The Characters That I Am Not

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things that I am not.” -Joss Whedon

An interesting thing happened when I sent the beta version of my book out to my parents (hi, Mom). Mom and Dad were, unsurprisingly, thrilled and excited and said all kinds of nice things about it. They were also gravely concerned.

One of my characters, you see, has quite a foul mouth. The swearing is truly atrocious. Dad said he thought that with my brilliant mind I could do better than that. Mom felt I was setting a bad example. I thought: Well, it’s not like it’s me swearing. Blame Tory, for goodness’ sake. All I’m doing is writing down what he says.

Exploring the things that I am not.

Which is true of all my characters, of course. Not one of them is me. It really is the true joy of the thing, getting to know the inside of someone else’s head, looking out at the world from their point of view.

And today I’d like to introduce you to a few of them. Meet Tory.

Tory paced the cell, tripping over legs and beating on the wall with his fist. One of the boys yelled at the Mercant when it came, but it was pointless. Tory told him he was an idiot. The boy’s name was Kis. Kis asked Tory if he had any better ideas. Tory told him his idea was to shut up.

After about a week, several of the boys had swollen lips and bruised cheeks from fighting with each other. Tory thought he might burst from frustration.

Then one day something happened: One wall of the room disappeared. Tory’s heart leapt for one cruel moment when he saw trees and sunlight.

But it took only a heartbeat to realize: The new space was yet another prison. The “trees” were plastic climbing apparatus, the “pond” was a grimy little plastic pool set in the ground, and the walls were just farther apart.

Three of his roommates had already run out into the space, whooping and hollering as though they had actually found freedom. Kis, who seemed to have finally figured out how pointless everything was, stared out silently. He looked inquiringly at Tory. Tory shrugged. Might as well.

Well, okay, Dad was right about one thing (imagine that). Tory doesn’t need to swear to be who Tory is. So the swearing is (mostly) gone. You’re welcome, Mom.

Even though it’s written with my boys in mind, the book has female characters too. You want to meet Semantha? Say hello. (But she’ll probably just roll her eyes at you.)


Semantha’s eyes are actually much paler than they look here, and she usually wears that hair in braids. Just so you know.

Semantha looked over the top of the book and glared at her little brother. He was only ten and a crappy shooter, but he always got the first turn with the chem gun. Father was issuing the same instructions he had given a thousand times before: “The chem gun won’t kill them, at least not at first, but it’s enough to hold them at bay for a while. If you really want to do some damage, use a flame thrower. Then,” and Father made a stupid “pow-splat” sound with his mouth and Semantha rolled her eyes.

Children weren’t allowed to use flame throwers, of course, not even for practice. Only soldiers were allowed to have them, and only Outside. Jonethen might go Outside someday, but not Semantha. Oh no. Her job was to “grow up and have a nice little family,” as Mother loved to remind her.

Father finished his instructions and Jonethen took aim. And missed wildly. Semantha snorted and returned to the book, a memoir of the Great Perimeter Battle by General Agular Tonsen. She had pulled it down from the shelf in the dusty little pro shop where they rented the chem gun. Mr. Gerban, the shop owner, patted her on the head and said, “You can borrow it, sweetheart. It’ll give you something wholesome to do while your brother practices.” She had faked a smile, said thank you, and ducked out to the target area.

Semantha looked up again to see Jonethen make a couple of decent shots, then miss the entire target again, twice in a row. Father said that was enough for today, and clapped him on the shoulder. He set the chem gun down on the bench and turned to her:

“Go ahead, Semantha. Just bring it inside when you’re done, and don’t lick it or anything. Those chemicals are bad for you.”


Semantha pushed her long braids behind her, loaded the gun with a fresh canister. They were just paint canisters for practice, anyway, so it was a doubly stupid thing for him to say. She took the gun to her shoulder and imagined herself taking aim at an Ekross: Pow! Right on target.

Finally, I want to introduce you to somebody who is very, very special to me. He’s the only one whose story is told in first present, and only because he insisted on it. He told me what he wanted rather awkwardly and very politely, of course, and once I understood, he was much happier. He is a gentle soul and often misunderstood. Please be kind to him. This is Jed.

