The Broke-Ass Gourmet: Hot Buttered Rum

The holidays are upon us, and as with most holidays, that means lots of occasions for social drinking.  But most drinks are cold, and it’s not exactly summer out there, so here’s a tasty way to have your booze and heat it too.  It tastes exactly as I imagine Butterbeer tastes, so all my fellow over-21 Harry Potter nerds, take note.

Hot Buttered Rum

1 tbsp unsalted butter (7 cents)
2 tsp brown sugar (5 cents-ish)
1/2c. boiling water
1/4c. spiced rum ($1.25) (Captain Morgan’s Original, $15/bottle at Ralph’s)

Put butter and sugar in a cup. Microwave for 15 seconds. Pour in rum. Pour in boiling water. Stir. Do not inhale the fumes before you take a sip or you will scorch your nose hairs off. (All those italics are for much-needed emphasis because the only one of those instructions I haven’t disregarded is the “unsalted” part and… just… don’t.)  Drink up!

Book Birthday!!!

Well, that Thanksgiving blog hiatus turned out to be a bit longer than I’d planned.  But more on that soon.  Today I’m here to announce the publication of the Red Queen Press anthology Once & Now, which includes my short story “12 Princesses of Bel-Air”.

Once and Now

Gorgeous cover, isn’t it???

You can purchase Once & Now for Kindle on and for the Kobo here.

Woman Writer Wednesday: Chandra Rooney

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you right up front that this week’s Woman Writer Wednesday interviewee is one of my favorite people in the world, in addition to being the book “dealer” I go to when I need a hit of awesome.  Chandra Rooney is the author of The Tarot Cafe: The Wild Hunt and all sorts of lovely things at her blog Dreaming In Red.

1. What/who inspired you to become a writer?
Stories were always important—they’ve always been my way to process the world around me, to try to understand and cope. But I do have a distinct recollection of reading The Sandman—and I should note after several people told me I needed to read it—and going that’s it, that’s it right there. How we interact with the abstract—with ideas, with beliefs, with wishes—is the beating heart of most of what I write.
2. What do you like most about the genre[s] you write in?
Well, I’m going to pull a Margaret Atwood here and say I write “Speculative.” I like writing about the world I live in as seen in a warped mirror; I love how what’s reflected is filled with true things disguised as things that couldn’t possibly be real.
3. What’s the best piece of writing-related advice you’ve received?
I promised my friend Hillary Monahan that the next time I was asked this question I would reply she gave me the best advice when she told me “don’t kill strangers on the bus.”
4. Is there any type of writing you would like to try that you haven’t already?
I’d love to write comics. When I wrote The Tarot Cafe Novel for TOKYOPOP I translated something visual into straight prose, so I’d like the opportunity to take straight prose and translate it into something visual.
5. You’ve participated in the Labor Day 3-Day Novel Contest; could you share a little about your experiences?
I can’t commit to a draft without a playlist for it, so I’m going to say that music is a definite influence. Often writers will talk about listening to loud music or soundtracks while writing, but for me… the entire song has to work. Lyrics are very important, because they’re the words entering my brain while I work.
Working in social media means the internet has had a profound impact on what I write. I have pinboards, and I find it fascinating that many of these images come from other people’s collections. These people I’ve never met who may be passing along images from people they’ve never met are influencing and inspiring me to create.
Speaking of visuals: TV shows are another influences because they convey so much through gestures and dialogue. It helps me block out scenes and keep my characters moving. Plus, there are multiple character dynamics and you never know when a throwaway concept or plot point is going to spark something. Shows I know I’ve been influenced by include The Vampire DiariesChuckPushing DaisesThe MentalistFringeSherlock. I don’t watch as much TV as I used to. Doctor Who was a go-to for inspiration for a long time—week to week an entire worlds got created, used up, and left behind—but I’m noticing lately that I’m more interested in the cinematography of the show than the stories.
Although my exposure to has greatly decreased over the years, I’m still incredibly influenced by anime/manga—the tropes, the genres, the character archetypes—and when I have a chance to watch a new series, I always get something from it.
For a sample of Chandra’s work, have a listen to her reading of an excerpt from her novel The Tale of Ariake:

Woman Writer Wednesday: Beth Wodzinski

For this week’s Woman Writer Wednesday, I interviewed Beth Wodzinski, who in addition to being a writer in her own right is the editor of speculative-fiction magazine Shimmer.

