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Archive for February, 2014

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

I made it to the retreat and got settled in. Met some fun people and a couple hours ago, i buckled down to work. I wrote the beginning of something. I’d like your opinion on it. Would you want to read more? I ask because it’s a little bit different from what I’ve written before and I’m feeling my way. It’s super rough, but thumbs up or down?


I got the fish-eye stare from the concierge when I walked past him into the lobby. I passed through the security net, feeling it ripple across my skin like seeking fingers. My lips tightened smugly. I could go out and come back again and totally change my aural signature. It might remember this version of me forever—and it probably would—but it wouldn’t do it a damned bit of good.

Effrayant was a mashup of the Bellagio and the Bates Motel, with a little dash of old school English castle for flair. The outside was brick and tile with a few thousand windows and a mansard roof that went up six or eight stories on top. The rooms up there were probably long-term residences. The central tower was a good forty stories high, with the four wings sprouting like spokes from its shoulders. The tops of the wings boasted pools, clubs, restaurants, and helipads.

I wasn’t there for the entertainment; I was on a job.

Inside was dark wood, modern furniture, soft lights, and museum quality art. Muted opera music wandered through the cavernous lobby.  The staff all wore Italian wool uniforms in gray, burgundy, and navy, while customers dressed in designer glitz and blue-collar chic.

I couldn’t blame the bellman for looking at me sideways. Wearing Levi’s, a longsleeved cotton shirt from the Goodwill, and a pair of knee-high leather boots that had seen better days, I definitely didn’t look glitzy or chic.

Add in the fact that my luggage was nothing more than a ratty backpack, I was a little surprised that the security guards inside didn’t stop me.  With force. Given how obscenely expensive it was to stay at the exclusive and highly discriminating Effrayant, I figured these guys should have been all over me. Sure, the ghosts make people want to turn and head the other way and let me be someone else’s problem. Security guards ought to be better trained. They shouldn’t let the heebie-jeebies get the better of them. I get that it’s not every day that you get the ghost push-off from someone made of flesh and blood, but Effrayant like to brag their security was the best of the best.

I walked in and all six of thick-necked best of the best got busy picking lint off their coats, making me the check-in clerk’s problem.

Poor thing. I could tell she wanted to be anywhere else. That’s Tabitha’s fault. She can put the fear of Jesus into just about anyone without hardly trying.

Tonight she was trying.

She didn’t want to come into Effrayant. She thought it was too dangerous. She was right, but that didn’t change the job.  I wanted to tell her to suck it up and settle down, but she was only a thirteen year old girl and dead or not, her hormones were raging. She wasn’t going to listen to me, of all people. Plus she still had a lot of PTSD issues from how she got killed. Or so I assumed. I had no idea how it had actually gone down. I only knew she was pissed as hell and she had nightmares that occasionally leaked into my dreams. If any of what happened in those nightmares had actually happened to her, she had a right to her attitude.  Hell, she had a right to have gone right over the edge into insanity-land. I didn’t think she had, but it’s not like she talked to me. Another issue she had going on was that she didn’t trust anybody and when she got scared, she killed first and asked questions later.

Tabitha’s a poltergeist—she’s a pretty effective killer when she wants to be—which is why I was glad the security guards hadn’t bothered me. I might not have been able to hold her back without force, and I didn’t like doing that. It reminded her and all the others that I could snuff them out without much effort.

That’s me—Mallory Jade, former Exterminator. In the bad old days, if you wanted something or someone killed, for a fee, I’d kill it—from ghost to banshee to terrorist to disgruntled employees. I don’t even know how many final deaths I’m responsible for; I don’t want to know. I quit that life; left it behind like dust in the rearview. I don’t kill anymore. I’m a fixer now. If you’ve got a problem, I’ll help you fix it, so long as I don’t take anybody’s life or half-life or dead-life. The money’s better and I get to sleep at night.

Unfortunately, these days I sleep with ghosts. They like to attach to magicians, but that’s usually guaranteed suicide. Most of us with enough power to attract ghosts also have enough power to send them off to the final death.  It’s a moths to the bug zapper situation. I’m the rare exception, since I’ve sworn off killing. I don’t even like binding them off so they can’t come near me. It’s not like they take up space or weigh anything, and they do have their uses.