This might be sorta what Jed looks like. Only, skinnier and with more hair. And he'd never have his picture taken with a blue backdrop because they don't have studios in the wild, silly.

The sun is coming up, and the other boys are laughing and shouting already. They’ll leave me alone if I’m quiet and if I remember not to say anything about the plants. When we get where the dirt path ends, I tell them bye and go up toward the meadow. I don’t want to hear when they find roots to dig up.

There won’t be many berries yet, but maybe a few. I always thank the bushes when I take their berries. If I find good leaves, I’ll put a few in my sack—they don’t mind when you do that. If you take the whole plant though, then the screaming is awful.

When I get to the meadow, I throw myself down in the grass, feel the chill earth against my belly. When my breathing gets slow and quiet, I can hear the plants whispering. They’re so glad it’s morning and they’re alive—it makes me glad to be alive too. I wonder if they can hear me saying that to them?

Flowers have a cheerful sound, like tiny bells. The grass sounds smooth. Trees are like big drums, booming up from their roots under the meadow. I like listening to the meadow, but the sun is high and my sack is still empty. I’ll probably have to sit in the ninth circle at dinner again tonight, but what can I do? I’d rather go hungry than kill the plants.

I start back toward home, looking and looking for leaves and berries. Sometimes Mom asks why my foraging bag is never full. One time, I tell her about the plants. She looks mad and says, “That’s a really weird thing to say, Jed.” So the next time she holds my skinny arm in her big warm hand and says, “Jed, why is your bag empty again?” I say, “I forgot,” and she shakes her head. 

So, there they are. What did you think? Whose story do you most want to read? Which one would you most like to hang out with?

And would you like to meet more characters from my book? Tell me. Maybe I’ll highlight them in a future entry. Maybe I’ll even let one of the alien creatures speak to you.

We’re Done Here: Time for a Verdict

I lied. I told you it was seven (7) and it’s only six (6). So we’re done here.

Actually, I didn’t lie. I just didn’t know.

I had a seventh one lined up. Until last Thursday, I believed there would be seven. Then I started working with the seventh one and NO just no.

It’s bad.

It was my first real attempt at writing a novel, I mean, as an adult. It was the first time I wrote something down and thought, “This is going to be a novel. I’m going to make this into a novel.”

It’s painful.

It opens with a nightmare. A bloody nightmare with no real emotional content.

It proceeds almost immediately into a memory. A boring memory.

It’s trite and melodramatic.

I’m embarrassed that I actually shared it with someone once. Amazing he didn’t tell me to just quit now (thank you, Thomas).

I still like the concept. The idea was to write the story of the prostitute who washes Jesus’s feet in her tears. She gets like three lines in the Bible, and I want to know more. What it was like being a prostitute in New Testament times, how she came to be one. I want to know how it felt when the homeowner told her she was unworthy even to touch Jesus’s feet, and then what she did when Jesus praised her above the homeowner. What happened to her afterward. The story was going to be gritty and real and deep.

I did a ton of research for it. Maybe I’ll write it some day. But not now. What I have so far is too awful and I don’t feel like messing with it to make it un-embarrassing.

Important Point:

Someday I will be a successful novelist. Because I want it and I’m willing to pay in sweat and tears* for it. And once upon a time I was AWFUL. Let that be a lesson to all aspiring writers.

And when I’m a successful, published, independently wealthy author, maybe I’ll publish some of my awfulness so you can see. For now, though, you really don’t need to know.

SO. It’s verdict time. Your instructions.

  1. This is the participation portion of the game. HUGE thanks to everyone who has participated so far. If you haven’t and you want to, now is the time to step up.
  2. Leave a comment here, on this entry, telling me which of the seven six stories you are most interested in reading as a complete work, and why.

That’s it. So simple. The winning story will be chosen as follows:

  1. 10 points for being popularly chosen by participants
  2. 10 points for receiving the most interesting/compelling vote
  3. 80 points for being the one I generally feel most excited about when it’s time to get started

Your vote counts! But only because it will probably have an impact on how I feel!

Seriously, your voice does count. I love all of these story ideas, and want your input.

