A WIP thing

So a friend of mine, Shannon, did this and talked me into it.  I’m not really sure how applicable it is to my only concrete work in progress, since Færie Patrol is so very much a “I’ll jot down a few words if I suddenly get a bug” status right now.

Still, it’s cute, it can’t hurt, so what the hell, right?

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Nominate your favourite indie author(s)

I hope, maybe, some of you will nominate Love or Lust certainly I do hope that some indie author or other has put a book out in the past year that has inspired or impressed you enough to nominate he or she.  You can also, by the by, nominate multiple books/authors.

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The 50 Self-Published Novels Worth Reading (2013/14)

Nominations Now Open!!!

We need your help in putting together a list of some of the best self-published books from the past year. Read something great? Nominate it. Written something great? Urge a fan to nominate it.

The interest our list has already generated has been phenomenal; in the three days since we opened up nominations it has already become our most popular post ever. That’s great for our ego, but more importantly, it means that whichever books make the list will get the exposure they deserve.

The Rules

1. The book must be self-published or published by a small, “indie-minded” house.
2. The book must have been published on or after 1 January, 2013.
3. The book must be available for purchase, in paperback or ebook format, from a large store – Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
4. Only nominations received on or before 21 April, 2014 will be considered.

Haven’t read a self-published book yet? Here are some we think might be worth your consideration.

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“True art is angsty & inaccessible”

I desperately wish I could fathom just where this idea originates.

It is a remarkably pervasive idea, and to such an extent that things that were popular and contain no angst will frequently receive interpreted doses of the latter to make literary scholars feel better about enjoying them.  And obscurity is, somehow, a hallmark of awesomeness and brilliance; though this one I think they feel no need to bother over much with — odds are even that those literary scholars have read more about Gilgamesh than of it.  They remind me of Star Wars fandom … enough I oft wonder if there’s significant overlap.

Why, though, must art be tragedy and sorrow?  Drama, angst, etc.?  Why can art not, too, be sunshine and kittens, laughter and love, romance and spiritual awakening?

Why cannot literary brilliance be measured, in part, by lasting popularity?  Why must The Hobbit and Harry Potter be “guilty pleasures”?

Why is the only fiction, supposedly, worth reading ‘literary fiction’ (a pretentious name for any genre or work, I feel)?  Why does a story need to answer any question more than ‘what happens next?!’ or ‘will they live happily ever after?’ and so on?  It’s not ‘will the hero survive?’ it’s ‘how will the hero get out of this mess?’  Why does this lack literary merit as opposed to twenty pages of someone’s thoughts who is standing in line at a post office (not making it up, don’t remember the title)?

I propose a new definition of art and brilliance.  Angst and obscurity be damned!

Any fool with crayons, a pack of construction paper, and enough spare time can write a truly depressing work read by all of twenty-five people — twenty-two of whom share a skull with the author and at least one of whom is a plush horse or a rubber plant.

I hold that art should be, first and foremost, something that you put something of yourself into — I’m not sure if this works for painting and sculpture or not, so we’ll refine that to literary art, just to be safe.  That ought to be art; so by that, our madman’s crayoned insanity is still art, but the novelist version of Sven Bianchi from Questionable Content does not make art and probably doesn’t claim to.  Second, the brilliance should be measured by if it speaks to people and degree of brilliance should be:  Does it do so over and over?  If it instils a passion once, it its brilliant — Twilight or Interview With a Vampire, are both art and, to some extent must be brilliant to have sparked such reactions and readerships from people.  The Hobbit and Little Women do it, though, through hundreds of repeat readings for uncounted readers.  People come back to Mr Baggins rushing out the door without hat nor handkerchief, and relive the (mis)adventures of Jo and her sisters.  They are masterpieces.

There is, and ever has been, too much literature to say popularity alone speaks of brilliance.  Always some really amazing work lurks, largely, undiscovered.  Game of Thrones is a fair example.  It languished in veritable obscurity for nearly a decade.  Black Trillium is, I feel, another fine example.  With a, sadly, increasing tendency, the strange dreams of young Alice is not read — but for those who take the notion, they come ever back again to Wonderland.  Still, popularity and its perpetuity is a fine test.  No one disputes that old Bill Shakespeare is a literary legend … well, not anyone who wasn’t alive when his plays were new.  The poems of Lady Sappho must have been phenomenal — they are all of them lost yet, still, she is not forgotten.

