Archive for February, 2012

When in Doubt: Aliens

I make no claims towards being a rational person. Sure, I can fake it pretty well, but then I draw pictures of landsquid and stick them on the internet, so I’m pretty sure I’m fooling no one.

Much as I hate to sound like a meme, have you ever noticed how everything is better with aliens?

(I’m not just saying that because the Landsquid’s origins are a bit murky. There’s been rumors going around that he is, in reality, a Space Squid, but he denies it and I’ve yet to catch him glowing in the dark, as Space Squids are wont to do.)

TV obviously agrees with me. People mysteriously disappearing? Aliens. Massive conspiracy? Aliens. People mysteriously re-appearing? Probably also aliens. Also, they built the pyramids and carved things in caves and made (and sank) Atlantis. And they secretly run our government.

Okay, so maybe they’re a bit overdone, but can you think of any situation that cannot be improved with the addition of our extraterrestrial neighbors? Instead of voting someone off a reality TV show, let’s feed them to aliens. Or we can upgrade the boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love storyline to include boy and girl fight aliens bent on world domination. Even presidential debates could use a good alien. (Or, depending on your point-of-view, already have a couple.)

Anyway, they’re better than vampires.

What’s your reaction to unexpected!aliens, Squiders? Yay or nay? Overdone? Inquiring landsquid want to know.


When Life Gets in the Way

Life! It goes. Generally it goes at a fairly even keel and things have a routine to them. But every now and then, you find yourself anticipating a major life event and everything else kind of falls by the wayside.

And even if you do have time to get other things done (like, say, a blog) you might find that all you think about, all the time, is this new life event. You might open an internet window for a certain purpose, and fifteen minutes later discover you’ve added fifteen wedding venues to your list. A doodle in the margin along the side of your notes becomes a full out nursery design. And you spend your train ride to and from work reading books on the best places to eat while you’re in Shanghai.

On the brain, all the time.

Here’s the thing, though. If you focus on one thing for too long, do you know what happens? Your brain explodes, and then I have to get the Landsquid to clean it up. And he dislikes mopping brains.

But seriously. You focus on something so hard, and after awhile, things just go downhill. All your options start looking the same, and you bemoan the fact that you will never figure anything out, and all the cake starts to taste like cake. (Seriously. All wedding cake tastes the same after awhile. ALL OF IT.)

So, as hard as it is to drag your mind off your newest and most exciting event, do it. It’s good for your sanity. It’s good for your creative process. And it’s good so your friends don’t murder you because you won’t shut up about it.

This post was going to have a landsquid doodle to accompany it, but last week my husband set me up with a dual-monitor workstation (he calls it Starfleet Command; I knew I married him for a reason) and it turns out that the Wacom tablet is completely incompatible with a dual-screen set-up, so now I need him to fix it before anyone gets any more drawings, alas. (Or hoorah, depending on how terrible you think the drawings are.)


Why TPKs Suck

It’s Friday night D&D again, and we’re well on our way to all having our butts handed to us hardcore by some treants, which are essentially the D&D version of the Ents from LOTR. Our DM, a few sessions ago, decided he was annoyed at us always surviving the encounters, and has since tried his hardest to destroy us.

TPK stands for Total Party Kill. It is where the DM manages to kill each and every one of you. He just rolled two natural 2os. At the same time.


Anyway, I don’t have to tell you how frustrating it is to continuously fail in everything you try when going up against a powerful enemy. When you pull out your most powerful attacks, the ones that you can only do every once and awhile, and it just bounces off their hide while they laugh.

As much as it sucks in gaming, it sucks just as much in fiction. While conflict is essential to keeping a story moving, at some point it can become too much. While you want your interest kept, conflict after conflict after conflict without break can cause anxiety, and most people don’t read to feel anxious.

There’s another crit from the DM. Holy Batman.

Additionally, if the main characters come up against their big bad, if they give it their all, and it does nothing – that pisses readers off. Especially at the end of the story.

I mean, occasionally you can get away with an unhappy or ambiguous ending. But when you’ve walked with a character, sat with them through their hardships, cheered as they pulled themselves up – only to have them fail at the last minute – that hurts.

It hurts bad. Bad enough that, a lot of the time, readers will just give up. And sometimes there may be throwing of books across the room. (At least in their minds – most book lovers I know will not physically damage a book, no matter how upset they are at it.)

Anyway, we really are doomed. I think I shall name my new character exactly the same as the last and stick a number on the end, just like the cat in the Simpsons.


A Well of Inspiration

Every now and again, I feel a bit dried up, like I have squeezed every interesting idea from my head and that nothing more will come. I think we all feel that way sometimes, for whatever reason, whether we’ve pushed ourselves too hard or agreed to something that’s not our cup of tea. The nice thing is that it’s not so hard to search out and find a kernel, a spark, to ignite everything again.

I have two sources I turn to when I’m in need of inspiration: pictures and music.

I’ve talked about music here before, but as a quick refresher: I find music an excellent way to get the ol’ juices flowing. I choose music based on what I want to write – gothic for horror, symphonic metal for fantasy, etc. Whether it’s a lyric, a chord, whatever, I find that just putting music on in the background can often time hit the right nerve and inspire something great.

