Dresden Writing: A New Start

This is a new piece, with some older characters…I wanted to play with Dini in a new setting, and Aaron’s an old friend that I wanted to bring in. I’ve got a bunch of backstory that I do want to put in, so I’m going to be interested to see where it goes!


“She’s been a bit depressed recently,” Lizzy said as she knocked on the apartment door.

“So what do you actually want me to do?” the young man stood behind her asked nervously.

“She just needs some company, really,” Lizzy said vaguely. “A cup of tea, someone to talk to. She used to be a reporter so tell her about some of the cases you’re helping with. That sort of thing.”

The door opened, but he couldn’t see the person on the other side. “You are welcome to enter as my guests,” a flat, tired voice said from the other side, fading as it moved off into the apartment.

“And maybe some cleaning,” Lizzy added quietly as they entered.

The flat wasn’t exactly that it was a mess, Aaron thought. Just that the few things that had been used from a once-neat home hadn’t been put away, and nothing had been swept, or cleaned, or put out in the bins for…he sniffed. Weeks, certainly.

“There’s tea somewhere, but I don’t have any milk.” It was a woman’s voice, coming from the bedroom, and it sounded uncaring.

“Well, there’s your first task, Aaron!” Lizzy said brightly. “Shop’s two minutes round the corner.”

He opened his mouth, nodded, and took the cash she was holding out.

The shop was only a thirty-second jog, and he got the milk easily. He wondered about biscuits, too; he’d have to check what food she had. Maybe someone else did the shopping…

The door was shut again, and he knocked politely. After a minute, it swung open again. “Please come in, guest.”

This time, he got a look at her. Slightly below his height, with grey eyes that were accentuated by deep, dark circles, and a rat’s-nest of tangled white hair. Her t-shirt hung from her shoulders, and the bones of her thin hand stood out as she held the door. She smelled of sweat and tiredness, and something that he couldn’t place; something acrid and unsettling.

She was giving him a thorough once-over as well, and he suddenly felt very exposed – and very bulky, compared to her thin frame. And then she shocked him out of his embarrassed thoughts. “Which pack?”


“Which pack?” she repeated.


A faint smile twitched the corner of her mouth, and he knew that he was going bright red. “You look like a cub.”

“I’ve been Changed since I was fifteen!”

“And you still act like a cub?” The faint smile was still there; he wondered if it was meant to be as cruel and mocking as it seemed.

“I’m here to train…”

“Stop baiting him, Beth,” Lizzy said from the kitchen. “He came from York.”

“And that explains everything.” The woman let go of the door, the animation fading from her face, and turned away. “He got milk.”

“He’s going to come round every few days. Just to have a chat.”

The woman sat down in one of the armchairs, ignoring the two books, pile of discarded clothing and a half-full coffee mug resting on the arm. “Sure.” It was said with a tired sigh.

“He wants to be a detective. He’s been helping ____ out with some of her cases.”

Beth took the mug of tea that Aaron held out and immediately put it next to the coffee on the arm of the chair. He wondered if she was planning on ignoring it, as she obviously had with the other. “Anything interesting?” she asked him.

“Uh, well, um, we had a case that-”

“They got to investigate… [something that went all wrong and messed up for Aaron].” Lizzy butted in. “Oh, and last week they-”

Aaron sat down and cringed.


“It sounded from Lizzy,” Beth said three days later, as they sat with mugs of tea, “ that you’ve rather made a mess of everything so far.”

Aaron felt his stomach shrink. He’d seriously considered not going to visit again, but Lizzy’s face kept intruding whenever he thought about it, and he knew he’d have to answer a lot of awkward questions if he didn’t. Besides, it looked like Beth could use having someone dropping in. “Um, well.”

Her grey eyes were watching him with more sympathy than he’d expected. “Why don’t you tell me how you landed up here, and what you’ve been doing?”

He looked anywhere but at Beth as he tried to give a few details about his pack in York, his move to Oxford, his training with ___. She’d obviously made some effort to clean, or at least put a few things away – the coffee mug had moved from the arm of the chair to the pile by the sink, although as he’d suspected, the tea mug had remained where it had been put when he last came.

“So you’re not part of the pack here?” her voice asked. She still sounded sympathetic.



