(I Also Write Children's Books!)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Fat (Rodney Dangerfield Edition)

I have held many jobs in my time. My career path has been bizarre and wandering. I have never gotten less respect than I do as a writer, and since I'm feeling 'bemused' rather than 'angry' about that right now, I'mma gonna write about it.

When I say 'respect' I don't mean personally, like 'You're no good at this'. I mean professionally. I got more professional courtesy in my time working fast food than I have as a writer.

This comes to mind because recently I was approached for a writing job. A friend of mine and seven of his friends are making a game, and my friend (who I will call Tiny) asked me if I'd be interested in doing the writing. Hey, a relaxing side project. Sure, sounded like fun. Then a couple of weeks ago I found out that no, they're serious, and they offered me money. 500e is not huge in the scheme of things, but it means they're serious. So I got seriously to work, and after checking every step along the way if they liked the ideas, I was told to scrap everything because I had misunderstood the project. So I got into contact with the project lead, who seems to have not actually gotten any of my messages or had any of hers passed to me. I'm not sure, because when I ask her questions she lectures me about writing instead of answering them. And now she hasn't answered my email in a week. I'm hoping THAT is just the holidays, but damn.

That project still may work out, it may just be communications problems, but I'm less than hopeful because it's not exactly new.

See, early in the year I got contacted by an animation studio. Honest to Celestia animation studio in India, established and at least moderately successful - I checked. They wanted to produce a cartoon for the American market, and needed a writer. They professed to love every idea I gave them. Then they got slow answering my emails. I was told the marketing department wanted to develop a certain character idea. I thew a pitch at them. They told me they liked it and wanted more development. I threw a more developed version at them. It's been about six months, and they never answered my email. The person I know personally in the company told me that they weren't upset with me, but to forget about them until and unless they got back to me. Probably marketing canceled the whole project - that's really common in animation. But damn, the professional discourtesy in being unwilling to tell me, right?

Or I could go back to when I tried to submit for freelance to Klasky-Csupo, carefully following their submission instructions and providing the proper waivers, only to be told that they no longer accepted submissions. See, they'd changed their policy to only working with a set of preapproved agents, but they hadn't bothered to change the phone line that explained how to submit. PROFESSIONAL COURTESY.

And the 'Next issue!' magazine debacle...

Whew! That was fun to get off my chest. Am I just unlucky, or do all writers get treated like they're expendable?

The Skinny

I have been chastised for hardly ever writing anything in this blog. It is a good point. I've never been good at keeping a diary, I curl up and hide from the world when I get really stressed (Celestia damn, was I stressed these last few months), and how often do I have something deeply meaningful to say?

Apparently that last is the problem. I'm a deranged misanthrope, but I'm an entertaining deranged misanthrope. It seems I should just blog about whatever's on my mind. I don't know if I can keep up with even that, but we'll see.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Flop Flop Flop

I finished writing Quite Contrary! Since then, I've spent my time lying around, gasping like a dying fish. I started out heavily emotionally invested in the book, and by the end it consumed me, all the more so because I was battling intensely stressful life circumstances that tried to stamp out my creativity entirely.

It will take awhile for me to recover enough to write anything new, although with me I have no idea if 'awhile' is 'a week' or 'a month'. Ideas are starting to pop in my head, so the process of recovery is processing. I threw myself so deeply into the book that I have to do other projects before I can proofread it. I've gotten some beta reviews, and I can barely look at the criticism. I'm just too wrapped up in the book, still!

I'm going to have to learn to shoulder it. Reactions to the book have told me that this is not going to be a universal pleaser. This is, finally, the 'pushing the edge of what people can handle' book. It needs trimming and strengthening, but I'm going to go ahead with it anyway. Unlike Wild Children, this looks like it will be a 'some people love it, some people hate it' book, and the most important factor is how each reader reacts to Mary herself differently.

Meanwhile, I have lots of detritus to clear up from a couple of months of steadily growing insanity. I have to update my blogs. I have to join Google+. I have to learn to use twitter to advertise without being an ass about it. I have to see friends and relatives I abandoned. And my current 'project', making a paperback version of Wild Children. That's actually going pretty well.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wild Children Is Out!

