Category Archives: life beyond the minimum safe distance

order of business!

Order of business, is that in an unexpected move, I’m heading to LA in mid-October for the Das Bunker 20th Anniversary party, because someone I love is ultra squee over the Covenant live show, but the overall lineup is bananas: VNV Nation, A23, Covenant, High Functioning Flesh, my beloved Author & Punisher, my friend iVardensphere (not sure he knows he’s my friend, but whatevs. Yay Scott!), end.user, the Legendary Pink Dots and about 5billion other bands you have also never heard of, including my Aesthetic Perfection, who are performing songs off of an early album as a joke, and it makes me laugh (you know that thing where your music project evolves but everyone is still stuck in 2006. Yeah, it’s like that. FUNNY).

I am a bit amused to see VNV Nation twice in a month, as they’re bringing their Compendium show here (3 hours of snappy Ronan action!), I don’t even listen to much VNV anymore, but am still excited about this as the first show I’d ever seen in what is now “My Thing”, was VNV/Icon of Coil back in 1806.

In additional, writingly-news:

A.Y. Chao  (who is probably the single-best resource for writing workshop information) recommended the Discovery Story Magic series for character development, and I’m almost finished – started with graphing/gridding Gingerbread to identify sticky-open plot places within the character’s journey. When the rewrite of GB is done (which, at the rate I’m going is probably going to take forever, bc reasons!) I’ll go through it for both The Mourning Wolves and Ellis, Underground. In a way I’ve got the bones of it all, as I tend to understand my characters on an emotional, if not practical, level — I don’t know their favourite cereal, but I for sure know how they feel if they find themselves standing on the stoop in the middle of the night with a snowstorm blowing around them.

So far, I’ve gone through DSM, and then I did a chapter breakdown which showed me some seriously glaring holes in my structure, so yay! also: boo. But, I am nothing if not resilient. If anyone asks, the answer is Yes, writing is precisely like running into a wall 300X a day. I’ve cut my first two chapters up, changed up my inciting incident, moved what was the II to chapter 2 (or I will, as soon as I stop procrastinating through this here blog post. :D), to make it maybe the first plot point – although, maybe it’s still too early for the first plot point, but I needed to up the haps and suggestion from People Smarter Than Me was more character development in the first 2-3 chaps (I tend to be a slow writer, as in I am not a whiz-bang plot a minute go-go-go writer, so feedback is often “pretty, but nothing happened”. I have learned not to take that feedback personally, but still. Man, this business is hard).

what else? OH! I  finished “I’ll Give You the Sun”, which was kind of amazeballs. I thought the characters were maybe a bit too awesome for their own good – the characters were well-developed and they sure had faults, they were just very fancy? like, in the way they’d built their outlook on the world, and the way they approached it was very Inside of a Novel, however! I cried. Pretty much. Not a full, on ugly Oprah Cry like I did for The Road, cuz that was a moment that is likely to never be repeated, however! IGYTS is lovely, and wonderful because even though the characters are pretty shiny and the framework is snappy, underneath the shiny they read like really complicated, honest, sad people and OMG I LOVED IT SO MUCH.

anyway, here’s a snippet of the new first-draft-messy that I’m adding to GB:

 

But then Emeric smiled, and tapped his fingers to his face and Quince grabbed a tea towel and wiped some of the green goo away and for a second it was like all that time hadn’t passed at all.

But then Quince blinked, and maybe stuff got clear because a sadness slipped over his face and my own heart sunk.

Emeric just looked a little bit sheepish, and whole lot beautiful.

Quince said he was art, like straight out of the Louvre art, where everything was carved from marble and stone and people stood around and gawked and pointed, but mostly they just blushed because hot was hot no matter the medium. I had to take his word for it.

You can easily see the troubles already – two sentences starting with ‘but’, for a start. Really, sentences should never start with But, however! sometimes a girl’s gotta make a stylistic choice. That someone will, later, mark out in red pen.

