Nightmare Fuel project

Over on Google Plus, I’ve tripped and fallen into heading a wonderful writing project called Nightmare Fuel.

Every year for the last several years running, nightmares have been a significant issue for me at this time of year. From September through November I’ve suffered nightmares, sometimes nightly, and sometimes so very bad as to literally lose sleep for days on end. I am tired (so to speak) of my brain messing with my waking life this way, so this year I decided to preempt my mental nasties by writing a bit of suspense or horror every day throughout October.

A lot of people liked this idea, asking to join in, and it has snowballed.

Every day throughout October 2011, I am posting a prompt image in the morning, and my fic response to it in the evening. There are many people doing the same. There is so much of it and it is so good that I am going to carry on the prompts over here on WordPress as well, and encourage everybody and anybody who wants to play to join in.

The rules:
– If you repost the prompt image, you MUST credit the original artist and provide linkback. I’ve sought permission and promise linkback credit and attribution to these folks who have so graciously agreed to be our muse.
– Writing every day is not required (except for me), but you can definitely write every day if you want to.
– There is no wordcount requirement.
– You are not allowed to beat yourself up if you meet a day, or three, or all of the month except for a day.

Connect to me on Google Plus if you want to share and post your work there; the original Nightmare Fuel callpost is here:

Letters to myself: Box #2

A handful of 1 foot long black cotton strings. I don’t remember what they came from, or why I saved them. They feel odd, too – as if the cotton has been lightly waxed. I’m not sure what I meant them for, but perhaps they can be pressed into service for contrast stitching of some kind. Or creepy doll hair.

A card of Braiding Cord in two colors, pink and purple. Purchased when I was in a very “I’m Going To Bead Things” phase. I actually did end up using it with some beads and charms to make some cute little bookmarks, which I should probably toss up on Etsy.

A 2-button card with only one antiqued brass four hole round button remaining. Also, a sewing needle with a length of black thread stuck in said card, removed and stuck in emery strawberry. This button card was purchased when my ex had popped a button off his pants (again) and needed me to replace it (again) because this time the original button had gotten lost. It occurse to me that I probably need to gather all my buttons into one place somehow, as part of my ongoing quest to clean and organize my bedroom-cum-workspace.

Two spools of Gudebrod fly-tying thread in gold and dark copper. For the entirety of my growing up, my parents owned a small bait and tackle shop. Really, in a way I grew up there. I remember potty training on a little plastic potty behind the counter. The parking lot and surrounding grounds were my playground. I had my first lessons about shoplifting there (a story for another time). I can’t imagine a childhood without the shop. So it makes perfect sense to me, that the making of a sewing kit for a gift had included not regular thread, but a whole bunch of fly-tying thread, put in a small black tackle box.

Three spools of all purpose sewing thread, two in black, one in pale sage. I’ve removed these and added them to my recently-implemented thread storage solution – which would be a pretty black wire spice rack acquired from the local thrift store (I LOVE my local thrift store) for a shockingly small amount of money. It matches my black wire craft storage shelves, and fits perfectly behind it. Itself, the rack has three shelves, and is so far managing to hold all my thread. It’s wonderful to have it all in one place, and to discover that I quite possibly should never again need to buy black, blue, or white thread.

Three lengths of white string, two with long wooden beads still attached. These came from long strings of wooden beads that at one point had apparently comprised a beaded curtain. I have visions of repurposing these beads for other things, not the least of which being that I want to find out if wooden beading on clothing would have been appropriate for my Byzantine persona in the SCA.

A jeweler’s pincers tool. From above-mentioned beading/jewelry stage. I actually have a new and current use for these. I’ve recently learned how to do viking wire weaving, and have someone who wants to buy some of my work to resell in her shop. The pincers will come in handy for that.

Two handmade Be Kind string bookmarks. From above-mentioned beading/jewelry stage as well; I’ll get them neatened up and put on Etsy in coming weeks. And right now I’m adding that to my hefty project lise.

A handmade Be Kind string cell phone charm. See above.

A handmade lock and key cell phone charm. …ad nauseum.

Two strands of amethyst beads, one partially used. More from the same project.

A thin card of beading needles. I get these any time I have the beading bug, but almost never use them because I’m too used to sewing needles, and invariably bend these.

A belled, beaded string bookmark. Yet again.

A variety of round and long cylindrical wooden beads in cherry and in a pale almost white color. Aha! The beads from the long white bead curtain strings!

A needle threader. One can never have too many of these; I think that, counting this one, I have three or four. I still need to figure out a good location and container for keeping them.

