How Grandma Saved the World And Invented Intergalactic Diplomacy

How Grandma Saved the World And Invented Intergalactic Diplomacy

by A. Merc Rustad

 

Grandma was the first person to encounter the aliens, and because of that, we’re alive decades later and I get to tell you the story of how she saved the world.

It goes like this.

Grandma always believed in being kind. She talked to her potted gardenias when she watered them. She fed all the neighborhood’s strays. She made tea for anyone who came to visit. She donated a check to the local foodbank once a month and volunteered on weekends.

You could say Grandma never met a living being she didn’t like. She petted the grass and chatted to the local oak trees in her front yard. She apologized to the front step if she tripped on it bringing in groceries. She left crumbs in one corner of the pantry for the ants and always kept fresh water in the bird bath and nectar in the hummingbird feeders.

Maybe you think no one could be this perfect. Maybe you think I’m exaggerating Grandma’s legacy, because of how she saved the world.

Let me tell you, Grandma wasn’t perfect by a long shot. She got mad at politics and she cursed so blue the dictionary ran out of words to keep up with her. She had a record for vandalism (taking out bigoted signs on neighbor’s lawns), she’d been arrested for obstruction (public protests), and for assault (she punched out a douchebag while escorting a scared young woman to a clinic).

So no, Grandma wasn’t a saint. But she always believed in being kind, even if sometimes you had to put politeness aside and punch a douchebag out cold.

Grandma had an open-door policy: she never locked her doors and anyone was welcome in her kitchen. Make sure you scraped off your boots if it was muddy or snowing, always say thanks when you left, and don’t bother the gardenias (they have delicate dispositions).

It was December when the saucer crashed into her backyard.

Grandma had been filling up the bird feeders with seed, setting out dried ears of corn for the squirrels, and replenishing the salt lick for the deer. A tremendous BOOM! knocked her flat on her back so hard her breath huffed out in a great whoosh of steam. It wasn’t thunder, even if the weather had been awfully strange–heavy clouds, electric disturbances causing power outages, and reports of weird lights in the sky.

Well, Grandma’s first thought, of course, was that somebody had gotten into an accident, and she went into high gear. Grandma had taken first aid and CPR courses, and in her youth, she’d wanted to be an EMT. (She switched professions when she injured her back too badly to work in the field, and had become a public health counselor instead. She’d also worked at a crisis hotline, a Planned Parenthood clinic, and did free health seminars for endangered youth.)

Even out of breath, Grandma staggered to her feet and shuffled as fast as knee-deep snow would allow towards the sound. There wasn’t any smoke, but she smelled crackling ozone and noticed her electricity was out. It was before the Winter Solstice, so days were short on light. It was near dark already, and she hurried, puffing with exertion.

The saucer had clipped one of her oak trees, which made her wince. She patted it gently in passing. She’d bandage up that gash first thing in the morning. What she focused on first was the dented metal saucer–a spaceship. Oh, yeah, Grandma loved old sci-fi movies (the original The Day The Earth Stood Still being her favorite) so she knew at once what had happened.

Aliens had shown up on earth!

And they were in her backyard, and their ship was damaged, and they probably needed medical attention.

The saucer’s cloaking device was still flickering in and out, so it took her fifteen minutes of working up a sweat before she managed to pry down the cracked door on the ship. She’d heard weak banging on the inside, and suspected the pilot–or pilots–were trying to get out.

“Are you acclimated to our atmosphere?” Grandma called. “Or do you have appropriate hazard suits? Oh lordy, I do hope your universal translators are working. Hold on, I’m coming!”

The hatch was ajar, but she couldn’t get enough leverage with just her mitten-wrapped hands. She’d left a shovel by the garden fence to clear a path to the salt lick, so she grabbed that and used it as a pry bar. The handle snapped. But she’d done enough, and the hatch creaked open at last.

Grandma stepped back, watching with concern. There were four aliens: they didn’t resemble gray bobble-headed UFO pilots or green lizard-like bipeds or tentacled atrocities, of course. They were willowy humanoids with metallic skin and six eyes and folded wings along their backs.