Like helping me to fake my aural signature and making unfriendly types look the other way. Unfortunately, it looked like they were going to make the check-in clerk pee her pants.  I sighed and pushed down on Tabitha slightly. The girl-ghost recoiled and struck back at me. I held her tight against me. I didn’t need her flinging furniture and blowing up computers. It wasn’t any more painful than a bear hug, but I could tell she her fury was shifting to panic, and that would not end well.





Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
Headthunk, headthunk, headthunk

Oh whatta week it’s been. Dad’s been moved to another hospital. Oh wait. Maybe I should bring you up to date. When my folks were at their last day of a timeshare, dad fell and dislocated his hip. Only he didn’t just dislocate it. It was designed to not dislocate since dad is so very good at that, and the upshot is that he broke it. Ten hours away from home. Today they transferred him to another hospital with better facilities to replace his hip (again) and he’ll be having surgery (again) and hopefully will be okay. Hopefully the surgery happens this week.

I am heading out the Rainforest Writers Retreat. I so need it. I need to be away and quiet. Stress is eating me alive I think. So is my not getting enough writing done.

Anyhow, I’ll be back on Sunday, hopefully calm and with many words written.

The giardia and MRI results were normal. Boy is still vomiting. I did get him outside a couple of times today and it was a lovely day. He’s flipping out a little that I”m going to be gone. I’m hoping that he benefits from me being away. I hope he doesn’t stew in it.

Dogs, however, are going to flip out. Hopefully they won’t make statements all over the house about it. I’m about all ready to go. Won’t leave until around noon. With luck, the drive will be soothing.

Connectivity and cell service is going to be minimal, so I may not be around again until Sunday or Monday.

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014
Ideas whizzing along

I had a story idea today. First line of something. Possibly a story. I want to write a story. I don’t particularly have time for this, but I’m curious to see what it is. Trouble is, I have no flipping idea where the heck it is going. This is what came to me:

We do try to keep the ghosts out—we are a quality establishment after all—but they do find a way. We do have an exterminator on call, however, so if one happens to annoy you, do let the front desk know.

I know absolutely nothing else. I need to find out, apparently.

Today was lovely. We did relatively little work, but did get some things we needed to do accomplished. We also got the kids out of the house and the boy only vomited once. He also does not have giardia. I also managed to twist or wrench my knee. Don’t know how. It hurts though. I would like it to stop now in case the gods of knees are listening.

Did I mention we found some patio furniture this week on craigslist? A table and four chairs all made of steel with some rust. We’ll have to clean them up but they are very nice and not nearly as expensive as new. As the weather improves, we’ll be having a lot of outside meals tea and whatever else sounds good.

Thursday, February 20th, 2014
one of those days

You know those days where everything seems to be coming apart at the seams, but you grab a bit and it seems to hold and then something else starts to go so you grab that and then more and more and you only have the two hands and more little things start to go and you’ve pushed in with elbows and knees and under your chin . . . Yeah, one of those days. I cried in the meeting for my son’s school accommodations. No, no reason. I just lost it. Later in the evening, boy did that several times. Now I’m self-medicating with my emergency Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

We hope to get results from the MRI tomorrow and maybe the giardia test. Boy gets to start a new drug tomorrow. I hope it helps. He’ll be getting tutoring from schools, very soon. He’s struggling hard with this. I’ve got the name of a possible counselor who sounds like a good fit. Hopefully that will work.

I have some more first page critiques on Magical Words tomorrow. First one, and the Second one.

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
No good very bad day

Today was the boy’s MRI, which went reasonably well, thanks to some relaxation elixir they gave him. Results to come later. I’d have liked to have had some of that later in the day. Got a call just as the man was due home. He had a car accident. No one was hurt, which was good. But the car isn’t looking so hot. He hit a BMW. At least insurance is going to cover it. But right at the moment, this was not something we needed. I guess the universe is once again testing our sense of humor about life. Trying to keep my laugh on.

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
Gender, writing, SFWA

Tonight I was talking to my husband about gender. He says, why should the woman (on the TV) call herself transgender? She’s a woman now, why not just call herself a woman? That’s what she is, isn’t it? I pointed out that she has to talk about it and call herself transgender when she’d probably love to just be a woman, because society demands that she identify as what she was born as. That she has to worry about what bathroom she is allowed to use, and she has to worry about whether she is legally committing fraud if she says she’s a woman, and so on. His reply–*rolling his eyes* that’s just stupid. She’s a woman. All that other is just bullshit (I do love this man).

