Writing

This would be about my writing.

A Slightly Late GISHWHES Post

Hi, everyone. Your wayward author is back with another update. In my last post I told you about how busy I’ve been. I’ve got good news; I’ve been working full time for the National Park Service for more than a month now. My stress levels are way down, and I’ve been able to get some writing done (as well as my editorial jobs). In fact, I was able to participate as an author in GISHWHES 2014. I’m sure most of you know about GISHWHES, but for those who don’t GISHWHES stands for “Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen”. The contestants do all sorts of wacky fun stuff for charity. One of those things this year was to ask a published scifi author to write them a tiny bite of fiction. The stories had to be 140 words, and include Misha Collins, the Queen of England, and an Elopus (an elephant/octopus hybrid). I wrote two myself and two with Sarah Hendrix. I’ll post them here for your reading pleasure. Be warned some of these are pretty weird.

GISHWHES #1 With Sarah Hendrix

It was a vast, black ocean they raced across, skimming the oily surface as their skiff ran from the ships of the royal navy.

The Dread Pirate Collins sneered at his prize. He knew that if he could just get away from the navy, he’d be able to ransom the clockwork Queen for quite a bit of money.

The Queen, for her part, stared back impassively. Her automaton brain knew that this was her fault. If she had been more fair, and just, as she was programmed, then no subject would be forced to into piracy.

The pirate’s ship was pulling away as something huge rose up from the waves smashing his ship. Mechanical tentacles snaked across the deck.

The Elopus cradled the Queen in it’s many arms. “I love you.”

End

GISHWHES #2 With Sarah Hendrix

She sat alone at a back table in The Elopus. A piano tinkled, out of tune, near the stage. There was a glass of something strong in her hand and her hat was tipped low over her eyes.

Sheriff Misha took a deep breath and looked up to the sky but the faded sign with the odd creature was in the way. He wondered exactly how things would play out.

She seemed to know he was there before entered; her gun was already pointed towards him as he turned to her.

“You ain’t wanted here, Sheriff. Leave me be. I’ll be gone soon enough, just here on family business.”

He nodded and sat across from her, his hands far from his gun. “Sorry about your momma.”

“The queen is dead,” she said quietly. “Long live the queen.”

End

And now my solo stories:

In the Cave of Ganesh

Misha paused at the opening of the cave and pulled the tattered letter from the back pocket of his trousers. The handwriting inside was still legibly the Queen’s.

Dmitri,
I have no words for how sorry I am for what I must put you through. I know you understand, the beast must be destroyed. My sources tell me you will find it in the Cave of Ganesh. Please, be careful. I cannot lose you.
~V

He shoved the note back into her pocket, wishing for more information. There was only one map in the entire royal archive marking “the Cave of Ganesh”. He was here, now, though. After weeks of searching, he’d found it.

A rock clattered towards him. He looking into the cave and there it was. The beast, writing, huge, and reaching for him.

“Sorry, Vicky,” he murmured.

End

Misha and The Queen vs. Dr. Elopus

Misha and The Queen crouched atop the roof of “Elopus Inc”. Their target was coming around the corner. He was a middle aged man, balding on top and dressed in a lab coat.

“Now?” Misha asked.

“Now,” she confirmed and jumped from the rooftop, using her Scepter’s power to land safely.

Misha unfurled his wings and followed her to the sidewalk. “Dr. Elopus,” he said. “You’re under arrest for crimes against humanity, cruelty to animals, and several hundred municipal code infractions.”

The Queen pointed her scepter at Dr. Elopus. “Come quietly and we won’t have to hurt you.”

There was a moment of silence before the man began to laugh. As he did, he began to transform. Tentacles sprang from under his lab coat and his nose distended to become a trunk. “Not today!” He cackled, swinging towards them.

End

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Shut Up is Not Censorship

Warning, language.

I have been reading the comments again and I noticed something. Some people seem to be confused of late as to what censorship is exactly. Since nothing irks me more (in a literary sense) than people who, through either ignorance or subterfuge, contort the meaning of a word, I thought I might take a moment to explain to everyone that telling someone to shut the fuck up is not censorship.

Here’s a quick definition from the internet:

Censorship: (Noun) The practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts.

I would add that the suppression is by force. Let me give you some examples. Censorship is burning books. Censorship is banning books from a library. Censorship is making an alternative opinion impossible to find through the use of fear and other tactics.

