Tag Archives: writing

Gender In Writing

A_TransGender-Symbol_Plain1 I’ve been studying both French and Spanish over the last few months. I was fluent in French at one point and am working to regain that. I’ve never studied Spanish, but I’m finding that the dribs and drabs I’ve picked up over the years is leaking out of my brain and gaining flesh as I study. I’m using a combination of the Duolingo app/website and the podcasts produced by Radio Lingua.

One thing this study has reminded me of is the concept of gendered nouns (regardless of whether or not the physical object has a gender), and the fact that both languages change the spelling of adjectives based on the gender of that noun they describe. I wondered if that was changing at all in practice the way that it is, to a lesser degree, in English. While we don’t have gendred nouns per se, I can’t help but think how I’ve gone from saying “fireman” to “fire fighter” and “policeman” to “police officer”. There’s another change in usage that I’ve noticed. Certain masculine words like “waiter” are supplanting their feminine versions entirely, in spite of efforts to create words like “waitron“. Then there’s the question of pronouns. All three languages I speak have “him” and “her”, but the only gender neutral term I know of is the English word “it”.

The more I read when it comes to gender issues and the use of descriptors like cis-gendred and genderqueer to name but two that are new to me, the more I wonder if this neutrality trend is good or bad (or neither). As someone who writes some science fiction, I think about how to use language like this in my stories. It’s somewhat pointless to try and be accurate about how we’ll speak in twenty, fifty, or a hundred years. No one can be sure how language will evolve in the coming decades. We only know that it will. Still, it’s fun to think about. Then there’s the matter of respect for the communities that use those terms currently.

Given the choice between using words that are gender neutral, gender specific, or applying the current gender specific masculine (or feminine) term to the broader group; how do you address that in your writing? Does that depend on your genre and audience, or do you have a rule that applies to all of your writing?

“A TransGender-Symbol Plain1”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 de via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_TransGender-Symbol_Plain1.png#mediaviewer/File:A_TransGender-Symbol_Plain1.png

The Teacher

Here’s my latest entry in my ongoing serial horror piece. This one creeped me out.

I’m interested in suggestions for a title for this work. Drop any suggestions in the comments.

Abe popped the gel coated tablets into his mouth and chased them with a slurp of the red wine he’d bought earlier that day. It had been a hell of a week at school and he felt like he needed a break. He walked over to the fireplace, glass in hand, and hit the ignition button on the fireplace. Peace and quite, an adult beverage, and the flickering of the gas logs were only the first course.

He relaxed into the easy chair, relishing the feeling of his skin against the leather. It was cool at first, but it soon warmed to body heat. He was a little disappointed that he had to enjoy this time alone. He’d hoped to have a date to share the pictures with, but the person he had in mind was being investigated. They’d have to lay low for a while. Abe had been enjoying his hobby for twenty years and knew what precautions to take. His friend was newer to the passion and may not be as well schooled in what to do and what not to do. That could be very bad for him.

Abe had slipped up once and it had nearly cost him his job. It had cost him his marriage and he needed to really be careful, but that was all water under the bridge. He grabbed his tablet from the table nearby and opened the texting window. The face that looked back at him was angelic. The boy, Charlie, was a junior in Abe’s French II class. His grades weren’t the best and when he needed extra help, Abe had been very understanding. After all, bad grades could cost him his spot on the football team and without that there would be no college scholarship.

Soon he and Charlie had quite the friendship. Abe had never taken it any farther than that. It had been tempting, but that was part of being careful. He’d used all of his knowledge of Charlie’s likes and dislikes to build Rachel’s profile. Rachel was seventeen, had flaming red hair, and was an average student. She told Charlie that she attended a school across the state and had heard about him in the newspaper. She friended him on Twitter and soon the two were exchanging emails, texts, and direct messages. Cultivating the relationship hadn’t taken long. Getting it to the point where Charlie was sending him naked pictures had gone fairly quickly. Once he had those, it was easy to take it further. Now he had pictures of Charlie’s friends taken in the locker room and even had a video of varsity cheerleading coach Dana going down on Charlie in the back of her Passat. All Abe had to do was convince Charlie that this was the sort of thing Rachel got off on. In return he sent Charlie pictures of Rachel getting off. That had been a piece of cake since everything of Rachel’s came from one of those “barely legal” sites.

