Dipping into the Grimoire: Elderberry Cordial

Elderberries shown on the tree


The hero of my fantasy series Night Calls is Alfreda Sorensson, a young practitioner on her way to being a full blown wizard. While I am not Allie, I carry in my heart many of the things she loves and creates wherever she lives. I grow herbs when I can, seek out fresh, organic food and seasonings, and dream of growing heritage apple trees. In a sense, the seeds of her grimoire, Denizens of the Night, are stashed in bits and pieces in folders and my computer.

It’s the season for her elderberry cordial, so I thought I’d share her recipe with you.

This recipe is traditionally used to keep pretty much everything in the unfriendly microbe category away. Fans of it back in colder climes start making it in November and take it until March. Refrigerated the mix can last two months or so, and then seems to go off slightly in flavor. If you cut the honey, it doesn’t last as long. I personally make 2-3 batches a winter. If you are taking it only for preventative purposes and stay healthy, you probably need only a teaspoon a day. If ill or immune compromised, or everyone else at work is ill, you may choose to take up to a tablespoon a day. When ill, if you can keep it down, a half teaspoon an hour might help. Continue reading

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Writing Nowadays–Write It Down

Steven Harper PiziksI find myself in a strange situation.

Recently, I wrote a novel. That’s not strange at all, at least not for me. However, my agent Lucienne read the synopsis and the first few chapters, and said that, while the writing stunning! brilliant! effervescent!, it was outside her usual formidable ability to market. Disaster! Lucienne did say there was probably a market for the book–a statement I agreed with–she just didn’t feel qualified to find it.

We discussed this problem at length. I liked the book a great deal and didn’t want to set it aside, nor did I want to market it myself. Finally, Lucienne offered to pass it on to another agent at the same agency, a delightful man named Travis who likely did have sales contacts for this kind of book.  I thought this was a splendid idea.

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There’s a Bimbo on the Cover of My Book: Verse One

To celebrate having an honest-to-God bimbo on the cover of a book—one who was specifically designed to be there, I’m rerunning the Bimbo series from 2011, which takes a humorous and sometimes terrifying look at the things that end up on the covers of our books. Bimbo on the Cover is a collection of my short fiction published in hardback as a GoH special by WindyCon. The cover is by my dear friend Beckett Gladney—and yes, the other characters pictured are actually in the book.


Once upon a time a writer named Michael Flynn penned the first several verses of a poem that paid homage to (or whined about, depending on how you look at it) the covers with which writers are blessed  (must endure, are tortured) by their publishers. A series of events led to me adding significantly to Michael’s poem and set it (as he suggested) to the tune of She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain.

The first verse goes like this:
There’s a bimbo on the cover of the book.?There’s a bimbo on the cover of the book.
She is blonde and she is sexy;
She is nowhere in the text.
She is a bimbo on the cover of the book. Continue reading

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Stepping Forward

waitressThe summer before my senior year in college I worked as a waitress. I’d spent the three previous summers as an au pair, and had worked in my college library during the school year, but this was, in some ways, my first job in the World. The restaurant was a roadside family joint; the owner was the cook, and I was (at 20) the youngest person there. This was a while ago–the mid-70s–and the world was different. I got pinched on the butt and had an arm snaked around my waist; I got fairly adept at parrying suggestive comments by customers (although the guy who kept hitting on my while his wife and three kids sat eating meatloaf sort of boggled me). I was not adorable at that age: I was overweight and insecure and no one’s idea of delicious young womanhood, and yet these guys hit on me because I was an apparently unattached woman.

At the end of the summer I made gingerbread men for each of my co-workers as a way of saying Goodbye. Joe, the cook/owner, was amused: I’d iced his with an apron and chef’s toque. “But where’s my pecker?” he asked. Continue reading

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BVC Announces “My Life So Far, by Pard,” by Ursula K. Le Guin

My Life So Far, by Pard, by Ursula K. Le GuinMy Life So Far, by Pard
an illustrated chapbook
by Ursula K. Le Guin

A thoughtful, truthful autobiography, translated from the Feline by Ursula K. Le Guin.

