Monday, December 27, 2010


I pick on Stephenie Meyer a lot in my private life. It's mostly just jealousy because she has had such huge success selling such blatant mediocrity. Most writers who bitch and moan about her books are probably feeling the same way. They're pissed. I've been reading her books this holiday season as a sort of 'research' project, and I am annoyed at how I am compelled forward to read what is inherently predictable and utterly absurd.

I have to face it... for a pre-teen, these books are f**king brilliant. I had to suck it up and admit that yesterday, when I bought yet the next installment to read. Like most romance novels, the premise is simple... but girl A with boy B, give them lots of passionate feelings and then drag out the 'union' for as long as possible, and present it with as many challenges (contrived or not) that you can throw in to make it interesting.

He's a vamp. 'I'm too dangerous for you, young lady yet I cannot stay away' boy. She's 'special'... ordinary but not... something the simpering teenaged girl readers can relate to but with something exceptional that makes her attractive to this extraordinary piece of moody, broody, angsty and sparkling perfection that is the boy. It is excruciatingly trite, the whole thing... the vampire family, the teen-yearning, the angst, the never-ending and very contrived discussions about why this could or could not work... the hapless and clueless and wolfy second-runner-up... a few random crises to give the book some measure of momentum, and the heroine needing constant rescue. It's barfworthy. It's perfection.

Stephenie's writing style is simplistic but with just the right amount of sophistication (she must have a fabulous editor) that it draws the reader in; even cantankerous, jealous indie authors like me, who can only dream of that kind of readership for their work. Add in the enigmatic titles, the pretty covers... you've got a decent product... I cannot deny that this is really a brilliant scheme.

I have to say though, I watched the twilight movie the other day in 12 parts on youtube, and I found the movie to be a bit better put together than the book. Namely because the book concentrates mostly on Bella and Edward's angsty and passionate interchanges for the duration, and the murderous vamps just sort of randomly appear as if action is an afterthought... but in the movie, they are hinted at from the beginning, and made to let you believe that the murdering vamps could possibly be Edward or his family. Despite the movie sucking pretty badly, it at least got that right.

The whole vampires playing baseball thing had me in stitches, I admit. Okay, the whole thing had me in stitches... this is no Austen, that is for sure... It's pulp as much as my stuff is pulp... but I'm still reading it, and still buying her goddamn e-books... so that says a lot.

Next up... The Harry Potter series. A girl's gotta know. ;)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

He turned away.

They’re reaching, they’re grasping,
They’re smiling and asking
Her questions that she doesn’t hear.

Their faces are crowding,
They’re all talking loudly,
They see her but she isn’t there.

They claim that they care
While they all strip her bare
And they greedily take in the show.

He watches this madness
He can see all her sadness
Underneath her gaze, he knows.

He turned away,
He closed his eyes,
He knew her shame
Under her disguise.
He saw the soul
Underneath the skin
That the others longed
To crawl within.
He turned away,
He was being kind,
Showing her in truth
That he saw her mind.
He turned away.

They decided and chided
And sometimes they guided
Because they all thought that they knew best.

He watched and he frowned
They turned her life upside-down.
But he wasn’t at all like the rest.

She’s exposed and she’s naked
While the rest of them take it,
He can just avert his eyes.

Her unseeing gaze
Caught the turn of his face
And she thought she was going to die.

Because he turned away
He closed his eyes
He knew her disgrace
Under her disguise
He gave her space
Gave her a reprieve
He turned his back
But he didn’t leave

He turned away.
He closed his eyes
He turned away.
From all the lies.
He turned away
He turned away

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The christmas giving tree.

It always seems almost trite to hear people discussing the meaning of Christmas. This year, however, is a difficult year. For myself, my husband and my family. Layoffs, elevating prices... we decided we were not going to ‘do’ Christmas this year. We were going to buy 1 present for the 1 nephew, and the adults can survive fine without tchotchkes that mean little at all. We would try to adhere to the ‘meaning’ of Christmas and not to the commercial aspect of it. I am comfortable with this decision, we will gather for the holiday, and share the love, but save a buck or two.

Anyway, each year, I try to participate in a ‘giving tree’. I love the idea. Last year, I got a nine-year-old boy who asked for clothes. I went to Old Navy and went wild. I bought something like $80 worth of hoodies, jeans, shirts and so on. I hope they fit him, and I hope he liked them.

This year, I went with a local giving tree for kids in my neighbourhood up here near Mount Hood. Talking to the woman who was hanging the cards on the tree, I was appalled to hear that there were so many kids around us who lived in abject poverty, and who had absolutely nothing. Of course, to me it’s not about the ‘having’... but for a kid who probably won’t even get the basics ... I felt it was important for the child to have the experience of surprise and of getting something simple and something you want.

I usually pick kids who ask for practical things, because I have this old-fashioned notion that it’s better to buy them practical things. But this year, I saw a tag that said: 8-year-old girl. Wants: makeup and small toy horses. My brain said: “Aw”. And then it melted and I was thrown back a few decades into my memory.

I wasn’t a girly kid. I still don’t wear makeup or froo-froo pink things. I wear sensible shoes and jeans and sweaters, and I keep my lion’s mane of curls long and crazy. I hate dolls); they creep me out and always have. I did have barbies when I was little, but they were not the little fashion models and hair-do dolls that they were for other girls. For me, my barbies were characters in an epic fantasy story that spanned years of my life; like a soap opera. Ken was the guy who was either evil or was the fall-guy for the story, and the far manlier 12” GI Joes were the main squeezes. I had Sindy, a European version of Barbie, and since she was way better jointed and way prettier by my standards, she was usually the heroine, and the other Barbies and non-barbie fashion dolls held court. I made them costumes, and they had horses and I would spend hours upon hours acting out the epic. I took this very seriously. I was a weird kid, but I find that most fantasy writers I’ve met were weird kids. We always exist both inside our imagination and in the ‘real world’; no matter how old we get, we do it. But ultimately, I was still a kid, and if I think about what it felt like then to get something that you *really* wanted, to open up that Christmas paper and to have your expectations met, or even better; exceeded, it’s an amazing thing.

When I was about seven or eight, we lived in a duplex shared with an older couple whose daughter had already moved away. The husband was a curmudgeony old dude who spoke rarely, and the wife was a wonderful homemaker who obviously missed having her daughter about. They heard the craziness of my family through the shared wall of the house, I suppose... the screaming arguments, the slamming doors, and they saw what a weird, despondent little soul I was and took pity on me. I wish I could remember their names. Anyway, I spent inordinate amounts of time next door, eating delicious Belgian leek soup, and holding boards straight for the old man while he sawed them. They both doted on me in their own way. One year, I was over there hanging out in their dark, cozy sitting room, eating some cookies, listening to the grandfather clock tick its heart out, and wishing I belonged to them. The lady of the house appeared in her flowery apron carrying a toy catalog.

“Show me what you want St. Nicholas to bring you this year,” she told me, handing me the catalog. Guileless and clueless as a child can be, I opened up the glossy pages, and filled my eyes with all the wonderful things. It never occurred to me that she planned on getting me anything; I thought it was a sort of game of fantasy, perhaps. My family never asked the question what we wanted... never took the time to figure it out; so a lot of times, I got things that were hit or miss. Baby dolls and clowns that freaked me out and I didn’t touch. So, seeing a catalog full of everything a kid could want, I pointed out a huge array of stuff and told her why I liked each thing and how they would fit into the story I was playing out, sometimes even on their sitting room floor (I would carry the stuff over a lot). She listened and took mental note. When I was done pointing out Sindy’s horses, her riding attire, furniture pieces, and all other things... I promptly forgot about the exercise and went to enjoy a Tartine made with paté. A few days before Christmas, a huge suitcase appeared on the cement railing between our duplexes, and it had my name on it. Inside, was every last thing I pointed out in the catalog. Imagine my surprise; one, to get such special attention, and such a smorgasbord, but two, to see that the neighbour had been so thoughtful as to remember each and every thing. It was astonishing and wonderful and it made me feel really special.

