bad is a relative term

I remember watching Die Hard when I was around fifteen and thinking there was something wrong with me. John McClane was great and all with this quick wit, boyish swagger, and unflagging devotion to upholding the law (even while breaking a good forty dozen of them in the process). But I couldn’t keep my eyes off Hans Gruber.
The class.
The intelligence.
The snark.
I fell harder for Hans than he did from the top of Nakatomi Plaza. (Still upset about that ending, by the way.)
So thanks to Alan Rickman, I developed an unnatural fondness for brilliant, suave bad guys. The kind of guys who could kill you with Shakespeare. If they have dark hair and a British accent, then it’s all over but the cryin’, and there will be cryin’ because a gal who loves the villain rarely walks out of a movie happy.

I'm sending my therapy bills to you, Alan. In a big box. That also contains myself.

I’m sending my therapy bills to you, Alan. In a big box. That also contains myself.

I started writing my novel with an alien antagonist named Cid. He is everything I love about bad guys: confident, sarcastic, smarter than you. He’s also cute if you’re into gray-skinned, black-haired aliens with sharp teeth and claws. I am into that, apparently. Less than half-way through writing the story, I’d become so smitten with Cid that I turned him into the hero. Being a writer is kinda like being a God that way. “For I so loved my world, I gave it a snarky alien. Amen.”

Speaking of aliens, I am hoping that Loki’s character arc in the latest series of Marvel movies ends up with him as a pseudo-hero. So far he’s gone from being a good-if sneaky-guy turned bad (Thor), to a badder guy (Avengers), to kinda a good guy but still doing bad things (Thor 2). It could take only a couple more steps before he is fighting with the Avengers right beside his brother, Thor. I don’t think he could ever be Good with a capital G, but he could at least be kinda bad but in our favor. If there’s anywhere you want a dashing, maniacal genius who’s always twelve steps ahead of everyone else, it’s on your team.

Heimdall, open the bi-frost. I need to have a word with my boyfriend.

Heimdall, open the bi-frost. I need to have a word with my boyfriend.

Anyway, I am going somewhere with all this.

A while back I stumbled on a subscription delivery service called Loot Crate. Once a month, for how ever many months you choose, Loot Crate will send you a box of geeky goodness. In case you didn’t know, I am a bit of a geek. I’m a second generation Trekkie and I have a VIP card to the Mos Eisley Cantina. I love most anything sci-fi themed and adore the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So I really liked the idea of Loot Crate, but hadn’t signed up because it was such a frivolous expenditure and I was worried the box would have more gamer stuff (which I’m not really in to) than geeky stuff. Exactly what’s in the box is a surprise, but you are guaranteed a t-shirt (which is worth the price of a one month subscription in itself) and various other toys, stickers, trinkets all with a geeky/gamer sensibility.  You do get a hint, though. Each month’s box has a theme. Well, when I saw that July’s theme was Villains, I knew the time had come to lay my money down.

So in four days my box of baddie-themed prizes will be en-route to my door. It’s exciting! Like a gift from a secret admirer. That I had to pay for. But let’s be honest . . . don’t we all have to pay for secret admirers in some way eventually? Restraining orders don’t file themselves.

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my roommate

Last December, I needed a new place to live and a friend of mine needed a tenant for her empty condo. Win-Win.

Well, except that the condo wasn’t exactly empty. Along with a couch and chair and dining room set, the condo came with a cat. My friend and her husband had moved to Atlanta and they couldn’t take him with them. They’d been trying to find him a new home, but had so far been unsuccessful. So the cat, Cain (yes, as in Cain and Able), was living the bachelor life in the condo with his automatic feeder and waterer and self-cleaning litter box. Cain was fully automated.

I love all animals: horses, snakes, lizards, bats, squid, narwhals. I grew up with both cats and dogs, so I had no problem moving in with Cain. As long as Cain had no problem with me moving in with him.

That’s the thing about cats, they have opinions. Strong ones. Not having lived with a cat since I was a child, I’d forgotten most of what I once knew about cat behavior. As the days turned to weeks turned to months, I relearned a lot. Such as:

– Unlike dogs, clapping your hands and saying, “okay, let’s go” means absolutely nothing to a cat. They will continue to lay on your bed and stare into space like you don’t exist.