Soon he would take it to the next level. He had plans to “discover” the online relationship and threaten to reveal it to Charlie’s parents. That, plus all of the pictures, especially the secret locker room snaps, would turn the young man into his slave. It was the long con, but the little nibbles along the way, the pictures and videos, made the wait worthwhile. He’d been unable to really look at any of the pictures Charlie had sent this week and settled in to appreciate them.

When he opened the folder he nearly shrieked. All of the pictures had been replaced by one photo repeated over and over again. The barrel of a gun pointed at a camera’s lens. “I don’t understand.” He was about to put the tablet down when his muscles started to cramp. He gripped the device in spasming hands. Any tighter and he might crack the screen.

A window opened on the screen and it was Charlie’s face, but only the mouth moved. It wasn’t Charlie’s mouth. “I see that the medication has taken effect. There was a ‘mistake’ and your regular dose of anti-anxiety meds was replaced with something a little fiercer. The man I received your information from had planned to make your outing a little more public. So I expect you would thank me. If you were able to form words.”

Abe could no longer feel his hands.

“I don’t usually kill people, but in your case I’ve decided to make an exception. I can be convinced otherwise. If you understand, grunt once like a pig.”

Abe tried very hard and forced air through his throat and out of his mouth.

“You’re looking at the barrel of a gun. You like young men to put their ‘barrel’s’ in your mouth. I say you combine the two and take the barrel of that .357 you keep in your drawer and put it in your mouth. Pull the trigger and everything bad will go away.”

Abe wanted to scream. There was no way he’d kill himself. Suicides went to hell and he had no desire to end up there.

“I know. I know. Killing yourself is hard. Here’s what will happen if you don’t. You’re thinking to yourself that the next words out of my mouth will be that I’ll make your little secret public. If I wanted that then I would have let your eventual blackmailer live. I don’t want your victims to be hurt by your sickness. However you choose to die, I’ll wipe every file you have. No one will know about your indiscretions. That I promise you.”

Abe was able to narrow his eyes.

“What’s the alternative? I’ll kill you. It will be slow. And painful. You’ve made a life out of stripping people of theirs. After you lose your pictures I will see to it that all of the care you’ve taken in building a respectful life will fall down around your ears. You will wish that you killed yourself. Then, one day, a person will come to you with a package. That will take your what’s left of your life from you, but only after you’ve lest everything you live for.” Charlie’s face faded from the tablet’s screen.

Abe sat there for exactly seventeen minutes, until feeling began to come back to his fingers and toes. He felt the tears trickle down his face. He could either take his life, or he could leave it for this monster to take. “What kind of choice is that?” He screamed to the empty house.

He managed to stand after another ten minutes. He dragged himself to the kitchen using walls and furniture for support. A splash of cold water on his face convinced him that this whole mad experience wasn’t a dream. “There’s no way someone could take my life from me. I’ve been so careful. I’ve followed all of the rules.”

The tablet beeped at him from the next room. He stumbled to the chair and picked it up in time to see icons began to disappear. The tablet rebooted. “You could get to that. Of course you could. I have other places. I’ve hid them where no one can find them.” Feeling began to return fully to his extremities. The pins and needles threatened to drive him crazy. He ran as best he could to his office. The computer there was clean. He clicked on a link that took his web traffic through layer after layer of obfuscation. Eventually he reached a computer located in another country. It was there that he stored a number of his dearest files.

When the barrel of a gun looked at him from the screen, he pushed back. “There’s no way. You can’t have gotten everything.” He’d spent years building relationships and getting the things he wanted most. They were slipping through his fingers. If the person could get to all of his files and get into his home and switch his medicine, what couldn’t he do?”

