Storm Shadow: 2002-2017

Today we had to say goodbye to Storm Shadow.

Storm_Shadow_Office Chair
Storm Shadow always won the war for the office chair.

I’ve been reticent when it comes to talking about his health publicly. In fact, at first, my husband and I spoke to practically no one save our employers (due to the multiple vet visits), because each day brought a whiplash of hope and despair, and we were still grappling with Storm Shadow’s sudden crash in health ourselves. Trying to understand how our mostly healthy cat had gone from normal to the brink of death in less than a week was impossible to wrap our heads around, let alone explain to other people. So we kept quiet. This was back in January.

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Welcome and Welcome Back

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I’m always surprised when WordPress sends me a notification of a new follower, just for that very reason. I’m not here to make excuses or to say don’t worry, I’m back, or anything like that. If you’re here, I want to let you know where you can find what I’m doing now, and I also want to thank you for being here. I will be back (I still have two interviews to clean up and get posted!), but I don’t know when, so I don’t want to make any promises.

Until that day, here’s where you can find me: I’m currently the editor of Speculative Chic, a speculative fiction fanzine on WordPress. If you follow me here, I’d love it if you could also follow us over there. Yes, I do contribute on a regular basis, so you’ll find me talking about television or movies or my latest favorites in geek (and for those of you who miss Calico Reaction, I do have a book review coming before April is over!), but there are other many other talents contributing to the blog, and I’d love to have more people reading their stuff.

We’re also always looking for guest writers at Speculative Chic. While we’re currently a volunteer effort looking to expand our readership, people like you help make it happen, so if you’re interested in writing for us, check out our guidelines here.

And that’s all I’ve got folks. Thank you for following me here at Calico Writes, and if you’ve been here a while, thank you for sticking around. And please, if you aren’t already, please come join us at Speculative Chic! We’d love to hear your thoughts, even if you’re just commenting on one of our daily posts, or just liking something we’ve done.



Winner: Aubrey Gross Giveaway!

heavenlybodiesBNThe end of giveaways always come too soon, but at least I remembered to do this before the clock struck midnight. No turning into a pumpkin for me!  Aubrey’s giveaway only encouraged two people to throw their hats in the ring, which means we had one winner. I’ve emailed both Aubrey Gross and that winner, and I’m letting that winner work out the details for her prize!

Thank you to all who entered, and all who spread the word! Aubrey has quite a lot of fiction available, so whether or not you won, or whether or not you even entered, I hope you get a chance to give her fiction a shot!

In the meantime, you may have noticed: there’s no October interview! I’ve got TWO interviews still in progress, and one possible one in the docket, but between my day job, running Speculative Chic, and going on an EPIC vacation this month, I decided to take a break. I hope to be back in November (but with WHO?), so stay tuned and if anything, since there won’t be weekly content on this blog, check out Speculative Chic‘s daily content during the week!


Giveaway with Aubrey Gross

Do you see ALL of these books? Well, if you like romance at all, step right on up, because Aubrey’s offering an awesome giveaway.

That’s right, GIVEAWAY. Not Scavenger Hunt. You don’t have to do a darn thing except decide which book you want and fill out the form linked below.

Sound awesome?

Here’s how it works:

You can win a copy of ANY of the above books. If you live in the United States, you have your choice between a signed copy from Aubrey OR an e-copy (except Heavenly Bodies, which is only available in e-copy). If you live outside of the United States, you have your choice of an e-copy only of any of the above books.

Clear as mud? I hope so, because now I need to explain how many winners there will be.

If we get 10 or less entries: there will only be ONE winner.

If we get 11 or more entries: there will be TWO winners.

So please, enter below, and boost the signal, because it increases your chances of winning!


You have until Tuesday, October 4th to enter. Winner(s) will be selected at random and notified by email on Wednesday, October 5th.

One entry per person, no purchase necessary, void where prohibited, all entrants’ information will be deleted once winners have been confirmed, etc. If you’re unsure as to whether or not your entry came through, please comment here to ask.

Please enter, and encourage your friends who enjoy reading romance to enter as well! Aubrey offers a variety, so definitely give her work a shot!

Second Chances with Aubrey Gross

Aubrey and MemawWelcome to third and final installment of Calico In Conversation with Aubrey Gross. If you missed Parts One and Two, click below to catch up:

Part One: Hard to Swallow
Part Two: Triumph and Taking Risks

Editor’s Note: this interview was originally conducted in March through August of 2016.


