Several month after Caramel’s sudden passing, we have a puppy coming! Finding a lab-mix female took what felt like forever. There seems to be a shortage of suitable puppies in the Pittsburgh area for those who prefer to avoid puppy mills or high-end breeders. Our solution? Look out of state. Little Freya will arrive on a trailer delivering adopted dogs on its route from Mississippi to Maine.

Talking with Anne Miller, the founder of her own 501(c)3 rescue organization, “Project Paws” is focused on saving, neutering and vaccinating dogs and placing them for adoption. Her dedication to dogs consumes her life. It is her vocation, the dogs are her children. When a dog is adopted, she wants to know how the pup is doing. She’s on call for training questions, she encourages adoptive families to keep in touch, and she chips her dog so if one of her adoptees ever ends up at loose ends, she can re-rescue the dog and set the situation to rights.

Anne doesn’t give her dogs to just anyone: there’s an adoption fee and a reference check with the vet’s office. She checked us out as thoroughly as we made sure her operation was legit. But why drive dogs North? It appears that in Southern states, owners are less likely to spay and neuter their animals, and they tend to let them run loose. This results in unplanned puppy litters, and those dogs need homes.

For example, little Freya was born in a small town of Xenophobia, MS. She and her litter mates got adopted long-distance and will be driven along a string of well-planned drop-off points.

We are a little nervous about getting a dog sight unseen, but puppies have plastic personalities. They become the dog you raise them to be. A hybrid of a Labroador and something else, this brown little girl promises to have the coveted “hybrid vigor” of designer cross-breeds popular today. As we puppy-proof our house and shop for chew toys, we look forward to a new furry friend who’ll run in the woods with us and coax us for walks and long games of fetch.

Stay tuned for pictures two weeks from now!

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THURSDAY MORNING COFFEE – Small world, or karma?


My 13-year-old daughter started training at a local aikido school. As I was signing the waiver, the head teacher’s name, written out in full for the first time, caught my attention: “Ruriko Harris (Masutani).”

I knew that name.

A flood of memories washed over me at that moment. I stood at the counter, poised with a pen with my hand, my mind racing back whole decades. When I was a teen in the early 1980’s, I’d trained at an aikido dojo in New Jersey. The local schools did a lot of visiting back and forth back then, both to share ideas and to keep practices interesting.

Our school had been visiting a school in southern New Jersey, founded by Richard and Kathy Crane ( We all clustered around a television after practice to watch some aikido videos. VHS tapes were new at the time, and being able to film and share footage of martial arts technique was a valuable study tool.

The black-and-white footage was narrated in Japanese. A young, very short Japanese woman with a butt-long braid of hair as thick as a man’s wrist floated on the matt, throwing her opponents with effortless ease. All I understood from the narration were the words, “Ruriko-san…Ruriko-san…”

The Ruriko-san from whom my daughter is learning today looks a lot different than the woman in the video: decades older, short-haired, doing the best the best her body allows. She wears comfortable pants, a t-shirt, and Pittsburgh Steelers earrings. Yet, she’s short, and her age is about right.

I fought my curiosity as we sat in chairs by the mat and watched the practice. Ruriko Masutani sensei called out an occasional suggeston to her black-belt students, who taught the class. She laughed at the antics of the younger set that worked on evasive movement while sliding past “cuts” executed by their adult instructors with brightly colored pool noodles. She cheered on the young boy who worked hard to throw an experienced adult.

During a lull in the action, I leaned over and asked whether she’d ever been filmed.

“No. Just pictures,” she said.

“I remember a video. It was a long time ago, in the early eighties.” I described it and gave her a time frame. She searched her memory, and finally her eyes lit up.

“There was something, long time ago,” she said. “They told me only afterwards I was on film. We did a lot of demos, it was probably one of those.” She smiled. “Hard to believe that you are here, from far away, and you saw my video. Such a long time ago. I was young! And my hair was down to here!” She patted her rear.

And thus I’m on a quest to locate an old video of the young and incredibly graceful Ruriko Masutani. It’s floating out there somewhere, just like she had floated over the mats back then as men twice her size kept falling by her feet. If any of you where to find it, please contact me. Masutani-sensei has never seen it, and would like a copy not only for herself, but also for her students who all seem to be half her age and younger.

The old women in my life have passed on, but one was delivered on the wings of fate, along with a rush of ancient memories.

Life is so amazingly interwoven, and the world can be so small. I am grateful to get to know the amazing and graceful Ruriko-san in her older iteration. She was happy to hear the story, too. So happy, I even got a hug.

