Epistle of Doff – Hands On Research #LucasArmKnitExperience

Athan - Knitting - Illustration

So an odd/fun/random/spur-of-the-moment thing happened.

It started with my NaNoWriMo project. The love interest is a trainhopping, attachment-free, badass. So, I decided he needs a hobby—something completely unexpected for that persona. And it needs to be something he can do to pass the time while catching out [i.e. riding the rails; hopping trains.] Something “soft”, traditionally “non-masculine”. I rolled through a few possibilities before settling on knitting.


Knitting is reportedly therapeutic. It’s a practical skill; need a blanket while on the road? Gank some yarn and make one. But I ended up with a slight problem there since the process can take a while…

Yesterday, while searching for images to represent this aspect of my character, Athan, I initially had a HARD time finding images of guys knitting. I was getting quite frustrated. Then Twitter folk helped my search. And one link led to another to another until I ended up creating an entire Pinterest board: Men + Yarn

In the process, I discovered Arm Knitting. That’s a thing??? Yes. A cool thing. Knitting using your arms instead of needles. And, using heavyweight yarn, the process goes quickly. Aha! A quick, no-tools-needed way for Athan to pass the time trapped in a rattling freight car. And since the world has an ingrained magic system where the purpose of an object [and thus it’s color, texture, density] can be warped, Athan has access to a limitless supply of “yarn”. He simply needs to transform tiny sections of the metal forming the train car.

As icing on the cake, this idea of weaving two separate skeins together is a perfect symbol of the central conflict my MC is facing. It’s also gloriously symbolic of the romance subplot. Perfection, I say.

Athan is highly gifted at warping & knitting. During long train rides, there is the obvious opportunity for him to teach that skill to my MC, Doff. Oh.the.moments. The symbolism. The ways Athan can playfully take advantage of Doff while his hands are bound in yarn cuffs.

But before I can write that into their story, I need to know how to Arm Knit, what it feels like. So, with the help of a YouTube vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqvC1xlm86U&feature=youtu.be, I learned. Today. For the hell of it, kinda accidentally, I ended up live-Tweeting my learning process & the emotions that went along with it. If you’re so inclined to check it out, I used the hashtag #LucasArmKnitExperience.

Quickly, folks tapped into my virgin arm knitting experience & turned it into a beautiful, fun conversation.

After the highs & lows, the successes & failures, photos became a necessity. So, obviously, an impromptu photo shoot  showing the end results of my first arm knitting attempt was required.

The whole live-action-learn-a-new-thing experiment was fun. Not only did I learn a new skill I can teach my characters, I also experienced the feeling arc of curiosity/frustration/peacefulness/accomplishment/celebration. Doff will feel that same progression. On top of all that, other folks decided to catch out with me. And, perhaps, I can recreate that excitement & willingness with Doff & Athan’s story.

I just need to write it first. NaNo, here I come.

Reference images for these two train kids & the rest of the cast of Epistle of Doff:

OFFER OF REP! (and why I said no)

guy kneeling crying

Please, put down the torches and pitchforks.

I know how that title sounds. I never, ever imagined I’d turn down an offer of rep from an agent. But I did. I had to. It was a difficult thing to do, but maybe not for the reasons you might think.

It all started with the most recent #PitMad event. The day job was busy sucking the life out of me, so, the night before, I scheduled a few Tweets to jump in and scrap with the thousands of others vying for attention in the stream. By the end of the day, I had two requests: one from a small pub & one from an agent. Right away I knew I wouldn’t submit to the publisher. Because, you see, I’ve made the personal decision that I want an agent fighting by my side, adding value, experience, and wisdom to this passionate dream of mine.

So that left me with an agent who wanted to see more than the (exactly) 140 characters: Tera joins the crazy-twisted Phreak Show where she must embrace the truth: being a freak isn’t about looks, it’s a frame of mind #PitMad YAF

I’d previously researched the agency *a little*. My mind couldn’t instantly dredge up any black-listed reasons not to submit. Plus: AN AGENT WANTS TO SEE MORE OF MY STORY! Once I got home, I hunted the sub guidelines and shipped off the query, synopsis & first 25 pages. I grabbed some dinner and nonchalantly strolled into my weekend.

5 days later, this arrived in my inbox:

I’m absolutely obsessed with this. Your concept looks really tight and the message is just awesome. I think there is something so real about this, but you are entertaining instead of didactic. I could go on and on, but suffice to say I’m fangirling : ) I would be delighted to give your full manuscript a read.

