The Indie Spirit


This weekend I met Conrad Trump ,who was signing books at the Berkely Springs Apple Butter Festival. He’s published several short stories under the name Chapin Shaw Tucker, but he decided to publish his novel under his real name. Parisa is about an injured champion snowboarder from West Virginia who accidentally releases an ancient magical spirit.


It sure looks like his home town is rallying behind him. There was a wonderful profile in the local paper, the Morgan Messenger, and Douglas Autos was advertising the book on their traffic stopping electronic sign. Berkeley Springs is an Arts town, with a growing population of local authors.

Can’t wait to read the book!


Publishing: The “How do I start?” Question & My Updated One Sheet


I got the question again this morning: “I’ve written some stories, but I don’t know where to send them. How do I start?” I think this kind of question is irritating to writers who believe 1) that they found their way through natural curiosity and love of literature, and 2)that they never sought short cuts. I get that, but as an educator it’s my responsibility to provide education, and entertaining irritation actually makes the job harder. When I get the question, I have a one sheet that I explain is a very selective list of resources to browse. What may not be explicit is that it’s not the resources themselves that are as important as  developing an awareness of the possible categories . . .

Publishing Resources

 What’s new in books?

The Millions

The Nervous Breakdown 

The Rumpus

General Resources

Poets & Writers


Duotrope ($)


Agent Query

Market Guides-Pop Genre

Dark Markets

Writer’s Market sub-guides (Writer’s Digest Books)–example Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market

Find a writing conference

Poets & Writers Database

 AWP Conference & Center Guide

Author Pages

Steve Himmer

Roxane Gay

Matt Bell

Jen Michalski

Art Taylor

Sample Guidelines

Ellery Queen


Strange Horizons


Sleeping as Lifestyle


When my husband and I married in 1987 we spent a year in our first apartment with a bed that was too small, so we slept head to foot, foot to head, mainly because Dean’s normal resting position back then was crucifixion style. Since then I think it is fair to say that our marriage has been a journey towards finding the ideal bed. My husband and I are a model couple who does everything perfectly together EXCEPT sleep.

It’s time again for us to buy a new mattress. If I could work it out, I’d spend my whole life in my bedroom, and I’ve always dreamed of having a full room bed like this:



However there are many reasons why the above is impractical for our needs, but I cannot pretend that we aren’t going to do something stupid. When it comes to home furnishing, we always go stupid: We installed a hammock inside our house; we bought an extra large Lovesac (now in the attic wrapped up like a swollen sarcophagus); we have owned a series of unfortunate red sofas . . . This time we have decided that  if we’re going to do something stupid again, we’re going to do the same stupid thing everyone else is doing: buy a hospital bed.

Of course, they don’t call them hospital beds anymore, and the model we are looking at has features you can’t find in your local recovery room, such as heat, vibration, and “sky” modes. Sadly, it does not come with the little button that gives you more morphine or tells the nurse your pan needs emptied.

Why do we want this thing?

Because it might be nice to have a situation after 28 years of not having to compromise.

Because we love reading and watching TV in bed.

Because we need more remote controllers.

Because we snore, and maybe having a tilting bed will stave off our need for matching CPAP machines for another year.


I guess what I’m saying is, don’t try to stop us. We’ve rationalized the hell out of this poor decision. And the lady at the furniture store is so lonely. She needs us to do this.

So here is a link to a recent WSJ article about the emerging popularity of home hospital beds. I really wished they’d used some beardy millennial as their model in the pic, but I guess I shouldn’t pretend that the in-home adjustable bed skews younger. It’s also not a consideration in this helpful site that rates mattress types for sex. I think this last site is really the reason I wrote this post, that and the fact that my publisher may be looking at my blog today and I don’t want the most recent post to have the word fuck in the title.

Lovers Leap: Marry/Fuck/Cliff, or The Love that Dare Not Speak Its Name


First Warning: this is bs I wrote after coffee. Apologies to scholars who have really thought this through.

Second Warning: All the Spoilers, but you should already know these things anyway.


In Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Final Problem” Sherlock Holmes and his arch nemesis Professor Moriarity fall to their deaths into the gorge of Reichenbach Falls, ostensibly during a struggle. Doyle’s intent was to put an end to his most famous character and move on to other literary endeavors, but he was forced back into writing more Holmes stories, both set before and after the fall. In doing so he only barely explained the plausibility of Holmes’ survival, thus launching the second most enduring fandom/canon panic we’ve ever seen–the first being New Testament.

