Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Rant

I have no idea why anyone would feel motivated to get a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. I think the fact that many young people do so is indicative of widespread fuzzy thinking and incompetent guidance counselors.

Creative writing BAs do not guarantee publication. Publication does not guarantee that you can make a living writing. Creative writing BAs do not give you marketable skills that will keep you employed while you try to write.

I have met a recent graduate with an Honours BA in Creative Writing who had interned at respected, award-winning magazines and who had no idea the difference between proofreading and copyediting.

I have met a recent graduate with a BA in Creative Writing who thought that a BA qualified her to be a professor, and was bewildered when that job did not appear before her.

I do not know any additional Creative Writing majors, because I make a point of cultivating friends who are not going to be crippled by debt for years for no more valid reason than fuzzy thinking.

Creative Writing, as a major, gives you more of an appreciation for good writing. This is all very well, but it doesn't teach you marketable skills: Journalism requires people skills, the ability to work under pressure, and basic spelling and grammar. This means that you finish a journalism program with marketable, transferable skills.

I know of no graduates with Creative Writing BAs who were able to translate their degree into widely-useful skills. I know of no recent graduates with Creative Writing BAs who became employed in their field just after graduation. I do not consider it fuzzy thinking to infer a correlation.

Creative Writing seems an eminently practical degree if you:

  • are only looking for self-improvement, not necessarily a job
  • are already published and raking in dough at a rate that will pay your tuition and living expenses, but trying to improve your skills
  • are actually pursuing an MRS, but need a BA as a cover
  • are going to inherit a solid family business and already have a sibling who is an accountant

I do not see the practicality of it outside those and related circumstances.

And I do consider practicality eminently relevant to higher education. It's expensive, so if it is a bad return on investment, it doesn't make sense to do it until you are financially stable enough that tuition will not require onerous loans.

"But!" you cry, "how will I improve my writing to the point of perfection if not by majoring in Creative Writing in university?"

By not stopping writing? By diligent practice? By learning critical thinking skills that can be applied to everything? By learning about things that inspire you to write and equip you to get jobs that will inspire you to write and also support you while you do so?

Creative Writing BAs are like the little blue pills: they both seem like a good idea and a way to jump-start something good, but really you're just fooling around, because practice and critical thinking will both affect the end result far more than the artificial aid ever could.

- Additional reasons majoring in Creative Writing is terrible.
- What you majored in/are majoring in, and how you have applied it to your writing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


There are words like saudade that refer to explicit emotional states, and convey a wealth of meanings. In English, we have many and varied words for nearly everything, but we don't have anything that means the same thing as saudade. The closest we can get is nostalgia, or love for something that has gone and can never be again. They convey nearly the same thing, but not as precisely or neatly.

We have a lot of emotional vocabulary, because language is about communication, and nuance of feeling can be difficult to convey. A great deal is conveyed by facial expressions and body language.
Usually more than this. Art by
Part of the emergent vocabulary Tumblr exposes me to includes the word 'feels' as a noun. Usage includes such phrases as 'all of the feels' and 'right in the feels.' A literal definition would be something like 'heart,' but this carries more of a connotation of addictive heartbreak. Something that hits one right in the feels might make one cry every time one reads it, but one revisits it often anyway. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In which I talk about memetic density

This entire post is going to be a deconstruction of the title.

'In which' is not merely an informative phrase to indicate the contents of the post: it is a reference to the way Diane Wynne Jones, amongst others, starts chapters in her books. Each chapter title doubles as a summary of the chapter, and adds amusing context, such as "In which Sophie talks to hats" and "In which Howl expresses his feelings with green slime."

By the way, I love my roommates. I wrote this while still in Victoria, sitting in Starbucks. It had been a couple of years since I read Howl's Moving Castle, and I'd forgotten whether the introductions to the chapters were the chapter titles or separate headings. Google searches and Google Books and Amazon and Kobo were all turning up blanks: all I wanted was the first page.

Both of my roommates are bibliophiles who don't get rid of their books, so I just got on Skype and asked out of the blue whether they had a copy and asked them to check for me. Only one of them had a copy, but between them they both had a copy and knew what I was looking for and were able to answer without checking, and then able to link me to the TVTropes page discussing the wider use of the convention.

It is stylistically striking enough to stick with a reader, and allusion to it both establishes formal context and informal social context: by title this post in this way I am affirming that I read, that I read for fun, and that I retain it and consider it important to the way I interact with the world. Using descriptive titles, particularly with the 'In which' format, is language that establishes personal context as well as the explicit context inherent in a descriptive title.

Seem like a lot to try to communicate with two words?

Yeah. And I'm not done!

The title of this post is first-person. Normally, descriptive titles are presented third-person. Using first person here does a couple of things:

  • Establishes that this is a meta-contextual post examining the linguistics involved in addition to participating.
  • Avoids referring to myself in the third person, which is awkward at best and impenetrable and pretentious at worst.
  • Let's me avoid choosing which name to refer to myself as: I go by Eileen because it is my name and using anything else in an even semi-professional setting would feel really weird. But I also answer to Chiomi, which is a nickname I've had since high school and still go by among close friends. I am also called PK in some writing contexts, as an abbreviation of phantomkitsune, the username I win stuff under in Adam's contest. On the website where I am known as PK, I've made several contacts with people who've become good friends and with whom I discuss writing a great deal. Using first person lets me bypass that issue completely.
Now to the verb. I used 'talk' as opposed to 'discuss' or 'write' because, given the dearth of comments here and the fact that I'm mostly unpacking a sentence, discussion does not seem a sure thing. 'Write' I discarded because the tone I use in my blog is a lot closer to the tone I use in casual speech than what I would use in an essay. Pontificate, which would have served just as well, was discarded because of reasons.

The preposition, I feel, is reasonably straightforward and does not require exposition.