Let’s say you’re at a party, and you meet someone whom you learn is an aspiring writer. Really novice and is tinkering with a novel. Quick: what’s the first piece of advice you give them?

Just finish it. The first draft doesn’t have to be the best thing ever — it just has to get done. Lots of people “want” to write. Only a handful of those people actually manage to do it and have a finished product.

Great advice! That’s something every writer needs to hear, and it’s the toughest to follow. So let’s talk about YOUR work. What do you think is the one thing all of your books have in common?

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Triumph and Taking Risks with Aubrey Gross

Welcome to Part Two of Calico In Conversation with Aubrey Gross. If you missed Part One: Hard to Swallow, feel free to click here to catch up!

Editor’s Note: this interview was originally conducted in March through August of 2016.

book signing


I feel like over the years, genre fiction has gotten to be far more accepted by the mainstream, though sometimes you’ll still get a literary snob complaining about things like YA fiction or Game of Thrones. But thanks to the film and television industry, I feel like there’s a boom there that I hadn’t previously seen in my lifetime. EXCEPT: why is romance still the red-headed stepchild of the genre market?

I think it’s a combination of things. There’s the misconception that romance is “mommy porn” or “porn for desperate, single women,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. Romance isn’t pornographic. Romance is about emotions, and a lot of people don’t “get” why anyone would want to read a book that’s primarily character-driven and chock full of all kinds of emotions (and, yes, often sex). My reason for reading romance is that it reaffirms my belief in love despite the odds, whether those odds be a psychotic killer on the loose, a mother determined to see her daughter married off to the duke rather than the earl, the complexity of a long-distance relationship, or a heroine who’s unable to trust after being left at the altar by her first love. Romance is about triumph and taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone and growing as a person — all in the name of love. A lot of critics say romance novels are unrealistic, to which I say: but are they really? In our relationships, we all have things we have to overcome in order to be happy. Distance. Past experiences. Wariness. Job dynamics. Our own internal fears. The list goes on and on.

And I’ll also be quite frank — I sometimes think part of the derisiveness is simple jealousy. In 2013, $1.08 billion in romance novels were sold according to BookStats. And according to Nielsen and BISAC, romance novels accounted for 13% of adult fiction novels sold (source: RWA). Because those numbers only reflect books with ISBNs, there are a lot of indie books NOT being reported on (the folks over at Author Earnings do an amazing job of explaining this). The July 2014 Author Earnings Report took a look at the genre breakdowns, and at the time 66% of romance novels in the Kindle Store were indie published (my guess is that it’s probably more than that now, just from anecdotal evidence). Basically, what it boils down to is that a lot of people read romance, which means more readers (and yes, more money) for romance authors as a whole. I might be off base with that one, but from personal experience and the experiences of other authors, I don’t think I’m too off the mark on that. 😉

I’ve often wondered, too, about the fact that romance tends to be the ONE genre that’s primarily driven by women, if there isn’t a little bit of institutionalized sexism happening here, intentional or not. And no, I’m not just blaming the men; women can and are just as bad when it comes to criticizing the genre, its tropes, and its readers. I admit to being guilty of it myself, once upon a time ago.

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Winners: Matthew S. Rotundo Giveaway!

So as usual, the winners tend to creep up on me, and I forget to make the announcement until the end of the day. But the giveaway did encourage six people to draw their hats in the ring, which means we had one winner. I’ve emailed both Matthew S. Rotundo and that winner, and I’m letting that winner work out the details for her prize!

Thank you to all who entered, and all who spread the word! Matthew wrote quite the ripping yarn, so whether or not you won, I hope you get a chance to give his fiction a shot!

For those of you who didn’t win, and those of you who did, have you caught Part One of Aubrey Gross’ interview with me yet? She hasn’t promised a giveaway or a scavenger hunt, not yet, but I bet if we show her a lot of support, she might be willing to give away a free book or two! Just click here to start with Part One: Hard to Swallow (yes, Aubrey totally approved that title), and come back next Tuesday for Part Two: Triumphs and Taking Risks!

Hard to Swallow with Aubrey Gross

unnamedAubrey’s been reading and writing since she was about two and a half, and has been a storyteller for as long as she can remember. Early on, she discovered a love of romance, reading her first Harlequin somewhere around age twelve (it featured an F1 race car driver, as this was long before NASCAR was cool). She wrote her first romance novel in high school. It was admittedly not very good, but she wrote another, and another. She thinks those first few might still be on a floppy disk somewhere in a storage bin.