What else?

in an effort to be the hippest writer in hiplandia (actually, I can’t even say that’s true b/c I had no idea magically hipster pencils existed until I went to the stationery store), when I was looking for a plain, blank journal (no lines, people! lines restrict! I dunno, I’m on a blank-page kick), and found a midori journal, and of course leave it to our minimalist friends to make a super simple but beautiful journal –I mean, it’s the plainest notebook in plainlandia, but soooo pretty) — I also found Blackwing pencils (and bought one, but I think it is too soft and next time will try the pearl AND I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST TYPED THAT SENTENCE, BRB, I’m going to go drink my cold brew coffee in front of my edison bulb lamp while I google places to eat in Portland), because for some reason I’m into pencils, instead of pens. I suspect it’s because they come with erasers and I’m tired of crossing out the bad ideas i have. Erasers make them go away.

mostly.

even though the lines are gone, you can still feel their ghosts.

 

 

 

 

 

TMW: preplan

Although I’ve written the first two chapters, at least in some draft, I spent a bit of today thinking about The Mourning Wolves, because why wouldn’t you start writing a new book while you wait for the next few days to find out the fate of the last book you finished? So I did the thing tiny potatoes do: the thing.

i promise everything is true
i even made a title page. I come from a family of artists, you just can't tell.
i even made a title page. I come from a family of artists, you just can’t tell.
Ash (model: Erika Linder)
Ash (model: Erika Linder)

And, I found someone who looks like Ash (mc) in my head. Model Erika Linder. She’s just gorgeous.  Ash is genderqueer, and I’m currently using female pronouns for them, but it feels weird every time I do. So we’ll see.

I did not have the same luck finding an image for Fig, whose name is not really Fig, but may be Kananginak, because he is at least part Inuk (Inuit). And I think it’s because he came out wrinkly when he was born and a fig is nicer than a prune. And google taught me, as it often does, that finding images of POC is like wading through syrup — it takes forever and nothing good happens along the way. My goal with TMW, because it’s set up in mid-north Alberta (note, for those of you not around these parts, everyone pretty much lives in mid-south Alberta, cuz it’s cold the higher you get), about a 13 hour drive from Yellowknife, is to make sure that the book reflected the region (or tried to), and not have it be full of white folks. I’m super nervous to write this book because I do want to learn more about the history of the region, if not for the book, then for myself. I find myself more interested in my country — outside of high school history — than I have been in a long time.

I’ve lived about 7 hours north of here, and didn’t want to set the book in a place I hadn’t seen, yet. Though, prairie is prairie, really. It’s only the winter that changes.

anyway, the landscape is a bit like this:

 

Swan Hills (photographer in image link)
Swan Hills

honestly, the Prairies are the best.

I WON PITCHWARS! *true fact

*Because I worked my ever-loving bananas off and I am talking hours/day – I took a week off of work and didn’t see the outdoors, but I made the book the best I can, and I subbed it off and whatever happens now happens, but i can say for sure that this was all achievement: unlocked, and what not. Because. Yeah. It’s a good feeling to work your ass off and have something to show for it. I’m not sure I’ve ever been this focussed on anything in my whole life. And for those of you that know me, you know I’m an old lady – so. Go team me and what not. If there’s extra Pitchwars news, I’ll share. But for now, I’m kind of feeling amazeballs (it doesn’t hurt that I met a new CP, and she’s great).

So, this, is kind of how I am feeling right now (also known as: my day in rockstars)

 

I did take some breaks, though, and played through Last of Us again, which is like, one of my happy places (not necc. all of the Joel Killing Bloodshed stuff, but because it’s the video game version of The Road, and it’s complex and has great storytelling and has a great father/daughter relationship at its core and you should go play it right now), not the least of which is because (and i have no shame) Joel is so damn hot.

JOEL
JOEL

And, so, in an homage to my Joel, and because of my love for The Road, I’m going forth with The Mourning Wolves, my not-a-werewolf monster/transformation novel about Ash and her sidekick Fig, and the adventures they have in Northern Alberta. My hands hurt from typing 10 hours/day, but I’m kind of excited, too.

 

Worldburners Unite, indeed.

sometimes, when it’s late and i’m left to my own devices

I let my voice sneak in extra into my prose:

“Poet!” I screamed his name, a betrayal because he was the last person I wanted. The gloom lifted. A silvery haze wove through the trees. I was alone. Panic. I dug the vial out from the pile of snow, turning it over and over in my hand. Cold had thickened the liquid, it was sluggish and heavy. I unfurled the piece of paper. Read it out loud, or tried, my voice an inaudible tremble of sound and fear. I pressed the paper into a rough bit of fallen wood, holding it open with my thumb and forefinger.

