About Time For A Kick In The Pants

Man, have I been slacking.

Well, okay, so that’s not the kind of news you wake your significant other up for.  Truth is, the idea that I’ve been slacking about something is roughly akin to getting all hyper and jumping up-and-down while screaming because, *gasp* the tide is getting higher!

Get it, because the tide gets high everyday? Which is also the frequency with which I slack? See? Funny, right?

Fine, let’s try it this way: if I was a superhero, I’d be Slackerman.  Or maybe The Slack? That sounds a little cooler, right? At any rate, the point I’m getting at (poorly) is that me being me and following the natural order of things by continuing to slack off an a daily basis is rarely worth tweeting about in 140 characters, let alone writing a post.

But then, I’m not talking about normal, everyday slacking here, I’m talking about Writer Slacking.

And that’s something I don’t think I’ve ever done before.

I realized towards the end of last week that Project Hermey has been lingering on the old progress bar there to the right for entirely too long. Sure, it inches forward with a new % or two every few days, but then it’ll spend a few more right where it is. 

Even more astounding, I started Project Hermey way, way, back on May 12.  For those of you with math skills (or maybe a fancy Texas Instruments calculator), that means I’ve been trudging away at it for more than three months.

Three. Long. Months.  Admittedly, three months is perfectly reasonable for an adult novel.  In fact, Project Macaroni took just over two months to draft the first time around.  But, then, the first draft of Project Macaroni was in the neighborhood of 112,000 words.  Hermey should come I under half that, and yet, as of this moment, in (roughly) the same amount of time, I’ve written a third as much. 

The good news is, much of the Cro-Magnon feet dragging here has been deliberate.  Yes, I mean it. No, that’s not something I just made up to make myself feel better, like Archibald, my friend who the “doctors” insist is purely “imaginary”.  Yeah, well, they aren’t the ones who Archibald wakes up every night at 3:03 AM to talk about the little people under his skin and their incessant demands for Italian sausage and M&Ms, are they?

Uh, maybe forget I said that.

Anyway, the point here is that I’ve been taking my time on purpose.  Ever since my first novel, FAMINE, took 18 months to draft, I’ve been burning through new novels like a Smokey Mountain vacationer through apple butter. I’ve written several more MG novels in a little more than a month, and longer adult ones in just over two.  Not to toot my own whistle, I’ve been a hard charging, draft-making machine.

After all that high-speed writing, though, I figured why not try something new? Why give Project Hermey the full-court, NANOWRIMO-style press this summer? Why not take my time instead and enjoy a leisurely stroll through the plot.  Maybe think about it more up front and hopefully revise a little less on the backend?

“What a great plan!” I thought. In May. Back before the kids even got out of school for the year.

But now, here we are in late August, and I’m still at least 10k words away from finishing.  Probably more like 20 because, well, sometimes there’s more story than you think there’s going to be.  I novel is like baking a pie: it’s done when it’s done.  And as for that “hopefully revise a little less” business? Yeah, no. I’m very happy with the rough story in Project Hermey so far, but when complete, it’s going to be one of the roughest drafts I’ve ever finished.  Definitely in need of some TLC, a lot of trimming, reshaping, and molding.

All of that is fine; it doesn’t bother me one bit. Writing is, after all, rewriting.  Which is good, because this time around, there will be significant rewriting.

What I’m not so happy with is the three month-long process of drafting.  Every time I miss a few days, I feel like I have to start all over again to get the tone of it right.  And because some days have been less productive than others, the process feels like a century-old Model-T sputtering and puttering along, trailing a cloud of ugly, ashy, smoke.

Not exactly the feeling I’m going for with a light-hearted MG adventure.

So, no more.  Time to quit dawdling. No more slacking.  It’s time I  set myself a deadline, and since I’ve apparently only got two speeds: FULL THROTTLE and I’m-sorry-was-I-doing-something-here, it’s got to be a deadline that applies a little pressure.  Two weeks, then.  I’m going to type out, “The End” in this draft of Project Hermey by September 8th, even if it kills me.

And after that, I’m never taking this “slacker” approach to writing a draft again. Sure, the NANOWRIMO-esque 50k words in a month is aggressive and chaotic and could possibly lead to unnatural levels of caffeine consumption.  But then, anything worth doing is worth doing as quickly and sloppily as possible.

