Update January 2023!

January 5, 2023

Ahhhh it’s a whole new year! Reminder that this is mirrored from my Patreon, which I encourage you to check out and subscribe to if you’re interested in more details about what I’m working on and lots of chatter about writing in general.

I usually seem to hit the ground running in the new year. It’s such a great time to make lists, review and assess plans, and get going on them. I’ve already finished reading a whole book, Also a Poet by Ada Calhoun, which is extraordinary. It’s a memoir about writing the actual memoir you’re reading. I loved it so much and highly recommend it. I’ve also already sent off a new short story, one of the three I wrote in December. (And…it just got rejected. Just got the email. Welp, time to send it right back out again.)

Great, right? Mind you, I usually crash by the time I get to March, when some of the plans start to go awry and I’m staring down the barrel of the rest of the year. I’m telling myself that recognizing the pattern is half the battle of dealing with it. We’ll see how that goes.

This month’s lesson: How to start. I mean this to be really basic: how to start when you’ve never written before. Every now and then I talk to someone who tells me they have ideas, their mind is full of stories. But they’ve never written. They don’t know how to start. I’ll offer some suggestions.

Work: Started a new thing. I spent all last year making notes and it and it’s taken awhile to find my way into it, but I finally did. I also have two more short stories to revise. Let’s see what else I can get out the door this month.

Two of my succulents are blooming. Woohoo!

A couple of announcements:

The fanzine Journey Planet invited me to write for their special issue all about Andor, which I was happy to do. It’s free to download, check it out!

I’ll be a Guest of Honor at Bubonicon in Albuquerque in August.

I almost went to see a movie and then I didn’t. Attention span still wonky.

TV: We really are living in a new golden age of fantasy, aren’t we? I’ve now had the same realization I had with superhero movies a few years ago: I don’t have to see every single one. I used to make such an effort to see them all, remembering the times we didn’t have any. Well, now it’s that way with epic fantasy. I can entirely skip House of the Dragon and Wheel of Time and not feel bad about it at all. Instead, I binged The Witcher: Blood Origin, which was…abrupt. Only four episodes, so just when I got attached to all the characters, it’s over. Minnie Driver makes a shockingly cool elf, though.

I’m adoring Willow. It’s so weird! I love how teenager-y the teenagers are. I love how it’s lining up tropes and shooting them down. I love the modern music. (I’m also the only person I know who loves the soundtrack to Ladyhawke so there we are.) I love the callbacks to the movie. I’m so pleased to see a sequel when everything else has been prequels. (Even Andor. As much as I enjoyed it, it’s rather elegiac and sad since we know how Andor’s story ends.) I’m just really enjoying it and sometimes that’s all I need.

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November 2022 Update

November 10, 2022

Reminder that this is cross-posted from Patreon!

Welcome to my world, where every month is National Novel Writing Month! You know, that’s a joke that a lot of pro writers have made over the years, and well… it’s old, I should haven’t said it, I apologize.

This month’s lesson: How to critique yourself and others. In the throes of all the revising I’ve been doing the last couple of months, I keep talking about critiques and feedback, and I realized — that’s kind of vague. Like so many things, critiquing is a process and a skill that requires learning and practice. So I’ll talk a little about that.

I finalized that novel I’ve been revising. It’s a thing. Good thoughts appreciated as it goes to the next step on its journey: submission. Oof. Now we wait.

I’ve moved on to the next rough draft, which is something of a surprise novel. This story’s been cooking in the back of my mind for something like a decade, and it spewed out in a big chunk over the end of the summer. It looks nothing like I thought it was going to look like, and it may be that shifting to a different main character, a different point of view, and a different verb tense, and basically a different everything, is what the story needed all along. It’s written, and now I’m revising. (Note to self, revising two novels in a row kind of sucks, that’s too much revising, I should probably take a break and work on something else except I want to get to this while it’s still fresh, argh, too many things.) Of course what I really want to do is send it to my beta reader with the bouncy enthusiasm of a small child showing off her first macaroni art. This is what I’d normally do. But I’m waiting. There are some holes in the story that need filling in, some plot lines that I know I can develop more. I’m going to try to let this draft breathe and see what happens.

What I’ve been watching: I really enjoyed The Rings of Power. I know not everyone did, and I understand why, but I love just how beautiful it looks, I love the detail and background, building on what we know of the world, and story wise, I love the way it manipulated our expectations without us even realizing it. Great stuff.

I also watched the most recent season of Cobra Kai. Every new season I drag my feet, thinking the show can’t keep getting better, it’s going to drop the ball one of these days… well, not yet. This season was just as great. This show is so tightly written… it’s corny, cheesy, over the top, and every piece of that is well thought out and intentional. It’s simultaneously mocking, deconstructing, and celebrating the 80’s teen action movie aesthetic. I love that. This season reminded me of that time the GI Joe comics were all ninjas all the time, but with high schoolers. Like, Baby Ninjas or something.

Let’s see, what else… my niece was Sabine Wren, from Star Wars Rebels, for Halloween. That kid is so ambitious! What that means is I learned to make foam cosplay armor. So many YouTube tutorials, y’all. With that skill now in my toolbox, other costumes become accessible. For MileHi Con, I made the headband for the Sylvie variant, from the Loki TV show.

Speaking of skills that need practice, I haven’t been doing any baking because of all the traveling, so my “If I want to try the food on the Great British Baking Show I Guess I’ll Have to Make it Myself” project is effectively on hold.

I will not be attempting to make those objects that they were calling s’mores. That was…so odd.

And now we enter the mad rush to the holiday season. Hold on tight…

Reminder that this is cross-posted from Patreon!

