Plans Are What Happens While Life’s Making… Something, Something



I said yesterday that today I was going to talk about my plans. I kind of wish that I had just pressed on ahead and shared them yesterday. I was counting on the idea of another day of sleep to give them additional clarity, but instead I find them a lot less solid and coherent. Yesterday I was thinking that today, I’d just have a few simple bullet points, maybe a paragraph each, explaining the major things going on and what I’m doing with them. Today that kind of clarity escapes me.

So let’s talk about the big one:

Tales of MU… no, it’s not abandoned or over. I made a mistake this past summer when I decided to relax and just accept a slower pace for updating as a good thing instead of constantly striving to get a schedule more frequent than once a week. My reasoning was solid (people had a hard time keeping up with the story when it was multiple times a week, and I had a hard time keeping up that pace), but… I need to strive, man. I need that struggle. Not only should my reach exceed my grasp, but it must, almost axiomatically. If I reach only for what is in my grasp, I find my grasp shortening commensurately.

At the same time… man, is this a terrible time and place for me to be trying to kick anything into high gear. It’s the holidays. There’s work going on in our house. There’s personal stuff. And even if I know that easing up on the throttle doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean that the problems associated with opening her up have gone away. I need to do something different here.

And that brings me to another point: I do need to do something different, frequently. I need to juggle things around, try new things, write new things, do different things. Be a serial writer some time. Be a tabletop game developer sometimes. Be a poet sometime. Write short stories sometimes.

I’ve tried dividing my days up into segments, but it’s too hard to switch tracks creatively in the middle of the day from one thing to another. I’ve tried the same thing by dividing weeks up into days, but then I can’t predict where my good days and bad days will fall and I wind up abandoning the schedule to work around them. The truth is that I do my best work on Tales of MU—or anything else—when I’m totally immersed in it, living and breathing it. But I can’t do that all the time for anything.

So the new plan is to switch off not on an hourly or daily basis, but in larger chunks of time… big enough that I can have some momentum going, that it doesn’t matter if I have a bad brain day or if my office environment is disrupted or whatever.

My thought is I can spend a few weeks (or maybe a month) just utterly focused on Tales of MU… not posting every day, but writing every day. Not with the goal of writing X chapters in Y days, but writing as much of the story as I can.

I think this answers my need for urgency and immediacy in my writing without being in the “write and then publish immediately” trap which leads to sub-standard writing, odd pacing, and missed deadlines. It gives me the room I need to see the big picture and to polish things up without taking away from the urgency. It lets me be both reflective and quick.

And then? I’ll post the fruits, at the sedate pace of one chapter a week.

Say I spend four weeks writing the story. When I’m trying to do a chapter every week on top of other things, it’s stop and go. Every week I’m starting over, dipping myself back into the world, figuring out where I’m going, looking for traction and building speed. Instead of that, I just… keep going. Maybe I come up with 7 or 8 chapters. Maybe I come up with 10 or 12.

And when I’m done, I publish those chapters, one a week. While they’re first playing out this gives me time to do other things, be other things. Do game stuff. Be a poet for a while. Write some short stories. Take a creative break. I’ll know how many chapters I have, so I know at what point I have four of them left and then it’s time to start over.

If I somehow only get four chapters done in my four weeks of MU time, of course, I keep writing… but if that happens very often, then I’ll know that this system’s not working as intended and it’s time to try something else.

Now, this is something I just came up with this week as a plan of action, not something I’ve been doing all along. And I know “Tales of MU will resume in four weeks” is not the news that anyone wants to hear, but that’s where we are. Next week’s going to be a lot of family time, so it’s going to be more reflection and brain storming and getting back into the characters’ heads and the logic of the world and its plots than actual writing… this seems like a better use of my time than trying to hammer out a chapter. Subsequent MU Writing Blocks will not be coming after so long an interruption so they might need less of a lead-in time, but to be clear, this lead-in week is part of the four weeks.