Abe dragged himself to his kitchen and pulled down the bottle of scotch. He unscrewed the cap and turned the bottle up to his mouth. The liquor burned his throat. Drink and more pills took him to a sleep devoid of dreams.

He woke up the next morning, hung over and sure that everything he experienced had been a horrid dream. He started to go to his computer when the phone rang. He jumped like he’d been hit with a cattle prod. He answered it on the third ring. “Hello?”

“Abe? This is Principal Faulkner. We need to talk about something.”

Abe shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs. “What is it, sir?”

“Abe, we’ve known each other for years. You’re one of the best teachers I have and I want you to hear it from me first. You’re being suspended, pending an investigation.”

They’d found out. The bastard that poisoned him had lied. He worked hard to keep his tone level. “Sir, Walter, I don’t know what this is about.” He came close to babbling out an excuse, but the principal hadn’t told him why he was being suspended.

“It’s probably nothing. We got a call from a parent and there’s some concern that you’ve been helping children to cheat on tests.”

A giggle burst out from Abe’s lips.

“You think this is funny?”

Abe cleared his throat. “Of course not, sir. I know how important reputation is. I just don’t see how you could possibly believe…”

“We have to treat each report of this nature as though it’s potentially true. Of course, I don’t have to tell you if this is true it will cost you your job. We’ll talk more in the morning. Goodbye, Abe.” There was a click.

“Goodbye, sir.” He hung up the phone. His job was gone. There was no truth to the idea of him helping a student to cheat. But someone who could get to all of his files and invade his home would have no problem manufacturing a cheating scandal. He walked to his office. The light was still on and his computer was still up. The wallpaper had been replaced with the picture that had haunted him last night.

“You win. Whoever you are.” He pulled open the desk drawer and pulled out a metal box. The pistol was nestled in black velvet. He cleaned it regularly and practiced with it. The short barrel was cold and tasted like gun oil.

The computer began beeping as files were deleted and tracks erased. The sound of whirring was overshadowed by a single, muffled shot and the splat of blood and brain on plaster.

Bacon and Oral Sex

No, not an attempt to get hits. Just the next piece of my serial horror story.

Made20bacon Melanie startled awake, drenched in sweat. She’d been dreaming about something huge with long vicious teeth chasing her down the hall. She threw the sheet off and realized that it was sticking to her crotch. She’d wet herself in her sleep. Her face flushed and she gingerly pushed the damp fabric away. Light struggled through the blinds and she looked at the clock. It was almost nine.

“What the hell was in that pill?” She got out of bed and gathered the wet sheets. The smell of her own piss made her wrinkle her nose. One decent thing the apartment had was a washer and dryer.

“Elard?” She yelled before she kicked the door to her room open. There was no answer. She had a moment of panic and envisioned finding him hanging from the ceiling fan in the middle of their living room. Thankfully it was the paranoid delusion brought on by nightmare filled sleep.

The washer and dryer was in their bathroom closet. She threw the sheets in and took off her clothes, adding them to the mix. Once she had it going she turned on the shower and waited for it to warm up. The tile was cold under her bare feet and there was a chill in the air. They kept the heat turned low to save on utility bills. She looked at herself in the mirror and gasped. There were big dark circles under her eyes and her hair was a stringy mess. She felt like crawling back into bed, but with no sheets it wouldn’t have been quite as effective.

She climbed into the shower and washed herself thoroughly. She even went so far as to shave her legs and pits. It made her feel human. She didn’t leave the shower until the water started to develop a chill. Once she was out and toweled off, she got into her bathrobe and that’s when she heard the front door open and close.

“Elard?” Her voice was barely above a whisper. Of course it was him. But she didn’t hear the person unlock the deadbolt. The footfalls were heavier than Elard’s usual even, light step. She whimpered and backed away from the thin, hollow door separating her from whoever it was out there. She might have pissed herself again if it wasn’t for the fact that her bladder was empty.

