Archive for the ‘My Stories’ Category

Dream Become Reality

January 16, 2019

Ogapoge Signs and DreamForge

This time last year I received a letter from a longtime friend that – although I didn’t know it at the time – was the beginning my signing on to be part of a new, ambitious, and very exciting project.  That project is DreamForge Magazine: Tales of Hope in the Universe.  This February 14th – yes, Valentine’s Day – that dream is going to become reality.

Did this take me away from the novels you want me to be writing?  No.  Actually, any of you who are looking forward to the new Firekeeper novels should give DreamForge a vote of thanks.  From May of 2018 on, Jim and I met with personal challenge after personal challenge.  I really think these would have dragged me down if I hadn’t had Scot’s enthusiasm for impossible dreams as an example.

What’s exciting about DreamForge is that it’s a truly visionary magazine.  It’s about hope and vision.  Let me quote Scot from the essay he wrote for the rare Issue 0: “Why a magazine?  The simple answer is this: in fiction and the world in general, we’ve seen the novelty of dark and grim perspectives grow to a commonplace expectation.  Everyone, it seems, assumes that the world has already gone to hades in a handbasket and a good apocalypse might be what’s needed to freshen it up.  We disagree.”

And Scot really does disagree.  I might have been the first person to tell him he was insane, but I’m certainly not the only one.  But he kept pushing, and in July when we met up at Congregate in North Carolina, Scot handed me and Jim copies of Issue 0.  I melted.  The paper felt like ultrasuede.  The colors were lush.  The art – by Scot’s wife who is another person who has caught Scot’s insanity – was rich and beautiful.  Even better, this artistic approach wasn’t reserved for the cover.  This whole magazine was a jaw-dropping reminder of why I’d fallen in love with Science Fiction and Fantasy.

David Weber had come to Congregate so we could visit.  I introduced him to Scot, who, of course, showed him Issue 0.  We didn’t even have a chance to ask Weber if he would maybe someday be interested in contributing.  He read the banner, looked at Scot’s introduction and said very, very seriously: “When you’re ready to take stories, contact me.  This is the sort of thing we need – not more dystopia.”

Worried that DreamForge will be cotton candy, feel-good, empty of content?  Well, those of you who know my work may have read my short story “Born From Memory.”  I wrote that originally for a contest Scot ran, and reprinted it in my short story collection, Curiosities.  It’s not cotton candy.

Scot talks about DreamForge with even more enthusiasm than I do.  I want to encourage you to check out the DreamForge website.  Even better, check out their new Kickstarter.  Some of the limited offerings are mind-bogglingly great.  Scot wants to create not just a magazine, but a community for those of us who believe in dreaming big – and there is room even for those of you who don’t think you can spare the money for a subscription.  That’s the sort of person Scot is.

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Wolf’s Search (and other projects) Update

January 9, 2019

Dandy Climbs Mount Manuscript

In case you’re wondering, the stack of paper you see in today’s illustration is indeed related to the new Firekeeper project.  Please keep reading…  There’s a lot more to tell.

When I started writing the book I called Wolf’s Search, I honestly thought I could write a Firekeeper novel that would be manageable as a self-published work.  I still think so, but there have been some changes to my original plan.

Change number one should make most of you who like Firekeeper and her world happy.  The original novel was going to be about 100,000 words – or roughly half the length of one of the longer novels in the series.  Now it’s going to be something in the region of 200,000 words, but published as two separate novels.

Why?  Several reasons, most of which have to do with self-publishing.  As I learned when I produced the e-book reprints of the first six Firekeeper novels, proofing a very long manuscript takes a considerable amount of time.  Even a small handful of changes mean the entire book needs to be reviewed from start to finish because, as anyone who has ever done computer formatting can tell you, glitches repaired may reveal glitches yet unseen.  Trust me on this.

Another reason has to do with the price point on a physical copy of the book.  As I discovered when I produced the print-on-demand versions of Changer and Changer’s Daughter (formerly known as Legends Walking) through CreateSpace, the longer the book, the higher the price per copy.  There is a point where – and Changer and Changer’s Daughter come pretty close to this point – I can’t afford to do a print-on-demand and make back my investment.