(Of course, we know them now as the Angels, given that most of the population still can’t pronounce their proper name, but they don’t mind. Some are rather flattered by the comparison to mythology.)

Two of the aliens supported a third. Even with no experience with their physiology Grandma could see right away that one was hurt. The fourth stepped forward and flared hir wings.

Grandma smiled, her stomach pitter-pattering in nervousness, and held out her arms. “Welcome to Earth! Do you require medical attention? Please come in. My house is right there. I’m not sure I have food that will meet your dietary requirements but you are more than welcome to anything in the fridge. And if you can drink tea, I’m happy to make a pot.”

The first Angel slowly lowered hir wings and blinked. Then ze said, haltingly in English, “You are not hostile?”

“Me?” Grandma said, and laughed. “Oh hell no. I believe everyone deserves dignity, respect, and happiness. I try my best to live to these ideals, hard though it is some days.”

It was more effusive a greeting than she normally was wont to give, but she wanted to be sure, right out of the gate, that the visitors understood her intentions and her heart.

“Detecting no lies,” said the Angel. (Grandma would later learn this was the diplomatic liaison, who was an empath.)

“May I invite you inside? It’s frigging cold out here, at least to a human body.” Grandma pointed at her house. “I’ve a spare bedroom made up, and a recliner in the living room, and I might even have that old air mattress still…Come in, please.” She backed towards her house, beckoned, and then held the door open as the for Angels glided across the snow and ducked into her kitchen.

She put on a pot of tea, broke out her first aid kit, and set a plate of sugar cookies on the table for her guests. She wasn’t the greatest baker, truth be told, but she could make a mean pre-packaged tray of cookies right out of the fridge. She’d had two platters wrapped in foil and ready to take down for the town hall meeting.

The two Angels laid the third on the recliner in the living room and held their hands together over hir body. It wasn’t so much blood as it was a discoloration along the abdomen. Grandma suspected internal bleeding, or the equivalent in their biology.

“Can I do anything to help?” she asked.

“Light, if you may spare it,” said the liaison.

“I’m afraid the power’s out, but the stove’s gas and I have plenty of candles and an old battery powered lantern in the laundry room.”

She set to work bringing light to her cheerful home. She told the gardenias about her visitors (“They seem like very nice people, and I do hope their friend is okay.”) and made sure Maxie the cat was aware of the guests so he wouldn’t freak out (poor thing was always nervous with new people) and told her internet modem not to stress that it couldn’t get signal. The power would be back up in a while.

Grandma didn’t show it, but she was still nervous. Guests! Not from Earth! It was altogether quite a shock. A pleasant one, but still…she was getting on in her years and she still had two care packages to make before the post came tomorrow. She worried she wouldn’t be able to be a proper host, especially if the visitors were night owls. She tended to go to bed right around nine p.m. these days.

Once the house was as bright as she could safely make it, she stood in the kitchen and fiddled with her hands. The trio in the living room were exactly as she had left them: two holding hands over the third, whose eyes were closed.

The fourth Angel settled at the kitchen table and accepted a cup of tea. Angels have mouths very much human-like, and ze nodded in approval. It was just boxed Earl Grey, but Angels had never had earth tea before. Grandma had always believed tea could solve many problems, or at least make dealing with them easier.

The liaison finally said, “Are you the representative of this world?”

Grandma considered her reply carefully. She could be honest and say that no one person could represent an entire world populated by billions of individuals. She could give an expected answer: no, but here is a list of people who are, theoretically, in charge of running the place. (That wouldn’t do at all. Grandma was mighty displeased with the current government.)

And here’s the other thing about Grandma: she didn’t need false modesty or self-depreciation. She knew she was a decent human. Not the best, and she had her flaws, but fundamentally, she was a good woman. She’d tried to live her life well, to give back to others, to show hospitality and compassion, to leave this Earth just a fraction better than she found it.

So she thought: why shouldn’t she be a representative for Earth? Surely she couldn’t speak for everyone. But right now, she was speaking just for her little corner of the world: her plot of land, the plants, the cats, the neighbor girl who brought her muffins on Sunday mornings, the deer in the back woods, herself.

“I am,” she said. “One of many.”