“Mel, you awake?” Elard’s voice boomed from the kitchen.

“Elard? I’m in the bathroom.” Her voice sounded stronger than she did. She held out her hands and willed them to stop shaking. Once she was sure she wouldn’t fly into a thousand pieces she walked out of the bathroom and into the living room.

He came out of the kitchen, wearing blue jeans, a black turtleneck, and a purple sweatshirt that had been cut to ribbons. “I got us groceries.”

“But it’s only the fifteenth. We usually don’t get groceries for another week.” The cupboard was getting pretty bare.

“I grabbed your card. You have that five hundred dollars, right?”

The money. The blood money. She balled up her fists and started swinging her hands and screaming. The first few clumsy punches missed him, but he let the next few catch him in the chest. “I wasn’t going to use that. It’s dirty. Damn you.”

Eventually he caught her hands and with effort managed to hold on to them. “Calm down, Mel. It may be dirty, but we could use the groceries and fuck this guy.”

She stopped fighting and felt all of the anger and energy drain out of her. “Yeah, fuck this guy.” She fell to the floor on her butt and cradled her head in her hands.

“Look, let me fix you breakfast and we’ll get started. You go get dressed before you have any more of a wardrobe malfunction.” He turned and walked into the kitchen.

She looked down and saw that her tobe gaped open. She pulled it shut, tied it off, and went to her bedroom. A clean pair of jeans and a long sleeved tee shirt later and she stood in the kitchen, inhaling the aroma of bacon and coffee. “I’m sorry.”

Elard turned from the cooking bacon, tongs in hand. “Don’t worry about it. My sister hits harder than that and she’d only eleven. You had a seriously fucked up day and it’s not going to get better anytime soon. We’ll eat and plan. You’ll feel a little better every day.”

“I wish I could be as sure about that as you are. Why are you so sure?” She walked over to the coffee pot. “Hey, we have a fucking coffee pot.” She opened the cabinet door and pulled down a mug.

“Yeah it was like fifteen bucks. No more of that instant crap.” He looked from the bacon to her. “I think I told you that I had some pretty bad stuff happen to me when I was a kid, right?”

She sipped the strong, black brew and nodded, moaning. “Damn that’s good. Yeah, but you never told me what.”

“Not very many people know. My mom was killed not long after my sister was born. Someone came into our house and held us up. When they couldn’t get the money they wanted they blew her head off. Did it right in front of me and the baby girl. I felt like shit about it for years. I was this big, bad twelve year old and I thought I should have been able to stop a grown ass man from killing my mom.”

“You were just a kid. There was-”

They said “nothing you could do” in unison. “Exactly. This woman was hurt bad and there was nothing you could do and no way you could have known. I got better with therapy. You will too.”

“They ever catch the guy?”

Elard shook his head. “No. Probably never will. Personally, he’s the one son of a bitch I’d like to see fried crisper than this bacon. But he probably OD’d in an alley somewhere.” He transferred the bacon to paper towels.

She took a piece and nibbled at it. Then she shoved the whole piece in her mouth and chewed noisily.

Elard laughed. “You act like you haven’t had a decent meal in months.”

She swallowed the bacon and with a healthy slug of coffee she nodded. “I have, just not bacon cooked so expertly.”

“I worked a short order job for a summer at the beach when I was sixteen. I learned how to make crispy bacon and the secret to good oral sex that year. Oddly enough, in both cases it’s patience.”

She laughed, snorting coffee through her nose.

They finished breakfast and cleanup. Melanie drank a second cup of coffee and made it last for thirty minutes while she watched Elard go through his morning yoga.

“I’m going out for a jog and then I’m going by the library. I’ve got snooping to do.” He had changed into a pair of shorts that would make Richard Simmons proud or scandalized and wore a long sleeved black shirt that hugged him tightly.

She nodded. “I need to research what we talked about last night.”

