Writer. Editor. Leximaven. Game Designer. Vorpal Blonde. Bisexual Brainlicker. Midas's Touch. Schrödinger's Brat.

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Jan 7: In Which a Novel Takes Shape

posted on: January 8, 2015
in: Blog

I have written all the words in my novel and have none left for blog posting. (P.S. This is a good thing!)

Today’s Project(s): Beautiful Names for Monstrous Things

Today in Writing: Plus or minus 4,000 words. Seriously. 4,000 words!

Today in Walking: 4 miles

Today I Loved: You.


Fiction words written today: 4,000
Fiction words written this year: 4,600
Total words written this year: 1200
Total distance this year: 21.7 miles

Daily Shot: 

Discovery Bay

Discovery Bay



Jan 6: In Which We Begin to Retreat

posted on: January 6, 2015
in: Blog

Today I jumped into a car with three other women that I know only slightly who were kind enough to invite me along on their writing retreat. I am so grateful when people take a chance on me, and I try to say yes to those moments whenever I can, because I find they almost always turn out to be fantastic experiences. Today was no exception. There was lots of writing talk and life talk and language talk and laughter and a beautiful dinner and wine and even a little writing.

The house we’re staying at is also beautiful. Right on the ocean, lots of big windows and beautiful views, complete with a spaceship shower. Tomorrow’s plan is to get up early, go for a walk while thinking about plot and dark things that live under the water and poisoned apples, and then sit my butt down and write for many many hours.

Today’s Project(s): Beautiful Names for Monstrous Things

Today in Writing: 600 words, plus a whole lot of shaking going on

Today in Walking: 1.5 miles (I spent a lot of time in the car)

Today I Loved: Talking fiction (and other things) with smart, thoughtful, interesting people


Fiction words written today: 600
Fiction words written this year: 600
Total words written this year: 1200
Total distance this year: 17.7 miles


Daily Shot: Late-night writing against the ocean

Photo on 1-6-15 at 9.37 PM #3


Jan 5: In Which Parting is a Sweet Sorrow

posted on: January 5, 2015
in: Blog

Mondays are meeting days around here, and somehow they always take up more of the day that they should. They’re important, and I’m glad we have them because it’s the only time I really get to see the rest of the company, but they often suck up most of my day, between preparing, having, and post-action.

Some days are mundane, and this was one of them: Groceries, laundry, made a huge pot of vegetarian chili for the upcoming retreat, starting packing for said retreat, promised the dog that even though I was leaving her, I was not leaving-leaving her (she worries about such things, having been abandoned before, and I can empathize. After my mom left, it took me years and years to trust people who said they would stay. So I get it. Which makes it all the harder). But she and M are best of pals, and they will keep each other safe and entertained (I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever had a dog who makes me laugh so hard, or so often).

Tomorrow, I’m off to a writing retreat. No email. No social media. No doggy distractions. I’ll post my progress here, though, if you want to follow along.

Today’s Project(s): Tales from the Ninth World

Today in Writing: I reworked the two new short stories that I wrote for our most recent Kickstarter. They are both very, very weird, but I like rereading a story after so much time away. One punched me in the gut a little bit, which is always how I know that it might be working.

Today in Walking: 3.5 miles

Today I LovedThe Librarians. My house. The scent of vegetarian chili and BBQ chicken pizza.


Fiction words written today: —
Fiction words written this year: —
Total words written this year: 600
Total distance this year: 16.2 miles

Daily Dog:

Guardian of the Last Snowball



Jan 4: In Which I Panic About Being a “Real Writer”

posted on: January 4, 2015
in: Blog

I’m tidying things up on the work front (which mostly means that I’m working hard and a lot) so that I can essentially disappear for four days, during which I will be at a writers’ retreat doing, not surprisingly, some writing. When I was first offered the chance to go to this, I got that giddy pounding in my heart that leaves me a little breathless and a little like a kid before a birthday party and I pretty much ran around the house going, “omgomgomg.” Because it’s fiction, which is the thing (not the person, natch, but the thing) that I love most in all the world. And I was able to say yes, thanks to a partner who knows that fiction is the thing I love most in the world and who said, “Whatever we need to do to make this happen, we’ll do.” And then I pre-birthday-party glee-bounced around the house some more and now I’m getting ready to leave for it in just another day and…

…I am panicked. I am panicked that I will have forgotten how to write. That I will sit there and sit there and nothing will come. That this novel I’m in love with with die a slow and painful death at my fingertips and it will turn into ash while I sit there. That everyone around me will notice that I am, in fact, a total fake, a fraud, a shamwriter of the worst kind.

I know this won’t happen. In that tiny, necessary part of my brain where my ego lives (it IS tiny and it IS necessary; I believe it’s hard to be a writer without a whopping dose of self-confidence topped off with a cupful of true humility and insecurity), I know that I will write something, that if I sit down and do the work, the story will come.