When I realized that the story that had started out to be 100,000 words wanted to be a typical Firekeeper novel – that is roughly twice that length — I considered simply putting out a single, longer book.  However, for the reasons mentioned above, I was reluctant.  Moreover, when I reviewed the first six Firekeeper novels, I realized that if they were published today (or forty years ago), each would have been published as two novels.  However, since they came out in the heyday of the Big Fat Fantasy Novel, they came out as one.

As I was anguishing over whether to produce two books or one, something weird happened.

 As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m an anime fan.  When the first new episodes of a story I am irrationally fond of came out, I pounced.  I didn’t care that there were only twelve episodes.  (A typical season of this series is twenty-four.)  I wanted more of the story.  I didn’t want to wait until all twenty-four were done.

It occurred to me that maybe Firekeeper’s fans felt the same way about a Firekeeper novel.  Maybe they would be happy to get a shorter Wolf’s Search sooner, and a bit later Wolf’s…   Well, I haven’t settled on the title, but I’m thinking about calling it Wolf’s Soul.

So that’s what I’ve decided to do.  Step number one will be writing the entire 200,000 word manuscript.  What you see above is 145,000 words, so I still have a lot more writing to do.  Right now, I’m reviewing what I have written before going into the final writing splurge.

When the entire rough draft is done, then I will polish only the part that will be Wolf’s Search.  While that is in review and production, I will start polishing Wolf’s…  as yet untitled.   I hope you’ll enjoy reading Wolf’s Search and speculating on what is to come, just as I’ve enjoyed watching the first twelve episodes of my anime, and speculating (I’m still waiting and hoping that there will be more) about what is to come.

For those of you who have read this far and are wondering about other projects.  Yes.  As far as I know, I will be writing a new Star Kingdom novel with David Weber.  That is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about making sure that the new Firekeeper novels are written at least in rough draft.  I’m capable of writing prose for one project and editing another, but I find it difficult to write two new projects at the same time.

And, yes, there are other works I want to do.  So very many…  I’ll tell you about them as they come closer to reality.

A Writer’s Predicament

December 19, 2018

Cuddle Up With a Good Story

Last week my author’s copy of Sword and Sorceress 33 arrived, brightening my day and tempting me to curl up and read.  My story in the collection is titled “A Familiar’s Predicament.”  If one of the characters in the story looks just a little like the dragon in the picture, you can just say I was writing about what I know.

I’ve owned that particular soft-sculpture piece since 1989.   I acquired it at the very first SF con I attended:  Lunacon in Tarrytown, New York.  I went there to meet a writer with whom I’d exchanged several letters: Roger Zelazny.    Memorable times.  I certainly didn’t know when I was wandering the Dealer’s Room, trying to decide what to get as a souvenir, that I was at a major turning point in my life.  If I’d been told that I was, I would have been completely wrong about what that turning point was.  You see, I had my first big job interview the following week…

Not knowing when a turning point is coming is at the heart of “A Familiar’s Predicament,”  along with a cast of odd and surprising people.  I look forward to writing more about all of them in the future.  I hope you’ll take the time to meet them, as well as enjoying other stories in the collection.

To this point, I haven’t given into the temptation to curl up and read other stories in Sword and Sorceress 33, mostly because when I have spare time from domestic duties, helping Jim with his PT, and getting ready for the holidays, I’ve been writing.

Yes.  Once again, I’m deeply immersed in the new Firekeeper project.  I’ve had a few queries as to why I’m not done yet.  The simplest answer is that, unsurprisingly, the story turned out to be more complex than I thought it would, so it’s longer.  I’ll have more to say about the book once I have a complete draft done, but I don’t like talking about works in progress in too much detail.  Something superstitious in me is afraid I’ll jinx them!

Now I’m off to do a few holiday prep things, so I can free up my thoughts enough that I can go run with Firekeeper and Blind Seer.

Reclaiming Writer Jane

December 5, 2018

Mayhem and Chaos: Emblems of the Past Month

This week I made an effort to reclaim some of my identity as a writer.  It wasn’t easy and I deliberately did not keep track of my word count because I knew it would be a struggle to get anything written.  But I did write.  Even better, I finished the scene in the new Firekeeper novel that I’d been working on when everything was interrupted by Jim’s knee replacement surgery.  This week I hope to move beyond that scene and get into the next plot arc.

A lot of elements contributed to my writer brain starting talking to me again.  One was Jim becoming increasingly mobile.  Right after Thanksgiving, he was told he could start using a cane.  Almost immediately after that, he started forgetting to use his cane.  This awareness on both our parts as to how much more confident he felt about his ability to walk really freed me from keeping a metaphorical ear cocked in case he needed me to get something, remind him of something else, or any of those myriad jobs that go into being a caregiver.