Why must we make things so blasted cerebral to feel good about them?  Fun and beautiful should not be so shameful.  Perhaps ‘the masses’ know better what is good and will stand the test of time better than the literary elitist.

Few are liable to agree with me who are ‘serious writers’, but such is life.  I’ll read my Princess of Mars, they’ll read Pride and Prejudice; I’ll read Wizard of Oz and they can read The Yellow Wallpaper … to each her own.  After all, there’s no accounting for taste.

“The door irised open”

Today I’m going to talk, more as a reader than a writer — though I’ll probably be unable to resist putting my author voice in here somewhere.

I love to read speculative fiction.  Fantastic genre.  I’ve said this again and again.  Princess of MarsTriplanetaryStranger in a Strange LandTime Enough for Love2001: A Space Odyssey, Callahan’s Crosstime SaloonThe Hobbit, Dragondoom, A Song of Ice and Fire, Black TrilliumForgotten Realms, and so very many more!  To stretch things further:  the adventures of young Ms Alice in the strange world of Wonderland, or of Dorothy and her friends in the great fairy land of Oz.

Lately, though, I’ve been rather disappointed in new SF.  Once the genre(s) came to life in vivid and exciting worlds and adventures, not I feel as though I’m reading a textbook.

I think it harkens back to some of that discussion about show and tell in writing — you want to show things, and sometimes you tell things, and there ought to be a careful balance.

Today it gets far too carried away trying to show the world-building.  Today it is not enough to, as the immortal Robert Heinlein so eloquently penned “the door irised open”.  Today … I’m going to stick with the door, though it had something to do with how the ship’s engines worked or something to that effect in the book I’m drawing from here; today it would be something on this line:

The door irised open as they approached, then irised closed shortly after they’d passed through.  Hank stared at it thoughtfully as they walked through and finally said, “You know … I’ve always wondered, why do our doors open like that?  Didn’t they used to swing open and closed on the old wet navy ships?”

Ginny stared at him, “Well, if you’d ever paid attention in History class …”

I believe the exact quote was something to the effect of “well, as you learned in school” or similar, and as I said, they were discussing something esoteric about the ship.  But regardless there then ensued a multipage explanation in dialogue.  I’ve found others that spend, I wish I were lying, giving you a 100+ page history lesson on the setting before you necessarily meet the characters, and even if you’ve met the characters, it’s after the dissertation when you get to meet our good friend The Plot.

Sure, as Sturgeon said:

I repeat Sturgeon’s Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud.[1]

Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. are crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crap is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artforms.

Sadly, however, this is no longer an isolated eccentricity of some authors.  This is becoming the expectation of … well, I will admit, among science fiction readership it seems to be the desire of the fans to read something that is rather more like a textbook than a novel; but it’s leaking terribly badly into the writing advice.  Of course, as always with writing advice, in remarkably contradictory fashion:  “Don’t info dump” and … I really can’t recall the short and snappy way of saying it, but “explain everything“.

Personally?  I find Heinlein’s approach great, or Sir Terry Pratchett best.  In the former you are given a quick adjective to give flavour to the setting and the scene; it’s as taken for granted by these people that a door should iris as we take for granted it should swing (or, for those in more east Asian countries, perhaps I ought to say ‘slide’?).  In the latter we might, or might not, depending how funny he can make it, a quick little footnote (or not so quick … but always funny) explaining it — Bloody Stupid Johnson was likely involved, I’d suspect.

Betimes we do need to explain things in our stories that, possibly, the characters know and take for granted that we in our world and time do not.  The opening of The Hobbit is a glorious example of this (I hope Tolkien estates will pardon my excerpt):

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats – the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill – The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it – and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.

This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and his name was Baggins. The Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained-well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.

