Cover Reveal: Lines of Succession

Lines of Succession is a fantasy novel I wrote years ago. Under the Moon offered a contract on it some time back, and we’ve been working our way through edits and artwork. A few months ago, Terri Pray, the editor in chief and head cat herder, got a new drawing tablet called a Cintiq. After some practice on it, she and Sam Pray, the artist and formatting specialist, decided to tag-team on the cover for my book. Sam did the main image, and then Terri used the Cintiq to fill in the details.

Check it out!

LoS final cover

What’s it about? Almost 100,000 words. :D

A princess, who would rather practice with her rapier or train her griffin, serves as her brother’s regent after assassins kill or injure most of their family.

The interior art and the back cover still need figuring out, but very soon, we’ll be able to send this one out into the world.

On Spooky Art

I’m continuing my adventures in Texas artists with holiday-themed arts. Last time was the Cedar Park (just outside Austin, Tx) curator of creepy curiosities Chris Walden. This time, Houston artist Heather Gordy is it!

I met Heather through her husband, Mike. Mike and I have been friends since junior high in spite of household moves that took us in different directions.

Heather is a graphic artist in her day job. In her off time, she works in several different media: ink, pencil, paint, and mixed media. Her work often involves flowers, skulls, and critters that don’t often feature in artwork, such as ravens, bats, bugs, and rats on canvases ranging from four-footers to sticky notes. She has been featured in several exhibits alone and with other artists.

The Price of Poe's Pendulum - 8"x10" Acrylic paint and ink on wood panel - Sold

The Price of Poe’s Pendulum – 8″x10″ Acrylic paint and ink on wood panel – Sold

Check out her work and give her a buzz if you’re interested in one.

30 Day Challenge: A Storm of Creativity –


I may take a crack at this myself. I’ve been tossing around short ideas for various novels I’ve written. This could be interesting. :)

Originally posted on Making Believe:

55327_girl-writing_lg30 Day Challenge: A Storm of Creativity – Starting November 1st and running through November 30, 2014

As posted on Facebook by Edward Frank.

There are a number of writing challenges out there. One of the most prominent is the NaNoWriMo The National Novel Writing Month, held each November for writers to dive into the task of completing a novel in one month with the encouragement and challenge of others participating in the event. I am going to do a similar event here, only with flash fiction with the goal is to write a story of at least 500 words every night for thirty days.

Genre: Fantasy and Science Fiction

There are only two goals: 1) Any story you write must be a minimum of 500 words. 2) You are to complete 30 stories by the end of the month. I don’t care if you do a full short story…

View original 226 more words

On Smoke Alarms and African Greys

African Grey parrots are incredible. Along with their distant cousins the Yellow Nape and Double Yellow Head Amazons, they are near perfect mimics of sounds around them. Some are expert speakers. Mine is a sound effect and whistle queen. I’d record her sound effects displays, but she goes deadly silent as soon as I bust out a camera or iPad. *sigh*

Here: a demo of African Grey sound skills. This is not Masika the Greyt, but rather another African Grey.

That one is a Congo African Grey.  Masika the Greyt is a Timneh.  Here, check out her darker grey and her maroon tail:

Masika came out 2

From time to time, Masika surprises me with a new sound or whistle. Last summer it was the opening notes from Doctor Who.  This fall … the smoke alarm.

No, I was not burning something in the kitchen, but the smoke alarms in the house started acting up. Naturally, they only do this at 2:30 in the morning. I assume that’s the unwritten rule of smoke alarms: if they go awry, it must be at 2:30 in the morning. There’s a corollary to that rule. If more than one is going to go nuts, they’re not going to do it on the same night. A couple nights a week or so apart were disturbed by smoke alarms demanding new batteries. Never mind that I had just replaced them last June.

Masika, never one to neglect a new noise, was definitely paying attention. Last week, she cut loose with a piercing BEEP that sounded like a dead-on match for a grouchy smoke alarm. She even nailed the somewhat electronic quality of the beep.

One evening, as she was going through her litany of sound effects, including her new smoke alarm beep … several times … at regularly-spaced intervals, my pa came in and looked up at the smoke alarm on the ceiling.