Of course I did a celebratory jig (a cross between Riverdance & walking on hot coals) & sent it right over. An agent. Fangirling over my words! And only then did I do the in-depth research I should have.


As this process progressed, a half dozen of my fellow writers, CPs, and an Assistant Agent friend all suited up & went into research-war with me. There were a lot of questions marks, which twisted into perplexities, which then flared into big, flaming red flags.

– Predators & Editors only noted: slow response time to queries. [Well, hell. That’s 75% of all queries I’ve ever sent…]
– No agents with the agency are members off AAR. [Okay, well I know of some top-notch agents who aren’t…]
– No clients listed on the agency website. [Okay. Wait. What? You’ve been in business for years…Your website is a basic (and easy) venue to champion your authors’ work. If you’re not showcasing your clients & their books on your own website, then what kind of marketing value are you really adding?]
– Twitter digging, following the rabbit down its hole, unearthed a few “clients”. [Hmmm…few and far between. The quality of the book covers look little better than something created in MS Paint. Are these self-pubbers? I smell fish.]
– Even though the agency (and its parent Talent agency) has been around for years: no sales listed. None. Anywhere. [Slow the eff down. Even if the agent (for whatever reason) chose not to post sales, then the Editor, or the even the author most likely would. Right? HOW CAN YOU BE IN BUSINESS FOR YEARS AND NOT HAVE ANY PUBLIC RECORD OF SALES?]

And as a few more red flags were firmly planted: that dead fish smell clung to me, my manuscript, my misconception that landing a full request is always a good thing.

THE NEXT DAY: My phone rings during my commute home. I don’t recognize the number. It’s the agent. I pull over. I whip out my notebook, access the mental database of all those questions & red flags in my head.

I absolutely LOVE this. Love.it. The aesthetic you created is perfect for this concept, perfect for YA. The quirkiness is really good; weird in a good way. Your characters are a BIG strength; they feel so real. The whole story felt really emotional without sacrificing plot. It’s so hard to balance characterization, worldbuilding and plot, and you did it beautifully. That’s evidence of a great writer.”

Lucas’ brain: She’s genuine. She reallymeans every word. Damn, those words feel good. Why, oh why, does this have to smell like a Red Lobster’s dumpster?

I’d like to offer you and your phenomenal book representation.

Lucas’s brain: Oh fuck does this suck. Hard.

I dig into my questions: carefully. I ask about the things giving me major pause (or, actually, damn-near a full-on stop). She answers. She’s super nice. Her personality is vibrant, cheery, and wonderful. We’d get along great outside of the whole agent-author relationship thingy. Oh yeah. That’s the whole point. A knowledgeable agent guiding me through the process, selling-the-hell-out-of-my-book, connecting with contacts I don’t have, championing my story, fighting alongside me to make this passionate dream of mine a reality.

I have other fulls out, so I need to nudge those agents and give them the opportunity to offer. A week ought to do. I ask for a copy of the agency’s contract to look over. I can text or email or call anytime with questions or concerns.

I’m torn. There’s no way I can accept this offer. But, at the same time, in an ooey gooey part of me, this is the call I’ve been working SO HARD to receive for years now. THIS EFFIN SUCKS.

If the red flags smelled fish-like, the contract is the bloody meat of every fish who ever died, piled on a shit-covered beach, rotting in the boiling hot sun while zombie skunks spray musk on the stinkbugs chewing on the eyeless corpses. You think I’m exaggerating. I’ve seen a few agency contracts, so I have comparison points. I work with contracts & legal docs in both my day job and in my own business. This contract isn’t for just this project, but basically for your creative soul. The Author’s Work is defined as:

“…all ideas, story materials, characters, situations, formats, and works of authorship which Author has created or creates during the term of this Agreement…”

That feels pretty all-encompassing. “Ideas” are included? And what’s with the “has created” phrase? The word “irrevocably” is used too many times throughout the contract. The clauses involving how the contract can be terminated revolve around a very specific period in time; not just with 30 days written notice, which seems to be the standard. With each new work, the contract auto-renews & resets the clock & the termination clause. The continuation of residual commissions is scary when combined with the agreement’s definition of the Author’s Work. If things weren’t fishy before, this contract alone would have been enough to lead me to a no.

