June 2022 update!

June 3, 2022

Reminder that this is cross-posted from my Patreon Writing Symposium.

Summer! Summer is here! I’ve got trips planned! I’m doing things!

  • This month’s Lesson will be: Character (and also Plot). July’s Lesson will probably be Plot (and also Character). Maybe the two central components of fiction. Endless ink has been spilled on them. Entire books. Spoiler: Turns out they’re the same thing. I’m going to talk about that, from both sides.
  • What’s my current writing look like: If you’ll remember in our last episode, I set aside the novel I said I was going to finish in April. Instead, in May, I wrote a novella and a short story and got them both out the door. Wuf, that felt good. I think I needed to finish something and clear some brain space. Now, I have two novel drafts I’m going to be noodling around with: the one I said I was going to finish, and the one I wrote over the winter that I don’t know WTF I’m going to do with. Agent likes the first couple of chapters but the whole thing needs work. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to read over both manuscripts, outline what I have, and figure out what’s missing and what they need to make the stories feel complete. This is tough, grueling, tedious work that I’m not looking forward to. But both projects are close enough to finished that I know I’ll feel better getting them done.  This is the hard slog: not just writing, but writing work that other people will want to read. It’s that last bit that’s the challenge.
  • I got a lifer bird last week: black-chinned hummingbirds! Two males, fighting like they were in West Side Story.
  • Moon Knight. Well, that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Oscar Isaac is lovely, of course. But by the end I kind of just didn’t care. Except my history/archeology buff friends and I were appalled at them putting packing tape on 3000 year old papyrus. Completely appalled. 
  • I still haven’t been to see the new Dr. Strange movie. 
  • But I finally caught up on a slew of animated films:  Encanto, Luca,  and Turning Red, which I feel not enough has been said about how it’s actually a kaiju story? That was my favorite part.
  • And now, Obi-Wan Kenobi. I love it. I love how they’re capturing the aesthetic of the animated series in live action. I love seeing new planets and people. I love what I’ve been calling Executive Dysfunction Kenobi. He isn’t just in hiding—he’s frozen. He’s paralyzed. He fucked up and he knows it and he’s going to have to deal with it somehow. So, so good. I love this idea depicted both here and with Luke-in-exile in The Last Jedi that the Jedi of this era bought into their own myth so hard that they simply don’t know what to do with failure and freeze up. Run away. This is in contrast to Jedi like Ahsoka, Kanan Jarrus, and Ezra from the animated shows, who didn’t have the support of the order and learned to make do without it and find their own ways. (I know Luke is a young, post-Clone Wars Jedi. But his teachers were Ben and Yoda, who maybe gave him an unrealistic picture of what he was supposed to be.) And don’t even get me started on young Leia. She’s everything

Why yes, I am Star Wars’s target audience, apparently. 

Now let’s see what we can do about having a good month, for whatever values of good work for us. 

May Update!

May 5, 2022

May update!

  • Reminder to check out my page on Patreon.
  • This month’s lesson, going up next week: Outlining for Pantsers. Do you outline, do you not, should you, does it matter? Are you a plotter or a pantser, and why don’t we ever talk about people like me who land right in the middle? Well, this month I will.
  • The image above is April’s “If I Want to Eat That Thing on the Great British Baking Show I Guess I’m Going to Have to Make it Myself:”  lime-mascarpone panna cotte. Shockingly simple, decadent, will make again, especially if I want to be FANCY.
  • I try to plan out my writing, I really do. Remember how I was going to finish a novel last month? I did not. Instead, I put it aside and started work on a shorter piece that’s been in my idea file for a long time. Just trying to clear some brain space. Ultimately, I don’t suppose it much matters what I’m working on as long as I’m working on something. This is what happens when I’m not on deadline.
  • Here’s an interview I did with Carol Malcolm, who runs the Urban Fantasy Track at DragonCon. Good stuff!
  • May 14th is the Global Big Day. Birders all over the world head out to see how many different species they can spot in a single day. I love it because it’s goal oriented and motivating. I set my alarm and try to get out early, which I normally don’t do. I’m going to try to break 50 species this year. Let’s do it!
  • It’s finally rained in my stretch of Colorado. Hurrah!
  • Movie I saw:  Everything Everywhere All At Once is great for lots of reasons: a middle aged woman at the center of it, accounting as a plot point (my long-time readers know I have a soft spot for accounting in spec fic stories), and completely gonzo in ways I’ve never seen before. It also does a thing that’s really hard to do: it’s a good science fiction film and a good allegory at the same time. (Colossal is another film that does both at the same time pretty well. Snowpiercer and Another Earth are two films that try to do both and fail pretty soundly at both.) It’s a story about traveling across multiple alternate realities. It’s also about family, particularly the fraught relationship between mothers and daughters, and the moment (which I’m approaching myself) of realizing that more of your life lies behind you than in front of you and what are you going to do about it? Really big themes, but also completely off the rails, incredibly well acted, and just well put together all the way around.

