Thursday, December 20, 2007

It has snowed every morning since I returned home. Fat, white flakes like bleached fish food tumbling down. The air is thick with them, and the water in our fishbowl icy. It fogs the sky so we cannot see out, only grey spattered with white.

Passing through the glass, the cold radiates in. It claims the air within its reach by coating the floors with an invisible chill.

Outside my window, where the snow has yet to cover, grass and dirt are visible--the remnants of an autumn that left months ago.

It will be three more months until Spring.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Neither dead nor resting, but in that headspace where what I want most for Christmas is to lock myself in my room and not emerge until the manuscript is finished. This is normal for writers—when the words flow like the pipes burst and water is cascading onto the floor. All we can do is fill notebooks and screens as quickly as our fingers allow us. Vocalized sentences are short—disjointed—the incoherent half-thoughts of an emergency situation.

Much has happened this half-month, as the roller coaster that began in early September has yet to find the smooth straight slow-down before we disembark.

Saturday night, I set aside a partial outline and the blinding rush that comes when a project is less than six chapters from completion, and sat beside friends who had gathered with me to celebrate the holidays.

My mother asked me to write a (very) short piece to accompany a family photo in the Kamloops Daily News about what Christmas means to our family, and it had me thinking about what Christmas means to me—the scattered images that the word recalls.

Making mashed potatoes in a giant lobster pot the year we slept on Yukiko's floor, and our Christmas bird was chicken from a Brazilian restaurant. The year I learned why each note of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" or "I'll be home for Christmas" is so often tinged with melancholy. The year I learned why "White Christmas" is the same. Snow. Breath misting in the air, as my small voice joined my friends when we went caroling when no one went caroling anymore. My dog with his back against the tiles before the fireplace, panting but refusing to leave the warmth. A hockey rink floor and several of the arena seats filled with people gathered for the church celebrations. The first time I saw the Kamakura Daibutsu, and when we got lost trying to find Tokyo Tower. Christmas shopping in Omiya. Christmas shopping in Pasadena. Dinner at my grandparents.

Times is irrelevant. Things and places mingle and blur. People remain clear.

Christmas is just another day when it isn't spent with those you love.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Author's note for "The Rainy Season"

Why hello my foul-mouthed little story. I see stumbling off into the world brought you home. In a publication, no less.

(Please stop eating poor Aki-kitsu. She was not rescued from that stall in Fushimi to survive the bullet-train ride back to Tokyo and the trans-Pacific flight so she could be eaten by a speculative fiction magazine. Oh, wait. She might be reading said magazine. ...wow, that fox is small.)

I wanted to say something profound, or at least inspiring, but I feel too humbled by sharing a ToC with Leah Bobet and Marie Brennan.

So instead, I'll tell you the story of "The Rainy Season." In November 2005, my maternal great-grandmother died. She was the first death of someone very close to me, and three days after her death, I wrote the draft of this short story. A month later, in December 2005, my paternal grandmother died.

Those two deaths provided the emotion and some of the character traits for the story. There seemed, at the time, a definite connection between how helpless and angry we feel when someone we love dies with the feeling of how helpless and angry I felt sometimes while living in Japan. How you want to rage against the world for seeming to ignore how hurt you are, and how important unexpected kindness becomes.

The temple, if you're wondering, belongs to the Kannon, the goddess of mercy and compassion—She who Hears the Prayers of the world. I didn't put it in the story because there's no way the narrator could have known that.

As for the clunkiness, the profanity, and the lack of a setting... well, my little story, your author has been working hard at her craft. I'll do better next time.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Wrangling Authors

So you have an unruly character, do you? Now you're completely stuck because they just refused to do as you told them?

Please excuse my confusion, because I don't have those kinds of unruly characters anymore. Even when I occasionally want to claim I have "uncooperative characters," I'm aware it's not the character that's at fault. It's me for not having done my job to get to know that character. Or I'm failing to trust that my characters know what they're doing.

The first step to overcoming "unruly characters" is taking responsibility for your work. You write. If you'd like to explain the bliss of hitting a groove and the magical flow of words as your "muse" or "characters behaving themselves," I'll understand. However, regardless of where you believe your ideas and inspirations come from it's your hands on the keyboard.

How many doctors do you know who would dare to say they blotched a surgery because their scalpels didn't feel like cooperating? Have you ever had a mechanic fail to fix your car because her wrench went on vacation?

If you "can't" write, you need to explore why. Don't just stop and blame the character or say your muse refuses to cooperate. What isn't working? Have you forgotten something—like the purpose of the scene? Is there a plot point you've overlooked? Have your characters developed differently? Is your pacing off?

Or is the problem not with the text, but with you? Are you tired? Have you over-worked your creativity and need to go refill the well? Or are you scared to write?

The next step to overcoming "unruly characters" is understanding you must never force a character to do anything. If your character won't do something, that's your subconscious going "hey, this is totally WRONG."

This is why you have to take responsibility for your work—you have to understand that you wrote it, so you know when something isn't working. Believe it or not, you also know how to "fix" it. Ask yourself why you're insisting the character does something. Are you choosing plot over character?

If you're committed to a plot point, you'll need to find a believable way to make the "new" behavior still bring about that event. However, you might need to come to grips with the fact that there's a possibility you're going to have to change your mind. What you thought had to happen may not work at all when you get to writing it.

Outlines are not the ten commandments, handed to you from God Almighty who will see to it you suffer eternal pain and torment should you fail to adhere to every minute detail. (Especially if you aren't working with an editor yet.) They are much more like instructions to build Ikea furniture. You've got these pieces, vague diagrams, and an Allen wrench. You could follow your outline to the letter, and still end up with a three-legged desk.

How? Simple. You allowed your preconception of who the character was to get in the way of who the character became. Remember when you wrote that outline? How you knew what happened next? You're ignoring that voice. (If you have to call it your muse, fine.) Let go and trust the writing. Trust yourself. You have to believe that you are strong enough to chronicle the adventures through your brave new world. If you don't have confidence in your writing, no one else will, either.

Finally, there are no rules when you write that first draft. Forget the outline. That was a sketch to get the basic shapes clear in your brain. You're painting now, baby, and nobody cares if you use Prussian Blue instead of Ultramarine.

You're the only who knows you didn't plan on using that color from the get go.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Holidays are Here

Please note there will be no literary value to this post whatsoever. Thank you.

Behold my mighty holiday cupcake army.

They were to shop for gifts, write cards, wrap presents, decorate the house, and plan my holiday party.

However, they are being eaten. One by one, my helpers' numbers decrease. Most distressing.

With gift lists to make, holiday writer parties to plan, and things—some of them waiting since May—to be mailed out, the NaNoWriMo has been rather dead in the water these past few days. I have so much to celebrate this year, especially after the way last Christmas was a rough patch thanks to all those too quickly returned "no thank yous" from agents. Can I express my relief at not being stuck in a slush pile during the holiday season? (Trust me. Waiting for four month to get a "sorry, not this time" stings.)

For those of you waiting on that request or all-important yes during this season, I offer you one of the remaining fat-free chocolate-iced soldiers. You deserve it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On this day America considers set aside for thanks, I am rendered speechless, having uttered the words of gratitude each night instead of saving them up to spend over turkey.

Between when you celebrate the harvest and Macy's floats rolled through New York's streets my life has changed dramatically.

Last year I watched the mailbox, anticipating—hoping—for good news from that city.

This year I spoke to the agent I wanted from the beginning on the morning of Canadian Thanksgiving. Last week I had coffee with an agency sister, and this week, I set a meeting with my editor to discuss an outline for the book she asked me to write.

The third anniversary of my great-grandmother's death come and gone, and the story written three days after she passed has found its way into print. Words on a page that were never meant to be more than an ethereal embrace. Permission to smear mascara down my cheeks, fill tissues, and feel the depths of her loss.

Could I have imagined last year to see my name within the same table of contents as an author I have admired from chapter one of her debut novel? Or the friends that writing would bring into my life? The love and support of my family, who recognized a need for me to do what made me happy?

How can that much gratitude fit within a single day? Or even two?

No, it has to spread through all three hundred and sixty-five.

Thank you.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Break out the Champagne Pt 2

Marie Brennan and I are in the Fall 2007 issue of ON SPEC magazine.

You can order it here. It's ON SPEC Fall 2007 Vol. 19 No. 3 #70.

You can see the ToC, which caused me to squeal like a fangirl, here. (I'm happy about the excerpt line they chose, and being in the same issue as Marie Brennan, because she's fantastic.)

