And we’re off!

As mentioned in my last post, I have been tagged by Marvelous Marvin (henceforth known as MM) to spill the beans on six things my readers might not know about me.  Six unusual things.  This is kind of a toughie ‘cause most of the off the wall things about me are in my bios on whatever social network or blog I’ve joined or written. I actually spent some time thinking about this between 4 and 6am when I couldn’t sleep this morning, figuring it was a better way to entertain my brain than worry about finances.  But I’m still having trouble, so I’m gonna start with one and see where it leads me.  In fact, I’m going to cheat a bit and blog on one new and fascinating Dana factoid a day.  I’m also supposed to tag six people so in keeping with my one a day (just like a vitamin!) revelation, I’ll tag one person at a time. This will also give me a chance to figure out who Marvin has not already tagged.  J


Okay, number one:


 Sword fighting is unusual (at least it was when I started; it’s become a lot more common as more renaissance faires and live gaming groups have sprung up over the years. Most of you know that I do theatrical combat, but most people don’t know how I got started on this swashbuckling past, so I’ll make this number one:


My first sword fight was actually a short sword fight at the San Diego Renaissance Faire the very first year it was held in the Balboa Park Organ Pavilion. I dressed as a gypsy in a full circle red skirt, cinch belt and off the shoulder white blouse and sauntered around the faire with all the confidence of an 18 year old having a good skin day.  As I waited in line for some food (probably the ubiquitous turkey leg), I overheard a conversation between a two guys in breeches, puffy white shirts and boots.  One of the guys was complaining that his fight partner had backed out at the last minute and he wasn’t going to be able to do his swordfight.  The fellow talking was in his ‘20s, had a mane of thick black hair, shot with silver, smooth olive skin and nice features.  Dashing.  Cute.  Puffy white shirt. 


Without a second thought, I stepped forward and said, “I’ll do it!” 

And thus begun my checkered career in theatrical combat and my introduction to Chris Villa, my first combat teacher. Chris took me up on my offer with an equal lack of hesitation, taught me the basic parry/cut/thrust positions as taught by SAFD (Society of American Fight Directors) in an hour and we performed the fight, complete with appropriately cheesy and sexist dialogue shortly thereafter.  It went well and I soon became totally enamored with everything about sword fighting, including my teacher.  


Chris started my predilection for men who swordfight.  Something about the musculature of swordsmen, all smooth, subtle ripples under the skin instead of big old bulky Ah-nold type guns.  And I’m sucker for the breeches and boots.  Oh heck, it’s all about the romance that goes with the entire package.  While I’ve met plenty of total assholes in the world of theatrical combat, I have never met one who lacked romance in his soul. 


Chris was my first real boyfriend and we eventually became engaged. Things didn’t work out – I was SO not emotionally mature enough to settle down, but Chris had a huge impact on my life and was responsible for giving me the gift of what became an integral part of my life.  He also got my cat high, but that’s another story.


Eventually I’m going to dig out my old photos and scan them so I can share a pictorial history as well.


And for my first tag, I tag Other Lisa! 

Tagged Again…

…but too tired to tag along tonight.  I’m supposed to tell you all six things you might not know about me.  Six interesting and unusual things.  Tonight I feel about as unusual and interesting as a cardboard box.  A plain, boring cardboard box, with nothing written on the sides.  So I’m going to save the Tag challenge until tomorrow, by which time I will have recovered from a weekend writing binge to meet today’s deadline and will hopefully remember all those fascinating factoids that make me a unique and interesting person

In the meantime, go check out Free Spirit, my friend and fellow author, Marvin’s blog.  Marvin.  He who tagged  me and who has already spilled the beans on no less than 12 interesting factoids about himself.  And in the meantime, I will get a good night’s sleep, bask in the glow of having written almost 3,000 word today and having successfully met my latest deadline.

Short Stories

We went to the September Sisters in Crime Nor Cal (henceforth known as SinC NC) meeting a couple Saturdays ago and, along with some most excellent food and beverage (this was a potluck at one of the Sister’s houses), we were treated to a talk by Sophie Littlefield on the subject of short stories.

Sophie is also a romance writer and recently signed a three book deal.  Unlike a lot of novelists, Sophie loves to write short stories. She’s one of the few I’ve met who actually thinks its easier to write a short story than a novel.  I personally cringe at the thought of having to wrap up a story in fewer than 12,000 words and this is only in the horror or fantasy genre.

