Podcasts for Readers and Writers

I love podcasts. My day job gets monotonous, and I like learning new things while I do the same tasks day after day. I even started a podcast of my own recently, but in this post I want to recommend the ones that inspired me.

Hearing about the challenges authors face, how they approach writing and their experiences with agents, publishers, and marketing has given me so much more complete a picture of what I actually need to do to pursue writing as a career. If I can help anyone in some small way, or point them toward someone who can, that just feels like paying it forward.

Writing Podcasts:

Wrong Place, Write Crime

This podcast focuses on author interviews with really interesting and diverse authors. Mostly crime fiction, but there will be something for everyone. The host, Frank Zafiro, is a former cop who mostly writes procedurals and has an output that I am insanely jealous of. He’s also a really cool guy who gave me some confidence in my writing when I needed it.

Writer Types

Hosted by Eric Beetner, this is a high energy podcast that sounds like a morning radio show. It’s usually how I start my day and he’s so funny and has such good conversations, he always puts me in a good mood. Guests include Lee Child, Lawrence Block, Jeffrey Deaver and many more.

The Bastard Title

I heard Angel Luis Colón on Wrong Place, Write Crime and immediately started following The Bastrad Title. This is a crime fiction podcast with authors I was less familiar with which is part of why I like it. I’ve added a lot of books to my reading list after hearing about them on here.

Print Run

Laura Zats and Erik Hane are literary agents, and I found it so helpful to learn what they had to say about queries, marketing, and the publishing industry as a whole. A must listen for any author.


Reading Podcasts:

One Great Book

Anne Bogel hosts this short and sweet podcast. I wanted to include this one because it contains all genres and is great for when you are short on time (episodes tend to be around 10 minutes.)

What Should I Read Next?

This is Anne Bogel’s longer podcast (1 hour episodes) where she talks reading and sometimes writing with a guest, then asks them for 3 books they loved, 1 book they didn’t, and makes recommendations for them based on their answers. It’s a very soothing podcast to listen to. It’s like Great British Baking Show level calm, which can be useful some days.




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Self Defense, Corrections, and How to Carry Your Keys

So, I started a podcast. The first episode was me interviewing my dad about self defense. He’s taught self defense to civilians and law enforcement in the past and he was nice enough to answer questions from people on the internet.

If you want the full experience, you’ll have to listen to the podcast as this is meant to be an accompaniment, not a transcript. (The podcast is also called The Occasional Meatcleaver. I will provide a link at the end of this blog post.) There were a couple things that were either confusing to try to explain without a visual or things I learned needed a correction. That is what I will be covering here.

Corrections: In the interview, my dad said he thought civilians were not allowed to own tazers in many places, I was also under this impression until I talked to my brother, who works as a security guard and is currently a reserve police officer. He carries a trader regularly and was much more knowledgeable about them. Laws differ from state to state, but tazers are in fact legal to own most places. Some areas require classes or permits and some don’t so be sure to look up laws in your area if this is something you’re interested in.

You can even get law enforcement quality tazers, tazers with 4 probes instead of 2, and tazers that will automatically call 911 if deployed depending on how much you are willing to pay.

Tazers are, according to my brother, the best non-lethal option for incapacitating assailants. If they connect properly, they will render the person unable to fight at all. Just remain vigilant in case the probes get caught on loose clothing or the wires break, in which case the tazer will be ineffective.

How to Carry Keys for Self Defense:

Don’t do this:



This is better:


Here’s the link if you haven’t heard the podcast:

Stay safe, and feel free to ask more questions! Happy to do a follow up.

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Why Horror?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I write and read the things I do. Why scare the fecal matter out of myself and others?15688738022481352342553

It has been suggested to me that perhaps this isn’t the best genre for someone with an anxiety disorder.

But horror doesn’t tell me that bad things happen. I know bad things happen. I am painfully aware. Horror gives the bad things in my head context.

