Something to Say

Stand Against Bigotry 🏳️‍🌈


The current surge of bigotry in the United States against the LGBTQ+ community is heartbreaking, and is yet another stain on our nation’s history of shamefully cruel intolerance.

We should be better than this by now. We must be better than this.

This Pride Month, show your colors. The other side is certainly showing theirs.

I Like Mastodon, but I Have Some Criticisms


Like many, I have been saddened to watch Twitter’s descent into madness over the last few months. For all its problems, it had been a place of mostly positive interactions for me over the last fifteen years—whether that was as a place to connect with readers of my novels, tech enthusiasts, Masters of the Universe fans, or members of the visually impaired community, just to name a few. While I’m maintaining my account on Twitter, I have moved a lot of my social media presence to my Mastodon account. This has come with both good and bad, as one would expect. Some Mastodon users are really touchy about even the most constructive criticism of the service. After a couple of months on Mastodon, I have some thoughts about it, and offer both positive and negative comments here. The positives are my personal observations, and your mileage may vary; the negative is offered as constructive criticism.

Despite what some Mastodon enthusiasts will tell you, Mastodon is not immune from the ills that plagued Twitter over the last decade. Most of the ways in which Mastodon is clearly better than Twitter at the moment are only a result of it having far fewer active users. If it continues to grow as it has recently, it will worsen over time. This is not a failing of Mastodon itself, per se; humans are humans, and terrible humans exist in any group or social media platform anywhere. This is just the reality of the world. I have gotten every bit as ignorant or obnoxious responses to things I’ve posted on Mastodon as I ever did on Twitter. So it goes. That said, there is a much higher ratio of pleasant, friendly, and helpful people on Mastodon at present, which, for the time being, is undeniably a mark in its favor.

Mastodon has somewhat sidestepped the issue of moderation by allowing instances (servers) and users to block individuals or entire communities, as well as making it extremely difficult to find much of anything outside your own sphere by choosing not to implement a robust search function. Together, I feel like this largely insulates users, for both good and ill. If you want to avoid the worst of humanity who may be posting on Mastodon, you can do so, but the chances you’ll end up locked into an echo chamber is much greater than it even was on Twitter, where it was definitely a problem. This also has the result of leaving users like me, who have many interests that vary widely, with a difficult choice to make: either you create many accounts across special interest instances, or you join a general interest instance where your access to special interests you may have is limited, difficult, or in the worst cases, non-existent.

What is perhaps Mastodon’s greatest shortcoming is also one of the most volatile to mention on the service—the inability to quote posts. The creator of Mastodon explains his reasoning in a post here. Here is what he has to say:

I’ve made a deliberate choice against a quoting feature because it inevitably adds toxicity to people’s behaviours. You are tempted to quote when you should be replying, and so you speak at your audience instead of with the person you are talking to. It becomes performative. Even when doing it for “good” like ridiculing awful comments, you are giving awful comments more eyeballs that way. No quote toots. Thank’s

I find this to be flawed logic at best. Can quote tweets be used in this way on Twitter? Absolutely. Is it the only, or even most common way they are used? No. Disallowing this feature because it can be used in a toxic way is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Just posting on social media can be toxic. Singling out this one feature is arbitrary, since virtually all of the most common social media features can be used in terrible ways.

Deciding that quoting posts is not going to be an option results in some negative outcomes.

It means my timeline fills up with boosts—Mastodon’s equivalent to retweets—that have no context whatsoever. They are like empty calories. I often see the same posts boosted over and over without adding anything to what I’m reading. Why should I care about a new app that has been released? As part of the visually impaired community, it might be that said app happens to be remarkably accessible with screen readers—but the user doing the boosting can’t add this context, so I have no idea. Is someone boosting an announcement about a great new book they read and enjoyed, or did they just see a post about a book and decide to give the author a lift? Who knows! And these are just two examples of countless ways that quoting a post can be used positively.

One of the responses to this criticism I received when I mentioned it on Mastodon was, “Just turn off boosts.” The problem with that is that they are often the only way to find other accounts or posts of interest, since you can’t really search properly on the service.

I am not alone in lamenting the lack of boosting with context. Many others have been doing the same. Declaring the whims/decisions of a single developer made years ago as absolute and above question is no different than what’s been happening with Musk and Twitter, and yet that has been the response from some Mastodon enthusiasts.

For many of the same reasons the brilliant Teri Kanefield has noted in her posts about Mastodon here and here, I like the service and believe it could, and probably should, be the future of Twitter-like social media. That’s why I felt compelled to write this post. I want Mastodon to succeed; it doesn’t have to be a clone of Twitter, but I think we need to acknowledge that it will have many of the same problems, and the developers working on the software should learn from the mistakes Twitter made in dealing with them.

Right now, overall, I like Mastodon and will continue to use it. I want it to succeed, and I’ve already made some worthwhile connections there. I hope it stays that way.

A Book That Shaped the Reader and Writer I've Become 📚


I’m in the midst of rereading The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce. It’s the first proper fantasy novel I remember falling in love with–right around age 8. (I always read far above my grade level.) Although I read this book countless times growing up, it’s been many years since the last time I picked it up; it’s out of print, so you really have to hunt to find a copy. Nowadays, The Darkangel would probably be considered Young Adult, and it is written somewhat like a fairy tale with both sci-fi and fantasy elements.

There are two things that have struck me most in reading it again now. The first is surprise that I read this book at such a young age. It is by no means extraordinarily sophisticated, but even for the way I devoured books as a kid, I’m amazed I latched onto it as much as I did. Some of the themes, and most certainly some of the vocabulary, had to have gone way over my head.

But the second (and more interesting) thing that has struck me is just how influential this book turned out to be in retrospect. In it, I see elements of the types of novels I grew to love as I got older, as well as themes and story elements that have informed my own stories. I did not remember the book that way; I’m only seeing it now when something like a quarter of a century has passed since the last time I read it. There are allusions to old mythology and folklore; there are elements of sci-fi in a predominantly fantasy setting; there is a young heroine who takes matters into her own hands and tries to help those worse off than herself. Is it any wonder that I love Divergent or The Hunger Games? There are vampires who are more human than monster; there are terrifying creatures of night who feel and suffer as we all do; is it any wonder I love Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles or anything by Stephen King?

