So I’ve been trying to properly draw Ellius so I can get a fix on his face and I can’t seem to. I keep drawing this generic roman-statue-esque face I often draw for certain types of characters. But after thinking and thinking about it, he actually, I think, looks something like Price Lir from “The Last Unicorn” cartoon, only maybe with different hair (maybe?) and of course, you know, realistic and stuff. But that sort of tall, lanky, gawky, a little dorky and yet somehow also a little heroic and handsome looking, only a little, with a kind-ish face. I had pictured his hair swept back, badly cut off with a knife.

I suppose it doesn’t really matter so much, since he’ll be comprised of words, being a novel character, but still.

I also realized that the Taiver in my head looks quite a bit like Daniel Dae Kim with facial hair. *laughs*


Fabulous fairy tales

A lady knight drawn for my friend J's birthday

A fairy-tale-ish lady knight I drew for my friend J's birthday

Fairy tales are some of my favorite stories, and I feel like a fairy tale sensibility persists through much of my work.

This fall I have been immersed in fairy tales. In early September, I got the chance to host BroadUniverse’s BroadPod episode fairy tales for Grown Ups. Then I got lost in the Ghost World sequence books, Ghost Drum, Ghost Song and Ghost Dance. (I absolutely adore these three books; they are truly new fairy tales, set in a world that draws from the old traditions and weaves them into a rich new tale. And like the fairy tales of old, things are not simple or pat, nor do they have Disney-happy-endings necessarily, even though they’re techically children’s fantasy. Like my favorite fairy tales, The Ghost World sequence books have something for young or old readers, and don’t shy from difficult or complex themes.)

And then I picked up My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, which is a fascinating contrast to The Ghost World sequence books. I’m not sure I’d call all of the stories in this anthology fairy tales; but it is definitely a very interesting collection of fairy-tale-inspired short fiction.

After reading the anthology, and while writing a fairy tale-inspired story of my own, I started thinking about what makes a fairy tale a fairy tale. Is it magic? (Maybe? Or a sense of magic?) A certain atmosphere? A happy ending? (I’d say not necessarily?) A certain kind of language? A world where things function by certain curious rules? What makes something a fairy tale versus a fantasy story? Repetition? The power of belief or words?

What do you think?

(Tangentally: fairy tale or fairytale? I prefer the latter, and I can find both in the dictionary, but some sites seem to insist on two words…)

Blast from the Past: The Motley Star

zilbara - childhood story "advertisement"

A hilarious "ad" I created as a kid for a science fiction story I was writing.

So while digging through boxes of childhood junk this weekend, I discovered at least three versions of the story that’s become “The Motley Star.” This version, “Zilbara,” actually came with a several page partly completed manuscript, which as I’ve mentioned before, was highly highly hilarious. I also made this ad–or perhaps it’s supposed to be the back of the book.

I’d always remembered Zilbara and Aimee Ming being the primary partnership, but she actually gets killed pretty early on. I’m not sure if that’s a red herring–the death is reported by another character–but most of the story is Zilbara’s. Created to be a supersoldier by a rebel faction, the ETRA, Zilbara was a “failure,” misshapen, huge, clumsy and supposedly stupid, though he wasn’t really. He’s originally on a team sent to stop an ETRA conspiracy, but for some random reason he’s suddenly stripped of rank and fired from FLEET. (That scene was so badly written and so hilarious I couldn’t stop giggling while I read it.)

It’s later revealed that this was a trick to lure out the real traitors on the team, but those traitors end up killing Aimee, several high placed Admirals, and the team that was meant to stop them. The only escapee is a cat-like alien who never seems to have a name.

The ideas aren’t too bad–not for a teenager, I guess. But the execution is often pretty funny. And you can kind of tell I was heavily influenced by Anne McCaffrey’s “Planet Pirate” series at the time, especially in the names.

I actually played with the idea of the “aliens” in my current story, The Motley Star, as being modified humans, adapted for the worlds they lived on. In the end I discarded that idea, but there is room left that there is some kind of relationship between the “humanoid” races–called the “sister races”–that might be more than just parallel evolution. There are definitely aliens in this world that are so alien that they have no interaction with the starring races of The Motley Star, though they really aren’t much involved in this story.

Hopefully Szan is nowhere as emo as his predecessor–Zilbara spends a ton of his time moping about how outcast and awkward he is. There’s still a bit of conspiracy theory, a possible betrayal, and a messy past, but most of the inheritance here is more… it’s like The Motley Star is the creative/mental grandchild of Zilbara.

So here’s to you, grandpa, and may this new novel be slightly less hilarious to me in another twenty years.


Stumbled over this post today and it’s both inspiring and terrifying. So inspiring to hear that after all that hard work, at last this author saw success. And terrifying to think how easy it’d be to give up, walk away.

I’ve got three stalled novels and have only just now finished my first. I can’t imagine having to “trunk” one, then rewrite a second from scratch. It seems so huge… and yet, it’s amazing to think that in the end all that perseverance paid off.

I admit that’s one of my fears. I have a hard time not being perfect… even though I’m far far from it. I do have a tendency to give up when I feel I’m just not good enough.

I admire this woman and hope I can learn from her experience, if and when I have to endure similar things or worse things!

I love this quote:

“It’s ironic these days that a fairy-tale ending is thought to be a happy ending, when most fairy tales are very, very dark. The little mermaid commits suicide. Hansel and Gretel put an old lady in an oven.”

– Joe Wright as quoted in the New York Times