Writer. Editor. Leximaven. Game Designer. Vorpal Blonde. Bisexual Brainlicker. Midas's Touch. Schrödinger's Brat.

Twas Brillig

Gen Con 2019 Schedule

posted on: July 22, 2019
in: Blog


Are you going to Gen Con this year? If so, please come by and see me and say hello! I’m one of the gaming guests of honor this year (along with Monte Cook) and am also participating in the Writer’s Symposium. Check out my schedule below — I’d love to see you <3

 

THURSDAY

10am: Patreon: Is It For You? (If you’re not already a Patron, now is a great time to join! It’s just $1/month!)

3pm: Guest of Honor Event: Creative Resilience, Creating in Difficult Times

5pm: Guest of Honor Event: An Uncommon Conversation Featuring Monte Cook and Shanna Germain

6pm: An Evening with Monte Cook Games: Come hang with Team MCG in an intimate, unique experience. Join us to celebrate another great year, the launch of Your Best Game Ever, the Cypher System Rulebook, and plenty of Numenera and Invisible Sun releases!

 

FRIDAY

10am: Scrivener Demystified

12pm: Business Plans for Writers

3pmHow to Have Your Best Game Ever: Join members of Team MCG and Your Best Game Ever contributors to get tips on having the best RPG games ever. There will be GM tips, player tips, & game stories with a positive spin.

4pm: Signing at the Monte Cook Games booth #2519

 

SATURDAY

10am: Whodunnit? Adding Mystery to Speculative Fiction

1pm: Signing at the Monte Cook Games booth #2519

4pm: Avoiding the Dreaded Infodump

 

SUNDAY

10am: Signing at the Monte Cook Games booth #2519

 

Hope to see you there!
Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

And What of Your Heart?

posted on: January 17, 2019
in: Blog


Last year, in all of 2018, I finished one short story. One.

(Granted, I wrote a lot of words on other things. Game design, mostly, because that’s my day job, and because deadlines (especially Kickstarter-promised deadlines) don’t wait for nobody.).

But fiction is my everything. The beat of it lives inside me like a second heart. And I’ve never had a year in which I wrote so little of what keeps me alive. Looking back, it was for all the reasons that many of us are struggling with: personal trauma, world trauma, the press of time and social media and deadlines, health issues, family issues, so much more. It was like 2018 (with 2017 rolling up in a close second) was the year in which all of the monsters came alive, toyed with us for six or eight or twelve months, and then ate us.

So there’s a part of me that is so grateful that I finished even one story.

And a part of me that is so damn sad and angry that I let so many things take my heart away. It’s why I gave a talk on creative resilience last year, and why I’m putting together a book on it. Because for creative people, making things is a form of self care and it often goes right out the window when things get bad. When we figure out how to hold onto it, to create despite everything, we should share it with others, lift them to the light and say, “look, it’s still there.”

I’m going to talk more about setting (and reaching for) goals later, but for now, I’ll just say that after last year’s awfulness, this year I have plans for making lots of things. This Patreon was one (and your support is another—because self-care is easier when others help you along the way). The stories and novels I’m working on are others. I’m trying my hand at singing and drawing (I am bad at both, but the goal is to practice for practice’s sake, for immersion’s sake, not because there’s a skill level that I hope to reach). I am taking more photos. And baking is my new (renewed) passion for the moment (this is largely the fault of Tasty, which shows the best baking videos).

But back to the one story that I wrote last year. It’s a story that came out of my sadness and pain at everything happening in the world, but particularly out all of the school shootings and street shootings, all of the young people we were losing much too early. I lent the story my voice, my siren-song of anguish, and “Salted Bone and Silent Sea,” was born.

I’m so proud to say that it was just accepted for the fantastic anthology, “Do Not Go Quietly: An Anthology of Victory in Defiance.” And I’m really delighted to share a table of contents with some of my favorite authors, including Brooke Bolander, Cassandra Khaw, Seanan McGuire, Catherynne M. Valente, and Fran Wilde.

