Thirteen and Other Monstrosities 13-19


Thirteen: it’s unlucky, and everybody knows it.

            Thirteen is the number of books I plan to have in my Firebird Chronicles. It’s the number of BioMages Unity used to control their populous. And—here’s a little secret—it’s the total number of Mage types that exist.

            I’ve told people this before, but I’ve never written it in the blog. It’s a big part of the upcoming books, it’s the axis on which my Worlds turn. Thirteen Mages.

            Magic isn’t something I’ve worked with before. In my Fantasy books, I never included a magical component (at least not in my later works—and we’re not going to talk about my first attempts at authoring). It’s a whole new, exciting, intimidating realm that I’m dipping into. And I’m horrified by the very idea.

            I loathe books that have magic without reason. There needs to be logic, there needs to be a sound basis for why magic exists. The best example of well-done magic is Brandon Sanderson. He has a hundred different ways magic can exist and be used in his universe, and they all make sense. In Mistborn, people can burn metals for different powers. Only some people can control some of the components. In War Breaker, they use color. In the Way of Kings, he uses the Stormlight. I love his magic systems.

            And so, because I put such emphasis on a logical magic system, I’m holding the threads to thirteen different possibilities and I’m FREAKING OUT. WHAT IF PEOPLE FIND A FLAW! WHAT IF IT ISN’T FOOL PROOF! WHAT IF kdsfja;siodfjowijf

            This is my brain around midnight every night. I freak myself out worrying that my imaginary Worlds don’t have the perfect imaginary magic. I suppose this is the life I’ve chosen. And even if I wasn’t worrying about magic, I suspect that my human brain would find something else to worry about in the wee hours of the night. And, if given the choice, I suppose I’d rather worry about magic.


Someone asked me today why I bothered with printing ‘real’ books.

            They argued that as a self-published author, it would make more sense for me to publish the cheapest possible book. Why invest in hard copies when soft copies are easier to produce, and have no limit. There’s nothing to store, nothing to ship, and nothing to carry. I would be able to give books away easily, would be able to directly offer my Worlds to readers. It makes sense. It does.

            I laughed when this person asked me this. I laughed because they couldn’t possibly understand. When my first book was mailed to me, when I opened that first package and found Firebird laying within…well, that’s one of the best days of my life. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.

            I had a professor back in college who argued that after a few more years, the only reason people would buy hard copies of books would be because they are beautiful. There would be no reason not to buy electronic versions: better for the environment, cheaper, easier to buy. And true, the environmental reason alone would be enough to convince me that he was correct.

            Still, I published hard copies of my first book. More than that, I didn’t even get the electronic version done (although I do have someone working on it, I promise). The thing is, I don’t agree with that professor any more than I do with the person who couldn’t understand why I’d bother with paper publishing. Books are more than a collection of ideas. I almost never read on my Kindle (I honestly couldn’t even tell you where it is). Holding a book, turning the pages, being able to look at something on paper—it’s part of the reason I enjoy reading. There’s magic in books. And cheapening/quickening the process in which we get that magic to readers…I for one can’t bring myself to do that.

            It’s the same when I work on manuscripts. Until I make my printer choke out a few hundred pages, it doesn’t seem real. And I catch quite a lot more typos when I hold that paper copy. Why? Who knows.


Tonight, we party.

            It’s been a long time since I had friends over for a good, old fashioned get together. I’m talking beer pong, a full bar, strange games and endless giggles. Loud music, of course. Plenty of wandering around outside afterwards, naturally.

            I used to have people over all of the time in college. Our apartment was in between the dorms and the clubs, so it worked out that ours was the taking off point. It was fun. It was a lot of fun. And some of the memories from that time are the best I have. The ones that I can actually remember, of course.

            What’s my point? I guess I don’t have one. I’m such an introvert, I’m most content when I’m alone. I enjoy tidying up  my house while listening to a good book tape or rewatching some Star Trek. I own The Next Generation on DVD and after flipping through it for the hundredth time, I’m digging in to Deep Space Nine again. It’s probably one of my favorite series, DS9. I love the guest appearances from TNG and Dax is easily my favorite character in the entire franchise. Even Quark is a fun addition, and Odo is one of my favorite stoic characters (there always seems to be one…Spock, Data, Odo…)

            I’ve always enjoyed the logic-based characters, even outside of Star Trek. Sherlock Holmes, for example, changed the way I look at the world. That might seem a bit of an overstatement, but it’s true. My introduction to Sherlock was through Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of it, with Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. (excuse any spelling blurps, I doubt that I’ve ever written those before). After that gateway, I devoured Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, tearing through every Sherlock story he ever penned (Minus the Valley of Fear book…I never could get into that one).

