The Unexpected, the Sublime, and the pastime of looking up.

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Thinky Thoughts: The Unexpected, the Sublime, and the pastime of looking up.

The last thing I expected this month, after just having seen the total solar eclipse in April, was an even more mind-blowing celestial event! But a Coronal Mass Ejection resulted in spectacular auroras at both poles of the Earth, and with little to no warming I decided to abandon other plans and hop in the car late Friday night to chase it.

Seeing a really spectacular aurora has been on the “bucket list” for most of my life.

I have seen the Northern Lights twice before, technically, once on a red-eye flight from LA to Boston in 2004, and with the naked eye once in 2015, but we really only saw it the white shimmers for maybe ten minutes before it clouded over.

That time I had bookmarked several helpful websites, though, which I checked before leaving the house (including the ClearDarkSky map of New England amateur observatories, NOAA Space Weather Prediction, and The solar flare was strong enough that some feared it would knock out GPS, so I set my downloaded map data for a place called Cumberland, Maine, just inland from Portland, where it was predicted to have clear skies after 11pm.

On the drive, a tiny copper sliver of moon, the fingernail clipping of a god, was setting. Once it was gone, any light I saw in the sky I knew had to be either the glow of a city (or shopping mall…) or the aurora. As I headed north, I could not really watch the sky and the highway at the same time, but at one point I looked southeast and I could see clouds that were lit up white with a dark sky behind them. And when I looked to the north… I could see the clouds were DARK with a light sky behind them! That could only be one thing, then, aurora! I resisted the urge to just pull over then and kept on toward my more northerly destination.

It was just about midnight when I made it there, and fortunately Google maps was working just fine. I quickly found a place listed as a park “open 24 hours” where the map photos showed it was a large flat open field. Five minutes later I pulled in to a small parking lot and pulled out my camera. The photo you see at the header of the newsletter was the first shot I took to the north. At first it was the most visible through my phone’s camera, but as I stood there, the aurora continued to brighten. I decided to try heading north to see if I could get somewhere with no trees in the way. Google pointed me to something listed as a fairground on “Bald Hill Road.” A bald hill sounded ideal, no? So off I went again, but I hadn’t even gone five minutes north before I pulled over again and shot this one:
You can see that even with the blinding light of an oncoming car, the aurora is still visible. I pulled over by the fence and just watched the curtain wall thicken and shimmer. At this point it was easily visible with the naked eye, although the phone camera could still see more color. (Not just on long exposures either: just looking through the phone screen.) I decided to press on to the Bald Hill on my map, another 15 minutes north. When I got there, indeed, the fairgrounds were an ideal viewing spot, with a parking area for the car where it was safe to exit the vehicle. And this is when it turned extremely magical. I had been about to head for home, but I decided to check the space weather one last time and it showed I had actually been in a relative lull, and the strongest burst of the night was about to arrive.

The curtain wall seemed to be getting higher and higher in the sky. What I wasn’t expecting was that instead of looking at an aurora happening somewhere north of me… I was soon looking at an aurora that was happening all around me. The colors turned to pink and lavender and the pillars, instead of all in a row to one side in the sky, instead encircled the horizon and met above my head like a giant, flickering circus tent. In the one spot where there was still a little doorway of dark sky I could see flashes of lavender-white light as if I were watching the actual solar wind blowing a gigantic gas flame around. Here’s what it looked like directly overhead:

Merriam-Webster Online says the following for “sublime”: “implies an exaltation or elevation almost beyond human comprehension.”   I am having a hard time coming up with a better description. And to think, without certain properties of our planet, we would see no aurora at all. The magnetic field and the atmosphere are both necessary to create aurora… and to sustain life capable of seeing it. It makes me wonder… in the most wondrous sense of the word “wonder.” I’m writing this a week later and I’m still floating on air from it.

And to think, if I hadn’t checked Twitter, I might have missed it entirely. But I didn’t. I was at the right place at the right time to experience something sublime.


Here are a few more shots from that night.

Stunning. With the naked eye the colors were more subtle than what the phone camera captures, but they were definitely discernible once I got away from other light sources.


Meanwhile, I’m proofreading like mad…

When I haven’t been looking up at the sky, every other waking minute that hasn’t been taken up by other work has been spent staring at PDFs of various volumes of Daron’s Guitar Chronicles.

Volumes 1-3 are live on Amazon (and in KU!), with Vol 4 coming June 1. I just proofed volume 8. Cover art for books 7, 8, and 9 is almost finalized! So excited.

My goodness, so f***ing much happens in these books, I had forgotten, and yet they are really not about “plot” so much as they are about changes in the human heart and the changes we make in ourselves as a result of our experiences and the choices we make in the wake of our traumas.

Daron tests the bonds of found family, questions definitions of both queerness and masculinity, and examines art, music, and creativity as a reason for living. I’m still kind of amazed I wrote over a million words of that, and grateful every day that people read it, and continue to read it.

Here’s hoping KU helps even more folks discover it?

Upcoming Appearances

TONIGHT! Wednedsay, May 22, I’ll be reading something queer and chit-chatting on Neon Hemlock Live (on their Instagram).

But I just added a new virtual event to this September: Kink Between the Lines! KBtL, as it’s known, is an event specifically by and for members of marginalized groups who crossover into kink. I’ll be teaching my online “How to Write a Sex Scene” class and also hosting an erotica reading. (Stay tuned for who else will be joining me at the reading! I only just found out and haven’t herded any cats yet.)



  • August 13-17: Worldcon in Seattle, WA


Works-in-Progress Report

But I know, I know, what you really want to know is… how are my writing projects coming along? I have a bunch of short stories & poems out on submission, but…

I’m focusing the most right now on Windmark, the working titles of the so-called “dragon romantasy” book, while the aforementioned DGC proofreading takes up most of the rest of my time. I’m honestly not sure if it is going to be “romantasy” in the end, since that definition seems to be a moving target? But it’s definitely fantasy (with dragons) and there is definitely romance.