It feels good to write a thing that feels powerful to your own process, that makes your heart come alive as you make it, that begins to heal you even in the tiniest of ways. It also feels good to know that others feel some of what you put into the story, and that it touches their heart too, and maybe helps them heal a tiny bit too…

***

Hello, lovelies! Have you missed me? You have, haven’t you? If so, you can read the rest of this post (including an excerpt from “Salted Bone and Silent Sea”) right now over on my brand-new Patreon for free. I likely won’t be blogging here much at all this year, so that’s the place to be if you want to hear good things from me! 

Why a Patreon? I talk about that a little bit here too—connection, inspiration, and a way to say yes to more of what I love. If you want to help  support my writing and journey, you can do so for as little as $1/month. Or jump in for higher to get writing prompts, inspirations, market ideas, thank yous in the acknowledgements, and more. I’ve moved Callooh! Callay! there too—I know a lot of you mentioned you were sorry to see it go, so I’ve brought it back in this new place.

I hope your 2019 is everything you dream of, and so much more.

Kiss kiss bang bang, 
Shanna 

Mark My Words: (Belated) January Edition

posted on: February 8, 2018
in: Blog, Writing

For at least five years now, I’ve tried to keep track of my yearly word count, and I’ve always failed. Partly because I work on so many different projects that it’s a monster of a job just to try and keep track. And partly because I know that word count isn’t really indicative of anything. As much as I rewrite and rework, or write whole chapters that never see the light of day, or erase and rewrite, the numbers turn out to be liars. But, this year Scrivener added a new feature that keeps track of it for you. It tells me how many words I’ve written each day and each month. And I have to admit I’m curious–I had no idea how many words I might write in a day, or a year, or five years. Do I write every day? (I already know the answer is no). Do I write in streaks? (Probably).

I meant to do this check at the end of January, but it got away from me, so here’s January plus a week in February. You can see that I wrote on 18 days this year, with an average of about 1400 words on each of those days (I’ve chosen to keep track of deleted words, so these aren’t how many I wrote exactly–I wrote more, but then deleted them, so they don’t count). But some days are bigger and better than others (yesterday, for example, was a high-word day for me, where all I did was put words on the page. I rarely have those kinds of writing days.). So far this year, I’ve written about 25,000 words (note that this is just game and fiction writing; it doesn’t include blog posts, web articles, and the like).

So what am I writing? What will all of these words become? Scriver helps me keep track of that too.


Green stuff is game writing–I’m working on the next book for Invisible Sun, as well as a Numenera adventure for Gen Con. Orange is short fiction. Red is for novels. Yes, I’m working on all of them at the same time. That seems to be my best process, even though it takes forever for me to finish anything that way.

Is all of this interesting? It is to me, because I always want to learn more about my processes. It might be to you too, if you’re a writer with questions. This shows that you can accomplish a lot without writing every day. That all of those single words add up quickly. That you can go from nothing to something in just a month (plus) of time.

Here’s an excerpt of the story that’s currently titled SSSA (Six Syllables Sung Aloud):

After Ben died, I locked my voice in a box. The kind of box doesn’t matter, nor does the lock. What matters is box and locked. Said together, like that. Throw the key away into the surf. Think better of it just before the shore claims it as its own, and grab it from the white foam, hide it somewhere warmer, quieter, more dangerous.     

My husband, Erik, wanted to know what I wanted for dinner.

“Do you want—?” he asked from where his top half was submerged inside the fridge. I could hear him moving things around inside, and I knew what was in there: greens gone wet and brown, jars of liquid skimmed in algae, crumbs of bread nibbled from all sides. “Pasta or potatoes?”

I sat at the kitchen table and watched my husband’s scissored legs be cut off at the waist by a steel box and thought how none of those words made sense anymore. All those p sounds, like something small and round you’d squish with your fingers and their insides would pop out and you’d be grossed out and try to wipe them on your shirt when no one could see. But you’d still feel it and feel it, even in the shower. Even in the moments you’d forgotten about the something small and round, you’d still feel what was left upon your skin.      