That brings me to all the crap that’s been floating around the internet this last week involving a certain petition put together by a guy who does not belong to SFWA complaining that now that the SFWA is trying to a) be more professional, b) not demonstrate regular bigotry against much of its own membership and women the world over, c) attempting to be more inclusive and respectful of people of color and women, that it’s being turned into a politically correct travesty of a professional organization. It was much better when the professional organization not only permitted but celebrated bigotry against women and POC. Rah Rah. It’s all couched in terms of political correctness is evil and freedom of speech is being destroyed and anybody who loves freedom of speech should sign the petition. Here’s the link if you want to go have a gander.

My response, in a nutshell, is horseshit. Here’s why. The reason why “political correctness” has been demonized and vilified is because it questions the privileging of certain people, language, religions, and so forth. Why shouldn’t women be called lady-writers and men be called writers? After all, it’s accurate, at least to a point. The reason why it’s offensive is because the language is andro-centric. It privileges male experience as normal and all other experience as other. That means by definition, anything that is not male is other (there’s a lot of logic and theory that sustains this argument and I won’t go into it here.) Male experience is also valued and other experience is not. Let me give you a for example. The typical name for an unmarried man is bachelor. No negative connotations are associated with that term. You could also go with stud, player, gigolo (to play up the sexually fertile idea), all of which are not pejorative. Think of the unmarried woman. Bachelorette–that is the friendliest one, and it still defines a woman in terms of the masculine idea. But look at the other terms: spinster, hag, maiden (which implies virginal, because a sexually active woman is a bad thing) virgin or to go the sexual route–slut, whore, bitch, as only a few examples. (Notice how these terms value women only in relation to their sexuality and relevance to the masculine eye). The language (and the hegemony behind it) perceives women as not-men, which means failed or flawed men. Specifically women are vessels to be filled by men, and if they fail in that regard, they have no purpose (spinster/hag/bitch/slut comes from this perspective). This valuation goes back to the story of Eve. She grows out of a spare part of a man, and not even an important one, and she’s responsible for getting kicked out of Eden because she is too emotional, too greedy, too passionate (I’ve heard it a lot of ways).

I firmly think that the language you use matters. It matters because we create the world through words. We know our world through the language we use. We all know that the old nursery rhyme “sticks and stone may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” Again, horseshit. Think about it. We forget physical injuries fairly quickly, but we can remember the names we were called forever. On top of that, I believe that treating people in a fair and respectful manner is important, but it is fundamental to a professional organization like the SFWA. Yes, I’m a member. The petition keeps talking about a vocal minority that is moving toward these terrible changes that would silence bigotry (but it’s just a joke! Why must you be so thin skinned? Don’t you have a sense of humor?  oops. Sorry, but those sorts of rhetorics are always the excuse for this kind of bigotry). This isn’t a minority. It’s a sea change within the organization. We want professional standards and we want members to meet them in our professional communications. I’d love people to be respectful in all their communications, but I know that won’t happen.

So let me share some things with you. Here’s Mary Robinette Kowal’s account of being harassed as an officer of SFWA. Here is her follow-up to that, given the current petition. A lot of is truly repulsive, repugnant, and disgusting. Here’s The Daily Dot talking about the current situation. Here’s a really good post by Juliette McKenna about why talking about it and why shouting back is fundamental. I’ve been reading a lot of posts about this and reading a lot of really horrifying nastiness on the parts of those who are fighting to keep their ‘rights’ to be shitty people. They squeal freedom of speech and wave flags saying they have a right to say what they want the way they want in any and every forum. Here’s the problem. They don’t. The SFWA isn’t a public organization. It can have civil standards. It can have rules against bigotry. It can say, we will not tolerate the denigration of some members by other members. Not only can it, it sure as hell should.

These same people complain when others take them to task for their speech, claiming freedom to say what they want. That part is true. They can say it. But other people can speak too. One person’s freedom of speech does not negate another’s, and just because you have a right to say it, doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to tell you that what you said was stupid, ridiculous, bigoted, and downright nasty.

So that leads me to this post by John Scalzi.  It begins with this quote:

“The problem is that the ‘vocal minority’ of insects who make up the new generation of writers don’t scramble for the shadows when outside lights shines on them—they bare their pincers and go for the jugular. Maybe it is a good thing that SFWA keeps them locked up. The newer members who Scalzi et al. brought in are an embarrassment to the genre.” — (name withheld) on SFF.net, during the recent unpleasantness.

