Interesting Format Stories – part II

Previously I did a recap of some of my favorite ‘interesting format’ stories and thereafter I had several other really excellent ones recommended to me, so here are some new(ish) ones I’ve enjoyed!

The first of these was Nino Cipri’s Which Super Little Dead Girl™ Are You? Take Our Quiz and Find Out! (originally published in Nightmare magazine December, 2017). As the title indicates, this story (or set of parallel stories?) is offered in the form of one of those online quizzes which pairs you up with a member of the Super Little Dead Girls™ depending on which answers you select. It’s creepy but super fun!

Another one I really enjoyed is Nibedita Sen’s Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island (also in Nightmare, May, 2019).

Clearly I really like these sorts of things. One that is both creepy and made me howl out loud is by my friend Aimee Picchi called Search History for Elspeth Adair, Age 11 (Daily Science Fiction, July 8th, 2019).

I expect I will find (or write!) more of these but these are some I’d recommend checking out!

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I sold a thing!

It’s a drabble – exactly 100 words, and it was part of the Quarantine Quanta contest. You can read it here!

Interestingly, I wrote this five and a half years ago and it accidentally came out to 100 words. It was written to a prompt, but I don’t even remember what the prompt was! But it was fun, and I still liked it, and now someone else liked it enough to give me some money for it!

The other winning drabbles are excellent – in this time of short attention spans, a book of 100 word stories is a pretty excellent item! Enjoy!

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Lucifer: Some Thoughts

It’s been a while since I’ve been actively involved in a Fandom. I’ve been a fan of lots of things over the years (Star Trek (TOS), Star Wars, Tolkien, etc.) but generally at the “hey, that’s cool” level, perhaps with a side of “let me watch other things these actors are in” or “let me read other things about this program/movie/book and the actors.” Probably NewWho was the last one I was really engaged in, and that was back during the Tennant years – I never really warmed to Matt Smith.

Well, now I’ve gotten the Lucifer bug, and I’ve been doing a little thinking about why I like it so much as we wait, not very patiently, for Season 4. (Coming to Netflix May 8th! #LuciferSaved)

First off, I find the writing amusing. I have a soft spot for stories where the audience has just a tiny bit more clue than the characters, and I find the dialogue (both the written and the ad lib bits) charming. I like wordplay, and I like humor at this level. It suits my combination of rude-ten-year-old and grown-up senses of humor. I also, when it comes down to it, like flirting. I don’t do it much anymore, and certainly Lucifer’s style is completely Over The Top, but it amuses me. The assorted sexual-tension-dynamics feel rather more realistic than in some other programs. The showrunners and writing room have done a great job of keeping the episodes different but keeping the overarching season arcs consistent.

I am a huge sucker for music used well in movies/TV. Forty years in, the initial New Hope crawl makes me tear up, and the music is the reason that I am still startled by the final ‘chase’ scene in Terminator (even though it’s been out for years as well.) Whoever selects the music for Lucifer is a genius and has fantastic wide-ranging musical tastes. The music in this show is used really well, and I have expanded my playlists a lot as a result.

This is going to sound like a weird thing, but they also have a genius running lights. They manage to light the characters brilliantly (ha ha) and really coordinate the lighting with the mood. They catch the characters’ expressions and their eyes gracefully, particular for the title character (who is the Lightbringer, after all.)

Speaking of characters, I really, really like a bunch of the characters, particularly the ‘secondary’ ones. Linda Martin (played by the incomparable Rachael Harris) provides a perfect foil for many of the other characters (Maze, Amenadiel, Lucifer, even Chloe occasionally) and her wisdom and insights provide a sensible contrast to Lucifer’s sometimes clueless and warped world view. Maze (played by the stunning Lesley-Ann Brandt) isn’t always a ‘good’ character (what do you expect from Hell’s greatest torturer?) but she’s sympathetic and her occasional inability to recognize and cope with human emotions is, well, sympathetic in its own way. Plus she kicks ass.

Trixie gets her own paragraph. I am not (generally) a ‘kid person’. However, Trixie (“That’s a hooker’s name”) has reached the age where she is smart but not too smart, can still be bought off with chocolate cake, is wise beyond her years one moment and utterly seven or eight the next moment. I haven’t seen Scarlett Estevez in anything else, but in this role, she knocks it out of the park (and if the behind-the-scenes shots are any indication, she’s just a sweet, smart, funny kid.)

Ella gets her own paragraph too, because I have a huge fangirl thing for the lovely Aimee Garcia (who I just found out is much older than I guessed!) I respect people who use their positions in the public eye for good, and she certainly does. She’s also super approachable and really connects with fans, which is fun to watch, and her character in the show as smartass, nerdy, funny forensic scientist Ella Lopez is a delight. Just a delight. Full stop. There are a lot of days where an Ella-hug would be great.

