Chapter 8 of DinoLand is live.

The latest chapter of DinoLand is up at Geek Eccentric. This one’s got a maniac, secret tunnels, big guns and a dinosaur the size of your local Roman Catholic Church. That’s not even giving you any spoilers.

I would have posted this yesterday, when the chapter actually went live, but my family was staying someplace with very limited internet and I hadn’t thought to write and schedule this post in advance.

The ice bucket challenge.

I just finished my donations and figured I should post this.

And look, I wasn’t going to do this challenge. I really, really wasn’t. But then I was tagged by my friend Adam, and after my initial hipster-knee-jerk reaction (“Ugh!  A trend. Don’t let it touch me.) I found that I couldn’t really say no.

Then I was going to do it and just donate to Alzheimer’s Research, because that’s an important cause for me, but the Ice Bucket Challenge is ALS’s party and I didn’t want to be the jerk that peed in the pool. And so I decided to donate to both ALS and ALZ.

Then I made a metric buttload of ice, cleaned off my very favorite bucket and taught my husband to use my iPhone camera. I’m going to regret that last thing.

I’m not calling anyone out specifically. But if you liked this video and you’ve gotten this far into August without dumping icewater on your head, I challenge you, reader. Dump water on your head. Donate to ALS. And then donate to a charity that you want to support.

Here you go. Apologies for the wailing baby in the background. He hates being left out of things.





Writing with a four-month-old: a live-blogging experiment

I'm sure this will go well.

I’m sure this will go well.

Today I’m trying something new. I am live-blogging my attempt to write while home alone with a baby. I’ve read a few things about tactics for writing with a young child, and those articles were not terribly helpful.  So today is an experiment. I’ve got a baby carrier, a bouncy chair, a play-yard and my laptop. All I need now is luck. Wish me that. I will be updating all day.

11:30 am  – My husband has the dog with him today, so I don’t need to worry about walking her. I’ve done a metric ton of laundry. I’ve nursed the bairn into submission and put him into the crib, so I should be able to start… crap. Diaper change. DSC_0018Oh god, no, I was wrong. It’s a diaper blowout. I’ll be back.

11:48 am – Okay. Baby cleaned and put in the play yard. New laundry started. Surfaces Cloroxed. NOW: It’s been a while since I worked on my novel, and I am a little blocked in places, so thanks to some advice I saw from a friend who was in my MFA program, I’m going to journal about the problem. Maybe that will help me write around the block.

12:16 pm – I’ve got to ditch the internet. It’s distracting me. So I’m logging out of Facebook except on nursing breaks. Despite a diaper change and distractions online, I have been journaling about my novel and I’ve made a little progress with character development issues, but now the baby is fussing. He’s probably hungry. And I just realized something. So am I.

1:20 pm – The baby and I are both fed. I’ve realized that although I’ve made some headway with character development, I cannot find the first copy of my manuscript, which is what I was working from. I am giving myself five minutes to find it and if I can’t, I’m winging it.

1:23 pm – Found it. Baby is in the crib. Let’s do this.

Tire yourself out, my child.

Tire yourself out, my child.

2:01 pm – I’ve done 254 words worth of writing. I’ve also changed a diaper, eaten a plum and wandered around for a few minutes Iike a lost soul. Finally I accepted that if I don’t get the baby into the exersaucer soon, he will never go down for his nap and I have hopes for naptime. They aren’t big hopes, but they are hopes. So that’s where he is right now, bouncing in the saucer. The good thing is, although I’m working in drips and drabs and this pace is frustrating, I am working. I don’t know if I’m producing anything of value, though.

2:45 pm – 300 more words written. That’s more than the 500 a day I used to hold myself to, so I guess, technically I could stop now. But I haven’t written at home in a while, and this is an experiment, so I’m going to continue until my husband returns. FOR SCIENCE. It’s time to feed the baby now, though.

3:39 pm – The baby is fed and changed and it could be that most golden, elusive, glorious time of the day: naptime. My son doesn’t like to nap, but sometimes he does actually go to sleep, despite himself. In the meantime, he might at least be quiet for a little while and I may be able to write some more until backup arrives. I hope.

3:55 pm – Naptime turned into an Olympic gymnastic floor routine, and I spent my writing time alternately trying to prevent head injuries and researching crib bumpers, so that didn’t really work out. Now I’m keeping him next to me in the play-yard on the bed, and he’s practicing his vocal exercises instead. These are as distracting as the gymnastics, but not as alarming. Now, to make one final push at writing.

4:42 pm – Feeding the boy again. Between the feeding and a changing, I’m getting less done than I did this morning. This kid is active. How does one tire out a four-month-old? Is it even possible? I’ve written a few words though.

4:54 pm – The experiment has ended: 781 words, three outfit changes (baby’s, not mine) and one load of laundry later, my husband has returned and I’m shutting it down.And what do you know? The baby is sleeping. Because of course he is.

