The Best Revenge is a Perfectly Lined Lip

This fun little story is for my buddy Sarah who voiced her desire on twitter for stories about girls being empowered by their first encounter with make-up.

I take stock of the makeup, unsure where to start. I’m aware of the different items and their basic uses; eyeliner for eyes, blush for cheeks, lipstick for lips. The thrill of endless possibilities courses through me. My only hesitation is that I won’t be able to achieve the effect I’m looking for with my nonexistent skills.

“Excuse me, miss. Can I help you?” The saleswoman’s makeup is impeccable. Sharp winged eyeliner and a full, mauve pout.

“Yes.” I pick up a tube of lipstick the color of old blood. “Can you help me look like a new woman?”

“Absolutely. That’s my favorite!”

The very shape of my face changes as we try out different colors and techniques. In the end, the woman in the mirror is one who can accomplish something I never dreamed I could.

I hit the coffee shop on my way out of the mall. Step two in my not nearly fool-proof plan.

“I’ve got a free shot for you, if you want it.” The cute barista holds it over my extra hot americano. I don’t have time to flirt, but I nod my approval. The new me gets free shots, too. I don’t know why I put this off for so long.

The coffee is still too hot to hold when I arrive at his office. Nobody looks at me twice as I stalk across the lobby, heels striking the marble floors in a pleasing staccato. Greta glances at my face and then looks back down at her computer. She doesn’t even move to call security.

My breath quickens when I see him. He’s engrossed in his phone, but manages a moment to look up, look me right in the eyes, before going back to his twitter or whatever. No recognition. Weird that I feel more like myself in this makeup than I ever have without, yet no one recognizes me.

I let my heel slip as he passes. A calculated stumble. My extra hot americano with an extra shot splashes across his chest in a breath-snatching arc.

“Shi—” He starts to curse, but stops when he looks at my face. Still no recognition.

“I’m so sorry.”

“It’s all right,” he says through clenched teeth.

I follow him to the restroom, pleading for his forgiveness. He seems flustered when he realizes I’ve entered behind him.

“You shouldn’t be in here. Do you have any idea who I am, miss?”

“I do. You’re the man who killed my father.”

Avenging my father’s death is as satisfying as I’d imagined. As the color drains from his face, it occurs to me that he could benefit from a little foundation. No matter. He won’t need makeup where he’s going.



Out of Order

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t believe in writer’s block. I still don’t. But after the whirlwind of being selected for Pitch Wars, revising, signing with my agent, and revising again, I found myself a little… stopped up. I still had a drip of inspiration here and there, but I couldn’t seem to open the tap.

I already had a strong hook for my current manuscript, character sheets, a rough synopsis, and some words on the page. Still, every time I sat down at the computer, using the same routine that worked so well for me in the past, I would agonize for 300 words. I thought I was broken.

After a lunch date with a couple of writer buddies (waves to Sunil and Sarah), I felt inspired to return to my first love, SFF short stories. In one afternoon, I knocked out a story I loved. I’ve never done that before. I realized that the reason it was so easy was because I wrote the scenes I wanted to, regardless of where they went in the story. I’ve never done that with a larger work.

Thanks to Scrivener, (this is not a paid ad for Scrivener, FYI), writing out of order is not a big deal. After I convinced my brain that writing out of order was a legitimate way to write a book, the words started flowing again.

Although I’m a little nervous about how to piece everything together when I’m done with all these random kissing scenes, I’m happy to see my story taking shape so quickly and I’m getting a good feeling for my characters and their relationships to each other.

I guess I’m… having fun again? Yeah, that sounds right.


Changing the Game, Raising the Stakes

Year in Review

Let’s not do this. 2015 was a rollercoaster of emotion for me. You’ve read about the rocky first 3/4 probably. If you haven’t, do or do not. That’s your business. -Me if I was Yoda

But the last 1/4 was like a pure sugar high after nine months of raw vegan food.

After the excitement of finishing my manuscript, entering and being selected for Pitch Wars, my excellent mentorship from Kristin B. Wright, and my CP Crystal getting her own agent…


I ended the year on the highest of highs by landing my own agent, the incomparable Courtney Miller-Callihan! I could not be more ecstatic. She is perfect in every way.

Looking back, I didn’t do a great job of sticking to my 2015 goals, but WHO EFFING CARES?! I did so many Impossible Things this year that it would be foolish to look back at my missed goals with sadness.

The rest of this post is mainly for me, but if you like checking out others’ processes, enjoy!

This is my New Year’s post from last year. 2014 Mairi had no idea about moving to the Bay Area, Pitch Wars, or that Hamilton would take over her every waking thought. Stupid 2014 Mairi, can’t really blame her. Let’s take a look at how stupid she was, shall we?

2015 Goals

1 polished manuscript- YUP!

1 rough draft of another manuscript- Erm… I have a real good outline and some words that I’ll probably scrap.

10 queries to agents- More than that! 

3 short stories- Four. Nailed it.

24 blog posts- Uhhhhh… not quite. But I can nail Lafayette’s rap in Guns and Ships on demand.


Now it’s time to provide some laughs for 2017 Mairi.