– Cats will adore you with the entirety of their little fuzzy hearts right up until the random millisecond when they want to rip your face from your skull.

– That “I see dead people” stare they’ll do at a spot right over your shoulder then run from the room like their tail is on fire.

– No flat surface is out of a cat’s reach. I hid a dime bag of cat nip on top of the refrigerator and Cain found it, chewed it open, and ate the entire contents. I came home from work to find him rolling and drooling on the kitchen floor higher than Seth Rogen celebrating his birthday at James Franco’s house.

– Cats show affection by causing pain, i.e., kneading your flesh with their claws while they snuggle and purr and you whimper and cry.

– Cats have a burning desire to chalk your nose like a pool cue with their starfish every chance they get.

– Cats are, basically, assholes.

Like with any roommate situation, there was an adjustment period, but Cain and I have settled into a routine. This mostly involves him doing what ever the fuck he wants and me trying not to trip over him on the stairs and kill myself. It works for us.

Amy and Cain

 

not into girls

Disclaimer: I didn’t intend for this blog to be so writing-centric. I know that many of my dear readers (that’s you) are not writers and probably don’t give two flying monkey shits about what happens behind the curtain. You just want to take your ruby slippers back down the yellow brick road and party with some Munchkins (you know those lollipops are laced with something). But my personal life right now is more in black and white than technicolor, and writing is the only thing keeping the tornado at bay. So unless I’m visited by another preternatural swarm of flies or something equally as amusing/terrifying, I’m afraid you’re getting writerly rants. I feel like I should have worked in a metaphor involving an oil can in there somewhere, but let’s get out of Oz before the Lion remembers he’s a carnivore realizes we’re meat. 

I like men. I, mean, yes, I am a heterosexual female and I prefer my candle-lit dinners and subsequent “fade to black” time to be with the opposite sex (bonus points if he is intelligent, tall, has a British accent, and has played a dark-haired villain in a major motion picture). But, specifically, I like writing about men. Most of my short stories are from a male point of view. My novel has a male protagonist and twice as many male point of view characters than female.

Why?

Well, at the risk of insulting my male friends . . .  Men are easy. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

See, I’ve worked in female-dominated offices for many years and, like life, working with women is like a box of chocolates. Only half of them are filled with angry bees and the box is refilled and shaken every night. Women are a Whitman’s Sampler from the pit of hell. Yes, this is a generalization and a stereotype and as a woman I shouldn’t perpetuate such things, but Odin help me if it isn’t true. Bitches be crazy. And it’s not easy being in a woman’s head. I should know. We think a lot. About everything. All the damn time. It’s exhausting. Writing is hard enough as it is without having to also navigate through the rat king that can be a woman’s mind.

However, you know what you’re going to get with men. If a guy is an asshole one day, it’s a safe bet he’s going to be an asshole every day. Men are a bag of Hershey’s miniatures – there are only five options and they are all clearly marked. Again, this is the broadest of generalizations, but I’m comparing people to chocolate here, so obviously you shouldn’t take any of this too seriously. Men tend to think before they act then sort everything out later. This is great from a writer’s standpoint because you don’t have to delve too deeply into motivation. There’s more action, more doing, more moving the plot forward without stopping to think about consequences.

There is also a bigger reason why I prefer to write male characters. A reason that I didn’t fully realize until I finished writing a short story just last week. The story was about a girl who could fly, but only if no one was watching. Her parents had kept her under constant surveillance since she was a child to keep her grounded. For me, writing is always kinda like pulling yarn from a cat, but for this story the yarn was knotted and the cat had lockjaw. When I’d finished, I instantly hated it. I wanted to drag it into a sub-folder and never look at it again. And it was all because the protagonist was a girl. As a woman, I felt a sense of responsibility toward her. I was compelled to make her story real and relevant. I wanted her motivations to be genuine, her emotions justified. And I failed on every count because writing that is hard, too hard, and that’s not the kind of story I ultimately want to tell.

