Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Too-Bright (372 words)

“Heads, I win. Tails, you lose. Your choice.” And the girl smiled as she said it, her mouth a charming, crooked line.

In her chair, she relaxed without leaning either forward or back, her spine carelessly straight. Her dark hair was braided loosely down her back and a too-bright scarf held it back from her face. With one elbow propped lazily against the table, she let the silence stretch. And she waited for the unnecessary reply.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Proper Profit (1028 words)

Elida knew every creak in the expansive apartments. She had watched Ness invent them eight months before when they moved in.

It had been pure entertainment, watching him on his hands and knees, teasing floorboards and stair railings and cupboard hinges into making their little noises. He tested them and he memorized the distinctions at the same time. Each was a little warning bell when anyone moved inside his apartment. When Elida stepped forward to help him, he gave her a look the equivalent of slapping her hands away, and laughed at himself after. He trusted her. But he trusted himself more.

So, she just watched him engineer squeaks and groans and creaks out of polished elegance. She hadn’t purposefully memorized them, too, but she liked the look on his face when she arrived in all her usual silence even while he rattled in the spaces he created.

Creeping down the stairs now, Elida had no need to see his surprise. She wished it very far away. Keeping her hands off the railing, she skipped the last step, and slid immediately to the right. A brush of air instead of a body, she imagined. A ghost. A thing already moved on.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Bone Match (793 words)

He knocked against her with his shoulder, moving gently enough, but she pulled out of his way apologetically all the same.

When they had met, his broad shoulders and his bulk had been so welcome. He was built of warm muscle and she had liked to tuck her shoulder into the curve of his, had enjoyed finding the match in their fingers and the right way to fold herself against him. In the last year though, since he had come back for her, she had simply felt as if all her angles intruded. There were always three breaths between them, always a jarring when he accidentally closed the gap.

She hated it, quietly. She didn’t have the words to demand the return of something she had thrown away.

Leonathan let her take her single step back. He didn’t look at her. The city was dark, lit with distant lanterns that pricked through the black, flickering white and yellow. His face was a shadow, while the light from the room behind them spilled over his tan coat, his dark hair. She didn’t allow herself to watch him for more than a moment.

Leaning forward on the rail, she crossed her arms over each other. She traced the lines of the lights below until she was charting familiar streets by the string of them. She breathed slow. And then he leaned against the rail as well, leaned his shoulder into hers, and the purpose in it made her freeze.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Scouring (858 words)

In the evenings, the Watchers lit the church candles. Warmth seeped between the pillars. The center aisle turned golden and warm, while the side aisles were streaked with grey shadows. Flickering light and thin, steady smoke sprawled between the arching stone walls, stretching the heat of the afternoon a little further, so long as no one ventured outside. The close air hugged and held and gave an excuse to shrug out of the cover of coats and cloaks.

Ren did not come to church in the evenings anymore. His parents had stopped dragging him through the doors years ago, about the same time he had learned to embarrass them with a well-timed swear, and just a little after had started sailing on a ship of his own choosing.

He preferred the afternoons, the step down onto an echoing floor while sunlight flirted through the high windows and never quite reached the floor. A haven of cool air, set halfway below the street, chilled relief from the city two steps above him. His coat hung unbuttoned, and the small bite of the air reminded him gently what it felt like to be made of real flesh and bone and skin.

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The November Chronicles: How to Lose in 30 Days

At the beginning of this month, I had intended to write a blog post every day. I wanted to talk about the process of writing during National Novel Writing Month, all the steps on the way to completing a fifty-thousand word challenge. I was going to have a grand time doing it.

Now, it’s almost midnight, very late in in the month. I’m losing the challenge by too large a margin to even dream of making it up in the next two days, and I wish more that I had posted every day.

As much as writers talk about how to win this contest, it might have been useful to see what it looks like to lose.

The Preparation

I spent the better part of two years mapping out the story I wanted to write. The entire plot is laid out on my wall in ten different colors of sticky notes, with a green piece of yarn connecting them all to remind me of the order. It’s a mess and it’s beautiful. I’ve looked at it every day, added to it in fits and starts, enjoyed just having it hanging there. When the first of November rolled around, I was sure I knew what to write.

The Beginning

I started at midnight on Halloween, as I always do.

I like midnights. There’s a brilliance to them that has less to do with starlight and the overnight chill and more to do with heartbeats and drumbeats and the things we do to fill the dark. I like the excitement of staying up too late, the space that I have to shape things before sunlight reveals the exact shape of them. It’s just a romantic notion, and I know other people would rather get up with the sun and revel in the daylight.

But this year, I had three thousand words before those people even woke up, and that’s how I like to kick off NaNoWriMo. (Yeah, I’m winking at you…)

It wasn’t until the second day that I started to feel how poorly I understood my characters. I had given them all names and ages and jobs, but I couldn’t say more about them, and within a few thousand words, I could feel it. I was trying to carve out a specific story with some very blunt tools.

I only stayed ahead of schedule for a third day, and then I started to fall behind a little at a time. Continue reading

The November Chronicles: Day One

I should not be awake right now. I’ve only gotten five and a half hours of sleep, and my alarm promised I could sleep until noon. And yet, I woke up, and I’m terribly excited that National Novel Writing Month has started.

