• Category Archives artist’s life
  • I Still Swear…

    It probably shouldn’t surprise you to learn that, just like Peace Fire (book 1 in the Peaceforgers trilogy), Peace Maker (the next book in the trilogy, starring the same characters) also has The Swears.

    The short version: There is definitely swearing in my book. More swearing, in fact, than in the last book. There is also a version I made just for without it anti-swearing people. You’ll have to scroll (or read) to the end for information about that. (Pre-order that version here.)

    The long version…

    Actually, I’m going to refer you back to the swearing post for Peace Fire for all the context and thoughts and such. Here, I’m going to tell you the numbers (whilst using enough censorship that this post stays swear-free). You know, in case you’re skipping the other swearing post and so still underestimate just how swear-y this sequel is.

     

    A jar labelled "swear jar" and filled with large denominations of money and a credit card

    Let’s pull out ye olde swear jar and calculate the damage. In my 307 pages of story, the following words (or variations thereof) show up the number of times listed here:

    • F-word: 300
    • S-word: 285
    • D-word: 65
    • H-word: 70 (but some might be in words like “shell” because I used Find to do a word count, which introduced some uncertainty for some of these)
    • Rude words related to male genitals: 8 (but only when used in that sense, because, for instance, one can be cocky or be pricked by a needle and that’s not rude)
    • A-word: Whether you spell it the “usual” way or the variant that includes an R, it’s the sort of thing that might show up in words like “parse,” “assume,” “password,” etc, so there’s no easy way to get an accurate count. But those of you who didn’t run away after the f-bomb count can probably handle this…
    • B-words: 26 of one and 28 of the other
    • Random other words that I’ve learnt are considered pretty much like swears to a US English audience: 3, but I can’t promise I searched for all the words you’d hope
    • Because it is of special concern to some of you, whether you read the normal or edited version, I want to note that I did not use the Lord’s name in vain.

    But, as promised when I made the first one happen, Peace Maker gets a Radio Edit version as well. (And now I’m going to pretty much repeat what was in the last post. If you just re-read that, unless you need to know the other, less-likely to offend US English people numbers, you now know everything! Well, everything covered by this post.)

    I called it the Radio Edit because, as most of you probably know, music is a massive part in my life. When I think about voluntarily censoring something I’ve created, my mind immediately goes to radio edits of songs. Though I could totally use words on the radio that I’ve taken out of the Radio Edit. I could also have way more sexiness on the radio than you’ll find in the Radio Edit.

    Because it’s the culture in which the story takes place (and, yes, what counts as swearing varies based on which English-speaking country you’re in), I did the edit based on US English swearing. It should be good for you non-swearing folks in general, given my experience has been that, overall, US English is the most limiting variation. Unless you have a problem with words like “crap,” “piss,” and “jerk,” in which case I really can’t scale it back enough for you. (I also left in phrases like “the evidence was damning” because there are non-swearing uses of words that US English considers swears in other contexts.)

    Actually, here’s a count for words that are something like those mentioned in the last paragraph:

    • Bloody – 6 times in a sense other than “having actual blood on them” in the regular version, and 27 times in the Radio Edit. Left in or used as a replacement because I opted for US English ideas of swearing, and it’s not really seen as a rude word at all in the US as far as I can tell.
    • Crap – Whilst it shows up only 1 time in the regular version, it shows up 143 times in the Radio Edit. Left in or used as a replacement for the same reason as “bloody.” But clearly used a lot more than bloody…
    • Piss – 5 times in both versions. But…listen, I hear some of you non-swear folks say you’re “pissed off,” so I feel pretty okay about this. After all, you’re not giving this book to your kids (in front of whom I’ve heard non-swear folks use the word anyway). “Piss” seems like a pretty reasonable non-swear rude word these days.
    • Bollocks – 1 time in both versions. Left in for the same reason as “bloody.”
    • Screw – 1 time in the regular version, and 64 times in the Radio Edit. But a good percentage of those new times are in the quite innocuous sense of messing up.
    • Shag – 1 time in the regular version, and 3 times in the Radio Edit. Left in or used as a replacement for the same reason as “bloody.”
    • Sod – 0 times in the regular version, and 12 times in the Radio Edit. Used as a replacement for the same reason as “bloody.”
    • Bugger – 0 times in the regular version, and 4 times in the Radio Edit. Used as a replacement for the same reason as “bloody.”

    The swearing was not removed by just using the Find and Replace function. (For instance, I did not just replace every f-bomb with the same word.) That would have left a massively inferior book (instead of one that I just feel isn’t as authentic sounding). What actually happened is that I made a list of every swear word I could think of and a few extra-rude words, and then I used Find to locate them. (If I missed anything, please accept my most sincere apologies. The cost of a full line edit and the impact on timelines was not something we could work out.) I then made changes on a case-by-case basis. (Which only confirmed my belief that swear words serve particular purposes and carry their own, unique connotations and nuances. But this edit isn’t about me; it’s about you. So, I did my best for you, all things considered.)

    If the Radio Edit does well enough, it will be part of the plan from the start to do it for books I write after this that are more than the tiniest bit sweary. Though I’ll definitely press for it for the last Peaceforgers book because it would be unkind to you anti-swear readers to do otherwise at this point. Because it’s not the way things are normally done and due to the cost (in terms of time, money, and energy), it will only be an ebook. Currently, Amazon is the only place I’ve confirmed it will be available for pre-order. (If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app to your computer or device. That’s what I use!) I’m working to make it available more widely, and hope to at least have it available through Barnes and Noble (as an ebook). If you search for Peace Maker at your preferred ebook supplier, unless the cover is the one you see above (with the Radio Edit stamp on it) and the description notes that it has been edited for swearing, I can’t guarantee that’s what you’re getting. Shop carefully!

    xxx

    Peace Maker (Radio Edit) is now available for pre-order here


  • Live Light

    Brace yourselves, because this is about to be real talk. Real cheesy hokey uncool not-rock’n’roll blah blah blah. Really.

    One set of hashtags I use regularly corresponds to one of my guiding aphorisms when I write: #WriteDark #LiveLight. “Write dark” is probably obvious if you’ve read my books, poetry, or lyrics.

    “Live light,” well, that’s what got us to this post. Because even when I was wearing only black and was so deep in undiagnosed depression that it’s a wonder I didn’t drown, I couldn’t help but believe in love and light. In the value of kindness and compassion. In the importance of spreading goodness and hope. My gallows humour has always lived side-by-side with my idealism and soft heart.

    You can’t see it, but she is bristling with magic

    One of the changes to that as I got the therapy I needed was that I understood that I deserved plenty of the good stuff in my own life. And I have spent years finding ways to make sure I never let myself get totally lost in the dark again.

