Last Friday, my publisher (50/50 Press) hosted an online cover reveal party and I got to be part of it, releasing the cover of Threadwalkers out into the wild for the first time. WOOT!

I really love the cover, and it fits very well with the story, though of course you won’t get to find out exactly how until it comes out this fall… but trust me when I say it’s pretty much perfect.

As part of the event, I took questions from social media, and will leave them here, in case you wondered any of the same things.

Did you get to design it?
I did not get to design this cover, but the publisher was very generous in taking my preferences into account. (I specifically requested no headless female torsos, which has been a bizarre trend in YA covers for years now.) I was sent some mock-ups to look through and my favorite was the one that eventually developed into the final cover. It was the publisher’s favorite, too, so that worked out well.

What was the hardest part of this whole process?
Honestly, every stage has been hard in its own way. Plotting time travel stuff? Hard. Editing and getting good feedback from beta readers? Hard. Querying agents/publishers? HARD. But it’s also hard in a satisfying way, like how I imagine people who enjoy working out feel after a really good workout. I am not one of those people, but I can imagine it’s similar.

What was the most exciting part?
Finding people who were excited about the story, too. It’s easy to write for yourself, but finding someone else who likes it, and who wants to make it into a real, physical Thing? That’s something else entirely.

When can I pre-order it?
Not just yet…. but I should know soonish (meaning, by end of the summer). It’s currently set for a mid-autumn release, so I imagine it’ll turn up online a little before then. I’ll keep you posted. Promise.

Is it going to be available in my country?
This one’s important to me because I know so many folks around the world, and I can tell you that YES it will be available internationally. I get to have some input on that, which I really appreciate. Will be it everywhere? No…. but it’ll be on Amazon in a lot of places, which is fantastic. Again, I’ll keep you posted.

So there you go. If you’ve got any other questions, just ask and I’ll do my best to answer.

Do you want to know my favorite thing about the cover? It’s got my name on it.

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Early on Sunday morning we were first in line for the Willis (née Sears) Tower Skydeck. The doors opened at 8:00am and by 8:15 we were on the 103rd floor with a couple of other sailors and our families and Jared signed up for 4 more years* in the Navy.

I don’t do well with heights, but Jared wanted something specific to Chicago (and this duty station and that we couldn’t do anywhere else) so the Skydeck was it.

Re-enlistments are a lot like tiny military weddings, except that the military member is re-committing to their branch of service. You’ve got to have three elements: the sailor (in our case), an officer to perform it, and another sailor (also in our case) as witness. They’ll sign the papers, too, and make it all official (once the Navy’s had enough admin time to get it done).

One of the things many non-enlisted/non-military folks might not realize is that the location of the ceremony is wherever the service member chooses. Within reason, anyway. And that means there have been some pretty wild places chosen. We know people who’ve had their ceremonies in the nose cones of submarines while underway, from the yardarms of their ships, on the deck of the USS Constitution, and in their own front yards. It’s just one of those little quirks that makes Navy life interesting. (Last time he re-enlisted was on the USS Missouri in Hawaii, standing under the big guns.)

That also means that, like little weddings, they can get a little pricey if you’re thinking in terms of a big event. I can tell you, though, that there are a lot of ways to make interesting or unique re-enlistment ceremonies happen. The USS Missouri, for instance, didn’t charge us at all, and was able to schedule a morning time slot for us on the day of Jared’s choice (his birthday, five years ago). Many military sites (and even some National Park sites) will work with you on this and they love supporting military members and their families. In the case of the Skydeck, if it hadn’t been a holiday weekend, we could have booked a private deck time for a pretty reasonable rate, but being that they had early hours for Memorial Day weekend, we just made sure we were there first thing.

You can also make it more like a fun picnic event, inviting the whole division to a cookout somewhere for a party to celebrate. I find that a bring-your-own thing to grill works out well because it leaves the most expensive items up to the guests, plus everyone gets to eat what they want.

All of this isn’t to say you can’t have just a simple, quick-and-done thing one day at work, either. Jared’s first was like that, with him extending an extra couple of years on his first enlistment. The ship’s galley (if you’re at sea, and even sometimes on shore duty, if you’ve got galley access) is good about making cake, though. Re-enlistments call for cake!

