STATUS: Thursday, September 24th

The Daily Report

So, last night my first Teespring attempt ended only halfway to the tipping point. I had an inkling when I jumped in that a Catullus joke would be a bit too “niche” to fill a pre-order, but part of doing it was getting over the fear of failure. I feel bad for the people who wanted one… I’ll probably re-do the campaign down the line when I have a better idea of how to promote it, and in particular when I have the money to order one for myself (one step closer to the goal line!)

It was a learning experience, though. I’ve got my second shirt up. It’s still niche, but a much broader niche:


You can get it in on it at The campaign runs through the next three weeks.

The State of the Me

Doing okay. Still feeling a bit of the doldrums.

Plans For Today

Today I plan on posting a chapter of Tales of MU, as part of transitioning towards a Wednesday posting schedule. It’s a bit early to say if it’ll work out. I have some good material, not a lot of momentum.

POEM: We Ride The Line

We Ride The Line
By Alexandra Erin

First Publication: September 23rd, 2015


When night comes out,
it does not fall.
It just shows up
when the light dies.

The darkness was always there,
hiding behind the light.
I try to wrap my head around this,
look at the moon,
so pale in the morning sky.
I know it shines as bright in the blue
as it does against the black.

I know the stars are there
behind the glare, somewhere.
I know darkness is just what’s left
when light goes out of your world.

I don’t know what it means.
I just know it’s true.

We ride the line, she says.

I tell her I knew a girl like her once.
She tells me I’m mistaken,
I didn’t know that girl then
and I don’t know her now,
I’ve just confused real people
with the intersection
on a Venn diagram
between observable traits
and my own imagination.

She says she’s used to it,
she knows I’ll learn better.

We ride the line together,
tell our stories, say our prayers.
We pass from dark to light
and back again, frequent flyers
on the annual trip around the sun,
all expenses paid
one way, or another.

Daylight changes things
more than we’d like to admit.
Each time the light dies
we swear we’ll get it right
next time, tomorrow,
next year, time after that.
We burn up our somedays
like we’re made out of maybes,
like we’ll never run out.

We ride the line to the end.
Alone, we go around together.
Somewhere is a last stop
waiting for us.
Someday the fare box
will take our last pennies,
exact change
from one state of being to another.

Just like flipping a switch.
Just like shutting off a light.
The darkness is there already,
hiding behind it.

We ride the line.
Night does not fall.
It just comes out,
when the light dies.

STATUS: Wednesday, September 23rd

The Daily Report

I’m in a bit of an awkward spot right now, insofar that my writing is paying off more… in a way that doesn’t pay off as frequently or immediately. The recent surge and (so far, sustained) upswing in book sales prompted largely by the visibility of my parody book “John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author” is going to make the next few months, at least, more comfortable and less tense, but right now I am dead broke and running out of the pills that keep my body and brain chugging along without complaint.

So if you’ve been enjoying what I do—whether it’s blogging, writing, or twittering about—and you’d like to help keep me dancing for your amusement without interruption, this would be a great time to leave something in the tip jar or send any of the OTC supplements in my Amazon wishlist (they’re listed in order of current priority). I have been rationing my dopamine boosters lately to try to avoid a hard crash, but that can only take me so far. Already it’s getting harder and harder to get going in the day. I’m getting lots of small stuff done, but the big stuff is still pretty daunting.

The State of the Me

Looming crisis aside, doing okay.

Plans For Today

Well, it’s noon thirty and I’m still kind of pulling myself together for the day? I’m going to have lunch and then go cloister myself away to see what I can make happen.

POEM: Toll Call

Toll Call

By Alexandra Erin


First Published: September 22nd, 2015


To continue this call in English, press 1.
To continue a different call, press 2.
To resume a call you don’t remember placing, press 3.
To end a call you had no intention of ever beginning, press 4.
To speak with technical support, press 5.
To speak with the dead, press 6.
For billing inquiries, press 7.
For all other inquiries, press 8.
For other other inquiries, press 9.

If you know your party’s extension,
enter a perfect dreamless sleep
and never awaken

If you’d like to leave a message,
please consider with whom,
and at what cost.

If you’d like to speak with the operator,
please hang up the phone
and turn around

Please have your account number
and be ready to scream.
Be ready to run.
It won’t help.
Nothing will help.

Your call is very important to us.
It will be answered in the order it was received.