Memetic density has to be addressed as a compound to make sense. A meme is a unit of culture. For example, I have an extremely pedantic coworker, through whose influence all of us who work with him have become more linguistically precise. I have on more than one occasion called him a memetic disease because of this effect. So memetic density is how many ideas are communicated by a word or phrase. Memetic density and the effectiveness thereof is, fairly obviously, culture-dependent. I was able to understand a fair number of the references in Terry Pratchett's Soul Music because my dad introduced me to classic rock. If I didn't have that context, I would be missing a lot of the references in the book. The memetic density would be lost. is one of the best resources for making sure that modern references aren't lost, because it catalogs widespread memes.

As this entire post suggests, a lot of meaning can be conveyed in a few context-specific words. It's just a matter of knowing the context.

Note: thoughts like this are why it takes me forever to finish many of my writing projects.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Project Update #1

I'm starting to seriously work on a project I had the initial idea for over two years ago. It started with a vivid image, of someone walking home in the dark in the rain. They were walking past trees, and they were resigned to the wet, and they were accompanied by a God.

At the time, I wrote it down, but I didn't think I had the skill to do the idea justice.

It's my active project right now. I have other images - of standing on a hill in a thunderstorm wearing a fedora, of characters throwing things at deities for being thwarted romantically - and they're starting to come together. I'm editing the first couple of thousand words fiercely, because my skill has grown in the past couple of years and I am better able to see where I'm missing my mark in tone and voice and pacing.

With all of the critiquing I've done in the past couple of years, I'm much better able to cut to the heart of the matter, which has led to a new style of outlining for me: I just write down what happens as briefly as possible. It's like the blocking run for a theatrical performance: none of it is costumed in prose, there are no microphones, the set's in place but not finished being painted. The second run is what's going to let me fill in the blanks, but right now this is looking like it'll be a much faster and more efficient way for me to write.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Burnout Mode

I firmly don't believe in writer's block. I think that it's usually a matter of needing more planning, or to work on a different project. I can't comprehend a world where someone is actually stuck and unable to write: there's always backtracking to see how you wrote yourself into a corner, or outlining, or editing something else, or doing silly flash fiction to give your brain a break from the next Great American Novel.

But sometimes I hit a wall, and will stare at a scene I have planned out and have an overwhelming sense that if I write it, it will all be crap. Sometimes I stare at a list of projects I could work on and can't even articulate cogent reasons why I should work on one over the other. Sometimes every single thing I put on screen is absolute crap and I want to delete the entire project.

I don't think this is writer's block. It's nothing to do with the writing itself, or the story fighting me, or the characters misbehaving. It's a sign that I am completely burned out, and need to have a glass of water and a nap. It's a sign that the only creative output I'm capable of at the moment is knitting to a pattern.

Writer's block is an annoying aspect of magical thinking: it gives writers problems that no one else has. Self-care is a universal issue that does not care what you do.

Spoiler: this post is super-short because I have a headache and knitting i-cord is about what I'm up to mentally.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


It amazes me when I encounter people who say they have no one to talk with about writing.

This is a case of privilege: I grew up with parents who write (even if they are journalists and collectively despair of my structure), I had a group of friends in high school who started a writing group, most of the friends I made online became friends in the context of writing or some form of creative output (did you know: for two years I helped run and moderate an art critique and virtual-money pricing thread). I joined the Victoria Writers' Society soon after I got here, and I I've been to Meetups about writing and PEAVI meetings and a conference about writing and book launches and poetry readings. When I wanted to find people who were also into writing, I was in a town that had lots of other people with similar interests, and I had a framework such that I had no problems seeking them out.

So when I encounter people who have no one to talk writing with, I am faintly befuddled and tend to either adopt them or refer them to the Internet, depending on my mood and their familiarity with technology.

Writing is not a solitary pursuit. I am not convinced it has ever widely been a solitary pursuit. The Bronte sisters had each other to talk to, Jane Austen had family to read her works to, Kerouac had the entire Beat movement.

Having people to talk to about writing helps refine ideas and thoughts about it. Brainstorming tends to be more productive if someone else is there to ask questions or point out when something is really obviously quite illogical. Having people to talk to about writing means having people who'll remind you that yes, this is something you like spending your free time doing, why haven't you written a word in a week? Having people to talk to about writing means that, when you've finished a piece for a contest with a deadline, you can have two people whose opinions about writing you trust read it in an afternoon.

For me, the internet is how I've found these people. Well, the internet, and people I still know from high school and university. But I'm still in touch with them over the internet, and that's where we talk about writing. I've found people on Tumblr and on an anime site I joined when I was 14, and through friends of these people. Others have found communities on Absolutewrite or Deviantart or Meetups or Critiquecircle or Fictionpress or Wattpad or any of a dozen others. If you're looking for a community, it can be worth checking out anything you can find to locate the people you'll click with.

I've found it really worthwhile.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Anonymity, Again

There's a disadvantage to having grown up with the internet: every stupid thing one said when one was thirteen is up here forever.

And, despite whatever steps one took to be less traceable: never using your real name, never posting your city, etc. there's always, always a temptation to have a linked identity. So if you use a username on Livejournal it might be tempting to use it on Deviantart and then, well, it's practically a brand, so you might use it on Etsy, too. And then you do commissions or pay someone to do a commission for you and you use your paypal, which, a lot of the time, is going to have your name attached to it, because your money needs to at some point pass through something with your name attached.

So you yourself would have attached your real name in a long roundabout way to the things you posted on Livejournal lo, these many years ago.

And that's not even bringing up Facebook. This afternoon, a friend told me she'd been being harassed by someone she met in a chat room. The harassment was happening on Facebook, but he'd blocked her after she told him she didn't appreciate the threats, so she didn't have access to his page anymore, which she kind of wanted to gather information to go to the police.

Google to the rescue! I have this guy's name and the country he lives in. I was able to, in very short order, provide a decent picture (decent as in it fits most of the guidelines for ID photos), all of the biographical information he has online (including names and pictures of his parents and sibling), and links to his Facebook profile, Formspring, and Twitter accounts. The usernames on the Formspring and Twitter were not similar to his name, but he'd input his full name into the information anyway, so this was all in the first page of Google results.