I am really think that the kids who ask for practical things are either passively or overtly being pressured to by adults to do so—and that deep down, they want toy horses and cars and games more than they want Old Navy jeans. But when you’re not in a position to be demanding, when you are asking for charity, you are going to do what’s sensible to insure nobody judges you ill for it. So I was pretty struck by the little card with the honest response on it in her shaky handwriting. She wanted makeup and she wanted toy horses. I saw it and I immediately wanted that girl to feel what I felt that Christmas long ago, and so I snatched up her tag, and went shopping today. My work gave us $50 gift cards to a local store called Fred Meyer last week. I took that card, went to Freddies, and blew most of it on her.

I got this huge makeup kit with all sorts of eye-shadows, blushes, lipsticks, nail polishes and liners and in sparkly colours. It’s awesome. To pair with the kit, I got this adorable makeup box for her to keep her things in, with pink ‘kisses’ all over it. I also bought her a really cute little set of Breyer-brand horses that I know she’ll love. I got a huge Christmassy bag to put it all in, and some curly-q bows, and made sure she’d have something to open up and delight in. I normally HATE shopping. I hate stores. But I confess, I had more fun shopping for those silly things than I ever had shopping for members of my family, and the ungrateful, quite entitled kids in it. I enjoyed it because I knew she’d love it. It wouldn’t be the forced smile and the ‘oh, one of these things...” looks when she opens the bag. For that I’m sure.

So no, we are not doing Christmas this year except for two kids; one who expects it and takes it for granted and the other who will surely be delighted in a simple gesture. Merry Christmas kid, whoever you are. You made my Christmas. :^) It’s selfish, I know... but it was such fun.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Formula

We are all influenced by what we see and read. All writers are. We all have dynamics that we repeat; characters we tend to carry from story to story—it’s what we do. Some write entirely for themselves, so they don't pay much heed to formula and style; but those of us who write for others, we have a moral duty to not be repetitive, unoriginal and predictable. Who wants to fall into formula? Why spend so much time writing a manuscript that has been written before?Avoiding that is hard. Part of avoiding having your story sound like every other story in its genre is to read and watch, and to inject YOU into what you write, no matter what the genre is.

I’ve known a few people in my life who don’t read much despite writing. They claim it’s so they aren’t influenced by other books, but in a lot of cases, they simply don’t realize that they’re writing something that’s been done a bazillion times, and if you just take away the details like the settings, the time frame, things like that, the core of the story, the character, the motivations, the plot is the same as pretty much every other book on the shelf. Let’s face it, the world has been going on doing its thing for sometime, and the written word has been around for a bit; so it’s not that easy to have an original idea any more. Case and point... how many remakes and sequels are we seeing these days? They’re want for material... And so are novel writers.

Pitfall: Predictability.
If you look at your story objectively, do you think it’s predictable? Do you think that the happenings would be expected? Would the love be requited, would plot take a turn, would your reader be surprised and taken off-guard? Staying away from formula means staying away from predictability. Avatar was a wonderful movie to watch, but we all knew the moment we saw it that he’d be riding that really giant orange/red dragon everyone feared in order to secure the respect of the people. Avoid pointing things out... in many stories, the author will mention something seemingly innocuous ... a broomhandle hitting the floor... a window with broken shards of glass... it's transparent and it takes away the surprise. The reader is automatically going to know that it’s going to be related to the next bit. Don’t be obvious. It’s annoying.

Pitfall: Archetypes:
The tired ex-soldier who needs revenge; the comedic sidekick; the jaded warrior, the strong chick that really secretly wants to be objectified, pursued and rescued; the untamed, willful woman who is tamed by the strong-willed hero; the dogged underdog, the grunting strongman... let’s face it; you might as well be picking characters from an MMORPG character builder these days... there are so many old, boring archetypes. Your characters are supposed to be real people in the story. They have backgrounds, they have motivations, even the good people have flaws... they don’t do things just because, they hesitate before they jump into the fire, the bad guys can be likable, heroes can make mistakes.

Pitfall: Recycled Settings.
Impersonal and recycled settings can get old quickly. It’s one thing to create settings, but another to make them yours as an author. What makes fiction good is the believability of the places you describe, the detail that puts the reader in your head. Pulling from your own life, your loves, you can create something intriguing for others to ‘see’. Pulling from the basic novel 101 settings, like Middle Earth, or New York, or L.A. with no personal references to it, no details is going to make it seem generic. It’s the little restaurants nobody knows about, it’s the shape of a window, and it’s the quality of sound in a room... you have to put your readers somewhere they can picture; and not rely on past authors’ renderings to support the ‘realness’ of your settings.


If you just write something that seems generic, or like another author’s work, it’s nothing but Fan Fiction. What makes a story readable isn’t just the story, it’s what is added of the author’s own personality and life experience. Even the most bizarre places should still be believable, which means you have to inject some of yourself into what you write, and not just write a story where A character goes to B character and fights them over C character who is in D location.

Don’t be formula! Don’t be predictable. Your characters should be as real as the people in your life, and don’t create worlds that are someone else’s... inject your own world, whether or not it’s somewhat fabricated or it’s a study of the neighborhood outside your door. As a reader, I implore you. As a writer, I implore myself. ;)

Friday, November 12, 2010


They weren't simpletons. They knew deep down he wasn't really their son. They had to know. But their misery and their loss had afforded him a place with them, and for all intents and purposes he was Jacob McVeigh. It simply didn't matter to them. For him, for this Jacob impostor, despite having entered this situation with less than stellar motives, it somehow worked out--it changed him, it made him better. Somehow. He acclimated. He settled; something he'd never done before in all his days. He actually liked being Jacob. Liked it enough to let it become him.

He'd learned about them through Brian Walsh; the man who killed Jacob--the creature that had made him disappear. Brian was huge man. Elephantine in a compact way, broad, thick shoulders book-ending a wide, dense chest. He had a round head with shifty green eyes, with tiny ears; his blonde hair was chopped into the standard buzz-cut all the inmates got. He had surprisingly small feet for a giant frame like his. He stood at 6'10"; he had to duck through the metal grate of the cell door to get in and out. ‘Jacob' had made him take the lower bunk.

Jacob making any man that size do what he wanted was part of what made him different. He wasn't a small man; but one of decent height. In a fight, he would have been snapped like a twig by the likes of Brian, but Jacob's special ability for manipulation made the monster his pet. Brian, the heartless murderer, the simpleton, the ham-handed buffoon, was Jacob's personal bulldog. He had to only gaze into the beady, vacant eyes with his own piercing laser-blue gaze, and the tiny mind within would roll over and bare its belly to him. Brian saw a mightier beast in that gaze, a deeper, darker, angrier creature than he could ever hope to be. And far, far smarter.

"It's gotta be the weirdest thing..." the giant would mumble in his oddly high-pitched voice, " look just like him, I tell ya. Jus' exactly like him. It's either that or I'm just seeing you this way ‘cuz I did what I did to him." Brian had starting listing his victims to Jacob the moment he was shoved into the cell with the huge man. Brian was in prison for killing a young man he'd picked up on the streets. Jacob... the real Jacob was a similar victim. He arrived in the city, a young and confused runaway-and immediately his innocence was dashed so terribly, he never recovered; never found normalcy, or goodness. Just a life of drugs and prostitution. He just ended up one of many unknown victims of the darkness. Dead in some ditch, not even given the dignity of being recovered. The buffoon could do one thing right; and that was hide a body.

At first, the fake Jacob didn't really care. He counted Jacob among the other victims the beast boasted about killing... the ones he'd "gotten away with"; the ones that were never proven or never found. He confided in him all of his conquests. And Jacob-the-false sometimes listened sometimes didn't. He stared patiently at the ceiling. Time was of no concern to him. He wasn't in for so long. As his sentence began to wind down, he knew it was time to find that persona, to discover his identity. And then the assertions of his similarity to this Jacob came back to him. He used his library time to find information on the victim doppelganger, Jacob McVeigh. And he found a plethora of information; and a sad little website made by friends and family with pictures of him just before he ran away and disappeared... and yes, the ox was right. The kid looked like a seventeen year-old version of the man Brian shared his cell with. Jacob-the-false had more angles on his face, a gruffness to him... but the same piercing blue eyes, the same crooked smile, the same swarthy tones. He realized he could easily pass as the boy... all grown up--weathered a bit, maybe by life, but nonetheless, he could do it. And so he decided he would become Jacob McVeigh. He would become him and live the life the boy might have had if he hadn't left, if he hadn't been destroyed by his own desperation and murdered by a massive lumbering pile of very stupid flesh.