I want to write silly little stories about suicidal squirrels or quirky dog-loving robots. I want to make people think a little and laugh a lot and maybe go “Ew” a couple times. And I can do that best when I have a man leading the story. A man that I can jerk around and torture a little. A man I don’t feel needs to represent the very best of his gender. I can’t do this with a woman character. What does that say about me as a writer or as a female human? I’ll over-think that one later. Right now I gotta finish writing about a poor guy and his over-zealous robot vacuum.

performance anxiety

It can take me the better part of a month to polish a few thousand dull, lifeless words into a brilliant multi-faceted gem of staggering beauty. At which point, I’ll submit the story to my amazing writer’s group who will gasp in collective awe at my wondrous prose. Eyes welling with tears, they will fall at my feet, lamenting that the story I’d written has ended and begging me to bless them with more words to savor.

I will then snort myself awake, wipe the drool from my chin and blink my bloodshot eyes against the noonday sun streaming through my bedroom window.

Reality is a bitch.

So I stagger downstairs and make myself some breakfast (I don’t care what time you wake up, the first meal you eat is STILL breakfast!) then I crack my knuckles and open up my latest work in progress.

The first part of my narcissistic little dream is true: it can take me a month to write/rewrite/edit a short story. And it’s work. Hard work. Like tagging narwhals for science or re-enacting the first season of Sherlock in your living room with your cat, Benecat Cumpurrbatch, also for science (science is weird).

Once I’m done nurturing and growing my story, preening and pruning it to perfection, I have to send it out into the cold, cruel world. And just that one little action, clicking SEND on the email that will carry my story across cyberspace and time, is enough to fill my gut with snakes and make me want to crawl back into bed.  Because out there, my beautiful snowflake of a story is just mere slush clogging some over-caffeinated editor’s inbox.

Then comes the obsessive refreshing of my email over and over, during every waking moment and even in the middle of the night when I roll over and look at my phone for the time or to double check that I set my alarm for work because I’m obsessive about that now as well. Clicky, clicky, clicky on that little roundy arrow, like an old woman in orthopedic sandals feeding dollars into a slot machine while getting slowly hammered on complimentary Long Island Iced Teas. Only the old woman has better odds and I’m drinking a box of red wine straight from the spout. And after weeks of this routine I have a calloused clicky finger and my liver is sending me hate mail, but I finally, FINALLY, get a reply from the publication I submitted my story to. With trembling hand I open the email to read, “We appreciate your interest, but unfortunately we don’t think your story is a good fit for our blah blah blabbity blah . . . ” After the initial flattening weight of rejection eases up a bit, I take a long draw from my box of wine and send my story out to the next publication on my list.

It's madness

No wonder I self-medicate with red wine.

And as awful as that whole process is, it’s eleventy bazillion times worse when you’re trying to find a home for your Novel. Your Baby. Your One True Hope That All This Writing Nonsense Will Pay Off One Day. That’s where I am right now. Two weeks ago I sent my novel off to what’s basically my dream publisher.

My finger hurts. And I’m out of wine.

 

And I’m gonna try and find an excuse to insert gifs of Loki into all my future posts. It’s my blog and I do what I want!

name game

While I was plotting my five year plan to become a published author (which is now going on six years, but who’s counting), I realized I had an important choice to make. Besides picking out just the right turtleneck and pipe combo for the dust-jacket cover, I had to decide if I wanted to use my real name.

Now for some of you, this may seem like a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t I use my real name? “Amy Severson” is a perfectly serviceable name. It has all the parts a name should have without the distraction of any superfluous punctuation. People do tend to mispronounce the last name as Sev-er-son instead of Sea-ver-son, but that is a faux-pas I’ve been easily overlooking for almost twenty years.

Ultimately, I still chose to use a pseudonym.

And it’s not because I’m writing anything that I might be embarrassed to show my family like narwhal on polar bear erotica or Tea Party campaign speeches. I write primarily science fiction with a humorous lean (it’s really more like a bad limp, but the funny crosses the finish line eventually). But because I write science fiction, I felt that not using my first name could be an advantage.

Why?

Well, because I’m a girl. If I were writing romance or young adult or even literary fiction then having a girl name really wouldn’t matter and could possibly even be a plus. But science fiction is still a male-dominated genre. Just like gay male erotica is mostly written by straight women (yes, seriously, look it up). And it’s been observed that men tend to overlook female authors in favor of male ones. No, not ALL men, but let’s not open that can of worms, okay?

So I figured to level the playing field a bit and to give myself the best shot at being read by a wider group of people, I’d drop the “Amy” in favor of my first and middle initials. That left me with A.C. Severson, which is all fine and dandy until you say it out loud. Go ahead, try it. After about the third time it’s hard not to sound like you have some sort of speech impediment.

