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!