Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Meta: Falling Star

This was my first serious foray back into original fiction after months and months of fan fiction. It's a very different process, because characterization and worldbuilding are about creation as opposed to adherence or clear alteration. In writing fanfiction (at least the way I do), the focus is more on building emotional connections between characters and having a well-paced adventure, so that's what I got to focus on.

Falling Star involved a lot of research on the late fourteenth century in Europe, and then throwing out or altering parts of it because magic. I wallow in description a lot: probably too much, for people who don't like historical detail, but it was a lot of fun to take the time to show that I had done the research. Lord of the Isles as a title is a bit of an exception, since in the real world, it's a Scottish title.

Titles for stories are usually a challenge for me, and I generally hate them after the fact, but I like this one, because it works on a couple levels. The body of the action takes place during a meteor shower, so under cover of what are often misnamed falling or shooting stars, with a lot of important bits deliberately staged at night (the introduction, the first real conversation with Arthur, finding out what Rigel had done). All of the characters except Eadweard are also named after stars: Vega for the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, Arthur as an Anglicization of Arcturus,  the brightest star in Bootes (and also to suggest that he's a good King by way of association with King Arthur), Rigel as the brightest star in Orion. I get a lot of mileage out of that one astronomy class I took in university. In hindsight, I'd have gone for something like Albireo (from the constellation Cygnus) for the King of Alba, because, while it might not suggest a common name for an English King like a modified version of Edward does, it sounds more like Alba and might further suggest that this is Alba rather than England, and things are different here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Blog fiction: Falling Star

“Let me hold you, please.”

“We can’t. I’m promised to another.”

“Just for tonight?”

She kissed him, fierce and sorrowful. “I love you. Now go.”

As Rigel climbed out the window, a star fell in the distance, the first of a week-long meteor

Lyra leaned out after him. “Don’t pine for me. It has to be this way. I am securing an alliance, and Arthur is not a bad man, so I will be doing my best to be happy.”

Rigel paused on the trellis and met her eyes. The kitchen garden was a long way down. “Does that mean you won’t miss me? That you won’t long for me at all? That you’ll forget?”

She closed her eyes briefly and swallowed. When she opened them again, her eyes glittered with unshed tears. “No.”

Suddenly shame-faced in addition to despairing, Rigel looked away. “I hope he treats you as you deserve.”

Lyra closed the windows reluctantly and watched the moon through the leaded glass. By the time the waning gibbous moon had set, she would be married. She set her forehead on the cool, indifferent glass and prayed for it to stand still.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Differences between and hosts blogs: is where you get the wordpress software to upload onto your own server (or that of a friend, family member, or someone you pay to host your stuff). It's important to differentiate, because they're both fantastic, and they're easily confused, because the interface is similar. They have their own breakdown of differences, but this aims to be more descriptive. is nice because you don't have to mess around with a server or, necessarily, with getting your own domain.

Wordpress software is nice because you can do anything you want. Cue maniacal cackling off into the distance.

But more concrete comparisons:

The first thing you did was take out that little Meta toolbar on the side, right? It looks unprofessional and sloppy, though some people dislike it more than others (I hate it).

.com: go to your site/wp-admin or or someone's site where they left up the Meta toolbar. It doesn't matter which, since you can navigate the whole back end of Wordpress after the one login.
Software: go to your site/wp/wp-admin. That's pretty much the only option.

Themes govern most of how your blog appears. Themes are a collection of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) that tell things to align left or align right or show up purple.

.com: There are a variety of free themes, and even more paid ones, and you can almost definitely find one you love. Typically from there you can also select background color or image and header image. If you buy an upgrade, you can also edit the CSS. You don't get access to the CSS files themselves, though, so you are overwriting blind. If you are pretty confident, that's fine, whatever. If you are mostly used to editing and not building and have never bothered to look at the source code for various pages, when Wordpress updates and breaks your theme you will spend several hours drinking and frantically trying to correct the website, while text boxes float around seemingly arbitrarily and look completely different on the three screens you eventually end up looking through because you are trying to fix the header and you've changed the alignment and indent and mandatory margin but you don't actually have access to the files and it doesn't occur to you to override the vertical alignment, and you then switch to a different theme that is not actually broken but does truly horrifying things to your submenus. When you eventually wake up, vodka having beaten panic at about three-thirty in the morning, Wordpress will have fixed it and you will spend the rest of the day in nihilistic despair.
Software: There are myriad themes and you can not only customize the background and header but also look at the CSS and pinpoint that this line of code here governs what color links default to and change just that to make everything violently orange. You will accidentally leave an extra space or digit or apostrophe somewhere and crash the server. Things will need to be reinstalled. You can take comfort in your own agency in the failure.

