Category Archives: The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster

Writing Update No. Whatever

A few years ago I attended a writers’ conference at Sac State. There were editors and agents present, and I got to meet with one of them. I had submitted the first chapter of The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster (you know, the one with the laser cows). She read it and said she really enjoyed it (except for one or two minor flaws) and asked me to send her more. Sadly, that was the only chapter of that uncompleted novel that I felt confident in.

I’ve since lost that agent’s card, phone number, and email address, and I never did send her more. Insert sad face here.

Over the years I’ve attempted several times to rewrite The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster, but without any success. But now I’m determined to tackle it and finalize a draft that I can be proud of should I ever encounter that agent again. And I’m determined to have that done by December 31, 2018 (I also plan to have a worthy draft of Padma done by June).

Meanwhile, I had a great deal of fun over the past week or so having our web host install Let’s Encrypt on our server so that I could secure our various websites. Like this one. Look up in the address bar and you’ll see a little padlock icon, and the URL is now prefaced with https instead of plain old http. This is pretty cool.

What’s not cool is all the hacking that happened on my Jennifer’s website. I spent days tracking down rogue JavaScript, PHP, and other stuff, including code that had been inserted into the database itself. Fortunately, that’s all fixed, and a recent scan by Google indicates that the site is, once more, clean and safe and secure. A dozen password changes later, I’m confident that this won’t happen again.

That’s all that’s going on for me right now (aside from the permanent wheezing and cough but that’s a whine for another day). How are you?


One of the villains in The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster is a professor of antiquities who, as a hobby, has applied his knowledge of dark and arcane secrets to many different fields of human knowledge.  Among the books he has written are these:

  • Agrinomicon. Summonings, dominations, and banishments meant to increase your tomato yield.
  • Technonomicon.  Although the professor is a self-professed Luddite, he still finds a need to use Google, Wikipedia, and other online resources.  This book contains spells and access codes to the Gates that lead to the virtual resources he needs.
  • Fashiononicon.  The dark secrets of the greats in fashion design.  Do you think all those celebrities created those lines of clothing on their own?  No, my friends, they had Outside Help.
  • Kamasutranomicon.  Probably best if we didn’t go too deeply into this one, though it is the only known work which contains a spell for summoning the dreaded Snoggoth.

If you were going to write a Dread Tome that merged ancient dark secrets of the universe with modern knowledge, what would you write?  Give me your title and a brief description.  I’m just curious.

A Brief Writing Update

The current draft of The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster is at 83,523 words.  About 9,000 words longer than the first draft.  I’ve started Chapter Seventeen and I can see lots of places where I need to make fixes already.  I had been hoping to finish this draft before NaNoWriMo starts; we’ll see if that happens.

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NaNoWriMo 2007

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On Selecting a Genre

I’ve decided that I want to play in the same sandbox as Charles deLint, Richelle Mead, and others that I admire, and call Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster urban fantasy, because I can.  It is urban, of course, since it takes place in a city.  It’s not strictly horror, because although horrific things happen and it contains a lot of standard horror tropes — Cthulhu primary among them — I’m not really writing it as a horror story, or even as a horror spoof.  It isn’t really fantasy, not by any strict genre definition; there are no wizards, no hobbits, and not a single elf to be seen.  The generic catch phrase is, I suppose, "speculative fiction", but "urban speculative fiction" is just too clumsy for my taste, so "urban fantasy" it is, until some publisher decides otherwise.

Oh, and I still claim that it is "inspired by true events".

The Problem with Hannah: Or, Learning to Love to Kill Your Babies (a rant on writing)

I got a rejection email today from a market that I had sold to before.  While I’m disappointed, of course, I’m also glad that the editor gave me a personal rejection, filled with solid suggestions for improving the story and a kind note saying that if the market did not have a strong policy against considering rewrites, he’d ask me for one.  This is the closest I’ve come to a sale since January; I’ll take my validation where I can.  Still, there’s sorrow to be drowned, and I’m going to drown it in yet more writing.  And dealing with a problem called Hannah.

