Character Snapshot: Yarrow, 4020

Welcome to Character Snapshots, the new series where I interview my characters at certain points in their lives.

Today I’m interviewing Yarrow in 4020, after the events that take place in Bellica. Beware of spoilers!

Name? Yarrow Achi deZameera Zarqon. Er. Queen Yarrow, I guess now. That’s tough to get used to.

Age and birthday? 30 years old; Duema 2nd, 3990. If you want to give me a gift you will never go wrong with whiskey. Or porn. Puppies are nice too.

Time of snapshot: What day is it? I don’t know. I’m tired. Sometime near the end of Trinnia, I think.

Species? A year ago I would have said you’re insane for even asking, but that was before Rosa happened to me. Human. Or, Terran, I guess is more politically correct.

How do you spend a typical Jourd’Aradia? A good portion of every day, Jourd’Aradia being no exception, is spent being sick in the privy, because someone (a pause as Yarrow glares at her belly) doesn’t like any food, apparently. Whenever I’m not bent over the latrine and cursing every woman who didn’t tell me how much pregnancy fecking sucks, I’m spending most of my time trying to fix the mess left me in ruling this country. Which, actually, isn’t as bad as I was expecting, so that’s something. Truth be told, my sister had some good plans for Athering. She just didn’t get to implement them. And who knows how well they would have turned out. Her life wasn’t her own.

(Yarrow goes silent, a slight frown drawing her brows together.)

I take it you miss your sister? (Yarrow directs a glare my way.) Of course I do. I always loved her. Even when she hurt me the most. And to be honest, I think, had it not been for the human-pieced chess game the Goddesses were playing with us, I think Zardria might have done Athering some good. A lot more good than Zanny ever did, that’s for sure.

You mentioned the Goddesses. Do you consider yourself religious? Never have. I no longer doubt the existence of the Goddesses, but I don’t go for services at the Temple. Being Queen is quite a wonderful excuse not to; I’m so busy, you see. I am not thought less of for only showing up at Kore’s Mass or Midwinter or Ostara. Were I lesser nobility, that ease would not be mine.

So you believe in deities, but don’t follow a religious life? What’s the point in praying and ritual when I know They exist and are going to do with my life whatever They want anyway? (Yarrow shrugs, looks away. She is obviously uncomfortable.)

I think your cousin might tell me a different story. (A large sigh.) Of course she would. Ghia is an incessant meddler. Yes, alright, I do pray. That’s still not the same as considering myself personally religious.

Alright. I’ll leave that line of questioning alone. Thank you.

One more question, and then I’ll let you get back to ruling Athering. What is your favourite food? Ah, an easy one! I adore roast — big hanks of juicy, peppered beef, with a side of buttered and salted tubers. Also — though don’t tell anyone this; it’ll ruin my image — I really like asparagus. I know it’s weird, but I do.

Well, I like asparagus too. Thank you for your time, Queen Yarrow. Eh, thanks for giving me an excuse to step away from work for a minute.

Thanks for reading this week’s Character Snapshot! Comments are open for 7 days, and I’ll see you next week with some more tidbits from Athering.



So, your writer friend named a character after you.

When I name a character after a friend, I do so, by and large, because I needed a name and said friend’s name worked in my world.

They may have told you this, thinking it would make you happy to hear it (and perhaps it did). Or you may have picked up their book after publication and noticed a character with your name, known that they wrote this book after meeting you, and thought to yourself, “Surely, that’s not a coincidence.”

But then you notice that the character with your name is…well. Not your best side. Perhaps a little like you, but surely you do not have that many flaws? Such weird peccadillos? Or such grievous sins — surely your friend does not see you that way!

Do they see you that way? Are they not-so-subtly trying to tell you, Hey, this is what I think of you?

No. They’re not.

(Or maybe they are. I’m not trying to speak for all writers here — I’m just sharing my perspective. There may be writers out there who are just that passive-aggressive.)

When I name a character after a friend, I do so, by and large, because I needed a name and said friend’s name worked in my world. I will usually intend that character to be a protagonist. Often, that character has quirks and peccadillos and weird flaws and big sins that come out in the writing that I never would associate with my friend — and by that point, the character is their own person who happens to have been named after my friend, and perhaps they share some superficial similarities but that’s really it.

It’s so obvious to me, the writer, that this character and this friend have nothing to do with each other except a name that I forget it may not be obvious to said friend when they read the story. They may read it and wonder if that’s what I really think of them, and gods, I must not be much a friend at all if that’s how I feel!

Friends, let me assure you: your names appear in my books because they were handy names, and perhaps I felt I wanted to include you somehow. The characters your names are bestowed upon are not you.

