Looking Forward, Looking Back



Spent New Year’s Eve coloring in my own copy of the coloring book I created because I need the message. Kind of meta, huh.

2016 was a year of Big Transitions for yours truly. There were a number of Hard Things to deal with in 2016. But there were a good many wonderful ones, too, and I’m going to feed energy into those amazing things, rather than dwelling on things I can’t change at this moment.

My home-educated son graduated high school. My daily profession of the past dozen years is complete. Maybe it’s better seen as an epic quest, rather than a job? I’ve been trying to prepare myself for his leaving home since . . . oh, let me see. His birth? But I’ve been actively lining up Next Steps for a solid couple of years. I knew it would be difficult. Not only was I having my kid go to college, a culturally normal step, but I was being professionally displaced. And my peer group was abruptly changing: the folks with kids still in school were still going to be caught up in that world that I was about to leave. Those with similarly launching kids were moving in their own unique directions. I knew I couldn’t wait until the last minute. So I started taking classes, submitting stories, working on projects.

Despite my plans, the changes when Atticus left school felt abrupt.


My relationship with my son, somewhat strained as both of us figured out the shape of our lives in our new roles, was restored by road trips we took together. We discovered and explored new-to-us places and experiences. It seemed a fitting cap to our years of educating together, and strengthened both of us before his departure.

He went away to school and, to my joy (and really, I wasn’t surprised) flourished on his own, despite the predictions of certain folks from his babyhood who tried to convince me that holding him so much would make it impossible for him to ever leave home. And we now know the answer to that eternal question thrown at homeschoolers, “What about the socialization?” The answer is, “Well? What about it?” And my husband and I have been able to spend more time together, recognizing that this is an important part of learning to live without our son’s daily presence.

And I launched into being a full-time creative professional. Years of prompting by friends and acquaintance, years of study, and I took the jump. #YesThisIsMyDayJob The structure I’ve imposed for myself has kept me from floundering around in the empty space of my days. I’m so very thankful for the opportunity.

I’ve had the continued rare and wonderful opportunity to work with Bertie MacAvoy on a pair of books. Kevin J. Anderson and WordFire Press have agreed to take Albatross and Shimmer. The books are in good hands and will be available this year. They feel so important to me, now more than ever.  Bertie talks about this on her blog.

Some people can work on multiple writing projects at once. I’m having a hard time working that way. Maybe it’s my memory issues. I just don’t seem to be able to hold all the threads of the story in my head at once if I’m wrangling another novel at the same time. The editing process is slow, though. I needed a really immersive project, to take my mind off missing my son.

I had not been accepting any art commissions for a while, and frankly was feeling too bleak for them. So I made the art book I needed for myself, and published it, and sent it out into the world. And it’s being very well received. There’s something so special about watching people’s reactions to the Naughty Fairies! The laugh, the sharp nod of recognition: these are gratifying things. And I’m told that the book is important. That’s not for me to judge. But people are telling me that they’re find it helpful, or cathartic, or a release. I am grateful for the chance to make something that matters to people.

My art colleagues have pressed me into opening an Etsy shop. I’m slow at it posting new things there, but they’ll be coming. And maybe I’ll be making a big painting soon, too.

The real focus, though, to me, is the writing: Albatross and Shimmer and my simmering-on-the-back-burner fantasy novel series. It’s hard to explain the sense I have of these books, pulsing around in my veins. I feel an urgency to get Albatross and Shimmer out into the world. 2017 is offering the chance for that. And I feel the other books itching under my skin. I sometimes worry that I should be doing more for them at this moment. But then a connection will click over, and I’ll gasp and think “Oh, yes, OF COURSE,” so I know that my subconscious is working on the parts my conscious brain is stuck on. So I’m making notes and holding myself open to that story.

I’m ready for this year. Much like launching my son: maybe the reality will be harder than I imagined. But we learn and go forward. Because this is what we do.