That’s what’s going to happen with Tales of MU. For the next four weeks, Tales of MU is what I’m going to be doing, creatively. It’s not all I’m going to be doing, period, but I feel like at this point the other items on the agenda merit their own posts.

Now, four weeks from today—the point at which I wrap the first writing phase up—is December 18th. That means the week following it would be the first week of posting. I don’t really like having Friday as a posting day (as I’ve mentioned before, it’s often the most chaotic day in the house), and that following Friday just happens to be Christmas. We’ll make it Monday, the 21st… eve of the winter solstice. Seems like a fitting day for light to come back after a long period of rest.

That’s the big bullet point on this post for people who don’t care about reasons or process: Tales of MU returns December 21st, and if this goes to plan, it will continue posting once per week with some regularity.

Internet, I have had a heck of a week.



I had a pretty decent weekend and was really ready to tackle this week head-on, but… things kept happening. First, website problems. Later, server migration to fix the website problems led to more website problems. Between those things, we found out that my boyfriend Jack’s job is ending. At the same time, we had a plumbing issue that rendered our kitchen sink unusable and necessitated a plumber visit, which we spent one day “on call for” in case they could fit us in (they couldn’t). Then I had a very worrying sore throat and drippy nose, a week before I’m visiting family with immune system and respiratory issues. Then the plumber came over along with our landlords, and when they left the back door and the door to the unfinished basement and root cellar were both wide open and we were minus one cat.

Everything else kind of paled in the face of the missing cat. We turned the house upside down and searched out every human accessible/visible nook and cranny of the unfinished, dirt floor basement and the “root cellar” which is just the hollow space under our back porch, accessible through a gap in the basement wall, and searched the obvious places for a scared cat to hunker down in the yard. We put out food, drink, and a warm bed in case she was outside and came home in the night, and then turned the house upside down again.

It turned out she was under the porch, up under the wall of the root cellar where we couldn’t reach. She was also scared out of her mind, hissing and growling at anyone’s approach. I suggested we leave her alone until she got more hungry than scared, but Sarah pointed out that a cat might be able to squeeze her way out from under the porch into the yard, and that other animals certainly could. We’d recently trapped a rat who got inside that way.

So I lured her out as far as I could with a plate of dinner and then grabbed her and carried her upstairs. We have two cats. One of them doesn’t mind being picked up and occasionally enjoys being carried around the house like a baby. This wasn’t that cat. She associates any holding with having her mouth forced open and pills shoved down her throat, and always fights. I couldn’t let go of her, because if I did she’d run back for what seemed like the safest place, and it would be that much harder to get her out of it.

Mark Twain said that in carrying a cat by the tail, you learn something that can be learned in no other way. I wasn’t carrying Tommy by the tail, of course, and I’m not sure what I learned from it, except that you can endure quite a bit doing something for the sole reason that it has to be done, which is something I knew but that perhaps I needed a refresher on. I’m grateful that it was winter and so I was wearing long sleeves. I bled in a lot of different places, but none of them deeply.

Tommy was missing long enough for me to have gone through all the likely scenarios and figured out what I would do in the event that they became necessary. It seemed impossible to me that she was in the house proper and very unlikely she was beneath it. (I did not realize how extensive the nooks back up under the porch were, as Sarah did. She’s lived in this house far longer than anyone else.) I made the back porch as welcoming as I could, even providing a pan of litter, making a bed out of her cat carrier and covering it with a blanket and putting one of my worn t-shirts in it. I was preparing to start calling shelters the next day, make flyers, and even go so far as to talk to my neighbors.

But then she was found, and then she was back in the house. She was as scared as I’d ever seen her when I carried her up, and a scared cat is an awful lot like an angry cat only angrier. I let her go as soon as we were clear of the basement and the door was mostly closed, and her tail was big and bushy like a raccoon’s, she was so on edge. I thought it would probably be more than a week before she would come near any of us, and a long time after that before she’d trust me in particular.

