An Unranked list of 17 Good Things that Happened in 2017 Because It Seems Necessary

Nikki from 2011 Enjoying Some Snow and Sticking Her Tongue Out At You, You're Welcome

Hey, all!

I'm not doing an Accomplishments post this year because, frankly, I didn't accomplish all that much. I had the publishing date for my book pushed back twice, once due to illness and the other due to my own issues. My word count for the year, which typically averages out to 1k per day, is down to less than 100 words per day. And things are a little scary for people in my position right now, so I decided to focus on the positives. So without further ado, 17 That Didn't Suck about 2017!

1. Joined a D&D game DM’d by the marvelous ShinyKari, where I got to play a gnomish artificer with a “thunder cannon” named Matilda (she has a spare named Miss Honey). This also led to getting to play a mechanical tiger named Cooper Steadman, and is a highlight for the year 2017.

2. Bought a house. That was pretty cool.

3. Set up an office with a bitchin’ accent wall.

4. Got rid of a gallbladder that caused a lot of pain since 2015.

5. Spent a really marvelous day in Chicago with Christina Henry, where I learned both about Chicago architecture and how to play games like Fluxx. Am considering retiring from Fluxx having never lost.

6. Visited the Santa Monica Pier and the Time Travel store with my uncle and grandmother. Am now the proud owner of a pen that transform a caveman into a robot and really, you can’t beat that.

7. Ate In’N’Out.

8. Bought an Instant Pot, which is a magical device. The best thing about it is now I can decide if I want to make soup on the same night rather than having to wait at least four hours for stock to be done (I can’t have store-bought).

9. My very good friend drove all the way from New Jersey to watch the eclipse with me in front of a McDonald’s in St. Clair, MO—which is a very “we live in the consumerist future oh god oh god” sentence, if you think about it.

10. Watched The Good Place.

11. Watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

12. Got to see the cast of Dark Matter in person and ask them questions that I hope weren’t inane. (we’re not going to talk about Dark Matter’s cancellation)

13. All those times Nikki flopped down next to me and used my ankle as a pillow, really.

14. Watched Wonder Woman.

15. Watched The Last Jedi.

16. Watched Thor: Ragnarok.

17.  Got to see the cast of Wynonna Earp in person and was honestly too starstruck to ask them questions, so I don’t have to worry about whether they were inane or not. #SilverLining

Loads of other amazing stuff happened this year that I'll remember just as soon as I hit publish, for sure. But in the meantime, people should leave me comments about the awesome things they did. Let's end this year right, even if everything's on fire.

Stay sexy!

Returning from the Half-Dead

Hey, all!

How’s everybody doing? Well? Good-ish? I know it’s Monday, which is universally the most hated day of the week, but I thought I’d check in. I just woke up because I’m on Day 5 of recovery from surgery, but I’m feeling up to sitting at my desk and working, so I thought I’d stop in and check on the blog, which has been super neglected of late.

The reason for that being that ever since I bought a house, I’ve been pretty sick. I started getting horrible stomach- and backaches in the end of February that I attributed to a bad diet while I didn’t have a kitchen. Between my day job, handling all the paperwork dealing with a new house, getting a second dog (she’s so cute, you guys) and writing, it’s been…stressful. Even better than that: it took me two full months to realize that my chronic fatigue wasn’t just me being lazy. I was actually, physically, completely exhausted (and not a failure).

Just like it took two months to get a diagnosis on what was hurting me. Luckily, once we had a diagnosis, things moved quickly: a week later, I went under the knife. It was an outpatient surgery that involved sedatives and anesthesia, and I have huge gaps in my memory. I don’t even remember being wheeled out of my waiting room or saying bye to my parents before the surgery, or what I talked about to the nurses on the way to the operating room.1 The first two days weren’t exactly fun, but I prefer the incision pain to the gallstone pain by about a thousand percent. Now it’s Day 5, I’m off the ice pack and even better I’m drinking my first Dr Pepper since March 5.

It’s such a sweet, sweet nectar of life, you guys. I have missed this.

Now that I have more energy, I can make other announcements! I posted about my friend Dan Koboldt’s second book coming out, and you definitely should check out that post and go give Dan some love on Twitter. The second book is such a special experience.

But the first book is truly magical, which is why I’m so goshdang proud to mention that my friend Susan Mann’s first book The Librarian and the Spy will be out tomorrow. She sent me a copy and I can promise this is a great book with funny, heartwarming characters and a great and hilarious plot. It got me through the first couple of days after surgery. Susan’s a good friend of mine: we’ve been writing buddies from our (mumble mumble) days. Watching her take the leap to write her first novel, getting an agent, and getting published has been one of the most legitimately cool things I will ever get to witness. Like Dan, you should throw her some love on Twitter. She’s got a cute puppy named Lucy, and she’s one of the wittiest people I know, you won’t regret it.2

Oh, right, speaking of new books—did you know that I’m writing a fourth SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS book and that it’ll be available either late this year or early next year? That’s right! More Gail! AND you can already pre-order it. I’m so excited to return to Gail and Guy’s lives and ruin the completely. Everybody’s coming back in this book! More Angélica, more Kiki, more Jeremy, more villains, more evil masterminds, more…superhero history? Whaaaat? Gail’s terrible at school, but we’ll see how she does as the newest student of the first superhero (spoiler: probably not well). So make sure to preorder your copy of GAIL 4: THE GAILENING3 on your favorite e-store!