Unspeakable things happen. I see it play out. Then life goes on… Or doesn’t as the case may be. Either way, it has an expiration date within the story. Unless a character is stuck in some sort of purgatory, and even then if it’s an interesting book something will still happen. Things will change. Nothing is forever. This is comforting.

There are terrible things, but there aren’t only terrible things. 1568875290852828626489The darkness has limits and cannot be all encompassing.

It soothes my anxieties in a way that happy stories can’t because it starts with the validation that the worst things in my head might happen, but then stipulates that other things will also happen.

I’ll be posting weekly for the foreseeable future. Possibly more. My book is finished pending a final edit by myself and beta readers. I’ll post updates on that as they happen. 1568877008852536290498


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Flying Commas and Other Gramatical Anomalies


When I was in high school, it seemed much easier to keep things like punctuation and syntax straight. Back then, teachers reviewed that stuff every few months. I don’t think I ever had time to forget it, and they had those handy posters on the classroom wall if I got stuck. It was also something that came easily for me. I never understood why some people had so much trouble with it. I would shake my head in disbelief when other students would do things like call apostrophes ‘those flying comma things.’ Let me just say: I get it now.

I don’t know if it’s the effects of having joined the texting world where, “lol u r sooo funny!!!  ttyl” is perfectly acceptable,


or if it’s just that I have so much other crap taking up space in my head now. (Examples include, but are not limited to: car payments,  job security, taxes.)


It’s not that I’m terrible with grammar and punctuation now, it’s just that things seem less clear-cut than they used to, and at a time when I’m expected to be more confident and competent in my writing.


Having easy-to-use reference material that doesn’t make me feel like an idiot for having to use it is essential.

Here are some of my favorites that never leave the shelf above my writing desk:


Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White

The most concise, easiest to use, straightforward book on writing ever written, and it’s small enough to fit in a pocket (okay, maybe a big pocket, but still…) or a purse. It includes examples of common mistakes, not just in punctuation, also spelling, word usage, tense, etc., so you know what not to do. Then, it shows you how to fix them. This book has been a life saver throughout my college career, and when I edit my writing one last time, (and then twice more) before submitting it.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

She made punctuation interesting, even humorous and fun. I don’t know how she did it, and I don’t want to know. It’s like when a magician makes an elephant disappear. I don’t question it. I just stand with my mouth hanging open in disbelief, and applaud. I love the Punctuation Repair Kit that came with the book. The author encourages readers to become punctuation vigilantes who go around fixing signs that say things like, “50% off you’re favorite brands, prices so low you wont believe its real!”

I’ve started doing this. It’s incredibly geeky, good, clean fun… and a public service, if you ask me. (Just make sure you fix it when the managers aren’t looking. Otherwise, they try to take your punctuation stickers and chase you out of the store. Still fun, but more exercise.)


Grammar Smart by the staff of The Princeton Review

A few years ago, my brother started coming to me with questions about prepositions and dependent clauses. I searched my internal memory- I had learned these things, so I must possess the answers- only to discover those files had been overwritten with the rules to beer pong and lyrics to Weird Al songs. Sad, but I guess that’s what happens when you go to college. I invested in this book to help answer his questions and refresh my memory. It was an excellent purchase. They cover everything from parts of speech to punctuation and even gender-neutral writing. (So you can be all politically correct.)


The Chicago Manual of Style

I haven’t sprung for one of these yet, as they are on the spendy side, but, if you want to write professionally, I suggest at least putting it on your wish list. Most publishers I’ve talked to use the formatting and guidlines found here to evaluate submissions, so it can usually give you some insight as to whether your writing is clean and up-to-par.


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How Not to End Up Like My Characters

self defense

Why I Know This Stuff: 

Because of the genre I write in, I spend a lot of time thinking about what can go wrong. What terrible things can happen, and what events lead up to them.