I started at the end of January. The word count just passed 32,000, which is a lot more than I’ve done on anything else in such a relatively short period of time! I know, I used to write that much in a single month, but since 2016, not so much.

I’m planning to put a sneak peek of it on my Patreon on June 1st, for paying patrons only. (So if you’d like to take a gander, and you’re not already a member at the $2 level or above, now would be a great time to do that…)

Among the tropes that have fallen into this one like dominoes into a wicked cauldron of twisted eroticism:

  • love-hate triangle (that’s like a love triangle… except they all hate each other)
  • enemies to lovers
  • palace intrigue
  • telepathic bonding with dragons (eventually)
  • dragon breeding
  • royal companions
  • third-gender dragons (and people)
  • one person’s poison is another’s medicine
  • masochistic gladiators
  • everyone’s probably bi
  • did I mention dragons?


No book recommendations this month…

Because ALLLLLLLL of my reading time is going into proofreading Daron. But I did just bring home a haul of books that includes Justinian Huang and Olivie Blake… so maybe by next month I’ll be able to recommend one of those…?


Con Report: RomCon at the Ashland Library

This past Saturday was the annual romance celebration at the Ashland Public library, with panels and autographing all day.

It was really fun to catch up with some writers I haven’t seen in a long time, like Loretta Chase and Caroline Linden, whom I used to cross paths with regularly at NERW and RWA, but also to meet some new folks! Unfortunately Kosoko Jackson had a family emergency come up in the morning and could not make it. He and I did a virtual Romance Bookstore Day event back in 2022 so I had been looking forward to meeting him for real! Oh well.

It was fun to talk to Kathryn Ann Kingsley who writes “villain” romance (The Unseelie Prince), Jessica Martin who writes small-town with a Shakespearean twist, and Kate Canterbary who puts a high spice factor into contemporary series set in Rhode Island. I also got to briefly say hi to Tori Anne Martin who has a sapphic witch romance out now entitled This Spells Disaster. Head organizer Meena Jain says they’ll be doing it again next year, so keep an eye out!

 Me with Kathryn Ann Kingsley, who came to my rescue when I had brought gun to a knife fight, I mean, a pencil to an autographing.


With Meena Jain, the delightful organizer of the event in Ashland.

Kate Canterbary (In a Jam), Cecilia Tan, and Jessica Martin (For the Love of the Bard) about the speak on a panel on contemporary romance at the Ashland Public Library.


A Recipe: Kaddo Bowrani

One of my favorite recipes from the internet used to reside on the Chowhound boards, but of course Chowhound was recently shut down, then sold and restored, except the bulletin boards no longer appear to exist. But fortunately, my favorite recipe was also several other nerds’ favorite, and copies of it exist, including here and here.

The recipe is for the Afghan national dish, Kaddo Bowrani, which is on the menu at the Helmand restaurant(s) here in Cambridge and in San Francisco. Imagine a bed of basmati rice topped by a layer of deliciously caramelized roasted pumpkin, topped by a rich and tomatoey ground beef sauce (or “impossible meat” for vegetarians), which is itself topped by a dollop of garlic-yogurt. Yum.

The thing that has always kind of weirded me out about the recipe is that everyone on the internet seems to make it with “pumpkin,” and they use the common October “sugar pumpkin.” Far as I can tell from grilling the waiter at the Helmand restaurant here in Cambridge, this is not at all the “pumpkin” they use. The vegetable used by the restaurant is much more like a Kabocha than like an American, thin-walled sugar pumpkin.

When we started getting a farm share many years ago and rather large kabocha were showing up on a regular basis, I started making this recipe with it, and it is nothing less that carotene-laden deliciousness. So my first tip is don’t use sugar pumpkin, use kabocha.

My second tip if you are using kabocha, is that you DO NOT actually need the full quarter cup of sugar that the original poster insists on. Two tablespoons is great.

My third tip is do NOT overdo the garlic. One clove and one only. If you want to snazz up the yogurt sauce more, sprinkle it artistically with paprika.

Final tip: you can make basmati rice in the rice cooker, but cut down the water and toss in two pats of butter.


One Featured Backlist Book

Mind Games
A Paranormal Erotic Thriller
PB $14.95, Ebook $3.99
Bookshop • Amazon •
Audiobook on Everand •

This was the very first romance I wrote back in 2009! It was put out by to a “digital first” publisher and got really excellent reviews from the romance blogosphere (back when people read blogs). That publisher went under a few years later so I republished it myself. I brought a few copies with me to Ashland and they all sold! So I thought, hey, maybe this book is worth reminding folks about.

What happens when your stalker can enter your dreams? Ever since she foresaw the death of her parents, Wren has suppressed her latent psychic abilities. Avoiding strong emotions, Wren leads a placid but lonely life until her quiet is shattered by her sister Abby going missing… and the private investigator searching for her. Derek Chapman isn’t what Wren expects. He’s young, handsome, and immediately protective of her. Wren is attracted to him right away, but fears that deepening any connection with Derek-emotional, spiritual, or sexual-will open the floodgates locked in her mind. A mystery man appears in Wren’s dreams, dealing pain and pleasure. Is Wren’s subconscious warning her away from Derek, or longing for him? When the search for Abby leads to a secret sex club, it seems fate is pulling Wren into Derek’s arms, whether she is ready or not.


Okay, that’s it for this month. Next month I’ll let you know how the Nebulas conference in Pasadena went! And, no really, I’m getting some stuff ready to serialize on the Patreon. I just have to get this proofreading done first!


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