Because in the end, it’s all going into a messy first draft anyway, why waste weeks or months pretending that extra time means less revision?

Let’s face it, all it really means is extra slacking.

And if there’s one thing in my life I don’t need in excess around here, it’s extra slacking.

We’re all stocked up on that for years.



The Difference Between Golf And Baking

IMG_0578.JPGMaybe last night wasn’t Thursday, my traditional cookie baking night, but since the do-over fairy let me down yesterday, I kicked customary to the curb and made a batch of oatmeal chocolate chips anyway.

As it turns out, in respectable golf (which I admittedly have little experience with), you only get to take a mulligan in certain circumstances. But if you know just a tiny, tablespoon-full of baking, you can pretty much cookie anytime.

And, let’s face it, cookies are generally a more reliable fix for your day anyway. Even when it isn’t Thursday.


Late Night Storms And Wednesday Morning Mulligans

Wednesday got off to a rough start.  Because Zeus and Poseidon were apparently attempting to settle a bet via what I can only assume was a raucous bowling match in the heavens above my house last night, I found myself conspicuously not asleep at 2:30 this morning. As a result, I slept through my alarm and woke up 10 minutes late.  Admittedly, that isn’t quite something you blame on the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, but still, it prompted me to hurry my poor, barely-been-a-middle-schooler-for-week out of the house to the slightly-early-and-waiting Middle School bus with only one shoe tied and while attempting to squeeze his new Texas-sized Middle School binder into his Middle School backpack mid-stride and also end up not tripping over his own shoelaces in the driveway. I mean, let’s be honest, having to get on the earliest bus is bad enough, but going face-down on the pavement in an explosion of folders, papers, and school supplies for all the Middle Schools bus riders’ early morning entertainment is the pre-teen equivalent of getting hot pokers to the fingernails.

Luckily, Oldest Son avoided such ignominy.  Which is good, because nobody really wanted him to have to change schools.

If sling-shotting my poor, slightly unprepared 6th grader out the door this morning had been the end of my questionable morning, I could find a way to live with it. After all, kids are resilient and an Icee cures most early-morning problems. But then I proceeded to bust a button off my work pants, and race out the door myself while forgetting my lunch as well as the cottage cheese that was theoretically going to be part of my breakfast.

Thinking that maybe a few belts of iced coffee might brighten my day (or at least fortify me against further AM hijinks), I stopped to get coffee. That’s when I realized I’d made the classic Wednesday Morning Coffee Shop Blunder. The place was overrun with what I can only assume were high school freshman.  I’m pretty sure somebody’s English teacher forgot to finish up that lesson plan the night before because, I don’t know, The Big Brother finale was on, so he sent the kids out for an offsite study hall. Unfortunately for me, the site, of course, was my provider of live-affirming caffeinated beverages, and if you’ve ever seen 9th graders in a coffee shop, you know that each and every last one of them Must. Order. The. Frozen. Blendy. Drink.

Or, as I like to call them, The Icy Mochas Of Stagnant Time.

Seriously, it takes the poor barista roughly seven hours to make each one. In fact, if you close your eyes, I’m pretty sure you can feel them thinking if I’d wanted to make milkshakes, I’d have gotten a job at Baskin Robbins.

That said, for those of you not familiar with the consequences of 20+ teens ordering iced blended concoctions at one time, what happens is that your average coffee drinking patron—you know, those of us who have jobs that come with employers that would rather we weren’t participating in class at the coffee shop—becomes semi-permanently trapped in a void pocket of space-time where centuries stretch out before you eyes, unmoving, unchanging, and filled with nothing but cold, frozen, mocha-colored emptiness.

When I finally left the coffee shop, then, I took a moment to breathe, sip my iced Americano, and relax.

At which point, I did what any normal modern person would do, I whipped out my iPhone and proceeded to share my terrible, horrible, no good, very long morning with twitter and Facebook.

For the record, no I never did get to use that Mulligan. But at least the coffee turned out okay.