Seriously, though, themes and editing without messing with the CSS can get you a pretty customized website, and Wordpress is great about fixing their mistakes and errors that crash the server can be corrected.

If you're building a Wordpress site, you freaking love widgets. Widgets are awesome. The Text widget (which lets you insert arbitrary text and HTML) is how you get your Twitter feed or follow button up, and your tumblr follow button, and a lot of the other buttons social networking sites let you generate. But widgets let you do a heck of a lot more than that: they're your Facebook like box and your RSS feed and your contact info and your flickr link and your category cloud. Widgets are how you implement neat features without extensive background in coding.

.com: limited number, but they cover a lot, and the text widget with HTML adds additional functionality.
Software: widgets for the software are actually a feature of the plugins you can get. Plugins for the software are great, because you can get ones that tweet automatically every time you get a new post, or generate a new post every time you tweet, or do all manner of strange and unlikely things. The trick is that they are reviewed but not actively policed, so you need to make sure it actually does what it says it does, and isn't broken.

Akismet is a spam filter, and is how you filter all the comments that are lists of links to scams or are soliciting people to buy knock-off Gucci handbags on your bike site. You want a spam filter. Akismet's pretty good.
.com: it's already there.
Software: you need to install the plugin. It is a terrible amount of work. You have to click, like, three things.

What do you do when you suddenly get lots of traffic on your website?
.com: It absorbs the traffic, and doesn't cost you extra money.
Software: Your server might crash, or you might need more servers. This can cost more, and may or may not be able to respond quickly to a sudden surge.

Which you choose will depend on your comfort with code, your ability to acquire and comfort with self-hosting, and how much you like customizability. They're both excellent platforms, versatile enough for almost everyone.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Everyone's heard about the NSA tapping phones, right? That's not news.

Basically, they're following up on permissions they got in the Patriot Act, when we were all still going 'please take my liberty and give me security and screw Ben Franklin.'

This is a great post that talks about what such measures can lead to.

Which leads to my perennial post about anonymity. I have not posted about it nearly as much as I thought I had, given that I am persistently cranky about it. Anonymity is very hard to do, and true anonymity is something that has to be worked on persistently and in the face of people who would really prefer that you didn't. Things like The Onion Router and other things discussed in Cory Doctorow's Little Brother are good starts, and Cryptocat is a valuable tool, and encryption keys are completely fantastic.

But all of these things take effort, and are very different from posting 'down with the government' or whatever on your Facebook page. If you're going to go through the effort of anonymity, if you care about a cause enough to get active in protesting, posting on your Facebook or whatever about it is actually potentially dangerous to you and everyone who liked it out of abiding bitterness over parking tickets.

So if you care about something deeply? Talking casually about it on the internet is probably one of the last things you want to do. In light of the surveillance abilities of even reasonably democratic governments, making sure everything you say online would meet with the approval of a hyper-judemental theoretical grandmother is a safe bet.

Also, for writers, anonymity is almost always the enemy of publicity.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Things I grew up thinking about the media

Sometimes overwhelmingly it strikes me that other people did not grow up with journalists. As usual, there are people angry on Tumblr about a 'media conspiracy,' utterly outraged that something didn't spin the way it would in their ideal world. I usually abjectly fail to comprehend.

