Look At This Muscle Study (And Then Read A Good/Bad Fantasy Snippet)

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Here is yet another (I know, so many) muscle study, because they do not stick in my brain until I draw them fifteen billion times. (But you don’t see most of those sketches, so . . . aren’t you glad you’re not seeing repeats?)

My disrespectful middle child is struggling with the concept of actually engaging with homework . . . because typical kid. My insanely disdainful oldest child is in perma-time out, because hello. You can’t act like that, kid. My youngest, extremely discourteous child (yes, there’s a pattern there, they all feed on each other’s poor behavior) is isolated with a book, because learning how to read is important, don’t-cha-know.

And now, here is the promised Good/Bad Snippet of fairy hijinks. Be warned: the bad one is really, really bad.

Good/Bad Example

Bad Writing

Blue-winged Catherine, a fairy with the most beautiful good nature of any living being ever at all, was unhappy with her lot in life. Forsooth, her beautiful super-pretty gossamer skirts were so pleasing that she felt they weren’t humble, and so she changed them for plain leaves that dried out. Oh, yuck, Catherine the fairy thought. She went back to her glorious attire and flitted about casting charms of romance on all the humans who passed through the woods. She was so glad to be her.

None of the fairies in the kingdom of magical creatures in the woods had ever been as perfect and wonderful as Catherine, and finally the Queen of the fairies said Catherine was obviously first and best choice as Princess Fairy to all living.

Catherine was so humbled and grateful for the honor that she cried a lot and gave a four-hour acceptance speech that was so apt and perfect that all the sparrows wept at her wonderful beauty.

The fairies, the squirrels, the foxes, the deer, and the humans lived in peace among the fungi and the trees and moss, and every morning Catherine buzzed around on her gossamer blue wings and felt moved to grateful tears at the perfection of her life. She also sang songs a lot to the little baby animals.

Good Writing

It is not so hot being a fairy in the forest. First, we aren’t allowed to wear modern clothes, and I for one am sick of sewing frocks out of leaves. I mean, they dry out and crumble away at the most inconvenient times, and harvesting thread from spider webs is just a sticky mess. Don’t even get me started on threading needles with that goo. I’m the only woodland fey who wears muumuus. Yes, I make my own muumuus out of snake skins. I want to use magic on really dark hoodies and tight, low-slung jeans to make them small enough to fit me, but the Queen Mother has a dress code. Natural, forest-sourced materials only. Green and brown, mostly leaves or bark. No fur. Sigh.

The second thing that stinks about my current life is that romance is totally off limits. I’m not allowed to desire anyone or anything. I can’t even have a crush. Yeah, I know. Unreasonable, right? I ask you, what is the point of having limitless access to infatuation charms when I’m not supposed to use them on myself?! Like, gosh! I want love!

I have more complaints, but these two are the main motivators for my planned rebellion against the Sacred Court of the Woodland Fey. I’m getting out of this dump, and someday very soon I’m going to wear jeans, dammit. And I’m gonna flirt. With HUMANS. The only trouble is that I have to screw up badly enough to be banished without earning a death sentence or having my wings stripped off. That’s a hard balance to strike, which is why I’m going right now to visit Moffer Bones, who is, like, the oldest guy in the forest and also kinda evil. I’m pretty sure he’ll give me good advice. He’ll sense that we’re kindred spirits, since I’m all rebellious and stuff. He’ll totally help me. I hope.

And Now

Let us all remember the importance of voice and conflict in our fantasy stories. And now, here is what happens next to Diana:

Sample

George’s Inquiry

“The companion is gathering food as you requested earlier. We have question,” George said in a perfectly clear, human voice.

“It should be ‘We have a question,'” Diana said, skimming through the paragraphs on recommended therapeutic practices for covert abusers. She was looking for the section about isolating violent men, which she vaguely remembered from the last time she’d read the book.

“Human language not our priority,” George said, in what Diana supposed was the alien version of snippiness.

