Category Archives: Writing

The Idea That Lives in my Bathroom

I talked about this on Twitter the other night, but it deserves it’s own post. You see, I have this book idea living in my bathroom. There’s all kinds of visual cues running from that specific location to this idea, and I have no hope of breaking them unless I move and/or change my grooming habits significantly.

The thing is, it’s a good idea. Really, really good. Like, every time I’m reminded it exists (which is every time I walk into the bathroom) I want to work on it. Working on it presents a problem though, because it’s Urban Fantasy and it’s the third or fourth Urban Fantasy idea I’ve had and they keep worming their way into the list, ahead of my other ideas. I never really thought of myself as a person who writes Urban Fantasy. I like the genre, but I always thought I would grow up into an Epic Fantasy writer. I’ve barely lived in cities (3 and a half months in New York in 2008), but I grew up on a farm. I have limited knowledge of the workings of adults in cities, but I am eminently experienced in the plucky courage of farm children. I don’t much care for the things that make up the minutia of modern life, but I can discuss or translate Homer, Arthur, or Tolkien off the top of my head.

Epic fantasy is a part of how I think of myself, but I haven’t really written any. Not since my aborted first NaNoWriMo novel in 2005. I can excuse it to some extent, citing NaNoWriMo’s silly insistence that discovery writing is the only way to fly, saying that Steamstress was a purposeful diversion, and I had to write A Thousand Years of Nightmares because I’d already pitched it. Those are all excuses, and they don’t mean much when I tally up my mental list of what I should do next. Looking at the at that list (the sidebar is woefully behind) and then looking at the rest of my life, I can’t help thinking that I’m not just avoiding Epic Fantasy in my writing.

I’ll read just about any Urban Fantasy that sparks my interest, but I still haven’t made time for In the Name of the Wind. I’ve  binge read my way though at least ten UF series (ranging from two to eleven books in length) in the last year while the second Codex Alera book has been on my shelf for 15 months. I dropped everything to read the last Soul Screamers book when it arrived on my Kindle from the library while Lies of Locke Lamora has sat there for three weeks and expired, twice. I left wondering if I may not be the reader or writer I always thought I was.

And I’m not really sure what to do with that.



Filed under Books, Writing

Best Worst Writing Retreat Ever!

Last week I didn’t write any blog posts, on purpose! You see every once in a while my Mom and I pack all our writing supplies and head off to a cabin Casino in the woods and write for a few days. It’s cool because the rooms are dirt cheap mid-week in the dead of winter, there’s free soda all the time, there are shiny things to distract us when we’ve been sitting at our computers for too many hours, I have a pool to jump into when I’m fed up with everything, we don’t have to argue about eating because there’s a buffet or three, and generally all kinds of good things.

This time we headed up to Black Bear, which is a beautiful building with really decent food located in one of my favorite places on earth (Lake Superior, specifically about 25 minutes outside Duluth, MN). If the people there had been a little more welcoming I would have been in hog heaven, but they were all a bit… unfriendly and it was an issue.

I can’t write in places where I feel unwelcome. It’s why I stick to coffee shops and libraries and my apartment for writing times. I pay to be in those places, whether through rent or taxes or by buying overpriced tea, so I have every right to be there. On the other hand, I can’t write at my parents’ house or Maddy’s family farm because I am a guest there, no matter that I’m family. The Erins that  are guests in other people’s homes are not the Erins who do the writing. Maybe they will be someday, but the Erins who write are still pretty sensitive artistic types and fear rejection from friends and family. That feeling of unwelcome made me less-than-disposed to write on my writing retreat, so I did what any good writer would: I started reading.

I read my own novel-in-progress, Steamstress, which was sometimes awful, sometimes good and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. Then the next day I went for breakfast with the plan of reading Tim Buckley’s Great Games Bowl novella* after which I was exiled from the room by housekeeping so I wandered the resort, looking unsuccessfully for a place to work. In the end I wound up in the lobby, reading the Steampunk! anthlogy on my Kindle and pretending it was work (I’m writing steampunk, it kind of was) then I was sucked into it and then the third Soul Screamers* book came in at the library (oh Kindle library lending, how I do love thee, how I do love thy ability to deliver books to my Kindle anywhere) and then… I read the next three books in the series, plus the two novellas. Then my Kindle died, just as I was tweeting the completion of my sixth book of the day. I got a bit done the next day, but obviously not the glorious burst through the finish line bout of writing I’d been expecting on the outset.