This whole affair has made me want to dig out other books from my youth and see what other stories informed the reader and writer I’ve become–apart from the most obvious ones, of course. I’d been wanting to reread The Darkangel for a long, long time, but I never expected the journey to be this fascinating.

1980s FM Radio


My musical awakening came a little earlier than it does for most people, whose taste in tunes tend to settle in during their teen years. For a long while, I have been wanting to make a purely nostalgic playlist. I wanted it to take me back to the days of my youth, when turning on the radio in the mid 1980s meant that I knew (and generally loved) most of the music on the airwaves. It was a time when “pop” was less of a genre and more about whatever happened to be popular at the moment. It was a time when WHAM !, Bon Jovi, Sting, and Guns and Roses were all battling it out at the top of the charts. It was a glorious time, full of variety and talented artists.

Those of a certain age or musical persuasion will understand. Music, inherently, is incredibly subjective. I’m not here to judge anyone else’s taste, only to celebrate mine. If you have a similar love for the decade that shaped me, you might enjoy my 80s Radio FM playlist on AppleMusic. It’s intended to be listened to on shuffle. With over 21 hours of music and nearly 300 songs, I wanted to recreate flipping on the radio in the 1980s—you never know what you’re going to get, but it’s all going to be something good.

Depending on your own taste, you may find some glaring omissions in this list. I deliberately left off some songs that I really didn’t care for, and also included some that are here more for the nostalgia than the artistic merit. AppleMusic makes it easy to use a playlist like mine as a basis for your own custom version, so feel free to do that if you find it lacking in some area you would prefer.

I hope you enjoy, and happy listening!

Masters of the Universe Revelation -- a short review


It’s been several hours since I finished watching part 1 of the new animated series Masters of the Universe: Revelation on Netflix, and I wanted to share a few thoughts. This review will be as spoiler free as possible, but if you want to stay totally in the dark, come back after you’ve seen it. I’ll still be here.

I’ve been a life-long fan of Masters of the Universe and its various incarnations and reboots. I am one of the co-hosts of Masters Cast, the first He-Man and She-Ra podcast, and was lucky enough to be a contributor to the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Character Guide and World Compendium. For more on some of my history with the franchise, click here.

Without question, the Filmation He-Man and the Masters of the Universe animated series from 1983–1985 was the most successful incarnation of Masters of the Universe to date. So successful, in fact, that two series have been developed as direct sequels to it, not counting She-Ra: Princess of Power which was both a sequel and spinoff. The first was 1990’s The New Adventures of He-Man. The second is Netflix’s Masters of the Universe: Revelation.

Making a series like Revelation has got to be one of the most difficult and thankless jobs in television. You have to honor what came before, update the look and sound of a forty-year-old cartoon, and write a story with characters that were designed for children that pleases middle-aged adults to felt so much of a connection with them in their youth that they still want more after all these years. To put it simply, you will never please them all.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation clearly was created by a cast and crew who both know and love the source material. Is it perfect? Not to me. Is it pretty great? You’re damn right it is. While I would have made some different choices as a storyteller, what has been done manages to blend elements from some of the very best episodes of the original Filmation series. Remember when Orko saved the day? Remember when Teela found out the truth about her destiny, only to have that knowledge snatched away again? Remember when our heroes and villains had to work together against a common threat? Some of these plot points happened more than once in different ways through the original series' 130 episode run. Some of them (and others) are revisited in Revelation in new and more sophisticated ways.

The voice talent is truly superb. Nearly every character is voiced to perfection, with Skeletor and Orko being the standouts for me. Orko, in particular, hasn’t had a portrayal on screen since the Filmation series (when he was voiced by Lou Scheimer) that I found to be very good, and I loved the 2002 reboot series. Here, though, his voice is just right, much like the original series but without the unnatural pitch-change used with 1980s tech. And what can you say about Mark Hamill? The man’s deservedly a legend, every bit up to the challenge of the legendary Lord of Destruction.

If Revelation has a weakness, it is likely to be in the decision to split the series into two parts on Netflix. Much of what long-time fans want to see is likely not going to happen until the final act, and the show breaks the mold of the past formula of Masters of the Universe series in ways that a certain segment of the fandom will not be able to come to terms with. This is part of what MotU has always been though. The jungle tribesman He-Man of the mini-comics packaged with the earliest toys was nothing like the one we saw in the 1983 DC Comics limited run series; the DC He-Man, in turn, was nothing like the one in Filmation, who was nothing like the New Adventures version…and so on forever. The characters and mythos continue to grow and spawn different stories throughout the multiverse. In no way can Revelation and New Adventures coexist in the same MotU universe, so, like the Star Trek Kelvin films, we can place them where we like in our own head canons. Some will choose to ignore it, like I do for New Adventures, and that’s fine. But Revelation is deserving of a chance to shine.

I think fans who go into Revelation with an open mind will enjoy what the show has to offer. I enjoyed it more than I expected, and my expectations were fairly high. Whether my opinion remains that high will hinge largely on part two, but given the quality of the storytelling in part one, I suspect there is little to worry about.

The power has returned; let’s enjoy it while it’s here.

The Dragon's Brood Cycle Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway 📚✍️


The Dragon's Brood Cycle Book Tour from 25/Sept/2020–25/Oct/2020

I’m ecstatic about the Dragon’s Brood Cycle book tour being brought to you by the fabulous work of Silver Dagger Tours. The tour features giveaway prizes, interviews, guest posts, and all kinds of fun stuff! I really hope you’ll consider following along! You can find the kickoff and schedule here and the first stop on the tour here.

A fantasy landscape with cloudy sky, mountains in the distance, and a castle perched upon an outcropping of rock. In the foreground, the covers to all four installments of the Dragon's Brood Cycle are showcased.