Aubrey eventually honed her writing abilities through undergrad creative writing courses and eventually graduate school, where she earned a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. These days she writes books she likes to describe as “stories about broken people healing, finding love, and laughing a little bit, too.”

Editor’s Note: this is part one of a three-part interview. Parts two and three will be published September 13th and September 20th, respectively. Also, this interview was originally conducted in March through August of 2016.


Now, to get started, I ask all of my interviewees the same starting question, and that’s this: how do we know each other?

We go way back to our freshman year of college at Hollins University. We were in the same creative writing class our first semester, and a small group of us just kind of gelled and nicknamed ourselves The Merry Bandits. We’ve been brain twins ever since. 😉

Brain-Twins FTW!!!! Hollins was and is known for their creative writing program. Given you’re from Texas, why did that inspire you to travel so far?

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Scavenger Hunt Turned Giveaway

So that’s embarassing: either all of you who read Matthew S. Rotundo’s interview already had e-copies of both books, or you just didn’t not feel like looking up the answers to the Scavenger Hunt. Whatever the reason, NO ONE entered the Scavenger Hunt. Matt still would like to give one book away, however, so we’re opening it up to anyone and everyone: no strings attached!


Blurb for Book One: Petra:

Welcome to Petra.

It is the ultimate prison. Inmates from all of Ported Space are dumped there, forgotten, and left to survive however they can. Hope dies. Escape is impossible.

Disillusioned war hero Kane Pythen comes to Petra on a fact-finding mission, but gets caught in an uprising that threatens to expose a shattering secret. And Rolf Ankledge, Petra’s ruthless warden, will stop at nothing to keep it from reaching Ported Space. If Kane involves himself, he risks losing everything he has. If he does nothing, he betrays the last shreds of his ideals.

The prison break of the millennium is on. Now Kane must race against time and vicious forces from all over Petra if he ever wants to see his wife and daughter again.

If I receive 10 entries or less: ONE winner receives an e-copy of either Petra or Petra Released.

If I receive 20 entries: TWO winners receive their choice of either Petra or Petra Released, e-copy.

If I receive 30 or more entries? I’ll talk to Matthew to see if he’s willing to up the number of winners.😉

You have until Tuesday, September 6th to enter, and the winner(s) will be notified by email on Wednesday, September 7th.

One entry per person, no purchase necessary, void where prohibited, all entrants’ information will be deleted once winners have been confirmed, etc. If you’re unsure as to whether or not your entry came through, please comment here to ask.

Please enter, or encourage your friends who enjoy a rollicking space opera adventure to enter! You can’t miss with free books!

Music Monday: Karliene’s “Become The Beast”

Today’s pick is a unique beast. It’s a fan song. And of course, it’s for Hannibal. Because if you’ve followed this blog for any time in the past four years, you’re probably wondering why I HAVEN’T yet devoted a Music Monday to Hannibal.

I discovered Karliene‘s “Become the Beast” last year. When I first listened to it, I didn’t like it as well as Halia Meguid’s “Ravenstag.” But I downloaded it from iTunes anyway (because my Hannibal love knows no bounds), and I quickly fell in love. It’s often a go-to song when I’m driving my super-short commute to and from work, and I don’t want to think about what I’m going to listen to. What’s great about “Become The Beast,” in addition to its addictive and haunting melody, the lyrics have no spoilers and they’re fantastic to boot. You don’t have to know a thing about the show to enjoy the song, and while I was thinking about this week’s pick, especially in light of the trend that’s been going on this month, I figured this had to be next.

What’s more is Karliene does cover songs and original fan songs for all kinds of fandoms: The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Labyrinth, The Hunger Games…. you name it. She’s got a ton of interesting material to listen to and purchase, and every time I visit her page on Soundcloud or iTunes, I’m tempted to pick up yet another song or album.

But for now, I’m happy listening to “Become the Beast,” and if you’ve enjoyed any of my recent picks, I think you will too.

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Sound off below!

Reminder: Music Monday is about the music, not the videos. Videos are just the medium I’m using to share the music, and some videos aren’t actually videos at all. Enjoy the songs, but if YouTube forces you to watch some sort of advertisement before you can get to the music, please be patient.