Faces for Names


The Terrible Three

I’m at PAX East this weekend with friends; one of them, my sometimes-collaborator Vicki Armeneau, doodled the above after dinner tonight. It’s the Terrible Three from my KinVerse stories – from left to right, they’re Eli (war criminal), Sirin/Kin (AI), and Esmat (smuggler and charming teller of tales).

Tales from the KinVerse

Alex wrote up my No Shit! story today on their blog, and mentioned asking whether there were other Esmat stories. Which there are. (Including a goddamned novel-in-progress.) In honor of the occasion and for anyone else who is curious, here’s a brief introduction to the universe of those stories, which I call the KinVerse.

A former riverboat smuggler, a war criminal, and an extraterrestrial machine intelligence walk into a bar.

In space.

In a parallel universe.

They’re a family, of sorts: the riverboat smuggler is the estranged older sister of the war criminal, who is married, after a fashion, to the machine intelligence. (To be fair, he didn’t know she was AI when he fell in love with her. He thought she was a zombie.) Mostly they just want to get home to their original universe, assuming there’s a home to get to; their world was coming down with a touch of apocalypse the last time they saw it. But while they’re working on that, they may as well put their skills to use, right?

And so together, they fight crime.

Make crime. Did I say fight crime? I meant make crime.

Well, sometimes they do both.

Word for Word

You’ve probably heard before the advice to read your work aloud when you’re editing and revising it. So I’m not here to give you new advice, I’m just here to testify: Do it. Really.

It helps not just for making sure dialogue flows naturally, character voices are distinct, etc., but also with basic stuff like errors of grammar or syntax. We get so used to staring at those words on the page that they become a sort of visual white noise; we know what they’re supposed to say, what we meant to say, and sometimes our eyes just slide over errors because we’re seeing our mental story instead. It’s useful to shift the story into a different form to review it, so your reading brain can’t take shortcuts. (Another method that operates on the same principle, if you can’t or for some reason really don’t want to read aloud: Change the document’s font when you start to revise.)

Last night I read aloud to myself the first half of the story I worked on all weekend, a story I’d been fiddling with in minute and meticulous detail, and it wasn’t until I heard it that I registered I’d used the expression “pretty sure” a half-dozen times in the first couple of pages. It’s a phrase I type so often in my own casual chat and correspondence that my reading brain completely failed to see it until I had to say it.

No Shit, Here It Is!

Friends, the time for action has come.

And by that I mean the No Shit, There I Was anthology is available to back on Kickstarter, obviously.

For a mere five dollars, twenty-four tales of science fiction, fantasy, and horror can be yours! For more-than-a-mere-five-dollars, you can access rewards like short story critiques from E. Catherine Tobler or Sunil Patel! Tuckerization in stories by Rachael Acks or me! And you will feel the saintly glow of having supported independent creators!*

I’m not saying that you should back this book just because I have a story in it, but I mean I definitely do have a story in it. And it’s a fun story! You should read it! You can read it, for anywhere from $5 to $250! Tell your friends!

*Saintly glow not guaranteed.


Thoughts About Boobs

So yesterday on Twitter I linked to @gaileyfrey‘s Storify about objectification and male gaze in writing female characters. Or her Storify about boob spies, if you prefer. You might want to look at that first, if you haven’t; I’ll wait.

I had some expound-y sorts of thoughts on the matter, which were too much for Twitter, so I’m just gonna put ’em down here. They aren’t any kind of gospel; they’re just my Thoughts About Fictional Boobs.

As writers, we have a finite amount of space, a finite number of words, in which to Make Characters Happen for readers. No reader is going to stick with us indefinitely while we noodle around with minutiae, and no publisher is buying 800,000-word books. So the things you say about a character and the actions your character takes on the page should be salient. Character-relevant or plot-relevant, as you like, but relevant and revelatory in some way. Useful information, no noodling. The reader is trusting you to tell them the important stuff, and trusts that this is going somewhere.

If your female character’s first thoughts about herself, or her thoughts on a regular basis, are “boobs” or “hair” or whatever, you’re telling the reader those are salient character details: your female character is boobs and/or hair. If your female character is something other than boobs and/or hair, then maybe that’s the stuff you want to hit us with, in the limited space that you have.

(It is possible the main point of the female character in question is SHE’S WHOA HECKA SEXY, the end. But in that case, there are probably better and sexier ways to convey that than “BOOBS,” which is kind of like Sexy at an Eighth-Grade Level. Also 97% of the time that is a dumb Main Point for any character.)

Boobless writers take note: as a Boobed Person, I do think about my boobs on occasion. But usually only when they’re being annoying in some way, the same way you probably rarely think about your elbow until it’s itchy or you’ve knocked it into something or you’re dressing for an Elbow Fetishist’s Party. My boob-thoughts are not a salient character detail. I don’t put them in my LinkedIn profile or anything.

If the fact that your female character has boobs is one of the most telling details about her, you probably need to think harder about that character. If it’s not one of the most telling details about her, then think about what you should be telling us about her instead. Readers can fill in the boobs.

Similarly, if the first or most pressing thing your hetero male character thinks or notices regarding your female character(s) is: “BOOBS” — well, again, readers absorb that as a telling detail about him. You, the author, have chosen to use your limited piece of the reader’s attention to share your character’s boob-thoughts, thus they must be insights of some kind.

And again, maybe that is what you want to tell readers about him — he is quite noisily heterosexual, or he finds this lady WHOA HECKA SEXY, or he is a libidinous gentleman, or his brain is in his pants-parts — in which case, cool, you do you. Maybe that is an important thing to note; maybe his pants-brain is about to get him in trouble, for instance, because he is distracted by it. But if that isn’t what you want readers to absorb about the character, then maybe shift focus to stuff that is. I doubt most straight men would rank Thinks a lot about boobs high on a list of their significant character traits. Boob-thoughts, extant or not, aren’t high-priority information.

My husband is a big fan of animated movies, and he explains that it’s because everything you see on the screen, everything in the frame at any given moment, is there on purpose. Someone drew it, someone chose to put it there. Every detail was considered. It helps to think about your writing this way, too. Every choice you make matters, every detail that shows in the finished scene should be there because you considered it before putting it in place. Make your finite number of words do what you mean them to.

I’m not here to tell you DON’T DO THE THING; I’m telling you to think about the thing you’re doing and whether it’s your aim. I’m not saying your characters shouldn’t have and/or think about boobs; boobs are rad. I’m just saying that in this world, in your reader’s brain, your characters get to occupy limited space. Is it your authorial intention to fill that space with boobs?


FRIENDS, I have joined Habitica, so if you are there too we should be comrades. I’m invisible_inkie, and I am a very smol rogue, as is my wont. The underscore is important because I’m pretty sure I joined it in the past as invisibleinkie but couldn’t remember any of my info, so, underscored it is! The new me.

(Forgetting prior login information is already a well-ingrained habit of mine so I didn’t really need practice on that one, thanks anyway, Habitica.)

This last week has been Things Happening; my most recent story sales draw closer to the world as I’ve turned in edits on one and an author bio for the other. I’m back at work on the novel and having considerable fun with the current part of it: my main protagonist is an extremely irritable person, and right now I am busy making his life as irritating as possible, which gives me great joy.

I don’t know whether I’ve mentioned either of these things here in the past, but I have both a Tumblr and a Pinterest board dedicated to the novel and its world, if you’re interested in that kind of thing.