Speaking of which, I’d better get to work, eh? How’s tricks, everybody? Catch me up in the comments! I’ve got another week off work and would love to talk!

Stay sexy!

1Given that the first thing the nurse asked me when I was shaking off the effects of anesthesia was to spell my penname and tell her about my books, I DO have an idea about what I might have talked about.
2 Susan’s the witty one. Lucy might be witty, too, actually, come to think of it.
3 Title pending. It’s hard to follow up a title like HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD because that one’s…a little grandiose.

Guest Post: Dan Koboldt!

It's here! It's here! It's finally here! After leaving us all hanging at the end of THE ROGUE RETRIEVAL, Dan Kobolt's second novel in the Gateways to Alissia series, THE ISLAND DECEPTION is now available for your SFF reading pleasure. Here's all the info and buy links on Dan's newest book baby!

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: April 11, 2017

What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas. But what happens after you step through a portal to another world, well...

For stage magician Quinn Bradley, he thought his time in Alissia was over. He'd done his job for the mysterious company CASE Global Enterprises, and now his name is finally on the marquee of one of the biggest Vegas casinos. And yet, for all the accolades, he definitely feels something is missing. He can create the most amazing illusions on Earth, but he's also tasted true power. Real magic.

He misses it.

Luckily--or not--CASE Global is not done with him, and they want him to go back. The first time, he was tasked with finding a missing researcher. Now, though, he has another task: Help take Richard Holt down.

It's impossible to be in Vegas and not be a gambler. And while Quinn might not like his odds--a wyvern nearly ate him the last time he was in Alissia—if he plays his cards right, he might be able to aid his friends.

He also might learn how to use real magic himself.

Continuing the exciting adventures from The Rogue Retrieval, The Island Deception blends fun and mystery into a brilliant new fantasy from Dan Koboldt.

Learn More About The Island Deception

Buy It Now:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | B&N |
All e-book formats also available here

About Dan Koboldt

Website | Twitter | Mailing List | Facebook | Amazon | Goodreads

Dan Koboldt is a genetics researcher and fantasy/science fiction author from the Midwest. He works for the Institute for Genomic Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where he and his colleagues use next-generation DNA sequencing technologies to uncover the genetic basis of pediatric diseases. He has co-authored more than 70 publications in Nature, Science, The New England Journal of Medicine, and other scientific journals.

Dan is also an avid hunter and outdoorsman. Every fall, he disappears into the woods to pursue whitetail deer and turkey with bow and arrow. He lives with his wife and three children in Ohio, where the deer take their revenge by eating all of the plants in his backyard.

Finally, An Update!


Good morning. Happy Tuesday, even! How’s everybody doing? You’re not hallucinating. There is indeed a blog post up on the LexieCon. I know! I’m shocked, too. But it turns out those “diet and exercise” recommendations actually do some good. Who knew? (Besides everybody who recommended them to me) I’m feeling much better these days, so I figured I’d sit down and write a blog post.

I’ve moved into my new house, which is 40% of the reason for my silence! It’s frankly terrifying because there’s so much about houses that I never knew. My home comes complete with a messy set of pipes that needed cabling on the first weekend I moved in, a furnace with the world’s shyest pilot light, and frankly more rooms than I know what to do with at the moment. I’m sloooooowly starting to put things in places and being able to actually locate things again. Boxes are being unpacked one by one.

It’s been an interesting journey because a combination of stress and bad eating habits nearly put me in the hospital. As it is, I’ve had to make some major adjustments. Also, while I was dealing with that: the night before the movers showed up, Nikki hurt her leg and subsequently refused to eat anything. We think the latter may have been due to stress, but the last time one of our dogs stopped eating she didn’t come home from the vet, so I was a little paranoid when I rushed Nikki to the vet hospital in the middle of the move. Luckily, she’s fine and after a couple weeks, everything seems to be mended. So. Plumbing issues, heating issues, health issues, dog issues, all on top of a new house.*

Did I mention I have a book due in May?

So, really, this is a great time to announce I’ll be at C2E2 for the third year in a row! Come see me at my panel on Saturday afternoon on April 22nd! Richard Kadrey, Alex Gordon, Rachel Dunne, and I will be led by Daniel José Older in a discussion about writing realistic superpowers. I have absolutely no experience with this topic and hope I don’t drag everybody else down. We’ll be doing a signing afterward and you’ll be able to get signed copies of HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD, a title I regret more and more every day because that’s seriously a guide we need right now and my book is definitively not a guide.

Other things happening:

The first Wednesday of every month, a bunch of really great Harper Voyager authors get together on Twitter and have the #SFFChat. It’s a good time, and if you’re on Twitter, you should check it out. I’ll let you know when the next session is as soon as I know.

First and third Wednesday of every month, my friend Khrys hosts a #StrongWomenWrite Twitter chat. Right now she’s trying to put together a great expo for women writers on how to write fight scenes, so you should meander over and check out that tag.