My husband is a good man. Everyone says that about their husbands, I guess, but sometimes someone says it and it’s true. He’s not perfect, but he holds me up the way water holds up oil. 

Do you keep track of your word count? Work on multiple projects at once? Use Scrivener in a cool way? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on process!

Kiss kiss bang bang,
s.

P.S. If you like these posts, you can now subscribe and get them in your inbox (just fill in the Subscribe to Me section on the right-hand side of this blog). I’m not on Facebook or Twitter these days, but you can find me (and Ampersand the Wonder Dog) on Instagram.

 

 

16. Callooh! Callay! Saving What We Love

posted on: February 5, 2018
in: Blog, Callooh! Callay!


Yesterday I noticed that the bulbs I planted in the fall are starting to push their tiny green heads up through the mud, and if there is a better analogy for the future me’s reward for past me doing the hard, dirty work, I don’t know what it is. I’m writing short fiction again, which is something I had to put aside for a while due to other projects, and god, I love the short form so much. I’ll try to post an excerpt later this week so you can see what I’m working on. (Along with an update on how many words I’ve written so far this year and what they were for, because I think that’s a cool and interesting thing to look at).

watch.

The best drama you might not have seen yet (or even heard of): Halt and Catch Fire. I think that it’s undervalued and underwatched in part due to the topic: the advent of computers (and then the internet) doesn’t seem like something that’s super interesting right off the bat. But the show’s not really about that. It’s about the characters and their relationships (and the actors who depict said characters are amazing). It’s about life.

The show starts out strong and just gets better and better as it goes. Season 4 is in my list of top seasons of television. It’s that good. It depicts life and loss and love and creativity with such realness. I’ve never watched anything that impacted my heart with such beautiful honesty.

read.

Ten Things I Learned from Ursula K. Le Guin is a beautiful reminder from a talented woman, not just of how to be a creative person, but also how to live fully and truly.

learn.

This article about sexual bereavement introduced me to a topic I hadn’t thought about much before–what it means when the death of your partner means the death of your sex life, and why there are so few good resources for handling that unique grieving process.

“But I was blindsided by the realization that gone for good was the sexual intimacy that Bart and I shared. Gone was the appreciation and understanding of bodies that had aged together, the decades of shared humor and pillow talk that were intertwined with sexual enjoyment. I was unprepared for the depth of this loss, and I immediately understood that this was not a grief that was going to be easy to share with family and friends.”

splurge.

 

I just saw these amazing waterproof bags over the weekend, and I instantly fell in love. Made by a company called Rains, these adorable mini backbacks feel amazing to the touch, are super waterproof, and have a really small profile (so you don’t bonk into people when turn around in a crowded space) thanks to their slim but roomy shape.

do.

“That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.” ~Rose, The Last Jedi

Plant something today that will become beautiful tomorrow. Take time today to appreciate what you planted yesterday. Hold joy in your hand and marvel at its giant wonder.

~~

P.S. If you like these posts, you can now subscribe and get them in your inbox (just fill in the Subscribe to Me section on the right-hand side of this blog). I’m not on Facebook or Twitter these days, but you can find me (and Ampersand the Wonder Dog) on Instagram.

15. Callooh! Callay! I am the wilderness

posted on: January 22, 2018
in: Blog, Callooh! Callay!

As I was writing this week’s Callooh! Callay! someone in my writer’s group said, “It’s a very Monday Monday,” and I thought, “Yes, yes it is.” So on this very Monday Monday, here are some of my favorite things from the past few weeks.

read.

After hearing that I’d left social media (and why), a friend recently recommended Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown. I’m really enjoying the take that Brown has on the polarization of our culture, the hatred and depersonalization we’re seeing on social media and beyond, and much more. It’s a great reminder that we’re not alone in what we’re going through, even when we feel like we are.

play.