Don’t get me wrong.  Jim’s not “healed.”  Yesterday marked the end of Week Five since the surgery.  We’ve been told to expect at least three months before he is anything close to “recovered.”  Even then he’ll have further work to build his strength and endurance.    So we’ve not even reached the half-way point.  Jim’s not driving nor doing any chores that involve crouching, lifting, walking on uneven surfaces, carrying heavy objects, or…  Well, you get the picture.  But life is no longer a series of problems to be solved.  We’re accustomed to our new routine.

I guess I must love to tell stories because as soon as my imagination was freed up even a little, I found myself musing about aspects of the Firekeeper novel I’d been working on before Jim’s surgery.

Here’s a trick that might be useful for those of you who write longer works like novels.  If you know you’re going to be interrupted for whatever reason – and remember to include “good” interruptions like trips, holidays, and the like – then stop in the middle of a scene where you have a good idea what comes next.  Doing this makes it a lot easier to start again.

If you write yourself to a stopping point, you may find it a lot harder to get your mind back into the story.  Even though I don’t outline or plan out in advance, still I usually have a sense of the overall arc a book is going to take.

(My subconscious is calling me a liar, reminding me of a plot twist that just hit me this weekend.)

This sense of certainty increases the closer I get to a specific scene, so not finishing that scene gives me a place slide back into the story again.  It also can help to go back and polish about a page prior to that scene, just to get back into the flow.  Even with this preparation, starting up again was not perfectly smooth.  There were fits and starts, but eventually I came to the end of the scene in question.

Various events led me to not writing over the weekend.  However, because I’d primed the pump, I found myself thinking about where I’d take the story next.  By Monday, I was eager to get writing again.

Last week I also had a phone meeting with David Weber regarding the next Stephanie Harrington project.  This was followed by a bunch of e-mails as we refined points.  Rather than this new project dampening my enthusiasm for Firekeeper, I found that brainstorming with Weber encouraged me to brainstorm with myself.  I’m sure part of the reason I didn’t feel added pressure is that we won’t be starting the new Stephanie book until well into 2019, since we both have other things to finish.

Then, just because I’m insane, I’ve started a complicated new plotline for the RPG I’ve been running for almost seven years now.  Yep!  It seems as if my writer brain is trying to make up for having been on “hold” for the last month.

So, I’m feeling pretty cheerful, looking forward to writing more, and spending time with Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and the rest.  Of course, there’s Christmas looming, and my mom’s coming to visit, but as with Jim’s surgery, I’ll plan for the interruption.

Now, off to write fiction!

My Current Story (Life AND Fiction)

November 14, 2018

Thinking Wolf Thoughts

Yesterday, Jim had the staples removed from his knee.  Today the work begins on having the tub in the front bathroom converted into a walk-in shower.  In case you were wondering, life here has not settled down.  And that means I’m not doing much in the way of writing.

Since Jim’s knee replacement was to his right knee, he won’t be driving for at least another month.  This means that, for the next month, I’ll be not only running routine errands, but also taking him to his various out-patient appointments.  Definitely a change from my preferred hermit lifestyle.

Still, as the unpredictable elements diminish one by one, I find that my “writer brain” is slowly coming back into play.  A long time ago, I learned that it isn’t being busy that gets in the way of my writing, it’s when my imagination is occupied solving other problems.  As someone who solidly shoulders personal responsibility, I tend to address each problem as if it’s a logic tree: If this, then that.  If not that, then this.  And so on, often out to several branches.

That’s sort of how I write, too.  Not logic trees, but immersing myself in my characters and living the story with them – including weighing various choices as they would.  So, right now, I guess you could say that the story I’m writing is that of how Jim and I coped with having his right knee replaced.  As that story moves closer to being completed, I have more room in my imagination for other stories.

That includes the new Firekeeper novel.  A few weeks back, I left Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and some folks you don’t know newly arrived in the ruins of the original university in Azure Towers.  Why?

Well, that’s a bit too complicated to go into here.  But maybe, just maybe, I have time to go write a few more sentences about what they encounter before Jim’s physical therapist arrives.  Shall we see?