            After Doyle, I took a class in college about adaptations and Sherlock Holmes. It was one of the more engaging classes, as the key focus was why we are so obsessed with a character incapable of affection. But my favorite thing coming out of that class was that I suddenly had an appreciation for adaptations. Before, I couldn’t stand even the idea of someone using another author’s imagination to spawn their own creation (imagine that). I had no respect for adaptations, no reason to read them.

            But then I read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and I was in love. It changed—once again—the way I looked at the world. And for the first time in my life, I understood adaptations.


Today was a hangover day, as only hangover days can be.

            I slept for the majority of it, of course. And when I did wake up, it was to slowly offer food to my frustrated stomach. Sometimes I wonder why anyone would ever drink alcohol, but those times are when I’m ill from the indulgence, so in a way, it’s sort of like love.

            We know how much it sucks when we fall in and out of love. But if the opportunity for a perspective lover comes along, aren’t we all excited by the prospect? If we went into every relationship with the expectation of the breakup—why would we ever bother. Similarly, if we drank alcohol for a hangover, no one would ever drink again.

            Just some random, achy-brain thoughts.

            Otherwise, today was a day for video games. Not by me, of course. I was busy pretending my couch was a dark little cave in which I could hide. My buddy—I forget what I call him on here, so let’s go with Pete this time—played Read Dead Redemption 2. I really love watching other people play one-player video games. Read Dead, Assassin’s Creed, Skyrim…I’ve spent countless hours reading, writing, editing, drawing, or just simply watching while Pete plays on my Xbox. I don’t know why, other than it’s warm and familiar, and I get to spend time with my oldest friend.

            That’s all I have for this Saturday. Don’t drink. It’s bad for you. Unless you’re having fun, in which case screw it. Drink away, me pals. Enjoy time with your friends, even if it’s just hanging out on a couch. Live your life.


This is, without a doubt, the chilliest St. Patrick’s Day I’ve ever had.

            I woke up at a nice time and, having avoided alcohol and late night activities the day before, I felt amazing. I went to a friend’s house and met her baby, then had breakfast with her before taking a leisurely stroll home. The sun was shining, it was above freezing, and there were songbirds in the forest around me.

            Later, I did a tiny bit of editing and hung out with Pete, watching as he continued through the RDR2 storyline. Having already finished it, I enjoyed seeing his reactions. All in all, it was a classically Sunday-y Sunday.

            And later, we went to Pete’s mom’s house and had her traditional dinner. Corned Beef and cabbage, green mashed potatoes and butter, and a DELICIOUS green-dyed cake (my favorite, white with raspberry filling and cream cheese icing). It’s our family tradition (as Pete’s family and mine have known each other for over 40 years) and I don’t know what I would do without it.

            Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that Corned Beef isn’t an Irish tradition.

            I was studying in Louisburgh, County Mayo, Ireland, and it was St. Patrick’s Day. There was going to be a parade through town—though it was cancelled that year—and I was skipping on my wat to the butcher. But when I asked for Corned Beef, he literally laughed and asked if I was one of the “Yanks” (Americans) living in the cottages. Well, yes, I said. And he said that he had never heard of Corned Beef before the American students asked him for it.

            Maybe it’s an Irish American tradition. I don’t know. What I do know is that the year I was in Ireland is the first year I spent St. Patrick’s Day without Corned Beef. Although, I have to admit, fresh Guinness was more than worth the lack of beef. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: there is no American Guinness that can compare with a fresh pint from an Irish pub. It’s better. And that’s a truth.


I suffer, on occasion, from ocular migraines.

            I’ve had them only handful of times in my entire life, and the first one scared the daylights out of me. A kaleidoscope covered my vision, both eyes, and made even walking a strenuous task. That part only lasts about ten minutes, but then there’s the migraine itself. The first one barely hurt at all. The one I had today made me hide under my desk and close ever blind. And believe me—when it first turns above freezing and sunny in Minnesota, it takes a lot to keep me from reveling in the sunshine.

            The migraine lasted all day and by the time I got home, all I could do was try to hide. I’d stopped by the grocery store—being Monday, I couldn’t break with my own traditions—and stocked up on ingredients for my Monstrosity.