I’m just not that passive-aggressive.

Now, there may come a time when you do appear as a character in my book — but often under a different name. You may see some of yourself in other characters, and that’s likely because you’ve been such a huge influence in my life that I can’t help but to write you in some way. Or, you helped me out on one of my campaigns and got a perk where you get to be a character — that’s also a possibility, and one in which I would work with you in character creation.

But if you see your name in my story, don’t tear yourself up wondering if I was subtly trying to tell you something. I wasn’t. The characters have minds of their own, just like we do. I can only poke at them and hope they’ll go the direction I want them to go.

It’s like herding cats.

Can’t stop now! This is Nano country!

As many of you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month: Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon.

Some may say that phrase is quite literal, that we abandon literature. I’m sure there are NaNo novels for which that is true, but is is not true for mine, because I’m a damn good writer. (And a lot of other Wrimos are as well.)

This year, I actually planned. I wrote an outline. I figured out the First Plot Point, the Mid Plot Point, and the Second Plot Point. I wrote an overarching vision for my story. I came up with a partial Beat Sheet, outlining the scenes I would write and the missions they had. (Thanks to Larry Brooks at for his 30 posts on how to outline your NaNo novel. I found many of his tips useful.)

A glazed Tim Hortons donut
This is exactly what I ordered, too.

At midnight on the first of November I started writing with my fellow Nanaimo-Wrimos at our Tim Horton’s kick-off party. In the two hours at Timmy’s and the three hours when I got home, I wrote 3,331 words of my novel. (I was planning on sleeping as soon as I got home, but someone at Timmy’s gave me a coffee instead of a hot chocolate.) I decided sleep was the better part of valor at that point, and when I woke up later that day I rounded off my day’s word count at 5,560. My goal today is 10K.

You know what happened? I followed my outline…loosely. I found as I wrote, other things cropped up, and I ended up adding them into the story quite nicely. My main character’s best friend showed up in Chapter 1, instead of Chapter 3 as I had planned. Which meant I had to actually figure out the right name for him before moving on. I had been tossing around name ideas (I’m a writer who can’t write main characters without the exact right names, because I believe your name is such an integral part of your being that to write a character without a name is like writing one without a soul) before starting, but had not been able to settle on anything. I figured, no big deal, I’m not introducing him till Chapter 3 or so, so I can figure out a name before then. Well, he had other ideas.

Continue reading “Can’t stop now! This is Nano country!”

30 in 30: Day 27 (in which I shamelessly plug my own writing, but I’m entitled as it’s my fracking birthday)

Cover of "Snow Queen"
Cover of Snow Queen

If a book contains ______, you will always read it (and a book or books that contain it)!

This is honestly a very tough question. It’s hard to think of a single thing that will always make me read something; I could say strong female lead characters, but that’s not true — there are books that I refuse to read containing that quality.

I suppose something I am truly a sucker for is a sense of myth in the story. Kushiel’s Legacy is a very good example of this; not only is there a very rich backdrop to the story, filled with different cultures and myths based loosely on ones from Earth, but the story of Phedre and Joscelin has its own mythic quality — these characters are true heroes on the hero’s journey, and their deeds will be talked about in centuries to come.

Other examples of this mythic quality, not limited to books:

  • True Grit (the recent one)
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • The Fifth Sacred Thing
  • Lord of the Rings (though, I will admit, I did not finish reading the books — it’s the films I have a true love for)
  • Harry Potter
  • Green Grass, Running Water (by Thomas King)
  • The Tir Alainn Trilogy by Anne Bishop
  • The Black Jewels Trilogy (same)
  • The Snow Queen, by Joan D. Vinge
  • anything by Ursula K. LeGuin, the First Lady of Fantasy
  • Bellica, by Katje van Loon (why shouldn’t I shamelessly plug my own awesome stories, I ask you)

It’s the sense of myth that truly gets my heart racing, that makes me cry for the characters (yes, including my own), that wraps me up so completely in the story that when it’s over I am bereft for having lost a part of myself.

However, that’s the beauty of myths — once I am done mourning, I can read or watch and experience them again, and allow myself to fall in love many times with the same, heart-rending story.

30 in 30: Day 14 (in which I briefly talk about the Chaotic Canine, as portrayed by Thomas King)

Favorite character in a book (of any sex or gender)

This is kind of a difficult question. I mean, I’ve read like a thousand books (I wish life had achievement trackers like WoW does) so choosing one character out of all those stories is sort of a monumental task.

