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September 2014
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Doctor Who: Deep Breath– A (mostly) spoiler-free review

Author’s note: Trying to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but am hesitant to declare anything spoiler-free as some people would consider it a spoiler if you mention that there is a dragon in The Hobbit. (Oops, sorry. Let the cat out of the bag on that one)

So, first impressions: Deep Breath blew my mind. Possibly the best Doctor Who episode ever, and this is coming from an obsessive life-long fan.

Surface stuff: My steampunk self was squeeing non-stop– Victorian London, scary automatons, all sorts of gears and levers and a hot-air balloon.

Great checking in with the Paternoster gang. Especially loved Vastra and wife quibbling like any other married couple. Not sure if Strax’s descriptions of the various regenerations made it to the network version (I went to the theater), but hearing the Sontaran take on the first 11-plus regenerations was hysterical.

Also, the creepiest episode I have ever seen, and all without any on-screen gore. And much of it written over the head of the wee ones (At least, I sincerely hope the wee ones don’t get the implication of what the hot air balloon was made of.)

Lovely bit of clever ambiguity in the end, with one question never quite answered.

Lots of great inside jokes for fans, and lots of Scottish jokes as well. (More squee)

On to the deeper stuff, and oh, sweet gods, is there a lot of depth. Perhaps the first regeneration story to realistically address what it must be like for the companions/friends of the Doctor when, hey-ho, it’s a brand new and different him. Also explores the true nature of love, be it romantic or otherwise. (To quote the bard, which no one in the ep did, but should have: ‘love is not love that alters when it alteration finds’). With perhaps a slight meta-comment about the loyalty (or lack thereof) of certain groups of fans.

We meet a Doctor that at once harkens back to the tough, ready-for-action, maybe even a tiny bit ruthless Doctor of the Pertwee era, and yet is in some ways the most vulnerable of them all.

The first episode with a new Doctor is always a bit scary to die-hard fans. If this season continues as it began, I, for one, am ready to fall even more deeply, hopelessly in love with the series.

Gold Medal for Ravensblood!

So proud to announce that Ravensblood has won a gold medal in the Global Ebook Awards!

Blog Tag 2: Describe Your Protagonist

We interrupt our semi-regularly scheduled Cool Stuff blog story to play another game of blog tag. I was tagged by author Veronica Scott ( and challenged to answer the following questions about the protagonist of my current work-in-progress. In my case, it’s a bit of a cheat since I’m working on the sequel to Ravensblood.

Note to those who have not yet read Ravensblood (and why haven’t you?): There may be what some would consider SPOILERS below. About on the level of what you would get if you read the cover blurb of the second book of a series before you finished the first, but since some people are sensitive about that sort of thing, I thought it best to include a warning.

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Corwyn Ravenscroft, or Raven, is a fictional character.


2) When and where is the story set?

In an alternate universe/parallel universe version of contemporary Portland, OR (and environs), a world where magic is real, life is full of impossible choices, and sometimes death magic is the lesser of the evils.


3) What should we know about him/her?

Raven is the last heir of an ancient family of dark mages. As a youth, Raven wanted to be a Guardian but was rejected because of his ancestry. In his pride and his anger, he had turned to William, the darkest and most powerful mage of their time. William wanted a return to the old ways, where the most powerful mage was ruler absolute. But William would not have been a True King from the fairy tales. He would reign in blood and terror and darkest magic.
In the last book, Raven discovered that he does have a conscience. It’s rather inconvenient.
He became a spy for the council that William wants to overthrow. His contact is the Guardian Cassandra Greensdowne, his former lover and apprentice.
In this book, Raven has won his pardon but is still very much an outsider in the Three Communities, although he has done some informal pro bono consulting for Guardian International Investigations, where Cassandra now works. He may find that he has more friends than he realizes— though his enemies are both powerful and determined.


4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

The Ravensblood is an immensely powerful dark magic artifact that Raven created in the beginning of the last book, an artifact that is instrumental in his defeat of William. It is taken from him by the Council at the end of the last book and held under the highest of security. When the Ravensblood is stolen, Raven is accused of the theft, his pardon is revoked, and he is on the run.
As long as the Ravensblood is in unknown hands, the Three Communities are in danger. Raven, Cassandra and their allies start to wonder if William is really dead. Meanwhile, an unknown enemy is moving in the shadows.


5) What is the personal goal of the character?

If you asked him, he would probably tell you that it is to live his life quietly and without harassment, research magic, go to the opera and play chess with his bookstore-owner friend, and be with Cassandra as long as she’ll have him. Yet he has an unmet and unacknowledged need to find a place in the community, or at least to find a community that has a place for him. He loves the challenge inherent in the sort of work done by Guardians. And his conflicting and unresolved feelings about his family history and his identity within it are about to bite him on the butt.


