Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Inspired by Melissa Kuhl's decision to post her her parts of a story she, I and another friend of ours wrote in middle school over at the SWS Blog, I have decided to open myself up to public ridicule as well. 

Sadly, I cannot even claim that this was my first attempt at writing. I was in fact working on a novel at the time (the first in a proposed quintet that would be followed by another quintet). Like Mel, I have preserved every painful word.  In this installment you will, among other things, encounter info dumps and a rather poignant example of why I no longer even attempt to write fight scenes.

Before we start, somewhere between middle school and now I lost the first page or so of this story so here is some information you may or may not want to know before starting. It is, of course, all patently ridiculous.

Lyra, our protagonist, was the daughter of a very noble knight and grew up on a country manner in comfort. She idolized her father who taught her all he knew of the knightly arts and so she grew to love the ideals of chivalry. But then her father was killed in the line of duty and her mother, unable to go on without her husband, wasted away and soon died. As both Lyra and her elder brother, Cyn, were underage they were unable to inherit and so, destitute, moved to the city until Cyn reached the age of majority and could take over their family's holdings. Cyn pursued legitimate employment as a scribe and scholar. Lyra, however, bitter and and enraged, abandoned the ideals of chivalry and pursued a life of crime.

The story opens as Lyra is handing out orders to the gang of thieves she runs.

