When Your Mother Dies Unexpectedly

I think most of you know this, but just in case the only way you connect with me is through this blog, I am letting you know that my mother, Sylvia Schaff, died of multiple myeloma, a vicious blood cancer, on January 18. She was 76. This event was totally unexpected. She went into the hospital with pneumonia, her white blood cell count was low, and a diagnosis of cancer was made. At this point, the cancer was so far along that the doctors just made her comfortable. She went from lucid to gone in four days. In some ways, I was the lucky child. I was there with her when she breathed her last in the early hours of Wednesday, and while that was excrutiating, I can take some comfort from being there to help her pass a little.

My mother and I were estranged. If you have been following my misadventures over the years, you know that my relationship with my family was strained. I've made no secret of all the abuse that happened. A very unflattering picture of my family life is published in Cookies from the Mosaic 2 anthology, which is fiction, but which is strongly based in fact. In that story, I compare my mother to a spider. It took the woman about 15 years to put my wedding picture on her wall. I think she might have hoped that if she didn't think about Bryon, he would secretly go away, and I would come back to her web.

What to say, then? I have spent a lot of time grieving my mother and my family. David, my counselor, suggested that I chose the lesser of two evils. To be clear, I don't feel guilty. I feel a keen sense of lost opportunity. If I had thought our relationship could have changed, I would have worked on it. But her decision to embrace the very dysfunction that was so damaging to her children, yet again, well, there was a finality to that. Still, I loved my mother. And she is gone. And when there is life, there is always hope. Now, all possibility is over.

Sylvia was a complicated woman. On Saturday, I did a little work cleaning out her apartment. Her closet was a weird mixture of beauty and decay. She had articles of clothing that would never fit her, garments of great beauty, which I stared at, just because they were beautiful. She had soiled and stained clothes that she would wear, holes in the garments, beyond their prime. Books warped by water. A pristine tartan dictionary. Matted clots of cheap jewelry chains. Perfect, never worn, amethyst earrings. Broken jewelry boxes. Sticky, dirty ceramic nicnacs. A Mikasa bowl, never removed from the box. On and on and on. My younger brother working in the kitchen found the same mix.

I found some happy memories of my mother, buried under all the sadness. Mostly when we were both younger, before poverty and madness and god only knows what else. When she saved Mrs. Beasley from abandonment in the airport in Hawaii after I'd forgotten her, a last minute dash off the plane. Her praising a poem I wrote when I was 10, setting me on the path to writing, Modeling her closet of clothes for me when I asked her to. No one is entirely good or bad, not even the most questionable of parents.

And so it goes. I begin to return to life, a little bit at a time. This year, our next battle is Bryon's mother's confirmed bladder cancer. She is 90 and has a very healthy attitude about it, but I suspect it will be the year we lose both our mothers, one more unexpectedly than the other. It's going to hurt.

I cannot shine up my mother's halo because she is gone. Her daughter has always been Cassandra, pointing out inconvenient truths to a family that preferred to live in illusion. I can earnestly say that I have good memories of her, I loved her, and I miss her.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.


The Year of Living Authorly

Maybe you remember that I have a book coming out September 12, 2017.

My God. That's this year.

So, how's that going? Well, I just turned back in the proofs over Christmas Break, so next up I'll get a cover and another glance at the final version, and then there will be ARCs and reviews and touring.



It goes without saying that I have a lot to learn about how to navigate a new phase of my writing career successfully. I will be posting links to excellent things I find out, writing both here and at Unreliable Narrators about what I am learning, and creating a resource page to share with you, so when you get to this point, you can start here.

So, first of all, I've uncovered what many people probably know about: Mary Robinette Kowal's Debut Author Posts There's a lot of really good information here that Kowal has collected as she has gone/goes through it. I found the entry on planning a debut party particularly useful.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.


Unreliable Links Through 1-9-17

A real welcome to 2017 follows soon, but right now let me get caught up with our Unreliable Narrators Links, of which there are plenty. Three, count 'em, three episodes of E'ville!!!

Local Lore

Unreliable Anniversary

Author Spotlight: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

E'ville Episode 3: Assets and Liabilities

E'ville Episode 4: Losers Weepers

E'ville Episode 5: Missing Persons

Writer Tamago's Favorite Books 2017 (no link--right here!)

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.


Writer Tamago’s Favorite Books: 2016

And now...the end of the year list of my favorite books for 2016. Please remember, these are not necessarily books published this year, but rather my top picks from the books I read this year. Mind you, I cheat a little, because I count series a couple of kinds. Ready?

All the Peter Grant Mysteries by Ben Aaronovitch. Likeable detective Peter Grant is a member of a 2 person magical police force. Characters are engaging, humor is high, police procedure is very British, and the stories are easily told. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd probably pick Moon Over Soho, which is like a jazz set. Consider yourselves encouraged to go read.

Animosity by Marguerite Bennett and Rafael de LaTorre. A world in which animals gain sentience turns Sandhor the bloodhound and his girl Jesse's life inside out. Amazing art and thought-provoking story telling, this horror comic is worth your time, and I hope for more after the initial mini-series.