Things he did on the internet, in cyberspace (which some people, including friends of mine, sometimes consider as less real than things which happen face to face), are going to result in criminal charges for this young man.

I can almost guarantee he didn't expect this: if you block someone on Facebook, they're supposed to be gone forever! But they're not. Things which happen online are quite, quite real, and a number of us have some or all of our professional lives on the internet.

Anonymity or even approximations thereof can be detrimental to building a brand if one is trying to be a professional online. Anonymity can seem like a great bastion if one is trolling on the internet, and even the format itself can be seen as a buffer.

But anonymity is a very, very hard to attain and maintain. That's why the creator of Cryptocat is being persecuted so very hard. Anonymity is vital for political agitation and protest under an oppressive regime, but there's a natural tendency to want to slip up and have people you are speaking to acknowledge you as a person. When it's trolls who are enabling me to hunt down all their information to neatly package for the cops, this is great. When it's protesters who end up beaten and jailed for trying to change the world for the better, it is quite a bit less than great.

But the fact of the matter is that, unless one is taking extraordinary measures, you are not anonymous.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Putting my money where my mouth is

A couple weeks ago, I posted about pseudonyms.

I've been having conversations about them since then, particularly about using them for different genres. Genre boundaries have diminshed a great deal in the last few years - particularly the 'rule' saying a writer should stick to one genre. And with online book stores, if a reader only wants books in a particular genre, that's what tags and categories are for.

Tags are of particular concern in a lot of the fanfiction I read - writers are expected to tag for major character death or spoilers for canon, and for level of explicitness, and for whether it contains romance, and the genders of the people involved if it does. Writers are also expected to tag for graphic depictions of violence, underage characters in sexual situations, and rape or non-consent: these are things built in to the platform of Archive Of Our Own, which is where I post my work. There is a little checklist when you start a new story that lets you just tick the box for anything that might apply.

The social aspect of the community also encourages tagging for drug use, mental health issues, suicide, abuse, dysfunctional families - you get the idea. Things which might be upsetting to read to the point that someone would choose to actively avoid them get tagged*. There is such strong community impetus towards tagging that an author who chose not to include a specific tag (because it would have spoiled the entire plot) has actually been vilified because of not tagging.

But this is fanfiction, so things you'd want to look for, like specific pairings or stories about specific characters, are also tagged for ease of searching. A lot of tagging is about finding the particular reading experience you are looking for.

There is some of this available in original fiction, though obviously not to the same extent. Categories, though, offer very concrete ways to separate what one writes into genres without using pseudonyms.

So that's what I'm going to do. I have no particular shame attached to writing erotica - I write smart fiction, no matter the genre, and I want people to find me and want to buy my stories based on that. That's why all of my fiction under 3000 words will end up on here at some point, and everything over 3000 words will go up on my Smashwords (with the exception of Intervention, out on Feedbooks for a couple years already, and future novels that might end up out on other channels).

*This is also known as trigger warnings. For example, someone who has been raped might not be able to read about rape without having unpleasant flashbacks or intense anxiety that would ruin their entire day. Avoiding stories with rape in them is a lot easier if they say what they are on the tin.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Blog fiction hiatus

You may have noticed the lack of fiction updates the past couple of weeks. Their lack is partly because doing any more of them will involve either more trawling through my ancient archives or writing new flash fiction. Writing new flash fiction is currently on hold because I'm nearing the end of a project I've been working on since roughly the spring of 2010, and am really excited to finish.

It's also because I'm moving. In two weeks time I'll be on a bus headed from Seattle to Minneapolis as the middle and longest leg of my trip from Victoria to Madison. I'm moving for a multitude of reasons, and aside from my own abhorrence of moving and lack of car, it's been a fairly straightforward process: I'm still going to be doing webwork for the same bike store I work in now. The only thing that will change is no customers and I can work in my pajamas. I am going from living with my mom, where I've been staying since the end of my lease, to living with my best friend who is already doing things like unpacking the boxes I've mailed and crocheting me my very own blanket. My EMR license is viable for reciprocity, so I don't need to take classes again, just do NREMT exams and local jurisprudence, all of which I can set up there.

Regular Wednesday blog posts will continue for the duration, as I have them scheduled pretty well in advance, so the only difference should be the lack of fiction posts. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I've long been of the school of thought that if you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem. As I read more about racism in science fiction, anti-racism, and whitewashing, I've come to a dilemma:

All of the central characters in my YA novel are white. Yeah, sure, one of them isn't human, one of them is bisexual, one of the secondary characters is trans, I address mental health issues to some extent. I tried to actively include things that could be othering to young people and have those people affected by them kick ass. I was careful to have female characters retain their agency regardless of romantic attachment. I avoided the icky cultural narratives of romanticizing quasi-abusive relationships as best I could. I thought I was doing pretty well on showing a variety of people doing awesome things.

And then I realized that all of these characters were white. They're from different socio-economic backgrounds and some are immigrants and there's an age gap between people who would sociologically be considered the same generation, so I got to address a bunch of things I find interesting. I don't think about race a lot, because I don't have to: I am white. I also try to deal with people as individuals, and when they mention something race-related (delicious collard greens their grandmother makes, or parents having a hilarious Mumbai/Halifax accent), that gets tagged in my head as something related to their culture of origin, much in the same category as my parents being hippie journalists.

That's one of the reasons one of my characters is Polish: I think the idea of 'white culture' is crap, because there are so very many different cultures. But I've been reading a lot about social justice in the past year (thank you, Tumblr, I think), and have been reminded that having heroes that look like you is really, really important. Belle was my favourite Disney Princess because she looked the most like me (and also because I have an absurd weakness for that fairy tale).

So it kind of sucks that all of these characters are white. I didn't set out to write a perfectly politically correct novel. But I kind of want to rewrite it so that one of my characters (the all-American football star) is African-American. So I am dithering.