            What is my Monstrosity, you ask? Why, it’s the reason I have time to write in the evenings after work. Every Monday, I go to the store and purchase around $40 worth of groceries (including my coffee for the week). Then I come home and throw all of that (minus the coffee) into a pot/pan and bake up a week’s worth of dinners.

            In order to create a suitable Monstrosity, you need to make sure that it contains the important nutrients for your weekly work. There should be vegetables, meat and carbs. If you can swing it, throw in some extra protein (such as cheese) and make sure there’s enough for guests…just in case your friends are feeling adventurous. Sometimes my Monstrosity takes the form of an egg bake. Sometimes, it’s a pasta dish, or a soup. This week, my monstrosity is three different kinds of traditional pastas all thrown together in one really heavy pan. I had peppers, sausage, onion and mushrooms. There was red sauce, tomato paste, herbs and shell pasta. I made an alfredo with jalapenos, garlic, and mustard seed (mustard seed is the key). And, of course, about a pound of cheese.

            The thing I didn’t tell you about a Monstrosity: it’s freakin’ delicious.


I watched Spirited Away for the first time last night.

            Here’s the thing with movies: I love them. Here’s the other thing with movies: I hate them. I’m so picky about movies, I watch the same ones over and over again because I know I like them and I won’t be disappointed. They’re safe, time-hardened classics that make me happy. I’ve seen the first Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter probably a thousand times (and counting). I love Indiana Jones and Star Wars. My favorite all-time movie is probably Jurassic Park (the first one) and my feel-good movie is the first Hobbit.

            So, when I go in to watch a new movie, you have to understand that I do so with a bit of pessimism. Okay, more than a bit. I have pre-movie anxiety. Whenever George Lucas does something new, it’s all I can do to find my way to my seat in the theater. And once I do, I’D BETTER NOT HEAR ANY BLOODY-DAMN POPCORN MUNCHING.

            But that’s a story for another day. On this day, I want to talk about how much I loved Spirited Away.

            Over the years, I’ve had a few close friends beg me to watch it. One left the movie suggestively on my desk for a few months (where it stayed). Finally, finally I broke down. Finally, I took the time to watch it.

            And you know what? I’m going to have to buy it. I don’t own many movies or video games. Unlike books, owning them doesn’t bring me pleasure unless I absolutely love them. My movie/TV self is the most selective of shelves. I own Firefly, Star Trek, and Sherlock. I have the previously-mentioned movies. I own MASH and some of the Andy Griffith Show (my childhood boiled into pictures and sound). But that’s about it.

            If you haven’t seen Spirited Away, you should make yourself a Monstrosity and get ready for one of the best nights you’ve had this week.



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  • Hi Laura!

    I couldn’t agree more about the library in my house. Honestly, I have so many bookshelves and stacks of books all over my home, sometimes it feels like I’m already there. I keep my childhood classics in my bedroom (Harry Potter, the Redwall Series, Inkheart), and have a convoluted system throughout the rest of my house that literally no one else has been able to understand (but I know where every single page is, so that’s all that matters).

    And oh! I had no idea that Neil Gaiman wrote a take on Sherlock! Hello evening reading! Thanks!

  • Oh, I read Mistborn a long time ago and still remember thinking the magic system was cool because it followed some logic and had limitations. I can see how making sure you are consistent and don’t have any big loopholes in your logic would be anxiety inducing, but just remember, some of the most popular fantasy book series have major flaws in their magic “logic”. Just asking yourself questions about it and putting forethought into it will go a long way to making a solid foundation I’m sure.

    I am glad you released physical copies of your book or I never would have discovered it! I have a Kindle, but it only gets used on rare occasions for library books (if I’m really lazy) or free book promotions from Amazon or early reader lists I’m on. I always prefer reading a physical copy, not exactly sure why, but that physical connection to the pages grounds me in the story better. Likewise, I love having tons of bookshelves in my room and around the house. It’s like seeing old friends every day, I love the reminders of all the great books I’ve enjoyed, and it’s great for being able to browse when I want to read something. It’s a lot harder to keep track of my collection if they were all digital files. I’m not sure how other people feel, but I will always be a physical book person and I’ve always dreamed of having a large personal library in my home!!!

    In regards to Sherlock, I’m not sure if you read graphic novels ever but there’s one out there called “A Study in Emerald” by Neil Gaiman (adapted from a poem or short story of his) and it is AMAZING. An awesome take on Sherlock and one of my favorite graphic novels in my collection.


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