He set up an email address through a free service, and clicked on the contact link on Jacob's website.

Jacob the new, Jacob the imposter... With a quiet, whimsical smirk, he gave the beast one last cutting gaze, and then followed the swaggering corrections officer down the corridor, ignoring the comments and the glares of the inmates he'd virtually ignored for eight years. They all sensed his power, and they feared him. As they walked away, one guard called out a request to the plexiglass window where more guards watched, and the cell door jerked into motion. Just before the aperture became too restricted; Brian stepped out of the cell, and with a besotted grin, climbed up onto the railing of the mezzanine, and with an crazed laugh, he threw himself down the forty feet to the common, where his round head cracked open on the hard, scuffed concrete floor.

The commotion didn't slow Jacob's release; which he expected it would. He was given his old clothes in a black garbage bag, and a Ziploc bag of his meager possessions. The smell of cigarette smoke wafted up at him from the clothes as he pulled them out. He was slightly amazed by the longevity of the aroma. Eight years, and it was like he'd just stepped out of the bar where he'd been arrested. He put the clothes back on, not liking that it felt like his old persona was wrapping itself around him again; he was not liking it at all.

His ID card was there. Richard Mosely gazed back at him, his face a mirror to the blank mask that was in front of it. Richard Mosely wasn't there anymore, wasn't needed. With a flick of the wrist the card sailed into the garbage bin, along with along stale pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He put his fairly empty wallet into his back pocket; donned a slate-gray jacket, and strode out of the room, where he was accompanied through the series of gates that led to the unknown. It took him a moment to realize he was out. One minute it was gate after gate, buzzing him through, turning keys, latching bolts, and then suddenly, he was standing facing the a row of boarded up houses. The slam of the gate behind him reminded him of what he was doing and where he was. He straightened. He needed new clothes. A new persona. He was Jacob now.

The loss was so evident in her eyes, he could have probably looked like Brian the beast, and she probably would have believed him. She clutched herself to him, and her embrace was hard and desperate, the sobs, the snot, the excitement loud in his ear. For a moment he might have even felt it, the warmth, the acceptance, the love, but only for that moment. In the beginning his hardness had persisted; they decided it was a side-effect of the trauma of his prior life. He would soften eventually, smile again, drink beer with pop and work on the truck together. But now, when it was all new, he was stiff. It was okay. He had reason. They didn't ask him questions. They didn't want to; they didn't want to trip up the imposter. They just wanted their son back, and he would do well enough.

Helen and Stan. Stan and Helen. She was a tiny thing, 5'2 at most, her steel grey hair was straight and heavy, once a glossy black like Jacob's. She kept it to just below the shoulders in length, a hard straight line of hair, and bangs also in a neat line that still somehow softened her face. She was pear-shaped, with a pretty face and glisteny blue eyes. She wore black slacks with modest flats and a little top of magenta. She'd gotten all dressed up to fetch him at the station. There was no need for manipulation on Jacob's part; they were willing victims of his scam; they were eager and loving. Stan was a taller man, slender and grey. He had a face that showed many years of kindness, and eyes of dark blue nested in the heavy folds of his lids. His jeans looked like they would slide off him at any given moment, they were the dark blue variety, which had a crisp seam down the front of the legs ironed right into them. With that, he had a perfectly pressed pale yellow button-down shirt on, tucked into his belt, which was pulled up almost to his chest. The clothes were stiff on his lanky, bony frame.

"Jay-jay..." he kept saying, tears filling his reddened eyes, " boy, it sure is good to see you. You sure have lost some weight, you're a skinny one; that's sure about to change, mom'll put some meat on your bones; she remembered you know; she remembered your favorite and cooked up a whole batch of shepherd's pie for you, it's all waiting for you, do you have bags? Let's get them in the car..." he rambled. Helen clung to his arm, gazing up at his face simply beaming with love and happiness. He knew it, though, he felt it; that they knew. But he also felt that they didn't want to believe it, or that they didn't care. Now they had someone to fuss over, someone who wanted to be with them, someone who wouldn't break their hearts and run away and desert them. No, this Jacob came to them, and they wanted him back. They wanted him.

He folded his frame into the rickety 1950 chevy truck, squeezing in next to mom while dad turned the ignition. He'd kept the thing pristine; a shining blue, the chrome almost undamaged. It roared to life, and he looked at Jacob expectantly; waiting for him to comment on the truck, waiting for him to recognize it, to acknowledge the familiarity of it. Instead Jacob just smiled blankly at the old man. Stan simply put it in gear and drove, turning his gaze back to the road, too happy for it to matter. They had their Jacob back, nothing else mattered. Nothing else mattered at all.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ma raison d’être.

I’ve always been a confused soul. I still, at close to 40, don’t know what direction I want to go. Some kids have their future and career all figured out by career day in their sophomore year… others, like me, sort of dangle without bearing or direction pretty much their whole lives, not really fitting in anywhere. The things I went to school for? They are completely uninteresting and useless to me now. We try one type of job, we do pretty well at it, but it gets boring; then we try another type of job, tackle it as a challenge, master it, and then get bored with it and stop caring. That’s been the story of my life. All the assessment tests, IQ tests, career placement tests, all the high-hopes for my becoming an engineer, a scientist or a Nobel Peace Prize winner… Laughable. None of that helps anyone figure out what they are really meant to do, and what really makes them happy and feel fulfilled as human beings.

My résumé is a patchwork. I start my professional life off in the non-profit sector as and AmeriCorps*VISTA and I just go haywire after that… from marketing and graphic design to payroll management, copywriting and ad creation to office management, to now, environmental work. Seriously; it’s like having multiple personality disorder. I can do a wide variety of things, but who looks at a résumé like mine and says: “Whoa, there’s someone who’ll stick around?” Dude, unless the job you’re offering changes constantly, and doesn’t become rote… sure (but that job does not exist). But if I do the same thing year after year… I’m going to move on at some point. As evil Willow says, in my all-time favourite TV series ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’... “Bored now.”

I do know two things for certain: 1) I’m happiest when I’m creating things; and 2) I’m happiest when I have the freedom to really write. Writing is the only consistent craft that has stuck with me from childhood. I’m one of those people that tries everything; wood-carving.. bored with it. Painting.. meh… Pottery… pfft… ::sigh:: Writing on the other hand… that one just never went away. I started reading at a young age, and the idea of being a story-teller was very appealing to me. So I would write clumsy little stories. This sense of creativity was fostered by an exceptional teacher in the fifth grade, who read us wonderful stories, who had us performing abridged versions of Shakespeare, who turned words into images, and who taught us to write, illustrate and to bind our own books.

Life affects your creativity. It’s a given. The more work demands of you, the more your family demands of you, the less you write. In my twenties, I churned out several novels. They were all extremely bad, of course, but it shows that there was a well of creativity and I had the energy to stay up until three or four AM (my creativity really peaks between midnight and four AM—not sure why) and still function at work. Of course, these days, I can’t do those hours any more. The older we get, the less time we have for what is ultimately (unless you’re Stephenie Meyer or JK Rowling) a past-time that is squeezed in between your work day, and children (if you’ve got them) and horses and all other things. I can’t afford to make it my career, so it is a peripheral thing. So I am pretty much always unsatisfied with the way things are. I’d simply rather be writing than doing anything else.

So, I am squeezing what is in essence, my raison d’être into whatever free time I have, and trying my damndest to find that creative pool inside me where I can tap into it. It’s not easy. Stress, family, work… it taps you out. I drive home on my daily commute; an hour each way, and I try to formulate ideas in my head as I do… what’s the idea? Where is the story going? … Most of the time I end up dwelling on immediate concerns; deadlines, parents, family crises, marital spats… It’s really frustrating.

