Daffodil weather and mackerel skies

One of the more interesting aspects of writing fantasy or sci-fi, particularly when creating entire new worlds, is the question of idioms. We use idioms every day, words that when strung together and looked at on the face of them, don’t mean anything without the cultural context to inform them. Take daffodil weather, for instance. It’s a local term, one that has immediate meaning to me; a mild spring day, sunny after a period of cold, damp weather, the kind of day that seems to summon daffodils into bloom like magic. I don’t use the term mackerel skies nearly as often, but I know what it means, and why sailors of old would have understood it and cared enough about it to coin the term in the first place.

It doesn’t do to overload a piece of writing with ‘alien’ idioms, of course. But a little local flavor goes a long way into imparting an extra layer of believability to a made-up world. And just for my own curiosity’s sake, sometimes I want to know, even if it never actually comes up (or more likely, gets trimmed when I go back and edit things).

So I can’t help but wonder what a sky full of ladies’-fans looks like, or what kind of weather it portends. And I don’t just want to know what tasselberries taste like; I want to know what time of year they ripen, and whether they really do have an extra savor when silvered with milkfrost.

Some thoughts on International “Please Don’t Pirate My Book!” Day

First and foremost, if you haven’t read Chuck Wendig’s post on piracy, and his declaration of today as the above-titled Day of Import, then by all means please go there at once. The post itself is funny and thought-provoking, and a quick glance through the comments showed a surprising and heartening level of thoughtful conversation. (That could well have changed, but it was quite civil when I looked.)


Now, since he invited others to write down some of their thoughts on the subject, I thought I’d take him up on his offer. I think it’s something that should be talked about. It certainly weighs heavily on my mind.

You might ask why, seeing as I haven’t managed to have any of my books published yet. Right now, none of my original works are available for piracy, whether of the modern e-piracy variety, or the old-fashioned steal-a-book-from-the-library or print-a-bunch-of-copies-in-China sort.

But there could be. Self-publishing is an increasing trend. I could have made a book or two available through Amazon, or TinyPress, or some other venue, anytime in the last few years.

One of the reasons why I have not yet decided to venture into those waters – yet – is the fear of e-piracy. Authors who are published through a publishing house – whether paper or purely e-press – have the resources of those houses behind them. Some publishers offer a lot of resources to help combat the problem; others almost none. But all of them probably have a better idea of how to handle the problem of e-piracy better than I do.

And I do think it’s a problem. Not just because it’s stealing, although that’s certainly something I object to on general principles.  But because it devalues the worth of the work that I and other authors do, the effort that is put in trying to write good, compelling stories that entertain readers. That is WORK, and work that should be respected. While I have heard the argument that sometimes e-pirates go out and purchase books they actually like afterwards, how true is that? Is it apocryphal? Is it a small percentage? And should an author have to depend on the after-ethics of the effect of theft?

I don’t think so. Promotion is good, great even. Word of mouth is very powerful. But I hope that can happen without piracy.

I’m also a huge fan of libraries. Most of the books (including ebooks) I read these days come from the library. And one of the major problems facing libraries these days is the need to defend their ebooks from piracy. They have to pay a lot of money (that frankly our overburdened and under-supported library systems don’t have) trying to protect their books against piracy. They have to pay more money to publishers, who are naturally quite wary about how library e-books affect their bottom line.

And because of this, there are a number of books that I can’t get from the library, because either the ebook edition is so locked down I can’t figure out how to get it open on my computer (true, alas!), or it’s only available as a Kindle ebook USB direct-transfer edition, or simply isn’t available at all, because it’s too small/obscure/limited a title.

That doesn’t make me happy, of course. But I don’t blame the library system. I don’t blame the publishers. I don’t blame the authors.

I do blame my own technological incompetence, at least a bit. And the e-piracy realities that makes the problem that much worse.

Pushing on when things are difficult

It’s been a hefty six weeks, verging on two months. The holidays are wonderful but their own kind of chaos. And post-holidays, at least this year, came a deluge of other things; lots of work, deadlines, family events. It is entirely too easy to say “I’m too busy to write” and let things slide.

So what to do?

I don’t know what the answer is for everyone, but one of the answers I’ve found is this: drabbling. Write a story 100 words in length, no more, no less. It can be a snippet of a scene, a dialogue-only moment in time, a description that captures a place or emotion, or anything, really. It just has to be 100 words. And really, anyone can write 100 words, even on the busiest of days.

