Back In the Saddle Again — Returning to Writing Fiction After a BIG Pause

By Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Anyone else inundated by Plaxo, etc. birthday reminders for individuals you’ve never heard of, much less met? Are your spam filters and virus checkers constantly fighting each other and locking up your computer? Are you on your third cell phone in one year, and they all have totally different interfaces?

On the other hand—do you enjoy carrying around your entire WIP and its support files on something the size of a lapel pin? As far as you’re concerned, does new tech rock? How do you feel about monitors and laptops that really are portable (as opposed to the monitor and computer of the Apple IIIc, for example)?

Welcome to the future that we used to warn people about. I’m finally back to writing, and technology is slowing me down.

I can’t blame the technology for everything. Sure, they’ve over-engineered WORD to the point that I’m thinking about Open Office, Apple, or Scriveners. But I can still find basic formatting if I look hard enough. Nothing will convince me that using italics in a manuscript is a good idea, because often you can’t recognize italics when they gallop past. Underlining says: “Put this in Italics” to everyone who happens by.

Then there are the files of synopses and early chapters of those works that were overwhelmed by Life. Are they looking a bit like Urdu right now as opposed to English manuscripts? (Unless Urdu is your preferred writing language. Could things be looking like English—or Mandarin—instead of Urdu?) Some of them I realize I not only recognize, but the story has progressed in my mind. Others are definitely in Urdu, which is not optimal for someone whose first language is English. They mean something, but not what I originally thought they meant. Heck, in one book the protagonist is now sharing that role with several others.

Think of it this way—if you drop the ball for too long, and years flow by—there’s a stranger staring back through the monitor at you, a person with different life experiences and priorities and beliefs. You’re asking her to go back into the minds of people she stopped visiting with regularly. . .stopped seeing a long time ago, in many cases.

And you may still have around your neck the dregs of whatever stopped the muse from kick-starting you going, whether it’s health, or finances, or family combined with one or more of those—real issues that leap into your face every time you turn around.

It’s not that you can’t go back and visit those characters—in fact, if you’re lucky, once your characters see you’re serious about everything, they’ll fall all over themselves to give you an update. Sometimes the problem is how to slow them down so book-sized chunks can be cut from their volumes of stories.

Or at least it’s one of the problems for me.

I have a reminder for all of us. I learned it from writer Barbara Burnett Smith, who was not only a fine mystery writer, but also a speechwriter and coach, and a corporate trainer in how to write good presentations and learn not to panic.

Barbara taught me many things during our time spent together, but one of her greatest gifts arrived posthumously. I had gone back to the house after the funeral, to be with others who loved her, to help support her devastated husband, to try and close the circle on a friendship. Her books were set up for her corporate friends to see, and her training partner had spliced together a few of her classes, to show the writers that side of her we knew little about.

I’d seen her training work before, but not the particular tape playing when I walked into the den. So I sat down to watch her do something she was phenomenal at—being a cheerleader and personal coach for the people who came to learn from her how to give good presentations.

It was near the end of her class, and she had paper up to draw large arrows, graphs and circles upon, showing everyone how far they’d come since the first morning. But the thing that got my attention was this: She told them that she knew they were afraid that they would lose all this skill they had just honed and polished. That they were certain that when they needed to do that presentation in a week—or a month—or six months down the line, they’d freeze and make fools of themselves.

“Not a chance. It’s like riding a bicycle.” Once you learn to ride that bicycle, you never forget. Your skills may have fallen from a ten to an eight or even a seven or six—but you don’t go back to zero. When you get back on one, after years have passed, you may need to ride a block to get your rhythm back, and another to get your body angle in the sweet spot for optimal comfort and speed. But you’re on the bicycle, and you’re on your way. A ten is well within your reach.

I realized that this was her second gift to me. When I was ill, she had told me I was still a writer. I was just on a sabbatical. And now, she was assuring me that I still knew what to do—I just needed a few spins around the block before I headed for market. The helmets and toe clamps may have changed, but they still have the same functions.

Fads and fashions have morphed, and different parts of the genre are grabbing attention, nominations and money. But I’m still a writer, and I still tell a great story.

I simply have to recognize that the way I plan stories, write stories, and rewrite stories may have changed.

There’s one thing I can guarantee hasn’t changed.

I still love to tell stories.