Cleaned Up for Company

cleanedupcoverpromo2forwebSome folks were requesting The Naughty Fairies Coloring Book, sans swearing. If you’d like to color without risking your job or the ire of the Dowager Duchess, I am happy to provide!

The Naughty Fairies Adult Coloring Book CLEANED UP FOR COMPANY is the same images from BAD WORDS AND WORSE ATTITUDES . . . just minus the “bad” words.

Click here to go to the Createspace store!

Click here to find Cleaned Up for Company on Amazon


Fairies on the Loose!


Just arrived home from a week-long journey which included (you’ll have to imagine the trumpet fanfare) receiving the proof copy of my new coloring book! Photo above taken in Charleston, South Carolina, where I was trying out the images with #Staedtler colored pencils. Their hard leads made for wonderfully subtle layering. I’ll post more photos after I’ve caught up on sleep. Meanwhile, you can get your very own copy from Amazon.com! 

Bertie and I are also expecting publisher edits back on our novels at any moment, so hoping for news on that front soon as well.

But first: time to pet the cats and get some zzzzzzz’s.

Coming Soon … Adult Coloring!


Inspired by Real Life Events.

What do you do when waiting for edits to come back from the publisher? Well, write more, obviously. This time around, though, I needed something a little more immediately distracting, to keep my mind off my empty nest. So in addition to working on the next novel, I Made a Thing. This is it.

Waiting to get my proof copy back; should be available to order within the week. It’s been fun sharing draft copies with people and watching their reactions. I’m looking forward to seeing the test volume. I’ll keep you posted!

Meanwhile, I’m working hard at NaNoWriMo. Although it looks a bit like NaNoWriLess at the moment . . .

GBR # 13: Kaja and Phil Foglio

imageMy first exposure to Phil Foglio was back in 198mumbletymumble, when I’d bum my friend’s incoming issues of Dragon Magazine and, very first thing, seek out What’s New with Phil & Dixie, his humorous comic strip. At the tail end of that same decade, I was working in a scifi/fantasy comics and gaming shop and started seeing his work illustrating Robert Asprin’s MythAdventures series. Oh, and XXXenophile, which was kept behind the counter under glass in the same section with Anne Rice’s naughty fairy tale books.

As I’m not a Magic: The Gathering player, I hadn’t run across any of Kaja Foglio’s work until (blushing to admit it) this project. But that’s sort of the idea behind the Great Balticon Readathon: there’s such a lot of diverse material out there, and I knew I was missing many opportunities to experience it. And I can’t believe I was missing Girl Genius!

Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones won the first Hugo Award for Best Graphic Novel. Then, with subsequent volumes, the couple kept winning this award. After three years straight, they declined nomination in 2012. Now they’re back in the running, and have just completed a Kickstarter project to get a new volume out! They started their own press to be able to publish Girl Genius; it seems to be working out for them. Additionally, there are text volumes of Agatha Heterodyne’s adventures now. The Foglios have been keeping busy!  From multiple sources online, their work structure is largely Kaja doing the writing, Phil doing art old-school in pencil on Strathmore Bristol 2-ply, a little digital magic between them, then off to the colorist. Seems an equitable division of labor, to an outsider, with Kaja finishing up with much of the file management. It’s good to have at least one person who knows how to do that.

Kaja has said she’s not making much visual art right now. As a creative person with a kid, I get this: time constraints change. AND they’ve got Girl Genius coming out (I believe) three times a week. That’s a tight schedule. I hope that someday she’ll consider returning to the visual art side;  what I’ve seen of her work I’ve quite liked. Up to her entirely though, of course. Maybe the words are just calling more loudly now. Sometimes it’s that simple.