Pictures, well. I admit description is not my strongest strength, but sometimes a picture really hits the creative noggin right between the eyes. (I apologize, my metaphors are getting weirder the longer this entry goes on. I blame, uh, the tribble. Yes.) Take a look at this beauty I found earlier today: here.

My trigger pictures are almost always ruins. Probably says something about my psyche, but there’s something about an old building, partially reclaimed by nature, coated in moss and promising oh so many secrets, that makes my hair stand on end. Can’t you just see someone descending down, in search of some hidden treasure or a necessary clue?

The Fairest is a good site for trigger picture searching, if landscapes and nature do it for you. I know some people prefer portraits; you may find Portrait Photos to be more your speed.

How about you, Squiders? What helps in your dry times? Any websites to recommend?

Shorter is Sweeter?

Sometime last month I mentioned that I was going to attempt kitlitart’s picture book challenge. I like children, writing, and drawing, so I thought it would be fun.

Oh Batman, it is so hard.

You’ve got to make sure you’re telling a complete, easy-to-understand story in a very few amount of words. You’ve got to make sure that you’re not using any words that are too big. (Something I suspect I am failing at greatly.) And you’ve got to make sure there’s something in the story that the child can identify with.

I got writer’s block 123 words in and spent some time attempting to draw a station wagon. It turns out that I cannot draw station wagons. Alas. If this story ever sees the light of day, I hope they hire someone else to draw the final pictures.

And I got to thinking that, for me, shorter is harder. Those six-word stories? Can’t wrap my brain around them. I can manage a twitter story every once in a blue moon, and flash fiction is something that continuously eludes me. Once we get into short story territory, I’m fine, though I do tend towards the longer end (3-8K).  Succinct just isn’t in my blood.

It’s somewhat bell curvy, because there’s an upper limit (about 100K) that I can’t seem to get past either.

Any tips for picture books, Squiders? Do you find shorter works to be easier or harder? Where’s your comfort zone?

The Great Blog Transfer

Or, as a subtitle, how is actually a lot nicer to use than

So, at some point last month I mentioned that I was working on getting together a real website.

Well, I have one. It exists. It has a layout and twitter feeds and generally looks very nice. The main issues thus far is content. All the static pages at the moment are random exclamations of “TURTLEDUCK” and “LANDSQUID” and random stories in which my much more savvy websmart friend who helped me put together said website features prominently.

In fact, the only real content currently up on the website is external stuff I ported in – namely, my twitter feed and this blog. I ported the entirety of this here blog from to my new, shiny website.

(As an aside, I have since been posting all entries both here and there independently, as I have not figured out how to post simultaneously on both and still have this one – Where Landsquid Fear to Tread, for those reading it on the website – update Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon at the same time. So.)

This post is going to make little sense on the website, but I half-hope no one’s found it yet because, seriously, random landsquid exclamations everywhere.

Now, in general I am rather happy with my new website, but there are things from that I miss. Akismet being the main one off the top of my  head. Akismet is a lovely program that blocks spam comments automatically. It is included for free with your blog. It is not included and not free if your website is running In the year and a half that I’ve had this blog, Akismet has blocked 3,582 spam comments.

That is a lot of spam-blocking that the new website is missing. also tracks who is linking to your blog, what links they’re clicking, what pages they’re looking at, and how many people have looked at your blog that day. is also lacking all these lovely stats. They may be tied to Akismet. I should probably just pay for it.

Part of me regrets moving from lovely, easy-to-use, free

So, anyway, if you don’t need a full website with your own domain, go You can have static pages, so it’s not like you’re losing a lot of options. Templates are a bit harder, but meh. is nice for your website, especially if you are used to as they are similar in the usability area. And I do think having my own website will be useful in the long run.

For now, however, I worry about the spam.

A Slight Feeling of Isolation

It’s no secret that I believe in the more social aspects of writing. Writing groups, critique groups, writing partners, the whole nine yards. I love writing, I would do it regardless, but there’s something very satisfying about working with other writers to hone your craft.

It just seems like recently, nothing is working out to help me get my other writers fix. I went to a critique group a few weeks ago, but it meets at the unfortunate time of Saturday night, but I have a social life and a husband and am rarely available then. It’s hard to build relationships when you only show up once in a blue moon.

My Wednesday night group seems to be meeting less and less often, and we can’t seem to find a reliable location that fits everyone’s needs. We have an online part as well, but most of the non-local people have dropped off. I haven’t even heard from them in a few months now. More and more often I find myself alone at my local coffee shop, which is admittedly more productive but less satisfying.

Even my online writing community, which has been a staple for the past five years, seems a bit quiet. Most of the people I’m closest to have been busy and distant, and even my writing partner has been so busy lately that last week was the first time we got to work together in several months.

I know socialization isn’t essential to the writing process, but there are times when I can’t help but feel a bit lonely, especially in the middle of the day when everyone else is at their “real” jobs.

Any suggestions, Squiders?


What’s In a Name?

A lot, it turns out.

