Monsters and other distractions

I accidentally started writing a new short story.

This sounds like a good thing, and it is – but this story was not on the schedule! 🙂 I have a lot of deadlines jammed close to one another, and am doing my best to stay focused – but this story got stuck in my head at the end of last week, and I finally gave in and wrote the opening on Saturday. Fortunately that got it out of my head – at least for now…

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“I know you’re there,” Joey said, his voice wavering. “What’s your name?”

The room was silent.

He swallowed. “If you’re going to live under my bed and scare me, you can at least tell me your name.”

Joey held his breath and listened, but there were no more sounds. Maybe there wasn’t a monster there after all. Maybe it was just his imagination.

“Phil,” a small voice said.

Prickles ran down Joey’s back. The monster had replied! There really was a monster underneath his bed!

A monster named Phil.

“That doesn’t sound like a monster’s name,” Joey said.

“Why don’t you stick your foot over the edge of the bed,” Phil said. He chuckled. “Then you’ll see what kind of monster I am.”

– from the first draft of the unnamed monster-under-the-bed story

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Another distraction was that I won a Chromebook at my day job! It was a complete surprise, as was the fact that I found the whole thing inordinately exciting. It’s super easy to cart around, and now I use it if I want to make notes in another room, and can leave my laptop plugged in to my two big monitors. It’s been super handy already!

I have two short stories coming out in the next few weeks. One is in the Once Upon a Quest anthology, which is a collection of adventurous faerie tale retellings; the other is in Beauty and Wickedness, the first volume in the fairy tale series I’m organizing. It was a complete coincidence that the dates for both collections ended up so close together, but it’s also kind of fun. I’d never written a story based on a fairy tale before, and now I’ve written two!

And on that exciting note, I’d better get back to writing before something else distracts me. I have a feeling that something else might be named Jasper or Rosie… 🙂


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The naming of dragons

One of my favorite short stories is “The Rule of Names” by Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s a lighthearted story about a dragon who’s spent years in hiding, disguised as a human, until one day when a young hero shows up and says the dragon’s true name. I thought about this story recently because I’m working on a story of my own where one of the main characters is a dragon, and I had to figure out what his name was.

Sometimes characters show up already named, and sometimes I try a few names out and then figure out which one fits. And then there are the other times, where I simply can’t write the story until I have at least a close approximation of the final name. To make things even more complicated, I have several forms of synesthesia, including grapheme-color synesthesia – so not only do I have to find the right names for my characters, each name has to be the right color. 🙂

What I wake up to every morning.

Sometimes I can work with placeholder names, but other times I get totally wrapped around the axle and have to research names. I’ve found using ‘themed’ names to be surprisingly helpful. For example, the mermaids I’ve written about so far have Greek names, dryads have Italian names, and witches generally have Celtic names of some sort. After a bit of fretful research I made up a name that seemed to fit, and called the dragon Tereig (unless I change that before publication…). Only later did I realize that I could have followed Tolkien’s path and gone with an Old Norse theme.

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Tereig yawned and twitched his tail, knocking a golden goblet from the pile of gold and jewels and riches he lay upon. The goblet clattered as it rolled across the marble floor of the great hall and came to a stop at the base of a stone column. Sunlight streamed in through the windows high up on the wall, and made the precious stones scattered about sparkle as if they were lit up from the inside.

He stretched his back legs out and turned on his side, and then wrinkled his nose as something sharp dug into his underbelly. He knew without looking that it was King Stigr’s crown, which Tereig had added to his hoard a few hundred years earlier.

Stigr had been a pesky fellow. He’d sent knight after knight to Tereig’s lair, but was never brave enough to face the dragon himself. Tereig had solved that problem by flying to Stigr’s castle, turning one of the turrets to a pile of rubble, and plucking the crown off of the king’s head while he tried to run away.

– from the first draft of the unnamed dragon story

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I’ve learned that when I start a new story it usually takes me about 1,000 words until I feel like I’m comfortable with the characters. With this story, there are two main characters – so I was just starting to get comfortable with the first character, and then had to start the process all over. It was grueling, but I finally exerted enough willpower to get past the hard part. Now I just have to write the final scene and then do a few round of edits, since I tend to write sparse first drafts and add in details in subsequent editing passes. And then I’ll move on to the next project… 2018 is going to be a busy year!


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Background fretting

I now have my very own Facebook group! Yes, I also have a Facebook page. 🙂 I set up the group to make it easier for anyone who doesn’t want to miss a release to stay on top of everything. And if nothing else, I will occasionally post photos of Rosie and Jasper just for fun. Someday I hope to have cats again, and when that happens there will be cat photos as well. And maybe even photos of dogs and cats!

Speaking of photos, I was rummaging around looking for a picture, and I came across this. It’s an x-ray of my wrist from when I broke it 8 years ago. It’s probably a good thing I’m not a doctor, because I can’t tell what’s broken in that image – but I do remember that there were about seven different fractures. I was on a walk with Lucy, one of our dogs at the time, and slipped on the ice a few blocks away from home. Poor Lucy was very confused!

I apparently don’t have the photo I was looking for on my computer, but it was fun (albeit not very productive) to look through pictures for a while. 🙂

I finally got back on track and did gobs of organizing. Last year I posted a few interviews on my publishing site, and I’ve turned that into a weekly interview series for 2018. The next interview will be live tomorrow – it’s with Thea Hutcheson about her short story in Stars in the Darkness, an anthology that I put together last fall. I’ve been surprised at how much fun I’ve had putting these interviews together, plus ones like this one with Thea give you a way to learn more about what’s behind a story.

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He hadn’t meant to cast a love spell on Ceana. The enchantment he’d found was supposed to make her notice him, to see him for who he really was, just for a few days. She’d hated him since they’d first met, and no matter what he’d done since, he’d only managed to strengthen her dislike for him.

And no matter how much he’d tried not to care about her, he couldn’t stop. He’d been in love with Ceana since he accidentally spilled his glass of wine on her dress, three years, two months, and seventeen days ago.

So when he’d come across the spell in an old book of magic his great-great-grandfather had brought when he’d emigrated from Scotland, it had seemed safe. What harm could possibly come from casting a spell that was designed to do something so simple?

Apparently quite a lot, if the person casting it was so excited about finding the spell that he didn’t correctly translate the handwritten Gaelic text.

– from “Bewitchery”

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That sample is from my story “Bewitchery.” I have at least one more story set in the same world, with some of the same characters, but I’m considering renaming the character currently named Ceana. I wanted her to have a Gaelic name, but in retrospect it might have been better to give her a name that had a more straightforward pronunciation for most of the people who’d read the story. Even I have to look up the pronunciation every once in a while, which seems like a bad sign.

I’ve never renamed a character, though, so I’m kind of torn about this. I don’t want it to be like when you start watching a new series of one of your favorite television shows only to find they’ve replaced one of the actors but you’re supposed to pretend like it’s exactly the same person. On the other hand, since I do intend to write at least one more story with the same character – and that story may be a novel – this would be the time to make the change.

I can’t decide what to do, so I will just do some background fretting about that while I work on my current project. 🙂


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