The problem with Hannah is that she’s one of my favorite minor characters in The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster.  She’s mentioned for the first time in Chapter One; she has a brief scene in Chapter Three; and in Chapter Four, she dies.  And that, really, is her purpose: to die.  Her death is one of the turning points of the novel, one of those scenes which sets some characters on one path, and other characters on another.  It’s a great scene, I think, darker than the rest of the novel, but still a fun one.

But I really like Hannah.  As a character, she’s pretty nifty.  She’s based, very loosely, on some women that I’ve known, women that I’ve admired and enjoyed spending time with, and she’s the kind of character, I think, that shows up all too infrequently in genre fiction (or in any fiction, really).  I had lots of fun writing her scenes, and the people who have read the scenes with her have told me that she resonates strongly with them.

So today I started poking at the story, wondering if there’s a way I can give Hannah a stronger role.  Maybe I can spare her life.  Maybe she can crawl, broken and bloody, out of the trap she’s thrown into, and survive to the end of the story.  Or maybe it’s not really Hannah who dies, but someone else that looks so much like her that everyone thinks it is her, including the readers.  There’s got to be a way, I keep thinking, that I can spare Hannah, and have her live to tell her own story.

Unfortunately, there isn’t.  I’ve looked at the overall plot, and Hannah’s death is just too pivotal.  If I have her survive, then the changes that her death inspires in the other characters won’t be genuine.  If I give her more attention, develop her further, than her character will draw attention from the other characters.  If she lives, then one of the major themes of the novel withers into insignificance.

And so, Hannah must die.

This is one of the hardest parts of writing, it seems to me: striking out those elements that you love so much but which don’t advance the story.  It might be a lovely bit of prose that puts the finest sonnets of Shakespeare to shame but which does nothing to advance the plot.  It might be a brilliantly crafted scene that contributes nothing at all to the story.  It might be a devious plot complication that will have your readers gasping but which does nothing to develop your characters or strengthen your theme.  And, of course, it might be a beloved minor character whose death is so central to the plot that to have her survive is to kill the story; but to kill her off is to break your heart.  These are an author’s literary babies.  We must learn to kill them.

Even more importantly, we must learn to love killing them, because killing them means that the story is so much better.  I can imagine that Doctor Frankenstein must have wanted to add some more bolts to his creature’s head; they would have been stylish, certainly, and given the monster a certain panache, but in the end they would have just gotten in the way, overbalanced the monster’s head, and it would have fallen over before it could utter its first menacing moan.  (It helps to think of your own story as a lumbering, clumsy creature, moaning its way through the landscape and portrayed most effectively by Boris Karloff; really, it does.)  On the other hand, sometimes you can put those babies aside and use them later in another story.  When it came time to build a wife for the monster, I’m sure Doctor Frankenstein was glad that he had a few bolts left over from his earlier creation.  So perhaps that bit of prose that was beautifully crafted can end up somewhere else, as can that devious plot twist or that spiffy scene that you loved so much.  But for now, you must kill them; and you must be chortling with glee as you do so.  Writing is a dirty, bloody business, and the world is littered with the corpses of favorite characters killed before they ever got a chance to shine, as well as piles of prose and rooms full of clever scenes.

Hannah’s definitely a problem.  I might be able to write some other stories that feature her, but knowing that she will die in The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster will always make her stories at least a little tragic, no matter how clever and funny they are.  I think the only solution is to write her scene, kill her off as necessary, and drink a toast to her bravery.

Writing Update

Today I pushed the current draft of The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster past the 50,000 word mark.  Granted, nearly all of those words were copying and pasting from an earlier draft with no more editing than some minor name changes, but what the hell.

I admit that I’m still not entirely pleased with this draft so far.  I feel like my POV characters lack focus, and like the plot just sort of drifts along, with no purpose and no point.

Bleah.  Time for bed.

Writerly Update, Ruminations on the Muse

I added 1,221 words to The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster, which I think is a respectable output for a non-NaNoWriMo day.  The trouble I’m having with things right now is that the narrative is demanding that some of my characters be given more scenes, and I’m perfectly happy to oblige; however, this doesn’t really fit in with the structure I’ve developed for the novel, what with its four different viewpoint characters and a pretty balanced distribution of POV scenes.