SEVEN FOR A SECRET.

An address nowhere near the Blood House. The address was vaguely familiar, calligraphy done in a steady, specific hand. Curl and knife-sharp, lines so thin they didn’t end, but disappeared into the white of the paper, fading away.

No time. No deadline. An impossible invitation with no expiry date. Now or later. Now or never. I opened my mouth and stretched my jaw. Something cracked and something peeled away. A half-formed scab, a bit of dried blood. I pushed my tongue into my cheek and winced.

No time. No deadline.

But how soon is Now? Do I go. Stay. Fight, when I’m so tired from crying?

Terror.

Sometimes his name was prophecy.

Hrm, I also realize in this piece I need to fix some continuity. Yay for blog posts. Also, tense. ugh!

last*dance

in case you were wondering, and it’s really ok that you weren’t, I discovered a major source of my word-Smithing* influences last week:

I’m so glad you came
I’m so glad you remembered
To see how we’re ending our last dance together
Reluctantly cautiously but
Prettier than ever I really believed
That this time it’s forever

But Christmas falls late now, flatter and colder
And never as bright as when we used to fall

(Last Dance: the Cure)

Seriously.

And also:

She walked out of her house and looked around
At all the gardens that looked back at her house
Like all the faces that quiz when you smile

And he was standing at the corner
Where the road turned dark a part of shiny wet
Like blood the rain fell black down on the street

And kissed his feet she fell
Her head an inch away from heaven
And her face pressed tight
And all around the night sang out like cockatoos

“There are a thousand things”, he said
“I’ll never say those things to you again”
And turning on his heel he left a trace of bubbles
Bleeding in his stead

(Like Cockatoos: the Cure)

*see what I did there? :D

I don’t listen to the Cure in regular rotation anymore, mostly because I listen to music on my phone and am too lazy to update it much, if ever, so it’s mostly a smattering of things like Cygents and iVardensphere and yanno, whatever else shows up on shuffle. Like Matt Good, sometimes.

I hadn’t been to a big, full-on stadium show in years. Maybe the last was Nine Inch Nails? Maybe? But sitting there, with the lights and the dancing drunkos, and the crowd that was easily almost the same age as me, listening to Robert Smith sing exactly how he should, it hit me.

Influence. In the way words form. In images. In my obsession with using winter imagery and strange combinations of words and structure. The sadness, or longing. Hopeful loneliness.  And the cold.

I’m still on vacation, but now it’s a staycation. My feet are sore and swollen and angry for walking 70KM in as many days. I bought art and ate delicious food and snuck down dark alleys and walked with Fantomes, and I bought art. Invested in art, actually.  And today I had hipster coffee and hipster toast and am looking out over the city and the sky is all bluebirds.

I’m still working on Gingerbread, it’s not the first draft anymore but technically it changed direction when I wasn’t looking so the bits I’m writing are first draft. I’m trying to prep for pitchwars, because any goal is a good goal and the experience of it will be super good for me, I think.  I’m also better at deadlines: left to my own devices I’d probably play nothing but Last of Us because OMG that game broke my little tiny heart (I am, however, listening to the soundtrack/score RIGHT NOW. If you like moody/sad instrumental I strongly recommend).

Anyway, here’s a snippet of what i wrote today. I don’t think it’s right,

A ball of pain so sharp it may as well have been made of thorn or razor wire, spread through my gut. “I am not missing anything. I’m just trying to duck the bullshit coming out of your mouth before it sticks because as of right now, I don’t think any amount of soap would wash your crap off. Seriously. You ramble on about nothing, lie to me about the Crimson, about yourself. If I asked you what colour the sky was, you’d probably tell me cotton candy because you think I’m idiot enough to fall for whatever sweet comes out of your mouth.”

too many “mouths” mostly, and the end doesn’t stick (ha) the way i want it to, but it’s a start.

Okay. Onward!

maybe it’s the tea.

Two weeks and a day ago i bought gerbera daisies at the IGA. Thought it was a Sobey’s because I want the free breadknife that comes when you collect the stamps, but apparently just because you are owned by a thing doesn’t mean you get the benefits of the thing.  The daisies, purple and yellow, smaller than the width of my palm and stored in a canning jar, don’t seem to want to wilt. It’s winter, anyway, and they’re up and sturdy and taking up the same amount of space as they did on the day i brought them home, when i was walking around the grocery store, mostly numb and crying.