My mom, dad, and step-mom all have journalism degrees. All have worked extensively in print journalism, though none do anymore. They've collectively worked variously in PR (both before and after social media), political campaigns, television, online news coverage, editing (ranging from copy-editing daily newspapers to helping writers organize the content of their history books), and magazines. They imparted three important things:

  1. Journalists lie.
  2. Factcheck everything.
  3. Don't watch Fox News.
Journalists lie.
Every journalist is a person, and people are subject to cognitive biases as well as personal bias. Journalists have a professional code of ethics, but it doesn't cover every circumstance, and journalists are still fallible. Some of them can't find sources who have accurate information, or can't do so by a pressing deadline. Some of them can't or don't find the sources for balanced coverage. Some of them have to work within editorial bounds that include political leaning. Some of them are Joel Stein.

Factcheck everything.
People get things wrong. People misapprehend. People read summaries and then try to summarize them and end up somewhere else completely. No matter how much you adore someone, unless your chief reason for adoring them is rigid and obsessive factchecking, be prepared to check their story before repeating it. Some things, a sanity check is most of what's needed: if a three-headed cow was really born in Nebraska, wouldn't it be more likely to be in an article in Agri-Chemical News than in The National Enquirer? Check as many sources as possible! I ran into an issue last week where I'd only read one news source for a thing, and it wasn't recent enough or comprehensive enough to actually give me the answer I was looking for, but I ended up repeating it anyway, and then retracting my statement and apologizing and feeling very silly.

Usually, I try to check two independent sources before I repeat or reblog (I'm on tumblr a lot these days) any kind of newsy thing. Like the persistent urban legend that Mister Rogers served in the military: no, he didn't. Try to get independent confirmation of things, try to get multiple sources, try to get firsthand accounts, try to get physical proof. The truth is important, and the story you tell with the truth is important.

Don't watch Fox News.
You know that first point about journalists? An important thing to keep in mind is that most of the people who talk on Fox are commentators and analysts and not actually journalists.

Fox lies. Fox fear-mongers. Fox wasn't allowed to broadcast in Canada until 2004, and even now broadcasters are required to monitor it and "abridge or curtail" any hate speech, because it is an active concern. Canada has standards about lying on air, and so Fox isn't allowed out without a leash on.

Fox is sometimes put on the same playing field as news agencies because they present themselves as the more right-leaning news option that is still totes reliable, yo. That's incorrect. There are tons and tons of articles out there enumerating the ways Fox has straight-up lied on air: find them. Check up on me. Factcheck. Just don't do it with The O'Reilly Factor on in the background.

These are the reasons I am dumbfounded when people point out that the story in the Saturday paper is different than the one in the Sunday paper and cry conspiracy or coverup: if it's a normal morning paper and the incident happened late late late Friday night, the journalist who wrote the story probably had an hour or less to find out what happened, get a statement from a witness, write the article, submit it to their copyeditor, and have it sent to Layout to make the deadline. Then they had all of Saturday! That means they got to talk to more people, maybe get a photographer by, and do their own factchecking.

This is mostly a ramble, but if there's anything I'd really like anyone to walk away with, it's that 'The Media' isn't a massive unified faceless machine: it's a few (disturbingly few, but that's a separate issues) corporations and a lot of Editors in Chief and even more journalists, all with slightly different agendas and all with varyingly applicable codes of ethics. The best, and ultimately only, thing you can do to further pursue truth is to think critically about everything.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wix and an SEO rant

I sometimes help people with websites: I've been doing so for the past few years. Mostly simple stuff, setting up pages for authors and editors and friends.

I usually use Wordpress, because it's simple, straightforward, and, while you can get more mileage from it if you know how to override the CSS and edit the HTML manually, you can get a perfectly functional, useful website without any of that knowledge. You can even get a decent website out of Wordpress if you don't feel comfortable poking around with all the settings. Having that low barrier of entry for use is really great, especially for people who want a website but not to live on the internet as they swear at code at 3 in the morning.

I've also worked in Joomla!, which was fine, but required more poking around before I could reliably make it do what I wanted it to. I don't usually recommend it for people, since it did require that experimentation.

The first site I set up for my mom was with Yola, which has convenient drag-and-drop boxes for doing stuff. The second, when she wanted to blog more, was Wordpress, because of the simpler comments features.