I’m trying to be a little more active with my Tumblr. We’ll see how it goes, but it’s basically just a random posting of things that I like and things that make me laugh, so if you’re having a bad day, have a peek.

Speaking of Tumblr, I’ve been curating a cross-referenced research Tumblr for a couple years now, just putting things that I find helpful on it. I’ve updated the theme and the tag system (though it’s a work in progress), so you should check it out: the-lexiecon.

Chuck Wendig strikes again with awesome writerly advice.

Boaty McBoatface hits the high seas.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a new Amazon pilot and you should really, really, really watch it because it’s Amy Sherman-Palladino’s writing and I can’t help it, I am a sucker for the banter.

And that’s all, folks. See you in *looks at blog* three months, probably.

Stay sexy!

* Cindy the dog will not be moving in with us; unfortunately she’s developed cancer, so my parents are going to keep her with them for as long as she can remain comfortable.

Ringing In the New, Tossing Out the Old

Every week there's a #bookqw tag on Twitter that I enjoy. This week I accidentally made Shark-man seem like a main character. OOPS.


Welcome to 2017 and whatever the hell all of this is.

It’s supposed to be a “new year, new you” sort of thing, but I’ve learned the dangers of posting resolutions online (I made some new year’s resolutions several years ago about finishing a story and then a reader called me on it later on that year. I understand their frustration, but…that story was free and my resolutions are for me, not for you, dude. It irked me, so I don’t do that anymore). And frankly, I don’t have any. There are some things that I want to happen in 2017 and several goals for my year, that’s for sure.

I could look back on 2016. I had a historically low word count (first time I haven’t cracked 150k since 2009) due to generalized anxiety. And I know that it’s natural, that we as writers have cycles and that a tree doesn’t produce fruit all year around, but I’m not proud.

But positively, some great things happened in 2016. Read some great books, saw some awesome movies. HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD came out…in the fall sometime? I want to say October and November.1 My awesome friend Sarah Kuhn blurbed it, which was the first time I’ve had a book blurbed. She said wonderful things about it, which was why I was happy to see her at NYCC (which I got to attend!). Getting to “hang out” with her in a Wired article was definitely a highlight. I have a new editor that I’m excited to work with, something really cool happened that I’m not allowed to share yet, I made some great bookish friends!

My niece was born in September and I got to meet her over Christmas and she’s this wild-haired, wide-eyed person I can’t wait to know. Any chance I get to see my nephews (and give them dragons) is treasured. My grandmother and uncle flew in to Phoenix to surprise me and they attended some of my panels, so now I can say I’ve talked about Superman’s uniform needing a chest- and butt-window in front of my grandmother, which not many people can say. I got to meet an online friend I’ve known since 2010! Personally it was a year of amazing occurrences.

2017 promises to bring some challenges, especially the first few months. While I’m working on a big project, I’m also house-hunting. I could tell you that I’m not doing this so Nikki, who is the biggest sun puppy ever, has a nice big yard to lie in and soak up the sun…but you know I’d be lying. That dog runs my life.2 Plus it’d be neat to have a dedicated office space. This is going to severely cut into my con-attending in 2017. I’ve budgeted out doing two, and those would both be done with the primary goal of visiting friends. Other goals involve sociability, some activism, and writing.

Other Things

My friend Liana Brooks does an amaaaaazing newsletter every week highlighting an impulse buy under $5. This month she’s giving away an e-copy of Chuck Wendig’s Invasive! You should sign up!

I’m going to announce my winner for my giveaway on Monday, so keep a close eye on my Facebook and Twitter!

Reading log has been updated to reflect 2016 and what I’m working on in 2017. It makes me laugh to see how few actual books I read, considering I read about 200-300k of fic every week. Also, if you haven’t watched Critical Role, I definitely recommend it. Matt Mercer is unparalleled as a storyteller, and it’s just genuinely fun to watch a group with such chemistry work together to solve all these in-great problems. It’s taught me quite a bit as a player.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on with me. How’s everybody else doing?

Stay sexy!

1 I’m so good at this author gig, you guys.

2 I CAN say that one of my goals of 2016 was successful: make more money writing than I spent on my dog. In the year’s defense, Nikki didn’t need $7k in surgery in 2016, unlike 2015.

How to Save the World Giveaway

Greetings, fair readers! It's been awhile (hi, Solitude)! I wish I had a good excuse, but the election got me down (yes, I voted enthusiastically for Hillary and also if you think that means I'm insulting you by having done that and that's a bad business model for a writer to have and talk about political opinions, welp, bye, see ya never), so it's been rough to be the up and peppy person on this blog in the meantime. I'm only here today to tell you I got some big news that I won't share for awhile and to announce...drumroll please...


That's right, see all of that swagilicious stuff in the picture at the top? That can all be yours for one low, low price of an entry into this form! Provided you're in the US because I'm terrible at post offices. The giveaway will end on the last day of 2016 because someBODY should get something good out of this year.

The bag contains:
  • • a NYCC tote bag and pin both featuring Nova the Sloth, Harper Voyager's amazing mascot
  • • a personalized signed copy of HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD
  • • a deck of Wonder Woman playing cards for others to play while they wait for you to finish reading HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD so they can have their turn
  • • my love and affection (intangible)

So get to signing up, folks! And know that I won't be around as much coming up: I'm in the process of buying a house and working on a project simultaneously, which means lots of avoiding spending money AND keeping my nose to ye olde grindstone. How's everybody else doing? What's been happening? Catch me up in the comments!