It took me a while to warm up to Lauren German‘s Chloe Decker and Kevin Alejandro‘s Dan Espinoza (aka Detective Douche), I think in part because they’re so often at the mercy of Lucifer’s hijinks and terrible joking. That said, I have warmed up to them, and they’re both funny and clever. Their attempts to navigate co-parenting and their respective relationship issues are both amusing and heartbreaking.

And of course, there’s Tom Ellis. Full disclosure, I’ve had my eye on him since his appearance in Doctor Who back in 2007, and he has matured into a funny, thoughtful actor. (If you haven’t seen Miranda, it’s cringeworthy and hilarious!) I’ve been listening to a lot of interviews with him, and he seems like a genuine person who loves his work, his family, etc. He’s also beautiful as the day is long.

The series is loosely based on the characters from the Neil Gaiman comic. It was dropped by Fox after three seasons, and picked up by Netflix last May after an impassioned campaign by fans and the cast. The first season from Netflix is dropping on May 8, and I can’t wait!

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Winning NaNoWriMo

So, that’s me.


I actually completed NaNoWriMo (a day early!) for the first time ever. I’ve been alternately poking at it, and working at it pretty hard, on and off for the last fifteen years, so this is a milestone for me. It also something-like-doubles the number of words I have in real documents and stories (as opposed to free writes, etc.) So that’s a win on several fronts.

One of the things I did pretty assiduously during this NaNo was to look at my process, because that’s something that has been challenging me for a while, and I wanted to see what changes I was making during NaNo that were/weren’t making me successful. I’m thinking out loud a bit here, but maybe it will help someone else, and maybe it will help me again when I go back to read it.

I had a couple of days where I wrote nothing at all, and a couple where I didn’t write very much (100 words or less). My ‘average-decent’ days were around 1500 – 2000 words. I had three really-big-wordcount days (for me, at least, YMMV) – 7200 words, 6700 words and 4300 words. Those three days were (not surprisingly) days when I wasn’t working and had no external commitments. I also importuned PS to do a fair amount of the cooking during November, and there were a fair number of house chores that were neglected completely. (I have a big “December” list.)

Regarding the days where I wrote little or nothing – some were predictable (my wedding anniversary, PS’s birthday) and some were just days that got too busy. If I’m working to a deadline, I need to plan for those off days better. I’m not great at writing in the morning or at lunch so most of my writing happened in the evening. Evenings are easily taken over by other activities. I want to experiment more with mornings and lunchtimes as those might be easier to protect, although I am in no way a Morning Person. I think starting earlier in the day would give me less pressure in the evenings.

There were some physical discoveries too. I can write after one glass of wine, but more than that and my productivity goes downhill, and my ability to be distracted climbs dramatically. I also cannot write when I am thirsty, hungry or when I have to go to the bathroom, so I need to pay attention to water consumption and bio breaks so that I can focus better. I didn’t really have the opportunity to play with exercise and writing, but I may do that sometime soon. I do better with protein snacks while I’m writing, and modest caffeine intake. Tidy snacks are better than ones where I have to wipe my hands all the time.

Timed sprints worked well for me, and that’s something I can incorporate into my regular routine pretty easily. Twenty minutes seems to be about the perfect length for me – ten and fifteen are too short, and much past twenty I need to stretch or move around or something interrupts me.

Sometimes the thing that interrupts me is not knowing what happens next, and that was a big lesson from NaNoWriMo. I apparently need to do a better job outlining, or at a minimum the quick five to ten minute summary that Rachel Aaron suggests in her book 2K To 10K. She recommends spending a few minutes at the beginning of each session going over what you’re going to write that session. I think of it as something between blocking (in the theatre/film sense of who is moving where when) and a rough outline, but when I had an idea of that going into a writing session I was much more likely to plow ahead making words and much less likely to wander off on some random thought, or stop and have to ponder what came next. I am not a rigorous outliner by any means, and I may need to slide more in that direction.

I spent probably more time than was necessary figuring out word counts, moving things from 4TheWords to Scrivener, updating counts on the Nano page, etc. The battles in 4TheWords really kept me going though – that’s another part of the sprint idea that really worked for me, and there are some days where I wouldn’t have made my count without them. (If you aren’t already member and would like a referral code, mine is GTIRV49322 – come on in, the water is fine!) On a related note, as was probably obvious to everyone (including me), the likelihood of producing words drops to nearly zero if I even open World of Warcraft.