Lucky for me, like most married women, I have another last name to pick from.

That’s why all my future short stories, novels, poems scribbled on wine-stained napkins, will feature the author name of A.C. Adams. Pretty great name, huh? And it’s not even a “fake” name. It’s all really mine in some way or another. What does the “C” stand for? Not telling. I feel it’s important to keep some mystery in a relationship. There are a few people who read this blog who know, so you may be able to bribe them for the answer.

And that brings us to the name of this here website. I wanted it to tie in with my pseudonym in some manner, but I decided to use my first name with the middle initial. And once I said “Amy C.” what immediately followed in my brain was “Amy do” cause, you know, why should monkeys have all the fun.  The “Amy fall down” part was added because, well, I do. Fall down. A lot. It’s kinda my thing.

So there you go. A long drawn out explanation for something that probably no one even really cares about.  That’s also my thing.

Oh, and you probably noticed that my maiden name is Amy Adams. I might have considered that name to write under but ultimately didn’t want to cause any confusion between me and some bitch who had to go and become a famous actress with my goddamn name. For the record, I had the name first. Not that I’m bitter. I really try for that not to be my thing.

 

insecticide

I arrived home from work and ignored the cat as he loudly castigated me for having the gall to leave him alone yet again. Walking into the kitchen to wash out my travel mug, I looked out the window over the sink. Or at least I tried to look out the window. Blocking my view was a jittering, oily mass of black flies buzzing against the glass. A group of flies is called a “business” and these flies were all up in mine. I dropped my mug in the sink and backed away in horror, frantically trying to remember which of the Dark Gods I had angered this week.

Where could they have all come from? The apartment was fly-free that morning and now less than ten hours later it was host to a plague of the ugly bastards. And they were huge! Each one the size of my pinky nail and I have large hands (yes, it’s true what they say about gals with large hands. I have no idea what that is, but it’s true).

I pointed an accusing finger at the cat. “What good are you? Did you even try to kill any of those things?”

The cat gave me a “Not my problem, bitch” look and proceeded to lick the area where his testicles used to be.

This was a battle I would have to fight on my own.

Because I didn’t own a fly swatter or a flame-thrower and I feared using my shoe would break the glass, I armed myself with enough paper towels to give the Brawny lumberjack the uh-oh feeling. I approached the window expecting the flies to, well, fly, but they just did a skittering juke and jive across the glass. I don’t know if it was their bloated size, but their reaction time was slow for what I expected from a fly. Fortunately, this made them easy to kill. Unfortunately, this also upped the creepy-weird-gross-out factor to eleven.

The flies barely moved as I smashed them, sometimes two and three at a time, with the paper towels leaving greasy, brown-green smears on the glass. It’s like they were resigned to their fate and accepted the dry, white press of death with cold detachment. I was not similarly unaffected. I barely managed to suppress a violent case of dry-heaves as one by one I popped flies against the glass like some kind of Lovecraftian bubble wrap.

About thirty minutes later I had over sixty confirmed kills. I poured myself a quadruple red wine and sipped it as involuntary heebie-jeebie seizures wracked my body. Throughout the rest of the evening, I dispatched a few more flies that must have had a stronger will to live and had flown away from the carnage at the kitchen window. Before I went to bed, I checked each room of the apartment and finding them clear of flying vermin, I settled under the covers and prayed for a dreamless sleep.

The next morning the only signs of life were me and the cat, as it should be. I left for work relieved that my bug gut splattered ordeal was behind me.

Until I got home and found my kitchen window infested with buzzing black flies once again.

I screamed some barely intelligible obscenity and the cat darted for cover in another room. As I smashed flies with hand-fulls of paper towels, I scoured my brain for any possible explanation. None of the windows or doors had been left open, the trash was empty, and I hadn’t smelled anything that even remotely resembled death in the apartment since I’d moved in months ago. What was going on? Did I unknowingly anger an old gypsy woman? Was there a portal to hell hidden in the baseboard?

I stuck a straw down the neck of my bottle of wine and called my sister. “I’m living in a Stephen King novel,” I told her.

She listened to my tale of woe and asked the pertinent questions. “Are they arranging themselves so they form words? Like GET OUT or DIE?”

