Writing chat with Jay Lake

I had an incredibly useful writing chat with a month or so ago, in the midst of chatting about something else, and I found the talk so worthwhile that I saved it–and keep looking at it and looking at it. Finally, because I thought that maybe it would help someone else, too, I asked if I could post it. He said he didn’t mind, so here it is. I hope someone else gets as much out of it as I have.

deannaeditor (7:12:47 AM): I need to get the hang of writing no matter what like you do. I fret too badly about things!
jelakejr (7:13:01 AM): it’s the ‘get out of your own way’ thing
deannaeditor (7:13:04 AM): And I get to wondering what’s going on with it, and check on it, or worry…
jelakejr (7:13:11 AM): have you ever tried fast-writing flash fiction?
deannaeditor (7:13:16 AM): Yeah. I really have to overcome.
jelakejr (7:13:23 AM): just to open up those ‘no matter what’ muscles?

deannaeditor (7:13:26 AM): Yeah. I do well at that.
jelakejr (7:13:31 AM): it’s what I recommend as an exercise
deannaeditor (7:13:40 AM): Okay. I’ll try some more.
deannaeditor (7:13:52 AM): Just to try it for so many minutes a day, or what?
deannaeditor (7:13:58 AM): Or just to get yourself started?
jelakejr (7:14:43 AM): well, at one point in my career (not long after I started being publishable) I started writing it by the boatload
jelakejr (7:14:52 AM): for specific developmental reasons
deannaeditor (7:15:02 AM): *listens*
jelakejr (7:15:04 AM): “I’m going to work on smoother dialog tags and patterns”
jelakejr (7:15:10 AM): “I want a good female characterization”
jelakejr (7:15:14 AM): whatever
deannaeditor (7:15:18 AM): Ah..
jelakejr (7:15:19 AM): because a flash piece does one thing and one thing only
jelakejr (7:15:29 AM): it can be almost *anything* but there’s no room for more than one thing
jelakejr (7:15:36 AM): so there’s some idea or image underlying it
deannaeditor (7:15:38 AM): Right. Like my smut snippet I posted the other day.
jelakejr (7:15:46 AM): and there’s one structural or technical thing happening
jelakejr (7:15:49 AM): exactly
jelakejr (7:15:56 AM): the cool thing about flash, though, secondary effect
jelakejr (7:16:05 AM): is almost anyone can write it straight through at one sitting
jelakejr (7:16:15 AM): whether they’re 300 words per hour or 3,000 words per hour
jelakejr (7:16:20 AM): it’s a digestible chunk
jelakejr (7:16:37 AM): so if you can blap out flash without tripping into analysis paralysis and look-back hell
jelakejr (7:16:48 AM): then you can convince yourself to write a 1,500 word piece that way
jelakejr (7:16:51 AM): then a 3,500 word piece
deannaeditor (7:16:55 AM): Ah…
jelakejr (7:17:00 AM): sneak up on the longer bits as a ‘fast writer’
jelakejr (7:17:08 AM): just like training up for a sport or martial art
jelakejr (7:17:22 AM): doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for enough people that it’s worth trying
deannaeditor (7:17:30 AM): Yeah, the most luck I’ve had writing was in NaNo, because I was able to turn off my internal editor, which is what kills me.
deannaeditor (7:17:40 AM): I will! Thank you!
jelakejr (7:17:41 AM): obviously when you jump from flash to 1,500 (or whatever), you’re adding complexity, which tempts that editor
jelakejr (7:17:52 AM): yes and YOU have an amazingly highly-trained internal editor
jelakejr (7:17:55 AM): it’s what you *do*
deannaeditor (7:18:01 AM): I know.
jelakejr (7:18:02 AM): that’s a nigh crippling handicap as a writer
deannaeditor (7:18:10 AM): It is. I have to fight it.
jelakejr (7:18:22 AM): it’s like being a bicycle designer who worries about gyroscopic precession every time they get on a two wheeler
deannaeditor (7:18:30 AM): Heh.
jelakejr (7:18:31 AM): I’m amazed you don’t fall off every single time
jelakejr (7:18:51 AM): one of my cardinal rules is don’t revise while I’m writing
deannaeditor (7:19:04 AM): Yeah, I do that too.
deannaeditor (7:19:09 AM): But what happens with me…
jelakejr (7:19:20 AM): that’s not literal — I’ll back up and fix a broken sentence if it doesn’t lead on — but I never page back, except very rarely to plant a lookback note for later fixing
deannaeditor (7:19:23 AM): Is that I think I can’t write at all. I sit for hours and come up with no words at all.
jelakejr (7:19:23 AM): :: listens ::
jelakejr (7:19:32 AM): ah
deannaeditor (7:19:42 AM): But what I finally realized was happening is that it wasn’t that I wasn’t *thinking* of anything to write..
jelakejr (7:19:53 AM): mmm…?
deannaeditor (7:19:56 AM): It’s that I was *discarding* every single sentence I came up with.
deannaeditor (7:20:07 AM): It was a breakthrough, at least.
deannaeditor (7:20:18 AM): Now I make myself write the sentences down anyway.
jelakejr (7:20:52 AM): yep
jelakejr (7:20:54 AM): you can always cut them later
deannaeditor (7:21:12 AM): Yeah. And actually, once they’re down, I go back and look, and I like them okay!
jelakejr (7:21:19 AM): I think you have another problem, too maybe