The Most Annoying Fairytale Creatures, A Guest Post By Author J. C. Nelson

[Puddin’s Note: Remember when I wouldn’t shut up about FREE AGENT, a book by friend and author J.C. Nelson that I couldn’t put down? Well, I enjoyed the thing so much, I jumped at the chance to have him throw a guest post together for us. So rather than subject you to my my usual 500 words of nonsense rambling I’ll let him take it away, and get to the point. Please don’t be afraid to like it and share, and by all means, if you’ve got an itch for a fantastic gritty slant on fairy tales in the modern world, be sure to check out FREE AGENT immediately. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.]

Fairytales are filled with creepy crawly creatures, some of which are relatively humanoid, and others are not, but you can bet, if it shows up in a fairy tale, it’s probably something you wish would go away. So let’s take a look at the creatures we hate to love in fairytales and get a glimpse of why:

  1. Imps. They might start out looking like a little man who can spin straw into gold, but once they have a deal, the claws come out. You’ll need to guess their name while avoiding being eviscerated.
  2. Gnomes. They run the postal service. They’re vicious, destructive, pedantic little bureaucrats hell bent on causing the world misery. What they lack in size they make up for in sheer spite.
  3. Princesses. Marked on their soul, Princesses have less to do with having a crown and more to do with a blessing from the universe. Their charms are impossible to resist, their love-life is universally dramatic, and they’re near impossible to get rid of.
  4. Fairies. Oh, you might be thinking Tinkerbell and friends, or maybe even the fae courts, but the fairies of the Grimm Agency world are creatures with reality altering power and a lust for magic above all else. They could make your fondest wish come true…or your worst nightmare. When the man in the mirror talks back, it’s best to listen.
  5. Dwarves. Kingdom’s resident miners, jewelers, and weapon-smiths, they also practice anger management techniques to ensure a proper level of anger is always maintained. If you need something crafted on short notice, a dwarf will do the deed. Why are they on this list? Because dealing with them is guaranteed to raise your blood pressure and damage your shins.
  6. And worst of all? The creature that causes no end of trouble? Wolves. They’re big. They’re bad. They’re eternally hungry, and generally speaking, they aren’t in a mood to bargain. Anyone in a fairy tale knows there’s the right end of a wolf (the tail, indicating it’s moving away) and the wrong end (the end with teeth). Furthermore, they’re just smart enough to be dangerous, and just dumb enough that you can’t teach them a lesson. Whether you’re a pig or a person, being on the wrong end of a wolf is bad news.

Free Agent has all of these and more, which is fortunate for us but unfortunate for Marissa Locks, agent of the Fairy Godfather. And there are worse creatures waiting, biding their time and planning their revenge…

More on JC Nelson

A Texas transplant to the Pacific Northwest, JC Nelson lives with a family and a flock of chickens near rainy Seattle.

Find JC Nelson online at:

Twitter: www.twitter.com/authorjcnelson
Face book: www.facebook.com/authorjcnelson
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7798544.J_C_Nelson
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/authorjcnelson


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | iTunes

The Sounds Of Silence


La casa de Puddin was exceptionally, unusually, almost disturbingly quiet today. Sadly, not because the kids finally signed a peace accord to bring the “He Touched Me/She Won’t Stop Bossing Me Around” hostilities to an end, or even because they finally learned to appreciate a few moments of peace and quiet.  I know it seems odd to complain about the silence, though. On normal days, I’d give a gold-plated pair of flying squirrel’s paws to be able to sit in the woods alone and research whether or not a tree makes noise when no one else is around if it meant a few minutes free of the seemingly constant struggle of sibling wills.

Alas, when you have four kids, occasionally—by which I mean frequent—personality conflicts are kind of inevitable. Having grown up with two brothers and a sister of my own, this isn’t exactly revolutionary news. But, uh, that’s another post.

What is important right now is that this morning, all four of our kids boarded a bus to one school or another and headed off for the first day of the new year.  Yes, even The Attitude climbed on with an enthusiastic grin, en route to Day One of kindergarten.

All the kids were off to school, and the house became still.

I’ve written plenty of posts before about first days of school, so it seems silly to rehash the matter again.  If you are feeling so inclined, though, maybe check out the archived posts in question. This one, from 2010, is probably my favorite. It’s certainly the one voted Most Likely To Make The Puddinette Ugly Cry. Don’t forget the posts from 2011 and 2012, either.  With a somewhat lighter touch, they’ll probably manage to entertain more than they pile on a several heaping dump trucks of the feels.