The Angel tilted hir head down in what Grandma took to be a polite gesture. “We thank you for your hospitality. Our Queen was injured in the crash. Ze will take several days to heal. May we reside here until our fleet arrives?”

“Of course,” Grandma said. “You can stay as long as you like.” She was honored they wanted to rest in her little house. That would give her time to settle, and to chat, and maybe Maxie would warm up to the Angels and come out to say hi.

If there was one thing Grandma loved, it was making new friends.

Grandma wouldn’t know it until the power came back on and her TV and internet worked again, but all over the world, bigger saucer ships were hovering over cities and oceans. Waiting for signal from the downed craft in Grandma’s back yard.

When the Angel Queen recovered, and enjoyed Grandma’s famous chocolate chip pancakes, Grandma and the liaison sat down to discuss global treaties, trade relationships, and travel routes to and from Earth.

Grandma was invited up into the mothership, where she put world leaders in their place the moment anyone suggested weapons, tactics, or being an asshole to the aliens. Grandma had never been shy about talking over men. (Remember that time she punched a guy? Yep. She did it again, and this time she got applause.)

And of course, she was now best friends with the Queen, who was inclined to take Grandma’s word for what would and wouldn’t be good for earth. (Yes to better tech and advanced farming and the eradication of poverty and disease and hunger; no to weapons and space-travel just yet. Wait a few decades, Grandma suggested. Let humanity work through its issues on land before taking to the stars, even supervised.)

It could have been a very different story, you know. But you’ve seen those–the ones about war and conquest and invasion. Fictions we won’t have to live. We didn’t get that future because Grandma showed our friends kindness and invited strangers into her home during a time of need.

That’s how Grandma saved the world: with compassion and a plate of cookies and mugs of tea.

 

END

© by Merc Rustad 2017

2,100 words | Science Fiction

 

(originally published on my Patreon, July 2017)

 

“This Is Not A Wardrobe Door” nominated for the Nebula Awards!

So.

This happened…

This Is Not A Wardrobe Door

…has been nominated for the Nebula Awards (short story category).

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I am beyond honored. Look at the company this little story is in! *swoon*

Thank you, everyone who read and liked and shared and nominated this story. Thank you to the team at Fireside for publishing this story in the first place, and Galen Dara for the stunning art!

Thank you, everyone!!! I will be at the Nebulas conference in May. I hope to see people there. 🙂

Later, Let’s Tear Up the Inner Sanctum

Superheros. Power. Responsibility. The blurred lines between good and evil.

My novelette, Later, Let’s Tear Up the Inner Sanctum, is live and free to read (or listen to) at Lightspeed Magazine!

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There’s also an author interview with me, conducted by Robyn Lupo!

I love this story, and it was the perfect tale to explore a ‘found footage’ format, which I’ve always loved and wanted to write. Now I have! I hope you enjoy. 🙂

MERC vs. BOOK: Revising a Novel, Part 9–Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells This Story?

Additional Parts In This Series

Part 0 | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7.1 & 7.2 | Part 8 | Part 9 (you are here)

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(With thanks to the Hamilton musical for being so quotable!)

Gather ’round, my peeps, for today we are talking about narrative choice and authorial intent!  [I’m specifically going to focus on written/sole-created narratives. Just for ease of this post.]

Everything You Choose Is Deliberate

In fiction, the author is all-powerful. Each choice the author makes–in particular, conscious decisions–reflects on the author. Power carries responsibility. So. When you have complete and total power over the story you choose to tell, what are the responsibilities that come with that?

Equally important: what are an author’s responsibilities when it comes to choosing not to make specific decisions, include specific elements, and otherwise wield their power in a exclusionary way?

When I talk about exclusion, an authorial choice not to include specific elements in a story, this can be literally anything. It can be choosing not to include rape culture or scenes of sexual or domestic violence. It can be choosing not to have any swearing in the story. It can be choosing not to include potatoes.

Exclusionary choices are not inherently bad. They are, like inclusionary choices [what you DO put in a story], simply a spectrum of authorial deliberation. However, as an author, what you do not include is just as important as what you do include. An author must own the responsibility of their choices.