So, was it a waste? Should I have stayed home?

No. Because as I was falling into bed last night I was thinking about the things that bugged me in the protagonists of the last two YA series I’ve inhaled (Soul Screamers and Jessica), namely that they proved competent time and again, but would revert to hiding behind their boyfriends until it became necessary to be competent again. That’s overstating it a bit for Soul Screamers, Jessica hangs a lantern on the problem and both resolve it in a way that I find acceptable, but I realized I’d done the same thing in my book, unintentionally. That’s not the story I want to tell and that sure as hell is not my grumpy protagonist (I love my grumpy protagonist).

In the midst of this epiphany/breakdown last night I realized (and affirmed said realization as not crazy with two sources) that I would have to excise large tracts of delightful gooey romance from the book. It not only allowed Grumpy Protagonist to learn things without earning that knowledge, because the Honorable Love Interest would tell her, but also was way too easy on the Honorable Love Interest. Things happened more or less according to his plan and as we all know, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, especially when the enemy is Grumpy Protagonist (also, I, as a writer, am morally obligated to make things as hard as possible for my favorite character, especially when he’s the Honorable Love Interest, those are my achilles heel) . So, that’s a lot of editing to do and some major changes to make, including new characters to add (Grumpy Protagonist gets a BFF whether she wants it or not! BFF is awesome and comes with Polar Bears!) all of which will make the novel much stronger because I no longer have an improbable romance dragging down my character progress.

It’s a major improvement to the novel, and I would never have spotted it if I hadn’t spent my writing retreat reading.

*This is the third comic I’ve seen branch into prose fiction in the last few years and I must say that it holds its own against the Fables and Girl Genius novels.

**Loved the series, entertaining as hell, fun, really great take on the paranormal YA thing. I was describing it to a 15-year-old boy and he wanted to try them out. I think the covers might scare him, but I may find a copy of the first book, “give” it to his sister and tell him to check it out.

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Filed under Books, Writing

WIR (huh) What is it good for?

(A surprising number of things, actually)

There’s this Women Write About Comics Carnival and as I am a woman who has been known to write about comics from time to (all the) time I really want to contribute. The thing is, they’ve got a theme and it’s Women in Refridgerators, 13 years later.

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of Women In Refridgerators, it’s the brain child of that champion of women in comics, Gail Simone. As the story goes, one day Gail noticed a pattern, whenever things got too good to be true for our doughty (super) Hero something terrible would happen to heighten the drama and spur him into action. Frequently “something would happen” meant the violent beating, rape, or death of a female member of his supporting cast. A mother, an aunt, or, as in the most famous example from Green Lantern (vol. 3) #54, a girlfriend. The list of characters is long and it’s scary and it’s one instance where my particular brand of “how I got into comics” works against me.

You see, I’m very much a Jenny-come-lately as far as comics goes. I bought my first X-Men comic in 2006 and I’ve read a lot since then, but since I’ve missed so much, I’ll probably use something like Wikipedia or UncannyXmen.Net to catch up on the backstory of anyone I don’t recognize. Which means I get spoiled for everything, which in turnt gives me a layer of distance from those traumatic events. I know they happen before the more visceral experience of reading the books. It’s a necessary thing, but it means that I can think of precious few examples of seeing this trope in action where it actually affected me.

So, I have no huge dramatic story about how I read The Adventures of Suchandsuch #Number and the death of female protagonist seared my young soul to the bone. I do, however have my usual level of righteous indignation over the way women in comics (both characters and creators) are treated.