Many of us less than famous authors are faced with this conundrum every day. Somehow, some of us manage to put together a product to sell… Some are good, some are miserably bad… but it’s a hard thing to juggle; trying to succeed as an author in addition to living a life and working a job like every other schlub. We have to dig into our pockets for editors (at least some of us do) and we have to act as designers and marketers to boot. We have to send query after query and receive rejection after rejection. But fundamentally, it’s important to us to get our work out there; as a sense of accomplishment in the art that we love, as a way to validate that this is what we are meant to do. It’s worth it, even if we aren’t selling millions and being picked up by Hollywood; even if we are barely breaking even, or in some cases, losing money.

Writing is my survival… it is my healing. Writing is my escape as much as reading is. When I think I can’t cope, I write. When I feel like I need to express something I’ve been internalizing, I write. I stay up late, and pay for it dearly the next day; I squeeze in some time on my net-pad during lunch, but I write. Jobs and careers might come and go, but all through it, I’m still writing. It’s what I was meant to do.

Friday, October 29, 2010


“Why Vivian, you are being most unkind. How can you speak so cruelly of Mr. Davenport if you have yet to make his acquaintance?” Clara exclaimed archly, dabbing some more rouge onto her cheekbones and then blending it expertly into a natural flush. She looked unusually fresh this evening, which irritated her sister Vivian. Ella, the servant girl, waited until Clara was finished applying her colours, and lifted the stays over her head, gingerly trying to get them on without mussing Clara’s perfect ringlets. “Ella, stop!” Clara snapped, swatting at the girl, and connecting twice rather loudly on her arm and shoulder. She pulled on her own stays, and adjusted herself in them for a moment, slapping Ella’s hands away every time she reached out to assist. “Leave me alone, you simpleton, stop touching me. Goodness you’re more work than of help. You’re more useful doing nothing!” The servant girl frowned, and stepped away, her head hanging and her eyes glassed over.

Vivian remained tightlipped and suspired through her nose, rising from the chair by the armoire, she moved in to assist her sister to slide the wooden busk into the pocket in the front of her stays. The busk was a smooth, beautifully shaped piece of chestnut, with Arthur Davenport’s name carved on it. It slid easily into the pocket between her breasts and down the center of her front—close to the heart. Such an insipid practice of carving a name in a busk was just the sort of romantic tripe Clara would lap up—proven by the five-book high stack of vapid gothic romance novels Clara kept by her bed. Vivian then brusquely tightened the laces of Clara’s corset, making her gasp out as the stays tightened around her ribs. Ella moved to the armoire to fetch the petticoat and the gown. She sported a small, satisfied smirk every time she heard Vivian rent another gasp out of her sister.

“My goodness, Vivian, do you need to be so harsh?” she snapped, her blond curls bouncing, emerald eyes flashing her annoyance. Vivian just smirked to herself and gave her one more hard tug before fixing them with a knot.

It was no wonder Clara always had such a buffet of devoted suitors to choose from. From the moment of her coming out, she was the prize all the gentlemen wanted. She was perfection. Her frame feminine and petite, with lovely curves and the generous swell of her breasts rose up against a fair, peachy décolletage. Her face was rosy and smooth, lips red and plump, eyes sparkling green with hair the colour of wheat, which now hung in shining coils down the sides of her face. Her voice had a girlish air, something of a vulnerability to it which seemed very attractive to the gentlemen. She sang like an angel, and played the pianoforte extremely well.

Vivian took the gowns from Ella, and then kindly shooed her away with a gentle smile. She took over the task of helping Clara put on her light summer petticoat, and then over that, the wisp of a snow white muslin gown--so sheer it could have been made of dragonfly-wings. She lifted it over her head and offered her each arm of the back, which her sister carefully snaked her arms through, pulling the bodice up and adjusting it. Clara pinned the inner front of the bodice closed while Vivian slid the skirt ties through the loops at the back, and handed them to her sister from behind. Clara tightened them around the high waist, and tied them into a bow, tucking the ends into the skirts before lifting and buttoning the stomacher into place. She tugged and fluffed the long, columnar skirts, and then twisted and turned to study her figure in the long mirror.

Vivian felt a momentary burn of envy. How could she be born sibling to such a golden goddess? Vivian was the opposite in every way; where Clara was rosy, Vivian was pale; where her hair was gold, Vivian’s was raven-black, where the eyes were warm summery green, Vivian’s were a cool, crisp wintry blue. Clara moved with the grace of a doe, Vivian more with the air of a predator.

“Well, at least now we can settle our disagreement, Vivian…” Clara declared, adjusting a curl here, smoothing an eyebrow with her finger, “…for you meet Arthur tonight, and I am certain you will find it impossible not to adore him as I do—and you will see how he is far superior to any other man.”

“I’m sure he is…” Vivian muttered, stepping back from her sister, and clasping her pale hands together in front of her stomach. Clara gave a quick appraisal of her sister’s powdery blue muslin gown and her rose-red slippers. “You look well, Vivian…” she said with little enthusiasm, seeming a bit put off by it in her tone, as if she did not wish even the smallest competition for her gentleman’s attentions. Vivian merely nodded, and waited for her sister to pass by her, the small train of her gown sliding along behind her as she left her chamber. Vivian reached to close the door behind her, giving Ella a furtive glance as she dashed through the doorway before it closed. She set the latch and then followed her sister down the stairs. Clara was radiant as the candlelight caught her glow. Vivian was but a shadow at her heels.

Their mother sat with the gentleman by the hearth. He glanced up when they entered the drawing room, his dark eyes softening at the sight of the girls. Clara sank down on the sofa next to her mother, leaving no room for Vivian. She aptly maneuvered her skirts as she sat as to make it appear accidental that the hem of her sheer overdress revealed one of her teal blue slippers, and more importantly, the ankle above it. The visitor did not appear to notice her display, and neither did her mother. But Vivian did, and she could scarce keep herself from sneering at the deliberately flirtatious act. Vivian glanced at the handsome Arthur; irritated that they hadn’t even bothered to introduce him. His black eyes followed her as she moved to the window seat. She sat there while they performed their greetings, Clara feigning a girlish shyness that filled Vivian with disgust. At length, Ella appeared in the doorway in her tatty old garments; pieces once worn by Vivian’s mother years ago, shabby and unfashionable; carrying a tray of tea fixings. Vivian stood and intercepted her, relieving her of it with a thoughtful smile.

“Thank you, Ella,” she said quietly. Ella’s smile to Vivian was adoring. She curtsied, glanced into the room one last time, and then slipped away. Vivian carried the tray to the round work table first, where she set it down for a moment, her back to the room. There, she could be heard turning the upside-down cups upright, and rearranging the little sandwiches and biscuits that had been jostled in transit from the kitchens. Gripping the tray afresh, she lifted it and carried it to the small table set between the gentleman’s chair and the settee upon which mother and Clara rested.

“There,” Mother declared, nodding to her younger daughter. “Thank you Vivian. Mr. Davenport, this is my younger daughter, Vivian.”

“How do you do, Miss Vivian?”

“I am well, Mr. Davenport. I am pleased to meet you,” Vivian replied in a soft voice, an odd little smile upon her lips that only the visitor saw. She curtsied slowly, and then returned to the window seat, where she settled in and pulled a lace-work pillow on a spindly turned-wood stand to her knees. She began to work with it, her hands moving dexterously, the spindles clicking together as she sorted them and wound them around the bristling patch of standing pins on the pillow. A skein of lace hung from the back side, beautifully made, a piece to edge the hem of a new gown, perhaps.

Mother served tea with a quiet elegance. For a moment, all that could be heard was the sound of the hot tea trickling into the fine china cups. She gave Arthur a cup first, and then poured one for herself and her golden daughter. They sipped, and the women chatted about banalities. Vivian’s hands patiently worked the spindles hanging from the lace pins. The conversation was lively for a moment, and then it fell into a lull… a few halted words here and there, and then a chilling hush followed by a ghastly sound of gagging and wheezing.