Five minutes later, though, she wasn’t just back to normal, she was sweeter and cuddlier and more trusting than she’s ever been.

It was the place that had scared her, and the experience of finding herself in a place full of strange sounds and strange smells. Once we brought her out of the cold, dark place, there was nothing left for her to be scared over. She nuzzled me and snuggled up to me like I was her new personal superhero.

I would have said “after finding herself trapped”, but we didn’t close the basement door the whole time she was down there. She felt trapped, evidently. Probably she found herself down there while the plumber was working and ran for cover, then didn’t trust that the coast was clear. The racket we made looking for her probably made her more anxious, and then I repeatedly stood on the back porch—inches over her head!—calling her name and holding food, sprinkling cat nip. I kind of felt like a jerk when I realized that.

When I started this post, I hadn’t intended to tell the full story of Tommy’s catabasis (Get it? Cat-abasis?) or any particular detail of the week, just mention the low-lights, but I apparently needed to get this out. It was a very emotional day. As I said, I was already making crisis plans when Sarah took a deeper look in the high, dark corners of the root cellar and found her. When I woke up Wednesday, I had a hard time believing that I didn’t need them, but I was ready to get back in and tackle the rest of the week.

…and then I found that my website was unusable.

So it goes.

Internet, I have had a heck of a week, which has been part of a heck of a few months, which has been part of a heck of a year. You know parts of it. Others aren’t mine to tell, or aren’t things I’d like to share. But I appreciate the goodwill and patience you have shown me, and all the messages asking me how I’m doing and making sure I’m alright, even when I’m not able to respond to them.

I’ve been making plans, in between dealing with the crises of the moment. Tomorrow I’m going to share them.

H.P. Lovecraft was always a terrible choice for the World Fantasy Awards.

From its inception in 1975 through 2015, the World Fantasy Awards have given out trophies topped with busts of H.P. Lovecraft. Following a well-organized campaign spearheaded by many respected fantasy authors and fans, it was announced that this will be the last year that these statuettes will be used. While the campaign enjoyed broad support, of course there is a small but equally dedicated cadre of naysayers deriding it as “political correctness”.

The fact of the matter, though, is that H.P. Lovecraft was never actually a good choice for something called the World Fantasy Awards. It just happened that the first World Fantasy Convention was organized around and included a large number of his friends, fans, and proteges. The inaugural event had a Lovecraft theme, and primarily because of that, it stuck.

But H.P. Lovecraft was a notorious racist, and this makes him unsuitable not just because he had “the wrong opinions”, as some would have it. His racism is not unrelated to the work for which he’s honored, and it’s not a thing apart from the man, or the message sent when he is used as an ambassador for the excellence of an entire field.

His apologists have defended him with arguments such as “Yes, but he was a product of his times,” and “Yes, but what he thought in his private, day-to-day life is completely separate from his work,” but both these arguments are fairly easy to demolish.

H.P. Lovecraft was virulently and vociferously racist even for his time, and it came out in his work. Earlier this week I saw someone claiming that his racism and generally regressive viewpoints were a result of his belief in the universe as a bleak, terrifying place in which he and the entire human race along with him were essentially meaningless. I think this is garbage and that not only is it wrong, but it is exactly wrong; i.e., completely backwards.

We don’t write about fantastic threats and then have our day-to-day fears and prejudices shaped by them. Rather, the stories we tell reflect what we are afraid of. All of the “Aliens As Communist Infiltrators” stories that came out at the height of the Cold War did not create a fear of Communist infiltrators, but were created by such a climate. All the old folk stories and fairy tales that involve dangerous encounters with strange folks in the woods did not create a fear of meeting strangers in dark places but came out of them.

And H.P. Lovecraft’s disgusting beliefs on white racial purity and the inferiority of other people did not come from his habit of writing stories where unfathomably Other beings interbred with (white) humans and created monstrosities that threatened to destroy the world as we knew it; rather, the stories he wrote were allegories of his fears and prejudices.