I miss Dexter. I miss his little chirpy face. I miss his obnoxious chirps and his little fuzzy bum and his wet-bird smell. I miss the way he would grow 3 sizes when he was happy to see me, and I and his tilty-sleepiness when he would sit on my laptop because it was warm and try not to topple over while doing the snoozy head bob. I miss how he would fall asleep in my hand because all he did was sleep because he was old and didn’t want to tell me he wasn’t feeling well, so he did his best to look strong and happy. He pooped and he ate and sometimes he chirped and he never looked scared and tried, always to climb to the highest part of me because that’s what birds are supposed to do. Be High.

He was a really good bird. I know we’re supposed to love our pets. I know we’re supposed to tell the world that they’re the best pets, that no other pet in the history of pets was as good as This Pet.

But, seriously. Dexter was a fucking great bird.  I can’t tell you how much I miss him.  I went to pick up his tiny little cremated bits and it was all fine and dandy until I walked out of the veterinarian’s office and exploded with grief.  5, 480 days, minus vacation and a couple of sleepovers is a long time to be with someone.  Double that if I include every good morning and good night, if you count covering and uncovering his house with his bunny blanket. Triple, quadruple that to conversations, to snuggles, to him dancing on the back of the sofa when he was a little guy, trying to woo me into being his lady-love (I’m not sure he ever understood the interspecies thing doesn’t usually turn out that great), or hanging upside down from my glasses,  or sitting on my knee in the bath because he really liked baths and he liked to sit on my head after, soaking wet and stinking like a wet bird does, all oil and musty weird. It’s strange, he smelled exactly the same after he was gone, warm and stuffy,  wrapped in a dishcloth I’d been sent from asia, so that was all good memories, too.

it’s strange, the way we are. I was reading, last night, about a restaurant I was in yesterday morning (we did a drive-by) was suddenly closing after only been open 11 months. Normally I don’t get nostalgic over such things, but in version 1.0 of this place, I had so many great conversations and experiences (like joining an imaginary rock band, and having our own section with the server (I hope school is going well, Steph!) we liked the most and the charming host/maitre’d who was always happy to see us), and although it’s a brick and mortar thing, it’s people too. People who try to do a thing that is of their heart, and for a while it’s there and strong and vibrant and then the wind changes, and blows it off, into the ether, and then it’s memory and a feeling that everything has a time. That we’re here for a bit, and then we’re gone. We waste so much time trying to be a thing that other people like or want or respect. And, yeah, I know it’s a bit bananas to compare people to a bakery that also served dinner, but at the same time, it’s all the same need: make a mark, set your stake or wave your flag.

Remember me.

You know?

I’m drinking earl grey tea out of my heart cup.  I was supposed to be  editing Gingerbread, because I finished it about 3 months ago and it’s time to go back, but I found myself here, instead. Full of sniffles and missing my little dude and thinking about the transitory nature of all of it.

anyway. I should go do a thing.  I hope you’re having a great day :)

 

witch which is which.

in which we have a snippet:

 

Fig’s foot is wet with blood. I pull his sock off, and grab at the hem of Yegor’s dress, I tug and tug until the fabric gives and then I’ve got a bandage. “Pressure will help but if you got broke bones then -“

He covers his mouth with his hand, wincing as I tug on the fabric, make a knot, tucking the ends under so it won’t come loose. “I’ll just slow you down.”

I shake my head. “It’s okay, Fig.” But it’s not and he knows it.

“I wasn’t lying when I said you kill me if you want.”

His hair’s a tangle and there’s still water in the corners of his eyes.  I don’t apologize for falling asleep. For saying one thing, then doing the other. “Not a thing I’m doing. Witch’ll help.” I’d seen Yegor heal up worse.

“Ain’t a worse thing than witch,” Fig says in a sigh and I almost backhand him for being stupider than I thought possible.

“Witch might mean I don’t need to change your name to Lefty McHobbleston.”

“Lefty McHobbleston?”

I throw up my hands. “You scare me half to death again and I will leave you strung upside down in a tree with a note on your chest that’s all recommendations about what you’re good for. Understood?”