My deadline for getting back to this agent arrives. My gut wrenches as I dial the number. And I’ve heard agents say this before: rejections suck no matter which side of the conversation you are on. This isn’t true with queries or partials, I’m sure. Probably not even with a lot of fulls. But here, with an offer of rep before me, knowing and believing that (despite all the salmon) this agent truly & genuinely loves my work, I feel so awful saying no. And not for my sake. Not because I feel like I’m losing something, but because this agent feels so strongly for my manuscript. My heart hurts because she has expectation and hope. And I’m the one dashing it against the stones.

It bites when agents give you a generic rejection, which leaves you wondering But, really, WHY? It’s harder this way (on me), but I’m super-honest and straightforward with her on the reasons why I am declining her offer. She is gracious, but sadness tinges her voice.

I received an offer of rep. And yet, I had to reject it.

But the story doesn’t end there. Since I rejected that offer, I expanded the deadline: for reasons. Baited hooks still dangle in the sparkling water, with the possibility of reeling in an agent with the passion, experience, and wisdom worthy of a yes. It may or may not happen this round. I’ll keep you posted. Thankfully, there are fish in that wide, open sea who don’t smell fishy at all.

The Taste of His Skin–Like Lemonade Spiked with too Much Sugar

creepy baby doll

[That post title is as long as some old-skool Fall Out Boy song title.]

Some things are essential in life:

  • 10-key pad on the laptop
  • Hair gel
  • Frequent kisses
  • Sugar
  • Shoe polish

I mean, come on. It’s not like we live in a third world country or something.

Another essential thing: perpetual creation

Since letting go of my obsessive Phreak Show revisions, I’ve been scribbling new concepts & possibilities as they emerge. A designated notebook, a One Note file, post-its, and random scraps of paper have all been employed to record the snippets. Some ideas are random & stand alone. They explode like witty fireworks, burn brightly for a moment, then cool into ash. Their purpose completed, they sleep. Others grow a little bigger & get amplified, expanded, more fully formed.

This is the sifting process whereby seeds are planted & weeds are pulled.
Somewhere in the mix is the germ of the next novel waiting to sprout.
And what a haphazard bunch of wildflowers they are.

I’m a spec-fic kind of guy. So that’s a given.
With this next tale, I want to go dark. Very dark. Push it beyond a little grit & really dig into psyche-twisting.
THE concept hasn’t fully formed yet, but there are a few contenders in the garden. Or, better, in the mound of oozing body parts?

For fun, raw bits of character, dialogue, ideas, science, scribbled things. Most are not dark. At least, not yet.

  • “I read carnage like tea leaves.”
  • Clocks slow down the closer they are to the strongest force of a gravitational field.
  • “In a world with such tiny grains of peace, it alone drives back the sickness and the sound. It alone allows us to walk in the brightness. To us, the ritual is not blasphemy; it is salvation.”
  • Note: use Fibonacci number for dates in the solar year (Day #1, Day #2, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233 – Julian Calendar?) as key dates/days in the spell process. [Research where these numbers fall. Count it from one of the soltices?]
  • Human thoughts are physical events which can be felt by others
  • “Take this,” Rosette says, then she tugs down her veil, and slips behind Lori’s robe.
    I unwrap the decaying cloth. The blade inside is rusted and dull with the sleep of twenty years.

    Lori steps forward. “It has your father’s blood upon it.”

    “Don’t call him that,” Rob spits. “He’s grown as cold as his master. He’s another Kraphet waiting to happen.”

    Lori’s eyes grow moist. Even though none of her life actually flows through our veins, she has adopted all the lost-ones as her own. Pain radiates from her each time her surrogate children deny their maker. She worships Laban as I worship Rob.

    I grip his arm, and force him to bow with me. “Thank you for the gift.”

    Lori reaches towards me to caresses the blade with her pale hand, then lovingly tucks the corners of its shroud back in place. “I do not know what help it can offer, but it is all I have to give.”