This quote is meant to be insulting, comparing those who would protest hate speech as insects who refuse to crawl away and shut up when this verbal vomit is spewed forth onto the unsuspecting SF community. In response, John says this:

Mary and I are no longer officers of SFWA, but I think our commissions at the head of the Insect Army are still in effect: After all, not every “insect” is in SFWA (yet). And so I say to you: Join John and Mary’s Insect Army! You must write! You must be fearless! You must stand your ground in the face of deeply silly insults, clacking your pincers derisively at them! And, if you believe that every person — writer, “insect” and otherwise — should be treated with the same dignity and honor that you would accord yourself, so much the better. Together we can swarm to make science fiction and fantasy awesome!

Join our ranks!


I’ve wanted to speak out on this since it broke, but I’ve had quite the full plate. Boy’s MRI is tomorrow and this weekend he’s backslid. I’ve also had a professional piling on. I don’t have time. Except this is one of the most important things any of us can do–stand up for our ideals. Maybe the nasties believe it’s only a vocal minority because more of us don’t speak up. I have before, and who knows if anyone will look at this blog. Nevertheless, this is my torch lit against the city of dreadful night. Bigotry should be fought against whether we have time or not.

I am an insect. I am a writer. I am vocal.



Monday, February 17th, 2014
Norwescon Schedule

I’ve got my Norwescon Schedule! The only problem is with the autograph session because I’m going to want to go around and talk to everyone else.

Intricate Worlds
Thu 5:00pm-6:00pm Cascade 10
How do you build (and maintain) an intricate fantasy world that holds up to intensive fan interrogation?
Diana Pharaoh Francis (M), Brenda Carre, Andrea Howe, David Nasset, Sr., Dean Wells

Lies My Writing Teacher Told Me
Fri 5:00pm-6:00pm Cascade 2
Much of what we think we know about publishing is wrong–or rather, it’s not true anymore. This panel aims to dispel common myths and radically update everyone’s understanding of etiquette, norms, and plausible paths to success in this fast-changing industry.
Dean Wells (M), Susan DeFreitas, Spencer Ellsworth, Diana Pharaoh Francis

Creative Insults
Fri 6:00pm-7:00pm Cascade 10
Fantasy stories often use insults from today’s culture instead of dreaming up new and inventive ways to cast scorn upon others. Our panelists will discuss a variety of new insults for general use in fantasy societies. Audience participation is definitely invited. Anyone who doesn’t show up is a _______ full of ________! (You fill in the blanks…)
Sean Hagle (M), Diana Pharaoh Francis, M. Todd Gallowglas, Frances Pauli, David J. Peterson

The Heroine’s Journey
Sat 8:00pm-9:00pm Cascade 9
Is the Heroine’s Journey different from the Hero’s? How does gender affect plot and character development? Join us as we talk about how and why a strong female protagonist is not the same as a guy who looks good in a dress.
Nisi Shawl (M), Susan DeFreitas, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Karen Kincy, Stina Leicht, Cassandra Clarke

Autograph Session 2
Sat 3:00pm-4:00pm Grand 2
Our Attending Professionals are available to sign autographs. PLEASE NOTE: So that as many fans as possible can participate, we will be enforcing a three-items-at-a-time (or single-sketch) autograph limit.
S. A. Bolich, Clinton J. Boomer, Jason V Brock, Paul Byers, Rob Carlos, Anne Charnock, Myke Cole, Bruce R Cordell, Heather Dale, Lynn Flewelling, Diana Pharaoh Francis, M. Todd Gallowglas, Lex Lingo, Kay Kenyon, Jay Lake, Diana Copland, Stina Leicht, Morgue Anne, Amy Raby, Mark Rahner, Kat Richardson, Ken Scholes, Jack Skillingstead, GregRobin Smith, Jeff Sturgeon, Patrick Swenson, Dennis R. Upkins

How to Write Vivid Scenes
Sun 11:00am-Noon Cascade 7&8
What makes writing vivid? What does vivid writing do for the reader? How can you edit existing writing to make it more vivid? How to use all five senses.
Carol Berg (M), S. A. Bolich, Lynn Flewelling, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Nancy Kress

Reading: Diana Pharaoh Francis
Sun 12:30pm-1:00pm Cascade 1
Something new. Rated PG
Diana Pharaoh Francis

Saturday, February 15th, 2014
not talking no sir

I may have some happy news soon, but can’t share. I got the editorial notes on Trace of Magic yesterday and now I’m making a plan on how to revise. Hopefully it will go smoothly. My editor like it quite a bit. I already had feedback on what was wrong and she only echoed that, so I’ve already had a chance to do some thinking and get it figured out a bit. I’ll be jumping on that right away.