Not Teasing

October 10, 2018

Growing Obsession

Somehow I doubt that if you’re reading this, you want to know how much rain we had on Sunday (about two tenths of an inch) or how many tomatoes we picked yesterday (about a quart of cherry tomatoes and another quart or so of romas), or how the pomegranates are doing (very well, we’re harvesting two or three every other day).

These things are very important to me.  Weather and the garden are two of the foundations of my life in autumn.  Another is pet care.  Another is…  Well, the point is, what I figure you check these Wanderings out for mostly is news about my writing.

This impression is confirmed by how “hits” go up markedly when I talk about some aspect of my work.

I’ve been writing a lot but, since I’m not one of those writers who wants to share every detail along the way, I’m caught in a bind when it comes time to write a Wandering.

Some people have commented that I’m a “tease,” when I comment that I’m busy writing or that I just finished an exciting scene, but don’t share anything about the content.  The reality is, I’m not teasing.  A tease is trying to get a rise out of those teased.  I’m not.  I’m just reporting the facts.

Why don’t I like to talk about a work in progress?  Because the story is evolving as I write.  Unlike, say, my good buddy, David Weber, who had a pretty firm idea where the Honor Harrington story arc would end way back when he started the series over twenty years ago, I really don’t know where Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and the rest are heading.  I’m on the adventure with them, a ghost chronicler hovering along behind, transcribing like crazy.

But the process isn’t that linear.  Sometimes while I’m writing a scene, I realize something about a character that gives him or her a lot more dimension.  When I’m polishing my rough draft, I’ll slide in some of this information.  This is one reason I don’t workshop works-in-progress, and rarely do readings from unfinished works.  Until the exploration is complete, I myself don’t know what’s going to happen.  What happens later may change the details I preserve.

When I stopped writing last Friday evening, I had no firm idea what Firekeeper, Blind Seer and the rest would encounter next.  On Monday morning when I sat down to answer the weekend’s accumulated e-mail,  I suddenly realized what Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and their companions were going to see when they moved along a particular passageway.

Sound crazy?  I guess it would to some people, but I bet it doesn’t to everyone.  The creative process is as varied as are those who create.  Mine has worked for me for a good number of books now, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

Ask me about the teppary beans!  I can tell you all about those.  Maybe next week?

Emotional Continuity

September 19, 2018

Elephants Remember

News Flash! Editor Deborah J. Ross interviewed me about writing, my story in the forthcoming issue of Sword and Sorceress and other things.

In it, I touch on how negative influences have had a strong impact on my writing.  Here’s an example.

Last week, I took a week off writing to immerse myself in various aspects of the Firekeeper universe before moving into the next part of the story.  One of the complications about writing the seventh novel in a series is how easily it is to gloss over small details.  Add to this that I haven’t written a Firekeeper novel in over a decade and the complexity grows.

By coincidence, my pleasure reading included a series I am enjoying very much – especially for the evolving relationships of the central suite of characters.  I’m not going to go into details, but something I read made me think about an often neglected element of continuity – emotional continuity.

When something traumatic happens to a character, something that is key to a great deal of the action of that particular book, and then in the next book, something similar (but not identical) happens, I expect the characters to comment, to remember.  When they don’t, my sense that the characters are “real” suffers.

I’m not saying that the author must provide  a full recap of past events, not at all.  However, real people remember what happened to them and those memories influence how they act in the future.  Indeed, one could argue that our core self consists of an accumulated suite of experiences.  Whenever something new happens, we seek to understand it by relating it to what we have experienced before.  When something recurs, the most common reaction is “Here we go again!”   Even new experiences are often understood by how they relate to past ones: “I’ve had milk chocolate with fruit and nuts, but never with chile pepper flakes!”

The importance of emotional or experiencial continuity is one reason that senility is such a horrible thing,  not only for the sufferers, but for those who love them.  The person you once knew is vanishing, in part because he or she cannot make those little connections to past events that are the heart of identity.   PTSD is another side of emotional continuity.  In this case, rather than remembering too little, the person is subjected to remembering too much – even to having traumatic experiences “flashback,” contaminating what in reality is a pristine or unconnected situation.

When I’m writing stories featuring continuing characters, what’s most important to me is to establish the sense that the characters have emotional continuity.  To me that’s more important than dates or order of events.  After all, humans do forget such details.  We’ve all had those discussions as to whether it was two or three summers ago that Uncle Joe got that horrible sunburn.  The sequence of events is less important than what those events did to us, and how our future actions are influenced by them.