jelakejr (7:21:26 AM): one I’ve only recently overcome
jelakejr (7:21:34 AM): I’ll describe mine, then put it in your terms
deannaeditor (7:21:39 AM): But now I’m trying to think of a new book, and that “idea discarding” is killing me.
jelakejr (7:21:41 AM): I broke in through short stories
jelakejr (7:21:47 AM): won Writers of the Future
jelakejr (7:21:51 AM): won the Campbell
jelakejr (7:22:06 AM): hit the Hugo ballot less than three years after my first publication
jelakejr (7:22:16 AM): had my first collection do very well critically
jelakejr (7:22:22 AM): I mean, I went *long*
deannaeditor (7:22:25 AM): *wows*
jelakejr (7:22:33 AM): so when I start noodling with novels for serious
jelakejr (7:22:44 AM): my novel skills (which is a very different art from short fiction, as you well know)
jelakejr (7:22:54 AM): were on a par with my first-publication short story skills at best
jelakejr (7:23:01 AM): while my short fiction skills
jelakejr (7:23:06 AM): while not up to Big Name Pro level
jelakejr (7:23:13 AM): were quite a bit stronger and visibly growing
jelakejr (7:23:32 AM): so my expectations of myself as a writer (from short fiction) were seriously mismatched to my capabilities as a writer (of novels)
jelakejr (7:23:41 AM): and I had to slog hard
deannaeditor (7:23:42 AM): Ah…
jelakejr (7:23:51 AM): I think I’ve finally broken through that
jelakejr (7:23:52 AM): but it’s new
jelakejr (7:24:17 AM): the last two novels (TRIAL OF FLOWERS and DEATH OF A STARSHIP) were the first two of, um, nine or so, that felt ‘right’
jelakejr (7:24:26 AM): so here’s where it enters your world, I think
jelakejr (7:24:34 AM): you’re a top-of-the-field CE
jelakejr (7:24:42 AM): which is a fiction skill, and a very important one
jelakejr (7:25:08 AM): you’ve got a lot of inner wiring that looks at your original fiction (prose, ideas, process) and says “this isn’t up to my standards”
jelakejr (7:25:29 AM): you need to take that wiring, rip it out, and burn it by the dark of the moon in a fire soaked with brandy
jelakejr (7:25:31 AM): or something
deannaeditor (7:25:38 AM): LOL!!
jelakejr (7:25:43 AM): because writer-Deanna is not the same person as editor-Deanna
deannaeditor (7:25:50 AM): Jay, that is so exactly right.
jelakejr (7:25:53 AM): that was very hard for me to learn (in my version of it)
deannaeditor (7:26:26 AM): Yeah, I’m very demanding of myself.
deannaeditor (7:26:49 AM): And because of that, too, it makes it difficult to know when to quit messing with stuff.
jelakejr (7:26:58 AM): yep
jelakejr (7:27:05 AM): you have to give yourself permission to start over
jelakejr (7:27:08 AM): be a newbie
jelakejr (7:27:13 AM): and quit worrying about that
deannaeditor (7:27:13 AM): I may have stopped noodling with my novel *too soon* just because I figured I’d *never* be happy with it.
jelakejr (7:27:30 AM): then, once the mss is finished, you can hire CE Deanna to go back into it with that highly professional eye
deannaeditor (7:27:41 AM): And that I might as well shove it out there sometime.
deannaeditor (7:27:46 AM): Heh.
deannaeditor (7:28:02 AM): CE Deanna has a hard time looking at her own stuff.
deannaeditor (7:28:19 AM): It’s like trying to be objective about your kids…
deannaeditor (7:28:51 AM): “Of *course* Tommy didn’t mean that! He’d *never* do such a thing!”
jelakejr (7:29:10 AM): heh indeed
jelakejr (7:29:20 AM): you’re going to have to learn your way around that one
jelakejr (7:29:25 AM): as for what you said about ideas
deannaeditor (7:29:27 AM): Yeah, I know.
jelakejr (7:29:35 AM): I’ve begun writing book proposals to MYSELF
jelakejr (7:29:49 AM): as short as a few paragraphs, or maybe ten-fifteen pages long
jelakejr (7:29:51 AM): depending
jelakejr (7:30:00 AM): because that way I can capture an idea
jelakejr (7:30:05 AM): and set it in cold storage
jelakejr (7:30:10 AM): maybe it dies there, maybe it comes back out
jelakejr (7:30:26 AM): but if you did that (proposals don’t require much self criticism, they’re just story notes)…
deannaeditor (7:30:29 AM): That’s a great idea.
deannaeditor (7:30:34 AM): True.
jelakejr (7:30:41 AM): then you could let them age a little, like cheese, and pull them out and see if they’re still shiny
jelakejr (7:30:58 AM): your Inner Writer will have gotten more used to that idea (because you already wrote down part of it before)
jelakejr (7:31:05 AM): and you might be able to step around the idea block
jelakejr (7:31:11 AM): just a suggestion
deannaeditor (7:31:21 AM): That might work!
deannaeditor (7:31:43 AM): Like when I make myself write down sentences I’d otherwise discard and then am happy with them.
deannaeditor (7:31:49 AM): Okay. I’ll do that. Seriously.
deannaeditor (7:32:03 AM): Jay, this has been the most helpful writing talk anyone’s ever had with me.
deannaeditor (7:32:18 AM): Thank you. Very, very much.
jelakejr (7:32:27 AM): well, you’re welcome
jelakejr (7:32:29 AM): I hope it helps

