This is my newest story! EARLY MORNING MAGIC is about a one night stand gone right. Except, like all good stories, it doesn’t start out this way. There’s a little bit of real magic, for Hallowe’en, of course, but mostly it’s just girls fumbling towards love.

The shop wasn’t too busy, so Mika got through the line, ordered her latte, and stepped aside to wait in a matter of minutes. It was a nice. Living on the other side of the neighbourhood, of course Mika hadn’t stopped here before. That was why it looked old and worn in, but completely unfamiliar. She did a turn around the shop, checking out the mugs and teapots for sale on the shelves, picking up a packet of sugar and a stir stick, ready for her latte when it came.

The windows were tall and wide, and they took up the whole of the front of the shop. Leaves were painted at the corners, in red and orange, and a tall tree dropping apples. Sitting up at the counter, one could watch the whole city go by, if they sat there long enough. Mika looked around for a paper, thinking about staying a bit, out of the cold, long enough to drink her latte at least.

That was when she saw it. A whisper of movement in the corner of her eye, the kind of thing you saw in the hallway at night when you got up for the bathroom. Then when you looked, no matter how fast you spun around, it was gone. It was probably never there.

But when Mika turned, slowly this time, because she wasn’t quite sure, the whisper of movement that had caught her eye was still there. At a table in the corner, behind the spinning mug rack, two women. One was leaning across the table, her hand holding a cup of coffee, the other reaching out for her friend. Mika couldn’t see the other woman, but she could hear her laughter. It was loud and high and clear, like ice that sings when you drop it in a glass.

Mika stepped around a cluster of customers waiting for their drinks. She needed to get a better look. From where she stood, the women looked like an after image, the lines left on the screen when you turn off the TV. Up close, they made even less sense in Mika’s head.

The woman with the cup was wearing a beanie exactly like the one Mika’s grandma had knit her for Christmas. The colors weren’t as bright, but Mika could see the M in the pattern, alternating with hearts and stars. Her grandma made it for her last year. Mika hadn’t lost it yet. It was hanging on a peg in her front hall, she knew it.

As she moved through the shop, putting her hand on the shoulder of a little boy running in the opposite pattern, steadying them both before they tripped over each other, Mika’s eyes found the woman on the other side of the table. Her head was ducked down, and she had a hand in her hair, but when she lifted her eyes and pulled her long brown hair away from her face, Mika could see.

It was Josie. It was absolutely Josie. Mika only left her moments ago, but here was Josie in a short green coat, laughing and having coffee with another woman, and for a brief second, a tightness grabbed at her chest, and Mika was jealous. She had run from Josie, but here she was, and Mika was jealous, like she had any right to be. Like she hadn’t already given her up.

Buy it on Amazon now!

My October story is out in a week. (OMG, I guess that means I should finish writing it.) This is the cover I made from a gorgeous photograph by Julia Caesar. It’s about girls falling in love despite themselves, seeing things in the early morning hours, and going back for more, even when you think you don’t deserve it.

Mika woke up in a strange bed. Too warm. Too nice. Her sheets at home weren’t this nice. And there was the matter of a soft hand on her belly, resting below her belly button, fingers moving mindlessly.

She wasn’t sure her bed partner was asleep. The breaths at the back of her neck were a lovely damp heat, and as Mika lay there, counting out a long minute, she didn’t detect a difference in the rhythm. The girl was asleep, she decided. There was still time.

Mika rolled to the edge of the bed, slowly, slowly, letting the hand drag over her hip, but catching it before it dropped to the mattress. She reached back and laid it down, carefully, holding her breath, like a single sound might wake the girl.

Josie. That was her name. Mika remembered now. They met at a bar. That was where Mika met all her girls. Josie had been dancing with a friend. Mika knew the short blonde was only a friend because they were laughing and making faces at each other on the dance floor, but Josie was watching Mika. Mika liked to sit up in the balcony and watch the people below. She liked how powerful it made her feel being up high. All of those women, all for her to choose.

But it was Josie who chose Mika last night. She kept looking up, and Mika was looking down when she saw Josie point Mika out to her friend. Mika lifted her drink in a toast, and even in the dimmed lights, she could see how Josie blushed. Josie knew she had been caught.