“Is this the one that’s beeping?”

Without looking up from my computer, I shook my head and pointed to the Greyt one, right about the time Masika decided to squeak out her newest sound.

“Oh, it’s your bird?”


Yep. It was the bird.

I find many of her sound effects amusing. I’m hoping she gets her fill of this one soon and meanders on to the next.

On Spooky Entertainment

The Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year season is here. From time to time for the next few months, I’m going to give an artistic Texan with a holiday-related art a shout-out. Why? Just because.

First up is Chris Walden. Chris is a multi-talented fellow who does a variety of stuff from computer consulting and repair to spooky entertainment perfect for the approaching Halloween events. He’s a skilled actor who takes on a persona like Saul Ravencraft, and puts on an entertaining show that challenges perceptions of what’s real and what isn’t.

Years ago, back before school began when I still had time to play, Chris and I and a host of other interesting characters were involved in Haunted Trails out at the Wild Basin Preserve. At Haunted Trails, there was a main waiting room where a group of characters set the stage and kept people entertained while they waited for their group’s turn. Then a guide led people through the trail to each of several stations where a short scene would be played out involving other characters. I played a couple years, once as one of the waiting room characters and once I was the “boo scare” just after station where Chris and a group of our friends were set up.

Each year, he shepherded the group through designing the station, fleshing out characters, making or finding props, and rehearsing until everyone knew what to do. Chris’ ability to entertain and adapt conquered weird weather, crew members who became sick just before the performance, and bizarre equipment failures. The audience never knew anything was amiss.

(c) 2009 MrTinDC // retrieved on this date from Flickr Creative Commons

(c) 2009 MrTinDC // retrieved on this date from Flickr Creative Commons

These days, Chris does a variety of things including spirit theatre, weird magic, psychic entertainment, and strange curiosities that will make you wonder. If you want some spooky entertainment for Halloween, take a walk on the weird side.

If you’re a Texas artist with a holiday-related art, send me a note with a link to where I can find your stuff. I might be able to find a spot for you between now and January.

On Impossible Gifts

When I was still in teacher training, I was an “observer” and “student teacher” in a 2nd grade classroom in South Austin. I got to work with the same mentor teacher both semesters and saw two different groups of kids. The first group had a student who was a high-functioning autistic boy (Kid1, for our purpose). Cute kid, really, and extremely bright, but sometimes he was hard to understand, so many kids kept emotional if not physical distance.

There was one lad in the class (Kid2) who took the time and effort to be a real pal for Kid1. They played together at recess, sat together at lunch, and apparently spent a lot of time together out of school, too. When Kid1 was having a rough day, Kid2 seemed to instinctively know if Kid1 needed space or a hug. Then, the potential tragedy rose up. Kid2 announced that he had to move away. His dad had gotten a job out of state, and they were leaving by the end of the week. Kid2 offered to bring Kid1 a parting gift, whatever Kid1 wanted.

The Pokemon craze was just getting going in a big way, so Kid1 asked for his very own Pokemon, a real one, not a toy. Kid2 thought about it for a minute, then agreed. Once the kids were gone for the day, I mentioned to my mentor that this whole scenario couldn’t end well. There were no “real” Pokemon, of course, and Kid1 didn’t handle disappointment well. My mentor smiled and told me not to worry. Kid2 would never do anything to harm his friend. He’d have something worked out.

The next day, the kids were filing into class, and Kid1 got there first, as usual. He came early so he could take extra time to get unpacked and ready for the day. Kid2 arrived at the usual time, just after the first bell, and went to his desk.

Kid1 raced over. “Didja get it!”

“It was a hard one to catch.” Kid2 made a grand show of digging around in his backpack then came up with a double-handful of air. “It’s an Invisitor. Only one of its kind. It has no weight and it’s totally invisible.” He deposited the double-handful of air in Kid1’s open hands. “One problem. It doesn’t like Pokeballs, but it’ll stay with you wherever you go.”

Kid1 darted over to my mentor. “Look!  I got a Pokemon!”