But even without reading into the allegories of “cosmic miscegenation” within tales like The Dunwich Horror and The Shadow over Innsmouth, his naked and unallegorical racism is still there on the page. He treats the discovery of mixed heritage among human races as being exactly as horrific and mind-shattering a revelation as interbreeding between humans and primordial beings. He refers to other races as separate species and depicts them as animalistic. At one point in the Herber West, Re-Animator cycle, he wrote the following description of a Black boxer:

a loathsome, gorilla-like thing, with abnormally long arms which I could not help calling fore legs

The entire point of this story, not incidentally, is to establish as a scientific principle that Black people are not only a separate race but a separate species, one between “true humans” and animals. This loathsome notion is also at the center of the one of few of Lovecraft’s works that is acknowledged even by his supporters as “Okay, yeah, maybe this one is a little racist,” a disgusting bit of doggerel verse called “On The Creation of [slurs]”.

I really hate to reproduce even one word of such patently racist text, but I feel like it’s important to show that even in one of Lovecraft’s most “mainstream” works, these ideas are present. It’s a major plot point in that segment of the story. He used his Herbert West story to advance a pseudoscientific notion that upheld his racist bigotry.

But you know what? Even if we can demolish the notion that his racism was informed by his “mythos” writing rather than the other way around, it ultimately doesn’t matter which came first. The fact is that the racism is there, not just in the man, dead in his grave, but in his work, as living and vital as it was when he first put it to paper. It’s there.

And every time someone was handed a trophy bearing his form and visage as a recognition of their outstanding work in the field of fantasy, they were being asked to tacitly cosign the idea that he is some sort of exemplar for this field, that whatever they wrote is only laudable because it measured up to his example.

I have my own thoughts about H.P. Lovecraft’s skill as a writer, and I know that even a lot of people who condemn him as a bigot disagree with me on this point, so I’m going to get into this. I will say that even if he had been the greatest writer who ever lived and even if you personally could get past the racism, he was still always a terrible choice to represent something like the World Fantasy Awards.

Why on earth would you ever pick someone so provincial (to use a more polite term than is warranted, but it better illustrates this particular point) in his outlook to represent the whole World? Why would you pick someone who was scared of the world beyond his picket fence, terrified of his neighbors, repulsed by his fellow astronauts on Spaceship Earth, and utterly horrified by the grandeur of the cosmos and the possibility of worlds beyond our senses to represent the best and brightest and most imaginative authors in the field of fantasy?

H.P. Lovecraft wrote stories where books could usher in the end of the world. H.P. Lovecraft wrote stories where imagination would lead you to death and insanity. H.P. Lovecraft wrote stories where curiosity didn’t only kill the cat, but made the cat pray for death to a cold and uncaring universe. H.P. Lovecraft wrote stories where the only thing you’d find through the looking glass, at the back of the wardrobe, or out beyond the stars was madness, depravity, and despair.

These things have no existence apart from his racism. His fear of the unknown, of the different and the strange, cannot be separated out from his racism.

Even if you could ignore it—and why would you?—H.P. Lovecraft would still be the Grumpy Cat Macro of fantasy writers: “I had a flight of fancy once. It was horrible.”

And this man represents excellence in fantasy?

I don’t think so.

General Life Update

Mostly because of the hurried holiday shenanigans at the end of last week, I started this behind where I wanted to be on Angels of the Meanwhile, and have been in a deepening pit of depression over what seemed like yet another inevitable failure to deliver until I happened to look back at the last post on the subject just now and realized I had built a week’s padding/fallback date into it. I could wish I’d remembered that or seen it sooner so I wouldn’t have lost so much time this week to anxiety and despair.

One of the most perverse things about mood disorders is the way they make everything harder, everything worse. I have not only gotten very little done this week, but I was surprised when I looked back at my blog and realized that last week was Halloween week and I posted a bunch of creepy stories and poems, including that “Minotaur” song I’m very proud of and that creepy trick-or-treating story which I actually wrote just over a week ago. Yet I started this week literally feeling like I hadn’t done anything for weeks, and the feeling has only deepened and lengthened over time, and the less I felt like I’ve done, the less able to do anything I felt.

