a couple of new stories

July 23, 2014

Harry and Marlowe Versus the Haunted Locomotive of the Rockies is now live on Lightspeed!  The entire issue is available for purchase as well.  This is the fifth Harry and Marlowe story.  A sixth is on the way.  The series continues apace!

I have another new story available.  This may take some explaining.  You might have heard of Amazon’s Kindle Worlds program.  Essentially, officially sanctioned and licensed fanfiction.  It turns out, G.I. Joe is one of the franchises involved with this.  Several astute readers brought this to my attention.  Then a couple of months ago, WordFire Press came to me with a proposal that began, “So, we hear you’re a fan of G.I. Joe.”

You can probably guess where this is going.

Behold:  G.I. Joe: Luck Be a Lady.  A story by me.

So that exists now.  It was a lot of fun to do.  My guiding principle:  I wanted it to feel exactly like an episode of the cartoon, with everything that entails, but with commentary.  There are easter eggs.  The unexpected thing I discovered:  The Baroness is an absolute hoot to write.  I had so much fun with her point of view.  Because you see, she isn’t really loyal to Cobra.  She actually doesn’t give much of a rat’s ass about Cobra, or Cobra Commander, or world domination.  She just wants to see everything burn.  She wants to create havoc and destruction.  Cobra lets her do that more than anything else does, so she sticks around.  But I’m talking 100% chaotic evil — in a PG universe.  And that’s crazy.  I just love it.

 

quick post

July 18, 2014

I’m back!

I had a good time at Shared Worlds, and my presentation seemed to go over well.  This is the sort of workshop/camp I’d have loved to do as a teenager — two weeks of living and breathing creativity.  So cool.

Now I have the inevitable mountain of email to dig out of it.  But there’s some good stuff coming up.  I’ll tell you all about it when I can.  In the meantime, I’m going to take it easy this weekend and noodle around until the next big travel push, coming up in a few weeks.

Happy Friday, everybody!

 

 

South Carolina!

July 16, 2014

I’m in South Carolina today!  Teaching at the Shared Worlds writing workshop for teens.  This evening, I’ll be at the Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, at 7 pm, reading and signing.  I think I’ll pick a short story to read from, just for fun.

In other news, I finished the revision of the next Kitty novel and turned it in before I left. Woooooo!

 

 

elk

July 9, 2014

I’m entirely occupied with revisions and other work today (like putting together my lecture for the Shared Worlds workshop next week) and completely unable to spare brain cells to put a blog post together.  So here are some more ungulates we saw on last weekend’s trip:

IMG_5341

Happy 4th

July 4, 2014

Today is Independence Day in the U.S.  I am away, making a weekend of it, and not working too hard (I hope).

Celebrate well.  Celebrate safely.

*Raises a bottle of cider to you all*

 

 

late breaking event!

July 2, 2014

Announcement:  On July 16 at 7 pm, I’ll be at the Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, SC, hanging out and chatting and signing books and things.  An east coast appearance, woot!  This will be after my stint teaching at the Shared Worlds workshop for teens, so it should be a fun action-packed day.

The July issue of Lightspeed is now available!  Including a new story by me, “Harry and Marlowe Versus the Haunted Locomotive of the Rockies.”  The story goes live on the site on July 22, but you can buy the issue and read it early.  This is the fifth Harry and Marlowe story, and yes I have plans to gather them all in a collection someday, but I have a couple more I want to write first before I tie them together.

I’m in the middle of revising the next Kitty book.  Holy cow, I’ve got a lot of work to do on this one.  Complicated by the fact I have also started writing a whole new novel.  Almost ten thousand words in and building steam.  I am suddenly very busy.  Brain full!  Gah!

 

on being prolific

June 25, 2014

I am a prolific writer.  I average a couple of books a year and a handful of short stories, which I guess is a lot.  I have to admit, from my end all I can see are the dozens of books and stories I haven’t written yet, and I never seem to get enough done.  But I’ve come to realize, that on the larger scale of things, yes, I am prolific.

I’ve been thinking lately about why that is and how that happens, because I never decided to be prolific, I never mapped out a strategy that would let me write as much as possible.  It just happened.  But how?  Well, the writing every day thing certainly helps — I don’t even have to write a lot every day, just a little bit.  Just enough.  I’m always thinking of ideas — I don’t wait for an assignment or contract to come along. Writing both short stories and novels helps contribute to the perception of me being prolific.

And there’s one other trait I hit on lately:  Abandonment.  Knowing when to let go.  Being able to move on to the next thing when one thing isn’t working.

