Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall's always hard for a gardener philosopher. This one is more so. Somehow, my life appears to have gone a bit wild without first getting my expressed consent.  Some of the craziness is my own choice, some isn't. In any case, for the last bit, I've been feeling overwhelmed emotionally and intellectually and creatively. So today's blog? SHORT! UPDATES! ADVICE!

Update #1: I am officially declaring my beta-draft ready for my beta-readers. (This is probably something like my sixth or seventh draft.) I will be sending it out to my potential beta-readers today.

Update #2: I've incorporated a blog into one of my classes, Telling the Story Queer, a first-year seminar that's focusing on story-tellers who break narrative conventions. As a way to make student writing more real, (i.e. not writing to an audience of one--the prof,) I'm having them blog about our novels. They've all just introduced themselves; next week they'll start on their reflections on Fun Home, the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel. I would love it if Scribblerati readers/members would pop over occasionally and comment on the student blogs. Find us here.

Advice #1: Do you feel the need to self-medicate? But do you also need to be prepared to be awoken for the day at 5:30 in the morning when your kidlink stumbles into your bed? Yoga is good, sugar is grand, but Sherlock is better. Last year the BBC updated Sherlock Holmes. Clever, silly, and fun. And streaming on Netflix.

Advice #2: Especially for Ms. Claudia. I've also been enjoying the Forsyte Saga - yummy clothes, especially when they get to the 1920s; yummy architecture, especially the Arts and Craft-y/Deco-y Robin Hill; yummy cast: Gina McKee and Rupert Graves.

Cheerio. By my next blog things should be settling down.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Two years later...

Who would have believed it to be possible, but two years ago, almost to the day, the Scribblerati put up their first post.

We had been around for a while before that, working, meeting, critiquing. We'd had some members come and go, but that first blog post really solidified us as a group. It cemented us as the core, as a team, and it put us out there in the world for the first time. It signified our intent.

From the original text:

The Scribblerati are:

Claudia Hankin Balluff
Was once voted 42nd "Sassiest Girl in America" by Sassy magazine. That's not top banana in the sassy department, but it's still pretty darn sassy.

Lisa Bergin
Philosophy professor; felted creature maker; food grower and preserver; mama who's at her calmest when she can carve out time to write her middle-grade novel.

Jon Hansen
Jon Hansen never wanted anything more than the simple, care-free life of a hammock-tester. Fate, it seems, has plans of its own...

Shawn Enderlin
Is a sci-fi / fantasy geek, foodie, alt music fanatic, comic loving, corporate IT slave who writes and travels with the lovely @mplstravelkitty.

Mark Teats
Author of BLACKHEART, specializes in angels, demons, dark dreams & fast-paced supernatural writing. Per Mayan prophecy his best seller will hit the shelves Fall 2012.

Two years later and we're still here.

We're still working. We're still unpublished, but we're still meeting, we're still critquing, still chugging along and going strong. But where are we? What are we up to? Now two years later, where do the storied Agents of the Scribblerati find themselves? Well... obviously Lisa still doesn't have a personal information page to link to... some things never change... and we recently attended our very first convention (Diversicon) with some all-bound-up-and-pretty samples of our work to hand out for a bit of swag, but other than that, let's see, shall we?

The Scribblerati

Claudia Hankin

Claudia currently splits her time between editing and rewriting the second draft of her novel, Ursala Evermore and the Case of the Man Who Wasn't, a time-traveling, murder mystery set in 1920s England, and promoting her husband's New Orleans dance-hall style jazz band: The Southside Aces.

Lisa Bergin

When she isn't teaching philosophy, working in her garden, or creating terrifying wool-animals, Lisa is circling the final draft of her novel, Once We Were Bears, the story of young bear turned into a girl who, with the help of three children from a post-apocalyptic world, must save the planet  from itself, all narrated by a hill of sentient potatoes.

Jon Hansen

My first novel, Gunslingers of the Apocalypse is currently shelved pending a re-evaluation. You can read a sample of it here. So I'm between projects at the moment. I went on and on about it all, at great length, here. I'm actively looking for a new big project to dive into. It might have Dragons, Super-villains, or maybe some bad-ass, futuristic thieves versus some marauding demons, either way, I'm excited to get back to work.