Weirdly, the phony feeling that I didn’t accomplish anything last week paralyzed me this week, but realizing it’s the end of this week and I haven’t actually accomplished much with it doesn’t faze me. Nothing like cycling through depression to make you realize how subjective reality is, and how much of that subjectiveness is down to chemicals and the physical state of your brain. Experiments with rats show that the level of dopamine in the brain directly impacts that brain’s ability to see effort as being fundamentally Worth It, which impacts the ability of the brain to choose it in the first place. That’s not the only thing that goes on with depression, but it’s not a small thing.

Not everything going on in my life is neurological or chemical in nature, of course (except insofar as everything about life is chemical), but the depression makes it harder to deal with the other things or work through them. Just before I started this update post, I made an emotional processing post. In the past I’ve wound up in cycles of repression because I was actively censoring myself from processing in public, which is an important coping mechanism for me. This time it wasn’t an active decision, just the same bleak pit that was stopping me from doing much of anything else.

Anyway! All is not gloom and despair in my life right now. One bright point: after years of frustration with the design trend away from physical keyboards in smart phones, I got myself a tiny handheld USB keyboard that is small enough to slide into the pocket of my cellphone case. What little I’ve accomplished this week writing-wise happened because I can now comfortably write at a reasonable pace using my phone, whether I’m lying on the floor or in the bathtub or sitting around somewhere waiting.

It’s not always convenient to have my phone propped up somewhere that I can see the screen as I’m doing this (though I’m fortunate to have an exceptional ability for reading small text far away), but I don’t always need to see what I’m writing in order to write. In fact, sometimes it’s better if I don’t. Which brings me to the other great thing about the tiny keyboard: it allows me to use from my phone. The immediately previous blog post was written entirely there and then copied and pasted as-is into the blog as a formal test run.

So, to sum up: I’m a week behind where I wanted to be on Angels but not where I need to be to deliver by when I said I would. I haven’t written much, but I’m well situated for writing way more words way more often from here on out.

Processing: Of Passion and Choice

Maya Angelou said to never make someone a priority in your life if you are only an option in theirs.

That is sound advice as it goes, but I wonder often if we don’t carry it too far in assuming that the goal should be to find someone worthy of being your priority, rather than matching option for option.

Or perhaps the mistake is seeing it as a dichotomy. “Option” and “priority” are not opposites; a person may have any number of options in life to which are assigned different priorities. So perhaps the advice might be stated more accurately (if less pithily) as “never make someone a higher priority than they make you,” or “never treat anyone as a necessity for whom you are only an option.”

For my part, I would rather be someone’s highly-favored option than their bleak necessity.

It’s not just that I am not very good at being needed. I can’t stand it, in a close to literal sense: I can’t stand up under it. I am too weak too frequently to withstand the weight of another human being’s need for long.

It is a terrible thing to be both weak and needed, and a terrifying one to be needed and know that sooner or later the weakness will come.

I would rather be chosen than needed, again and again each day, even if it is not every day and even if it might not be forever.

I would rather know that each time someone comes to me, it is because in that moment they decided it was exactly what they wanted than because they felt they must absolutely do so or die.

You call that true love? I call it the approximate effects of an around-the-clock sniper detail.

Conventional wisdom says that if you want to experience unconditional love, you should get yourself a dog. It does not say why anyone should wish to experience such a thing. What does it even mean if someone is always happy to see you? What does it signify if someone loves you not in spite of your imperfections, not because of them, but in complete and perfect ignorance of them?

Give me a cat instead. When a cat is excited, it means something. When a cat is annoyed that a human is missing or out of place, it is not because the cat needs attention but because the cat would like the option. And while this is no great model for human relationships, it certainly seems more meaningful to me than a dog’s unfailing gratitude.