Then, there was a sound of china falling to the floor, followed by two heavy thumps. Vivian finally looked up from her lace-making. On the floor, her mother and sister lay crumpled, one draped partly over the other; her sister’s mouth pulled tight, and slathered in foamy spittle. The mother still twitched and convulsed.

Arthur put his untouched cup of tea down on the tray. With a satisfied, loving smile for Vivian, he leaned back and loosened his cravat, crossing his legs elegantly. Vivian smiled warmly in return, holding his gaze with hers and sighed contentedly. And then with another sigh, she quietly returned to her lace-making, her spindles flying and clicking. Ella passed by the open door of the drawing room, and paused. A radiant grin split her face, and she walked away, humming a little song off-key. In the foyer, the great clock ticked irrevocably on.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

She finally did it.

It wasn’t quite sympathy, Evan wasn’t sure what it was at all, frankly. But the 'look' both touched him and hurt him all the like. It was an expression, a look that almost every member of the faculty cast upon him at some point during his journey through his scholastic career. The faculty members were always going back and forth; vacillating between empathy and frustration. Evan understood; he really did. At the tender age of nine, he already knew. He was sure they had no idea how well he understood their frustration. The issue was, that he simply didn’t care how they felt about it unless they were willing to reach out and understand him; and as teachers and counselors, that was beyond their scope; outside of their jurisdiction. All they cared about was that he wasn’t really there.

Evan was absent more than he was present; he was despondent and lazy when he was there; he didn’t pay attention most of the time. All day, his mind wandered, the only things that engaged him were projects that involved drawing, creating, writing, painting. The rest, he would simply tune out. Homework was rarely done, if it was, it was messy and slapdash. His notebooks were full of absentminded doodles. He hid in the library and read for hours, and sometimes he would hide in a bathroom stall, lifting his feet during recess so nobody knew he was there. He absorbed his education in his own way… but he never put any stock in proving it by doing what was required of him. He scraped by, grade to grade… barely. They knew he wasn’t stupid; they'd tested him. He was quite the opposite and was in fact extremely bright; significantly ahead of the others. But his intelligence served little benefit when he was completely disengaged.

The sting about the teacher's remarks on his hygiene still lingered. The teacher had told his mother that she should address his hygiene issues. His chronic state of humiliation flared into a hot reddening of his cheeks and casting down of his eyes. He was well-aware of his greasy hair, his stained jeans, the hand-me-down, out of style shirts he wore, his shabby, worn shoes. In case he forgot on any given day, the other students were always very pleased to remind him with underhanded comments, and the teacher always made a point to mention something about it during parent/teacher conferences. She would point out his lacking to a mother who had other, far direr things occupying her mind. And when mom got up and walked to the snack table after spewing out a litany of blame of which none fell on her, the teacher gave him that 'look'. The one that said; I want to care, but I just don’t have the time. You're not my kid... it's not my responsibility... I don’t want to get attached… it would be too hard. All night, he had to hear how embarrassing it was for his mother to endure questions about his failures, and his mother asked him how he could do this to her; how he could embarrass her so.

Evan had no allies. No true allies.

His counselor, Dr. Ardell, would lean close and look him deep into his eyes; “Evan, you can tell me. You can tell me anything. Nobody will get hurt, nobody will know, all you have to do is just tell me what’s going on,” he would say. Evan looked at the man’s pasty skin, the ugly tie, the pink shirt with the coffee stain on the front; his eyes took in the large pores on the man’s face, filled with dark dots; the receding hairline flecked with pieces of shedding skin; he would shrink back from the rancid coffee-breath and wrinkle his nose at it. Never once did he part his lips. Not once did he give Dr. Ardell what he wanted... the truth. He was provided puzzles to solve, questions to gauge his intelligence, evaluations to determine his aptitude. He breezed through them, all too aware what the man wanted... all too keen on the motivations and finding a bit of power, and a bit of delight in depriving him of it. It was his truth the bear, it belonged to him. Adults have proven over and over again to be detached and unreliable no matter what they sometimes said, so he would trust his secrets only to himself. Dr. Ardell would lean back in his chair, the frustration plain on his brow. Evan would traipse back to class, feeling glad that his counseling session had gotten him out of the scrutiny of his classmates. Dread would fill the pit of his stomach when he returned to class. He was always far too behind, far too daunted to catch up. So he would simply shuffle to his desk, sit down, open up a notebook and pretend to listen while he doodled on the side of his page.

Evan must have looked particularly pathetic this day. His teacher gave him that 'look'. The one that wasn’t sympathy or understanding or curiosity, or resignation or indifference; whatever it was, he didn’t care, as long as it wasn’t the accusing, angry glare he usually got when he didn’t hand in his homework, or had no idea there was a test because he’d been absent for two days. He dragged his feet as the class settled in, and he listened to them fuss and muss about in their desks, whispering to one another; the girls giggling, someone snogging in a noseful of mucus… His eyes were on the fluttering leaves of the poplars outside. He was keenly aware of the ticking clock as it arduously crept through each second, dragged itself into the next minute; crawled irrevocably but laboriously towards the end of the day. He yearned for the end of the day for no reason at all. He had nothing to look forward to.

As he walked home, his book bag, which hadn’t been unloaded or refreshed in a few weeks weighed him down. Another day. Another blank, indifferent day—the heavy dread of home was worse than the weight of books on his shoulder; it slowed his stride even more. As Evan rounded the corner of his street, there was something different. On the overgrown lawn was a gleaming police cruiser. Smack in the center of it, lights flashing. A second one was hunkered underneath the messy tree at the curb, already sporting a light coat of the tree's sheddings. He could hear the scratchy sound of the police radios. His stomach turned icy cold. He broke into a run, letting his book bag fall to the ground as he loped across the cracked asphalt, eyes searching. Then he stopped; in the middle of the street, he just stopped.

An officer was taping the house. A van marked ‘county coroner’ pulled in front of him, momentarily blocking his view of the police officers at the door. Another siren sounded a few streets away, and a third police car was arriving with the van. In the doorway, his mother was crying. She clutched her cardigan closed, her eyes puffy and bleary, and her hands shaking. She looked less mousy than usual; she looked almost radiant in her misery--vibrant in the blossoming of her downfall. Evan watched as the officer took her out of the house, and led her to the car. She didn’t see him as the officer helped her into the back seat of the cruiser, but the officer did. The man was huge; a pillar, scary and reassuring all at once. He closed the door to the car, and turned to Evan, coming to him in only a few large strides.

Evan liked how they walked. He imagined they taught cops how to walk that way in police academy; to swagger so that all the gadgets and weaponry and bludgeons on their hips would be brandished as if to challenge anyone to just give them a reason. He could hear his mother sobbing from the car; over the din of the newly arriving police car with its siren blaring. She never looked up--too wrapped up in her own sorrow. The cop seemed like he was a mile tall. He stooped, the process of lowering to Evan’s eye-level seemed to take forever, like it was slow motion.

The look wasn’t like the others. The eyes weren’t the same. It wasn’t the look. No. It was direct and searching, good and steady.

“She finally did it, didn’t she?” Evan asked. “She finally decided enough was enough, huh?” The cop pursed his lips, and nodded; he reached up and patted Evan’s greasy hair. The kid smirked in a weird, distant sort of way and said: “good.”

“C’mon. A lady from human services will want to talk to you then. ‘S’at your book bag?” Evan looked back at the street, where his book bag had been slightly flattened by the tire of the last police car. He ran to pick it up. It felt weightless. As he moved back to the officer’s side, a gurney was being rolled out of the house, an oily looking, black bag shrouding the body. The police lights coloured it red and blue in lightning flashes. He looked up at the police officer, his eyes alive.


Friday, August 27, 2010


Her darkness attracted me at first. I felt like I belonged to it, and I envied her for possessing such pallid beauty without trying. Me, I had to paint my fingernails black, and to wear black clothes; I dyed my hair pitch coal, and lined my eyes densely with darkness. I brooded; I felt detached, all my life. I didn’t feel connected to the sunnier people; to the giggling and forced nasal speech peppered with the world ‘like’. The shining, well coiffed hair, and fashionable clothes… The overachievers and the jocks, they might as well be from another planet. I was always aware of the whispers and sneers as I passed them by, a guy wearing eyeliner, reeking of wet cigarette. There's a lot to laugh about there.