And now for the OTHER half of my writing style. I published the goth stuff first, because it was easy and meant less to me emotionally.

What I care about is children's and YA literature. That's what moves me. And the first book I wrote, and my Masterpiece, is Wild Children. As of today it is published and purchasable on the Amazon Kindle Store and Smashwords. In a few weeks, Smashwords will finish reviewing and it'll be on other major online bookstores.

Wild Children was written in a rush of artistic inspiration after a five year writing drought. I could not be more proud of it. It is deeply philosophical, it is tragic and uplifting, and it's about children. Not just in general, but told from the perspective of five different children. It was my first real experiment in first person, deep point of view, voice intense writing. I could not be happier with the result.

Now to update my author pages everywhere, and maybe do a little advertising!


Today, my bad little children, we're going to talk about Cupcakes. Not the delicious frosted kind, the other Cupcakes. If you're a fan of the new My Little Pony cartoon and you have very dark tastes, you've certainly heard of Cupcakes by now. If you haven't... well, that was your warning. You may not want to read this.

I just read it today. I've been putting it off for weeks, which is dumb, but I honestly expected it to be terrible and disappointing. Now that I've read it, I think it's worth a blog post both as a writer and as a personal issue. Even though I'll push this post down almost immediately with one about Wild Children publishing.

I'll start with a review. If you don't know where this is going, Cupcakes is an infamous MLP fan-fiction story about Pinkie Pie brutally murdering Rainbow Dash because the secret ingredient in her delicious cupcakes is pony meat. Fan fiction almost never meets my standards of writing quality, but this does. The text and story could use some tightening to remove awkwardness and increase punch, but the characters are very well portrayed and the duality of perky pony cuteness and gory violence is sharply contrasted, which provides the horror. That right there is the core of Cupcakes. I was surprised to find that it's standard modern horror. Something cute turns violent. The emotions it produces are visceral and strong, and it's really a successful and fairly well written story.

Which brings us to where I become fascinated. Why write this at all? Why the buzz? Why did I want to read it? Why is there what I will refer to as a Cupcakes community, currently spearheaded (I'd say) by Crookedtrees and Ask Pinkamina? Isn't it an odd combination, liking My Little Pony but something as dark as serial killer horror? Why is this all important to me, personally?

The best way to sum it up is with the goth adage 'The brighter the light, the darker the shadow'. And that ties into the very basis of the horror style that Cupcakes uses. Artistically, contrasts make things powerful. They provide depth, and make stories and characters relatable. My Little Pony is a very good show and its fans love it dearly, and it is very sweet and very positive. That makes it perfect for combining with dark artistic elements. Then Party Of One happened, and MLP begged for it.

Cupcakes was written before the episode Party Of One, which changed the Cupcakes community radically and turned it from merely a quirky horror story into a phenomenon that connects with some of us emotionally. In the episode Cutie Mark Chronicles, Pinkie's childhood is revealed to have been very grim, so much so that she never smiled until she hit puberty. Too many grown up abused children looked at the miserable Hell of her childhood and the manic silliness of her adulthood, and we said 'I understand perfectly.' Two weeks later, Party Of One showed Pinkie mistakenly believing her friends had abandoned her and her fun life was over - and she devolved quickly into madness. A cute joke, except that when combined with the look at her childhood, we understood that, too. As the crowning touch, when Pinkie thinks her happy life is over, her hair goes back to being long and straight like it was when she was a child. Because her mother referred to her as 'Pinkamina Diane Pie' in that flashback, any time Pinkie is shown with straight hair she's assumed to be unhappy and the fans call her Pinkamina. It all tied together into a consistent and much deeper character concept than the character had ever shown before. A level of character depth the show has been giving us in general.