Another part of the argument is that I don't want him to be token, I don't want him to be 'just' inclusion of people of colour. Additionally, I'd kind of envisioned him as an American mish-mash: part Ojibwe, part French, lots of German, some Lakota, some English, a fair portion of we're-not-really-sure. Tanned and tall, but not particularly easily pinpointed in terms of subculture of origin. But he'd still read as white, so that would make him not particularly perfect as the All-American Hero.

There's also the really tempting part that, if I'm not changing him, the book is ready to go. I started on this four years ago, so being done is a really, really tempting thought.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Alpha Males

Romance novels and pickup artists have something in common:

They both tend to simplify complex sociological forces about attraction and mate fitness into really easy sets (I'm sorry, A Beka, for the upsetting theories). The most common sets are 'alpha males' and all other men. What are alpha males? Well, depends who you ask. Pickup artists think one thing, romance novel enthusiasts think others, but the term comes from ethology. It is not a concept that is historically or anthropologically relevant to humans, but it is easy shorthand.

What's it shorthand for, though?

Well, judging from what I know of the protagonists of this list, mostly it's shorthand for white (American, Russian, or English, for preference), tall, confident, securely employed, intelligent, physically competent, and handsome. Oh! Also able-bodied and with no crippling mental illness. Alpha male is just a much shorter term, and less problematic to say in public.

The term also connotes leadership, and speaks to people's desire for clear hierarchy as opposed to the complicated morass of actual human interaction. Werewolf romance novels are probably the most explicit in this. They break everything down so the reader gets both clear hierarchy and clear happily ever after, because simple and straightforward and forever is in dire short supply.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Trillian is one of the few programs I have constantly running on my computer. Partly because it allows me to keep most of my IMing in one program (I got sick of the 'what is beeping what the hell is beeping oh wow I have no idea what's beeping, guess I'm not talking to anyone' dance), but also because it is a great way to passively follow Twitter.

If any of you follow me on Twitter, you know that I do not engage a whole lot there. I post things! Every few days or so. I have occasional, usually short conversations with friends like Kim Nayyer and Suzanne. A large part of that is that most of my writing support system is to be had over more private channels, like a forum or IMs. I find it easy to forget that social media and getting a bunch of people to read your writing involves things like making sure people know you exist.

Even so, I follow a few hashtags. Hashtags, for anyone who has been assiduously avoiding Twitter for the last few years, are ways to mark that a tweet is about a certain topic. Sometimes hashtags will trend, becoming popular with a large number of people for a while. Right now, a trending hashtag is #removeoneletterfilms. The hashtags that I regularly follow are #yyj, for events and news in Victoria, #myWANA, for the author support network Kristen Lamb started, and #amwriting, because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Both of the latter I follow at least in part to see emergent memes in the kind of indie writer culture that uses hashtags on Twitter, because they are sometimes also memes I will see at least partly reflected in news articles or brought up at meetings of the Victoria Writers' Society.

With Trillian, any tweets that include those hashtags pop up in the bottom right part of my screen. I can glance over and read and glance back and then it fades away. If I feel it necessary, I can reply to or retweet the tweet in question without ever switching tabs.

The curious thing about hashtags like myWANA and amwriting is that I see some people using them to market their books.

This is interesting to me, because yes, of course, writers read, but these hashtags seem to be only peopled by writers. I'd think that marketing could be more effectively directed at readers who are not already writers themselves: your writing support network probably already knows all about your book.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Meta: Snowglare

This is undoubtedly one of the cruelest things I've ever written.

I wrote it in the summer of 2011, and, like so many things, it was for Adam's contest. The prompt was parody, so I wrote a parody of a person.

She's since become a friend, but at the time I was having a lot of difficulty connecting with her. She'd initially taken critique very badly, and then become reliant on getting critique (mostly from me or another friend of mine) before turning in, and hadn't had a particularly good English education (which is something I shouldn't hold against people, but tend to in writing-oriented settings). She'd also written a story with me as a character in it, with particular attention to my bosom. I was neither pleased nor comfortable with this. Since then, she's grown in leaps and bounds, and joined me in the semi-finals this year, as well as being published several times over the course of the year. She and I have also talked a lot more.

Her username is The Solarized Night, which gave root to a lot of the imagery: the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis, are the result of solar flares, and are most visible at night.

Luminosity is a term for self-awareness.

She lives in the Southern hemisphere, while I and Adam live in the Northern hemisphere.

With that knowledge, everything else about the poem kind of falls into place: from vague imagery about long nights and the Northern Lights to excoriation of someone I did not consider as acting rationally or particularly intelligently and considered attention-seeking.

What's worse is that she liked the poem, but did not understand the meaning (I will probably link her this post).

Also I got a perfect score for this, the only one I've ever gotten. It is the reason I'm one of five people in the Hall of Perfection, and it can also be read here.

In sum: cruel and petty idea, well-executed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Poem: Snowglare

Aurora’d e’entide
--as close to dark as it gets this far north--
any perceived brightness a mere matter of snowglare
light-starved crystals glittering with all their might
that the dim shimmer might pass for luminosity
and draw all attention

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Editing published works

This was going to be a completely different post. One of the pitfalls of being friends with a number of writers and reading all of their stuff behind the scenes (primarily in Google Docs) is that I lose track of what they've actually published. A friend was talking about how she's heavily editing one of her novels, and I was annoyed  with her because I thought it was the one she'd already put out. Whoops, no, it's the one slated for later this year.

But back to my annoyance.

Editing works that are already out is something that happens. We see it most commonly with comics, where collected volumes will have extras: these are mostly to get you to buy the same material again, plus bonus sketch or story or worldbuilding. This is established practice, which is evident particularly in popular series such as The Sandman, which has the individual issues, the collected editions, the absolute editions, and the annotated editions. One gets something new and slightly different out of each edition. One needs to buy the whole series four times to get that full experience.

It is also fairly established practice in textbooks, where new information requires rewrites.