This has been interesting, but somewhat less introspective and illuminating than the first box. Given that, I took the liberty of peeking ahead through the remaining three boxes, and am going to call shenanigans on continuing this project further. If the prospect of slogging through those boxes’ contents bores me, it certainly won’t be fun for anybody to read.

Letters to myself: Box #1

This cigar box is the first candidate because it is different from the other five. While the others are the classic cigar box shape – long, broad, and very flat, with a lid that nestles down in between the front and sides – this one is made of proper wood, and is 4 inches front to back, 4 inches tall, and 6 or 7 inches long. According to stickers and woodburned lettering, this box originally contained 25 cigars handmade in the Dominican Republic; now I open the scrollworked front latch to lift the lid on its brass hinges to find something very different inside.

Another box. This is bemusingly apt; a box within a box, layers within layers. The inner box is only one of the many contents, and it is very small.

I put my box in a box for you

I put my box in a box for you

I am fairly certain that this box is actually made out of cut and carved ivory; perhaps I should feel guilty, but I feel fairly certain that this box is in fact older than me. I do not remember how it came into my possession. A gift? A yard sale find, a thrift store snag? It has holds in the top that make me think perhaps this was meant to hold something scented. Open it up, I find it is lined with a cheap red velvet (perhaps mor accurately a velour?), and having forgotten that lining, it surprises me just as it used to. There are two coins nestled inside; one is a 1944 United States dime, which a quick perusal of the internet tells me is known as the Mercury dime. It has been carefully kept for many years because, unlike modern dimes, this one is made of silver. The other coing is a 1963 United States of Mexico 5 cent piece. It was given to me while I was working at Barnes and Noble in Albany, NY; I was one of the head cashiers at the time, and upon many occasions would wrap books and other purchases for customers. As always, this was free of charge, and by company policy we were not to accept tips for our work. One time I carefully giftwrapped a book for a lovely old man, while talking about the book, and the friend he was giving it to. It was very pleasant, quietly companionable work, and I was quite pleased with the wrapping job when I was finished. He was very pleased as well, and tried to insist upon tipping me. I was a little mortified; I think of the sort of work I did in retail as simply Doing My Job Right. I never thought I was particularly exceptional, but he disagreed. He did let me refuse the greenbacks he tried to give me, but he in turn insisted upon making me a present of this coin instead, as a gift. Collectively these two coins have a modern value of under $4… but they are dear enough to me to hold onto them.

Nail Lacquer. Next I unearthed nail polish; three bottles, and this discovery is bemusingly timely as I’ve recently begun occasionally painting my nails again. I got out of the habit of doing so for quite a long time.

Maybe this is just the right shade to distract you from my intense emotional void

Is there a flag in these colors?

I do not recall the occasion of my acquisition of any of these colors; I know that I have worn the glittery pink/red color frequently, and the mother of pearl one almost not at all. The silver-glitter-in-black (aptly named “midnight”) mostly adorned my hands for specific parties and forays to goth night at the then-local club. These will not be going back into the box for storage; they shall join other, more recently acquired nail polishes on a shelf in the bathroom, which shall all at some point be picked through and culled in turn.

Ink. One bottle of Royal Blue Writing Ink. I remember the occasion of my getting this bottle of ink, though I do not recall having used so much of it; the bottle is 2/3 full.

The pen is rrrrrrrrrroyal blue!

What is the hex code for "royal blue" - has the Queen approved it?

This bottle came as part of a writing set, from Barnes and Noble before I worked there by several years. I mostly got the set simply for the ink, though it came with a feather pen. I had just purchased a glass pen off eBay (in its formative years, there were some really fantastic, neat deals on there. Now it’s become one of those slick fleamarket dealers that’s trying to maximize return on their cheap crap.), and needed some ink to go with it. I saw that shade of blue and I was hooked. I’ve long been a fan of calligraphy and of fountain-type pens. When I was very young, maybe ten or so, I unearthed a calligraphy set that belonged to one of my parents, completely unused. I used it; I learned how to make basic calligraphy letters, and delighted in the fountain pen until a mishap unloaded all its black ink in the pocket of my yellow rain slicker, marring it indelibly. I could, I imagine, find a good way of marrying my calligraphy skills with my intermittent zest for bookbinding.

One Film Canister. I plucked this out of the box expecting the familiar clunk of undeveloped film; instead there was a metallic click and rattle, and I opened it to find it contained mostly pieces of jewelry.


I do have the One Ring to rule them all, but it's in a different box.