(The photo above was taken around 1984, perhaps a year after I’d seen Masutani-sensei’s old video.)

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THURSDAY MORNING COFFEE – “Broken Gait” now available for pre-order!


Horse poop is recycled stardust. Sixteen hours of hard labor a day to take care of twenty-four horses. Every day. All year long. No vacation. Now suppose one of the three key adults that does the work falls ill. That’s what I portray in Broken Gait, and that’s what I’ve seen happen recently at the stables where I ride.

The riding teacher’s adult daughter got sick and had to be taken in. The other adult daughter had to go to classes.
“Would you mind doing the watering?” Our teacher asked after our morning class and before her daughter’s appointment. Sure enough, we didn’t. All four middle-aged women and one preteen daughter agreed to fill the water buckets as well as hose down our sweaty mounts. We picked a few stalls (i.e., we removed horse poop), we hayed the horses (i.e. we put hay in their baskets), we swept the aisle of the barn. That, together with taking care of the tack, took us a whopping ninety minutes.

Imagine having a full-time job every day of the year and no vacation. Hard labor. Wheel-barrows full of stardust, recycled through the rear end of a horse, that you heap on a manure pile – a pile that needs to be removed every other week. At seventy pounds per horse each day, the manure pile grows fast.
All that manure has to come from somewhere: hay and grain deliveries need to be stowed away on a regular basis. Same goes for the sawdust that comprises the bedding in each stall. There is maintenance: weeding, mowing, painting, fence repair, raking the riding arena every day. There is more – the farrier, the vet. Horse shows.
In order to pay for all that, you teach classes and lessons and hope to break even. It’s a tough, back-breaking business.

Wild Horses, my first novel, addresses some of these harsh realities. I’ve always thought of this book as ‘Kai’s book,’ because Kai gains a sense of accountability and pride. He pushes way outside his comfort zone as he coaxes his natural talent for work with horses into a tangible, useful skill.
Even though Broken Gait is my fifth book in print, it’s a direct sequel to Wild Horses. This time, however, it’s Attila – the quiet, reclusive, misdiagnosed Attila – who struggles and who needs to push hard to get himself to a better place. I love his courage and inner strength, the sort you’ll find in your friends and perhaps even in yourself. I also adore Kai for his unconditional support. Yet Kai’s hard work isn’t enough, and that’s where the volunteers come in.

The little that I do at the stables is rewarding in small quantities. Picking up piles of ‘stardust’ in a stall has an almost hypnotic effect. Sweeping the floor is satisfying. Gentling a grumpy horse forms a rewarding communion with him. This is because I don’t have to do these things every day. During my little emergency stint, I was miffed to find that filling twenty-four buckets with a water hose took forever – and since the horses drank a lot on a hot day, I had to spend time and top them off once again. I brought a horse into a pristine stall, and he crapped on the floor within twenty minutes.
How do people do this every day, year in and year out?
Suddenly I realized why Hercules had to clean stalls as one of his monumental tasks. It’s endless, like dishes or laundry or vacuuming. Like life and death. We might as well make the best of it, then. After all, we too are nothing but recycled stardust.

You can preorder “Broken Gait” at:

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The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation

My older daughter is a millenial, and she and her college classmates are working their tails off. Since they are dependent on grants and have to keep their GPA up, they don’t even know what a frat house keg party *looks* like. When they don’t study, they hold part-time jobs or have freelance businesses on-line. This is one enlightening article.

Caitlin Liz Fisher

I was in graduate school when I first heard the term “millennial.” It was at a conference. The session was about how to serve millennial students, because they have different characteristics than the Generation X students that went before them. It was here that I first started hearing things like “millennials need to be recognized for participation,” “millennials feel they are special,” “millennials are sheltered,” “millennials are likely to have helicopter parents,” and more. Society as a whole loves to hate on the millennial generation (those born between 1980-1999), calling us “special snowflakes” and sarcastically referring to us as “social justice warriors,” calling us out for “being offended by everything” and, everybody’s favorite, pointing out how very entitled we are.

Here’s the secret: We’re not.

millennial late for work.jpg

The negative opinions directed at millennials are a perfect example, on an enormous societal scale, of cultural gaslighting.

What’s Gaslighting?

Glad you asked. I learned…

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So, Which Is It?

I meant to write something about Kaepernick – but you better read it here first. Also reblogged on my main page,

It's Fine.