But in novels, there have traditionally been few differences between editions: some will have particular illustrations, some will not, and the page count may vary between the hardcover and the pocketbook, but it is essentially the same content. In the case of Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, there are two cover variants, but the contents remain the same. The cover variants are entertaining when next to each other (all of my copies have been of the black cover: my best friend has one with the white cover), but the contents are the same.

Take, for example, American Gods (yes, it is apparently Neil Gaiman day on Author's Refuge). It recently had a tenth anniversary edition! The tenth anniversary edition has an additional twenty thousand words on the original. Twenty thousand. It is also the author's preferred text.

I find this maddening, as it's a larger echo of something I see a lot in indie publishing. I need to buy it again to get the whole experience - to get the experience the author wants me to have, even. This is okay for me with American Gods, as my paperback has gone missing somewhere in the last two countries, and I adore the story.

In indie publishing, I've seen a few authors scrambling to fix typos or plot holes pointed out by first readers - meaning that people who buy the book on the first, second, and third days are generally all buying slightly different books. This is amateurish, and frankly quite terrible: your book should be the best it can be before you publish it. Often, the best it can be requires an editor.

I am firmly of the opinion that, when you learn something new about writing, something that changes the way you write, it is the better part of valor to take that and apply it to something new instead of re-writing something old. Produce new and better things and send them forth into the world, and then produce more that are even better.

But I'm caught - it's been ten years, and it's twenty thousand words. It's a celebration, not a cover-up. I may end up buying the hardcover.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Meta: Crazy Fairies

So, on Google Drive, in my Writing folder, I have a sub-folder labeled Shorts that has a sub-folder labeled Old.

That's where this is from. It was written in the winter of 2007 or 2008: I'm not sure which. I only uploaded everything to Google Docs in 2010, because I didn't want to lose all of the writing I'd done for the writing group I was part of in high school.

So this is how far I've come as a writer in the last five years, and contrasts with last week when I posted something just barely finished. It's also an experiment in how far I've come as a person able to objectively critique my own work and not just go hide under a rock.

Apparently this was based on a dream I had. Oh! And I think it was around New Year's in 2008, as I drew this:
Apparently these are the characters?
later in January 2008.

So, since it's been so long, we'll do the first run the way I do first runs on most things: caustically.

I am not sure why I am all dismissive of homelessness except that the perspective character is a sociopath. Also dead bodies under plants are kind of a Japanese thing and I was going for Irish.

In the second section, the second sentence is telling rather than showing and could be tightened. I'm not sure if inconsistent capitalization of Garda was meant to be a character thing or is just a consistency fail.

No idea why it's so painfully pseudo-British except I think part of the prompt was that I had to include the word 'chesterfield.'

Lots and lots of telling.

Abrupt shifts! Also telling. Also run-on sentences.

The line about bestiality, and that whole scene, are really awkward. I still find it hard to write those awkward transitions from revelation to calm discussion to acceptance, but fainting is no longer something I tend to use to avoid those transitions.

I don't think they even read the Glob and Snail in Dublin. I have no idea why I included it.

I think I was trying to do a thing about speech bubbles and fairies seeing all spoken language as speech bubbles, but I don't think that came across very well, and has no time to sink in before it's over. Synesthesia is something that interests me, partly because a friend of mine has it with music. Magical synesthesia seemed like the doubleplusgood version of it.

In conclusion: interesting idea, poorly executed.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fic: Crazy Fairies

Warren shoveled dirt over the body until the soil came up a few inches below the rest of the flowerbed, then filled the rest with topsoil. Later, his sister would plant flowers. He couldn’t, as the blood still on his hands would be bad for the tiny plants. When the last topsoil was in place, Warren hurried inside to shower. He never felt really cleansed of a kill until he’d soaked himself in scalding water. It wasn’t in the least a moralistic thing, but the scent of the homeless crazies they picked up (after assuring that they had no friends who could be coherent to the garda) tended to be rank, and cling. But they were so good for the flowers, who never minded the smell.


Cait dragged another box up the narrow, steep stairs behind the new shop. It was her job to take things up to the ‘house’ part of the row house while her parents set up the butcher shop. She’d no idea why her brother got out of helping, as he had vacation coming up from the Garda, and ought to use at least some of it to help with the move. Returning to the van, she grabbed another box, then turned and bumped into someone. “Oh!”
Warren took the box and smiled. “Sorry to give you a fright. I’m your neighbor just across the passageway, Warren Blithe.”
Cait smiled at the charming man. “Cait Hurley. So you’re the florist?”
“My sister, actually. I mostly just do the heavy lifting. Speaking of which, give you a hand with the boxes?”
Cait glanced down at the box he held and considered the stupidity of letting a stranger into her new home, the looked up and smiled. “Sure. Just follow me up the stairs.”
Warren and Cait carried up the rest of the boxes and wrestled up the chesterfield together by the time the other Hurleys had finished setting up the butcher shop for the day. Warren stretched a hand out to Mr. Hurley as he came in the door. “Hello, Mr. Hurley. Warren Blithe from next door, just thought I’d come over to help you move in.”
“Well, Blithe, happy for the help. Cait, why don’t you run down to the chippie we passed and pick up some for everyone.”
Warren smiled and offered. “I can show you to one just down the street.”
Cait returned his smile, a little shyly. “That’d be great.”

When the butcher shop opened, Warren and his sister Shannon were the first customers. When they closed the shop up for the day, the five of them went to the Indian restaurant a few blocks over for curry.
Warren spent the weeks insinuating himself further into Hurleys and Cait’s life. She was an amazing girl, and Warren found himself interested in her mind as well as her other charms. So he took her out for coffee, for a night at the pub, to the local football match. And felt himself slipping, getting too involved.
Involvement with humans was discouraged on any deep level, as it became tempting to tell them things that threatened everyone. But Warren told himself he wasn’t that involved, even as he fell.
He found himself thinking of her all the time, though tried to contain it when contemplation of her during fertilizer acquisition ended with a disturbing mental image of himself slitting her throat.