Anyway, Jared wanted something that was a just-Chicago thing, and it worked out that his mom and my parents were able to come, and the weather held so we could actually see and generally it was fantastic.

Obviously I’m really proud of him for reaching this point in his career, where this enlistment will take him all the way to twenty years and the possibility of full retirement (we shall see what happens in the next couple of years, though… might stay in longer), but can I just take a moment to also be really proud of myself for actually going out there on that platform with him?

As I said, I don’t do heights. This smile is a LIE (or a deep cry for help right before I scurried back to the psychological safety of the not-see-through floor). Anyway, me going out for a photo? That’s love, right there. (And a smidge of my recent efforts to face fears, and to just put myself out there and try things even when I’m scared. Deep, y’all. Deep. Except also really tall. Deep and tall? Deeptall? I’ll stop now.)

Anyway, that is done now. We survived. We had a lovely brunch and then went home and had a lovely nap (while Jared did one of his ridiculous workouts).

I guess we’ll do four more years of this Navy thing then. Here we come, 2021!

*Symbolically. Paperwork is a separate thing. Really, the best metaphor for this whole thing is a like a mini-wedding. Ceremony, paperwork, cake.

Hey, all! I’ve got a small bit of NEWS related to my book!

Are you ready?

NEXT MONTH, my publisher will be having a cover reveal party and my book is one of the covers they’re showcasing! YAY!

So SAVE THE DATE!

  • When: June 9
  • Time: TBD but probably afternoon
  • Where: I’ll post here, and on social medias including my Facebook page!

I can’t tell you anything about it except that I like it, and that I really like how it goes along with the story itself. (I know, that’s totally not helpful to you at all. Sorry!)

In the meantime, have you read chapter one yet? You can check it out over on the book page!

I told you last week that I have a particular soft spot for odd roadside attractions, and since I’ve recently been to one I thought I’d share a little bit about it. I’m as much interested in the stories behind the peculiar stops as the stops themselves, and this one is no exception: the Cabazon Dinosaurs.

The first dino, Dinny the apatosaurus, was completed in 1975 and “Large Marge” the t-rex was as close to being finished as she’ll ever be in 1988, at the time of the creator’s death. The dinos were meant to be a good advertisement for the Wheel Inn, the diner located in the adjacent parking lot, but have now outlived the restaurant, which was bulldozed in late 2016. There’s a, well, peculiar museum attached now, but you don’t need to pay admission to take photos of the giant dinosaurs, nor to go into the gift shop inside Dinny’s stomach (entrance in his tail). Free is the best way to go for this one, if you ask me.

These two were all over TV in the 1980s, and appeared in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, so they’ve got a good bit of nostalgia appeal, plus, y’know, they’re giant dinosaurs. They are a fun place to take photos.

The stairs for the gift shop go through Dinny’s tail….

It’s a kick to be able to actually sit on these guys’ feet, and to go up into the gift shop (even if you’re not going to buy anything) because it’s a chance to actually touch something and interact with it.

My friend Kara stood on Marge’s toes!

That’s one of the best things about a good roadside stop– the tangible connection not only to it, but to all the people who’ve come before. Kids climbed on Dinny before I was even born.

It’s a little surreal to see these massive figures standing above the palm trees, with the California mountains behind them, and they are obviously much larger than their fossilized counterparts, but that adds to the whimsy and charm of the experience.

I was recently there because of a weekend roadtrip with a couple of friends that took us to Joshua Tree National Park (if you follow my instagram, you’ve seen all the desert spam lately!) and this was along the highway on our drive back to San Diego from there. Definitely worth the little detour.

Have you visited the Cabazon Dinosaurs? Or do you have an off-beat roadside stop you’d recommend? I’m always looking for new places to add to my list! 