  • An anti-matter bomb would be ridiculously destructive, but such a thing would take 10,000’s of years to construct.
  • We are mostly empty matter—empty space with a few pinpricks  of material (like rocks floating in space) making up our physical form.
  • The Latin maxim ignoramus et ignorabimus, meaning “we do not know and will not know”, stood for a position on the limits of scientific knowledge, in the thought of the nineteenth century.
  • Studies show that lack of control causes our brains to see patterns in what would otherwise be randomness.
  • “Magic is real, all around us. Much of it is so mundane it is overlooked and accepted as a fact of life. Words are magic. Movement is magic. Emotions are magic. These come naturally, they are intuitive, and are thus considered normal. Then there are the higher magics, the rare kinds, the ones most would call magic. These are beyond simple comprehension, stretch past the bounds of our logic. These types of magic are harder to wield because doubt is the default human condition. And it is difficult to believe in things which we can not explain. All manifestations of magic—from thought, to speech, to gesture, to emotion, to the higher orders—can be wielded with either selfless intention (white magic), or selfish, harmful intention (black magic). But in between, where most intentions fall, there is gray.”
  • q: Spit in its mouth? Breathe into it? Hold it to her skin & sing/chant/incant to it?
  • Further along in the process, the heart falls out, because it hasn’t taken yet.
  • Love triangle: Combo of Beauty & the Beast meets Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde
  • “Science is nothing more than magick which has been explained. Gravity, magnetism, x-rays, germs, radio signals, DNA, reproduction—these are all magick.””I don’t like thinking of magick as science. I don’t want it explained away. I like the mystery.””Do you know how a computer works? How binary code and electric currents transmit images so you can play games, or chat with friends, or view pics on a screen?””Well, zeros and ones, and switches, and electric impulses…and…not really…”

    “See? Even though someone knows how those things work, and can manipulate the elements in the right way, that doesn’t make the magick behind it any less mysterious. You have no idea what really makes it all work. You only know—from experience—that it does. You take the magick behind the science for granted.”

  • The taste of his skin—like lemonade spiked with too much sugar. The billow of his heart pumping moonlight into me.
  • Mara’s eyes glaze over. “The guardians know you are coming. They will suffer the second death to protect their maker.”
  • Darkness, thick as oil, clogs the side alleys and doorways. Red occasionally burns through the shadows in the glow of hungry eyes and the flare of smokers sucking in death-grass fumes.
  • Maybe they conflict because of his interest in magic/spiritual/paranormal & her interest in solid science/provable/tangible things?
    • Random thought:
      • They have a history—when they were kids, they were “Ghost Hunters”, stayed in a haunted house, investigated graveyards, Ouija, toyed with levitation & seances, etc.
        • This is where some connections for the QUORUM can come from–contacts earth boy already has.
      • Parted ways partly due to their difference in worldviews–but MAINLY, REALLY due to a failed attempt at a relationship.
  • “Loving a teddy bear or grandma’s locket isn’t enough. Love is weak magic. Way weaker than most people pretend.”
  • The buzzing and screams work into a frenzy as they near climax, “chastising & condemning as only a wilting god can”, then
    explode, then fall utterly silent.

And I could go on and on. Somewhere in this cacophony may be the root of my next novel. Or maybe not. The essential thing is that I keep the conduit open & continue searching for that perfect seed.

And who the hell knows? I may not even end up in dark for the next novel. I doubt it’ll be sunshine & cupcakes, but I guess it could. No. Definitely no the fuck it won’t. LGBTQ themes are always on my mind. So far, I’ve been too chicken to push in that direction… Hmmm…perhaps focus on that AND go dark? :: grabs scribbling pen :: 

The Ugliest Mona Lisa I’ve Ever Seen

mona lisa - ral

You know this lady.

Her name’s Mona. You can call her Mo for short. She’s kind of iconic.

She’s here today to help me illustrate this *thing* I’m going through which relates to the world of writing. No, it’s not about visualizing characters, painting a story landscape, or any such helpful advice from a novice. Sorry about that. There are plenty of other blogs with unpublished writers giving profound & sage wisdom…

The topic this blogger is tackling today is: [Well, shit, I can’t really sum it up in a single word. This isn’t Twitter; it’s a post. So eff it, I can ramble if I like.]

Let’s go with this freeform string of thoughts: I have multiple fulls out with agents, which have been out for a while. I recently nudged on one & the agent confessed that she hadn’t gotten to it yet. Cool. No big deal. Another one is past the 10 week mark, at which point I would normally nudge, but I have not because of [keep reading]. The third is in this nerve-wracking, string-a-long sort of web which doesn’t seem to have an end. I am hopeful that it will turn into an offer, but the more pages of the calendar I rip off, the less that feels like reality. So, I have just kind of turned off my wishfulness on this matter until such time as it needs to be either revived, or incinerated.