Oh, and you can read all six by scrolling backwards from the home page or clicking through on their titles here:

The Visitation

The Girl in the Goblin Tower

The Summer I Met Mercy

The Red Girl

Relief: A Place to Back Up (also known as Relief: A Title that Doesn’t Start with “The”)

Slave Chip

Let’s begin! And thank you, truly.

*maybe even in blood. A little blood. Like maybe a pinprick or something. But I’d rather pay in sweat. Or maybe cash if I had any. Wait. Can I pay in rotten apple cores pulled out from under my son’s dresser?

Candidate #6: The Visitation

Just two left. Whew.

The obligatory “if you’re new here”: Read this first.

And the list of previous entries:

Slave Chip, Relief: A Place to Back Up, The Red Girl, The Summer I Met Mercy, The Girl in the Goblin Tower

And the intro to the intro: This one is adult, I-don’t-know-what-genre, help!? it’s kinda tongue-in-cheek but serious too… a modern-day origin myth. A reinterpretation of an old tale. Maybe it sucks. Maybe I’m just tired of my own writing and would benefit from a break. There was something about it I felt worth sharing, anyway. (Shut up Heather and just share the darn thing and let them make their own judgments. Geez.) Here.

The Visitation

She was working in the lab when God arrived, unannounced.

She didn’t notice His Presence at first, entranced as she was by the spectacularly clear images on the screen of her new scanner: A hand-held device that allowed her to watch electric impulses dance inside her volunteer’s brain in real time. Incredible.

The volunteer himself was reading a Mathematics Today and humming cheerfully to himself. She wondered if, with the right tools, she could actually read what he was reading through the lens of his brain.

So absorbed was she in study, that she didn’t hear the door swish shut nor notice the dusty cardboard box He set on the counter. He was right behind her when she turned around, staring at the output screen in her hand.

“That’s an interesting device,” said God. “What does it do?”

“Don’t you know? I thought you were omniscient.”

God sighed. Somewhat dramatically, thought Dora. “The brightest and most curious mind in all Creation, and even you have to make that joke the first time you meet Me,” he said, and sighed again. She hadn’t known God would be such a drama queen.

In fact, He wasn’t at all what she expected, if she had expected Him at all. He did have a beard and a halo, but the beard was thin and scraggly, and His shoulders hunched. The halo was slightly askew and had more dusky brass to it than any sort of golden glow. It seemed almost as though it were rather tired of hanging there and wished it could rest for a bit. God was bald except a few grey wisps, and His face was lined and sunken and void of strong characteristics. The overall appearance was one of vague dishevelment, that of a homeless man with a dented tin of coins next to him making no real attempt to solicit donations.

Of course, that last image didn’t cross her mind at the time, because she had never seen a homeless man. But later, when she stumbled across the first one, she would see him and think, “He looks rather like God. How peculiar.”

At the moment, however, she was mostly concerned with deciding whether God would prefer tea or coffee, and whether an early afternoon Visitation called for snacks. To her relief, God just wanted to know about her equipment, and what kind of work she was doing.

At the end of the lab tour, she ventured: “So, You’re really not omniscient?”

God sighed again. There was patience in the sigh and also weariness. “I can be omniscient,” He said. “But I prefer not to be. It’s hard to explain.” His eyes wandered toward the electron microscope and back again.

Then he smiled distractedly and wandered out the door and down the street. Dora went back to her work.

She didn’t hear from God again until that night over dinner. Buried among the thirty-seven new text messages in her inbox was one from God:

“btw left my box. Dont open pls.”

“Puzzling,” she thought as she put a bite of rosemary-crusted sweet potato into her mouth. She puzzled over it in bed that night as well. She loved to puzzle over things in bed.

What was God doing in her lab this morning? Why was he so … not what she expected? How can God be forgetful? Why would He tell her not to open the box? Surely He knew she wouldn’t—it wasn’t hers to open. What was it anyway?

The next day broke with sunshine glimmering on the early-morning mist. Dora opened her eyes sleepily and smiled. Her smile broadened as she remembered that she had two particularly wonderful things to look forward to that day: In-taking three new volunteers, and further inquiry into God.

