Open, Sesame! Literature & Passwords

So we’re going to talk about classic world literature and Open, Sesame. But first, the public service part of the blog!

So you’ve heard by now of the sweeping security breach involving Equifax, who among other things were caught using the user name “admin” and the password “admin.” Seriously. Continue reading

Hide a Book Day 2017

Hide A Book Day September 18thWouldn’t you love to be trudging along on a terrible day and then suddenly find a new-to-you book to take home and brighten your day?

Well, okay, you’d probably prefer to avoid the terrible day in the first place and just find the new book on an already-awesome day. That’s good, too.

Anyway, both possibilities can be real, and you can help make it real for yourself and others, by participating in the first Hide A Book Day. Continue reading

Birds & Fish

photo of trees on the other side of pond

the heron, in the trees beyond the pond

I walked out to my pond today and was not nearly fast enough to photograph the Great Blue Heron I startled out of it, but I did manage to snap a photo when he perched in a tree to avoid the enthusiastic Doberman chasing and barking at him. (Undómiel apparently did not get the memo about large birds not being dangerous aliens.)

What? You can’t see the heron? Well, sorry, all I had was a cell phone and some excitement, which does not equate to a telephoto lens, no matter how much excitement is involved. Continue reading

When Life Imitates Art

Circles & Crossroads, a glowing jack o'lantern over a textured dark circleI write about Robin Archer, a fae in our world charged by the Fairy Queen to protect human children from human predators. The second installment, released in October 2015, was called “Orphan Heirs & Shades of Night” and was set in Irvington, where someone had created a haunted house secretly based on the deplorable acts of H. H. Holmes.

In 2016, a new haunted house opened in Irvington, overtly based on the deplorable acts of H. H. Holmes.

No word yet on whether the Hotel Holmes will be back for 2017; the website has not been updated since last year. We can hope that’s not due to actual crimes committed during the haunted house’s run last year.

Conferences, Cons, and Solar Eclipse 2017, Or What I Did On My Summer Vacation

It’s been a busy month!

First I went to Realm Makers, which has become one of my favorite writing conferences, and then to a small local writing conference at Taylor University, my first time visiting there. In a couple of weeks I’ll head west again to attend the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference. It’s like I’m trying to get my annual allowance of writing conference in just a few weeks!

Little girl (face obscured) in pink unicorn helmet with pink feathered wings

This little girl was so excited about the fairy unicorn wings she made herself.

Sign: Gen Con badges are now sold out.

Gen Con sold out completely. Not a badge to be had.

Then I had Gen Con, an awesome gathering of 65,000 or so (final attendance not yet released for this year) of your geekiest friends to talk about games, books, history, film, anime, and pretty much everything related. Gen Con is always super-busy for me, because I teach sessions (this year I presented twice on Japanese Folklore & Mythology and once on Norse mythology, as well as teaching costuming workshops from Featherweight Armor to Moldmaking to a make-and-take for simple, hallway-safe wings) and because we compete in the costume contest, which because of Gen Con’s process is mostly a whole-day affair. Continue reading

Ivanhoe’s Drive-In

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Chocolate.

In the small Indiana town of Upland lies an unlikely hero.

In 1965 this drive-in opened to sell burgers and shakes, like so many others. It’s expanded and changed with time, but it’s also specialized and become internationally famous for its impressive dessert lineup. Continue reading

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Soda

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Chocolate.

The next installment in my chocolate sampling series! And I just plain forgot to plug in my mic for this one, so the camera mic was picking up background noises and my dog Undómiel warning off some nocturnal creature outside. My apologies. Also my camera was a bit high, but at least that means you get to see a better view of Mr. Snaggles, one of my dinosaurs. Continue reading

Guest Post: Garrett Hutson on Choosing a Place and Time

Please welcome with me to the blog today Garrett Hutson, whom I have the advantage of having as a very useful critique partner in my writing group. Garrett writes mysteries and spy novels set in various historical contexts, and I always learn something new when I’m reading his pages! He’s come here today to talk about choosing a time and place for his new mystery series, which starts with The Jade Dragon.

Choosing a Place and Time

I was surfing the internet a few years ago, when I stumbled upon a news story about a sort of rebirth of the old Shanghai jazz scene from the 1920s and ‘30s, and it really intrigued me.  I followed links, learned more—and in the way internet surfing often does, it led me down all sorts of rabbit holes of information about the golden age of Shanghai, the “Paris of the Orient,” with its glitz, glamor, and intrigue.

Perfect back-drop for a story, right? That’s exactly what I thought.  With all of the corruption—I mean, the head of the largest opium syndicate in Asia was the commissioner for the Anti-Opium board in Shanghai, so come on!—I knew it was ideal for a murder mystery.  There was so much potential in this setting—radical extremes of wealth and poverty, even more than usual for the 1930s; an International Settlement governed by representatives of fifteen nations, but under nominal Chinese sovereignty; Korean exiles maintaining a provisional government right under the noses of the Japanese—I was in love with the idea.

I began to imagine a basic plot—a pair of Americans out on the town, enjoying the famous Shanghai nightlife, when one of them gets murdered.  I would need lots of potential murderers, of course, and the world of 1930s Shanghai offered all kinds of possibilities.  There could be some connection with the drug gang, of course, and maybe corrupt police.  There were Chinese communists hiding out in Shanghai at the time, waging a clandestine war with the government, so that could be fun to bring in.  Oh, and a Japanese spy—I’d weave that in somehow.

I’ve always loved imagining what it was like to live in a different place and time, so naturally History was my favorite class in school, and as both a reader and a writer I have been drawn to historical fiction.  History is so much more than dates and events—it is about people and their stories.  As a writer, I have been drawn to the lesser-known stories, which is why I had a ball researching the world of Shanghai during the inter-war period.

I found all kinds of fun things, including a 1934 Guidebook chock full of authentic details on anything and everything, and the published memoir of a British police officer who served on the Shanghai Municipal Police from 1929 until 1936.  Both were invaluable, and made the setting real.

There is a wealth of stock photographs of Shanghai from this time period that really helped to bring the setting to life for me.  I learned that many of the Art Deco buildings from the time are still standing, and modern tourists have posted beautiful color photos of these places on their travel blogs.  These made it so easy—and fun—to immerse myself in the setting, and really imagine what it was like.  Real people passed through these places, with real dreams and concerns, and I wanted to make it feel that real to my characters—and ultimately, to my readers.

That is my favorite part of writing a novel, and I am so excited when it comes together as it did.  If readers love it as much as I did, then my joy is complete.

Garrett Hutson is the author of The Jade Dragon a literary historical mystery set in 1935 Shanghai, available from Amazon. For more information about the author and his books, visit his website at www.garretthutson.com

Like Garrett, I sometimes come across a setting which begs for a story, instead of inventing a premise first, and it’s great when that happens — because then I know the story will be organic to that setting, rather than shoehorned in and ill-fitting. And sometimes we’d never have the audacity to dream up stuff as wild as real life, such as the opium syndicate head serving as anti-opium commissioner! Truth is truly stranger than fiction.

The Jade Dragon released June 4, 2017, and is available in ebook and paperback.

Japanese Chocolate and Japanese Fiction

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Chocolate.

This is the first in a new series of posts, and I don’t know how many there will be, on chocolate.

Because chocolate.

My intention is to share some unusual chocolate thing and tell you why it’s remarkable. Continue reading

A Winner is You!

A Winner Is YouYou did it, you fabulous readers, you.

You voted for Nova & Reaver and you won. Continue reading