    I’ve noticed the last few years, though, that life stopped feeling as magical as I’d like it to quite a while ago. Unfortunately, I think that’s a natural consequence of becoming an adult in this toxic pit of capitalism and patriarchy. And I don’t have kids, so I don’t have anyone forcing me to make space for holiday-orientated magic.

    But. For the last few months, I’ve been feeling this growing sense that I need to add monthly celebrations to my already over-full life. (Really, thanks to my writers group, I’ve been at least pondering whether I am really letting myself down as regards celebrating things for almost a year now.) So, why didn’t I go for it right away?

    Because celebrations, even the most basic kind that appeal to me, take time and/or money and/or effort, none of which I can really manage.

    Because celebrations like this feel frivolous and cheesy. (And did I ever confess that I’m not fun-motivated? Sorry to ruin your image of me.)

    Because I wasn’t sure (until I sat down to have a good think) what celebrations would actually accomplish. Not in the toxic, capitalist sense, but more in the sense that I feel divinely driven to not waste time in my life.

    Because I am not really clear about what really merits celebrations, by which I really mean merits the time, money, and/or effort.

    Like I said, I sat with these reasons not to celebrate and I came up with a list of what I thought celebrations would accomplish.

    I think they will encourage, and give me one more chance to show, gratitude. Those of you who follow me on social media know I think quite a lot of gratitude. I honestly think it’s magical.

    I think they will help me refill my resilience bank account, or at least keep it from going into the red, by giving me a little recovery and relaxation time.

    I think they will help me regain a little sense of some of the magic I feel has disappeared from my life. Maybe not the giddy, squealing joy of a wee kid at Christmas with a couple new books and a buffet of treats to which I’m allowed to help myself. But there are other kinds of magic, with sparkle enough to help me feel like I’m at least a bit farther from living dark instead of light.

    And that’s why, every month, I’m going to celebrate something. (I’ve jotted down an initial list of things for each month.) I’m going to start simple and see how it evolves…have a meal, enjoy a dessert, do some kind of activity (e.g., consume a short book, movie, TV; make art; dance a little; relax). Just a couple of warm, soul-feeding hours.

    For September, I’m celebrating Autumn and education. I think that’s going to call for a sweater, a book, and warm food (still brainstorming the menu…though dessert will involve apples and/or cinnamon probably). Simple. Cosy. And…then I’ll just have to make sure I’m mindful enough that it’s a celebration instead of being tasks ticked off my list.

    This cool cat gets it…

    If I can remember, just in case you’re into it as well, I’ll mention what I’m celebrating in my newsletter every month and maybe even write a quick blog post. We’ll see.

    (I know a couple of folks I’ve talked to about this are going to come up with exciting themes for each month and make a whole thing of it, break up the monotony of daily life, include their kids in the fun. If I had time, I’d do a whole blog—not just a post—of ideas, because I got excited brainstorming with them. So, you know, if this is speaking to you, go as wild—or quiet—as you want!)

    Feel free to use the comments to tell me:

    • That you still think I’m cool…Heh!
    • How and/or what you already love to celebrate.
    • What celebratory things you might be inspired to do having read this completely hokey but sincere mass of words.

  • Random Pondering Observations

    (I no longer enjoy, nor have time for, arguing with people online. Especially given what a nasty place the internet has become for any conversation where you don’t agree. So, yeah, I’m talking around a thing.)

    ***

    Before there was an internet, if you wanted a list of all giant robot films, you wrote it yourself. You didn’t have any guarantee that anyone else would have done that, but you knew you wanted to know and, if you were lucky, your friends wanted to know. So, you became the Wikipedia article. (And, even now, the information on the internet doesn’t just appear; someone writes it.)

    So, there’s one reason someone might memorise a lot of facts and trivia about a thing. One reason whole generations of people might see that as a desirable thing to do and to share.

    ***

    It’s not just us Autistic people who often have brains that enjoy cataloguing thing. Kids will memorise all the characters in the latest toy-selling TV programme. Sports fans will memorise sports stats. Etc.

    We like to carry that knowledge around in us. We like to have it to share and to think about. We like not having to look stuff up. It seems to be a normal enough human trait that, with some brain wiring or enough passion, can get turned up to 11.

    ***

    If you’re a fan of a thing, knowing stuff about it can let you talk to other fans (or extol the virtues to non-fans) more easily.

    Which isn’t to say gatekeeping isn’t real or is okay. It is real and it is crappy and nobody should have to memorise, much less prove they’ve memorised, a bunch of facts about a thing they love to prove they love it. I’ve had people play gatekeeper at me, and I hated it. And it took the shine off my love of talking about the things I love. I totally believe that you’re a fan because you love a thing, and your inability to memorise All The Trivia, for whatever reason, doesn’t make your love not real.

    But interest in knowing and talking about the facts and trivia isn’t necessarily gatekeeping.

    ***

    Sometimes, when someone finds out you’re a fan of a thing they also love, and they ask “do you know this thing about it?”, what they really mean is “let’s share in the glee” or “I’m excited for a chance to share information I think you’ll value, and we can share in that glee.”

    Not always. I know too well that it can be the start of gatekeeping misery. But it is an invitation to share joy regularly enough that I feel safe saying it’s a thing that happens.

    ***

    When I met Ernest Cline, we talked about a thing we were both huge fans of. He didn’t do any gatekeeping. Instead…You know how we’re always saying, “Instead of being a gatekeeper, just be thrilled to find someone who loves a thing you love”? Yeah, he did that. And, when I didn’t know about some trivia, he didn’t sneer. He was excited to fill me in, to make the glee and the knowledge mutual.

    ***

    Requiring people to know facts to win a contest isn’t the same as being against, for instance, fan fiction.

    People wanting to know what’s canon isn’t the same as being against fan fiction.

    ***

    For as long as I’ve thought about virtual reality, I’ve imagined doing there what I do in my imagination: filling it with things/people I love from fiction and hanging out with all that. I know others who’ve thought the same way. So, yeah, of course the OASIS is filled with all the cool media and culture people love. And to not mention that would be to leave out one of the cool aspects of being there.

    ***

    All those people running around the OASIS with their media interests? Driving the robots and the cars and hanging with their fictional friends? Lived fan fic, baby. And I think most of us, including authors, just sort of assume you’ll all be doing that…We’ll probably do a little of it with you.

    ***

    As a creator of things, I do understand why you’d want people not to disregard your canon or to treat your characters as if they know those characters better than you do. I feel torn; I want people to respect that I know my characters best and I want them to love them so much (so much that it leads to fanfic).