I don’t want to be the missing piece of your heart returned to you. I want you to be a whole person who enjoys my company. I don’t want to be you entire life. I would much rather be a neat addition to a full life. Let me be a bonus, an unexpected value-add.

Don’t ever try to base a relationship around need in the long term. It may be nice to feel needed, every once in a while, but it’s nothing but a chore to actually be needed. It is exciting at first, but then it wears thin and it wears you down and if you never learn the trick of choosing one another over needing one another… well, then, sooner or later you’ll feel like you’re in a relationship because you have to be more so than because you want to be.

You can’t leave because you need them, and even more so, because you know they need you. But obligation is not love, and obligation breeds resentment.

I know my stance on all this sounds terribly unromantic, and that it runs counter to a lot of the prevailing cultural narratives about love, but just try looking at your partner every day and thinking: this is the choice I make. Affirm to your partner that they are your pick, your choice, that you choose them again and again (and then pause for giggling to subside if either of you are pokeyman fans). Remind yourself that your partner has chosen to be with you. Truth is this is likely more accurate than any melodramatic “need” talk, and when you get right down to it, more flattering.

I think the reason we pull back from thinking about relationships in terms of choices—options—is that a need seems more absolute. If you believe someone chooses you, you have to be aware they could have chosen someone else, or simply chosen to pass. If you feel like someone is choosing each day to spend their life with you, you are also going to realize they could choose otherwise.

But obligation is not love. Love can create obligations, but an obligation cannot engender love. And every day in every state in this country and in every nation on this earth, a relationship ends between two people who swore passionate oaths to each other that they needed each other like a fire needs oxygen, right up until the point that they didn’t.

I don’t wish to feel that kind of need, whether within myself or from another person, and I can’t change that about myself any more than I could turn a cat into a dog.

I cannot make myself any different than I am. The only thing I can do is make myself plain. I am fuel for nobody’s fire. I am the blood in no one’s veins and the breath in no one’s lungs. I am who I am and I am where I choose to be because it is what I want.

That is a passionate declaration, and it’s the purest romance you’re likely to find outside of a story where the lovers die at the end.

End of week update.

Well, this week has not exactly gone to plan in a number of ways. It’s actually been a very strange week. My ability to not only post a thing of the day for all the preceding days of the week but keep them on a creepy theme was helped inestimably by the fact that a lot of the things in my trunk file are fairly creepy (though the story I posted last night just before midnight was brand new).

We had a sort of extended family situation that ate up a lot of time in the past couple days, and on top of that we just realized yesterday that trick-or-treat night on the civic calendar is tonight, on account of the Mummers’ Parade that’s always held on Saturdays, so we’ve had less time to get ready (and none on the weekend… I was really counting on being able to do a lot more Saturday.

So with that in mind, rather than half-assing everything, I’m doing a little castling maneuver with my calendar… today’s all holiday stuff, and then over the weekend I can take some time to write and post. Talk to you more then!

FLASH FICTION: The Other Child


By Alexandra Erin

The first time you notice the child, two groups of trick-or-treaters have converged on your porch at once. It’s twenty-two minutes past six and the smaller children are out in full force, guided by grown-ups or older siblings pressed into service.

The monsters are pretty thin on the ground right now. At this hour, it’s mostly mutant turtles and cartoon princesses, Sith Lords and Jedi Knights… and at the pack of the pack, standing just off the edge of your small patio-like front porch is one tiny child, painfully pale and painfully thin.

If those dark circles are just makeup, it’s a far more subtle job than the usual Halloween face paint. The brief glimpse of gray you get beneath the neck doesn’t look much like a costume, but then a taller child in wizard school robes shifts in front of you and you lose your train of thought.

By the time the crowd has thinned out, you couldn’t exactly swear that the pale child in the back never came forward to grab a handful of Smarties and Sixlets with the rest, but you didn’t see it happen.

Well, some kids are shy, you tell yourself. Probably someone else in the group was an older relative, tasked with the perilous task of going up to the door and actually collecting the candy.