He knew what she was asking, and he didn’t want to answer. “I prefer being on my own.”

Silence. He risked looking up, and found her watching him thoughtfully. She wasn’t judging. Wasn’t asking anything else. She was just considering it.

And then she said, “I know the feeling.”

“You’re not a werewolf?” he risked asking. She hadn’t smelled like one, but she’d clocked him as soon as she saw him…

“No. Grew up around them, though.” The smile wasn’t so faint now, and he felt obscurely pleased. “So what have you been up to this week?”


He started going over every few days, in between investigations for ___ and talks with Lizzy. Beth was always there – he still wasn’t sure who did her shopping – and he found that, as he started talking to her about the investigations, she seemed to know a lot about it all. But then, if she had been a journalist…

He risked asking her about that as he tried to collect some of the books scattered around her flat and get them back into the shelves. Beth was curled in the chair, not drinking yet another mug of tea.

“I…yes, I was a journalist.” She’d shut down again, arms curled around herself. “Then I had another job for a bit, and now…I’m here.”

“Where did you…journalist?” Usually his awkward turns of phrase would bring out that half-smile, but she just looked…blank, almost. Tired.

“It’s not something I want to talk about.”

“Ok. Um. How about your other job?”

She just shook her head.

“Um. Ok.” And he went back to sorting books. “So, um, I found out more about that robbery…”


The next time he went over, he was greeted at the door by a pale, exhausted Beth, but one who was draped in clean clothes and had wet hair – albeit still in a tangled mess. She was holding onto the doorframe, and managed a half-smile. “Please, come in, guest.”

“Hi.” He stepped in and shut the door, and automatically put out a hand as Beth turned, one hand on the wall. She was visibly shaky today, he thought. “Let me make tea?”

She went through to the kitchen anyway, but conceded to sit on the floor while he made tea. He handed the mug down to her, careful not to let it go until he was sure she’d got it, and then sat down opposite her with his own mug.

Beth put a hand up to her head. “So…can you help me shave my hair?”

He blinked. “Um. Sure. Why?”

The grey eyes looked into his for a moment, frustration and despair warring behind the uncaring mask. “Because I can’t wash it.”

“Um, yes. You might want to wait for it to dry, though. I’ve always shaved it dry…”

Something crossed her face; a flash of annoyance. And then she froze, and he saw pain – just for a moment – before she went to stand, shoving herself up from the wooden floor. Her arm gave way, sending her sprawling; her tea mug tipped, sending liquid across the floor, and Beth landed hard on the wood.

Aaron quickly put his own tea mug down and reached out. “Are you…”

Her shoulders were shaking and he saw her crumple, resting her forehead against the floor as the first sob broke free.

He rested a hand on her shoulder, ready to take it away if she didn’t want him there. “It’s ok. It’s just tea.”

He made out something akin to, “it’s not that,” amongst the sobs.

“Your hair? I’m sorry. I’ll help you. Of course I’ll help you.”

Nothing but sobs from the curled heap on the floor. The hot tea was soaking into her slacks, but she didn’t seem to notice.

“I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m sorry.”

Still nothing.

“It won’t take long to do, and we could probably do it wet too. I’ve just never tried.”

“Please go away.”

He would have missed the words without his sensitive hearing. “No. Lizzy asked me to be here, and-”

“I’m asking you not to be.”

He shrank back. The words had enough snap and bite to have come from a pack leader; how had she learned to put that much command into them? “Ok. I’m sorry. I’ll see you soon.”

He left her sobbing on the floor, wondering how much more of a mess he could make of everything he touched.


He asked Lizzy about it, wondering if she could shed any light on Beth – either her hair, or her job, or why she lived alone in a small flat and didn’t go out. Lizzy just shrugged. “She left her last job, I think – it didn’t end well. I know her as a friend of a friend, they asked me to keep an eye on her, and they knew her as a journalist. That’s pretty much it. I don’t know why her hair would be such a problem. It’s a bit of a mess, isn’t it? She obviously hasn’t brushed it for weeks.”

He trailed back to Beth’s flat a few days later, wondering if she’d let him in. She did, with her usual greeting, and then followed him into the kitchen. She seemed a bit stronger today, he thought – and she’d made another effort at cleaning. The draining board was full of washed crockery.

