Friday, March 23, 2012

Blue for Boys

Britain, 60

“If I do not return tomorrow,” Boudicca said, “you will be Queen of the Iceni.”

            Her youngest daughter looked up at her, tangled red hair washed in muddy rain that day and hanging like a wedding veil around her face. “I know.” There was fear to speak of, but neither spoke it. “Can’t I go with you?” The woman hesitated in sharpening the long knife in her torn hands grown too quickly into leather, so they cracked and bled when she moved them. She gave her daughter a thoughtful frown. “It’s just this,” the girl said in quick explanation. “If you and Erein don’t return tomorrow… then I would rather not go on living.” The mother did not answer. “Please, let me fight for my people as you do.”

            The mother took a slow, deep breath, conflicted no doubt as he was. And then she reached her cracked hand to pick up a dish of thick woad on the packed ground. She knelt in front of her red-haired daughter, the girl’s eyes alight with excitement and with the dread that morning would bring. The mother pressed her thumb into the woad and smeared it across her daughter’s face. She painted her neck, her shoulders, her arms and her legs. When she was done it looked as though she had twirled in a spray of celestial mud. The cracked hand pressed the young shoulder.

            “Blue, for your strength in battle tomorrow.”

            The morning found blue bodies sprawled out on the battlefield, and the red cloaks of Rome stood triumphant.

Jamaica, 1761

            Escaped indentured servants and criminals were sent there to get their hands dirty in indigo. Princes and rich men must have blue for coats, and criminals must be put to good use.

            They came in several different colors, those hands that picked the weed-plant that would slowly kill them. They came in shades of blue and purple, depending on the shade of skin. A whole history of the world was painted on that canvas, and after they died were buried to let the history be stripped by the earthworms and time.

            A girl escaped. It was unheard of. But escape she did, and stowed away on a ship, and then raced north, into the colonies, where she stole a pair of gloves to cover the recognizable marks of a criminal, of a slave.

            The criminal stopped by a stream to wash, to scrub until her skin was raw. She did not know that the riders that came to water their horses were men of the law. They saw her hands and knew her for what she was, grasped her wrist and hair and pulled her out of the stream, dripping-wet and half naked. “This,” snarled the man, his freed belt in his free hand, “is the work you were made for.” He twisted the criminal’s purple wrist. They abused her and then they sent her back to the indigo plantation.

New York, 1918

            “We’ll be back with the Metropolitan Songbirds in just a moment. And now, ladies and gentlemen, a message from our sponsor.”

            “Louise, turn off that racket,” said the husband in the chair. He took a deep breath of the curdling smoke heavy in his pipe. “I’m trying to read.”

            “Well, I happen to like the Songbirds,” the wife said matter-of-factly, and turned up the volume dial. She leaned over her protruding belly into the speaker, rapt in her attention.

            “ – to say congratulations to all those women out there in the blush of new motherhood.”

            She blushed, and looked at her husband as though she’d just proved a point.

            The radio crackled on. “We’ve got all of your new-baby needs. Buy soft plush dolls, lightweight blue fabric for your little boy’s jumper or pink for your little girl.”

            The wife frowned, sitting up. “I thought blue was for girls?”

            “Hm?” The husband looked up from his book. “What’s that?”

            “All the girls told me that I should get blue curtains for the baby’s room if it’s going to be a girl.” Her brow knitted in distress, wringing her hands. “You know I had that dream last week. And I just finished all those pretty blue curtains…”

            “It was just a dream,” the husband grunted, and turned the page of his history book, and smoked his pipe. “Who knows? We might have a baby boy. And then it’ll be blue for boys.”

Washington, D.C., 2012

            The slut sat before Congress and presented an argument on behalf of women for birth control.

            The following week found more than a handful of stones cast at her. They cut red blood from her blue veins. We want to watch, they said, The point is reproduction, why would you do it without wanting babies, this is what you were made for, you woman, you slut…

            In her navy blue coat the slut straightened her back and drew strength around her as though preparing for battle. She scoffed at the labels they threatened to tag her toes with. The slut was made for more than carrying blue-bonneted babies.

            Until one day when the man said sorry, we don’t cover that, and she was trapped in servitude. But they blamed her for that, too. So the slut became the mother, and dreamed of a day for her daughter when blue would be for girls again.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Query Letter Draft

Dear Agent,

When an unlikely crew from Earth sets out to make first contact with a mysterious alien race, no one could have predicted the supernatural war they accidentally incite between extraterrestrials and the gods who are eager to put the mortals back in their place.

Major Hugo Dunstan sees ghosts. To be specific, the ghosts of his pregnant wife and young child, recently deceased in a car crash. Able to see but unable to touch them, he is faced with two options: suicide or embarking on the dangerous mission the government has employed him on. He and his unlikely crew, including a straight-laced anthropologist and an unlikely hero of an android, set out to meet a distant alien race Earth has recently come into contact with. After being thrown off course and kidnapped by extraterrestrial slave traders, things go from bad to worse when they uncover a plot to enslave humankind. War with neighboring planets soon becomes the least of their problems when a host of gods decide the mortals’ time is up.

MASTER OF NOTHING is a science fiction/fantasy novel complete at 121,000 words. While it is my first finished novel, I have two separate novels I am currently working on in the fantasy genre. I also have published poetry in Images Magazine and in Yemassee Magazine.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

March 2-11: Editing Madness!

I'm writing it down here so I can hold myself accountable.

I'm about 2/5 of the way done through editing Master of Nothing.  That is, my favorite kind of editing: Line edits, word changes, finding all the places where I put (INSERT DIALOGUE HERE). You know. The fun stuff.

What terrifies me is the hard editing that is to come: Cutting scenes, cutting characters, cutting subplots. "But why?" writer-me says, on the verge of tears. "The story isn't what it is without that subplot. Every good narrative has to have bird plague in it." True story.