It also showed real signs of much darker themes lurking in this candy sweet show. Cupcakes is based on the idea that since Pinkie is weird and crazy and manic, it's a believable leap to base a story on her being so crazy she doesn't know it's wrong to kill people to make sweets. Current versions follow that if the happiness ends, Pinkie will break. It's a much smaller leap than Cupcakes to suggest that she'll break by committing murder, and once she starts she won't be able to stop. If your childhood is bad enough, you learn to function and survive when everything about your life is outside the bounds of sanity.

Put all that together, and the serial killer pink pony fascinates many people, myself included. And I just read Cupcakes today and saw where it started, and it got me thinking enough to want to write this down.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Rough Tease

I'm sitting on at least half a dozen chapters of Quite Contrary. I love posting my roughs, and from a business perspective as long as I don't post the whole book, it's just a teaser. I'm over halfway through the book now, approaching what I think will be the three quarters mark, and I have to make the painful decision when to stop posting roughs. I don't get feedback anyway except from friends privately reading, but it makes me feel good that some people are reading. But it feels unwise to post the whole gol dang book. Now, as I write the last chapter of Part 3, I have to figure out what to do.

On the plus side, no amount of distractions have made me lose the thread. Mary demands my attention, and things are about to hit the crisis point - if a book about being chased by a wolf doesn't come pre-crisised.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kindle All Stars like me!

So, I'm here to make a very exciting announcement that everybody who will ever read this already knows about. I have been accepted for the Kindle All Stars anthology project thingy sorta ebook. The editor has a web page that I will TOTALLY READ SOMEDAY.

Here is the thing, as I understand it. I'm taking the epublishing route, as are a lot of new authors. Bluntly, the legacy publishing system is a mess and there's no guarantee anymore that you'll get published, ever, no matter how good you are. On the epublishing side you can at least keep writing, build up a library and followers, and create something from nothing. And you WILL start from nothing, which is where I'm at.

This used to be sort of true with legacy publishing, and sometimes you'd get successful people who would find New Talent and show off collections of their stories because... well, honestly, authors look at each other and go 'Dude, EVERYONE needs to read that story you wrote about the guy with the bees in his brain.' So now with the epublishing market the anthology thing is starting again. Harlan Ellison and Alan Dean Foster are both sponsoring this and putting in their own stories, and New Talent will get to have their own stories appear side by side with these big name legacy authors.

We don't get a penny off of this. No one does. We get people to learn we exist. All the money goes to the Center For Missing And Exploited Children, and they could NOT have chosen a charity I like more.

So this is all extremely awesome.

Now I just have to rename my entry. Seriously, it was a fairy tale and I was under no pressure to name it properly at the time. I've never been good at naming anyway, and I left it at 'A Rat Tale'. That just won't do.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Defining Innocence

As a writer, and being fond of YA as well as goth (Man, maybe I'll do The Cult Of The Necromancer's Children after all) lit, I have to know how my characters work. This leaves me trying to come up with definitions for things we're usually content to leave with 'I know it when I see it'.

And I was watching Kiki's Delivery Service, because it's AWESOME, and I got an inspiration to update my theory of 'innocence'.

Innocence is a tough one, and it's bread and butter if you're writing YA. I mean, what is innocence? It's not ignorance. I'm fascinated by stories of abused children, and you can see shocking innocence in a child who's prepared to commit murder because she's been abused sexually for years. That's an extreme example, but that's why I'm using it. You know it when you see it, and you see it in young children (and sometimes old people) who know too much. And that gives it even more power.

So what is innocence? My new theory is that innocence is system of ignorance, not the ignorance itself. It is the set of attitudes and emotions that come along with viewing the world as something new that you're still figuring out. Any knowledge, no matter how much the innocent has, is considered a drop in the bucket and fresh mysteries are around every corner. It's taken as a given that they're around every corner.

For a cute example, turn over a rock. The jaded person won't bother. Why? There's dirt under there. For the innocent there might be bugs, a weird damp patch, someone's lost keys, or in extreme cases a dragon. Who knows? Every rock is a new possibility.

