priestess in her now either, only the blind terror of an abandoned pup. She tripped over a tangle of black roots in her haste and hit the ground so hard she couldn’t move for a full minute, the scent of befouled burial shrouds rising from the black soil as if the bodies below yet longed to rise. She tried to push herself up before a jaguar could find and kill her. The sight of her fingers fighting for purchase closed her throat with terror. The red powder she wore, meant to symbolize rebirth, was almost gone. Only her naked hands remained.

A rush of body heat and sizzling magic over her head told her that one of the jaguars had gone flying past, misjudging the distance needed to take her down for the kill. Before she could rejoice over that the roots sprouted staring green eyes, all fixed on her. A great shrieking arose and the roots whipped at her legs, trying to gather her up the way a constricting serpent might have done. The ground shifted, threatening to vomit up whatever deadly secrets lurked below.

If she had any air for it, she would have screamed. As it was she only just managed to kick free, though one of her hair ribbons paid the price. At least that was all she had lost. She stood just in time to dodge the second jaguar, swiping at her face with its wicked black claws. She set out running once more, desperately trying to call up some sort of magic, to remember any spell that might help her. She was no warrior and she knew she would never best a jaguar way in a physical fight.

She sensed the last of the cats bunching up behind her. She dropped and rolled, wrenching her shoulder. The giant animal thudded to the ground beside her, and she knew then that she couldn’t get up and keep running. She had spent herself too recklessly. She also knew that despite her fear, she would have to summon up a curse if she wanted to survive. She fumbled for the wand hanging from the sash around her waist. It was made from the leg bone of her most impressive sacrifice, a lord from the neighboring city-state, and it was her only hope of surviving. She screamed as the jaguar rounded on her, but not out of fear; wild magic filled her with purpose and life as if she were a sacred well.

Instead of the healing and prosperity that came from mundane wells, however, she was filled with the power of pestilence and blood. The curse took shape in her belly, a monstrous child so unnatural and malformed she would have dashed it upon the rocks had it been a literal child of flesh and bone. The jaguar leapt on her and she jammed the wand between its jaws, terror giving way to fury. The sacred words bubbled up like a geyser. The spell-child came squalling in to the world. The jaguar’s eyes turned to bloody mush, pus leaking from the ruined sockets. With all of her strength she pushed up on the wand, throwing the big cat back a few paces even as she threw the curse. She stood as bile streamed from its mouth and nose, and decay split its back and belly.

She fled before the others could regroup and come for her again, the harsh cries of the fallen jaguar in her ears. She longed for the visions of paradise that she’d been granted when guiding the souls of the dead, the grove of ancestors with trees so majestic and powerful she couldn’t see their tops. Where was the air redolent with fruits, the temples ensouled with such amazing energy that she wept to look on them? She thought of the masks carved in to her temple in the city she had been forced to abandon, the masks she had always perceived as looking down on her with benevolence. But now even the visage of the Midnight Sun stared after her with reproach in his red eyes.

A new world loomed before her and she grabbed for the bark of the great Ceiba Tree, finally shedding her human body in favor of her huge middle form. She dug the gleaming claws at her wing joints in and climbed through a storm of gleaming green energy. What she would find when she emerged in to the mundane again she didn’t know. The face of her most beloved sister, gentle and kind Imix K’awak, swam before her mind’s eye. Imix’s neck was broken, head nearly twisted from her shoulders. Blood spattered the ground, the bodies of still more sisters left broken in the dust nearby.

She tried to will the image away, but it wouldn’t leave her. She swallowed a sob, even as the Tree’s energy slipped over her like a sacred feather cloak. Whatever waited for her across the Primordial Sea, it couldn’t be worse than what she had left behind.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Valor of the Healer by Angela Highland

Just a small update to let you guys know you should read Valor of the Healer by Angela Highland. It's a secondary world fantasy that uses familiar characters and situations in a clever way. It is also far less Eurocentric than a great many secondary fantasy worlds, which I personally appreciate. Here's the blurb:

The Rook
An assassin hired by vengeful elven rebels to kill the calculating Duke of Shalridan, Julian walks into a trap and barely escapes with his life. Healed by a beautiful captive in the dungeons, he's enthralled and vows to free her from the duke's clutches.