I’m scared to post this. I’m afraid of alienating people I love, people I interact with on a daily basis, people whose friendships I value. I wouldn’t say this if it hadn’t been weighing heavy, like a 50 pound weight on my tongue every time I open my mouth to say something and stop before it comes out because I don’t want to stir the pot. I don’t want anyone to be mad at me. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But I can’t, in good conscience, do that anymore.

I live with a certain degree of privilege. Monetary privilege? Not so much. But social privilege? Absolutely. I am part of a demographic that is perceived as the LEAST THREATENING to society. I’m a White Lady. Further, I’m a Southern White Lady. Still further, I’m a Heterosexual, Cis-Gender, Southern White Lady who Happens to be the Married Mother of Two…

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For You

Since I write M/M and M/M/F fiction – this has bearing, and is good food for thought.

'Nathan Burgoine

One of the things about being a gay author of short fiction that usually finds itself on the more spec fic side of the street than the romantic is I’m not often a part of the romance culture as I’d like to be. I love romance, and a great deal of the short fiction I’ve written has definitely been gay romance, and even my first novel, Light, had a romantic sub-plot that was almost as weighty to the sum total of the book as the spec fic content was.

Often, this means I don’t often see a lot of the discussions that occur until they’re very well underway, and often those discussions have turned into a lot of anger before I see them at all. Which sort of sucks. I often only see a topic when someone posts a “This is So Damn Wrong!” post, a “It’s No Big…

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Yey, party on February 1st!

Book 1 of the SwimBikeRun anthology, “Treading Water,” is taking part in a give-away and a pre-V-day party organized by The Romance Reviews, and there’s a little Q@A that will help you, the reader, play a Bingo game of sorts. It’s fun, check it out! My book is appearing tomorrow here. You can win a free copy by participating! So go and check it out. There are so many good books in there, and it’s pretty awesome. And if you like it, go get book 2, “Hard Climb.” Treading Water and Hard Climb are temporarily listed on KU, or you can just buy an e-book copy. Both will be available in other outlets in early April.

Happy reading!



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I should be packing for Colorado. I ought to run out to the Apple store and get a new charger for my laptop, and deposit a check, and run the dog in the woods. All those details, and I won’t get to do all that tonight, because my younger daughter is one of the leads in her school’s “Beauty and the Beast” musical, so naturally, I’ll be at the theater. That’s her, Mrs. Potts, and she has to keep her arm up all the time, because every tea kettle has a proper spout. And that kid in the cart is Chip, her son, and only his face is showing through the cup – but I digress.

Kiss packing tonight good-bye.

“I should be writing,” says my nagging internal voice.

And cleaning the kitchen, because my older daughter’s coming to town to see her little sister in the show, and let me tell you, having her own apartment got my college student downright persnickety about what a “clean kitchen” is supposed to look like.

“But you won’t be here,” my husband says over breakfast. “You won’t get to worry about it.”

“But I’ll know,” I fretted, “and she’s taking a weekend off school and she’ll spend her free time cleaning the kitchen.” Again. Because we’ve been there before. Although making the kitchen sparkle and shine might be a welcome change from the grueling pace of art school. Don’t laugh, these kids work as hard as we had in grad school. She doesn’t even know what a “keg party” is.

So, off to pack, ladies and gents. Off to throw my winter gear into a small carry-on. I’ll be visiting a cottage in the mountains an hour out from Denver. I don’t know where. I’ll be with three other writers, and of whom I’ve met one in person, and whose real names are a mystery to me. It might be foolhardy to head out across the continent and into the snowy wilderness alone, accompanied by virtual personas. They might be ax murderers, but whatever. This is an adventure I need so badly I can taste it.

A change of scenery.

New people to meet.

New stories to write while snowed in, tethered to civilization by my newly purchased laptop charger and a spotty Wi-Fi.

I just hope it won’t be too cold to make naked snow angels.


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THURSDAY MORNING COFFEE BLOG – In defense of being normal


Family dynamics can trip you up in the weirdest ways. It can take years, even decades, before that light of understanding shines through a crack in the wall of the carefully constructed structure that you believe keeps your life together. Getting a crack in there can be pretty scary.

Scary, but not fatal.

And sometimes, as the light shines through the cracked wall, if you peeked through the narrow opening, you might decide the wall doesn’t really have a purpose. It no longer serves to provide you with emotional security, or love, or whatever.

There’s light on the other side, and the wall just has to go.