About the Gryphon

The Fire Gryphon as Seen in Magickal TextIt is a curious, yet little-known fact that the greedy reputation of the magickal Gryphon is entirely unfounded in fact.  Gryphons do not consume precious gems, jewels, gold and suchlike for purely selfish purposes.  While in the days of Elder Magick, it is true that a number of the lesser Gryphons were kept by their masters as guardians of hoards both great and small, this was a cruel practice in opposition of the magnificent creature’s genuine nature.

Innocent of worldly concerns:  such is the true nature of the Gryphon.  Ask a Gryphon for any bit of his hoard, and he might consider for a moment providing something of lesser value — a chicken egg, perhaps, or a nicely-rounded rock.  However, press one’s case to the Gryphon justly, and he will whole-heartedly cough up a pearl so large that you could not hold it in the palm of your hand.

Indeed, if you were to find a magickal book lying around — oh, say in the back of a cabinet, or propping up a vase of fresh umbrel flowers — you might find just such a sight as you see here, leaping out at you from the page.

Consider carefully then, for if you possess the proper magickal implements and can read the words there writ, you might find yourself the master of not just an ordinary Gryphon, but one of the highest order:  a grand and terrible Fire Gryphon.

Prickly creatures these, but well worth the acquaintance, should you ever happen to meet up with one of them.  It is today of the Fire Gryphon that we speak. 

Have you ever seen a large horse, of the sort that pull great wagons of hay or barrels of honeyed ale?  As tall as such a horse is at the shoulder, the Fire Gryphon is half-again taller when full-grown.  His wings once spread, would seat four grown men comfortably — although, to be truthful, it is unlikely that even a very large Fire Gryphon could take flight for long, burdened with so many riders.  Generally, the Fire Gryphon’s eyes are golden, and even those of the green-eyed, northern variety, possess a piercing gaze.  It was often told in days of Elder Magick that those who looked in the eyes of a Fire Gryphon could not lie or avert their gaze, until said Gryphon chose to release them.

Many are the Fire Gryphons of legend:  we may remember today the names of Altrus the Brave, Rollo the Wise, and – well, it is true that most Gryphons were not greedy, but there were exceptions – of course, the golden-feathered Phlogiston the Greedy.  Phlogiston, I’m afraid, really did consume the entire fortune of Mencius, Heptarch of Virgos in a single sitting.  However, it is not true that Phlogiston exploded from the pressure of gems, gold and other precious items in his belly — that is one of the more egregious of the old Mage’s tales.  The result of this gruesome excess was merely that Phlogiston could not lift his bloated form more than five feet off the ground, thus making him an easy target for Mencius’ conjurers, who promptly administered the proper spells and herbs to make the greedy Gryphon return the hoard to its rightful master.

It has been long years, of course, since such creatures as Phlogiston, Rollo and Altrus (whose feathers really were sky-blue – to see him in flight was quite an experience!) ranged free across the skies of the wide world. 

Yet still, dear readers, there are magickal texts out there in the Wide World, and there still exist some few magickal implements.  So, should you be poking about in old cupboards or in your aged uncle’s sea-chest, or perhaps browsing the tables in one of the markets, and you come across a curious old silver bowl, or a small paper packet filled with oddly-smelling, rose-colored dust, or perhaps, an old blue book with a tattered cover, it might be you to bring a magnificent Fire Gryphon back to life, to once more fly free and wild across the high mountains into adventures once again.

I am, dear readers, your friend — Lalume.  Sometimes, perhaps, they called me the Magnificent.  But that was a very long time ago, and in a land very far away.


Starting A Very Short Review (Comics)

I’ve been posting Very Short Reviews of comic books on Usenet for some time now — they show up on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe. So it seems natural to post them here too.

The basics: I do not pretend to read all comics, nor even all DC comics. I read what I read, and only review the few worthy of mention. Brevity is key. The original idea was to get the entire thing onto one screen; obviously this is not so important in a blog but I still vow to keep it short. I am incurably plot-centric and character-focused, as most writers are; you cannot blind me with gorgeous art although vile art is never a plus. And I get bored, oh! so rapidly, which is actually a virtue. Because who wants to be bored by a comic? If I am bored, I tell you, and you can save money by not buying a boring issue. I will therefore try to keep these as current as possible, as a shopping aid.

So to start us off, here is a Very Short Review of Detective Comics #850, just out last week.

Batman’s current arc, about the past 5 or 6 issues, has been depressing and uninspiring. The storyline was cruelly handicapped with the dullest and least interesting member of Batman’s rogue gallery, Hush. Let’s face it, a comic book villain with no especial costume, no particular powers, and an unknown motivation is a recipe for ennui. And the emotional plot engine (is Batman/Bruce going to open up emotionally?) is a conundrum of such antiquity, we might as well be trekking with Allan Quatermain looking for the lost tomb of the kings of the Kukuanas. Batman has been doing this for at least twenty years — either resolve it or give it a rest!