Stay sexy!


We join Gail Godwin in her quest to make it through one day without utter catastrophe striking! Warning: THIS POST IS FULL OF SPOILERS FOR SUPERHEROES/SUPERVILLAINS ANONYMOUS. You have been warned. In capital letters, even!

Dramatis Personae

Gail Godwin (Hostage Girl) – a woman who would just like to have a normal day, thank you very much.
Guy Bookman (Blaze) – the rich heir to a business empire who would also like Gail Godwin to have a normal day.
Angélica Rocha (Vertigem) – gym owner, superhero trainer, unfazed even though her main power is phasing.
Brooklyn Gianelli (Chelsea) – Supervillain. High school girlfriend of Sam Bookman, captured and experimented on by Lodi Corp and Dr. Mobius.
Raze (Razor X) – Supervillain. Does not understand basic things like friendship.
Kiki Davenport (No Hero Affiliation) – granddaughter of a superhero, a supervillain, and a mad scientist, an intensely smart doctor whose psychic abilities endanger her to Villain Syndrome.
Victoria "Vicki" Dawn Burroughs (Plain Jane) – Supermodel. Expert in structural integrity.
Jeremy Collins (No Hero Affiliation) – Gamer. Probably some other things by this point.
Naomi Gunn (No Hero Affiliation) – Journalist. Pain in Gail Godwin's butt. Nose for trouble. Actually, pretty much everything else for trouble.
Eddie Davenport (No Hero Affiliation) – CEO of Davenport Industries. Gail's note: major asshole, avoid at all costs.
Jessie Davenport (Raptor) – Somewhat reclusive heiress to Davenport fortune.
Christoph Mobius (Dr. Mobius) – Mad scientist. Killed in explosion at Lodi Corp.
Rita Detmer (Fearless) – Supervillain. First recorded case of Villain Syndrome.
Kurt Davenport (Raptor) – Deceased. Founder of Davenport Industries.
Audra Yi (No Hero Affiliation) – Terrifyingly efficient assistant to Jessie Davenport.
Sam Bookman (War Hammer) – Guy's older brother. Good at superheroing and not much else. Got a little obsessed with finding out why his twin went missing.
Sal (No Hero Affiliation) – Bartender at Mind the Boom.
Portia Oleander McPeak (No Hero Affiliation) – Coworker of Gail's. Able to become invisible, much to her dismay.
Venus von Trapp (Same) – Plant-based supervillain. Once turned Gail green.
Lady Danger (Same) – Victorian supervillain. Breeds dogs.
Shark-man (Same) – Asshole protector of San Francisco. Regularly called Sharkbait. Wears gray.

A Primer for Everything You Need to Know Before Reading How to Save the World

In SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS we're introduced to Gail Godwin, the once and future Hostage Girl. So famous for being kidnapped by every supervillain to come through Chicago, she lives with the reality that even the media has forgotten her name. Everybody insists that the incredibly tall, green-eyed hero that saves her regularly must be her incredibly tall, green-eyed boyfriend Jeremy Collins (a gamer who works in sales), but Gail's not so sure. When Jeremy dumps her (while she's in the hospital) to move to Miami, and Blaze leaves at the same time, the evidence seems damning. Gail's a little more concerned about who's going to save her now. But miracle of miracles: the kidnappings stop!

Skip forward to 10 months later. Gail's approached by Naomi Gunn, a reporter doing a piece on her year anniversary of cease-kidnappings…who of course jinxes things for Gail, who's kidnapped not five minutes later by Dr. Mobius. He infects her with Mobium, a radioactive isotope that replaces all of the carbon in her body. It's supposed to turn her into an addict so that he can control Blaze into doing his bidding. After Gail is freed during a confusing encounter with men in black, she desperately seeks to get in touch with Blaze, going so far as to reach out to Naomi. Unfortunately, Naomi's a little busy being targeted by Chelsea, a supervillain out for information. Gail, with her newfound abilities, saves the day and wakes up to find that Davenport Industries, the biggest company in the world, is also the shadow organization that fosters and protects superheroes.

And this is taking a long time. Okay. Let's see if I can cut some of this down. Davenport Industries helps out superheroes and they give Gail a place to live, where she discovers several things.

1. Her trainer, Angélica Rocha, is a sadist who can redirect her momentum and phase distances in the blink of an eye. She's there to keep Gail healthy.

2. Blaze isn't Gail's ex-boyfriend Jeremy, but her ex-coworker Guy Bookman. He and his brother Sam have the same abilities; their sister Petra disappeared, though she too shared the family power.

3. Dr. Lemuel Cooper and Dr. Kiki Davenport are keeping an eye on Gail's abilities, which aren't anything like Dr. Mobius said.

4. Chelsea's on the loose and after Naomi, who has information that she wants.

Naomi reaches out to Gail for help, asking to meet at a mall. When Gail and the others arrive, though, Chelsea shows up with some goons and a full-out battle begins. They manage to get away, but Chelsea hits Angélica with a blast of her venomous ray, injuring her fatally. At the hospital, Gail (gravely injured herself) is arrested by Eddie Davenport because she's believed to be secretly in cahoots with Chelsea in an ending that is still ranted about on Amazon to this day.