I did a first page critique over at Magical Words if you want to have a gander.

The boy continues to throw up, though for the last couple of days he’s been down to just twice, with a fair bit of nausea. It’s been pouring here. We’re 10 inches from the season’s normal, so this is good. We can really use the water. A friend bought me some of these socks today for no good reason at all. They are so lovely and cool!  I want more, but $20 bucks is expensive. So I’ll revel in the pair I have and maybe when I finish the next book, I’ll treat myself. We’ll see. They are very very pretty though.

I’m going to be taking a trip in July and I really wanted to go in a train, but it will take over 2 days to get there by train and only about 6 or so by air. I guess I shouldn’t do the train thing. But one day I want to do a train trip. Just for fun.

I am in the mood to plant things. But it’s not time yet. There are all kinds of things that will do well here, so I’m going to start thinking about getting more flowers and things in the yard. Like calla lilies. And a peace rose. I love peace roses. Lots of other stuff too. Going to have to get to work soon and the garden beds and getting the yard ready (cutting some bushes out and getting rid of a couple of trees that I hate for fruit trees that I will like) and so on. Maybe a strawberry bed too. Thing is that it’s warm enough to get out there. The crocuses are blooming too! I didn’t know we had any! purple, yellow, and white.

Monday, February 10th, 2014
The day that got lost

This morning I started out a little late as school was canceled again (but not tomorrow!) and did some laundry, fed the children, and then got a call from the GI doc for the boy. They could see him today (after cancellation Thursday for weather) so we dropped everything and headed there. After lunch, we met with the doc to recap all that’s been done and talk about what to do next. He stopped one medication, then gave another. The boy will try it out for the few days and it will either work or not and be obvious if it does or not. He will also have an MRI and a test for giardia. Depending on results, we may be looking at an upper GI scan. So we wait to see.

I’ve been thinking about a story all night. I’m not sure what it’s doing or how I’m going to plot it out. I’m not sure what it wants to be. It’s something I’ll have to work on in my ‘off’ time, which is to say, when I’m not working on contracted things. Or taxes. I’m working on taxes this week and my two presentations. I am not sure what is going on with the story. It feels like it’s evolving, though slowly. What’s funny is that as each little appendage or bit of the story develops, I don’t know if it will work or not, or be useable or not. It might just rot off and become nothing. It might grow into something beautiful. I’m not sure if it wants to be a story or a novel. We’ll see what becomes of it.

The main character is named Esha. She’s female. The name refers to the infinitesimal moment between twilight and night, when color fades to black and gray.

Sunday, February 9th, 2014
The Cipher

I finished my revision of The Cipher for reissue and sent it off to my editor. I feel like I made HUGE changes, and yet, most of the book is the same. The changes are minor, and yet I feel I’ve shifted things to make the book hugely better. I’m not entirely sure how to explain it, except if the characters make the book (and I believe they do) then this book is much better because I’ve deepened the characters and made them more three-dimensional and more interesting. I hope my editor agrees.

We had about a foot of snow in the last few days. A guess a lot of people got freezing rain too, but we lucked out. It warmed up today and it started melting. The streets are a mess. They’ve canceled school for tomorrow. It will keep warming up, though and I expect it will all be gone in a few days.

Tomorrow I want to dig into working on plotting some things and getting prep done on a coupe of talks I’ll be doing at a writers retreat in a couple of weeks. I need to work on taxes and finding bits of paper and receipts that I probably didn’t keep good track of while moving and long after. Can hardly wait to do that. Sigh. I really should be better throughout the year.

I’ve got a couple of stories trailing through my head that need development and thought. I need to work out elements of them to see what I want to do or what they might be. I’m not sure that they’ll be turned into stories. The key is that I need to dig into my characters and adore them. Get attached, then cause them pain and terror. Writers are such nice people, aren’t they?

I’m talking some more about The Cipher and characters over at Magical Words Monday. Come have a read.

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