“If you’re trying to study our emotional exchanges, you’re not going to get very far without respecting the nuances of grammar,” Diana remarked.

George vanished and the sunlight flickered. Diana saw her legs begin to melt away and she came to the rapid conclusion that she was being taken up for another conference. She was both pleased and annoyed by this interruption, as she felt she was making very good progress with Stuart just now.

Diana’s parents’ bedroom vanished and she found herself in the same dark room on the alien ship that she’d visited before. This time an alien was standing there.

“Explain,” the alien said.

“You’re trying to understand our emotional bonding process, right?” Diana asked, folding her arms and looking a lot calmer than she felt. The alien made a chuffing laugh.

“Explain, scared girl,” the alien said.

“You’re more in charge than the others,” Diana said. The alien raised a hand and a flickering image of Stuart appeared.

“He is your companion and you control him. You use words, sometimes actions, but all with feelings. I could control you through feelings. Do not push at me with this—it is insolence, you would speak? That’s a word for fighting back and spite?” the alien said.

“Yes, insolence is the correct word for that dynamic. Are you wanting me to admit to being insolent? Because I don’t think it’s insolent to recognize that you have more authority than the others I’ve spoken to. I can see you do, and I’d rather not get into a fight about that,” Diana said. The alien waved a disparaging hand.

“Explain. You said details of language connect to understanding emotional bondage. Tell why,” the alien said.

“We use words to communicate with each other. What do you mean, emotional bondage?” Diana asked.

“Answer first question. Time of pause interval almost used up,” the alien said, sounding both rushed and impatient.

“It’s important because words and grammar convey context and emotional tone. You can’t understand all the nuances of interpersonal communication if you don’t have a grasp of what different words and sentence constructions mean,” Diana said.

“Good. Begin again,” the alien said, waving a dismissive hand. The alien spaceship vanished and Diana found herself, with a slight sense of disorientation, sitting on her mother’s side of the bed with the book on domestic abusers in her hands. She breathed in and looked around the room. George the hologram was still standing in miniature on the blanket.

“Question,” George said.

“Yes?” Diana asked, feeling her heart jolt at the strangeness of being transported hither and yon without warning.

“You hurt companion and he—as you say—eats it up. Why? Quick. He’s coming back,” George said.

“I’m replicating some of the conditions of his abuse as a child and that’s making him feel validated and recognized as a psychological entity, because everyone but his mother and her boyfriend pretended that abuse didn’t happen to him, and he only met the boyfriend—oh,” Diana said, because George had vanished. In a moment, Stuart came back into the room with a pair of box-shaped vegetables in his arms. They were the size of watermelons, though in the form of rounded cubes.

“Do you want me to cut these up for us, Di?” Stuart asked.

“No, set them down and come cry on me some more,” Diana said.

“Okay,” Stuart said, looking pleased. He set down the boxy vegetables, and as soon as they were out of his arms, Diana made a disapproving noise.

“Put those down in the kitchen, Stu. Duh,” Diana said, shaking her head with annoyance. Stuart blinked and frowned, and then picked up the vegetables again, obviously preparing to carry them away. “Stu! I told you to come and cuddle in my lap! Why are you being so stupid and frustrating about this?” Diana exclaimed, looking up from her book. Stuart went red and stared at her for a moment.

“But—” he said, and then he practically dropped the boxy vegetables and rushed in against her lap, jamming his face against her abdomen and giving out what Diana classified to herself as a hungry purr.

“Stu, those things really ought to be put into the kitchen. You can’t leave food sitting around on bedroom floors. It’s unsanitary. What if you step on one of them by accident? What if the floor’s dirty? Honestly, you’re so dumb,” Diana said, sounding affectionate. Stuart sucked in a deep, happy breath and nodded against Diana’s midsection, pushing his arms around her waist and appearing to hold on for dear life. “Hey, don’t ignore me, mucus-brain. That’s bad manners,” Diana added. She felt Stuart smile against her shirt.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, plans are being laid surrounding the guy waiting in a hotel room near the shopping district. He’s been halfway imprisoned for almost two months.

