Journal, Misc, Publishing/Editing, Writing

Dr. Eponymous & The Placebo Emporium

LM_InstaPro_Product Photo2It all started with a birthday gift for my little sister back some fifteen-odd years ago. My sister was really into the idea of becoming a vet, so for her birthday, my parents saved up a bunch of old medicine containers and filled them with tic-tacs, Pez, Skittles, and Chiclets to use as “medicine” for when we played vet. It was a great–and rather inexpensive–gift that we enjoyed the heck out of for months, carefully doling out tic-tacs to our stuffed animals (and, of course, eating them ourselves) and writing prescriptions, delighting in “curing” their faux aliments.

The funny thing is that the placebo-effect is actually quite strong. A couple of years ago, my husband (currently finishing up med-school himself) found an article regarding “the placebo-effect” that showed not only that placebos do–in fact–make a measurable, positive impact on people. More surprising than that, however, was the finding that even when you know what you’ve been given is just a placebo, it still creates a placebo-effect. You can take a tic-tac, for example, and say “If I take this, I’ll feel better,” and lo and behold! You just might. Might, of course, is the key word. It’s not actually changing anything in and of itself, but the brain is a powerful (and apparently suggestible) organ.

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A number of years ago I decided to play with the placebo-effect myself, and used a little antique glass bottle wrapped in a Post-It Note for “Productivity Pills.” I put white Tic-Tacs in it, and whenever I was feeling sluggish, or didn’t want to write, or didn’t want to focus at my day-job, I’d pop a “pill” and get back to work. Did the Tic-Tac actually do anything? No, of course not! Well, it may have made my breath a little minty fresh, but otherwise, no. However, popping one from that silly little bottle reminded me that I was supposed to be focusing on getting stuff done, and I got a LOT of writing and work stuff done during those years. Beyond that, it was just seriously fun and made me smile.

Which got me thinking–what if I could make little snake-oil bottles for all the various “writerly ailments” I suffered from? Things like writer’s block, or self-doubt, or rejection blues? When I really got to thinking about it, there were tons of “ailments,” so I decided to start making those snake-oil “cures” for them under two brands: Lucky Muse and Dr. Eponymous.

DrE_RutRemedy_PourLucky Muse is the snarky, snake-oil, cheater’s brand–the “cures” that promise instant success, brilliant prose, loads of money, and all without really having to work at it, because who wouldn’t love a book deal to fall into their laps? Dr. Eponymous is a bit more serious (though still quite snarky, because–hey, it’s me.) writerly ailments for those committed to improving their craft and surviving the day-to-day pains and aches of being a writer.

I’ve also created a few that are for a general audience, which I had a ton of fun giving as gifts this Christmas.

With a little prodding, I’ve finally opened an Etsy shop (called, what else? The Placebo Emporium!) where I sell some of these silly things, and I must say, I’m having a wonderful time! I’ve got quite a list of new “cures” to get designed and put up there, mostly for my own growing apothecary than anything else! Curious? Check out The Placebo Emporium here! Any particular writerly “cures” you’d like to see? Let me know!


Journal, Misc, Writing

Origins #2: 80’s Sci-Fi Flicks

And if you know me, you know I wasn’t watching the hardcore horror/SF either. I was a kid in the 80’s, so I watched kids movies. A LOT of kids movies. And except for E.T. (there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who liked E.T. and those who were terrified of him. Me? Second category.), I loved SF. And I didn’t even realize it! I didn’t go out of my way to watch science fiction movies, they just comprised the list of most of my favorites, and most of the ones I loved are probably considered the base-of-the-base by today’s standards. Which flicks?

1) Flight of the Navigator – Even before I spoke words in a way that didn’t sound like jibberish, I was drawing scribbly pictures with dots to represent my favorite movie. I don’t even remember doing this, but apparently Flight of the Navigator (In those years, and in my child-like broken English: “Flag of the Alligator”) was my all-time favorite movie when I was 3. And I know why: Max? Hilarious. Wasn’t until I was about 22 that I realized he was voiced by PeeWee Herman! There were certainly scary parts in this flick that I squinted through even at a slightly more conscious stage of childhood, but mostly, it was just so cool that a kid and a robot/alien could kick back to Beach Boys, tootle around the world in the coolest space ship ever, and time travel to boot. I think what also resonated with me was the idea of being left behind by some strange phenomenon, where you’re still a kid even though your little brother is in college. It was my first taste of spec fic, and I wanted more!

Also, R.A.L.P.H. was my FAVORITE character when I was little. “Pardon me, coming through.” :D I didn’t even know who Jessica Parker was yet! Bet she didn’t either.