What this means if you’re an aspiring writer, if you want to be a professional writer:  Don’t pin all your hopes on one thing. As soon as you finish writing that first story, that first novel — start the next. Immediately.

I’ve talked about my three trunk novels a lot.  I probably have a proportional number of trunk short stories to go with my 70+ published stories.  Then there’s all the stuff I never even sent out:  a couple of “practice” novels, a bunch of stories.  I still occasionally write a short story that immediately goes into the trunk because I’m not happy with it.  It’s okay, because I’ve got this new thing to work on, and it’ll be better.

Because you know what?  All those lessons you learned writing that one thing?  You’ll be able to use them on the next.  The next thing will be better.  The reason it was so easy for me to abandon those early novels and stories?  As soon as I wrote the next thing, I saw that the earlier stuff wasn’t very good. The only way you can see yourself making progress as a writer is by working on new things, so you can compare.

If you want to be a professional writer, you have to become an idea factory — you should always know the next thing you want to work on. If that last thing doesn’t sell, doesn’t work out, or isn’t actually that good — that’s okay, because you’ve got this next thing, and the next, and the next.

And for the love of all that is good and holy, don’t spend ten years working on the same thing.  Don’t rewrite the same thing endlessly, thinking that this next revision will finally make it good.  Or, do, but don’t expect to ever become a pro at this gig if you do.

At the risk of inciting ear worms, Let It Go. You have to be able to let go of old work and move on to the next work.

 

convention cultures

June 23, 2014

I spent the weekend and the official start of summer — most of the entire last week actually — very sick with what I thought was a cold but turned out to be a “viral sore throat.”  The doctor diagnosed and basically looked at me and said, “Sucks to be you.  Oh, and don’t kiss anyone.”  Thanks, science!  I don’t know if I caught it at Denver Comic Con or someplace else, but it’s terribly funny to me that after a stretch of six conventions since the end of March, I get horribly ill after the one that was the closest to home and that I spent the least amount of time at.

I had a good time for my one day at Denver Comic Con — I even got to listen to some other programs, like Edward James Olmos’s spotlight.  He’s a sharp and passionate guy, who’s had a hell of a career.  You don’t realize until you line it all up — Blade Runner, Stand and Deliver, Battlestar Galactica, and so on.  He talked about it all.  And he really seems to love leading the audience in a nice round of “So say we all!”

I also spent the day thinking about how much conventions have changed.  I went to my first convention in 1988, I think — Starcon here in Denver, one of the predecessors of the current incarnation of Starfest.  It was small and kind of insular and really good fun, and it had everything most modern conventions have — a dealer’s room, actors on the big stage, a masquerade, a film room, an anime room, panels and activities like “Jedi Jeopardy” and “Build an Alien.”  In fact, it had everything a modern comic con has — but a bare fraction of the attendance.  There’d be maybe a couple thousand, and it would be the nerdiest of the nerds.  There’d be a handful of costumes — a lot of Star Trek uniforms and a few “out there” ones that would get a lot of attention because there were so few people dressing up.  There’d be an award for “best hall costume” as well as awards in the masquerade.

So last weekend, I was thinking about what’s changed so that we have essentially the same thing going on, but with 86,000 people (DCC’s final attendance count was around that) instead of a couple thousand.  What’s covered by conventions has expanded, sure.  A lot more people know about them — back in the day, I think a lot of people just didn’t know conventions existed.  But more than that, genre is everywhereThe Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are super popular, anime airs everywhere on TV and you don’t have to actively track it down like you used to, gaming is everywhere, the biggest movies are all superhero movies, etc.

Conventions have always given people a deeper access to the things they love — meet the actors, buy the T-shirts, network with other fans, etc.  There’s just so much more of all of it now, and comic cons stepped in to fill that need in a way that Starfest and the nerdier, longer-running conventions haven’t.  25 years ago, dressing in costume was something different and odd and only some people did.  Now, it’s getting to the point where the last few conventions I’ve been at, more people have been in costume than not.  It’s becoming an essential part of the experience.

Conventions have always had an air of the mystical.  The very strange and mystical way people treat the actors, for example — even just a glimpse of Adam West seems magical, and why is that?  I kept thinking, this, the whole convention, is like church.  Pop culture church.  People wear special clothes.  They spend lots of money.  All of it in worship of the special things they love.  So what’s different now? What is it about comic cons now that wasn’t there 25 years ago?  I’m not sure.

What I do know is now, it’s all cool.  People don’t look at you funny when you say you’re going to a convention, like they did back then.  They think it’s cool.  How about that?  If you went back in time and told that to my high school convention going self, I never would have believed it.