2016 Goals

1 polished manuscript

1 rough draft of another manuscript

1 Hamilton fanfic in verse (WHAT?)

12 blog posts (let’s be real)

Read 50 books

Get mss back to CPs in under 2 weeks (I need to manage my calendar carefully to achieve this.)

I am PSYCHED about my current WIP, which is coming together so much faster than either of my previous manuscripts. I *might* be getting better at this, but I’m still in the honeymoon stage, so don’t trust my starry-eyed optimism.

I hope your 2015 was at least instructive if not awesome and that you do Impossible Things in 2016! Do NOT throw away your shot!



A lot has happened since my last post. I stuck to my writing schedule, up before the sun every day, and managed to finish my revision before the submission deadline for Pitch Wars. I figured I’d either get a mentor or at least have a finished manuscript. To my utter shock, my manuscript was chosen by the inimitable Kristin B. Wright who has proven to be a top-notch mentor and all-around aces person. Her critiques are clear and concise, she leaves plenty of room for me to make my own corrections, and lavishes praise when she feels it’s deserved. I *loves* her and I have no plans for relinquishing her after this is over.

I did a couple of fun interviews about Pitch Wars here and here.

As the Agent Round quickly approaches, I find myself in a solid position. My manuscript is shiny and satisfying, my query is crisp, and my synopsis is burning a hole in my laptop. I’m ready to get this baby out in the world and start tearing into my next manuscript which has been tapping on my shoulder for months. If I can ever stop listening to the Hamilton soundtrack. (I’m so close to nailing Guns and Ships on the regular.)

I’m feeling like the perfect balance of Hamilton and Burr right now. I’m not throwing away my shot and I’m writing non-stop, but as is necessary in publishing, I’m willing to wait for it.*

*If you liked that, please message me on twitter so we can talk forever using only lines from the show.

Coming Up For Air

I’m a fixer. If there’s a problem, my initial reaction isn’t to throw myself on the floor and weep, it’s to figure out the solution. So it kills me when there is no solution to the problem. This is the situation I find myself in today.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had to pick up my family of 5 (6 if you count the 13yo dog) and move them from a spacious low-cost house to a tiny apartment in an expensive city. It is done. The impossible has been accomplished.

I don’t like to complain, but I also don’t like to lie. It’s been… challenging. There were several times during the move when I literally thought I was going to die. I mean “literally” in the linguistic pedant way, not the (WRONG) new dictionary definition. I’ve spent the last few weeks in my hobbit hole mentally listing all the terrible woes that have befallen me:

  • broken toe
  • blown tires on the moving van trailer
  • contracting a cold WHILST ON THE ROAD (I mean, seriously. Fine at 7am, full-blown cold by noon.)
  • nearly jack-knifing the trailer coming down a hill
  • 5 hours extra road time due to construction
  • 2am arrival

…and on, and on, and on.

This mental exercise has made me increasingly grouchy. Combined with my lost writing time (no free babysitting here), I’ve become unbearable to everyone around me. Even the dog is like, “Could you be annoying over there, please?” BUT THERE IS NO “OVER THERE” BECAUSE TINY APARTMENT IS TINY.

So I’ve started listing things that make me happy instead. The list was very, very small at first. But the more I look at my list, the more things I find to add to it.

  • coffee (duh)
  • comic books
  • drizzling rain (didn’t get this at home)
  • kids making up songs as they play
  • funny GIFs
  • Beyonce (duh)

One day when my kid was having a hard time, I shared my list with him and he had a few things to add:

  • spending time with mom
  • playing with mom
  • cooking with mom
  • snacks with mom

I realized it was time to stop grieving my old life and start living my new life. I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes you have to accept your circumstances and find the happiness within.

Yesterday I woke up at 5:30am (I’ve checked and apparently it is a human time!! Who knew??) and wrote 150 hard-earned words. I wrote a list of what I want to accomplish for the rest of the year now that my circumstances have changed. I’m not going to stop trying to improve my situation, but I have finally accepted where I am right now as a starting point.

And one more thing to add to my happy list:

  • the merry tapping of keys on my laptop

5 Authors Who Challenged My Book Snobbery

I used to be a book snob.

I got my degree in English, but really it was a degree in Reading Important British Literature. I loved Shakespeare, Chaucer, heck, I even loved Milton. If asked, I would gleefully tell you that my favorite author was George Eliot. Not for Middlemarch, of course. That would be too obvious. No, it was for Mill on the Floss. I’d painfully explain that it needs to be read slowly with careful attention to her dense prose. :(((

I still love Eliot, though you probably won’t find me reading her any time soon.