    But, also, I have friends who write fic and there’s this one idea that I sometimes play with in my head. So, I guess I’m saying that I feel like living proof that you can strongly value canon and the facts about a fiction whilst thinking it’s great your friends write fic. I think I lost the plot on this particular random pondering observation…Sorry.

    ***

    If you were/are a geek, someone has probably told you that you’re wasting your time with all that geek stuff that makes your heart happy. Learning facts, playing video games, maybe even reading/writing fic as a supplemental source of joy, etc. And you know what would be the dream come-uppance? If it was the opposite of a waste of time. If, in fact, it was what let you win a life-changing prize. Yes, please!

    ***

    But, listen, if a book or film just isn’t to your tastes, that’s okay too. We can like different things without either of us being bad. What makes you bad is if you’re a jerk to other people for having different tastes.

    Also, you can dislike a thing without that thing itself being bad. Maybe it’s just not to your taste. That’s okay. Few things are for everyone.

    ***

    Ready Player One was for me.

    ***

    Maybe it was for you too, and you’re looking at the impending film and you’re worried. Neil Gaiman has said that a film doesn’t ruin a book; the book is still on your shelf. (Though author’s are allowed to feel some worry, because people will tie their book to the film, especially since people seem more wont to watch than to read. It’s definitely possible the quality/qualities of the film will impact how people see their work. For example, I was given the Magicians trilogy when I mentioned to a friend that I love the programme but hadn’t had a chance yet to read the books. And I had to work hard to get rid of the TV image of the characters and explore Grossman’s world as he’d written it. If the TV version had sucked, the books might not even have gotten a chance.)

    Plus, there are some great reviews and a friend who saw it already LOVED it. So, optimism!

    ***

    Maybe RPO was for you too, and you’re already criticising differences in the impending film. I have definitely done that. And then I realised that the novelisation of something from TV or film and the dramatisation of something that was first written is like a remix.

    Remixes are never exactly like the original. But that doesn’t mean they suck. (I mean, sure, sometimes they do…) They’re just different. They explore a different aspect of the original, or they allow the song to serve a different purpose (e.g., make it better for dancing). And that film that’s coming out? It’s a remix of the book, meant to fit the cinema. Meant to explore the themes that most appealed to the filmmaker.

    You’re smart. You get what I’m saying.

    And maybe, like me, thinking of the film as a remix will make it easy to just let go of the original and enjoy what’s good in the film.

    ***

    I expect, when I see the film tomorrow, that I’m going to enjoy it. I do so love a good remix.


  • Bad People Under-React to Bad Things

    MAJOR MUTE SPOILERS!!!!

    I’m going to assume you’ve seen the latest Duncan Jones film, Mute. I am very likely going to say who did what and to whom, so there will definitely be spoilers.

    I ought also to mention the following:

    • I went into this film expecting to like it because, to this point, I’ve liked everything that Jones has done. Enough so that, in a dream world where my books are made into films, he’s the top director on my list at the moment.
    • I can’t speak to Jones’s authorial intent. As an artist, I both think authorial (or, more generally, artist) intent matters, but also…Once you put your thing out into the world, you must assume people will see it without reading introductions or listening to director’s commentary or anything else. And so, as I opine, I’m basing this purely on what my experience was as a watcher.
    • I love this film.
    • I’m doing this in a blog instead of a tweet storm because Twitter is an ugly place and I didn’t get my degree in Philosophy just to have trolls call it a “discussion” when they fling their excrement at me.

    Got it? Right, then let’s talk about my response to one critic who implied that, perhaps, Jones has dealt with paedophilia in a way that doesn’t adequately display that it’s A Bad Thing. And, to do that, I’m going to talk about the bad guys.

    Cactus Bill is a bad guy. We might go in a bit unsure about that. After all, at least from the image we get of Paul Rudd in social media, the actor is a good guy. We kind of expect that he’ll either be full on good guy or that he’ll be a screw up who turns it around because he’s actually got a good heart. Plus, look at how much he loves his kid. For most the film, it looks like he’s just a dad trying to get him and his kid a good life. Sweet, right? And it’s even kind of understandable that, as his country of origin goes into yet another war, he’s fleeing that for said good life. We know, from other films, that he could well be someone who turns out to just be a brash loudmouth, someone who’s part of the solution.

    So, maybe we spend most the film thinking that Cactus Bill is a rough but possibly okay character. He may well work out. Save Leo and Naadi and also get him and his kid a nice life. Yay!

    And it’s even easier to think this might be what’s going to happen, because Jones carefully and subtly lays a trail that suggests maybe Duck is our real bad guy. Though, again, it’s a slow build. He’s an adoring “uncle” to Cactus Bill’s kid. He’s played by a handsome actor, and we all know that people have a hard time accepting that characters played by handsome men can be really and truly bad. He seems to be a supportive and good friend to our “maybe going to show his smooshy core” other bad guy, Cactus Bill. His focus is building cyber limbs and implants for kids. Really, until we get quite a bit into the film, we’re probably only looking at other characters as we try to work out who’s behind Naadi disappearing.

    But the veneer cracks a little in the bowling alley scene. What got me most about this scene was how played out and normal it was for some macho guy to have no shame voicing his schoolgirl fetish. (Same thing when he mentions it again later in the massage parlour.) Ugh. So, maybe Duck’s a jerk, but he’s a “normal” kind of jerk and, really, it seems like Cactus Bill is probably the one of the two friends most likely to help our protagonist anyway.

    I can’t, as I said, speak to authorial intent, but my reaction to that is to note that maybe, once we get the full story on Duck, we should start being less tolerant of the schoolgirl fetish the normal jerks in our lives have. You’ve heard similar things about all facets of rape culture: stop treating this behaviour as a joke, as okay, because you don’t know when your mate who’s saying sexual things about under-age girls is going to take your lack of reply as condoning his despicable actions. To me, this scene, especially in retrospect, is giving that warning.

    Cactus Bill, again adding to his “good guy waiting to happen” tally, doesn’t just let Duck get away with it. Right? Well, kind of. In actuality, like so many men in the sexual assault/consent arguments, he just lets it go…Until his own female family member is brought into it. To me, this was when I started to definitely not like both men. Duck has a tiresome thing for under-age girls (and, at this point, we don’t know that it’s worse than tiresome) and Cactus Bill isn’t worried about the dignity/consent of all women, just his daughter. Ugh.

    Still, to the viewer who spends less time being mad about topics this connected to for me, this probably just subtly reads as “hey, guys, Duck might not be entirely awesome.” Jones is keeping this a mystery still.