Gail is thrown into Detmer Prison where the worst supervillains are sent, and she discovers that it's closer to a day spa where supervillains are kept happy and fed five-star meals. Unfortunately, it's not all fun and games for Gail, who draws notice of Rita Detmer, world's first supervillain and a woman intent on beating the crap out of Gail. Gail has no idea why until she wakes up to find Rita standing over her bed, and she's literally thrown out of prison by the supervillain.

Gail goes on the run, fighting off Raptor and hiding with Guy. The only one who can clear Gail's name is Naomi Gunn, being held at a Davenport facility. With the surprising help of an old coworker, Gail breaks in and retrieves Naomi, but all hell breaks loose when Chelsea shows up. Plain Jane and Guy (disguised as War Hammer to hide the fact that he's in Chicago) intervene. Guy visibly falters upon seeing Chelsea, calling her Brook…and then almost getting killed when Brook uses a device on him that neutralizes his powers.

When Gail reaches out to Kiki for medical help, she discovers some truths:

1. Dr. Mobius is Kiki's grandfather

2. Chelsea is actually Brooklyn Gianelli, a woman Guy thought died years before, and Sam's ex-girlfriend.

3. Rita and Mobius planned for Gail to get powers to protect Kiki from an all-powerful spy in Davenport's midst.

4. Angélica's not as dead as once thought. In fact, she now has the same powers as Gail.

Raptor eventually tracks down Gail and hands her over to Cooper (the spy) in order to see what he'll do, leading to Gail getting tortured. She's rescued, but it leaves a mark or two. Together, they blow up the Lodi facility where Gail was held. Gail and her friends then lure Cooper into a trap in the same place where Guy got his powers, and work together to kill him since he heals too fast to reasonably be held anywhere and will kill countless others. Jeremy willingly electrocutes himself to make it happen and ends the book in a coma. Gail returns to prison to serve out a small sentence for having escaped prison in the first place.

Pre-Order Now:



Barnes & Noble

Google Play


A Matter of Perspective

So I don't do a lot of "how to write" posts on this blog. I used to in my full-fandom days: I have another blog somewhere on the internet full of tips and tricks about the mechanics of writing. Today that feels to me like unmitigated swagger and bravado. The audacity of youth. I don't know if it's due to age or due to getting a publishing contract, but almost overnight I went from Knowing What I Was Talking About to being completely unable to answer the inevitable question that gets asked at every panel that I attend:

What advice would you give to a writer?

My mind goes completely blank at this question. Empty. Nada. Zilch. One time I watched a tumbleweed cross the vast canyon my brain had become, with appropriately twangy music accompanying it. Kind of entertaining, honestly, but not helpful when I'm up on stage in front of people and they're expecting me to say something smart. We put you up there for a reason! You must squeeze SOMETHING of value from your brain that isn't a pun. (me: "…you really must not read my blog.")

My issue with this question is I always have such trite, unhelpful answers: "Put your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keys." "Write." "Read stuff you like. Try to write like that, if you want." Not every tip is going to work for every writer, and as somebody with hangups because of writing "reference" books I read in junior high and high school, I'm paranoid about being the inadvertent cause of somebody else's hangups. And yes, I'm aware that this is ridiculous: everybody is responsible for handling their own hangups. But it's a fear.

But something neat happened a few months back, and it made for a cool example I can use when talking about craft! So today, I'm writing about my favorite, favorite, favorite thing:

Character and Perspective

To preface this, a little about me: I have a pretty heavy arts background. I studied video production and German in college, have been writing since I was eleven, and if I'm bored, I'm usually reading fiction or playing in Photoshop. My day job1 is technical writing and editing at a firm that makes custom **mumble mumble** for some pretty awesome clients. As a result, I work primarily with engineers, who have such a different thought process in approach to things that I'm every day amazed by their brains.

Take my coworker, K. He's soft-spoken, always in a plaid shirt, jeans, and a gray hoodie. I work with him on electronics manuals. A few months ago, he came back to chat with my cubicle-mate and spotted something on my desk.

Here's my desk, by the way. I've scrubbed it of anything company-related, but it still paints a pretty clear picture that I am a giant nerd. The postcards are from friends all over the world, Darth Tater has traveled with me for 11 years, and all of the knickknacks mean something to me.

I have an old medium-format Ansco camera on my desk that a lot of the engineers enjoy poking at (it's a really cheap old box camera). K, however, immediately reaches for my insulator. His eyes light up. "Do you know how this works?" he asks.

"No, actually. All I know is that it's an insulator? For the top of power lines?"

K, normally a little antisocial and shy, comes to life as he explains how the insulator works, how the wires were wrapped around them to avoid touching the wood. He darts over to my whiteboard and draws the modern-day insulators used on the giant power lines, explaining the changes made and why they happened. There are more diagrams that follow. In the space of five minutes, I learn more about the little glass insulator sitting on my desk than I knew beforehand because K looked at a thing on a desk and saw the engineering marvels of it, and wanted to share about something he loved.