STATUS: Tuesday, September 22nd

The Daily Report

Today events are taking me out of the office for a good chunk of the day. I’m doing some random writing in the morning. Today’s Thing of the Day might go up a bit later than usual, it’s hard to say.

The State of the Me

Did some extra walking yesterday because it was such a nice day for it, and I had a ton of nervous energy. I’m feeling pretty amazing. The walking is not the only factor… I wouldn’t have started if I wasn’t feeling good… but there’s definitely a virtuous cycle at work.

Plans For Today

See above!

FICTION: “Sometimes, There Are Dolphins”



By Alexandra Erin

First Publication: September 21st, 2015
Word Count: ~2,000


Honeymoon Island, off the gulf coast of Florida, was connected to the mainland city of Dunedin by a causeway. It was a state park, open every day from eight a.m. until sunset. The beaches of Honeymoon Island were laid with shells as other beaches are covered in sand, with a fresh batch deposited daily by the gulf water tides.

The water as seen from the shore presented a shimmering spectrum of ocean hues, from sun-dappled silver to sparkling emerald to deep azure and many incomprehensible blends in between. The near-constant wind blowing in off the gulf keeps the clouds moving at a brisk pace, ensuring that even the most overcast days often present an interesting sight when the sun begins to dip below the distant waters at the curve of the world.

None of this had made much of an impression on Clara. She’d enjoyed the first afternoon at the beach well enough, and had had enough fun splashing around in the surf and collecting shells that she hadn’t minded staying to stare at the horizon with her mother.

“Sometimes, there are dolphins,” her mother had said excitedly. “They skim right along the shore, swimming in a pod. They trace the causeway and follow the outline of the island. Sometimes they jump and show off, or swim back and forth. They don’t always come, of course, but when they do, it’s usually it right before sunset.”

There hadn’t been any dolphins, though, that night or any of the five that followed. Each night, her mother had repeated the words “sometimes, there are dolphins,” at least once, with a little less fervor. Clara had gone from resenting her mother for dragging her out each night to feeling sorry for her.

This was the last night of their vacation, and now Clara was excited even though her mother wasn’t.

It was all because of the book.

She’d found it in the crawlspace over the garage of Grandpa’s old rundown little retirement cabin days ago, but it had taken her some time to learn how to read it. She’d never seen a book like it before, one not printed with orderly uniform letters but written by hand, many hands. Some of the letters were loopy and sprawling, some were spider-leg thin, but they all crowded against one another on pages that seemed like they should have been roomy enough to accommodate anyone.

Looking at the writing had given Clara a headache at first, as well as an odd, fluttery feeling in the pit of her stomach. Curiosity had brought her back to the book, though.

That, and boredom.

Florida was supposed to be fun, but this wasn’t anywhere close to the right part of Florida, as far as she could tell. There was no Disney World here. There wasn’t even a Universal Studios. There was a Busch Gardens, but her mother had said she wouldn’t like it, even though the best description she had mustered of it was “like a zoo with rollercoasters,” and Clara couldn’t imagine anyone not liking that.

“Maybe next time,” her mother had said, though this was supposed to be the final trip, when Grandpa’s affairs were all wrapped up so the funny old house could be sold off.

Clara didn’t know what her grandfather’s affairs had been. She’d asked a few grown-ups what an affair was, but the answers had been amused and evasive.

So while her mother had spent most of her time meeting with people in suits and going through boxes in what she called the study, Clara’s attention had kept drifting back to the book. In time she’d learned how to look at it without wincing, and then how to read it.

It helped when she realized that the parts written in red pen were newer and made more sense than the rest. In fact, they helped her make sense of the others. She learned to think of it as a teacher correcting a badly written essay, suggesting better words, easier words.

At some point, she had started to think of the teacher as her grandfather and imagined that he was giving her some kind of guidance, knowing how much she hated to feel confused. The day she saw some of the papers in his study marked with the same red ink in the same handwriting, she had realized she was right. That was when she decided to keep the book for herself. It would be her inheritance, the last gift from her long-absent grandfather. It would make up for all the missed birthdays and Christmases.

She couldn’t tell her mother, of course. For some reason, her mother hadn’t wanted Clara to know much about him. Probably she was still mad about all her own birthdays and things that he’d missed.

Clara had already somehow known she couldn’t tell her mother about the book, but it felt good to have a reason that she could use to explain to herself why this must be so.

But even though she would keep the book for herself, she wouldn’t be selfish about it.