The Hawk
A Knight of the Hawk duty-bound to cleanse elven magic from Adalonia, Kestar has a secret--and heretical--ability to sense the use of magic from afar. He knows something suspicious is happening in the duke's keep, but he has no idea how deep the conspiracy goes.

The Dove
A half-elven healer with no control over her magic, Faanshi is the goddess's to command. She's always been a pawn of the powerful, but after healing two mysterious and very different men, she faces a choice that may decide the fate of the whole kingdom...

Book one in the Rebels of Adalonia

Monday, January 13, 2014


One of the things I want to do with this new urban fantasy book I'm working on is include a lot of atypical therianthropes. I'm sure I'll still have some big cats and that sort of thing, but so far I've been working on wereaxolotls and werecapybaras. In light of that I thought I'd give you guys a look at one of the axolotls:

Adeline Rubio answered the door, and even though I’d read and reread her file, the bight pink gill fringes and webbed hands still surprised me. It was one thing to read the word therianthrope on a piece of paper, and another to see the reality in person. Her eyes fixed on me, the shining gold ring around her pupils accentuating her suspicious expression. She drew audible labored breaths, and unbidden sympathy threw me off balance; she hadn’t mastered her shift from axolotl to human, and she was stuck with the worst of both worlds. 

Again, this is rough first draft writing but hopefully it gets you interested about where I'm going with all of this! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Mourning the Anita Blake series? Follow along...

So, medical stuff first. My insides mostly look good, except for some irritated patches that are bleeding. Ultimately though the good news is I do not have an autoimmune disorder save the possibility of Celiac, only because I haven't received the results on this biopsies yet. I suspect I have a bad case of IBS. The good part of that is they can medicate it to a certain extent. The bad part is trying to figure out all the foods that exacerbate it. One of those things might be coffee, horror of horrors. 

Anyway, onwards to the excerpt portion of today's post. I have always been a little bit obsessed with the Anita Blake series. Despite having major flaws, there are good ideas in there every so often. However, those ideas never get used to their full potential. I wondered if I could use some of those unexplored concepts as a jumping off point for a somewhat similar novel. In one of the books (The Harlequin?) there is a brief mention of a witch on the police force who is part of the S.W.A.T. team. A friend of mine wondered why the books weren't about that character as opposed to following Anita around, who let's face it is not very competent. So, this book is about that very thing. 

This story is coming to me quite easily, which is a much needed break from the historical novel. Here's an excerpt to get you interested, though of course it's all rough first draft stuff at this stage:

“I don’t know, Dad. I guess it just doesn’t make sense to me yet. It’s that point in the investigation when all I have are threads.”

I sat at the same green formica table we’d had in our family house when I was a little kid. It was out of place in Dad’s new house, a one bedroom the real estate agent had described as “rustic.” Even though it had rough edges it did fit him, as weathered and welcoming as he was. He’d done a good personalizing it, too, with warm colors splashed on the walls and driftwood hammered in to place over the hallway entrance. He set a cup of coffee at my elbow, turning the teal mug so the chip in the rim faced away from me. I fiddled with the knobs on the battered toaster, ran my fingertip over the cracks in the tabletop. Even though being around Dad usually calmed me down and kept me from fidgeting, I hadn’t been able to leave this case at the office.

“I know you can’t tell me too much about an open investigation, but…”

“No, I can’t. Even though I want to. The most I can say is that there’s a series of thefts, drug transactions, and murders that make me damn worried we’ve got gang activity.”

Dad ran his fingers through his long hair. He was so proud of it, like most American Indian men I’d met. I looked up at him, studying the wrinkles around his eyes and mouth. I couldn’t forget him if I kept doing that. I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice; one day when he was gone, I would have every plane and angle of his face memorized.

