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Geriatric Jitterbug

I lost a bet.Horse-racing-4

Not just any bet. THE Bet.

Which meant that I had to write a short story from a title given to me by David Lubar.

That title was “Geriatric Jitterbug.” You can download the story here. (Right click to Save As.)  It is probably safe to say that it’s not for young eyes.

I will update this post as my fellow betters (bettees?) upload their stories.

UPDATE: Here are links to the other short stories.

Now that all the stories are up, I’ll be reading them tonight!

Four free short stories for you. Woo hoo!

Published in: on June 16, 2014 at 7:08 am  Comments (1)  

Free short stories from amazing authors!

If you don’t know about The Bet, read about it here.

Caught up?  OK, now the spoils of said Bet.

I gave Andrew Smith the following title: “Journey, Crimson, Nightmare, Name.” He wrote this story.

Andrew gave the following title to Kimberly Pauley: “”The Druggist and the Apostrophe.” She wrote this story.

Kimberly gave the following title to Catherine Ryan Hyde: “Even Pigeons Can Sing.” She wrote this story.


Anyway. Enjoy.


PS–Please send good thoughts to Andrew Smith, who was forced to evacuate with his family this past weekend when a wildfire in California got a little too close to his backyard. He reports all are fine, his house is okay, but things feel a bit wonky at the moment.

Published in: on June 3, 2013 at 10:03 am  Comments Off on Free short stories from amazing authors!  

All of nature abhors a vacuum.

In case you hadn’t heard, I am the Biggest Loser.

I lost the Bet.  Big time.  My horse came in last. LAST!  How did I go from Numero Uno last year to…to…THIS.

The shame. The shame.

So, as a result, I had to write a short story using a title supplied to me by the inimitable Catherine Ryan Hyde.

You will find that story here. All 1,200 words of it.*

If you’ve read WITH OR WITHOUT YOU or maybe you’ve gotten your hands on an ARC of THE VENGEKEEP PROPHECIES, I think you’ll find this is a bit…different from my other stuff.  My husband, who is my biggest cheerleader, kept watching me out of the corner of his eye for a week after he read it.

Yes. I have a dark side.

I am, however, not alone in my loserdom. Catherine and Kimberly Pauley also lost (leaving Andrew Smith to bask in his non loserness) and they have also written stories as penance.  Check them out too. Please. Hey, it’s three free short stories. What’s it gonna hurt?

And if you feel like it, leave a comment below to let me know what you thought.  I don’t do a lot of short stories so feedback is appreciated.


*I was tempted to tweak the title and call it “All of Nature Abhors a Vacuum…But Not Nearly As Much As My Cat” but 1) the rules of the Bet don’t allow for title tweaking and 2) the story has nothing to do with a cat.

Published in: on June 1, 2012 at 5:52 am  Comments (2)  

The games I play

Remember Googlewhack?  That was the game where you entered two, hopefully disparate search terms with the goal of returning one—and only one—hit on a Google search. It’s become harder to do (did you know there are 816,000 hits if you search for cantankerous vortices?) which might be why I don’t hear people speak of it as much.

I’ve created a new game but I don’t have a name for it yet. Maybe you can help me. The game goes like this:

1)      Identify a blogger who is obsessive about checking their stats: number of visitors, from whence their visitors came, and, most importantly, what search terms were used to arrive at their blog.

2)      Google the following without the quotation marks: “[person’s name] eats babies for breakfast.” (The more specific you can be about the person’s name, the better. If they’re an author, put ‘author’ before their name. If they’re a painter, put ‘painter.’  If you know the city where they live, add the city. The object is to get a hit that will take you to their blog.)

3)      Click on any result that leads to their blog.

4)      Sit back and watch that person freak out (on their blog, on Facebook, via Twitter) about the weird stuff people Google to find them.

5)      Repeat with other weird phrases [(person’s name) undulates with saturnine munchkins] for added amusement.

What’s a good name for a game like this?  I feel like ‘evil’ should be in the title….

Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 7:05 am  Comments (1)  

The Final Push

This is it!  At 11:59 pm this evening, I’ll be closing off entries for the Contest.  You have until then to tweet your heart out for a chance to win fabulous prizes such as a manuscript critique or signed first edition books from today’s hottest YA authors.