Censorship is NOT examining a book, opinion, etc and saying it’s unacceptable. Censorship is not telling other people that you do not want to hear their opinion. And censorship is not a private organization deciding that they do not want to be associated with certain ideas and opinions.

There’s a big difference between book burning and a negative review.

When I tell you to shut the fuck up, there’s nothing saying you actually have to. I can’t force you to shut up. You can go on with whatever it is you’ve been saying and act like you didn’t hear me. That said, you should know that as with everything else in life, there are consequences to your actions.

Just as you have every right to be a racist, bigoted asshole, the rest of us have every right disagree with your opinion and judge you accordingly. And if a private organization no longer wants to be associated with you because of your actions? That is well within their rights. Consequences. You should have learned about them when you were five.

Here are some more examples taken from recent news items that have found their way into my twitter feed.

Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg can say sexist things about women in the SFWA. Women (and other people) can tell them to shut up. That’s free speech. Our collective judgement of them is the consequence of their actions.

Paula Deen has the right to use the N-word. I have the right to say she’s a bigoted asshole. Both are free speech. Random House had the right to “release” the contract on her five book deal. That’s consequences.

Theodore Beale has the right to say vile, disgusting things. I have the right to say shut the fuck up. That’s free speech. John Scalzi has the right to moderate his comments (it’s a private blog, folks). The SFWA has the right to expel Beale. That’s consequences.

None of that is censorship.

Let me just say this one more time. None of that is censorship.

You can say hateful, vile, disgusting things. I can tell you to shut the fuck up. I am not censoring you.

Also please remember, somewhere down the line there will be consequences.

Protect Your Family – A True Story of Outsmarting Scammers

Gather around everyone. I have a story to tell you. This is a true story about my family. This story took place a week or so ago.

To set the backstory, you must first know my brother is almost done with college and looking for a permanent job. He is also not the best when it comes to money.

The story begins with my brother. Last week he drove in to Washington for a job interview. On the way home he ran out of gas. He had to call my parents for help because he had no money. This is not the story, this is the prologue. It is important, though, because it means we know, 100% know, where my brother is.

The next day, my grandparents, who live in New Jersey, received a phone call.

“Hello, Grandpa! This is your grandson,” said the caller.

My grandfather glancing over at my grandmother. “Kevin, is that you?”

“Yes, this is Kevin, your grandson,” said the caller.

“How are you, Kevin?” Grandpa asked.

“Not so good,” said the man on the line, “I’m in jail down in Texas and I need $1500 to make bond.”

“You’re in jail in Texas and you need $1500 to make bond?” Grandpa repeated, glancing again at my grandmother, who was sitting at the kitchen table.

“That doesn’t sound like Kevin,” she whispered as the caller continued.

“One of my friends died so I went to Texas to attend the funeral,” the man on the line said.

Grandpa repeated it so Grammy could hear.

Grammy shook her head. “That just doesn’t sound right. I’m sure Joy would have told us if someone Kevin was that close to had died.”

“After the funeral some other friends and I went out drinking. I got drunk and there was a fight at the bar. That’s why I sound funny, I got punched in the mouth. As we were driving away from the fight, the cops caught us. I was very drunk, so they locked me up,” the caller said.

“No, no that’s not right,” Grammy said with conviction this time. “Kevin would never do anything like that.”

Grandpa nodded.

“I need you to wire me $1500,” the caller said. “Here’s my account.”

Grandpa wrote down the number and then hung up the phone. Then he picked it up again and called my brother.

My brother, unfortunately, was sound asleep, and so rather groggy. He was, however, able to confirm two things. First, he was not and had never been in Texas and second, he had no desire for my grandparents to send him money.

My grandfather then hung up with Kevin and called a less groggy person to talk to-my father. After a short talk they determined it was a scam. My grandparents, while not affluent themselves, live in an affluent area. Grandpa agreed with my father that the best course of action would be to take the account number to the police.

The moral of this story, ladies and gentlemen, is that there are jerks in this world. Talk with your relatives, make sure they know this kind of scam exists. Not everyone is as sharp as my grandparents. Not everyone will see through the ruse. Don’t let your loved ones become victims.

Epilogue-after the phone call with my grandfather, my dad texted my brother. It went something like this:

Dad-Grandpa just called. He said you said you were in Texas. Are you?