You can read the contributor biographies here.

I will soon be giving away a signed copy, so stayed tuned for more details. If you aren't on blogger, don't fret, as I will likely give one away on Good Karma closer to Christmas.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembrance

Remembrance Day
is snow,
bugles,
and red felt poppies with green felt centers.
Only recently did the centers become black.

They used to be green,
and we'd buy them for a quarter
when the veteran services trays came around the classrooms.
A vaguely flower-shaped sail would top our pink eraser boats
that crossed the wooden expanse of our desktops
exploring for the Hudson Bay Company.

I remember
red and green felt left on a gravestone in the snow,
and my father's voice proud,
choked with withheld tears,
and visible in the November air.
Grandfather Elwood survived WWII
to be hit by a car months before I was born.

I have not planted a poppy in that granite for years,
but I still remember my unknown soldier
fought for peace.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Silicon Valley

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise.

In the fog of anthropology, that misty ocean between observer and “going native,” you find yourself seeking a port.

It was not your aim to study and explore, but laziness has few career directions, and chronicling the once familiar lands is one that sounded easy enough.

People lived here before, in the sand and the dust. They grew crops and sowed lives, but all of that was generations ago.

You often wonder over a cup of tea—hot because you need the heat to ward off the ever-present whir outside your window, how can you be an anthropologist when there are no people to study? Doesn’t culture need humans to create it?

A jungle of cables and tangled power lines is only inhabited by data. Ones, zeros, and electricity make up the cities, where families once celebrated holidays, weddings, and funerals. If servers and ISP addresses get married, you have yet to be invited to a ceremony.

This used to be a salad bowl—a place to provide most of America’s food. Now it seems an organic CPU. Only the processors remain, all coated in a smog-pate that may have once been lettuce.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Writing is Work, or Dealing with the Practical Person

Chasing words like shadows, trying to capture them with a net, and finding they can always slip through no matter how fine the mesh is—that's only half the battle of writing.

There are obstacles to any art form that is shared beyond just the creator. Critics—who bring a mixture of critique and just criticism, the fear of success, and the heartache of those "no thank you" letters are things any writer seeking publication might encounter.

Before you even reach THE END, there's another roadblock to find your way around—overcoming the necessity to validate why it is we want to sit alone in a room for hours on end. Even if you are one of those social writers—who I envy with white mac books in the coffeehouse—you still make the magic happen when your eyes see into a middle distance that may not even be on this world.

Try explaining what appears to be anti-social/dissociative tendencies as "work" to someone who doesn't function every day in a creative capacity. You'll realize those blue pencil cafe sessions might as well feature a gingham blanket and sandwiches from a wicker basket.

Non-creative people, let's call them Practicals, don't work well with abstracts. If they could, they'd be more creative, and this language barrier wouldn't exist, and none of us would need to explain why we would possibly want to spend more time with people who aren't "real" than those who are. (If you happen to be a creative non-fiction writer, you're got a foot in the door of the "real" world, but don't be snobbish, you're just as weird as the rest of us.)

Often, when you meet a Practical, and you make that tiny social misstep of answering "I'm a writer" to the common question of "what do you do?", you'll be rewarded with a smile and the follow-up of "are you published?"

I know, it's frustrating, but you mustn't reply "no, ass-hat, if I was published, I'd be an author." No good comes from belittling the Practicals. Remember, if they began discussing mortgage rates and office promotions, you might feel equally unsure in your conversational footing.

Yes, for writers there's a distinction to when you may refer to yourself as an author or use italics for the title of your book. It's a rite of passage—like being entrusted with a secret sorority handshake.

One may say to another writer "I wrote 4012 words yesterday" and be understood, because we all speak a common professional language. (Remember when you first came to understand how short 500 words really was?) Few Practicals can translate our wordcount jargon into a measurement they can quantify.

Thus the need for a physical object Practicals can hold in their hands to use as a measure of our success. This sounds disparaging, for which I apologize, but trust me. It's the first step to helping ease the Practical's inexperience with the idea of writing as a viable job-skill and not "playing on the computer."

This is why we seek publication like Arthur sought the grail. It's our undeniable proof—the physical representation of our accomplishments that our Practical friends and family can fully grasp. It signifies that what we do requires a skill we deserve recognition and payment for.

Yes, payment. If it sounds like doublethink to expect monetary reimbursement for your creativity, allow me to explain.

I write because I fucking love it. Make no mistake of that—only a fool writes for the sole purpose of being published. However, my indulgence led to developing a skill. Should I choose to employ my skill as a livelihood or a supplement to my livelihood, I need to be paid for it.

There is no "selling out," and work-for-hire is not a "compromise" of your artistic integrity. Erase those notions from your mind. If this is your career, you're going to have to occasionally be a Practical about it.

How, you ask, does one who doesn't have a contract or a book on a shelf communicate with Practicals? Courage. Tell them what you do. Endure the blank stare with a smile and patiently answer their hesitant questions. Practicals secretly wish they were creative, it's where a lot of their mistrust of us comes from, so take away the mystery of it. When they say "oh, I could never write a novel" tell them they could. (Actually, anyone can write a manuscript. Only a published novelist has written a novel, but don't argue semantics with Practicals. It makes you seem pretentious.)

You may find most Practicals are creative—they just don't know it yet.

Good luck. If all else fails, print off your work-in-progress and hit them with it. It's hard to deny a few pounds of paper impacting your skull.*

*Dreaming in Red does not endorse the abuse of Practicals. Even if I did, I would never encourage it to involve manuscripts, as obviously hardcover editions would be far more effective.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ye Olde NaNoWriMo




As the frights and sights of Halloween fade into echoes and afterimages, the clock strikes midnight and writers in multiple nations begin their quest for bragging rights.

Yes, lovelies, NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—is upon us, and thousands of eager writers are trying their hand at the official and many unofficial NaNo friendly competitions.

The golden number is 1667 words a day, 30 days in a row, to produce a 50,000 word novel. Or 50,000 words towards a longer novel. Or 50,000 words in your current novel. Everyone seems to have their own take, because it's not necessarily the "rules" but the challenge that matters.

With Karen Mahoney and Renee Sweet, I have thrown my hat into the ring. Our goal is 30,000 words (or 1000 words a day for this month.)

Yet before my NaNo even got its play button hit, I'm finding a software glitch. The 30,000 words were supposed to be put into a brand YA novel that I've spent most of October excited about starting. However, my adult manuscript is stalled at chapter 22, as I am having to rewrite the second part. Now I have to decide if I hold off on the YA or risk losing the momentum again on the adult manuscript.

I asked Agent M regarding what she'd want to see first, and I will use her input to decide what is strategically wisest. If she feels a YA novel is something I should move on, 30,000 words would probably get me halfway through the first draft. But it means another month delay on the adult one being finished.

Ok, I know, the answer seems to be to use the "shuffle" feature and mix up the time spent on the projects, since we're not doing official NaNo anyway. Or maybe I could write the YA by hand in a note book, and work on the rewrite strictly by keyboard to help make a distinction. Yes! All right, I will try today. Time to get out the pen and paper... find a nice, quiet coffee shop... and kick all your arses.

How do you balance multiple projects? Do you? What's on your NaNo?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Chicken Soup

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise.

You press the dial and listen for the automated click. As the blue flame flickers, you move the saucepan onto the burner. Slicing through the yellow butter, you push and prod at the piece stuck to your knife. The smell of sizzling diary fat is your reward.

Next comes the onions you chopped from larger rings into small white squares line with green. You watch as they pale and become translucent, as your wooden spoon ushers them across the black Teflon.

The door opens. You can hear his voice calling your name.

You reach for the celery—green crescents. Galaxies and galaxies of worth of symmetrical moons.

His lumbering steps echo in the hall. Ragged breaths between the syllables of your name.

Carrots join the rue. Orange planets, but each world is flat.

You stir. Adjust the heat. Then you wait.

When he enters the kitchen, your hand is on the knife. Black handle cool in your grip. You hold the butcher’s blade so the light turns it silver.

“Why?” he asks.

You plunge the blade in, and hold out the empty chicken stock container to catch the red liquid.

Gothic Romance

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise.

The lilies smelled like lust, their purity stained by her accomplishment. Claria had always smelled like lilies, and in some perverse way, it meant she had always been perfumed by death and mourning.

John knew that his heart should have been as heavy as his poetry always professed it to be. His girlfriend was dead. The pallor of her skin was not sun-deprived or powder-induced—it was authentic grave-pale.