He shut the door and she fired up her laptop. It was three years old, but Elard kept it running in tip top shape. He took good care of her. She wondered if she brought as much to their friendship as he did. When she asked him about it once he just told her that she was his bitch and he was hers and things would level out one day.

She had access to a number of newspaper and periodical databases thanks to her status as a student. She had also done an internship the past summer to the local newspaper and her mentor had showed her several tricks of the trade. Before lunch she had a number of files saved that included mysterious deaths and hospitalizations. She didn’t know exactly what she was looking for, but anything that caught her eye got dumped into the to be read file.

When she got tired of pouring over the grim and grisly business of offing your fellow humans, she turned attention to the owner of that thrift shop. She didn’t remember the name of the shop, but a quick search of the address told her that the name was Second Hand Rose. The owner’s name was not, in fact, Rose. It was Felicia Trainor. She’d owned the shop for two years. According to her Facebook page, the shop was quite popular with the local soccer mom set.

More trolling on social networking and city and county public records showed her that Felicia had run similar shops in other cities. She moved every couple of years. If the pattern continued she was going to make the move again soon. Whoever it was that wanted her harmed must have known that. One of her searches turned up something interesting. Felicia had been put on trial on drug charges. The charges including possession with intent to sell. She couldn’t find any record of jail time, but that was an area she wasn’t familiar with. She’d need to find out how hard it was to snoop a person’s criminal record. Employers had to be able to do background checks.

Maybe the killer was another dealer she’d pissed off? That made a little sense to her. She looked up at the clock and realized that it was nearly lunch time. The smell of frying bacon still hung in the air, but it didn’t smell as good as it had when it was fresh. She looked in the fridge and made herself a sandwich and took grapes and an apple. They all went in a small backpack with a bottle of water. She slung it over one shoulder and went out back to get her bike.

The afternoon was cool and sunny, the sun brutally bright. She unlocked her bike and pushed off, jumping into the seat and peddling furiously. The rolling mount was left over from childhood, meant to impress her best friend Maegan. She hadn’t been peddling for more than two minutes when she realized there was a car behind her. She slowed down, intending to let it pass, but it didn’t. She hopped the bike up onto the sidewalk and pulled to a stop, taking her water bottle out.

While she swallowed several long draughts of cool water, she looked around. When she saw the BMW she choked. It had to be the same one from yesterday. She tried to be as nonchalant as possible in putting the bottle back and mounting her bike. She headed up the sidewalk, still in the same direction. When she passed a house with an open yard that backed up to a house with no fences, she swung onto the grass and pumped her legs hard. In thirty seconds she was on the street running parallel to the one she’d just been on. She doubled back in the direction of her apartment,

The car would have to go at least a block further to make a cross street. She cut back over to the original street, making a circuit. If the car was still on this street she would do the same thing in the other direction and head as fast as she could towards campus. It was nowhere to be found.

Had she imagined the whole thing? She couldn’t be sure. Fear did funny things. Her appetite had flown the coop, but she needed the energy. She road to a nearby park frequented by young moms and their toddlers and ate there. The sound of laughter warmed the chill in her soul.

Hacking the Hacker

LG_L194WT-SF_LCD_monitor Stanley chuckled to himself as he logged off of the school’s server farm. The teacher deserved everything he’d get for hiding his sexuality from their students. Now, not only would everyone at the school know, they’d have photographic evidence by way of new wallpaper on every PC in the district. He swiveled in his chair and opened the nearby fridge. The cold can of Roadblock would be as much celebration as he’d have time for tonight. He had a maintenance window to attend to.

He cracked open the can and had half of its contents down his gullet when he heard the ping. It came from the surround sound speakers, moving from one to the next. He followed the sound, swiveling in his chair until the noise stopped in the speaker above his monitor. It continued repeating, rapidly increasing in volume and frequency until he had to put the can down and cover his ears.

The high pitched whine stopped only when he kicked the speaker plug free with his foot. “What the fuck?”