In her blog, Ray Solberg wrote about mugging her muse to get some work done, and that made me think about muses in general.  Every now and then I like to ask my writer friends about their muses.  So, if you have a muse, what is your muse like?  Is she like a fairy, all graceful and delicate like a delicate nymph of old, prone to bouts of hyperproductive bouts of inspiration interspersed with bouts of bulimia?  Or something less poetic?

My own muse hasn’t changed.  He’s still a big, smelly troll who lives in the basement, wearing a pair of jeans and a T-shirt that’s way too small so that his belly hangs out, sprawled on the couch in front of the television, munching down Doritos and beer.  He belches a lot.  He farts.  He scratches his butt and picks at his ears.  I don’t know him to have ever brushed his teeth.

He has changed.  Used to be, his T shirts were a rotation of band shirts — Styx, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, and the like.  Now it’s a selection of geek-themed shirts like you’d get at Think Geek, even if he wouldn’t know a SQL query from a keyboard.  When I go into the basement to beg for an idea, he’s as likely to throw a wad of day old pizza at me as he is an actual, usable idea.  He shouts out ideas and thoughts and profanities like Father Jack in Father Ted.  I avoid my muse as much as possible.

His name, by the way, is Berthold.  The "th" is pronounced like a hard "t".  Bertold.  Don’t ask me way.

What’s your muse like, if you have one?

Today's Writing Update (and other minor stuff)

Today I added 1,956 words to The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster; and, unlike yesterday, these words were entirely original words.  I’ve been working on a new scene for Hank, bringing in some more characterization and fleshing out the bad guys some more, and adding a couple of new minor characters.  I actually want to write some more, but I feel like I’m tapped dry for the day.  Nearly 2,000 words is a pretty respectable output for one day, I think.

In other news, we finally solved the lawn circle mystery once and for all by tapping a resource which we had never thought to consult: our neighbors.  It turns out that our house’s previous owner had indeed put an above-ground pool in the back yard.  He also apparently owned a cement mixer which he was pretty fond of (this explains a couple of other mysteries: why there are drip hoses partially buried in cement throughout the yard and the strangely shaped garden beds near the back of the yard).  So when he put in the pool, he decided to also lay a circular foundation for it.  When he eventually removed the pool, he left the circular foundation in, and lay soil and sod over it.   Our lawn circle represents that very foundation.  So points go to my sister’s boyfriend, who originally suggested that underground masonry or something was responsible for the lawn circle.

Yesterday we put a pet door in the door to the laundry room, which is where we keep the cats’ litter boxes.  This has improved things tremendously in our house, though a couple of the cats were confused by the whole thing.  Tangerine took to it instantly, of course, and figured it out right away.  Azzie, on the other hand, who still gets lost in the bathtub, had to be physically shoved through it both ways before he realized he could actually go through it on his own.

Finally, it’s just after eleven o’clock at night, which means I should get to sleep, I suppose.  Personally, I hate sleep.  There are a lot of books I could read, a lot of writing I could do, a lot of movies that I could see if only my body didn’t insist on shutting down for six to eight hours every night.  I tend to stay up really late, like 1 or 2 in the morning, which means I’m utterly useless in the morning.  The only good thing I get out of sleep is a few rather vivid dreams, which can occasionally lend some neat imagery to my writing.  I know that there are drugs out there (experimental, mostly) which I could take that could reduce the amount of sleep my body needs, but that just seems wrong.  But my doctor informs me that regular sleep will help with my weight loss and depression and a host of other issues, so I suppose I’d better give it a whirl.

So, uh, good night, I suppose.

Writing Progress

So far, 4,133 words have been added to The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster.  I wish I could say that was me flailing at the keyboard at a truly superhuman rate, but the truth is that most — in fact, about 95% — of these words were just copied and pasted from an earlier draft.  I was reading some of the older draft and I realized that there’s a lot of good stuff in there, and it’s kind of silly to just dump it.

There’s still no way I’m going to meet the August 31 deadline I had set myself for this draft.  Even with today’s additions, I’m still about 68,000 words behind.  Not entirely impossible to hit that, but not real easy, either.