Cat status: internet sighting confirmed: a photograph of multiple black cats chilling in their office. With a dog. (I consider the dog bonus content.) Additionally, if you read Girl Genius, you will find a cat who is a Character. Come for the cat, stay for the Steampunk. Girl Genius is set in a different-but-similar world to ours. A certain rare inborn ability, Spark, allows the possessor to use mad-scientist type abilities to create incredible machines that appear to defy physics as we know them. Given the series title, it’s not really a spoiler when I tell you that Agatha, our primary protagonist, is a keen inventor. It’s fun to watch her in action. Girl power! Swashbuckling and adventures, with kids included in non-token ways. Wackiness ensues.

Agatha appears in her underwear a lot, which a friend says just shows that some things don’t really change. Although honestly, Phil didn’t draw much underwear in XXXenophile that I recall. (The centaurs especially, I think, didn’t wear any, did they?) While I haven’t read the whole series yet, what I’ve seen so far has certainly been appropriate for mid-teens and up. It’s Victorian underwear, for mercy’s sake. If you’re wondering if it’s okay for your kids, go take a look for yourself. Because…

Girl Genius is now available online for FREE reading! And then you can go grab hard copies once you’ve fallen under its spell. There’s also a selection of plushies and T-shirts and so on. Years of material here, so there’s an established fandom. The Foglios seem to do a number of conventions, too, so chances seem pretty good you can hunt them up for signings and meeting your tribe of fellow GG fans.

If I meet the Foglios at Balticon, and need something to discuss, I will probably get into a GeekMom chat with Kaja. I believe she actually has outdone me in this department.  We celebrate Bilbo/Frodo’s birthday, but KAJA made an awesome Zelda cake for her kid’s cakewalk. I acknowledge a master. Oh, and they do things like having Pat Rothfuss over to play Tak. As one does. I wonder if she and Phil have 3DS systems, and if they’re bringing them to Balticon? Would LOVE to see their Miis.



Original artwork copyright Nancy Palmer. Pentel pocket brush pen and crayon.

CREEPTASTIC: Sleazy comes in many different guises

Way back when I was a struggling car-less teen college student, living on half a can of condensed soup per day, trying to figure out how to get a job in a commuter city with lousy public transportation, one of my Dad’s friends offered to give me a car … if I’d go to bed with him.

When I refused, he got very angry. I’d had no reason to suspect the man of malice before, and I’d opened my apartment door to him as though he were an old friend (which I did consider him at the time). We were in my apartment with the door closed; nobody was around who could have seen if his yelling and rage-filled gesticulations had turned to physical violence. He did eventually depart, leaving a much less trusting girl behind him. I had no idea if he would come back, and what he might try the next time.


Looking back, what angers me most about this encounter isn’t someone trying to make a transaction of sex. People do that, and I’m not judging. It’s that he tried to prey on a person in a very vulnerable life situation, and manipulate her into an illegal action that he knew wasn’t in line with her values, and that would have made her horribly vulnerable in many different ways.


I’m very much older and in a place of much greater power now, internally and in the eyes of the world. The memory of that creeptastic day doesn’t come to mind often. It did today, though. I happen to be in the slow, challenging process of promoting a self-published book. I am in the very fortunate position of not requiring sales to pay my rent, buy food, and so forth. However, I am keenly aware that this isn’t the case for every writer. And those writers are who were on my mind when I read this unsolicited e-mail that showed up in my in-box today. We’ll call the composer “Creeptastic.” Here are some excerpts. I’ve bolded a few of their lines, and my comments are in parentheses and italicized:



I saw your ebook. From the synopsis it looks like a high quality ebook. ((Well, at least they got this part right)) If you are looking for some real promotion and exposure for your book, I have a few offers for you. My book promotion packages are extremely affordable and can be customized to your book.