At any rate, my feed from various social media sources filled up faster than a rainfall gauge in Seattle this morning with picture after image after Instagram of well-groomed kids in fancy First Day clothes and shiny new kicks, all sporting backpacks and faces beaming with enthusiasm. And dammit, well, I didn’t see why they get to have all the fun.  I mean, sure, I’ve been going to the same job for something like 2000+ plus days, but that’s no reason not to get excited!


So I had the Puddinette take a Back to Work picture of me after all the kids left and were on their way to get some education. Admittedly, I did it mostly to distract her from the strange, foreign blanket of quiet covering the house, but I’ve done sillier things for more ridiculous reasons in my day.

Oh, and hey, remember when I mentioned that time seemed to lose all meaning over summer break? Yeah, well, it did it again. If I had to guess I’d say it was last week or maybe the week before that I wrote that post about Space and Time, and now we’re back to the meaty bits of the calendar that include homework assignments and reading projects.

Christmas will be here before you can say, “Oh Sweet Jeebus, Not That Damned Elf On The Shelf Just Shoot Me Now.”

But at least we’ll get some Halloween action first.


Well, Dammit. Rest In Peace, Mr. Williams. And Thank You.

When I first heard the news—or more accurately, read about it from a barrage of tweets in the few moments after dinner when I had intended to merely glance at twitter before seeing to bath time—it kind of swept over me like a hot, summer gust.  Something to be recognized and noted in a kind of detached way, but then forgotten as it blew past and was gone, replaced with the usual concerns over evening responsibilities.

But now that I’ve stopped and given my brain and my heart a few moments to consider it, that detachment has grown into sadness, and I realize I can’t not write something about the passing of Robin Williams.

I’ve been a fan of Mr. Williams since the years when I could count my age on two hands.  Back then, an alien called Mork taught me through strange handshakes and even stranger words that even if you were maybe a bit not like everyone else, people would like you anyway if you could make them laugh.

His portrayal of a middle-aged Peter Pan in Hook helped me see that even though most of us have to become adults at some point, that doesn’t mean we always have to grow up. Even more than that, it led me to see that sometimes old stories can be told in new ways and capture new imaginations.

His roles in Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting showed me that even faces known for wide grins, crazy expressions, and manic cackles could still make a serious point.

All my life, his work made me laugh. But then, that’s not unusual; he made millions of people of laugh. For me, though, personally, he did a great deal more than that.  Without ever knowing it, or possibly intending it,  Robin Williams’ work shaped the not-quite-grown-up, middle-aged man I have become, as well as the writer I strive to show on the page.

If not for his influence, I wouldn’t try to make people smile.  I wouldn’t write silly blog posts. I wouldn’t spend hours pouring myself into middle grade stories in the fervent hope of making some other not-quite-fitting-in kid out there somewhere, someday smile or chuckle. To try to share the feeling, if even for a few fleeting moments, that everything is going to be okay.

I never met him. Hell, I doubt we were ever in the same zip code.  He’ll never know how he touched my life.

But I’ll never forget.

From the bottom of my heart, then, thank you, Mr. Williams.  I pray that wherever you are now, you’ve finally escaped the demons that seemed to plague you. May you rest in eternal peace.

When It Comes To Cookies, I Have No Excuse


I seem to recall promising that I would write all about the awesome adventures we had on our recent family vacation and post it today.  But, um, mistakes were made. As it turns out, much as with mice and other furry, cute-only-when-animated rodents, the best laid plans of Puddin are easily waylaid by a sudden urge to make oatmeal cookies.

Yeah, so instead of writing that post I accidentally got a bunch of ingredients together and made cookies.  Oops. And now I’m totally going to eat them. But totally by happenstance, I swear.

You’re not buying it, are you?  I guess I wouldn’t either.  Especially since I don’t feel even a little bit bad about it.

Okay, maybe a little bad, but it’s amazing how much guilt a warm, chewy oatmeal cookie can soothe.

Want one?


What I Saw On My Summer Vacation

I shaved this morning. Normally, of course, that would range on the Notable Activities list somewhere between “Clipped My Nails” and “Filled The Washer Fluid”.  It ain’t exactly compelling news to start a post with, is what I’m saying. Believe it not, though, it actually is kind of somewhat notable today—if only today—because I spent the better part of a week not shaving.