I never quite related to any of those people, nor did I seek to. So I made sure they knew I wasn’t interested in their world by making myself appear as separate from them as I could. They lived in their own world and I made my own. My world included two more souls who thought themselves unique, but were exactly like me. Our universe consisted of a notch in the back wall of the racquetball court building that was shielded by the wind by a row of massive poplars. It was the perfect place to hide. The ground was peppered with butts, and smoothened by the soles of our Converse All-Stars. We were all about wristbands with studded leather and a joint made of hash and tobacco that took us a week to finish.

We hardly spoke to one another. Occasionally we would allude to our misery; our troubles, our trials and our shared curse of being chronically misunderstood. There was Kurt, who was gay and angry and Rebecca, who had no idea who she was. Kurt was at least one step ahead of us in our hunt for identity. It was likely on any given day, between classes and at lunch, you would find us there behind the racquetball courts, smoking cigarettes or something less legal, sometimes eating something, other times just standing against the wall, one foot flat on the bricks, knee bent watching the poplar leaves dance in the wind. If it was cold, we would huddle in a circle. We’d share a joint, and I would stare at Rebecca’s striped socks that went up to her thighs and her frayed black denim miniskirt, but mostly at the smooth, pale length of exposed skin of her thighs. She was a nice looking girl, underneath her black lipstick. She had her hair cut in an asymmetrical bob, longer on her left side than the right, and dyed a wine-red. She had a silver stud, a tiny little sphere in her nose. She liked to wear a necklace of little skull-head beads. A string of grimaces. Above them, her pale face. I watched her pupils expand wide, gobbling up the brilliant golden-hazel irises like a lunar eclipse.

But next to her, Rebecca was a shade. A shadow. I don’t really remember where I met her exactly. Things are hazy from when I was around her in the beginning. It could have been at the Tower, but maybe not. I know she likes the place. She’s sort of fascinated by it. The Tower of London is neither a tower, nor is it in London. It’s a storefront in a rather defunct part of town wedged between a cheap furniture store and a used book shop facing a secondary, dead-end street nobody drives down. You can’t see inside because the windows are blacked out, and the door is solid wood. All there is to indicate it’s a business is a sign, a really nice sign for what it is, made of painted wood with the letters routed into it, leafed in a darkened, weathered and patinated coppery gold. They used some fancy scripty-looking text; the T and the L elaborate and curly.

Inside the door, it’s a cross between a cowboy era bordello and something ripped out of the Georgian period. The walls are draped in deep blood-coloured velvet swags, some edged in gold fringes and tassels. The furniture is equally as ornate and cheesy; upholstered in jewel-toned purple, deep gold, red, royal blue and emerald green velvets and brocades. Hanging on the walls, over the folds and swags of velvet are gold-framed portraits. They’re all ghoulish and dark, some random figure, sallow, dressed in ruffled shirts and cuffs, or a period gown and bodice, dark hair, glaring eyes that follow you. The floor is carpeted in red with gold acanthus leaves woven into it. It’s really just a hangout. It costs five dollars to just walk in the door for the night. Somehow it manages to stay un-dingy, despite the regular Goth traffic that comes churning through here. There are little black-enameled and gold-leafed tables everywhere. A tacky gold-painted sideboard offers tea and coffee from ugly over-decorated urns. Splenda and teabags are hidden in rows of enameled black and gold boxes. There is a sort of bar on the right as you come in, facing the large parlour. You can get non-alcoholic drinks served to you in cut glass stemmed goblets so you can feel sophisticated. And some nights, if you’re lucky, you can get some wine or something spiked, if the owner is feeling naughty. She sometimes serves snacks, but she prefers to keep things simple. There are booth-like alcoves holding large loveseats along the wall facing the bar, and a large one in the back. Behind the swags the speakers usually play Trance to the Sun or some other faded and obscure Goth Rock group.

Well, expectedly, the patrons of this place are what one would imagine. Kids like me; acting out the melodrama of our lives, baleful gazes and eyeliner; dyed hair, piercings and sorrow. I would go there with Rebecca, we’d choose one of the many cozy alcoves along the wall, sit in the plush loveseat and make out. I’d tell her that she was beautiful. She’d tell me she liked my docs. It suited us.

Now I look down on the Tower from above. Across the street from it is the back of a large bank-building. We're on the roof of the high-rise, gazing down. It’s hot tonight, so a lot of the kids are outside, smoking. They’re about eight stories down. There’s a girl who calls herself Elora, bright red lipstick, more Rockabilly than Goth, sleeve tats and a mole drawn on her upper lip with an eyebrow pencil. I like her hair. She has it forties style, with the bangs and all. She looks like a pin-up, glossy patent red leather corset and all. It seems to work with her black cargo pants and doc martens. Kurt’s there with her, they’re sharing the same cigarette, bitching about something. Rebecca is inside the Tower, making out with someone else.

She is beside me. She is fascinated with the place. She doesn’t speak of it, but if I need to find her, nine times out of ten, at sunset she’s here, gazing down at the Tower. She never goes in, but she likes it most when the occupants are outside so she can watch them. There’s a smudge on her cheek. I want to reach out to clean it off, but she doesn’t like it when I touch her.

Behind us, the door to the roof utility shed is still open, and the light bulb is still swinging. It brings back the image of her face, only a few moments earlier. The swinging light made everything strange. Swing; her face is a skull, swing, she’s magnificent, swing, she’s a lost child, swing, she is God. Her eye-sockets looked so hollow for that second, it scared me. Her skin is so white it might as well be bone. Now in the full of the night, she’s back. She’s vibrant. Fresh from the kill. Our quarry is lying on the floor, on his side, his back to us. The pendulous light only seems to touch the folds of his clothing as it swings.

She looks playful. A smirk on her unnaturally red lips. “Before we move him, let’s play a game, shall we?” Her voice is like the velvet from the Tower’s walls; older sounding than her face, husky even, with a lilt and maybe a shred of an accent I can not identify. She doesn’t like to leave our kills here. She likes it here too much to bring attention to this spot. We usually move them to other locations where they won’t be found. My interest is piqued. I still like games too. She is wry as she looks at me. Her lion’s mane of shimmering blue-black tube curls frames her heart-shaped face and tumbles down to the middle of her back. Her eyes are ringed in long black lashes that would be the envy of any woman. She’s wearing smoky-eyed makeup tonight. Her eye whites pop, her irises look like hematite. She’s dressed in a simple white, billowy sleeved blouse with the buttons open to her cleavage. A jeweled pennant hangs just above the cleft, a rosette of filigree with small stones imbedded in it. She has slacks on with long cuffs that fall over a pair of black leather boots with a round forties toe and a thick heel. She could be any woman; except for her exceptional face. So beautiful. I catch just the tiniest glimpse of one of her canines as she smiles. She’s good at hiding them.

“Follow my lead, grasshopper,” and without any notice she jumps off the edge of the building. My pulse would have quickened had my heart still been beating. I gazed over the edge just in time to watch her land right in the center of the street, between Karl and Elora and four other kids who were standing on the opposite side of the street. Her boots make a loud crack as she hits the ground. She hits it hard; I’m surprised her heels didn't break off. She lands in a squat, her hand touching the pavement, white like a snowflake against the tarmac.

She rises with a smooth liquidity, eyes locked on Elora with an almost seductive gaze. She then looks up at me, and I see in a flash she wants me to follow. So I do. By the time I land, she’s gone; she is fast. Faster than any other one like us that I know of. I glance at Karl and look at him, but I don’t think he recognizes me without my dye and eye makeup. I’m in a pair of distressed, boot-cut jeans I paid $90 for and a striped dress-shirt. She told me that I should look more mainstream, pretty boy-like, she said. I pursue her, and leave behind a group of startled kids. Elora is weeping. As I run away, I hear her cry out; “I knew it! I knew it! Oh my God I knew it!”

