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Asexual Awareness Week

  • Posted on October 30, 2014 at 7:07 pm

For those of you who may not know, I am asexual. What this means, in short, is that I do not, and have not, ever enjoyed sex. I can feel pleasure, physically, I can even participate in such a way that it is pleasant. However, Sex is always uncomfortable. It’s roughly, to me, what doing the dishes might be to you, or perhaps cleaning out a toilet. It has to be done, but only when necessary.

According to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN for short), an Asexual individual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. For the laymen in the audience, this is where you have to separate Sexuality from Romantic-orientation. They are two different things. It is entirely possible to feel Romantic attraction to someone, while simultaneously feeling no sexual attraction whatsoever. When the reverse happens, that’s usually when you find someone hot, but completely un-dateable.

There is an entire spectrum of Asexuality, ranging from Sex-repulsed, to gray-asexual, to Sex-positive individuals. The common ground here is this: A lack of sexual attraction. This does not mean that an asexy individual doesn’t have a libido. It is entirely possible that an ace individual will choose to masturbate frequently, or only once a month, or never! There is the possibility that an asexy person will choose to have sex as many times as their partner wants to, without hesitation, because they enjoy the closeness. For others, they might not be able to tolerate sexual contact at all, from the gentle brush of fingers down one’s arm to the touch of lips to lips. And then, there are some who even enjoy sexual contact!

For me, my asexual journey has been one of much discovery. When I was young, my mother was a very sexual individual. She had complete control of her sexuality, and was never ashamed of it, that I knew of. Not only that, but she made sure I knew the birds and the bees pretty early. I actually can’t remember when I got the ‘Talk’ so to speak, I just… always felt like I knew it. I feel my mother was amazing in that regard.

During my teen-hood, however, I had several fitful stops and starts with normal teen romances. My very first boyfriend I had for a week, and any time he touched me, I felt nauseous. Not nervous, nauseous, as if I was going to throw up if his hands were on me for more than a mere moment. He left me for my best friend, who would hold hands with him when he wanted. That was fine with me. It was more a relief.

In high school, I dated a very nice young man, who took me to homecoming and to the corn maze before Halloween. He was always very respectful, and when I held his hand, I felt nervous, not sick. So I thought maybe it was all a fluke. But even when he hugged me, I couldn’t let it last for too long. I felt like if I did, something bad would happen. I didn’t want to go beyond holding hands, and spending time together happily. A week after he asked me for our first kiss, and I gave it to him, I broke up with him. I claimed that it was because  my family was moving, and while we were, it didn’t change the fact that, once again, I was relieved not to have to satisfy those needs for more kisses and things that I didn’t like.

Now that isn’t to say I wasn’t normal in other regards. I discovered masturbation, and engaged in it almost nightly. I enjoyed role-playing online with those anonymous people who would, and it was through that that I discovered that I enjoy erotic literature. So I felt that perhaps, there was something wrong with me, because I didn’t want to actually engage in those acts with PEOPLE. I told myself that I was simply trying not to follow in my mother’s footsteps as a teen mom. That it was fear, and not something else.

When I was nineteen, I had my longest lasting relationship. Almost a full year, and it was an unhealthy thing. He was always frustrated, and I didn’t know what to do. I sought help from relationship sites, my friends, everyone. They all said the same thing. In a relationship, Love equals Sex. He thought I didn’t love him because I wouldn’t have sex with him. So, I did. To prove I loved him, I had sex with him, and while it wasn’t horrible, it was uncomfortable, and I was, again, glad that it was over. It didn’t happen again, luckily, because he dumped me a week or so afterwards.

I went back to thinking that perhaps something was wrong with me, and decided that I was better off without boys. Without relationships in general. But I always came back to loneliness, and needing that romantic relationship. I’ve always wanted a partner, to help me through the rough, to keep me steady and stable. I’ve always wanted the kind of marriages that last through decades. But I couldn’t seem to hold a relationship for more than a few months. One particular man, I even slept with every week, because I thought he would stay if I did, and it was no worse than any other chore, really. At least holding his hand didn’t make me feel sick again.

Here, I feel, I should clarify a few things. This sort of contact, holding hands, hugging, leaning against someone, falling asleep near someone, are triggers for this feeling of wrongness only when in a relationship context. I have never had an issue laying on, hugging on, cuddling with, or in general being touchy with my friends, and those that I am close to. It is only when there is this added romantic portion that I find myself sickened. It is that expectation of sex that taints the actions for me.