Another element that goes into writing believable emotional continuity is making sure everyone doesn’t react the same way.  Let’s go back to Uncle Joe’s sunburn.  Uncle Joe is going to remember the pain, and maybe how dumb he felt for forgetting to renew his sunblock or for falling asleep out on the beach.  Aunt Reba is going to remember not only her concern for Uncle Joe, but the fact that their long-planned anniversary outing ended up cancelled.  Cousin Buck is going to remember how annoyed he was because Dad getting sick meant he had to call off the date he had with the pretty lifeguard.  And so on…

When I read a book in a series where the characters seem to remember events perfectly well, but not react to current events in light of past experiences (especially when those experiences were traumatic), my sense that they are real begins to ebb.  When they start reacting in light of events from decades before, but seem to forget what traumatized them two years ago, then I feel the fingers of a plot-driven author stirring the pot, rather than feeling the characters actually exist.

Does this ruin the read for me?  Not necessarily, but it definitely makes me acutely aware of how I don’t want to do that to my characters – or to my readers.  In thinking about what bothers me as a reader, I strive to become a stronger writer.

Now…  Off to write!

Absurd, Hopefully Not Impossible

September 12, 2018

The Front Page of My Bullet Journal

Last week, after I announced the publication of a new e-book edition of Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls, a fan e-mailed me and politely asked for an update on the forthcoming Firekeeper novel.  Her e-mail expressed concern that the fact that I was doing other projects meant that I’d lost interest in or was stuck on the Firekeeper novel.

I’m here to reassure you that this is not the case.  It’s actually the opposite.  Simply put, the project has grown beyond my earlier expectations.

Initially, my intention was to write a short Firekeeper novel.  Well, I both am and am not doing that.  The story turned out to be a lot more complicated than I anticipated.  Is anyone other than me surprised about this?  So definitely more Firekeeper is on the way.  Stay tuned for details as I have them.

In the meantime, please try some of my other works.  My newest is the somewhat surreal Fantasy, Asphodel.  I’ve also produced new e-book editions of all six of the original Firekeeper novels, as well as my older novels When the Gods Are Silent, Smoke and Mirrors, Changer, and Changer’s Daughter.  Some of these are also available in print via my website bookstore.

Prefer short fiction?  My collection Curiosities is available in both print and e-book.  Looking for advice on writing?  Try my Wanderings on Writing.

As you can see, “Jane Lindskold” is more than a one-flavor author.  I hope that no matter what your favorite of my flavors is, you’ll try another.  You might be surprised by how much you like it.

So, although I’m laughing at the absurdity that my “simple” project has turned out to be a lot more complex, I’m also here to reassure you that it’s not impossible – just that the timetable has changed a smidge.

PS — The Absurd Tiger is by Rhari, whose Sandshadow portrait I featured a couple FF ago.

 

Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls: New E-book Now Available!

September 5, 2018

New Cover: Art By Patrick Arrasmith

If you’re on my mailing list, you may have already heard about this, but never fear: This Wednesday Wanderings contains fresh material!

I’ve just completed a fresh e-book edition of my first published novel, Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls.  The cover art is by Patrick Arrasmith.  I loved his stark black and white cover for the Tor/Orb edition, but I must admit, I love this color version even more.

The new edition includes the essay, “Pride of Place.”  This essay includes details never before revealed about the writing of Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls.

The new ebook is available for purchase as a mobi file for Kindle.  You can also get it as an epub file at Nook, Kobo, i-Tunes, and Google Play.  Still prefer print books?  I have copies of the Tor trade paperback available for sale at my website bookstore.  If you order a trade paperback and want to read the new essay, let me know and I’ll print you a copy and send it with the novel at no additional cost.

Here’s the cover blurb:

Sarah talks to her rubber dragon.  She also talks to walls, paintings, and other inanimate objects.  She has incredible difficulty talking to humans.  That makes her crazy, right?

What most people don’t bother to discover is that when Sarah talks to inanimate objects, they answer.

Tossed out onto the streets from the mental institution where she has lived most of her adult life, Sarah is adopted by Abalone, a hacker whose home is the weird and wild industrial Jungle ruled over by Head Wolf.  But Sarah’s idyll with her new Pack can’t last.  Someone is searching for her – and not even the Pack can protect her from those who know her secret and plan to use her gift for their own dark ends.