It has been nearly six years since I first wrote up a cheeky little blog post about not believing North Dakota is a “real” state.  Six years later, and it continues to be my most-read post, and I also continue to get some really rude and yet really humorous comments from people who don’t know how satire works. (You can scroll to the bottom of that post to see them, along with every time I’ve linked to the definition of satire in response. Nobody ever seems to want to follow up after that. Strange.) Just this week it’s been more than 4 times as popular as anything else I’ve posted, and I’ve been purposely sending people the links about my novel.

photo taken by me in Fargo, North Dakota, 2007

I love a good conspiracy theory, which is why I wrote my own. I also got a kick out of posting all of the photos from my own visits to North Dakota along with the very tongue-in-cheek things I wrote. But I’ve realized over the years that I haven’t given enough space here to my other off-beat interests and weird hobbies, so maybe it’s been a little out of context. I’m going to try and fix that a little.

Things I enjoy include, in no particular order:

  • Weird roadside attractions.
  • Cryptozoology (and cryptozoologists!).
  • Conspiracy theories, particularly if they involve aliens, which, at some point, all of them eventually do.
  • Historical murder mysteries.
  • Folklore, especially about things related to everything above.

Michigan Upper Peninsula, 2016

I know that many of these things are related, and overlap, but culture is such a weird and wonderful thing, and humans come up with such clever ideas for things that I find myself fascinated. I will go out of my way to see a giant pickle barrel turned into a house, or to make a stop at the UFO Crash Museum while on a cross-country roadtrip. I will watch shows about the hunt for the Loch Ness Monster, and tales of haunted houses, because they’ve all got one thing in common– really interesting humans.

Foamhenge (near Natural Bridge, Virginia), 2007

Humans are, if nothing else, creative. We come up with fascinating stories about the world around us, and our tendency to share stories (and embellish them when we re-share) leads to all kinds of fun tales that linger in corners and forests and small towns. It’s why I love the podcast Lore, and why I have a real interest in where Foamhenge will be relocated, and why I will pay money to see a Mystery Spot. We create little mythologies around us all the time, in the name of art or nostalgia or just the fun of the story.

Roswell, New Mexico, 2014

So what about you? What’s your favorite folklore/conspiracy/roadside attraction?

Hello!

Yesterday was a little busy for me online! If you didn’t notice, I launched a Facebook page where you can follow news updates as I post them, and maybe events and things. I’m not sure yet. It just seemed like a good way to connect with folks who don’t follow me here. Regardless, you can mosey on over here if you like and give me a follow, or maybe share the page. That would be nice.

In the meantime, you may have noticed a few changes to this site in the last two days. It’s nothing huge in terms of design, but you’ll notice some tweaks to the tabs up at the top, including a new one with information about the book. AND if you click on it, you’ll find that there’s a link to a SNEAK PREVIEW. You can read chapter one as well as the summary of what it’s about. Yay!

I can’t post much more than that right now, but I’ll keep updating it with info as I have it, including dates and the cover reveal and all. Stay tuned!

Upcoming Event:

Next month my publisher will have a cover reveal party on Twitter, and that includes the cover for Threadwalkers! And of course I’ll post it here once it’s public, but I’m really excited to share it with you. For now all I’ll say is that it’s got my name on it, which to be honest is still a little surreal. In any case, I think you’ll like it. I do. ^_^

So there’s all the news I’ve got for now! Enjoy the sneak peak!

I recently got a question from another military spouse about how I took my cats to Hawaii, so I thought I’d tell you a little about the process we undertook in order to bring the pets on our PCS. I will try my best to keep my info accurate as of this writing, but always check the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s website for the most up-to-date info!

The first thing you need to know is that Hawaii is a rabies-free (or as close to it as possible) place! This is good news for your furry family member once you’ve arrived, but it means that there will be some legwork on your behalf in the months leading up to your PCS. This can be tricky now as the DoD isn’t officially scheduling moves until 60 days in advance (again, as of this writing), but as long as you have about 5 months’ notice, you’ll be fine. It takes a little money and a little scheduling, but I can tell you that if you put in the work, you can pick your pet up at the airport (or within a few days) and it’s not at all stressful.

Have basket, will travel.