When you open the door a few minutes later to see the same child, dressed in a shapeless gray sweater and dingy white pants, standing at the edge of your porch behind a pair of children dressed as superheroes in tutus, you manage to summon up a smile and a remark about how glad you are to see they found the bravery to come back, but somehow the words catch in your throat and the smile dies on your face when you meet the child’s eyes.

You can’t be sure—after all, it was only a glimpse before—but you’d almost swear it was standing in the exact same place as last time. Head at the same angle, eyes staring ahead in the same fixed way. You hold out the candy bowl for the first two visitors and then make a valiant effort to thrust it out towards the strange child at the back of the porch for several seconds. When it doesn’t move or react in any way, you step back and quickly shut the door.

The next time there’s a knock on the door, you take a look through the peephole. No one there but a pirate. You step back and open the door in the same motion, and find yourself looking at a child you’re sure wasn’t there before, as though the door had been a screen wipe transitioning to a fresh scene.

You give the pirate the due booty and barely manage to restrain yourself from screaming at a child for being spooky at Halloween.

“Nice trick,” you say to the other child. “Bet you don’t get much candy that way, though. Come up and have some!”

You know the child won’t.

When you close the door, you look through the peephole and then through the side pane and see nothing. You try to convince yourself that if you were to open the door, your front step would be deserted. You don’t quite manage it.

When the next knock comes, you take a long time to answer it. You know what you’ll see before you open the door, and of course you’re right. When you close it this time, you briefly flick off your porch light, then you look at the candy in your bowl and think about the decorations all over the outside of your house. No one would look at your house and believe that you’re not at home to trick-or-treaters.

Anyway, would be any better to hide out alone in your house with the lights off, waiting for the children knocking to go away disappointed? It’s not like the other child would leave.

You do your best to ignore its continued presence as you go about your holiday duties. Surprisingly, it works. No one else mentions the other child or gives it much notice, and after a while it just becomes a background part of the routine.

The crowd changes a bit as the sun finishes setting and full dark sets in. The older kids are out now, the ones who go all out on their costumes. The little kids are cute, but you’ve always loved the scary side of Halloween, the ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night…

And just like that, you’re thinking of the other child again, and suddenly you’re noticing that at some point he took a step up and is now positioned just inside the bounds of your porch. He’s changed the angle of his head, and the look on his face is… less vacant. Hard to quantify, though.


Official trick-or-treat hours for your town run until 8:00, though you’ve always kept the light burning a bit later for people who don’t read the community calendar.

Tonight, though, you start giving out your remaining candy multiple handfuls at a time, and as soon as your phone says 8:00, you lock your door, turn out your porch light, close all the blinds, and turn on every light inside your house.

You pour yourself a glass of wine, and you’re just in the process of trying to decide between going upstairs to drink it with a book or sitting down with something light and fun on the TV when you hear the unmistakable metal screech of your storm door being opened.

You freeze up. The porch light is off. Everybody knows that’s the universal signal of “no candy here”, right? You’ve closed up shop for the night. All you have to do is be quiet and ignore it…

A knock.

“Trick or treat.”

It’s a child’s voice, a tiny voice, yet one that is remarkably piercing in the stillness of the moment. Your blood pounds in your ears as you try to decide what to do. Answering the door seems impossible, even if it seemed like a good idea, but you’re not sure how much longer you can stand to ignore it…

“Hello?” another voice says, an older one, and you both jump in surprise and then relax so completely you practically deflate. It’s your next-door neighbor. They always come by your house last, after doing a driving tour of other neighborhoods. They must have been running a bit late tonight, that’s all. You remember now that you didn’t see them among the press of costumed bodies at your front door. It might have seemed weird at the time, if anything so normal had the power to seem weird.

“Coming!” you shout, almost laughing with relief.

You run-walk to the front hall, where you reach for the door before realizing you have empty hands. The last remnants of the candy are in the bowl, which you set down on the little foyer table just behind you.