Treasures and Trinkets is now available as an audiobook 📚🎧


I’m so excited to announce that Treasures and Trinkets: A Dragon’s Brood Tale is now available as an audiobook, narrated once again by the fabulous Reay Kaplan! It’s available now from Audible, and will be rolling out to other retailers.

Before she was a prisoner in Marianne’s crystal mines or just another face among the multitudes in the city of Seven Skies, Maddy had a different name and everything she could want—governesses, gowns, and gold to fill her pockets. And though she wasn’t the son her father had wanted, it was inevitable that one day she would inherit his title. But Maddy’s predictable world is turned upside down when an extraordinary servant girl challenges everything she’s ever known; there’s a wider world beyond the comfortable confines of her castle, full of wonder and magic, and Maddy finds that the one thing she doesn’t have is the only thing she really needs.

News: Josh on the Writers' Showcase (19/Feb/2020, 2:00pm EST) 📚

Josh de Lioncourt on the Writers' Showcase, 19/Feb/2020, 2:00pm EST.

I’m excited and honored to have been invited onto the Writers' Showcase Podcast, hosted by the fabulous Christie Stratos .

The interview will be streamed live on Wednesday, 19/February/2020, at 2:00pm EST. You can watch live (or a replay afterwards) by clicking here.

I hope you’ll join us as we discuss writing, my experiences as a visually impaired author, and maybe a few other things!

News: Treasures and Trinkets 📚


Every writer puts their heart and soul into every story; they chip away at the idea, plot, or characters, polishing each in turn until the end result is as good as they can make it, but it rarely ever shines as brightly on the page as it did in their imagination. Every writer longs for those rare occasions when, against all odds, they capture lightning in a bottle–when the story and its characters carries them off so completely that they forget they’re telling a story at all.

I’ve rarely loved anything I’ve written as much as I love this story, and I hope you’ll read it, whether or not you’re familiar with my other work.

Treasures and Trinkets: A Dragon's Brood Tale. A faerie girl sits in the woods at sunset, her face lost in shadow.

Before she was a prisoner in Marianne’s crystal mines or just another face among the multitudes in the city of Seven Skies, Maddy had a different name and everything she could want—governesses, gowns, and gold to fill her pockets. And though she wasn’t the son her father had wanted, it was inevitable that one day she would inherit his title.

But Maddy’s predictable world is turned upside down when an extraordinary servant girl challenges everything she’s ever known; there’s a wider world beyond the comfortable confines of her castle, full of wonder and magic, and Maddy finds that the one thing she doesn’t have is the only thing she really needs.

Treasures and Trinkets is available for pre-order on Amazon, or you can read it right now—for free—if you subscribe to my author newsletter. You can also find it on GoodReads.

Thank you, as always, for reading. 💜 which a bunch of fantasy authors write a ridiculous web serial... 📚


I’m excited to be one of the fantasy authors contributing to this ridiculous project. Our Outrageous Fantasy is a chaotic, comedic web serial, in which each chapter is written by a different author, and only the previous chapter is guaranteed to be canon. It’s a bit like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, except with more talking cows.

The project is being organized by the folks over at The Fantasy Inn. I hope you’ll check it out! The first three chapters have been released, and they’re a hoot.

The Search for an Accessible Email Newsletter Solution


A common service that authors (especially indies) will provide to their fans is an email newsletter they can subscribe to in order to get notified of new releases, works in progress, and so on. For the last couple of years, I’ve been struggling to find one that was accessible enough for my purposes. (I’m blind and use a screen reader to operate tech.) I tried a few services that were well-known and reputable, but they were all severely lacking in accessibility. Just how inaccessible was shocking in some cases.

I came away from the endeavor figuring that I’d either need to use sighted assistance or roll my own solution–a prospect I didn’t particularly relish. So the whole project was put on the backburner for a little while.

Recently, a service that I’d not previously heard of began advertising on several RelayFM podcasts. is different from the other services I’d tried in several ways, but the most key was that they use an application (macOS) rather than a web interface, to build and manage your mailing list.

With no expectations of success, I decided I’d at least check the service out and see if it was usable at all. I downloaded the application and began to explore.

At first, I was pleasantly surprised. All controls were labeled properly and accessible. In 2020, this should be the minimum apps are shipped with, but sadly, many developers won’t even put in that relatively trivial amount of effort. All the basics worked though, and I was becoming cautiously optimistic.

The real surprise came when I tried to build an email. This is generally done in these kinds of mailing list services by drag-and-dropping chunks of content around to create your formatted newsletter. That’s fine when you can see what you’re doing, but not ideal when you can’t—particularly if you want the result to be visually attractive in the end.

DirectMail’s macOS app detects if you are running VoiceOver (the Mac’s built-in screen reader) and, when you add new content blocks to your email, offers a UI that walks you through the process of properly placing it in relation to other blocks already there.

“Do you want this block of social media links above the footer text or below the spacer?” “Do you want this new text block to appear in the first or second column?” It’s all quite intuitive. You can even add descriptions to images embeded in your newsletter for visually impaired subscribers.

I have no idea what prompted this company to put this level of work into making sure their app was not just accessible but a great and fully usable experience for VoiceOver users, but I love them for it! I wish more companies would put that kind of time and effort into making sure all their users had a superb experience.

As a result, I’m preparing to relaunch my own author newsletter–and the best part is, I can design and write it fully independently! If this is a service you have a need for, I cannot recommend highly enough.

If you’re interested in receiving updates on my work, especially my writing, the signup form for my author newsletter is here.

A Nerdy Brick-Building Holiday With Lego and Mega Construx


I spent a number of wonderful hours over the holiday season building Lego and Mega Construx sets with my family. (Mega Construx are similar to, and compatible with, Lego bricks.)

First, there was the Masters of the Universe Castle Grayskull set, and if you’re reading this blog you already know of my love of the MotU property.

The front of Castle Grayskull Mega Construx set with two towers, huge skull wall, and the jawbridge.