After all that, I guess what I’m trying to say is: I don’t like to feel like I’m begging.

To be candid, I totally get that agents are busy, clients come first, I’m swamped, it’s conference season–all that. And writers are always labeled “impatient”. “This is a slow process,” we tell each other. Agents say it, too. Yet, still, are we really impatient? 2 months? 4 months? 6 months? 12 months? How long is too long to wait to hear back on a full request? An R&R? At what point has the timing passed beyond simple impatience on the part of the writer?


Instead, thus far, I have felt less like Phreak Show is the real Mona Lisa, and that perhaps it is more like this:

mona lisa - bad


And, yes, my loverly invisible ink finders. I KNOW that Phreak Show looks/reads nothing like that horrid ol’ fake. I’m just sayin’ I want that acceptance, that go-get-it agent who believes in me & my story so much that s/he can’t get hold of it fast enough. A dream? Perhaps. But my life has been built on dreams such as this. And damn it, I’m not done believing in magick.

Phreak Show Sub Status

Because the numbers have changed since the last time I posted a Sub Pie.
Also, the other shoe could drop at any moment.
Also, also, there will be times when I will not be able to openly share ooey, gooey, behind-the-scenes goodness.



So 1/3 of the queries have come back as Form Rejections. Is that the sign of a bad query? Bad matching (on my part) of the agent with the book/genre/concept? Is that above, below, or spot-on with the average? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

Wow…1/4 of the queries have been coded as “Non-Response”. That seems awfully high, but, based on the agent’s estimated response times, it is accurate. For a previous novel, I had a query response arrive 4 months later than the estimated 8 weeks. That one made me giggle.

0% Full Request Rejections. (At this snapshot-moment, at least.) A few of those are closing in on the 2-month mark. I suspect that % will jump soon. [No! The glass is half-full. The damn glass is half-full!!!] Querying writers, I’m curious about your experience; have full rejections come soon after the submission, or after many weeks? Months? Part of me fears that delay in response to a full = negative news.

Holding at 25% for Outstanding Queries. As long as my hot-list of agents holds out, I like to keep this rough percentage. Each new rejection = sending a new query (or two).

Q: When do I get to add my “Offers of Rep” slice? Soon, you say? I totally ❤ you from here to the moon.

Storytelling, Tattoos & Hitchhikers

When an idea worms its way into my brain, it usually gnaws hard at my insula. What is this “insula” of which I speak? The prune-size region under the frontal lobes that registers gut feelings and is critical to the network which sustains addictive behavior. Usually, this idea-chewed region sparks and whines until I finally give in to its incessant demands.

Sometimes, with a swift jab to my head, I can dislodge a pesky idea. (Not really, though. That’s just a goofy visual for ya.)

A recent idea lodged in place: a series of tattoos depicting my wickedly warped Phreak Show characters. Due to the insanely booked schedule of my preferred artist, that thought will be painfully niggling me until November.  o.O  Needless to say, I needed a short-term fix, a compromise, to keep my insula happy. Thus, I am getting tattoos of my first 2 novels in the meantime.

After a 3-week wait, Capritare got his chance to be immortalized on (in?) my skin yesterday.

The artist, Josh Phillips of 42 Tattoo, did an amazing job of taking my loose sketch & transforming it into a permanent work of art on my arm. The engaging conversation proved as cool as the ink. I have this knack for getting folks to share stories. Maybe it’s because I’m a storyteller myself. The give-and-take, paired with genuine interest & asking the right questions, gifts me with many amazing conversations. Just ask the strangers I chat with in elevators, the hairstylist who is never  bored while giving me a trim, or the random hitchhikers I scoop up. All for the sake of hearing their unique stories.

[Sidenote: I picked up an intoxicated, unintentionally hitchhiking dude named Kevin this week. But, you see, I had to. My insula told me so. Rain was pounding at 19 billion gallons per square inch per second (estimated). I was on my way home from work and saw this poor chap getting hammered by the downpour. So, naturally, I whipped into the golf course’s parking lot & offered him a ride. A few short minutes later, I dropped Kevin off at his house with the wraparound porch “right behind the big green mansion.’ I didn’t personally consider the neighbor’s home a mansion, but I guess such things are relative.]