This, obviously, is Blogger, and I like it for the stripped down simplicity. I don't need it to do anything fancy or have particular page features, because it's a blog and it blogs and that is all I require of it. I like the clean back end with clear labeling and the option to compose both pages and posts either in rich text or HTML. If someone doesn't want to do fancy things with the appearance of their site and prioritizes the blogging over the static pages, Blogger is a great option.

Today I got to mess around in Wix, which I hadn't before. I don't like that it automatically adds big banners advertising themselves to the bottom of every site. I don't like that on so much of the back end, clicking a link opens a new tab or window. I don't like that the font modification options aren't universal: you have to change them page by page. I don't like that everything is popups. The ability to create an online store is pretty neat. The fact that all elements need to be moved around by hand instead of, oh, going into a neat sidebar, is fucking maddening. It also treats subpages as forms, making links to particular subpages look sloppy. Also, when you view page source (to see wtf is up with the fonts), it treats every subpage as part of the same page, so you are looking at every single element. I'm used to looking at the source for Wordpress, which is full of stuff that governs margins or whatever: endless lines of repetitive whatever, but that doesn't look anywhere near as sloppy. Wix also gives the options to add SEO keywords to pages, which, I guess, could make sense with image-heavy galleries, but is also reflective of a five-years-out-of-date approach to SEO.

Here's the secret to SEO: write about the shit you want to write about. People who are interested in that shit will find your website. If you are an artist who takes commissions, having a blog post that talks about different art styles will bring in people who search for those art styles. They will find you and give you money.  Would keyword stuffing with sex and kittens and whatever be of benefit to you?

It might get you more hits, but is that of benefit to you? You want people to buy art from you. Unless you specialize in like cat pinups or something, you are not attracting people who are interested in what you're doing, you're just getting people who will click things.

Blogger's statistics section shows search keywords that have lead to my blog. Let's look at some of the top ones of all time:


laura bradford interview

eileen young

laura bradford author

adam schreckenberger

amazing spreadsheets

is the kobo vox backlit

So, the first one is people forgetting that this is a .ca blog, and the third, fifth, and sixth are because of interviews I did with people more popular than me. Those all make sense as people who would appreciate the content here.

I've only talked about kishotenketsu once, but people continue to be interested in it, which is great. It's something I was really interested in, so people also interested in it might be interested in other things I talk about here.

Fourth is my name. Excellent. SEO is doing its job.

Amazing spreadsheets is probably because of my 'spreadsheets are amazing' tag.

And the question 'is the kobo vox backlit' probably leads directly to my review of the Kobo Vox, which includes the information that it's backlit and other details about it.

Search engines are designed to take people to what they're looking for. So use common terminology (if you're talking about books, don't call them bound stories or something like that) and correct spelling and provide regular new content, and that is your SEO.

If you're not getting as many hits as you'd like, make sure your website is attached to your profile on every site you're on and post more.

Back to Wix: you can't even configure a Facebook like box to go to a page you've already created. It does some auto-suggestion bullshit.

In conclusion: Wix sucks and I hate it. Only real benefit is the webstore, but that's what eBay and Etsy are for. 2/10, would set fire to again.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


At one point, I had ten weeks of posts queued here.

I am down to two, because I keep forgetting and losing track of days.

Part of that is that I'm just involved in different conversations about writing, on different platforms. I spend a lot of time on tumblr these days: mostly involved in fan things, but discussing writing and story structure nonetheless, and reading a lot more about social justice and science.

I'm also not freelancing, or particularly on the hunt for freelance work. I'm writing as much as I'd like, and don't need this to push myself to write or talk about writing: if anything, I need more of a push to get off the internet and talk to people.

So we're coming off a weekly schedule. New posts will happen whenever, so some manner of subscription will probably be the best way to keep up if you're interested.

Happy writing!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Meta: Victoria

I really enjoy writing about places: the idea of setting as character is an aspect of CanLit that's really stuck with me. I like to think that generally I can keep a narrative going, but this piece was really designed as self-indulgent location-porn. It's not particularly plot-heavy. A lot of the way it's framed is because I can't quite conceive of actually doing travel writing and making it interesting to anyone, but I love architecture and the things that make each place unique.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fic: Victoria

For a city forty miles from the infamous Forks, WA, Victoria gets surprisingly little rain. This is because the Olympic mountains catch all of it for us; on a good day, one can stand in the sun on Dallas Road and watch the rain fall on Washington.