It was easy from there. Mika called over a waitress to deliver a couple of drinks to Josie and her friend and the dance floor, and a few minutes after that, Josie delivered herself to Mika’s lap. Alone. Nervous, but all for Mika.

“I don’t live far,” Josie had said, after they had ignored Mika’s friends in favor of making their lips chapped and swollen with kisses and bites.

Mika had said, “Show me the way.”

If that sounds like something you might like, reblog and tell all your internet friends.

Pacific Spirit Park is a piece of old rainforest standing tall between the ocean and the city. Down on the beach, you can’t see the expensive houses and the glass university buildings. But we can see the container ships coming into the port. We can see inside the earth, where the cliff has fallen away to reveal the lines of sediment.

They don’t make it easy to walk around the peninsula. The trail gives way to the beach. It leads back to the road, then down to the sea. Keep walking. The end of the trail doesn’t have to mean the end of your day. Even on the beach, you can see where people have walked before you. You can see the shoe prints in the sand. You can follow the trail of seaweed leading back to the path.

We’re supposed to walk where they tell us. We keep on our side of the line. We learn the rules of the road. That’s all society is, a set of rules which we’ve all agreed to follow. But it’s more fun to take a wrong turn and see what else is down the road. 

I didn’t set out to walk the Vancouver coastline. I only wanted to fit into my old jeans. I started where most tourists start in Vancouver, with Stanley Park, walking from Yaletown to Waterfront. Then I decided to walk the other way from the Skytrain station, around False Creek, to Granville Island, and onward to Spanish Banks. Now it’s a project, walking the jagged line of the coast in three hour chunks. 

The trail is hard to follow in Pacific Spirit Park. At times, it looks overgrown and unused, a path returned to the wild. There are wooden steps leading down to the beach, but the rest of the trail wasn’t built by the city. Still, I know which way to walk. I know someone has been here. I can see the path chosen by the thousands of dreamers before me.

When I found the true end of the trail, beyond the map, but sooner than I expected, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t keep walking, that much was clear. But I also didn’t want to go back. I don’t like retracing my steps. I looked up. I could hear the cars. I thought, Maybe?

I tried to climb up the side of the cliff. It wasn’t smart, I admit, but all day, I had been thinking about desire lines. I had been thinking about those paths we make when we don’t like the one set down for us. They say it only takes a dozen people to make a new line in the grass. You have to trust that when you step off the trail, you’ll find your way back again. Even if you have to cut your own trail.

The ground was soft with dried leaves, and what I thought were strong branches broke off in my hands. The smell of decomposition was thick in the cold October air. Summer is definitely over, no matter what the nude bathers on Wreck Beach might say. I made it halfway using ferns to drag myself up, their roots unlikely strong enough to hold my weight. I found a place to pause on small, but sturdy tree, curved like a seat and jutting out from the cliff. I drank some water, looking down at where I had been and where I had to go. There was no path to be seen. If it had been there at all, it was obscured by the bush now.

If it had been later, colder, darker, I might have convinced myself to give up and turn back then. But the road was so close. The crest was lined with big trees, and I was underneath, where the earth had eroded and their roots were visible. I thought, if I could just grab hold of one strong branch, I could pull myself up over the edge. 

I battled my way through a patch of brambles, thorns catching my shirt and my hair, scratching up my hands and arms. I took a detour to a tree which looked closer, tantalizingly close. Then I slipped in a muddy patch; it rained last week. I caught myself. I looked up. I wasn’t going to make it. 

The trip down the mountain was easier than up. I found the trail. I trudged back to the map. I walked up the stairs that lead back to the road. I walked along the side of the road with no sidewalk until I found a bus stop. And then I came home, scratched and bruised, with tree bits in my hair and dirt down the back of my shirt. 

Since I started hiking again this year, I’ve lost 40 pounds. I had to get rid of those jeans and buy the next size down. But that’s not why I go looking for new trails. What I’m really looking for are the pieces of the city I can still love. 