A flat hair clip of a sort that, I have learned, slices my hair all up to create the most horrific fly-aways and split ends. A black rhinestone and pearl small drop pendant. A single silver and blue cat earring. A clear rhinestone and pearl ring – faux pearl, off of which most of the pearlized coating has now flaked. My high school class ring. Two rings with runes stamped in them (Tiwaz: Honor, justice, leadership and authority. Analysis, rationality. Knowing where one’s true strengths lie. Willingness to self-sacrifice. Victory and success in any competition or in legal matters. Sowilo: Success, goals achieved, honor. The life-force, health. A time when power will be available to you for positive changes in your life, victory, health, and success. Contact between the higher self and the unconscious. Wholeness, power, elemental force, sword of flame, cleansing fire.) Two toe rings with little clear rhinestones in them. A pair of mismatched earrings nested together; these last two are badly discolored, as is to be expected of the sort of jewelry one buys in pairs of 6, 8, or 10 to a card at Claire’s. Much of my jewelry from the high school period of my life is this sort, before I really realized how badly my earlobes reacted to such low quality metal, and before I had a proper understanding of Quality Over Quantity rather than Getting The Most For My Money. I threw them out. The class ring is on my hand, with my graduation year and school mascot on one side, and my first name and the symbol for softball on the other. This last is a sore point, given the treatment I came up against in my senior year on that team.

A Charm Bracelet. The bracelet is a clasp style, the ends capped with silver beads; one of these twists off to allow addition or removal of beads and dangles to the bracelet.

You see the angle of my dangle.

Hands up, everyone who is surprised it is a dragonfly. ...yeah, me either.

I remember buying two of these bracelets at the same time; the other I gave to my mother, and the main charm on it was a sand dollar, something which she holds dear for reasons I shall not get into here as that is more her business than my own. This dragonfly was not the original charm on mine; I’ve forgotten what there was, but there was something in between all the separator beads. This dragonfly was a necklace pendant, repurposed to be my sole charm… though I do not recall having ever worn it thus.

A box of Strike On Box matches. These are an unremarkable and commonplace sort, the kind you buy in the grocery store in packs of 12. The box claims 32 count, and upon counting the matches (how very Rainman of me) I find there are 29. I wonder upon what I used those missing three.

A pair of concert tickets. One is to see The Artist (formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known As Prince) at the Fleet Center (Now known as the TD Banknorth Garden, but it will always be the Boston Garden in my heart) in Boston in 1997.

She's got a ticket to ride.

I make no apologies for my musical tastes.

I went with a boy named Ryan; we went to school together, and he idolized The Artist. He got the tickets for his birthday, and it was at that party that I decided to work him into asking me out. It felt fairly natural, until I discovered despite his big talk in general, how very uncomfortable he found things like… kissing. Things got weird, momma, and we decided that rather than drag out the awkward to call it quits and go back to being friends. Oddly, this was one of the very few relationships I had where we were pretty much able to go back to the same sort of friendship we’d had before dating. I always respected him for that. The other ticket is to see Grand Funk Railroad play at the South Shore Music Circus in 1998. I went with my family, and had a pretty fantastic time – they still knew how to rock.

A button pin. It reads, “Don’t bother me, I’m living happily ever after.” It’s pleasant to get a reminder that my attachment to fairy tales is not at all a recently upsprung thing.

Don't bother me, I'm putting tired memes on buttons

Happily, I said, happily dammit!

Really, if pushed I’d admit that I could never claim my love of fairy tales to have been recent. I was still in the single digit age bracket when my father bought my siblings and I a hefty tome of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (The originals, blood and death and maiming and vengeance and all), and it was all over from there. I’ve pretty much always enjoyed anything fairy tale, in the old school sense of people needing cleverness, of both sexes doing the hard work and the rescuing, and of the lengths people will go to, to make their dreams become real. Also, I’m a wicked sucker for buttons on my bag, lanyard, or backpack.

A Totem bag. In the mid-nineties there was not only a strong movement to alt/indie and grunge, but there was a simultaneous movement to nature, earth-based spirituality, and pseudo-native american shamanism.

Pouch contents.

I was not immune to these movements; in fact, I quietly, privately bought into a portion of the latter. It wasn’t privileged appropriation – at least, I keep telling myself it wasn’t, because I almost never talk about these very personal aspects of my beliefs and faiths. But this totem pouch was something that I purchased, and filled with a number of things that worked for me. The first thing that I pulled out was a small roll of cloth, and opening it I found I’d wound it around a small piece of incense; spice trickled onto my desk. The white cloth is stamped with the indigo image of a bird, and below that, “wisdom” – I carefully scooped the fallen spice back in to rewrap it. Beside that, there are the crumbled remains of certain herbs, and a handful of stones (one in the zuni bear shape that is now a part of my single tattoo: interesting, as I’d forgotten I’d ever owned that little stone piece), as well as several small metal charms. One has a foxprint and reads “fox”; one is a compase rose pointing west. One is a feather.