At some time on Tuesday, I’ll fire up Ye Olde Random Number Generator (seen below) and randomly select six winners from all the entries.  I’ll post the names/Twitter IDs of the winners on Wednesday (and contact them via DM) and then the fun begins! (In other words, everyone who followed me solely to win swiftly unfollows me and I’m left friendless and alone once more…. *sniff*….)

Ye Olde Random Number Generator (steam powered)

Coming later this week… Some of you may recall I was involved in a Bet.  Some of you may recall I won said Bet.  Some of you recall that I announced there would be glitter and prizes for the stories generated by the Bet.  Well, the inaugural Brian Awards will be announced this week, complete with star studded gala.  Stop back to see who’s wearing what, who was nominated, and who wins!


Published in: on June 6, 2011 at 7:28 am  Comments (1)  

In the home stretch

So much to talk about today.

First, let’s talk about The Bet. You can learn about it here.   For the record, I won The Bet and don’t have to write a story (which I’m cool with because I’m on deadline and don’t have time to anyway so there). As a result of The Bet, today you will be treated to three original short stories by authors Catherine Ryan Hyde, Kimberly Pauley, and Andrew Smith.  Go read and comment on their offerings. BTW, reading these stories from established and wonderful writers is 100% free.

Next, let’s talk about the third leg of the promotional blog tour for the release of WITH OR WITHOUT YOU.  Over the next few days,  on distinguished blogs across the blogosphere, you will learn:

  • My dream apprenticeship
  • What I learned from five of my favorite authors
  • And the saga of how a master’s thesis called CHASERS became a YA novel called WITH OR WITHOUT YOU

Here’s where you’ll find me guest posting over the next week.

Monday, May 23: Cynthia at A Blog About Nothing (Author Interview)
Tuesday, May 24: Mariah at A Reader’s Adventure (Tens List)
Wednesday, May 25: Sarah atYA Librarian Tales (Review)
Thursday, May 26: Brent at The Naughty Book Kitties (Guest Post- Title Change)
Friday, May 27:Mandy at The Well-Read Wife (Review)

And finally, we should talk about the Contest.  Come back here to this blog tomorrow at 12pm CST to learn details about a contest where writers can win a full manuscript critique from a real, live editor and reading enthusiasts can win signed, first edition copies of books from today’s finest YA writers. Nothing to bid on. No purchase necessary.  All you have to do is help me spread the word about WOWY and I’ll tell you how.

More soon! Stay tuned.

UPDATE: There’s a short bit about WOWY and mini-interview on Adventures in Children’s Publishing.

Published in: on May 23, 2011 at 1:23 am  Comments (1)  

A Poem for Pride

For the past couple months, I’ve been taking a class called “Writing the AIDS Generation” taught by Brian Malloy. Brian’s a great teacher and an amazing writer. As you can imagine, the class can be pretty intense. Many of my classmates remember the AIDS crisis of the ’80s very vividly. They lived in major metropolitan areas and watched many friends die.

Keith Haring’s Radiant Baby

I was 11 in 1981 when “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals” fired a warning shot. I lived in rural Wisconsin and what I knew of the growing crises was dictated to me by Dan Rather on a nightly basis. It was terrifying. I knew it related to me somehow–I didn’t identify as gay but I knew I was different–and I didn’t know how to express this fear. So I kept it inside and it ate at me.

Poor me. I was scared and people were dying.

I took this class partly because I wanted to write about the era through my eyes. I’ve been experimenting a lot and one of the new things I’ve tried is to approach this through poetry. I wanted to share a fairly early draft of a poem that might be my final project for the class. The limitations of the blog don’t quite allow for the lines to fall as they do on a typewritten page but you get the gist. Feedback is welcome.