Because Women In Refridgerators is only a part of the problem. So’s cheesecake and every single thing that fails the Bechdel test. You see, there’s this faulty assumption in not just comics, but the larger nerdy community that there just aren’t that many women to offend, so it doesn’t matter if you do. This is blatantly wrong, of course, but being blatantly wrong has never stopped a perception from damaging anything.

I came to my decision back when the furor over Starfire went down. It came from an exchange I had with my buddy Tim on Twitter. It went like this:

We had it right. It’s not enough for us to be indignant and to speak out. It’s not enough to confront the writers and editors over this online, in the letter pages, and at cons. The only way to change the comics industry is to become the comics industry.

I accidentally reread part of Mira Grant’s Feed last night and one part stood out at me in the context of this situation:

You could tell the ones who were genuinely young from the ones who’d had all the plastic surgery and regenerative treatments money could buy, because the young ones were the ones looking nauseated by all the human contact around them. They hadn’t grown up in this political culture. They just had to live with it until they became the old men at the top of the hill.

~Mira Grant, Feed p. 483

I genuinely hope that this is true of us in the comics industry. That nerdy women are coming into our own and as our generation rises to the top of the heap we’ll be able to shed the nauseating focus on violence towards and sexualization of women. I hope that this happens, but hoping isn’t going to get us anywhere.

So I shifted a few projects around on my “to write” queue. I’m not as ready as I’d like to be and everything’s in a very early stage, but I’m talking with collaborators. We’re working on it. Because I can’t just sit around and hope anymore. I’ve gotta work towards change.

That was the end of post, but if you’ve still got an earworm from my terrible pun in the title, here’s what I’ve been hearing for the last hour while I wrote this:


Filed under Books, Comics, Feminism, Ponderings, Writing

My Letter to Senator Franken

As today is the blackout to raise awareness of the SOPA/PIPA bills in the United States Congress and Senate I decided to contact my representatives with my thoughts. I used my Twitter to thank my congressional representative, Erik Paulsen* for not supporting SOPA, I called Senator Amy Klobichar to tell her how upset I was over her support of PIPA and I’ve posted my letter to Senator Al Franken about his support of PIPA below. I urge you all to research the bills, form your opinions, and, should you agree with me about the threat they pose, to contact your representatives.

Dear Senator Franken,

I cannot describe how upset I was when I found out you were supporting PIPA. I can understand your position, unlike most Senators, you have Intellectual Property to protect. I hope to publish a novel someday and I know that if it happens chances are my book will be pirated. Heck, people already steal posts from my days at Marvel Entertainment and post them on their blogs with little to no attribution (sometimes they’ll even translate them into Russian first).  I do not look forward to that day. However, as someone who got his start in comedy I cannot believe you want to hand control of the internet over to people who gladly pull down YouTube videos for “copyright infringement” that routinely turns out to be Fair Use (it happens to This Week in Tech, a widely-respected tech news show, with startling frequency).

These are people who would stand in the way of progress, who would rather see their current model continue rather than take that next step into the future. You would be handing the keys to the future of content to people who want the electric car kept in the garage so they can keep driving their Hummers without guilt.

I know that PIPA would not explicitly hamper innovation and freedom of speech, but it would give people with the desire to protect their property at any cost the tools to do so. It would inspire fear in anyone who wanted to post a video of themselves playing the ukulele and singing a song by the artist du jour, in anyone using examples to discuss the implications of the treatment of  women in the latest controversial comic book, in anyone who wanted to make a joke or parody about copyrighted material. They could get sued for everything, or maybe, if they’re lucky, their website will merely be blocked from the entire United States until they are able to clear their name.

I’m not opposed to protecting the intellectual property of the fine content creators of the United States and beyond, but I would rather eliminate piracy by allowing a well-informed public to purchase or borrow easily-available content than keep them away from that same content through fear. I would like to buy a book because I want to support the author and publisher, not  because I’m afraid of what would happen if I downloaded a copy.

Please, Senator Franken, reconsider your position on PIPA.

Yours Sincerely,

Erin Kelly

PS: I posted a copy of this email, along with illustrative links at my blog

*admission: Erik’s an acquaintance of mine and he knows my Dad, I was really glad to avoid raking him over the coals on this.