“... usual posts. I want you to stay away from fights and whistle if you do. I would also like to inform you that all the rules still apply and anyone caught breaking them will have to answer to me.” Lyra glared at them to drive her point home. “Alright, go!”
                The gang melted back into the shadows, all but two. These were Iorek and Asriel, Lyra’s partners; second and third in command. Lyra ran her gang differently than others’ gangs. Each of her thieves had a specialty and worked in that area. Some were pick pockets, others raiders, and some were con artists. Lyra worked in all these areas but her specialty was in con artistry. Iorek and Asriel helped her. “Let’s go,” growled Lyra and stepped back out into the crowded streets.
                Lyra stopped to take in all the scents of the city.  Merchants yelling their wares, the creaking of cart wheels, the different cries of animals, and the laughter and talk of  the crowds blended together as background noise. Different scents drifted toward her on the breeze. Fresh baked bread, sweat, dung, spices were all there, familiar. She could remember when all this had seemed alien and frightening, but it seemed like home now. She knew Cyn could never feel at home in the city as she did, but Lyra enjoyed being around the crowds, even the noises and smells.
It was easy to hide in the city, to blend in and never be noticed. It was also easy to get away. There were countless little alleys, sidestreets, and backways. One could hide hideout in the city and never be found, if one knew the right places. And Lyra, being a thief, did. Lyra was conscious of this every hour of every day, for this was her city, she may not have grown up there, but it was hers all the same. Lyra knew all this in a moment, then put her able mind to other things. The sun had risen, there were plenty of people out, and work to be done.
                Lyra, Iorek and Asriel made their way to the square where each of them promptly took a strategic lookout point and leaned on whatever there was to lean against with an air of casual boredom. Lyra was leaning against the side of a stall displaying cooking pots and a few pieces of finely worked metal when the apprentice began to flirt delicately with her. When it was profitable Lyra took the time to wear a dress, as now, and looked really quite fetching in it. One of the best tactics she used was to get on someone’s good side so that they showed her the box with the money and, unwittingly, how to open it. The apprentice tinker was falling right into her trap.
                Lyra was just stating that he must have awful responsibilities like, say, protecting against thieves? The apprentice, named Jobrile, said he did have a lot of responsibilities, but the money practically protected itself and would she like to see? Why of course she would!
He took her to the back of the stall where there was an iron box with a variety of locks which she looked at intently. It would be a challenge, but then again, Lyra enjoyed challenges. It wasn’t the locks that worried her, (she was an excellent lockpick) it was the iron. All faries were a little allergic to iron, especially those with magic. The apprentice noticed her staring and asked about it. It was just that all those locks were fascinating, and how did he ever keep track of all the keys? Well it wasn’t really all that hard.
                Lyra threaded her way through the crowd, artfully bumping into people. She seemed so kind and so full of remorse everybody just said think nothing of it! After all the streets were crowded. Lyra had been doing very well that morning and the afternoon looked to be even better. Then everyone would stop work early, and the real revelry would begin. Lyra was just thinking to herself about how much she loved faire days when a high, shrill, whistle echoed across the square.
                Nobody else paid much attention to it, but then again, Lyra was the only one who knew what it meant. It was one of her thieves whistling, and that particular whistle meant danger. Lyra also knew the type of danger the thief was in; he was hopelessly outnumbered in a fight and there was no way to get out of it. Lyra had designed the complicated system herself, rookies who didn’t know the meanings were always accompanied by someone who did until they learned. The whistle couldn’t reach over the whole city, but there was always a thief in the vicinity who could pass it on if need be. Lyra knew all this in but a second and started to make her way to its point of origin.
                As she reached the allyway she knew the distressed thief was in, the rest of her gang materialized around her. Lyra entered the alley and took the scene immediately. Her thief, Borcan, a boy only about nine or ten, was surrounded by a ring of older boys. Lyra recognized some of them, they were from a gang across town. Lyra knew their leader and was not fond of him.
 Sorcen, she thought. He is, I think, overly fond of making trouble. Whatever these imbeciles may say they knew Borcan was a part of my gang when they attacked him. Maybe it is time I taught him a lesson.
                “Halt!” Lyra said in a strong, clear voice, “I said stop!”
                “I heard wha’ yeh said, but who’re you t’be sayin’ it?”
                Lyra drew herself up to her full height, looked down her nose imperially at the speaker and said, “I am Lyra Silverlit, and you are assaulting one of my thieves,” her voice was dangerously low, and by the end it sounded very much like a growl.
                The speaker just smirked and Lyra knew she had been right. It had been a set up. Every thief in the city (and probably a fair amount outside of it) knew the name of the Queen of Thieves, and it was not a name to be smirked at. “And if you fight one of my thieves,” she continued, “You fight me.”
                “And if you fight one’ve my thieves, you can bet on fighting me,” came a voice, and Sorcen stepped forward. “Lyra Silverlit, I challenge you.”
It is not a widely known but thieves have their own kind of Court System and customs to go with it. Everyone present knew that this was not only a fight between rival gang leaders. This was fight for superiority. In essence Sorcen was challenging Lyra’s authority as Queen and her gang’s superiority for her being head of it. Whoever won would be the rightful ruler of the thieves.
                A circle was automatically formed around Lyra and Sorcen by all thieves present, except for Borcan who was trying to get his breath back; he looked pretty bad.
                “I accept your challenge Sorcen,” Lyra said, though everybody had known she would. Sorcen leered. Lyra glanced back at her gang, who formed half the circle. They knew the rules, do not attack until attacked, she just wanted to make it clear it still applied.
                Lyra and Sorcen stood in the afternoon sun sizing each other up. Lyra knew he was bigger and probably stronger, so she couldn’t let herself get  trapped or too close. She also knew he was not as fast as she, and his reflexes were sluggish, she could use this to her advantage though her skirts would slow her up. Lyra waited for Sorcen to make the first move, she wouldn’t start a fight, but she’d finish one.
                “What’s-a-matter Lyra, afraid?” he sneered.
                “No,” she replied, and then he made his move.  
                Sorcen lunged for Lyra and hit her squarely in the eye. Nice tactic, thought Lyra, try to impair my vision. She jumped back, as did Sorcen. He was leering again. Lyra blinked once, twice,  shook her head and stepped up. Sorcen lunged again but Lyra was expecting this, she ducked and hit him heavily in the jaw coming back up. Sorcen whirled toward her and her and threw another punch which she avoided easily, though she got caught in the gut with the next one. Winded, she stumbled a bit and Sorcen seized his chance. He lunged yet again and struck a blow to the head.
                Lyra reeled, stars and balls of color burst before her eyes. Her skirts tripped her up and she fell heavily. She rolled over onto her back just in time to see Sorcen aiming a kick and rolled out of the way. She was back on her feet in a trice and shook her head once more.
                “Doesn’t look like things’re goin’ your way Lyra!” jeered Sorcen.
A boiling rage burst in her chest and spread throughout her body. She had fought with some of the best, she knew what she was doing. She was not about to lose to a hot-headed loud-mouth like Sorcen. This time Lyra lunged, making a sound very much like a roar. He managed to block her first few blows, but just barely. Her fist finally connected with his head and then his gut. He reeled. Lyra pursued. She wasn’t a knight, she had no need to be chivalrous. Another blow to the head and one to the jaw. Fighting like a wildcat Lyra sought out all his weakest areas, until Sorcen fell to the ground with a thump.
                Using her knees to pin his arms, Lyra put her hand to his throat and applied pressure, not enough to choke him, but enough to let him know she meant business. Her other arm was pulled back, the hand balled into a fist that would surely break his nose if she brought her arm down.
                Putting her face very close to his she said, “Surrender,” though it came out as more of a growl. He spit in her face.  Lyra applied more pressure to his throat and her upraised arm became even more taut.
                “I said surrender,” she breathed. She could feel him gulping under her hand.
                “Al-alright , I surrender.”
                “I surrender!”
                “Good.” Lyra got up and started to walk toward Borcan when she heard footsteps. She turned around at the last moment and dealt Sorcen such a blow he fell down unconscious.
                “Some people never know when to quit,”  she muttered as she pulled Borcan to his feet. He had been beat up pretty bad.
                “Somebody see to him, then get back to your posts,” she barked, then she strode off into the direction of home.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Okay, so formatting isn't nearly as traumatizing as I thought it would be. I've gotten the preliminary formatting done for the stories I have final versions of. Which, granted, is only four out of eleven, and it doesn't include any illustrations, but at least now I have a handle on the process.