But then, after years of complaining and trying to explain to my best friends, a married couple who took me in in the later part of my teenager-hood, it finally came to a head. The husband, he’d watched a documentary on Asexuality, and while watching it, had noticed that a lot of what the main person in the documentary had spoken about experiencing, I had mentioned experiencing as well. So, he asked me to watch it too.

It was like, a revelation. I felt such an immense relief that I wasn’t the only one. That there were others like me, and WE WERE NOT BROKEN. There wasn’t something wrong with me that couldn’t be explained. I was just Asexual. That’s all there was to it! But of course, being who I am, I had to do research first, to find out if that was true, or not. So I found AVEN, and read through forum after forum. I gathered the courage and went on the chat-room, and talked to those around me, and it was like coming home.

Now, that isn’t saying that my troubles were over, upon discovering this. Because I’d also discovered the section of asexuals who ‘compromise’. What compromising means, in this instance, is dating an allosexual individual, or someone capable of sexual attraction, and having sex with, or performing sexual actions with them in order to keep the relationship healthy for both parties. I thought that I could handle this.

I fell into a relationship quickly, with a boy who said he thought he was asexual as well. However, as our relationship grew, it turned out he was demisexual, or rather, a person who only experiences sexual attraction and urges after an emotional connection is established. He asked me to compromise, and I agreed to try. But I just… After a while, it grew too stressful, too much, and I found myself in that situation where I felt sick when he touched me again. So, I broke up with him.

This last relationship has helped me realize that I am sexually-repulsed. Which means sex, and anything related to sex, is something that I cannot do. I am not broken, it’s simply the way I am. A homosexual won’t experience sexual feelings for a heterogendered individual. I can’t have sexual contact. It’s simple. And while I am still an avid masturbator and enjoyer of sex comics and pornographic fanfiction, this means I will never enjoy sex with another person. And that’s alright.

As a promise to myself, and a reminder to never compromise again, I wear the black ring on my left middle finger. This tradition started in 2005, when AVEN user Mega Mitosis posted this on the boards:

You know, a friend of mine wears a ring on her left middle finger. Her explanation being that: your right middle means “currently single”, the right ring means “currently taken” and since the left ring means “taken/married” in a permanent sense, then the next logical conclusion would be that left middle means “permanently single”.

And while I might not be permanently single, I do fully intend never to allow myself to fall into a situation where I feel sickened just by the touch of someone again. I am in control of my sexuality, just as my mother was, and while I am a different sexuality than she, I am no less important. So please, if you know someone you think might be asexual, don’t tell them there is something wrong with them. Don’t ask if they’ve gone to see a therapist. Instead, show them this article, and let them find out for themselves what they are or may be. And if you think that you are, in fact, asexual as well? Welcome to the club, we have cake.

Especially chocolate lava cake. Yum.

By the by, the colors there are the Asexual Flag. Pretty cool, huh?

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group – 09/03/14

  • Posted on September 4, 2014 at 1:00 am

IWSG badgeI only recently found out about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, so forgive this post being a few minutes late.  Basically, from what I can understand of the website, it’s a group meant to bolster and support those going into writing as a career, by helping them see that others have similar insecurities, and by talking them through them.

To be completely honest, I have more insecurities than triumphs, right now, and that’s not something to shake a stick at. I’ve triumphed a lot in my life, to get where I am now, and so when I say the insecurities way me down, I mean it, truthfully.

The thing about it is, however, that you can’t let that sort of thing hold you back. Several of my fears are completely valid. Being the type of person I am, I compartmentalize, and then end up completely disorganized through out the entire process, which just leads to chaos. So, in an effort to help you through some of the things that I’m suffering through, I’m going to organize a little.

Worry one: I’m not going to make it. 

My mother is an author. My best friend is an author. My Mentor is an author. All of these people, I hold dear. But each in their own way, they struggle beyond what is possible for me to feel comfortable with. My mother has one book published, and is working on her second, and honestly, I’d give anything to be nothing like her. That’s a whole seperate story. My best friend has written five books, and none of them are published because he is waiting for one specific publishing house to recognise his works. And my mentor, possibly the most successful of all of us, has two books published, and still is not earning enough to support himself yet.