St Francis of Assisi cross. Somehow, I have had to deal with very little cognitive dissonance in the process of reconciling my ascription to various flavors of faith or worship.

I don't care if it rains or freezes, long as I've got my plastic Jesus riding on the dashboard of my car

St. Francis of Assisi cross: front

You can buy him phosphorescent glows in the dark, he's pink and pleasant, take him with you when you're travelling far

St. Francis of Assisi cross: back

I attended public school, but when I hit college I ended up bonding to one that had a Franciscan affiliation, complete with friars living on campus and involved in both academic and resident life. I don’t remember precisely when I acquired this cross; I think it might have been at the beginning of my sophomore year, when I was going to be working as a Resident Assistant. The front is the classic Franciscan cross, and it was found everywhere on campus, including one hung on the wall of pretty much every classroom; those had their own beauty, though, sporting a marvelous number of painted colors in contrast to this simple silver form. The back reads Assisi, with a star below, and then “Benedicat tibi dominus et custodiat te. Ostendat faciem suam tibi et misereatur tui. Convertat vultum suum ad te et det tibi pacem. Dominus benedicat te.” this translates approximately to “The Lord bless thee and keep thee. Let him show his face to thee and be gracious to you. O God turn his face toward you and give you peace. The Lord bless thee.” It’s a lovely blessing, but doesn’t even begin to really bring forth what Francis of Assisi was like – he was totally a natureboy, believed that animals were as much god’s creatures as humans, and that we should try to live close to the earth and in harmony with nature. Complete hippie, for the win.

More button pins. They were covered by other items, else I’d have included them with the first; it only supports my admitted attachment to the damn things.

The shiny, candy-like button!

The Hard Rock one was apparently heche en Mexico

It’s nice to find more of them, though, as I’ve been slowly but surely making a mosaic-esque artwork of my canvas shoulder bag, with the strategic application of these button things in all shapes and sizes- well, all sizes, anyway. The shape is always round. Anyway, as to those shown: “Coffee isn’t helping; get the jumper cables” – I’ve been a caffeine-based life form for years. “I was uncool before uncool was cool” – pretty much speaks for itself. “Hard Rock Cafe” I’ve only been to one, in Boston… with the Girl Scouts. Did I mention the uncool? The last, on the bottom right, is a little mouse-outfitted creature with a tiny sign that says “I bite” – and I think it is fairly telling that this is not the only button saying that, that I have. The other is silver, proclaiming it in stark black lettering.

Fluid assistance, heating and cooling. Two bottles, similar in size and shape, but containing very different fluids meant for VERY different purposes.

Like duct tape and WD-40 - one makes things go, the other makes things stop.

Not to be used in conjunction. EVER.

On the left we have a bottle of Hot Cherry Motion Lotion, which I’ve been meaning to get a bottle of anyway, so I’m pretty tickled to have found this one. It’s got that fake cherry flavor you expect of cherry hard candies, and cough syrup, but goes hot to the tongue (or other parts) in a way that neither does… unless maybe you have a cherry cinnamon candy. That might do it. On the right, we have a bottle of a soothing topical analgesic, which is to say a lightly painkilling lotion. It came in a do-it-yourself waxing kit that I couldn’t get the hang of and chucked out pretty quick, but I kept this in case of razor burn and the like. I’m finding the storage juxtaposition of these two things fairly amusing.

Medals. One of them is mine, one of them is not; both are for achievements in very different areas of expertise, one largely physical and the other largely mental.

Shoot them all - FOR SCIENCE!

Ooh, shiny.

The medal on the left is my fathers; the top flipped down, so one is unable to read the specifics. Dated 1971, it is the third place medal for prone position shooting. The medal on the right, in the box, is dated 20 years later, but on the back also where one cannot read. It’s engraved back there with “1992” and “Battelle”, which is undoubtedly , which has a location in my hometown. Given that I was 11 at the time, and therefore in 6th grade, coupled with the fact that on the front it says “SCIENCE,” I conclude that this was from one of the several science fairs I participated in, in middle school.

Stones. More accurately, really, pottery/ceramics. One seems to be handmade, a moon and stars motif edged in a cobalt blue glazing, and with a hole making it clear that it’s meant to be hung; the other is shaped and pinched clay with a black glazed, etched with “courage.”

