There was a discussion recently on about whether writers “live” near where their books are set. Since I write mostly fantasy and science fiction, that would definitely be “no.” Yet a lot of writers do seem to write about places near where they call home. Stephen King is a perfect example of this, with so many of his books set in Maine. Others seem to go the opposite way, and I fall into this bunch. I like to write about places I’ve only visited, or even places that I’ve never been (but would love to see.)

An example of this is Heart of the Witch. I based the continent of Argessa on Australia; there is coastal rainforest, a mountain range, and then a large desert in the heart of the continent.  The closest I have come to rainforests comes from travel to tropical parts of Mexico, Hawaii, and walking through swampland and forests in Florida. The only mountains I’ve been on include northern Arizona, California, Nevada, and also the Alps in Switzerland.

I can count the number of times I’ve been in the snow on my fingers, and yet I set much of Journey to Landaran in an alpine setting in the dead of winter, with snow everywhere. Yes, I had to confer with beta readers who were more used to wintry weather to check my facts. But I can tell that that coming from a hot desert, I know what it’s like to get cold, because I get cold easily!

For me, I’m fascinated by that which is new and different to me. I’ve always had a love of forests–my grandmother had a cabin at Silver Lake in northern California, and I absolutely loved the place even though there was no electricity. Or toilets. (We did have a sink, which drew water directly from the lake.) I was also an exchange student in Germany, and lived for a summer in a tiny village in the middle of the Black Forest. I think that’s why these kinds of settings are so much richer and more interesting to me. I can write about deserts, sure. I’ve lived in one my entire life. But I do love variety. And what better excuse to travel than for research? I’ve visited San Francisco enough times that I feel pretty confident writing about it. When I dreamt up a story about Mayan ruins, I researched them, and I was finally able to visit a Mayan ruin a few years back.

We are formed by that which is familiar to us, but also that which is foreign and strange. “Write what you know” might be a popular axiom, but I’d add “Don’t be afraid to wander abroad into the unknown.”

Oh, and today’s featured image? That’s a picture I took from a helicopter tour of Maui.


Review: The Jakarta Pandemic

Title: The Jakarta Pandemic

Author: Steven Konkoly

Publisher: Stribling Media

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic / Prepper

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Yes, I still love a good dystopian, end of the world, prepper-influenced disaster book. And this one had all the right stuff. A global pandemic, crazy neighbors, and a hero fighting to save his family.

It had other common elements as well, such as how to keep a well-stocked house and be prepared for the worst. Unlike some of the other apocalyptic books out there, the family actually manages to stay in their home for the entire book, which I found refreshing. While there were the obligatory baddies with guns, I think this book made them more believable than many.

Another neat feature about the book is that the main character, Alex, actually works for a pharmaceutical company, one that tries to profit from the disaster. There’s a lot of in depth information about viruses, which I enjoyed, including how it spreads across the globe.

Alex isn’t a perfect character, which is another thing I liked about this book. His wife teaches him a thing or two, and even his kids surprise him.

I’d rate this as one of the best prepper books I’ve found, in fact. A must read if you like pandemic tales.


Review: Liquid Gambit, by Bonnie Milani

Title: Liquid Gambit

Author: Bonnie Milani

Genre: Science Fiction, novella

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I reviewed another of Bonnie’s works a couple years back, Home World, which featured a rarity, the pure Earth DNA human, as well as several offshoot species like the dog-like Lupans. In Liquid Gambit, Bonnie creates a spin-off tale taking liberal themes from the movie Casa Blanca and using them to explore her universe and characters. So meet Rick, a Lupan bar owner in a run-down space station where slavers basically own the local government. A mysterious human woman walks into his bar, and he finds himself debating between greed and kindness.

Sound familiar?  There are definitely parts of this story that are, and delightfully so. But there’s also the fact this takes place on a space station and involves a Lupans and other strangeness.

I would recommend readers to first read Home World, in order to better understand the universe in which this story takes place. For fans of that book, this is a welcome return to what is a witty, often funny but also heart-touching space opera.

Featured today on Betty Book Freak: Model #37

Just a quick announcement, that my science fiction tale “Model #37” is being featured today on “Betty Book Freaks” website here:  Betty’s Bargains for October 16

In other news, I was laid off from my job last month, and I’m currently working freelance as a technical writer. Making money again, yay. Crazy schedule, boo, and tough on getting any fiction writing done. But fear not, I’m still writing the second book of the Spirit Mage Saga to get published hopefully some time in the spring.