Mostly, these are fictional things. Every once in a while, I’ll have a scene inspired by something that has happened to me. My writing is never taken straight from my life, but once in a while, there is a resemblance. This has led me to modify my own behaviors in order to avoid ending up like the people I write about.

Like Liam Neeson in Taken, I have developed an unusual (if slightly less lethal, and less extensive) skill set.

I know kicks and strikes, tactical holds and weapons takeaways. I know where to hit a person to disable him temporarily, where to hit him to injure him permanently, and where to hit him to kill him. I’m thankful that so far I haven’t needed to utilize these.

I also know observation techniques. My dad is a detective.  Awareness of his environment is a matter of safety, and even survival, on a daily basis.

While we were growing up, my siblings and I were constantly hearing, “Look around! Pay attention! Be observant!” It was kinda like Psych with less pineapple.


I’m a daydreamer by nature, so this was a difficult skill for me to master.

I’m glad I did.

Why I Think It’s So Important:

I used to ride the bus down Division Street to and from the Plaza each day on my way to college.

spokanebus plaza

For those of you who don’t live in Spokane or don’t ride the bus, the Plaza is the Twilight Zone concentrated into the space of a mid-size department store. There was at least one fight almost every day. The local news ran stories about people getting stabbed there despite the fact that there was always at least one security guard on duty. The Plaza made me realize that perhaps my father was not quite the paranoid hard-ass I’d thought him to be.

plaza stabbing

When a guy sat down behind me on the bus one afternoon, I got goosebumps. I don’t know what it was about the man. He looked like he’d been in a fight, but so did lots of people there. He wasn’t very old. Early thirties, late twenties. I felt like he was watching me. Like an itch I couldn’t reach, being near this guy was making me antsy.

He asked me for a nickel and I gave him one. (Bus riders gotta stick together, ya know?) His gaze as he took it struck me as too intense. I wanted to change seats, but the bus was full. I thought about talking to the driver at the next stop, but what would I say? It’s not like he’d been rude or unpleasant. He was just creeping me out something fierce.

Well, I thought, it’s possible this is all in my head. Maybe I’m (God forbid) turning into my father. Besides, what’s the worst this guy could do on a bus? Stare at me? But when I got off the bus… That thought got my adrenaline flowing again.

My stop was the Hastings Lot. The end of the line. This time of day, I was often the only one in the parking lot. There were a few businesses around, but not close enough that I was sure anyone would hear me scream. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. Dead battery. I might be in some deep shit.

I considered my options. I could go about my day as usual, and hope he wouldn’t follow me to my stop. We weren’t very far down Division. I decided if he was still there when the bus reached the Northtown Mall, I’d get off. The mall was always packed. I could yell for help if he came after me, maybe even lose him in the crowd.

He talked to me, off and on. Asking me questions. I don’t remember what they were. Normal things. Small talk. I didn’t tell him much about myself. My answers were vague, but polite. I didn’t want to be rude in case I was being paranoid. In case he was a nice, normal guy. Didn’t want to hurt his feelings for no reason. We reached the stop before the mall. He was still there. Still talking to me. I got out of my seat as the bus pulled up to the curb near the mall. I pushed my way to the front, and was the first one out the door. He got up, and followed. I was running the minute my sneakers hit the sidewalk. I jumped a short concrete wall around the mall parking lot, and sprinted for the nearest entrance. Better to be paranoid and alive than risk being tossed in a panneled van and driven to a basement somewhere.

I risked looking back once, and felt both vindicated and terrified to see him running after me.

Yay, I’m not crazy afterall!

Holy shit, this dude is really after me!

I beat him to the mall, and ducked in the Barnes & Nobel. I stayed near other people. Stayed behind the bookshelves. I could hear him cursing. I didn’t move for fear he’d see me looking around the shelves. After a short time, he left. My heart was still pounding. I was drenched in sweat, but I was safe. I kept an eye out for him as I left the mall, as I got on the next Division Street bus, and as I got off the bus at the Hastings Lot. He never reappeared.