He really shouldn’t. But that didn’t stop Warren from leaning in, tasting her. Then it had to be more than just a taste, because she was so damn sweet. Then he had her back pressed the wall of the passageway, and she was clutching his neck, and she made a little noise in her throat, and he felt himself tumble. A golden glow spread between them, and Cait broke the kiss. “What’s the glow?”
Warren looked down, then squarely met her eyes, searching them. A pure soul, pale as ice, but so much warmer, Cait didn’t have any part in his world, where a social misstep could lead to bloodshed and a political mistake to eternal exile. Maybe that was why he loved her. “It’s my heart.”
Still pressed close to him, Cait looked at him, and in a small voice, said, “Most people’s hearts’ don’t glow.”
Telling a human that he was fey, with it’s attached sentence, should be the toughest decision of his life. But with Cait, somehow it wasn’t a decision at all, and so the words spilled out, “I’m not human. I’m Fey. And I love you.”
She looked him straight in the eyes, looking for truth, and he dropped his glamour. His gray eyes shone brightly silver, the dark hair reflected blue, and horns shimmered on the top of his head.
Cait took all of this in, and fainted.
Warren carried her inside his house, to be greeted by Shannon leaning in the doorway of the kitchen. “You know I can’t protect you from Fob on this one, right?”
As she referenced the local Fey lord, Warren felt a chill go down his spine. If Fob found out, it would get really ugly. Though he couldn’t harm Cait; no Fey could legally harm a love match, even if they were only human. Warren didn’t look at Blithe as he responded, “I know.”


Cait regained consciousness quickly, and Shannon made herself scarce. Cait looked at Warren, then around the room, then back at Warren. She didn’t say anything. The silence stretched out, until Warren, who should have been well used to tense silences, broke.
“I love you, too.” The words spilled from Cait’s lips softly.
He read her face, her words, and the constriction on his chest eased. “What about . . . the other stuff?”
“It was . . . a shock. Um. Really. But it doesn’t matter.”
Warren cocked a brow at her. “Most people tend to balk at interspecies relationships.”
“Ew. So totally don’t condone bestiality.” Cait smiled at him.
Warren let out a soft laugh, and kissed her again.


Fob sat on a bench at the corner of the park reading the Globe and Mail. Warren crossed to the other side of the street and hunched his shoulders to try to avoid notice.
“Come here.”
Warren flinched as the words reached him, then turned and crossed the street to Fob, not bothering to look at the traffic he barely avoided being run over by.
As Warren sat, Fob turned a page, but didn’t look up from his paper. “So, you told her.”
“Yes.” Warren didn’t question how Fob knew. You never questioned Fob, and he always knew.
“Well, since you’re so fond of spilling secrets, you’ll continue spilling them until the day you die, but no one will believe you, because you’ll be drunk and crazy and say ‘ma ma ma millennium hand and shrimp’ every second sentence.”
That didn’t seem such a terrible curse. Warren could control that. Actually it was a bit of a funny curse. Seeing the words ‘millennium hand and shrimp’ hanging in the air was actually quite hilarious, and Warren slouched over trying to contain his laughter. “Ma ma ma millennium hand and shrimp? That’s fabulous.”
His words didn’t come out as expected, the words crooked and the letters hanging drunkenly off each other. In dawning horror, he watched them bounce off each other and recombine incoherently.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pseudonymously Yours

I despise pseudonyms for the sake of pseudonyms. I snort derisively whenever I see beginning writers asking what their pen name should be. I roll my eyes when people talk about not letting their family know that they write.

I'm beginning to re-think my position.

A friend of mine recently submitted poetry to the New Yorker (as of writing, we are both waiting to hear back). She wasn't sure whether she wanted to submit under her name or a pen name. I told her to use the pen name. She works with children, in the mental health field. Having her name on poetry can't help her professionalism, particularly as my favourite collection of her poetry revolves around (unnamed, unspecified) children and the medications that they're on and how the medications change things dramatically. I think they are fantastic, and show compassion and depth of feeling. Parents of children sending them to her in a professional capacity might not feel the same.

Anonymity is never absolute, but a pseudonym seemed the smartest way to go in my friend's case.

Another friend writes both futuristic thrillers and erotica. She publishes the erotica under a pen name. It makes some sense to me to publish such different genres under different imprints, and the easiest way for an indie writer to differentiate is with pseudonyms. I don't necessarily agree with the reasons she chose to publish the erotica under a pen name: she did so partly out of embarrassment at writing the genre at all and fear of family finding out and being embarrassed. I, obviously, have no such compunction.

But it occurred to me that, since I want to write both YA and romance, a pseudonym might at some point become useful. Even though I know that as a teenager, I myself was alternating YA-designated things with Laurell K Hamilton and filthy smut on the Internet, as were most of my friends, school librarians might not agree with my assessment that teenagers probably won't mind searching for another title by their favourite author and picking up something significantly less family-friendly.

It is not anonymity. It will never be anonymity. But it would be a way for readers to know what they were in for before opening the book.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Meta: Fairy Tale

It should be noted that this was written in the past week, in an inchoate rush for the finals of Adam's contest.

He told me to write a fairy tale, and that it couldn't be a retelling.

After like an hour reading about Aarne-Thompson classifications and other components of fairy tales and nagging people for prompts and a failed first draft that involved Spivak pronouns and arguments and some really overcomplicated stuff with AI and gender, this happened.

The central idea was that the Devil always gets his due, and Orphne would lose in some way that didn't actually involve being triumphed over (thus, cheating at cards).

Then somehow the seven deadly sins?

I wanted to have all of them, with the kind of double thing that the Devil, whose initial sin was pride, would be caught up in lust, and the nymph, who is generally associated with lust and deals mostly in that, would have a mistake of pride.

It came out really well, I think. I don't even know. Next week: something I pull from the depths of the archives, and lengthy and embarrassed meta.

Edit: I won the contest! Wooooooo!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fic: Fairy Tale

Will you play a game with me?”