I have to admit that I haven’t played What Remains of Edith FinchI’ve only watched someone else play it — and that’s a rare thing for me (Generally, I’d much rather play a thing than watch a thing being played). But this game is such a beautiful story of family and discovery, and it’s so inventive and original that watching someone else explore the world was just as delightful as playing the game. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it, but if you’re looking for an injection of imagination, this is it.

laugh.

If you haven’t jumped in on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, go now. Please. You will laugh and cringe and cry and cheer. It’s glorious and messy and inspiring and the acting is top-notch. And it’s funny. Did I mention funny?

do.

“There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone, somewhere, will say, ‘Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.’ This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, ‘I am the wilderness.’” ~ Brené Brown

March for what you love. Cross the bridge holding hands. Trust that someone has your back. Remember that your smallest act can be the huge thing that changes someone’s life. Be grateful for your joy.

What Now? When You “Fail” Your Goals.

What Now? When You “Fail” Your Goals.

posted on: January 9, 2018
in: Creativity, Writing

Did you make a resolution for 2018? Set a goal? Plan a dream? Maybe all of those things? Me too. And I’ve already botched them. And you know what? That’s okay. Because I know I’ll reach them anyway. Here’s why:

I often start the new year (or a new season or a new birthday) with big intentions, most of which get washed away by that unplanned-for “thing.” You know, a sudden deadline or event that keeps me from writing what I’d wanted to write. Or someone’s birthday party full of glorious cake that made it nearly impossible to reach my goal of cutting down on sugar. Or bad news (or just a bad day) that causes you to slide back into old habits, no matter how much you don’t want to. At that point, it’s tempting to throw up our hands and decide we’re done. We’ve failed. We might as well just not even try (or maybe that’s just me — I often end up there. Of course, part of the reason for that is that I set my goals too high. Setting myself up for failure by laying out unreachable, impossible goals is a well-documented Shanna-ism.).

What I’ve learned to do is take stock after that initial bump. Okay, birthday party is over, deadline is met and passed, shitty day is kicked in the ass (or at the very least, lived through). Now where am I? Do those goals I set before still matter to me? Are they something I want to continue to pursue? The answer, not surprisingly, is yes.

With that process, each week becomes its own “new year.” Every week, I say, “Do these goals still matter to me?” If the answer is “yes” then I pursue them with purpose. Last week’s failures no longer matter. They stop holding me back, because only what’s next matters. By renewing my goals each week–regardless of whether I achieved them or not in the past–I give myself the power and the desire to continue pursuing them.

At the end of the year (or of the project, dream, hope, goal, etc.), does one failed week matter? No. Do two or three? No. Even four or five failed weeks? Nah. You won’t even notice them by the end. You’ll only notice what you accomplished.

But do 52 failed weeks matter? Yes.

So this week I renewed by goals: write more fiction, eat less sugar, live with greater intention, write a blog post that means something to me (and hopefully to those reading), and continue to pursue the goals that matter to me with kindness and an understanding that stumbling isn’t the same as falling.

Live your joy,
s.

P.S. If you like these posts, you can now subscribe and get them in your inbox (just fill in the Subscribe to Me section on the right-hand side of this blog). I’m not on Facebook or Twitter these days, but you can find me and Ampersand the Wonder Dog on Instagram.

Taking My Heart Back

posted on: January 2, 2018
in: Blog, Creativity, Life


At the end of 2017, I essentially decided to say goodbye to social media. It was a sad moment, for so many reasons. The largest of which is you — yes, if you’re reading this, you’re likely one of the people who made social media awesome for me. I love interacting with readers, with fans, with friends and loved ones, with other creatives and colleagues, with thinkers and doers and lovers and fighters. I love reading people’s stories, hearing about their games or their writing or their pets or their joys. So much resistance and resilience in every post and picture, so much honesty and creativity and helping and healing. The community that lives in my corner of the internet is glorious and beautiful, and I already miss all of you so much just writing this that it makes my heart hurt.