(We’re not going into external meddling–such as editors, executives, elder gods, etc. This focuses specifically on what the author created, and assumes that there is no external pressure to add/subtract/change specific elements.)

Sometimes these choices can arise from unexamined or unknown bias. Sometimes they arise from ignorance–whether to include or exclude specific elements or people from a narrative–and sometimes not.

Does the story include dragons? Fantastical elements? FTL drives? Superpowers? Does the story feature any queer, trans, disabled, POC, elderly people, minorities, women, or other demographics found everywhere in the world?

If you have dragons but no People of Color, what does that say about your choices? “Historical accuracy” is a false claim when it’s not actually historically accurate. Does a spacefaring worldship harbor only cishet white people? What does that say about your perspective?

Look at it this way. You choose a POV (point of view) character(s) for your story, just like you choose whether it’s written in first-, second-, or third-person (or maybe all of them!), and just like you choose which tense to use for the narrative. Those are deliberate decisions made in order to shape the story.

The content of that story is no less deliberate.

You have the power to choose what you write about, who you write about, and for whom you write. Your responsibility is in how you use that power.

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Making Choices: Who Lives and Who Dies

The novel has very strong thematic questions about power, responsibility, and what we owe each other and ourselves with our actions.

It’s also got a lot of action and drama. The plot focuses on authoritative powers who want to destroy things, and the protagonists are caught in this fight and must decide how it ends.

It would be so easy to make this book tragic. It would be so easy to kill everyone off for ‘dramatic effect’ in the ending; to have the characters die in order to succeed. Maybe that would be “edgy.” There is set-up that could allow for the resolution to go either way (victory and life, or victory and death). All I can say is: FUCK THAT NOISE.

There will be no queer tragedy in this book. Damaveil and his husband live and are happy; Rajosja and her wife live and are happy; Bane lives and is… getting there; it just takes a little longer before he is happy again. The non-binary characters live and are happy.

Do people die? Sure. Lots of them. Past and present. This is a dark book; a lot of terrible things happen. That does not mean it must end badly for all the queer and trans characters who exist within.

Death is not the default ending. 

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unapologetic happy ending

 

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Making Choices: Who Tells the Story

 

So, when I wrote the first draft of this book (*cough*timeago*cough*) I did not actually know I was ace/aro. (Ace = asexual, which means I do not feel sexual attraction to other people. Aro = aromantic, which means I am not interested in romantic relationships with other people.) I had inklings about being a somewhat outlier circle on a Venn diagram mapping out human axises of sexuality, but it would be nearly two years after this draft was written before I encountered vocabulary for defining myself.

RoAnna Sylver has a tweet thread about ace/aro representation in media that is spot-on and utterly fantastic, and I urge you to read the whole thing.

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Bane is asexual. When I picked up this draft in order to revise, that jumped out at me like a neon sign. (He’s also neuroatypical, which is also something I did not have words for, or consciously realize about myself, when I was writing.)

When I realized this, it made me so happy. And I knew him being ace was an element I would not change. Not for any reason.

I, as a reader and consumer of media, want to see more representation (positive!) on various axises; ace, aro, neuroatypical, queer, trans, non-binary… to name but a few. So I feel it my duty, as a writer, to do what I can to include characters that reflect the vast, amazing, kickass aspects of humanity. I will not always succeed, and not every story will contain every multitude of people. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try. ^_^

A protagonist is one of the many lenses through which we experience story. A protagonist, often, has a large amount of page/screen time. Who you give this time, energy, and presence to in your work says something. You, as the author, choose what it is you’re saying.

Bane has flaws, and also a lot of goodness. He’s empathetic, compassionate, and strives to help people. He has strong friendships without needing romance or sexual relationships. He can save the world when others would ask him only to destroy it.

And he can have a happy ending.

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 So, creators, keep in mind your power and your responsibility. When you mess up, you will be called on it, and how you respond is equally a choice. You can do better if you want. You can try harder. Work better.

(I actually have an unfinished post that examines authorial power/responsibility in more detail, and will aim to finish that up and post–it might be more useful to people as a stand-alone article.)

