Chocolate-Peanut Butter Soda

This entry is part 1 of 6 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

Doctor Who, Writing Female Characters, and Equality.

Jodie Whittaker in 13th Doctor announcement photo

Jodie Whittaker in 13th Doctor announcement photo

On the one hand, I can’t believe we need to have this discussion of how to write female protagonists and balance. On the other, since clearly we do need it, let’s have it.

With the announcement of the 13th Doctor as a female regeneration, the internet slightly exploded. I was actually at a fandom convention during the announcement and heard not only discussion of the announcement itself, but of reactions to the announcement.

We’re going to ignore those who were horrified to discover their Doctor now has girl cooties. They’re easy to ignore — or just borrow for humor, where they’re most useful. Anyway, the haters are vocal but seem to be a minority, or maybe I just have a better-curated network, and I don’t intend to waste blog space on that sort of thing.

But one repeated protest I heard repeatedly in several less-hysterical discussions was, now that the Doctor is a female, the male companions will be written down to idiocy so that she looks clever, and so everything will be less cool and the storytelling will suffer. I found myself saying or typing the same thing repeatedly, so let me just save time and put it here.

This is indeed a huge problem, only the problem is not the Doctor’s personal plumbing. 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.

We Won! A Video Snippet and New Anthologies

So, as you may have heard, my war unicorns Nova & Reaver won the Equus Battle Royal. While I totally played it cool, inside I was doing a Snoopy dance and singing something like this:

So, I’d promised that if Nova & Reaver went all the way, I would read you a snippet from an upcoming story. Since you got an excerpt of “Rue the Day” in the Equus battle, I decided to read something from a different story, but one that’s also coming soon. Continue reading