He doesn’t look up: not even scantily-clad nymphs can distract the King of Hell from his quarterly reports. “You’re confusing me with Death. I only gamble.”

Not chess, you silly. Poker, I was thinking, or blackjack. We could make the stakes interesting.” She walks her fingers up his shoulder.

I prefer to gamble for souls. Why would I be interested in playing a game with you?”

She spins away from him, lifting her hair and flicking it back to draw the eye to the smooth line of her spine, exposed but for ivy and scraps of silk. Her head turns so that it is perfectly framed in the arch of her raised arm, and she lifts long lashes to meet his gaze. “I’ll let you name your own stakes.”

The Devil sets down his paperwork, precisely in the middle of the blotter. He sets his paperweight on the upper left corner, and its empty sockets leer at her exactly the way he is too controlled to. “What do you want?”

I want the chance to win your powers for a night.”

Which powers?”

She flits back to his desk and leans over the front of it, giving him a clear view down the front of a dress that never hid much. “All of them, silly. Why play for anything less?”

If I win, Orphne, I want you for a month.” He says it low, trying for nonchalance. He is rarely denied, rarer still for very long, but nymphs cannot be coerced and are not easy prey for his brand of temptation.

Her grin is sharp, because she knows the power she holds. “Okay.” She produces a deck of cards from - somewhere, he doesn’t want to think where, and shuffles. “One hand, then, and aces are wild. Since it’s your realm, I’ll deal. That work for you?”

Your terms are acceptable.” He smoothes one already-smooth lapel and gestures at the immaculate liquor cabinet behind him. “Can I pour you a drink?”

Oh, this won’t last long.” She deals a card to him facedown, then one to herself, then him, then deals herself a face-up Queen of Hearts. She sets the deck aside and checks her facedown card, the looks up at him expectantly.

He looks at his cards, then says, “Hit me.”

She obliges with a five. The Devil smiles, and turns over his cards: the Ace of Spades, of course, and another five. “Twenty-one,” he says.

She flips her other card, and it is the Ace of Hearts. “Too bad.”

Of course. Fetch the gold goblet, will you?”

This? Really?” She holds up a battered cup with old dull carvings on it.

I’m fond of wordplay. What better than real blood from the Sangreal?” He takes the cup and slices his left forefinger with his thumbnail. Blood rushes out, and then it stops when the cup is half full.

Orphne takes the cup and drains it in one go, her throat working around it. He watches her intently, particularly when she licks her lips after. Her dress fades from green to blood-dark and she smiles. "Well, things to do, places to be. Thanks for the game."

She’s gone in a flare of smoke and a whiff of brimstone. Lucifer puts his head down on his desk and wishes that light wouldn’t chase away the shadows of self-deceit.

The shortest night of the year holds a greater number of secrets than any but the longest. Festival frivolity lifts the veil between worlds and the veil between proper and improper, and all may pass freely back and forth with no thought to consequences come the dawn.

They all wear masks, but it’s easy to recognize many from familiar postures and voices. An unfamiliar woman in a black dress wends her way through the crowd to the officer in conspicuous uniform and unmasked face. “When do you go off-duty?”

Midnight is shift change, ma’am.”

I’ll meet you here at five after.”

Okay.” He doesn’t say that he should find his wife at the end of his shift, but watches her as she walks away.

A cask of mead is unearthed in the beer tent, and, in a gesture of unanticipated magnanimity the local brewer gives glasses of it away. Beer sales drop, but that’s okay, as the cask of mead never seems to run dry.

The perfumed summer air grows thick with temptation.

A thin woman in well-tailored clothes goes back for a second hot dog, and a fifth. After the seventh, she vomits neatly and wipes her mouth with a well-practiced hand and goes back for an eighth.

Two brothers joyfully get into a fist-fight before they are carted off by police officers who tighten the cuffs just barely overtight.

The brewer is distracted from serving by counting the money-box.

In full knowledge of the fact that her husband is not here, a woman approaches her best friend's handsome husband, the one she wishes she'd married because he is so very wonderful.

The Mayor watches from his chair in the beer tent and can't bring himself to do more than drink more mead.

Orphne pulls a little harder on her new powers, puzzled that there are not more couples sanctifying the forest. She can see the cusp of wanting in them all, and tugs harder to pull them over.

Another fist fight breaks out, and there is a flash of subdued light beside her. “We're all tempted by different things, my darling little cheater.”

She sets her jaw. “I don't know what you're talking about.”

Lucifer slides one finger under the strap of her dress and glides it up her shoulder. “You are accustomed to a particular kind of wanting. But there are seven cardinal sins, not one, my pet. For example, it is the very definition of pride to think you can deceive the King of Hell with a simple glamour on a card to disguise a ten as an ace.”

She whirls to glare at him. “Why'd you even let me go through with it, then?”

He shrugs. “Why not? It does me no harm to let you try to preserve your forest. I thought we might even participate, given our deal and the fact that I'm here already.”

She takes his hand and leads him into the woods, anger radiating from every pore.

No matter how you rig the game, the Devil always gets his due.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Songfic, and other creatures from the zoo

Sometimes a song is particularly inspiring.

Like this one: I really like it. I have written portions of stories that were inspired by it, as I find lots of bass and a steady beat good for reminding me of an atmosphere of adventure, and 'I just want to turn the lights on in these volatile times' seems like really good motivation to go and do something really stupid.

Songs can be useful reminders of an atmosphere one is trying to evoke, particularly for those of us who have a tabbed browsing problem (currently open: Tumblr, blogger, two Youtube tabs, a wikipedia article, a article, three writing projects, two stories I am supposed to be critiquing, a forum thread, and two stories I'd like to read). If I get drawn in to other things and disrupted from the mood I was writing, a song can remind me of what it was I was trying to do with the scene. Video game and movie soundtracks are integral to the mood of a piece, and the music Stephanie Meyer listened to while writing Twilight became a sort of soundtrack as well, so popular music relating to other media is not a new concept. Society is a story machine, and they leak out all over, and each tastes of the others.