I’d love to hear from you folks, too: what decisions do you make in your creative work? What do you choose to include or exclude?

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Coming up next… Merc has no idea, because they need to get back to the ‘fill in all the gaps from the revision outline’ drafting phase! xD So stay tuned…

GALACTIC BOUNTY HUNTER

Got the contract finalized today, and I also have permission to share, so! I am beyond excited to be writing an interactive novel (game) for Choice of Games!

IT’S SPACE OPERA SNARK. Plant monsters and spaceships and evil corporations and aliens and romance and explosions and tough choices!

(And for those interested, I’ll be blogging about the process–everything from pitching to planning to planting words all over (aka writing/coding). THERE WILL BE SCREENCAPS.)

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Curious what it’s about? This is how I conceptualized the idea:

It’s like Mass Effect meets The Witcher with a liberal dose of Deadpool.

A more official pitch:

You’re a bounty hunter short on work in and deep in debt. You get offered a job by a company called Epsilon Express Enterprises: Hunt down some monsters terrorizing a mining colony. Problem is, all the colonists want the monsters to stay, because they’re the only thing keeping the people alive. What’re gonna do about it?

You decide in Galactic Bounty Hunter, an interactive SF novel by Merc Rustad.

I’m so thrilled to be writing an interactive novel! Set in space! Where you play a bounty hunter! COULD IT BE MORE PERFECT FOR A MERC PROJECT? So, stay tuned. ^_^ I’ll definitely be posting updates!

 

MERC vs. BOOK: Revising a Novel, Part 8–A Little Night Music and Stick Figures

Additional Posts In This Series

Part 0 | Part 1Part 2Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7.1 & 7.2 | Part 8 (you are here)

Music!

I love creating playlists for different projects. It’s not procrastination if it helps me focus, and music* is really good for stimulating my brain cells when I’m creating things.

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A selection of this novel’s playlist–it’s still growing…
*By this I mean carefully selected music that I like and have picked out and am familiar with. I can’t listen to the radio or most streaming services because there’s too much unpredictability.

What goes into the process of selecting music? Ahahahaha, I wish I had a scientific and logical answer, but it’s really “what sounds good, mood-wise” which is as subjective as words themselves.

I’ve chosen a mix of songs that vary in mood, theme, sound–generally nothing super fast-paced; instrumental or solo vocals with some choral; lower down in the playlist there is a lot of Two Steps From Hell tracks (from the album Batlecry), because they make epic music that is highly cinematic without being specifically linked to individual movies. So, because I am also a very visual writer, I like music that sounds like it’d be from a epic fantasy soundtrack, but without being associated with a movie I like/have seen.

For the tracks from albums or soundtracks that I’m familiar with (you will notice music from Hero and Dragon Age Inquisition: Tresspasser, as well as musicals and other films), the music is usually tied to a specific emotion or association–for example, songs by Rammstein (shown here are “Ohne Dich” and “Spring“) evokes tragedy and creepiness (respectively).

And then, after all that careful work to arrange them in an order I’m pleased with, I still tend to hit shuffle and go with it. >.>

PROCESS IN ACTION, guys.

FLOWCHARTS FOR THE FLOWCHART GOD! STICK FIGURES UNTO THE STICK FIGURE THRONE

A couple days ago, I had one of those ‘OH GOD EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE AND EVERYONE WILL JUDGE ME’ moments when thinking about the gender breakdown of characters in the book.

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stick figures to illustrate how characters and places are connected…

The majority of secondary, minor, and referenced characters are women or non-binary, aside from some token characters whose only purpose is to die, in which case, all those are men.

The POV characters are Bane (demi-male), Rajosja (female), and Winterblade (male-coded). The principle antagonists are the human queen (a woman) and the fae Winter Lord (coded male).

So where I hit a mental snag and flaily panic-state (brains are useful like that /sarcasm) was realizing that Bane, for a good third of the book, has almost an exclusively male support circle: his mentor, his mentor’s husband, and then Winterblade. Which is not to say only boys show up–like I noted above, the majority of secondary and minor characters are women. The most powerful mage in the country is a non-binary person. Most of people in power are women. There are definitely lots of ladies present, talking to each other, having their own lives that are completely unrelated to the males on scene.

