Four Green Squares

the tiny little blog no-one will ever read

Believe it or not October 26, 2017

Filed under: the way it is,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 5:39 pm

They are not actually as much help as they think they are…

And in other news, my story “Lost Memories of Air” won the Silver Pen Association’s annual award! Maybe they are inspiration after all?


And now for something (gasp!) non-writing-related February 28, 2016

Filed under: the way it is,Unfathomable Brits — FourGreenSquares @ 8:32 pm

So I’ve done that thing, that British thing where you set off into something less than a drizzle or even mist, more of sodden air that doesn’t realise that there’s gravity for a reason, sure, go ahead, defy it, don’t fall to the ground but condense on my glasses so I can’t see, but it’s not actually raining, you see, so you keep your umbrella in your bag, nah, no need for it.

Then it starts to drizzle, but it’s not that bad, only the odd spot or two of rain, so you duck your head and keep going. Pull up your hood time, that’s all.

Okay, now it’s getting worse, we’re talking actual drops now, and you debate digging out the brolly, but you’re already damp and about half-way to wherever you’re walking, so do you really want to have to deal with a wet brolly for the rest of the day? Something that gets everything else in your bag soggy when you stow it away, and in any case, you inevitably forget to take out to dry when you get home so it moulders slowly for weeks as an added bonus. To say nothing of the fact that it’s gone a bit gusty so it would probably be blown inside out or right from your hands, and you’d end up chasing it down the road, like you do after a toddler who doesn’t know how to look both ways. Hell no, who wants to deal with that?

So you tug your hood down lower and soldier on, and then the next thing you know, you’re soaking wet, trudging through a driving rain, literally soaked, clothes like you wore them right from the washer, hair plastered against your head, socks drenched from puddles over the top of your shoes, with your umbrella still dry and safe in your bag because you’re wet through already and almost there so it *really* doesn’t make sense to dig it out now.

And then when you get wherever you were going, and people take in your bedraggled appearance, and someone inevitably remarks, “forgot your brolly?” and you shake your head and say, “didn’t feel like getting it wet,” this earns not looks of scorn but nods of total agreement.


The good, the better, and the ugly May 10, 2014

Filed under: clarion,the way it is,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 6:23 pm

May, May, May. What are you trying to do to me?


First, I suppose I should share the good news: My week 3 Clarion story “Stranger has Disconnected” will be in the first issue of Wicked Words Quarterly out in June. It’s about a customer service chatbot attaining sentience and contains the epic line “Eggs are made of chickens and darkness”. You know you want to read it.


I’ve also got another story passed up from slush to editorial board (informed by email), and another that (fingers crossed, going by the time frame, though I’ve not been told explicitly) I think is in the same boat. Fingers crossed.


Except to type. Or write. Yes, you can uncross your fingers for that.


Congrats are also in order to Clarion classmates Sam J. Miller for his Shirley Jackson Award nom. (Cross those fingers again—way to go, Sam!) 2012 is on a roll.


All of which makes me wish I didn’t have a day job so I could spend all my time writing.


Even when that writing is, in fact, editing. I love editing other people’s stories (my day job is an editor and copyeditor, after all) but my own…we hates it, we do.


At least when I edit other people’s manuscripts, I can make all the suggestions then…not actually have to tear up the text, muck up dialogue that interleaves perfectly, hack apart descriptions that evoke the right mood, disrupt pacing that hits all the right emotional notes yet ends at just the perfect point…Argh. Now I have to do all that again?


(Of course, revisions are also when I realise I actually failed to do any of those things the first time, so at least I get another chance. So maybe edits are a Good Thing Really.)


Nope. Still hate ’em.


I really like this novel. I wrote the first draft in a few weeks, and amazingly for me, it came out essentially structurally sound. I quickly realised, however, that I’d set it entirely in the wrong place and too close to present day. I also had the wrong job for one main character. Once I got those sorted, I dashed out another first draft, also in a few weeks.


Then, despite my gut instinct—because years of experience had drummed into me that nothing I write is ever structurally sound the first time around—I proceeded to fiddle endlessly in outline until I completely messed up the story. A friend pulled me back from the brink and the story, with a few minor tweaks, was restored to its second-first-draft form.


But there are still enough changes that I have to edit rather than simply polish. And actually edit, not just write new scenes from scratch, which tends to be easier for me most of the time.


Grr. Edits. Hiss. Did I mention I hate them?


Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttttttttteeeeeeeeeeeeee them.


Just in case there was any confusion.


I’m at least trying something new. Rather than leave typing them up to the end (because I also saddle myself with the ridiculous need to write everything longhand first), I’m going to type and second-round revise as I go. Maybe not leaving myself with all the hated parts at the end will help? Maybe?


If only I had time. I can write a first draft anywhere: bus, café, hurricane… The story is in my head, and I just need pen and paper to let it fall out. But editing…I have to cram the story back into my head to work on it, and that takes more time and concentration. And silence.


And May, merry month of May, what are you doing to me?


Grand opening of the new Writers’ Studio premises (yay!), dance recitals, many, many  family birthdays, board meetings, and the tail end of dissertation season. Plus regular work…


In the grand tug of war between sleep and writing, the latter wins. Until the former takes revenge in the form of gibberish.


Have I reached that point yet?


Can’t you tell?


Gratuitous Cat Pictures July 13, 2013

Filed under: the way it is — FourGreenSquares @ 4:41 pm

Because it’s caturday…

If he’s not sleeping like this:


Then he’s sleeping like this:



Letter to fragments long forgotten June 29, 2013

Filed under: the way it is,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 12:38 pm

Dear old story fragments,

We must stop meeting like this, with you as snippets I stumble across as I’m hunting something else. Did I deliberately abandon you there, tucked between pages of half-read books as deliberately as a wailing-wall prayer, or could it not be helped, as I incised you, Voynich vines of marginalia right on the page, flagging something that intrigued so many moons ago.