None of these are my idea of ‘making it’. Of Succeeding. My idea of succeeding is the type of fandom and fame that people like Neil Gaiman, Andrew Hussie, and J.K. Rowling have. And my fear is that I will never reach that level of success.

But that’s wrong. To worry about that so early in the game. The only way I will ever make it, is if I put my all into it now, if I give everything I have to succeeding. I can’t allow this worry to cripple me, the way I’ve allowed worries like this to do so in the past. I have done so much in my short life, and this will not be something that I don’t cross off my bucket list. So please, don’t let the high pole of your own idea of ‘making it’ hold you down.

Worry number two: The things I’m writing will perpetuate horrible things.

If there is one thing I want more than to be the next J.K., it’s to make sure that my writing MEANS something. That it gives someone who didn’t have representation before, that representation. That it allows people to feel more comfortable being themselves.

So I worry and fuss and drive myself nuts over my books and blogposts and writing, to make sure that they don’t hurt those I’m trying to help. It’s a lot harder than one might think to avoid internalised misogyny, or misandry. To fight off homophobia that I didn’t realise slipped into the way I write. To tear away anything that might make someone feel worse about themselves than they already do. And I’m scared that I might never be able to do what needs to be done to make the world a better place.

To combat this worry, I’m trying to learn as much about the world as possible, so that I might end up helping, instead of hurting. I’m attempting to make sure that nothing is left out. That I leave no stone unturned. Honestly, there are some who would tell me not to worry about this, but it seems to me that not enough people worry. So I try my hardest.

Worry number three: I’m afraid I’ll decide this is a waste of time someday, and quit.

I have picked up a habit over my years on earth, and it’s a bad one. I start something, put a lot of work into it. Hard, fun work, that leaves me breathless and wanting more. And then suddenly, as if nothing ever happened, I just… can’t do it anymore. I can’t pick up the pen. I can’t make myself write that next reply. I can’t tell myself that I need to continue it.

Knitting, Final Fantasy Eight, Gardening, Drawing, Painting, Manga-writing, BDSM, Domme-ing, Relationships, and numerous, numerous story ideas. All thrown to the wind, on a whim. I have come to accept that I am a fickle creature. And what worries me, is that after all this effort I’ve put into working so hard on this, I’ll just… give up.

I don’t know how to combat this worry. I don’t know how to get rid of it, or change it, or make it work for me. The best I can do, the best anyone can do, is take it one day at a time, and try their hardest. That’s why I write as many blogposts as I can, that’s why I read so many blogs on my Feedly. That’s why I twitter more now than I ever have before. That’s why I search for blogs and talk to other writers, and try desperately to tie what I’m doing here into my other areas of interest.

Worry number four: I’m worried that this will take over my life, and kill my other dreams.

I want to open a Manga Cafe. The first Manga Cafe in Colorado. I want to have children. I want to travel the world. I want to be financially stable and own my own home. All of these things… None of them are mutually exclusive. But I’m afraid that all the work, all the effort, all the energy I have to put into this whole author-business, will take away from the energy I’ll have for these other dreams.

How can I run a cafe, a business, when I have to spend so much time writing, just to be a mediocre author? What will my children think when I have to tell them I can’t take them to the park because Mommy has to write? Travelling the world costs money, and since it looks like I’m going to be an indie-author, I can’t afford that kind of expense. My money, my life, my energy has to go towards my career as an author.

This is a simple fix, though. This is all just a matter of perspective. If I can wire my writing into the rest of my life, as well, then maybe, just maybe, I can have it all. Why not write while travelling? It’ll make my books more realistic! My cafe can give rise to whole new book ideas, as well as a place to sell my books, and others! My children will see me working hard towards my dreams, and gain a work ethic themselves. I can do it. I can do this, and I WILL make my dreams come true!

Worry number five: I’m worried that I’ll succeed. 

Now, bear with me here, because I know one of my worries up there was that I WOULDN’T make it. But, making it, succeeding in becoming the type of author I want to be… Well, that’s just as terrifying. The kind of fanbases that J.K. and Hussie and Gaiman have are amazing, but also, dangerous. People have Andrew Hussies’ BABY pictures online. I would have no privacy. Not only that, but these people would be hanging on my every word. I would be responsible for a part of their world view. That’s a horrid responsibility.