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But, even with Bane having two excellent gay men as his mentors/father figures (and a psychotic fae prince as a BFF), the fact that it takes over a third of the wordcount to give him prominent women allies/friends, made my brain panic that UR DOIN IT WRONG ZOMG.

So then I made a flowchart! (It’s actually very soothing; I got a pad of easel paper–25in x 30in– so I had lots of space to work with, and just plopped it on my kitchen table and broke out the markers.)

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Did it help? Actually it did calm me down (as well as talking it out with friends). I’m still not sure if the doubtroaches are valid or if this is just another tactic to derail me from working. What I count as a win is the conscious awareness of what I’m doing–I can see how the patterns work, and will choose what to do about them going forward.

(That’ll be the focus ot the next post–narrative choices in action.)

Plus, I mean, I did get some adoable stick figures out of this exercise…

 

Coming up next: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

MERC vs. BOOK: Revising A Novel, Part 7–Gaming the Process (part 2)

This is the second installment of a two-parter blog post about process, craft, and Merc spending way too much time in Illustrator! You can read Part One here.

Part 0 | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7.1 | Part 7.2 (you are here) | Part 8

ALSO HAPPY NEW YEAR, I AM BACK AFTER FALLING INTO A BLACK HOLE OF AVOIDANCE. 

Where were we?

I wrote awhile back that I needed to pause in drafting Winterblade’s POV in order to write a scene where he and Bane meet. I wanted to break that down and illustrate it as an example of how I visualize things akin to comics or video games.

Part One, long ago but not forgotten

So, uh. I FINALLY GOT TO WORKING ON THAT. Behold, my craft skills as I use drawing models and felt (and some props) for illustration purposes.

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The Collars We Wear (left to right: Winterblade, Bane, Rajosja)

Or, as I said on twitter:

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So. Visualization.

The scene where Winterblade meets Bane is pivotal to the entire plot. It’s basically attraction at first sight, in which they both fall hard for each other (in a non-romantic sense) and the plot functions because of the characters’ actions. If they never meet? None of the novel would exist, because nothing would go wrong, and the world would not be in danger.

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print out of the scene with highlighted sections

When I was writing this scene, I first had to decide in which order the POVs (point of views) should operate. I needed both Bane and Winterblade’s reactions and attractions loud and clear on the page, and because this novel has three alternating POVs, I also wanted to balance out this key scene from each character’s perspective.

It technically begins with Winterblade, who is chained up in a glass cage in the magical university’s library. (He is, unsurprisingly, perfectly okay with this arrangement.) The end of chapter two has him see Bane for the first time, when Bane comes to investigate.

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The third chapter begins in Bane’s POV, with a slight time overlap so we can see his first impression of Winterblade as well.

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entranced at first look

When I visualized this, the scene took shape in a lot of medium shots, close-ups, reverse over the shoulder(s), and some Dutch angled shots to suggest how much Bane’s world is being upset.

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OTS (over the shoulder) is a nifty way to show two (or sometimes more) people talking, by reversing the camera so it focuses on Subject 1 from over Subject 2’s shoulder (roughly speaking), and then reversed (viewing Subject 2 from over Subject 1’s shoulder).

In writing, I end up alternating description and internal commentary–if Character A has dialogue and an action, a “reverse shot” might be Character B reacting to that or doing something of their own.

It depends entirely on the scene and what I need to accomplish, but when I think about framing and blocking in terms of shots, it helps me balance out how it “looks” in my head. That way it’s not one long stream of Character A doing a bunch of stuff, then sudden switch to Character B and recapping everything to catch up to the timeline. Balancing them (switching shots) makes a scene flow smoother, and can also tighten up pacing. (I don’t want to completely repeat everything I just wrote from a different POV, unless–such as in the first face-to-face meeting–it is essential to the story. It’s always a judgement call, because each story is different, and each scene needs different things. No one says this is easy.)

So anyway, the scene continues where they talk and test each other, and eventually Bane decides to break Winterblade out of jail and they go on the run!