Vacation, see.

I don’t shave on vacation.  If I have to shave on vacation for something, well, the world has either stopped making sense altogether, or drastic mistakes have been made.  Because shaving means fancy-times.  And relaxin’, which is what I go looking for when I do some vacationing, is pretty much the sworn enemy of fancy-times.

It’s in the Puddin Code.  Section II. Look it up.

(Just in case anyone is confused, we’re only talking neck whiskers here. I’m still fully bearded. In fact, if I was to get my way, I’ll remain fully bearded until the End Of All Things. Because beards ROOLZ, duh.)

Anyway, having had to cope with a shave and a return to work all on the same day, I’m basically not capable of writing anything more thought-provoking today than, “Hey, I had to shave! Woe unto me! *weeping noises*”

So, tomorrow, then, or possibly Thursday, I will awe and delight you with the tale of the things I learned in the Great Smoky Mountains during our pretty rockin’ funtimes summer vacation.

For now, though, I give you pictures to tide you over.

No selfies, I promise.


Here’s the view from the back deck of our cabin. Not too shabby, right?


Look! Wildlife doing native things! Well, okay, actually Puddinlings are doing silly things at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.


Ack! What is that?


Fear not, I know it looks like a Puddin selfie, but I’m keeping my “no selfies” promise.  In fact, yes, that’s actually a real, honest-to-goodness black bear. A cub, maybe? I think?


There’s a deer, too, but you can’t see it very well. Basically, I’m the worst photographer in the history of picture-taking devices. Prehistoric man cave painted better representations than I can get with a camera.


Okay, but then I sort-of redeemed myself with this picture of a crow just kickin’ it on a fence post.


We ate lunch with this view one day. I’ll have the ham sandwich with a side of breathtaking, please?


After that lunch we hiked up the side of a mountain to see an 85-foot waterfall. I nearly died from all the gorgeous. And the hiking, but I’m lazy city folk, so that’s to be expected.


And here the sun is setting behind me on our last night, casting a gasp-worthy glow over the view from the cabin.

How was our vacation then? Well, I think maybe this last picture says it all.


Now do you see why I’m so grumpy about all the shaving?

More words about our trip to Gatlinburg to come!

You’ve been warned.


My Friend Has A Book Out In The World: FREE AGENT by JC Nelson Is Out Today!

When I decided, lo, the many years ago, that I was going to quit pretending to be writer and actually put some effort into, you know, writing, I had many, many expectations.  I expected I’d put a lot of silly words down. I expected I’d have to keep at it until I didn’t suck anymore.  I expected to someday have a novel I was proud to put my name one. I expected to make myself mostly crazy.

Check. Check. Check. Annnnnd…check!

I’m pretty sure I’ve driven the Puddinette mostly crazy in the process, too. But that’s more of an added bonus.

But of all the things expected, it’s the ones I never imagined that really have made all the blood, sweat, tears, and bunny sacrifices worthwhile. And of all the unexpected outcomes of becoming a writer, one stands out among the rest. A glaring, shiny example of why we should always set out to reach the top the mountain, while making sure to revel in the climb.

Because along the way you’re going to meet others, others like you, others who know the pain and glory of putting hand over hand, foot in front of foot, word after word on a white space filled only by an infuriating blinky cursor and the mad ramblings of your fevered gray matter.

I have a tribe now, one unlike any I’ve ever had before. One that gets it, that gets me, that truly understands why we do—must do—what we do. A tribe of pen-wielding brothers and sisters, scratching their own way up the mountain. No matter how long it takes to reach the top of that summit, my life has been made immensely better by them.

That said, then, it’s a pretty Big Deal when one member of the tribe finds that perfect path, hits all the right footholds, and scrambles on ahead, to the top of the peak.  That’s when you hoot and holler and cheer like a damned fool, as if you’re trying to wake the dead.

Which is what I’m going to do right now.

A writer friend of mine, JC Nelson, has a book hitting shelves and Kindles and Nooks and iBooks and pretty much anywhere else a book can land with an impressive, satisfying thud in this day and age. And I just can’t say enough good things about the book in question, Free Agent.

