link or links of interest

This may be of interest to some or all of you: as of now, They Might Be Giants mp3 album downloads are just $4.99 (USD), for twenty-four hours. Actually probably more like nineteen hours, looking at the clock. But if you go right away to download Nanobots or Severe Tire Damage or whatever, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Also, in case you missed it, over at Unsettling Wonder I wrote an article wondering what good are fairy tales?

friday diary

The other day I found myself working on the introduction of a new and, I hope, terrifying villain into a story. But the problem was figuring what he was going to say. Villains of this sort come on stage eying the scenery hungrily. I had to get the opening line right for the rest of the scene to follow with props unchewed.

So, as is my wont, I grabbed my notebook and started scribbling possible opening lines—some were threats, some passive aggressive, some hopelessly erudite, some tooth-in-curtains. I’d nearly filled the page before I glanced over what I had written—and then very promptly and firmly wrote ‘OPENING LINES FOR A VILLAIN’ at the top of the page. The whole thing had turned into a weirdly psychotic monologue—not the sort of thing you want to have hanging around in notebooks without clarification.

This might be old news for the whole world, but it’s new to me so I’ll record it here. A certain
D. P. Lyle, MD, hosts The Writer’s Forensics Blog, which doubles as an online resource about the sort of medical, forensic, and (to some extent) procedural data a writer might need. It’s naturally targeted at writers of crime fiction, but there’s probably salient detail for any genre that might involve physical injury. As well as the usual collection of top-tips on writing and editing and time management. And it gives helpful links to Dr Lyle’s book and forensic-focused writer’s advice service. On the whole, well worth a browse if you’ve the stomach for it—it can get a bit macabre.

John Linnell doesn’t know what to eat when his wife leaves town.


If you’re interested in vampires, alchemy, or alchemical vampires—or at least in Sookie Stackhouse—then you want to investigate this new post at Hogwarts Professor. A curious little case study in the clash between what the story structure requires and what the readers want—the writer refers to ‘a huge alchemical backfire’. And now you’ll never forget that image.

Lastly, a turn away from writing and frivolity: this may, again, be old new but it’s tremendously important. Dean Obeidallah, attorney and comedian, writes poignantly and articulately about why Muslims hate terrorism, and why terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. It’s not an article he should have needed to write—it’s stuff everyone should already know—but he did because they don’t, and, like I said, it’s too important not to read.

(H/T Mark Evanier, again.)

vitality, beauty, coffee

or, Mostly the Latter. In blogalectic with Jenna and Masha, sort of.

“I didn’t expect to find a salesman drinking coffee this late in the morning,” I said. “How long you been here, Joe?”

“Oh, I dunno, I guess thirty—” He glanced at the clock above the bar. “Forty-five minutes, maybe. Why d’ya ask?”

“You must be making a lot of sales. Piling up a good income.”

“Oh, ah I’m doing all right, I could do better,but—” He crashed down his coffee abruptly. “Paul—someone’s listening.”

“There’s no one here but—”

He waved me quiet, stared furtively down at his coffee with the suspicion of man who expects his coffee to suddenly erupt to geysers of shaving cream. “I’ll tell you what it is, Paul,” he said quietly. “We’re in a story.”

“It looks like a diner to me.”

“Oh, that! That’s just the setting. This’ll be a short story, see—a  bit of flash fiction where the author needs to make this point, so he thinks, let’s find two guys talking in a bar. Only,” he glared at his coffee again, “for me it’s always coffee.”

I tried again. “You must be making a lot of sales.”

He scowled. “Think they tell me that? They can sell the stories where they like and I never see a dime. Who do they think they are, rushing into my life and using my conversations to prove whatever they want to prove? I tell you something, Paul.” He leaned onto the bar, waggled his finger. “They misquote me.”

“They what?”

“I says one thing,” he said, “they write another. They put their words in my mouth. They don’t care about me, see, about us. They just have this thing they’re writing, and need to blokes chatting over coffee to write it. You watch, Paul. This’ll be a short story somewhere, about—about—about—what’s that old time-is-money kick you’re always on , Paul?”

“Oh—ah, you mean, ah, time management? I’m not back on it, Joe. I’m—”

“Well, it doesn’t matter, see. Because you’d say, time is money, but they’d say you said everybody dies frustrated and sad—and that’s beautiful!

“That’s beautiful?”

“That’s what they say you say. It’s the sort of thing,” he said darkly, “they make people say. It’s like…”

“Joe,” I said, “don’t let’s start—”

“Start? It’s over, boss. It’s flash fiction. Soon as you start talking, it’s over. And you never even know about it” He gulped a mouthful of coffee and glared at me. “It’s like being a snowball in hell.”


Welcome to anti-Wednesday, the day that isn’t. As promised, we’re talking about anti-tales.

When confronting the daunting task of attempting to define anti-tale, I’m tempted to follow the example of George MacDonald—to define by example and say, ‘Find Waiting for Godot. Read that. That is an anti-tale.’

And of course it is, but that’s rather like saying ‘Go look at Michelangelo’s David. That is a sculpture,’ or ‘Listen to Bach’s Inventions—those are inventions.’ It’s rather beside the point, smacks of paucity, and manages to explain everything while explaining nothing.

Which isn’t a bad way to begin addressing anti-tale, actually.

Go do it. Alternatively, this.

Well, shall we go?

quick, this way!

What do you do when you discover you have all of five minutes to write a blog post on the art of storytelling and the evocative power of Story?

You default to a They Might Be Giants video.

[Vimeo 7290601]

Watch and learn. There’s so much more here than puppets.

Good Sabbath, everyone.