Well, until they get caught and all hell breaks loose (aka THE PLOT).

[Fun fact! I have a xenomorph ring that I used as a prop for Bane’s collar. Adds all kinds of…interesting subtext to the photo set…]

And then Inspector Rajosja gets involved for real and she’s pissed.

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She really does not approve of these shenanigans.

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And now I must be perfectly honest with you, dear readers: I have no fricking clue what else I intended to talk about when I left all this hanging in Part One. >.> Guess that will happen on a five month unintentional hiatus…

I do hope you enjoyed the illustrations, though! 😀 It was a fun excuse to pull out my crafting supplies.

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COMING UP: Probably something about playlists and music, as well as finding momentum after *cough* falling into a black hole.

New Story, New Year, New Resistance

Welcome to 2017. I’d like to help kick it off with a story about dismantling the patriarchy, resisting oppression, and fighting for what matters. It contains monsters.

Monster Girls Don’t Cry 

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Cover art is “El Arpa” by John Picacio

It’s free to read online at Uncanny Magazine, alongside a knock-out table of contents by other stupendous authors. There’s also an interview with me, conducted by Julia Rios!

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So, a new year. Resolutions. Resistance. Renewal.

I started out building bookcases and organizing my books. It’s soothing, and it inspires me to tackle this year with fierce and unyielding passion and determination. I will read more. Write more. Support my friends and my communities. Stay strong. Live.

In 2017, we shine brighter than ever before. Our existence is, in itself, an act of defiance towards our oppressors. We will not be silent or stop. We go on, we fight on, we create and we live and we love and we stand together.

Write your stories, my friends. They will always matter; now more than ever, the world needs to hear our voices. Let us shake the foundations of stone and sky with our words and our breath.  Live. Resist. Write.

Writing Recap for 2016

After I sent out the second-to-last-original-submission of the year, I took to Twitter with some flail, because I realized: I have nearly worked through my inventory of finished short fiction. Or, basically: HOLY TACOS, I NEED TO WRITE MORE THINGS!

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Let me try to break this down.

I’m pretty obsessive about my fiction organization patterns. I have folders-within-folders until it gets into Inception-like levels deep. Most often it looks like this:

screenshot-2016-12-22-23-31-56FICTION -> current WIPs (short stories) | current revision projects | submissions

The WIPs folder is usually the messiest: drafts, snippets, notes, unfinished chaos. The submissions folder is pretty basic: pending, unsubbed, accepted. However, the folder I look at most often is the current revision projects because that houses stories that I’m actively working on and wish to submit to markets.

At the beginning of the year, the current revision projects folder had around eleven stories in it. Not a lot, but not a few, either. The average number of stories-to-revise/edit in that folder settled around 5-6. Some stories had been sitting in there for *mumble* long time, and some were brand new. The specific contents of the folder fluctuate a good deal, because I move things in and move things out. (A finished draft gets backed up and then a duplicate saved into the revisions folder, where it’s queued up for editing. A finalized revision gets copied into the submissions folder, and the original backed up and archived.)

However. On this, the 23rd day of December 2016, there is one story left in my current revision projects folder. And it will be edited and sent out into the big, bright world by the month’s end.

screenshot-2016-12-22-23-59-26

Guys. Everything in the queue has been submitted or sold. That’s…that’s kind of mind-boggling. o_O Exciting, too!

Here’s some specific stats:

In 2016 I’ve sold 10 original stories and 1 debut short story collection.

In 2016 I had 8 original stories published.

Number of stories written, revised, submitted, and sold in 2016 (that is, projects less than a year old): 4

//giphy.com/embed/3o6wred0KQ8Vx5fmYE

via GIPHY

I wrote a lot. Essays (“I Don’t Want Your Queer Tragedy: A Parable” and “The Necessity of Hope“). Patreon-specific stories. Novel words. Outlines. Other exciting things.

Major life things happened. (Almost exclusively good things, such as name change and moving and new job and graduating college and new car and attending cons.) I have endured, and in some ways, prospered.

I will continue to write, to resist, to share stories of fierceness and hope and triumph. We need them. I won’t stop (or throw away my shot!) so… Bring on 2017.