2) The Cat from Outer Space –  Hey, I warned you they’d probably be bottom barrel by today’s standards! :) The obvious draw for little 5 year old me was first and foremost the talking cat. Who wouldn’t love a talking cat? Jake was clever, thoughtful, and pretty adept and dealing with humans. You know. For a cat. And an alien. I used to watch this one back to back, and never got tired of it. Watching it now, I do wince pretty heavily at the portray of female scientists (but at least they say she’s actually a scientist! Even if she’s only there to get kidnapped at the end with Jake’s love interest.) Still fun–and let’s face it, anyone who’s owned cats would probably vouch for this: aren’t there moments when they look at you that makes you feel like maybe they’re recording everything you say for future analysis on the mothership? (Ok, technically this wasn’t 80’s, it was late 70’s, but gimme a break! Actually, I found it kind of surprising that it was from ’78–it always struck me as an old 60s or 50s movie!)

3) The Last Starfighter – This one is near and dear to my heart, because my parents decided on my name while watching this film. The graphics are painful–no argument there–but the story is awesome. Small town guy gets a chance to be a superstar battleship captain? That’s awesome. Him having to have a look-alike android fill in for him while he’s gone? Hilarious! And Grig will always be one of my favorite aliens. :) The scene with the evil Xur melting the spy’s brains, though, took me almost a decade to be able to watch without covering my eyes. (I still squint.) The setting, the likableness of the characters–I just can’t help but love this one. Plus, it probably helped listening to it prenatally. :)

4) Short Circuit – I totally didn’t even know this was filmed in Oregon until I watched it a few weeks ago! NO WAY! *local knowledge +10 pnts* I love this movie. It’s cheesy as all get out–downright blush worthy in places–but it makes me laugh every time, and I can’t help but love Number 5. I remember watching this one for the first time out in Oklahoma while visiting relatives. Just can’t get it out of my soul. :) This is definitely one of the reasons I write robots so often.


5) Batteries Not Included – Again, an oldy but a goody. I loved this story. Even today, when I go back and rewatch it, I LOVE it. I love the cast of characters, I love that while the corporate villains are irredeemable, the dude they get to do all their work does find a kind of salvation by the end. I love the setting of the crumbling diner. But of course, most of all, I love the robots. I love how they “build” children. I love how they interact with their human counterparts–mostly friendly, but a bit wild and defensive. I love how they fix things. Time and again, I just love this one. Another part of the reason I write so many robot stories. :)

There are others movies that also made an impact on me, though they span more time than just what was created in the 80s, like The Oddball from Outer Space, Cocoon, Planet of the Apes (original), Ghostbusters, Star Wars 4-6, 2001, Back to the Future, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Soylent Green, Star Trek  (NG) flicks, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Forbidden Planet, and even Tron (though I saw Tron much later in my youth, so it didn’t stick quite so much in my subconscious–after all, Tron was cool, but the chick was basically just there to make out with the guys. Who did she even like, anyway? Tron or Flynn? Still not sure…). There are a lot of others, too that I won’t list out for you. :) I was a movie geek in my youth, and still am now. But the five above are nearest and dearest to my heart.

What can I say? I was a sucker for sci-fi before I was even born. :)

Apex Magazine, Journal, Misc


They’ve finally programmed a robot (other than Roomba) to do something I desperately need help with!

Granted, we’re not quite to the evolved state of being able to do this quickly (it currently still stares at the laundry as long as I do when trying to figure out how to fold it), but someday. Someday.

I keep giggling whenever it pauses to look at the towel. I can just imagine it thinking: “What the hell is this?” and then, “This isn’t my towel. How’d it get into my laundry?” before going on and folding it anyway. (Because, really, what else are you supposed to do with a strange, clean towel? I ask you.)

That happens to me from time to time. :-)

Will post more about Norwescon/etc./etc., but I’m so tired right now. Quick highlights!:

+ Got proofs for “Memories of Hope City”
+ Met (briefly!) Cherie Priest, and she liked my coat ^_^
+ Met a bunch of Apex authors from Close Encounters of the Urban Kind
+ Laughed at parents tweaking out when they realized that what their kids were looking at was Bizarro lit
+ Hung out with Apex Editors Jenn Brozek and Deb Taber
+ Sat in a hot tub
+ Andy got a job! (***YAY!***)
+ Came home, and kitties were still alive, and had not gotten face/claws/paws/ears/tails caught in the automated feeders!(1) (***YAY!***)
+ Went to critique group & am totally jazzed to start editing backlogged fiction drafts
+ Hung out with writer’s group folks
+ Ate at Pok Pok for Sadie’s birthday, shoveled sinfully delicious foods into my mouth with my hands, and YES, it was that good. Whiskey before hand on an empty stomach probably helped, but the waiter told us it was best to eat with our hands, so there! Don’t you judge me.