For an example on the other end, take sexual relationships. Stories of teens winding their way through their early relationships are charming because of the innocence. Heck, even late teens. Two seemingly identical scenarios (difficult, because attitudes change behavior, but possible). Subjects meet someone in a bar, strike up a conversation, get drunk, have sex. One of them spends the whole time asking him/herself questions like 'How far will this go? Should I kiss her? Is this love? Does she like me?' The other knows how this will go, and is expecting it. They may have both done this before and have equal experience, but one seems much more innocent than the other.

It is the attitude that the world is open-ended and full of possibilities, or that the world is predictable and completely understood, that differentiates innocence from jaded corruption. I think I've got it this time, and it's a useful tool.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Quite Contrary INDEED

So, I spent the last several days in a haze of madness, unable to think about anything but writing. As a result, I am proud to have new links for you!

Chapter 8: Rose Red
Chapter 9: Pizza In Purgatory
Chapter 10: Her Only Friend Isn't Her Wolf

This ends part II of the book, and since there's like 3 or 4 more parts I'm starting to wonder if the book will be rather long. It's Mary's fault. I love writing her.

Also, I'm in negotiation for Wild Children's cover art. By far the best thing I've ever written, I'm strongly looking forward to publishing it soon.

Friday, July 22, 2011

So, what AM I writing now?

This blog has been slightly less useful to me than my DA account, because I have been unable to post any of my in-progress roughs. What good is a writer's blog if you don't know anything about what he's writing?

This post is an experiment in fixing that problem!

My current project is a book entitled 'Quite Contrary'. It follows the adventures of a nine year old girl named Mary. As always seems to happen to everyone who gets lost, she has an amazing and magical and unbelievable story to tell. Unfortunately for her, that story is Little Red Riding Hood. Unfortunately for Little Red Riding Hood, Mary Stuart fell into it.

But you can't get the flavor of a book from descriptions. How about some rough drafts of the chapters so far?

Chapter 1, Mary, A Rat, A Wolf, And An Unfortunate Change Of Clothes
Chapter 2, Here There Be Fairy Tales
Chapter 3, Kickin' It In Fairyland
Chapter 4, Girl Meets Girl Canceled On Account Of Wolf
Chapter 5, Blondes Who Hunt Trolls
Chapter 6, Mary Is Briefly Happy
Chapter 7, Freaky Viking Romance And A Fast Exit

The chapters don't have actual titles, but I felt some way to differentiate them might be nice

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Went To Hippyville And All I Got Was This Lousy Inspiration

(Cross posted from my DA account where I post my roughs)

So I disappeared for a bit! A trice. A small amount of time. I was gone about a week because a charming young lady of my acquaintance invited me to attend the Oregon Country Fair with her. I had never heard of it, but a week in said young lady's company is always relaxing and fun. Seriously, she's a great friend.

For those who don't know - and I didn't know - the Oregon Country Fair is an annual gigantic (45k attendance) 3-day hippy street fair out in the middle of the woods of Oregon. If you are a hippy or a member of any hippy-associated subculture, this will blow your mind. And I'm not referring to the drugs, because they actually try really hard to keep booze and drugs out of the fair grounds. Those are mainly to be had in unbelievable amounts in the camp grounds surrounding the fair, and camping is about the only practical way to attend the fair.

I had three immediate problems: I'm not a hippy. If anything, I'm a goth. The hardest mind-altering substance I use is caffeine. I hate camping.

Problem one was kind of funny. I received almost no hostility, but a fair amount of suspicion and constant baffled interrogations about why I was wearing a black suit. Ah, noncomformists. You're so conformist.

Problem two merely accentuated how out of my element I was. It's not like anybody so much as pressured me to take a drink, and I don't care what anybody else is doing as long as they don't give me trouble.

Problem three did kinda spoil the event. No electricity? Cold showers on a freezing morning? Man, do I hate camping!

Despite all of that the fair is bizarre and fascinating, and I'm glad I attended once. I saw all sorts of unusual crafts, like hand-made oil kaleidoscopes by a *real* expert. Those were gorgeous. The spontaneous themed parades were also fantastically cool.