“I…I’m sorry,” Beth said as he filled the kettle. “For last time.”

“It’s ok.”

She shook her head. “No. Ok. Look. I…I used to be able to do a lot of things, and now I can’t. And…I’m not ok with that yet. Thank you for…sticking around, I guess.”

“I brought my razor,” Aaron said. And he got the half-smile in answer, the one that was slowly spreading towards a full smile again.

The white hair came off in clumps; Beth wanted it down to the skin, with only a stubble left. The razor did a decent job, and when they’d finished, Beth gathered up all the hair into a plastic bag and then caught his hand. “Aaron…can you do me a favour? I’ll have to owe you. I don’t really have anything to repay them with at the moment.”

He blinked at her. “Are you kidding? You’ve been helping me with the investigations!”

Beth stared at him.

“Um. Everything you’ve said about the stuff I’ve been looking into has been…really helpful.” More helpful than ____. “If anything, I owe you…”

Beth was still staring at him. And then she ran a hand across her eyes, suddenly looking tired again. “Who suggested that you come here?”


“Not ___? Do they know each other?”

“Well, yes, they meet at…”

“That….conniving bitch.” Beth turned away, fists clenching.

Aaron blinked. “I’m sorry…?”

“Not you!” Beth spun back, looking more alive – and more frustrated – than he’d seen her in the previous few weeks. “That was their plan? Send me some rookie wolfcub to get me interested in life and get me out of the house? For fuck’s sake!”

“I didn’t…”

She waved a hand at him. “I know you didn’t.” And then she seemed to catch his expression. “I’m not angry at you, Aaron. Or them, really. I just detest being manipulated!”

“How long have you been here?” Aaron asked quietly, following her into the living room.

Beth turned, and the anger was suddenly swept away to be replaced by a lost, frightened look. “I…don’t know. What…what month is it?”


“Fall.” The word had a curious longing. “I…six months, I suppose. Thereabouts.”

“Then it sounds like you needed me.”

She looked at him, then, a proper look that took everything in; baggy sweatpants and t-shirt that skimmed his muscles; cropped hair and serious brown eyes; faint flinch and hasty apologies; quick smile and easy laugh. “Yes. Yes, I suppose I did.” She hesitated, then, and added, “Do.”

“What was the favour?” Aaron asked, wanting to push away the lost, frightened look.

“Oh.” Beth looked down at the plastic bag. “Can you burn this?”

“Um. Yes?”

“It’s important.”

He nodded, but Beth was giving him a frowning, worried look. “I will,” he said, trying to reassure her. “Don’t worry.”

“It’s not that. You don’t know why I’m asking?”

He shook his head.

“Oh, for…” She turned away, and then half-turned back. “Your alpha. The one who sent you away, told you that you were useless. He never told you any of…any of the important stuff?”

Aaron couldn’t help the flinch. You’re useless. “She.”

But Beth was already running a hand over her shaved head, looking frustrated. “But you wouldn’t know what was important until you knew it. You don’t know what you don’t know.” She made a noise of disgust and turned away again.

“I’m…sorry.” It came out as a whisper to her retreating back.

And Beth spun back again. “Don’t – you – dare! Don’t…” She shook her head. “Aaron, you are not to blame. You are not the one who failed. You’re not the one who didn’t teach a cub what they needed to know to fucking survive! Your alpha…” She was still shaking her head, and he wondered where the life, the vitality had come from. She suddenly seemed twice as alive. “Your pack failed you, and don’t you ever blame yourself for that.”

And then she seemed to shrink again, folding back into the too-thin, tired lines. “Come and have tea, and we need to talk.”


Fifteen minutes later, he had his hands wrapped around a mug of tea, and was feeling a little scared.

“You see why I was…I’m not angry at you, Aaron,” Beth said, running a hand across her shaved head again. “But you should know this stuff. It’s basic! Is Aaron your real name?”


Beth made a noise of disgust. “Please tell me you’ve never told anyone else your full name.”

He tried to think. “I’m not sure.”

“Well, don’t. It’s currency to control you. Same as the hair. If anyone got hold of that and some of your name, you wouldn’t even realise you were being controlled.”

“That’s scary.”

“Yes. It is. And now you understand why I’m angry. Have they taught you about wizards?”

“I mean, I know they exist…don’t make them angry?”