But, I have to be honest: the other side of social media was killing me. You know the side–the people–I’m talking about. The ones who say you’re never good enough, no matter how much good you do. The ones to whom you’re just someone to shit on, or walk on, or shove down the stairs. Strangers who have no qualms about verbally punching you in the face, or in the heart, just because they can. It wasn’t just me, either. I couldn’t stand that people I love were being mistreated, harassed, and abused because they wrote a story with a gay character — or wrote a story without one. Because they loved Star Wars or were anti-war. Because they fought for their rights to live and love, or for others’ rights to do the same. Because they refused to be touched without consent. Because they dared to be a voice online, vulnerable and searching and yearning for something more.

It used to be when I started writing, haters had to write me a letter to yell at me. It took effort. Work. They really had to hate what I’d written to find their way to me — paper, a pen, buy a stamp, find my address. Once, a woman showed up on my front porch to tell me that I was going to hell for writing a lesbian sex scene. She scared the fuck out of me, but I respected the kind of gumption it took for her to find me and actually show up, face-to-face.

On social media, though, it doesn’t take any effort to destroy someone. Emotionally. Professionally. In other ways. There’s no risk in attacking someone because there are no repercussions for doing so. This year, I watched people’s reputations get ruined by misinformation and ire, by people who had no stake or knowledge in the matter at hand. I experienced and watched so much abuse and harassment online in the last half of 2017 that I essentially stopped creating. Stopped interacting with people. Stopped trusting my instincts. My heart hurt all the time. For myself. For others. For the world. Of course, none of this was solely due to social media–the world, as we all know, is a whole heartbreak in itself. But if the world was making the wounds, then social media was ripping them open with claw and fist every time they started to heal.

I might have allowed it to go on forever, but there was a moment, a flaying of my heart from a random stranger, that nearly felled me. The only thing that kept my upright was my anger that this complete stranger had nearly taken something so dear from me.

I realized I was opening my door to assholes and inviting them in every day because I didn’t want to shut that door on my friends and loved ones. Because I was afraid that I would lose those connections to the people I cared about. That without social media in my life, I would feel alone in fighting the world, and I would falter and lose my way.

But I was already losing my way. I knew something needed to change if I was going to survive this new year intact. If I was going to start creating and loving and living again. So. I closed my door and locked it and warded it to high hell. If a random person wants to poke holes in my heart, I’m going to make them fucking work for it. Hard. Because my heart — your heart, all of our hearts — deserve to heal and be whole. They deserve to be respected and honored. They deserve to not be touched–and certainly not ripped from our chests–without our explicit consent.

So about that door I closed? I made you a key. Come and join me here on the blog (or in email or in person) any time. You can subscribe over at the right hand side and get notified via email whenever I post. We can talk writing and gaming and reading and art and pets and love. Let’s create a community of kindness. I’m taking my heart and my life back for 2018. I hope you are too.

Live your joy,
s.

Bullet Journaling for Writers

posted on: October 26, 2016
in: Blog, Bullet Journal, Writing

I’ve been planning to do a blog post on bullet journaling for almost a year now…and it just keeps slipping out of my grasp. Which means that my task labeled BJ post (yes, I laugh every time I see it too) has reached the point in my to-do list process where I either need to do it or dump it (more on this in a moment). So I am doing it, because I don’t want to dump it.

If you’re new to the term Bullet Journal, I suggest a quick internet search. There are tons and tons and tons of posts about what a bullet journal is, how to use and make one, and so on. Don’t look too long at the BuJo porn pictures, however, because if you’re like me, you will become intimidated and distraught at how beautiful some of these journals are and how un-beautiful yours is and you will never make one. But, as I keep telling myself, a bullet journal isn’t about making shit pretty, it’s about getting shit done. (Although if you can also make it pretty, I have nothing but envy and best wishes for you).

Okay, so go do your googling. Don’t get lost in the pictures. Come back soon, and I’ll give you the quick and dirty run-down of how I use a bullet journal for writing.