You turn around…

First Published: October 29th, 2015

Word Count: ~1200

Flash Fiction: Seven Days Without Spiders


By Alexandra Erin

It has been seven days since I saw a spider within the house.

Knowing their propensity for squeezing within tiny spaces and scurrying under things, I have spent most of the week searching in vain for their new hiding spot, or spots. I examined in minute detail the cracks between the floorboards and all the seams in the walls. Realizing their ability to move in three dimensions coupled with their keen senses and quick reflexes could allow them to follow my own movements through the house while staying just outside the arc of my vision, I tried on several occasions to whirl around quickly and catch them off-guard. I never saw them, though.

After seven days without a single solitary sighting of a spider, I have begun to suspect something. Do spiders count in base eight? Do they attach some special significance to the number of their limbs and eyes? Do they ? I cannot see how it would be otherwise.

If this is so, then whatever they have planned for me, it will be tomorrow.



First Published: October 28th, 2015

Word Count: ~200

POEM/SONG: How the Minotaur Lost Her Way



By Alexandra Erin


Well, she lit out from Kellisport

so many years ago

bound for Hulmouth Harbor

before the winter snow.

Her holds were packed with cargo,

her sails were full of wind

and not a mortal living

knows where she met her end.


Who can know? Who can say

where the Minotaur lies today?

She started out so swiftly

but somehow she lost her way.

My heart was packed inside her

when she went down that day.

Oh, my heart was packed inside her

when she went down that day.


She carried tonnes of cotton,

and barrels full of rice,

casks of hearty wine

and sweetly scented spice,

treasures from the conquest

and priceless works of art.

and one lonely young sailor

I trusted with my heart.


Mermaid-snared? Tempest-tossed?

They only know that she was lost.

The bankers know the value,

but no one knows the cost.

Now my heart lies under waters

no ship has ever crossed.

Oh, my heart lies under waters

no ship has ever crossed.


It happened of a sudden,

one calm and moonless night.

My sailor left his watch-post

and doused his lantern-light.

Urged on by the promise

I’d etched upon his skin

he drew steel and crept astern

and did the captain in.


Who can know? Who can say

how the Minotaur lost her way?

Only one man’s certain,

and he will never say.

He took my heart down with him

when the ship went down that day.

Oh, he took my heart down with him

when the ship went down that day.


The Minotaur lies quiet now

in the darkling deeps,

and prowling round about it

my sailor never sleeps.

In the ribs of the wreck

a light no depths can kill,

and at the center of it

my heart beats even still.



First Published: October 27th, 2015

Meanwhile: An update regarding Angels

Okay, folks. Back in the spring I started an ambitious project to help the beloved friend of many in the community, Elizabeth McClellan (Pope Lizbet) with mounting expenses relating to an accident. Many talented poets and authors joined me in this action by contributing their work to an anthology. There have been a lot of ups and downs along the way for both Lizbet, myself, and the project, but the long process of turning these acts of charity into a finished product is coming to an end.

About this time next week, I’m going to be sending out proof copies to the contributors so they can check their work and verify that it’s being presented to best effect, and also update their bios if they desire. I’m going to try to turn things around from there in a week, meaning that we’ll start sending the finished e-book out to those who’ve sent Lizbet aid on Monday, November 9th. To allow for life happening, we’ll have a fallback date of November 16th.

That’s the good news.

I mentioned that there have been ups and downs along the way. Things have continued to be tough for our intrepid Pope. She’s been dealing with illness, a broken ankle, and more car-related woes in the months since we started this. Coupled with the desire of many participants in the project to not see such a wonderful collection of poems and prose be a one-shot that fades away, we’ll be asking the contributors for permission to keep selling the e-book in a more permanent fashion, and looking at options for a print-on-demand version.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to help Elizabeth out, we’ll add them to the list to receive the e-book.

Email Address (For Delivery)

(Remember, delivery will be between November 9th-16th.)