Then I got home, sometime late last week. I'm not really sure when, because a week without technology... meant a week without writing. I went kind of nuts and only resurfaced last night!
On the plus side, I do love Quite Contrary and it's coming along swimmingly. This section was meant to be pretty short, but I've learned that a chapter will be whatever length it needs to be, and can't be predicted. And it let me show off the weirdness of Norse Mythology, one of my favorite genres.

Next time: Mary meets the Rose of Delphi! Someday, I'd like Rose to get her own book.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ponies and Dolls

I'm finished through chapter 4 of Quite Contrary, and trying to decide if there are good ways to link to the chapters in this blog. This puts me again in the mysterious Between Space before my inspiration revs up and I launch into the next writing spree. The covers for The Doll House are ready, so I'm hoping they'll be ready to publish in the next few days. Meanwhile, I... guess I blog about myself! I dunno. That's supposed to happen, right?

I will take a cue from Keri's blog there. She likes live action television serieses. I like cartoons. I like cartoons a lot. For those watching the internet explode in pastel pink glory, it can be taken for granted that I am a My Little Pony fan. But I'm not here to talk about ponies!

Since I'm off visiting The Old Man, I brought a selection of videos on my flash drive, and I'm rewatching Rozen Maiden. Anime, American animation, European animation, all I care is that it's a good cartoon, and Rozen Maiden is my favorite cartoon series ever, which means it's my favorite TV show ever. I can't believe I'm rewatching it for the 4th time. I'm not a big rewatcher, but there's just so much to see.

Since I just started rewatching I'm fascinated by the way the show pretends to be your standard 'magical sidekicks tournament fight' at the beginning. Admittedly that pretense doesn't last long, but I'm seeing this pattern in the particularly good dramatic animes, like Rozen Maiden and Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Kodomo no Jikan, where they start out as if they were a cheap trope series so they can subvert all of the expectations and everything can fall into madness and Hell. The earliest example I can think of using that approach was Evangelion, and of course at the time I felt it was the best around.

But Rozen Maiden does it better than all of them. Now that I've seen the entire series and I know the characters, the cliche'd trope beginnings have extra meaning. They're displays of how truly, truly broken everyone on the show is. Suigintou's assassin doll really IS as halfhearted and ridiculous an attack as it seems, because Suigintou doesn't want Shinku dead. Shinku's jaded detachment isn't confidence, she's just so tired of fighting her sisters and being hurt by her owners and doesn't want to do it anymore. Then she bullies Jun into kissing the ring under her terms, and if you aren't watching for it you'd completely miss the expression of helplessly falling in love that transforms her face while they're connecting.

And in Episode 2 anybody can see Hina Ichigo completely lose it and nearly murder her owner, but now I have the perspective of seeing just how close all the dolls were to immolation at the start of the series. Shinku has become cold and withdrawn and isn't sure she's willing to fight even to save her own life anymore. Hina Ichigo can't endure abandonment and entombment again, and her personality is crumbling around her in her desperation to stop it. And Shinku could tell at a glance and while pretending to be the arrogant bully manipulates Hina Ichigo into moving in with her where she'll be safe and taken care of while she recovers. I'll never know for sure, but it was almost certainly on her mind already. After all, Suigintou was awake and just crazy enough to kill, and poor Hina Ichigo would have trouble fighting her way out of a paper bag.

I like these shows, the ones where you're justified putting this kind of thought into them. And Rozen Maiden is amazing.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Hacksaw's Edge Of Inspiration

I thought I should try and write a post right now. I just got finished plotting out chapter 2 (and it might be 3 and 4, it's a bit big and I may split it) of Quite Contrary. There were things that disappointed me in the first chapter, compensations I need to provide so that what I love about what I've made already can shine. Thoughts about all of this have been building up all week, along with plot events for the chapter and individual inspirations. But I've spent the whole bloody week painting the new house under fierce time constraints. When I'm not working I'm exhausted unto death and unable to write properly.

Tonight I woke up from a nap with enough energy, and it all fell together. Molly Of The Blood woke up. Usually it's Molly Of The Broken Spring who plots, but I've been too deprived lately. Now, see, this is why I felt I should post now. I'm one of those crazy, frenzied, passionate artists, right? Combine that with a fascination with human psychology, and a long while back I named various parts of my personality.