Vancouver doesn’t know how to be a city anymore, if it ever did. It’s a place in a constant state of rebuilding and rebelling against change. I just assume every house costs a million dollars. When I walk through the obviously rich neighbourhoods, my brain can’t even conceive of a number. It’s a city of old hippies who have hung onto all the boring parts of the ‘60s and forgotten how to be radical.

But maybe if I get off the trail, away from the road, where no path has been cut through the wilderness, I’ll find a little piece of something untouched I can love. Maybe I can find something in this city which still loves me back. My cut-up palms and splinters in my fingertips say I probably didn’t find it on the side of that cliff above the Strait of Georgia. But my hands will heal. And I’ll keep looking.

[Buy this zine at Etsy and subscribe at Patreon.]

How to turn 6,000 words into 10,000 words

My goal every month is to write a story worth your time. That, for me, is at least 10,000 words. Right now, that’s what I know I can write. It’s good to challenge yourself, but it’s better to know your limits. Instead of disappointing yourself and feeling guilty, it’s better to set a deadline you know you can, not only meet, but destroy. 10k words in a month? No problem.

My plan when I came back to writing this summer was to publish something every month until the end of the year. I knew I could do that because I’ve been writing forever, and every writer has a folder of stories in a drawer, whether that drawer is virtual or at the bottom of a desk. My folder had a lot of unfinished stories, rejected stories, and stories I just didn’t think were good enough yet. I knew I had a starting point.

For October, I found a story which shares a lot in common with the thing I wrote last October: HER LIGHT ALIKE. It’s a lesbian love story, something I’ve been experimenting with. It’s true that the market is elsewhere. Gay romance dominates ebook sales, and straight romance has long had the corner in paperbacks. But everyone deserves to see themselves in a happy, no-angst love story, which just happens to be exactly what I write best. I want to write a lot more variety in the future. I want to fill my back catalogue with all kinds of people finding their happy ending.

This story, as I found it, was about 6,000 words. Which means I need to add at least 4,000 before I can publish. At a thousand a day, that’s just four days of writing (not including the post-production involved in independent publishing). I still have half a month to do those four days of writing. First, I need to reread what’s written. I’ll go through it slowly, making any spelling or grammar corrections I need to as I go. I don’t worry too much at this time, but because I’m reading it with new eyes, it’s the perfect moment to catch those kinds of things.

Next, I break it into pieces. This story was complete, which makes the breaking process a little harder. I can’t just add 4k words at the end. I need to find space for them at the beginning, in the middle, or I need to find a whole new ending. I like working in thousand word chunks; it’s a number that I can easily visualise as a whole. Scenes may be longer, but there’s something big happening every thousand words. So, in Scrivener, I create ten pages, each with about a thousand words in them. (I also have one more for NOTES, which is like scratch paper for me–just a place to think out loud.) If I come across a moment which I know could be expanded, I paste in the words I have with the goal of adding enough to make a thousand.

Once I have the story as-is redistributed, I have to re-outline. If I need to write more words, I need to figure out what those words are going to be. I have more than just a list of scenes this time around. I have moments that may need a bit more conversation, could use a little description of setting, or they’re crying out for the characters to fight. Adding four thousand words to a story is about more than just adding adjectives. It’s about digging deeper and finding more to say. It’s not that something was missed the first time around. It’s that now I have time to look for more.

Now that I know what to write, I can write. If I’ve done my job correctly, this is the easy part. Find the characters again and have fun with them. Make them banter. Send them on a date. Give them something to worry about. That’s the kind of stuff I love to write. And if I love writing it, I hope you love reading it.

750: a zine about writing every day

750: a zine about writing every day

Deadlines

Deadlines suck. Whether they are foisted upon you or of your own making. You have to find a way to make them if it kills you. Because it will kill you. Fluff enough deadlines and suddenly, they don’t mean anything anymore. Now you are not a writer who meets deadlines, but a writer who never publishes anything because all your deadlines are behind you.

This is why I set myself a few tasks every month. I write a post here every Wednesday. (Hello.) It doesn’t have to be long. It can be about anything. Doesn’t even have to be about writing. But it comes out on Wednesday. I usually write it on Wednesday, too. I’ll get better at working ahead. For now, I’m just focused on meeting my deadlines.