The first thing Dora did when she arrived in the lab was to test her equipment in preparation for the first volunteer’s arrival. Then she fixed coffee in her Keurig machine, and sat to review her notes from the previous day. When she pulled a stool up to the counter she saw the box.

There it was, right next to the electron microscope. Interesting. It didn’t look like much. Just beaten up cardboard, tied shut with a piece of twine–superfluous, given that it was also tightly duct-taped on all sides, ludicrously over-sealed.

On one side of the box were a child’s scrawled doodles, and words written in permanent marker the way a box of winter clothes might be marked for storage. In the middle these three words: “Do not open.” The rest of the words were unfamiliar:

“Danger,” said the box.

And: “Contains evil.”

An odd chill passed through her, a sensation as unfamiliar as the words.

Candidate #5: The Girl in the Goblin Tower

If you don’t know what this is, start here. Then you can read the rest of the candidates, if you want: Slave Chip, Relief: A Place to Back Up, The Red Girl, The Summer I Met Mercy. I’ll be here when you get back.

More than halfway done! I feel like I should make a speech.

So, this next excerpt is from a piece I started many many months ago… probably a couple of years ago… and got farther into than any novel I had ever started. I wrote nearly 7,000 words before stopping. I never wrote that much in a story again until my current 85k WIP that is now resting sleepily while we play our game of intros.

The idea came to me in a dream, if I remember correctly, though I often dream while awake so who knows. I was thinking about Sam & Frodo in the tower in Mordor, where Sam rescues Frodo from the goblins (or was it orcs?) who had dragged him from Shelob’s nest. An image flashed across my mind: A stringy-haired girl slinking in a corner of the room after the goblins have fled. Sam is unreasonably angered by her presence, threatens her until she shrinks away, and promptly erases her existence from his mind. Frodo believes the exchange to be a part of his poison-induced nightmare, barely remembers it later, let alone mentions it.

The girl in the goblin tower is, for the purposes of the story of the Ring, unseen. But she sees everything. What is she doing there?

Her story gradually unfolded in my mind, stretching out into a vast line running parallel to the canonical tale of the Ring, just under the surface of its male-dominated narrative, invisible because threatened into submission, and forgotten. I got a bug in me to tell her tale. Here’s its opening.

The Girl in the Goblin Tower

A girl stood hunched at the edge of the wood. She was not much to look at, hardly even noticeable. A skinny wisp, barely four feet tall, with hollow eyes, a longish face, and stringy dark blond hair hanging lankly down her back. Human. She was gazing open-mouthed at the tower.

Varda, for that was her name, closed her mouth and, trembling, stepped forward again. She had a mission, and it was only too like her to forget it in her ludicrous awe.

Between the woods and the tower stood a wall, and within the wall a village. The gate stood open.

She had not known her home was so small and dirty until she saw how other villages were. She found more food in a single garbage heap now than she had seen anywhere in her entire village in weeks. And this village, the one at the foot of the tower, was finer than any of them.

The shops were upright and swept, with colorful fabrics decorating the entrances. The walkways were smooth and the grass green and trim. The people here, like the other villages along the way, were mostly human. But here also were peculiar creatures drawn from the tales: Dwarves, nyads, dryads, maybe even an elf or two.

As usual, no one paid her much attention. Nevertheless, her lips remained parted, ready with a word of obsequy in case she should offend anyone.

The tower jutted upward, sprouting directly from the earth. No homes or temples or other buildings leaned up against it. No trees crowded the walls. A tower so high that the top was obscured in mist.

Varda tried to swallow and found that her mouth was too dry. She felt that she could not go on. She wished that some act of grace would wipe her from the face of the earth so that she would not have to enter the tower. Then a greater fear overtook her: What if she could not enter the tower?

The road approached directly to the outer wall of the tower and then simply stopped. She could see no door or other means of ingress. The tower appeared impregnable. So then perhaps she had been lied to. No surprise, if truth be told. Perhaps her journey served for nothing but to provide one less mouth for her village to feed. She understood.

Still, it stung. Had they told her the truth, she would have left no less willingly. She would have liked the dignity of knowing.