    Now, fast forward to the night Cactus Bill learns that his friend is a paedophile. Where, if you didn’t before, you start to feel gross about Duck cuddling the daughter or filming the gate of the under-dressed little girl on his treadmill. You maybe wonder why he was putting his shirt on at the start of that scene whilst an unexplained little boy hovers in the background. And, yes, Cactus Bill storms in to confront him. Go, Bill! Start showing us you’re on the good guys’ side!

    Except, and this is where you should start to question Bill, he doesn’t say, “You need to stop and you need to pay.” No, he’s satisfied if Duck just promises to stop. You know, just lets him get away with it (like all those people in power in the world who let fellow people in power get away with sexual assault). But they’re interrupted, and Jones pulls us off the trail for a moment. Even gives us a scene where Duck makes a comment that lets us know that he knows Naadirah and that he’s pretty sure she’s gone for good.

    Could it be that Duck is the bad guy and we get to keep being fond of lovable Paul Rudd and Moustache? Indisputably, one hopes, he is a bad guy, given he’s a paedophile (and paedophilia is absolutely despicable). But he might also be the bad guy in Leo’s story.

    Even when we eventually learn that it’s really Cactus Bill who’s taken and murdered Naadirah, Duck’s paedophilia continues to be part of what is bad and menacing in the film. Part of why Duck is bad. Pretty clear statement, Msr. Le Critic.

    So I can only guess that the reviewer’s objection to the handling of paedophilia is based on how Cactus Bill reacted (or under-reacted) to it. But, here’s the thing, Cactus Bill is a bad guy. He is, in terms of the story at the focus of the film, the bad guy. He’s a murderer, possibly a kidnapper (you better believe Naadirah didn’t just let him have their daughter and that she’s trying to get money in order to get and keep her daughter), and he’s just letting paedophilia happen. His lack of action isn’t Jones condoning paedophilia or saying it’s not that big a deal. His lack of action is part of how we know he’s bad. Bad People Under-React to Bad Things seems unambiguous to me.

    Sure, I’d like to have seen Duck be destroyed because of his paedophilia, not just because he had the poor sense to go after Leo. But the fact that his death didn’t come due to the paedophilia isn’t the same as Jones failing to treat paedophilia like a Very Bad Thing.

    And that’s my 1400+ words just to tell a critic that, in this way and others, they were wrong about Mute. I thought it was a nuanced, engaging, well-acted film. I loved the world building (and not just because I need a Free the 156 shirt!) and the soundtrack. I enjoyed not just what, to my biased eyes, it had to say about things I covered here, but also what it had to say about communication and those without voices. I seem to recall a tweet about how Jones had to trim hours from his ideal version, and I very much want those hours added back in. Mute might not have been for everyone, as Jones warned us for months, but it was for me.


  • But you used to…

    (I know some people would say an author should keep their blog all writing-related. If you’re one of those, skip this post.)

    Three years ago today, one of the lovely medical professionals at the University of Washington Adult Autism Centre confirmed that I was on the spectrum. In three years, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve gotten to know myself better thanks to this new self-knowledge, and I think I’ve changed my attitude and thoughts about Autism and disabilities for the better.

    Liz Lemon gives herself a high five

    Mostly, just like allistic people (aka people who aren’t Autistic), I find that my brain wiring presents me with good stuff and challenges. And, whilst I don’t love the challenges (which come from my brain but also from society), I wouldn’t want to stop being Autistic. I’m glad I’m an Autistic person.

    As I’ve thought what I might post to recognise today, and as I’ve pondered maybe doing more regular, nakedly honest posts about how Autism plays out in my life (since every Autistic person is unique), there’s one topic that’s come to mind over and over, probably because it comes up in conversations over and over (I even occasionally post a shorter form of this on FB when there’s been a rash of unhappiness thrown my way). A thing that, at least to me, also seems most relevant in the harmonious function of my relationships with others. It’s also a topic that isn’t unique to my Autistic experience. I have seen it come up with all sorts of people who have life changes, especially ones related to mental or physical health or function.

    I don’t speak for all those other people; this post is about me. But maybe it can also help you consider a different perspective with others as well.

    The issue can best be summed up by the phrase most often uttered at me in regards to said issue: But you used to…

    Before I had a diagnosis to tell me that my brain was wired a way that wasn’t typical, I just assumed that life and interaction felt this way to everyone. I assumed (and had been told) that maybe I was “too sensitive” and just needed to suck it up. I, frankly, showed myself mainly strict, sometimes brutal, insistence on doing what “normal” people did and mostly didn’t even consider applying self-compassion. Even though I had decades of lived experience, of trying to make myself just get used to things, of failing to get used to things, I didn’t stop pushing. Even though others didn’t appear to have some of the difficulties and discomforts I have, I just kept pushing because maybe, like me, they were all hiding the same discomforts and upsets. I adjusted slightly as I learned more about what it meant to be an introvert (which I am), but only very, very slightly. Not enough.

    Here’s a metaphor I like to use to explain:

    Let’s say you have grown up in a home where your parents always put food on the plate for you rather than you doing it yourself. From the time you were too little to remember, they have lovingly heaped a plate with too much food and given it to you at every meal. They don’t know this is too much, and so they insist you eat every bite. You grow up assuming that eating just involves discomfort. (You know that discomfort after, say, American Thanksgiving or a really lovely Christmas dinner? Imagine you feel that after every meal, so you assume it’s normal.)

    A table heaped with every imaginable holiday dinner food

    You know your parents love you (and the food tastes good), and you know they’ve got years more of lived experience than you, so you don’t have any reason to question it. This is how one must eat, and this discomfort is just a part of life. When you move out, you just keep feeding yourself those same portions. That’s typical (aka normal), right?

    But then you get in a relationship, and they want to cook you a meal. When they bring you a plate, there’s less food. You don’t want to be rude, so you just go with it. The food is good and the intentions are great and…Oh, you don’t feel discomfort after. And you also don’t feel hungry. Interesting. So, you go home and you try making those smaller portions your new normal. You start to pay attention to other people and portion sizes. You realise that, in fact, the typical feeling after a meal isn’t discomfort.

    Maybe you occasionally humour your parents when you go back for a visit, or you still occasionally over-eat when something is just so good you decide the consequences are worth it this time. But, overall, you honour your body’s actual needs and capacity and, while you used to eat whole large pizzas in one sitting on your own (a thing I used to do both actually and metaphorically), you don’t do that anymore.

    I went with food, because many in Western societies can understand and because this assumes no ill intentions, no villains. But you can probably also do something similar relating it to the sleep dep one gets used to at certain points in life or the way some of us adjust to abusive situations. You just don’t know, or you forget, that what you’re living and feeling isn’t actually the way it has to be, isn’t “normal.”