“Do I have your attention?” The black box stared at him from the center of the thirty-two inch monitor.

He slid up to his keyboard and grabbed the can of Roadblock. It tasted like ass, but it would keep him awake. He tapped with his free hand into the new chat window. “You do. And that’s not something you want.”

“You don’t have to type. I can hear and see you.”

He squeezed the can in his fist and the aluminum crumpled. “Then hear this. Get out of my system, or you’ll regret the day you were born.”

“How cliche. How do you know I don’t already?”

“Huh?” He pitched the can over one shoulder and belched loudly.

“I may already regret that day. That may be why I feel the need to poison energy drinks.”

Stanley burped again and tasted something coppery. “What the actual fuck?” He reached out for his ‘droid and as he did he realized he now saw two of everything. “How? Why?” He burped again, this one long and rumbling. His chin felt wet.

A mechanical voice crackled over the speakers. “By now you won’t be able to see what I am typing. Your vision will continue to get worse, and soon all you will be able to take in is a liquid diet. You are a creature of habit, Stanley. I won’t bore you with the how. The why would be the petty games you play with people’s lives.”

Stanley flopped out of his chair, and as he did his hand swiped the phone from his desk. His vision grew dark. “Call nine one one.” He managed to spit out the words and a surprising amount of fluid. As the operator came on line, all he could do was weep and belch.

What he didn’t see were his screen’s and computers going dark, one by one. The final screen showed data being siphoned from his computer at a phenomenal rate.

Babbling In Fiction

The Secret World Chronicle, one of the podcasts I’m listening to (and one you should be checking out too) brought a question to mind that I’ve been thinking about for years. In various media, characters who speak multiple languages are handled very differently. Let’s take the example of TSWC.

There are several Russian characters in the section I’m listening to now. When they’re presumably speaking in Russian they have Russian accents and may use the occasional Russian word. Their grammar is appropriate to their level of education/intelligence in their native speech. When they switch to English, we get more “Russglish” and their English is broken in ways I think a real Russian non-fluent in English would speak.

In prose, of course, we can’t rely on an actor to get across accents and the like. We either need to use a dialectical form of English or make use of words from their native language peppered throughout their non-native language. When they’re speaking in their native language we can make use of dialog tags or text markup or both to indicate the shift. In this case it strikes me as odd to use a foreign word rather than its native translation. The dialectical option was used by Steve Alten in The Loch, rendering large chunks of dialog hard to read when a Scottish person was speaking. The fusion option is used a lot in books I’ve read and in stories I’ve written with Hispanic speakers.

In movies, I’ve seen some actors use the same techniques used in TSWC. That’s a little jarring since I know in theory when they’re speaking Russian, for example, and I’m hearing it in English. I prefer subtitles in those cases. I’d rather hear the language they’re actually speaking in, even if I don’t speak it, and read the translation. To me that’s preferable than using actors who speak in a heavy accent or in a Standard English accent and I’m to assume when they make the language change. Obviously that requires using actors that can pull off multiple languages, and that is not always an option. That’s also not possible in fiction that’s purely auditory in form. For me, TSWC has chosen the best option available that I’m aware of.

Whatever media the story is in, I’m curious as to other’s opinions on the best approaches to presenting multi-lingual characters. I’m also interested in how it’s handled in the non-English speaking world.

–Read the first couple of chapters of Ginnie Dare online. http://www.kindleboards.com/sample/? asin=B0054R6LVQ

Writing Tools

I was listening to the Reader/Writer podcast on my way into work this morning. The topic was “One Question: Writing Tools”. The question, “what is your most important tool for writing?”, elicited some great repsonses, including not just software and hardware, but tactics. It got me to thinking about mine. It’s hard to list just one, so I’ll list three.