1. What/who inspired you to become a writer?
As soon as I learned to read, I wanted to write. I remember starting a novel in kindergarten — my mom said she’d help me write down the words. So I told her all about how our neighbor went out to her chicken coop and discovered someone had killed all her chickens. Then what, my mom asked, and I had no idea, and stalled out of writing for many years. Since then, I’ve gotten a little better at figuring out what happens next.
2. What do you like most about the genre[s] you write in?
The suggestion that even the most mundane lives have magic and mystery in them.
3. What’s the best piece of writing-related advice you’ve received?
I am currently enamored with the 7-Point Story Structure, from a recent Writing Excuses podcast. There’s also a series of videos on YouTube where Dan Wells goes into more detail about it. I’m using it right now to work out the plot of my next novel, and it’s been extremely helpful.
4. Is there any type of writing you would like to try that you haven’t already?
Most of my writing has been done under race conditions — NaNoWriMo or timed flash challenges. I do enjoy the glee and the lowered expectations — NaNo is so much fun, and I’ve gotten so much from it — but it’s also kind of insane and full of pressure. I’d like to learn to write in a saner and more grounded way, without all the fuss and craziness. Ha, probably you were asking for a subject or genre? But really I think the next big challenge for me is steadiness of practice. One of the most useful tools for learning this steadiness has been the Dance of Shiva, which is kind of like yoga for your brain.
5. How have your experiences in being the editor of Shimmer affected your own writing?
One of the unofficial-but-true reasons I started Shimmerwas to have an excuse to procrastinate on my writing, and that strategy has been brilliantly successful.Reading thousands of slush stories has taught me a lot — not just the usual stuff like how rejections aren’t personal, but more interesting stuff about what I look for in a story, what kinds of images and structures and ideas work for me. It’s clarified my vision. But it’s also raised the stakes for me; I don’t want to write the kind of “just ok” story that makes up the bulk of slush piles everywhere. And raising the stakes just makes it harder to get started writing my own stories.

Beth and her fiction can be found at her own website.  You can find her magical magazine Shimmer here.

The Legend of Van Guy

The story I am about to tell is absolutely true.  No names have been used because I no longer remember the fellow’s name.  He is merely Van Guy, now and evermore.

Once upon a time, I had the bright idea to go to a “lock and key” party.  Which is not as kinky as it sounds.  You’re just assigned a lock [for women] or a key [for men] and you go around the room trying to find the person whose key or lock fits yours [obvious metaphor is painfully obvious] – after which you trade in your lock and key for raffle tickets.  One of my coworkers had met her significant other at one of these events, so I thought, what the hell, it’s worth a shot.

my type

My type.

At the particular event I went to, trying locks and keys wasn’t an icebreaker so much as a “doesn’t fit? okay, moving on” competitive thing.  I chatted with a couple of other women, but that was about it.  Until this one guy wanted to stop and talk.  He wasn’t my usual type at all, but what the hell, right?  He was drinking what looked like a lemon drop instead of a beer, which struck me as an unusual choice for a blond hippie-lumberjack type wearing a hand-knit toque, so my curiosity was reasonably piqued.  I figured he must be a hipster.

He was pleasant enough to talk to, as far as small talk goes anyway, and I figured there wasn’t any reason why I shouldn’t have lunch or coffee with him, so I gave him my number.  Which I regretted doing not two minutes later, when he revealed his secret.  He had said that he was visiting LA from Portland, where he ran a landscaping business, to see if he wanted to move down here — so I assumed he was staying with friends.

not my type

Not my type.