Our chase scene is over. We sit on the building’s edge enjoying the aftermath, our legs dangling over the side. Nobody can see us even if they are looking up and pointing at where they thought we’d come from. She is grinning. The whole patronage of the Tower had come out to the street hoping they’d get a glimpse. They were filtering back inside, Elora still weeping tears of joy. She sighs. I think sometimes, she wants to be down there with them. She wants to be like Elora. She wants something to believe in.

I leave her there, she always lingers until they close and kick everyone out. She can move the kill on her own. She's strong enough. Oddly, she never kills from this group--the Goth kids of the Tower. Except me. I feel angry for a second, but it quickly fades away. She treasures them. Maybe she treasured me. All those times Rebecca and I came and went, I imagine she was up here, watching me. Maybe I am her part of the Tower. Her part of that world. Now I look nothing like it. I look like those kids who I could never relate to. The ones I wanted nothing to do with. A pretty-boy. It’s hard not to laugh at that. I glance back and she’s still sitting there, the breeze picking up some of her curls. “Sleep tight,” I whisper, and she hears me. A nod. “See you tomorrow night.” She’ll be here. As long as the Tower is. Little deity, watching over her flock.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How did you start writing?

I can recall the time when I realized I loved to write. Reading was already something I relished, and from a very early age I was an avid bookworm. I used to LOVE the sound of hardbacks and I loved the smell of the paper. I know this sounds weird, but I remember in the first grade, I checked out the Ramona series from the library, and I remember loving how the thick, hard-backed books thumped when I tapped them, and I remember laying the open book over my face and taking deep breaths of that papery scent. Yeah, I know. I was a weird kid.

I was voracious reader too—I gobbled up the Ramona books, and then attacked most of the Beverly Cleary books, then pretty much anything else that sounded nice when I tapped the cover, and then moved onto the Xanth series by Piers Anthony and continued reading those all the way through to middle and high-school. I wasn’t a huge Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys fan—but when lacking anything else to read, I partook grudgingly.
I discovered Jean Auel’s books at a young age (I know… I was perplexed by those questionable scenes, I confess, but I did LOVE the narratives on Ayla’s medicine training, and her collecting and use of natural plants and such). I loved the Neverending Story… and adored how each chapter was in a distinguishing colour based on if you were in the present or in the fantasy world, and the first chapter starts with a word starting in A, and then each subsequent chapter follows the alphabet. I was dismayed to discover that the movie only depicts half the book!

I read books that were required reading for older kids & such; Where the Red Fern Grows; To Kill a Mockingbird, JRR Tolkein of course, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; Of Mice and Men, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984 and Animal Farm, Wuthering Heights, Watership Down, Pretty much everything Brontë and all things Austen, Moby Dick and whatever else I could get my paws on. I remember a couple of times in middle school, skipping classes and hiding out in the back corner of the library, reading entire books in one day.

I started writing stories in earnest in the fifth grade. Before that it was mostly scribblings and poems and such. What prompted the storyteller in me for sure was my fifth grade teacher, Ms. Wendy Pamay. I think pretty every one of us can say that there was that *one* teacher or professor who had a profound effect on you during your formative years… Wendy Pamay and Mr. Paul Francis were my inspiration when I was young. I wasn’t necessarily a great student; I had a rough childhood and it reflected on my participation and attendance pretty badly. Ms. Pamay was the one who taught me that writing could be that escape, that place where I could express myself without reserve. She was a wonderful teacher… I credit her with so many of my present day skills and interests. She treasured creativity and reading—and found really amazing ways to teach us things—she was genius. That is why she is part of the dedication of my first published book.

It took a long time for me to develop my voice. Much through my teens and early twenties, what I wrote was very much influenced by what I was reading. I finished my first book at 23; and it was horrible. I was horrified to discover a television show that appeared after completing that book that depicted a character almost identical to mine, so I scrapped the project. I wrote another science-fiction book that was also equally as terrible. But every word, every paragraph helped me develop my style and find who I was as an author. I think I also took a while to figure out how to put myself in my writing instead of just writing to tell a story or emulate a style I liked at the time. It made my characters more authentic and likeable, I think.

I write when it comes to me. I have, no joke, at least 200 false-start stories, some only a couple of paragraphs, some as many as seventy or eighty pages; all of which skidded to a creative halt somewhere along the line. Finishing a book is hard, and a rare event for me. I’m not disciplined enough to make myself write or to create outlines, I’m afraid. I prefer organic processes; it makes stories less predictable.

Tinna’s Promise is a strange book… I know it is. But what I do know is that it is reviewing wonderfully… and that I have a viable voice as a writer. It took years to develop it, but it’s there. I’m hoping Tinna’s Might will have that same draw that keeps the reader engaged as the first book has. We’re still editing. I’ve had to do A LOT of moving stuff around and revisions; I tried too hard to fill readers in on the background from the first book; it’s a lot of work. I’m hoping to have it polished and tied up by end of year, but I’m not sure… we shall see!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I wanted to have illustrations in Tinna's Promise... I wanted to include a map as many Fantasy novels have... but it wasn't an option the first time. This time, it is; and my BFF has offered to provide me with one illustration for each chapter of Tinna's Might, as well as a modified version of the map of Oromoii.

Abigail's cover art is a wonderful frame in which to place the story... S's illustrations will act as the highlights. She presented me with two images to begin with, and I am so excited!

Tinna and the dogs.

In Tinna's Promise, she is venturing out to get a puppy, something the village never had before... Now, years later, she enters the scene with two large wolf-dogs in tow. She has mature and has acquired more elegance these days.

Jestin picks a losing fight.

Jestin is restless and impulsive soul--and because of his strange sense of honour and entitlement, he gets himself into a fray with someone who outmatches him by far. Avria, Tinna's daughter, is hardly impressed.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Editing pains...

It’s Friday and it’s an amazing sunny day out there… the first really nice day in a while over here in Portland. We are used to rain here, but sometimes when it lingers into June, we are puzzled by it. I am all for mild summers and lots of rain, I confess. I hate heat. I’m part mole, so I prefer to be in the cloud-filtered light and gloom, pale-skinned and squinting in the sun (when I do bother to venture into it and risk scorching myself red). Aaaaaaanyway, let me get to why I really decided to post a blurb today.

[whining] I got totally slammed by one of the editors doing test-edits of my first chapter yesterday. It was like he threw a first-edition of War and Peace at my head. I warned him! I told him the first chapter was ‘information heavy’ when I sent it to him. Of course it is… Here I am starting a story set twenty years after the prior one, and also assuming that not every reader is going to know what the heck is going on, having not read the first book… so I did a little bit of overcompensation in the first ten pages of Tinna’s Might. Shame on me!

That scares me, because I know how I am as a reader, and if the first few pages are hard to get through, I rarely ever keep plugging along until the author finds their stride. I’ll groan in annoyance and huck the book onto my dresser and then forget about it until library donation day. Part of the reason why I stopped doing reviews for my friend is because MANY, MANY, MANY of those independently published books were not written in a way to draw the reader in, making it impossible to get past the first chapter. I’d read one or two pages, and already be miserable. I’d give it a few more pages, and find my eyes and brain distracted by my dogs, by a steller’s jay outside, by someone driving past the house, by a random shiny thing… anything BUT the story that’s on the page. I would rather jam a fork into my eye than to produce a book like that…

So yes! I know, I know… I’m aware of this problem and I haven’t fixed it! Truth be told, I am having trouble figuring out how to break up this huge wad of background information and to sprinkle it around more evenly over a broader area… I’m not confident about how long a reader will want to wait to learn why certain things are the way they are. I need to back off my text for a few weeks, and then re-approach it with fresher eyes, and try to look at it like a reader again instead of being the storyteller.

The editor in essence chucked a sharp-cornered book at my head, frankly. It hurt but I needed it. I knew it was there, I warned him it was there, but why didn’t I just take care of it when I did my last revision? Because it’s DAUNTING. [/whining]


Anyway… onward we push, I suppose. Have a delightful weekend.

Monday, June 7, 2010

First copy, fresh off the press....