Everybody wants to get stoned

Worrystone and hanging

I haven’t the foggiest where the moon-and-stars hanger came from. It must have been a gift or hand-me-down of some sort, because while it’s okay for what it is, I can’t imagine ever having paid money for it. The Courage stone, on the other hand, I remember exactly the shop where I bought it from. I was in high school, and there was a free-floating new-agey hippie spiritual type store in the local mall. They had a basket of these worrystones by the counter, and for some reason this is the one I felt compelled to acquire. I don’t generally tend toward impulse purchase very often, but I have found through experience that when I get a really strong draw toward something small like that, it’s usually a good compulsion to which I can crumble. The Courage stone spent a lot of time in my pockets, my fingers curled against the shaped grooves in the back and my thumb sweeping across that glazed, smooth surface.

Dice. 1D6 and 1D8. Roll for initiative! Roll for damage! Roll for how many times you’re allowed to- ….what, doesn’t everyone mix roleplaying into their roleplaying? *blush*

What do you mean, you brought the Wandering Monsters table to bed?

I really should make a bag and collect all my dice into it.

I first played D&D before I was even 10 years old; my older brother came home from a fried’s house with the gaming fire burning hot in his blood. We set up his pup tent in the yard and he spun out a dungeon crawl for me off the cuff with just a pencil and notebook to jot things down. It was fantastic. Where the attraction faded off for him, though, it only grew for me. AD&D, V:tM, M:tG – I’ve played them, and loved them, and when the internet collided with my world I found ways to continue online, where I could connect with people with whom I can’t share the top of a table, but can share the wonders of a mutually imagined and populated world.

Pendants. I have a bunch of these, obviously, some of which I’d forgotten I owned… some of which are going to get chucked in the can pretty fast.

Dangly bits.

Various orphaned pendants.

The open oval on the upper left used to hold something long since lost and forgotten. Next to it is a lovely scrimshaw pendant I had THOUGHT lost, and am very glad to discover still in my possession. The butterfly can be affixed to a new chain now that I know some rudimentary jewelrywork. The turquoise is not at all my style, but antique – I think I shall find it a new owner. The “class ring” necklace is junk, and will be treated as such. As for the little bottle… I actually quite like it, and am pondering the possibility of cork removal and replacement so I can make some use of it.

Actual buttons. There is a variety of them, ranging from small jewel-like glass to large, flat plastic, and a gamut of moded, carved, or bas-relief shapes in between. For a while, I wore them all on a green slouch hat.

Don't push 'em.

My buttons.

My best friend in high school had, of course, a mother – and she had a button hobby. She collected them, sorted them, affixed them in very specific ways to cardboard cards, and entered them in competitions. These are just a few of the many castoffs she had that didn’t fit satisfactorily in any of her collections, and I quite enjoyed having them. Looking at the now, I know I can make use of at least one of them on a single-button blazer that is missing a button… and two of them have a spinning wheel on them. I want to figure out some way to incorporate one or both of those into a gift for my mentor, the woman who taught me spinning, and who calls me her mini-me. Also pictured is a thick lobster-clasp chain bracelet that adorned the hat along with the buttons, and three odd rings – a brightly colored enamel flower, a heavy iron cross, and one festooned with dangling metal circles that is sort of like a belly-dancer’s belt.

Actual pins. Some friends of mine just put up a performance of the musical 1776,, and as such I want to make some sort of theatrically geeky joke about salt peter, here.

He plays the violiiiiiiin!


The one along the bottom is the only one I am certain has nothing to do with school whatsoever; it was a gift passed along to me from my high school best friend when she was cleaning out her jewelry box. Above that to the left is a stone, of indeterminate sort. If pressed, I would guess some type of jasper. The other three in that row are for Color Guard (which I singlehandedly kept from dying – at one point there were a couple games where I was the only flag girl on the field with the band during halftime), Chorus (I was involved in choir and show choir, as well as all the musicals) and… while I don’t think the microphone pin was specifically relevant, it’s fairly obvious I was into vocal performance. Top row left is my National Honor Society pin; top row right… I’m really not sure. It’s engraved with “200” in the middle of the scroll. I want to say it has something to do with Academic Decathlon, but I just really cannot be sure.

There are, aside from all this, a few loose green seed beads and a couple of safety pins, before hitting the bottom of the box. This took a lot longer to go through than I expected, for a small thing filled with small things… but I feel unexpectedly accomplished, and am definitely looking forward to going through the other boxes in the same way. So many memories packed into such tiny treasures.

Letters to myself: Prelude

I am a hoarder.

I’m not a hoarder to the extreme; I don’t need interventions¹, I don’t need to clean out rooms with a shovel. My living space is only a health hazard if you’re not careful of the books and knock a stack over on yourself, or if I’ve missed a pin somewhere in the rug. But when I get attached to something, I keep it, I’ll store it, I’ll put it in something else, and save it. Sometimes I’ll poke through these things when I move or rearrange, but often they just get moved wholecloth and left to look into later.