I had a wall crack on me two weeks ago. It was a scary, loud crack. Dust was flying everywhere and there was yelling and commotion and it was bad all around. But there wasn’t a thing I could’ve done to keep that wall from cracking. It had always been opaque, yet thin and fragile. I could’ve kept it up and in one piece, had I only tiptoed around it, and had I whispered half-truths, and stayed away from the things I love to do most.

But, no. Like a bull in a china shop, when someone asked me to take that half-truth a bit further, I whirled to say, “What, again?” and my big butt smashed right into that thin, old, wall, and broke it right up!

There was a lot of upset. Tears, even. Self-doubt, too. And that’s how I came to realize that my sense of normal is, actually, pretty fucked up. So let me say a few words about what’s okay, okay?

It is okay to be a normal person. There is honor in living a regular life. It’s fine not to have wild adventures. It’s okay if I’m not a genius, and it’s even more okay if I stop pretending I am one, or can keep up with one. Lives of people who don’t run big or high-tech companies are not only acceptable, they are beautiful and have value of their own. It’s better than just okay to have a good, lasting marriage and raise two daughters into strong, independent adults. Not everyone has to be a ground-breaking scientist. Not me, not them. The pressure’s off. They are free to follow their own path, their own passion. It’s good to be healthy, but it’s okay not to be a thin, wiry endurance athlete. It’s okay to make only a modest income. Life would be more fun if there was more money (for horses, and for faster cars, and for better wine), but cheaper hobbies will do. It is okay to have a medium-clean house and overdue library books. Full-out fun and relaxation can follow work – instead of doing more work after dinner. And I mean regular work. I’m not talking building a particle accelerator here, I’m talking a simple job that makes the wheels of civilized society turn nice and smooth. This work includes art. Art is important. It helps us interpret the world and its happenings. Its fantasy helps us endure the rougher bits of reality.

You are okay, I am okay. We don’t need to be perfect, stellar, accomplished, or nominated for the Nobel Prize. All we have to do is make ends meet, love and be loved, and not do harm. If we manage to leave the world a better place, we will do it in our own way, not in the way our families have been hoping for since we were little kids.

It’s okay to live your own, happy, regular life. Go ahead. Do it. I dare you try.

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THURSDAY MORNING COFFEE BLOG – a pretty late essay

snow berries small

This is one late blog – but it’s all for a good cause. Every so often, it’s good to take a break from the Internet. Groaning under the load of real life stress, smarting by David Bowie’s departure home, heartsore for Alan Rickman. Sometimes it’s good to just unplug and experience the real, the flesh-and-blood, the here-and-now. Sometimes, it’s good to meet a friend for breakfast and talk about all kinds of things over eggs and hash. The dog gets walked, the writing gets done on the Wi-Fi-free computer and the family gets a decent dinner, yet the echoes of life changes and conversations can leave one chilled and squishy inside. Time to skip karate while I’m in my misanthropic sunshine mode. Time to soak in the hot tub and go to sleep early – perhaps even with the best of intent to blog in the morning.

Yet morning comes on the heels of an SOS request to drive a young friend to a doctor’s office. And if she won’t get her physical, she won’t get her driver’s permit, which means she won’t get her driver’s license… so you go and bring the laptop, thinking you’ll write while waiting. But no, people are coming and going and the distractions are endless. Writing at the DMV, in their sepulchral silence, is easier than writing in the waiting room of a doctor’s office.

And then your husband takes you out to lunch, after which you go home and write some more, and you walk the dog in the woods. Before you know it the night chases out the day and only the pink cherry tree lighs outside shed light on the melting snow.

Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow the sun also rises.

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SwimBikeRun sale ends tonight spur thoughts on marketing

So, first thing first: “Treading Water,” Book 1 of the SwimBikeRun series is free on Amazon until midnight tonight. After that, pay me for my champagne and caviar, folks! The link is here.  And than you for buying Book 2, “Hard Climb!” Checking on the sale date on Amazon make me do a double-take, though. It says there are 8 used and 12 new paperback copies for sale. REALLY? That’s news to me. In the M/M genre, e-books constitute a vast majority of sales and I’m certainly not aware of more than a handful of paperback sales from CreateSpace. Now, consider the timeline: for a POD (Print On Demand) book, it takes a week for me to actually receive a copy in the mail. I can only surmise that these merchants list unpurchased books, have some kind of an extended-distribution discount form Amazon, and sell them for a very modest profit.

