This is my personal blog and does not necessarily reflect the collective views of Hard Limits Press

Friday, September 24, 2010

Banned Books week

Ok imaginary audience I pretend is reading this thing, I am doing a review of one of my favorite banned books in honor of Banned Books Week. Want to do your own review? Sign up here!

I am going to do Bridge to Terabithia. Check this space on September 30th for my review.

ETA: Funds have stymied my efforts for the moment, but I am hoping to fill this in soon.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Revision, it is me!

Time for one of these:

Project: Sacrificial Magic, the rewrite (it's only a working title. I swear I will think of something that does not involve the word magic)

New words written/reworked: 1,400

Things accomplished in fiction: Morphine is like a bad relationship. On the one hand you can't get enough. On the other it makes you want to puke.

Favorite thing of the day: "I got shot. Oh, and stabbed. I should think that would be evident."

Real life: Look, let's face it. My real life is pathetic. I sat at a coffee shop with a manuscript the size of a cinder block, trying to get my headache to go away by drinking straight shots of espresso one after the other. Because that's just how I roll.

How are you WIPS? Tell me tell me tell me!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speak loudly

ETA: "But censoring books that deal with difficult, adolescent issues does not protect anybody. Quite the opposite. It leaves kids in the darkness and makes them vulnerable. Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance. Our children cannot afford to have the truth of the world withheld from them."

--Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak

I haven't read Speak, but I will say this.


Do NOT write the book some puritanical inner censor insists you write. Do not write for the lowest common denominator, the willfully ignorant that will conflate pornography and rape. Write a book that will actually touch a young reader going through a terrible thing. I think most of us can say that books helped save us, at some point. Dare to be the author of that book. Do not let people like this erase real victims and real people.


Silence is NEVER the answer.

Writing prompt!

A swift recap: over at WriteRightOn, we the members like to indulge in writing exercises. This is my on the fly answer to the prompt "Accent." These two are the main characters of Sacrificial Magic, currently in its first round of revisions.

“Pinecroft, huh? What kind of name is that?”

Ashrinn stifled a flash of anger; no sense in starting a fight. Not yet. It wasn’t as though conversational openers such as this weren’t familiar. Since joining the American military six months ago they were all but routine.

Ashrinn slung one leg over the mess hall bench and half turned to look at the voice’s owner, a tall, broad boy about his same age. He looked just about as wet behind the ears as Ashrinn felt, and the expression on his faintly vulpine features was one of honest befuddlement instead of hostility. Ashrinn’s hackles settled some.

“Are you certain you didn’t mean to lead with “what are you doing here, you goddamned Arab?”

“Just honest curiosity,” the boy nodded, the red-gold fuzz on his head making him look as miserable and awkward as a freshly shorn sheep, “I reckon you’re not the only one with an odd name.”

He tapped his jacket and Ashrinn raised an eyebrow.

“I have to admit, I don’t run in to too many Tielharts,” Ashrinn gave the boy another look, though now that the immediate threat had passed he took his time, lingering over the muscular arms and striking silver-blue eyes, “have a seat.”

“Thank you kindly. Name’s Malkai, by the way.”


“So,” Malkai said as he juggled tray and drink, managing to take a seat without spilling much, “about your name. I figure it’s likely British, but what I can’t place is that accent of yours. It’s so thick I could stand a spoon in it!”

Ashrinn chuckled. He’d gained a reputation in his short time in the Army for being a wild child, or, as his more vulgar acquaintances tended to put it, young, dumb, and full of come. Real friends, though, those he lacked. He had to admit, Malkai Tielhart was not only attractive, but likable.

“I was born in Tehran, and spent eight years of my life there. Farsi is my first language.”

“I thought you said--?”

“That I’m an Arab? No, that’s just what ignorant people assume when they see someone who isn’t white, black, or Mexican-brown. I'm mixed, and that just complicates matters. Gets me in trouble from time. If you haven’t noticed it isn’t a particularly popular part of the world just now.”

“What else?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve got more going on in your voice than that. You sound like a movie star.”

“That’s because I spent several years in Britain before coming here. Having a diplomat for a father ensures one never stays in place for too long. And thank you. So do you. Except in your case it’s John Wayne.”

Malkai puffed up and Ashrinn realized he’d taken the compliment very seriously indeed.

“If you don’t mind the cliché, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship,” Malkai said, grinning, “so long as I get to call you a sand nigger every so often.”

Ashrinn took a long drink of his soda, as though seriously considering Malkai’s terms.

“Do I get to call you a cornbread motherfucker?”

“You know it!”

They shook hands.

“Deal.” Ashrinn said.

Saturday, September 18, 2010



That was the politics siren. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.