Back to the tattoo. Josh shared a bunch of stories during our 3-hour session. A girl who got a sushi tattoo on her ribs, but, due to the pain, bailed before Josh added the word “vegetarian” floating up from it in wisps of fishy aroma. (Personally, she sounds more like a pescatarian, so I think it was probably for the best. Tattoos are forever, after all.) Another story was about a dude who asked for “a tattoo that’s so bad I’ll wake up in the morning and wonder What the hell did I do that for?! Can you do that for me?” Josh, like any artist who is willing to make the client happy, obliged. With the dude’s buddy shaking the chair, right-handed Josh inked the dude. With his left hand. And his eyes closed. He never heard whether or not the dude was pleased with the results come sunrise, but chances are that his expectations were met.

I asked Josh to keep his eyes open & to tattoo me with his dominant hand. Once again, he submitted to the wishes of the client. Submitted for your voyeuristic pleasure, pics chronicling the process:

Pre-tattoo. [i.e. blank canvas]

Pre-tattoo. [i.e. blank canvas] Flexed, so, you know, my arm looks all quasi-muscular.

Josh prepping the stencil. The raw sketch is by his inked-up arm.

Josh prepping the stencil. The raw sketch is by his inked-up arm.

Another shot of the artist/storyteller at work. [Notice the use of his right hand.]

Another shot of the artist/storyteller at work. [Notice the use of his right hand.]

The stencil applied. We planned the placement so the antlers wrap around my baby deltoid arcing down over my shoulder.

The stencil applied. We planned the placement so the antlers wrap around my baby deltoid arcing down over my shoulder.

The outline getting laid down. Compared to previous tattoos, Josh had a very light hand. Nothing near bone-stabbing.

The outline getting laid down. Compared to previous tattoos, Josh had a very light hand. Nowhere near bone-stabbing deep.

The outline & skin-tone laid in. Josh chose to outline the top of the hair in blue, which I think was a great choice.

The outline & skin-tone laid in. Josh chose to outline the top of the hair in blue, which I think was a great choice.

Coloring in the hair with a 7-needled shader.

Coloring in the hair with a 7-needled shader.

Pardon the blurriness. Cap is done. The final cleanup hasn't happened so some rogue red is smeared over his face. Just a bit more work on the background needed.

Pardon the blurriness. Cap is done. The final cleanup hasn’t happened so some rogue red is smeared over his face. Just a bit more work on the background needed.

The final image. About an hour after completion. I switched to a beater. The worst 'pain' of the whole tattoo was the way the striped shirt's sleeve was cutting up into my armpits during the inking.

The final image. About an hour after completion. I switched to a beater. The worst ‘pain’ of the whole tattoo was the way the striped shirt’s sleeve was cutting up into my armpits during the inking.

The day after. Cap looks fantastic.

The day after. Cap looks fantastic. In the novel, he never ‘earned’ this full rack of antlers. So, this is a bit of wish-fulfillment for him.

And one final pic. Because, eye contact is good. (And key during both storytelling & storylistening.)

And one final pic. Because, eye contact is good. (And key during both storytelling & storylistening.)

I can confirm that I am pleased with the results. My insula agrees, but the little bugger is still squirming & twitching for November. To keep the damn thing pacified, a tattoo for Freeborn is next on the list. I’m wondering if I can shake things up a bit—maybe get some hitchhiker to go get a tattoo with me? If we can get it done in an elevator, I’ll not only glean some amazing stories, but experience a pretty damn memorable one of my own.

What would a tattoo post be without some invisible ink? A skilled artist with great stories is an excellent choice. Also, it doesn’t hurt if he’s kinda cute, has a ton of sexy tattoos & smiles a lot. 😉 

Pineapples Do Not Camp

Les ananas ne campent pas!

Les ananas ne campent pas!

My 4 fulls for Phreak Show are still in heart-stabbing, conference-season-delayed limboland. Off and on, I’m still tinkering with a few tiny screws and toggles on it. Seriously, (hear me: seriously!) revisions are never truly done.

What kind of screws am I tightening? Minor things—some I’ve wanted to tweak on my own, and others revealed as loose via some uber-useful & promising pheedback. A few elements are being enriched. One small issue has been mentioned a few times, so that’s definitely under the microscope.

There’s this one small thing that an agenty person pointed out, which I can’t fix on my own. So I’ve called in a specialist. There are 5 short passages in Phreak Show that include a little French. I took a couple years in High School, but I mainly walked away with enough savvy to carry on a  20 second introductory conversation. I mean, even if you add in zut alors! and les ananas ne campent pas, I’m pretty sure my teacher would shake his head in quasi-French disappointment.