She continued forward. If she could not enter the tower, she would at least touch it. Afterward, she would return home and tell how much food there is to be had in the other villages. She herself might spend the rest of her life sneaking and taking from garbage heaps. There were worse ways to live, and only one way to die.

When she reached the tower she saw that a clever arrangement of the glossy dark stone concealed the opening from a distance. She would be able to enter after all, to place her plea before the feet of the Great Sar Gral.

An unfamiliar feeling arose within her, frightened her. It was a bright, restless feeling, close to desire but higher–and more dangerous–in tone. Later she would learn to call it hope. She squelched it with her old familiar friend, terror.

She crouched to retch into the grass by the road, and afterwards crawled forward toward the tower, unable to walk upright any longer.

The moment that she crawled past the threshold, into the shaded interior of the tower, the air chilled. In front of her was a second wall, and to both sides were openings, presumably into the interior of the tower. The polished stone floor was cold and her shivering grew so that she could not hold her hands still. Shaking, she pushed herself against a wall and slid into a standing position, crept toward the left side opening, then propelled herself into the interior in a sudden thrust of terror.

And then there he was. She had not expected an immediate audience. She had not expected anything. She had thought perhaps disappointment again. But not this, not Him, right here before her. She was too stunned to be terrified.

He was magnificent.

Twice her height, wrapped in glowing white raiment, his face gleaming with its own light. White hair, white beard, white hood. Holding a long black staff in one hand with a brilliance shining at the top. And he was looking at her. As though he had expected her. As though he noticed she was there.

She found she was no longer trembling. She found she was no longer weak. She found she was looking directly into his eyes. And he was looking directly into hers. His expression was interested. Piqued, even. And also something else… wary? Was he afraid of her? What did it mean?

After a long moment, he spoke. “Your favor is granted.”

And then he turned and started away. “Wait!” she cried. “What do you mean?” And then without thinking, she launched into the speech she had repeated to herself almost continuously since leaving home: “We are not a wealthy people, but we beseech your goodness. We will find a way to repay you if you will tell us what it will cost…”

A smile played at the corners of his mouth, and she stumbled to silence. So he was not angry with her then.

“I mean what I say,” he said. “Your favor is granted. Your village is saved. The curse is lifted and they will eat again–already the feast is laid before them. Twas a paltry wish and easily granted.”

“As for payment,” he said, “It will cost only your life.”

Then he was gone and she lay shivering upon the floor.

Candidate #4: The Summer I Met Mercy

This one isn’t new to the blog, but I want it considered, so I’m offering it again. This one’s YA (young adult), straight fantasy a la Neil Gaiman (if you like Neil Gaiman it’s JUST like him, otherwise NOTHING like Neil Gaiman (JAIMIE)) or, I don’t know, kind of magical realism-ish.

It’s also shorter than the others, so here’s more detail (skip if you don’t want intro spoilers). It’s set in modern-day Southern US (my backyard, to be precise, except not really my backyard), a first-person coming-of-age story with a dark (horror-ish) twist. All evidence to the contrary, this is not a vampire story. But you may figure out pretty quickly that Mercy is not exactly… normal, either. She wants something the MC has, and the MC wants something she has… and the trade may not be all it seems.

If this is your first visit to my blog, you’re probably confused. This should clear things up.

You can also review the first three candidates here:

Slave Chip

Relief: A Place to Back Up

The Red Girl

The Summer I Met Mercy

Nobody knew where she came from. I didn’t know where she came from. She was just there one day, down by the community lake, picking at the mud between her toes. Why she would do that when she was covered in mud from head to foot is anybody’s guess, and I didn’t ask. Just stood there gawking at her. Her hair was so caked it looked like it was made of mud, just long gobby strands of filth tangled with pond algae, and her arms were too long, her fingers too long, but the most notable thing about her was that she was naked.

She looked up at me and smiled, an ordinary, girl-next-door smile, and she was quite pretty, for a stringy 15-year-old, even if her teeth were rather large and white and pointy. Even if she was quite, quite naked. Not that I could see anything, not with her bent over her legs like that.

We became good friends, Mercy and I, that summer that my parents were separating, that my world was crumbling.

More than friends, actually. She was the first girl I ever kissed. She was clean the day I kissed her, and clothed. I never did see her naked again, in fact, not that day and not any day after. But I did kiss her. My first kiss.