And there would be my close friends. What of my best friend, who is still waiting for that publisher to call him back? The jealousy there might ruin our friendship. I would rather die than lose him as a friend. And what of my mother? I love her, but what if she thinks this is some kind of contest? We barely have a tenuous relationship as it is. I’d rather not turn into Rose Lalonde, thank you.

The only balm I can soothe this worry with is that I won’t let success change me. Not really. I will still be friends with those I love. I will still be me. And I know I’ve never intentionally hurt a person. And I’ve never withheld an apology when I knew it was really needed. So I can only hope that responsibility will sit with me easily.

Does anyone else have these worries? How do you soothe yours? Please tell me, because I’d love to hear.

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part Two

  • Posted on August 17, 2014 at 11:36 am

For those of you just joining us, here’s a link to part one. For those of you who aren’t, we’re working on chapter two this time, of Miss Marple’s mysterious adventure in Nemesis. In chapter one, Miss Marple read in the newspaper about the death of an old friend. Now, we get to continue!

Chapter two: Code Word Nemesis

We pick up a week later, when Miss Marple receives a letter. Correspondence, we’ll find out later, turns out to be a really important thing to the lovely Miss Marple. And in fact, pretty important too.

She again, notes the details of the envelope. Good quality envelope, London postage, that sort of thing. Broadribb and Schuster, Solicitors and Notaries of the Public. We’ll meet these gentlemen later, I get the feeling. Yay, more characters! So far, we have five characters, one post-humous. So far, the Code is starting to look pretty reasonable. I know I’ve been drawn in. How about you?

The “Courteous and Legal phraseology” asks her to meet them at her earliest convenience, which turns out not to be Thursday the 24th like they suggested. You’ve got to love the thought that Agatha puts into these thought processes. What character have you ever known to DELAY THE DAMN CALL by attending a meeting at a women’s college about adding some new classrooms.

After a quick discussion with Cherry, who seems to enjoy caring for Miss Marple the same way some people teach children to read, Miss Marple decides she’s going to visit them. If only because Mr. Rafiel might have left her something. A very organic thought process, here, something I might think myself. She hopes not for money but for a rare book on flowers, or a nice cameo broach.

Instead of waiting, we are treated to a quick flash forward to a discussion between Mr. Schuster and Mr. Broadribb. As with Cherry and Miss Marple, we learn about these two through their conversation rather than through a flat out description, or even an introduction. The very first bit we hear is this:

“Wonder what she’ll be like,” said Mr. Broadribb to Mr. Schuster, glancing at the clock as he did so.

“She’s due in a quarter of an hour,” Said Mr. Schuster. “Wonder if she’ll be punctual?”

“Oh, I should think so. She’s elderly, I gather, and much more punctilious than the young scatterbrains of today.”

“Fat or thin, I wonder?” Said Mr. Schuster.

Mr. Broadribb shook his head.

Already I like this Mr. Broadribb MUCH more than Mr. Schuster. But maybe that’s just because I really like Miss Marple, and Mr. Broadribb is being nicer. Then, after their impromptu discussion on what they thought she would be like, they fall into a discussion of their employer. Or rather who and what their employer WAS. As of course, Mr. Rafiel is dead. He seems to be considered a very shrewd man. They say he had “Flair” for what he did, as well as a “Great financial brain.”

This makes me want to meet him even more. Too bad he’s already dead. I wonder what finally killed him?

Miss Marple arrives, and Mr. Schuster excuses himself, thank god. We finally get a description of Mr. Broadribb, and it turns out he’s rather melancholy and long of face. Which just makes me like him more, honestly. Good lawyers should be rather down-trodden, otherwise they aren’t doing their job. Anyway, they begin again, by opening the discussion with Mr. Rafiel. I find myself in a state of constant tension. I just want to find out what he left her already, despite knowing that it was a job, thanks to the description of the book.

Miss Marple is then given a letter. She reads it through, and then rereads it. Then, she has this to say to Mr. Broadribb:

“This is hardly very definite. Is there no more definite elucidation of any kind?”