“Soulgazes? Don’t look at a wizard’s eyes for more than a few seconds.” Beth sighed again. “I wanted to shave my hair so I could go out. But…” she looked down, into the tea. “I want to be interested again. I know I can’t live my life here, and I think ___ knows that too. She sent you to talk to me, get me interested…and it’s worked.”

“You want to help?”

Beth managed a smile. “If you’ll have me along, Aaron, I’d like to come and see what you’ve been up to.”


Crime-investigating duo to the fore! I just need something for them to investigate now…

Dresden Files fanfic – gettin’ it out there!

Ok. So. Having had several lovely comments on a Dresden-Files-ish short story (Winter’s Loan), a kick from both PandaFries and Thalamas, and a good day, I took my courage in both hands and jumped.

While I have previously posted some of my Dresden Files fanfic around the RPG I played up until last year, I’ve never had the courage to post more than snippets. But, since this weekend, the first few complete parts of my Dresden Files fanfic is up on Wattpad, and I’m going to be trying to post another bit each week – probably Saturdays.

And holy f*** does this take more courage than I thought I had. It’s ridiculously exciting – I was on top of the world on Saturday and didn’t shut up thanks to overflowing happy energy (sorry, Swindon FreeWriters) but it’s also terrifying.

I loved these characters. I lived them for over two years. I had them in my head and in my life. I wrote so many words of game write-up or extra story…this is a bit of my heart and my soul, and I’m terrified of putting it out there because I feel so small, and so completely and absolutely judged. I’m scared of what people reading are going to think of me. I’m scared of what it says about me (apart from the fact I have a knack for putting my characters in mean situations). I’m scared of what anyone who reads is going to think. It was fiction, yes, but it was choices that I made for my characters – and having almost lived the situations, I can’t stay as removed from it as I can with my other writing. I was there, having those arguments, laughing at the antics. With the game, at least, it’s not just in my head – and while most of these pieces are just character extrapolations from that (certainly the romance and sex scenes would be a bit of a different roleplay style from the one we played, and probably require less clothing) it’s still got that heart-string tug.

But…I love it. Re-reading, I can’t stop smiling. I love it. And I want to share it.

It will only be the Dresden Files Swindon game that will get shared, and I’m still taking that one story at a time, so there may end up being pieces I don’t put up. I won’t ever be sharing any of the wolfpack games; while I wish with all my heart that I could share Ryan’s writing with you, I can’t get his permission, and I don’t think he’d want it shared. I absolutely adore it – but it’s his, not mine. And so that will stay locked.

But as for everything else… *deep breath* I can do this. I can. So, keep an eye out on Wattpad for new stories, and absolutely please, honestly, tell me what you think!

Work in progress: The Dresden Files

So as part of the role-play game I’ve been playing for the last year or so, I’ve been writing my own stories based in the game world – I’ve put a few on here in the Creative Writing tab under the “Dresden” tag if you want a sample. But I was ranting earlier in the year about writing 30,000 words, and I also included the writing as part of my audit. So basically, I’ve done quite a lot of…well, I was calling it ‘useless’ writing as I’ll never be able to use it for anything, but really it’s good practise.

However, as the game’s starting to wind down – we’ve reached Teh End Of Teh Worldz where everything is going to hell, probably including our characters, so I decided to have a sort-out in preparation for archiving. (And, me being me, I ended up writing some more. Ho hum.) But anyway. I’ve written 16 major stories, totalling about 108,000 words, and an additional 6 ‘extra’ stories at 8000 words. There’s also 3 archived stories, either as dead-ends or bits that I never fleshed out fully so didn’t end up using. That’s not including the actual casefile writing that I’ve done for the game, either; I can’t be bothered to count the words but it’s 8 casefiles and 13+11+8+3+12+11+3+4 (so far) posts + 7 ‘odd’ gaming posts + 4 ‘odd story’ posts…so there’s quite a lot of words there too!

Looking back on it all, I’ve learned a lot. In terms of writing technique, I’ve practised action scenes, both for multiple people (no full-scale battles yet, but I did some fairly large fights) and individual fights. I’ve written from different viewpoints, both in perspective (so first and third person, with several variations on voice style) and in terms of writer’s distance. I’ve gone to different places and tried different styles; admittedly, I’m usually ‘me’ but it’s interesting to at least attempt different things!