Shawn Enderlin

Shawn is a self-described IT dude, a yogi, and a foodie who has just finished work on the second draft of his novel, To Kill the Goddess, a dark fantasy, sci-fi, Game of Thrones meets 9/11 mash-up. With the arrival of Fall, most Saturdays can find Shawn whooping it up for his beloved Golden Gophers football team.

Mark Teats

Mark is a father, a fencer, a fisher, and another IT guy (hmmm... there must be something wrong with those types...) who is nearly finished with the 4th draft of his novel, Blackheart, the story of an avenging Immortal, a cancer-ridden Private Investigator, and a psychic teenage girl versus the Armies of Hell, with the fate of all Creation and one very special child hanging in the balance. And when he's not working on that, he's busy forging a path through the first draft of his new novel, Sunlight, the tale of a man trying to survive in a world full of vampires.

So, where are we now?

We're hard at work. We may be called the Scribblerati now, but initially our name was "Gonna Get Published." That's everyone's goal, of course, but we've found that maintaining that attitude has helped shape the way we work together. This means an acceptance of different voices and styles. It means both giving and receiving tough but fair criticism. It means understanding that the goal of the process is to improve everyone's work. Most of all, it means supporting each other and pushing each other to keep at it.

In a nutshell: We're fun. We're funny. We're geeky, and we encourage everyone to write to the utmost of his or her abilities.

Where are we now?

We're doing good and we're still at it.

Stay tuned,

Friday, September 16, 2011

Of Sloths and Men

Over the last week I had the opportunity to have two “behind the scenes” tours. One was at the MN Zoo, the other was a “ride along” with a local police officer (and good friend of mine). The first tour was purely for fun; the ride along was research for my next horror novel, SUNLIGHT (my main character has a police background). Both were fun experiences, and the background from the ride along will be invaluable for certain parts of my book. (Thank you, Officer.)

Here is what I learned, comparing the two experiences:


Sloths: You really have to mess with a sloth to make it angry.

People: It doesn’t take that much to piss a person off, really. Many misbehave with little or no provocation at all.


Sloths: can live in one or a few trees for life. They stay high in the air, except once every 7 or 8 days when they come down to the earth to defecate.

People: most are law abiding and inhabit homes or frequent public places with friends and family. Those that don’t abide the law seem to hangout or wander around in places where they don’t belong, for instance retail stores or homes of ex-spouses where court orders are in place to keep them out. The result? More quality time with law enforcement. Defecation may still be involved.


Sloths: The zookeeper is able to conduct routine veterinary care on most sloths without sedatives. Jangled keys and almond extract placed throughout the enclosure may induce sloths to be more active and curious.

People: The police officer carries a taser, a sidearm, handcuffs and sometimes an AR15 or shotgun. These items come can in handy with some of the more lively human specimens.

Care of Young

Sloths: The gestation period for sloths is 10 – 12 months. Sloths nurse their young and otherwise protect them from harm until they reach the age of maturity.

People: may choose to fight with others and/or exercise poor judgment in front of their children with apparent disregard for the short or long term effects on their own offspring.


Sloths: Lay reclined in a comfortable tree branch in the sun or heat lamp, whichever is available.

People: Have advanced minds capable of deciphering complex problems like space travel—but when bored may seek leisure time activities which can be fun and harmless or may take the form of things like drinking and drug abuse, reckless driving, lying, cheating, stealing, vandalizing, assaulting, killing and/or committing suicide.

I’ll leave it to you to figure out which species is smarter.

Holding Area

Sloth: a small enclosure with bars or metal mesh that smells like wiz and poo

Jailhouse inhabitants: a small enclosure with bars or metal mesh that smells like wiz and poo

Sloth vs. Dinosaur

Named after one of the cardinal sins?


Number currently hiding in witness protection

People: Over 7500 witnesses

Sloths: 1

Who’d I rather hang out with some days?

Sloths—but I need to work on my upper body strength first. I also get dizzy hanging upside down.