She had loved death, and wrong as their families had always found it, he’d never wanted her so badly. Lucky bitch was embraced by Thantos, and he was still stuck in the mortal coil, one kindred less than he had been two weeks ago, when he’d gotten her suicide text message.

Five months of shared Poe and Lovecraft, and she equated John with K-Fed.

Selfish.

The lilies on her half-open coffin taunted John—just as she had when she said she’d let him put his hands around her neck, then pretended she hadn’t, and swore it was more meaningful if they suffered the burning passion for a few weeks longer before they sated their sinful hunger.

It wasn’t fair. The rope had gotten more action than he had.

But there—in the second row, and smearing her black eyeliner, was Claria’s friend, Tammy.

Drawing in a deep breath, John wondered if she would smell like lilies, too.

FM radio

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise.

I am FM, but sometimes my station gets garbled as another louder one swallows your attention. You’ll have to fine-tune, and sometimes that can only be done with an increment by increment knob. SEEK will miss the signal.

The detriment of this being in our hurry-rush-right-now-world, is the art of fine-tuning has been lost to the need to keep a hand free for the cellphone.

I have long sets of music, where they go uninterrupted. No talking, no commercials. Just the music that you forgot you enjoyed drumming the steering wheel to, and dancing in your car like you’d just gotten your license.

When there are commercials, I promise the sponsors are worth paying attention to, because they’ve been shifted from the chaff.

There are no shock-jocks, no personalities who thrive on cruelty. Just people who love the music like you do, their headsets around their necks as they flip dials, fade in one song as the other ends.

Yes, I take requests, but only during certain shows.

The truth is, I was a DJ—but it wasn’t AM or FM. It was high school—we were plugged into the PA system.

Snow White

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise.

The baseball bat smashed the kitchen window, scattering glass and yellow daisies across the back porch. That was what it had come to—their entire life together expressed in the tinkling shards of a shattered window

He had been her Prince Charming, her Aladdin, her knight on a white horse, and all that remained was a hunchback, a beast who growled commands and slammed doors.

She wasn’t certain why she blamed the daisies. They were seven innocent bystanders, whose only fault was being flowers. Flowers were ineffectual quellers of her husbands rages. She’d been pushed aside and quieted, shoved into a corner like an unwanted hardy houseplant. So really, she should have left the daisies alone.

Still, if Snow White had been resurrected by rage instead of love, she would have been less than happy when she saw her seven dwarves. No, Snow White she was not, and her life had ceased to be a fairy tale when the deep claw-marks on her husband’s shoulder refused to heal.

Daisies were just flowers, and he claimed no memory of what happened when the moon was full. Daisies couldn’t help her, but they could always be replanted, and windows could be re-paned. Princes were harder to come by.

Manuscripts are children

I do not have children, but having been employed working with them, I can only guess that writing manuscripts is a great deal like being a single parent. Oh there can be additional caretakers brought in to assist, but the development of the child is really in the hands of Mommy or Daddy.

Single-child families are in fashion right now—one property that gets all of Mommy's love and attention, and the rest of caregivers lavish it with gifts and encouragement.

Come November the dynamic of my manuscript family is going to change. The eldest, entering that senior year, will hopefully be on his path towards college and moving out on his own, and all the little hiccups that come with leaving home for the first time. Only, he has to contend with the newest addition to the family, which as all youngest children, thinks she should have all of mommy's attention because she needs it most. She will be the child who demands ice cream NOW, and throws a little fit when I tell her to wait until after her elder brother is finished studying for his English exams.

Then there's the work-for-hire foster child. Not really all mine, but looking for a home and trusting that I won't let the selfish little NaNo snot kick it to the curb while I was coaxing the eldest through those first job interviews.

Oh, and NaNo's a darling, not even started in the world and already showing promising by kicking a lot. People want to buy her baby clothes and rattles and ask when they can hold her.

What about you? Is yours a single-child family, or are you finding a balance between siblings?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Colds are tricky bastards. You'll think that you've recovered, only to find its mutated into something that causes you to have a coughing fit in the morning instead of at seven o'clock at night.

Finally feeling ready to rejoin the world, and possibly kick some ass.

As I am up to my tailbone in revisions, I thought maybe I'd share my process to see if its radically different from any of yours. My manuscript is separated into two parts, and I have completed redrafting part one, which was relatively solid to begin with as it was based on pre-existing material. I moved on to part two this week, and that's all new material that's going to require more attention and work. When I do a first draft, it tends to wander along and stumbled over tree roots, and get sidetracked by interesting cloud formations. That...uh...autistic draft rarely is shown to anyone, because I go through and give it a redraft so it's a little more social and able to communicate. After the tightening I get draft 2, which is the first draft that I show to readers for feedback.

As I had mentioned to Karen a couple weeks ago, I am playing with ideas for a sequel, but I'm intending to use NaNoWriMo to jump start a fresh project so that I can return to the manuscript's world hungry for new adventures. It won't be the traditional NaNo—I'll be aiming for more than 30,000 words with an effort made to reach the 50,000 word mark.

Anyone else throwing their hat in this November, or are you waiting for JanNoWriMo?

Oh, and in case I haven't mentioned it lately... Agent M is awesome. I'm so grateful and happy to be working with her.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Break out the Champagne Pt 1

While I am unable to reveal the client for The Secret Project or the specifics of what we are doing, there are certain facts I can tell you...

1) The Secret Project is a writing-for-hire project, which means that I have not written it yet, nor is it anything related to my original fiction or creative non-fiction writing.

2) It will be only after the official announcement by the client that I may disclose their identity and general information on my blog. While this means that we'll all have to be patient, it make sense they would want to keep things quiet.

So enough about what I can't tell you, because what I can tell you more than makes up for it.

Ready?
I've signed for representation with Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.
Now, if that's all you need to know, feel free to raise a glass of cyber-champagne in the comments. If you'd like to know a little bit more, read on....

After deciding that it was wisest to have help with the contract negotiations, because I don't have a law degree and Japan was supposed to have taught me to admit when I'm in over my head, I asked a friend if she felt comfortable approaching her agent on my behalf to ask if the agent could look over the contract or refer me to someone else.

The funny thing is, I was more uncomfortable asking my friend than she was about asking her agent.

The agent agreed that I could contact her, and we exchanged emails. Then there was a phone call, where she answered some of my questions and we talked a little bit about common interests. All of this happened last week, while I was in Kamloops.

The contract arrived on Saturday, I didn't see it until Monday, and didn't have a chance to review it until yesterday.

That is the (long) explanation of why you're only hearing about it today.

So please join me in a toast to thank my friend—and agency sister—Vicki Pettersson and our agent Miriam Kriss.

Kampai!

Monday, October 15, 2007

The strange sickness I've contracted appears to be moving into a different stage--while my hacking has subsided, I'm still reduced to mouth-breathing. For some reason I've always found mouth-breathers to be rude, but that could be because when you exhale through your noise, it doesn't carry the smell of what you've eaten since you last waged war against the bacteria in your mouth with it.

On a unrelated note of oddness, my aunt informed me last night that I was on TV. Apparently the camera man who I was diligently ignoring didn't get the hint and still filmed part of my conversation with Brian Hades on Saturday afternoon. The editing crew did, however, thankfully decide that what we were speaking about wasn't the business of the whole of Alberta, and the shot was voiced-over by a reporter or the anchor. (THANK YOU.)

The only reason I can think of why anyone would want to film me would have been a "and look, people who aren't dressed like Klingons attend these things, too!"

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Well, Pure Speculation III was interesting. I would have to say Peter Watts was the most interesting part, but meeting Diane Walton and Danielle from ON SPEC was also a lot of fun.

Diane encouraged me to send more things to ON SPEC, and I'm encouraged to know that the next "right" story has a door to knock on first.

I went out for dinner on Saturday night, and was given some great advice on how to do a simple outline to prepare for NaNo. That's right, after meeting all these Canadians who did the 3 day novel challenge and emerged successful, I feel it's time I tackled the 50K challenge.

I'm grateful to all the wonderful and fun Albertans I met over the weekend, and look forward to seeing most of them at World Fantasy 2008 in Calgary.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Last night, Brian Hades was kind enough to ask me to accompany him to a little writer's party that was held in South Edmonton in honor of Pure Speculation III, which starts today.

It was a very casual affair, where several writers who are all at different places on that learning curve--and one small press publisher--conversed about everything from critique groups to book pricing to the process of getting arts grants in Alberta.