I know it’s a rejection, but…

I got a rejection yesterday that I’m really happy about! Sheila Williams said of my story “Mutual Feelings”: “This story was interesting, but it isn’t right for Asimov’s.”

It’s an erotic and disturbing science fiction story centered around the problems caused by a futuristic sex toy. I honestly didn’t think it would be right for Asimov’s, but, well… urged me to try. :-) I wouldn’t have been surprised to get back a form telling me to read their guidelines, so I’m honestly pleased.

Cecilia Tan had held onto “Mutual Feelings” for two and a half years (with my permission) and assured me when she eventually rejected it that it was a great story she was sure I’d sell. I looked over it again after that (since it had been a while :-)), made the dialogue more natural, and fixed something that was causing the ending not to work for some readers. Asimov’s is the first place I’d sent it to since, so again, I’m really pleased. I think I’ll be able to find the right fit for it eventually.

The Importance of Style Sheets

I realized when I attempted to start that Style Sheet Meme that a lot of people don’t know what a style sheet is. I’ll talk about them today.

A style sheet is a document the copyeditor prepares that lists the grammatical conventions, characters, places, unusual or made-up words, and the distinctive treatment of words (capitalization, hyphenation, favored spellings, etc.) within a particular text. My style sheets are very thorough, because every decision I make is a deliberate one, and I’m often leery that an overzealous proofreader will come along and try to change things.

Style sheets are useful in a number of ways. First, they help the copyeditor maintain consistency. I’ve heard other copyeditors say that they prepare the style sheet once they’re done with a book, and I cannot imagine how that works for them. I refer to the style sheet constantly as I copyedit, because despite having a freakishly good memory for what I’ve read, even I cannot keep track in my head of the hundreds (literally) of possibilities that alternate spellings, hyphenation, and capitalization produce in any book.