But songs can take on other roles in stories, like the fanfiction My Immortal drawing its title, chapter titles, and tone primarily from Evanescence and My Chemical Romance songs. There also exists songfic, which involves weaving lyrics into plot.

One of the neatest approaches to songfic I've ever read was Pamela Dean's Tam Lin. It follows the plot of the Scottish ballad of the same name, and the full text of the ballad was included in the back of the book I read. The text itself is full of broad and witty references to literature, and a portion of its charm stems from the fact that it is in many ways a book about stories.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Meta: Purpose

This was written for the semi-final round of Adam's contest. This was the prompt:

Object Perspective
Your assignment for this round is to write a story or poem from the perspective of a kitchen sponge, broom, towel or fork. Yup, that's what I said. Have fun. 

I hated this prompt. I hated it so much. I don't particularly like writing anthropomorphism, and I've grown to dislike reading it, too. I read Silverwing and loved it and thought it was amazing, and I watched parts of the Redwall series as a kid. I read Animorphs and The Ship Who Sang and more werewolf stories than you can shake a stick at, so I was familiar with the more direct way of applying human characteristics to non-human things, too. But at some point I stopped liking it when human characteristics are applied to inhuman things. I like when the alien is alien and written as such. I like well-done xenobiology and earnest tries at xenopsychology and machine intelligences that are machine and uninterested in becoming human.

A lot of times, anthropomorphic objects are presented that way in children's literature. In children's literature, it can be a way to raise awareness of consideration for objects or the environment, or a way to present values in a way that is stripped of a lot of other societal constructs (the Little Engine That Could didn't have to deal with systemic oppression or privilege, just trying his hardest).

But part of all writing is writing to your audience, and Adam is the audience for this contest, and he is not a child. Writing it as a children's story wouldn't have worked, either for him as the audience or for me as a writer.

Honestly I think I spent nearly as much time complaining about this as writing it.

That is not to imply that it was rushed, but that I complained a lot and have several people I should apologize to.

What I hate most about the prompt is that I really like the story and have no real problems with it or areas I think definitely need improvement.

In a piece of irony, I put a silver plate in the dishwasher very late one night after working on this.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fic: Purpose

I am reasonably certain they don’t know what I’m for.

This isn’t because they’re ignorant in general, but more likely because their parents - maybe grandparents, it’s been such a long time since I was out of the box - only used me when they were throwing me at their own parents and shouting about Birmingham. It took years for the stench of pot and politics to fade from the lining.

Then, I measured the passage of time in Christmases and Thanksgivings and Easters, when we’d all be taken out and put to use. I was sometimes horrifically employed on - of all things - pickles, but at least I got fresh air and scrubbing.

Now I measure the passage of time in Vinyl Cafe Christmas specials coming faintly from next door. The walls are thin, and the neighbour’s hearing is going, so I can hear Stuart McLean almost clearly.

The world is changing.

They bring out our case in the middle of summer for some kind of dinner party, and it’s almost like our first owners’ weekly formal dinner parties. But now they are puzzling over why the knives are different sizes, not able to tell which are dinner knives and which are butter knives. The spoons cringe, and the fish forks swear like sailors as they are deemed dessert forks.

I am passed over as “I don’t know, some kind of fish fork?”

I would that I could snarl at them. I have served judges and mafia kingpins and celebrities. Even men who died as petty criminals had more awareness of the way things worked.

The box closes with me still in it, and I am in the closet with a few serving spoons and the dessert forks while the dinner progresses. The serving spoons complain in their ponderous way until I threaten to scratch them.

Dubstep wubs through the apartment, shivering up through the box to rattle us. I liked it better when live jazz threaded through a room after dinner, when the marmoreal elegance of the lady of the house hadn’t been replaced by workman’s trousers. I must grudgingly concede that the CBC has improved their programming over the years, but that is the only thing, I think.

The sounds fade with time, and then the dishwasher starts.

The box opens, and there is light and air and the lingering smell of chicken. The knives are placed again amongst us. They are mottled faintly black and blue, an unhealthy shimmer all over them. Collective horrified silence greets them.

The box goes back in the closet, the damage they’ve wreaked hidden and ignored. Time passes.

The closet is emptied, contents sorted into piles to be packed, sold, donated, and trashed. A susurration of horror passes between us. We’ve been with the family for years and years, but these miscreants and wastrels - well, at least we end up in the pile to be sold. At least they recognize that we are worth something.

I am shaking in rage as we are loaded into their car. Three - or was it four? - unbroken generations of service, and we’re not even being offered to siblings. We are taken to a consignment store as if we were never of any importance at all.

A sticker is slapped on the exterior of the box, which has grown dry since the days it was oiled at least once a month. I wonder how we’ve been valued.

Not much, not near enough, since we are there for only a day. The car that takes us to our new home is quiet and well climate-controlled. We are put in a drawer, and I expect that to be the end of it.

Mere hours later, the box opens, and a man reaches in with hands that smell of silver polish. The spoons are immediately in love, but I withhold judgement. I doubt he’ll know what I’m for, either.

Then we’re back in the box and the drawer is closed.

There is no neighbour with CBC here, and thus no entertainment nor way to tell time. It doesn’t feel like long, though, before the box is opening again.

The butter knives are first out, and he doesn’t hesitate at all to pick them apart from the dinner knives. Then the soup spoons and salad forks and dinner forks. The fish forks are left in their partition, and I anticipate that I will be as well.

There are sounds of a table being set, and so it seems this will be the end of it, until the hands return. The snobby cheese knives with the mother-of-pearl handles are extracted, and then slim fingers return for me.

I anticipate some manner of indignity, like antipasto or relish. Bundled with those awful knives, we approach a kitchen island laid out with amuse-bouches, amongst them - [i]oh[/i]. He intends to put me to my true use. I will have purpose again. I do not care how long I will have to wait between uses, because here, here I am fully myself.

I sink into the dish of olives with a satisfied sigh.