And, since we have time this year, I can export the individual .INDD files to .PDF files and send them to the authors to glance over, just to make sure I'm not overlooking some of the finer points.

So, my outlook on the whole process is definitely more positive than it was. Now, if I can avoid any major crisis I'll be in good shape.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


So, almost done with my edits for Leafkin. I still haven't received two stories, which is worrisome, but if worse comes to worse I can start the formatting and stick those in when they are finished. I'm still nervous about the formatting process. InDesign is a big, scary program.

I think for the actual publishing we're going to go with Lulu. Last year we paid for the printing and then took the project to the local bindery. That process appeals me because it involves local businesses in what is essentially local art. I liked the 'grass-roots' feeling of it all. But a place like Lulu has definite advantages. For one, you can get an ISBN, which we didn't have last year, (Unfortunately we miss out on the free ISBN because we're using a custom cover and not their 'cover service'.) and a spot on It's a bit more expensive than our process last year but not too terribly much so.

This whole thing has my nerves tied up in a knot. I'll be glad when it's over and I won't have to think about it for another six months, until it starts all over again

Saturday, July 24, 2010

To Edit is to Listen

The title of this post is actually a quote taken from page 2 of the text I am, in brief, going to be discussing: The Artful Edit by Susan Bell. Bell has been editing fiction and non-fiction professionally for over twenty years for such places as Random House. So, it's safe to say this woman has some major editorial chops. The book is actually about the act of self-editing and I, honestly, would recommend it to anyone. It blend's Bell's own wealth of experience with the voices of real (successful) authors and real (successful) editors. 

But self-editing isn't what I'm going to be talking (blogging) about. As I've said, it's Leafkin season and we're moving forward with volume two, which, if all goes as planned, we're set to release in early September. We're still in the editing phase, which is what moved me to pick up this book again. I was re-reading the introduction and was struck by how many good reminders are packed into it. 