I don’t know what would have happened if I’d stayed on the first bus. I do know beyond a reasonable doubt that it wouldn’t have been anything good. I hadn’t dropped my wallet. If he had wanted my phone number, that was a hell of a creepy way to try to get it. There just wasn’t any legitimate reason for him to be running after me. Traumatic and life altering? Not really. Scary? You bet your ass it was.

The end result was that I decided to educate myself. I went to self-defense classes, read books and studies on the subject, and bought pepper spray.

Now that I’m over twenty-one, I have a concealed carry permit, a Glock with night sights, and (thanks to my dad) a skill level with a handgun that falls somewhere between that of Clarice Starling and Stephanie Plum. (I’m not a marksman, but the gun doesn’t sit at home in my cookie jar either.) I have never shot anyone, and would greatly prefer not to do so in the future, but I firmly believe it’s better to have my gun and not need it than need it and not have it. My goal is to have a schema* for every scenario. If some wanna-be gangster rapist comes at me with a gun, I have the luxury of knowing my gun is bigger, and, frankly, that’s a load off my mind.

stephanie plum


 I constantly plan and re-plan what to do in various worst-case scenarios. I always, always looked at the people around me. Not because I expect bad things to happen, but because it makes me less vulnerable in case they did. Despite a few bad experiences, and the crap on the nightly news, I still believe most people aren’t going to hurt me. But now, I remember they have the potential to. And I trust my instincts.

*This is a cop word. It means a plan of action. Not sure if that’s common knowledge.

 Things for Beginners to Consider:

  • What are the laws in your state concerning self-defense, gun ownership, and concealed carry?
  • What local classes are available to you?
  • What are your personal values/beliefs, and what level of force are you comfortable using to defend yourself and the people you love?*  ** ***
  • How secure is your home? Your car? Your work place? Are there steps you can take to make these places safer?
  • What are your current personal strengths? (Are you a runner? Do you lift weights? Are you persuasive?) Develope the skills you already possess to your best advantage.
  • What are your current limitations? (Out of shape, freeze under stress, uncomfortable with confrontation even in extreme circumstances.)
  • Can you improve yourself in these areas?
  • Under what circumstances is it in your best interest to escape/evade?
  • Under what circumstances should you fight back?

* Do not purchase a weapon you are not willing to use. It’s not worth the risk of an attacker using it against you.

** Practice often with any weapons you do choose to purchase so you can use them effectively.

*** This includes things like car keys! I carried my keys a certain way in dark parking lots for years before practicing strikes on a dummy with them in a self defense class and realizing that the way I’d been holding them was totally ineffective.

Further Reading:


A summary of things to do (and things not to do) to decrease your odds of being attacked, based on an in-prison survey of rapists and date rapists:



An online tutorial on how to escape and evade in an urban environment:




Fightlike a girl&win

Fight Like a Girl… and Win by Lori Hartman Gervasi

Local Resources:

(I know there are many other classes in the area, but these are some I have been to and would personally recommend.)

Classes in the Spokane Area:

These are free, and they’re amazing!

Spokane Police Academy

2302 N. Waterworks

Spokane, WA, 99212

Phone: (509)742-8100

survival mindset

  • Enhancing the Survival Mindset 1 (Women over the age of 16 only)
  • Enhancing the Survival Mindset 2 (Women over the age of 16 only)
  • Violence Prevention in the Workplace (Men and Women)
  • Personal Safety and Awareness (Men and Women)
  • De-escalation Training (Men and Women)

To register, visit:


Classes in Cheney, WA:

These are great for all the striking practice they give you, and the atmosphere is fun and empowering. Everyone cheers each other on as you learn.