But this isn’t just a recreation of the outside of the castle. Mega Construx has gone all out and largely recreated the entire play set that came with the action figures, drawing on elements mainly from the 1980s toy, but also from the 2002 and 2013 versions as well. Inserting the Power Sword into the whole to the right of the Jawbridge causes it to open on its own!

Inside the front wall of Castle Grayskull, with throne room, trapdoor, dungeon, and training space.

Just like the 1980s toy, the throne moves to activate a trapdoor on the left side of the front interior of the castle, dropping unwary foes into the dungeon below. That dungeon, similar to the later incarnations of the castle, has a working dungeon door and opens and closes. The door even includes a turning lock with an insanely tiny removable and turnable key.

The side/back wall of Castle Grayskull, complete with tiled and curved roofs, windows, etc.

Much like the 1980s and 2013 versions of the play set, the Mega Construx kit includes the side wall of the castle which attaches by a hinge, allowing the two sections to be closed up.

Inside the side/back wall of Castle Grayskull with computer console and working elevator.

Inside the side wall is a 3d recreation of the computer console that, in the 80s, was only a cardboard cutout, as well as a working elevator, modeled mostly after the 2013 version.

But this 3508 piece monstrosity was not the end of the brick building fun.

Wind Raider vehicle with moving wings and working grappling hook.

Also from Mega Construx, the the Masters of the Universe Wind Raider vehicle comes with moving wings and a working grappling hook which can be pulled back to the ship via a clever crank mechanism.

But, lest you think our nerdy fun ended with MotU, there was another set, which I received as a Christmas present that was also awesome!

F•R•I•E•N•D•S Central Perk Lego set.

One of my favorite TV sitcoms of all time is F•R•I•E•N•D•S, but being blind, I never had a great sense of the layout or detail of the iconic Central Perk coffeeshop. That, however, is no longer the case, now that I’ve built this fantastically fun set from Lego.

Closeup of the middle section of Central Perk, including several characters sitting on or around the iconic couch.

“Could this be any cooler?”

The counter side of Central Perk, including Gunther.

The man whose hair shines brighter than the sun.

Central Perk stage with Phoebe sitting on a couch and playing her guitar.

“Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you?”

I’ve been a huge Lego fan for most of my life, but haven’t done a lot with them in recent years. This has really rekindled my enthusiasm for the hobby, and I’m totally blown away by the quality of Mega Construx. I will be building more this year, I fear.

A Few Great Recent Reads Memoirs Edition 📚


I don’t read memoirs or biographies very often. Most of the time, there might be one every year or two that I pick up and enjoy, but frequently not even that many. I’m a novel reader for the most part, but every now and then, a great bio comes along that changes everything.

Except in the month of October 2019, there were three of them, all extremely different from one another. I wanted to highlight them here, in the hopes that my readers may check them out as well.

WHAM!, George and Me

Andrew Ridgeley has long been known as “that other guy in WHAM!” To fans like me, though, he was a bit more than that. I grew up a tremendous fan of WHAM! and George Michael, and Andrew’s memoir of his time with George in WHAM! is a fun trip down memory lane. As a mega-fan, I knew a lot of the stories here already, having lived through them at the time, but there were some new gems as well, and some things I’d damn near forgotten about. For fans of George Michael’s incalculable talent or even just of 80s culture in general, this is a fun romp.

Side note: Like so many inexplicable decisions made surrounding George Michael’s music releases in the United States, the book is entitled WHAM!, George Michael and Me for us yanks.

Me: Elton John Official Autobiography

What can I say? Elton John rocks, and this is a must-read for any fan. It’ll have you laughing and crying, sometimes at nearly the same moment, and it gives remarkable insight into his life, career, and creative process.

I was born just a little too late to have lived through Elton’s 70s era, but I was a big fan of his body of work throughout my life. It was a ton of fun to read about the first quarter or so of his career that I missed experiencing first-hand.

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

Megan Phelps-Roper is a remarkable woman. This memoir chronicles her life inside the toxic Westboro Baptist Church, her realizations about what they were doing, and her subsequent escape. It is one of the best books I’ve ever read—and certainly the best memoir. If you only read one memoir this year, this is the one. It’s an emotional ride that will stick with you long after you’ve finished it.

Lego Begins Offering Set Instructions for the Blind


I’m a lifelong Lego enthusiast, and I’m also blind. I am beyond ecstatic about the news that Lego has launched a new website with building set instructions in text, audio, and Braille formats for visually impaired builders. They’re starting out with four sets and plan to roll it out to the rest of their products next year.

The Washington Post has a great article about it here. I highly recommend reading it, as it goes into depth on the genesis of the project.

Guess who has already ordered two of the available sets?

And, damn, there’s a new 6000+ piece Hogwarts Castle set out…I’m in trouble. 😱

Who do you want to be


This weekend, there were two mass shootings in the United States in less than twenty-four hours, leaving dozens dead and injured. These are not even the first this week. Tragically, there will likely be more next week…perhaps tomorrow…or before I even finish writing this. More Americans have died to gun violence in the last forty years or so than in all the wars we have fought in during our nation’s history. Is this who we want to be?

While families are slaughtered in our streets, we tear others apart at our southern border. We detain asylum seekers and US citizens alike in concentration camps, without regard to the morality or legality of doing so. Children are traumatized for life; families are irrevocably destroyed; and innocent lives are lost. Is this who we want to be?

Wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, and record heat waves sweep across our nation, destroying homes, livelihoods, and lives. Climate change is here, and countless more lives will be lost in the coming years. And yet, for decades, we have done nothing to avert disaster, despite the clear warnings of both science and the world around us. Is this who we want to be?

If you are still supporting the Republican Party and their chosen standard bearer, then I ask you to answer these questions. Answer them silently; answer them to yourself. I don’t want to hear your answers. I ask only that you reflect on what they answers are for you, personally.

These are the things the GOP stands for. They pronounce these values loudly and proudly, through both word and deed. It doesn’t matter what you say your values are; a vote for the GOP is a vote for “yes” on all of the above. Can you live with that?