Kevin-Nope, Arkansas.

Dad-What are you doing there?

Kevin-Trying to get the money together to get the hell out.

Later

Dad-Home yet?

Kevin-Nope, stuck in Tennessee now.

Dad-Tennessee?

Kevin-According to Kelly’s sense of direction that’s halfway between Arkansas and Home.

The End

Does This Make Me Look Sexist?

I was recently having a discussion about what is sexist and what isn’t both in writing and in life. Part of the conversation centered on chivalry and it’s role in our society. I want to start out by saying chivalry isn’t inherently sexist.

Chivalry in its purest form is a code of conduct that can be used as a guide to life. It’s not unlike the golden rule in that regard, but I would argue it takes it a step farther. Not only is it “be nice to everyone” but it’s also “protect those that can’t protect themselves”. In this sense I love chivalry. It can be used by men and women alike to do the right thing and protect the weak.

Now, what gets sticky is when misogyny is involved. There are a lot of well meaning people out there who thing women are default weak/helpless. And that is wrong. What also wrong is equating Chivalry with the condescension that happens to women. Chivalry isn’t about being condescending. It’s about doing the right thing.

Being polite to someone isn’t condescending. Being polite to women only because they are women is. Helping someone lift something heavy isn’t condescending. Telling them not to lift something is.

Chivalry isn’t wrong. Treating women like they’re made of glass just because of gender is.

But what about this Damsel in Distress? I hear you ask. Well, let me be the first to tell you, it’s not necessarily that she’s in distress that makes it sexist. Being in danger happens in adventures. Its when she has nothing to contribute /other/ than being in distress that sexism happens. When she isn’t her own person and is only there for eye candy and to make the hero look good, there’s something wrong.

The core of sexism is belittling the other gender (yes, it can be done to men as well as women). Showing through your work (whether you mean to or not) that there is nothing to which ever gender you happen to portray as that “damsel” is wrong.

I have an exercise for you. Take your main character. Are they a hero in a traditional sense? Do they save the day? Do they save another character? Take another look at the character that gets saved. Described them to yourself in a short paragraph. Now, take away the main character. Is your secondary character still there or have they crumbled into dust? If all you’ve got left on your page is dust, you’ve got some work to do.

The point of writing is to create people, places and things. Sometimes we get so caught up in the story that we fail to notice that we’ve only fleshed out our main characters and left everyone else in the dust. Try creating a side plot with your secondary characters; have them work for or against the main plot. Or have them do something else entirely. Make them more than a cardboard cutout for the hero to come in, smooch and carry out under their arm. Remember, they are people too. If you have to, base them off someone you know. What would John/Jane do? The goal here is to have complex characters. I can forgive a weak female character with motivation. I cannot forgive a cardboard cutout.

So, the takeaway point here is while your female character might occasionally be in distress, that should not be their sole role.

Remember, you can always discuss this with me in the comments.

Just a Few Updates

I should have updated this a week ago and I didn’t. Life got busy, blah, blah, blah. I’m updating now.

I suppose the first thing I should tell you is that I have a job. Not a new job, my old job (though surprisingly I did get a slight raise). I am happy to have a job, that is one less worry for me. I am not, however, particularly pleased to go back, even if it is with a new company. The last season made me very wary of the job and I imagine we’ll all be jumping at old shadows.

Speaking of new jobs, I am now officially a reader for Goldfish Grimm and we need submissions! Things have been a little sluggish since we started up again.

Next up I have some pretty, pretty journals for you to stare at.

IMG_0048

I made this for Jaym Gates(Mornara) as a belated birthday/yule present. She assures me she likes it.

This was made for my grandmother. She specifically asked for it the previous year (but didn't remember she had). Now she likes it, but doesn't know what to write in it!

This was made for my grandmother. She specifically asked for it the previous year (but didn’t remember she had). Now she likes it, but doesn’t know what to write in it!

Oh, if you like there are a couple of good kickstarters going on right now that need some help. Fireside Magazine pays well to put out quality writing: http://kck.st/WprHBT

Long Hidden is an anthology full of speculative fiction from marginalized people of history: http://kck.st/15nchjG

Finally I will say a little about my writing. I have been trying to submit more, and while I have been on a couple of short lists, I have yet to get another piece published. It is discouraging, but I will continue to write, revise and submit. Writing is mostly practice anyhow.