Help for a Pup with a tumor

I’ve been hit hard by some things this year. In May, one of the cats was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx and had to be put down. Then the other cat had a lump on her tummy–it turned out to be an intestinal hernia, and required surgery. Then the youngest of our animals, Toriko (also known as Puppy) was diagnosed with an aggressive mouth tumor which required immediate radiation therapy. And then the oldest dog had a benign tumor on her side which had to be removed.

Boy do they mean it when they say pets cost money!  I racked up over $10,000 in vet bills very quickly.

Then I lost my day job. Not good.

So I’ve set up a GoFundMe for Puppy’s vet expenses. Any donations are appreciated, no matter how small!

Thank you to everyone. I’m generally not one to ask for help, but I’m feeling a bit buried.


Release Day! Model #37 now out everywhere

And it’s now out!  Amazon (and all its markets), Barnes and Noble, Ibooks, Smashwords, Kobo… well everywhere except for Google, who is being a pain right now. Check out this classic science fiction short story two-pack today!

dna spiral

A Science Fiction Short Story Two-pack

Barnes and Noble



She crossed her arms, looking hard at him. “What is this place? I thought you said it was a beauty pageant! For special people like me!”

He glanced around nervously and took her by the arm. “This isn’t the place to talk. We can discuss it later, once we’re home.” At the sound of the audience clapping, he frowned. “They’re too narrow-minded. Kitchen shelves! Idiots.” He pulled her over towards the coat rack where several shiny metallic coats hung, including his own.

They were leaving before the show even ended? Baby tore her hand away, glaring at him. “I want to hear about the other models. I want to hear what they say.” More than that, she wanted answers to the mystery of what this place was really about.

His bushy brows drew together. Father was older, with gray hair and glasses. They looked nothing alike, and yet he had said that she was born of his genetic materials. “Don’t speak back to me. When I say it’s time to go, you obey.” He grabbed her arm again.

The other models watched them with concerned looks on their faces. Baby tried to break free of his hold. “When do I have a say in what I do? Didn’t you just say I’m an adult now? When can I meet people, see places?”

Father opened his mouth to reply, then shut it. “I’ll explain everything later. Once we’re home.” He glanced at the muscled security standing nearby. “I need assistance. Help me get her into the car.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Baby saw Moo returning from the stage. Their eyes met, and he frowned, seeing her struggle.

Fear churned in her gut. She’d argued once with Father when he’d told her it was time to get in the cage. He’d struck her across the cheek. The mark had only lasted a day or two, but she never forgot the shame of disappointing him, the anger in his eyes.

Moo was walking away. She might not ever get to see him again, or talk to him. Baby squared her shoulders and glared at her father. “Let go of me. You can’t make me go with you. I’m a legal adult now.” She hadn’t ever read an actual law, but she’d read enough to know that adults had rights under the Constitution. It occurred to her that Father might be breaking a law or two with how he was keeping her, now that she was eighteen.

“Baby,” he pleaded, looking angry and hurt at the same time. “What’s gotten into you?”

New Cover: Eight Minutes Until the End of the World

So just a quick announcement today: I finally got a new cover for the very first short story pack that I published as an indie writer: “Eight Minutes Until the End of the World.” This short humorous tale, about aliens who make a booboo and then try to save the best that Earth has to offer, was published originally on the “Alienskin” emagazine website. The tale is coupled with an original space-opera style story about a starship with artificial intelligence who would do anything to save her captain.

Check them out!  Also, for those who sign up for my newsletter, I’m offering the book for free with a coupon code at Smashwords.





On the Tridak ship, an alien utters the worst thing an alien can ever say: “Oops!” And on Earth in NASA’s latest project, the Mercury Probe Orbiter, John Fanchett makes the fateful announcement: “Sir, we got a big problem. The sun is going nova.”

The problem is, John only has eight minutes before the end of planet Earth, to solve the mystery of an alien language and his own survival.

Bonus short story: The Emergence

The Emergence has always loved her captain, and as aliens endanger her, she must take steps to avoid what could be a horrible blunder with alien intelligence. For the Emergence is one of the first artificially intelligent spaceships.