6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The working title is Raven’s Wing. The pre-publicity is still under wraps— look for a cover reveal, a book trailer and an Indiegogo campaign in the coming months. In the meantime, if you have not already read Ravensblood, the first novel of the series, you can find it here:
There is also a two-pack of short story prequels, Duet for Ravens, available here:
Or look for links elsewhere on my website, or simply plug my name into an Amazon search.
The trade paperback edition of Ravensblood is also available at Another Read Through bookstore in North Portland.



7) When can we expect the book to be published?

Tentative release date is Winter Solstice of this year (12/21/14)

Cool Stuff Series: The Wee Ceili Room

OK, so I have permission to share with you one of the best kept secrets in the local Irish music scene.

All right, not-quite-so-well-kept secrets. At the least, it’s a Cool Thing that most folks outside the inner circles of Irish music fandom haven’t heard about.

I present to you the Wee Ceili* Room.

Technically, it’s an enclosed porch in the back of the home of Irish dance instructor and traditional music promoter Sam Keator and his lovely and gracious wife Anne Doherty, but to call it an enclosed porch doesn’t do it justice. The floors and walls are a rich, polished wood, with windows and skylight. Most important, the acoustics are excellent.

This, my friends, is the location of some of the most incredible house concerts you will find anywhere. Don’t believe me? Google Andy Irvine, Noel Hill, Laurence Nugent, Hanz Araki, Golden Bough, and Molly’s Revenge. They, and plenty more, have played the Wee Ceili Room.

Calling the setting intimate is an understatement. Seating is for about sixty-ish, and if you are sitting in the front row you may have to tuck your feet out of the way if a musician gets up to change instruments. The atmosphere is one of utmost respect for the music— you will not hear people chatting in the audience or talking on their cell phones while the musicians are playing. Not that all is Serious with a capital ‘S’. The musicians generally bring stories to go along with the songs, and some of them will have you laughing until you can’t breathe. If you want to not only hear the songs and tunes, but also learn about their provenance and the historical events from which they arose, this is your place.

There is a casual potluck of desserts, snacks and libations before the music starts that picks up again with the set break. Don’t worry if everyone seems to know everyone else. Before the end of the evening, you’ll know everyone, too. And when you come back the next time they’ll be glad to see you again.

The Wee Ceili Room reminds me of something out of Charles de Lint’s Newford. I half-expect Geordie to play there some day, or to bump into Jilly in the audience. Outside the world of Story, we may not find shapeshifters or paintings that come to life, but the magic is real nonetheless.

(The Wee Ceili Room exists in the very real Washington County, about 45 minutes to an hour southwest of Portland. To find out more about coming events and to find out how get on the mailing list, check out And while you are there, look at the info on dance classes, ceilis, the Community Concert Series, and other great things Sam has going. ‘Cause honestly, I could probably fill up the rest of my Cool Stuff blog with the events he has going on.)

*‘Ceili’, pronounced ‘kay-lee’ has come in this country to refer to both Irish Social Dance and to one of the dance socials where ceili dancing happens. But the literal translation from the Irish is ‘party’.

It Takes a Village. . .

Samhain-kitty here. Since writer person is neglecting this blog almost as badly as she is neglecting her poor, long-suffering cat, let me be the one to tell you she has a guest blog up at Here Be Magic.

The people behind the scenes who make books happen. Including you, readers!

Cool Stuff II: Arch Cape

Since I recently spent the long weekend in one of my favorite spots on the planet, I thought it time to share it with those of you who think Arch Cape is just another little green road sign between Cannon Beach and Manzanita.

Admittedly, that was all it was to me until I made the acquaintance of a wonderful couple who happen to own a historic cabin a short walk to the beach. I will be forever indebted to them, not only for many weekends of unparalleled hospitality and very fine Scotch, but for introducing me to one of the most magical places on Earth.

Arch Cape is so named for a natural stone arch hollowed out by the action of the sea. At low tide, you can walk under the arch, but know your tides! If you are on the wrong side of the arch when the tide comes in, you’ll have to scramble up the cliff and walk a couple miles down the road to return to your car or lodgings.

A bit further out is a natural monolith called Castle Rock, similar to the more famous Haystack Rock of Cannon Beach, but quite a bit smaller. Locals call her Queen Vic, an appellation given her by one of the first settlers to what is now Arch Cape, an English immigrant at the time that Victoria still sat on the throne. During winter storms, waves may overtop Vic, truly an impressive sight.