I am very grateful to have been included, even on a temporary basis, into this very warm and welcoming group.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pure Speculation III

The ticking of the clock is one of the most bothersome noises. Who thought it a wise idea to create a beast that so callously reminds us second by second that we're waiting?

There is an abundance of clocks that tick within my parents home, and I wonder if this could be a contribution to my impatience.

Kamloops is grounding and peaceful and home. It soothes my nerves, the mountains and rivers a tonic for anxieties and doubts. I'm leaving now, going to Edmonton, without having fully resolved what generated my need for grounding.

Things are wonderful. Life is great. I feel like the Fool, one foot poised to start forward on the new journey. Only there's bubbling and brewing and simmering on the stove at home, and I'm learning to trust the new chef that there will be a five course dinner when I return.

Fun is to be had this weekend, as I'll be attending Pure Speculation III. The wonderful people of Edge and ON SPEC will be there, and I look forward to meeting new Albertan writing friends who will cram into a police box with me. (Yes, I realize I just outed myself by correcting the commercial.)


Monday, October 08, 2007

Thanksgiving

All right, the novelty of wearing a scarf is starting to wear off. Luckily, I have the happiness of being able to fit into my old butter-soft leather jacket again to balance it out.

Wow. What a weekend. I went bowling for the first time in four or five years. Saw my entire family on my mom's side for the first time since Christmas 2000. Celebrating my grandparents having been married for 50 years.

Today, on this day of giving thanks, I am so filled with gratitude. The words are shivering just beyond my reach, like they found another fire to warm their chilled bones around.

Thank you will have to suffice for all the things you've done. More importantly, for the things you never realized you did.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Scattered thoughts

Today I erased the pencil-filled circles that created eyes for my daruma. The marks that had signified my earnest effort to rewrite the manuscript to represent my increase in skill level had fulfilled my goal are gone. Now there is a single, darker pencil-filled circle. It is the beginning of my new goal, to complete the redraft.

These two lines are floating in my brain:

Did you eat smarties when you were younger and feel
disappointed that all the colors tasted the same?

I met my deadline to deliver desktops and icons to WickedLovely.com, and I apologize if I've completely forgotten to mention that I volunteered for the graphic designer job. It seemed like the right thing to do—I enjoyed Melissa Marr's novel, and I think my fellow fans deserve pretty things.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It has been a Seven of Wands week. Perhaps even a Seven of Wands month. I am holding firm, but I am so looking forward for a chance to catch my breath. Since early in September I have felt like I'm in a bobsled. It zips along the ice walls increasing in speed instead of slowing, and all I can do is grip the handles and hold on tightly.

That's the thing with a bobsled—that speed and dizzying lurch of motion is enthralling. It makes you spin and laugh out loud at first. It fills you with triumph and excitement, and you glow so brightly the cold can't touch you. Other twists and mad turns, you wish you could yell "STOP!" and get off. It's safer with your feet on the ground.

The thought of stopping crossed my mind yesterday—doubt, fear, uncertainty of where the precarious ice track might lead. If you've had an untrustworthy partner before, it makes you hesitate.

But it is a Seven of Wands week, and the Seven of Wands holds firm, stands tall, and keeps going.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Last night I met coyote

Last night I met coyote while walking home from The Grove.

Standing on the sidewalk, the absurdity of seeing him run across the pavement had silenced conversation, I watched as he turned down Oakwood and passed us. My body followed his movement, as my feet pursued what seemed impossible. Not a dog—no the ears and face are wrong. Not a fox—no, too large.

Coyote. Alone, as I usually am when walking, and traveling down the middle of Oakwood avenue.

Lights.

"Get out of the road," I say.

He stops and looks at me.

The lights grow closer.

"Get out of the middle of the road." I wave my hand, gesturing.

He continues to watch me.

"Go on." I keep shooing. "Get out of the road. There's a car coming."

He goes.

The car turns, its twin lamps vanish before it can get close enough to witness this moment of nature reclaiming Los Angeles.

When Katy and I reach the corner and cross Oakwood, coyote has gone, too.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

26

Twenty-six comes with less pomp and splendor than twenty-five, but the milestone remains marked by steps along the path I chose a year ago.

With news from ON SPEC that The Rainy Season will appear in the Fall 2007 issue, I have done one better of my first sale by having my first publication be in the same year, and relatively close together.

There's another birthday present that I am so excited to talk about, but refrain until the contract and legal matters have been finalized. Some of you know what I'm referring to, and that they made an official offer yesterday at a lunch meeting to which I said yes. I'm looking forward to sharing the details with you after there is a written agreement.

My friend KT is visiting from the UK, and today we're going to Little Tokyo.

Ok, next year... twenty-seven in Tokyo with the leaves changing color.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thank you, Kyoto

Kyoto is narrow streets and tall buildings, a foreign city that could become a friend given more time. The station, a black marble behemoth, is the main island of familiarity. There are other islands—a large cluster of shrines and shops in the Kiyomizu-michi area that I have fond memories and funny stories from a sleep-deprived daytrip, for example. Vast and evolving as cities as cities are, Kyoto had changed a great deal in the four years between my visits.

We—Hel, Scott, and I—had a map. It was supposed to take us from the station to our hotel. Only the map was a series of lines and corresponding dots, with all of the information in helpful English. Kyoto is not Tokyo, and the carefree way we stumbled through our favorite city with the occasional stop for directions was challenged by a lack of people to ask.

Faith failing, as we had taken a different street than the one the map told us to, we were searching for any indication of where we were or how far off we were from the landmarks we had been provided. Great, I remember thinking, we're lost three blocks from the station in a city that none of us really know. Just before panic fully set in, an older woman turned and said to me, in the first truly bit of helpful English Kyoto offered, "Are you trying to find the temple?"

Our hotel was supposed to be near/in between Nishi-Honganji and Higashi-Honganji, the famous Buddhist temples.

As we explained that we were trying to find our hotel, then puzzled over our poor map together, the woman and her husband concluded where we were and where we needed to go.

"Come." She took my arm firmly, like I was her daughter or grandchild. "We will take you there."

We had only needed to keep walking another block or so and we would have found the cross-street as indicated by the provided landmarks (a camera store and "spaghetti" restaurant.) One more block of blind wandering, when we were ready to turn back.

There are many things that can be learned from this—trusting in the kindness of strangers, and understanding that internet maps provided by hotels in other countries may not be the most reliable come to mind.

More importantly that we don't always follow the map to get where we need to go. Sometimes, as the Dixie Chicks say, we take the long way around. We get lost, learn how to find our way, and even charge our minds about where we want to go.

While we're taking the long way, we often wonder if we'll ever reach the destination, and in focusing on that doubt and fear we fail to see how close we are. Instead of giving up, if we'd just trust and walk that one more block, we'd find what we were seeking.

Sometimes, just when you need it most, life will grab your arm firmly and say "I'll take you there."

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Let's have a gleefest!

Please excuse the simplicity of this post, as the management is too giddy to be eloquent.




The first issue of my contributor's subscription to ON SPEC came today, which felt like getting a paycheque all over again. What a beautiful cover and a lovely magazine.

Ready for the geekout?

My name is print on the back as part of the list of "great fiction" that will be appearing in upcoming issues, and if that isn't good enough... the other name that has been highlight is better known as Marie Brennan, author of Doppelganger and Warrior and Witch!

Friday, September 07, 2007

September has been whispering in my ear recently, and I am consumed by the familiar restlessness that so often signals a change is riding the wind like that first falling leaf, whose gentle descent silently announces the beginning of Autumn.

I think it would be magnificent to see the hills of Kyoto painted in reds and oranges, and discover a new seasonal palette to use for coloring my dreams.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Well said

I share this essay by Marie Brennan entitled "We All Use Language, But..." which talks about writing a novel, because you ought to read it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

In case you didn't hear

Blogging buddy and crafter of clever prose, Jamie Ford, got himself a book deal with a little help from his agent Kristin Nelson.

Jamie, like Rachel Vincent, is an author I stumbled across using the "recently updated" toolbar of blogger. Try it sometime, you never know who you'll run across.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

By Candlelight & Two Magic Words

Yesterday a peculiar thing happened: a minor problem with the transformer that delivers electricity to the house I'm sitting caused us to be without power from about 4:30 pm on Saturday to 12:00 pm on Sunday.

Everything was working fine, but when I returned with friends to start our movie night, we didn't have power. In a period of less than 3 hours, the world had ceased to function.