But that doesn’t dispel the utter panic that has followed me around all day.

Today’s Project(s): More on both Weird Discoveries and Tales from the Ninth World

Today in Writing: Continuing with the editing and the reworking of things.

Today in Walking: 3.5 miles

Today I Loved: A ring, a dog, a man, a moon.


Fiction words written today: —
Fiction words written this year: —
Total words written this year: 500
Total distance this year: 12.7 miles


Daily Dog:

Photo on 1-3-15 at 6.35 PM #4


Jan 3: In Which Things go Flomp

posted on: January 3, 2015
in: Blog, Uncategorized

Today was a blister of a day. I mean, I got up early, the dog and I went for a walk/run, I managed to cross 90% of my to-do list off before 1pm, and then … flomp. The four things I had left on my list at 1 o’clock are still on my list as I write this at 10:30 pm. Oh well. Some days you just can’t do all the things. We did go see the new Hobbit, which I liked better than I expected, and sneaked the rewatching of another episode of True Detective in. Time for another hour of work if I can pull it off (my brain goes kaput after 10pm and dances around going, “Let’s play! Let’s read! Let’s eat M&Ms mixed with honey roasted peanuts!” so sometimes working at night isn’t an actual option.)

Today’s Project(s): Numenera Exclusive Boxed Set, Weird Discoveries, Tales from the Ninth World

Today in Writing: Mostly edited and reworked existing pieces. Nothing new, I’m sad to say. But I do have four days of pure fiction heaven coming up, and I plan to take full advantage of it.

Today in Walking: 4.7 miles

Today I Loved: No Rest for the Wicked and Sunless Sea


Fiction words written today: —
Fiction words written this year: —
Total words written this year: 400
Total distance this year: 9.2 miles


Daily Dog:


Photo on 1-3-15 at 6.37 PM #5

Jan 2: In Which the Dog Knows What You’re Doing

posted on: January 2, 2015
in: Blog

Today’s Project: Codename Slugabed

Today in Writing: Got some concepting done on Slugabed, and a few hundred words down, most of which will go away on the rewrite (sometimes you can just tell). Mostly I’m struggling with this project. I just can’t find the voice, the sound of it, and that means it’s hard for me to catch my stride. I keep throwing everything out and starting over.

Today in Brain Food: Reading An Untamed State, by Roxanne Gay and rewatching True Detective

Today in Walking: 4.5 miles

Today in Everything Else: I like beginnings. But also middles. And really, really good endings.


Fiction words written this year: 0
Total words written this year: 200
Total miles this year: 4.5

Daily Ampersand:


In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate

posted on: January 2, 2015
in: Blog

Today’s Project: Codename Slugabed

Today in Writing: Got some concepting done on Slugabed, and a few hundred words down, most of which will go away on the rewrite (sometimes you can just tell). Mostly I’m struggling with this project. I just can’t find the voice, the sound of it, and that means it’s hard for me to catch my stride. I keep throwing everything out and starting over.

Today in Brain Food: Reading An Untamed State, by Roxanne Gay and rewatching True Detective

Today in Walking: 4.5 miles

Today in Everything Else: I like beginnings. But also middles. And really, really good endings.


Fiction words written this year: 0
Total words written this year: 200
Total miles this year: 4.5

Daily Ampersand:


So in a way we were waiting for it.

posted on: December 29, 2014
in: Blog


I think we tag time by its passage, away from us or toward, but rarely right as it goes by, its light touch, its dawn promise. It’s too easy to miss it, while we are looking ahead or back. A ghost. Insubstantial. A sneaky thief stealing away with the right now.

Only the last few days of a year for me are the place where I feel stilled in time. I can actually feel it passing, this hot death rattle, this sweet first breath. These last few days, I spend a lot of time in the triptych of time: what was, what is, and what shall be. I try not to dwell on the failures (I’ve learned that the road to success is paved with failures), although I am willing to sit with the losses. This year, the death of my grandmother most of all. Especially this time of year, I miss her hands on my cheeks, asking me if I’m really and truly happy. I hope that throughout my life I answered her honestly every time, no matter what the answer was. If she took my cheeks in her cool, callused palms now and asked, I would say, “Yes. Yes I am.”

It’s true. Failures and losses and stresses included, it’s been a good year and I am happy.

Happy now is not what happy was when I was 6 or 12 or 30. And if you’d asked me at those ages what it would mean for me to be happy in my 40s, the thing I would have described is so foreign from where I actually am that I wouldn’t recognize it. (Although at 6, I was pretty sure being happy meant being Stephen King–he was a writer! he published books! he lived in a spooky castle-house!–so perhaps it’s not so different after all).