For fantasy and science fiction, style sheets are particularly important for a number of reasons: First, SF/F books often come in series, and a thorough style sheet is important for maintaining continuity from one book to the next. Second, these books generally contain a large number of made-up places and terms–the authors are often fantastic world-builders–as well as very unusual names. In any genre, it can be difficult to remember the exact spelling of the name of a minor character you haven’t seen in three hundred pages–Was it “Frederick” or “Frederic”?–but in SF/F you might have an alien proper noun with seven consonants and an apostrophe. :-) Unless you’ve already written it down and can refer back to your list, you’re going to have a hard time maintaining consistency. (And incidentally, the complexity of the world-building and its attendant vocabulary is one reason many copyeditors don’t like to take SF/F–it’s a lot of work that way.)

Style sheets are often provided to the compositor, too, and the compositor can then use them while setting the book to verify that something was indeed done intentionally.

And style sheets are always provided to the proofreader.

As an aside, proofreading (which is comparing the set proof against the manuscript) requires less knowledge than copyediting. Therefore it pays less, partly because proofreaders don’t have to make decisions about how to apply styles and so on: They’re just supposed to make sure the styles the copyeditor decided on were followed. That doesn’t stop some proofreaders, however, from deciding that the copyeditor should have followed strict CMS (Chicago Manual of Style, the basic publishing Bible) and altering things accordingly. (I personally think that authors should always be able to see the proofreader’s alterations, and many publishers don’t show them outright, though they may send along second proof with the changes already incorporated.)

As I’ve noted elsewhere, I dislike CMS for fiction; it is geared toward nonfiction. And despite the fact that some production editors like copyeditors to follow strict CMS, I’ve yet to talk to a single editor (and I’ve talked to many about this) who feels the same way. Tor editor Teresa Nielsen Hayden, for instance, agreed with me about that in this thread, calling strict CMS “potentially disastrous” for fiction. CMS’s rules on hyphenation, for instance, drive authors insane if you follow them exactly, and with good reason: The rules often make fiction less readable. (And yes, I know I’ve promised a post on hyphenation; I’m just really skeptical that I won’t bore people to death with it.)

So my style sheets contain a lot of items in which I’m instructing the proofreader to leave things alone: “Fragments are acceptable with this author’s style” and “Split infinitives are acceptable with this author’s style” and “Please follow style sheet for hyphenation.” (I detest the “never split an infinitive” rule, btw. Everyone knows that the only reason the rule came into being is because some bishop looked at Latin and decided that since Latin didn’t split infinitives, English shouldn’t either, right? And Latin can’t split infinitives, because they’re all one word. Argh. Drives me nuts. Following that rule can result in the most unnatural-sounding sentences. There’s a detailed discussion here if you’re interested. )

I also put into the style sheet things I need to keep track of: Does the author prefer to lowercase or capitalize a full sentence after a colon? What is the author’s preference for showing the possessive of proper singular nouns ending in “s” or “x”? How does the author treat titles? Some publishers have particular house styles they want copyeditors to follow for those rules, and if so I note those on the style sheet.

And of course I put in all the character names and nicknames and epithets and titles. I put in the names of the characters’ pets or horses, and what color and sex they are. I note all the place names, and whether they take a “the” in front. I note the names of wars and laws and the titles of books to which the characters refer. I note the author’s preferred spelling for any words for which there are alternatives. For all of those, I put in the page number for the first time I saw each item.

It goes on and on. I want to be consistent, and if I make a change, I want it to make sense to the author. The book is their baby, after all. By maintaining a thorough style sheet, I am able to have a particular page to show the author if I query or change something in order to produce consistency. To me, that’s just common courtesy.

Taking out our frustrations

I’ve had to write two letters of complaint in the last two days, which hasn’t been fun. I then opened up a file to start writing the post on style sheets I’ve been promising everyone, but I decided to start a new story instead. This is the beginning:

God, he was a lousy fuck. No foreplay, no variation in rhythm or tempo, no change of position. He didn’t use his hands. And he talked the whole time about how big his cock was and how impressed I must be with it.

Which tool, since he obviously hadn’t a clue what to do with it, wasn’t doing jack shit for me.