As for the Phreak Show phrases, I ran them through Google Translate, and confidently popped them into the manuscript. LAUGHABLE. I trusted GT. Je suis un idot! Thankfully, a Canadian Twitter friend rushed to my aid. At least, I hope she took care of me. For all I know she could have translated “Can you believe this arse trusted a computer to translate for him?”

FTR, this is what ^that^ phrase looks like in Google-French:
Pouvez-vous croire ce cul confiance à un ordinateur de traduire pour lui?

It probably might be somewhat close to nearly correct.

I should watch more Téléfrancais! Like this sparkling gem: Pineapples Don’t Camp! In this episode, Jacques and Sophie decide to go camping in a mysterious green-screen forest. However, trouble arises when they get lost. [Yes, sadly, this is the abiding legacy of two years’ worth of French…]

The next time I need some fancy-schmancy foreign words, I’ll go to an expert. Which is to say: NOT GOOGLE TRANSLATE. Zut alors!

If It Itches, Scratch It

My most recent ink. (Of the legal variety)

My most recent ink. (Of the legal variety)

You ever get that itch? No, not that kind…but the kind that is more akin to an incessant craving. An idea sparks. Maybe for a hunk of chocolate you want to gnaw, a trip you want to take, or this thrilling activity you simply must experience. For us creative folks, the itchy idea can take the form of an image which demands to be painted, a character who wants to live, a new recipe which must be tested (and tasted). The crawling need to make this *thing* happen is all-consuming. It refuses to be ignored. And, no matter what, the only way to get rid of the blasted itch is to scratch it.

Yeah, me too. All the time.

Some itches have rules attached, and a decision must be made on whether you choose to follow them or not. For instance, I’ve been itching for another tattoo for a while. Tattoos have rules. Fun fact: Oklahoma finally legalized tattooing in 2006. If you are so inclined, you can now legally get your ink-itch scratched in all 50 states. But some states and localities set their own parameters. Such as:

  • You can’t get a tattoo if you’re under 18.
  • You can’t get tattoos on certain body parts—such as the face.
  • You can’t get a tattoo if you’re drunk or high.
  • You can’t get offensive or hateful words or images tattooed.
  • You can’t get tattooed at home or at a party, even if the artists is licensed, because the license applies only to the shop’s physical location.

Here in Ohio, that last one is law. A tattoo shop must be approved by a local board of health. Tattooing clients outside an approved shop is illegal. I have three friends who may or may not illegally ink outside the confines of a shop. Let’s pretend they do. If so, they have their reasons: indie personalities, lack of funds to do an official (expensive) pay-the-mentor apprenticeship, time constraints. Still, they hammer amazing images into more-than-willing tattooees. This system works because the tattooees have the itch for some ink, and the artists have the itch to create them. Simple supply and demand fueled by a pair of matching itches.

I have definitely been tattooed in official, legal shops. I may or may not have used indie scratchers to handle my itch in the past…

Let’s pretend I have. If so, I’m sure I experienced nothing but great, sanitary, professional scratching with amazing results. Assuming I may have gone the less-than-official route at times in the past, I am choosing to go mainstream this time around. The downside: my itch will have to squirm and twitch for nearly six months! A tattoo is obviously forever. Coupled with my perfectionism and pickiness, I want only the best. Especially for the subject matter I’m hankering.

There’s this guy, Joe, who once bought a human skull from me. (FTR, yes, it was legally obtained.) He happens to be a tat artist. And he also happens to do a.m.a.z.i.n.g. work. One more thing: he’s willing to meet this slightly random request I proposed. You see, the itch I need scratched is a full sleeve on my left arm. The images will be the 12 named sideshow characters from Phreak Show. Fluxxus the Human Chameleon, The Prince of Torture, Jules the Gender Enigma, Maestro Phineas Cocteau, Twiggy the Blubber Girl, et al. Even Romeo, the mechanical monkey, is getting some skin real estate. The negative space between the characters will be filled with the borealis-like aether from my novel.