As this is a book about self-editing, it's introduction, naturally, goes over some aspects of professional editing. She highlights the fact that there are different types of editing, contrasting the minutely minded edits Gordon Lish gave to Raymond Carver and the broad scope story ideas editor Maxwell Perkins gave to F. Scott Fitzgerald. The job of the editor, according to Bell, is to listen to not only what the author needs but what the story needs as well. No two edits are going to be alike because every author and every story is different. Her main point was best summarized, I think, by:

 "A text deserves to be pondered and nudged, not simply bullied into place. ... Editing is a conversation, not a monologue."(pg.6)

I am absolutely a nut for quotes so I could go on quoting her forever but I'll spare you. Suffice it to say that I have found this book helpful in my own work as well in my latest efforts to help pull together this anthology. Bell reminds us that the wise editor does not strong arm the text in front of her and, following in that example, neither does the wise self-editor.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Arts! ... again

So more art by L. H. Reid, my personal art slave. Really they're just some sketches she's done of my characters while we were hanging out (not at all comparable to her completed portrait of Lauryn) but my fabulous little brother bought me a new printer/scanner for my birthday and here they are!

 This is the first sketch ever done of Lauryn. And this is after Lily went over it a couple times to make her less pathetic ... poor Lauryn.

It should also be noted that this was drawn quite some time ago in Lily's old cartoon style.

This is a costume concept we were playing around with for Lauryn. Apparently I don't think about what my characters are wearing in anything more than the vaguest of terms. So I bug Lily and sketches like this are born. At the end we went a different route with Lauryn's clothes but this sketch remains.

And this is just a sketch of Lauryn with a book. She doesn't have much in the way of hobbies and books are easier to draw than harps.

Meet Lady Faline Laure, one of Lauryn's two friends. She and Saeran kind of disappear for awhile after Chapter Three but they really are important to the rest of the story, I swear! Anyway, I think she looks like more a vixen than she actually is in this but all in all it's a pretty good representation.

And this is Saeran Marret, Lauryn's other friend. This, also, is drawn in Lily's old, cartoon style. I kind of think she looks a bit like Disney's Belle. Not that I mind.

Here is Kieran, who is ridiculously stoic and, in my opinion, quite dreamy. I like this (granted I'm inclined to like anything that involves Kieran) but Lily was never satisfied with it and keeps promising to draw a better version.
This is Syrus, the Mage-King. He has absolutely nothing to do with story, he just kind of exists in the world but I love him so I slip him in whenever I feel I can get away with it. Lily wanted me to point out here that she doesn't really like any of the faces on the older drawings but says the costume design is okay for concept. 

And on ending note we have a quick sketch for the lulz. On the right is Lily's character, Karn. On the left is  my character, Kieran. Karn is very sensitive about his freckles and Keiran is being insensitive.

Lily is horrified that I posted these, and honestly it's completely self indulgent, but I love these sketches and, well, it's my blog. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I have resolved to let Lauryn finish saying what she needs to say. If at the end, she needs to be scrapped (which is a real possibility) then scrapped she will be. But I will at least let her finish her statement, whatever that may be.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Writing Exercise

So a couple of years ago my brother-in-law (my sister's husband) bought me one of those writing exercise box things. I was messing around with it the other day and it was surprisingly fun. So I thought I might as well post the result here.

He swore on his mother's grave, but then he swore on just about everything. My mom used to warn me about men like him; loud-mouthed, hot-headed and insincere. And yet, though I had known better, as he swore, I believed him.

It wasn't so much that I had been blind to the truth so much as I saw it differently. I mean, yes, he tended to lie and yes, he tended to kill things. But that didn't mean he wasn't sweet. Because he was sweet, in a lying, killing sort of way.  So. He swore. I believed him.

And then everything went to hell. Because you can't really agree to shelter a supernatural bounty hunter without everything going to hell. It's like a law of the Universe.

It wasn't so bad at first. My apartment is small but we kept different hours. And he was usually pretty good about not bringing his work home. But then there was that weekend in Duluth.

I don't even know where Duluth is to be honest. Texas maybe? One evening I was doing the books over take-out  Chinese. He came in (through the window, he never used the door) looking like he was going to kill something. I was beginning to realize that was his normal expression. I think I might have muttered a hello but most of my attention was on the books. I'm not exactly known for my financial acumen but as I ran my own business, there wasn't really anyone else for the duty to fall to.