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A Clean-Up Project

3.7

So yesterday I started getting through ancient sketches on my laptop and resuscitating or deleting them.

This was a messy doodle that I cleaned up last night.

I figure I’ll either throw out or transform all my icky, boring half-sketches, and then my laptop will be organized and not so haphazard.

I like how this one turned out, anyway! And now, here is what Diana does next:

Sample

A Walk

Stuart sobbed like a man unobserved, following Diana and wiping his face with the motion of a devastated child. If Diana had not been so curious about what he would say and do next, she might have been tempted to say something along the lines of, ‘Just kidding!’, or ‘Have a hug, you pathetic, adorable noodle.’

However, as she was highly invested in finding out what Stuart was like when he thought he was alone, she held her tongue and kept walking in the direction of her old house, which she hoped would be mostly undisturbed.

Diana really wanted to change her clothes, and she was looking forward to using her own shampoo in a nice, cold shower. To her surprise, Diana had rather gotten used to frigid water, and was almost thinking about continuing to take cold showers in the future when she got her life back.

Diana had come to the conclusion, after Stuart had revealed that he’d been in an experimental tube for four years when she had only experienced a few weeks, that the aliens were holding a kind of scientific and emotional expedition, and that if she played her cards right and got into their heads, she might be able to negotiate everything going back to the way it had been before the aliens had come.

Diana was pretty sure, based on the aliens’ unwillingness to stand by while Stuart threatened her, that the aliens hadn’t actually killed any humans yet. As far as I know, Diana reflected, they might have done some kind of trick with time, and none of this has actually happened.

When Diana thought this, a strange ripple, like a concentric heat wave, shivered on her right side. She froze and stared at it. Stuart was crying volubly and stopped, too, though he appeared to think she was caught up in making plans instead of reacting to anything in particular.

The concentric heat vanished, and nearly translucent words rose into the air. Diana was sure Stuart could not see them.

Diana Vassel, hold back your development. Finish the term. Make an oath? Human promise. Do that now.

The term of five years, she thought, and Diana looked around the street for a moment and then drew a deep sigh.

“It’s too bad I’m all alone now,” Diana said, her face flushing gently because she felt stupid, and she kept walking. A single word appeared just in front of her, moving as she moved.

Good.

The word vanished as Stuart, drawing a ragged breath, began to speak.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the original bodyguard is teaching a large group of people how to protect themselves.

The Striped Canyon Where the Rock Snakes Live (which are super scary!)

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This is a partial sketch of the black and white rocks in the part of the book where the hunter fetches in some material from the quarry. It’s not finished yet, but yay. I think it looks like a zebra.

In other news . . . wow. Yup, I have nothing more to say about myself at this time.

But here is what happens next to Diana!

Sample

Stuart’s Suspicion

Diana kept a blithe, interested look on her face.

“Where have you been, Stu?” Diana asked.

“I was upstairs, Di. I’ve been behind you this whole time,” Stuart said, looking increasingly upset.

“Oh, wow. I thought I was here all by myself. Are you hungry? How long were you gone this time?” Diana asked.

“Don’t do that. I didn’t go anywhere; I’ve just been here, right behind you,” Stuart said.

“No, I don’t think so,” Diana said, frowning and looking sincere.

Stuart, who had been isolated in a plastic tube for the last four years, and whose mind had been taken back and forth many times through various timelines and situations, burst into tears and ran back into the house.

Diana smiled. Excellent, she thought, and she made several trips carrying her pile of eggplant-like fruits into the kitchen and started to whistle as she got into her usual cleaning routine.

By the time she made it upstairs to straighten up the bedrooms, she found Stuart curled in a ball on the bed, his shoulders hunched and his face marked with tears. He was sound asleep.

How sweet, Diana thought, and she went outside to climb her tree and read a book.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the bachelor party has so far produced, um, three wedding proposals among the guests, who are all having a marvelous time.