Molly is the name I gave my entire right brain, my creative side. She has aspects, but it's not so easy to divide them. Molly Of The Blood is the purest creative frenzy. I've read about the way the brain functions when visual artists work. They lose any sense of time, their ability to process language is severely impaired, they can't do math... when I am Molly Of The Blood, I go through all that stuff. For an hour or two there I had no personality or thoughts other than the writing, and if something else tried to get my attention it was an unwelcome intrusion. And if people tried to talk to me, I couldn't talk to them back except in a jumble of half a dozen words. Not without pushing Molly away and losing the inspiration. And yet, it's an inspiration to *write*. I assure you my outline is not only coherent, it's rather fat with literary detail. That ability with words is borrowed, allowed one tiny corner to exist.

And there are no emotions during that process. At least, none I could describe or remember. Writing is *all* I'm doing if it gets intense. But when it ends? Man, the high. I could dance on the ceiling. I'm quick witted and melodramatic and I enjoy playing with words far too much. In awhile I'll crash and be very depressed, but by then I'll be asleep, so HA! I WIN THIS ROUND, CHEMISTRY!

Does anyone else write like this?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I'm Lovin' This Depression

Those are strange words to say honestly. Back in depressive phase, and it feels better than manic. I'm calm and it's the distractions from my creativity that have died!

Unfortunately, only the emotional distractions. Life remains vigorous, if no longer miserable. I've got very little time and energy to spare, and I'm devoting most of it to writing. That means The Doll House stories are getting cleaned and arted up very slowly, because I'd rather get my next project good and started.

Poor Parthenogenesis. The unloved middle child. Maybe I'll be able to get back into it when I return to manic phase, but I tried to reread what I've done already and my brain rebelled. I absolutely do not want to be in Shem's head right now. Molly wants little kids and a brand new story, so I'm taking some of the elements I would have used on Rose Of Delphi and I'm starting a new book! And by 'starting' I mean 'Have started'. I've got the first chapter done to help me set the characters and feel, and now I'm building the overall plot outline while trying not to rush straight into chapter two. God, I'm so inspired.

Tentative working title: Quite Contrary. Mary gets lost and ends up in a fairy tale, like everyone who gets lost does. What, you think they were LYING about the yeti, aliens, giant fish, or the little town where no one spoke English and the radios and TVs didn't work? In Mary's case she accidentally becomes Red Riding Hood, and as I hope everyone knows that's a story with a very bad track record of ending well. But the Wolf's going to have his hands full, because Mary is the bitchiest nine year old that ever was. Whatever you tell her to do, she won't do the opposite. She'll find something even MORE rebellious to do.

Mmm, loving this so much. Writer's gotta write.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Next, Some Short Stories

The end of April and the beginning of May were a month of no writing for me. Not because of writer's block, but because of ghastly life things such as the nastiest cold I can remember.

After a month 'dry' I was barely myself and worried I didn't have it in me, so I threw myself back in with something light: A Doll House story! When I just want to write something fun, I write something shamelessly goth. Sweet Dreams was like that, a contrast from Wild Children, which I wrote because it was a story that needed telling. The Doll House is a series of stories about a place where the rarest girls have been stored for safekeeping. They can only leave if a visitor takes them back with him for a day. Each story features a different girl, and they give me a chance to take an old supernatural concept and twist it into a shape I can tell fun stories with. I just finished Doll House: Lapis Lazuli, the story of the last mermaid. She's as friendly as any man could hope for, including in the nudge-nudge-wink-wink sense, so... why is she the last?

That makes three Doll House stories finished so far, and I've decided to make them my next publishing priority. I'm finishing up the cover art, which won't be as fancy as for the books but should do okay. I'd like to offer Doll House: Inventory for free because it introduces everyone, and then put up the others for 99 cents each. Amazon doesn't like 'free', so we'll see how that goes.