Apperantly, all Mr. Broadribb was supposed to do was give her the letter, and then tells her that the ‘sum of the legacy’ is 25000 pounds. Now, for my american viewers, who may not understand this amount, that’s a little over 41,000 dollars. Which is quite a lot of money for an old lady. In fact, they go on to discuss what she might do with this money, while Miss Marple is in a bit of a shock over it. Or maybe she’s just trying to figure out the letter already.

Then, Mr. Broadribb asked her if the word ‘Nemesis’ meant anything to her. And she explained that she said it once to Mr. Rafiel, and he was amused at her calling herself that. Again, I really want to read that damned book. Both Mr. Broadribb and Miss Marple are left thoroughly confused by the events, and so am I, until a page or so later, when we FINALLY get to know the contents of the letter.

“To miss Jane Marple, resident in the village of st. Mary Mead.

This will be delivered to you after my death by the good offices of my solicitor, James Broadribb. He is the man I employ for dealing with such legal matters as fall in the dealing with such legal matters as fall in the field of my private affairs, not my business activities. He is a sound and trustworthy lawyer. Like the Majority of the human race he is susceptible to the sin of curiosity. I have not satisfied his curiosity. In some respects this matter will remain between you and myself. Our code word, my dear lady, is Nemesis. I don’t think you will have forgotten in what place and in what circumstances you first spoke that word to me. In the course of my business activities over what is now quite a long life, I have learnt one thing about a man whom I wish to employ. He has to have a flair. A flair for the particular job I want him to do. It is not knowledge, it is not experience. The only word that describes it is flair. A natural gift for doing a certain thing.

You, my dear, if I may call you that, have a natural flair for justice, and that has led to your having a natural flair for crime. I want you to investigate a certain crime. I have ordered a certain sum to be placed so that if you accept this request and as a result of your investigation this crime is properly elucidated, the money will become yours absolutely. I have set aside a year for you to engage on this mission. You are not young, but you are, if I may say so, touch. I think I can trust a reasonable fate to keep you alive for a year at least.

I think the work involved will not be distasteful to you. You have a natural genius, I should say, for investigation. The necessary funds for what I may describe as working capital for making this investigation will be remitted to you during that period, whenever necessary. I offer this to you as an alternative to what may be your life at present.

I envisage you sitting in a chair, a chair that is agreeable and comfortable for whatever kind or form of rheumatism from which you may suffer. All persons of your age, I consider, are likely to suffer from some form of rheumatism. If this ailment affects your knees or your back, it will not be easy for you to get about much and you will spend your time mainly in knitting. I see you, as I saw you once one night as I rose from sleeping disturbed by your urgency, in a cloud of pink wool.

I envisage you knitting more jackets, head scarves and a good many other things of which I do not know the name. If you prefer to continue knitting, that is your decision. If you prefer to serve the cause of justice, I hope that you may at least find it interesting.

Let justice roll down like waters.

And righteousness like an everlasting stream.

Amos.” 

And with that, we are at an end for chapter two. Now, I am a fangirl at heart, and usually, in fandoms, when this sort of accord is reached between two people, we start shipping them. Which means that I thoroughly believe that, had circumstances been different, Miss Marple and Mr. Rafiel might have been paramours. Lovers. Sweethearts. Soul-mates. But then again, it might just be me. Either way, these two characters have a great respect and care for each other. They know each other inside and out.

It’s a rare thing to see two characters connect like this. It’s something to emulate, for certain. Also, the characters themselves are really relatable. I seriously want to meet this Mr. Rafiel. I’m also kind of hoping he’s faking his death. I doubt it, because this doesn’t seem that kind of book, but I hope.

Another thing, I find the use of “Cloud of Pink Wool” to be the beginning of our recurring themes. Check number two on the Agatha Christie Code list. I’m close, guys. I’m close. But this is important. Recurring themes have been shown to be very addictive. Memes. Episodic plot-threads. Recurring characters. Simply enough put, Miss Christie is onto something here. Because everyone seems to put these recurring things into their work. Or at least, the smart ones do.

So, your turn! Tell me about the recurring themes in your own work. Memes, inside jokes, the kinds of things that you think your future fandoms will latch onto and turn into an indoctrination method.

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part One

  • Posted on August 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Welcome to a new series of articles centered around breaking down, and understanding Nemesis, a Miss Marple Mystery, by Agatha Christie. If you’re curious, and wish to follow along, you can purchase the book here! (or make use of your public library, of course! <3) We’ll be breaking down several things, focusing on the Tension, the Characterization, and the Plot Threads, while searching out this mysterious Agatha Christie Code that I’ve heard so much about!