One Point Perspective

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I am a baby at drawing. But look at my pretty shadows! Yay!

I’m (insert mundane work details, indicating that I’m a-froth with bustling industry), and here is a bit of Diana for now:

Sample

The Proposal

“Well, we were here, just–just living here. Um, I don’t know how much you remember, Di. Diana, sorry,” Stuart said, flushing and scooting a little away on the bed.

Diana wanted to keep Stuart on the edge of feeling off-balance and uncomfortable, so she moved closer to keep them at the same distance.

He studied her for a moment, a hard light in his eyes, and then continued without making any comment on her behavior.

Good, Diana thought, and she looked at the bruising along Stuart’s face as he spoke.

“I don’t know what parts you were there for, but things started to jump around in my timeline after that fight we had. You remember, when I came back, or seemed to, and you threw water in my face and tried to beat me up?” Stuart asked.

“Yeah, I know that part,” Diana said.

“Good. Well, things got wonky after that. Um, I had you tied up in the bed, right? And I was trying to talk to you, to make you calm down, and then everything–well, the room around us dissolved and you and I both went and had a long talk with the aliens. Do you remember this?” Stuart asked.

Diana had no intention of revealing how much she’d experienced, so she made herself look haunted and tired and refused to answer. Stuart sighed.

“Yeah, I’ll just keep talking and telling my side. It’s hard for me to think about, too. I imagine it’s worse for you, if you do remember that stuff. When did you leave? What part did you miss?” Stuart asked.

“Stuart, talk,” Diana said.

“Yeah, okay. Well, I’ll work from that fight, then, and me tying you up. So the room dissolved and we had a really long talk with the aliens. They, um, froze you for parts of that, and then sometimes they froze me and talked to you instead. Negotiations went on forever, it seemed like, hours, and the conclusion was that we’d both be aged a bit and thrown into a facsimile neighborhood, to recreate young adulthood for the aliens. I feel really stupid saying all of this as if you weren’t there for it, Diana. I mean, you know most of this better than I do, I’m sure. You were managing most of it, telling the aliens what would be acceptable, and how things needed to be. I feel idiotic telling you the story like this,” Stuart said, his eyes asking her for help.

“No. Keep talking,” Diana said. Stuart sighed and nodded.

“So the aliens made us older. I was in my late twenties, I think, and you were at least twenty-one. I’m not sure exactly how old, but you told the aliens that twenty-one was your cut-off age for what you’d be comfortable with, and so you were early twenties and I was late twenties. Um, and we were still in this house at first. You changed so much, Di. I didn’t know at first if it was even you, but–I guess it might not have been you, actually,” Stuart said, looking moody.

“Look, Stu. If we ever get to the point of being really good friends and I feel I can trust you, then I’ll tell you my half and we can really compare timelines. For now, just be super honest,” Diana said.

“Okay,” Stuart said, clearly attempting to make himself small and docile-looking. Diana laughed and patted his knee, which made him flinch and then smile in a faltering manner.

“Stu, that’s not working. I know you’re not nearly this wrought up with dramatic feelings. Just talk,” Diana said.

Stuart’s looks melted into something like consternation. He eyed her and then sniffed with a ‘Well, fine, then’ kind of sound and went on.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, Rosie the toddler is about to be rescued (dramatically!).

This Book Is Almost Finished : )

 

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And here’s a bit of Diana, for the road, as ’twere:

Sample

Stuart Talks

“I knew I was there,” Stuart said. “I mean, it was—it was like being a virtual presence, I guess. I couldn’t feel things that were happening, but I saw and heard everything. I wasn’t—I couldn’t really interact with the world around me. And then they kept control of what I said and did. There are wires in the tube, all right? And if I said something, like I’d tell you to leave me alone, right at the beginning?” Stuart asked, looking at Diana, “And those words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. I’d be almost stuck, as if the world I was in, the space with you, stopped until I said something they liked, and then I would be saying that out loud. I never knew what they’d like, though. I mean, I would just all of a sudden be talking in real time like that, when I figured out what they wanted to hear. So I failed a lot,” Stuart said with a sigh.