But, eh, what the hell. Coyote from Green Grass, Running Water, by Thomas King. First of all, I love the book, highly recommend it — it’s funny, poignant, and succinct. King is a master storyteller and humble, too (I recommend listening to his CBC Massey Lecture, The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative), and after having the aforementioned novel assigned last semester in class I’m pretty excited to read his other works.

Coyote is the Chaotic Canine. He’s referred to as Coyote, but it never actually says that he appears as such — he could be human too. He’s always getting into trouble, or causing it. In Green Grass, Running Water his thread runs throughout all the stories, but mainly the creation story that pops in every few chapters and blends both Native and Christian imagery (it is even hinted at that Coyote is responsible for Mary’s “virgin” birth, which is pretty funny).

The main idea behind Coyote is that if there is Order, he will introduce Chaos to disrupt things. Because Order left alone lets things stagnate, and then we never grow. It is only Chaos that allows things to flourish — and as Chaos naturally gives rise to Order, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Order appears, Coyote disrupts it, Chaos reigns, Order appears again.

I think it’s obvious why he’s my favorite character. He’s an agent of chaos (like me) and he’s hilarious about it. To paraphrase from the book:

Talks-to-Coyote: “Where were you when the Rangers were shot, Coyote?”

Coyote: “I was in Toronto.”

Talks-to-Coyote: “When was that?”

Coyote: “…when were the Rangers shot?”

It’s like the Eddie Izzard sketch about how we lie about everything as kids: “I was dead at the time! I was on the moon, with Steve!” That’s Coyote.


Words, Words, Words

I’m at 14,306 words in Nano, which is good considering how tired I’ve been this month (seriously — insomnia until 5am and then not being able to wake up till the late afternoon, and tired all the rest of the time but still not able to fall asleep = not. fun. at. all.). My Nano novel is The Jade Star of Athering, which is the sequel to Bellica, and it’s coming along fairly nicely. As it’s my second novel in that world and set right after the events in Bellica I’m having trouble separating the two; I have to remember to make it enjoyable as a standalone as well as a sequel, because I would hate to be one of those writers. You know the kind I’m talking about.

I’m also trying to make my main character much different from Yarrow, but it is difficult because she is around the same age, a bellica, and — of course — is the HEROINE. There are going to be similarities.

What I find helpful is to compare my characters to characters in movies or TV — specifically Battlestar Galactica, because the show is basically religion to me. Yarrow was very Starbuckian*; I’m trying to make Bellica Agate more like Kendra Shaw. Very reserved, sober, disciplined — but she has her dark, dirty secrets.

(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, GO WATCH BATTLESTAR GALACTICA RIGHT NOW. All of it. Even Razor. Actually, especially Razor, because that’s where Kendra Shaw appears. Shame on you for not having seen it. It’s fucking fantastic.)

Then come the other problems — while editing Bellica I noticed a lot of devices that I used and reused and reused until I and my beta readers committed mass suicide (mmm Koolaid). Since then I’ve been consciously trying to NOT use those devices so much, and it slows down the flow. I know the point of Nano is not to edit as you go, but I really, really can’t help it. It’s like cooking — clean the kitchen as you go; make it a habit and your kitchen will forever glisten. (I don’t actually do this, but the analogy sticks. Because I don’t use Pam.)

Also I can’t continue writing until I have a name for someone or something, because the person’s character is tied to the name — AND the name has to be meaningful. Really awesome when the subject of your book is a totally new culture that you haven’t had a chance to research properly — that is, it’s a made-up culture BASED in the Mayan culture. So I want it as true to life as possible, meaning I’m not just going to make up Mayan sounding names, but actually composite new names based off the real words in Maya.

Which Maya? GOOD QUESTION. I’m calling the people the Pokomam, which is a kind of Maya, but that’s not necessarily what I’m basing it off.

Oh, and I need to devise a Mayan calendar for a different world 20,000 years in the future.

So my flow is not fresh. It is stumbly and blocked. But at least it’s moving.


As for Get Your Words Out I’m at 154,984. If I finish NaNo at just 50K I’ll need to pound out 10K in December. Which is fine; I’ll be doing NaNoFiMo most likely. But I’d love to finish WriMo with 60K.


That’s it. I’m off to write.



*Also, Starbuckian is a term I use in my own life to refer to how I shoot myself in the foot REPEATEDLY and am just a general frak-up, but if I were a Viper pilot you can bet your ass I’d be the best you have.

Snowbound finished

I have just finished (as in, today) my first short story, Snowbound, though it’s more of a novelette at 15,758 words, and added a really terrible synopsis on the “Finished Works” page.

Needs an edit, and then I send it to the Writers of the Future Contest.