The mother of our particular hobbit… what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off. They are inclined to be at in the stomach; they dress in bright colours (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can get it). Now you know enough to go on with. As I was saying, the mother of this hobbit – of Bilbo Baggins, that is – was the fabulous Belladonna Took, one of the three remarkable daughters of the Old Took, head of the hobbits who lived across The Water, the small river that ran at the foot of The Hill. It was often said (in other families) that long ago one of the Took ancestors must have taken a fairy wife. That was, of course, absurd, but certainly there was still something not entirely hobbit-like about them, – and once in a while members of the Took-clan would go and have adventures. They discreetly disappeared, and the family hushed it up; but the fact remained that the Tooks were not as respectable as the Bagginses, though they were undoubtedly richer. Not that Belladonna Took ever had any adventures after she became Mrs. Bungo Baggins. Bungo, that was Bilbo’s father, built the most luxurious hobbit-hole for her (and partly with her money) that was to be found either under The Hill or over The Hill or across The Water, and there they remained to the end of their days. Still it is probable that Bilbo, her only son, although he looked and behaved exactly like a second edition of his solid and comfortable father, got something a bit queer in his makeup from the Took side, something that only waited for a chance to come out. The chance never arrived, until Bilbo Baggins was grown up, being about fifty years old or so, and living in the beautiful hobbit-hole built by his father, which I have just described for you, until he had in fact apparently settled down immovably.

Now, it is worth noting that this seems to contradict what I said.  But it’s this:  in Tolkien’s case the narrator is speaking to you and I, the character telling the tale needs you to understand a creature that has become scarce and little known to the likes of us — could he have explained hobbits through the course of the narrative?  Of course he could — he could have described Mr Baggins of Bag End as short and plump with his curly hair and jolly clothes, and gone on from there throughout the book.  Or could he?  Maybe by getting it out of the way upfront he does something in the tone of the story; now the meeting with Gandalf the Grey could go on in a manner a bit less puzzling to the audience.

It’s not wrong for your narrative to explain that which is normal in the time and place of the setting — but the explanation shouldn’t interrupt the story!  Pratchett achieves this with footnotes; Heinlein and Tolkien achieve this by keeping it quite important, relevant to the bit of narrative at hand, and — above all — relatively short and sweet.

Now, to return to our door … okay, this one’s stretching it a little since it’s a door, how important is that?!  Still, work with me.

The door irised open as they approached, and irised closed again after they’d gone through.  Henry looked back to be sure it’d closed.  In his youth, he’d been on a very ancient ship which still had swinging doors and a hull breach had yanked a hatch open killing several of his friends.  These modern doors would have to be severely damaged — or fail to close — for that to ever happen again; the sight of his friends being blown into the abyss of space, though, left him a little paranoid.

See?  I’m stretching.  Still, if it really was important why a door would iris instead of swing, we’ve just told you; it’s safer (I am not interested in a physics argument, I was making that up as I went along).

It’s this idea that you need to clearly establish your setting.  Yes, you do, but as a reader, you can give it to me in bites, pieces, and you can keep it relevant.  I don’t really care how the war between the Klothorian Empire and the Numbanji Consortium started, not if the story isn’t about that.  It’s enough to know that this band of shipwrecked Klothorians who washed up on a Numbanji shore are none too welcome.

Context.  Always always context.  An explanation is okay here, but terrible there.  And, as always, keep it short or keep it … interesting.  Heinlein’s old juvies would sometimes insert brief science lessons into things.  It was done in a mix of the adult explaining things to the kids who were joining in the adventure on a rocket ship, and a bit of narrative explaining esoteric bits of what they were doing and why; but he kept it fairly succinct, and the most science lessony bits were to make the young reader feel a bit of a part of the preparations for this trip into space so that it seems less dull.

If it’s important, or really neat, how the engines work — couldn’t you have just made it part of, say, a paragraph description when the drive activated?  It’s a time honoured SF trope to do so.

I don’t mind irrelevant and unimportant detail tossed in.  It helps set the scene and to characterise the people involved.  It serves nothing to tell me the door iris instead of swing — except now I’m further immersed in the realisation “this place is wholly unlike here and now”.  I don’t want to read textbooks, I want to read a novel.