I hereby dedicate this post to the zookeepers and police officers who do a helluva job day in and day out. I’m glad you’re out there using your good judgment protecting those under your charge and keeping the animals and/or people in line as needed. Keep up the good work.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fall Update

Welcome back loyal readers!

It's a gorgeous time of year, isn't it? Everything's still lush and green and yet it's cooled off and dried out and there's just a nip of fall in the morning and evening air. It's perfect weather for outdoor barbecues, Big Ten college football (go Gophers!), and a WIP update from yours truly!

You may recall this post back in February where I said I'd finished my rewrite of To Kill the Goddess. Now I can one up that because I've just recently finished my Beta Draft! That's six months of work for those keeping track. Six months where I edited the heck out of everything, rewrote a few chapters, and generally holed up inside my room for hours on end and disappeared from my wife's life.

Thank God it's over!

I mean seriously, it was a frakking death march.

So what am I up to now? I have to admit, there's a little bit of relaxing going on. One of the big reasons I was making a big push to get done was so that I would have time to watch a bunch of college football without feeling guilty. So I'm doing that. (How about that Jerry Kill, eh?)

I've also been doing some writing. Something new. Something without all the fighting and biting that takes place at the end of a good sci-fi/fantasy novel. It's a little something I've tentatively entitled, "A Red Blooded American Guy and Gal Get Stuck in an Elevator." Yes, it's a little outside my usual genre, okay a lot, and I won't be querying it, but damn is it nice to write something different for once. It's like standing up and stretching after sitting at your work desk for hours on end, only just a wee bit different.

Of course, all this begs the question: Shawn, what are you going to do with this fancy pants novel now that it's done?

Good question.

I've written a lot of posts about self-publishing, and many of them have ended with me saying how happy I am I am I don't have to decide whether I want to self publish or not. Well, time's kind of running out on that.

So here's what I'm thinking. I'm going to query TKTG. Yes, I'm going to take the plunge, but like everything else I seem to do, I'm not going to do it the traditional way. My query letter is going to say something along the lines of: “Yes, I'm seeking agent representation, but I don't really have any interest in signing a traditional contract with a traditional publisher. I want to self publish, or I want to publish through a publishing house that puts e-book distribution before physical book distribution.”

Yeah, clearly I have to wordsmith that, but you get my drift.

So am I crazy? I don't know. What I do know is that every day I see new tweets about some bookstore or another closing and about how e-books are taking a bigger and bigger slice of the traditional market and that just isn't good. The way I see it, it's simple economics. An industry based on physical book distribution can't exist in today's environment, not without change, and I just don't see enough of that happening. Don't get me wrong, it would be a dream come true to publish with somebody like TOR, but I just don't think I can take that risk right now. Like I said here, my worst fear is that I would sign a contract and then in the 18 to 24 months it would take to get my book on shelves, the industry would fall apart and I'd be left with my book rights wrapped up by a company that was either severely wounded, bankrupt, or worse.

I'm just not gonna do it.

So there you have it, folks. Maybe I'm crazy, but maybe I'm not. All I know, is that I feel like I'm standing at the entrance to a long, dark tunnel that has no visible end and I don't know where I'm going to end up, but it's COOL. I feel like somewhere inside that tunnel is a door and just like Roland Deschain, I'm gonna open it, and it's gonna take me to places I've never been before.

Stay tuned….

Saturday, September 3, 2011

NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books

So I don't know about the rest of you fine and devoted readers, but it seems like I've been barely caring my weight around here lately. I blame it entirely on the WIP but have no fear, the Beta Draft is a sword thrust away from being complete!! More on that later…

Here, for your Labor Day enjoyment, is NPR’s Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books, along with some thoughts of my own, some nice pics, yada yada…

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

well of course

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

the first of many that I've never actually read. Every time I say I've never read this everybody's like, what??? I know, I know. But when I was in high school and this was popular EVERYONE was reading it and then just turned me off. Yes, I'm one of those people.

3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

I've extolled the virtues of this book before, along with a few others.

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

I've read the first one. It's good. Not like, “fourth best book ever good,” but good.