But Dallas Road is all the way out in James Bay, and just the view isn’t worth the 45-minute walk from city hall when one has the glory of downtown to explore. I walk down to Chinatown past the condemned apartment building and the charming self-contained Victoria house, past the construction pit that will be the parking lot for the swank shops going in at the bottom level of the redone Hudson Bay building. The chirping ‘walk’ sign signals me, the two business-women in pumps and skirts, and the meth-head waiting on the corner to cross. I duck into the old brick yarn shop on the corner and browse for a minute, enjoying the air-conditioning and half-heartedly contemplating Christmas presents. It’s July, but if I’m going to make anything, now’s the time to start. But the sheer range in the knitting store makes it hard to choose, and intimidating; what if they judge me for using the wrong kind of yarn for the pattern I’ll inevitably have to buy? They’ve always been nice to me, but I’ve heard rumors about what led to the local knitting societies splitting in two.

Most of the local arts scene is like that, though; the two straight literary magazines are only on speaking terms because of shared editorial staff; the University-managed one is much pickier, and charges more for each copy (but also gives away more free copies), and they can, because they get government sponsorship. The community issue has an acceptance rate of an obscene twenty percent because, without the government sponsorship, they don’t have nearly the advertising budget, and so rarely sell out a print run. And neither of the straight literary magazines so much as acknowledges the Science Fiction magazine unless it’s winning another award; genre fiction makes both editorial boards uneasy and faintly afraid. They are more comfortable with poetry, and would publish their magazines entirely as chapbooks if they weren’t so much work and there was some clear way to pay the bills. And if Munro’s, the largest independent bookstore in the city, whose facade looks somewhere between a Greek temple and a Georgian bank, carried chapbooks. But Munro’s hallowed halls only carry things which have been machine-bound, and so the literary magazines continue contracting with the printers.

The yarn store doesn’t hold me long - people are trouping in for some class or other. I continue towards the harbour and Chinatown, and pass the Chinese school and the Lee Club and the city-commissioned mural which faces the building with the aged and faded “7-up: the Un-cola” ad taking up the upper storey and a half.

I’m in luck; the Chinese bakery is still open. I go in and jostle with four other customers in the shopfront the size of my bathroom to get my hands - separated by medium of tongs - on pineapple buns and melon bread and an egg tart and a Korean barbecue roll. The barbecue roll is still warm, probably fresh from the kitchen in the back, where the owner bakes everything on display. I buy my goods in cash from the owner’s wife in a nearly silent transaction; I speak Mandarin, not Cantonese, which in hindsight seems a silly choice. At the time I was planning things that were utterly derailed by Nanna’s Alzheimers. As I put my change away she goes back to an animated conversation with an old Chinese woman sipping a Tim Horton’s coffee. When people around me are speaking a language I don’t understand, I always have a sneaking suspicion they’re talking about me. Which I know is silly, but, well, I’ve caught some of the French-speakers here at it a few times. The best part is the looks on their faces when I spew Parisian gutter-French at them in retaliation.

I hurry past the tattoo parlor next door, where I can see some aging biker getting something on his bicep, and round the corner to Chinatown proper. It’s the second-oldest Chinatown in North America, and some locals will argue that it’s really the oldest, since San Francisco burned down in 1906 and therefore shouldn’t count anymore. Dragon Alley, which used to be one of the main housing projects in Chinatown, has been turned into upscale shops. It was first designed as a way to pack as many Chinese immigrants into one place as possible, according to the plaque on one wall, but it’s been ‘reclaimed’ by designer dog treats, an exclusive hair studio, and what I’ve heard is an upscale brothel, which has a lovely little water feature in front of it.