Now let me tell you about this insulator.

My grandpa worked for a few telecommunications companies out in California stringing up and fixing power lines.2 And as a result, he collected used insulators, whole milk crates full of them, in all colors and shapes. After he passed away, my grandma planned to get rid of them, so I asked if I could have one as a keepsake.

I picked one because, honestly, it resembles Darth Vader's helmet. We used to watch Star Wars at my grandparents' because they had the VHS tape and my brother adored it, and that's where my love for it began, but that didn't occur to me when I selected my insulator. I liked the color, I liked the fact that it was shaped like Darth Vader's helmet, I liked that it's labeled New York because I'd just moved back from Long Island, and it was a neat memento. And it's just a cool thing. My dad told me insulators were originally made at the end of the day in glass factories with whatever glass was leftover. They'd start out clear, but the sun would pick out the pigments of color in the glass and they usually wound up changing all different colors. Mine is a very pretty shade of green, but it's also got old bits of newspapers stuck to it, and dirt from my grandparents' house clustered in little pieces inside. I can see bubbles and imperfections both on the surface and inside the glass.

Nowadays, you can find these insulators at flea markets and antique stores, or repurposed into chandeliers and lighting fixtures. Mine sits on my desk among postcards from all over the world, geeky bobble-heads, and the really cool puzzle box my best friend bought me from Budapest. Little mementos that mean the world to me. The insulator is one of my favorite possessions. I look at it and I remember my grandfather. K looks at it and sees a technical marvel from bygone days. It's the same little shaped piece of glass, but it means very different things to each of us.

And that's something I feel that writers need to bring to their writing when tackling perspective. To really sell a character, we always say that we have to see the world from their eyes, but oftentimes I see this advice couched in broad terms. What are the philosophies? What does the character believe in? Favorite food? How does so and so feel about this other character?

All of these are good things to know! And you probably should know them at some point in your writing process, even if you may not necessarily use them. But the moments that make characters, for me, are the insulator moments. Those are the moments in the book that can absolutely dazzle. A character might look at something and see exactly the same thing I do, which I'll connect to because: samesies! Or they might look at an object and see something I would never consider, and now I'm intrigued and I've learned something about that character.

How and what a character chooses to focus on is important, especially with multiple points of view. For a while, I followed a serialized story that split every new installment in two: first you would see the scene from Character A and then from Character B. And in the hands of anybody but the best writer, this could get tedious. As it did with this story! If Character A picked up a cup of coffee in her version of the scene, Character B also noted the coffee. Character A's facial expressions were later remarked upon by Character B whenever Character A thought something significant. Sure, each character had individual thoughts, but they noticed the same things for the same reasons. Their names could have easily been swapped around and I wouldn't have noticed. And that's definitely a problem, unless you like reading the same scene twice with slightly different thoughts attached to the dialogue. If you do, have at it! Enjoy! But for me, like I said: tedious.

New POV must offer new, different perspective. That's what keeps books fresh and exciting, and makes characters really stand out. So if you're struggling with every single one of your POV characters sounding the same or same-ish, look for the insulators in their lives. I promise you, they're there, and those details will help you out.3

Anyway, that was just a fun little work example that occurred to me and I thought I would share it. Does anybody have, um, specific writing questions? I can either help out or point you in the direction of things people much smarter than me have said. If you need writing advice, really, though, here goes: Write. Put your butt in the chair. Read. Learn. Write more. Repeat. Boom.

Stay sexy!

PS - My grandpa, by the way. He was such a Dude. I miss him every day.

1 Yes it's true: writing doesn't pay the bills yet. Well, it pays, like, two bills. Small ones.

2 I grew up knowing that his job title was "Contractor" and because of that, I thought contractors were people that climbed the telephone poles and fixed them (boy, was I in for a surprise when I got older).

3 Provided they don't bog down the story, but when to include detail and when not to is a whooooooooole different blog post for another day. Which I will totally talk about if people want me to.

25 Facts About SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS (the series)

1. Gail's original last name was actually Petersen. It didn't change until I submitted the manuscript to Impulse during the open submission. It was between Godwin and Goodwin, and those choices were because I wanted her to have an alliterative name.

2. I picked Muncie IN as Gail's hometown because my best friend went to grad school there. I've spent a few weekends in Muncie. Sorry to residents, but I can see why Gail wanted to escape so badly.

3. Gail does have a backstory and a mom, but she doesn't think about them. I borrowed them from a now defunct series of mine. I don't think they'll ever show up in the series itself. My next series, however, I made the deliberate choice to have more than one mother as part of the picture, as nobody in SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS seems to have actual parents.

4. Guy's original last name was Bookerton. I changed it because boogers. Enough said.

5. Jeremy was originally Jamie. I like Jamie Orcutt in SECRET SOCIETY GIRL too much to give him such a jerk of a name twin.

6. Guy's birthday is the same as another best friend's. It's October 28th. You can see all of the birthdays listed on the profiles I posted when SUPERVILLAINS ANONYMOUS came out.

7. Gail's hobbies in high school were working three jobs and playing softball. She's always been a workaholic and lacking in self-esteem, but damn if she can't knock you out with a beer bottle from 20 feet away if she should choose to.