“So when are you gonna come, anyway?” he asked.

Idiot. Ten years ago, coming out of a shitty marriage and a worse divorce, I might have repressed a sigh and started moaning, gotten the whole thing over with. This afternoon I rolled him over and smiled down at him from my perch atop his cock.

“Never, if you don’t shut up and get busy, sweetheart.” I grabbed one of his hands and wrapped it around my breast, took the other and had him start rubbing my clit.

“Softer, babe. Softer,” I said. “You’ve got a lot to learn.”

He was turned on by it, I could tell: His erection had gotten harder, and his hands were overeager. He harrumphed, though. “I don’t get many complaints.”

I pulled my rump back far enough to leave just the tip of him in, then ground against him hard enough to make myself groan and started up a rhythm. His fingers faltered on my clit, and I put my own hand atop them to show him how to touch me.

“Not many women are as forward as I am,” I said, watching him through slit eyes.

I love writing sex. Even bad sex. It puts me in a good mood. :-)

Juvenilia–blame Bear

Okay. So has declared International Embarrass Yourself as an Artist Day. We’re supposed to post the grottiest, oldest, worst piece of juvenilia we have.

Now, I suppose I could have typed in the one with the wise disappearing unicorn and the talking balloons, but lucky you, you get the philosophical angst of a sixteen-year-old Deanna.

JUNK DRAWER

The dish is running away with the spoon.

All manner of things are carelessly tossed in here. Open the drawer and toss it in; shut the drawer. People never really bother to look at anything in here. All useless gadgets or broken gizmos, old toys, tools, and rolls of tape. Ah well, it’s our world.

I’m no one important here—just an old toy lizard whose tail was broken off and I got thrown in here like all the rest.

They’re going to try to leave.

Yeah, it gets pretty boring in here sometimes. Mostly we just sit around and think. When someone new gets thrown in and starts talking, they’re always shocked enough to provide a little amusement for the rest of us for a while.

Or we love to listen to Clock. Clock was raking in a fortune, you know. Oh, we all thought we’d use the pennies for barter, but there’s quite and army of them in here, and they’d have nothing to do with it. The pennies are pretty amusing, too. All those little presidential heads marching around and telling us what’s good for our safety. That’s a laugh.

Clock has gotten a spare doll arm from his treasury and is lifting Spoon towards the slight crack in the ceiling. He bumps Spoon up against the metal spar of the ceiling and she starts yelling.

Everyone always wants to get out of here. It can be quite maddening, you know, a crew like us crowded into a place like this. That’s why Clock was making such a fortune—he had stories in him. He was an old children’s clock who would tell stories when you wound him up—they were beautiful stories, and we always wished they would come true. Clock’s winding knob had been broken off (that’s why he was in here, I guess), but there was always some tool in here that could turn that stump.

I think that’s why Dish took up with Spoon in the first place—he believed that it was his destiny that he would run off with Spoon and find the story places. One of Clock’s stories mentioned it, that’s all. His stories had to be real—we were real in them, just like here. We all knew we hadn’t been real before—that’s the first thing that hits you.

I guess Dish thinks that he’ll be real out there now.

We’ve all thought about trying it. We don’t have any idea what happens to one of us when we leave the junk drawer. We know that when they leave, they don’t come back here again. No one ever has.

There’s an old tape recorder here who counts himself as quite a philosopher. Tape Recorder says we weren’t real before we were alive, so we won’t be real after, if we leave. Life is the drawer. No one really knows, though, ’cause no one has ever come back. There are always some of us, though, who want to believe in life after the drawer. It does help to think that, you know, but most of us don’t really want to leave to find out. We’re not all that sure about it.

Dish is just an incurable romantic.

There have been ones who’ve left before—old Razor was mean and sour-tempered, but he really did want to believe Clock’s nursery rhymes. Not long after Razor didn’t return, several others left, too.

Dish has a doll using Spoon to lever the drawer open. The ground lurches.

Yeah, Dish would never have been able to do it by himself—he’s too scared. But Dish and Spoon made a pact together, and I guess they’re less afraid of both going at once.

We can’t see out past the junk drawer—it’s like there’s just space out there with nothing in it. That’s what’s so scary about leaving.

Dish and Spoon stand side by side on the edge.