Holmes and Moriarity are not the first characters to jump off a cliff together, but that appears to be an irresistable touchstone, especially for film and television artists who, as with the series finale of the divine Hannibal, are openly paying tribute to Doyle’s failed attempt at throwing his greatest creation away—literally.

Doyle’s cliff is a powerfully cinematic choice for intense, same sex relationships to be consummated, but really, any simultaneous destruction will do. You don’t have to Thelma and Louise it. You can, for example, do the cliff tease, especially if your relationship hasn’t really peaked yet, as in the scene where Butch and Sundance dive into the river. When they are ready for the ultimate union of souls, when the only thing left is for them to make out or die trying, then it’s their two guns against the Bolivian forces. That’s a kind of cliff dive in itself. Another alternative is to pretend that Doyle “meant to do that” and embrace the cludgy fake-out, allowing bonded characters to “die” so that they can live together. House is a good example in that he fakes his death–seriously, the old dental switcheroo?– so he can go riding into the sunset with Wilson, whose terminal cancer means that sunset is coming down fast. While contemporary psychology has managed to situate Freud in history, storytellers have not and are often blind to the most obvious of symbols. That blindness=the dark side of “suspended disbelief”–aka the single biggest enabler of marginalization.

In it’s ending, Hannibal wrenches the subtext free and puts subject of love right out there. I know I’m putting a lot of faith in the dramatic choices of a team of television writers whose series was abruptly canceled, but I like to think this is the last cliff dive we’re going to see for a while, and that the “unnamed fierce bond requiring mutual destruction” is a device we can shelve alongside fireworks, waves crashing, and all our other anachronisms for orgasm, transgressive or otherwise.

Mean Bone First Draft


Yesterday I committed to getting to the end of my first draft of the murder book I’ve been writing: The Mean Bone In Her Body. I knew what I wanted revealed, and I understood the consequences for the characters. As a way of forcing it, I labeled the section THE END, and then spent eleven hours composing something around 2000 words. That’s not even 200 words an hour.

But I did it. I got to the end. The end is very talky and needs a lot more coloratura and slapping around (you know, drama), but that’s the fun part. I’m at roughly 85k words, and I expect that to creep upward during the revision.

So what’s it about? Here’s my stab at jacket copy (with help from Erin F.!)


Elizabeth Murgatroyd, a professor in New Royal University’s Crime Writing Program, is skeptical about her most successful student…and not just because Jeaneane Lewis is unstable. Shortly after beginning her studies, Lewis discovers a murdered military widow and her two small children in a backyard garden pond. When she writes about the crime, Jeaneane exposes the college town’s worst kept secret: New Royal, Ohio is as dependent on the Corrections industry as it is on Higher Education. And now, it looks like the University has made a grave mistake in combining the two.

A one night stand with the killer marks the beginning of Murgatroyd’s uncovering the truth…not only what really happened in that grim backyard, but inside Jeaneane’s broken mind.

So, if this book flies with my publisher, I’m looking forward to trying to create a series set in New Royal. The idea being that the Crime Writing Program attracts “non-traditional” students.

Write What I Fear? Yeah, but . . .


Another one of those quotes rolled by in my feed–something about writing what you fear, and I think this time it was from Nadine Gordimer. I have always ignored that advice. I’m adventurous, but I write escapist fiction on purpose, and if I write something that goes beyond the visceral or seems original and deep, that’s an accident. My experimentalism is about pretty phrasing, too–I’m a confectional writer–rarely driven by meaning. If it comes to meaning or creates a unique effect, that’s swell.

Except. Here I am about to move into the final acts of a manuscript draft that turns out to be about a subject I have feared and avoided all my life. That subject is mental illness, and my goal of addressing it with meaning in within the context of a murder mystery may not be met, but at the end of the first draft process I will have “gone there”–I will have written about what I fear.

But here’s the twist–the only reason I have been able to do this with any confidence/relative comfort is because I have a safety net that’s never been there before–a publisher who is committed to me and invested in my work. That’s no guarantee that this book will see the light of your e-reader, but it’s just enough support for me.