– Exhausted.
– Tired.
– Need to catch up on a bunch of Apex Submissions this weekend
– Need sleep.
– Over Socialized & Grumpy
– Brain-frizzled.
– Did I say exhausted yet?

Why, oh why is it only Wednesday?! T.T

(1) The kitties have not (even Oz!) ever gotten their faces/claws/paws/ears/tails caught in the automated feeders, but I always worry about it because when the little tray is turning to reveal the new food, Oz always dive-bombs the bowl with his face before it’s done.

Journal, Misc

POINT BREAK: How It Should Have Ended

[Utah standing with Bodhi on the beach, in the rain, facing the 50-year storm.]

Bodhi: But look at it, Johnny. Look at it! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, man. Just let me go out there, let me get one wave before you take me. One wave. Where am I gonna go, man? Cliffs on both sides. I’m not gonna paddle to New Zealand! My whole life has been about this moment, Johnny. Come on, compadre. Come on. COME ON!

[Utah stares at Bodhi, then unlocks his handcuff. Bodhi smiles, grabs his surfboard, and starts running to the waves. Utah smirks, pulls out his gun, pops a cap in Bodhi’s right knee. Bodhi falls into the light surf, screaming, clutching his leg.]

Bodhi: You son-of-a-b***!

Utah: It’s not tragic if you die doing what you love, right Bodhi? Isn’t that what you said, man? [Pauses and squints towards the waves.] Damn, those look like a fun ride, though.

[Cops swarm, haul Bodhi off to jail, Utah slow-walks off in the rain. And every year, in jail, Bodhi gets surfing videos from Utah on the anniversary of Pappas’ death, just to rub in the fact that he’ll never surf again because he’s just such an a**hole.]


Copywrite most quotes: Point Break, 1991 (Peter Iliff, Rick King).


Paper Robots

When most people think of robots, myself included, they think of metal, wires, cogs, and maybe malleable synthetic skin with micro-heaters beneath the surface to make them feel “real”. But maybe the next wave of our little mechanical friends will be made from more transient materials. Like paper?

D+ropop is a cardboard-made mannequin robot, and looking at her, it’s hard to imagine being afraid of some kind of robot rebellion.

It does make me wonder what paper robots would be like outside the shop windows. For one thing, walking in the rain might be a little tricky if they’re not sealed with some kind of waterproofing spray. For second, they’d be pretty light–light enough to fly? We’ve already got winged toys that fly using simple motors. But what would be the practicality of paper robots? They’d be fragile, they’d be flammable, they’d be weak. Or would they?

They do make cute toys, though, even if they don’t have motors…

Misc, Writing

The Robot Age

I’ve always been a big fan of robotics. Ever since Short Circuit and Max from Flight of the Navigator, all the Star Wars robots, and then later stories by Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, various manga (Chobits comes to mind) and the onset of modern robots (like the Roomba), I’ve been drawn to our mechanical counterparts. Wall-E melted my heart, as did Data in Star Trek, Beta in The Last Starfighter, and David in A.I.. And 2046–a Hong Kong film with half the movie revolving around the sci-fi plot the author is writing on the side–has a slew of  fun androids.

I also write a lot of stories about robots (though usually of the semi-magical clockwork kind), and my first in-print story was about one. There’s just something I find fascinating about the whole human-robot debate: is a robot “real” or “alive”? can a robot “feel” or be truly autonomous? what separates machines and humanity? are robots really–at all–immortal? are all robots destined to be perfectly logical, or can they be irrational, illogical, irritable? (Love Marvin from Doug Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and C3PO’s constant paranoia! Bender from Futurama, as well as all the animated robots in the first four seasons, are wonderful, too!) And for robot emotion and sexuality, check out Kal Cobalt’s ROBOTICA. I don’t tend to read a lot of erotica (or much at all), but Kal explores some really cool ideas in the collected stories.

For me, the human-v-robot debate is one that I like to get involved in, though usually from the side that human beings are really just biological machines made of flesh, blood and nerve rather than silicon, copper wire, and computer chips. And I don’t doubt that someday we’ll have the technology to create machines that are fully indistinguishable from ourselves (not just physically, but mentally as well–theologian/mystic androids, artist androids, writer androids (who may both soar to the bestsellers lists or wallow in self-pity and writer’s block like many of us humans)). Scary, sometimes; cool, most definitely!