It’s May. Spring heading into summer. Let’s go out and have a good month, y’all.

April Update!

April 1, 2022

  • Reminder to check out my page on Patreon.
  • This month’s lesson will be on length. Writing long, writing short: do your short stories keep turning into novels, or do you have trouble expanding your ideas into longer work? How do I move back and forth between lengths? Let’s talk about it.
  • Sale! Dark Divide, the first Cormac and Amelia adventure, is on sale in ebook this month only. Amazon, Nook, Apple. Check out it, spread the word!
  • I saw an art exhibit last weekend, Washi Transformed: New Expressions in Japanese Paper, which is at the Longmont Museum here in Colorado until May. All paper and multimedia artworks. Really inspirational. Particularly the paper and fabric work of Yuko Kimura. Makes me want to play around with some things. I have lots of arts and craft supplies and I’m always looking for new ways of using them.
  • Slowly heading back to the movies. Last month I saw Death on the Nile and Cyrano, a couple of old stories told with current stars. They both looked spectacular. In Death on the Nile, Branagh returns as Poirot, along with an amazing cast, and it’s all fine, but I miss David Suchet’s Poirot. His was iconic. It’s a little like how I’m happy enough watching other actors play Sherlock Holmes, but Jeremy Brett will always be my Holmes. In Cyrano, everyone is talking about Peter Dinklage, and rightly so. But I wish the film had been able to maintain its energy through the second half. It got long, and a little tiring. I think part of this might be inherent in the story – there’s a point when all the characters just start acting really stupid and it’s frustrating.
  • And then my fridge died this week. It turns out it was almost thirty years old, so it was time. But boy it’s annoying.
  • Back to work. I’m going to try to finish this novel draft by the end of April.

Welcome to March

March 4, 2022

Welcome to March!

Friendly reminder that I’ve moved my blogging energy over to my Patreon. One of the things I’m doing there is a free month-in-review post, and I’m going to cross post those here to see what happens. Just trying to streamline my brain and efforts a bit. So far so good!

  • This month’s Lesson is going to be on Everything I’ve Learned About Writing A Kick-Ass Series. This isn’t just what I learned writing a 14-novel + spin offs series. It’s the roadmap I made for myself as I was writing the Kitty series.
  • Y’all, I’ve been productive. In the last couple of months I’ve finished a novella, the first third of a new novel (actually a complete reworking of a failed novel draft from a couple years ago, which I might talk about in one of this month’s Seminars – let me know if you’d like to hear about that), and a short story. I’m also processing a lot and making plans, working on baby steps. These manic phases are hard, because I get all these ideas and I go a little crazy wanting to do everything right this minute right now go go go go… And that never works, so I’m really looking at breaking things down into little bites and chewing slowly, to aid in digestion, if that doesn’t strain the metaphor too much. Reminder: it’s a marathon not a sprint and most of these things are not time sensitive.
  • I decided I didn’t bork the cross stitch project (I thought I didn’t have enough fabric) and so started on it again. I also went to the local alpaca festival (I know, right?!) and got yarn. Not because I needed it but because it made me happy. Sometimes you just gotta.
  • I’ve started watching “Star Trek: Lower Decks” and holy cow I love it so much. It’s so cheeky and yet with so much heart. “Distract him with the fan dance!” OMG I almost spit out my wine.
  • Birding: Spring migration has begun. The red wing blackbirds are back at the ponds.

update!

January 27, 2022

A couple of announcements!

Reminder that I’ll be doing more posting over at my Patreon.