Anyway, one moment I was eating Chinese, the next I was swimming back to consciousness in a dingy hotel room. In Duluth.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


It's that time of year. Leafkin submissions are due today. Which means Drea commences the bulk of her editing tomorrow, which means that I will commence (read: be drowned in) line editing in just a few more days. Then author meetings then .... Formatting.

I've familiarized myself with Adobe InDesign but this will be my first major project. I gotta say, I'm nervous. It's one thing to move simply move around and make minor corrections to a file that's already been formatted. It's another entirely to start from scratch.

In between bouts of editing I'm gonna try to read up on it as much a possible

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The System

I want to talk to you about women in Fantasy. From the Kick-Ass Heroine of Urban Fantasy to the Strong-Minded Woman of Epic Fantasy there seems to be a vogue on for women that are Taking Names and Bucking The System. And it's kind of annoying me.

Don't get me wrong. There's some really great stuff out there of that exact variety. I, for one, love Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson novels. And Steampunk pirate chicks are just plain cool. 

But sometimes it seems like authors create social systems just so their female character/s can tromp on it. Or, worse, they've stuck their characters into a world with the gender roles we've come to expect for no other reason than the fact that its normal for fantasy and have their female characters prance about high-kicking the established system with barely a nod to the fact that this is going on. If you want to have a world where women use swords and curse and do all sorts of what-have-you then do it. It's fantasy. You can make it that way. Really. And if you don't want that to be your world, then how about seeing some consequences. 

I'd like to see some strong voices from female characters who are living in The System. Dealing with it. Hell, even using it. Because, quite frankly, even in our days of Womens Lib and Feminist ideals, that's what most of us do. The System is different for us than it was, say, 100 years ago but that doesn't change the fact that we're still living in it, and, on a day to day basis, doing very little to challenge it. 

There are some examples in this in contemporary fiction, mostly, I think from the epic/machinations-of-power sub genre. But a lot of these women are either appendages to men or, quite frankly, manipulative bitches. I'd like to see a woman of the straight up heroine variety deal with living in The System. I'd like to see what that means for her. And, okay, so maybe she's gonna have to high-kick it a little. After all, isn't that what heroes do?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Niggling Self Doubt

I just finished Reading Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding, which, I must say, is an excellently fun book. Steampunk pirates, what more could you want? Well there's also some good characterization and lots of humor, if you want to be greedy. (I'm always jealous of funny authors. I'm not funny. I try and all I get are weird looks.)I haven't so thoroughly enjoyed reading a book in ages. Granted there are flaws in it, but they are easily over shadowed by everything that is right with it.

And it has made me realize something. That which I enjoyed so much, may just be lacking in my own writing. Now, I've always been a pretty words sort of girl rather than one of swashbuckling derring-do (or drunken-do as the case most often is in Retribution. Seriously, you should read that book. It's great.) and I'm fine with that. The interesting, fast plot and the well-drawn, vivid characters - each of which had doses of both the despicable and the grand swirling about in them - all swept together with a sort of freeness in the writing itself has made me take a good hard look at my own efforts toward story telling. 

As I said, anything I came up with would be much, much different from Retribution. But there are certain skills, certain elements that are universal. My favorite books have them in spades. Question is, do I? Does my story?

Now, I love Lauryn (my protagonist) but she's not terribly charming. Nor is she terribly fun. And while I am thoroughly entertained by my cast of characters, would anyone else be? Am I capable of creating fully realized characters, not just paper-thin puppets manipulated for my own amusement? 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Oh The Shame!

Alright. It's confession time.

I like anime.

I know, I know. Gasp. Shock. Horror.

All that aside, allow me to defend myself briefly.

What I really, truly, love about anime is that it allows for amazingly epic characters that you can't quite get away with in serious novel writing these days. (Please, no cracks about Fantasy and 'serious novel writing') Even with the resurgence of the fantastic into mainstream television (Fringe, V, Lost ect.) there are still some things you just can't get away with as a 'western' writer.