I took a long pull from the straw. “Not yet. I’m thinking about impaling some of the corpses on toothpicks, you know, as a warning to the others.”

“Good idea.”

“So far, there haven’t been any in my bedroom, so I think I’m safe during the night.” I saw an errant fly crawling along the living room wall and absently squashed it.

“Keep the door closed. And text me in the morning so I know you’re alive or haven’t been assimilated into their fly society.”

“Maybe we should have a code phrase. So you know it’s me and not the flies pretending to be me.”

I pictured two flies walking across my phone’s keyboard to type out, “THIZ IZZ AMY. NO WORRIEZZ. STILL HUMANZ. TOTES NOT A FLYZ.” Then I imagined them fighting with the auto-correct and the image made me laugh enough so I could go to sleep without feeling phantom fliez flies crawling across my skin.

In the morning, the apartment was fly-free, but I knew their little routine by now. Coming home from work, I took a deep breath and walked into the kitchen. The window above the sink was populated with only about a dozen flies, not the fifty or sixty I’d come to expect. For most people, a dozen flies would be cause for alarm, but for me it was practically a vacation. I killed them all swiftly and mercilessly then made myself a quesadilla.

Over the next few days, there were fewer and fewer flies until the glorious evening when I arrived home and nary a fly greeted me from my kitchen window. I’d already made myself a paper towel mitten purely out of habit, so I unwrapped my hand and folded the sections neatly so I could use them one at a time like a normal person. Not being forced to begin my evening with mass murder was a relief, however something felt . . . off.  It’s not that I missed killing swarms of flies (I’m only blood thirsty in my fiction), but it had become familiar. The evil you know, and all that noise. Now that this trial was over, I couldn’t help but wonder what new eldritch horror awaited me with drool-slicked fangs just beyond the periphery of my current reality.

If it’s spiders, I’m moving.

the long and short of it

So I wrote a novel, as you do. It’s a silly little tale about aliens from another dimension using humans to keep other aliens from a different dimension from killing them. I call it “Monsters All The Way Down” and for almost a year I’ve been trying to find an agent or publisher who loves it as much as I do. Or at least loves it enough to pay me for it. Affection. Cold hard cash. To-may-to. To-mah-to.

While trying to find a home for my novel, I’ve been writing short stories. I also took a few of my robot and zombie stories that I originally posted on my old blog, Fix It Or Deal, may she rest in peace (*crosses self* wait, is it left to right or right to left? what am I doing, I’m not even Catholic), and added to them and generally made them more presentable. I’ve been shopping these short stories around to various places. But trying to sell a short story is a daunting, pain-in-the-ass process. There are thousands of print and web-based publications out there and sifting through them, even with the help of websites like duotrope.com, can take dozens of eye-crossing hours. Then, once you find one that seems like a good fit, you submit your story and have to wait anywhere between four weeks and the heat death of the universe for a reply. And that reply is invariably “Thanks, but no thanks,” so you have to start the process all over again. All this for the chance to get paid a fraction of minimum wage once you calculate the time spent writing/editing/revising the story and searching for a market.

A carousel of insanity, right? Right.

There is another option: self-publishing. Depending on who you are, that’s either a nasty curse you spit out of your mouth like spoiled milk or the ultimate answer to the ultimate question. Like most things, I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. Self-publishing isn’t the end-all be-all, but it is a good way to at least get your shit Out There in front of people. Whether they buy it or not, is a crap-shoot, but so is submitting to random e-zines. It’s a gamble I’m willing to take.

I’m hoping to have a select group of short stories all polished up and ready to go by the end of summer when I’ll self-pub them through Amazon. This little anthology will be cheap, probably only about $2.99, but I’d only have to sell a dozen to make more money than I would selling one story individually. I’m not really doing it for the money, however. I know I’m not going to be able to quit my day job any time soon. I’ll most likely end up giving away more copies than I sell. But it will be good experience. If I have success self-publishing a short story collection, maybe I’ll do the same with my novel. Who knows? The most important thing is just to get my words in front of people’s eyeballs. That’s why I write – to be read. If I make some extra wine money doing it then that’s just sprinkles on the cupcake.

All that said . . . I did just find out yesterday that a zombie story I wrote has been accepted for inclusion in an anthology due to come out this fall. Sometimes the carousel is a nice ride.