"Because. Not every agent in the world is going to understand that you are certifiably insane." Editor-me heads off the emotional outburst, sitting stiffly in a rolly-chair (Her one solace). She taps her pen on the manuscript. It is covered in red lines. "Nobody is going to pick up this book thinking, 'What I need right now is just a nice, complex, metaphorical romp.'"

"B-but... there's some action in there... there's some plot and good relatable themes to everyone..."

"Right. After you kill off all your main characters." Dang. Another true story.

"Don't readers like that? When everyone dies?" Writer-me looks at the manuscript in dismay, watches it bleeding.

Editor-me takes a covert sip of beer. She's going to need it. "I'll let you answer that one for yourself."

And so begins the week of editing, or as I like to call, NaNoEdWe...ek. (Not an actual thing). I've got the cork board, the highlighters, pens, sticky notes, manuscript all printed out and looking pretty in a binder. I know there is serious work to be done. I just wish that it was done already... You know. When I wrote the dang thing.

Considering this is my first completed novel, I'm actually pretty proud of myself thus far. But I suppose the reason I'm writing in a blog and not editing is because I'm scared witless. I don't want to cut out whole scenes. Hell, I'm not even sure I want to read the thing again.

But it must be done.

And so, with pens and stickies and highlighters, etc. etc., in hand, on March 2 I shall begin finishing editing. My goal is to be completely done by March 11 (I do well with due dates). After that, I begin querying. That's another gauntlet in itself, but Writer-me refuses to face that yet. She's still trying to stitch up the wounded manuscript in a way that won't make her look like an over-protective mother.

What are your thoughts on editing? What are your best methods? How many drafts do you usually go through? Is it indeed possible to come out with a sliced-and-diced (*gulp*) manuscript that writer-you still likes? Blog me or twitter me! @piratequibbles

Saturday, February 25, 2012


I think I left my cell phone in my pocket again. It’s beating rhythmic time on the inside of the washing machine. Ba-da-DUM, ba-da-DUM, DUM, DUM. In Oceanside, Grandma has to hold each of our arms to get across the sand that collapses in tiny implosions with every step. The water numbs our legs until we don’t feel the cold. We go in anyway, because we can’t look at ourselves in the mirror if we go home and say we didn’t go in the water. DUM, DUM, ba-DUM, ba-DUM, ba-DUM. The water is nothing like Neptune today. Today he is a sleepy old man, patting the shore’s arm as if to say “Thanks for holding me up, I’m going to take a nap now.” Maybe he’ll wake up later. My brother and I wade far out onto the beach, teasing little fish and anemones that make our toes tingle. With the angle of the sun splayed out over the water we look like we’re walking on it. Slosh, slosh, slosh, DUM, ba-da-DUM. Maybe I should rescue my cell phone from the washing machine instead of write about it. This beach is full of mysteries, full of lost treasures and screams. We find sea-caves and crawl into them. The sand sifts cold between our toes like the first footprints of the world’s making. The ceilings and walls are hammered-metal smooth, smoother, with slick molds clinging to them. “You can fit.” “No I can’t.” He could fit – he doesn’t have hips like mine - but he doesn’t want to, because he knows what I know and that is that there are screams in the back of those caves waiting to happen. Neither of us is Indiana Jones. Slosh. Slosh. The machine winds down and stops abruptly, with a click of the latch. Grandma is cold and tired. We take her back to the car. I’m afraid to look in the washing machine, because sturdy as it is, no cell phone could take a beating like that and survive. We crawl out of the caves and run along the beach heralding a lost Frisbee, our found artifact. Unexpectedly, the washing machine starts up again.

Friday, January 20, 2012


So you're probably wondering what happened to NaNo and what's going on now, considering my last post was two months ago.

NaNo went better than I could have expected! On November 30, just moments before my writing buddies arrived to celebrate TGIO (Thank God It's Over), I got to exactly 100,001 words on "Master of Nothing." Since then I've written about 20,000 more on it (Finished the book on December 31) and have begun editing. I can't wait until it's complete and I can start sending to agents!

As far as other writing adventures, I've had accepted two poems: "Purple" to Images Magazine and "Rotten Fruit" to Yemassee Magazine. How exciting!

I've also begun a new novel; its idea has been rattling around in my head for a little while and didn't present itself as a complete novel idea until recently. I plan on doing an impromptu 50k words in February with my trusty writing buddies - who else is in!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 20

'Tis the beginning of day 20, and my inspiration is quickly petering out. I know what I want to do, but not how to get there. And so there is a lot of staring at the screen happening.

I've been told that these are the days, exhausted and desperate for any words to write, with bloodshot eyes and that moment when I finally tell myself no more snacks until I write something - ANYTHING - down on paper - these are supposed to be the days when the best, most frenzied writing crawls itself up from the depths of the soul to splatter all over the page in some sort of impression on modern art.

I am hoping this is what will happen.

And if not, December is for editing. And so it shall be done.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 11!

It is day 11 on my 2011 NaNoWriMo journey, and I have officially got 50,000 words!!! HUZZAH! *confettis* Now, on to the second half of my journey, getting to 100,000 words....

Last night was wonderful! I got to see some old NaNo buddies and some new ones (In person!). We  had fish and chips and we wrote and it was epic!

To see my progress there's a little calendar on the right. Bright green is days when I did wondrously well on wordcuont. Yellow is above my daily mark. Orange is below my daily mark, and red is "Monumentously poorly". hehe! Hopefully I don't have too many of those days. But I've built up a steady rhythm of doing nearly 4k per day and I hope that carries me through those days when I don't do so well (Thanksgiving break is coming up - that means very little writing and more real-life things. Everything in moderation! [?])

Till later, o readers!