Not only do you get the satisfaction of knowing you wrote, but sometimes those 100-word drabbles turn out to be gems that you can use elsewhere, help clarify a story or a character, or just shine on their own, jewels against the black velvet of your screen.

Writing when the days are short

When the days are short, both literally (in terms of daylight) and metaphorically (in terms of the amount of time available in any given day vs. the amount of things to be done), it can be a real challenge for me to keep writing on the “to-do” list. It’s awfully easy to let things slide onto the back-burner, particularly if there isn’t a specific deadline I’m writing to. The trouble is, if I let that happen, I’ll turn around and it’ll be January already, with nothing to show for it.

Well, nothing on the page, anyway.

So dashing through the snow/mall/work/family events or not, I try my best to keep writing at least a little bit every day. I think of it as little presents to myself, ones that I’ll appreciate even more when I read back through them in about a month or so.

Merry December!

The holiday season approaches

November is extra busy this year, and December looks like it will be busier still. I’m trying to fit in as much writing as I can in the next few weeks, because I know that opportunities to write will become increasingly rare between now and the end of the year.  And there are a few submission opportunities (short stories, mostly) that I’m eyeing, which means I need to have stories ready to go.

I really could use 32-hour days. Or the ability to do without sleep. Or possibly both. Oh well. Onwards!

Tricks and Treats

So Halloween has come and gone, and so has the annual effort at writing a short story in keeping with the season while waiting on the trick-or-treaters. (And we did have some, hurrah!) I actually had two different ideas. One story, which I had thought was going to be a spooky talking-to-the-dead tale, turned out to be…well, chatty. Almost cozy, in its own odd way. It’s all right, but not what I expected, and I’m not really sure what (if anything) to do with it.

The second idea had much more promise. I was all excited to start, until I realized: the reasoning I had for the protagonist to go off on her adventure in the first place made absolutely no logical sense whatsoever. It’s simply “I need A to happen so that B,” but that doesn’t hold water, particularly not when I realize that’s what it is.


I’ll have to think about this some more, because I really want to write the jack-o-lanterns taking vengeance on the would-be pumpkin-smashers. Hm.

It’s spooky season!

I’ve always loved fall in general, and Halloween in particular. I love the costumes. I love the silly ‘spooky sounds’ soundtracks. I love some of the classic scary movies, although I’m not much for gore-for-gore’s-sake. (Evil Dead, though. I am unreasonably fond of the Evil Dead movies.) I am stupidly fond of jack-o-lanterns, both in the carving of them (not that I do it well, mind you), and in the challenge of keeping them lit once Halloween itself arrives. And I’m rather nostalgically fond of handing out candy to costumed kids on Halloween night, too, although that happens more at work than at home these days.

I have my own Halloween tradition, too. Every October 31st, if I’m home, I set myself the task of writing some kind of story while waiting for the trick-or-treaters and keeping the jack-o-lanterns alight. Sometimes the stories are spooky; sometimes they’re atmospheric; sometimes they’re downright silly, but I always write something. I’ve started thinking about what I might write this year, but you never know what inspiration will actually strike when the sun sets on the 31st.

What about you? Anyone else out there inclined to write stories on particular days?

Like sending your child off to the first day of school with a lottery ticket stapled to her chest

Oh my. I sent Bowling Ball off to an open-submissions call this week. On the one hand, I’m very excited. On the other hand, I’m well aware of how much of a cattle-call an open submissions is. Editors will be swamped with manuscripts. Your book’s chance of catching someone’s eye depends a lot on luck, how good you are at writing blurbs/synopses/cover-letters (in my case, probably not very), and just how undercaffeinated/overstresed/compatible-with-your-aesthetic that particular editor happens to be on that given day.

So yes. Rather like sending a child off for their first day of school, with a lottery ticket, and telling her “Good luck, kid. I hope you manage to find your way to class, have a good day, and get home again.”

Let’s hope Bowling Ball is clever and lucky.


Hello there! I’m Shell Peters, and this is my site. My brand-new, I-hardly-know-what-to-do-with-it-yet, but-hopefully-it-will-be-interesting site.

I’m a writer who works full-time doing something else in order to pay the bills. I’m not published yet, but I certainly hope to be. In the meantime, you can find bits of my writing on the Tidbit of the Moment page, as soon as I get around to updating it.

I hope you enjoy your stay, and come back often!