Dear people who do not want a Muslim oriented center at Ground Zero:

Your feelings, I am sure, are very strong. They most likely seem very real to you, and because of that, you believe they lend legitimacy to your argument against building a mosque or any Muslim themed center at that particular location.

They do not.

Simply because you feel something does not make it real. As someone who has long managed an interesting stable of unpredictable mental illnesses, let me tell you that feelings are more often than not based on erroneous information, incomplete ideas, and faulty wiring. To speak about how you felt watching the towers come down in the same breath as your objection to construction at ground zero does not make your argument valid. In my opinion, it detracts.

Since very few others will say it, I will. On a human level, 9/11 was a tragedy. We should all respect and mourn those who died there. We should hold the rescue workers, fireman, and brave civilians who reached out, often at great cost, to help their fellow man in our hearts forever.

But 9/11 was not the greatest tragedy to occur, ever, and I am sick of people talking about it like it was. We reacted so strongly as a country partly because we are sheltered and privileged. It is nigh racist the way we go on about how terrible it was and how traumatized we are. We are, on a government level, allright with causing similar tragedies but we are not equipped to deal with it when it happens to us. At the very least it is a distressingly USA centric attitude and one that I feel requires great revision.

Furthermore, to prevent the construction at ground zero sends a clear message. It sends a message of bigotry and reactionary emotion. To paint all Muslims with the extremist brush harkens back to the worst days of American propaganda. It speaks of fear, and hatred, and the creation of a false Other.

For me the construction of a mosque/community center at ground zero is a message of hope and peace. Yes, of course there are political forces at work that have different agendas. But on a basic human level, it says: we will not be bullied in to a black and white mindset by a ragged group of extremists. We will not succumb to terror and ignorance and shut out Americans, we will not give up our religious freedoms, and we will not widen the divide between faiths and peoples.

The Muslims who would worship at the mosque/community center are Americans. That is supposed to matter. We are supposed to stand together and stand under the banner of freedom. Don't just talk about freedom. Don't just circle jerk one another about how great and tolerant we are. Make it real.

Support the construction. Read the Quran instead of burning it. Think instead of giving in to dumb base emotion.

That is freedom.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Unless you receive a mysterious box, and within that box lies a rotted ferret carcass with a slip of paper shoved halfway down it's throat, think twice about whining on the internet that you received a half sheet of unsigned paper as a rejection.

I would further suggest that you not do this embarrassing sniveling on Agent Query profiles.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Sometimes I run across things that make me wish to be both a better writer and a better psychologist.

This is one of those things.

Writing prompts!

Over on the Livejournal community WriteRightOn, we the members indulge in writing exercises every week. My favorite are the in character questions, designed to get a writer in to their character's special voice.

This week's question:

1. Tell us about where you grew up -- was it a city, town, farm, village? Who did you live with? Did you like the place, or did you want to run away as soon as possible?

2. What about where you live now? Same house, or somewhere new? Did you stay local, or move away from the area? Are you still in contact with anyone from your childhood or youth?

The writing I did is rough stuff and has only an uneven polish, but I think it's a valuable exercise and boy, these sure are fun, so here's my answer for the MC of Sacrificial Magic:

People look at the news these days and see nothing but a ribbon of green floating above a black crush of people, the hands rising from the crowd all the more shockingly pale because the rest of the body tends to be shrouded.

That is what people think of my homeland now.

But when I was a boy in Tehran, none of that had yet come. Not until the day that we, I only eight years old, had to flee to keep my father from the firing squad.

Americans are unwilling to believe that there was a time, when I was as young as five, that I could pass by a group of women reading, their legs bared to the sun, on my way to purchase ice cream from my favorite street vendor. (He always ruffled my hair and told me I was growing up to be as beautiful as a saffron flower. Sometimes he would pretend he did not know how to count, and undercharge me for those disks of golden dough, the rose scented ice cream hidden inside like a secret) not wish to talk anymore of my boyhood city. I loved it, even though just outside its walls those less fortunate starved and shivered with no food or power. It was not perfect, but it was mine. The revolution changed that. I can never go back.

Now? Well, I suppose now that my wife and I are divorced I can speak plainly. I never would have chosen Seattle myself. Too bloody cold. Britain was bad enough and as much as I had no love for the deserts I helped fight wars in, at least they were warm! I have to confess, though, that maybe I've come to love this strange, grey-green jewel of a city.

My life has taught me that there is no city on this earth that will protect a person from tragedy, and there is no structure that stands for all time. From here, at least, I can push the living room curtain aside and see the neighbors, my love Malkai and his children among them, playing in the street. I've always thought of American idiom as lacking a certain color, but in this case perhaps they are on to something with "home is where the heart is."

Home is, after all, something you carry with you, that you unfurl like a fine carpet or carry like a banner, wherever you decide to rest.