1) Write Or Die – This website and app is dead simple. You an find it at writeordie.com. The purpose is to just make you write. You set a time or word goal and it gives you a blank page. If you don’t start writing, or if you pause, it starts changing colors and playing noises. If you set the level of difficulty high enough it starts deleting words. The app is nice because it lets you save your text to a file, rather than the copy/paste of the web app. There’s also an app for the iPad/iPod. That app will let you export to Dropbox, email, the cipboard, or a text file. The thing I love most is that it’s helped me to turn off my internal editor. The words don’t always flow, but I don’t have the luxury of hemming and hawing over every sentence.

2) Google Docs/Drive – This is nothing new. Authors all over the world use it. I love the fact that I can keep my stuff in the cloud and have it all in one place. I have folders for my different works in progress. I can keep my spreadsheet for outlines in the same folder. When I’m done it makes it easy to share with my beta readers. I also use the app on my tablet.

3) My Commute – This isn’t an app or a strategy really. I’ve often thought about using the commute for verbal storytelling into an electronic recorder, but there you run into turning that into typed prose. What I use my commute for is two-fold. I listen to podcasts and I muse. The podcasts, a mix of writing and fiction, are often inspirational. The musings can result in getting my out of corners I’ve painted myself into. It can mean thinking about characters and motivations. It can mean new story ideas. This time is relatively distraction free and is invaluable.

What are yours?

Watch Your Language

I don’t read or listen to a lot of fantasy or historical fiction, but two things I consumed recently caught my interest. I just finished listening to The Ballad of Iron Percy and I’ve been watching Sleepy Hollow religiously. Both had instances where I wondered, “Would a character from that time period, or a similar time period, speak in that way?”

In the case of Iron Percy, the character of Elise Aranoun had what struck me as a very modern way of speaking. I don’t remember any idioms right off the top of my head, but more than once I thought about her manner of speech. Granted, the world it takes place in is completely fictional. That should give the author some freedom. More on that freedom in a bit.

Sleepy Hollow is more of a bit of historical fiction. Ichabod Crane awakens from a two century long nap and has no problem understanding or being understood. That’s not a big issue. He does need to be told about modern idioms, which is good, but while I know our language hasn’t changed a gret deal in the main points over the last two hundred years, I would think it would be a little more challenging. In a recent episode I was pleased that they had someone who spoke Middle English.

So, in a purely fantasy setting, where the world resembles in some fashion our own medieval times, how important is it for the author to use a more archaic form of English for speech, or at least to avoid modern phrases? I could see using the argument that what we’re getting is perhaps a “translation” of the happenings in the native language. The same would be true of historical fiction from a non-modern or non-English period. What do you think?

Operation Healthy Writer

Scott's BellyFor a while I was tweeting with the hashtag #OperationHealthyWriter. It was my way of letting folks know that I’d made the decision to both write more and be more healthy. As a writer and an IT professional, I’ve had a very sedentary lifestyle. I also like the occasional beer and love sweets and carbs. As a result I’d get winded just climbing the stairs at work. I also had more around my middle than I cared to. This was made plain by a picture that my cousin took of me at Thanksgiving.

The healthy part of Operation Healthy Writer has taken various forms. For me it’s been running and lifting weights. I plan on doing a 5K later this year and be in shape to do a 10K and perhaps a half marathon next year. I’ve also spent the last several weeks lifting weights and doing body weight exercises like push up, planks, and squats. It’s been hard. I have a new job and that means if I really want to exercise the best time to do it’s at 5:00am. Turns out it’s still dark that early. I don’t like getting up and working hard before it’s light out. I don’t like being fat more though.

The writer part of operation healthy writer is almost as difficult mentally. Like working out, getting those first words out takes an incredible effort of will. I have to make time to do that. I can crank out thirty words a minute when I’m in the groove, so I don’t need a lot of time. I do find that if I start with the intent of writing for fifteen minutes, I usually go longer. Also, as is the case with exercise, it’s good to have a goal. I’ve cleared some of the backlog of works in progress. I’m in the process of finishing the first draft of Ginnie Dare: Blockade Runner. I want to have that done and out by the end of the year. I want to write two novels next year and add one a year after that.