West Plains Karate &

Self-Protection Connection

422 First Street

Cheney, WA, 99004

Phone: (509)559-5432

Women’s Self Defense


  • 5-hour Intro
  • 24-hour Advanced

For times, prices, and registration forms, visit:



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5 (Writer’s) Block Busters You Can Do in 5 Minutes


[Said in obnoxious infomercial voice:]

Hey there, Fellow Writers!

Are you tired of having a scene (or even a whole story) in your head that you can’t seem to transfer to a notebook or computer?


Or, sitting down to do your daily writing, and coming up with a big fat blank?


It might not be your fault! According to the research of people you’ve never heard of who do studies of questionable legitimacy, you might be suffering from a condition known to lay people as “Writer’s Block.”


If you have strategies to help get rid of writer’s block that I haven’t mentioned, please feel free to say so in the comments. Hearing new ideas (Or ones I knew, but had forgotten) is always helpful. Thanks.

Here are some exercises I’ve found helpful when my brain locks up on me:


1.) Spend 5 minutes doing a prompt. This always gives me a mental kick-start and gets me writing. I don’t have to sit around trying to decide on an idea, and the time limit keeps me from editing as I go, which is something I do too often.

Prompt Examples:

– Find a friend. As quick as you can, both of you write a beginning sentence and an ending sentence, but nothing in between. Trade papers and fill in the blank  left in the scene of the other person’s sentences. Try to have a paragraph-long scene or story when you finish.

– Flip open a magazine and write a paragraph inspired by a picture or article on that page. What you write doesn’t need to have any actual connection to what’s on the magazine page. It’s just whatever that image/article brings to mind for you.

– Look at a news paper and start a scene where a character reads and reacts to one of the headlines. (This is also good for keeping your writing current and socially relevant.)


2.)Take a 5 minute walk. Fresh air, Vitamin D. The outdoors are full of stuff that’s good for you. You’ll also be getting a little (but probably enough for our purposes) of exercise, which, as you probably know, gives your brain more of the stuff it needs. (Blood flow, oxygen.) Try to find a power walking pace that boosts your heart rate, but doesn’t leave you winded. You should end with more energy than you had when you started.

Things to pay attention to while walking:

– Landscape. Is there anything around the area where you’re walking that inspires or interests you? Anything that could be used in a potential story setting? This includes natural and man-made structures. Does a house look like a place one of your characters would live?

– Graffiti. I actually go around looking for graffiti because it always makes me wonder who wrote it there, and what made them think it was important enough that everyone should see it.

– People. What kinds of other pedestrians are in the area? What kinds of cars? How are the people driving? How are they dressed? Is there anything unusual about someone’s gait or mannerisms?


3.) Eves Drop. Not on people you know, or anything. Just people out in public places who are having loud obnoxious conversations anyway. Make them work for your writing process. (I know two out of three so far require leaving the house, but they’re worth it.) Pay attention to word choice, voice inflection, speech patterns, accents, euphemisms. It can really help when writing dialogue.

Good places to overhear a conversation:

– Coffee Shops. Not a coffee shop where everyone else is there alone, writing or playing Fruit Ninja. One where you know people meet for lunch and gossip.

– Bus stations. I swear I have seen and heard stranger things waiting for buses than anywhere else I’ve been except the blood bank. (I do not recommend the blood bank for this exercise. You want to go someplace where the conversation might be a little scandalous or sketchy, but not someplace where you’ve got a high probability of getting stabbed and robbed as you leave.)

– Colleges. You don’t have to crash a class. You can just visit the campus and grab lunch in the cafeteria or something. Topics overheard can range from who did what with who/what for x amount of beer/money to the validity (or lack thereof) of existentialism.


4.) 5 Minute Research Session. Fact check a portion of what you’ve already written, or do some quick research on a subject you may have avoided writing about because you didn’t feel knowledgeable.

Things to remember while researching:

–  Bored sixth graders have taken over a good portion of Wikipedia. That’s not to say you can’t or won’t  find good information there. Just remember to double check it.