Meeting up again is like encountering the twin that died in the womb. You are not who I once was–you reveal a self I do not ever remember being.

What was I thinking? How do I recreate the synaptic flow behind, “The river itself was asking.”
Or, in a fast scrawl more like carving C-R-O- on a tree than starting a story: “Tuesday. The gods came back on a Tuesday.”

Or the far more developed “We took off our watches and threw them in the abyss. It didn’t stop time, c’mon, we weren’t crazy. But we did it anyway, Neville, Kate and I, slipping off our watches and pitching then down to darkness. Not looking at each other as we did. Not needing to.”

I have no recollection of writing you but the way the shaky handwriting slopes precipitously upwards, ignoring the lines, means I wrote you late past midnight, without turning on the light. So much for pen and paper on the bedside; I need Dragon Dictation for Dreams.

Nah, I wouldn’t buy it. Because then I wouldn’t have you, dear Fragments, pen-pals from my past. And maybe, perhaps, signposts to a future lying in some other notebook. I’ll find you some day—after the present has been forgotten with the same surety that allows us to forge into the future in the first place.


The horse was finally thirsty June 2, 2013

Filed under: the way it is,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 7:02 pm

In my ongoing quest to master structure, my pootles around teh interwebs today took me to Lester Dent’s master plot formula. I’ve been accruing a mystery idea in my head so decided to run the idea through the Dent formula to see what turned up. I duly printed out, downloaded and prepared to save–only to discover the exact same file already on the computer.

Dated early 2012.

Of all the wandering around when a serviceable map was right frelling there…Fricklenerf, as my Sims would say.

Anyway, it’s certainly worth a peruse if you’re looking for a good skeleton of an action plot.


Omg, omg, omg April 10, 2013

Filed under: the way it is,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 5:34 pm

Omg, omg, omg…

Uh, yes I have just edited two chapters, copy edited an optics ms and written a scene, to the point I have words leaking from my ears.

Shakes head vigorously, splattering walls with excess verbiage

And precisely because I spend so much time using Word (as well as words) that I can say without hesitation:

Omg omg omg

This…changes…so much…

Did you know, perchance, that if you press shift+f3 in Word, it cycles selected text through ALL CAPS, Initial Cap, and lowercase?

Sadly, a not insignif. part of an academic copy editor’s job involves swapping headers and titles into stylesheet-compliant formats. I’ll no longer have to retype ‘Introduction’, ‘Conclusion,’ or ‘References’ approx 1000 times a day. Give or take just a few.

I feel like Homer Simpson when he realised that the pecking bird only needed to hit ‘Y’ instead of Y-E-S: “Marge, I’ve just tripled my productivity!”

I’m not quite sure what I will do with this newfound bounty of free time. In keeping with Homer, though, I can say one thing: it definitely won’t be housework!


You know you’re a writer when… March 17, 2013

Filed under: the way it is,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 10:40 am


•you have a head full of cold

•you washed a tissue in with a load of darks

•the sole of your child’s school shoe has split and you won’t get to the shop before Monday morning

•you’ve head-butted your way through a draft of a story that’s been nagging you for ages

…and all in all, you consider it a good day.


The Failure of Fire February 23, 2013

Filed under: the way it is,Unfathomable Brits — FourGreenSquares @ 7:09 pm

At the corner shop not so long ago, I got stuck behind a rather elderly gent trying to return a lighter.

The shop owner was trying to determine the reason for the return; was the lighter broken, he wanted to know.

Oh yes, definitely, the elderly man said, nodding vigorously and looking at me, drawing me in to the transaction.

The shop owner flicked the lighter wheel and up popped a flame, tall and strong.

The gent kept nodding, not at all fazed by this apparent indication of lighterly competence.

The shop owner tried the lighter a few more times and each time, the flame leapt up without hesitation.

The gent continued to nod, as if this proved his assertion, and refused to take it back when the shop keeper held it out.

Finally, in that irritated yet patient tone of voice common to parents and service workers, the shopkeeper asked, so, sir, what is the problem with it?

A look of consternation tightened the gents features as he said, the fire is defective.

The shopkeeper’s eyebrows popped up and he tossed me an appealing look. He clearly had not anticipated that answer, though why he’d expected sense at that point had me more surprised than the gent’s answer.

Turning back to the gent, the shopkeeper had to think for a moment before asking, uh, how?

The gent was glaring at the lighter. Nothing I light stays lit, he explained. The fire’s broken, nothing stays on fire.

The shopkeeper and I swap confused-amused looks and I could see the temptation rising within the shopkeeper to ask just what the heck the man was trying to light.

However, with a shrug, the shopkeeper tossed a new lighter at the man, who wandered away with a pleased smile.

I loved it. Defective fire…and an understanding of the world that can look at flames and items that fail to ignite, and blame the fire. There is soooo a story here. Someday.

Someday soon.

In the meantime, I got the lighter off the shopkeeper and am pleased to report that it has brought its A game to all my flamey needs. Rather disappointing. Time to find some wet leaves or something so I too can experience the failure of fire.


At least it’s available freely over-the-counter February 4, 2013

Filed under: the way it is,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 4:48 pm

On the plus side, I have, in Draft Three, finally figured out the second half of the book.

On the minus side, I think that I’ve inadvertently created a Pavlovian connection between Lemsip and chapter 22.