    When I got my diagnosis, I went and I did some research. I stopped looking at what life was like for allistic people, what the neurotypical experience was, stopped trying to forces myself to be or to at least appear like that. I started reading about what this differently wired brain of mine might mean, what sort of experiences might be typical for the neurodivergent. I started to learn that typical people didn’t feel and react like I did in many situations, but that I was also well within typical for someone on the spectrum. I’m Autistic, so I have a different “appetite” than you do. And that’s okay.

    side-by-side image of what is normally served us (whole burger and chips) vs actual healthy portion size (half burger and half as much chips)

    I started to try to only “feed” myself what my brain and body could handle. And the change has been great. Far fewer meltdowns. Far fewer instances of sensory overload. Less discomfort. Less misery. And, at least for me, the things my Autistic brain excels at are now, uh, more excel-y.

    Some people might be thinking, “But you didn’t ever complain before.”

    You’re right; I didn’t. Why should I when I assumed we were both pushing through these same things? Why should I when, the few times I ventured to tell people how I was feeling, I was mocked or treated unkindly? (Not by you, maybe, but also I maybe didn’t tell you because I’d been sufficiently shamed into silence, into assuming I was just broken, before I even met you.)

    I also generally hesitate to mention this sort of thing because some of you find it hard not to take my changes personally. Or, if I don’t mention them in a broad and public way like this, you might wonder if I’m only saying this is broadly applicable to spare your feelings.

    The fact is:

    • I have sensory processing issues. Noises and sights (including lighting) that are totally nothing to you can quickly flip my brain into overload. Touch is another big one, and that includes things like temperature. (I’ve also got some taste sensitivities, but I’m usually not licking you…). I think smell might be the one sense where I’m close to typical…
    • I have some innate anxiety that also complicates anything to do with human interaction. I’m not shy or scared of interaction (which is a thing often cited against me when people don’t believe I’m an introvert); it’s more that my brain’s survival instincts involve a strong aversion to doing anything incorrectly or imperfectly lest I die or be cast out of the protection of the tribe. (I’ve never managed to convince my brain that there are no longer sabre-toothed tigers in the shadows.)
      Screencap from Skyrim of a woman fighting a sabre-toothed tiger
    • If I don’t get hours of solitude a day (sleep and, when applicable, time spent doing a day job don’t suffice), my brain starts to spool up and break down. I suspect, at the very least, that’s because the solitude is a break from sensory and anxiety issues.

    So, yes, I used to “over eat,” metaphorically speaking, ignoring the many consequences that came from not honouring the things in those bullet points, and so I used to live with a higher level of constant discomfort. And, sure, the food was sometimes so good. But I’m now living a life that keeps me as close as I can manage to “eating proper portions” for me. Or trying to. There are some things that still keep me a little over-fed that I can’t seem to shake yet. And there are some times I choose to over-eat a little because I just love you or an experience enough that I justify a little misery, as an exception, just this once.

    I know that my family and my true friends (and probably hosts of well-intentioned strangers) wouldn’t want to make me miserable. I also know that most, if not all, of them are trying hard to be understanding of the changes. (Thank you!!) And that there have been some things going on the last year or so that have made it so I couldn’t even, if you will, eat as much of them as I’d like and could safely do.

    I hope this helps you understand me (or others in your life) a little better and maybe feel a little less hurt, frustration, etc as we stop doing things we used to do in pursuit of good health.

    Yes, I used to, but I don’t anymore.


  • Support Your Artist!

    This post goes along with this vlog I posted today. I’ve basically duplicated the vlog content and expanded on the things. Please add your own ideas via comments!

    Heya!

    You probably know that I’ve got my first book, Peace Fire, coming out in less than a week (11 October! Squee!), so this seemed like a good time to talk about how to support artists you like, even if you’re broke. Even if they aren’t me. I’ve made sure to include a section, right up top, on free and easy ways to show your love. You can scroll down to find new info, including a bulleted list of ideas if you’ve already watched the vlog.

    Now, I know it’s cheesy, but acronyms help us remember things, so…Quickly, here’s how you can be a STAR fan. If that’s too cheesy, I guess you could scramble it up to be RATS or add some other way I don’t mention and somehow make yourself TRASH…But most of you already know I’m a fan of stars and I think you’re better than rats (however cute) or trash, so…

    S is for social media.

    Following your artist on social media is great (do it!), but we’d also love you to interact with us. We enjoy it, but also, for sites like Facebook and Instagram that don’t show everything to everyone who follows an artist, your likes and comments and shares help us be seen.

    T is for tell the world.

    Talk about our stuff when you get a chance, recommend us to other people, post about your love online, link to us on your own web site, use something to do with us as your user pic or banner, wear our merch outside your house, read our books in public, put our songs on playlists or play them when other people are around…Basically, be the cool friend that, someday, your other friend credits for introducing them to the book or song or whatever that they love. I know those people in my life are the best!

    A is for art or act on inspiration.

    If our stuff inspires you to create—whether original stuff or straight up fan art—that stuff is so great. We love it when you feel inspired by us and when you share what you made with us. I mean, obviously, please don’t plagiarise or try to make pennies off of someone else’s copyright, but we’re pretty sure that most of you are just excited and want to share your love.

    R is for reviews.

    This might be the last letter, but it’s definitely not the least of ways to support artists. Sites that let you review our stuff usually use your reviews to determine whether other people get to see our stuff. For instance, last I heard, Amazon is way, waaaaaay more likely to let someone find a book after it gets 50 reviews. You don’t have to be eloquent or witty. Even just “I liked it!” counts. Plus, we get happy tingles when you leave 5 star reviews.

    Bonus Thoughts and Bullet Points

    Before I give you a list of all the ways I can think of to be supportive (already mentioned in this post and otherwise), I want to include a personal thought for people who are family and friends of artists. You can support us in ways that strangers can’t.

    You can keep checking out new projects or even most recent works. Really, anyone can do that, but friends and family are most likely to know about early drafts or past projects. We promise we are trying to be better than the story or song we wrote when we were 12. It’s very normal for artists to evolve and change over time. We do different things and/or we get better. You might be pleasantly surprised, and we’ll be super grateful.

    Also, being understanding about the time we have to spend alone to make this stuff is awesome. Most artists I know or know about need solitude to work their magic. Even if they’re in a band (which means they also need time with just their bandmates), there’s still work to be done in solitude. Hours of it. (For instance, a novel is at least 40,000 words long. Peace Fire is around 120,000. 1,000 words an hour is a pretty healthy writing speed. So, there’s at least 40 hours alone for a novel in general, 120 for Peace Fire. Throw in at least as many hours for even one edit—but expect more edits—and the time to work out the plot, do any research, and ponder details…You get the idea.)