Happy is now a complex term for me. Like love. Like melancholy. Striated and complicated and multi-colored. Rainbow, if you will. But a rainbow like a mantis shrimp sees it. Hallelujah happy.



Will 2015 be happy? I like to think so, if I expand my definition of happy to include the berry-thorned sweetness of growth and change, the terrible howl of loss, the crumbling status of the world, the tiny stresses that nibble round my ankles, a private swarm of hungry worries. If I remember the deserved love of good people, the unconditional love of good dogs, the new words, the old words, the moments when everything settles out and water is clear and calm for miles and miles.

I have some big goals for 2015, in the hope that they will increase my happiness meter. Waste less (health, natural resources, time, energy, attention) and Fear less (oh, everything). Also, the same big goals I have every year: love, respect, kindness, humility, gratitude, growth.

But I don’t know what my small goals are. Writing always factors in, of course. But sometimes I feel odd about setting goals for the new year, because every year gives me a new opportunity to take an unexpected road. And I take it every time. In 2011, I was going to travel the world again, and then the world said, “Hey, instead, how about you fall in love and move to Seattle instead?” And I said yes. In 2012, I set a goal of writing fiction all year long. And then I had the opportunity to work on the roleplaying game Numenera and I said yes. In 2013, I had a plan and instead said yes to co-owning a game design company. This year, I had a plan and instead said yes to [redacted], an entirely new and secret project that I started working on this past fall, and which will continue into the new year.

Looking at this list, it might seem like I’ve failed in my goals, but that’s not the way I feel. I feel like I’ve made a conscious decision to say yes to amazing opportunities–and I don’t regret a single one.

Here’s what I accomplished in 2014 (of course, none of this is just me; it all happened as part of a team and I’m grateful for everyone who gave their time, attention, and skill to each of these projects)

  • Edited and published The Strange corebook, a 416-page roleplaying game
  • Wrote and published Love and Sex in the Ninth World, a short guide to sex in Numenera and roleplaying games in general
  • Wrote As Kinky As You Wanna Be, a non-fiction guide to BDSM (published by Cleis Press)
  • As part of Monte Cook Games, we put out more than a dozen PDF books, at least half a dozen print books, and ran a successful Kickstarter for a deluxe boxed set of Numenera. We also garnered a few awards for Numenera.
  • Completed some short pieces for various publications, including Lightspeed Magazine.
  • Got to be Maid of Honor in my baby sister’s wedding, and didn’t cry more than 11,000 times.
  • Adopted a 2-year-old lab-something mix from the local animal shelter and gave her a forever home.
  • Said yes to the most important question I was asked all year.

Here’s what I did not accomplish in 2014:

  • Keeping in touch with friends, family, and loved ones.
  • Writing and publishing fiction.

Whatever else I do in 2015, I would like to remedy both of the above.

So maybe my list of small goals looks like:

  • Keep in better touch with those I love
  • Write and publish more fiction
  • ??

Three seems like a good number of small goals to have in any given year. Maybe it’s best to leave the last one blank, as a wild card. An opportunity to say yes to whatever wonderful and amazing thing comes along.

Time is sneaking by me, but I can hear the puppy-patter of its tiny feet, can feel the air on my face from its wagging tail as it passes. What was, what is, what shall be. A rainbow hallelujah. May we all enter the new year singing.

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

**Title line courtesy of Never Ever, a poem by Brenda Shaughnessy

Holiday Gifts for the Writer in Your Life

posted on: December 17, 2014
in: Blog, Uncategorized, Writing Goodies

What do you buy the writer in your life for the holidays?

Books. Next question.

However, in case you’re looking for something more (not better — never better than books!), here is a list of stuff that for me for the favorite writer in your life. But I’d love for you to add your own ideas — what have you always wanted for your writerly self that you’ve never gotten? What was the best writing-focused gift you received or gave?

  • A gift certificate to a local bookstore, paper store, or office supply place. Alternatively, a subscription to Audible.com or Oyster (like a Netflix for books). I read books in Oyster like MAD. It’s like the library just showed up on my iPad. Heck yeah.
  • Aquanotes. Because, hello, writing down my awesome shower ideas without having to drip water all over the floor and call downstairs for a pen and paper? Hell yes.


  • Book or writing jewelry. Etsy’s great for this stuff, like this book pendant, this scripturient pendant … in fact, just search “writer” or “writing” on Etsy, and you could fill multiple jewelry boxes with cool stuff.
  • If you know your writer well enough to know how he or she reads, get them something cool to help with that. A pillow, a booklight, a thing that helps keep their Kindle at the right angle… all this stuff can be ubernice when we settle in for some rare and much-desired reading time.
  • Time. Speaking of time. Time and space might be the best gift ever for writers. Offer to walk my dog a couple of times or make dinner so I can write? I’m yours forever.
  • A subscription or membership to a writing organization, writing magazine, or fiction publication. Or an online writing class by Cat Rambo or Mary Robinette Kowal.
  • Caffeine, baby. Coffee drinkers might like a gift certificate to their local coffee shop or a subscription for coffee at home (Blue Bottle and MistoBox are two good options, but there are lots more).
  • This library stamp t-shirt from Out of Print Clothing, because no matter what anyone anywhere says ever, libraries ARE THE COOLEST. Out of Print Clothing is just chock full of good writing stuff, from shirts and bags to coasters and socks.