1988—A Footnote

The kingdom of calculated silence has fallen, my children, my lovelies
The unholy ramparts sundered under the strain of the Great Experiment
An eight-year reign denying reins to quell the rain of burning blood
Cursed with a king and queen who wore hatred on their satin sleeves
Until democracy’s design disgorged new ramparts for a shrub
Second curse, same as the first


Hail to the keepers of secondhand grace! Ye sacred! Ye profane!
Ye alchemists between two worlds who parlay faith into indifference
The scorn and bile of 4,855 pilgrims won’t be wasted on you
Their fevered dreams are precious, reserved for the survivors
Who tend their bedsides like beloved gardens, plucking weeds
Waiting for a spring that won’t come


We all watched the brightest souls of our generation destroyed by apathy, a madness unto itself
Sacrificed to a new Moloch for an era of singed ascendancy and power
And the Congress of Sorrows who bleed allegiance to the flag in the name of Nobody’s God
These blessed souls upon whose broken backs was erected a cenotaph
Monument of War! Tower of Discontent! Honoring reluctant soldiers
Losing the fight for their own bodies


Until we stop dreaming in color and only dream in blistered shades of rage
The detritus of wicked angels demands our attention
It is we who are the new kings and queens and rulers
Usurpers bargaining for another year, another day, another minute
My children, my lovelies, take it back. Take it all back.
Rising up is only the beginning.

Six years in and the worst is yet to come
But we don’t know it now and we’ll be too stricken to know it then


Published in: on June 1, 2019 at 9:14 am  Comments Off on A Poem for Pride  

Let me tell you about my friend Ann.

Simply put, Ann Kaner-Roth was an amazing woman. Early in her career, she was an advocate for early childhood education. She was perhaps best known as the leader of Project 515, a nonprofit organization in the mid 2000s that fought to overturn the 515 laws on Minnesota’s books that discriminated against same sex couples. Her work there evolved into being one of the driving forces behind Minnesota United for All Families, the movement that successfully stopped a proposed 2012 constitutional amendment to prevent same sex marriage in Minnesota. When love became the law of the land, she went to work for the ACLU and then eventually became deputy secretary of state for Minnesota.

Ann passed away yesterday. She’d been diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this year and did what she always did: she fought like hell. In the end, she lost the battle. In November, she’d been given about three months to live. She only ended up with barely three more weeks.

I wasn’t Ann’s closest friend, not by a long shot (she had so many….). But I loved her. I’d only known her about ten years. I met her through my husband who’d known her since the 80s. From our very first meeting, I knew immediately that she was a person of infinite kindness, compassion, and love. In fact, there was not a single thing in her life that Ann didn’t do in the name of love, whether it was because she loved the cause or because she was fighting so others could love. She is someone I will always associate with that word.

At one point during the service today, an event that packed the facility, the attendees were asked to stand if their marriage is now legal because of Ann’s actions. So many people stood up, and I was proudly among them. I’m glad I once got to thank her for everything she did so that my husband and I could enjoy the same rights as all married couples. We were so lucky to have her at our wedding. I hope she knew how many others in Minnesota were grateful as well.

She leaves behind her adoring husband and three super amazing kids (she lived long enough to see her youngest get bat mitzvahed a couple months ago). I know they’ll all be hurting for a while, but I know equally well that every single one of them will more forward with a piece of Ann inside them and they’ll continue to do everything they do in the name of love.

I will miss her a great deal. But I thank her for all the love and kindness she put out into the world and I’m glad I can count myself among those who are better people for having known her.

Published in: on December 22, 2017 at 2:54 pm  Comments Off on Let me tell you about my friend Ann.  

Remembering Corey

Corey Allan Farrey 1977-2015

                   Corey Allan Farrey 1977-2015

“Corey’s a good kid.”

It was hard to sum up my brother. Often, especially later in life, this seemed the best way to do it. Almost everyone in our family had to concede this at some point.  Oh, he had his problems. He was dealt a rough hand in the form of a number of health problems that plagued him throughout his life: epilepsy, autism, diabetes, spinal and stomach concerns.  A combination of these concerns—coupled with the fact that he’d stopped taking his medications about a week ago without telling anyone—finally caught up with him. He passed away this past Sunday night, peacefully in his sleep. My husband and I had seen him just twenty-four hours before when we left to come back to the Cities from my hometown, Wisconsin Rapids, where we’d spent Christmas.