Who do you want to be?

Regional Peculiarities of Speech


I’m a California native now living in Pennsylvania for many years, and it is endlessly fascinating (and amusing) to me to observe the linguistic differences between those two regions of the country. Here’s a small sampling for your entertainment.

To Be or Not To Be

“My car needs to be washed,” says the Californian.

“My car needs washed,” says the Pennsylvanian.

“WTF?!” say my ears. It feels like absolute madness to leave “to be” out of that sentence, and yet it is common and widely accepted in Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio.

Sweeping with Sweepers

“Are you going to vacuum the rug with your vacuum cleaner?” asks the Californian.

“No,” answers the Pennsylvanian. “I’m going to sweep it with my sweeper.”

Huh? Vacuums do not sweep. They, uh, vacuum. A sweeper sounds like some sort of space-age mechanical broom used by Rosy on the Jetsons. You could, perhaps, say that you’re going to suck with your sucker, but I think we’re all better off sticking with “vacuum”.

When is a Mac not a Mac?

“I need to withdraw some cash with my ATM card,” says the Californian. (ATM cards may alternatively be referred to as a debit card.)

“I’m going to withdraw some cash with my mac card,” says the Pennsylvanian, apparently not referring to a line of personal computers. In fact, it’s a name that was used for ATMs by a Pennsylvania-based bank in the 1980s that has just stuck. “Mac” was shorthand for “Money Access”. Another regional bank here apparently called their ATM cards “George”. Imagine if we all went around saying that we need to use George to get some cash! 😱

This One or That One?

“Is it this one or that one?” asks the Californian.

“Is it this’n or that’n?” asks the Pennsylvanian.

This one (this’n?) threw me for a loop the first time I heard someone say it. It sounded so alien to my ears that I really grappled with understanding what was being asked.


“Perhaps, but probably not,” says the Californian.

“Perhaps, but prolly not,” says the Pennsylvanian.

“Prolly” (rhymes with “trolly) amuses me a great deal when my wife, a native Pennsylvanian, uses it. It’s like saying, “Meh…we don’t need 37.5% of that word. Let’s just throw it out!”

Writing Immersive Descriptions in Fiction as a Blind Author 📚


Question: How do you manage to write such vivid descriptions in your books as a blind author?

I’ve been asked that question so many times over the last few years that it seemed like I should write a blog post about it to point new inquiries to. It isn’t that I mind answering or find the question offensive or upsetting in any way; it’s only that the places where this question generally comes up (e.g. on Twitter) don’t lend themselves to thorough or satisfying responses. So, for the record, here is the best answer I can give.

First, I didn’t lose my vision until I was six-years-old, giving me a strong foundation of what the visual world is like. I won’t deny this has helped tremendously, but it is not the main or only reason I write the way I do. I think anyone can write compelling visual descriptions; some have more of a knack for it than others. Plenty of bestselling authors can spin great stories without being very good at visual descriptions at all—Robert J. Sawyer comes to mind. Other authors thrive on describing the world they are building in rich detail, like Anne Rice.

Second, you’ll notice that in the paragraph above I was very specific about visual descriptions. The fact is, descriptions should be wholly immersive for your reader. There are at least five senses you can pull from, and all should be used in your writing at appropriate times to “draw” a picture of the setting you’re creating. Many readers won’t even realize that you’re doing this if you’ve snared them with your story. A character noting the smell of a flower might conjure the image of a rose in your reader’s mind; the feel of the steam upon their face will make them “see” the rich dark brown of the coffee. The point is, don’t get hung up worrying about the visuals. They should be there, but play to your strengths when you need to.

I credit a lot of my style of descriptive prose to Anne Rice, who is often praised for her ability to place the reader into preternatural situations and making them feel like they’ve actually lived them. She is the master of exploiting all the senses and drawing pictures, not just with words, but with experiences.

Next, I’ve always been a particularly visual person in general. Everything I touch, hear, smell, or taste acquires a color, texture, or picture in my mind. When i use an app on a computing device, I build a visual map of its interface in my mind. This is something that happens naturally for me, but it’s also a technique that can be learned. Build “pictures” in your mind as you experience the world around you. If those pictures need to be more tactile than visual, that’s fine. Imagine the sun as a (very hot) basketball, or the moon as a buttery croissant. (Damn, now I’m hungry.)

Looking back at the initial question, I can’t help wondering if I really answered it. I certainly can point to signposts along the road that have led me to where I am as a writer, but, as many writers will tell you, we mostly don’t know how we do what we do. So much of the creative process feels like magic as it’s happening.

If you’re an aspiring author who happens to be visually impaired, the best advice I can give you is to read as much as you can and, most important of all, just keep writing.

Review: The Wonkiest Witch (by Jeannie Wycherley) 📚


The Wonkiest Witch -- Audiobook Tour

The Wonkiest Witch -- audiobook cover

Author: Jeannie Wycherley

Narrator: Kim Bretton

Length: 4 hours and 20 minutes

Series: Wonky Inn, Book 1

Publisher: Jeannie Wycherley

Released: May 3, 2019

Genre: Cozy Mystery

GoodReads Synopsis
Alfhild Daemonne has inherited an inn.

And a dead body.

Estranged from her witch mother, and having committed to little in her 30 years, Alf surprises herself when she decides to start a new life.

She heads deep into the English countryside, intent on making a success of the once popular inn. However, discovering the murder throws her a curve ball. Especially when she suspects dark magick.

Additionally, a less than warm welcome from several locals persuades her that a variety of folk - of both the mortal and magickal persuasions - have it in for her.

The dilapidated inn presents a huge challenge for Alf. Uncertain who to trust, she considers calling time on the venture.

Should she pack her bags and head back to London?

Don’t be daft.

Alf’s magickal powers may be as wonky as the inn, but she’s dead set on finding the murderer.

Once a witch, always a witch - and this one is fighting back.

A clean and cozy witch mystery.

Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in this fantastic new witch mystery series, from the author of the award-winning novel, Crone.



Audio Excerpt
Author Bio

Genre-hopping introvert and word witch living somewhere between the forest and the sea in East Devon, UK.

Jeannie finds inspiration everywhere: in myths, stories and songs, while people watching, a word here, a look there. However, her main inspiration comes from the landscape. Devon has it all - a rocky coastline, pebble and sandy beaches, narrow winding lanes and picture perfect cottages, steep cliffs and an abundance of forest.

A good day for Jeannie means a blustery wind, racing waves and salty rain. She lives with her husband and two dogs, makes a lot of soup, plays too many computer games and loves watching movies.

Narrator Bio

An accomplished and award winning actress with West End and Broadway theatre credits Kim has been doing voice over work for 15 years. She has voiced cartoon characters for the BBC and been a regular vocal impersonator on a popular London radio show. Kim has narrated and produced 15 audiobooks since she joined ACX this year! Her voice over clients include Carnival Cruises, Gucci, Sennheiser, American Express, HRH UK Prisons systems, Doubletree Hotels, Victorian Trading Company and so many more. Quick, reliable and always professional.Kim has a reassuring, kind and expressive style.


My Review -- 🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Wonkiest Witch is, as the name would seem to indicate, a fun and quirky romp through an imaginative magical world bubbling beneath the surface of modern day England. The story, like its hero (a witch named Alf Daemonne), succeeds in straddling two worlds. In Alf's case, that's her magical and mundane lives; for the book, it's the cozy mystery and fantasy genres.

The book begins with a bang, dropping the reader directly into the magical world for a couple of chapters before stepping away to set up the murder mystery that is the thread that ties the rest of the story together. At first, I was perplexed by this. As Alf explores her new inn and its surroundings in a thoroughly mundane way, I wondered if the backstory about her family's witchy harritage was going to end up being more incidental than pivotal. Fortunately (at least for me), it isn't long before Alf's powers and her life-long rejection of them becomes central to her development and unravelling multiple mysteries, not just the discovery of a body in her back garden.

Jeannie Wycherley draws inspiration from all sorts of places, including mythology, folklore, and pop culture. Nods to J. K. Rowling's wizarding world and Stephen King's The Shining might be easily missed, but help to ground the fantastical in the everyday. Throughout, the novel's quintessential Britishness shines bright.

My only quibble, and it is a minor one, is that I wish the book was a bit longer to give the world building more breathing room. Granted, I'm a sucker for monstrously long novels, so I'm biased.

Kim Bretton's narration is spot on for the material. She seems to portray the quirkiest of characters effortlessly, and her lovely British accent enhances the book's strong narrative tone.

I look forward to checking out the rest of the series when it comes to audio! 🤞

Q&A with the Author

Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?

No! Definitely not. I wasn't even sure The Wonkiest Witch would be finished or published. Halfway through writing it (it was an experiment because at that time I was mainly writing horror and dark fantasy) I abandoned it for a while, unsure it was working. Then I thought, ‘well I might as well try and finish it' so I pushed on. I did a redraft and decided it wasn't too bad, then sent it to my new at that time editor. Not only did she love it, she insisted it become a series.

I had a cover designed. It was pretty poor, so my editor recommended a new designer who told me, “Well if you're writing a series I need all the titles at once so I can design them altogether and get the branding right.” So I had to come up with five more titles there and then! That was it, the Wonky Inn series was born right there.

As they began to sell the feedback I was getting from my US readers was they loved how British it was, but they struggled with some of the terms I used. It was some time while I was writing Book 5 it dawned on me that it would help if my readers could hear what Alf was saying as that would convey the meaning a little more.

It was at that stage I thought, ‘Right! I need an audiobook with a proper English accent.”

To be fair, I write with a strong narrative voice, so I hear what I'm writing. The Wonky Inn books should naturally translate well into a conversational tone. I hope that comes across in the audio.

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

I think Alf is a younger me, full of sass and sauce but still rather vulnerable and maybe quite lonely at times. In the follow up to The Wonkiest Witch, called The Ghosts of Wonky Inn, Alf is a little down to begin with, and depression is something I've struggled with in the past.

The relationship between Alf and the ghost of her great-grandmother Gwyn is totally mine and my Nan's! We were very close and always bickering. She passed away nine years ago. I loved her and miss her very much. It's fun to explore that with Alf and Gwyn.

The other aspect of The Wonkiest Witch that is very real is the location. Whittlecombe doesn't exist, but it is based on a few villages near me, and the idea of a general store, a post office, a little cafe and a village hall being all that's there is very real. In sleepy Whittlecombe we have the new inn (The Hay Loft), a village pond and a village green. That's about as busy as most of my neighbouring villages get. Thatched cottages and lots of forest is standard. It's all very quaint and olde-England and I love it.

If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?

This is such a hard question! I've just written The Mysterious Mr Wylie, where Alf has to some time-travelling (she gets travel sick though), and it is something I thought about a lot.

I have a PhD in modern and contemporary history, so I think I'd love to go back to Victorian London and see what it was really like - the squalor and conditions, hear the sounds, smell the smells, see what kind of food they had and so on.

Similarly I'd love to go to the court of Henry VIII, but maybe not stick around too long in case they tried to chop off my head.

Or maybe, just go back and hold my beloved best friend Herbie, my dog who died in 2016. But letting him go again would break my heart all over, so maybe I'm better off here with my memories.

What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?

Stuff and nonsense! I think audio is a wonderful way to capture what was in the author's mind and to breathe life into the characters, particularly where--as happens with Wonky--the characters are British and so the way they speak should add to the humour. That humour can be quite specific to the timing, so hearing the voice helps. Also - seriously - I spent 16 years teaching. I know the inequality that exists in education. At one stage I was teaching grown men how to read. Imagine that. Imagine being an adult unable to access the written word. And what about those with disabilities? Or the people who listen to audio while doing something else? Driving or crafting? Working or cooking? Why shouldn't any of these people have words in their life?