This is why this isn’t in my author mode, just my reader.  If you want to write a novel length work by inserting several short textbooks interspersed inside a short story or novella, fine, do so.  Clearly some readers will love that, and if you and they are happy, I’m happy.  I’m just sad that it’s so terribly hard to find anything that isn’t that, and rather sick of writing advice everywhere that tries to turn the new, burgeoning writers into such authors; or the discussions that seem to be turning readers into such people.  The classics are fine, and nice, and there’s ample supply of them I can still discover … but they are finite.  I’m sad that even the 10% allowed for by Sturgeon’s Law feels like I’ve then got to dig to find MY 10% from within that.  I’m not sure, but I think 10% of 10% is 1% — slim pickings.

The long silence

I’ve not had a lot to say, actually.

Nothing really new in the universe of writing, no new thoughts.  I’ve got ideas for Book 3, but I still haven’t managed to get it kicked off and may not be able to do so until I have the end of Ready or Not more solidified.

I could be working on Færie Patrol, I guess, but I’m feeling a bit uninspired in that department.  Mostly, I’ve been taking a break to read, watch movies, and refuel my inspirations.  

November is coming up.  National Novel Writing Month.  I will not be participating, nor any other WriMo events from now on.  While I do feel it might have helped force me to break my writer’s block with Ready or Not, I don’t believe that the quality of the writing it resulted in was up to my personal standards.  True, it wasn’t as bad as I imagined, but I really had to make more substantial edits to it than I do to things that I let come more naturally instead of forcing.  

As the holidays approach expect fewer posts as I will probably be rather busy between writing (the cooler weather tends to inspire me better), family, etc.  Though I will probably have some holiday sales and give aways of Love or Lust so watch out for those.  

Now & Forever ABCs (Zach)

Zach Christopher Archer

10 April 1994
Roman Catholic

Zach is a writer and reader.  Primarily he writes science fiction adventures, but he also enjoys westerns, mysteries, and paranormal thrillers — and writes in all of these.  He hopes to make a living at this, and so is looking to earn a Journalism degree so he can get a day job writing for a magazine or newspaper while he works on his novels and short stories.

He’s lived his whole life behind and to one side of Lauren’s backyard, so the two families have known each other for years, and the two kids — only a couple of years apart — have always been friends, reinforced by the fact that Lauren is also friends, from church, with Zach’s cousin Allison.

His tastes and interests vary.  He likes art, history, books, movies, music — anything that might reflect life.  Jazz is his favourite music, especially improvisational jazz, as he finds it to be the most deeply personal and emotional of musics; through this love of jazz he took up playing saxophone, and has both a baritone and tenor sax which he plays for himself, as a stand-in for a few friends who have small time jazz bands, and in Immaculate Conception’s Jazz Ensemble class.  He has many friends through his mother, who is a professional drummer, in the local music scene and so has spent much of his life frequenting concerts and gigs of various sizes and calibres with her or them, and — now that he can drive — with himself.

Now & Forever ABCs (Marcus)

Marcus Lee Jackson

5 February 1996
Discordian (Lapsed)

Marcus is a very flamboyant, and effervescent young man. He loves life, he loves to joke, and he loves confusing people.

He will happily inform anyone who cares to ask, and many who don’t, that yes — in fact — he is just as gay or more so than he acts, especially if the person is an attractive male. He, needless to say, has quite a sense of humour where his sexuality is concerned.

When he isn’t acting like the poster child for why and how Drugs are Bad, he’s a generally quiet and well-read boy. He’s not terribly academic, and his love of reading extends exclusively to fiction, but he reads a wide and eclectic variety of genres, and authors.

Like Lauren he plans to make dancing his career, though unlike her he has little interest in the theory of dance, only in the techniques and as such intends to forego college in favour of auditioning for a career on Broadway or, frankly, any stage that’ll have him.

Now & Forever ABCs (Lisa)

Lisa Jean Carroll

21 April 1996
Roman Catholic

Lisa is one of Lauren’s best friends, the two having become inseparable since they met on their first day of kindergarten.

Lisa is one of seven children in a very devout family.  Lisa herself, while not as scholarly about it as Lauren, is just as religious and holds her own in the AP Relgious studies classes — even if they are grade appropriate.