I have written short stories.  My first published piece was actually a short story in Cat Fantastic IV, an anothology edited by the feline loving sci-fi and fantasy author Andre Norton. The story was co-written with afore-mentioned pal Brad.  I’ve published two other short stories, both with zombies as their central theme.  One hard-boiled zombie noir and the other black humor set in Hollywood.  I had fun writing all three, but never any calling to write more until I wrote a story for my boyfriend.  This story, CHAMPAGNE, is what got me my first introduction to Ravenous Romance (the name is just calling out for a romantic zombie story, I’m telling ya…) and now I have another short story due at the end of the week.   There’s a little bit of denial going on there… but I’ll get it done!

My friend Brad Linaweaver is another prolific short story writer.  He’s constantly writing something for this anthology or that magazine and while he’s primarily known for his science fiction, he happily surfs all genres.   If I recollect correctly, Sophie has written in every genre except for science fiction.  Maybe these two should get together and breed a race of short story writing super geniuses.  Hmm…

The beginning, middle and end part of short stories is difficult for me.  I recently went through a box of old writing from grade school up through high school and most of my short story assignments ended with a ‘to be continued’ cliffhanger rather than a definitive conclusion. I’m sure I must have driven my teachers crazy.  I did have a few completed stories in the bunch,including a forgotten series called Desert Horse I’d written about the adventures of Justin and his horse Thunderbolt…and a couple of rather horrific pieces with evil twins coming back from the dead and vampires (the teacher marked these with a large A and the admonition ‘try writing something less morbid next time.’  But mostly what I’d written were the beginning of novels. I was amazed how many half-started ideas I’d had when I was growing up.

So I am in much admiration of people with the ability to tell a complete story in a few pages or even less than 12,000 words.  No padding.  Nothing extra.

I’ve only succeeded at absolute bare bones once, back when I first took pencil to paper and wrote my very first story at the age of five or six.  It was called THE END OF THE SUN.

One day the sun came out.
The next day the sun did not come out.
It was the end of the sun.

Beginning, middle, end.  Nothing extra.  You’d think I’d have been a natural at this short story stuff by now…

Back from the Cat House

Sigh…It’s been a long time since I was at EFBC/FCC. For those of you who haven’t been with me for the last couple years and seen all the tiger/ocelot/leopard/jaguar pictures, this is the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound/Feline Conservation Center in Rosamond, California.  If you know where Palmdale and Lancaster are, just keep going east on the 14 until you hit the Rosamond Boulevard/Edwards Airforce Base exit and hang a left.  Go a few miles and look for the big green sign with the leaping leopard on it.

I am physically wiped out from the drive, so I’m gonna keep this short…also, I have a very detailed essay about my experiences working at EFBC on my website here.

And even better, here are photos by Nancy Vandermey, rocket scientist, EFBC docent and board member, and photographer extraordinaire, of four new felines: Kali, fishing cat (born at EFBC); OBI, serval (one of our few rescues; Rocco, jaguar (born at EFBC); and Thumper, Canadian lynx.  Both Kali and Rocco are being hand-raised.  Could they be any cuter?  I don’t THINK so…

Mid-Week Brain Freeze

Or brain meltdown.  When I hear stories about authors like J.K. Rowling writing the first draft of Harry Potter on napkins on her breaks during her job as a waitress…well, first of all I wonder if it’s true or one of those apocryphal stories that makes those of us balancing full time jobs with our creative pursuits feel like there’s hope.  Plus it makes great copy for publicity.

But seriously.  I have been busting my ass at work the last week and a half and am just so wiped out when I get home in the evenings, it’s been a real challenge meeting my word count on Champagne.  Heck, it’s been a real challenge doing more than pouring myself a glass of wine and collapsing on the couch in a heap.  This week has been particularly brutal, with a big two day meeting Thursday (jeez louise, that’s tomorrow!) and Friday.  Add to that some particularly annoying and random crisis’ involving corporate cars, tickets, police stations and a hellish drive this morning through rush hour traffic during which all the short cuts I tried got me lost…well, it’s been a trial.  A Salem witch type trial in which the choice is drowning and being proclaimed innocent or surviving and getting burned as a witch.

Okay.  NOT that bad.  I’m just feeling especially dramatic here. Did I mention I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep all week either?  Us sleep deprived people are drama queens.

My question here to all of you writers who either have full time jobs or kids (same thing) is how do you balance it all out and save energy for your writing?  What do you do when you’re so exhausted that changing out of your work clothes into pajamas feels like an hour of tae-bo?  ‘Cause I could really use some good ideas or inspirational speeches about now.  Y’know, like playing EYE OF THE TIGER except lacking the ’80s power chords.

I’ll tell you what I did last night.  I visited Brad and Aldyth, plopped myself down on their kitchen floor, accepted a glass of wine and let myself get covered with kittens.

I was still tired, but extremely content.