I must decide what to write next. Parthenogenesis has taken such a beating. Do I have the will to finish a book that's had so many interruptions and had to be restarted once? Do I have the responsibility as a writer?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Yes, You Can Get It On Amazon

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of Teeth can now be purchased on Amazon! Barring very unfortunate surprises, the Apple, Sony, and Borders ebook stores will soon follow. It's the definition of 'soon' that plagues me.

But with this out of the way, I'm back to writing new stuff. I'd like to finish the third Doll House short story and put them on the market next. After that... I'll get either my novel Wild Children or my book of fairy tales out for sale. Depends on cover art opportunities.

Meanwhile, why not a sample taken from the middle of Chapter I of Sweet Dreams for those who'd like to know what Fang's life and problems are like?

Sample from Sweet Dreams Are Made Of Teeth

In a few nights I’d gone from avoiding everyone but Jeffery to having personal conversations with people I would have sworn would never want to talk to something like me at all. The whole idea made me feel uncomfortable at first, but then I just gave up.

“It’s an act, right?” I asked her frankly. “You’re putting on a show. I don’t talk to a lot of demons, but you don’t look or act like this.”

Rather than be offended she reached out a wing, heedless of the occasional drop of blood it left on the flowers, and brushed the pile into an arc. “Is this an act?” she countered with an impish smile, “Are these really your feelings?”

“Sort of?” I hedged. She’d made her point.

She held out her hand, smiling, and introduced, “I’m Lily.”

I laid my paw in it. I can shake. “Fang.”

We both ended up snickering. Half the demonesses in the Dark are named something like Lilith, and half the nightmares are Fang or Claw or something. Names so generic they had to be real.

She had never put down the flower, and now she was touching it again. I had to listen to a demon actually try to sound gentle as she asked, “The girl these are for – she’s another nightmare, I take it? Are these really what she wants?”

She’d gone straight to the question I’d been trying to avoid. Of course. “I don’t know what she wants,” I had to admit, “But probably not. Someone suggested flowers and the best I can do is give her so many it has to get her attention.”

“I know I’d be impressed by the effort,” she admitted, “But I’d trade a house full of regular flowers for just one, if it was picked because it was perfect for me. Think about that.”

I thought about it. It was an idea. This certainly wasn’t working.

It also would have been easier without an actual angel hanging around behind the border watching, but Lily seemed to be interested and how do you tell someone like her she makes you nervous? Thanks to Jeffery’s never-ending attempts to teach me to be more subtle I thought I knew what to do. It wasn’t hard to find the right dream. All this hunting for dreams with flowers in them had made me sensitive, and the hard part was waiting for one to drift close to the border. I wanted one on the edge.

When I broke into the one I’d picked I saw flowers, but only a few. The dream was a sort of a forest, or a garden, or something in-between. I couldn’t even tell if the dreamer was male or female. They were just a vague shape drifting peacefully through a lush arbor.

This wasn’t about the chase. It was about setting a mood. I hid myself inside a tree until the dreamer floated past. As it did I shoved my head out through the trunk, letting the skin of the tree cling to me as I snapped and growled, claws showing through a branch and thrashing at the dreamer. By the time I ripped through and leaped out onto the grass the whole dream had changed. We were in the Dark now, and everything had turned grey and shadowy, and the dreamer had sharpened into a young man in bulky pajamas. He wasn’t drifting anymore but running, dashing through bushes and between trees to escape me in the little forest.

But most dreams just aren’t that big. Seconds later I leapt out of the dark at him from another direction, and when I let him pull out of sight I just waited for him to loop around and did it again. Now he was stuck in the Dark and everything was changing shape, but I couldn’t let this be a dream about a big, black dog. The next time he passed by it was a pile of moss that fell out of the web-haunted branches in front of him and I was inside it, just snapping teeth and a body forming out of the grey strands. When he escaped that I found a little patch of sunflowers in a clearing. They had almost faded into the shadows, but I hid myself in one and as the dreamer was about to run right through them I lunged.