One of the marvels of Arch Cape is its solitude. During the off-season, you may well be the only one out on the beach. There are no big hotels, no shops, not even a grocery store, and, as of this writing, no restaurants or bars. (Plans are in place for one of the latter. The property has been bought and a chef hired, but the Orca Lounge still awaits permitting before it can get off the ground.) Bear in mind this means no public restrooms, so plan accordingly.

Narrow paths wind through native bushes from the town proper down to the beach, and it doesn’t take a writer’s sense of whimsy to imagine fantastical creatures hiding beneath the tangled growth. Many, if not most of the residences are owned by the occupants, which give the place a small town feel. The best illustration of the spirit of Arch Cape came a few trips ago during a solitary morning walk on the beach. A strange dog ran up to me and, without preamble, shoved a soggy tennis ball into my hand to throw. Because, of course, I had not brought a dog of my own, and so he felt the need to share his retrieving services for my entertainment.

An interesting historical note: the cannon for which Cannon Beach were named actually washed up in Arch Cape. It was one of the cannons from the Shark, a naval vessel that shipwrecked on a sandbar at a time when the border between the US and Canada was still in dispute. Two more cannons were discovered later, also at Arch Cape. They have been painstakingly restored and are now on display at a museum in Astoria. Arch Cape was originally called Cannon Beach, until the town just to the north stole the name. They also, arguably, stole the first cannon, but I’ll leave that story to someone else’s blog.

And on a literary note, Arch Cape makes a special guest appearance in Raven’s Wing, the sequel-in-progress to Ravensblood.

If you day trip, public access is down Leech Street off of US 101. I suggest you round off your trip by continuing south to Manzanita and having lunch or dinner at the Sand Dune Pub. Tasty pub food with generous portions at reasonable prices. There is outdoor seating in good weather, and well-behaved dogs are welcome in the outdoor seating.

First Blog in the Cool Stuff of Portland(ish) series: Mississippi Pizza and the Atlantis Lounge

OK, so I decided to try to break my blogging dry spell by doing a blog series on cool stuff in the Portland(ish) area. Figure half of the locals know about these things, but it’ll probably be a different half each time. So, for locals, some stuff you might want to check out. For non-locals, a glimpse into the cooler, geekier side of Portland and some stuff you might want to check out if you ever make it out here.

Ground Rules:
1) The definition of ‘cool stuff’ is up to my highly biased opinions and will possibly be highly slanted toward, though by no means limited to, Things to Do With Irish Music, Things to Do with Steam and Victorian Architecture and Things to Do With SF and F Geekery.
2) Portland(ish) area is very loosely defined as ‘within a day’s drive, more or less, of Portland.’
3) ‘Stuff’ includes places to go, things to do, things to see.
4) Cool stuff will appear in no particular order. I don’t take bribes, but if there’s something cool you think I might like and might not know about, feel free to drop me a line.

With no further ado: my first cool place is Mississippi Pizza and its Atlantic Lounge. Not the fanciest place by any means, but if you like very-thin-crust pizza, the food is good and reasonably priced. I’m not a huge fan of thin crust, but the sauce won me over. The attached lounge is pretty, with some lovely stained glass and attractive carved-wood paneling that reminded me of the interior of a steam-era rail car. I visited on a sunny Sunday, with the shadows of the trees outside dancing across the stained glass, very summery.

The best part of the Mississippi is their live music. All ages, no cover, and some of Portland’s finest acoustic artists have played there. I went there particularly to catch singer/songwriter/fiddler Kathryn Claire, who deserves a place on the Cool Stuff list all her own. (Irish trad and Americana. Rich, powerful expressive voice. Look her up on YouTube, and then at her website

If you go, be aware that you will need to order your food at the counter at Mississippi Pizza; there is no table service. The line may be long, so pack your patience.

If you want great music on the cheap in a relaxed atmosphere, it’s worth checking out. (3552 N. Mississippi Ave, Portland

Interview at New Writer’s Interface!

I was interviewed by award-winning author Mary Rosenblum over here on her blog!
(Mary was also my editor for Ravensblood)

Power of Healing– Symbols and Archetypes in Fantasy and Legend

My blog on the symbolic and archetypical power of healing in fiction and legend is up at Here Be Magic! Also check out the rest of the Healer Week blogs. . .they’re giving away a whole *bundle* of books for Win-a-Book Wednesday, not just one, and there’s still time to enter!

Blog tag!!

So today we’re playing blog tag. Thank you, Veronica Scott, for tagging me!

I was given some questions to answer on my books and my writing process, and then I get to tag next week’ victim!

1) What am I working on?