 

I had TWO short stories released this week!

“Salvage,” a direct result of my rage at the movie Sunshine, is now live at Lightspeed.  It’s part of the much-heralded “Women Destroy Science Fiction” issue, which you can buy online and in print, and has lots and lots of bonus material.  Check it out!

Rogues, the latest multi-genre anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, was also released this week.  It includes my story “Roaring Twenties,” about a speakeasy where things aren’t what they seem.  It’s a different kind of story for me and was a lot of fun to write.

I caught the last half of the new SyFy series Dominion, not because I thought it would be good, but because it was on.  The premise of this is post-apocalyptic angels versus humans, with zombie-angel-humans thrown in, or something, but what I thought was really hysterical was this was basically The Stand in reverse — the human characters are all in Las Vegas, and I’m assuming they will eventually go after the chief bad guy, who is holed up in “the mountains above Boulder.”  From some reason this completely cracked me up.  Alas, I will not be finding out what happens next because not even Anthony Head could save this derivative and nonsensical mess.

You know that thing where people say, “Well, how do you write strong/tough/kickass/whatever women characters who aren’t just men with breasts?”  i.e. so-called women characters who are basically men, in female trappings, doing male-type things in the  story.  I guess.

I realized awhile back that I have no idea what this means.  Seriously.  What kind of men?  What kind of breasts?  What does this even mean?  The answer is, it doesn’t mean a damned thing.  In fact, I think it’s nothing more than apologia, another thing feeding into the idea that strong/physically tough women characters are somehow weird and need to be explained, and if you do them wrong you’ll be accused of some kind of. . .I don’t know.  I’ve written before about the discomfort with powerful women we often see in fiction, how they’re often mitigated by being some kind of “chosen one,” or given some kind of traumatic past that explains their current power, or saddled with perceived feminized weaknesses like low self esteems.  What this “not just men with breasts” statement says, I think, is that you’re supposed to somehow temper tough women characters.  Give them something that makes them “not men.”  When you ask, “Like, what?” you usually get some kind of answer like, “Oh, you know, women are more nurturing, they have to be feminine, they have to have something that shows that feminine traits can be strong too. . .”

That is exactly the essentializing bullshit we’ve been trying to get away from.  The minute you start saying things like “Women characters have to be like x, y, z, and shouldn’t be like a, b, c — ” you aren’t writing characters anymore, you’re writing stereotypes.  Don’t do that.

I mean — give me an example of a woman character who’s “just a man with breasts.”  Show me an example where this terrible mistake has been made.  Book, movie, whatever.  Vasquez in Aliens maybe?

Vasquez may be the butchest woman character ever to appear in a genre film — and there’s no mistaking her for a man.  She says so.  She’s a badass who’s amassed an arsenal of skills to deal with the male-dominated world she lives in.  She has a problem with authority, and a take-no-prisoners attitude.  She’s a great character.

Here’s my pick to play Wonder Woman, Gina Carano, in Haywire, where she plays a superspy on the run from a serious double cross.

No one is more physically tough than this woman.  Anyone gonna mistake her for a guy?  Is Mallory “just a man with breasts?”  Oh hell no.

Okay, here’s a character who’s definitely been accused of being too “mannish” or not feminine enough:

OH WAIT THAT’S NOT A CHARACTER THAT’S ACTUALLY MARGARET THATCHER, AN ACTUAL HUMAN WOMAN.  (My apologies for posting a Margaret Thatcher speech, everybody.)

And there we have it.  “Too manly” and “not feminine enough” or “too bitchy” or whatever are intended to be insults levied against actual real world powerful women to detract from their power.

That’s when I realized this whole “just a man with breasts” thing was total bullshit.  Because I don’t think it’s ever been done — it’s just another way to be scared of writing strong women.  Stop saying this, stop talking about it.

Really, seriously — to write strong women, write strong people.  I’m going to list a bunch of character traits:  funny, sly, smart, wise, kind, caring, ambitious, physical, psychotic, manipulative, narcissistic, thrill-seeking, generous, restless, brave, cowardly, cautious, cheerful, optimistic, practical, articulate, calm, elegant, dramatic, loyal, sympathetic, proud, humble, gregarious, stoic, emotional, hyper, gentle, graceful, artistic, restrained, stubborn, aggressive, passive, aloof, clumsy, cruel, curious, anxious, quiet, loud –

Which of those traits are female and which are male?  Bueller?  Bueller?  You should be able to list ten traits for your main characters before ever referring to their gender.  Because those are the sorts of traits that are going to impact the story, and determine how that character responds to the story.

Write people.

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