Wednesday was more or less a free day. I had time to show Sebastian around the Quarter before the convention officially began. I also walked my Dante’s French Quarter tour route with him to see how it flowed and quickly discovered I needed to start at the spot I originally intended to end at. LOL. Being from Oregon, we rarely see thunderstorms, so we were thrilled to experience one that first day. The skies rumbled and talked and the rain POURED. (Fortunately, it was warm rain.) We stood outside in front of the hotel along with other guests and watched nature’s furious, spectacular display. The thunder was so loud at one point, I fought the urge to surrender to my primeval self and cower while babbling about the gods and their apparent displeasure with puny humans. The street filled with water that quickly surged over the curbs and onto the sidewalk and geysered up out of manhole covers. All in all, pretty damned awesome.

Earlier in the year, I had participated in the Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for the Cure of Diabetes, offering to have dinner with a winning bidder while at AAD. I was meeting the winner in the lobby of the Royal Sonesta that evening, Shelly Younger. We had dinner at a restaurant across the street that featured quick and friendly service along with marvelous food and drink. Shelly and I chatted like we’d known each other for years and I had a wonderful time, one of the highlights of my visit. I’m so glad that Shelly won the bid! I couldn’t have asked for a better evening. Thanks so much, Shelly!

Me and auction winner Shelly.













This was my first time at AAD (Authors After Dark) and the fact that it took place in New Orleans this year at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter was just powdered sugar on the beignet. I had a fantastic time at the convention and met tons of wonderful people. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, and I’ve never had a better time at a convention. I hope to attend again soon.

Since I hate flying and try to avoid it as much as possible (and, really, you would want me to avoid it too, if you were flying with me. I’m the one sitting rigidly in her seat, clutching the arm rests with white-knuckled hands, an expression of mingled terror and determination on my face as I fight to keep the plane in the air through sheer will power, and you’re wondering if I know something you don’t and feeling the first flutterings of panic in your belly), I decided to travel to New Orleans by train. Relaxed travel. Beautiful scenery. Civilized dining. No plummeting from the sky.

My eldest son, Sebastian (frontman for Kingdom Under Fire of Portland, Oregon) was traveling with me. He’d never been to New Orleans and hadn’t had a proper vacation in years. He took the train down from his home in Vancouver, Washington on August 2nd, and on August 3rd, we both boarded Amtrak for the first leg of our journey, a 27 hour trip to Los Angeles. Now, I’d only booked a sleeper car for us going to and returning from NOLA. I figured we could survive riding coach during the Eugene-LA, LA-Eugene portion of the trip. Ha! Silly me.

Me and my laptop in our compartment on Amtrak.

Folks, always book a sleeper car if you are riding the rails for twenty-four hours or more. Trying to curl up in those seats and sleep while the air conditioning is icing your toes isn’t advised unless you’ve had a few drinks first. Then you’ll no longer care about such trivial things such as comfort and warmth.

We arrived in Los Angeles on the 4th, then took a cab to an inexpensive hotel I’d found online. Our train for NOLA wasn’t leaving until Sunday night, so I’d found us a cheap hotel. Well, relatively. It cost $135 a night, so I’m expecting something halfway decent. We stroll into the hotel and the front desk clerk is behind a cage. Never a good sign, but we’re committed. Once we’ve been given our key and the TV remote (!!!), we go to our room and I notice that the hallway is bare of carpet, just a concrete floor. Again, not a good sign. The room is stuffy, but has two queen beds, a bathroom, TV, all the basics, so I’m starting to feel better. After all, we’re only there for a short time. We’re starting to relax, watching a little TV, then Sebastian asks, “Is that blood on the dresser? Down at the bottom?” No, of course not. But I take a look and try to come up with a reasonable excuse for the dark stuff spattering the wood. Soy sauce. BBQ Sauce. Hair dye. Then I notice that the drapes have random spatters of the same dark stuff.

We decide it’s best to not mention anything about bloodstains in our room. Maybe that’s why there’s no carpet in the hall and front desk clerk is in a cage. We lock the door and go to sleep.

Sebastian at Union Station in Los Angeles.

On the 5th, we spent over 10 hours at Union Station waiting for our train to NOLA. Fortunately, the station was not only beautiful with comfortable seating, but it had several eateries and stores. The time actually passed quickly. The time to depart finally rolled around and then we were boarding our sleeper car for New Orleans. Due to the misleading angles used in the virtual tour of the compartments on Amtrak.com, the tiny size of the compartment surprised me. But it worked fine and traveling first class (all meals included) was great. And the scenery was beautiful as we traveled through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana. We met interesting people in the dining car and, all in all, had a relaxing ride.