Intuition had warned me to charge my cellphone before I left the house—when I considered waiting until after I had returned. The issue is that it was Jewish Sabbath until sundown, which meant it would be up one of the non-Jewish members of the neighborhood to call in and find out what was going on. Only neither I nor the neighbors to our north had been home when it happened.

That was when the dependency on electricity really struck home. My friends and I had the brilliant (or so it seemed) notion to use the laptop (charged battery, ergo not needing power) to try and look up the number for the Department of Water and Power. Only, the modem that runs the wi-fi is electronic. No power means no phones and no internet.

Well, we thought, it should be back on after we go for dinner. It wasn't, and a neighbor had heard it would be another 2–5 hours until the problem was fixed.

Only four or five houses on our street were affected—the streetlamp directly in front of our yard was still functioning. So there my friends and I sat, out on the front porch because it was too hot to be in the house, lit by the flickering glow of two candles, as we watched the colors of the TV in house across the street flash in a sterile, preprogrammed dance.

Loss of electricity is the great equalizer, it cares not what your religion, ethnicity, age or gender. None of that matters in the dark. It's sound that indicates we aren't alone. Voices identify and locate those around us. Rods and cones can be rendered all but useless, but eardrums and vocal chords keep us linked to each other.

They used to do this a lot more often. Remember the days before text messaging, when you had to speak to someone and be spoken to if you wanted to communicate? How often now do we stop and realize the comfort found in the lost art of conversation?

This morning, when the power still hadn't returned, a friend of my uncles came by to help empty the perishables out of the fridge. This was accomplished by my calling my uncle—who went to NOLA this weekend—and him calling the friend, as the friend's number was trapped in the brains of the comatose house handsets.

When the friend arrived, we just kept what I would want to eat today and the dog food. Everything else was packed into egg crates, and taken to an empty flower cooler at his house. Then a 20 pound bag of ice was distributed among willing Tupperware reserve members, who had to be happy to take their tour of the fridge, after serving in a cupboard hot as Baghdad.

I washed the dishes by hand, glad for the smooth motion of cloth over plate, spoon or glass. Rinse. Set aside. Repeat. There was something meditative in the act of being made to use one's hands. The part of the brain that's worried about how hot it will get today, or how long before the power returns surrenders the wheel to the simple motions of cleaning.

Maybe that was why the repairs proceeded so quickly, or perhaps it was my gallant effort to save a cricket from drowning—it balances out the one accidentally sucked up into the vacuum yesterday.

Whatever made it happen, I know I have never been happier to hear the freezer fan beginning to spin.

A loss of electricity had robbed the house of sound. It silenced the neighbors, who are usually unable to cease providing auditory reminders of their existence. At 9:30 in the morning, it was still as 2:00 am.

Then came the low whirling buzz. Like magic, life returned to our home, and the knowledge that the two Dalmatians and I would survive the heat wave was cemented in my mind. Venturing outside, I returned the favor with two of the magic words my parents talk me when I was a child: thank you!

"You're welcome!" The DWP electrician called from atop the transformer pole in the yard behind our back fence.

"It must be back on," someone added, "the girl next door just yelled thank you."

+

Thank you to Christina, Emory, and Rachel who didn't mind Chinese food and candlelight when they had been promised pizza and zombie movies.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Writer's write

What would you do if someone told you "I'm too tired to breathe" or "I don't have time to eat" or "there's so much going on in my life right now that I can't sleep"?

Now replace "breathe," "eat," and "sleep" with the word "write." Did your response change?

Writers, by the very implied verb of the noun we identify with, write. Writing is breathing, eating, sleeping—if you stop for too long, you'll pass out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Emerging from the woods

At least for a few days. The strange thing about "finishing" a manuscript is that you don't really finish it. Certainly, you conclude, but there's always another draft—this description could be more vivid, that line could read smoother. However, I am displaying my gained wisdom by allowing this dear one to sit completed for a spell, while I finish something else.

The elation from having one thing buzzes in your brain, it whispers intently about possibilities for the second book, and it nags about the little fixes and changes that it always knows you need to work at for the just finished. The only real way to silence it is to throw a completely different project at it, and wait as it flounders, struggling to find its footing on ground that's become water.

I am not ruled by my muses, but I do not "punish" them or myself, either. If the words aren't coming, then I go do something else. There is no use withholding things I enjoy as a reward for meeting a daily word goal. Meeting the goal is its own reward.

Yet, at the urging of Vicki, I did celebrate the important step of completing the first draft. I spent Friday dreaming, and Saturday out with some friends. Sunday I undertook the important task of taking care of myself, it was time for a haircut and color, something I had neglected in my push to ran that final mile of the manuscript.

The cut and color didn't happen until yesterday, when I closed the book on the, er, book. For the past two or so years, my hair has been every color of red. It's not red anymore. Nor is it the same length and style that it had been since I started the manuscript.

Through reinventing a story, I began to understand the importance of remembering to reinvent ourselves. Sometimes to make a clean break, we need a physical gesture as well. Why else would so many of us go get a haircut after a relationship terminates? I'm not breaking up with my manuscript, don't worry, I'm calling it quits with defeatist attitude that had been impressed on me during my chicl-lit-ish learning experience that began my summer.

That it happens to coincide with the arrival of September—my birthmonth—well, that's an auspicious sign, as well.

See you in two weeks, KT.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

That Perfect Moment of Completion

It is reaching the first vista as the sun is setting, and the sky has been painted tangerine and magenta by the gold-salmon sun that still hovers above the distant horizon. It sets on where you have been, and the path to where you will be stretches up and up.

For now, there is no need to dwell on the distance that has been travel or remains left to travel. There is only the perfect moment of completion, you skin kept warm by the magnitude of your accomplishment, and the air flavored with victory.

There are no numbers. No totals. Just two of the most important words to any author: The End.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sharing the Love

As many of you know, in May I had the pleasure of spending several days touring Tokyo, Omiya, Kyoto, and Fushimi with my friends from Bath, Helen and Scott Ewart.

Now, I have the pleasure—via the awesomeness of youtube—of sharing the animation they created for Ame-Con 2007 with you.



After you watch it, make sure you visit Hel's deviantart page or livejournal to leave a comment about how much you loved it and what an amazing job they did.

After you've done that, pop on over to The Thoughts In Between to welcome Mike Robinson to blogger.

It doesn't mean you're dead when you don't update your blog, it means you're happily lost

More than once this week, I've put fingers to keys to leave some kind of writing in the cyber-sand, a fleeting impression that I WUZ HERE.

There was something poignant that I intended to say, but faced with the decision to place the words within easy reach of the waves, I faltered. Hesitated. Said "oh fuck it, I'd rather write more of that chapter."

Don't you love the way paper feels beneath your fingertips, and the sound of a ballpoint pen rolling vividly colored ink on those lower opacity lines? It's like drinking sunlight.

I have been drunk on it as of late, and the words are sometimes messy, or flawed, but so often they flow and bubble and run in complex sentences. Which overrun the banks and spill down your arm to the page, and the words tumble, and blur, and suddenly you've gone over the fall and landed with a cold, slap of a shock somewhere else.

As you pull yourself up to the shore, the current still tugging at your limbs, you stand dripping, gasping, and wondering where it is you've been taken. Some new uncharted territory? Or a place you had almost forgot existed?

Congratulations to Rachel O, who won a 500 word myspace challenge this week. I send this with flashes off a mirror, before consulting the compass whose points read Beginning, End, Here, Not Here,and stumbling deeper in the woods of rust colored trees.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Stardust

The movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Stardust opens today. Now, many fans of Mr. Gaiman were looking forward to a Good Omens movie, or a Death: The High Cost of Living movie. Me, I have always wanted a Stardust movie.

There's a battered paperback edition of Stardust on my bookshelf. It has hopped islands in Japan and criss-crossed the Pacific Ocean. It has braved the long drive between Kamloops and Los Angeles. All of this, because seeing that book tells me I'm home.

I've lost track of how many times I've read it. If it had been bound in leather, I imagine it would be one of those wonderful old volumes whose cover is soft and worn, and their gold-leaf title just beginning to fade. Paperbacks show age more readily—its corners are weathered, its cutout cover is tearing, and its spine is heavily creased. There may even be certain pages dotted with tiny yellow circles from when my friend was eating ramen while reading in Niihama.