So. Seattle is not the Tehran I still dream of, but this is where I choose to plant my banner for now.

I think it will do just fine.

Writerly success

I am paraphrasing many a writer and humorist when I say that writers, overall, are the least able to handle criticism and disappointment, yet have the profession guaranteed to give them both in excess.

Masochism? Probably. There's some truth to that wounded artist trope, the suffering poet. (My father, given to embellishment, excess, and things fantastical, is a living example of the tortured Irish creator. Cue the chorus of "no wonder you're like that!" here) I also find that a lot of us create because we had nasty childhoods. (though not all of us, of course) We told ourselves stories as a coping mechanism, perhaps because we had a natural ear for language. Trauma, tragedy, unseemly curiosity, and isolation, however, served--and perhaps continue to serve throughout a writer's life-as a peculiar kind of refining fire.

Dreams are part of this creation process. A story is just a dream, a series of disconnected sensory details until given form. Nathan Bransford reminds writers that sometimes, we can dream a little too well here.

What I think Nathan is talking about is the success ideal. The idea of a single type of success for everyone is a harmful idea, intended to create those who have, and those who have nothing. Regardless of how suited a particular type of success might be for a person, they are expected to strive for it regardless and define their worth only by a very narrow list of criteria. I bet most of you can name a lawyer who really wanted to run a farm, or someone running a farm who really wanted to be a lawyer. In this case, it's making a spot on the New York Times Best Seller list the only sign of success you as a writer will accept. It is your "have." If you do not achieve it, even if you have good reviews, high sales, and a solid fanbase, you therefore "have nothing."

This is the dark side of the American Dream.

On the other hand, as much as I know that to be true and as much as I love e-books, I am not immune to the notion that the big guys in New York are the only legitimate way to go.

So what are your thoughts on success? What about small publishing houses and e-book publishing versus the traditional way? Would you ever go with one of these options?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

the controversy meter!

Today the controversy is sex wherein one of the participants is underage.

My current WIP, The Bittersweet Vine, features this controversy as one of its major romantic subplots.

Recently I came across a small press that forbids underage sex. It's something the morality police particularly loathe, or so it would seem. I, however, think the idea that characters in novels should whip out two forms of government issued identification before having sex is odd and in some ways a trifle offensive.

It's such an American/Western idea! It's not something we like to think about, perhaps, but there are many cultures that operate on different norms than ours. Those cultures sometimes have definite ideas about age, sex, and adulthood that differ from the American perspective. Even in our own country, the legal age of consent is often younger than the assumed eighteen.

Not to give too much information, but I was certainly not eighteen when I first had sex. (as an aside the people I know who were over eighteen are invariably male. Go figure) No one I knew was over eighteen at the time, either, other than the exceptions covered by my bracketed statement.

What I am trying to say is that I find moral ambiguity and the reality of people's messy, inconvenient lives much more interesting than things that are considered proper. Real life is not an orderly thing, wherein we all fall in love with the people best suited to us.

How about you, though? Do you ever write about this topic? If so, how do you handle it?

Writing update

Work on The Bittersweet Vine, book two in the Sacrifice series, begins today.

I have a question for all of you, inspired by book two:

When you pick up the second book of a series, do you want it to begin right after the first book ends, or do you prefer a time jump? Why?

Generally I prefer that it begin straight away, so The Bittersweet Vine starts only several days after the last events in the first book.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Step one

The rough draft of my novel is done. It stands at 125,485 words.

Leaving it alone for a reasonable length of time is proving to be much more difficult than anticipated! The only cure is to start book two!

Speaking of series, and therefore having to keep things straight as the story gets increasingly complicated, check this out: Write It Now

If you are a panster, as the slang goes these days, a tool like this can be priceless.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

like a piece of chocolate.

this rant is short, enjoyable, and makes the person indulging feel ever so slightly guilty.

Look, if you hate e-books then I don't want to hear about it.

I hate to be negative (I don't hate to be negative) but I have no idea why print is so fetishized. Books are lovely things, and they can absorb a lot of nostalgia, but the words themselves should be the important part. You aren't all getting high of the glue they use to bind the pages, are you? IS THAT THE SECRET?

Furthermore, I am blind. I have some vision but a lot of times, I'm forced to pass on print books because I can't comfortably read them. If it weren't for my Kindle I wouldn't read nearly as much. That would be a Bad Thing.

So next time anyone out there wants to trash e-books, please think of the poor blind kids. And kittens. Because when you diss e-books, God kills one. (I am pretty sure that last part is totally true)

E-books are also green.

3k words today, and still going

My lord, I am so close to the end.

My favorite rough writing of the day:

"The corrupted water flowing through Chelan county had its origins here, the black heart of an unspeakable abyssal ocean."