However. This is the final issue in the arc, which means that it really is the best of the bunch. Comic book creators know to start an arc off with a bang, to hook readers, and to conclude it properly, lest there be rioting int he streets. (The hope is that the fascinating premise will keep you hooked through the saggy middle issues.) The art in this issue is especially beautiful — they should chain artist Dustin Nguyen to his desk by the ankle. Any story with a tyrannosaurus rex stomping through the Batcave has a gold star in my book. And if God is merciful, developments with Selina (aka Catwoman) will actually develop instead of dropping into the usual comic book limbo. The mention of a followup arc in January is a good augury for this.

Brenda Clough


A Flash of Inspiration


[Updated 11/17 to provide links to Book View Cafe and stories.]

Sudden fiction. Micro fiction. Short-shorts. People have come up with many names for very short stories. My favorite is flash fiction. Maybe it’s the alliteration.

There are at least as many length rules for flash fiction as names: Under 250 words? 500? 1,000? Sometimes a contest goes even higher.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are extremely short stories. The Canadian magazine NFG runs what it calls the Great 69er contest, where all the stories are 69 words long. And Wired got a bunch of SF/F writers to contribute 6-word stories.

Bruce Holland Rogers is a master of the genre. Continue reading


Everybody Needs a Hobby

by Vonda N. McIntyre

Hyperbolic creature with tentacles

I always have to have a fiddly hobby. Needlepoint, crocheting, web page design (than which there is nothing more fiddly).

Some years back I noticed beads. “Shiny!” as the kids in my neighborhood and the characters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer say.

So I bought some beads and some long skinny bead needles and discovered the wonder that is Shipwreck Beads and started playing around.

Continue reading


The Travelling Writer

I don’t’ travel much, so I really enjoy it when I do.  For writing my series PATHS TO CAMELOT (to read a piece of Camelot’s Blood, visit  I had the opportunity to take a flying visit to Cornwall.  The following is, more or less, what happened as I went there and back again:

Sarah in Charge

Sarah’s UK Trip Part One — Getting There is Half the Fun?

From Sarah’s Journal:

Well, I’m on the plane, full now, next to a guy headed home to Romania. Met Comrades (Steven and Kala Piziks) at fountain (the big water sculpture in the new Northwest Terminal at the airport) and shared dinner(in the airport’s Coney Island. Not great, not terrible). Guy next to me has an 8 hr. layover in London and we talked about how he should spend it. So far, so good.

This was before the drama. I got up to use the bathroom. There was an older gentleman in the aisle in front of me, I presumed getting ready to do the same thing. Next thing I know, he’s falling over, on top of me. Everything I know about proper emergancy first aid goes right out of my head, and I’m crouched down beside him, my hand on his cheek, alternately yelling in his ear “Sir? Sir!” and yelling over my shoulder “Somebody get the stewardess!” His eyes were open, but he was NOT responding. I was thinking stroke? Dead?! When, blessedly, a voice shouts behind me. “I’m a nurse! I’m an EMT!” _Right_ I levitate sideways and let the woman through. She’s now down where I was and the stewards are charging up the aisle behind her. She’s down where I was and saying “I can’t find a pulse!”

Oh, Christ!

It ended well, though. Crew swung into action. O2 is brought, feet are elevated, well-meaning gawkers are settled back into their seats, “Just give him some space and air” I’m shuffled back to my seat, which was a bit of an operation, because the emergancy personell were blocking the aisle but we get me out on the other side. I found out later, he had just fainted. The stewardess said, “Oh, yeah. Happens all the time. Sometimes we get 2 or 3 a flight.”

Whew. Okay.

After that, the flight was, thankfully, much more boring. Got into Heathrow on time, found my bag, got to customs. Customs agent was I thought, a little overly concerned that the author in front of him had enough money to be getting on with (you know what a lot of spongers we are), but I was able to assure him I had access to cash and credit, and he let me in. Found the express to Paddington Station and got past with my railpass without problem. Express train duly pulled into Paddington.  It was now about 8:30 am local time. I could either grab some fast food and the train due to leave in the next 20 minutes, or I could go outside and have a little walk and get a reasonable breakfast.