What’s it about, you ask?  Well, this:

FACoverWhen it comes to crafting happily-ever-afters, the Agency is the best in the land of Kingdom. The Fairy Godfather Grimm can solve any problem—from eliminating imps to finding prince charming—as long as you can pay the price…
Working for Grimm isn’t Marissa Locks’s dream job. But when your parents trade you to a Fairy Godfather for a miracle, you don’t have many career options. To pay off her parents’ debt and earn her freedom, Marissa must do whatever Grimm asks, no matter what fairy-tale fiasco she’s called on to deal with.
Setting up a second-rate princess with a first-class prince is just another day at the office. But when the matchmaking goes wrong, Marissa and Grimm find themselves in a bigger magical muddle than ever before. Not only has the prince gone missing, but the Fae are gearing up to attack Kingdom, and a new Fairy Godmother is sniffing around Grimm’s turf, threatening Marissa with the one thing she can’t resist: her heart’s wishes.
Now Marissa will have to take on Fairies, Fae, dragons, and princesses to save the realm—or give up any hope of ever getting her happy ending…

Free Agent is a funny, action-packed thrill ride, as entertaining as it is creative. It’s a fresh, novel take on old fashioned fairy tales laid over the complications of modern life. Well, I mean, a modern life that’s a bit more Secret Agent than sits-at-a-computer-and-types-all-day like you and me, but still.

And before you ask, no, no one asked me to write about it. I volunteered. I’ve read the book, and although a lot of urban fantasy leaves me a little meh these days, Free Agent did exactly the opposite. I found myself always wanting to read just one more page, to squeeze in just one more chapter. In fact, my kids don’t realize the favor JC Nelson did them, because if nothing else, Free Agent earned them plenty of extra time to stay up before I could tear myself away from Marissa’s misadventures to put them to bed.

Look, I know I don’t tell you what to do often, but if you love books with an off-kilter twist, a unique sense of humor, and a fat wallop of action, you should totally checkout Free Agent. And, Look! Convenient links to purchase it are right here:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

What’s that? My effusive praise somehow just isn’t quite enough to get you to take the bait? Fine, then. Play hard to get. Look, it’s cool with me. But how about this, then: why not read the first chapter? Yeah, sure, free of charge. Tell you what, this one’s on me. Just take a taste. Read Chapter One, it’s posted below. See if you like it—because yeah, I’m pretty sure you’ll like.

Then, when you’re done and you want to read what happens next, why not hit up one of those links above?

And even if I can’t persuade you to buy a copy of your very own, how about joining in the hooting and the hollering? Because you can never have too many voices raised in celebration of great accomplishments as if you’re trying to wake the dead!


More on JC Nelson

A Texas transplant to the Pacific Northwest, JC Nelson lives with a family and a flock of chickens near rainy Seattle.

Find JC Nelson online at:

Twitter: www.twitter.com/authorjcnelson
Face book: www.facebook.com/authorjcnelson
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7798544.J_C_Nelson
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/authorjcnelson


The New Year’s Eve countdown told me I had five minutes until the ball drop. That gave me six minutes until somebody got killed. I spotted the shoplifter in line at the theater and worked my way across the street, through the teeming crowd. She had no idea what she was wearing, which made her both stupid and dangerous. Stupid was dangerous enough by itself.

“Marissa, I might remind you of the time,” said a man’s voice. It came right out of the store window beside me, the dry voice with its not-quite-English accent. He watched me with critical eyes.

“I got it, Grimm.” I walked along the theater line, head down.

His image followed me, reflecting from the windows and even the brass banister knobs that held the velvet rope. “I’ll believe that when you actually do.”

Call it women’s intuition, or maybe the slippers she wore tipped her off, but the shoplifter turned and looked right at me. Our eyes met, and she knew why I was there, if not who I was. As the crowd surged forward, she ducked into the theater, disappearing into the throng.

“God Damsel-it.” I spat out the faint taste of soap. “Doesn’t count, not a real curse.”

“Watch your language, young lady. Only proper women live happily ever after. Now, go get those slippers back.” Grimm appeared in the ticket window, beckoning me on.

If I had enough Glitter to buy a happily ever after, I wouldn’t have spent all day chasing a thief. There were easier ways to make a living, and definitely safer ways.

I breathed in the warm lobby air, laced with enough butter, fat, and salt to make me gain a couple of pounds just from walking through.