Speaking of tools, I love my new Kinesis Freestyle Edge keyboard – my hands and shoulders and arms lasted very well without much pain, although I need to fiddle a little with my monitor setup, and I probably need a new chair. I also really like orchestral or instrumental music but I cannot write to songs with words in English (or words I can vaguely understand). I also have to be careful with music I readily recognize (themes from very familiar movies, for example.) I really found 8Tracks to be useful – there are some great playlists on there for writing, and I also ended up using some that were designed for studying. I also used Ambient Mixer sometimes, if I needed a particular mood. (The lyrics thing might be different if I was writing something at all contemporary, but I’m not, so it isn’t.)

So, some interesting lessons learned, some things to try out, some things to practice more. I am still basically clueless about outlining, but now I have a pile of words to play with. There are a lot of things that need filling in (GODNAME and PLACENAME appear a lot) but it’s often easier to work with once there’s something there. We’ll see.

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So, we’re at the 2/3 point in NaNoWriMo and I am about 2/5 of the way to where I should be. So, I’m not where I want to be but I’ve made more words in November than in any previous November except 2013. So I’ll take it. But I’m also not giving up. I have a five day weekend. The only thing I had committed to today was going over to try the 10am yoga class at the local studio (it was excellent although I need to work on some alternatives) and start stock (which is currently in progress.) So hopefully around the holiday activities I can get more words made.

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Interesting Story Formats

I’ve long had a fascination with non-standard story formats, and by non-standard, I mean not typical stories – things like listicles, epistolary stories, etc. Here’s are some of my favorite ones.

WikiHistory by Desmond Warzel (originally published in Abyss & Apex 3rd Quarter 2007) reminds us that everyone has thought about the going-back-in-time-to-kill-someone idea. Likewise, everyone has met *that person* in an online forum. This isn’t actually a wiki, per se, but it’s definitely delightfully funny.

Footnotes by C. C. Finlay (originally published in F&SF in August 2001) is written entirely in, well, footnotes. Just like it says on the tin. Interestingly, the original paper to which these are the footnotes isn’t shown, which lets the reader figure it out for themselves, which I like very much.

43 Comments to “In Memory of Dr. Alexandra Nako” by Barbara A. Barnett (published in Daily Science Fiction on February 5, 2016) combines features of the previous two stories. Again, the original article isn’t shown, we deduce its contents based on the comments, and once again, there’s That Guy we all know….

This came to mind this week (although I’ve been meaning to blog about it for a while) because there’s just been published a new story that I really like – a faux-interactive fiction in the form of editorial notes. In Stet by Sarah Gailey (published in Fireside October 2018) we get an excerpt of the ‘original text’ (unlike in Finlay and Barnett’s stories) but in this case the real story-behind-the-story takes place in the conversations between the fictional author and editor. It’s short but packs a punch.

So, there’s my list. Any particularly good ones that I’m missing? I’d swear I’ve read at least a couple that are instruction manuals or similar, but I can’t seem to find them in my (large and not very well organized) favorites file. Suggestions? Recommendations?

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PrepTober and Journals

This should probably be subtitled “I have a journal problem.” I’ve known this for a while, but today it’s been really driven home. The first step is admitting you have a problem, so here I am.  Also, CW for discussion of depression.

I am sitting on the loveseat, surrounded by cats (as so often happens) and within range of sight without really rummaging are at least 11 notebooks. Yes, eleven. Four of these are the big Blueline notebooks I use for keeping work notes and random writing notes. Three of the notebooks are 5×8 notebooks of the Moleskine/Leuchtterm variety. Two are cool Japanese spiral notebooks I bought in Tokyo a couple years ago. Two are recent Field Notes pocket notebooks, one still in its wrapper.

So what do I keep in this collection of journals, or what do I want to keep? At present, one of the 5×8 is my Bullet Journal, one is a journal for writing-related things (started after I took an interesting workshop with Fran Wilde in June on journaling and creativity) and the third is/was a Nanowrimo Bujo. I’m reconsidering that choice now, and thinking about putting the NaNo things in the writing journal. The larger Japanese notebook was for morning pages, although I’ve been incredibly lax about doing morning pages for a while, and the smaller one is current a sort of health and accomplishment log. The Bluelines are mostly work notes, although personal stuff creeps in and I end up spending time on the weekend teasing out the lists of things to do from the miscellaneous meeting notes, etc. One of the Bluelines is nearly done, one is the replacement for the full one, and one is going to be my actual writing for the novel I’m currently plotting. I also have a Field Notes planner, which I haven’t figured out how I want to use yet.