For example, take a character with violet eyes, a penchant for poetry, that speaks in a pleasing monotone and carries a freaking huge sword. Written by John Smith of Middleton it's self-indulgent nonsense. But if you meet the same character in an anime (or manga, let's not forget manga) he's flipping bad ass.

Because it's anime.

You can have super powers, cute girls, pretty men, swords, guns, giant robots, and gravity defying hair without anyone batting an eye.  And the guy who reads poetry and has a refined enjoyment of tea and flowers is just gonna be that much harder to beat. The clothes are great and you know the kid who just picked up the sword/gun/giant robot is still gonna be able to beat the crap out of the bad guy.

Granted you also get misogyny and (oddly) a fair bit of snobbery but it's all so much fun. And some of it's even good.

I'm not going to go so far as to say that there isn't a fair amount of it that's pure silliness, but I like silliness. And I've always been of the opinion that the fantastic is necessary to the understanding of the human experience. Some things, some ideas, are just too big to get across without it.

So, yeah, I like anime.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


So, kind of ridiculous, but here are some pictures a friend of mine, L. H. Reid, did of my characters.

Below is Lauryn, my main character. Under her, is Islin


Seriously. Success. I've been trying to find a name for AGES now and I finally have one. My villain is no longer nameless. It's fantastic. Now seduction of his brother's woman can commence.

Not really.

Well sort of.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Yet Another Incarnation of NotWriting

Now I know I'm in a funk.

I've started playing video games again. ( a pastime I try to avoid as I have a fondness for terrible RPGs and tend to get a bit obsessive) which is a sure sign that I want to write and am finding ways to avoid it. And I'm not just whiling away the time with any video game. I'm playing a game that I've already beaten. Twice.

 But there really is a point in playing it again.


Side quests!

This time I'm gonna make sure the main character gets his Pirate Costume!

Favorite Writing Rule

At least for today:

'Remember, Writing doesn't love you. It doesn't care.'

- A. L. Kennedy

Monday, March 1, 2010

You Are What You Eat

It's a well known principle used both by the spiritual and the physically fit.

At the moment it has me worried.

I am, of course, referring to my fictional appetite. While I consistently feed myself a steady stream of Patricia McKillip's beautiful, dream-like prose and Robin McKinley's cool elegance I also have a not-so-secret love of Korean dramas and truly awful B-horror flicks.

What would the marriage of these four bring about? What horrors are waiting to be unleashed through my pen?

I have no illusions as to whether or not my writing is immune to this principle of life. I write what I read / watch / experience. More or less. Everyone does.

So, what do I predict for myself?

Elegantly written, dream-like stories about women who are desperately in love, possibly have a child, but can't marry the man that they are desperately in love with because their families don't approve / old lover shows up but instead of everything ending up alright in the end they're all going to die horribly.

Welcome to my literary career.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Why Oh Why Do I Do This To Myself?

So I decided, after the off and on (mostly off) progress of 2009, for 2010 I would attempt to write a short story a month. The point being to force myself to write no matter  how horrible it turned out. So far my attempts include a rather ridiculous one about soul mates (platonic mind you) and a rather irritable romance writer. Both are rather light and silly, neither of them are great exercises in skill or emotion. They're fluff.

I like fluff. I don't think it gets enough credit.

But it is (relatively) easy to write fluff. And one aspect of this project is that it has brought to mind a couple stories that I originally put aside because I was fairly certain I did not have the skill to write them. I've thought about them every now and again but for the most part, they've remained nice and biddable in the back of my mind.

Apparently they have both decided that now is a good time to perk up and start making noise again. The problem is, I'm still fairly certain I don't have the skill to write them. And it's not like I don't have plenty to do. I'm still working on my novel. SWS (Sylvanopolis Writers' Society) is branching out and gearing up for the second volume of Leafkin, not to mention a reprint of the first volume.

I don't want to make a serious attempt at a short story. Fluff suits me right now.

Really I'm just complaining.