4 colors

Personal Update, and revealing a new story!

I’ve been talking a lot but not really sharing personal updates. The truth is that life has been fairly consistent. I work, I go to the dog park for an hour, then I write and hang out with Chris.

Oh, what’s that about a dog park? It necessitates a dog, you say?


This is Bella. Apparently it’s the most popular dog name, ever. Half the dogs at the park are called Bella. I rescued her off craigslist and at first it was a sad story. She’d spent her childhood outside with only a boat for shelter from the Alabama heat and even the tornado earlier this year. She was so matted all that pretty hair had to come off, leaving her quite funny looking indeed:

It’s better now. She’s very pretty, actually. And after several [quite expensive] visits to the vet, we determined she was also suffering from both hookworm and whipworm, which basically means she’s been in pain for probably her whole life, and that it hurt her to eat, which is why she was also fairly skeletal.

But now, two months later, she’s gained weight and is feeling so much better and instead of cowering by me at the park she’s actually romping with other dogs. It’s so wonderful to watch that every day. :-)

In the writing life, I’ve been working on the Nameless rewrite again. I put the plot into an excel spreadsheet charting individual plot points, the female MC’s emotional reaction, the male MC’s emotional reaction, and how this develops the overall plot arc. It’s 8 pages and only 2/3rds of the book is charted:

I may be taking my chart-love too far. Maybe.

Right now I’m going through the beginning chapters and reworking them slightly, not only for voice but adding in a new plot thread. I want to finish editing the beginning part soon, though, so I can spend NaNoWriMo writing the new middle section.

Speaking of which, I am SO EXCITED for NaNoWriMo!!! Last year was incredibly productive, and I loved the sense of purpose I got from doing all night write-ins at IHOP. I have to admit, though, that I’m also in the throes of a new book.

I know, I know. I’ve already written two books this year and I’m rewriting Nameless again. Some might think that’s manic. Or that a burnout is impending. Honestly I just think I’m hitting my stride. And I am SOOOO EXCITED to share my latest book with you!

The working title is SONG TO THE SIREN and it’s based on one of my favorite songs of the same name:

Song to the Siren – This Mortal Coil

I’ve loved this song since I heard it in association with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the newer one). It was haunting and spooky and disturbed me so much that I had to absorb it as part of myself in order to neutralize it. These days I don’t associate it with horror (thank God, because that was truly creepy). Instead I have these beautiful, sepia-like images in my head when I hear it… the doomed, limping ship, the aching sailor impassioned with delirium, the fickle Siren, the decisions of life and death, the foam on the crashing waves… And one day it hit me: the Siren was having second thoughts.

And like the start of all my stories, I started wondering What If? What if the Siren no longer wanted to kill the sailor? What if she’d fallen in love with him? But by then of course it was too late. They were alone in the middle of the ocean, so alone they might as well have been the last two people on earth. The deadly consummation was no longer a choice, or a possibility, but an eventuality. He couldn’t stay away from her… but she couldn’t stay away from him either.

The idea started brewing. And when some friends suggested an anthology of short stories with a Greek mythology theme, the idea intensified. You see, I’ve always loved The Odyssey, ever since I read the Wishbone version in elementary school (wasn’t Wishbone one of the greatest shows ever?). And while Calypso was my favorite part in the story, the Sirens were dear to me, too. So these two ideas I had collided, and I started researching the mythos of the Greek Sirens.

And discovered it’s really confusing. There are many different versions of the story. Even what they looked like is under debate. But like I did with the zombies, I started piecing together all the bits that would be most useful to me in propelling the story I envisioned. And two weeks ago the dam broke and the word counts started pouring in.

Here’s the pitch. It’s kind of long because of the condensed backstory:

The Sirens used to be immortal – beautiful, winged women guarding the daughter of a goddess. But when they violated their purpose the goddess cursed them to mortality and ugliness. Now they have skin like toads, no hair, and webbed feet and hands (Think the Borg Queen, with darker skin). Radne is a third-generation descendant of the original Sirens, many of whom are still alive, and bitter about their lost beauty. Her people walk the dreams of sailors who get too close to their island, and use the Siren Song to lure the ships into their deadly harbor, where they mate with the men and then kill them as a tithe to the sea god. But between the time the sailors set foot on the island and the mating is complete, the Sirens are beautiful women again, albeit without their wings.

Radne can’t wait for her own mating time, even though there hasn’t been another ship since her mother conceived her – and violated the orders of the gods by not killing Radne’s father. Radne dislikes humanity and is proud of her body and culture, but when she walks the dreams of a new ship for the first time, she realizes the truth: She and her people are ugly humanoid monsters, and black widow killers. Realizing the horror of her peoples’ past, Radne will do anything to be human, even for only a few minutes. When the winds die and the new ship languishes on the water, Radne spends every night walking the dreams of the men on the ship, and of one boy in particular. As she reviews his life through his dreams she falls in love, not only with being human, but with him. Radne doesn’t want to kill the boy she loves, but won’t follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a traitor. As she struggles to find a way out of this paradox, she realizes there’s a third option:

Radne thinks she’s found a way to get her humanity back, forever. But will she kill to keep it?

I’m super excited to work with the concepts of beauty, pride in one’s people, and complicated mother-daughter relationships. None of my stories have present parent-child relationships, something that’s bothered me for a while. You’re familiar with the ‘dead parent’ stereotype in YA fiction, right? So I’m loving working with a character that both idolizes and is angry at her mother.

The only thing that’s puzzling me about the story is the tone… I intended for it to be detailed and complicated, like The Mists of Avalon. Instead I’m finding it coming out very light-hearted and contemporary. Which is, admittedly, odd for a mythological fantasy. It would totally be my luck to have finally figured out the YA voice and then be unable to get away from it, lol.