Every time I read this book, I find something that delights me—a descriptive phrase that I wish I'd written, or a witty comment that makes me smile. Each reading reminds me how great of an influence this book has had on my own writing. I can, unquestioningly, declare that it is my favorite book.

Now, I'm finally getting that movie I wanted. A little over a month early, but still the perfect birthday gift.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Meditation




Sometimes a picture makes something more real by providing a concrete visual. We use photographs to mark events—to document that they really happened, as if we can't trust our memories.

Memories can do something more than just a picture, because a memory has a scent, a taste, an emotion. Can an image really do 1000 words justice? 1000 sensual, beautiful, artistically crafted words will paint you a picture—give you a snapshot.

Sometimes you know that scent, that taste, that emotion. You can bring it to the image you see, and feel the flush of excitement and bubbling over of joy. The sense of accomplishment and the prickling at the corners of your eyes that forewarns of impending tears of happiness. How itchy your nose gets, as the world sharpens with a twist of the lens, its focus too perfect, too clear.

The Buddha says if you are on the right path all you have to do is keep walking forward. Pen to paper. Fingers to keyboard. Walk with words, one chapter at a time. Some days the wind is at your back, and the sun warms your face. Some nights the moon guides your steps, and the spheres sing to keep you company. On others the winter is cold, and the snow is deep. The rain goes on, and the road is steep, and the gravel slips and slides beneath your feet.

Just keep walking.

Your heart knows the way.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Being your own Head Cheerleader

I've been thinking about our dear Rachels—yes, plural, we've got at least two of them. See, there was a post on Rachel O's blog about how we writers have to be our own cheerleaders, and after considering what has happened with Rachel V, I'd like to expand on this cheerleader notion.

We are our own head cheerleader, if you follow. Yes, our success and careers are in our hands. We are writing the words. We are querying the agents, editors, etc. How far we travel on our writing path is up to us, because we decide when we are finished.

However, every headcheerleader has a squad—it is with their help that she does the routines. Think about it. You have a squad, too. There are people who want you to succeed. You make the routine, and they will follow your lead.

Who knows the power of words better than us? Talk about your writing with enthusiasm and confidence—choose your words as carefully as you would construct a character's line of dialogue or a beautiful line of description.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Congratulations Rachel!

If you haven't heard the news, Rachel Vincent has signed for an additional three books in her werecat series that is being published by Mira.

Stop by her blog and wish her well!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Wow, so this is a little late, but let's think of it as just extending the celebration. If you see my Visit/ors sidebar... you'll notice Mr. Jamie Ford's Bittersweet Blog. Well, I recently sent an email off to him to see how he was doing--check up, you know the drill--and I have exciting news to share:

Jamie signed with Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency about a month ago. He's one step closer to seeing THE PANAMA HOTEL on the shelves. Congratulations!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Summer in Kamloops really is one of the best things in the world. There's an energy and a movement downtown that's revitalizes and inspires. You're breathing in new ideas, and exhaling the doubts and anger.

Where do you want to be today?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Transformers

I have realized something important. Transformers are were-mechs. Think about it. There are lots of cool mechs—gundams, xenogears, EVAs... but Transformers are a step above all those other mechs... because transformers CHANGE SHAPE. Weres change shape. Therefore Transformers are were-mechs!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My bracelet broke

There's an interesting belief about jade jewelry. A necklace or bracelet of just jade beads is believed in Asia (primarily China) to protect its wearer from harm. If the necklace/bracelet breaks, it's said that it has just saved the life of its wearer.

Now the bracelet I made wasn't just jade, and it didn't break so much as the weight of the beads finally slipped the knot that had been securing them to one piece of the nickel fastener. But it happened suddenly, and while I managed to catch most of the beads... I lost three: one pink quartz and two jade.

The bracelet was made to help me heal, to inspire, and to protect. The beads that remain can be re-fashioned, made into something stronger and with a structure that improves on the first attempt. The 3 beads—two jade and one pink quartz—that I lost somewhere in the Border's Seattle Best Cafe had done all they could for me.

So I hope they're found, small treasures, by someone else. Someone who needs them.

There are many stories in this.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Today I feel Part 2: The First Sale

Over the moon.

I would like to announce my first sale. ON SPEC magazine has accepted my 1770 word omake (one-shot stories) for publication in a future issue.

This means, uh, they're going to pay me. And people are going to read something I wrote. Like... not on the internet or hear me read out loud at LAWG. Like in a magazine... on sale in a store.... and I didn't pay someone to put me in the magazine....

Words won't go together in an intelligent way right now.

Today I feel...

Restless. Like I want to travel the world or get lost in the mountains. Is it summer? The passing of the solstice and knowing that everything from now on is just less and less light all the way until the year is over and I'm a number older and I can't find where this number disappeared to?

Maybe I've overstayed my welcome in this city, which is crazy to feel like since it's only now that I know people, feel like there's a group to belong to and a person to call when I'm bored and so many places I've never been.

It's the breeze that I can feel across my bare feet, how it slips in through the open windows, and the heat hasn't yet become unbearable, and there's still time before I have to return to work. I could leave, go somewhere—but where? Shouldn't I be here, like it's an office, like I have a full-time grown-up job, like I'm an adult?

I should finish that chapter. I should finish the novel. I know what to write—it was there a moment ago, the words appearing on the page in my brain, and the words on that page are always better than the ones that show up on the screen. Even when they're not.

I should... I should... I should...

But I'm not, because impatience is tied to restlessness with a silver ribbon—wrist bound to wrist with a chain made of satin—and where one is the other must be.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Fushimi Prince

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise.

I’ve let go of the consequences. Nothing beyond this moment matters. Nothing. The future was what held me back—that egg of golden opportunities I nurtured with the hopes it would hatch into the perfect life. I believed the lie. Went to sleep and willing lost myself in my own illusions.

We’re told the truth pierces through—hits like a right hook and drowns us in waves of clarity. It doesn’t. It’s more like having your collage of the world attacked by scissors. There’s the initial pierce, then a lot more pain follows as the membrane of your bubble is hacked through.

I thought I could mend it faster than anyone could cut. But it’s not an erased sketch that can be penciled back in. No, the truth spills ink over the image, and all the pretty imaginings vanish in a wave of black.

All of them before, every one of the things I hunted, they were practice for you. You, the smug moth who thinks he’s a butterfly. Who doesn’t see the glass that separates what you are and what I was born to be. You think they’ve opened the window and let you inside. You’ve got no idea what inside is like. This is my house, and pests like you aren’t welcome.

You lunge. I spin, my heel connecting with your shoulder. There’s no more need for words. For ranks. For favor. I know my job—my place. Very soon you’ll know yours.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Creative Endeavors

Since deviantART is having one of its CSS-fractured days for me (they've been a constant this week,) I can't put this up on the art site. So I'll share it here. These are two bracelets and a necklace and bracelet set that I made today.

On the top left is a personal bracelet finished with what I'm guessing is a nickel-base clasp. (There's a detail on the claspe you can't see in the photo.) This one was created to be more function than fashion.
Jade - wisdom, mercy, humility, generosity, peace, and harmony. Protective and lucky when worn as jewelry.
Amethyst - increases vivid dreams, relieves depression, promotes calm, serenity, and spirituality. Helps with addiction and stress.
Quartz - the greatest of all healing stones. Acts as an amplifier for psychic energy and aids meditation and visualization.
Rose Quartz - great for attracting love. Promotes self-loving and heals emotional wounds as well as promoting peace, forgiveness, and nurturing.


The second from the left is a fashion bracelet that was composed based on the colors of the beads. They're all semi-precious stones, although I couldn't tell you exactly which ones, aside from the sunstone faceted mini-beads between the round ones. Its finished with a heart "gold" clasp.


Here's a detail shot of the necklace. It's black-gold faceted glass beads with three "gold" charms. An Eiffel Tower, Crown and Antique Key with heart details. I think of it as an Ode to Paris. Finished with a heart "gold" clasp.
















This is a bracelet that could be included with the necklace in a set, although it only fits my tiny child-size wrists, so I'll probably make a larger one with some of the remaining faceted beads. Not sure if I'd put any charms on it or not yet. It will, like this one, be finished a heart "gold" clasp.

Friday, June 15, 2007

There was a response waiting for me this morning regarding the 55 word story I submitted. It was a very polite no thank you, and that's all right. I wrote the story in 15 minutes, it wasn't astounding, and I only submitted it as an oh, what the hell kind of thing.