There are a few trying to watch and see what happens to them, but I don’t bother. Once they’re off the edge of the drawer you just don’t see them anymore. This is our whole world, and when they’re not here they’re gone.

Dish and Spoon jump.

Ah, well. Life goes on.

web tracker

Or I have this poem, from when I was eleven. (Yes, I had a hell of a vocabulary for my age.) More fun angst–I’d just watched a special on the Vietnam War and had asked my dad about what it was like to be over there. (My dad died from Agent Orange-related cancers four years ago now.)

OF WAR

If I had my way, there would be no cruelty, no offside arguments ending in death.

What of Peace?

Bright banners burning–the vanquished emblem of a country now won. The victory? The bones of a thousand proud men.

What of Hope?

All is lost. The war was begun before men’s minds had become numb to the killing. No one remembers quite what was fought for or what they won–all is forgotten.

What of Tranquility?

The souls of the dead forover roaming the corners of a round world, mourning the living for their useless lives.

And of War?

A senseless slaughtering of our brothers. War is naught but a sibling rivalry expanded until, all at once, all explodes like the bursting of so much schrapnel from a cannon shell and blows a million tiny fragments of lives into oblivion.

Author-provided style sheets

I think I’ve asked you this before, but do you like to see an author provide their own style sheet with lists of odd words/usages/explanations?

This sounds as though it would be really helpful, but on the few (two) occasions where I’ve had an author provide a style sheet, it actually wasn’t helpful to me at all and really just added another layer of work, as I had to check everything against the author’s style sheet while still compiling my own. Both the style sheets I was provided contained typos and differences of usage between what the author said was in the book and what actually appeared, which then resulted in further queries; authors don’t really know they’re being inconsistent, or they wouldn’t do it. :-)

The style sheet serves multiple purposes in the production process–it helps the compositor and proofreader later. First, though, it helps the copyeditor. When I make a style sheet, I include the page number where a term is first used, so that I can refer back there if the term is spelled (or capitalized, or hyphenated) differently later. I have to have a style sheet of my own preparation in order to copyedit well.

Another reason I can’t be too excited about authors providing their own style sheet is that at least one of the ones I was provided was…well, condescending. Authors know what they’re doing with voice. If you’re providing a style sheet because you really believe you need to in order to keep the idiot copyeditor from screwing up your prose, please have the decency to phrase it so that that isn’t obvious. :-)

I’d like to hear from other copyeditors on this, though, since I haven’t been provided many style sheets by authors. Have you received some that were helpful and noncondescending?

Margins

Sorry for the delay in responding to comments. I’ve been a busy girl! I’m going to pull some of the questions posed in comments to my last post up top to respond to them, though, for the benefit of those reading through a blog aggregator.

Are there preferred margins for copyediting? What about lines per page?

Standard manuscript format should result in about ten words per line and twenty-five lines per page. Margins should be at least one inch all the way around, but a wider right margin (at least 1.25 inches) allows more adequate room for queries. As noted in the comments, text should also always be set RAGGED RIGHT. When you justify your text, it makes it difficult for the copyeditor to tell if there are extra spaces that need to be deleted.

Workspace

I noticed from Toby Buckell’s blog that people are posting pictures of their workspaces, and I thought I’d join in.

My workspace is in the “eat-in” area of my kitchen. I like the location because I can see most of the house from here, and I have a gorgeous view of the backyard. (The backyard sold me on this house. I love my backyard.)

Here’s the actual workspace (taken while I was standing on the kitchen counter ;-)): The windows to the right of the desk look out on the back porch and backyard, and the one to the left looks onto the front living room and the front door. I use the Levenger desks for editing. (I actually don’t recommend the one I have there to the left–it drives me crazy.)

The kitchen is directly behind my chair, and the living room with the TV is behind and to my right. I’m readily accessible to the kids (I’ve never had a problem blocking noise), and I can keep an eye on them as well. It works well for me!

And here’s my view of the backyard (seen through the back porch screen):

It’s a light-filled workspace, and I enjoy it.

Atlanta Nights fans!

I’ve talked fondly before about my own contribution to Atlanta Nights, the wonderful, hilarious sting SFWA perpetrated on Publish America.