Lately, that “later” is now. I am going through a big change in my life that has involved a move and a downsizing of Stuff. Before the move, I sloughed off a lot of random effluvia that had collected around me but meant nothing – more than five garbage bags of outdated or wrong-sized clothing, for example. Now, post-move, I have been settling into my new space with a determined effort to make it feel like mine, and not in the way that my space has tended to be defined, but in the way that I WANT it to be. Some ass-busting in recent weeks has resulted in a delightful setup of my drop-front secretary desk against one wall of the room², flanked by 4′ tall 3′ wide bookshelves on either side. I’ve got my wire shelving unit holding up all my yarn, fiber, painting, and other sundry craft goodies. I have my loom on a small card table. I’ve got my dressmaker’s dummy lurking behind the bathroom door to scare the pants off me at night when it’s dim and nature calls and I’ve forgotten that it’s there. And in the midst of it all is my papasan chair, ready to shift in any direction I should need.

The bookshelves, however, are mostly empty, and I’ve been making occasional trips to Deep Cold Storage (a.k.a. the second floor of the barn) to liberate things for which I have a current or upcoming need: some of my books, cloth, and other things discovered during my search for… things. I just made one such trip to get some cloth for a project, and returned not only with that, but also a stack of notebooks (8 this time, bringing the grand total thus far up to 23), and 5 cigar boxes. I haven’t even begun to dig through all the notebooks, but the cigar boxes are like tiny time capsules, offering forth a physically limited glimpse back into my self over past years, and what I felt was small but worth saving. I have uncovered five of these boxes, and plan to go through each one’s contents here.

In doing so, I am hoping in part to rediscover the things that were important to me, and in doing so reconnect with what I have found valuable through passing years – or perhaps discover that I have moved on, and therefore slip free from my precious space things which have lost their value, and become simply clutter. There is much to learn, I think, in going back to one’s roots, to reestablish a lost grounding. I will, I hope, become a little more in tune with my self.


¹ Except perhaps in the case of my compulsive notebook habit.

² Which has accursedly slanted ceilings against two opposing walls, and of the other two, one is dominated by two doorways and a bureau, the other by two windows, which makes it difficult to place tall things anywhere in the room.

*facepalm #1*

Don’t you hate when you’re going along, having a perfectly good conversation, and say something flippantly extravagant that suddenly makes your brain click over and reveal a previously hidden pile of plotbunnies?

Do you have a phone I can text if I am suddenly descended upon by a troupe of vaudevillean wildebeest and carried off on an epic tour of Grand Olde Europe, forced to knit amigurumi before a chainsmoking audience for an hour at a time and allowed but the briefest periods of respite in my multicolored silk tent before rising to bravely fend off the uncouth advances of a Prussian llama-trainer named Gvordiko?


My face. I palm it.

Dammit Gvordiko, why you gotta be like that?


New Release: Vinnie Tesla

Huzzah! This is a happy day, and not just because I am double posting.

Vinnie Tesla – author of the fantastically awesome victorian-era sex comedy The Ontological Engine, or, The Modern Leda has written a sequel, and it is now available! It’s up at Smashwords, Amazon, and Fictionwise (where I am told that as of this writing it is a dollar off for a new addition). If you have not yet read The Ontological Engine, I recommend that you do so straightaway – and pick up The Erotofluidic Age right away as well, so that you can continue on from the one right into the next.

I have quite literally forced The Ontological Engine onto my friends (“No seriously, pull this up on the screen, fill your wine, and I’ll just read… I’ll read this, it’ll take a little while but I swear you’re going to love it!” (Two hours later I had no wine, but a room full of fans.)) and have had the delightful honor of hearing an excerpt from the sequel only a few weeks ago. I can’t wait to read it!

If you enjoy it as much, please let me know. I want more people to fangirl with.

– Bliss

Five Things

In the interest of not being up all night, he texted to me, I shall only text you five times.

This amused and delighted me; a bondage of sorts, self-imposed and unrequested, unexpected even – and like any really good bondage, a sweet commingling of restraint desired (because one needs sleep) and restraint to rail against (because to stay up past our bedtime, to connect through impossible and invisible currents on the air carrying carefully constructed communiqués back and forth… it was like whispering on the phone late at night once had once been; it was like that time I curled up in a cool divot in the sand against a warm body, murmuring a half-remembered snatch of Dave Matthews Band’s Satellite into the starlight night over the beach; it was a quiet magic).

Bondage done well as me both reveling in the feel of what holds my limbs down and apart, or sometimes up and together, delighting to have someone indulge my desire for it while at the same time giving me something to jerk and lash and strain and struggle against, trying to refute physics to close the gap and get to touch what is there before me, just out of reach. And it is knowing that, because the person I let bind me is the sort of person that knows what I want, I will eventually get it when the time is right, which is not always right away when I want it.