–  Librarys aren’t just where homeless people go to use a computer. Most of the writers I know do a good job of utilizing the library as a resource. (Which is much cheaper than buying every book on amazon. Nothing against amazon, but it’s hard to beat free books.) A few, however, seem to keep forgetting it’s there, so I like to throw out a reminder once in a while.

– Databases are your friend. The good ones make it easy to search specific subjects and check the credentials of the authors of particular articles/ books. Plus, lots of these are also totally free.


5.) Make an outline/timeline/flowchart/whatever. I have a large white board I use for this purpose. Sometimes when I’ve got writers block it’s because I know on some level that what I’m trying to write isn’t working. I could be missing a key fact, or maybe a new idea contradicts something that happened in a previous scene. either way, this process helps me figure out what’s wrong and how to change it so it works.


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Prompt Writing


I  used to believe writing prompts would only serve as one more distraction from whatever project I was working on.

When I took a creative writing class in college, however, I discovered that one of the best ways for me to shake off writer’s block was to stop what I was doing and spend about five minutes working on a writing prompt.

Prompts are to the writing world what a starting gun is to a sprinter. And it is a sprint. The goal is not distance, quantity, or energy conservation, it is to get something down as quickly as possible regardless of how coherent, silly, or irreverent it may be.


How I GotLit! :

Writing prompts also illuminate how many ways there are to look at a single subject. At Inland Northwest Writers’ Guild meetings, we often do a writing prompt or two, and even if we all have exactly the same starting point, the differences in the directions our thoughts take us is striking.

This was also the case at a panel I went to during the GetLit! Festival. Four professional writers were given a prompt: Red Eye, and asked to write something that could be read in about ten minutes. The person who came up with the prompt had been thinking of airplanes and red-eye flights, but that’s not how any of the authors interpreted it.


Kim Barnes, a professor at the University of Idaho and the author of In the Kingdom of Men, wrote a nonfiction piece involving her family history (Which was filled with scandal and made for a great story.) and the Red-Eye Gravy her grandmother made. It brought to life the complicated family dynamics involved with several generations of relatives, and the self discovery that comes from bringing who you are together with where you come from.

Shann Ray, author of American Masculine and professor of leadership studies at Gonzaga University, wrote a fictional story about a professional ballerina who marries a lumberjack. The connection to the prompt was a scuffle between the husband and wife, which he starts, but she ends by nearly putting his eye out. It sounds violent, but it had an emotional depth and a flow reminiscent of well-written poetry. By the end, I felt as if the characters were old friends, and was rooting for them to patch things up.


Nance Van Winckel, a Spokane poet, read a piece about a young child’s tragic accidental death, and the after math for the child’s parents and their friends. Everyone’s eyes were red from crying. It was so powerful partly because she had the courage to ask the question I can never bring myself to ask when I hear about something like this on the news: [Please note, I am paraphrasing, these were not her words. I could never hope repeat her exact phrasing here, but I tried to capture the sentiment because I found it so incredibly moving. My apologies if I fail to do so.]

This was an accident caused not by malice, but by a simple lapse of memory. He forgot. I forget things all the time. Little things mostly, but where is the line between and a careless moment that leads to inconvenience and one that leads to disaster?


Jim Lynch, author of Truth Like the Sun, ended the panel on a lighter note. His story was a spoof of old Noir detective stories (which faithful readers will know I love.) It was titled Spokane Envy, and involved a blues-music-obsessed son of a rich Seattle woman running away to Spokane. I never would have guessed I’d laugh so hard at anything so soon after contemplating death and culpability and whether good intentions mean anything. But as soon as Jim Lynch started reading, I was so caught up in the story of this socially inept, bumbling private eye who was running around Washinton State looking for a missing rich kid, trying to interrogate a girl who works in a fruit stand by the side of the road, posing as a waiter in the Peacock Room at the Davenport, and meeting a rooster named Red Eye, it was impossible not to laugh.