Fig nods. “Help me up?”

It’s still dark, maybe there’s enough heat the in the fire to start it up again.

I guess when I promised him I wouldn’t kill him, I should have clarified on purpose.

in which i complicate matters

here’s the thing, I like writing first drafts. I like stories, I like being told them, and I like telling them. Second drafts, third drafts, they’re all about fixing the story, and I don’t like them as much. I find it laborious and frustrating. Perhaps (probably) because the fixes are more craft than inspiration. Mostly, they are perspiration.  Editing tells me what I’m missing, reminds me what I need to add in, it challenges me on the characters I’ve built: do I know enough of who they are?

In truth, I don’t. I never do. I think of characters like people. I will never know the whole of who you are. In first drafts, characters surprise me. They come out of the wood work and stand there, on their awkward legs and introduce themselves and tell me a thing, or don’t, about who they are and what they want.

I know people that can mold characters into who they need to serve a purpose. I suppose my subconscious does that, but it’s definitely not happening in my forebrain. That is one of the reasons why I’m such a crappy outliner.

I wrote a framing statement for The Mourning Wolves, that was something like “in the County of Witchare, Sunday Mourning must join forces with a local wolf hunter to save the city” (it’s better than that, but I don’t have it here with me, so please just play along!).

Now that I’m writing it, however, I don’t even know if Sunday Mourning will show up. (I think Sunday Mourning is a great/hilarious name for an Urban Fantasy Heroinne, ps.) Right now, my main character is Ash, whose lover was killed by Salamander, a rogue werewolf hell-bent on destroying the county of Witchare, so he can then own the city of Saint Ailby.  Ash is on the hunt for a witch to help her both interpret the marks she found in the abandoned house she crashed in, and help her with her anti-wolf weapons arsenal.

(there’s also a second story line about Jessie and Oleander, these kids that are just trying to get by, and Paja who is half healed from a werewolf attack and, of course, Salamander. Also, who names a murderous werewolf Salamander? OH WAIT, I DO!)

so, there’s Ash, all independent and grr and lone-wolfish, who sets out from her crash house to search for this witch dude she heard was around somewhere and not but five minutes out she runs into this kid, Fig, who is wandering about looking for food and water.

He also might be a werewolf.

What the hell happened to Sunday Mourning?

I HAVE NO IDEA.

Maybe Sunday is the witch dude? Maybe it’s just a delicious post dinner snack in the summer time? I got nothing.

All I know is that there is no point in me planning because whatever pre-work I put down on paper will be a giant fat lie within twenty minutes.

anyway, I guess I’m writing a novel about a 18ish year old (I’m always super bad at deciding specific ages for my characters, too. I’d rather know how they think and feel*) who decides, against her better judgement to protect a thirteen year old maybe-werewolf.

at least i’m keeping with my theme of makeshift, chosen families. That shit never gets old.

*yes, I know, thinking and feeling is inspired by our age, too.  Anyway. *hand waves*

 

more snippets: the mourning wolves

I hold the door open, Fig slips under the crook of my arm. The marks on the porch don’t trigger, wherever the witch went, she took their magic. Fig steps in and looks up, way up at the high ceilings. He turns his bag around front, but doesn’t let it go, hugs it like that, like safety.

“Bathroom’s upstairs.” I point, waving my finger.

“It’s okay?”

I nod. “It’s okay.” Except I can’t guarantee that. I reach back, scratch at my spine. Things are crawling, like a warning. Sun’s down but the moon is quiet. “Your brother, he turn?”

Fig bites at his lip, dragging a tooth along the dried, cracked skin. There’s blood, a single drop he cleans up with his tongue. “Not full.”

Not full. Halfling, half-Moon, the worst and the kindest, both. “What about you?” Because I can’t ignore the warning in my bones.

“Don’t know yet,” Fig says, so honest my chest seizes up. “You kill me, you want.” His eyes, his ridiculous blue eyes are all water.

“Go upstairs,” I say, waving him off. “Get washed up. I’ll start a fire.”

He pauses, two seconds like he’s making sure what I’m saying isn’t lying, isn’t trying to catch him up, get him off guard.

“Go,” I say and the back of my neck is warm and I should open his heart, and he knows it and I know it.

But he’s just a kid.

And I can’t.