Currently, I’m waiting to hear back from separate publishers on both a high fantasy male/male fantasy romance and a steampunk Victorian detective novel (with werewolves!) Meanwhile, I’m frantically writing Raven’s Wing, the sequel to my urban fantasy Ravensblood, both of which are set in an alternate-universe version of Portland, Oregon (though Raven’s Wing does take a side trip to the Australian outback.)

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Although the Ravensblood universe is very firmly rooted in the modern-day, it has a bit of a traditional-fantasy feel, probably because I also write medieval fantasy and fantasy romance. I tried to give Raven especially a sort of old-world gentleman feel to contrast with Cass and her very modern vibe. In Ravensblood I also wrote a universe in which the magic side of the world (Art and Craft) is fully integrated with the Mundane world, not hidden as it is in, say Harry Potter or The Dresden Files.

And although I use the terms dark and light magic, I very much like to play with the shades of gray. It’s not always clear where the boundaries are, and on one occasion practicing death magic is the lesser of the evils.

For my award-winning debut novel The Stolen Luck, I blended the elements of high fantasy and fairytale with a very realistic world. I wanted something that was clearly fantasy yet felt real. I had set out to write fantasy first, and when the romantic elements turned up, I was determined to make the development true to the characters and their situation.

At the risk of sounding dreadfully self-important, I’m less interested in writing fun romps that readers will rush through and forget than I am in writing the kind of book that readers will become absorbed with and think about long after they finish the final word. The Stolen Luck explores how far a good man will go to protect the ancestral vineyards he loves and the people who depend on him. Just because there are no easy answers doesn’t mean the writer shouldn’t ask the question. Maybe that’s even a reason to ask the question.

To me, the inner journey is just as important as the outer journey. In Ravensblood we saw Raven’s struggle to escape the world of dark magic he’d committed to as a bitter young man. In Raven’s Wing he has to come to terms with both his past and his ancestry and figure out his new place in the Three Communities and among the people who enter his life. The latter task becomes more difficult, of course, when he finds himself on the run, trying to find the stolen Ravensblood and prove his innocence.

3) Why do I write what I do?

There’s not just one answer to that. Usually it starts with a character that grabs me by the throat and won’t let go until I start writing his or her story. Then it becomes about my passion for the story itself and my desire to share it, to rock the reader’s world in the way mine has been rocked by the stories I’ve read and loved.

Of course, there are things I care about that show up in my novels. Bright and Dark (the working title of the fantasy romance I just sent off) is, among other things, an expression of my rage and sadness at prejudice and the wars it causes or allows. My steampunk has in it themes of class and gender oppression. But I think if you start off trying to write about war or discrimination or what-have-you, it leads to bad fiction. If you start off with story and write from the heart, the things you care about will come out in a way that touches the reader’s emotionally, and that’s far more powerful.

4) How does your writing process work?

My writing process is ever-evolving. I used to be very much a discovery writer. I had a beginning, and some idea of the end, and I just muddled through the middle ‘till I got to the end and then did a ton of rewrite to make it all work.
On one novel, I wrote the key scenes first (inciting incident, first turning point, dark night of the soul, climax, resolution, but not in order) then wrote the bits in between, not necessarily in order. It was an. . .interesting experience, and not one I’ll repeat. I think that novel holds my current record for Most Pages Discarded.

Writing mentor Eric M Witchey was the first one to make me write an outline. (He will insist he didn’t make me. Well, not in the sense of putting a gun to my head, but he gave me the assignment and I knew we would have to talk about it the next class.) Anyway, I realized that the ending I finally came up with was going to require a lot of set-up early on, and if I hadn’t outlined I would have been in a world of rewrite hurt. I’ve since found that by stepping back and looking at the big picture via an outline, I can find all sorts of neat ways to braid plots and sub-plots to make satisfying little echoes and connections that make the overall work more satisfying. Plus, when a reader or an editor asks you what you might have finished when, it’s a lot easier to answer with confidence if you know where the bloody thing is going.

Once I finish a draft, I’ll do a polish, then send it to my first readers. Once I’ve considered their responses, I’ll do another editing pass, and maybe one more to check for consistency and the overall feel of the thing. I’ve found in general that the more I write and the more I work on craft, the less revision I end up doing on each project. I’m making fewer mistakes that need to be fixed.

As soon as the final polish is done I start sending it out ding it to (or, for an indie project, sending it to my editor) and grab the next outline off the pile and start over.

And now for the fun part! I tag next week’s Monday blogger! Only one tag this week, but it’s a good one. Mary Rosenblum, award winning author of many SF and mystery novels published with New York publishers and overseas, as well as dozens of short stories that have been published in major magazines all over the world (and, not-so-coincidentally, my editor for Ravensblood.)

You can find her at