Here are my main tools. I like to keep it simple and easy, since I move around a lot and often write in coffee shops and away from my desk. This is the whole shebang: the Leuchtturm1917 A5 dotted journal; a small Checklist Notebook (Efficiency Supply); PaperMate InkJoy pen; Fucking Brilliant pencil (Calligraphuck); and a wraparound pen/pencil holder.

bulletjournal-outside

 

Here are the main sections that I have in my Bullet Journal:

1. Yearly writing calendar. The next two years, divided into months, with the projects that I’ll be working on each month and their deadlines. I write them in pencil, because they move around a lot. When something is complete, I write it in pen in that month, so I can always go back and see what I was working on when.

2. Weekly spread. I keep my weekly spread clean and simple, partly because I have no artistic skills, but also because I need lots of room to write tasks and notes.

I make a simple calendar on the left. Each day, I write the things I’d like to accomplish in pencil and then if I do them, I erase them and mark them off on the main checklist to the right. At the end of the day, I might write in some stuff I did, or things I want to remember. The pink boxes are my 6 things to do each day. They vary from week to week. This week, they’re mostly about taking care of myself and not working too much, because I’ve had a hell of an autumn so far.

On the right, is the general to-do list of things that I want to tackle this week. I add things to the bottom of the list all week long as they come up. There is no general order other than WORK and NOT-WORK and YES and MAYBE. YES are things that must be done this week. MAYBEs are things that I’d like to do. If I move a MAYBE task more than a few times, it gets moved to YES or it gets dropped entirely (see my earlier note about writing this blog post!). If a task comes up that’s for next week, I just add it to the next spread, getting a jump start on next week’s to-do list.

If a task is tied to a project (see Projects, below), I put the main page number of the project after it for easy reference.

bulletjournal-weekly

3. Projects. I typically work on a LOT of projects at once. This is the way that I like to work, but oh my god, keeping track of the details of each one used to be a disaster. I’d have a separate notebook for each project, but then I’d forget to bring that notebook and I’d write notes in the wrong notebook and then I could never find anything. Then, I tried keeping every project in the same notebook by sections. But it was impossible to tell when you started a project how much room it would need, and some projects flowed over into other sections, while other projects had too much empty space, and I still couldn’t find anything.

This, for me, is where the bullet journal shines. I have a sticky tab that says PROJECTS. Behind that tab lives every single project I’m currently working on, completely organized and discoverable, while also being incredibly flexible. Here’s how:

First, every major project gets a main spread. Left side gets the giant to-do list for that project — everything that I think I will need to do in order to complete it. On the right-hand side, I make notes about deadlines, word count, publisher, contracts, anything and everything that I might need to refer to about the project.

This spread then gets a tiny fold-over dot along the edge in a unique color. In the image below, for example, you can see a pink dot near the front. That’s the main planning page for the No Thank You, Evil! Kickstarter that we just launched. This is also the page that the to-do list items refer to as well (which I mentioned earlier).

I made a few pages of NTYE Kickstarter notes, and then I needed to work on a different project, Predation. So, on the next empty page, I started writing about Predation. I tagged that page with a green dot. And so on. Every non-sequential page for each project gets a folded dot in that project’s color. This means that no matter where the notes on a project fall in your notebook, you can find them all easily. You’ll notice that I have three main projects here, and they all overlap. (That first page you see with three dots is the index–the names of the projects are written next to the dots there, so I can easily see which one is which).

Sometimes, smaller projects and general notes get interspersed between the larger projects. A lot of times these are what I call my thinking notes — places where writing helps me figure something out, but where I don’t need to go back and re-read that information. Once I’m done making ‘thinking notes,’ their work is done, and it’s okay for them to get lost in between the bigger projects.

Sometimes, the notes are things that I will need to find again in the future. Maybe an idea for a short story, or some title ideas, or whatever. Each of these pages gets a short title and page number written in the index in the front of the notebook. (That’s on the same page as the “dot index” I mentioned). Then, I can just scroll that list and find whatever I’m looking for.

bj-circletabs
4. Lists. The very back of the journal has a section that is just lists. Things I love. Things I want. Things I accomplished. Gifts I’ve given. Books I want to read. They’re not comprehensive or complete, and I don’t need them to be. Instead, it gives me a place to write something down that isn’t a scrap of paper stuffed in a drawer somewhere.