It wasn’t quite what I expected. Weirder. Much weirder. She drew the tip of my tongue into her mouth with a sucking sensation, and then bit it, sucking continuously, her teeth scraping along every inch as my tongue went deeper. It hurt but not enough to make me want to stop. Not even as much as the throbbing in my groin hurt at that moment, and I didn’t want that to stop either.

Candidate #3: The Red Girl

Okay, FINE random number generator. FINE. You really want to hear the story of the red-skinned orphan beauty, don’t you? Fine.

Oh, hi, human visitor. Thank you for stopping by, um… hold on..

Okay. If you have no idea what’s going on here, start with this post first.

If you’d like, you can read the first two candidates here: Slave Chip, Relief: A Place to Back Up

This next one is the same one that random number generator told me to post last time. I said “no.” Then it chose it again today. Stop being so random, random number generator!

Anyway. It’s pure adult fantasy (ugh, WHY does the word “adult” have that connotation? It’s not ADULT just “adult,” as in FOR adults. And it’s not THAT kind of fantasy. It’s high fantasy. Think Dungeons and Dragons, Tolkien, elves and trolls and demons). It’s about a beautiful and charming orphan girl adopted into a noble family, but whose identity harbors a dark and bloody secret that could spell the end of all that is good in the world.

Working Title: Tiefling

Lady Jayne was not the first to hear it through the whistling of the night wind. The two maidservants at the front of the line were.

“What is it, girls? What do you fear? None shall harm us here.”

“No, m’ lady,” said Beatrice. “I thought I heard a weeping babe, is all.”

Jayne took a torch from one of the girls, and pressed past them, around the curve of the rock. The wailing ceased the moment torchlight fell upon the tiny infant, dirty and bald and, for all that, the most beautiful child Jayne had ever seen. Its dark skin seemed to glow with rosy light. Two amber eyes gazed at Jayne with astounding intelligence, shards of color in them dancing like flame in the torchlight.

It had been many years since abandoning infants in these hills had been common. When he had come into the seat, her lord husband had forbidden the barbaric practice on penalty of death. And tonight of all nights, the most holy night of the year, these hills were sacred, open only to women of noble blood and pure heart.

In the moment that her eyes met those of the infant, however, Jayne thought none of that. She saw only the exquisite beauty of this girl child, and knew without a doubt that her presence here was a gift from the goddess. When Jayne lifted the infant into her arms, the milk sprang to her breasts.

“Beatrice, lend me your shawl.”

Jayne wrapped the child and held it to her own bare breast. She smiled at the ferocity with which the girl began to suckle. Turning to her party, she announced: “The child’s name is Evalyn, for she is greatly desired.”

The girl did not disappoint her fostering mother. By the age of one, she was speaking in complete sentences. By the age of two, thick waves of amber hair had grown to her waist. At the age of three, she spread flour to convert the front room to a winter wonderland, carried in stable mud to turn her bedroom into a swamp, and smiled with such perfect white teeth and dimpled cheeks that nobody minded.

At age four, she began pestering the library master for books on philosophy and mathematics, “and please, something I haven’t read already!” At age five, she challenged her twin brother—the same brother she had shared her mother’s breasts with—to a wooden sword duel, and won.

And when Evalyn was six, her mother made a discovery that threatened to shatter their world. She was brushing Evie’s hair for bed, running her hands through the luscious curls to smooth them down, when her hands stopped.

What was it? Had Evie hit her head and forgotten to mention it? No. There was another on the other side. Both bumps exactly the same, hard and sharp and terrifying. No, no. It was nothing. Her imagination was running away from her.

“Oh, Mummy,” said Evie, taking a break from the story she had been weaving about a fire princess and her pet dragon.

“Yes, my darling,” said Jayne, barely trusting herself to speak.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you. Why am I growing horns upon my head?”

Candidate #2: Also Sci Fi

If you’re confused about this post, check this out first.

If you haven’t already, you can read the first candidate here.

And remember how I said the order was chosen randomly? It’s not any more. The random number generator told me to go from the previous story, about a stunningly beautiful slave, to a second story, about a stunningly beautiful outcast. Gag me.