Just one of those moments…

I was playing Muni Roulette Thursday and ended up on a two hour hike.  I went up and down hills, finding hidden staircases and secret gardens.  I saw amazing architecture, beautiful landscaping and unique decorating touches, like a mosaic mural of a seascape made from bits of tile, glass and stones, depicting fish, sharks, jellyfish, waves, and mermaids.  This was on the side of a stone wall bordering someone’s house.  Next to it was an urn with a serene looking Indian goddess carved on the side.

I loved this particular walk, even as I started up a hill so steep I had to lean forward immediately upon my first step upward or risk rolling back down the hill like Sisyphus’s boulder.  It was cool, fog and clouds rolling in from the ocean, a brisk exhilarating breeze blowing the whole time.

The best part, however, was a very brief encounter when I stopped at Andronico’s Market on Funston and Irving to use their restroom (and buy a tea biscuit as a treat) before setting off on the second half of my walk, which would take me up into Golden Gate Heights and into West Portal.  Andronico’s just finished a big remodeling and their women’s bathroom, instead of being one room where sink and toilet were together, now held two stalls.  I went in, pushed open one of the stalls…and found myself face to face with a round faced dumpling of a little boy, about four years old tops.  He wasn’t doing anything…just standing there in the stall.  I looked at him, he looked at me.  He said, “I was in da bafroom.”  I replied, “I guess you were, sweetie.”  He gave me this heartbreakingly adorable smile and toddled out of the room, content with the world.

I’m not even a kid person, but something about this little guy made my day.  I just hope he doesn’t grow up with the habit of hanging out in women’s restrooms.

You may refer to me as Guru Dana

I took the Perception Personality Image Test today and this was the result:  

 Your result for The Perception Personality Image Test

NFPS – The Guru

Nature, Foreground, Big Picture, and Shape

NFPS - The Guru


You perceive the world with particular attention to nature. You focus on what’s in front of you (the foreground) and how that fits into the larger picture. You are also particularly drawn towards the shapes around you. Because of the value you place on nature, you tend to find comfort in more subdued settings and find energy in solitude. You like to deal directly with whatever comes your way without dealing with speculating possibilities or outcomes you can’t control. You are in tune with all that is around you and understand your life as part of a larger whole. You prefer a structured environment within which to live and you like things to be predictable.

(I haven’t decided if I agree with this or not…or why this would make me a Guru…but it was a fun test to take!)


The Perception Personality Types:


To take this test and find out if you too are a Guru, go:

Times, They Have Changed…

I got an email from my best friend today, a very chipper email about decorating for Autumn, books, food…and how she got up at ‘the butt-crack of dawn’ for the purpose of signing up one her two charges (my friend is a nanny) in the school play.  See, at this particular school in this particular affluent section of San Diego County, it’s not as simple as it was when WE were kids.  Her charge (who we’ll call S) is seven.  Or eight.  I lose track.  At any rate, when I was that age, school plays found a place for everyone who wanted a part.  Oh well.

ANYway, my pal got there at 7am, figuring this would be plenty early enough.  She found and found a long line of parents sitting in beach chairs who’d been there since five thirty in the morning.  The sign-up officially started at eight.  They ended up 9th on the waiting list.  So, to quote my pal, ‘it looks like S’s dream of being a baby rat in “Charlotte’s Web” probably won’t happen.’

But that’s not the real kicker.

Each child who gets in the play will pay (or rather their parents will pay) $250 for the privilege of participating, no matter what their part.

Is is just me, or is this sending a really negative and dysfunctional message to these kids?   It’s not like this school needs the money to put on their play.  This is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in SD County and if my podunk school in Lakeside or the slightly more ritzy Cabrillo Elementary could afford to put on a play without charging the actors a fee, so can La…er…this community.

I shakes my head, I does…

Trader Joe’s Wine Alert

If you’re a wine lover, you’ll know that the more you taste, especially as you taste better wines, the more difficult it is to find a truly satisfying wine for a bargain price.  By ‘bargain’ I’m talking under 10 bucks, although it’s easier to find a nine dollar wine with some complexity than, say, a five dollar wine.  I miss the days when a bottle of Black Mountain Fat Cat Cabernet from TJ’s was all I needed to make my tastebuds happy.  I still have a deep sentimental attachment to that particular wine…but it doesn’t quite do it for me the way it used to.  So when I find a really good wine for under 10 bucks these days, let alone five bucks, it’s a gift from the gods…specifically Bacchus.  And I found one today.   Dave and I were doing a quick TJ’s run before the monthly Sisters in Crime Nor Cal meeting and…

Hmmm.  I shouldn’t be sharing this information.  I should be hoarding it like Smaug horded his gold before those nasty little hobbits (we hates them, we do, yessssss, preciousssss) showed up and ruined his mellow dragon lifestyle.  I should keep my mouth shut and insure that the supply of my new grapey love will be at my local TJs for a few months.