But Dragon Alley leads away from my destination, so after I’ve bought Ramune at the crowded Asian grocery store I jaywalk across the main drag of Chinatown (a sleepy two-lane cobbled street) and turn down what looks like a dingy access passage. It opens quickly into Fan Tan alley, the spinster sister of Dragon Alley. There are two resale shops, a used record store, and Triple Spiral, a shop that sells mostly jewelry and Tarot cards. All of the shopfronts are painted bright colors, even though the shopfronts themselves are just the strips of wood outlining windows and doors in the red brick of the colossal building they are all carved out of.

I could cut over to Wharf Street here, avoid all the foot traffic of the end of the work day, but I head to Government Street instead. It’s Thursday, which means that the chalk artist whose name I’ve never learned will have recreated another masterpiece on the sidewalk. I’ve only recognized two so far - Girl With A Pearl Earring and Mona Lisa - but they’re gorgeous, and I love that we have someone here who can do that. He’s done a detail from Waterhouse, this week. I stop in the middle of the sidewalk and juggle my bakery box to dig out a notebook and pen. I want to look up the full painting when I get home (I, unlike everyone even on this island out of time, don’t have a smartphone). I garner a couple annoyed looks from passerby forced to step around me, but other people are slowing to look at the chalk, too.

Past the gargantuan Bay building, which dominates arguably between one and four city blocks, depending how you divvy up the warren of downtown into “blocks,” it’s an easy slope downhill to the Inner Harbour. Darth Vader, a local violinist, is just packing up for the day at his corner across from Visitor Information. I smile at him as I go past, though I can’t see whether he smiles back behind the mask. There’s always some kind of knot of tourists in front of Visitor Information, and I slip through them on my way to the stairs. The stairs hug the seawall on the way down, and are wide and shallow and a little uneven, since they’ve been part of the promenade for something like a century. As usual there’s a mix of homeless artists under patio umbrellas obviously nicked from the seafood grill just up the stairs and around the corner and professionals doing caricatures and selling art cards from small tables. I meander down the promenade to the dock for the bum boats, those tiny little water taxis roughly the size of minivans. If it weren’t for the ocean kayakers, they’d be the smallest thing on the Inner Harbour.

Jeremy finishes his shift, and the bum boat tours for the day, in about twenty minutes, so I park on one of the oversized steps of the promenade, tucking my skirt around me. A quick glance at the Visitor Information clock tower affirms that, yes, I haven’t been able to magically skip ten minutes in the walk down the stairs. I open the bakery box and dig out one of the melon breads to pick at while I wait for him. It’s a far cry from the high tea being served above me and across the street at the Empress Hotel; iconic finger sandwiches in a formal English garden that now hosts a statue of Emily Carr, our homegrown leading light in art. I did tea there once, when I was visiting Nanna a few years ago. When Nanna would think of things like that, and still had the wherewithal to plan them. We’d done a tour of the Legislature, too; the center of government that also served as building-shaped art framing a third of the harbour. The Empress, by the same architect in the same sweeping and gothic style, makes up the center third. And on the left as you entered the harbour is Visitor Information with its useful but entirely unimpressive Art Deco clock tower.

Jeremy is finally done, and I rise to meet him, brushing off the back of my skirt. I snag his arm, and we walk companionably back to his condo in James Bay for dinner and my own personal escape from the obligations that lurk in the heart of downtown.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I've been writing a lot of short fiction recently - character studies and microplots and things from a dozen different perspectives - and one of the things that's been most interesting to work on is cadence. It's part and parcel of syntax, of course, and I've always put sentences together a little weirdly. Sometimes it'll take me a couple passes before I can get something that reads fine and concise to me to parse to anything meaningful at all to other readers.

Part of this is that I learned French as a written language before English, and narrative and dialog have always been very different creatures to me. Dialog just needs to sound like people talk, and I can do that. Narrative needs its own flow, needs to be interspersed with enough dialog, needs to convey information and move plot along without getting mired in itself.

It's the cadence of narrative that I've been working on, how quickly or slowly or trippingly different stories need to go. Re-ordering sentences in ways that do nothing to improve clarity is a new thing for me, but it's been necessary in working on cadence.

Maddeningly, I've so far not found a way to work on cadence that doesn't involve revision and paying attention. It's almost like writing is something that requires effort.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Right now, I'm stuck on a chapter.