Like it or not, names are often our first impression, especially when dealing with the written word. They color how we see someone. Admittedly, depending on how a character is written, those impressions can be changed, but it is often an uphill struggle.

As a writer, I’ve found that I cannot even start until I’ve pinned down a good name. Others work differently; they can change a name after they’ve written a story, but, in general, I’ve found that a character’s name has a subtle influence on their personality, their actions, and how they interact with other characters.

Think about your favorite character. Would they lose something if they were named something other than what they were? Would Sherlock Holmes be as memorable as a Tom or a Will? Charlie has lovely alliteration with his chocolate factory, but the name itself leans towards something earnest. Would Heathcliff stick in your mind as much if he were a Dan or a Reggie?

Some characters – or historical figures – are so distinct in their names that they’ve pretty much ruined the name for the rest of us. Sherlock is an obvious example. Cain, Adolf, Judas. Even Harry’s a bit of a pitfall at the moment.

Names have associations. They vary from person to person, usually based on people they’ve known or characters they’ve been exposed to. When I choose a name, I weigh its associations for me, its meaning, and its ability to easily be confused with other people/characters. However, some of it is based on the name itself. If you don’t have any experience with a name, have never known someone with it, you tend to base your connotations off of its sound.

What characters can you think of where their name is a key part of who they are? What names appeal to you, and why?

An Infestation of Ceiling Turtles

I can’t help it. I haven’t been this amused with a made-up animal since the Sky Shark.


Landsquid took his mug of cocoa and his box of Cheez-Its and padded over to the kitchen table, ready to have a nutritious breakfast. He had a full day planned. His arch-nemesis, the Alpaca, was having a tea party, and there were scones to be made before hand. Not the kind with fruit in them, though. That was a bit too evil for Landsquid.

He set his meal down and settled down into his chair. As he reached for the cocoa, he thought he saw movement out of the corner of his eye, but decided it was a trick of his imagination.

After a few sips of delicious liquid chocolate, he reached a tentacle for the Cheez-Its. That’s when the first one attacked. Landsquid paused at the sudden pressure on his head, then yelped as it bit down on one fin, Cheez-Its scattering everywhere. The second dropped directly into his cocoa, spilling it over the cracker-y mess. The third landed in the kitchen sink inexplicably.

“Ceiling turtles!” he cried, waving his tentacles furiously.

“Kkkkkkkkk,” said the ceiling turtles. The one covered in cocoa started eating his Cheez-Its.

Oh, that would not do.

Landsquid grabbed the box of Cheez-Its and went in search of his phone. It wasn’t on the kitchen counter. It’s wasn’t on his desk. It wasn’t even in the refrigerator. (The oddest things ended up in the refrigerator.)

The ceiling turtles came for him, crawling across the floor.

It also wasn’t in the dining room, on his dresser, or under his bed. Landsquid rubbed one fin in frustration. The ceiling turtles continued their way across the kitchen floor.

Finally, the phone was discovered in the third drawer under the sink in the second bathroom. Landsquid dialed information and was connected to a local exterminator.

“Ceiling turtles,” he said.

“Sorry, man,” said the exterminator. “There’s been a shortage of essence of myrtle lately. You’re screwed.”

The turtles had almost made it the kitchen door.

Landsquid hung up the phone and shut the kitchen door. There was a very slow scratching against the bottom. What was he to do? He’d always heard it was hard to get rid of ceiling turtles once they moved in. Maybe he’d just sell the house.

There was a near-silent sound of tiny, scaly feet beginning an ascent up the wall.

They were in there with his cocoa and Cheez-Its. Drastic measures were needed.

After a thorough search of the house, he returned, bearing a bucket, an old cat calendar, and a broomstick. It was silent in the kitchen. The turtles could be anywhere. Gathering his supplies in one hand, Landsquid slid the door open. His head remained turtle-free.

A quick survey of the room revealed one turtle in his Cheez-Its box. The other two were in the sink. What was with the sink? Maybe he should clean it more often.

Wielding his broomstick, he poked the turtle out of his delicious snacks. It hissed at him, but Landsquid dropped the bucket over it and slid the calendar underneath. He flipped the bucket over and received a satisfying turtle shell thunk for his effort.

He repeated the process for the two in the sink. The ceiling turtles hissed and scratched at the inside of the bucket, but the worn plastic held.

It was harder to get the bucket out of the sink, but then Landsquid took his captives out the back and dropped them over the fence into his neighbor’s, the Alpaca’s, yard.

That ought to make the tea party more interesting.

Landsquid took his bucket back inside, humming, and sat back down to his now slightly-soggy breakfast. He reached a tentacle for his cocoa.

That’s when the ceiling turtle attacked.

Ceiling Turtles

They lurk above, where you don’t notice their slow, deliberate movements. Then – when you least expect it – they drop down, onto your head, and gnaw gently on your ears.

Not terribly scary, ceiling turtles, though they can be a bit of an inconvenience when you’re trying to impress a date. Also, sometimes they make your mind wander and your blog post never gets done.

Have a limerick.

Beware, for above lurks the ceiling turtle
Tends to be attracted to shampoos herbal
He drops on your head
But you’re probably not dead
He can be rid of using essence of myrtle