And yet…

I find an unsuspected spark of nobility within my dragonish soul and even a bit of guilt at the thought of NOT sharing this new wine find. So…here it goes.

2005 Chariot Gypsy.  The label shows a woman in a red head scarf astride a chariot, very much in the vein of a Major Arcana tarot card.  The back only says it was bottled by Jim Neal wines in St. Helena, California.  Nothing about varietals.  I have no idea what grapes were used in the making of this wine (although its rich, spicy characteristics lead me to suspect a zinfandel or syrah in the blend).  The price tag?  $4.99.  The placard in the store said One Time Buy.  When it’s gone, it’s gone.  So I had to try it.  We took it to the SinC meeting and cracked it open aong with an inexpensive Spanish cava.  The cava was okay.  The Chariot?


This is a winner, folks.  As mentioned, it’s rich and spicy, almost like a Sangiovese (hmmm…maybe…) and goes REALLY well with pizza.  It’s got a lot more complexity than most 4.99 wines and the bottle was quickly emptied by the attending Sisters who are into red wine.   We stopped at TJ’s on our way home and bought some more of it to make sure the one bottle hadn’t been a fluke.

It wasn’t.

So if you’re a wino and have a Trader Joe’s in your neighborhood — or know someone who willl ship it to you — hie yourself hence and get some of this wine!  You will not be sorry.

I will, though.  Because when it’s gone…it’s gone.

Now excuse me while I curl up on top of the remaining bottles


A Heart to Heart

I am working on Champagne right now, a character-driven novel based on a short story I wrote.  It’s due January 1st and while I loved writing the story, the novel has been proving a bit more problematic.  See, I’m a genre writer.  Mysteries, horror, fantasy… where things blow up, people get killed, zombies munch on the living, dames wisecrack…y’know, there’s lots of action.  I’ve got 6 more genre erotica-romance books lined up after Champagne, all of which will involve all of the above and then some.  I’m particularly hyped up about a (wait for it) post-apocalyptic romance (Dave calls it my Cozy Catastrophe series) in which I plan on first destroying most of civilization with a nasty virus and then letting my hero and heroine have all the fun of living off the remnants while outrunning a crazy ex-surfer turned warlord who’s taken over La Jolla. 

I mean…c’mon!  This is fun stuff we’re talking! 

But…that’s two and two-thirds books down the line.  First I have to finish Champagne and then tackle a semi sword and sorcery project. 

During the drive to and from San Diego, however, my brain and creativity took a giant leap forward into Post Apocalypse land.  With Dave as a sounding board and co-enabler (he loves post apocalyptic books and movies as much as I do), I came up with a skeleton outline for the entire book, picked out locations along the road for my characters to hide in and/or run the gauntlet of unpleasant surprises hiding there, had chunks of dialogue and character quirks spring in entirety from my mind like Athena from Zeus’s forehead. I could almost waking dream myself into scenes and watch them unfold like a movie; something I haven’t been able to do since I was in my early teens.  It was amazing and inspiring…and just so much friggin’ fun figuring out just what symptoms the nasty disease would manifest in its victims, what horrors I could unleash on the survivors, and how much fun they’d still have shopping for free in abandoned stores.  And yes, sex all of this up ’cause this is genre erotica romance, after all!  

But first I have to finish Champagne.  So that’s what I’ve been working on. 

I had a mini-tantrum this afternoon after spending a half hour on one paragraph.  “I HATE these characters.  They’re boring.  No one gets eaten or blown up. They just talk and have sex in picturesque places.  Feh!”  

I then stomped around the house a bit, had a glass of mineral water and sulked.  Then I came back and sat down with my iBook, where my characters in Champagne were waiting for me with sad, hurt expressions.  “We’re interesting,” they told me.  “Just because we’re not being chased by zombies or being amateur sleuths doesn’t mean we can’t lead rich, full lives that other people will enjoy reading about.”  My lead character took me aside for a moment and said, “Why don’t we try THIS…” and whispered a few things in my ear, some ideas of where we could take the story.  “I’ll do my best to be entertaining if you remember that we’re from your imagination.  We’re your kids too…even if we don’t use crossbows or swordfight.”  

And she was right. I originally created these characters because I loved them, even the annoying ones.  And it’s not fair to them to shove them to the back of my mind just because a new toy is prettier and shinier (and lets me destroy most of civilization!).  So I made a bargain with the inhabitants of Champagne – that I would accord them the same attention and enthusiasm as other, more action packed projects.  And in return they would continue to work with me to create the most interesting and entertaining world possible for them to occupy. 

And I promise to leave them alone when I destroy the world…