Nemesis is a story in the middle of the Miss Marple Mysteries, a series about an old woman, Miss Jane Marple, who happens to solve mysteries in between gardening, knitting, and enjoying her golden years. At twenty two chapters, we’re going to be breaking down each chapter and looking over it. At the end, I’ll give a final post about what I’ve learned from the intrepid Miss Agatha.

In the afternoons it was custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper.

The cover for the copy I am reading. Clicking will take you to Miss Christie’s Wikipage.

This is the first line of the novel. Odd choice, honestly, but it works, because it shows off a certain oddness about Miss Marple in the first place. Then, odder still, Miss Marple goes off on a tangent about how often her paper is late because the boy delivering it is either late, or has handed off his route for a little while, or has been sacked.

Strangely enough, this drew me in immediately, if only because I really felt like I was listening to the mental ramblings of an old lady. But another part of it shows just how very AWARE Miss Marple is about EVERYTHING. She knows more than just ‘oh the paper’s late, I can’t read it with early morning tea.’ She knows WHY her paper is late, which is something few people even bother paying attention to.

The pacing so far is unbearably slow. I haven’t figured out anything other than what this old woman is doing with her afternoon. Which appears to be reading a newspaper she’s nicknamed “The Daily All-Sorts”. Then, we are treated to another rant, this time about being unable to find anything in the Times. This rant seems devoted to her lamenting how things have changed from when she was young.

A wonderful way to show us her age, and also an intriguingly clear indication that perhaps the so-called Agatha Christie Code is correct. She seems very intent on describing Miss Marple’s thought process in larger-than-life detail.  Here, we find out another odd detail about Miss Marple.

“It’s sad really, but nowadays one is only interested in the deaths!” – Miss Marple

Miss Marple discovers the Internet

She seems to be looking to see if anyone she knows has died, or perhaps given birth, or gotten married. An odd passtime, but when one has all the time on her hands that Miss Marple seems to, I can see why it would become interesting. Everything about Miss Marple at this point seems to be just this side of odd for an old woman. Miss Christie is leaving us hints as to just how odd Old Miss Marple is underneath. This is wonderful examples of characterization. But still, nothing has happened yet.

Finally, Miss Marple comes across a name that stirs some familiarity. Jason Rafiel, listed in the obituaries. She can’t seem to remember who it is, but she has no doubt it will come to her. In fact, we are treated to a long process of her figuring it out. She begins by looking out the window, lamenting that the doctors refuse to allow her to garden. Another hobby we find she enjoyed that now she is restricted. Poor Miss Marple, her old age is catching up to her. Turning away from the window, she picks up her knitting, which appears to be a pink jacket, just missing the sleeves.

Now pink wool, this triggers something of her memory. As we can see:

Pink wool. Now wait a minute, where did that fit in? Yes- yes- it fitted in with the name she’d just read in the paper. Pink wool. A blue sea. A Carribean sea. A sandy beach. Sunshine. Herself knitting and- why of course, Mr. Rafiel. That trip she had made to the caribbean. The Island of St. Honore. A treat from her nephew Raymond. And she remembered Joan, her niece-in-law, Raymond’s wife, saying: “Don’t get mixed up in any more murders, Aunt Jane. It isn’t good for you.”

Do you see what she did there? Miss Agatha Christie just took us through a perfect example of how the mind ACTUALLY works! After scent, touch is the closest sense to memory, followed by sight! Now, Miss Marple didn’t just remember this up, as if it were a scene, no, it’s broken down into actual recollections, actual thoughts. Instead of a flashback, we get a disjointed connection through various memories.

And like any of us, Miss Marple doesn’t just remember everything about that trip at once. No, she has to tease it together, starting with the names. She remembered the elderly Major, whose name continued escaping her. Then she remembers the kind of man Mr. Rafiel had been. Not perfectly, as some people are want to do. She remembers him being an obstinate man, as well as strong, as well as rich. Difficult, irritable and shockingly rude, she remembers. Clearly he made an impression on Miss Marple. And, not only has she remembered Mr. Rafiel, but others too.