I’ve spoken before about the Odyssey Writing Workshop, which I attended back in 1998, and how it gave me a big boost to getting my career started. After two years of going virtual, Jeanne is changing up the format to take advantage of those virtual resources, and also to make Odyssey more accessible. Taking off six weeks to go to a workshop just isn’t possible for a lot of people. So… if you ever thought about applying for the Odyssey workshop, but weren’t able to take the time, check out the new format and scheduling and see if it might work for you. I’m excited to see where the workshop is headed.

And a movie review: I made it to the theater (weekday matinee FTW) to see Spider-Man: No Way Home and I absolutely loved it. Its high energy, fast pace and laser focus on its own mission are such a contrast to Eternals. What a relief.

SPOILER: And the massively subversive plot beat in the second act is so, so good. We’ve got an honest-to-god rogues gallery, all Spider-Man’s previous villains lined up (and how much sheer acting talent and experience is in that room in that moment), and they all realize they were taken out of their universes at the moment before they were killed — and Peter realizing that sending them back will guarantee they’ll be killed, and he can’t do that, and how about instead we get these guys the medical and mental health care they need to repair the damage that was to do them by accidents that weren’t actually their fault… Oh hell yes, that’s a story.

SPOILER OVER

I’m actually excited about the MCU again!

Patreon Link

January 17, 2022

Okay, here it is! It went live over the weekend, and now you can see what I’ve been working on:

I’m creating a Writing Symposium on Patreon

I’m already feeling some improvement in my motivation — I’ve set this up with a structure and deadlines that will encourage me to get work out. I suddenly realized that I haven’t had an external deadline — someone else telling me they need X work by X date — in a year. While I’m usually really good at setting deadlines for myself, I think that muscle has been getting tired. This is going to provide some accountability. Let the experiment begin!

I’m also starting to watch movies again. At home, anyway. Some thumbnail reviews:

Eternals. Oh, sweetie. Where to start. It’s beautiful and elegiac. And hits so many of my pet peeves in the first fifteen minutes that it was hard to keep going. 1) Opening scroll containing information that a character repeats in dialog a little bit later. (MCU, you know better than this.) 2) Huge, vast, expository lumps. In fact, the second expository lump is basically “Oh yeah, that whole first expository lump was all wrong, so here’s another one, delivered in exactly the same cosmically overbearing way the first one was.” and 3) Look, I just really really need people know that agriculture had been established in Mesopotamia well before 5000 BCE, along with domesticated animals, stone walls, and early urban social organization, so telling me that it’s 5000 BCE Mesopotamia and then showing people digging in the dirt with sticks and banging rocks together is just deeply offensive. I know I’m a little sensitive to this because I’ve been studying the Neolithic period kind of a lot for the last few years. But really, all they needed to do was say it was 10,000 BCE and I wouldn’t have had a problem. Or as much of a problem, anyway.

To be fair, I think there’s a good story in here about a family facing a moral conundrum and members coming down on both sides of it in a really tragic way. But we have to wade through a lot of awkward to get there.

The Tragedy of Macbeth. This is here to remind us that cinema can be art. The design on this is black and white, Modernist, spare, shockingly beautiful. Bergmanesque. Washington and McDormand are fantastic. They play the couple as really in love, and their mental breakdowns in the last half are understated, swift, and brutal. This is not my favorite Shakespeare movie, but it’s a really really good one.

upcoming appearances!

January 13, 2022

Y’all, I’m so out of practice in posting about news and stuff that people would actually like to hear about… But here we go, let’s do it!

February 18-20: I’ll be participating virtually in Boskone. Log on to see my smiling face, and a bunch of other programming besides!

March 16-20: I’ll be IN PERSON at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. This is the one I had to cancel out of two years ago when everything fell apart. Let’s see if I can actually get to Florida this time! Is it weird that I’m really looking forward to doing some birdwatching while I’m in Orlando?

Uncanny Magazine is having a poll to vote on the best stories of the year! My short story, “The Book of the Kraken,” about a girl and her squid is among the candidates, if you’re so inclined to tick the box!

Into the Future…

January 10, 2022

I have an announcement.