Filed under Web, Writing

On Not Being Ready

I was a bit unprepared for NaNoWriMo this year. I’m using an all new, all different approach, because I felt that last year I plotted but didn’t actually worldbuild. So this year I focused on the research and worldbuilding and let the plot find me as I learned more about the period and place (New York City in 1906).  I think I like how it turned out, I have okay characters (I’d like that to improve before I write my next book) and though I have nearly no outline I have a good idea of what will happen and why it will happen and it’s all grounded in the world, which is what bugged me the most last year.

As of this moment I have 2,172 words, which is not great, but between being a zombie for two days (long story. Short version, new drugs didn’t work out) and only writing last night I think it should work out.

If I was unready for NaNoWriMo, that’s nothing compared to how unprepared Apple was when they released iOS5. Abrupt change of topic, I know, but it actually relates.

So iOS5 is all nifty and shiny and stuff, and I do dig the new notification center, sorta.  Except for the part where it’s ruined too many nights of sleep since I upgraded a few weeks ago. You see, notification center is actually great if you’re the kind of person for whom out of sight really is out of mindm because it’ll keep your notifications where you can look at them and dismiss them when you’re done. It’s great, but there’s one major thing missing: a sleep mode.

I’ve got really bad insomnia, I have trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, the whole nine yards. So when a feature that is, by far, the least intuitive iOS feature I’ve ever used wakes me up at lest once a week with notifications I don’t remember activating, well, we’ve got a problem. I won’t ever remember to turn the notification center on if I turn it off at night, my reaction to the vibration setting is actually worse than it is to noise, and there’s no way to say “please don’t make any noise between 11pm and 7am.”

As much as I hate to do it, I have to turn off all non-essential noises and badges, including Twitter, which is nearly essential, because taking away my sleep is the fastest way to drive me crazy. I hate it, and as Veronica Belmont says “if you have to turn off all the good features (location, notifications) for it to work, they’re doing it wrong.”

So true. I’ll be over here, writing through a fog of sleep deprivation and waiting for a sleep mode.


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Filed under me me me, Web, Writing

First Time in the Files, 0

Those of you who follow my online presence elsewhere on this great big internet of ours may be aware that I’m a huge fan of Mark Doing Stuff (Reading, Watching, whatever) ever since his first read through of Harry Potter made me remember how much those books and that fandom meant to me.  I’ve been itching to do something in the same vein for a long while (because I freaking love serialized fiction and reading/watching it in it’s intended form. I’ll go off on this at some point, I promise) and it’s time to pull the trigger.

So I’m going to watch the X-Files, one episode at a time; then I’m going to blog about it.  Like everything else I’m planning to release on this blog in the near future, I’m going to write the review posts in half an hour.

So that’s the plan. I’m not Mark, I can in no way do what he does, and I’m sure he and I can, could and would disagree on a number of things, but we share a love serialized fiction. I believe works like Dickens’, Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and shows like Battlestar Galactica or X-Files should be experienced (for the first time at least) in a serialized fashion, including breaks between installments, and I love sharing my experiences with other people. So that’s the spirit I’m using as I approach this project.

If I’m very lucky I’ll be able to post one episode every Monday through Friday for the forseeable future. The plan is to stockpile episodes and reviews so this blog can continue to have some kind of content through November without me having to post much of anything that detracts from my NaNoWriMo wordcount. After November I may speed the reviews up, or I may keep them at one a day, we’ll see how I feel.