Until I started this blog entry, I didn’t even realize how often I come across robots, and what a profound interest they hold for me. I’m no scientist (I leave that to those I know who have PhDs in robotics!), but I’m fixated by this constant drive to create autonomous beings. I finally learned how to set up a Google Alert today, and I’ve got robots on there. If I see something cool, I’ll let you know! For now, here’s a clip of the Actoroid android–she’s kind of the new Aiko, and for as jerky (and a little “crazy-eyed”) as she can be, just imagine what we’ll be able to do in ten, twenty, even fifty years! O.O

Orycon coverage to come!


Book Review: PRIDE & PREJUDICE… and zombies!

PPZI came into this book with both hope and a little dread, knowing that I had some pretty big prejudices of my own to brace against. PRIDE & PREJUDICE is, by far, one of my favorite works of English literature, and I’ve read it multiple times, seen the BBC version of it twice, and cackled through BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY so often I can’t count. However, I’ve also lived the American Dream when it comes to zombie stories: I’ve hauled myself up from the murky sludge of nightmares by my small intestines and a few stubborn tendons and become an outright zombiphile. So I was eager to see what this most-bizarre mix of styles would create, hoping I wouldn’t want to dismember it and shove it back in the ground from whence it came.

I would definitely say the author was very tongue and cheek when going through this old classic with an eye for the macabre, and in some spots he did make me smile. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s all that clever for most of the work. It’s always going to be a little odd to mix zombie fiction with Austen, but I found myself bored by most of it—including a number of the Austen parts I originally enjoyed. The insertions of the zombie scenes breaks apart the pacing of the original story, making it plunking and slow (though I’m certain some would say it was always plunking and slow), and takes away a lot of what I loved about it. But that would be completely forgivable if the zombie parts were bada$$, hilarious, grim, or anything but annoying.

The truth of the matter is that prejudice did get me in the end with this one, but not the prejudice I expected. PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES didn’t annoy my English Major side like I thought it might. It did, however, outrage the Asian Studies Major in me. Once I started reading about how Elizabeth had trained exclusively in China to gain her Shaolin kung fu skills, yet wields a katana… Sorry, I was gone. Besides it being painfully obvious to me (a kung fu black sash, myself) that the author had done absolutely no research on Asia at that time period and knew absolutely nothing about kung fu, every time he opened up a zombie-fight scene I just started twitching with the inaccuracies.

I recognize that not everyone will recognize these issues as readily as I might, but I suspect almost everyone knows that katanas are Japanese, not Chinese (and if you didn’t, now you do!). They did not use katanas in China as far as any of my research, experience, or training has ever revealed, and the fact that the author actually tries to make a point of there being a class difference between being trained in Japan verses trained in China just makes the sword mix-up all that much more teeth-grinding. Had Elizabeth slaughtered all of Lady Catherine’s ninjas with a vicious broadsword, or run them through with a lethal jian, we’d be in business. But as someone who has completed some training in both sword styles, I can assure you—as I’m sure any student of katana would agree—that simply because you study one form of Asian swordsmanship does not mean you know how to use all Asian swords. Thus, Elizabeth would more likely favor Chinese weaponry (of which there are so, so many brilliant choices—if Jane had used a whip chain, I would have been in heaven!).

Besides my own irks, however, I found the book an odd bag. For those who didn’t like the original, I’m not sure there’s enough zombie action in it to make it worth re-reading, since—ultimately—it’s almost word-for-word the same story as the first version for the majority of the book. And for those who love zombie fiction, there’s nothing particularly inspired about the zombie scenes, either. It comes off more as a joke a high school boy might write during English class while not paying attention to the teacher more than a work that deserves as much hype as it’s been getting. It’s unfortunately a shoulder-shrug kind of book; a novelty to skim through, but not to sit down and read in full. Which is a shame. No zombie story should be a shoulder-shrug.

(For the record: the cover of this book is FANTASTIC!)


“Going Behind Bars” for Muscular Dystrophy in June

Hi all! Just wanted to get the word out that on June (9th-I think), I’m “going behind bars” for Muscular Dystrophy. Basically, the goal is to raise enough money to help out the local MDA and to support the people affected by Muscular Dystrophy. 

I realize times are hard right now, so no pressure! But if you feel inclined and would like to help out, it would be much appreciated! ^_^ 

Here’s the link to my donation site.

Every dollar helps!