8. Gail's original middle name was Alexandria. I changed it when I chose Lexie as a penname. Her initials were GAP. Now they're GOG since her middle name is now Olivia. This is 100000000% because of Olivia Dunham. I am not ashamed of this.

9. I finished SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS the day before Nikki was born.

10. Naomi Gunn was created on the second draft and replaced a reporter who only existed for one scene. She is biracial. Her mother is white and her father is black. If anybody in my series is truly Lois Lane's spiritual successor, it is her and not Gail, even though I describe the series as "Lois Lane becomes Supergirl."

11. Between drafts of SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS, I amped up social media use by 300%. Portia and Naomi's texts are my favorite to write. Neither capitalizes. I hope I haven't driven my copy-editor or Maximus to drink.

12. There was originally a secret baby plot. I dumped this when I got rid of a character named Layla.

13. Spoiler: Kiki originally had Villain Syndrome. Cooper was going to be a fall guy and not the villain.

14. Writing Gail 'porting for the first time was terrifying because it meant I had to commit to her changing powers, which I wasn't 100% sold on.

15. Vicki's middle name is from the Babysitters Club. Kristy was my fave, but I liked Dawn because like me she'd just moved from CA to the east coast. North Carolina instead of Connecticut for me, and we moved because of Papa Dunne's work and not divorce. BUT IT STILL COUNTS. Babysitters Club actually remains a strong formative influence on my life. I brought it up at a panel at PHXCC.

16. Portia's powers were a very late addition and had me outright crying with laughter every time I wrote about them. She is, by the way, pansexual and she is not the only queer character in my series.

17. Kiki and Angélica were inspired by real people. "Kiki" has an identical twin. "Angélica" is a bodybuilder. You can't make this up.

18. My mental image for Eddie Davenport is always Aaron Eckart. You can blame Thank You for Smoking.

19. I wrote the first draft of SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS while living in the Hamptons in the winter. You know what there is to do in the Hamptons in the winter? Absolutely nothing. Hence writing the book.

20. My working title for HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD was SUPERPOWERS ANONYMOUS. Not as great as SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS 2: ELECTRIC POWERS BOOGALOO, which is probably took us several people and a lot of time to come up with the title. And yes, I'm sad that "Not a Guide" doesn't appear on the cover.

21. HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD is not a guide.

22. It is, however, available in e-format on October 4th and in mass market paperback on November 1st.

23. It's not Gail on the cover but Angélica. I figure with everything she's done to save Gail's butt, she deserves her own cover. Isn't she great? I love Angélica.

24. Pre-ordering gets you more SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS the series.

25. All of my readers are fantastic people. It says so right here on my fact sheet.

Stay sexy!

Tuesdays with Lexie: Beth Cato

Welcome to Tuesdays with Lexie, the feature where I invite other authors and/or interesting people onto the LexieCon to answer very important questions. Today's guest is a woman who happens to commit battery with breadsticks (limp ones, at that), and a good friend of mine. That's right, I nagged Beth Cato, author of the fantastic BREATH OF EARTH (out today), CLOCKWORK DAGGER, CLOCKWORK CROWN, and multitude of short stories and novellas (including WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE), into visiting.

Obligatory Tell Us About Your Book, Beth! *shiny plastic smile* here:

It's steampunk alt history set in a 1906 San Francisco. The United States and Japan are allied as a world power and taking over China, and much of their steampunk military might arises from energy trapped by geomancy. Well, my heroine is Ingrid. She's a darn powerful geomancer, and women aren't supposed to inherit geomancy. When most of the city's geomancers are assassinated, she may be the only person who can hold back a major quake, but she's forced on the run to stay alive, too.

Obviously the 1906 earthquake was a real thing that really happened, and (slight spoiler) Teddy Roosevelt—or a variation thereof—is a character that’s obviously based on a real person (maybe; I’m not convinced he wasn’t a nationwide hallucination). Where’s the line on using a real person/real events in an alt-history like BREATH OF EARTH? For you personally, I mean, not for the entire world. Unless you want to give a firm directive for everybody to follow. I won’t seek to limit you.

My personal directive is to be as historically accurate as possible, especially with as public and charismatic a person as Theodore Roosevelt. I have read thousands of pages on him and typed up a 2000-some-word character guide with citations to the source material. As for where the line is for using people like him, I'm not sure, but I can say it's actually very eerie how well he fits into this world. He believed in the holiness of America and had many cautionary words about Japan and its rising power. He has a pretty big role in the sequel to BREATH OF EARTH, and I hope people actually learn something about the real dude by reading my fictional take.

Are there any absolutely fascinating tidbits that you’ve come across in your research that just didn’t make it into the book, that you want to share? It’s a safe space.

I think the fascinating bits that I haven't used have more to do with my hometown and Central California as a whole. I have read extensively about the Chinese experience in California around the start of the 20th century. It's ugly stuff, and it was completely ignored when I was in school. I found one bit that referenced my hometown newspaper in about 1893 posted an op-ed imploring the women of Kings County to learn to do their own laundry so that they didn't support the vile Chinese. I mean, wow. This is my same hometown that today is so proud that it still has its China Alley and Taoist Temple. That kind of thing feels personal for me, even though my grandparents' families didn't get there for a few more decades.