He smiled his broad smile, the one that had made me compare it to the crescent moon when I was a child. Even though you’d think my witchcraft would make me big on the moon, it felt like a silly comparison now.

He sat across from me with his own coffee.

“I feel like I should give you the be careful speech, but I bet you have it memorized by now.”

“Dad.” I stretched out the word just like I would have as a little girl. Damn. Sometimes I felt frozen in time, trapped in that long summer when Mom had died. I’d been twelve years old, and now that I was pushing thirty I was frustrated with myself for still hanging on to it. “Anyway, I know. Trust me. I do everything carefully when I have a choice. I know I’m S.W.A.T. but honestly I don’t even like guns. Or knives. I do my damndest to leave them in their sheaths.”

Every time I pulled a cold iron blade, the sheer destructive power in it made my arm buzz and ache like my skin was covered in a swarm of angry hornets. That was good. It kept me honest.

“That’s what makes you good at your job.”

“Thanks. Sometimes I wonder why they promoted me, though. Maybe I’m too soft. I don’t like having to threaten people. Maybe kill them.”

“Even if they’re vampires?”

“They’re still people. Sentient. If you get to the point where that stops mattering, you ought to turn in your badge.”

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Current projects

I have to get scoped tomorrow. I'm afraid of having a tube down my throat. Hopefully the drugs will help with the anxiety. I also hate being out of commission when I'd rather be working on my current projects.

Speaking of current projects, I have three novels going at once. One is an urban fantasy set in San Fransisco. So far it has atypical therianthropes (who else is going to give you a werecapybara, come on!), gang violence, and a supernatural drug trade. Oh, and vampires. Hopefully a take on vampires you haven't seen before, even. I'm still being a little tight lipped about this one because I'm in that delicate beginning stages where any indifference or derision might throw me off track, but suffice to say I am very excited about this world. It's coming to me with surprising ease. I suppose it's one of those tales that been percolating in the background for a very long time, and it's just happy to finally be poured.

Next we have a Twisted Tree prequel novel. One of my NaNos way back when involved werebats and Viking adventures and such like, so I am now savaging it and keeping the useful meaty parts. This one is slow going because of the historical setting. None of my books are meant to be perfectly true to the real world in terms of location or even historical events, but I do try and keep it believable. That's tough when your time and place has already come and gone. However, documentaries are a great help when it comes to visualizing things you can't just walk out your front door and gawk at. Despite being blind I am a very visual person because the universe likes to play those sorts of jokes sometimes. My scenes are always scenes first, words second.

Third, I am actually writing a paranormal romance. I don't know how this happened. It is about two trans lesbians who are out to solve murders. Also included, long haul trucking, the Flying J, coyote spirits, and more. The second I laid eyes on a Flying J I knew I had to do a story about it somehow. It's basically the archetypal truck stop, where a person can get a shower, a bottle of booze, a pack of smokes, gas and whatever else in one place. That might not sound weird to some of you, but for me it was very different. The PNW has a big blue collar tradition, but the specifics are quite dissimilar.

I'm finding that having more than one project is a plus, though, because once I can't make a project go forward any more for the day I just switch to the next.

Good luck in the new year friends, whatever your goals are. Hopefully I'll be putting at least one of these projects to bed by 2015.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

News and the next Twisted Tree novel

The publishing company and I are doing a lot of exciting things in 2014.

We'll see if I'm going to be at Norwes and Wiscon this year. I'd like to go to DragonCon too, but that's quite an undertaking.

If you want to keep current with what's going on with me and with Hard Limits Press, consider liking us on Facebook. 

The next Twisted Tree novel should be out by Norwescon (Easter weekend). The Twisted Tree universe is a shared world that both Avery and I write in, and all of the books go together. I'll be posting a series info tab as soon as I figure out how so you know where the best place to dive in is.

You can find a first draft of the cover on the Facebook page as well.