Mrs. Walters, a widow and Mr. Rafiel’s secretary. Mr Rafiel’s Masseur-Attendant, Arthur Jackson, who she thought was a rather doubtful character. But instead of being sure of Jackson’s name, she continues to question it. This is a very organic process of tracking down what the thoughts and memories of this time were. And clearly she is remembering the people specifically, not the events. I assume this was Miss Christie’s way of not rehashing the entire events of the previous book, but instead teasing us along into remembering it as well.

Then comes Miss Knight, who was once Miss Marple’s own companion, a young woman she’s rather happy to get rid of. But for some reason, she keeps messing up her name, thinking of her as Miss Bishop. She even quips about it:

“Oh dear,” said Miss Marple again, “I always get all the names wrong. And of course, it was Miss Knight I was thinking of. Not Miss Bishop. Why do I think of her as Miss Bishop?” The answer came to her. Chess, of course. A Chess piece. A knight. A bishop.

I’ll admit, at this point, Miss Christie had me hooked as a writer, although perhaps not as a reader. Such an organic transition, and a clear definition of this character’s mind. Already I am aware that she notices things others don’t care about, and she puts together odd connections, forming them in her mind to remind herself of things. I haven’t even had to read the rest of the series, and I find myself feeling like Miss Marple is an old friend.

She gives us a rundown of how she and Mr. Rafiel had been partners, for a time, but she never gets around to explaining in what. This makes me want to track down the book previous and read it. Well played, Miss Christie. We find out that Miss Marple was quite excited about these events, and it makes us excited too. Already, we’ve found ourselves enthralled by the way Jane Marple sees the world.

Then, we get to meet Cherry, who is now Miss Marple’s Companion. It seems that Miss Marple uses Cherry as a bit of a sounding board. Also, the voices between Miss Marple and Cherry are quite different. I find myself seeing Cherry as perhaps african american, if only because of the vernacular she chooses.

“You did have it in for little Gary Hopkins I must say,” said Cherry. “When you caught him torturing his cat that day. Never knew you had it in you to go for anyone like that! Scared him stiff, you did. He’s never forgotten it.”

“I hope he hasn’t tortured anymore cats.”

“Well, he’s made sure you weren’t about if he did,” said Cherry. “In fact I’m not at all sure as there isn’t other boys as got scared. Seeing you with your wool and the pretty things you knits and all that- anyone would think you were gentle as a lamb. But there’s times I could say you’d behave like a lion if you was goaded into it.”

Also, a wonderful choice there, to show us Miss Marple’s sense of rough justice through the eyes of Cherry, her companion. At this point, I’m also hoping to see more of Cherry. Their interaction seems quite natural, that of a companion and someone of an age beyond adulthood.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about the syntax of Miss Christie’s work. So far, I’m seeing quite a large number of ‘said’s, and very little added description. She was clearly a follower of the ‘no adjectives’ rule, as well as a detractor from the ‘said is dead’ forum of discussion. However, I don’t feel it takes away from her work. The dialogue itself is well written, as well as showing us little glimpses of what we need to know about Miss Marple. There isn’t a word wasted here. I can see why Agatha Christie is said to be the single best-selling author in the world.

There’s a small break away from the heavy thinking to have a conversation with Miss Bartlett, a companion-gardener to one Miss Hastings. Then, her mind turns back to Mr. Rafiel, and gives us a wonderful description of their relationship. Ships that pass in the night. After that, she resolves that she will probably never think of him again. She’d look out for an obituary, out of what seems an honor for his passing, but she isn’t very hopeful about it. As a final thought, she notes that he hadn’t been anyone of major importance in any industry.

He had just all his life made enormous amounts of money…

All the money. Obsene amounts of money.

What I wouldn’t give to make enormous amounts of money. But on another note, clearly, the foreshadowing here is pretty thick. On the second read through, I found things I hadn’t noticed, such as the Mrs. Hastings reference. Already we have so many characters to follow, and Miss Marple at the center of it all. Red herrings everywhere for a mystery that hasn’t even been introduced, and I’m excited about this book that literally NOTHING HAS HAPPENED IN. All Miss Marple has done is read her newspaper, think about old memories, and talk to two women for five minutes each!