I will not relate his texts here, but I will note that one of them included a scenario that first made me chuckle. On it’s base raw surface, it seems a pseudo-goth scenario of the sort that, were I to see it as the single-sentence summary of a piece of erotica, I’d likely pass it over to search for something a little more creative, a little more inventive. Yet as soon as that chuckle passed, I got a clear and visceral sense of being in exactly the situation described, and it plumbed my stomach. I could feel my cheeks getting hot in the darkness, blushing at the screen of my iPhone. My response was delayed as I began to truly consider and enjoy the idea not as a skeletal outline of setting and position, but as something actual possible (Heck, probable) to come about.

Powers above and below, but it got me hot.

It still does, just thinking about it now, and it has tweaked my brain a little bit in terms of my erotic writing. Very often I am searching for the more inventive, the creative, the clever. I very much enjoy thinking about things differently, about finding a way into a scene or bit of plot via a path separate from the norm.

Case in point, another writer chucklingly said in conversation,

“In sex between a winged fairy and a vampire, what positions would work best?”
Ah, Livejournal!

While I understand it in the context of our conversation, that it seems a silly sort of pairing, I couldn’t help but braindump all the questions I would have asked in response.

It really depends… aside from the one having wings, and the other being a bloodsucker, are both the creatures in question humanoid? What physical gender are they? Do they have any racial quirks – like can the vampire only bang while sucking blood? Do the fairy’s wings fold or tuck out of the way for certain positions, or are they perhaps useable for achieving loft for positions not afforded to a normal wingless humanoid?

This sort of intensive examination of what lies before me and what an be made of the unusual portions of a scene/story/pairing is, I believe, one of my strengths. Heck, I didn’t even get into asking more specifics about the wings, nor the flavor of vampire (Twilight? Hamiltonian? Ricean? Stoker?) which could affect still more positions available and their relative efficacy. Yet given the text I was sent and how it has consumed my brain in the intervening hours, I am set to wonder at my ability to take more ostensibly mundane scenes and make them live and breathe, to have them get my readers off (as it were) by firing their imaginations the way his words did mine.

A story lives or dies by the breath of the characters; if they’re not living on the page, they’re not going to live in the minds of the reader. No one gets invested in a set of stick figures* – characters have to be people for the reader to care about them, to identify with their successes and failures, to move with them through the conflicts that define their story and the touches that limn their trysts.

If I can do this, and do it well, if I can make my characters be people that my readers give a shit about, that I care about as more than just a vehicle to illustrate my own clever way of thinking about something? THAT is what is going to improve my work from where it stands now. I need to find their flaws. I need to feel out their mundanities. These are the things that will create the boundaries of their character and, in so restraining them, define them as the creatures that strain and yearn to be more than text on a page.

* xkcd notwithstanding, natch.

Being A Woman Who Reads (and writes) Fantasy

A currently-exploding story is of a New York Times review of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” – specifically, the brou-ha-ha is focused upon the fifth and sixth paragraphs of the piece, which I copy out here (emph. mine):

The show has been elaborately made to the point that producers turned to a professional at something called the Language Creation Society to design a vocabulary for the savage Dothraki nomads who provide some of the more Playboy-TV-style plot points and who are forced to speak in subtitles. Like “The Tudors” and “The Borgias” on Showtime and the “Spartacus” series on Starz, “Game of Thrones,” is a costume-drama sexual hopscotch, even if it is more sophisticated than its predecessors. It says something about current American attitudes toward sex that with the exception of the lurid and awful “Californication,” nearly all eroticism on television is past tense. The imagined historical universe of “Game of Thrones” gives license for unhindered bed-jumping — here sibling intimacy is hardly confined to emotional exchange.

The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise. While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.

I strongly encourage you to go read the entirety of the (8-paragraph) review for context in full, but the concern found in these paragraphs stands even following a full reading – Ms. Bellafante has made the unfortunate and grave assumption that (A) the sex is only thrown into the series to attract women and that (B) that no woman would be interested in watching a fantasy epic that didn’t involve some on-screen canoodling.

And yet she references The Hobbit, a Tolkein book from the same universe (and some of the same characters) as the famed Lord of the Rings series, which was made into a trilogy of films, and has just as rabid a fan following among women as men, both book and screen form. The Hobbit was, in fact, one of my first major grown-up epic fantasy novels, before I had even reads a double-digit age group.