The ticket man watched me as I approached, jiggling my leg. “I’ve got to go. Could you save my spot in line?”

He rolled his eyes, the apex of teenage angst, and motioned me past. I’d been to my fair share of balls and knew where I’d go if I had a pair of shoes that were killing my feet. I headed straight to the bathroom. Nobody in the prep area, but I listened. There, soft sobbing, and the click of high heels on ceramic.

“The slippers won’t come off like that.” I hoped I wasn’t talking to a Grandma, but the sobbing cut off.

Grimm coalesced into the mirrored wall, his white hair framing the bald spot on his head. He looked at me over horn-rimmed glasses that masked eyebrows like a yeti’s. “Marissa, two minutes.”

If I’d had something handy, I’d have thrown it at the mirror. In the name of not having a magical disaster, I decided to commit the cardinal sin of the ladies room. I tried the stall door. As my hand touched it, the door burst open, hitting me in the face. Pain made the world flash white. I put my hand to my nose and felt the blood as she dashed out of the restroom. Grimm told me the shoes were enchanted, but the fact that she could run in three-inch heels meant serious magic. Now I knew I had the right girl. In the lobby, the fire alarms wailed as I came out of the bathroom, and I caught a glimpse of her running out. I charged after her, through the fire exit and into the alley.

I wasn’t afraid of your average dark alley. I had standard Agency-issue spells in my coat and a nine millimeter in my purse for dealing with the less dangerous pests, but even I knew you have to be careful with an upset woman.

She pulled at her feet and limped down the alley. “I’m not giving them back.”

No way was she going to outrun me. Tennis shoes might not be the height of fashion, but I wore them for their practicality. I slipped a bag out of my pocket. “This will let me take them off. You can’t remove them because you stole them.”

She stumbled, then slumped against the wall, her feet out in front of her. Passing taillights made the glass slippers glisten, moving and shifting, like something alive. That made sense, since Grimm said they were. The glass filled with red, like she’d cut her toe. The bloodstain spread up the sides of the glass and she began to gurgle and cry.

I pulled out my pocket compact. “Grimm, I might have a problem.”

“Tell me you have them.”

“Just about.”

“Get out of there, Marissa. She’s not going to turn into a pumpkin.” His voice was firm and commanding. I’d never been the type to listen to firm or commanding. See, there was this thing about magic slippers. Use them with permission, and at midnight the whole deal expired. Steal them from a custom boutique on Fifth, and at midnight turning into a vegetable was the least of your worries.

She curled into a ball, kicking, growling, and making noises I’d never heard outside of the labor and delivery room. Running through the theater was out; heading back in there would introduce a whole load of teens to a different kind of monster than the movie ones. The loading bays down at the end of the alley didn’t look too promising, and now Princess PMS rose to her feet. The bloodred stains covered her from head to toe. Shadows covered her face, but where the orange wash of the street lights hit her she looked maroon.

“You want to let me help you?” I asked. The growling noise she made ruled out diplomacy. “Okay, we do it my way.”

She leaped at me. I’d mastered seven different forms of self-defense and I wore all four of the major protection charms, but one thing was constant: Whether my assailant was a drug addict or a bridge troll, pepper spray would leave them blind. So I ducked out of the way and gave her a dash of the scent I was sampling that day. It hit her like a brick, leaving her clawing at her eyes. I realized as she stumbled past that her nails were now at least three inches long and razor sharp.

She started sniffing the air, then like a dog, she ran straight into me, knocking me back to the Dumpster. Dumpsters hurt. I caught her arm before she could give me surprise plastic surgery and slammed her into the ground, pinning her underneath me.

That should have ended it, but she rolled over, throwing me to the side, and I barely stepped out of the way of those nails. She kicked at me and I caught her foot.

“Gotcha,” I said, rubbing the shoes with the bag. Grimm said the bag was made of genuine werewolf fur, but whatever it was, the effect was immediate. She thrashed and choked and kicked and I held on tight until she went limp. The slippers came off in my hand without a fight.

They glimmered under the streetlight, and for a moment I saw an image form in them: Me, walking down the street in them. No Agency bracelet on my wrist, a bag from shopping in my hand. I could be free, if only I put them on.