Short version:  I’m moving this blog over to Patreon, a crowdfunding platform where audiences can directly support creators. There’ll be at least a couple of free posts every month, so some version of this blogging experience will continue. BUT…  I’ll also be creating what I’m calling a Writing Symposium:   a living, evolving document with info about the craft and business of writing, and my own process and how it functions in the real world. Like a “how to write” book but more interesting. Also, this will give me some much-needed structure and motivation, which has been lacking this past year. Link forthcoming.

Long explanation:

I mentioned a couple months ago that blogging has been difficult for me. I’ve been writing this blog for about 15 years. When I started it, blogging was still cool. The Kitty series was just getting going. I had a lot to say and I was going to a lot of movies and figuring out a lot of stuff on the fly. Well, after almost two years of pandemic, of struggling with broken novels, and a year of an ongoing coup being perpetrated by former and current elected officials who, in denying the results of the 2020 election, are in violation of their oaths of office and probably guilty of actual crimes, and so on and so forth… I’m really tired.  I still like the idea of a blog, of having a place to put big thoughts and movie reviews and the like. But the actual necessity of finding subjects to write about, then writing them, on a schedule, is a struggle.

Throughout all this I’ve also been toying with the idea of putting together a “how to write” book.

I’ve been writing professionally for more than 20 years, teaching workshops and critiquing for much of that time. I have a lot of thoughts about this gig. But I have to be honest, the idea of writing a book on the subject doesn’t really appeal to me. There are thousands of books on writing out there. Does the world really need another?

Then I got an idea.

I’m starting a Patreon. A lot of fiction writers have started Patreons, and most of them are using the platform to post fiction. I won’t be doing that. I’m going to use the platform to talk about writing. A Writing Symposium. And not just writing, but creativity in general, and everything that goes into building a creative life. I’ve spent a lot of the pandemic thinking about life, and how “a life” isn’t something you build and then you’re finished. It’s an ongoing process, in pretty much constant flux. Building a creative life – one in which you have space to think, dream, write, paint, sing, and make – even more so, since those are often activities that the wider world doesn’t value or take seriously. But they’re really important and it’s all a process that takes attention.

In much the same way, I don’t want to put together a “how to write” book and have it be a static thing, because I’m still learning and growing. A book would be a snapshot of my thoughts at one point in time. With this platform, I’m hoping to create an evolving, interactive document about writing and creativity. This will also give me a regular schedule and structure for posting.

And maybe a little cash, that never hurts.  Because something else I’ve learned is that all this knowledge I’ve scraped together over the years is valuable. Instead of trying to sell a book, I’m putting out a tip jar, basically.

Many of you have been with me from the start, commenting and supporting me, and I’m so very grateful to you for that. So now I have some questions for you… What would you like to see me do in this new format? 

–What do you like in this blog as it is now?  What keeps you coming back?

–What levels of support would you like to see? I’ll definitely have free posts that will very much resemble what I do here, but I’m also considering $1, $5, and $25 per month  levels of support.  These would unlock more in-depth posts on writing in general, and my process in particular.

–If you support other Patreons, what do you like about them? What do you not like? Any advice?

I’m excited about starting up a whole new project. I’m also a little daunted, but I’m taking that as a good sign – challenges are good, and clearly I need something to get me going. So here we go…

Of course I’ll post the link when this goes live!

SNOW!

January 3, 2022

We got our snow! 6-7 inches of it, along with frigid temperatures. I didn’t shovel the drive in December but I did it January 1, so close enough, and finally, finally it feels like winter. This is why the holidays never really felt like the holidays. I joke that I’m allowed to start playing holiday music when we get snow, and this year…no snow. The whole thing just felt off. (It would be different if I lived someplace like Florida and didn’t expect snow, but this is freaking Colorado.)

And now it’s winter. Whew. Didn’t really realize how much I was missing it until this weekend.

fire

December 31, 2021

Welp. 2021, the year of 100 T-Rexes, continues right up to the bloody end.

Yesterday, 100 mph winds drove a wildfire directly through the suburban corridor south of Boulder.

I’m fine. I live about 20 miles north of the fire, which was moving the other direction. I’ve gotten lots of messages asking if I’m okay, and the answer is yes. Although twenty years ago I lived in a house that’s about half a mile from the edge of the burn zone. That’s my old stomping grounds that burned.

A lot of people in my area aren’t okay today. If you’re able to help and want to, the Boulder County Wildfire Fund is accepting donations.

Stay safe out there. Hug your peeps.