First appeared on Le Guin’s blog, and is now presented as an e-book, with many new photographs of the handsome author in his characteristic white tie and tail.

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Writer Club Rules: Truth is No Excuse

That’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, that truth is no excuse for fiction. I’ve had students who want to fictionalize a real story and then have found themselves floundering because true things are often too unbelievable to work in fiction. Fiction needs to make sense. It needs to be plausible. Reality doesn’t. That’s why the saying, Stranger Than Fiction.

I had a friend who was a compulsive liar. She married about five times before she was thirty, had children from different husbands, and had multiple issues with retaining custody, cross-country drama, and all that sort of thing. And that doesn’t begin to tap into all the things that happened to her on a daily basis and what she said happened to her that didn’t really occur. I don’t remember what the story was, but I wanted to write a real event that happened to her as fiction and I couldn’t let go of what actually happened in order to make it an interesting story.  Turns out, I couldn’t make the story work on the truth. The character made no sense and nothing I was willing to do made enough sense.

Now, a real truth is that writers are magpies. We collect bits of all sorts of truths and realities, and tear them into confetti, then mix them  together, twist and bend, heat and stretch, and generally turn them into fiction. Ursula Le Guin’s introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness discusses how writers are liars who tell the truth. We ask you to believe in people and places and things that never existed (the definition of insanity) and we take that story and tell you the truth about all sorts of things. Art tells some of the strongest truths through lies.

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Dice Tales: The Secret Life of Game Junkies

Roman twenty-sided die(This is the forty-first installment of Dice Tales, an ongoing series of posts about RPGs as storytelling.)


I wasn’t kidding last week about the title. 🙂

If you get caught up in a really awesome, engaging, flavorful campaign . . . it is so not enough to play once a month. Or once every two weeks. Or even once a week. I have a vague recollection of feeling this way about TV shows back when I watched them while they were airing; in these days of Netflix and Hulu and so forth, I generally binge-watch shows, in part because if the story is on fire, I don’t have remotely enough self-restraint to make myself wait for the next installment. Goodbye cliffhangers; hello, zip line.

You can’t binge-play a game, though — not on that scale. Like it or not, there will constantly be delays in between the chapters. How is a poor player to survive?

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Nirvana in Fire

nirvana-in-fire1-bannerSomewhere I saw this referred to as the Chinese Game of Thrones, which startled me because if anything I see it as the opposite of Game of Thrones—that is, the rape-infested, amoral violence that made me drop the first novel halfway in has only the violence of war in common with this 54 episode masterpiece, which sucked me in so hard I was skipping sleep in order to keep watching.

I think of the tone closer to Noblebright, a type of outlook that the Chinese made popular a couple thousand years ago.

Though I think Martin is a terrific writer, it seemed to me with Game of Thrones (as far as I got), he set out to give the readership all the sex and violence he could possibly stuff into one story, with scan attention to a sense of history of cultural interplay, or the loyalty and tenderness, sorrow and laughter, the tension of moral struggle and the torqueing distortion of power that ensnared me in Nirvana in Fire. The awareness of the distortion of power. Continue reading

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Happy Birthday to Ursula!

Ursula K. Le Guin -- Photo by Marian Wood Kolisch

On the occasion of Ursula K. Le Guin’s birthday,
her colleagues at BVC wish her a very happy birthday,
and many more!

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The News From 2Dits Farm: Hauling Seaweed

Maine FoliageIt is so beautiful outside right now that I find it hard to concentrate on anything. No matter how many times you’ve seen maples turn gold, cranberry, and florescent pink-orange in a New England autumn, it’s still a breathtaking show. There’s one particularly fine specimen tree in one of the yards that runs down to the cove, and I was staring at the pattern it made against the deep blue of the sky when I should have been minding my footing, which explains why the seat of my jeans is muddy before I’ve even made it down the slope to the water. I was expecting to get mucky and wet, just not so soon. The tide is out, so the seaweed is exposed. I set to work. Continue reading

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