I have the chapter outlined: hell, I have the next four chapters outlined, and the last one I have rough ideas about. It's just a matter of getting the words done.

But they won't come. I went back to the beginning of the chapter to read it through and tweak parts and see if I could get the words unstuck. I haven't been able to get all the way through it, because something's just awkward, and I can't pinpoint it, and I know I won't be able to go forward until I can.

So I go through my checklist of things that make writing difficult for me:

Am I ill? No.

Have I slept enough? Yep!

Have I eaten? I had delicious Italian with my dad a few hours ago, and I'm still comfortable from that, though no longer in danger of a food coma. I'm good on that front.

Do I have more pressing obligations that I feel guilty about not accomplishing? Nope, I've finished work for the day, I've made good progress, I'm good on that front.

Am I physically uncomfortable? Well, the temperature's fine, but my back and upper arms kind of think trying the plank exercise yesterday was a bad idea. It's not bad, though, and not distracting while I'm doing nothing more strenuous than typing.

Am I thirsty? Huh, a little bit. I should get a drink.

Is my environment distracting? Well, I'm home alone in the apartment, and it smells nice because we have candles that make it smell like a bakery with a vanilla fetish. I have music on quiet, and adequate light, and my comfy chair, but there's a cardboard box in the corner from a thing we unpacked last night, and dishes in the sink that I know I need to deal with.

So I'm going to go do dishes and drink water and recycle and hope that when I'm done this stupid fucking chapter stops being hard to write. If that fails I may knit and read for a while.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


One of the reasons I'm on Blogger rather than Wordpress is that I love the back end. It's high-contrast and the writing area for posts is big and there are fewer buttons.

I like simple. I like clean. For this blog, I don't need the advanced design and media that come with Wordpress, because all I'm doing is blogging. Wordpress is where I work, Blogger is where I play.

I didn't leave everything completely default, though. I have pages - all there visible at the top - because I do things and you can give me money for them. In my sidebar I have a short bio and a pic because it tells you who you are reading, and a list of links to find me on those other sites that I regularly use, and a place to subscribe by email or publicly recommend my blog. I have my archives, neatly in drop-downs, so that you can navigate. I have a cloud of tags, to give you another way to navigate and also because it amuses me greatly that the tag 'Seneca Crane's beard' has more than one post attached to it.

I have a blogroll of other sites to check out, because some of my friends and family also have internet presences and that's neat. I also have the World Community Grid square there, because that's a neat project that more people should be involved in.

Most of the blog is black and white, because that's easy to read, and I like easy to read and simple. The background is yellow because I wanted some colour, and yellow is cheerful. I also picked yellow because I looked up some stuff on colour-blindness and it looks reasonably similar no matter what kind of colour-blindness one has. That was a thought, because my dad is colour-blind and I'm ridiculously sentimental.

Sometimes design is about more than just branding, or other factors, like wanting it no-fuss, will inform branding and design decisions. For me, it was important that these decisions be made deliberately, because I didn't want to put something together only to change it later when I thought of something better.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


As part of the great diaspora of talent on the internet, a lot of things, such as writing, that can be learned about through degree programmes or books on the subject, can also now be learned about through short instructional written bits, called tutorials.

For a lot of people, me included, it's nice to be able to look up a specific piece of information and be told about the process. That's how I re-taught myself to knit, too: I went to and watched videos of how to cast on and then watched knitting videos, and then, when I was working on other projects, looked up specific increases and decreases.

But my thoughts on knitting are not what you're here for.

Actually, I'm not sure what you're here for, as apparently most of you are Russian Linux users and therefore probably cooler than me.

Writing tutorials are interesting. I posted one a couple weeks ago - more of an insulting crash course in the addressing comma, but it does count as a tutorial. I normally don't do those. I normally don't do anything approximating tutorials, because I am not comfortable speaking from a position of authority about writing in general. I am willing to go on for several minutes [link goes to audio file] about things that don't work for me at all as a writer or reader, but I tend not to spend a lot of time on the things that work for me. This is because different things work for different people, and there is no one true way to write.