I found the spectrum of emotions and styles, all evoked by the same two words staggering. It was like some insane literary Rorschach test. But that’s the great thing about prompts, everyone comes up with something different. It’s also easier to venture outside your comfort zone because you don’t give yourself time to over think things.


My Own Prompt Response:

Annette Drake asked me to include my own response to the prompt given at the last Writers’ Guild meeting in this post. The prompt was GetLit! You could take it any way you wanted. We were told shorter sentences were preferable because that had been a style we were discussing at the meeting. Anyone who had anything at the end of five minutes was asked to read if they felt comfortable doing so. I did. It’s good practice for reading my more polished work, and you won’t find a friendlier audience. I came up with this:

Patches don’t do a damn thing for me.

Gum don’t work worth shit.

What I need is a cigarette:

The glow of an ember.

Smell of tobacco.

Warmth of smoke in my lungs.

But the bitch took my lighter when she left this morning.

The unlit cylinder hangs from my lips:



No fire hazard here.

[Please note, I am not and never have been a smoker. I have no idea what inspired this, but that’s often how prompt writing goes. Things seem to come out of nowhere.]

I liked that I’d found a rhythm different from what I usually do, but my feelings about the piece as a whole were lukewarm until I heard the response (laughter like you hope for in a comedy club) and Annette encouraged me to share it with all of you online. I highly doubt I would have even thought of anything like this, without a prompt, let alone written it down or shared it with anyone.

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A ‘Novel’ Kind of Sound


Okay, I’m also going to post about writing today, but I’ve always been a sucker for great music, and I’m excited about hearing The Novelists for the first time. Those of you following me on Twitter and Facebook will already have read about the concert, but my second blog post yesterday wouldn’t load because it turned out I was over my picture limit, so I’ve gone through and pared things down a little bit. (Thinking about upgrading btw- thoughts on that?)

Back to the concert at SCC, I have a hard time finding music I really enjoy. I like music and books to have elements that are unique or unexpected. I wasn’t expecting to find a new favorite band yesterday. I was just sitting around after math class, messing around on Cakewrecks, and putting together a post on writing prompts (set to air later today.)

“Hey! Did you hear me talking earlier about what’s going on in the auditorium?”

I looked up and saw an unfamilliar girl smiling at me. I hadn’t heard her, and I told her so.

“There’s free food, and free music! It starts at ten. Do you have class?”

“Nope!” What can I say? She had me at ‘free food,’ but I’ve always loved music too.*

“Awesome! Go get all your friends, too! Tell everybody.”

“Sorry, all my friends here would be like two people. And they’re in class…”

I took my best shot at recovering my dignity, “I could Tweet and Facebook it, if you want. I could blog it.”

She looked like I’d offered her free food, “You have a blog?”

“Yeah, it’s about writing, but I’m always happy to support local stuff.”

“One of the bands is local, come on!”

Next thing I knew, I was shaking hands with the bands, and getting a short rundown on both of them. Blisstrz was a blues band from here in Spokane, and The Novelists were a band from Reno, Nevada whose genre I still couldn’t define, although I love their sound.

Then it was ten, and the concert started. The Novelists were up first.  Zack Teran was on the cello! I was shocked and delighted. What other bands use a cello? I can only think of Apocalyptica, and their sound is completely different. For some songs, Megan Slankard or Joel Ackerson played mandolin. Here, again, I can only think of one other example of this- Tegan and Sara- and, again, no resemblance in sound.  Eric Andersen was fantastic on the keyboard. They all have excellent voices.They integrated classical and exotic instruments with a sound that was modern and, I believe, has the potential for big time mainstream popularity.