Diana watched his face, which looked worn and defeated.

“At the beginning, you were just paused more than anything for me, because you’d look at me, Di, or say something, and then I tried to react and nothing would get through. It was really frustrating. Once I realized what was happening I shouted a lot, or tried to. None of that would translate to you hearing me at all, but I did, I screamed at you for a long time. Um,” Stuart said.

He had taken off his shoes and crawled under the blanket, and he looked at Diana for a long moment.

“Would you mind holding my hand?” Stuart asked, sounding beaten down and miserable.

Diana felt she could risk this without calling down the aliens, so she moved over to sit next to Stuart. She grabbed his hand and he gasped and squeezed closer, breathing hard and closing his eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Diana asked, watching Stuart’s face go through a powerful revolution of misery, loneliness, and embarrassment.

“I can feel you. You’re here. I’m touching you. I was in the tube for four years, then the aliens put me in with some boys that beat me up, and I felt that, and now I’m here. I haven’t felt anything but the tube and that one thrashing for four years, Di, and I can feel your hand now. It’s just nice, is all,” Stuart said, vibrating with deep emotion.

“Poor baby,” Diana said, her voice light. Stuart laughed and moved back to lay his head on the pillow, though he kept hold of Diana’s hand. “No, they don’t like anything to calm down,” Diana said, moving closer to maintain their previous proximity.

“They’ll come down if we stop touching?” Stuart whispered, looking terrified.

“Mm. Very probably. They don’t like emotional distance after a coherent bonding moment,” Diana said.

“How’d you figure that out?” Stuart whispered. Diana shook her head, meaning that she wouldn’t explain, and Stuart sighed and wrapped both hands around her hand. “So you’ll stay here with me, please? I’m really tired, Di,” Stuart whispered.

“It’s okay, Stu. You can talk normally,” Diana said, reaching out with her free hand to pet over Stuart’s hair. Now that he was so frightened, she wasn’t afraid of him at all, or particularly nervous. He seemed like a quivering lump of sadness to Diana, and she didn’t pity him, but she felt he was being very likeable now. “Why were you so mad at me when you came back, if you remember everything that happened between you and me?” Diana asked, stroking over Stuart’s hair.

“It was real. I didn’t have a pause button anymore, Di. I thought they were going to hurt me again,” Stuart whispered.

“Honey, it’s okay. We’ve got a whole week,” Diana said.

“No. It’ll last five minutes and they’ll get rid of me again. I don’t want to go,” Stuart said, his voice shaking with nerves.

“Well, honey,” Diana said, and she wasn’t sure what to say after this.

“I don’t want to go back without you, Di. I missed you,” Stuart said, pulling Diana’s hand against his chest to cuddle with her fingers.

Diana looked at Stuart and began, in her secret heart, to revise her priorities.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the hunter is giving a demonstration.

Only Diana This Time (Plus This Drawing of a Tree!)

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Sample

Further Details

“How do you know how long it was?” Diana asked.

“They had a countdown running, or a count up, really. I mean, there was a tally on the inside wall of my tube, so I could see the seconds counting up. Four years of seconds is kind of a while, when you’re looking at it in little segments like that,” Stuart said.

Diana didn’t know what to say.

“How long were you here, Di?” Stuart asked.

“Hey, why did they let you out?” Diana asked. Stuart blushed. Diana began to feel a burning curiosity about the reason behind this blush, as she felt Stuart looked like a person sitting on a magnificent and fascinating secret.

“I don’t want to say,” Stuart said quietly.

“Did you realize you really did love me, and they decided to let you try and be nice to me again?” Diana asked.

Once again, Stuart got up and limped away. Diana didn’t follow him, as she wanted to think over the prospect of being stuck for four long years in the kind of squished, claustrophobic tube that she’d seen Stuart in for a brief moment. She had only been conscious of a few months passing in her own experience of time after the coming of the aliens, and though she had been in the blank place for an indeterminate space of time, Diana did not think it had been anywhere close to even a month, let alone a year, or four.