Remember, the journals are for sale!

Chapter 18: Enter the Monks

New to the story? Need to catch up? Catch up here: Chapters of Our Party

More than one hundred monks stood in the village square; all of them wore tabards emblazoned with a red sword across the front. The three party members weren’t the only ones in town who thought coming out to see what was going to happen would be better than just waiting around. As they watched, one of the monks stepped forward. He was a thin and amazingly reptilian looking fellow.

“People of this village,” the man intoned. “We have come in your time of need to give you aid.” He paused, as if expecting applause or cheering. When there was none, he cleared his throat and continued. “We do not ask for much in return. We wish for a bit of land on which we might build a new home for ourselves.”

Ailbhe swore under her breath.

“What is it?” Iain whispered.

She shook her head. “Gonna have to stop them.”

“Why?”

“In my rules as a paladin. I don’t have to proselytize, but I do have to stop another religion from spreading into an area of potential worshipers,” she murmured.

“And here I was thought you didn’t have any rules,” the berserker muttered. “Better think of something fast before the town leaders agree to the request.”

Grimfaced, the paladin stepped forward. “Good monk, what misfortune has befallen you and your fellows that you are force to seek refuge in a beleaguered village such as this?”

The reptilian man blinked at her. “Ah, my apologies paladin. I did not realize there was the influence of another god in this area.”

“In most cases the influence of gods is immaterial in influences of man. I ask again: what brings you here?”

A murmur rippled through the crowd as they finally understood what she was asking. The reptilian man paled but recovered quickly.

“We heard of the village’s plight and came to offer assistance,” he said, waving his arm in a grand fashion.

“People usually offer help with no strings attached,” Seamus said, a frown creasing his brow.

The lizardy monk shrugged. “It is the villager’s choice. They can take it or leave it, though I suggest they take it.”

He stared at the man that seemed to have taken over in some kind of a leadership role if only because everyone else was looking at him. The poor fellow shuffled his feet and tried to look somewhere else. When that didn’t work he cleared his throat.

“Uh, can we think about it for a bit?”

A muscle in the monk’s face twitched. “Of course,” he said. “But don’t take too long there are plenty of other areas that could use our help.”

There was more muttering from the village peoples. “You won’t be wanting our food, will you? We don’t have much of it left.”

“Of course not,” the reptilian man purred. “We’re here to give, not take.”

“What are we waiting for?” someone in the crowd asked.

“We’re waiting to see if these are the kind of people we want to have hanging around indefinitely,” the defacto town leader said.

“Why not give them a trial run?” Seamus asked. Ailbhe elbowed him in the ribs.

“Knock it off,” she hissed. It was too late, though. There were many villagers nodding their heads. The monks looked pleased. The ‘leader’ nodded and murmured something non-committal that the lizardy monk took as a yes.

“Splendid,” he hissed. “We will set up camp here and start preparing something for everyone to eat. Please, returns to your homes and get anyone left behind. We won’t have anyone going hungry tonight!”

The party left the square and headed back to the inn. Iain shot a worried glance at the paladin as they sat down at one of the tables.

“You going to be okay?” he asked.

Ailbhe shook her head. “Not unless we stop these monks.”

“But they’re trying help, aren’t they?” Seamus asked.

“No, they’re up to something,” the paladin said. “And were going to find out what it is. We just need to get someone on the inside.”

Iain made a face. “How? Seduce them?”

“Sure,” Ailbhe said. “Can’t be me, though.”

“Why not?” the bard asked.

“For one, my paladin status is already in jeopardy. It’s best if I don’t push things too far right now. For another, I’m pretty sure that head lizard isn’t interested in women.”

Iain grunted. “Can’t be me; I’d kill him.”

The two of the, looked at the bard, smirking. It took a moment for him to realize what they were thinking.

“Why are you looking at me like that? No, no, no, no, no. I won’t, I refuse,” he said, backing away from the other party members.

“You have to,” Ailbhe said. “I’ll lose everything if you don’t.”

Iain made a face, but Seamus seemed moved by what she was saying. “Okay, Ailbhe. I don’t want to, but I’ll do it for you.”

The paladin grinned at him. “I knew I could count on you. Now go upstairs and get ready; you’ll need to put on your nicest clothes.”