Would it have been great to have gotten it accepted? Sure, but really, it's hardly the best piece, and it was the act of submitting not the acceptance of a submission that I was practicing.

They can't say yes if you don't ask.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It Captured Me

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise.

It captured me like one of those jungle traps—you know the ones, where the floor looks green and solid, but it’s really just palm fronds over a hole someone dug. Like that the earth is no longer under your feet. Whoosh! You go down, but instead of breaking an ankle, you break into a sweat. What you find is brilliant, important—one of those shimmering missing pieces.

A glimmering truth about the characters and their world that seems so obvious that you wonder how you could not have realized that in trying to emulate one character, the other has become more. They’ve grown into someone wise and kind and responsible. Now if only they’d break the rules of how they interact and assert that no, it really is a stupid plan. No, it isn’t best to deal with a discovered lie by adding greater and more elaborate ruses to cover it up.

Maybe they already realize this, and that’s why they’re unconscious—so their arc doesn’t end while others are too busy floundering and finding out that they have to solve their own problems.

There’s still half a book to go, and it’s all uncharted waters like a cruise where you’ve heard the names of the ports, but you’re not sure the route that lies between. It would be less scary if all the readers hadn’t loved what the old story was, even though it was really just that flawed first bit of brilliance that doesn’t shine as much as you thought, because you’ve realized you can’t fix something broken until you honestly admit it’s broken and let go. Let go of all those beautiful lines and heartfelt, clumsy scenes.

Let go.

Fall.

That’s how you land on something better.

Whoosh.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

We don't write because we wish we could control things. We write because we don't control things but we like to feel like maybe we could. It's different. Wishing is passive. Writing is active.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

First Kiss

Created from a prompt from a writing exercise.

She was the kind of girl who brought out the chivalry in him, and made him want to say “thou” and “shalt” and words older than even him—words she wouldn’t understand, but their phonetics and his tone would express the ache in a way modern English couldn’t.

She played him like a gramophone—wound him up, never fast enough, and the lyrics of his longing became discordant, unconnected sounds. You must know this, so you know why it took so long to find the perfect silence.

On the banks of the North Thompson, where the sand and the water met, she stood bare foot, her eyes daring him to claim his prize.

The river’s undertow was almost as notorious as hers, but she had yet to drown a man. There was high school for that.

She said if he made it to the island—a patch of dirt home to saplings and discarded beer cans—she’d kiss him when he came back.

He made it. His purple swim trunks were still dripping with the frigid September water. He made it, and she was trying to suggest he cheated. Not to be insensitive, but because she knew how much he wanted the kiss.

His numb fingers were warming against her sunburnt shoulder, as she finally stopped teasing and got down to business.

“No tongue,” she said, and he never thought to argue.

She breathed warmth between them, as his face drifted to hers. Her long, dark lashes fluttered—and he wondered if he should tell her she didn’t need the blue eye shadow or the mascara—she was the prettiest girl he knew, and fourteen was the perfect age to be.

He hesitated. She grew impatient and stepped into him. Lips met lips. Eyes, opening and seeing for the first time, met eyes. Fingers intertwined. One of them tasted like strawberries. Him or her—who could say?

Calvin

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise.

Calvin once complained there were not enough mechanics in the world. When he said this, he didn’t mean individuals who tinkered—to use the professional jargon—with complicated machines. He meant he felt the workings of the world had failed to be properly laid out. As a result, the world failed to operate in any logical way.

Our Calvin came from a simpler time of telephones and customer service that required interfacing with someone outside of our home.

“Convenience be damned,” he used to say. “Just let me speak to a person.”

Somehow he could tell, despite that the help AIs sounded like people to us. No, Calvin knew. We used to test him, playing the audio clips to him one at a time. Without fail he could identify which ones were synthesized and which were authentic.

“Authentic” was one of his words—strange vocabulary that referred to a time long before we’d been born. We started calling it the Mechanic’s Time.

Calvin smiled sadly when we did, his wrinkles wrinkling. I guess he thought we didn’t understand—or that we couldn’t.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

THE END (of part one)

I'll begin part two either tomorrow or next week, depending on how well the plotting goes.

Coffee with Fallen

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise.

There is a ring on his finger I don’t recognize. He plays with its green jewel—smooth to the touch.

We are not really sitting in this cafĂ©. That’s why it’s all impressionist brushstrokes and conversations in forgotten tongues.

How does it end? That’s all I really want to know.

“You know.” He reaches to add more sugar to his coffee. “I only really do beginnings.”

Pink Snow

Created as a writing exercise.

Like pink snow
The blossoms fall
Stirred by the wind
In the branches above our heads.

The blossoms fall
So briefly in season
In the branches above our heads,
Crowning us like pagan royalty.

So briefly in season
Our cherry blossom love
Crowning us like pagan royalty
Our entire reign lasting one spring afternoon.

Our cherry blossom love
Stirred by the wind
Our entire reign lasting one spring afternoon
Like pink snow.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Today is STRAY Day



Using all of the authority the internet has foolishly given me... I declare today... STRAY DAY.

Now go party with Rachel Vincent, she can't celebrate all alone!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A fragment

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise.

It’s not dread, I swear. Dread would suggest a dislike or reluctance. The way one dreads discovering they’ve been given the gristly bits, and they’ll need to either chew through or find a way to distract the rest of the table while they spit in their napkin.

It’s not dread at all, it’s fear. The kind that keeps those tittering on bankruptcy awake at night listening for loan sharks. The kind that the hero never has when he faces the dragon, the orge, the aqua-scaled leviathan.

That—that it is fear, pure and simple childish fear—is the grain of truth in all her excuses. Fear is why she says the slumber parties can’t be at her house. Fear is why she doesn’t tell them she was with me at the mall, eating chocolate ice cream after trying on ridiculous feather boas at Claire’s.

She thinks I don’t know that she’s afraid of what the magic would do to a normal person. I guess she has good reason, since it reduced three Dells to silicon sludge before her parents gave up and bought her a Mac. (It was what she had wanted in the first place.)

It’s for the best that I don’t meet this family of hers, that my BFF comes over to my house instead, so she isn’t sitting at home, pondering what she could do to seem more human.

55 words

I've submitted this to the website that the idea for the exercise came from, but they did not take it.

“You owe me twenty dollars.”

I crossed a room to tell the stranger this. Naturally, he was baffled, but the money was already earned.

“I beg your pardon?” he asked, in that indignant way never mistaken for courtesy.

“Your eyes have followed me all night, good sir,” I said. “I worked hard for that smile.”

The Magician

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise.

The world is a sane place, a good place. To have a life filled with as many blessings as I’ve had, one would have to believe that.

It’s not luck—not in a Win the Lottery or Chosen in a Contest kind of blessing. It’s the older magic that flows in and out of my life. Friends who are there when needed—regardless of the years and distance. Safety during those moments that I was adventurously foolish.

There are many different kinds of success. Marriage and children is one, travel and experience is another. When we have one kind and not all, it doesn’t make us unfortunate or unsuccessful. Our goals are our goals, and the world twists and turns so the ones that truly matter can be achieved.

Not given. Achieved. It’s not a matter of semantics, but a worldview. “Given” implies that we are entitled to things, and we are not. Sometimes they’re gifted, but they’re not promised. The world does not owe us happiness, even if we are sometimes surrounded by things that make us happy.

All of this is tempered with what frustrates and infuriates us. The hardship and loss and pain. It’s not punishment, but an ebb and flow of the magic.

The world is a good place because we make it a good place, my child. We keep it sane.

Colors

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise.

WHITE

It’s not a name but a state of being. Immediately you would assume purity and piety, but that isn’t it. White is death—the gleam of teeth seen from the corner of your eyes. They’re in your throat before you can think to run.

He is called white in the tongue of a people who understand symbols and ceremonies. Ranks and chains of command.

We think it is an honor to be set apart as one called white in a family of white. It is separation. Distinction. An inescapable fate resonated by his very name.

PURPLE

Purple would be the same—what we’d see as royalty. We ignore how it fades, becoming a tired lilac. There was a court woman called Purple, and she faded, wrinkled, and passed on. But her words are unchanging. The world’s first novel was written by the woman who history calls purple.

We are eager to seek out the royalty of this color and wrap ourselves in it. But purple fades past lilac if given enough time. It fades to white. Royalty fades, too. Those who wore awe and fear like a purple become names in a history book. Not even written in purple or gold ink.

GREEN

Green is more fickle than purple and harder to predict than white.

Green is life and sickness. Virile and vile. Vitality and venom.