Not that I mind. But, still. The incongruency of cash flow – and book flow – that results from seeing these numbers boggles the mind. AND ANOTHER THING. My mind is totally flipped inside-out by finding out that some of my books up for sale, used, for $37 dollars. As far as I know, they aren’t even autographed. (If you want an autographed copy of anything, you can get it from me directly using PayPal, just drop me a line). Who buys that, if anyone? Who inflates these prices? For whom? Why? Amazon gremlins strike again. I’m floored, just floored. I don’t think they’re being shipped to New Zealand, because a reader in Kiwi-land wanted a paperback and she and I made it possible, so I know the prices down there, inclusive of postage. It’s certainly well below $37.

There are certain mysteries in life that just make me stop, and think, and then I decide they’re not worth it and I move on again. This is one of them. Wishing you a productive and pleasant day here – I’m off to write some new words!

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THURSDAY MORNING COFFEE BLOG – My Imaginary training buddies


Some years ago I decided to train for my 2nd triathlon. Swimming forever was boring as fuck. Back and forth, back and forth. So I figured, hey, why don’t you plan a book while you’re at it? Swim time is quiet time, tranquil time. Meditative, to the point where the imaginary becomes real. They swam with me, they biked with me, they ran with me. Occasionally I even catch a glance of either Jesse or Sebastian in my peripheral vision. Once I was so deep in my own story while crossing the pool back and forth, I had to pull over on the way home and sort out what was real and what wasn’t.

That freaked me out, but I let the guys stick around.

Jesse was the one who’d give me a nod when I struggled. He was the one who’d crack a grin, toss his head, and call, “Hey, showing up matters! You can do it. You’re doing it now!”

Jesse was my inspiration as much as I was his creator. Sebastian just gave me a reserved nod of acknowledgment. You know how he is.

And that’s how “SwimBikeRun” was born. I wrote it as a companion piece to my training efforts all those years ago, but when I penned the last chapter after the race was done, the story had still had felt unfinished.

I let it sit on the drive for a long time. It languished. It had a few excited readers, and you all know who you are, but truth be told, once I was done training and racing, I’d sort of lost interest in the story. I picked up horseback riding and met Attila and Kai and Brent. Sebastian and Kai got left in the pool, swimming, forever forging ahead through water with their perfect Total Immersion form.

When I decided to publish the SwimBikeRun series and started to go through the words I’d written before I knew what horse manure smells like, Jesse and Sebastian roared into my subconscious like old friends, and I’m finishing their story now. Book 2, “Hard Climb,” has a lot of biking in it. Because, duh, it’s triathlon. It’s coming out in few days. The guys, well… they were happy to see me again.

“Where have you been? You’re signing up, right? You’re racing, aren’t you?”

Yes, Jesse. It took me forever, but I’m back in the pool, crossing back and forth, just two lanes away. I can’t really see you or Sebastian, but I know you’re there. When I bike on my indoor trainer, I think of you and Sebastian being tougher and braver than I am and being out there with the rest of the Pittsburgh Triathlon Club, riding in all weather in your bright and shiny outfits, braving the cold wind off the river. When I do my walk-run along wooded trails, though, you’re elsewhere. I have my dog for company and minding her, training her as I run along, pacing my breath and counting steps – that’s all my mind can take. There’s no space left for my imaginary training buddies.

I’m in the present. Step by step, past barren oak trees and over their protruding roots, through the swish-swish of fallen brown leaves. I forge along. The dog catches scent of deer and gives chase and I stop and call her, and she comes back, excited, adrenaline coursing through her veins. She’s my running buddy. My real, flesh-and-blood companion.

And yes, I signed up for a race. Thank you, Jesse and Sebastian, for still being an inspiration. Thank you, my dog, for helping me run.

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The Ugly Truth of Publishing & How BEST to Support Writers

Reviews are the best fan mail. And, an inside look at the traditional publishing industry. Read, consider, adapt.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri

Well, I figure I have one more day to drunkenly torch my platform. Sad thing is I don’t drink. I am apparently this stupid when sober 😛 . Actually I am writing this as a follow up for my rant from the day before yesterday, because knowledge is power.

Writers need this. Your friends and families need this. Readers need this. The more people get how this industry works, the more everyone can start working together for everyone’s benefit.

In my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, I go into a LOT more detail and I highly recommend you get a copy if you don’t have one. I spend the first chapters of the book explaining how the various forms of publishing work so you can make an educated decision.

All types of publishing have corresponding…

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