Some of the ways I can help you are (ANY one of the following services you purchase will cost you 15 USD, discounts are available if you purchase more than one service at a time; also note that if you want more than what is offered here, remember that discounted upgrades are available for each and every service mentioned; SPECIAL OFFER: Buy (a), (b) (c), (d), (e) (f) and (h) for just 85 USD instead of 105 USD!):

a) I can post 1 honest, detailed, insightful and helpful review on your book. This review will highlight all the positive aspects of your book and enlighten your future readers regarding the real essence and worth of your book. The book review is written by an avid book reader and Native English speaker so you can be assured of quality. NOTE: You are NOT paying me for the review but for the amount of time I am investing in reading your book. (This is what first triggered the memory from my college years. Prostitution was illegal in that time and place, oh, but the guy wasn’t offering me money for sex. He was offering me an exchange of gifts. Wink, nudge, but news reports at the time suggested the law didn’t agree with his interpretation.) The rating may range from 3-5 stars. I don’t post negative reviews. For 49 USD, I can also write an editorial review for you.

Okay. So already, new writers may be feeling uneasiness. Creeptastic has anticipated this uneasiness by providing a loophole of sorts, in an attempt to get around the FTC’s rule against paying for reviews. You’re not supposed to be able to even receive a free copy of the book for review without disclosing the exchange. I sincerely doubt this specious argument would hold up in court.


I can promote your book on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, etc). You get 100% targeted traffic from book readers located in English speaking countries.

(So this is an actual legitimate service. Although I have absolutely zero faith in the quality of this promotion, given the rest of Creeptastic’s offerings.)

c) I can promote your book on 10 high quality websites EXCLUSIVELY devoted to promoting free kindle books – on Kindle free days. I can also promote your book if it is on Kindle countdown promotion (please note that it is up to each site’s owner to decide whether to list your book or not. If your book listing is approved, it will be shown ONLY during the promotion period). In addition, I can also offer you GUARANTEED free Kindle ebook downloads or book purchases (in other words, you can ask me to buy/download your ebook for as many times as you want, for a nominal fee). This in turn can boost your Amazon rankings even further! (This gaming of the system has actually worked on a large scale on a nationally known publication, by pumping sales one week. Books were returned the following week, and the book plummeted off the sales lists, but the author is now able to tout their “best-selling book” to promote their consultation and speaking business.)

d) I offer a review ‘up-voting’ and ‘down-voting’ service. For existing reviews on Amazon, you can ask for a maximum of 30 up-votes or 30 down-votes, or a combination of up-votes and down-votes which doesn’t exceed 30. This is quite helpful if there are some positive reviews you want to be up-voted, or some negative reviews you want to be down-voted. For an extra 15 USD, I can also defend your negative reviews on Amazon by posting upto 3 comments on them (you need to provide me with the comments).

(This kind of thing is why Amazon reviews are losing credibility.)

e) I can add 30 likes to your positive reviews on Goodreads. All likes come from unique accounts and multiple IPs.

(This is the most blatant admission of this I’ve ever seen. It’s a violation of Goodreads user policy; if reported, the “reviewers” will be banned. But it’s hard to stop this, because they just switch IPs.)


I removed a couple more of their services for brevity.

h) My BESTSELLER SO FAR: I will rate your book with as many stars you want on Goodreads, post 1 honest review, mark your book as ‘read’, become your fan and add your book to the listopia list of your choice.


(Some of the mysterious popularity of certain authors and titles on Goodreads and Amazon has now become much more clear to me.)



Email me at ((redacted by Nancy)) if you are interested. SERIOUS buyers only, please. I am too busy to respond to tire kickers  ((This is a common ploy of shady salespersons; they try to make you feel committed and that you’re in debt to the Creeptastic person for taking up their time,  so you’ll be less likely to decline a transaction…and labelling yourself a “tire kicker” or other perjorative.))

 ***end of excerpt***

I find this whole thing infuriating, for multiple reasons. Primarily because it makes an already difficult job harder, it subverts the intention of honest reviews, it exploits vulnerable writers, and it attempts to scam readers.