I believe I’m on my fourth bullet journal for this year (and probably my last ~ this one might carry me as far as February or March of 2017). The first three are labeled (Leuchtturm1917 provides nice labels with each notebook) and tucked onto my shelf. Will I ever look at them again? I don’t know. But this year, they helped me lead a company, run two Kickstarters, write four books, and accomplish myriad other tasks, so I’d say they’ve earned their retirement.

And now, finally, I can go check that task ~ BJ blog ~ off my to-do list.

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

Excerpt from Wrecked (Working Title)

posted on: June 28, 2016
in: Numenera, Works in Progress

The draft of The Poison Eater is complete, and is currently in the hands of my editor and publisher, who will come back to me and tell me all the things that I need to do to make it great. In the meantime, I’m working on a Numenera adventure for Gen Con called The Skein of the Blackbone Bride (no spoilers) and a short story to accompany our underwater Numenera book, Into the Deep.

I started this story this afternoon. Here’s an excerpt from the draft, which I’m currently calling Wrecked (that feels a little too on-the-nose, so it will likely change). Beware: here there be typos, I’m sure. And ghost crabs.

*art by Cathy Wilkins

NU-ITD-46-Shipwrecks-HALF-PAGE-CathyWilkins-2016-01-18

This is where she died.

“Almost died,” Garil would say. Except that Garil did die here, and so he doesn’t say anything anymore, does he?

You left me here, she thinks as she shimmies down the seaweed-covered tether toward the wreck. The thought is followed by expletives, but not tears. You can’t cry this deep down in the ocean, she’s discovered. Well, you can. But you shouldn’t. There are some things they don’t tell you in training, because no one who is still left knows to say them. Don’t cry. Don’t trust. Don’t move.

Her weighted boots hit the side of the structure with a dull thud that reverberates up through her body. As soon as she lands, her right foot floats loose, sending her sideways through the water. She’s still got hold of the tether, by some lucky stupid instinct, and she tightens her grip on it, pulls her foot up to look. The back of her boot has automatically ejected the weight somehow; there’s just a blank space in the heel. The weight wasn’t magnetized—they’re not Therasti; they don’t have that kind of money—so she’s sure it’s rolled all the way to the bottom of the wreck by now, and is ruining some poor crustacean’s day right about now.

Hope you’ve got one hell of a shell, she thinks.

Normally, she hates tying herself to the wreck. It’s heavy and cumbersome and—and you almost died because of it last time. That too. But the boot thing is a problem—her hand is already aching from gripping the tether, trying to keep herself from spinning around it. So she brushes long strands of seaweed back until she finds one of the reality  spikes that someone else has driven into the side of the wreck and uses the cable from her belt to hook herself in.

Ethne’s six-eyed jybril circles and circles, clacking its sharkmouth, swishing its giant tail. The chittering sound of its rows and rows of teeth comes through the water, through her waterbreather, through the voicepieces she wears in both ears—one for the base, one for Ethne.

She clicks her jaw to the right. The movement turns on the voicepiece on that side. “Get your brehm-brained predator off of my back,” she says. “Before I kill it.”

“Good luck with that!” Crackle. Fade. Return. She bets Ethne’s voice is always full of static, even when they’re not a thousand feet under the surface. “She can swim—”

She clicks him off again. Why she bothers, she doesn’t know. Ethne’s a child. A child who thinks he’s able to control a ten-foot long insatiable predator just because it hasn’t eaten anyone on the team yet. It’s only been two weeks. Give it time.

Once, Ethne told her that he was surprised the jybril—he has a name for the creature, but she can’t remember it—hadn’t bumped her for a test bite yet, because it was attracted to the color red and her dive suit was red. She’d wanted to bump him for a test bite, but had merely turned her suit on dark mode, shining every light that it had right into the lenses of his fisheye goggles. She didn’t quite understand how light worked down here, but she didn’t deny the tiny pulse of happiness she felt when he’d pushed his hands over his eyes and ended the conversation. He wasn’t a bad kid. But he was definitely a kid.