I use Post-It Notes for all my novel planning needs. Cryptic instructions from the past are oh-so-inspiring. Here's the one I've been referencing most today.  (via

I use Post-It Notes for all my novel planning needs. Cryptic instructions from the past are oh-so-inspiring. Here’s the one I’ve been referencing most today.  (via

Current word count: 2,155
Status: Ahead of schedule, sleepy, and consuming too many Halloween Kit-Kats

I started writing last night at midnight. My boyfriend accepted that pleasantly, even though it meant skipping out on his Halloween plans. One of my coworkers thought I was a little crazy to deprive myself of sleep. My friend on the East Coast, who started writing three hours ahead of me, was still up writing when I headed for bed at three-thirty a.m.

It was a good start.

I am already very aware that the editing process is going to take a long time: as usual, everything is blunter than I would like it to be. I use the same words too often. I’m writing dialogue without feeling like I even know some of the characters who are talking. And yet, the bones of a first chapter now exist, and I’m happy with the raw material that I’m building.

I’ve never been one of those writers who starts a project feeling like the writing is running smooth as a cat. I don’t hit a sweet stride until about halfway through. Right now, it’s too painstaking, too much like the tedium of setting up massive lines of dominos to knock over later in a beautiful clatter.

But I love knowing that that’s coming.

Today, I’m hoping for two thousand more words, and a few more sentences to point at and say “That’s still going to be in the polished story.”

How did YOU kick off November?

The November Chronicles: What Are You Writing?

A few weeks ago, one of my livelier coworkers asked me what I was writing this November. I didn’t want to tell him that that was one of my least favorite questions to hear.

It’s a simple question, formed out of one of the more basic human kindnesses (interest) and yet, the answer is never simple. My initial fall into writerly angst (“I really only know what I hope it is!”) is right out. A long answer always seems ungainly and not actually what was requested. The short answer, “A story,” is, at best, snarky, and at worst, an unintentional request for the asker to step backward out of my life and off the planet. Crafting something in the middle is almost as much work as writing the whole story down.

I told my coworker I was retelling Cinderella. I told him I was going to make the fairy godmother the main character.

He asked if I was going to show more of her beneficiaries.

“Sort of,” I said. “She’s sort of half a Cinderella herself, and then there’s another half Cinderella.”

He stopped, stared. “She’s her own fairy godmother?”


He cocked his head. As if I had just set the world at a slant, and he was just trying to maintain proper perspective. “How can she do that?”

I don’t remember how I answered. I remember thinking that if I could explain that in a sentence, then I wouldn’t need to write the book. I also remember feeling a bit like the town idiot, like maybe this isn’t the brilliant idea that I think it is, and maybe I should step back, back, backward off the planet.

But this November I am writing a story about Cinderella’s fairy godmother. She’s also Cinderella and she’s another Cinderella’s best friend. And I’m writing a story where it makes sense that Prince Charming would go on a hunt around the kingdom for his “true love,” testing eligible maidens with a lost shoe. And there are no talking mice, no actual magic, and lots and lots of financial planning. I’m very excited about it.

Any other questions this month will be answered with, “Right now, I’m calling it Miscellaneous Chihuahua Noises.

That should explain everything.

Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Doe Eyes (597 words)

The Captain’s favorite detective had just staggered out of his office. Drunk. Again.

Johnston was halfway through rolling her eyes. She had stopped snorting behind her hand months ago. Bastow was trying to remember what time the Captain had gone out for lunch. It seemed like it had been almost an hour, but they might still have time to shove the idiot back into his office. Hill was reconsidering the merits of doing his work in some other – any other – office. Weyman was just trying to finish booking the dirtied-up cowboy in high heels and handcuffs sitting in front of her.

And he walked in.

Doe eyes and a leather jacket paid for with Daddy’s money. Smooth hands and cheeks kissed with the cold. His hair was a charming tangle of curls. Even the drunk detective hesitated, blinked. And then, at the same time, they both said:

“I need to speak with the head of the Organized Crime division.”

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Fog Lift (498 words)

The basin of Aldret’s harbor was overflowing with fog, buried in the shifting weight of the seasons. Summer had faded. Heavy fall had stepped into its place, with all the threat and promise of heavier winter pressing in behind. The air was stiff even while the wind wasn’t bending bone, and the world seemed to have shrunk. The sharp tips of all three of the Catis‘ masts were cut off in a sky hung too low.

Tamra waited at the rail of the upper deck as the ship drifted into port. She had gone still, minutes or hours ago, hands relaxed, stance balanced against the roll of the deck. She measured a long breath in and a long breath out, dumb in an unreasoned belief that her steadiness mattered.

The water sighed.  Every echo hid in the damp air. The timbers creaked. The Catis‘ canvas was bound up in silence and the hull eased through the water, heavy and careful.

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The November Chronicles: How Do You NaNo?

Since putting up my last blog post, I’ve gotten a handful of messages asking how to participate  in National Novel Writing Month.

Here’s the basics:

  • Write 50,000 words (or more)
  • Start any time after 12:00 a.m. on November 1st.
  • Finish any time before 11:59 p.m. on November 30th.
  • Work on entirely new material: a novel which has no previous drafts and no word count before November 1st (outlining is fine).
  • Follow all the rules above, or join the gloried ranks of the NaNoWriMo cheaters, who dare to… do whatever they feel like.

It’s not that complicated. It’s just difficult. And exciting. And sleep-depriving in a way that even caffeine can’t fix by the end of the month. At the finish, you have the rawest first draft you’ve probably ever written, with a handful of golden pages you wouldn’t trade away for love.

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