My emphasis on literary works was hell on my writing. I hated everything I wrote and yearned to write something more fun and imaginative. I just couldn’t see genre writing as a real profession. In early 2013, I decided to buckle down and finish a manuscript. Before I started, I wanted to branch out in an effort to see what makes best-selling books so great. I began with the biggest, most important work I could think of. It may not seem current to you, but considering I was stuck on Chaucer, it might as well have come out yesterday. Brace yourself.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling– Look, I don’t know what to tell you. I just wasn’t interested. It came out when I was in high school and I was too busy reading Lolita and Lady Chatterley’s Lover for it to register. I tried to read it once when my *older* brother said it was good, but I couldn’t stand it after 10 pages. I never even saw the movies. In 2013, I downloaded the audiobooks and to my great surprise (but probably not yours), I was hooked. I finished the entire series in 3 weeks and was useless to my family throughout. I vividly remember throwing a washcloth I was folding into the air when Neville (8 YEAR OLD SPOILER) pulled out that sword. “FUCK YES NEVILLE!” (He’s my absolute fave and I am accepting all links to Neville fanfic, thank you).

This realization opened a whole new world for me. I remembered reading far more widely as a child: William Sleator, Babysitter’s Club, Agatha Christie, Tamora Pierce, COMIC BOOKS. I don’t know when I decided that I wouldn’t enjoy different genres and could only read serious literary works. I wanted to go back to that child who read anything and everything that sparked her interest. It takes a special author to draw me into a new genre, though. I wanted to share a few that have changed my mind recently.

Soulless by Gail Carriger– I can’t say I didn’t like steampunk, vampires, or werewolves because I can’t remember ever reading any. I had zero interest in any of those topics. Diving into this book was a massive stretch for me and I can’t even remember why I did it. I just saw it at my library and gave it a try. I am so glad I did. I *sparkle heart* LOVED this book. I literally LOLed several times and developed deep book-boyfriend feelings for Lord Maccon that have repercussions to this day. I must say, this was another audiobook for me and the medium always affects my feelings about a work. I would never have finished Harry Potter if it wasn’t an audiobook. A good narrator can keep you interested long enough for you to buy in and get to the good stuff when you’re trying something new.

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella– Another audiobook for me because I hate washing dishes in silence. After reading Soulless, I thought I might be ready to try something I have always sneered at: fiction for ladies. Before you haul out the pitchforks, understand that I was burdened by the patriarchy’s bias against chick lit and romance and have since freed myself! I devoured every Kinsella book I could find and enjoyed them so much that I felt inspired to start writing more romantic stuff. My first attempt at a romantic short story ended up being my first published piece. :)))

9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean– This was the biggest leap for me. I’ve been resisting full-on historical romance like it was a full-time job. I mean, this is the genre that is mocked the most, right? Fabio half-naked on the cover with some distressed damsel forever fainting from the weight of his sex. Sarah MacLean has been recommended up and down my Twitter timeline for years and I just staunchly refused. I am so, so stupid. If you need me, I will be mainlining MacLean novels for the next month.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just read this. If you’ve already read it, read it again. I know you want to anyway. This book got me back into comic books and I’ve since added Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe to my list as well. I get these almost exclusively as gifts due to some, ahem, cash-flow issues.

I have run into a bit of a problem, though. Despite my desire to read fiction by more diverse authors in all genres, I have trouble finding the newer books I want to read at my local library and I’m unable to justify buying books on my current (essentially non-existent) budget. I always send in a library request and have been successful a few times, but for the most part I’ve been left empty-handed. This saddens and angers me for many reasons, but I’m hoping the heavy press for diverse books will turn the tide soon.

So, now I’m up for anything! Send me your best book recs for maligned genres! Bonus points if they’re typically available at the library. 😉

Into the Crevasse

There is a very special episode of 30 Rock that has gotten me through some very dark periods in my life. Well, pretty much any episode with Dr. Spaceman helps, but as far as non-Spaceman episodes go, Season 4 Episode 2 has been important to me. And right now, it’s exactly what I need.

My family recently received news that requires us to move to a very expensive city on very limited income. The result is a massive downsize in our living space for a family of 5 and loss of a yard for my poor elderly dog, amongst other sad things I won’t bring you down with. Not to mention that I will no longer live one street away from my incredible, supportive, babysitting parents. And all of this has to happen by June. 0_O

I’m a bit… stressed.

When I’m stressed, I binge-watch comedies on Netflix. And of course, I happened to come across this episode at just the right time. Again.

In the episode, (SPOILER ALERT) Liz comes to Jack with a problem (SORRY IF I TOTALLY SPOILED THAT FOR YOU) and he tells her a little story (AGAIN, MASSIVE APOLOGIES FOR SPOILING THIS EPISODE IF THAT IS THE CASE):

“Sometimes the way back up is down… It’s 1994. I went ice climbing, and I fell into a crevasse. I hurt my leg, and I couldn’t climb back up. So fighting every natural instinct, doing the thing that seemed most awful to me, I climbed down into the darkness. And that’s how I got out. When I got back to base camp, I went and found my fellow climber, the one who had cut me loose after I fell. And I said, ‘Connie Chung, you did the right thing.'”

Once again, the only way through this difficult situation is to climb down into the darkness. So I will throw the weekly yard sales, give away prized possessions, and scour Pinterest for “simplified living” and “tiny apartment” solutions. I will write at night (which I hate) or possibly wake up before 5am to write (I don’t believe that is an actual time when people function, but I’ll check the internet). I’ll feel my way through the darkness and eventually I will come out the other side stronger and thanking Connie Chung for the experience.

Climb down, Kilaine. Climb down.