So I cheated.

Alas, this heroine is probably beautiful too (I haven’t seen a photo of her yet), but only because she gets to pick her own body. If it were up to me, she’d have zits and bad hair.

This one is adult sci-fi with a suspense/mystery twist, about a woman in a hospital ward who discovers that she’s being held by authorities on suspicion of terrorism. Here ya go.

Relief: A Place to Back Up 

At 10:00 am precisely, 12 minutes and 37 seconds after Risha Lencionis walked through the front door of Kwahm Ca Sthaban, the facility exploded, killing her and all 67 clients and 12 employees inside. Unaware that this had happened to her, the chief thing Risha felt right now was relief. For all its excitement, foreign travel also entailed danger, the worst of it being the difficulty in finding a signal strong enough for data backup.

Standing there with her back against the old stone wall, listening to the sound of street vendors calling their wares, she took a deep breath of the heady old-world perfume—frying oil, fresh papaya, human sweat—and smiled at the message on her screen indicating successful upload. Thank goodness for modern hot spots.

Something was wrong, though. The noise and the light and the smells had been there a moment before, but now everything was dark and quiet. She was on her back.

Over the cool quiet lay a thin veneer of shushing—fans, murmuring bio-machines. Under the quiet was a layer of human voices. Her limbs felt familiar and relaxed, which was odd because rental units always had that fresh stiffness about them that felt exciting but never quite comfortable.

A port shushed open and shut, and soft footsteps approached.

“Can you hear me?” said a voice. She tried to form words to answer, but her lips felt thick and unwieldy, so she just nodded. “Great,” the voice was crisp and cool. “Do you remember what happened?”

She thought about that for a moment. She remembered the oppressive heat, the colorful bougainvilla trailing from the balconies across the street. Then this—the dark and quiet. She didn’t think that’s what the voice meant. She shook her head.

“Hm.” A pause. Then: “We’re going to begin the rewiring sequence now. It’s been a few weeks since you were in this Bod so it will take a little time to get all your systems aligned.”

A moment later, the footsteps retreated again, the port shushed open, and Risha heard her visitor speaking to someone as she passed through: “I know it’s not my job to call the shots, but really it would have been better for everyone if we had just left her dead.”


Let The Games Begin: Candidate #1

If you aren’t sure what’s going on here, please read this first.

The story intros will be offered up in no particular order. There are seven candidates. I quite literally used a random number generator to choose which to do first.

First up is the intro to an adult (adult as opposed to YA, not THAT kind of adult) sci fi concept centered around a young slave who discovers a way to use her master’s own desires against him–and change the world in the process (hm. I seem to have this thing about slaves & changing the world. I’m going with it anyway). Here you go. (UPDATE: I’ve modified this since first posting, in response to outstanding feedback. This new version is shorter & gives away less, and I think it’s better. Enjoy.)

Art by Mandy Tsung

Art by Mandy Tsung

Working Title: Slave Chip

Mother was gone to town the day Asha’s code was transferred. She had known this sort of thing could happen to a person, but it was not the sort of thing that happened to her. She was the charmed one. She was the one who had inherited all her mother’s best traits, tempered by her father’s. Beauty, wit, charm, and a hefty dose of good luck.

That morning there had been just enough sugar and flour to bake a tart with the cherries from the tree outside the kitchen window, and Asha had been the one to find the wooden whistle Mother baked into it. Having seen thirteen summers already, Asha was a little old for the toy, so she licked it clean and gave it to little Horace to blow, and got a sweet sticky kiss in exchange.

Lately there had been a lot of parties at the big house, parties where Asha had danced and been celebrated as the belle of the ball. Standing in the hall outside the parlor of the big house, little Irena in her arms, Asha was still blissfully unaware that those parties had been designed to make her master rich off her sale price.

The master and his guest would be arriving soon, but for a few precious moments she and Nan, the housemaid, could gossip and giggle.

Ten summers later, she would still remember every detail of that morning. How the sun had slanted through the Smartglass windows, striping the wall with light. How Irena’s chubby arms had wrapped around her neck, and the dampness of her delicate curls after their walk across the hot compound. The baby smell of her skin coated with drying sweat.