I start by saying he was a good kid because he really was, even at age 38. Despite the raging temper and the occasionally completely irrational behavior, you got the sense that he was someone who always wanted to do right (even when the temper and irrational behavior overruled that desire.)  Long after my sister and I had moved from our hometown, Corey remained and helped take care of my parents and later just my father. (Although, his independent streak meant he insisted on living in his own apartment across town.) He would help Dad clean, get groceries, take garbage to the dump, shovel snow, and probably more things than I even know about. Dad paid him but I truly believe Corey would have done it just to be helpful.

He had trouble processing emotions. He basically had two modes: happy and angry. But there was still nuance. A couple months ago, he called me, very upset. He couldn’t find Dad. He’d called Dad’s landline and cell and Dad wasn’t answering either. I told Corey that maybe Dad had made a quick run to the store and to try calling again in half an hour. If he still couldn’t get in touch, he was to call me back. Corey called me ten minutes later. He’d driven out to Dad’s house and still couldn’t find him. Which put him in even more of a frenzy. “I worry about him,” he said to me over and over. This kind of emotion was always rare with him but very, very genuine when it emerged. (Long story short: we found Dad, he was well, and Corey chewed him out for worrying him.)

Corey and I shared a bedroom with bunk beds growing up. I’ll be the first to say I probably wasn’t the best brother. There were seven years between us and I’d never really had autism explained to me (also, his diagnosis came fairly late). I always thought he was a belligerent kid. I didn’t understand that there was so much of his behavior that he couldn’t regulate. We grew closer as adults. When I got older and came to comprehend the battles he faced on a daily basis (not just from his various medical conditions but from people who sought to take advantage of him and people who bullied him), I worried about how he’d find his way in the world. I knew, at some point, the work my parents had started—guiding and helping him—would fall to me. I always hoped I’d do as good a job as they did.

This past summer, he did something that really made me proud. Corey was obsessed with trains. When he learned that the Twin Cities had a light rail that he could ride all day, he became determined to come visit us and do just that. With Dad’s help, he got on a Greyhound and came to the Cities. He spent the weekend riding the light rail across the Twin Cities and back—no real destination; the trip was the thing—and then boarded the Amtrak to take him back home. Corey was never big on travel, especially if he was in any way responsible for driving. (He drove around town just find but long distance did not agree with him.) For him to come here and back on mass transit was huge. It was something I never imagined he would go through with. But he did and even though I worried about him every step of the way, he pulled it off without a hitch. He had planned to come again next summer. He would have been welcome.

Corey’s behavior—those fits of rage were something to behold—sometimes got him in trouble with the law. Nothing too major but enough to give him a reputation with local police. I always hated that. Because I kept seeing this good kid. This goofy kid. This kid who struck up conversations with strangers in the Amtrak depot, just to tell them how excited he was to take the train home. This kid I pulled aside after Mom died five years ago and told him I needed him to keep a close eye on Dad and, man, did that kid step up to the plate.

Fact is, Corey was a great kid.

Published in: on December 29, 2015 at 12:46 pm  Comments (4)  

Now we are so happy…

This fall, the third book in my Grimjinx trilogy–THE GRIMJINX REBELLION–will be released into the world. I’m really looking forward to seeing this one on the shelves, the completion of a really fantastic journey for me as a writer.  I’m very proud of the work I did on this series and immensely grateful to everyone–steadfast beta readers, wise and insightful editors, enthusiastic teachers/librarians/readers–who’ve supported me on the trip.

Today, I am delighted to announce  that I will have TWO new books coming out over the next few years, following the end of the Grimjinx trilogy. My next book–a standalone middle grade fantasy–is THE SECRET OF DREADWILLOW CARSE, which will be published by Algonquin Young Readers (in 2016, perhaps?). The description in Publishers Marketplace says: “in which a twelve year old girl awaiting coronation at the bedside of her gravely ill mother, the queen, must discover the secret of the bog she is forbidden from entering and what happens when she finds someone to enter on her behalf.”  A fairly good summation without spoilers. The second book? Well, we’ll talk about that later…

Please choose the Dance of Joy appropriate to your tastes and join me in a celebratory jig.


Published in: on May 21, 2014 at 5:55 am  Comments (1)