In addition to the Hobbit, of course, my reading list has included a huge swath of Terry Pratchett (Discworld, especially), Neil Gaiman (Fantasy both modern, past, and otherworldly, in text AND graphic novel form), Jacqueline Carey (Fantastical reimagining of a european-based world with a different slant on religion where angelic creatures are still very much involve with the world, and also some hot sex amidst the political intrigue), The Dragonlance books, Piers Anthony (Xanth, Incarnations of Immortality, and others), Orson Scott Card (Ender series), Frank Herbert (Dune), David Eddings (Belgariad AND Mallorean, and others), Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, Lloyd Alexander (Chronicles of Prydain (AND played the video game of The Black Cauldron)), C.S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia), Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern), R.A. Salvatore (Dark Elf Trilogy), not to mention J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter Heptalogy).

There are men and women alike in this list of authors – which I contend shows that not only do women like to read epic fantasy novels (regardless of sexual content), but they like to write it just as much as men do. I know that I am currently working on a novel-length epic fantasy project as well as a short story to go into an anthology, and many of the people that I know doing much the same are women. We write what we like to read.

I’d be quite indignant if I found myself somehow in a book club where nobody had read the Hobbit. I also find myself rather indignant at myself that I’ve not even heard of Lorrie Moore, let alone read her work, and think I shall put her on my To-Read list. But she’s below Roger Zelazny and S.M. Stirling.

And as for all the sex on TV being past tense… does she even watch Television? True Blood, Bones, Dexter, Battlestar Galactica – there’s sex out there, and it’s modern (or even futuristic), and it’s not just there for something illicit or prurient – often, ti’s there because it’s part of people’s lives, and affects and changes things sometimes. It’s a plot point just as much as any stealthy political intrigue.

Hello world!

On the one hand, I am somewhat irked that WordPress had the temerity to go and create a first post for me without so much as a by-your-leave… on they other hand, it was titled “hello world”, which appeals to my tiny little inner programming geek. Consider yourself forgiven, WordPress – but you’re still on notice.

I was pondering just how to begin; first forays into a new communication medium are always somewhat intimidating to me. I like to begin as I mean to go on: bold! Insightful! Meaningful! It’s a lot of pressure to put on myself, and sometimes ends up hamstringing me.

This is the problem often encountered, not just by myself, when sitting down to write anything new. I’m a notebook addict. cheapo spiral-bound jobbies, gorgeous tooled leather journals, handmade rough-edge items with the spines stitched together by my own hand, I have them all. But for a long time, I would buy them, and carry them around along with a pen, and they would more often than not serve simply as props. Some of them, it took me years to ever write anything in them beyond my name on the inside of the cover. But I’m a writer! So what the hell is the problem?

The curse of the blank page – or in our delightful modern age, the curse of the blank screen. The unmarked white paper gleams menacingly. The cursor blinks in mockery. It’s a problem that pretty much any writer I have spoken to has dealt with at some time, though I’m sure our reasons for it differ. For me, it was what that whitespace represented. It’s blank, and ostensibly therefore nothing, right?


There’s a line in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog, “Even in the darkness every color can be found.” It’s much the same idea: in the whiteness of that unmarked page, of that untyped screen, I see the potential for anything and everything. It has not been written, and therefore what could be written there could be anything. It could be a brain-tweaking poem, a sweeping space epic, a political intrigue, a sensual bildungsroman fit to make a sociopath weep in empathy.

Or… it could be crap. A waste of ink, a waste of paper, a waste of electricity, screen time, writing time, and of a reader’s time. The fear that it would be this latter was nigh unto paralyzing to me for a long time. Fear is the mind-killer, fear is the little-death – and not the sort of little death with which I like to concern myself.

It was a professor who taught me how to face and move beyond this fear, though he didn’t realize it at the time. I took a few creative writing classes with Dr. Leslie, and he talked as freely with us about some of the projects he had in the works as he expected us to do with him. At one point, he was writing a series of short stories that all began in the same way: “Let me tell you a story about my girl, Sue.” Every story went off in a different direction from there, but each one started the same.

The idea stuck in my head a while, and burst forth one year as I was setting myself to begin the NaNoWriMo challenge. That particular year, I began my writing every day with the same six words. “Once a month, I visit him.” Every day I wrote a new piece of the same developing story, and every time it started with those words. Six little words, but the difference they made in breaking into my own writing was invaluable. They were already there for me. I had something to start with. No matter what was on my plate to write up that day, I didn’t need to worry about how to begin. The words were written, the page was marked, and I could carry on without worrying about my inane fear of sullying the potential of the page that lay before me.

This isn’t to say that I don’t sometimes struggle, or hate what I write even as I’m typing it out – but I’m making something, which therefore can get edited and fixed after the fact. I am not being ruled by my fear. My notebooks are not props; they are tools.

Hello, world. Let me tell you a little story about my writing,