When the master called for Asha, she handed Irena over to Nan. Asha smiled at Irena’s pout, and later wished she had kissed her one last time before entering the parlor.

Of course, there was no physical sensation associated with the code change. The only evidence was that when her new master Dexel ordered her to his shuttle, Asha found she had no desire to resist. It felt to her as though she wished, with all her heart, to forever leave behind her baby sister. And Mother. And Father who was kind and generous and the cherry tree and the whistle and the kitchen window with herbs drying over the sink and all the little siblings she had helped to care for all their lives–and to walk down that path and up into the elaborate private shuttle that would take her away, without even saying goodbye.

Game of Intros

By popular request (actually, by one request, that’s you Jaimie): The Game of Intros!

Here’s How It Works:

Over the next few days/weeks/however long, I’ll be posting the introductory scenes from several stories I’ve started and aborted over the past several years. ONE of them will be my next project, and will eventually (probably) end up a finished work.



1. There are no rules. These are just guidelines on ways you can be helpful in your feedback.

2. Feel free to comment or respond in any way you like to each entry. However, a few things I’m NOT looking for at this stage are: Grammatical feedback, ways to tighten the verbiage or sentence structure, line edits. I mean, if you want to tell me those things, by all means. It’s just not what I’m looking for. Yet.

3. Please DO tell me your gut reaction: Is this a story you would read? Are you eager to hear the rest? Is it your *type* of story?

4. I also want to know what your expectations are after reading each intro: What type of story you think it’s going to be, what questions you already have about the story, which character(s) you especially like/don’t like, etc.

5. Be brutally honest. It will do me no good to hear “It’s great, I love it!” about every single thing I ever write. If you don’t like ANYTHING I write, then you probably won’t help me much by telling me so. But if you like some things and not others THAT is useful information. I will appreciate it served straight up.

6. If you have a favorite, feel free to be vocal about it. At the end, I’ll ask you to tell me your top choice, but you can state your feelings on the matter at any time.

How The Winner Will Be Chosen

1. The decision will be highly subjective.

2. Based on perceived enthusiasm for any one story.

3. And what kind of mood I’m in when I decide to get started on the next project.

Everything clear?

Let the games begin–and may the odds be ever in your favor! Or the favor of the story most likely to be fun to write and engage a wide and enthusiastic audience while netting a hefty advance to the author! One or the other!

P.S. I’ll post the first sample tomorrow maybe. Look out for it.

*Sort of. No promises. However, all of these projects are hand-picked favorites of mine, and I’m excited about each of them. So whatever the general consensus finds most intriguing is likely to be pursued.

Which One

Sneak peak…

In Case You Need to Know

Proof positive. Found this while cleaning out our flooded basement: A letter to my grandparents, circa 1984ish, from when I was 10-11-12ish.



Dear grandma and grandpa Wardlow,

I enjoyed that card and read that letter.

I had a slumber party and couldn’t get to sleep for all the noise, and in the morning I couldn’t get awake for all the quiet. ha! ha!

at horse back riding I was one allowed to take the horses out to the field with Tina, (the stable girl) it was dark and, I took out my favourite horse, rustler, who is very comfortable bareback.

NOW, for the BIG part of the letter, story time!

Jill chapter one

“Jill, Jill,” whispered a soft voice, from outside, it was just her brother!

Ever since Jill had moved into the haunted house as it was said to be, she had been scared by Tim lots, of course he didn’t do it on purpose, but he still did it.

Jills brother came quietly through the door, and shut it behind him, “I heard something” he whispered “listen” “its probably just the wind” Jill said out loud.

“Sh!” he whispered loudly “I can hear it again” Jill listened carefully “its a thumping” she said, sitting bolt upright.

Suddenly the room was filled with sounds laughs, crys, screams, whispers, and once in a while the word H E L P!…….

until next letter,


with much love,



and an extra kiss for luck!

(more about Jill next letter)

Now you know. Writer for life.

I have also always colored inside the lines. It's just that nowadays I redefine where the lines are.

I have also always colored inside the lines. It’s just that nowadays I redefine where the lines are.