It's done. The new cover for Tinna's Promise is in place at last. There are a few details that need mopping up around the interwebs, of which a few I can take care of myself. A few of the digital e-book sites still have the old cover on them; I'm not sure how to go about changing that information on each site, but at least the big guys are switched over; Amazon, Barns & Noble, etc. My Search-Inside option on Amazon is in the process of change as well... I'm hoping in the next few months, this lovely cover will be the one presented on all available sales sites.

Miss Abigail Larson, artiste extraordinaire, did a lovely job. She put up with quibbling from TWO people about this and about that... change this detail here, change this detail there.... Poor thing! She bore it with grace and produced a beautiful cover that we are all proud of.

Abigail's style is has a soft, subtle edge of the dreary and dark in it. Her other artwork is beautifully gloomy; but in creating the less gloomy subject matter on my covers, she does not lose her sense of stark beauty and whimsy. It takes skill to create something for someone's vision, and to still have it be uniquely yours. She accomplished that incredibly well. She really managed to maintain her unique style, but also respect what we were asking for. She's has off-the-charts talent, and I foresee great things for this artist. Here are her two primary websites:

Abigail Larson's DeviantArt page.
Abigail Larson's Main Website

She has completed the cover for Tinna's Might (which is STUNNING) and she is currently working on the cover for yes... Book THREE. I am on the edge of my seat to see what she does with the concept we put together, we asked her to just run with it this time, there are no constraints of existing story to keep her reined in--so this cover will be beautiful, I know. I haven't written a jot of book three yet, but I'll be starting fairly soon, after the editing process is finished for book two.

Editors, like everyone else in this economy are hurting; and one ad brought me over 80 responses from editors. Yipes. Anyway... I'll keep you apprised of the progress of book two, but in the meantime, click through to Amazon or B&N and grab yourself a copy of Tinna's Promise with this beautiful artwork on the cover!

Thank you Abigail!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Reality in Fantasy

I have mommy issues. I know. It's pretty transparent in the story of Tinna's Promise; and it really glares in Tinna's Might. That's the thing though... a lot of people dismiss Fantasy for being silly and escapist, and maybe that is the case on some levels. But I reread my stuff and I find so much in there that reflects my past, my present and my anxieties for the future. I see facets of the good and the bad in my life; and my experiences often just thinly veiled by a foreign world.

Tinna is not me; Tinna is a conglomeration of many people... of people I'd like to know, of people I wouldn't... But Tinna's mother issues are as real as mine. They're motivated and strong... and in the next book, it's taken up a level or nine. We see deeper into Tinna's mysterious past, and more behind her reasons for leaving Thran and seeking a simpler life. There's a lot more that explains why Tinna was so sensitive about Hanru's abuse, and keeping her promise to him and to anyone she loved was paramount.

Our books are products of our experiences, no matter how out there our Fantasy stories might be; behind the characters, there's us and our experiences. Of course, if it's worth reading it is; if it's just empty imagery, with unmotivated and inconsistent personalities, then that's just crap. But you have to look behind the imagination sometimes to appreciate the meat of a fantasy book; to see the depth of its characters and the complexity of the story--because yes, even fantasy books reflect real life... and they can have depth. They're not all unicorns and ogres.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The drudgery and value of proofreading and editing.

Ugh, the process of proofreading can be grueling! Now, every writer likes to hear themselves ‘talk’ so to speak, and they often enjoy their own writing; we’re sort of egotistical that way… But heavens, reading and rereading your own writing over and over again… Blargh!!! It’s hard to edit yourself. It’s not the whole cutting and changing part (although I do know a few writers who really need to learn to let go of blathery bits), it’s hard to see the errors and inconsistencies in narrative that came out of your own brain. It’s like your brain just would skim right over an error that is so blatant, it would reach out and punch someone else in the head.

But I am doggedly marching on. My cover change process for Tinna’s Promise is well underway, and you will probably see the new cover on the book within the next month or so (Amazon takes a little longer to make those changes), but nonetheless, the newer, professional cover is submitted and polished. YAY! I love the new Tinnas. They’re beautiful. The Tinna’s Might cover is also being assembled; made to both match the first and to reflect the changes that have occurred since the events in the first novel.

I’m excited. I haven’t been this keyed up about my books in a while!

Above is a concept image drawn by a friend of mine. We both run a local writing group in our neighborhood, and she does reviews. I actually met her when I submitted Tinna's Promise for review and the mailing address was only down the mountain a bit from me. She is a busy lady, and has lots of hobbies, including drawing... She's been helping me a lot with my books and website, and I've helped her with some editing and proofreading.

I think having writing friends is crucial. They can act as inspiration and as support systems; but most importantly, as the all-important reality checkers. To all independent authors, I recommend you find a writing group, or some kindred spirits to hang with. It's amazing how they can help you get over writing blocks with random suggestions, and really give a boost to your competitive nature and get you writing!

Both my friend and I are great advocates for EDITING. We see a lot of independently published books that are insulting to the readers... POD books are expensive, and some authors have the audacity to ask readers to pay more for low-quality writing and badly composed concepts. No no no! So proofreading is the first step for me. After that, it's off to a book editor who will pick apart my grammar, my storyline, time line, character consistencies and more... this is so important. Tinna's Promise was professionally edited by Dorrie O'Brien, who did a phenomenal job.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Book two is finished!

Okay, it's not COMPLETELY finished... it needs about 20,000 more words to pad it out a bit. I managed to give it a beginning, a middle and an end. It's a complete story... with a plot and everything... at least I hope. :^D I have to go back and fill in some of the skeletal parts and bridge some of the gaps, but that's the easy bit. It's really exciting to know I don't have that much more to do on it. Then it's off to the editor!

New covers, new book... very cool! Keep an eye out for "Tinna's Might"... it won't be long, I hope before it's available for purchase. :^)


Monday, March 22, 2010


I’ve hear a lot of questions about starting a book off with character who isn’t immediately likeable. I guess I don’t always follow convention… I just write organically… and for some reason it seemed natural for me to start Tinna’s Promise with Taneth and his smug rants that get him booted from Hildercross Academy. It just felt right I guess.

I hear the following things about Taneth as most readers start the book: He’s a geek… he’s too smug; he’s annoying… I tell them to read on. Then they do, and they stop grumbling at me. Making Taneth kind of a superior, pompous jerk at the beginning of Tinna’s Promise was the whole point. I wanted to exhibit a person’s capacity for change and growth. I broadened his views, opened his mind and humbled him. I think both Taneth and Tinna show great evidence of change. Each experience that occurs during the book opens their eyes; brings out the parts of them that are noble and likeable. In the end, I can’t help but root for my characters, and find understanding for them, despite their flaws.

In a way, Tinna’s Might starts with a less-than-loveable character. However, the question is, will he ever become someone better? It’s hard to know. Heck, I’m not even sure yet.

For those of you who have read Tinna’s Promise, Tinna’s Might is going to be a pretty astonishing jump. We’re about twenty years from Tinna’s Promise; and the world is so very different. There are new characters you will meet, familiar ones you already know, and a world in turmoil. I’m having fun finishing up this book—and am already thinking about where to go from here. But, I have focus on getting this book polished up and ready for publication. Padding, scanning, pre-editing, and then off to a real editor to start the arduous process of putting my ‘organic’ work in order, and chasing down all my little grammatical issues. ::eep::

I’m working on it. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Fresh Start

Tinna's Promise has been available and published for three years this March. Part of my effort to focus more on my creative side, I've decided Tinna needs a revamp; and that includes my long-neglected website and everything else that fell by the roadside when life got in the way. Hey, it happens to all of us. :)

Part of this revamp means a new look for the original book in what is becoming the Tinna series. This includes a new cover design by artist Abigail Larson (extremely talented young lady) who has also provided me with a design for book two in the Tinna series; Tinna's Might. Yes, I have been working on this book as well--and I am striving to get it finished, pre-edited, then fully edited before the end of this year (ambitious considering how things have been going creatively for me... but I am trying!). The new covers have injected new fire in my veins and reinvigorated my little lost writing muse.

So I created this blog to make myself accountable for my promises. And promises are pivotal in my world, and in Tinna's world.

So it begins. :::sigh:::