Breaking it down, just a bit, we see already how Miss Christie built up the character for us, showing through thought and action just what sort of woman Miss Marple is. We know she has just a little lion inside her, and is the kind to beat a child senseless for torturing an innocent creature. We know that she has an impeccable memory for detail, although sometimes it takes her a minute and some odd associations to get there.

This entire first chapter was spent introducing the main character. But it wasn’t wasted at all. We weren’t bored to tears by a flashback of what happened in the Caribbean. We weren’t shown her beating the boy, we weren’t even shown her doing anything other than normal things. THIS is an introduction chapter. This is the type of first chapter that will get you published.

Here’s a challenge, then. Take the first chapter of your book, or first paragraph of your short story, or any beginning at all. And have the main character do nothing, but think. Explain who this character is, show it, by their thoughts and actions. Give us a snippet of your results in the comments! And don’t be afraid to tell me what you think about the article either!

Researching Mystery

  • Posted on August 11, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Today, I have a guest blog published over on Cindy Grigg’s website. We’ve swapped guestblogs, and her post, 9 ways to fix your Stereotyped Character is informative and fun to read! Go take a look at it! Also, take a look at the article, Researching mystery which you can find here:

If you’re curious, here’s the first two paragraphs of the article, for your perusal.

To begin with, I’m not normally a mystery author. To be specific, when I was younger, I only ever wrote fantasy novels, or romance. Now, however, I’m trying my hand at mystery novels, which means quite a bit of strife. I have a natural instinct when it comes to fantasy, so I find it easy to fall into. With Romance, I have my years as a fanfiction writer and fandom roleplayer to fall back on, which can both enhance and detract from my writing. (No one likes reading author’s notes, I’ve since learned.)

I came to mystery as a genre because I love the tense atmosphere. Maybe it’s less mystery and more suspense that I enjoy. But recently, I’ve found that I want a challenge. And the best way to challenge yourself is to write something you’ve never in a million years written before. But how can you write something you’ve never written before? How can you make sure that you don’t slip back into writing what you know? And worst of all, how do you manage to make it a GOOD manuscript when you know nothing about your genre?

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Nightmares in Human Shape

  • Posted on April 17, 2014 at 12:46 pm

It seems never ending, the lessons we can learn from Fairytales. But often, villains look human for the most part. A few are even more human (and handsome) than the prince himself! And we are expected to remember that fact. Because it’s truth. Often, in real life, villains are human shaped, and kind, and manipulative, and every bit our friend until suddenly they aren’t. It’s rather interesting how that works, don’t you think?

The evil stepmother, or in some cases just mother, is always human. Although she might be a sorceress, or an evil duchess, or even an evil old witch, she’s still human. And her magic isn’t the only thing she’s got going for her. Our trusting naivete allows her to actually trick us into believing she has the best at heart. How sad is it, when we see these heroines fall for it time and again?

The childhood friend can sometimes become this. Someone we’ve trusted for so long that we barely have to think anymore about the oddly ominous things they say. They’re close to our heart, and dear to us, so we can’t believe that they’d do something wrong or evil or indecent in any way. It makes sense, doesn’t it? That this person would ultimately betray us. Usually out of a form of jealousy. Either of what we have, or of someone else’s new closeness to us. How strange that we should see this most ugly of human emotions on the faces of those we trust.

The greedy leader is worst, though, because often, we are too small, too singular to actually make a difference against them. But sometimes, we manage. Sometimes, we can call enough people together to actually gain a voice, to actually shout out “WE WILL NOT TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” and step out of whatever chains this horrid person has put upon us. It’s always nice, then the searing freedom earned.

All of these archetypes call out to us to be defeated, to be broken. Because they are us, only twisted, us, but broken and wrong and just… not right. They are us at our worst, and we must always put forth the best will we have to avoid becoming such foul villains. We hate them because they remind us of our own humanity. They wear our faces in the dark, and we can see, so easily, the path that it takes for us to slip down and into their shoes. Never once do we realize that by seeing them as they are, we are choosing not to become these beasts, these wolves in sheep’s clothing.

So continue writing, drawing, showing these enemies in front of us. How else are our children to recognise the threat when they have never been taught not to trust blindly. How can we protect the princesses of the future if we do not teach them that anyone can possibly be an enemy? I, personally, prefer the adventure of not knowing, and of believing the best in those around me. Sometimes I am hurt, but I always get back up, stronger and surer.

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