For example, Horatio Alger and Stieg Larsson were both bestselling authors. I adore Larsson's prose, but reading Alger makes me want to stab myself in the face. These preferences mean that I do not have an absolute authority on what makes popular writing, and popular writing is often what people are aiming for in their endeavors. Therefore any tutorials by me would not address a full spectrum of possible right ways. I feel, then, that any tutorials I could write would be less than ideal, and, as a perfectionist, I therefore refrain from writing them (swearing about addressing commas is different: it is possible to be objectively wrong).

Other people have different approaches, and some people write fantastic writing tutorials because they can get over being obsessively perfectionist and just write down the things they know that work. What sparked this post, though, was a tutorial on writing fanfiction that has received a great deal of positive feedback. Holy shit, people, use your critical thinking skills when assessing whether something is good advice or not. Just because someone can put together The Ultimate Handbook or whatever does not automatically mean they have any idea what they're talking about.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Project Update #2

The project I mentioned last time has been sidelined for the moment - there are still things with tone and voice and world that I have to hammer out. If I'm not deeply invested in her story, why would anyone else be?

In the meantime, I've been working on EMTstuck, another Homestuck fanfiction. I have the main story, which progresses slowly, and I've been trying to write a blurb a day. Some days I don't manage it, while some days are really productive, so I've been queuing posts so that one comes out per day. It's a great, low-stress way to get words out: the world is already pretty fleshed out, as are the characters. There's no urgent plot, and all the readers are already familiar with everything. I get to write to get words out, and practice writing tight voice.

I finished a novella, which should be out soon. I started the sequel to it, which is going to address the concept of family secrets. But as the first one took three years, I think the second one probably will, too, and I'm not going to force it. Setting it up the way I did, the first one has the best emotional impact of anything I've written. I'll talk more about that next week, though - I might even have other good news relating to it.

I've also been working on a short story, set in the fourteenth century, which is going to be about 8000 words when done.

This is one of the reasons EMTstuck is important - it gets me writing even when I'm not absorbed in something, so that my skills don't atrophy completely while I'm knitting this dress.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Commas, dialog, and swearing

I read a lot of free romance novels.

A lot.

We're not going to go into numbers here, because I have no idea: I delete most of them as soon as I finish, if not before. There's a reason for that!

There's a lot I'm willing to forgive in free books: medical implausibility, silly premise (I actually go out of my way for pretending-to-be-married and arranged marriage stories), slavish adherence to archetype. One thing that drives me absolutely batty, though, is absence of the addressing comma and other failures at punctuating dialog.

Thus, I present an educational short story:

"Motherfucker, where is my cheese?" asked John. John is calling for Steve's attention by addressing him. Because calling for his attention is not integral to the rest of the sentence, it gets a comma after it. 'Asked' is not capitalized because it is part of the dialog tag: it is adding context to the way the words are being said.

Steve shrugged. "Why should I know? Have you checked the fridge, asswipe?" Steve shrugging is a separate sentence before he speaks: shrugging is not a way of communicating words in spoken language, so it is not a dialog tag, just an action that occurs in the same paragraph. If I wanted only one sentence, it would begin 'Steve shrugged, saying, "Why. . .."' Asswipe is not capitalized, because it is an epithet and not a proper name.

It is not motherfucking hard, motherfuckers. There is a comma before motherfuckers because this whole post can be taken as an apostrophe to people who keep messing it up, and I like calling people names.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

First of the year

My new year this year was sadly lacking in both bagpipes and Auld Lang Syne, but I got to spend it with a couple of my favourite people, just hanging out and being silly.

This year, I am living in Wisconsin, trying to get reciprocity for my BC EMR license.

This year, I am working entirely online, trying to keep myself to regular work hours and focus, with mixed success.

This year, I have a completed novella waiting for a cover before it's published, and a lot of confidence.

I've also gotten a lot more comfortable with my fannishness, because fanfiction is fun and relaxing and allows a focus on a specific thing or interaction or theme, which can be communicated more clearly because readers are already familiar with canon.

I've knit more things, too, including my first pair of socks. Up for this year: a sweater-dress.