Stuart came back in a couple of hours, limping and looking exhausted.

“Will you please come and sit with me, Di? I can’t go to sleep at all, and you’d help. You being there,” Stuart said. He seemed miserable to be asking, but tired enough not to care about his dignity anymore.

“You’ll talk to me until you fall asleep?” Diana asked. Stuart heaved a defeated manner of sigh.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’ll tell you anything you want,” he said.

“Cool. Let’s go,” Diana said, and she went ahead of him into the house and to their particular bedroom.

“Um, can we go somewhere else?” Stuart asked, his face mildly uncomfortable.

“No,” Diana said, because she wanted to maintain a sense of continuity for the aliens and because she could see that Stuart was at a higher pitch of emotion in here.

She sat down at the foot of the bed and folded her hands together. Stuart looked with some longing down the hall and then sat down with another miserable sigh on the side of the bed and pulled off his shoes.

“So how real was it for you? Were you always aware of being in the tube, or was it like you were really here when I saw you here?” Diana asked.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, a pair of newlyweds are meeting an old conquest of Telmon’s.

Vince the Hunter

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Here’s Vince in the screensaver from the first book in my series I’m working on. He was in the desert collecting speed-cornet lizards, but the photographer for a science magazine told him that was too boring for pictures, so Vince grabbed one of his spears.

Yay Vince!

Here’s a bit of Diana:

Sample

Post-Marriage

Stuart tried to close the bedroom door, but Diana slid into the opening and he wasn’t willing to touch her, so he stepped back and glared.

“Please go away,” Stuart said.

“I want to compare stories. I’m not afraid of you,” Diana said.

“Yeah, obviously. I don’t want to compare stories. It was all made up, anyway,” Stuart said. He clearly wanted to escape the room, but Diana was standing in the doorway. “Please move,” Stuart said.

“I’ll just follow you wherever you go. You can’t get away from me,” Diana said.

Stuart snarled.

Diana studied him and reflected on what was most likely to make him talk. I’ll be the one to go away, she thought, and she ran to the bed, causing Stuart to shout and dart out of the way, grabbed a pillow and blanket, and climbed out of the open window.

Diana did not at all know what Stuart would do, but she was sure he hadn’t expected this. She made a cozy bed near the peak of the roof and settled down, staring up at the black ice above her.

“It’s not even night or anything,” Stuart said. He’d come partway up the roof without her noticing. Diana pretended not to hear him and closed her eyes. Stuart laughed, though it was his old, mean sound, and not at all the nice way the fake him had laughed.

Diana heard the crunch of limping steps, and Stuart sat down several feet away.

She didn’t say anything at all and pretended to be sound asleep. Stuart made a couple of half-hearted opening noises, as if he meant to speak, and then stood up again.

“Stay please,” Diana said.

“Liar, pretending to be all peaceful and asleep. You’re different than the fake you,” Stuart said.

Diana was surprised enough to sit up.

“What do you mean, the fake me?” she asked.

“You don’t remember the pregnant parts, apparently. I asked you how long you’d been here because I want to compare timelines,” Stuart said.

“That’s what I wanted to do before you stomped off,” Diana remarked.

Stuart walked away. Diana, who felt that they were approaching a satisfying conversation, smiled and studied the black ice. Half an hour later, Stuart came back.

“Stop needling at me,” Stuart said.

“No, it’s fun. I will never stop,” Diana said.

Stuart left again. Diana laughed, because she was getting tremendous satisfaction out of exacting revenge on the real Stuart, who apparently had a much better handle on his temper than he’d ever had in his life before.

Two and a half hours later, Stuart came back and sat down. Diana sensed a willingness to talk on his part and so remained very quiet.

Stuart sighed.

“Well, I’ll tell you most of it,” he said, sounding resigned.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, a pair of gangsters are trying to throw an impromptu bachelor party for Mr. Weston.