Quite simply, I fell in love with their music.  My favorite songs they played were Soul Sucker, and I Don’t Want to be Like You. You can listen to them on their website here: http://thenovelists.com. As much as I like them, I still don’t know how to categorize them (Which just makes me like them more.) They don’t seem angry enough to be rock. Their sound is softer than that, more thoughtful, acoustic. More optimisstic. I can say what they aren’t: No hint of country, or pop. I’d say alternative, but that’s not really saying anything, and alot of people think grunge or garage band when they read that, which isn’t the case at all. They’re just… Novel. I hate to put another potential pun into the world, but this band is aptly named.  I haven’t heard anything else like them.

Now, as much I enjoy it, I’m not on the cutting edge of music. It could be that most of you reading this already knowabout this band and what they do, or maybe you have the musical vocabulary to describe what they do better than I can. If that’s the case, please comment. I’m always happy to learn.


They also took a picture with me, which was awesome!

*My sister, my best friend, and I actually had an incredibly short run as a band ourselves. We were called (Surprise!) The Occasional Meatcleavers. (Yes that is where the name for this blog came from. I figured if the whole blogging thing didn’t work out, we’d probably want the domain name anyway.)


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Live Music! Free Food! Can you tell I’m excited??

Attention Spokanites:

There will be live music and free food in the Sasquatch room of the Lair @ SCC!

thenovelists soundcheck

The first band, The Novelists, plays at 10:00AM. I’ve been listening to their soundcheck and I’ve been very impressed. You can look them up on Facebook, or

http://www.thenovelists.com if you want a preview.


Local blues band the Blisstrz  (also on Facebook and Myspace) plays at noon.

Come check it out, it’s gonna be awesome!

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5 Infectiously Good Books: Non-Fiction

Alright, same drill as the last post, but for this one, it’s all true! How creepy is that?

In no particular order:


1.) The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

The author of this book actually went inside level 4 (highest risk of infection) rooms at the CDC (Center for Disease Control) researching this book. You can’t even do that anymore! Anyone curious about how our government researches and prevents or controls diseases should give this one a look. And buy some hand sanitizer. The information on Ebola may give you some sleepless nights, but this book is worth it. Also look for Panic in Level 4, and The Demon in the Freezer, Preston’s other nonfiction works on the subject. All are fantastic.


2.) Spillover by David Quammen

Everything you didn’t know was fascinating about zoonoses (diseases that spread from animals to humans). This book gives an overview of several of these types of  diseases including  Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Ebola, HIV, and some I’d never heard of before. David Quammen traveled, did interviews, and thoroughly researched his subject. The first hand narrative about things like hiking through the jungles of Africa adds a depth and a personality that is often lacking in non fiction. I got to hear him read at Auntie’s and he even talked to me about my novel and signed my copy of his book. Nice guy. Awesome writer.


3.) The American Plague by Molly Caldwell Crosby

A well researched story told in a way that grabs and keeps your interest. The downside is that I now have a phobia of mosquitoes. Also check out her book, Asleep.


4.) Awakenings by Oliver Sacks

Behold the incredible mind f*&% that is Encephalitis Lethargica. You go to sleep, and you might wake up three days, three weeks, three months, or thirty years later! You might not wake up at all. Or it could have the opposite effect. You might not sleep ever again and just run around possessed by hyperactivity until you die of exhaustion. If you manage to A) survive, and B) regain consciousness, you’ll most likely be left with Parkinsons-like symptoms that rob you of the ability to walk, talk, care for yourself, you name it. The clincher? They still don’t know what causes it. I’ll be honest, this disease scares the living $#^& out of me. That’s why I decided to write about it. This book is written by another of one of my favorite authors. Oliver Sacks is a former neurologist, who now writes humorous, touching, and sometimes tragic memoirs and case studies.


Oddly enough, this book was also made a movie staring Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams. It’s actually very good, and mostly accurate.


5.) The Little Book of Pandemics by Dr. Peter Moore

Gives a great overview with easy to read charts at the beginning of each chapter that list when and how each disease was discovered, its infectivity, the severity of the resulting illness, and the potential threat from each if they are used as a bioweapon. It’s been a go-to for me while I’ve been writing this book.


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