Lisa is not the world’s most complex person.  She is an avid reader, a huge Wesley Snipes fan (even before she decided he was the ultimate expression of male sexiness), and general comic book geek.  She spends what time she can over the summers at conventions when her parents will let her.  She generally goes with her uncle, and has even been known to cosplay as various favourite heroines, especially Batgirl, Starfire, Psylocke, and Cheetara.

She hopes, one day, she’ll be able to write comics — she’s also prone to drawing them, if not (by her personal standards) well.  Many of her friends have said she should just do her own comic.

Though a long time friend of Janet, the two do not always get along well — in fact they will readily admit that a major component of their friendship is their arguments and sniping at one another.  Janet aside Lisa is a very valued friend among those she elects to use the word for, being very good at keeping secrets and listening when they need someone to talk to if sometimes being unable to resist derailing a serious moment with some attempt, successful or ill-conceived being equally likely, at humour.

Now & Forever ABCs (Lauren)

Lauren Felicia Conners

9 January 1996
Lutheran (ELCA)

Lauren is a perfectionist.  She is always striving for excellence in anything she puts her hand to, be it her dancing, her studies, or setting the table.  Often this leaves her with an remarkable lack of confidence — she’s always worried she’ll mess up or fail.

She fell in love with dance at an early age.  By three she had shown such intense desire to dance that her parents had signed her up for lessons, because her wish to learn exceeded her family’s ability to teach her given that none of them knew more than ballroom dancing.  It became her life.  She has studied ballet from that first day — her love of dance having been born upon seeing a ballet, she’d begged to learn ‘the pretty dance’.  From there, however, she branched out and has taken further lessons in ballroom and latin dancing.  She has taken belly dance lessons, and is a long time student of a local modern and jazz dance instructor.  And, of course, ballet — always, she studies ballet.

Eventually she moved from her old ballet school to Mademoiselle Jeanette‘s as it offered a chance to gain greater experience on stage as well as a far more advanced study of technique.  In addition to dancing, Lauren has some interest in general performance so often tries out for school plays and takes drama electives when she gets the chance.

Lauren’s next great love is church.  She has grown up in a very religious family, and has a strong sense of the importance of God and faith.  Between that and having received all of her schooling from Catholic schools she took a strong interest in theology, especially Christian theology.  She has read every English translation of the Bible she could, and thoroughly, as well as making a devoted study of the history of the Abrahamic faiths and the Hebrew people.  She tries to understand her religion and its origins.  This has lead her to frequently excel in her Religious Studies lessons, such her school eventually ran out of options but to skip her ahead in subject, first placing her in Freshman theology in eighth grade, then in Junior’s level in her ninth grade year.  Even placing her in AP level courses has done little to assuage her boredom in these classes.

Her perfectionist and pious nature expresses itself in her relationships with others.  When she dates, she approaches it with the assumption that this person could be who she spends the rest of her life with — she doesn’t date to date or for social status, but to find the one person God has meant for her to be with.  When she makes friends she loves those friends and values those friendships deeply — even a casual friend, or even simply a friendly acquaintance is someone who Lauren cares deeply for and about.  Her capacity for forgiveness and caring even extends to those who are anything but friends — she’s human, she still manages to have angry thoughts and to see horrible things happen to those who upset her, but she simultaneously feels rather guilty about those thoughts and quickly tries to forgive them as much as she can.

This, plus her encyclopaedic knowledge of the Bible have led many to, depending how much they like her, affectionately or derisively refer to her as Saint Lauren and similar.  She’s seen as too sweet to be real, too good, and other things.  Those who know her well know this isn’t true — that she can be catty or mean when provoked, the she can hold the occasional grudge, that she does not always follow the rules, and that — despite being a virgin — she possibly knows as much or more than some who aren’t — she will investigate any curiosity she has in books and internet, including sexuality.