When she’d found the ritual, she’d known that her grandfather had a gift for his daughter, too. He’d spent so much time marking it out, translating the instructions into simple terms and even drawing clear diagrams. All the words were sounded out in bright red ink. It couldn’t be simpler.

The sea-king’s summoning spell, the note beside the illegible title had read. That was exactly what they needed. If the lazy old dolphins wouldn’t come out and play for Clara or her mother, she was sure they wouldn’t ignore a summons from the sea-king himself, whoever he might be.

She hadn’t fully believed that it would work, of course, when she’d tried it. It had just been something to do. She was a bit old to believe in fairy tales, after all. Not all the way.

But she’d…felt something, something rising up from deep inside and beneath her. She’d seen the candles gutter green and then sputter out. She might have imagined what she’d thought she’d felt, but she knew that candles didn’t look like that when they just blew out.

And the book…the book had slammed shut and spun around in the center of the circle, just like it was riding on mama’s old record player.

The spell had worked.

It had worked!

And so this night, it was Clara’s turn to scan the horizon as intently as her mother had the nights before.

The dolphins were coming, she knew. They were coming. They’d heard the sea-king’s summons and they would be coming. Her mother’s guidebook didn’t say if the dolphins would come from the left or the right…from the south or the north…so she tried to keep watch in both directions.

“Well, it’s a nice enough night for our last night here,” Clara’s mother was saying. She laid a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “Better enjoy the view while it lasts. Look, the sun’s dipping into some haze. Do you think it’ll be swallowed up before we get a proper sunset?”

“I don’t know, I’m watching for dolphins.”

“Clara…I know I said there might be dolphins,” her mother said. “But, honestly, it’s best not to set your heart on it. Sometimes, there are dolphins, but it isn’t something anyone can predict or control.”

“Maybe,” Clara said. She almost decided to tell her mother about the spell then and there, but she thought it would be better if she just let her be surprised.

The dolphins would come by sunset. She’d had that idea fixed in her head when she did the spell, and if she’d only been guessing about how the magic would work, she still had gotten the distinct impression that the message had been received and answered in the affirmative: sunset.

“Just don’t get so fixated on looking for one thing that you miss everything else, okay?” her mother said. “My father…your grandfather…did that, he did that his whole life. He ignored everything else, everyone else, while he went off and searched for…I don’t even know what. I’ve been looking through his files for a week now and I still don’t know what he hoped to find. I just know that he died alone, half-crazed and full of regret. He missed so much of my life, Clara. He missed his own wife’s last years. He missed so much…”

“Jeez, I’m just looking for dolphins, Mom!” Clara said, whirling around and pulling away from the hand on her shoulder. “Will you give it a rest? I’m not going to miss my whole life because I spent one night looking for the stupid dolphins that you wanted to see in the first place!”

“Sorry!” her mother said. “I’m sorry, I…that was probably projecting. This is the first time I’ve been back here since papa’s funeral, and the longest I’ve been here since I was a little girl, and I’ve just…I’ve been feeling and thinking things that I left buried for so long. I shouldn’t have pushed all that off onto you, Clara. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry, Mom,” Clara said. “I didn’t mean to get so mad. I just…I knew you wanted to see dolphins, so I wanted to bring them to you.”

“Oh, honey, you can’t bring someone dolphins,” her mother said, with what sounded like a surprisingly nervous laugh. “They’re wild and free creatures, almost like people themselves. Honey, that’s what makes seeing them so special, you see? They don’t operate on a schedule or come when you call them. You can’t control nature. Believe me, your grandfather wasted his life learning that lesson, if he ever did learn it in the end.”

“Well, I don’t know if he wasted it,” Clara said, as she became dimly aware of a commotion among the other late-lingering beachgoers. “But…”

“What on earth?” her mother said, looking at a point behind her, somewhere out over the water. “What…”

Clara turned to look out to sea. Almost straight out from her, at a point on the horizon and moving on a path perpendicular to the nearest stretch of shore to her, something was moving…several things were moving, racing along the shining silver waters, leaping out of the water as they ran along.

“Dolphins?” Clara said excitedly. Behind the frantically frolicking figures, the sun was sinking into the sea.

“Those aren’t dolphins,” her mother said, then corrected herself. “Those aren’t just dolphins.”

And they weren’t.

There were dolphins, yes, but fish of every size and description raced along beside and ahead of them.

“Are they feeding?” Clara guessed.