We arrived in New Orleans on the 7th, taking a cab to our hotel in the French Quarter. No front desk clerk in a cage, no supposed bloodstains, just a fabulous hotel with gorgeous rooms and a warm, friendly staff.  It was great to be back in New Orleans! The weather was hot and humid and full of thunderstorms. Awesome thunderstorms–since we don’t get many in Springfield, Oregon. I showed my son around the Quarter that first night. Since the convention didn’t officially start until the next evening, we had time to explore.


Sebastian in front of statues of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday at the Tucson train depot.


French Quarter











A Sense of Humor in the Midst of Danger–Super Sexy

A Sense of Humor in the Midst of Danger–Super Sexy

I thought I do something a little different for this blog. No vampires (sigh), no fallen angels, or hoodoo rootworkers. Just a little chat about . . . humor!

I love humorous stories. Adore dry wit and droll manners. Admire quick quips and snappy comebacks. How many times have I come up with the perfect, the most hysterical comeback . . .only mere hours after it was needed? And delivered it with smoking, devastating style to chirping crickets? Way too many.

Okay – once in a while I pop one off without even thinking about it, but for the most part, I just stare slack-jawed with admiration as others do the zinging and I madly take notes. (I sometimes accidentally bump up against them hoping it’ll rub off on me—oh, excuse me, did you just lose a bit of funny? My bad.)

I think the love of comedy, of regular people dealing in a witty fashion with absurd realities, was learned from my father. He loved to write funny stories for me and my sister, stories that usually had us laughing so hard as we took turns reading them aloud to each other that we could barely choke the words out.

One such story was a parody of Jaws called “Beak” and was about a rogue killer twenty-thousand pound Cornish game hen. And sketched bird beaks formed each letter of the title. Written on yellow legal paper in felt tip pen. I took that story to school and read it to everyone and delighted in their laughter.

I think the love of comedy, of regular people dealing in a witty fashion with absurd realities, was learned from my father. He loved to write funny stories for me and my sister, stories that usually had us laughing so hard as we took turns reading them aloud to each other that we could barely choke the words out.

One of the things I loved about the TV show Supernatural—aside from the great storyline, the character relationships, and the yummy actors portraying those characters—was the dialogue. Chockful of quips and comebacks and snarky banter. There are way too many great quotes to list, but here’s a few from different episodes as a taste.

Sam: When I told Dad I was afraid of the thing in my closet, he gave me a .45.

Lucifer: Sorry if it’s a bit chilly. Most people think I burn hot. It’s actually quite the opposite.
Dean: Well, I’ll alert the media.

Sam: Huh, when you sacrifice to Holnacar, guess what he gives you in return?
Dean: Lap dances, hopefully.

At a workshop I took a couple of years ago on different genres and their structure, we were assigned random genres and told to mix them and write a short synopsis for a story. I ended up with “Literary” and “Zombie.” Literary is a genre I’ve never dabbled in before, so the idea of a literary zombie story had me wriggling like a happy, albeit demented, puppy. Below is the result.


Bill stares at his reflection in the slot machine wondering when his nose fell off and what it means. Every machine Bill touches wins and the mini-skirted waitress keeps bringing him drinks. She frowns amid ringing bells and saxophone wail. What does it mean? She follows Bill from table to table.

The waitress brings a pair of guys in mortuary blacks up to the table. They carry a big net. And speak very softly. Bill runs. Betrayed by Beauty one last time. When had he lost his jaw? What does it mean? Every person Bill touches becomes a winner. Mortuary guys and Beauty pursue.

Bill leaves a little piece of himself everywhere he goes. No one notices. Ain’t that the way? Beauty heads him off, a shotgun in her hands. Mortuary guys block him in on the other side. Beauty fires with a cool, graceful gesture.

And hits mortuary dude #1 in the chest with a round of rock salt. Ringing bells. Flashing lights. No one notices. Bill and Beauty run, but he leaves a trail of flesh pieces behind. Invisible man. No one cares. Bill plays a final round of poker with his left foot. And wins. No one cares.

Mortuary dude #2 catches up with Bill and drops the net over him as he tasers the betraying and bewitching Beauty.

Bill falls apart and his eye rolls long the floor until it finally stops. He wonders when he first started to come apart and how. Endless night approaches.


Thank you, thank you. I keep expecting a phone call from The New Yorker demanding the right to buy and publish it. Annnnny day now. *crickets*

Here’s a brief excerpt from my story, “The Horror in the Living Room” from the Daw anthology, The Trouble with Heroes, a tale about H.P. Lovecraft, his housekeeper, and an unexpected and tentacled guest.

Augusta strode down the portrait-lined hall, her steps muffled by the thick Persian carpet. The stench from the living room grew worse with each stride. Augusta’s eyes stung and watered. She pulled her handkerchief from her apron pocket, but before she could blot up the tears, she halted at the living room’s mouth and stared. The handkerchief fell from her fingers.