Of all my novels, Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls seems to appeal to the largest crossover audience drawn from my readers – no matter whether you first encountered my work through the Firekeeper Saga or through the athanor books or perhaps through my collaborations with Roger Zelazny or David Weber.

Here are snippets from a couple of reviews from when the book was first released over twenty years ago:

“…a quest which grows increasingly dark, sophisticated, and intellectually challenging even as it reveals deep roots in the mysteries of family and identity.  …Even hardbitten SF fans with an allergy to dragons and magics of all sorts should set doubt aside long enough to give this excellent book a try.  It’s a strikingly original work from a worthy new heir to Mary Shelley.”  Locus

“Lindskold has invented a remarkably original science-fiction idea – a literal version of the philosophy of animism… a well told novel possessing depth of characterization, textured language, a captivating setting and themes vital to contemporary society.”  Telluride Times-Journal

Tantalized?  Nostalgic?   I hope that whether Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls is already an old favorite or is a book you have yet to discover, you’ll think about giving it a read or, at the very least, sharing the news

Thanks!

Toby the Frog

August 29, 2018

I Read Aloud While Matt and Bob Listen

For those of you who didn’t get enough of me talking this weekend at Bubonicon, this Saturday, September 1, I will be giving a presentation for Southwest Writers.  My topic is “Work Habits for Successful Writers.”  It will be followed by a Q&A.  Bring your questions, the more difficult the better!

Some of my books, including my non-fiction Wanderings on Writing (which talks about writing the art, craft, and lifestyle) will be available for purchase.  I will also have copies of Asphodel, which sold out early in Bubonicon’s Dealer’s Room.

My talk is open to the public, and you can get details as to location here.  A small note: The meeting starts at 10:00 a.m., but I will not go on until sometime closer to 11:00.  There is a business meeting before.  You might enjoy attending the meeting as a window into an active writer’s group whose offerings include, among other things, lectures and conferences.

As I mentioned above, this past weekend I attended Bubonicon.  For the second year in a row, Bob Vardeman, Matt Reiten, and I offered ourselves as victims – oops, I meant “participating authors” – in the Snack Writes writing exercises panel, hosted by Josh Gentry.

How it works is like this.  Josh provides a short prompt, then we have five minutes to write what we can in that time.  Audience members are encouraged to do the same.  Then, after time is called, the panelists are required to read what they have managed to write in that time.  (That’s why we’re the victims.  We don’t get to bow out.)  Then audience members are given the choice to read what they have come up with.  Usually, several bravely take the option.

What amazes me about this exercise is how different the responses are.  Let me give one example.  For this one, Josh asked the audience to come up with a genre, a character, a setting, a prop, and a line that had to be used in the course of the story.

The audience gave us the following: medical mystery, Toby the Frog, library, candlestick, and “What the…”

When I started writing, my thought was that surely everyone’s pieces would be very similar.  Weren’t the choices obvious?  Well, about the only thing that recurred was that the library was dark, thereby requiring the use of a candle.  Otherwise, the little pieces were wildly different.

I’ve met a lot of would-be writers over the years who defeat themselves before they get started because they fear they have nothing unique to offer.  A group exercise like this one is very encouraging, since it shows just how different people’s life experiences shape how they will approach the same creative stimulus.

Here’s what I wrote:

“What the…”  Joe’s voice trailed off in barely concealed shock and disbelief.

The library was dark except for the light from a single candlestick that illuminated the body of Asby, the young and overly-eager medical student.  Toby the Frog stood over her, a long needle in one webbed foot, a scalpel in the other.  His wide mouth hung open and he was laughing maniacally.

“Toby!  What have you done?”

“Huh!  See how she likes being pithed!  Wait until I slash her open and examine each of her organs, commenting snidely on her dietary habits and the health of her liver.”  [Time called]

For me, the combination of medical mystery and Toby the Frog came together with a traumatic moment from high school biology.  Even as I was writing my piece, I’m thinking: “Everyone is going to do pithing a frog or dissection.  I mean, it’s the obvious link between ‘medical’ and a ‘frog.’”  Guess what.  No one else even came close.

So, just remember.  You’re a unique voice.  That’s becoming harder to value in this day and age when it’s considered smart to pitch your work by comparing it to someone else’s work.  If that’s what you want, fine.  But feel free to feel to present yourself as original, too.  After all, you are!