August 2022 Update!

August 3, 2022

Reminder that this is mirrored from my Patreon page and you can check that out for more posts!

This month’s lesson will be Plot (and also character).  What is plot anyway, and why does it matter so much? Part of this is about how we really need to get across some sign of the plot on the first page (in a short story) or the first chapter (in a novel). As an example, in the following week’s seminar I’ll show you the before and after of the beginning of the story I’m working on right now.

I have a couple of new stories out!

“Grow”: This is the origin story of one of my Wild Cards characters. I posted my initial outline of this story a couple months ago, and now you can see what the final product looks like.

Also out this month on Clarkesworld: “Polly and (Not) Charles Conquer the Solar System.” I’m really excited about this one because a) I’m still really excited about novellas, which seems to be a lot of what I’m writing these days and b) It’s the sequel to my novel Martians Abroad and I can finally show people what happened to Polly and Charles.

This story has a really good example of how “real world” experience often gets incorporated into my work. It usually isn’t a big plot point or a character based on a real person. It’s often a small detail that stuck with me, that I can use to make a story feel more real. “Polly and (Not) Charles” has a single line about people freaking out in environment suits:  “I made him look at me. You could usually tell when someone in a suit was about to freak out because their eyes would get really round, showing too much white. But he wasn’t freaking out.” About ten years ago I went scuba diving in the Yucatan in Mexico, in one of the cenotes – limestone caverns that have filled with ground water. It’s not cave diving, but it’s close. It’s probably the most challenging diving I’ve done – there’s not a lot of room, and staying calm and in control are critical. Several times during  the dive, our guide stopped each of the divers and looked at our faces. Afterwards, I asked him why. He said, “So I can see if you’re about to freak out.” He explained that people sometimes get suddenly claustrophobic and panic, and he so he looks at their eyes to make sure they’re still calm. Almost the exact line I used in the story. Scuba diving and space travel:  both using technology to keep us alive in hostile environments. I can use that similarity. 

What I’m watching:  Catching up on the latest seasons of shows I’ve been watching, like What We Do in the Shadows and For All Mankind. Nadia wearing two little top hats at the nightclub is something I’ll be thinking about for a long, long time.

I baked cinnamon rolls for the first time. They turned out a little crunchy around the edges, and it turns out I kinda like ’em that way!

And last month I had a realization: if I really want to get cleaning done I need to do it in the morning before I do anything else because by late afternoon I just want to sit on the sofa and veg. We’ll see how long I can keep this up!

July Update!

July 1, 2022

Welcome to my July 2022 Update!

This month’s lesson on Patreon: July’s Lesson is either going to be “Plot (and also Character),” the companion to the June Lesson because as I mentioned then, plot and character are actually the same thing. Or it’s going to be on networking. I’m traveling for a couple of weeks through here and it’s discombobulated my schedule a bit, so the lesson will be whichever one of those two I can get into shape by next week. Do you have an opinion about which you’d like to see first? Leave a comment!

I have two new publications to tell you about:

“The Voyage of Brenya” appears in Lost Worlds and Mythological Kingdoms, edited by John Joseph Adams, from Grim Oak Press

“Dead Poets” appears in Someone In Time, edited by Jonathan Strahan, from Solaris

These are both theme-specific anthologies I was invited to, and so wrote the stories specifically for them. When I talk about networking, one of the things I need to talk about is how I get into invitation-only anthologies like this. And then how do I come up with stories for a specific theme, because that’s a topic in itself.

What I’m working on currently:  I’m rewriting the novel manuscript I wrote over the winter. It’s going well. My agent said the story lacked urgency, so I was able to rework the outline to raise the stakes and better link scenes with causal relationships.  I’m making so many more connections than were there before.  (i.e. Character B is now doing this because of what Character A did two chapters ago, rather than doing it randomly.) I’m reminding myself that what happens in the story actually has to have an impact on the characters. I mean, of course, but sometimes I get so deep in the weeds I don’t see the map. Turns out I wrote an entire draft trying to figure out who the characters were and what the story was, but I think I’ve got it, now. Plot beats, ID those plot beats!

I’m reading something like five books at once because I can’t seem to settle. Some fiction and non-fiction, a lot of books on creativity, just seeing what other people write about it. I think this is a symptom of ebooks – it’s so very easy to switch between five different books, everything from stuff I’ve checked out from the library to old favorites.

I’m also bouncing around on TV. I watched Under the Banner of Heaven, which mostly made me want to read the book, and The Essex Serpent, which didn’t. Both underwhelmed me, even with my beloved Tom Hiddleston in the latter. Neither one ended up being quite what I wanted them to be about, and the shows themselves didn’t seem sure what they were about.