A sigil or Elder sign or some other damned thing that would require lots of elbow grease and scrubbing to clean had been etched into the carpet with what she suspected was the last of her flour. Candles positioned along the sigil’s edges dribbled wax onto the flour, adding the scent of beeswax to the sulfur stench curling through the room like a ghastly yellow fog.

Lovecraft sat in his over-stuffed easy chair, a notebook in his lap, a pen in his gloved hand. A leather raincoat protected his shirt and trousers from ichor, goggles his eyes. But nothing protected the room. The walls, ceiling, plush velvet sofa, and carpet were spattered with a greenish-black spray of gore. And so, of course, was the easy chair.

“Dear God,” Augusta whispered.

Ichor trickled down Lovecraft’s thin cheeks, dripped from his chin. He pushed the goggles to the top of his head and smiled. “I am fine, Mrs. Howard,” he said. “I managed to transcribe the creature’s story before consigning it to oblivion.”

“I just cleaned in here!”

Lovecraft pushed up from the easy chair and stripped off his gloves. Dropped them onto the carpet. “Is supper nearly ready? I’ve worked up quite an appetite.”

Augusta could only nod.

“Then I shall wash up,” Lovecraft said, combing his fingers through his hair. “I would appreciate it if you could tidy things a bit before the Thing Beyond Description arrives.” His warm smile was so genuine and boyish, Augusta could only nod once again. “Mrs. Howard, you’re a gem!” He peeled off his raincoat and then bounded away towards the bathroom.

Bending, Augusta picked up her handkerchief, then blew out the candles. She straightened and regarded the mess. She had asked Mr. Lovecraft several times to confine his work to a room dedicated to that purpose. He’d nodded, then swept a hand through the air.

“I have,” he said. “My work encompasses my life, so everything in my life is a part of my work.”

Since then, Augusta had decided that Lovecraft’s wife had fled to a sanitarium in order to keep her sanity, not because she had lost it. Sweeping up spare tentacles and the odd eyelid tended to make one’s sanity a tad loose.

Lovecraft’s work was necessary, yes; he was quietly saving mankind from tentacled doom. But, really, how hard was it to pick up after oneself?

Of course, hilarity and madness and (more) tentacles ensue.

I have a humorous story in the works about a female serial killer, a handsome mad scientist and an infatuated pigeon. I’m still expecting a call from The New Yorker any day now eager to nab early rights. *damned crickets*

Thanks for joining me!  I’d love to hear your fav snappy comebacks, quips, or snarky banter.

*This blog first appeared on Paranormal Haven in June of 2010.*


New Orleans Adventure

New Orleans Adventure

St. Peter and Bouron Streets

My friend Lynn picked me up at 5:30 AM (shudder . . . for both of us) and took me to the Eugene Airport to catch my first flight of a very long day, my flight to Seattle. (Since I waited until nearly the last moment to buy my ticket, I had my choice of several long, multiple plane flights. I chose the least hideous.) After a received my boarding pass (they wouldn’t allow me to check in online – I tried), I was told I needed to check in at the AA (no, not Alcoholics Anonymous, although that would’ve been interesting. American Airlines—not so much) gate in Seattle for my next boarding pass. Sigh. Okay.

Boarding and flight went well, all on time. Packed flight, a smaller propeller type plane. I was sitting beside a man my age who slept through the flight. I study the airplane disaster guide carefully, then note the nearest exit and plan my escape—provided I survive the crash.

We were served beverages and a little trail mix type snack. Not very yummy, but hey, nourishment.

We had quite a bit of turbulence the closer we got to Seattle due to rain and wind. I didn’t freak out during the turbulence (a first for me!), but I did white-knuckle the armrest as we made our landing, wings see-sawing from side to side. Episodes from 60 Seconds From Disaster flashed behind my eyes. I visualize making my escape from the burning wreckage. But it was a smooth landing, no problem.


The walk to my next gate was very long and I’ve discovered just how out of shape and overweight I am since I broke my ankle last year as I lugged my carry on and laptop. Gah. Must redouble my exercise and weight loss efforts as soon as I get home.

People packed the gate—another full flight for this leg of the journey—from Seattle to Dallas. I spoke to a woman at AA’s service counter and she gave me my boarding pass for the third part of my journey and said she’d call me back up to the counter once they had a seat for me.

I noted that I wasn’t alone in waiting for seat assignment as I propped myself against a wall. No empty chairs in the lounge. I kept thinking, It’s Tuesday! Where the hell is everybody going?