In terms of personality, too, I’ve experimented. I’ve tried to write in several different characters; I’ve tried to get into the mind of someone who is, frankly, a complete bastard; I’ve written mafia dons, Sidhe, Malks, vampires, spiders, Fae Queens, friends and enemies…and my primary character has been changing a lot too over the course of the time, so she’s been interesting to follow. There’s always a temptation to make her nice, and it’s been fun (and painful) to force myself to make her change and to act against my idea of her. Recently she’s been a bit of a bitch, which has been fun to play with, and is interesting in terms of character struggles. She knows she’s changing, but sometimes it takes someone else to point it out to her…and if it’s the bastard who points it out, well, that’s a fun conversation. If you can call throwing fireballs a ‘conversation’.

And, most importantly, I’ve enjoyed it. I can see my writing changing over the year; I can see the changes in my characters, in my style, in my way of writing. It’s fascinating for me to re-read early stuff and see the influences going both ways, both from my earlier writing and the game, and then into my later writing. And it’s been really, really fun. I love this world and these characters; I love writing the more sensible Dini, trying her best to keep her integrity in the face of overwhelming pressure, eventually being forced to take a side and then struggling to maintain her own self against the pressures and temptations of her power. I love writing the bastard, with his snark and smirk and occasional flash of kindness, and his drive to keep his own humanity against the knowledge that he will, one day, become a monster. And I love the mix of supernatural and real-world, the unknown and the terrifying, the real and the dream. It’s been an amazing world to play and to write in.

We’ve got another few sessions in our current game (although I’m seriously doubting Swindon will survive, so maybe it’s a good thing we’re stopping after this casefile…) and I’m continuing the world with my own GM’d game, although it’s using a different aspect of it. I’m not losing the world completely, but I don’t think I’m going to be writing these characters any more; at the end of the campaign, I’m ready to finish with both sides of the world, finish the campaign and archive my stories. It’s bittersweet to have to do it, but hopefully in a few years I’ll pull them out and see how much my writing has changed – and be reminded of an old world.

On frustrations and fanfiction

Summer’s roaring through me, filling my veins with fire and my thoughts with vengeance, but what it comes down to is the simple human desire to punch his lights out.

And so I do.

30,000 words.

30 sodding thousand words.

I worked out the other day that I’ve written over 200k words of Dresden RPG story, based around the world and game that I’ve played for the last year. Some of the stories have gone into the ‘canon’ game, some are side stories, and the one I’m currently writing has branched off into an alternate universe.

It’s not exactly fanfiction; it’s using a world similar to Butcher’s Dresden Files but with modifications. It’s using the magic system, the political groups, the ideas – but not the characters or the exact scenarios. It’s too close to fanfiction to be my story or world, but too far away to be true fanfiction.

I’ve ranted before about writing ‘useless’ stories, but I think the one I’m currently writing takes the cake. 30,000 words! That’s a normal length story for me!

I have wondered about using the writing for something – after all, it does progress through a series of character developments, and the plots do tie into each other. It’s good writing; it’s interesting, fun, and the stories do all hang well enough that they can be read by ‘outsiders’. I could publish on something like Wattpad or this blog, or even one of the fanfiction forums.

But…it’s also bound into the game; there’s a lot of in-jokes and details that come from the game, and would require quite a lot of editing to explain or remove those details and be read by someone who doesn’t know the background. It’s not true fanfiction, so I am limited on the arenas that would appreciate it. And, ultimately, I think it’s too personal. The stories use other characters – with permission – but that doesn’t mean I have any right to hand my thoughts and my use of that character to a wider world. I have no right to use a shared game world and a shared storyline. What it comes down to is that it’s not wholly my writing…and I’m not sure that I want to share some of the stories with anyone beyond the gaming circle.

So, frustrating as it is, I can’t use it. I’m – as you may have gathered – pretty angry with myself. I should be working on ‘real’ writing, useful writing. I should be writing GreenSky, Sloth stories, short stories. I shouldn’t be spending valuable time and thinking power trying to make this story work.


I love it.

It’s in my head. It’s in my heart. It’s coming out onto the page, whether or not I want it to. I started with a scribble-scene, just to get the damn thing out…and then it grew. My characters laughed and fought and travelled. And it grew. And grew.