Nodding, the bard got up from the table. The ‘serk and the paladin watched him go. When the bard was out of earshot, Iain turned to Ailbhe. “I could have sworn he was gay. He stares at muscular guys with me.”

“Bi,” she said. “But hasn’t realized it.”

He shrugged and looked around the empty inn. “So what do we do now? Wait?”

“Actually, I was thinking of finding a nice look out point and watching,” she said.

“Where did you have in mind?”

The two of them ended up on the roof of an old, now mostly abandoned brothel, Madam Heart’s House of Tarts. They chose the space partly because of it’s proximity to the monks set up and partly because of it’s unique architectural features that made it possible to both spy on those below and escape down the back if necessary. They sat for a while before Seamus appeared. The bard wore what had to be his most flamboyant (and ugliest) outfit.

Ailbhe covered her face with her hands. “Oh god, I’m doomed.”

In My Experience: Long, Thick Hair

I considered writing a rant blog about a racist, sexist, homophobic dipshit. However after I cooled off (I made the mistake of actually going to read some of what the asshole had to say) I came to the conclusion that it was best not to feed the trolls. Instead, I’ve decided to fight ignorance (and my continued annoyance) with knowledge. And so begins an experiment in blogging for me. I have some unique life experiences (like everyone); these experiences help me be a more realistic writer in some subjects. I am now going to share some of that experience (because I know the pain of googling for hours to try to find the information that I need). These are only my experiences; I do not claim to be an expert for everyone all of the time! I thought to start out, we’d start with a fairly noncontroversial subject that I know intimately: my hair.

In My Experience: LONG, THICK HAIR

Let me start off by describing my hair to you. It is pretty long, mid-thigh if it’s not curling, and its thick enough I’ve broken combs in it before. It’s an odd color that likes to change with the light, strawberry blonde in the sun, brown under most artificial lighting, red by firelight. It’s fairly fine and soft; much to my dismay I’ve had people want to pet my hair (more on that later).

Grow Time
In 2007 my hair was cut shoulder length for my cousin’s wedding. To reach mid-thigh (in a straggly sense) it has taken 5-6 years to grow. I really should have it trimmed, but don’t plan on doing so until it reaches my knees.

Care and Maintenance
Long hair is a lot of work. It takes me an hour to wash and up to half an hour to comb out (when it’s really tangled; usually it’s more like 10-15 minutes). Thankfully I don’t have to wash it every day. This might sound gross to some of you, but I actually only have to wash it once every five to seven days. It just takes that long for the oils to work through it (I am lucky to have a less oily hair type). It usually takes several hours for my hair to air dry (I never use a blow dryer as that is very bad for hair).

I usually wear my hair up in a sort of bun to try to minimize breakage and tangling. The exception to this, of course, is the day after I’ve washed it and need it to air dry. I get a lot of questions as to why I don’t wear it down more often. If you’d ever tried to comb my hair out after a day of it being down, you’d know the answer. Even a day where I don’t do a lot can lead to matting and severe snarls. People handling my hair makes this so much worse and is one of the reasons I’m very twitch about it.

I prefer to use a comb to get the big tangles out, then a brush to smooth things out.

Random Factoids

-My hair holds a curl extremely well. That, in fact is the reason for my high school nickname: Fluffy. Mom misunderstood what I wanted to do with the curlers and left them in a little too long.

-I have gone to dartgun fights with my hair down. It has always been up by the end of the night. Peaking around corners and laying on the floor with long hair is a pain.

-I don’t know if it is the curious nature of my hair, or something else, but if I am wearing a sword and my hair down, my hair will inevitably wind itself around the hilt of my sword.

-My hair is worth several hundred dollars if I ever decided to sell it. Factors in this include that I’ve never died my hair, and don’t use damaging hair products on it. There is a lot of hair to sell, at least 18 inches, possibly up to 24. I have a more unique hair color.

-The first step in my apocalypse survival plan includes cutting my hair so it’s just long enough to put in a ponytail. I don’t know about you, but hair care is the LAST thing I want to be worrying about in case of an emergency.

-When putting your hair into elaborate designs, it is easier to handle if your hair is in need of a washing (I’m not talking dripping with oil, but a little oily is good).

If you have any questions about my hair, feel free to ask them in the comments.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE AN “IN MY EXPERIENCE” BLOG POST, PLEASE CONTACT ME IN THE COMMENTS OR ON TWITTER.