     

    A long and partly funny list of ways to support an author

    Now, here are some bullets, some action items, in case you’d rather skim and get right to the point. Though, obviously, I’m also going to second the stuff Ed Yong suggested for how to support his book. Totally do this with mine. Just let me know where to find my ziggurat…

    Things that cost no money

    • Leave reviews of our stuff on web sites. Really important. (This can be free if you borrowed our stuff from a friend or the library.)
    • Follow us on social media.
    • Interact with us on social media (comment, share, like, re-blog, re-tweet, etc).
    • Make art if our stuff inspires you (original or fan art) and share it.
    • Talk about our stuff when you get a chance.
    • Recommend us to other people.
    • Hook us up with any connections you might have.
    • Post about your love for our stuff online.
    • Link to us from your own web site.
    • Use something to do with us as your user pic or banner.
    • Request our stuff at the appropriate place (radio stations, book stores, etc).
    • Bring your friends to our events. (Technically, if they pay for themselves, this isn’t costing you money, right?)
    • Come to free events (readings, signings, etc).
    • Indicate your interest when possible. For example, with my book, you could go to my Goodreads page and indicate simply that you want to read my book. That easy act can make a positive difference in how people perceive the things we make.

    Things that are free after you’ve already spent money on other things

    • Read our books in public. (This could be free if you borrow it from a friend or library.)
    • Put our songs on playlists or play them when other people are around.
    • Related: If your friend asks about the song, don’t play cool; enthuse!
    • Wear our merch in public.
    • Post pictures online of you enjoying what we do or wearing our merch.
    • Stand up front and interact at events. (If we do music, you dancing and singing is magic!)
    • If you get pics or video of our events, share those online and/or with your artist friend (so they can share them on their social media pages).

    Things that cost money

    • Buy our creations (e.g. albums, books, paintings, etc).
    • Buy our merch (e.g. t-shirts, stickers, badges/buttons, etc).
    • Come to our paid events (e.g. shows, non-free readings, conventions, etc).
    • Give our stuff as gifts (creations or merch or entrance to events).
    • Support our crowdfunding efforts.
    • Buy us gear, studio time, and other things that let us do our art better.

    Go be a STAR fan to an artist you love, okay?

    Peace Fire cover: a silhouette with a red flare in the middle, in front of and a large, round, metallic shape
    Peace Fire is out 11 October!
    Pre-order your Kindle edition here.
    Sale price until 10 October


  • The Enemies of Art

    Even if you don’t write, you’ve probably noticed there are a lot of essays out there about how hard it is to just make yourself write. Fortunately, I generally find that I’d rather be creating than doing anything else, and I’m really good about clearing every other possible thing off my calendar to make that happen. I believe that talents and inspiration are divine responsibilities, and I’ve been known to be “too responsible.”

    But that didn’t mean that writing Peace Fire was an easy sprint from start to finish line, an unbroken journey. Oh, no. There were bumps in that road, unnecessary detours, slowdowns. Most of which are just ridiculous, which is why I’ve compensated with a dramatic post title. I’m going to share three of them.

    Most those articles about writing will talk about clearing away distractions and, at least the modern ones, will include resisting the allure of your phone or social media. Yeah, I’m reclusive and have no problem ignoring most people. Though one of you, and you know who you are, is so irresistible that I did lose some time to you. Ugh. You’re lucky you’re awesome.

    I am also able to resist the call of the wild. It’s not just that I’m an indoorsy girl, because I really do think nature is full of beauty. It’s more that this flat’s windows are all on one side, and that side looks out on a concrete courtyard and faces the other tower of this building. I am pretty sure that one or two stray leaves or the neighbours’ toddler don’t count as nature. No, no matter what a wild beast the child might sound like some days…

    My top distraction was another beast. Yes, the cat. The thing is my big, surly boy is not generally cuddly. We’re into bodily autonomy in this household, and that means that, even if he weren’t a mass of teeth and claws, I wouldn’t be into forcing pets and cuddles on him. He is also a master of inconvenient timing. So it’s no surprise that, almost any day that I had a hard time getting into the writing flow, he could sense when I was finally hitting my stride. That was his clue to “need” to be on my lap and get love. And he’s a big boy, so I couldn’t easily work around his formidable fluff. I absolutely cannot keep up a 1000 word an hour pace when pecking things out with just one hand. I told you my hurdles were ridiculous.

    My big, fluffy cat and his stuffed kicker toy, pretending to be innocent and adorableThe fluffy offender

    Ridiculous hurdle the second: Music! Okay, you’ll hear me say loads of other times and places that music is important and part of my process and so forth. But there’s another side to this magical music thing. You see there are songs I totally can’t resist singing along to or even having spontaneous dance parties to. They have such power over me that I will, for instance, have both feet out the door as I’m leaving a club but dash back in if one of them comes on because I. Must. Dance. Seriously. And if I’m home? Even if I can keep my butt in the seat and keep typing, I’m slowed down. Singing along and chair dancing impede typing.

    Wee me with headphonesThe problem started early

    Finally, food. Oh, food…How I love thee! And if I haven’t spent quality time with you recently enough, it is hard for me to think about other things. Like the story I’m writing. Okay, so, get up, go to the kitchen, and…and then stare at the options…If I’m lucky, my body and brain will agree that, this time, cereal is a great idea. If it doesn’t, I’m about helpless to spend the time necessary to make whatever it is that body and brain want. Some days, I felt like all I did was make and eat food. I love you, food, but you are sooooo needy sometimes. Ugh.

    Me with my mouth between a burger and a mic, sticking my tongue out like it's such a burden to want those thingsUgh. Food. And music. I’m tortured.

    Those are the things that tripped me up, slowed me down, kept me from writing a book in…I’m estimating I could have done it in 5 minutes if not for cats, music, and food. Yeah, that sounds like a legitimate estimate.

    Now, back to writing, lest I have to add “blogging” to my list next time I’m counting my ridiculous distractions.

    Peace Fire cover: a silhouette with a red flare in the middle, in front of and a large, round, metallic shape
    Peace Fire is out 11 October!
    Pre-order your Kindle edition here.
    Sale price until 10 October


  • Strangers When (and If) We Meet

    As you very likely know, the world lost the incredible David Bowie in January of this year. Soon after, Will Brooker asked if I’d like to put together a cover of a Bowie song with him to use over the credits of a documentary he was making about research he did whilst writing his book on Bowie (due out January 2017). Please head over to Forever Stardust to learn more about that. The book and the documentary should be quite good if his previous works are any indication.