Anyway, so that’s the scoop. I’m posting on Friday at LTWF about NaNoWriMo and giving an inspiring speech, so watch out for that. Also keep an eye out for an excerpt from SONG TO THE SIREN; surely I’ll be posting one shortly. :-)

4 colors

Thoughts About Aliens (With Drawings!)

I think about aliens a lot. Not little green men, but the realistic existence of life on other planets – and not necessarily the intelligent kind. It’s gotten to the point where I’ll say to my boyfriend Chris, “You know what I was thinking?” and he’ll say, “Was it something about aliens?”

I’m pretty sure Chris knows everything, by the way. I’ve never gone to him with a science question that he didn’t have some type of insight on. The following thoughts about aliens have his input weaved through them:

What if aliens don’t look like anything we’ve ever seen before? How do we describe that? What if they have a texture that’s not furry or hairy or slimy or sandy but… other? Strange colors we’ve never seen?

This is actually what I think about when I think about aliens that are ‘different from anything we’ve ever seen’.

To take it further, what if their organs aren’t anything like ours? Aliens that don’t speak or see things visually, but communicate in a whole other way, unlike anything on earth? Is it possible that earth creatures have really tapped out the market on sensory input? What if the way our ecology developed, no creature here, from microbe to mammal, ever had to develop this extra organ? Maybe our physiology is inherently incompatible with it.

What if they see things like this?

Most land-walking creatures on earth have legs. Let’s take mammals for example; typically there are four legs, right? What could a ‘normal’ number of legs be like on another planet? What about three? What if instead of pairs everything is done in triples over there?

Methane-Based environments. Scientists recently proved that, as we breathe oxygen, a species could develop that breathes only methane. Can you imagine a planet of animals breathing methane and farting out oxygen? Our species would constantly be teasing each other about smelling bad, lol.

Alien Socialization. When you think about it, animals here have a lot of inherent social protocols. Consider eye contact in the wild, for example. Or snarling, or biting.

In alien societies, they might not have this social sensitivity that we have. The concept of shame or embarrassment or ‘feeling bad’ about something might be completely absent. We cringe in embarrassment sometimes; what if they do something else for different situations? Can you imagine explaining laughter to a species that has no concept of it?

What about genders? Here we typically have two; male and female, down to our insects, right? Males fertilize the eggs of the females, and the females give birth. But what if alien species are more like seahorses, with the males birthing the babies? Or what if their phalluses don’t deposit seeds, but instead suck them up? What if there are no phalluses at all?

What if a couple merge and become a single consciousness, then divide into four separate consciousnesses, like cells? What if it takes three aliens of three different genders to come together and reproduce? What if there are entirely new concepts of characteristics attributed to genders? For example, we have masculinity and femininity, but what if alien genders don’t fit neatly into the categories we’re used to?

Intelligence is not mandatory. It was really shocking to me to realize that just because a planet develops life, does not mean it will eventually develop intelligent life. As far as we know humans are the only species on earth to get to our level of self-awareness. What if we find planet after planet of moderately intelligent creatures, say on the level of cows, but no species that matches us intelligence-wise? I’ve always believed there are other species out there, but for the first time it occurred to me that we might truly be alone in terms of intelligence.

 These are purple space cows. They are moderately intelligent.

On the other hand, what if we find a planet with two intelligent species, one slightly more than the other? Does the secondary species become the ‘companions’ of the more intelligent species, kind of like humans and dogs? I’d really like to write a story about that, from the perspective of the secondary species. Would they be aware that they are less capable mentally? Would they be abused, or treasured?

These aliens are friends. After millennia of the highly intelligent orange ones abusing the crap out of the less intelligent pink ones.

Underwater societies are doomed. It occurred to me the other day, and I verified with Chris… even if a super intelligent species develops on a water planet, there’s no way that they could ever have the technology to contact us. They could never even make devices to allow themselves to get on land or survive out of water; there’s no way to produce enough heat to make the machinery necessary. So maybe there’s a super intelligent race out there of fish-people, and unless we find them they’ll never be able to find us.

This alien wishes he could breathe out of the water.


Recently I’ve been working on a new story idea to tinker with when I’m not working on Nameless, and it involves a species that used to be human(ish) but was turned into something else. Still humanoid, but completely different looking. My main character struggles with her identity, trying to decide if she wants to be human, or this other species she has lived as for her whole life. It’s brought the topic of humanity to the forefront of my mind, which ties in to all of these alien thoughts.

You know how in Star Trek the crews would encounter all these different types of species, but for the most part they were mainly humans with some extra stage makeup? Objectively we understand that it’s just easier to make humanoid aliens instead of having to invent completely new types of creatures each time, but something that always puzzled me is how often alien species wanted to ‘understand’ humans, or feel what it was like to be human.

Was this vanity on the part of the show’s creators? Because I’m not entirely convinced that humans are soooo great that all other alien species would want to be like us. Now that I’m older I can recognize that Star Trek dealt with some pretty cool themes, some of which explored what it means to be moral, ‘human’ beings in a time when technology and world views are rapidly changing. But working on this book has brought back that wonderment of what being ‘human’ actually means.

We have a pretty amazing planet here. The diversity and beauty is staggering. And our biological makeup allows us to do so many miraculous things. Consider the Little Mermaid, on whose story my new project is partially (very partially!) based off of. Ariel is confined to one environment, and one society. She longs for the freedom to traverse and interact with the rest of the world. As humans those options are biologically open to us. We have the capability of building machines that take us to the bottom of ocean and to outer space itself. We’ve developed opposable thumbs that made the creation of all this technology possible.

We’re a pretty lucky species if you think about it.

Do you ever think about aliens? If so, share your thoughts!