I say let's celebrate the written word in all its formats! Vive le difference as the French say.

How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?

With a massive question mark and a sigh of relief. I just didn't know what people would make of it. It was a story that came from the heart at a time when I was really down and I needed some light and magick in my life. When it was published and people actually liked it, I was gobsmacked and extremely excited.

I drink a lot of tea, so that's what I celebrate with, but I wrote this last summer so I may have had a sneaky gin and tonic in my titchy garden in the sunshine with my husband.

What gets you out of a writing slump? What about a reading slump?

The only thing that gets me out of a writing slump is more writing. Breaking through the block for me simply means putting my backside in my seat and writing words. Any words. Rubbish words.

Think about it. If I write 500 words and 450 of them are awful and I delete them, that still means I have 50 usable words. At some stage, something is going to wave at me, and I'll notice it and think, “Hmmmm. That's interesting.” At that stage the muse kicks in and away we go.

I do find I need to plot in advance though. If I leave things to chance it can all unravel very quickly.

In terms of a reading slump. Yes, I've been in one for a while. I tend to go out and buy a few books in charity shops, and read those until I find something I'm mad for. I also read a lot of non-fiction and at the moment I'm reading books written by forensic pathologists. Yes, I do have slightly macabre tastes! LOL

In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?

Good question. For me, these days, writing a standalone is a bit of a luxury. My standalone novels take a lot of time to write. I craft them in a much different way. The advantage is *possibly* you have a novel that stands up to the big name authors, and you cover some deep themes. The disadvantage is that's it. That's all you have. Once the reader has finished it, there's no revisiting that world.

Writing a series has given me the opportunity to build a world and explore the people who live in it. Of course there's Alf, living it large as we say in the UK, and her important friends such as George, Jed, Millicent and Wizard Shadowmender. But then we have new characters coming in and the stories envelop them too. Ghosts such as Gwyn (great-grandmother), Florence and Zephaniah. New witches and wizards. I'm currently writing Wonky Inn Book 7 (The Great Cakey Witch Off) and a ghost character called Ned finally gets a speaking role. LOL

The series also allows me to tie up loose ends. I envisaged the Wonky Inn Books as a five part series, but a couple of eager eyed readers pointed out a loose end from Book 3 and I already realised I had one in Book 4. Therefore I wrote Book 6, The Mysterious Mr Wylie to explain that character's presence in Book 4, and when I write Book 8, we'll finally answer one of the thorny questions left over from Book 3.

Honestly, I just love writing. Wonky Inn gives me and - more importantly - so many readers a great deal of pleasure. But I'm proud of my standalones too.

Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams?

I have some very weird dreams but none of them are as crazy as Wonky Inn! The character of Gwyn the great-grandmother is based on my own Nan, and of course there's a lot of me in Alf, but otherwise no, I haven't met these characters.

However, I did have a dream once, that was so real and so vivid that I had to write it up. That became Keepers of the Flame, which is the only love story I've written. I still marvel at it. It took me five days to write the first draft and I still think it's a really interesting story. You do need tissues though. Tissues, wine and chocolate. It's a weepy.

What's your favorite...

What's next for you?

I am currently writing Wonky Inn Book 7: The Great Cakey Witch Off which is due for release on June 29th. I have booked Kim to narrate Wonky Inn Book 2: The Ghosts of Wonky Inn in June, so that should be out by the end of July.

I have been editing a Victorian gothic ghost story for what feels like forever, and I must try and get that to my editor. I just want to make it perfect and at the moment it's not perfect. I won't let it go until it is.

So the next few things I'll be working on are a dark Christmas novella, a Wonky Christmas novella and a witch fantasy. I've also kind-of-sort-of-almost planned a new cozy series, so watch this space!


I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jeannie Wycherley. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Eamon Remaster—Classic #37: The Quest for the Holy Grail


I’m happy to have been able to spend a little time contributing to Eamon Remastered, a modern version of the classic text adventure and RPG game series. I ported Eamon #37, The Quest for the Holy Grail. I stayed mostly faithful to the original, but made a few additions and changes that, I hope, improve the game. Among other things, the game no longer assumes that the player’s character is male. It also includes some additional logic, characters, and puzzles.

I really enjoyed working on this little diversion, and I plan on contributing more to the Eamon Remastered project in the future.

News: Harmony's Song Is Available Now on Audible 📚


Harmony’s Song: A Dragon’s Brood Tale is now available on Audible worldwide, and just like the other audiobook entries in the Dragon’s Brood Cycle, it’ll shortly be available on iTunes as well.

Harmony’s Song is a prequel short story that centers around Daniel, the street urchin boy whom Emily befriends in Haven Lost. Familiarity with the other books in the series is not necessary to enjoy this story, but it is designed to enhance your enjoyment of the series as a whole.

The audiobook is narrated once again by the marvelous Reay Kaplan and includes a song composed by yours truly. The song is performed by my lovely wife, Molly, and was remastered for the audiobook by the fabulous Cara Quinn.

Life is hard for Daniel and the other kids who struggle to live on the streets of Ravenhold, a seaside city allied with the sorceress Marianne and the kingdom of Seven Skies. There is seldom enough to eat, and the nights are cold, but Daniel finds warmth and friendship when he meets the enigmatic Harmony. Their special bond, coupled with the mystery of Harmony’s past, sends Daniel from his life on the streets to the wider world beyond in this short-story prequel to
Haven Lost and the Dragon’s Brood Cycle.

Harmony's Song: A Dragon's Brood Tale audiobook cover

News: Haven Divided Is Available Now on Audible 📚


It’s been a while in coming, but Haven Divided: The Dragon’s Brood Cycle, Vol. 2 is finally available on Audible! worldwide!

A creepy hand reaches out of a background of autumn leaves. It holds a coin embossed with the face of a woman with a rose and clover in her hair. Haven Divided: The Dragon's Brood Cycle, Vol. 2

You can hear the first sample in the Media section of the official website, and more samples will be coming soon, as well as the audiobook edition of Harmony’s Song.

