Award-winning author
Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

07 June 2016

Ice Magic, Fire Magic is an award finalist

Ice Magic, Fire Magic, my 2015 fantasy novel, has finaled in the Holt Medallion Award contest in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements.

The award luncheon will be Saturday. Unfortunately, I can't get to Virginia to attend, but I've got my fingers crossed that the final-round judges like it! 

18 April 2016

Stuff in my yard: The Monarch butterfly

I set my alarm for 5:45 am so that I would not miss the emergence of the Monarch from its chrysalis.

I missed it. 

It was already out and hanging from a stick. It was still dark outside, so I didn't even try to get a picture. 

I went back to bed but was too excited to sleep. So I showered and dressed, and by then it was light enough to photograph.

First shot of butterfly. Note the empty chrysalis hanging from a stick at upper left.

Butterfly is ready for life and tries to escape its box.

Facts: Butterflies can be handled when young; I look awful in the mornings.

The black dots on the lower wings close to the torso identifies it as a male.

Butterfly rests on a finger.

Butterfly's face

Butterfly rests on butterfly bush (Buddleja sp.) in butterfly garden. 
Still resting

Empty chrysalis
I planted milkweed (Asclepius sp.) in two of our xeriscaped bird and butterfly gardens. I have been checking them every other day or so but have not yet found any more caterpillars. I'll keep looking. We had a lot of fun with this caterpillar.

17 April 2016

Tomorrow our Monarch butterfly emerges

Our Monarch caterpillar turned into a chrysalis April 5, and today the chrysalis finally turned dark. If you look carefully, you can see the orange and black wings through the chrysalis, which is becoming transparent.

05 April 2016

Stuff in my yard: My caterpillar transforms

In my last blog post (, I had a photo of a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) caterpillar, fifth instar, on a milkweed plant in my yard. I brought it inside, put it in a lettuce container with some sticks, and fed it milkweed every day. 

Yesterday, it stopped eating and roamed its enclosure in apparent distress. About 8:30 pm when we checked it, it was hanging in a J shape, the sign that it is preparing to shed its last skin and reveal a chrysalis:

Monarch caterpillar in J shape

(Please excuse the poor picture you see if you blow it up. The light was bad, and I had forgotten we had a tiny, usually useless tripod. This was taken at about 1/20 s.)

This morning, I checked the caterpillar several times, and at about 10 am, it was wiggling around. After the first shot, I set up the camera on the tripod. Over the next few minutes, the caterpillar's skin peeled off:

Then it did what one book calls the "chrysalis dance" to get completely rid of its skin:

beginning of chrysalis dance

You can see above that at first, the previous stripes were still visible. Two hours later, it looked like this:

The chrysalis is fully formed but still has dead skin attached and light striping. 

Once the old skin drops off, I'll be able to discover whether it's female or male.

Now to wait. According to my caterpillar book, it will turn into goo inside and slowly reconstitute itself as a butterfly. It should emerge from the chrysalis in one to two weeks. I'll photograph its emergence for you if I'm lucky enough to see it.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to check my milkweed plant for eggs and more caterpillars.

31 March 2016

Stuff in my yard

In creating my first waterwise garden, I included a milkweed plant. Yes, one single milkweed plant in a garden full of plants that attract butterflies.

Then I learned how much milkweed Monarch caterpillars eat.

I planted another milkweed in the first garden and eight in the second garden.

In the fall, Monarchs were hanging out by the plants, and I think they laid some eggs, but the plants also had lots of aphids. No caterpillars, though.

Today I went out and checked all the milkweed plants again and found a caterpillar! I put it—with the milkweed stem it was on, another milkweed stem, and several sticks of various diameters—into a large plastic spinach box in which I had poked a lot of holes.

The caterpillar has climbed onto the thickest, tallest stick and is sitting there. I hope we'll wake up to a beautiful chrysalis soon and then in a few days a butterfly.

I'll keep you updated.

28 March 2016

See me live on Blab Wednesday night!

Brittlebush, a local desert plant now blooming
Wednesday night, March 23, I'll be on the interview show "Elena and Kitty Blabbing about Books" from 7 pm to 8 pm Pacific time.

You can watch me live (or watch the taped video anytime afterward) at

You may have to sign up with Blab first to view the interview, but I've done that myself recently, and it was easy.

Elena and Kitty tell me they'll be asking about my background, what I'm reading, and, of course, my writing and books. If you watch live, you can make comments and ask questions in the right column labeled "Live Chat." 

Hope to see you Wednesday night!

05 March 2016

Appearances and other news

The Measure of a Man

My horror novelette "The Measure of a Man" is getting a new cover soon. It will continue to be available at

In addition, the audiobook should be out within a month, read by Justin James in his gorgeous voice.

Online interview

Michelle Knowlden interviewed me about writing in general and the genesis of Ice Magic, Fire Magic on her blog yesterday here.

Book signing

If you're in Southern California, I'll be selling and signing Claimed by the Enemy and Ice Magic, Fire Magic at The Lab anti-mall (whatever that is) in Costa Mesa on Saturday, March 26. The Orange County Writers Book Fair will last from 11 am to 4 pm and feature two dozen authors. Find out more about the fair at

I get Blabbed

On March 30 at 7 pm Pacific time, I'll be interviewed as part of a Blab. I don't quite know what a Blab is yet, but I do know you'll be able to watch it live on your computer or later from the archives. I'll put up more info later.

Romance Writers of America

If you're coming to San Diego in July for the Romance Writers of America's annual meeting, keep an eye out for me! I'll be there and hope to see many friends. For more information and to sign up, go to