I didn’t break out. Like the tree I stretched the skin of the flower over me, giving it a muzzle that reached, snapping with violent bloodlust to either side because I was getting into it now. The rest of the sunflowers stopped fading and grew their own teeth, and as I forced an arm out and started dragging myself towards him with my claws they were mutating too. Behind him thorns sprouted from the trunk of a tree and its branches curled around to yank him in, and as I burst free of the sunflower the dreamer woke up.

Around me the dream spasmed, but it didn’t pop. I was actually proud as I looked around. Every vine twitched threateningly, every leaf had an oozing sheen, bushes thrashed and bit with a hundred mouths. The dream had taken on a sense of identity. It knew what it was. A new nightmare was waking up.

I had come here with a purpose, though. A clump of flowers with heavy purple-and-black blooms edged with teeth and shifting, slitted eyes between the petals – that was perfect. I grabbed a bunch of stems in my jaws and tore them free, and with a squeal of pain the dream broke up.

They were gorgeous and the dream had been so close to consciousness, so specific, they weren’t going to fade any time soon. They might never fade at all. That didn’t mean I wasted any time. I bolted through the vague mists that are so much of the Dark as fast as four legs could go, only partly because Lily was whistling appreciatively behind me.

My Muse’s house had lodged in some kind of withered field, so dead grass stretched all around it as far as I could see and above its peaked roof hung a crescent moon. It was a good place for her to have wandered, and I hoped she’d stay there because I thought it looked very pretty. At least, I thought that as I barged in through her front door and raced into the sitting room. I might have been hurrying too much. I had to make turns through several rooms, ducking back into the same hallway a second time until I found the right door. The house was trying to keep me out.

But there she was. The flowers from before were gone already, but they’d been so out of place here it was no wonder they hadn’t survived. These flowers were better, and I padded up to her as calmly as I could and laid them in her lap. The vivid markings of them, with the wine colored lace on her dress, were the only real colors in the room. The eye in each flower still moved, peering up at her, at me, at everything, hostile and staring and not quite intelligent.

But still nothing happened. I sighed as the quiet sobbing continued. The flowers at least would last a long time. I hoped they’d be there in her lap forever.

Something touched my shoulder. Lily had caught up to me, or that weird little girl Anna had dropped by again. I looked around, both proud and embarrassed, but what I saw was a thin chain stretching out of the floor, hooking itself into my spiked collar.

I felt a sudden tension. A light thrill of fear that didn’t come from anything, that was impressed from outside. Shadows in the corners of the room went pitch-black, and the four statues were looking at me.

A dream had formed around the house, but this time there was no dreamer. This was my dream and she was my nightmare. More pale lines snaked out and took hold of my legs, and they were starting to pull me back towards a blank stretch of wall. The four statues, a man and a woman and two little boys, were watching me with expectant faces. Four people encased in something white and stuck in the wall.

I was in trouble.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

And Now, We Begin

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of Teeth
by Richard Roberts
Available at Smashwords.

Have you ever had the nightmare of being chased by a beast? Then you've met Fang. He'll be the first to admit that he's a very simple nightmare. All he knows is hunting your dreams and dragging them into the Dark. He's not ready for his life to get complicated. He's not ready to be dragged into his best friend's schemes to make dreams so terrifying they break people. He's not ready to love, or to be loved, or to meet someone who makes him happy. He's definitely not ready for those to be three different girls.

He's not ready to grow up.

When he does, one thing will stay the same. He'll stay an artist, and he'll paint your dreams with fear until they're beautiful.

This is my first published novel. I need to discuss the book and what it's about and why I wrote it, but for now I just want to sit back and enjoy that I did it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Sun Belatedly Rises

Welcome, one and all, to the blog of Richard Roberts, writer of... well, so far short stories, novels, fairy tales, children's books, and I'm working with a cartoon studio. But I create this blog on the eve of getting the very first of these items marketed to the public. For the moment, I claim this 40 acres of the internet in the name of Sweet Dreams Are Made Of Teeth. Unless my luck goes straight to a very icky and nasty place I write about frequently, my next post sometime this weekend will be an announcement of its publication.

Insincerely But Honestly,