If you enjoy my work, please consider supporting it by picking up this audiobook and leaving a rating or review. I couldn’t do what I do without you, dear readers, and I’m infinitely grateful to all of you. 🧜‍♀️🐉

Reading Star Trek 🖖📚


I’ve been a Star Trek fan (Trekkie, never Trekkor) for just about as long as I can remember. Among my earliest memories are sitting down in front of our little television and watching reruns of the adventures of Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise at around age four. Even then, I had a paper cutout of the illustrious starship hanging from the ceiling in my bedroom, and I spent countless hours over the next 15 years assembling model kits of the various vessels from every era of the franchise with my father.

So it’ll surprise exactly no one that knows me that I was reading Trek novels very early on. Many were good–some were awful–and a handful were truly great. Not great Trek novels–great novels, full stop.

The first, and best, of these truly great Trek entries of the literary world was The Pandora Principle by Carolyn Clowes. It covers the early life and trials of Saavik, one of the most under-appreciated and underused characters in Star Trek lore–at least as far as I’m concerned. (Saavik is featured only in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock films, and makes a brief appearance in The Voyage Home.) The Pandora Principle remains, to this day, my favorite Star Trek novel.

In second place is its quasi sequel, Unspoken Truth by Margaret Wander Bonnano. It was written by a different author, nearly thirty years after The Pandora Principle, which I think goes to show the profound impact the latter had on those who read it.

The Romulan Way by Diane Duane and Peter Morwood is another of the Star Trek greats, exploring the life of a Federation spy living undercover within the Romulan Star Empire.

Recently, I read a new Star Trek: Discovery novel. The Way to the Stars by Una McCormack, which is an excellent Star Trek novel, detailing the early life of Tilly, one of my favorite characters on Discovery. While the book doesn’t quite achieve the greatness of The Pandora Principle, it is thoroughly entertaining, capturing the character perfectly. The narrator of the audiobook edition likewise does a tremendous job with the character voices.

The story does a great job of explaining Tilly’s quirks, what makes her tick, and explores her motivations. The last section of the book even features a brand-new Starfleet captain who is, I think, the first captain to ever be introduced in a novel that I wish we could have a TV series based around–or at least more books!

My only criticism–and it is relatively minor–is that the book is too short for the story it’s telling. It feels like the author was trying to fit a story that was too large for its intended word count. At times, parts of Tilly’s story seem almost summarized, and I think the story would have benefited from being half again as long.

That said, it is well worth the read for any Discovery fans, and even those who haven’t watched the series won’t be able to keep themselves from falling in love with the vivacious Sylvia Tilly.

So far, I’ve read and enjoyed three of the four Star Trek:Discovery novels, and I hope that Star Trek as a whole continues to produce fun reads for Trekkies–and Trekkors too!

Live long and prosper. 🖖

A Rather Flattering Surprise 📚


Christie Stratos, an author I admire and who wrote the fantastic Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, gave a fun interview recently, which included an incredibly flattering surprise!

MR: You are an avid reader. What is your favorite underappreciated novel?

CS: It would have to be Haven Lost and the whole Dragon’s Brood series by Josh de Lioncourt. He is a brilliant fantasy author, and a lot more people should discover his work. It’s written just as well as any traditionally published fantasy author’s work, including excellent pacing, great twists on lore, in-depth character development, and loads of action. The first time I listened to one of his books on audio, I was blown away!

She’s a great author, and Anatomy of a Darkened Heart is absolutely worth your time if it sounds like something you’d enjoy. You will not be disappointed. I’m so flattered by this coming from such a talented writer.

Must-listen Podcasts (2018 ed.)


Every year or two, I used to publish a list of podcasts that I was currently enjoying. I axed those posts when I moved my blog earlier this year, since they were pretty out of date. However, it is time to resurrect them with a new version. For some of the shows below, I’ve simply copied out what I wrote about them previously, but there are some new entries in the list as well. My tastes tend to be cyclical, so some shows come and go. Those below comprise a mix of ones which have stood the test of time for me, or are currently at the top of my must-listen priority list. I hope you can find something you’ll enjoy as well among these gems.

News: It Was Five Years Ago on Halloween Night… 🖤🎃📚🕷🧡


On Halloween night, 2013, I sat down at my MacBook, determined to begin writing the novel that had been kicking around inside my brain for twenty years. I was streaming the Penn State Women’s Hockey game, handing out candy to costumed kids with my then girlfriend (now wife), and pounding away at chapter one.

That all seems like a very long time ago.

I’d promised myself that if I finished chapter one that night, I’d continue writing the rest of the book throughout the month of November as a NaNoWriMo project. As it turned out, I did finish chapter one. The next day I wrote chapter two, and by the end of November I had nearly sixty thousand words, fifteen chapters, and about one-third of what would become Haven Lost written in first draft. At the time, the book was tentatively titled Haven 21. (The first person who has read the book and can figure out the significance of that original title, get in touch via Twitter, Email, or and I’ll send you an autographed paperback. 😉)

Five years, two novels, and one short story later, it’s amazing how many stars aligned that first night, and how many of them would go on influencing the whole Dragon’s Brood Cycle. The Penn State Women’s Hockey team offered a ton of inspiration for Emily’s character; Halloween and related themes have played heavily into the story, particularly in volume 2; and I’m still using the lessons learned from my first NaNoWriMo experience—most importantly that I could, indeed, finish writing an entire novel.

To celebrate this milestone, Haven Lost and Harmony’s Song are both available for free on Kindle for the next few days, and Haven Divided is on sale as a Kindle Countdown Deal. If you haven’t given them a chance yet, now’s a great opportunity, and I hope you enjoy them.

I want to thank all the readers who have been so supportive of my work. It has been amazing, flattering, and wonderful to share these stories and characters with all of you. I couldn’t do what I do without you, and I am eternally grateful.

A safe and happy Halloween to you all, and a magical Samhain! 🖤🎃🕷🧡