You can’t trust green. Not the ever-changing shades of greed and envy. Green has claimed many shades of purple. They mingle and transform into a muddy brown that makes even the most regal of colors common and vulgar.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Further Swag Notes



Upon realizing I'd never bothered to show the other side of the folder that I thought was pretty cool... here you go. There's some kanji in the bottom corner of the front side (not this image) and I have determined that it does identify the blond fox is O-Inari-sama. This delights me to no end, as it proves me correct in having gone "blonde fox Inari!" and also having gone much earlier than I had ever seen this image "I bet Inari's just a blonde fox." (I told you it was a Girl Shiro folder, Katy.)





Syaoran all put together, and declaring my suitcase completely free of feathers. Observe his lovely goggles. (Am I the only one who feels this statue makes him look like he has a girlish hourglass figure?)



In case you didn't believe me about the cookies. (Sorry, it was taken with my phone, so it's pretty small... which is funny in its own way!)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Clearly I needed a bigger suitcase

Ok, so I already gave away a few gifts and there are a few others that I don't want to show because they're Christmas/Birthday things.

Ye olde Japanese Swag Poste...



The magical snack foods of Japan, or what took up more room than it should have been alloted in my suitcase. I know you probably can't read it... but those Maid Cookies? They're called "Maid in Tokyo." Because puns are wonderful!

Should be pretty obvious what most of this stuff is. Lots of kit kats, beside a bag of 'soda' candies in the flavors of Grape, Melon Creme, and Cola. They have fizzy powder inside them. The pink and tan box is animal crackers that contain a "cock" cookie. The orange and green box is a special crunch chocolate mushroom snack. (Not containing any real mushrooms, I promise.) The pink little box is rosehip gum, because it sounded odd. The orange little package behind it is Valencia Orange hi-chews.



1) It's a jar of six two-piece kit kats that came CHILLED from a vending machine on the side of the street in Kyoto. Aside from umbrellas and Happy Family Condoms, it's the damn weirdest thing I've ever seen in a vending machine.

2) 100 yen or about $0.90 to win 4 boxes of Mousse Pocky from a UFO catcher at the Namco Wonder Tower in Kyoto. I think Hel for showing me how it's done!




This has got to be the most pathetic anime and manga goods haul I've ever made, which sort of goes to show that I'm not really up on it so much. (Or I'm getting more picky about what I'll buy.)

1) Buso Renkin Infinity—a character guide for the new-ish series by Nobuhiro Watsuki, who created Rurouni Kenshin. This book appears to also contain summaries and screenshots for the anime episodes.

2) Tsubasa Resevoir Chronicle 18—the latest Japanese volume of Tsubasa by CLAMP. You can read up to volume 12 in English from Del Rey manga. (I think #13 comes out in June.)

3) A folder with two different images on it. The problem being it's a B4 size, so anything put inside it has to be smaller than 8.5" by 11", but I think I'll just frame it anyway because I really like the back image.

4) A mobile screen cleaner featuring Fay D Flowrite from Tsubasa. There was some discussion over which one to get... I like Fay, because I'm a sucker for blonds, but Hel pointed out that Syaoran is most cute, and we all know Kurogane is the most badass.

5) A gatchapon of a Syaoran figure from Tsubasa. I'll take another picture after I've put him together.

6) A black Chi statue won from a Club Sega UFO pull machine in Shinjuku. We were trying to get the Angelic Layer one.

7) A gatchapon of the Tsubasa version of Chi. For the first couple days we could not escape Chi. She stalked us.

8) An official Kingdom Hearts keyblade keyring. Yes. I know. But I want you to know that I did not buy the Roxas figure... no matter how many times it was pointed out to me in Akihabara. (I told them, it wasn't worth it if it didn't have dual keyblade fun.)

9) Mokona from Tsubasa. Hel won two of them from a UFO catcher, so she's got one. When you wind him up, he "walks" across a flat surface.

10) Tochigi Hello Kitty mobile charm... Tochigi's famous for strawberries. It and the other two were gifts from my friend Wasim, who lives in Oyama, Tochigi. I think I had to substitute teach in that prefecture once.

11) Hello Kitty dressed like an eggplant. No, I don't really understand it, either.

12) Apparently there's some kind of Candy Land or Candy Castle...uh...something in Tochigi. So it's a Candy Castle Fairy Hello Kitty.

13) A Masturi Festival Saitama Hello Kitty Pen. Yes, I realize this suggests I like Hello Kitty almost as much as I like Tsubasa. I don't. I used live in Saitama.




Um... that yellow dog thing is apparently a door stopper. That says "Please love my little friend." The sushi...we think it's made of sugar.



These are gifts.

1) It's a purple coin purse. A coin purse especially chosen because it's purple. I'm hoping that's a big enough hint to the person getting it.

2) It's a paper doll. No, really. I think she's funny.

3) She's not a paper doll and weighs considerably more.

4) Loose leaf green tea. At least I hope it's loose leaf and not the entire leaf.

5) It's a pen! ...yeah. Look, there's not much else to do in Narita airport than spend some remaining yen on souvenirs.

6) Socks for wearing with Japanese sandals.

7) A lucky cat mobile charm/key ring. Look in his belly and see him chilling in Japan with some cherry blossoms. I tried to find a black one. I could not. (Yes, that I looked for a black one is a hint.) The lucky cat brings money into business and good luck to people.

8) It's a little mirror with a Japanese girl that you use as a keychain. I assume it's too look over your shoulder when you're on an uncover stake-out.

9) Sakura flower "Japanese crafts." (WTF.) They're little bells, as bells are said to drive away evil spirits. Or bring good things to you. They're lucky... and on almost every keyring intended for girls in Japan.




Shrine stuff—much of this is gifts, too.

1) Dreaming in Red's new mascot: Aki-chan. Aki is a super sweet kitsune plushie. She was deemed the cutest, which may be because she has one ear that is tipped back a little and makes her unique. The tag around her neck reads "Fushimi Inari," as she came from the Fushimi Inari Taisha.

2) A charm from Fushimi Inari Taisha that brings good things to you and keeps bad things away. One of the few charms that didn't have a myobu on it.

3) A charm from Fushimi Inari Taisha for safety while traveling.

4) A myobu-head keycharm from Fushimi Inari Taisha...to bring good things to you. It has a bell and everything.

5) A charm for good health from Fushimi Inari Taisha.

6) A mini-myobu plush to keep away bad things and bring good luck. This is for someone who's going to Japan next summer to teach with Nova. I thought she might like a friend to keep an eye on her. ;)

7) A charm for Safety in Traffic from the Daibutsu in Kamakura.

8) Ok, we're not certain, but we think this is a good luck arrow. I don't know the specific story behind them, but I've seen them before and went looking specifically for one. They're not really common, so I was thrilled to find this one at Sensojii (Asakusa Kannon Temple) in Asakusa. I'm guessing the boar has to do with it being the year of the Boar/Pig.

EDIT 6/18/07: I've learned these arrows are "hamaya" or demon-breaking arrows. They are customarily sold at New Year's for bringing in good fortune and keeping away bad.

So you see all this and you think "WOW, that's a lot of stuff... but what about those amazing Japanese fashions?"

Let me tell you something about Japan. If you're bigger than a size 4, you don't fit in their clothes. And if you're larger than a size 8, good luck finding shoes. I do not fit in a size 4. I haven't for about 2 years now. I do, however, have size 7.5 feet....

Thursday, May 17, 2007

White Peach Kit Kats and other crimes against chocolate



See, one would expect a cherry blossom special kit kat to be...I don't know cherry flavored? No! The "Itsumo Sakura Saku mo" kit kats taste of white peaches. And it is not good. While the Hokkaido Milk white kit kats are most delicious, this means a 50/50 chance the infamous green tea kit kat will not be tasty. That would be a bad thing, as I bought a snack-pack of them to share at the next movie night. Along with those hysterical chocolate mushrooms. Only these look like they have corn flake crunchies or something in them. And mango pocky.

Sorry, guys, it's going to be a night of experimenting on our poor Western taste buds.

Oh. So I finished typing up the mess of an attempt at a draft of chapter 19 that I did over the plane. Clearly it was a sign from the gods when my pen ran out during the first portion of it. "STOP YOU ARE MAKING A MESS OF THIS." I'll just keep writing and see if I can salvage something of use from it all later.

Postcards should have arrived...I've heard from Karen in the UK and Karen in the US that they did.

You wanna see some of my swag?