ShoesGoals are good for both and I’ve seen results. Another thing that helps keep me going is the positive feedback I’ve received. My wife tells me that she can really tell the difference in how I move and how I look. I also have an appreciative audience for my work. Those things help, but I’m pretty sure that those things don’t, and perhaps shouldn’t, sustain me. The drive to be healthy and stay that way and the drive to write more both have to come from a strong desire inside me. Even when Operation Healthy Writer becomes habitual, I’m sure the temptation to slack off will be there. When it does I’ll think back to the picture, and how much better I feel. I’ll think back to a time when I wasn’t creating new and interesting characters and tormenting them. And I’ll keep going.

If you’re a writer or create other things and you face the struggles of staying healty, whether its your weight or something else, drop me a comment below. If you’re interested in sharing your struggles via a guest post, let me know.

Guest Post – Experimentation

Today I bring to you a guest post from Gabriel Fitzpatrick.

Gabriel’s new book, Rmnce, hits digital shelves October 1st! Find it on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

Rmnce series is a love story told in 4 parts. It follows a couple from the first drunkenly passionate days of their college romance all the way through a life together, often tumultuous, always overwhelming, and overridingly disquieting as only true love can be.

Rmnce is not, however, your traditional love story. Or perhaps more accurately, it does not appear to be your traditional love story. It is written entirely through the communications of the couple. Text messages, emails, and even a few old-fashioned letters make up the entirety of a story, what one early reader termed “A story not so much written as formed organically in the negative space.”

It is, in short, a commentary on love in the digital age, a tribute to the great love affairs of the digital generation, romance not lost in the sea of text-speak and instant gratification, but merely obscured from the prying eyes of those too far removed from its cultural roots.

My writing is often called ‘experimental.’ I may have even said it once or twice myself. Experimental, though, is the word we use to describe things that don’t yet have a proper box. Whether something is a century old or an hour, once it has a proper box it can be put into it ceases to be experimental. At most, it can continue to be avant garde or possibly forward thinking.

Yet the real sense, the traditional meaning of experimental is that it consists of experiments, of things which might or might not work and which one cannot fully understand without trial, and in some ways this is also true. Rmnce could fairly be called a gamble if the creation of something worthwhile was my goal, because setting out I truly didn’t know if it could be done. While I was certain that art could be made from that much maligned vernacular dialect known as text speak, I didn’t know if the ideas I had in mind for the piece could be carried across, or that if they could I was the one to do it.

The inherent risk in it, though, is what makes it worth doing. It breaks boxes, challenges notions, and above all else it has the potential to result in work which is beyond what currently exists. While never having been a proponent of progress per se, we must nonetheless acknowledge the value in novelty, in taking things to places they have not yet been. To be able to say one has made something which does not exist is a sensation not to be underestimated.

Monte and Molly's Babysitter

I wanted to write a children’s book with some scary elements, but unleashing Monte and Molly into a world filled with mummies, vampires, mad scientists, and the like without any safety net seemed like it would be too dark. As a result we’ll be giving them a “nanny”. This is no Mary Poppins though.

Cyril – Equal parts bodyguard and nanny, Cyril has been charged by the Zealander’s to take care of Monte and Molly. He can never quite seem to keep up with the “tykes”, though he’s never more than a few steps behind them. Not much is known of his past. While he’s quite large, well over six feet, most of his height is in his torso (about 2/3s from the waist up). He is broad shouldered and barrel chested, leading the kids to joke that he might be a robot being run by a much smaller man on the inside.

He is a natty dresser, given to wearing the same dark suit and sunglasses. His white hair is brushed back, never a lock out of place. As big and slow moving as he appears to be, his hands are fast and can palm a bowling ball. He will occasionally entertain the tykes with a bit of close up magic, making coins, scarves, and small toys appear and disappear at will. He does not go around armed, typically able to disarm any opponent with charm and failing that intimidation. On the odd occasion he’s had to resort to violence in front of Monte and Molly he always apologizes.