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin

Okay, so, The Scribblerati kept telling me two things about this book: that it was frakking awesome, and that my WIP was similar. So what did I do? I didn't read it, and I still haven't, but I have seen the HBO series and OMG is it frakking awesome! And yes, there are several similarities between it and my WIP.

6. 1984, by George Orwell

never read it (this is the beginning of a trend).

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury


8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

Started but never finished the first one. That was way back when I was just when I was just a young un so to be fair probably I should probably give it another shot.

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

Uh, no. Noticing a trend here?

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

Now I have to say, I really don't have anything against Neil Gaiman. I think he's a really talented writer but I just don't honestly get why everybody is all Ga-Ga Pants for everything he writes. It just doesn't melt my butter.

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

Really? #11?

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

I read the first one and I thought it was pretty good, good enough to buy the second and then I was like, man am I tired of all the series where you have to wait forever in between books. I'm just gonna wait until it's all done.

Still waiting…

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

OK, I get it, but do people feel obligated to vote these kind of stories or something?

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

**embarrassed** I really should do something about this….

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

Fascinating. A graphic novel made the NPR list! But then that opens up all sorts of arguments about why this or that graphic novel didn't make the list. And there's some really great stuff out there…

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

Oh, that's not what they meant…

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

Now here's a “classic” that I actually have read. I read it when I was a teenager, which may be why I haven't read any more like this. It was good, but I was really more into a lot of things that haven't made the list yet.

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

Never heard of it.

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut


20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

oh please…

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

Care to guess?

22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

I’ve heard of Margaret Atwood, of course, but not the book.

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

Only #23? SERIOUSLY PEOPLE! Even with the lackluster ending in the final volume this is one of the greatest pieces of literature ever produced.

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke


25. The Stand, by Stephen King

I really need to read this.

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman


30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

No, but the move totally frakked with my teenage head.

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

I'm guessing the shower scene in the book is nowhere as near as exciting as it is in the movie.

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

I read several of these when I was really young and I wish I still had them – where did they go?

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

No, not her. I've never read the book, but I remember watching the classic movie adaptation back in the 80s, when I was 12ish. They were running it on that, what was it? Masterpiece Theatre on TNT? It blew my mind.

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

Finally were getting into some good stuff! I must have read the first five half-dozen times and while the second five started out with serious promise they really sputtered out at the end.

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

LOVE THESE! Yes they are full of tropes but they are fun!

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Beautiful book. 42 is a disservice.

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson


44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

This isn't a real book….

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

Great movie. And who doesn’t love Jodi Foster?

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

Not even in the top 50 - such a shame! I love these books so much I want to marry them!

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

Haven't read it but ...


56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman


57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

I read the first one and, well, not so much…

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

Another one that I read the first novel of and not any more. No offense to Mr. Goodkind, but it makes me wonder, how many times can we write that same story again and again?

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

Weird book. I got like 100 pages in and still nothing had happened…

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

Okay, I probably should read that.

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist

These books are like yummy candy.

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks

Okay, so I probably shouldn't like these as much as I do, but damn I love these. Let me just say, there's a reason that the magic wielding people in my WIP are called Druids and it starts and ends with Terry Brooks.

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard

Jason moma Man Crush!

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

I think those Robin Hobb books should probably be on my list.

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

Sweet! These make me want to get out my dragon dice.

74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

I read this for a class in college and it single-handedly got me re-interested in science fiction after years of being nothing but a fantasy junkie.

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

Never heard of it.

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

Or this one.

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

This is one of the first novels I ever read. I don't even think I was 10 and I was slogging through this one page at a time. But if there was one thing that's true then that is still true now, it's that there isn't enough magic.

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

Two words: Mara Jade!

These are easily the best Star Wars novels ever written. The only thing that comes close is Michael Stakpole’s X-Wing series.

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

Oh, Elric of Melnibone, I totally have a hard on for Stormbringer, even if it does eat souls.

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

Weird book.

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

I don't think I could read this today, but at the time, when I was a teenager, these were full of awesome.

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Well, that's it friends. Thanks for sticking in there. It was a blast!

I'll leave you with this curious omission...