“That’s great! Now you can–“

Before my mentor finished, Kid1 ran over to me. “Miss Koepp!  LOOK!!! I need a container to keep him in because he doesn’t like Pokeballs.”

There was a stash of “critter containers” in the back for kids who found interesting beetles or walking sticks at recess. I walked back there with him and dug out a fist-sized jar. Kid2 mimed putting the double-handful of air in the jar and announced the jar was too little. I put that one back and got one of the sandwich-sized storage boxes. That one was too short. Back in the cabinet the third time, I came up with the Goldilocks solution of a storage box about 6″ on a side. That one was just right.

By the time Kid1 got back to his desk, Kid2 had dropped off a wrapped present: a Pokemon coloring book, and inside the front cover, he’d written “Draw your own Invisitor.”

For the rest of the month, Kid1 carried his Invisitor-in-a-box everywhere he went.

On Water Bottles

Last winter, I won a raffle. The prize was a couple passes to Imaginarium, a convention aimed at writers. I haven’t been to a writing convention ever or to a science fiction convention since AggieCon most of twenty years ago, so I was pretty excited. One of the publishers I work for even arranged to help cover the cost of getting me to the convention so I could learn more about editing and promote the company some.

Unfortunately, I would only be able to go if I could find a way to keep Masika stocked with fresh food and water for 4 days, the amount of time I’d be gone. For various reasons, asking someone to come in or taking Masika to someone else’s house was out of the question.  It’s complicated, but those options were not open.

Rebel being funny 002

So, I tried several other sneaky tricks involving giving her various configurations of food and water bowls, hoping one of those strategies would work. No joy. The food wasn’t the problem. I can provide her with plenty of food. She turns most of it into organic confetti by the end of the first day, but it’s still edible, even if it’s in smaller pieces.

Water, that’s where the problem was. Masika, like a lot of parrots, is part raccoon. I’m not sure why they feel the urge to dunk their food, but they do, and invariably that makes “soup,” which turns into a fabulous bacterial breeding ground. That just won’t work. I don’t want my fid (feathered kid) to get sick any more than I would want a human kid to get sick.

My search turned to hunting down some kind of water bottle. Something that would mount on the side of the cage and provide water in small amounts sufficient for avian hydration but not baptizing food.

The initial hunt was disappointing. One place had only “hamster water bottles.” You know, the sort with a bottle, a spout, and a little metal bead in the spout. The critter taps the bead and water drips out. Great for rodents and maybe small birds, but Masika is a curious critter. As soon as she decided the water bottle was not her mortal enemy, she’d be striving hard to get the bead out of there. This is a bird that has bent the bars on her travel cage. She’d either crimp the tube and cut off her water supply or pry at the metal until the bead, which then turns into a choking hazard, comes out.

Another local store had a sort of test tube inverted into a small, plastic dish. That used to work for my cockatiels … until one of them got bored one afternoon and chewed on the plastic dish. That goofball bird created enough of a dent to start a leak, and by the time I got home, the floor was wet and the bottle was empty. Give such a thing to a destructo-beak like Masika?  No. Just never mind.

getting ready to headbang

I searched online next and eventually, through many convoluted gyrations, found a water bottle that might do the job. It was a PVC bottle with a little spout on one end triggered by a little stick embedded in it. It was like the hamster bottle but without the bead. It looked like the rig attaching it to the cage would be on the inside of the cage, though, and with a parrot who can untangle bolts, open quicklinks, and spin off wing nuts, that would be bad. A quick email to the company got that straightened out, though. The wing nut is on the outside, far away from beak range.

So, the next trick was getting it in the cage and teaching Masika how to use it. She panics at the sight of new toys unless they start on the far side of the room and gradually work their way over during a several week adjustment. Sadly, I didn’t have a few weeks left before the convention, and when I tried to speed the process up by moving the bottle closer over a span of days rather than weeks, Masika got panicky.

I didn’t get to go to the convention, but Masika will have more time to adjust to the new device and learn how to use it. Maybe next time I can go play, and Masika will have a good, safe water supply.