You know what happens when you assume, don’t you?  You get blindsided with the news that this fellow is not, in fact, visiting friends, but is living in a van down by the river.  Or, down by Venice Beach, but same principle, right?  He then went on to detail his dream of purchasing a larger van and installing a bed in the back of it.  Which, you know… it’s not just the whole “If this van’s a-rockin’, don’t come a-knockin'” thing that bothered me, it’s the fact that he thought this was something worth sharing with someone he just met at a singles event.  Are there female van enthusiasts who would be like “HELL YEAH, baby, let’s go!”? Was he hoping to find a woman to take pity on him so he could crash with her instead of living in his van?  These are the great unanswered questions of the ages.

Some of you may be thinking that it couldn’t get any worse.  Sadly, you would be wrong.  He went on to detail his adventures driving from Portland to LA in his van, which included the oh-so-shocking sight of “a white man with a sign asking for money at a freeway onramp” and “a Mexican guy” and “a Chinese guy” stopping to give the man some money.  Yep.  Behold the hippie lumberjack van-driving racist.  It was around that time that I made my excuses and escaped to find the other women I had been talking to — both of whom were equally horrified and baffled as to how Van Guy would think that was an anecdote worth repeating.

Sadly, I didn’t meet anyone else at the event, and I headed home hoping that Van Guy had gotten the hint when I completely avoided him for the rest of the evening, but nope.  He called me not once but TWICE in the following days.  I deleted his voicemails unlistened-to, and fortunately he didn’t persist.  I don’t know what happened to Van Guy, but I imagine him driving all along the West Coast, seeking a Van Girl to join him on his adventures.  Godspeed, Van Guy, and thank you for giving me a truly excellent “WTF” story to add to my repertoire.

Woman Writer Wednesday: Nancy M. Griffis

For this week’s Woman Writer Wednesday, I interviewed speculative-fiction author and screenwriter Nancy M. Griffis.

1. What/who inspired you to become a writer?
You know, I don’t even remember. I was a serious reader before I ever thought to be a writer. Marion Zimmer Bradley, CJ Cherryh, Anne MacCaffrey, Sir Walter Scott, Madeleine L’Engle were all favorites of mine. And my family were big readers, too. It wasn’t until I stopped dancing, though, that I turned to writing when I was around 14. I guess I needed a creative outlet. My mother brought home this massive IBM Selectric typewriter from work and off I went into the world of writing. I had good English teachers, too, who always encouraged me whenever I turned in short stories for projects.
2. What do you like most about the genre[s] you write in?
I love the possibility. In scifi/fantasy/urban fantasy, anything can happen. The most boring or cowardly person can become a hero and impossible creatures of myth can show up in downtown LA or NYC.
3. What’s the best piece of writing-related advice you’ve received?
Write every day. Can’t remember where I saw/read it, but you should write every day even if it’s just a list of things you need to do or a paragraph on why you hate getting up for work/school every day. Something. Anything.
4. Is there any type of writing you would like to try that you haven’t already?
Funny you should mention that! I’m going to do National Novel Writing Month this year (the last few years life has been against me doing it) and my novel will be in the YA genre, which I’ve never done before. I like to try something different with every novel and I think this will be a definite challenge. It will definitely be different! lol!
5. You’ve participated in the Labor Day 3-Day Novel Contest; could you share a little about your experiences?
It was a pretty manic experience each time I’ve done it. Three days of little sleep, way too much caffeine and sugar, and exacerbated carpal tunnel syndrome from too much typing. Creatively speaking, though, it’s a powerhouse. There’s something about all that pressure to produce in such a very limited time that just makes the words come out. Of course, having an outline and character sketches ahead of time makes it a hell of a lot easier, which I found out the hard way one year. hehehe.
You can find Nancy on the Web at her WordPress blog, or on Twitter.  Her published works can be found here at