The basics of taking pets to Hawaii

Pets must undergo a 120 day quarantine to guarantee them rabies-free, but here’s the key: it can be before you move. Hawaii has a 5 Day or Less program that your pet may qualify for if you can do the legwork beforehand. If coming from somewhere else in the US, you will need to have a blood sample overnighted to one of the two rabies labs in the country and the pet must pass the blood test more than 120 days before arriving in Hawaii. The good news is the test is valid for 36 months, so you can do it at any time before the 120 day window. If you can do that, the rest is relatively easy.

Your pet must also be microchipped and you’ll need the microchip number for all your documentation.

Other things you’ll need: 

  • The form and import fee required by Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture
  • Paperwork from the previous two rabies vaccines, which must be more than 30 days apart
  • A health certificate from  your vet within 14 days prior to departure declaring your pet healthy enough for travel
  • A flea and tick treatment applied by your vet at the time of the health certificate
  • An airline-approved crate to ship your pet (more about that further down)

Double check the checklist from the HDOA’s website, of course, to make sure none of the requirements have changed, but I can tell you that we took the kitties to Hawaii in 2009 and eight years later the requirements are the same.

We knew we were going in Hawaii about 7 months in advance of the actual move, so I was able to get the bloodwork sent to Kansas State University’s Rabies Lab more than 120 days in advance. I timed the vet visits and got copies of the cats’ rabies vaccination certificates, then had my vet apply a flea and tick prevention and give us multiple copies of health certificates. The cats qualified for the 5 Day or Less program and were actually released to us in the airport as soon as they’d been processed. We took them straight to the hotel with us the day we arrived.

That military cat life.

General Tips for PCSing With Pets

Any time you’re moving to a place where you need to fly your pets, do your research to find out the best airline for them. This changes just about every time we move and the service with the best rating three years ago won’t be the best one this year. There are pet-dedicated services but know that they are charging you a service fee to still book your pet on the same exact airline that you could book yourself, so save yourself the $50-100 (or whatever the markup is) and just call the airlines yourself.

If you are sending your pet cargo (which is totally fine! this is what we do!), be sure to find out if your pet will be climate controlled the entire way. You do not want your pet sitting on a hot or cold tarmac. Climate control and temperature restrictions are the main things I look for when choosing an airline for my pets.

Crates are a good investment, even if you’re only planning to fly your pet the one time. “Airline safe” crates are usually available at the Exchange or online and while you may pay more for them, it’s like investing in a car seat for an infant: you’re keeping them safe by having the right equipment. Ideally your pet should be able to sit up without the tops of their ears brushing the top of the crate. My cats always spend their trips lying down, but at least they have the option if they want. Be sure to check with your chosen airline for the specific requirements. (Note: My cats have flown on different airlines than I have– the military often chooses our flights but I choose for the cats so they are not locked in to whatever deal the military has made.)

Some people may suggest that you give your pet a sedative when flying, but my vets have all recommended against doing that. It’s much more stressful for an animal to “wake up” in the middle of an airplane with no idea where they are or how they got there than it is for them to be aware of the process, so we’ve always opted to simply leave them be.
EDIT: I was reminded that “comfort sprays” are not sedatives and can be very helpful for animals to relieve stress! We use Feliway spray in the crates (even on road trips) and it makes a big difference for our kitties! Just a couple of spritzes in a small space is all it takes.

Kitty left behind by neighbors in military housing; I worked with a local rescue to rehome him.

Other notes about Military Pets

NEVER leave your pet behind if there is any way to avoid it. Military families are infamous in the animal rescue community for adopting and then dumping pets because of the cost/effort involved in moving them every 2-3 years. Because of this there are MANY animal groups that will not allow military families to adopt pets. Understand that if you are in the military you are VERY LIKELY to move sometime in the life of the pet, so take that pet adoption seriously. I won’t go anywhere my cats can’t go and J’s detailers all know that.

If you aren’t sure you want to commit to a pet because you know you’ll be moving in 18 months or three years or at some other random interval, maybe consider fostering a pet. This is a great way to have the experience of having a furry friend without the lifetime commitment, and many rescue groups are in constant need of good fosters.

Have you done a military move with pets? Any other tips I have forgotten? Let me know!