They sent me down here with a child, Garil. And then the string of swear words that always seem to come after his name now. Spitting them out like bad seeds. She worries that she’s developed a syndrome. She hadn’t been topside in six weeks. She has forgotten the color of air. The smell of the sun. Can no longer remember what her own voice sounds like, beyond the burble and hiss of breath and breather.     

The jybril is too close, brushing by her with just a few feet to spare, and she waves it away. Which is a mistake. It’s not some little fish, easily scared off by an odd motion. Its teeth are nearly as big as her hand. It circles, long tail sliding by her. She compresses, doesn’t wait to see if it comes back around, and drops herself through the first hole she sees in the side of the hull.

~iadace~
Shanna

The Poison Eater: the Final Push Toward the First Draft

posted on: May 21, 2016
in: The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

This is my writing process. Do not try this at home kids. It sucks.

Sit down.
Forgot coffee.
Oh, a cookie.
Sit down.
No, not here. Other room.
Move everything.
Decide it’s cold.
Get sweatshirt.
Sit down.
Oh, I haven’t looked at FB in forever.
Story about trees that sleep.
Cool idea. Bookmark for future story.
Open Scrivener.
Look at stuff I’ve already written.
Decide ugh I am the worst.
Oh, cute dog.
Play with dog.
Sit down.
What’s FB?
No.
What’s cookie?
No.
But cold…
No.
Aw, cute dog…
No.
Find first word.
Begin.

Despite that, I am closing in on the shitty first draft of this novel. It is shitty and that’s what it’s supposed to be, because shitty is done, it is complete, it is killing the editor and the panic in my head to put the words down. Plus, beneath the shitty, I can see the shine. It’s like when your dog eats glitter. Ew, but also, oooh, shiny!

Here’s some of the “ew shiny.” Possible spoilers for The Poison Eaters ahead. Kind of. Keep reading at your own risk.

~~

The shadows that walked at night kept her up, creeping on the edge of her vision. Maeryl, with her fingers broken and bloody, sat on dunes beside her.

“I didn’t recognize you at first,” Maeryl said. “I couldn’t find you in the blackweave.”

Her voice was metal and Talia realized her mouth was too. Teeth and tongue and the black hole of her threat. Her face was covered in metal bandages that shone with red from the inside. The braids of her hair were black serpents tied off with their own pink tongues and the black of her eyes were spiders that fluttered their legs like lashes.

Her eyes bulged through the bandages, became vermillion buds that bloomed open to pink insides.

“You’re dead,” Talia said.  

“You’re saying the obvious,” Maeryl said. “Say something different.”

She was petting Khee with gloved hands. Gloves that were hands. Carved from someone else’s body and sewn to her arms at the elbows. They billowed, fabric or synth or skin. Inside them, things small and black shifted and scuttled.

The thing that wasn’t Maeryl flicked a hand and ran it down Khee’s back. Except it wasn’t Khee, not really. It was Khee gone inside out, the red of his flesh a raw and ruddy skin. Sutures, puckered and pink, ran along the lines of his shoulders. The creature shifted, and something inside went the other way, broken and bulging. His eyes were unseeing, white and thick, run with mucus. His snout lifted—the entirety of it nothing more than two rows of long, skeletal fingers that came together like teeth. Sharped at the ends. He sniffed the air and blood spattered from the holes in his bones.

like

Or maybe it was

look

the creature said in something that had once been Khee’s voice but now was bitter acid in the bowl of her stomach. Talia put her hand over her mouth, trying not to retch.

“Why are you here?” she asked with a mouth that no longer worked.

“You know,” the thing that was Maeryl and not Maeryl said.

“Here’s your ocean,” the thing said. “Beware the salt.”

~

Finwa, Poison Eaters. May the moon meld you and may you shine.

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