“Marissa,” said Grimm, speaking from the reflection in the shoes, “put them in the bag.”

I did, and the fantasy blew away like dry leaves down the sidewalk. My back hurt where I’d hit the Dumpster. My arm throbbed where she’d grabbed me, and my cheek had that hot feeling that said somewhere in her thrashing, she’d managed to nail me with a foot.

“I’m going home,” I said to my compact mirror. “What do you want me to do with her?”

“Leave her for the police. They’ll be there shortly. Evangeline needs your assistance on the Upper East Side, and there’s the matter of a troll.”

“I’m going home.” I knew full well he’d heard me the first time.

“I’ve got work for you, Marissa, and if you are ever to get your own ever after—”

“The only after I’m interested in right now is after a bottle of wine and after a long night’s sleep. I’ll see you when I’m ready for work.”

“Marissa, you need to ask yourself what you want more: A night’s sleep, or another job.”

I wiped a trace of blood off my lip, took a look at my bruises in the compact. Everything about me ached and the cold seeped out of the shadows into my bones. I put my hand on the bracelet and made my decision. “Tell Evangeline I’m on my way.” Nights like this made me wish I’d never gotten started in this business.

A Little Oatmeal Cookie Is Good For The Soul


The inspiration to create—to make something using just your own two hands, whatever scant voltage happens to be huffing and puffing its way through your gray matter, and possibly a few raw materials—can strike anywhere, anytime, from the simplest of comments.


For instance, today, the Puddinette sent me a text that just happened to mention “good oatmeal raisin cookies.”  The moment my eyes glossed over that message, half-read, a match skritched across some hard, stony surface in my mind and a light blub flickered into life over my head. Suddenly, I had a project for the evening. I mean, sure, I already had plenty of other stuff planned for tonight: work, writing, lackadaisical sprawling across the basement couch with a MadTree PsycHOPathy IPA at some much-too-late-hour-of-the-morning because Syfy’s Defiance will be on*.


But that’s all stuff I’ll do later, in the the-kids-are-in-bed-weee—hoooo!-let’s-do-something-wild-and-crazy-and-possibly-without-pants-like-um-yanno-work-and-then-probably-fall-asleep-on-the-couch-yeesh-I’m-old-and-sad period of this evening’s itinerary.  Before then, though, in those uncertain after-dinner and not yet to bedtime hours, Thursday night called for getting a little “help” from the kids and busting out some homemade cookies.


Because, after all, let’s face it: when aren’t cookies an Awesome Idea®?


We’re all in agreement here, right?  Super. The question then is how do you homemade cookie?  Here’s what you do: you get the simplest-ass, I-need-cookies-in-mah-face-right-now recipe you can find, and you try not to screw it up. But don’t think about trying not to screw it up, because then you’ll just get all anxious and whatnot.  Believe me, the last thing you want to do is be all fussy or fret over a tray of raw cookie dough balls.

Fretted-over cookies taste like a dog saying hello to another dog**. Just sayin’.


In any case, after an eternity of internet research (which clocked in at roughly 7 seconds, give or take), I chose this recipe from Baker Bettie. I chose it because A) It can be made with as little as six (6!) ingredients. Trust me, that’s a Very Important Detail, because the fewer ingredients involved, the less likely I’II get beflusterminded—which is a thing that happens when I try to bake via recipe, wherein I putter around in an ingredient-induced daze as if kicked in the head by an angry mountain goat.  It easy leads to incidents like accidentally using a whopping dollop of turmeric instead of half a teaspoon of cinnamon, ruining the cookies, your children’s ever-shrinking trust in you, and probably Christmas, too. Also, B) Baker Better is a fun name.  And C) Bettie even wrote that it’s an “I need cookies in my mouth in less than 15 minutes” kind of recipe.  How’s that for matching motives?

Tonight, then, we made cookies.  And if you asked me, I’d say cookies are a pretty productive use of an early Thursday evening. And if you can’t agree with that, well, there’s a pretty good chance you’re more than just a zombied-up inside.



PS: We made oatmeal with chocolate chip cookies, too. Yes, two different types of cookies. It’s okay to be a little jealous.

*Speaking of Defiance, it didn’t sell me last season, but its fast start to season two has quickly made it one of my new favorite shows.
**Keep thinking, you’ll get it soon…