Choosing the latter, I went out onto the street and very shortly found an open sandwhich shop, where I got a toasted ham and cheese sandwhich, OJ, and a cup of milky tea. Good tea at a cheap sandwich shop, I’m HOME! Also found cash machine and loaded up on British pounds.

Loaded for bear, I went back to the station, used calling card to contact car hire agent to say when I’d bee there, purchased a cheap mobile phone and kit when the shop opened, bought food for the train, caught the train and was on my way to Cornwall.

I was also exhausted by this time, and slept a large part of the trip. Almost didn’t figure out how to work the door at my stop (they don’t open automatically, you have to open the window, reach through and open the door, AND THERE’S NO NOTICE OF THIS). Fellow traveller came and helped, and I was out on the platform in Cornwall. And there was the car hire agent. A quick inspection and a few signatures later, there I was. Me, and a car, and Cornwall.

No, if you’re wondering, I never had driven in the UK, let alone in Cornwall. I had a map, I had a route, I had a lot of nerve, and I needed every single one of them.
Let me tell you about the roads between Bodmin and Tintagel. There are three kinds: narrow, tight and you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me. There are no shoulders. There aren’t even any ditches. There are hedges. Six-to-eight feet tall living green embankments that are impossible to see over and when the corners and bends are tight, which is frequent, you cannot see where you’re going, or when the next turn it coming, and this turned out to be the land of S curves and hairpin turns. Oh, and did I mention that many of the roads are paved, but not painted? No striping, no center line?

Add to the fun that the signage is poor, and the auto club route was about as complicated as it could possibly get.

Upshot: I got lost, quickly and thoroughly. I got scared, frequently. Like, every single little town where I seemed to have to go through the traffic circle. I went really, really slow. As a result, I did not hit the lamb that was going for a stroll. Nor did I hit Hazel-Rah who was determined to see if he could make it across in front of me. I finally resorted to stopping to ask directions every mile or so.

“Am I on the road to Tintagel?”
“No, but you could be just, go here…”

“Am I on the road to Tintagel?”
“No, but you go up ahead there, and turn right…”

Oh, and incidently, the roads are also STEEP, and there was one moment when, as I was gripping the wheel and chanting “Stay left, stay left, stay left,” I saw through a gap in the hedge that the other SIDE of said hedge was the drop off for a cliff.


It all came to a head when I turned down a really steep one-lane road. And met another car coming up. There was no way to pass. He had to back up until I could creep past him.

Over an hour from my start time, and about at my wits ends, I did finally creep into Tintagel. I parked and WALKED to find my B&B, where they were ready for me, helped me get parked and my gear stowed and brought me a nice cup of tea, which I desperately needed. I called home and let them know I was okay, relatively speaking. I was shaking.

It was now around 4:00. Tintagel castle was only open until six. I had two choices. I could stay here and just, chill and shake, and possibly not have any chance to see the castle at all, given how tight my schedule was, or I could suck it up and get out there.

I sucked it up, put on my hiking boots and got out there.



Welcome to the Book View Cafe blog!

I’ll be brief.  Partly, I admit, because it’s a bit daunting to be writing our very first post.  We’ve all been working madly since March to get ready for this launch and it’s hard to believe that it’s finally here.

The idea behind Book View Cafe is simple; we as authors wanted to make our work available in digital form and bring that work directly to our readers.

We hope you like what you’re finding, on the site as well as on this blog, and that you’ll let us know when you do.  If there’s something more you’d like to see, or something by our authors you can’t find but want to, let us know that too.

In the meantime, thanks for reading and welcome to your Book View Cafe!


The Skin

Ursula K. Le Guin

“All around us is the skin,
helping keep our bodies in.”

I’ve known that poem sixty years.
There’s more to it than first appears.

If we were skinless, like a cloud,
would we not mingle with the crowd?

Would not our little bodies be
more boundless even than the sea,

and gaseous as the atmosphere?
Would we be there as well as here?

Would I be you, and you be me,
and both of us mere entropy?

The two it takes to tango need
to be discrete, not just discreet.

The skin, however, does have holes
for letting in and out our souls,

our food, and such necessities.
It is designed to serve and please.

It washes well, but with the years
gets wrinkles, little spots and smears,

and somehow doesn’t seem to fit
as seamlessly as once as it did.

But still it is my nomad’s tent,
my shelter, my integument,

the outside of myself, this thin,
seemingly superficial skin,

that hems me neatly all about,
keeping foreign bodies out,
and keeping me, a while yet, in.

Ursula K. Le Guin