The one naïvety she ever expresses is in the form of aspects of pop culture.  While Lauren’s family has a television, it is used expressly for watching DVDs, Apple TV, and Blu-Rays; they have no cable nor antenna.  She does listen to the radio, both internet and airwaves (primarily satellite, but sometimes FM) and has an impressive collection of music, both physical and iTunes, and she enjoys movies from every era starting with the original silent silver screen flicks to the newest special effects blockbusters.  Still, the latest hit shows, latest popular talk show trivialities, and other goings on in the daily lives of the little people in the magic box are lost on her.  She’s watched the telly before, and it bored her.

Her friends call her a humble Hermione Granger (simply Hermione for short), and Linus — as in the Peanuts character who has such a habit of quoting Bible verse — but thanks to Salencia they’ve taken to simply calling her Pixie; a nickname she’s far more fond and proud of.  It’s also rather apt.  She has forever been a tiny girl, not always shortest in her class, but close to, very much lithe and petite — many of her clothes can still be bought in the children’s section of the department store, what of it she doesn’t make for herself, and combined with a complexion that is all freckles with copper red hair, she agrees with Sally:  the name fits.

Now & Forever ABCs (Jake)

Well, it would seem I have my first letter that needs skipping, I.

But that’s okay, because historically there is no such thing as a J; all words like Juno, Julius, Jupiter, etc were Iuno, Iulius, and Iupiter in Latin.  Therefore I’m not skipping I, I’m merely putting a funny little tail on it.  QED.

I’m not sure I actually have as many Js as I’d though I did.  But I will be stretching them between today and — depending if I take another break tomorrow and Tuesday — Tomorrow or Wednesday.

Enjoy ye now the mysterious Jacob (the older one) revealed to you now in surprising detail and clarity never before seen by the eyes of Man (and, perhaps, I’ve made my tea a little strong this morning.)

Jacob Sebastian Adamczyk

16 July 1995
Episcopalian

Jacob is a very small, pale, effeminate young man and Allison’s boyfriend.

The couple met in third grade and started dating, officially, in eighth grade.  They argue a lot, about nearly everything, but this seems to work for them; they never fight for long, and always work out compromises so they rarely argue about the same things twice — unless one counts such things as Jake’s insistence that Allison’s taste in music is suspect and her feelings that he is a complete lunatic for some of the painters he admires.

Jacob is an enigma to most people who meet him for the first time.  They often expect him to be gay, at best, or transgender at worst.  He’s neither.  He simply has very soft features, a very slight frame, a quiet voice, is a whopping five foot two and a quarter inches (a full inch and some centimetres shorter than his girlfriend), shoulder length hair, and has a voice that his church’s choir director only called a tenor because he’s disqualified from castrato on technical grounds.  It isn’t helped that he does have rather feminine mannerisms and tastes, but it’s simply a mix of his nature and the fact that he gets on better with women.  Still, he has no interest in men and, while not seeing himself as an exemplary specimen, can think of no reason not to call himself one.

He spoils Allison, especially, but is generous and sweet to all his friends.  Jacob does dream of having a singing career, though it’s mostly dreams — he has never once performed in any capacity but his church choir and has never tried for any solos.  His plans for life usually amount to:  Not get Allison so angry she actually does kill him; get married eventually, possibly to Allison; not get struck by a meteor; learn to hang glide; flip a coin when it’s time to pick a college to decide if he’ll go into ornithology or oenology — or something else starting with ‘o’; and, possibly, run away with a circus.

A curious detail about the boy is the shelf in his room that is about three feet wide and packed end to end with little leather bound journals of various ages and designs.  Supposedly, every one of them are filled — cover to cover — with poetry, but he’s only ever let Allison read them after she threatened to show up at their next date together nude; he made her solemnly swear to never tell anyone what she’d read.  True to her word Allison has only ever confirmed that they are, indeed poems, that some of them are pretty good, and has been seen reading one in particular sometimes and always either with tears in her eyes or laughing.  No one presses the issue given that it’s the single artistic endeavour of his that Allison doesn’t try to talk him into taking up at all professionally, despite clearly enjoying them; it’s assumed this means they’re all intensely personal, whatever they are.

Before anyone asks, no, as a matter of fact he wears neither skirts nor kilts.  He has tried both and, while finding them comfortable, decided he did not care for the look, and thus sticks to shorts, jeans, and trousers.