Publishing a book, and promoting it yourself, are incredibly time-consuming. It can be frustrating. There are so many new books released every year, and getting yours to stand out from the crowd is a challenge. Time spent promoting the book takes away from time you’d rather spend writing. I know this very well, because the same is also true for the current model of artist-as-entrepreneur, musician-as-entrepreneur, and so on. Creative professionals would rather be creating, in general. Most of us are also uncomfortable self-promoting. And there are social conventions to follow, too: you’re supposed to self-promote, but at the same time over-promotion is both tacky and annoying. There are procedures that work to get your book known. Approaching bloggers, establishing a social media presence, reaching out to book groups, are all touted as means to spread the word of your creative work. Even writing a good book, so that people who read it are genuinely moved to create a review, is cited as a technique… but that too is easier said than done. The hard truth of self-publishing is that most writers are fortunate to sell copies numbering even into the three digits. It’s not an easy task.


Circumventing these paths to word-of-mouth exposure by buying false reports devalues the reviews a writer works so hard to gather. A casual reader looking for the next great story won’t necessarily be able to differentiate between a well-considered, thoughtful reading over a period of hours that results in a 4-star rating, and a different 4-star rating given to a poorly-written book that someone paid $15 to promote. How are readers supposed to trust recommendations if so many of them are marketing tools? A professional paid review service has its place, providing insight to people such as the librarians with limited budgets, space, and time, who must sort through all these kajillion books to choose purchases for their libraries. The commercial nature of those reviews is disclosed. But Creeptastic is offering something different: a deliberate intent to pretend to be uninvolved readers.


Writers without the patience and, frankly, privilege of being able to wait for word-of-mouth to spread could easily be taken in by offers like Creeptastic’s. If it wasn’t okay, they couldn’t offer it, right? Maybe this is how it’s done? It’s just a kind of advertisement, right? After all, this type of manipulation has sometimes been very successful in the past. And there is, after all, the rent to pay. Children and cats to be fed. My book’s wonderful; I know people would love it if I could just get them to read it… However, if this gaming of the system comes to light, the author may suffer serious consequences. The service vendor? Not so much, as they can just switch IP’s and websites and start again. The author’s name and reputation, however, may be tarnished beyond repair.


I’m also angered at how these ploys target the readers. I think people who buy books deserve to be respected. While perfectly lovely books may go unnoticed without promotion, and that is not optimal, purchased ratings are a blow against consumer confidence. It’s not right to mislead people into buying your product, regardless of whether that produce is a washing machine or the novel you’ve spent the last three years producing. There’s a difference between a promotion, such as giving away free books, and a scam, which includes such things as lying and saying that everyone adored those free books. Readers shouldn’t be cheated. Their money and, more importantly, precious time are being invested in your creation. Maybe they’ll like your book. Maybe they won’t. But I don’t believe that setting up a scam to take them in is the best way to build an audience.


There’s a darker side to this, too, and I’m surprised that fewer people haven’t harkened to it yet. When I read this e-mail to my husband (he of Italian descent), and told him that I thought that the next logical step was extortion, he agreed.


“It sounds like the Book Mafia,” he said. “Pay protection money so you don’t get bad reviews.” Or perhaps, I speculate, pay protection money so we won’t tell the FTC that you paid for the good reviews.


And then I wondered if this might not, in fact, be already in place, and we’re not hearing about it because people are paying? It’s not hard to imagine.


In any case, to bring this back to some humor, I did visit Creeptastic’s website. It has a tab for “Testimonials”. How funny, I thought, that someone offering to sell reviews would expect someone to trust a review left on their website? Do they not see the absurdity?


The funnier thing was that when I clicked on the Testimonials tab? There were no reviews. “Coming Soon.” Wow. You’re trying to sell false reviews … and you can’t even provide them for yourself? That says a lot about your product. Rather reminds me of the guy at the beginning of the story, with the car, telling me I should compromise myself so I could survive, telling me what a mistake I was making by turning him down, and refusing his car. “All it needs,” he said, as I locked the door behind him, “is a motor…”