“Nah, dolphins don’t hunt like that,” a young woman staring out at the onrushing spectacle said. “They try to surround a school of fish and trap them against the surface of the water, they don’t chase them down like lions hunting gazelles. And look, they’re not trying to catch the fish…they’re breaking ahead of them.”

“What are they doing?” someone else asked. “I thought they were supposed to follow the shore.”

“They’re wild animals, they’re not supposed to do anything,” Clara said. “Right, Mom?”

She looked up at her mother for support, but her budding sense of satisfaction was nipped when she saw the look of pure horror on her face.

“Are they racing?” a man guessed. “Or being chased? Why are they trying to get away from the fish? Don’t dolphins eat fish? I’ve never heard of a fish eating a dolphin.”

“I don’t think it’s the fish that they’re trying to get away from,” the young man said. “What’s that saying? If you and your friend are being chased by a bear, you don’t have to outrun the bear…”

The nearest dolphins weren’t so far from the shore now, and they showed absolutely no sign of slowing or stopping. Clara hardly noticed. Her attention, like everyone else’s, was not on the dolphins but on the rising swell far behind them, behind the stragglers and the leaping schools of fish.

The sun set.

He rose.


Alexandra Erin is a crowdfunded poet, tweeter, blogger, and author. If you enjoyed this or her other work, please join her on Patreon to keep the words coming.

STATUS: Monday, September 21st

The Daily Report

Okay, the start of a new week. I’m going to lay out some goals:

  1. Every day this week, post a Thing of the Day (a piece of creative writing such as a flash ficlet, short story, or poem). I have more than five things sitting in my folder, so I can do this irrespective of other goals.
  2.  Every day this week, write a Thing of the Day, so I can keep up the pace. Some Things of some Days will be better than others, obviously, and the day might come when I write two or three short things, not all of which are winners. The key here is to keep writing and keep publishing.
  3. Finish the next chapter of MU and post it Thursday.

I have some other, less structured side goals. These are the main things I’m holding myself to specifically this week.

The State of the Me

Had a fairly horrific nightmare last night, didn’t sleep very well before or after it. My caffeine schedule was off all day Sunday, I think that contributed.

Today is one of my favorite kinds of days: cool and gray but not actually wet. It’s the kind of day that’s great for opening every window in the house, and the kind of day that’s great for walking around outside.

This past weekend, I upgraded my walk from my usual paper-thin ballet flats to a sturdy pair of sneakers, because my normal footwear is definitely not made for walking 2-3 miles in a day and doing so was starting to wear on both my feet and my shoes.

Now, the reason I prefer shoes that border on the insubstantial is related to the reason that my favorite exercise is walking at a steady pace: a chronic fatigue condition that makes my muscles use energy at an extremely inefficient rate. So switching to heavier shoes is easier on my feet, but harder on my legs and overall energy level. While I was up to a three mile walk with the slippers, I’ve had to start my conditioning over again with the sneakers. Frustrating from a mobility/independence point of view, but better from a health/safety point of view.

Plans For Today

I think Monday works really well as a low-pressure, free-form kind of day, so I’m going to keep with that.


Catching up on some reading: Chesya Burke

Back in May, I bought the Kindle edition of Chesya Burke’s short story collection Let’s Play White with the intention of reading it on the way home from WisCon. After our plane was delayed until the middle of the night (and possibly the next day), I shelved that because I needed to keep my phone battery charge available for being a phone.

Funnily (at least in retrospect) enough , the author was stuck in the same airport as us. For a while we were even both at the same gate, even though we had different planes. That’s how messed up it was. Anyway, after WisCon it was one thing or another: summer sickness, family weddings, depression, computer crises, more sickness, flooded bedroom… so it was only last night that I made it back to the collection.

I’ve said before on a blog that I think Stephen King is a better storyteller than he is a writer. Some people get the distinction right away. Some people don’t really think there is one. To me, it’s just simple truth: he is a master of storytelling who also happens to be a competent, workmanlike writer. Well, I say “happens to be” but I know he worked for those skills. No amount of storytelling gift would let him make the kind of money he does if he didn’t know how to package it. The storytelling ability is magic; the writing is the ability to bottle it.

I think it is because he is better at storytelling than he is at writing that Stephen King’s best short stories and novellas far outshine his best novels, in my mind. As fat paperback novels go, Stephen King is right up there with a lot of other people whose novels you can find in airports and drug stores. Right up there with them. Koontz, Barker, and people who write other stuff. Right up there with them.

But the shorts? The really good shorts? And the novellas?