Now, you can own your very own, one-of-a-kind Atlanta Nights hardcover edition! The only one in existence! From the site:

To match the astonishingly bad quality of the prose, the Evilrooster Bindery has created this abysmal hardcover binding. It is bound cross-grained, out of non-archival and archivally hostile materials. The book block has been trimmed entirely off square, so that there are no right angles on the pages. Most of the adhesive used in the book is highly acidic woodworking glue, and the purple leather so badly placed on the spine and corners is from an old leather jacket. The lettering is atrocious – globby, misaligned, and badly placed. (Note that all of the S’s are upside down).

This…priceless piece of…work will be auctioned at some future con to benefit the Science Fiction Writers of American Emergency Medical Fund. I mention it here to get you slavering.

If you’re so inclined, I have posted my own chapter behind the cut. Keep in mind that the point was to write as badly as you possibly could. In crafting my chapter, I utilized every manner of annoying inconsistency or phrasing I’ve ever come across in copyediting, plus plain bad taste and humor of my own. Honestly, I crack myself up. ;-D

As Isadore Trent dreamed sleepily, her red hair spread like a cloud a tent around her pillow, her face exploded with joy. “Oh, I wish I was back there.” She thought. She missed it so badly. Maybe she’d get to go back someday. She thought about the hot dry heat, about the grit of sand. Oh, how it felt to be penetrated by those huge mosquitoes . . . Oh, yes. She was a masochist of the first degree. She shivered in her sleep, thinking about it. Goose pimples formed beginning at the tips of her toes, pushing out farther the day-old stubble on her legs, and continuing up her stomach until her nipples were pointing out. Then they reached her neck, and her trembles tangled her hair into a mess. She’d have to brush it good when she woke up, but she’d enjoy the tangles, no doubt.

A sound intruded on her consciousness–a little bell sound. Unknowingly, she worked it into her dream so that an ice cream truck was making its way to her across the desert. And then when it got to her it wasn’t even ice cream at all but instead was some kind of liquor bar. She didn’t know why. So she thought she’d order something frozen, but the girl there just looked at her cattily and told her they only sold coffee drinks. Damn arrogant woman.

But then the sound changed, and it wasn’t a little bell any more. Now it sounded like it might be scratching, or maybe banging. Or maybe it wasn’t that at all, but someone knocking. She pushed herself out of sleep and tried to think. But she didn’t wake up fast enough. Hmm. What could she do to make herself wake up, she wondered? Maybe she ought to pinch herself. So her dream self reached out and did just that. OW! That hurt! Now she really was awake.

Since she was, she sat up in bed and pushed the covers off, noticing that her nipples were still erect. The sound repeated itself, and it WAS a knock! Wow. How could she have thought it was anything else? She got out of bed sleepily and tiredly raised her hands above her head, stretching, while she decided what to do. Maybe she should answer it. Okay. That’s a good idea.

So she went to the door. She wasn’t dressed, so she thought she might ought to grab a gun on the way down. It wouldn’t do for it to be a bad guy at the door when she didn’t have time to get any clothes on. So she reached under her bed and fished out the gun safe she kept there. She put in her secret code: 6969. No one would ever think of that. Once she heard the tumblers click over, she pulled the gun out and got out of bed. She didn’t keep the bullets with the gun, just to be safe in case her adorable little brownhaired niece with the cutest smile ever visited, so then she went into her closet to get the bullets. There! She thought after she did. Now she wouldn’t be afraid to go to the door naked.

She slowly made her way down the stairs, one slow step at a time. Once she got to the bottom, she listened and realized that she didn’t hear the sound any more. Hmm. Well, she decided to peek out the spyhole anyway. Nothing there. Hmm. She went around and looked out the window on the side, but she didn’t see anyone from there, either. Well, she hmmphed. No telling what it was.

She still had her trusty revolver, though, so she stuck it in her bathrobe and made for the kitchen. She’d get a midnight snack to tide her over until morning. Maybe some kippers and cream cheese. Those were one of her favorites. As she made her way to the kitchen, she passed some of her favorite pictures on the wall. She sighed, looking at them both sadly and happily. She sure loved those people a lot. Some of them weren’t even around any more. Some of them were.

Well, maybe she’d see them tomorrow.