So, after a day of writing alone with baby, what’s the verdict?
The take-away of this experiment is probably that sensible people get babysitters. Well, no. I think the take-away is actually that I produced more today than I did before I had a baby because I was always pushing to get words on the page before he started to fuss. But quantity is not quality — while I got more written than usual, I do wonder if it’s any good compared to my normal output. I can’t tell, because I’m too tired right now to know good writing from bad.

Also, and this is probably open to interpretation, it’s hard to know if my parenting also suffered because I was trying to do two things at once. I mean, I did all the things I’d normally do on a day home with my son, and he was even by my side more than he usually is, but I was focusing on writing rather than housework or walking him at the park. So was I a worse mom because I was working and watching him? I don’t know. Only he knows for sure, and he doesn’t speak English yet.

Well, it’s been real. I’m going to put this baby down, save my work and find the Pinot Grigio.

Want tips for writing with a baby? Check out my next post.


A list of the links that have been posted to The Eagle and the Arrow, so far.

The Eagle and the Arrow is released today! Links to the book are trickling in.

Here are the links that have been posted so far:

The e-book, on Amazon

The paperback on Amazon

And let us not neglect Barnes & Noble, which has the e-book on NOOK

The e-book on Smashwords.

I’m waiting for the publisher’s website to post the book as well. Also, check it out on Goodreads (another giveaway – this time of The Eagle & The Arrow –  is happening soon.)

In defense of Amanda Palmer.

Amanda Palmer (she’s a musician and used to front the Dresden Dolls) has recently come under fire for asking volunteers to play horns and strings at her shows on her Grand Theft Orchestra Tour.

This is one of a series of unconventional tactics she’s undertaken recently. She used Kickstarter to great effect this year, raising $1.2 million from fans to independently create an album that was dropped this week.

She’s looking for fans who are “professionalish” horn and string players to join her onstage for each night of her tour. The volunteers are asked to commit to a rehearsal, one performance and will be paid in beer and love.

Professional session musicians are outraged. There are posts about their anger in Spin and The New York Times and the Boston Globe. Last time I checked Palmer’s blog, there were 290 comments on that blog post, many of them angry, and from musicians, some claiming that she’s exploiting musicians.  Writes one:

“I’ve been a professional touring musician for 23 years, and I’ve never heard of you until today. With all due respect, your request for free labor sounds like a promotional gimmick dreamed up by a corporate republican who has no concept of the history of working people in this country.”

Here’s my question, though: What’s the big deal?

Palmer is asking for volunteers and is presumably asking her fan base for volunteers. She’s asking the people who will be at the concert anyhow, not professional session musicians who’ve never heard of her.  People ask for volunteers all the time. Churches and schools are always asking for volunteers. Politicians ask for volunteers to run many aspects of their campaigns. Artists are asked to volunteer their skills for many organizations, for-profit and non-profit. Surely, there is no harm in asking people to volunteer. And surely, asking for volunteers is much different than exploitation.

One commenter felt that it was insulting to ask musicians to play for free simply because it’s wrong to assume that working musicians will play just for the love of music. I can kind of relate to that. A while back, I wrote a post about the writing equivalent of that feeling; that I get sick of having to provide copy for birthday cards, poems for anniversaries or whatever simply because I’m a writer.

I think Palmer’s request is different, though. For one thing, she’s not targeting specific musicians and asking them to play for free. Secondly, I think some of her fans will want to jam with her.

Why? Let’s look at a slightly different situation. Say her husband, Neil Gaiman, put out a call on his site for “professionalish” writers to collaborate on a book project for free. I’m a writer. I make my living off my art. But would I do it for free?

Hell yes, I would. I would get right in line. I would do it because I could then say I’d been published with Neil Gaiman. I would do it because I was once a huge fan of his work. Even if he were getting paid for the collaboration and I wasn’t, I don’t think I’d complain, because I would have known, up front, that I’d volunteered.

I should probably mention at this point that I’m not a fan of Palmer’s music; I’ve never given any of it – from the Dresden Dolls to today’s solo projects – a try. But I do feel some affinity with her.

Maybe it’s because when I worked at the Boston Herald, I spent a lot of time in Cambridge, and I think I saw her when she was busking there as the Eight-Foot Bride. Maybe it’s because, at the same time, I grabbed a review copy of American Gods (by Gaiman, who wasn’t married to her at that time) off the features desk’s Free Stuff Shelf and later became obsessed with it. Maybe it’s because I knew a lot of people from Lexington, where she grew up, or maybe it’s because her alma mater was the rival of mine. We didn’t exactly roll in the same circles, but we’ve had a lot of places in common, and probably more than a few people in common. Or maybe, because, as a small author with a small press, I admire her for using the Internet to connect and collaborate with her fans. It’s something I try to do on a very small scale and it’s nice to see her crowdsourcing with such success.

So I’m coming to her defense because I feel like a member of my tribe is under attack, and I don’t feel the attack is just.