I send out a newsletter every 15th of the month. In it, I gather up the links to my previous Wednesday posts, I write about what I’m working on, I share something that’s interesting me in the moment. And I tease the next book.

Because I write a book every month. A story in ebook form, but semantics don’t matter. The only thing that matters is I write something and publish something at the end of every month. This was supposed to be easy. I’ve been writing a long time; I have a lot of unfinished and unpublished stories. But even if the book only needs a quick edit and maybe a few hundred more words at the end, the work expands to fill the time.

I work right to the deadline. But the important thing here is that I write to it. I don’t write over it. I meet it. I dread it while it’s on my horizon; I breathe easy when it’s over my shoulder.

And there’s always another deadline coming.

Words: 757

Words: 757
Minutes: 44

I should do a new calendar on my whiteboard. And I want to figure out a weekly todo list in my notebook. I found those page sized post-its. I haven’t even looked at my story. I don’t even think it’s open in the background. I should do that. I keep hoping that if I keep reading the Miss Fisher books that something will come to me. That I’ll eventually figure out an angle on this essay. What do I want to write about. What’s interesting about the books. What do I love. I haven’t really figure that out yet. I haven’t figured out anything yet, it feels like. I’m having that feeling again that there’s no real use for the internet. Really, what has it done for me? Is it necessary? I think about deleting all the time. If I had more going on in my real life, I would.

I feel like I’ve already cut it down to the absolute necessities, and it’s still too much. I just make the thing, then I put it out there. I can’t ask for anything more. If I just keep making things, someone is bound to find it. This is what I have to hope. I have to help a little bit more, put a little bit more out there. But I haven’t figured out the best way yet. “We only have two sides: chips and beans.” And when he says “chips,” he means potato chips. I’ve never seen a BBQ restaurant like this. There is nothing I could eat there. Well, maybe the coleslaw. Though maybe that has dairy in it. Hard to tell. I don’t get the whole soft white bread thing. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t toast it. Let’s see the coleslaw. Mostly mustard. That’s weird. Baloney sandwich.

That’s so American. I should go for a walk today. I should at least walk to work and home. I haven’t been doing that enough lately. It’s just so easy to catch the bus. It’s right there. It goes exactly where I need it to go. My mornings are so lazy. There is so much I could get done. I could write for a few hours and have a book in a month. I could put out a story every two weeks instead of every four. It would be so exciting to get to a place where I’m publishing a serial every week. Maybe 10-15k in a week. Could I do that. Some days it feels like I can. But I can’t guarantee that regularity. That’s where I balk. I don’t know if I can keep it up. Doing the Sunday zine is hard enough. Some days I feel like I don’t have it.

It’s about digging deep and finding more personal stories to tell. What’s really interesting to me is figuring out my own life. That’s kind of weird, but at the same time, that’s what all artists are doing, right? Figuring out my own life, and in the process, maybe someone else finds the same feelings. My expression must ring true to someone else. I don’t really know what I want. That’s probably the problem. I would like a job that pays a little more money, but I don’t know what it should be. Where do I go from here now? How do I translate this job isn’t something bigger. Something more. I keep hoping that I can stay with this job and just add a few more other avenues of income. But it hasn’t turned out that way yet. Granted, I probably haven’t worked hard enough and long enough.

But how much more do I have to work? Better question, how much longer do I have to wait? What can I do to help speed along the process? Just keep making. This is what I tell myself. Eventually, something has to break through to the mainstream. I don’t even need mainstream success. I need just a fraction of one percent to make a living. I’ll be so happy to be in a place where I can buy a house and just settle. That makes me happy. I can’t wait. I’ve been wanting to settle down for my whole life. But that’s not what your twenties are about. That’s not what the rest of the world wants. I’ve really struggled to find my place i the world, and I’m not there yet. My problem, I think, is that I’ve never felt bad about not fitting in. Rather, I’ve never thought it was worth faking anything.

Lefthanded: a long poem zine

Lefthanded: a long poem zine

A Gentle Joust, Jameson Dash – Amazon.com

A Gentle Joust, Jameson Dash – Amazon.com