Forget about it. That’s where King is King. That’s where he’s in a class of his own.

You might wonder why I have several paragraphs in a row talking about Stephen King in a review of someone else’s book. I want you to understand exactly how I feel about Stephen King, so that when I say that Chesya Burke’s book of shorts is like having a collection of the best Stephen King stories you’ve never read, you understand what I’m saying.

She doesn’t read like Stephen King. She has her own voice—her own voices, even—but in terms of storytelling? In terms of blending the fantastic, the grotesque, the mundane, and the banal? In terms of finding the voice of a time and a place… well, actually, there’s no point or need in comparing her to anyone else there, because I can’t think of anyone who’s managed it as well as she does.

The other place where she exceeds Stephen King as a writer of horrific short fiction is her ability to write emotively, with words that hit you like ice water dumped down your back or a sledgehammer to your heart. Where his prose is workmanlike, hers is alive with the weight of grief, of guilt, of doubt, of hopelessness… and the blazing intensity of joy, of hope, and triumph. It’s hard to tease out art from artifice when looking from the other side of the looking glass, but I suspect that as a true literary empath she feels what she writes and she writes what she feels, and she makes you feel it, too.

It’s hard to single out a favorite from the book. The story that gives the collection its title is the one that first put me in mind of Stephen King, and where I first really noticed her talent for plumbing the deep well of feeling. “Purse” is an honest suckerpunch to the gut. “Chocolate Park” is a richly braided mosaic story that makes me hungry for a longer work. “I Make People Do Bad Things” is a true American gothic, an amorality play rooted in historical drama. “He Who Takes Away The Pain” is a haunting and powerful allegory without being preachy.

“CUE: Change” is an interesting one: is it zombies being portrayed as a social revolution, or a social revolution portrayed as zombies? It’s possibly my favorite in the bunch, though I’m not good at picking favorites because I tend to like different things for different reasons, and this collection gives a lot of very different things.

I linked to the Kindle version above. You can find all the format/buying options at the publisher’s website: Note that while I endorse this collection on its merits, it is primarily a collection of horror stories. The content is very raw and includes the frank portrayal of racism, violence (particularly against women, and including sexual violence), exploitation, and horrific imagery. It will not be too everybody’s needs or tastes. Caveat emptor.

TOMU CHAPTER 307: Getting To Know You

Since I’m moving to a Thing of the Day model and since my Thing at least one Day most weeks is going to be a Tales of MU chapter, I’m going to start cross-linking them from here, so people who follow my blog or the thing-of-the-day category can keep up with them.

Today’s chapter is 307: Getting To Know You. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t informed by the “cool kids” discourse I’ve been participating in and observing on Twitter and around the internets, but I’d also be lying if I said my take on that hasn’t been shaped by my experiences writing Mackenzie all these years.

STATUS: Friday, September 18th

The Daily Report

So, today I moved a little bit closer to my “morning commute” concept by taking my walk in the morning, if not exactly during the hour before my scheduled start time. The more I do this, the less energy/attention it takes to walk and the more my mind can wander, which is really useful. I used to do a lot of my creative recharging/planning/brainstorming during the long walks I *had* to take for work.

I mentioned I’m moving towards a “thing of the day” creative model, where every day I post a thing. Once a week, most weeks, that’s going to be a Tales of MU chapter. It might also be poems, short stories, flash ficlets, whatever. I’ve also been trying a thing with my partner Jack where we use a random plot idea generator and write a flash story together around it. Our goal is to do this once a week. We’ve got two of them so far. Starting next week, I’ll be posting them among my Things of the Day, probably on Friday.

My last remaining mental obstacle on getting Angels of the Meanwhile put to bed and sent out was the thought that my own e-book formatting skills are too meager for anything but my own butchered wares. I’m going to say, in the past week or so I’ve seen a couple of other e-book offerings where absolutely no care was taken in converting them, to the point that there are broken links, missing page breaks, etc. Like nobody even double-checked that the set-up still worked across platforms, just fired it off into the void and called it good.

I’m better than that. I might not be the best, but I’m not the worst, and I’m good enough. This is a thought to hold onto as I go into next week.

The State of the Me

The walking thing gets easier and easier. Each day by the time I got home my lower back was hurting. Today, nope. I’m a little surprised I haven’t exhausted myself, but I guess I’ve been rigorous enough in my occasional exercise bike use and pacing around the backyard that I’m not completely out of shape.

Plans For Today

Got a MU chapter coming up as the Thing of the Day.