I’m really enjoying Kenobi and Ms. Marvel, and I think it may be that amidst all the chaos of the world I really like being in those familiar settings. It’s like a warm fuzzy blanket. Nothing wrong with a little escapism.

The next season of For All Mankind is up, and I’ll get to it soon, but that show is so emotional I need to mentally prepare for it. Seriously, this is one of the most underrated things on streaming TV right now. It’s so good.

Now, back to the word mines with me…

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!

year in review 2021

December 13, 2021

It’s time for the annual review of what I published this year. Had a little trouble trying to remember everything. If last year was battling a chicken the size of a T-Rex, this year has been battling a hundred T-Rexes the size of chickens. I’ve spent a lot the year being angry and tired, and angry and tired about being angry and tired. It’s a terrible feedback loop.

But I think I’m writing some of the best stories I’ve done in my whole career. I’m really proud of this group of publications, and most of it was done during the pandemic. So, I just need to keep going, I guess.

Novel

Questland. About gaming and pop culture and real-world violence vs. made-up violence and what stories mean and lots more. In some ways it still doesn’t feel real that this book is out in the world. Part of the strangeness of this year.

Novella

“Age of Wonders,” in Wild Cards Deuces Down. This was an impossible task: take a 20-year old anthology and write an interstitial that ties together a group of completely unrelated stories. And I did it. And I think I did a good job.

Fatal Storm and Charmed Waters. The two new Cormac and Amelia stories. And I absolutely love the novella format that lets me do these and have fun without knocking myself out the way novel writing sometimes does.

Novelette

“The Burning Girl” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. The Norman Conquest with superheroes, and I think we need a lot more historical fiction with superheroes.

Short Stories

“The Book of the Kraken” in Uncanny Magazine. A girl and her squid. ‘Nuff said.

“An Easy Job” at Tor.com. The second Graff story. I have so much I want to do with Graff, he’s been spending a lot of time in my brain lately.

“Entanglement: Or How I Failed to Knit a Sweater for My Boyfriend” in Lightspeed, out just this month. I think this is a light little story about knitting, then I go back and look at it again and… well, I just really like this story.

And that’s my year in publications.

new story!

December 9, 2021

I have a new short story out today! Lightspeed Magazine has published “Entanglement, or How I Failed to Knit a Sweater for My Boyfriend.”

Maybe not my longest title, but close. I’m really proud of this one (I mean, I’m proud of most of my writing, but some stories stand out, you know?) because the idea hit me all at once and bubbled up and turned into a real story much quicker than usual, and it’s always nice when that happens. It was fun to write. I hope it’s fun to read.

Just FYI, I’ve never knitted a full-on sweater.

If you’re still looking for holiday gifts, may I make a recommendation, perhaps if you have a gamer in your life who has everything? My latest novel QUESTLAND might be just the thing.

My latest novella, Charmed Waters, released as an e-book yesterday. Hurrah!

Cormac and Amelia meet a mermaid in landlocked Colorado. Now, they need to get her home.

Kindle

Nook

Apple

An an audiobook will be out soon!

Cormac and Amelia are back!

November 3, 2021

FATAL STORM, a brand-new adventure starring Cormac and Amelia, is now available!

He’s an ex-con turned supernatural detective! She’s the spirit of a Victorian wizard! Together, they fight crime!

I swear, sometimes the pitches just write themselves. This one’s a country house murder mystery. And the house is haunted…

Links: Kindle, Nook, and it’s up on Apple Books as well. I’ll post that link when I have it. Update: BOOM, here’s the Apple Books link, right after the post goes up.

An audio version will be coming soon, so keep an eye out for that.

And in one month, the fourth book in the series, CHARMED WATERS, will be out.

Just in time for some cozy winter reading!

What did I do this summer? I got two new Cormac and Amelia novellas ready to go, y’all! We’ve got ghosts and blizzards and folk singers and murder and cryptid hunters and mermaids in landlocked Colorado. Whew!

FATAL STORM is out in November, CHARMED WATERS in December. Kindle and Nook pre-order links are here:

Fatal Storm:

Kindle

Nook

Charmed Waters:

Kindle

Nook

state of the week

August 24, 2021

Guess who finally had to get a Covid test after avoiding it for 18 months? That’s right, it’s me! Bit of a scare, but the test came back negative and it turns out I’ve got something going on with my sinuses instead. But that was a really not fun couple of days there. Whew.

Mask up, folks. Get the vax if you’re able.

In happier news, I’ve got some stuff coming up! On August 31, I’ll be having a virtual chat with author Brian Naslund, and we’ll be talking books and writing and all that good stuff.

Sign up at this Eventbrite link.