So I watch the first class and premier passengers board (after the special needs individuals). I panic (mildly) when boarding is delayed because they’re still fixing . . . something. What? What are they fixing? Is it on the plane? What if the mechanic is incompetent and his “repair” leads to disaster during the flight?

I decide at that moment that if the airline asks me if they can bump me to another flight instead of assigning me a seat on this one, I’ll take it. Everyone else is doomed.

But they don’t bump me. They call me back to the service counter and assign me a seat. The doomed feeling passes. I accept my boarding pass and get in line.


As we’re milling like (doomed) cattle down the jetway, I suddenly don’t feel well. Is this another sign? Is this flight destined for disaster? Should I turn around and bolt, screaming, “It’s going down!! Run for your lives!! (And get arrested in the process for making threats, no doubt.) Then I realize I’m having a hot flash, I’m tired and hungry, and that’s why I don’t feel well, not because the plane is (once more) doomed.

Note to self: SEE ABOVE!

I’d hoped for an aisle seat (easier bathroom access), but I had the window seat in a row of three. Again, I study the airplane disaster guide and note the nearest exit. I make sure I know how to escape—provided I survive. Again.

Starving by this point, I was looking forward to the food I’d been told would be available for sale. We were served beverages, then . . . nothing. No food was offered! I wistfully watched the first class passengers being served all manner of food and drink (in real glasses! The drink, not the food) and yearned for another packet of trail mix.

The flight was smooth and uneventful. We even landed early due to a strong tail-wind most of the way. Surely the airport had food. I had plenty of time before my flight to New Orleans to eat.

My gate was in Terminal C. We arrived at Terminal A, so I took the skylink tram to the terminal since it was several dimensions away. I beelined for the nearest food kiosk and bought a sandwich and water. A veritable feast! Yummy. The TV at the gate announced that Charlie Sheen had been hospitalized. A supposed “allergic reaction” to medication or what the police at the scene called an EDP—an emotionally disturbed person. Yawn.

Another packed flight. Seriously, people? Where the hell are you going on Tuesday?? At least I had the aisle seat this time. But the flight was so short, it didn’t really matter. I study the disaster guide. Note nearest exit.

I dozed a little, convinced at last, that no crash was imminent and, really, no longer caring.

When not dozing or being unconcerned about my aerial fate, I noticed that I was sitting beside a woman reading an Ilona Andrews novel and a man perusing information about Tulane University.

We landed right on time—but that advantage was lost when we were forced to remain in the plane for another half hour while they waited for something. I’m not sure what. Maybe our plane needed to wing wrestle another plane for the right to disgorge passengers. If so, we lost.

Since we were allowed to turn our cell phones back on, all you heard throughout the plane were beeps and boops and chirping little signing in music. One-sided conversations blossomed everywhere. Text message received—beep-beep-beep.

Finally, we were freed from the plane. I found my suitcase on the carousel without a problem. When I exited the airport, it was like being wrapped up in a hot, wet blanket. Instant sweat. I realized then I hadn’t brought nearly enough clothes.

I then boarded the airport shuttle (with 13 other people) and went on a mad, bumpy journey to New Orleans. I had forgotten the driving techniques of the Big Easy—fast and insane—but had a quick refresher course as I clung to the headrest of the seat in front of me.

But I was okay with that. Fast and insane, but our driver clearly new what he was doing. I was second to last to be dropped off at my hotel.

Checked in, got settled in my room, then hit the streets for food. And an Abita. I still felt like I was wrapped in that hot, wet blanket. It was 86 degrees and at 80% humidity. But still. It was New Orleans! I ate some pizza, had an Abita Amber, then wandered around a bit, getting my bearings again. It’s been a little while since I’ve been back, but I had no trouble remembering my way around.

I’m happy to be back in the Big Easy! I’m looking forward to more research, writing, more tours, and meeting members of the Club Hell Yahoo group and fan club.

More of this adventure to come.

Welcome Liam Quade Phoenix

Welcome Liam Quade Phoenix

On October 6, 2010 at 5:16 PM (a fascinating time, since it also equals his Uncle Matt’s birth date of May 16), my grandson, Liam Quade Phoenix was born healthy and with all toes and fingers.

Ah, a household of Libras. Take a look at these birth dates:

Mom – September 30

Nana – October 4

Big Sister – October 16

Dad – October 20

Uncle Matt is the lone Taurus and Aunt Sherri is the lone Pisces. LOL.

Libra is represented by the scales of balance, but I think with that many pairs of scales swinging around, we’re all just a tad unbalanced. LOL.

Here’s a few pictures of the happy event. (Liam’s sister – Kylah – will be 11 years old on the 16th, and she’s been a huge help to her folks and just loving her “little bro.”)

Liam & his dad, Sebastian

Liam & big sister, Kylah

Liam & Nana (who desperately needs to do her roots!)