So, cool, but a sleeve doesn’t sound like a random request. Tattooists execute those all the time. Yeah, but do they read an 86k  word manuscript to get a feel for the characters first? That’s what Joe has agreed to. We have discussed the style I want: hints of New School with bright coloring and exaggeration, along with high contrast, heavy-hammered black, plus skin-break highlights. Oh, it itches the more I think about it! And that itch is going to be prolonged. Remember how I mentioned Joe does amazing work? Well, that means he’s in high demand. He’s booked solid until November.

itch itch itch

I have 8 Saturday appointments scheduled beginning 11/16. In the meantime, Joe is reading Phreak Show while working on the image creation. If I may gush, I think that’s a kick-ass way to come up with a tattoo design. My words and ideas filtered through another artist’s interpretation. Even if I do have to wait six looooooong months.

Okay, confession, I’m too damn impatient to wait half a year to scratch my tattoo itch. I found another great artist of the legal breed, and am getting images for my first 2 novels inked on my right arm. Capritare’s appointment is in 3 shorts weeks. (Only a querying writer considers 3 weeks “short”.) You know what this is starting don’t you? A perpetual itch that will need to get scratched with each new novel.

If the craving kicks in for flash fic & short stories, too…Frankly, I’ll have to look into finding surrogate skin.

The Writer’s Voice Entry – Phreak Show


I feel like I’m on The Price is Right. Or something. My entry Plinko’ed through the pegs and channels of Rafflecopter to land a spot in The Writer’s Voice.

Get the skinny here, or here , also here, and let’s not forget here. Mucho appreciation to the lovely ladies throwing this shindig. Barker’s Beauties, or Drew’s Dolls, or Voicy Vixens we might could call ’em: CupidBrendaMonica , Krista, and Kimberly.

There are some wicked-great agents participating, and I’ve got to say, Phreak Show is bouncing up and down with anticipation for the Showcase Showdown. Come on Coaches! Pick this here entry to be one of your 8…errr 9? You know, whatever number, without going over.


When Tera sees through the 600 pounds of fat smothering Twiggy the Blubber Girl, and finds a hurting, size 16 girl beneath, she knows something’s crazy-twisted with The Last American Phreak Show. The wicked Phineas is enslaving teens by wielding their warped self-images against them. Sixteen-year-old Tera has enough crap of her own to deal with, but there’s no effin way she’s letting the jackhole Phineas exploit them in his human zoo.

Tera sacrifices her own questionable normality, and becomes one of Phineas’s sideshow phreaks. Once bound by Phineas’s covenant, Tera discovers that she is more like the powerful showmaster than she’d like to believe, and her presence in the Phreak Show is killing him. If Phineas dies before the captive teens discover a way to break free, they will die with him.

The carnies only have a few days to confront the lifetime of lies lurking within their own hearts. And it will require more than Victorian costumes, sideshow tricks, and creepy performances to save them. The dark magic which binds the teens runs soul-deep. Being a phreak isn’t about looks; it’s a frame of mind

Phreak Show, a YA Greenpunk Fantasy where The Night Circus meets Skinny, is complete at 86,000 words.

With published short stories, articles, poetry, and illustrations, Phreak Show is my third novel. When not writing, I’m an artist who works with reclaimed materials, a spreadsheet junkie, and phreak who has learned to be comfortable in his own skin.


The neon-red TATTOO sign buzzed with the only spark of excitement in Podunk. Or whatever clone of a town I rolled into that day. Slow and gray like all the rest. Railroad tracks stretched down one side of the street while a storefront church and a sorry excuse for a coffee shop sat on the other. A mom wrangled her toddler into a rusty pickup parked against the curb. Old men perched on a bench outside a hardware store, ogling me, some strange teenage girl, invading their land.

At least this Podunk had a tattoo shop. The first I’d seen in two days. Enough stalling. I needed to get it done while I had the chance, before I lost the nerve again, before my money ran out.

A bell jangled as I pushed my way into the antiseptic air. Drawings of hearts and butterflies, daggers and skulls, covered the walls. I slid my fingers into my back pocket and fished out my last eighty-three bucks. And the photo of Jamie. The white crease down its center cut right along the middle of his tiny body. A tangle of tubes and wires snaked in and out of him. All because of me.

“What you need?”

I jerked away from the image in my hand, and followed the voice to the pierced lip of an inked-up guy. Scruffy hint of a beard, jet-black hair, and nerd glasses reflecting the light so I couldn’t see his eyes. I stepped closer, checking out his skinny jeans through the display case of tongue rings and metal bars.

Of course, I had to check out The Price is Right and find out how to get tickets. Not because I’m really going, but just because, you know, curious: http://www.priceisright.com/tickets