Now For Some Rules

  • Don’t Be A Dick. Seriously, Wil Wheaton has it right. Not being a dick includes, but is not limited to
      • Bullying
      • Name calling
      • Any kind of racist, sexist, or generally xenophobic (from the greek meaning fear of strangers) bullshit.
    • All this is at my discretion, if I need to make another post to clarify things I will, but hopefully we can all play nice with the pretty toys.
  • Spoilers
    •  I’m awful about spoilers, I love to read them, but I think I believe those anti-spoiler people who say they’re the worst thing ever.  So I’m going to try to go without spoilers of any kind.  Seriously. I know nothing (Jon Snow) and I intend it to stay that way. So don’t spoil me. I’m doing this by myself, I have no way of knowing* if there are spoilery comments, I don’t really intend to turn this into a separate blog, so I’ll be doing the moderating myself, something I have no experience in. If you spoil me, all I can is squint my eyes to blur the spoiler while I move the mouse over to the delete button.
    • So what is a spoiler?
    • You should take a look at Mark’s spoiler policy, because it’s honestly turning into a credo to how I live my life around people who have yet to experience things I love. Spoilers include, but are not limited to:
      • Any information about episodes I have yet to see.
      • Information that intimates I will learn something about a seemingly unimportant detail in episodes I have yet to see
      • Anything that confirms or denies my wild theorizing about what might happen in episodes I have yet to see
      • Anything that attempts to alter my assumptions about a character based on information I do not yet have. I hated Zuko for basically all of season 1 of Avatar, my enjoyment of Tyrion warred against my belief that all Lannisters are evil and my experience was better and truer for it. So if I’m bashing your favorite character for something they later reveal was for the greater good, please don’t tell me. I will likely publish an heartfelt apology when I reach that point, but let me mistakenly hate your favorite characters until I am proven wrong.
      • Answering my questions with facts. If I ask a question and I don’t specifically say you can answer it don’t give me the facts.
    • That being said, go ahead with the cryptic answers, thoughts and statements. This is the place to be (kinda) cruel.
    • Saying I’ll find something out eventually is cool, saying the season and episode where it’ll happen isn’t.
    • Saying I spotted or missed something important (without identifying what was important) is legit, telling me what was important is not.
    • Saying, “I can’t wait for tomorrow’s episode” is a spoiler, saying “Keep watching! ;)” is not.
    • I understand that this will be rough for some people, I can be incredibly dense and I will miss things. Batman would probably disapprove of my detective skills, but he’s not here and none of you are him (unless Adam West, Michael Keaton, Kevin Conroy, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, or Christian Bale is reading this, in which case, Hi!) Batman and only Batman is allowed to post spoilers, because I trust Batman not to post spoilers.

*unless kind souls let me know via other means, like email or twitter

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Filed under First Time in the Files, Rules, Television, Twitter, Web, Writing

A thought, a plan, a canal, more posts

One part of that title is a lie.

I watched this 20/20 special yesterday about YouTube and the people who rise to fame and fortune because of it, I then talked with my Dad about it at lunch and what I was saying about providing consistent, regular content for your audience being the key to growing said audience struck a chord with me.  The thing is, that statement is not at all true about this blog at all. I never post and that’s because I’m lazy, particular about how my content looks, I agonize over every word and in the end it’s easier to post to Tumblr or Twitter. In writing circles we would say I struggle to silence my inner editor. That. Ends. Today.

My plan is to limit myself to thirty minutes for writing blog posts for one year.

If I have an idea that would make a good post I’ll do some limited prep (if there are pictures to download or vitally important links to gather) and then have half an hour to write and five minutes to edit it before I hit post. Period.

Does this mean the quality of my posts will suffer? Probably, unless it cuts down on my tendency to ramble. I’ll have less time to research, to find links or pictures to support my ideas and I ask your patience with that. Find evidence to prove/disprove me and put it in the comments, I’ll be doing the same.

Does this mean I can post more frequently? Absolutely. That’s the point of the exercise. I need to tell my inner editor to shush up about Appa (Avatar: The Last Airbender reference, I am incapable of saying shut up anymore, it always turns into that phrase) and just write. If it means I post three rambling posts that contradict each other, than that’s okay because I’m (hopefully) taking you though my thought process.

I’ve got over half of my thirty minutes left, but I’ve said what I had to say. With the exception of one post going up tomorrow (it’s already written and scheduled) I won’t take more than 35 minutes to do a post on this blog for the next year.

Please bear with me and understand that I’m trying to grow as a writer, not fill your feed readers with useless junk.

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Filed under Ponderings, Rules, Web, Writing