When she got to the kitchen, she saw that the light was on. Oh, no! She was sure she hadn’t left it that way. She steadied the automatic in her grip and readied her finger on the hair trigger. What she saw surprised her. Someone, his back–and she noticed, fine backside–to her, was in her refrigerator! What were they eating? Thinking about that chocolate cake she had left over from that wedding last week, she aimed and pulled the trigger. She wasn’t any dainty lady in waiting waiting around to be picked on! She was one tough broad!

The person startled at the shot and then grabbed their leg and fell down, moaning like it was the end of the world. “Owwwww,” the guy said. “Owwwwww.” She wasn’t sorry, though. She was getting ready to shoot him again when she paused. She couldn’t help but notice that–in his turmoil and fear for his life–the man had gotten an erection underneath his thin white polo shorts. It looked familiar. She studied his build some more, noted his red hair by the light of the refrigerator door that was still open as he held his leftover cake in his hands. Oh, no! It was that babe from the gym! Shit, she bonked him a couple times already. You think she’d remember that ass. She preened. He probably just couldn’t stay away and wanted seconds. She purred happily. She still had it, no doubt about it.

What was that guy’s name? Suffering Succotash? She struggled to remember, to make her mind vomit forth the information she knew it had digested at some point. She couldn’t really be forgiven for forgetting, since she’d just banged the guy in the shower
room. He seemed to be staring at one of the guys showering the whole time they were going at it, but she was sure he just wanted to see the guy’s reaction at him getting to fuck such a hot babe.

Oh. Steven. That was it. Steven Suffering. No, Steven Suffern. Yeah, that was it. That’s right. He was still moaning.

She went over to him and prodded him with her toe. “Hey! What were you doing taking my leftover cake! Girls are protective of their chocolate, you know! You should know better than that!”

He smiled sadly at her. “I couldn’t help it,” he said, as he choked out his words. “I was hungry, and it looked so good.”

“Well, it was just a prelude, huh? Were you going to sneak up and biff me, you bad boy? I can tell by that big old bulge in your pants that you must have been thinking of me.”

He coughed, wetly. It made a gross noise, and she was turned off by it. She looked down at the bulge in his pants again and decided she didn’t care, though.

“Well, you ought to be more careful.”

“I know. I don’t know what I was thinking,” he said morosely.

“Can you get up?” She asked. She leaned down beside him.

“I’m already up.” He laughed, weakly.

His sense of humor made her smile. How could she forget how nice he was?

“Well, maybe we could have some fun with you right there,” she said sexily. She pulled apart the flaps of her mint-green terrycloth robe and flashed him. “Mmm-hmm. Come and get me!”

He hacked again, grossly, though. “I wish I could, Isadore. I wish I could.” He looked up at her with wet eyes–eyes like he’d had too many drinks or had just gotten kicked in the groin. “You know, I really love you. I know I couldn’t ever tell you, but I
really do. God help me. I really do.”

She smiled at him. “I know you do, honey. You can’t help it. It always happens that way.” She preened to herself again. A fine young man like this, and she could still grab him. What a dame she was.

He really seemed to be bleeding a lot, though. “Um, Steven, I really do need you to get up. You’re getting the floor really messy. Could you maybe go out on the porch or something. ” She smiled, certain her next phrase would convince him to move. “I’ll join you.” She simpered prettily at him in what she knew was her sexiest countenance.

He coughed again, then reached down to his privates, like he was making sure they were still there. He left big red hand prints on them–you could certainly judge his length by his hands! And they said that was a myth. Ha, she thought knowingly. All
things have a basis in fact.

She scooted closer to him and then decided she might as well put the gun back in the pocket of her robe. The silky material sparkled like ruby in the dim light from the refrigerator door. “Steven?”

Kaa-kaaa-kaaa. He made a horrible noise.

“Steven?”

Weakly came his reply. “I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”

She stopped hesitantly. “You don’t really sound fine. Are you sure?”

“I’m fine.” She smiled bewitchingly at her. “Don’t worry for me.”

“Well . . . ” She frowned down at him. If you’re fine, can you please move? I really don’t want all that blood right in front of the fridge.

He laughed heartily. “You always did have a sense of humor.” Then he coughed that wet cough again, laid his head down, and didn’t make any more sound.

“Steven?!”
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