But not till after DragonCon. No more writing till then; I forbid myself. Cause I need some frakkin’ sleep.

(PS brings my GYWO wordcount to 140,678 which means I’m 7k ahead for the standard non-Nano goals for August yaaaaaaaaay)

Over and out.


So, screw the term “editing” — I’m doing a whole frakkin’ rewrite. The entire first part of my novel is completely nonviable. It’s boring. The characters are, well, out — of character.

So I started a rewrite today (yesterday; it’s four am) and have written over 4600 fresh words so far. Tomorrow I must dedicate to a paper, at least, and then I can work more on the book.

Haven’t been able to hit the gym because of horrible blisters on my feet. Ah well. This gives me more time to write.


Liking the rewrite a lot more but now worried I have to rewrite the entire book, as my characters are….different. The relationships and everything have changed.

Le sigh.

On the plus side, inspiration blindsided me on Thursday after class and have now solved the problem of not knowing what the feck to do for Bellica‘s sequel. I’ve changed the name and figured out the plot. Now I can’t wait for November so I can start writing The Jade Star of Athering. It’s going to be good. (I’m actually doing an outline this time.)

If I can rewrite the entire first part of Bellica this weekend, I’ll be incredibly pleased with myself.

So tired. Collapsing into bed now. I hope I wake up in the morning and not the afternoon.


PS: current gywo count is 107,101.

So close to the climax

Feminist author rants about avoiding sexism with the written word.

Godsdammit but trying to write feminist sex-scenes with a female character who’s a virgin and a male character who is decidedly not and is also much older than she is fucking hard.

Er. Difficult.

I’m actually past the climax at this point, but couldn’t resist the joke in the title. He’s on the run for his life, they’ve just been engaged to be married.

See the thing is is that my book — or at the very least the scenes with these characters — will probably be categorized as not-feminist because people will see it as falling into the patriarchy trap or somesuch nonsense. When the truth is that there is no such thing as the patriarchy trap in this world I’m writing about because it’s run by a matriarchy. If anything, this sex scene that I’m writing is actually really really different from standard sexual liaisons that occur in this world.

But, you know, we’re reading it in this world here where this sex scene may be seen as too traditional — girl is virgin until engagement, and nervous about first time. Guy is much older and much more experienced. Etc, you know the story and you are qutie sick of it. But I don’t really have any control over what my characters do.

The thing is I do consider my works to be feminist because they are not done within a male-dominated viewpoint. That is, even when I write my male characters, primary concern is not “what will men think of this”.  Primary concern is “how will this affect me” or “how will this affect the goddesses I serve” or “how will this affect my relationship with other characters, regardless their genders”. Which is how it is in this feminist’s life (yes, I am a feminist — I really hope this doesn’t surprise you, because it shouldn’t). If something I do does have some sort of affect on the men around me, that’s a side-effect that was not calculated into the original action.

Like earthquakes. Earthquakes happen because the earth needs to release tension. And they royally fuck up our lives in the process, sometimes killing us. But the earth doesn’t just get up and say to herself  “I’m going to kill some humans today! Yeehaw!” and then proceed to shake the shit out of us. The earth says “Damn, there’s a crick in my spine, maybe if I just stretch this way… *rumble* …aaaah! There we are!” and then it just happens to have an affect on us.

So replace humans with men and earth with women in that scenario and you see what I mean. (Not with killing, obviously. It’s not a perfect metaphor.)


In other news, my YTD word count for GYWO is 15,488. That’s 15,240 in Bellica and 248 in two short vignettes which can be found at live-in demons and absent angels (note that the second one is schedule to post on Tuesday morning, so you won’t see it till then), which is one of my tumblr sites. I’m posting these vignettes there because they’re quite a bit different from the work I post at Muerta’s Tears. And no, they’re not blog posts, because they’re not something I write in my blog when I’m bored. They’re something I write and then post online because I want people to read them.

Bellica has become my own private Athena. I get headaches when I don’t write now. I’m getting the beginnings of one as I type this and I’ve only stopped working on the book for about 5 minutes. I can’t stop writing on it. Last weekend I wrote 40 hand-written pages on it. The past two days I’ve written another 12 or 13. And this month I’ve typed 8,105 words — larger word count than I got last month, and I’ve had a way later start this month.

Reaching the climax just released the floodgates. I’m glad I had the past week off school, otherwise I would have totally fucked over my academic career in pursuit of plot.

Ok. Back to the grindstone. I’ll be checking in sometime in March, when I work on doing 50 hours of editing Bellica (I’ll be finishing it this first week of March) and writing 10,000 words on The Man of Bronze.