Your other delightful series, CLOCKWORK DAGGER and CLOCKWORK CROWN, is also based on actual historical events, but unlike BREATH OF EARTH, it takes place in a built-from-the-ground-up world. What was it like doing the worldbuilding between the two? Was it more or less difficult? And since I’m a sadist, which do you prefer overall?

The two worlds have their own unique challenges. CLOCKWORK DAGGER is inspired by the World War I era, but I made my own geography, my own history, my own cultures. That is freeing in a lot of ways. BREATH OF EARTH has the advantage/disadvantage of Earth and its full burden of history. Which is nice, because I can talk about familiar things--like reference the Bible and Shakespeare and Basho--but it also means there are endless ways I can muck everything up, too. Between the two, CLOCKWORK DAGGER is an easier world for me to write in--but I say that because I've lived in that space for years and I know it well. It was agony to create from scratch!

BREATH OF EARTH has a lot of different, intertwined magic systems that I don’t want to spoil, other than to say they’re all amazing. What was your inspiration for making it so wide-range and varied? Do you have a wall full of index cards and red string about how each magic system affects the other? And care to share any of your inspiration/where readers of this most esteemed blog could go to find out more information about any of them?

I think my initial inspiration for geomancy as an actual job comes from Final Fantasy Tactics, which is a classic strategy game using various magical and warrior classes from the Final Fantasy series. When I decided I wanted to write about the 1906 earthquake from a steampunk angle, I knew I had to use geomancy as the central magic because duh, earthquake. From there, it was the matter of asking a lot of practical questions. How could geomancy be a job? How would it be useful in the economy? How would someone train for this? Dull, gritty world-building stuff. Once I had that established, I began to develop the cooler aspects.

The other magic in the book wasn't quite so planned. I didn't intend to have healing magic at all because I explored that so deeply in CLOCKWORK DAGGER. Then as I wrote the BREATH OF EARTH rough draft, I needed to heal Ingrid, and suddenly Reiki became an integral part of the plot.

As for how I keep all of it straight, I type up Word documents for all elements of the world, including the magic. That's something my/our agent advised that I do when I first started on CLOCKWORK DAGGER and it's very helpful, especially as I am first figuring everything out.

What would you name your personal airship?

I was stumped by this so I asked my husband. He helpfully suggested Airship McAirshipface. I love this man. I really do.

After giving this more thought, I think I would name the airship for my dream horse, a palomino Paso Fino named Golden Melody. I imagine the airship with have a copper-toned orichalcum gondola, so it would suit the craft well.

Your blog is the reason I will probably never go hungry again and ALSO the reason I am perpetually hungry. Are we going to ever see a science fiction baker from you? Or, more importantly, what would a science fiction baker protagonist bring to the table (other than awesome space bread)?

I HAVE ALREADY DONE THIS. BWA HA HA. Seriously, I had a short story in Nature Magazine last year that is all about the importance of baking for far-future humanity.

Are you going to be okay if I write Ghostbusters/Breath of Earth fanfiction about Fenris (aka my favorite forever and ever) and Holtzmann hanging out and being engineering bros?

I haven't seen the new Ghostbusters yet, but I have witnessed much love for Holtzmann and I think there would totally be chemistry there for Fenris. You have my blessing.

Speaking of Fenris, if his fanclub (of which I am President) were to get badges, what do you think we should put on them so we could recognize each other in public and know to perform the secret handshake? Also, any recommendations for the secret handshake? I'm thinking it's just grunting as we walk by in the middle of fixing things, and never making eye contact.

Well, Fenris isn't keen on physical contact. He has bad associations there. A grunt and a nod would probably work well as the "handshake" in this case. As for badges, Fenris would love it if badges depicted his beloved airship Palmetto Bug but it would need to be ABSOLUTELY ACCURATE or he would have a conniption fit.

Finally, and this is the most important question of them all, walk me through the PokémonGO strategies of all your major characters. Who grinds Pidgeys for candy? Who walks a crazy long distance to get that beloved Pikachu? Who’s got a naming system in place? Who doesn’t quite get it?

Ingrid would grind Pokémon for candy or other goodies. She has a stubborn streak a mile wide. Cy would walk distances to get what he needed, especially if he were playing the game for someone he was devoted to. Ingrid would set up a naming system. She was a secretary, and any incompetence with organization would really bug her. Fenris wouldn't get Pokémon Go at all. He wants physical, tangible results for his labor... though he would probably watch over Ingrid and Cy's shoulders and offer lots of advice on how he would play the game in a much more efficient way.

If someone did fan art of my characters playing PokémonGO, I would love them forever.

Corey Ralston Photography (2013)
BREATH OF EARTH is available in stores TODAY. I've already read it (and you can see what I thought on my reading log—spoiler: I LOVED IT SO MUCH AND FENRIS IS AMAAAAAZING) so run out and get your copy ASAP. Links are below.

Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger series from Harper Voyager, which includes her Nebula-nominated novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE. Her newest novel is BREATH OF EARTH. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Follow her at and on Twitter at @BethCato.

Breath of Earth

In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation—the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her power—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.

When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose Earth’s powers to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming the city into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off…

Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her powerful magic has grown even more fearsome…and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

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