    I wanted to say a few words about this project, especially given I know some of us felt like touching a Bowie song was stepping on hallowed ground. Did we dare? Eventually, obviously, we did. And we can only hope that we’ll get lumped in with all those covers we heard come out the last 8 months (it’s 8 months and 1 day now since we lost Bowie) that are considered good, rather than the ones that made us cringe or shrug. But I suppose that I have that hope with everything I release into the world…

    Why did I do it?

    • I like a good collaboration, and I reckoned that Will’s and my voices would sound good together. (I still think that and hope we sort out our ideas for future collaborations.)
    • Like many, I was gutted by Bowie’s death and, in some ways, getting to submerge myself in this was therapeutic. It didn’t take the sorrow away (it’s still there), but I find that working on someone else’s creation gives me a sense of seeing them a bit better, which took the edge off my loss.
    • I liked the fact that distance is a theme in the song and we were going to build this song around people who were both physically distant and strangers to each other. There are people I’ve never met who worked on this track, to whom I felt a sort of creative closeness whilst working, but who will still be strangers when, and if, we meet. (I’m pretty sure I owe drinks to at least half of them, so surely that means it’s a “when” and not an “if.”)
    • I love this song. I think the album is under-appreciated, and even others I know who love Bowie aren’t familiar with this song. Whereas I actually recall clearly the emotional impact this song had on me the first time I heard it, years ago (and how I replayed it a dozen times in a row once I’d finished listening to the album). Whatever you think of our cover, go listen to the original. It’s a dense and complicated piece that, in true Bowie style, sounds simple in the best possible way.

    This was a project that hit a lot of hurdles, so I definitely want to give yet another massive thanks to everyone who ended up making the time, giving their best, and (in some cases) and stretching their capabilities to make this happen. Literally each name on the list below (after the embed) is someone who had to give extra to do what they did or who was a last-minute save. Bless!

    Put your headphones on (really…this song is best with headphones or good speakers that let you hear the panning and such) and give it a listen. Hope you enjoy!

    Written by David Bowie
    Vocals: Amber Bird, Will Brooker
    Guitar: Joe Brooker, Jason Cope
    Bass: Taylor McCarrey
    Keyboard: Cat McCarrey
    Drums: Euan Rodger
    Mixing/production: Amber Bird, Joe Brooker
    Additional engineering: Oliver Betts


  • First Time Is Novel

    There came a point where I decided I was no longer a writer and would not have a book published.

    Some stuff was going on in my head and with my chemistry and I wasn’t doing anything creative other than my makeup. (And even that was mostly just doing things I’d done before…Yeah, not my most vibrant era…)

    When that stuff got sorted, I poured out a mass of rough material for possible books, a few poems, and began a torrent of lyrics that has me with lyrics for over 250 songs now. Yeah!

    Then came the next point where I decided I was no longer a writer (well, except for lyrics…and then blogs…) and would not have a book published.

    I had started a band and realised that I LOVED making music (it let me combine writing and performing and it was MUSIC) and that I only had time for one creative endeavour until such time as I ceased to have to work a day job or until I somehow became a person who could live on way less sleep than I actually need. I chose music. (I 99% don’t regret it.)

    When the way that things work with my day job shifted so that I started having long periods where I was between projects…Okay, to be honest, I just spent all that extra time and energy on music-related things. Because music was doing things for me that writing hadn’t (and probably at least partly because I hadn’t put in the effort on writing).

    And, listen, a lot of people consider themselves aspiring writers and never get around to writing. They’d like to write a book, they dream of writing a book, but they don’t. There are plenty of reasons for that, and I’m sure that a few were in play in my situation. Plus, I had stopped thinking of myself as a writer…

    Me posing with a guitar, a laptop, and a plastic laser pistol in front of music gear and a poster of Buckaroo Banzai

    Trying hard to make it up to Buckaroo these days…

    Then, my buddy Ernie Cline basically gave me a deadline. And not a “far in the future” deadline, but a “write a book in a month” sort of deadline. (I suspect he didn’t realise the situation and had generously given me the benefit of the doubt, had assumed I was working on it all along like I should have been.) A book that would be good enough that he wouldn’t regret spending the time on me. And here are a few things I learned by finally writing my first novel and following it through to the end:

    • If I spend all my possible free brain time (you know, where I don’t have to use my brain to do other stuff, like when I’m showering) telling myself the story in great detail before I write, I can write it at a speed that shocks me. Every time. I expect it won’t always work like that, so I’m savouring this whilst it’s working for me.
    • If I didn’t pause to edit whilst I wrote, if I just let it flow out of me without analysing it, that was the key. I’m a perfectionist and it kind of killed me to write like that initially. But it also freed me to just get the story out. Because, as I reminded myself constantly, everybody has to do edit passes or re-writing. I wasn’t saving myself that step if I agonised over every word as I put it on the page, I was just making the most enjoyable part of the writing process less enjoyable.
    • On a related note to those first two things, I learned not to stop myself when I suddenly realised I was writing scenes I didn’t expect or plan whilst in my writing flow. I’ve heard about people who say that their characters speak to them or make the choices so that the stories write themselves…I definitely found that knowing the characters well meant I didn’t have to spend time deciding what they would do. But the closest I got to stories writing themselves was times I got lost in the flow and it was obvious to me what the results of all the variables would be. Flow is the best!
    • The joy of even just finishing writing that first draft was enough to make me dance around the flat, loudly proclaiming my potency. Quest completed! Achievement unlocked! And then I finished editing and it was totally done. More dancing and proclamations. And then there was cover art and there were physical proofs in my hand and…Listen, even just hitting a daily word quota can be a rush for me now. I can’t believe I deprived myself of this.

    My computer screen, showing the word count of a document at almost 110,000 words

    I Instagram my word count like you do your food

    So, what was it like to write my first novel? It was terrifying and exhilarating and satisfying. It was hard work (brutal hours and much aching finger/hand/arm time) and enjoyable. (If I was a seeker of fun, I might even call it that…) And then it was incredible to realise that I was, indeed, a person who could write a whole novel. A novel that didn’t suck. Oh my stars!

    I think I had a unique experience. I know full well that novels don’t usually go this way. But I guess the only way to find out whether this is how novels go for me is to keep writing them. I’ve had worse obligations…

    Peace Fire cover: a silhouette with a red flare in the middle, in front of and a large, round, metallic shape
    Peace Fire is out 11 October!
    Pre-order your Kindle edition here.
    Sale price until 10 October


  • It’s Probably Not You

    You might recall that, in my last post, I said this:

    Someone asked if there were things I worried about with my book. And, yes, there definitely are. Some are, I think, pretty universal artist concerns. I also had two specific worries that, whilst not unique to me, are less universal. You see, my book has bracing quantities of swearing and has characters with names that you might think are yours. In this post, I’m going to talk about the first. There will be another post for the other later on.