Clearly, I need a better system.

Part of the challenge here is that I struggle, sometimes more often than others, with depression. And part of the way my depression manifests is in lack of habits, and needing to think through and make decisions about even small things. I am also exhausted a lot. (I had to stop and take a nap in the middle of drafting this post, which is ironic in the extreme.)

I also have a hard time acknowledging accomplishments, which means I get down on myself hard for not getting things done, I make impossibly-long lists of things I’m trying to do or want to do or need to do (for some value of need), which I then don’t get done and, well, you see how that’s going to go.

For people who don’t deal with this sort of thing, I thought an illustration from today might provide some insight, and maybe will help you deal, or realize you’re not alone, or help you support and deal with someone around you who presents the way I do.

Today I got up around 9:30, which meant I already felt behind, even though I had *absolutely nothing* actually scheduled for today. (I had the aforementioned lists but nothing had been designated specifically for today.)


  • petted the cats (several times)
  • abluted (which spellcheck thinks isn’t a word but hey, I’m a writer, I can invent words!)
  • got sort of dressed
  • took my meds
  • washed a couple of dishes that were in the sink and unloaded/reloaded the dishwasher while coffee was making
  • sent a handful of work emails (while feeling bad for working on the weekend)
  • did some work admin stuff in Google docs & sheets (probably using most of that sort of spoon for the day)
  • ate breakfast prepared by PS
  • made another coffee and heated and ate two leftover low-carb muffins
  • searched for phone
  • found phone and placed call to gutter people who had left note yesterday about a ‘problem’ (immediately fraught with anxiety and money thoughts)
  • made lunch date for tomorrow (with people I love, but still an effort)
  • watched a bunch of YouTube videos on NaNoWriMo prep and BuJos (which is how this all started; I’m fascinated by the processes other writers use – I keep hoping I’ll find some magic pill to help with mine)
  • helped PS with a game mechanic and watched him game briefly; also chatted with him briefly a couple of times
  • picked up a few clothes off the bedroom floor, and carried two clothing items upstairs
  • made notes for work and added to Endless To Do List
  • started this blog post, got tired, tried to take a nap, ended up making more notes for this blog post.

It is now 5pm. That is approximately 7 hours worth of ‘accomplishments’. Today feels like an average-to-good mental health day, in that I haven’t just sat in front of the computer playing WoW all day, and a middling physical health day.

Was there more I could or should have done? Probably and absolutely, in that order. Is it any wonder the list never gets shorter, and I need so many journals and lists to manage it?

Tomorrow, more on what I decided about managing the lists and a bit of PrepTober.



Posted in BuJo, depression, mental health, Nanowrimo, Preptober, productivity, writing | 2 Comments

Worldcon 76

I’m sitting in my hotel at Worldcon. Nearly everything has shut down, and much of it is packed away. My flight is early tomorrow (too early) but by some happy miracle, various Star Wars movies are showing on TV, so I’m relaxing and packing and thinking about the weekend.

I got to spend some really good quality time with people I really like, many of whom I only get to see very infrequently or chat with online. I had splendid meals with friends, and went to some really good panels. I also spent a fair amount of time volunteering at Con Operations. I had a decent time but I’m ready to go home, and probably should have left today.

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Because some days you just need flowers.


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This weekend we went to see Solo:A Star Wars Story. I’m a Star Wars girl from way back – my first recurring con costume was Star Wars, back before Americans started calling it cosplay. (Before you start trying to get me into competing fandoms, I am also a Star Trek girl from way back. Go figure.)

I had shielded myself as much as possible from the trailers – I wanted to be surprised by the storyline and the characters. It was… okay. I understand, they were operating under some unique constraints – Han Solo is a hugely popular character, and they needed to work in all of the elements of his backstory that we already know about – the Falcon, Lando, Chewie, the dice, the Kessel run. Plus we needed to see how he became the smuggler with a heart of gold, and set up his reactions to events in the subsequent films. That’s a much more challenging assignment than in Rogue One where really the only thing they needed to accomplish was “get plans to Rebels” – how they got there was largely open.

So I think Solo works as backstory. As an adventure movie it was okay, but I was disappointed in it as a Star Wars movie. I wanted more emotional reaction – I was prepared to love this movie, but I just didn’t. I mean, it’s okay. I think if they’d spent more time writing a really good adventure-movie script, and then layered in the Star Wars stuff, that would have worked better for this viewer.

That said, I’ll probably see it again and see what I think of it outside of “ooh, a new Star Wars movie!!” so watch this space for an updated opinion. But for right now, it’s okay and worth seeing but it didn’t knock my socks off.

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