  • Speaking of libraries, what about a subscription to The Librarians TV show or copies of the original movies, featuring Noah Wyle in his glorious adorableness?
  •  An art print of a famous closing line from one of the world’s best books. Beautiful and inspirational.



Okay, writers and writer-friends, what great gifts did I miss? Throw them into the comments below!

Shall I at Least Set My Lands in Order?

posted on: October 1, 2014
in: Blog


My house in not in order. Yes, my literal house: dishes unwashed, clean laundry unfolded, the dog hair unswept from its new home on the floor. But also my mental house. My mental house is messy. I mean, it’s always messy–I’m a creative, impulsive person who changes her mind, her opinions, and her desires from one day to the next (What? I know that on the day we met I said I didn’t like olives, and it’s awesome that you remember that, but I tried them last week and now they’re my favorite food!).

But this is different messy. This is darkly messy and bleeding, like when you dye your hair black and it stains the back of your neck and rubs off on your sweater and sheets and lover for weeks. And you notice the stains everywhere, and you know that if you just washed your hair a couple of times, it would stop bleeding all over, but you’re just … too tired to care.

That last part is the important part in all of this. Knowing that none of your houses are in order, and not being able to find the energy to do more than notice it and feel unsettled by it. But fix it? Why bother? The dishes will be dirty again tomorrow, the dog will shed again, my mental space will derail into the dark.

None of this is new to me. I’m 42 years old, and self-aware, so I recognize this for what it is: a very mild form of depression brought on by repetition, boredom, a sense of sameness. I’m a neophile. I need something new to keep me excited about life. I am easily bored, easily overwhelmed by having to do the same task again and again, easily discouraged by the thought of living a life where I am not constantly growing and learning. I would rather fail wildly at some ridiculous new thing than succeed, exhausted by repetition.

Former partners of mine (and probably some of my friends) have found this part of me to be an overwhelming flaw. “Why do you always have to want more?” “Things are fine, why do you need to change things?” “Why can’t you just be happy/content?”

It’s a fundamental difference, I think, in ways that people see the world. Because I can be stunningly, beautifully, ecstatically happy while still striving for something more and different and better. I am an optimist. I believe I am lucky every day to be alive, to do what I love, to have amazing friends and family, to be who I am, with a healthy body and an inquisitive mind.

It is only when I am stuck, when there is nothing new to explore and entice my senses, that I feel discontent with my current life.

Last night, I saw a program by Jad Abumrad, host of Radio Lab, on “Gut Churn” and the process of uncertainty in creativity. He talked about “going into the German Forest,” this dark scary place that happens to most of us when we’re about to take a big leap, creatively or otherwise. People who want to make their living doing creative things must find a way to walk through the forest, or sit in it, or otherwise deal with it, so that they can come out on the other side. And they must recognize that they will do this again and again, their whole lives, each time that risk appears.

I was listening to him, and nodding, but I was also thinking that I like the German Forest. It is one of my favorite places. Perhaps this is why I am so enamored of fairy tales, why I adore the big bad wolf, why I like the teeth and claws more than the basket of cakes.

There’s always been talk of the way that mental illness and creativity goes hand-in-hand. I don’t buy it as a blanket statement (but then I rarely buy blanket statements), because we’re all so very different. For me, creativity is the thing that keeps the wolf at my door — and I need the wolf. We have a symbiotic relationship. She scares me so that I feel alive. When I feel alive, my house is in order and I create the beautiful bloody things that feed her. And this is how we go round and round.

But sometimes she doesn’t show up, for reasons that I have yet to figure out. And then I don’t get scared and I don’t feel alive. And I don’t make anything, and she doesn’t get fed. It’s a great cycle when it works but when it breaks… like now… I am lost.

I miss the sound of her claws on my door, the scent of her breath in my face, the long slow flick of her tongue over her bloodied teeth. My house is not in order, and maybe, in the end, that is why she doesn’t come.

But here’s the thing I know: by breaking through the walls of my own apathy and depression to write this post, I have cleaned up one small bit of my house. I have created something new. I have cared about something. I have found my way back to the German Forest, and I am going to sit here until I hear the pitter-patter of claws scuttling across the dark earth. And then I am going to feel alive again.


Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

**Title line and last line courtesy of The Wasteland, by T.S. Eliot

**Image is from this artist.


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