And then I realised it had a second half, it needed finishing.

It’s now a full story at 30,000 words. My characters are chasing across Vegas and then Wiltshire, tracing a thief and a book, getting themselves into scrapes and out again. Dini’s learning how to use magic, experiencing grief and loss and pain, realising that the world has inevitably changed for her and there’s no going back. Her companion’s reluctantly learning that sometimes he does need to rely on other people, and that they won’t do what he wants – and that he can’t fight or fuck his way out of every situation. The world’s getting more complicated for both of them, and there’s darkness lingering even in the brightest sunshine.

I love writing it. Because I’m now in an alternate universe, I don’t know where this is going to end. I want to keep it slightly canon because it’s fun to tie it into our gaming world, but I don’t know what’s going to happen there either.

So…just gotta keep writing, I guess!

I laugh, spread my arms and spin out into the darkness with their colours floating around me. I feel like I’m falling, flying with the night around me and their shadows flickering, weaving and floating as I spin, dancing with the Little Folk to music that no-one else can hear…


So, how about writing in someone else’s world?

I know a lot of authors – and a lot of writers – deride fanfiction as childish, easy, vainglorious crap. (Ok, paraphrasing, but I suspect the sentiment isn’t that far off). It’s a teenage thing; it’s riddled with Mary-Sues, perfect characters, unnatural romances (of course Harry Potter would fall for a completely unknown student with beautiful hair and no apparent personality!) It’s the source of a lot of AWFUL writing, even worse love stories, absolutely abysmal erotic writing, and generally wince-inducing results. Both writers and readers also hate it because it puts something there that isn’t already – I believe it’s George RR Martin who complains that if he wanted to show that part of the story, he would have written it.

Me? I love fanfiction.

I can’t confess to liking the abysmal writing or awful erotic scenes, I have to say. But I love the concept. I entirely support people writing it, both as a writer and as a reader. Aaaand here’s why…

– Fanfiction is an expression of love. I don’t have any issues with other people using my characters or world – after all, they’re creating their own images by reading the books! – and it’s no different to a film adaption, or character drawing. It’s a jealous writer who can’t let go of his creation, and I appreciate the diversity of the fan world outside there: hell, if I got a tiny percentage of the variety of ideas that the fan world generates, I’d be in heaven! I admit some of them are a bit…unusual? Not workable? But hey, I’m not going to stop that creativity.

– It’s also a desire to get more of the story. There are parts that I don’t write – either because they spoil the flow of the current book, or I’m just not great at writing those bits, or I’m not personally interested. But if someone else is: if someone else does want to know what happens with Neville while Harry’s running around the UK, if someone else does want to write about Rose’s life before she met the Doctor, if someone else does want to wonder what could have happened if one little word had changed or in that gap between paragraphs or if everyone lived in a steampunk world – then go for it. It’s not taking anything away. It’s immersing someone so fully in the story that they want to see more of it, or in some cases be part of it: and I can’t argue with that.

– It is in many ways easier to use someone else’s world. You don’t have to worry about the way it works, the details, the other characters, the interactions. All you have to focus on is a few characters and the way they work. You can hone one element without having to worry about the rest. So, for a writer, it’s a dream – it’s nice to be able to look at one thing without constantly worrying about filling in details

– However, despite that, I also have real respect for anyone writing in someone else’s world: it’s f***ing difficult! You have to get it right: you have to use the right setting, the right motivations, otherwise it falls flat..

– …and you can twist it, yes – but you have to twist it within what works. Some of the best fanfiction I’ve read has been alternate universe (AU), where the setting, backgrounds and some motivations have been entirely changed, but the characters are the ones I love from the original books, and are true to the original writer – and THAT is skill.

– And, I suppose ultimately, fanfiction is practise. I challenge any writer to tell me their first stories weren’t shit. I challenge any writer to tell me that they haven’t taken elements from something they loved. My first stories were ones where I was the central character; mine were escape, were daring, were me as the hero. And they’ve changed as I have written more, as I have learned what makes good writing. No matter how abysmal fanfiction is, it’s still practise – it’s still writing a story. And I’m in favour of anything that gets someone writing, particularly if it’s something they love.