    Well, today is “later on,” so I’m here to talk about names. Or, to keep it not-too-long, character names in Peace Fire. This is one of those that I hope everybody who has ever known me reads, because I’d like to not have to say a million times that, no, that character isn’t named after the person you think.

    A toddler furiously reads a bookYou can probably just relax whilst you read

    Even before I had a band, back in the murky reaches of my teen years, I started pulling together the ideas that would become Peace Fire. That process is a whole other post, but I’m trying to lay out a timeline, so it’s worth mentioning.

    The year before I actually did form a band, I sat down and wrote out the roughest of rough drafts. It read something like the version you’d get if you didn’t care about spoilers and asked me to tell you the story on a lunch break. I did this in spite of being pretty sure I would never manage to follow through and write it out as an actual book.

    Spock pets a black cat and raises an eyebrow to indicate that you are talking rubbishI know , Spock…I know…I was ridiculous…

    One of the things on which I spent huge amounts of time was character names. I think names are really important, and I find it a painstaking task to choose a name for anything I care about. I wanted to find names that both fit the character and that would spare me from false accusations that I’d named a character after someone I knew. Fortunately for me, there were appropriate names for all the main characters, some of them appropriately common enough names to not make this a ridiculous affair, that fit both criteria. Hurrah!

    In fact, in that initial draft, in the section with notes for another story that might happen in the same universe, there was only one name that was a purposeful “naming after.” But she isn’t in this book. (Don’t worry, curious kittens, I’ll say more about that below.) Though, for the record, the outlines for the ideas that became the next two books in the series were done enough that I can probably just post this or point to this for them too. And, if some new character pops up when I do my next drafts, because I already have one draft of book 2 and the outline of book 3…And if I happen to grab the name of someone I know for that character…Well, chances are good that I’ll drop you a note, like I did for the other people who I can still find whose names I stole. If it’s about you, you’ll know.

    Now, fast-forward to 2015. Years after that initial work I did. I picked up my notes and my bits of scenes…and I realized that I now definitely had been social with some people whose names were like my characters’ names. In fact, for reasons there’s no need to go into, I felt pretty sure that certain groups of people would be positive I’d named particular characters after people in those groups. Oh, the drama! And I really hate drama.

    And I really felt (and still feel) sure that those people wouldn’t believe me when I told them that those characters weren’t named for them. Ugh.

    My initial instinct was to do a massive re-naming. I spent a whole day trying to do that for just one character. And then slapped myself. I know the truth; all I can do is tell it. In the end, I decided that it would be ridiculous to undo the careful work I’d done.

    Drawing of an angel holding a man's hands. Text on picture: And the angel said to him, "Stop hitting yourself!" But he could not stop, for the angel was hitting him with his own hands.Dramatic recreation

    So, instead of changing names, I’m writing this post. I’m pointing out the timeline. I’m trying to make it clear that, with the exception I’m going to list below, if you met me after I started making music, this definitely isn’t about you. If anything, naming the characters after people I know would have made it harder to stay true to the true characters of those characters. (Yeah, I know, that’s a bit of a tangled sentence.)

    I did actually change one name. By some horrific consequence, there was a real-life parallel involving someone with a character’s name that was a little too spot-on. Even knowing better, I felt uncomfortable and felt sure the real-life person would see it as an attack.The character was…not unimportant, but not one of the absolute core crew, which made it easier.

    Now, here’s the list of characters who are named after people I know, and notes enough that the people I know will know it’s them (even if I no longer know how to find them and send them a note to tell them I used their name):

    Sarah! I actually have more than one amazing friend called Sarah. I’d kind of like to get you lot in a room together because I suspect just watching you talk all night would be magical. One of you actually met me post-band formation, but there’s no way you don’t know you are one of my inspirations. You are the exception to my “all namesakes are pre-band people,” and you bloody deserve the honour. I love you Sarahs so much.

    Scott! But a particular Scott. And it’s your first name, not your last. Scott S. Scott with two Ts. Scott who used to dance with me every weekend. (At MachineWerks and other places…Oh, man, I miss those nights!) Scott who….well, a lot of things. I thought you’d appreciate being a doctor and wouldn’t fuss over being a woman. I should also note that Scott is why I know how awesome it is to let someone else scrub out your wounds.

    Me glaring over my shoulder at someone at a dance club. Pale skin, long dark hair, black makeup and clothesPortrait of the author as a dancing queen (aka me at MachineWerks)

    Paul? Paul! This is one of two people I’m not still in touch with. And I might be remembering incorrectly. Basically, when I needed to name a bouncer, I immediately thought of a bouncer I really liked back in those days when I was always out with Scott. I am pretty sure he was called Paul. But, hey, MachineWerks bouncer on Saturday nights, with your shaved head and ready smile, you deserved to be name-checked this way. Even if I maybe got the name wrong…(Updated to add the ! version of his name and to note that Scott has confirmed my memory is not entirely faulty. Whee!)

    Marleina! You won’t meet her in Peace Fire, but I don’t want to write this blog, which should cover all the books, and not mention Marleina. What you can’t see is the way my eyes become hearts when I think of Marleina. Sadly, she is also one of the people I lost touch with. But you’ll know if you’re her, because you would have lived in the same building with me on Capitol Hill (you got me that flat, actually) and have danced with me at MachineWerks. (I guess there’s a theme here, isn’t there?) I’m glad we were friends enough that I got to call you Mina, and I hope you read my books and wonder if it’s about you. (It is! Though you are way cooler than the character. I just didn’t figure I could describe her like you and have people not consider it way too fictional to even include in fiction.)

    And if you’re a friend who wonders why your name didn’t show up or why I won’t let you claim that the character is named for you…Don’t fret, my pet. You don’t need that to happen to be a loved or worthwhile person. Plus, how will you feel when that character I named after you dies or worse? Trust me; I’ve seen some really uncomfortable moments caused by well-intentioned authors naming characters for family or friends.

    (And if you’re someone who wants to argue and accuse me of lying, please send those notes to youarewrong@iwouldnotwastethetime.com. Heh!)

    Being reclusive decreases the number of people I know well enough that they might actually think a character is named after them, but it looks like I haven’t been consistently reclusive enough. I’ll try harder 😉

    Peace Fire cover: a silhouette with a red flare in the middle, in front of and a large, round, metallic shape
    Peace Fire is out 11 October!
    Pre-order your Kindle edition here.
    Sale price until 10 October