One-Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear. Honestly, it was hard to pick between this book and Karen Memery, but One-Eyed Jack wins because it combines two of my favorite genres: Spy Fi and Fantasy. The derivative fiction in this piece is as good as the original story. I look forward to re-reading this book every once in a while.

Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond. I read two Lois Lane YAs this year, but Fallout stands out as the spunky Lois makes her way at a new school story. Add an on-line relationship with the mysterious Smallville Boy, and this reboot for teens has me all in for the next book.

The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu. I did mention that I like books that combine my two favorite genres: Spy Fi and Fantasy? Well, this one is Spy Fi and Sci Fi. It's also a geek gets into shape/makes good story. So, I was a little slow to the party on this one, but on the plus side, I have a lot of awesome material to look forward to!

The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell. As gritty as Ben Aaronovitch is smooth, these British cops are interacting with a supernatural London only they can see, and the stakes for these people are high. I truly cannot tell you the amount of times this book made me gasp and argh in frustration. It's a great, great book. The next one comes out in 2017, and I am there.

Limon, Martin. Nightmare Range. A great group of short stories, culturally authentic about two army police in post-Korean war South Korea solving murders. They don't get more engaging than George Sueno and Ernie Bascom, and the Korean and army details are obviously written by someone who's been there. I'm looking forward to reading the novels.

Liu, Ken. The Grace of Kings. So many people try to write something this mythological and epic, but so few succeed with such great success. Start this when you have some time, because you aren't going to want to put this down. Part history lesson, part mythological tome, and full-on adventures of a questionable leader, this one satisfies on so many levels.

Morgenstern, Erin. The Midnight Circus. Amazing black and white story of the battle of two magicians set against the backdrop of an esoteric carnival. Moments of great poetry and beauty.

Urusawa, Naoki. Well, what can you do, but fall in love with the adventures of the clever SAS operative/underemployed archeologist/insurance investigator Taichi Keaton, as he moves through a series of interesting adventures and human stories? A couple more volumes are yet coming out next year.

Vernon, Ursula. Caste Hangnail. A breath of fresh air to end the year on, as we follow the adventures of Wicked Witch Molly as she becomes the Master of Castle Hangnail. I love hanging out in Ursula Vernon's imagination.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.


Characters Who Breathe: Taichi Keaton

I just finished volume 8 of Master Keaton last night. At first glance, Keaton seems too good to be true. His occupation is insurance investigator, which he sort of fell into when he couldn't find a full-time teaching gig in archaelogy. He also fell into a stint in the British SAS. Keaton's father is Japanese and his mother is British. He has a multi-national upbringing, and his experiences at his three jobs combine to make him, well, a cool Renaissance guy who's handy to have around in a pinch. He possesses a wealth of knowledge and is a master survivalist.

To offset almost all this, which seems too good to be true in one individual, Keaton is hapless. Yes, he's just this guy who drifts through life. He's divorced and his teenage daughter is always telling him to get it together. Few stories in the Master Keaton comic are about Keaton. He wanders about finding ways to help others and solve mysteries. He's pretty damned cool.

What makes me believe he could be real? Two things. There are people who have lived varying and interesting lives. I love meeting them, and I aspire to be them. And...his personality is so even and friendly. He is a combination of expertise and attraction that makes reading about him irresistible.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.


The Power of Art

It's been a tough haul working on the writing these last few weeks. We are about a month out from the election and the hits just keep coming. Yet, I have managed to get another draft of my novel done. That was a stroke of luck, largely because the first draft looked better than I thought it did.

I have to say that the question has come to my constantly. Why do I want to write a melodramatic story about characters standing up in the face of odds during these awful times?

Well, perhaps I have answered my own question.

My parents were not the best moral compass for me as a kid. I credit a lot of novels for giving me moral compass. I learned how to behave, how to be noble and ethical from books. Many of the characters I admired stood up for what they believed in the face of adversity. Many of them defied impossible odds and triumphed. Some of them held their beliefs and lost, but maintained their integrity.

I know that people are flawed. Honestly, I know some fine, fine people. I don't honestly know how most of them will behave in New America. I like to think that I do, but I've lived through a school censorship in the early 90s, so I'm going into this with my eyes wide open. The majority of people, when the chips are down, are NOT Frodo or Katniss. I am not disillusioned, but let's say I'm not the believer in the nobility of humans that I was in the last century.

But chances are better that there will be those heroic stands if people see them modeled, both in real life and in ART. IN ART. What art did for me as a girl and as a young woman, I owe it to future readers to attempt. ESPECIALLY when life is not easy. Courage in the face of fear and uncertainty is NOT easy, but good examples always make it easiER.

I write Carlo Borgia because I want the world to believe one person can make a difference. I write Drusus Claudian because I want people to know ethics cannot be compromised. And I write Octavia Klaereon because I want people to know it is never too late to make amends for a bad past. (Looking at you, Glen Beck. 😛 )

So we can understand what is good and noble and right, even if it is not sanctioned by our political or social systems. And yes, we can get all relativistic about what is right and wrong, but you know what? Deep down, I expect you know what good civil liberties and human rights are. Anything that suppresses those, that's where we make our stand. That's where our characters do too.

I want you to get out there and ART. ART HARD. Give us all something to believe in and aspire to. So we can steel ourselves for what is ahead.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.