The thing about time, it’s going to keep moving forward whether I’m ready or not. And I’m not ready. Things got a bit out of control with all the traveling I did in August and September, and I’ve got more traveling coming up – I used to do this all the time, why is it so hard now! So I just gotta keep up. Triage the to-do list. The result is a constant state of playing catch up. Or at least feeling like I am. My feelings often have nothing to do with the reality of the situation…

This month’s lesson: The basics. I share the 11th grade writing worksheet that helped me become a better writer.

The Cormac and Amelia Case Files is out in the world! OMG it’s a book! And people are buying it! Woohoo! (This links to the newsletter that has all the relevant links for ordering. )

MileHi Con in Denver is this month, October 21-23. I’ll be there! I’m on the usual panels and stuff. Let’s do this!

What I’m working on: Revising a novel. The long slog. I’ve printed out the manuscript, I have a list of issues to address, and I’m reading it over, putting sticky notes on places that need work — mostly, it’s adding scenes to round out a couple of plot threads, and tweaking the rest. After, I’ll take the marked up manuscript and enter the changes on the document file. It’s going well, it just takes time. Ugh, that time thing again…

I need to do fall chores around the house. At least it’s finally sweater and fuzzy sock weather.

What I’m watching: I want to do more of a write up as I catch up on things, because I have some thoughts. I’m watching SheHulk, The Rings of Power, Andor, and the second season of Only Murders in the Building. (See, I watch more than genre franchises! Although I had this really terrible dream last in week in which I was taking a creative writing class in the building in the show, not with the main characters but with other people who lived there, and it was just awful, I had to wake myself up.) I’ve not seen any movies lately, which given how many movies I used to watch is strange. But yeah. I need to do some longer write-ups on franchise expectations and tone, and when reactions tell you more about the person reacting to the show than the show itself.

The short version for now: SheHulk is cute, and as a long-time Tim Roth fan I’m fully on board with Emil Blonsky being a big part of it. I adore The Rings of Power because it has color and light and I can see what’s going on and I like most of the characters. Only a few episodes into Andor but I really like it, too, for lots of reasons, most of them personal. Look, I have the West End Games Star Wars RPG Corporate Sector sourcebook and…basically my rubric for liking anything Star Wars is “Does this remind me of playing the RPG?” and the answer here is yes.

What I’m reading: various non-fiction and some fanfic. A bit scattered on the reading front. I need to find my next big sink-my-teeth-into-it novel.

Happy October! Now, back to it…

September 2022 Update

September 1, 2022

Update! State of the Me! (Reminder that I’m primarily on Patreon these days.)

It’s September! Cue the litany of “Wow this year is going so fast.” I’m actually looking forward to autumn. Summer has been kind of a slog. Too hot, and too much feeling like I’ve got one foot in the pandemic world and one foot testing out the new normal. Jumping back and forth between them. Nothing much happening despite all the fires I’ve been lighting. (Am I cooking something? Committing arson? Who knows!) That first hint of cool has started creeping into the air, and the summer birds have migrated – the blackbirds and grackles are gone, the warblers and swallows are mostly gone. I’m starting to look out for the waterbirds that spend their winter here in Colorado.

This month’s lesson:  Dealing with rejection. I know this is a huge deal for lots of aspiring writers. I learned to deal with it because I started out too young to know any better. I’ll tell you how I feel about it and suggest some concrete strategies for getting over it.

I spent last weekend at Bubonicon, Albuquerque New Mexico’s local science fiction convention. I’m so out of practice that I almost forgot to tell anyone I was going! Gotta start back with that publicity thing… Like the rest of the summer, it almost felt normal. (Almost… as one friend said, “We’ve all gone feral!” Yeah, and I maybe kind of like being feral?)  I had actual conversations with multiple people! I bought art in the art show! And I got a lifer bird while staying with a friend nearby:  a ladder backed woodpecker.

What I’m working on: Well. What am I working on? I have a short story I need to write for a workshop I’m going to in a couple of weeks. I’m still plowing ahead on the current novel. I’m almost at the point where I need to stop and go back from the beginning to fill in all the holes. And I just got notes back from my agent on the previous novel. Suddenly, my brain is full again and that feels good.

The Cormac and Amelia Case Files is happening. This is a compilation of all my Cormac and Amelia stories, and will have a print edition. I’ll post pre-order links when I have them. At some point I’ll talk about my experience with self publishing, why I went hybrid, and all that stuff. But this is going to be my big release this year. 

Reading:  I’ve been in a bit of a reading lull, but I did finish and can recommend Cosplay: A History, by Andrew Liptak. It leans heavily into Star Wars and the 501st because Andrew’s a member, but it also digs into earlier histories of costume and fandom – Victorian costume parties, historical re-enactment, and so on. People have liked dressing up as other people for a very long time!

Watching:  I’m still so far behind on my watching. I loved Prey, the latest in the Predator franchise. I’ve been a fan of Amber Midthunder since Legion (one of my favorite TV shows of the last ten years) and she’s wonderful here.  I watched The Sandman, and it was fine – but it’s not clear from the outset that it leans heavily into horror/dark fantasy and people need to know that. Looks beautiful. I read the graphic novel something like twenty years ago and don’t remember it well, so can’t speak to it as an adaptation. The one thing I tell people about the book:  It’s a product of its time, very 90’s post-punk. Same milieu that produced The Crow and Worlds of Darkness RPGs. And while I was exactly the right age for all that when it was coming out, it never spoke to me as strongly as it did a lot of other people my age. I was all over Wild Cards, Star Wars spin-offs, and The X-Files.

And…it’s back to work. Is it too early to be looking for the first snow?

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…

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. 

Reminder: the new Cormac and Amelia novella, CHARMED WATERS, is out tomorrow!

I’ve been traveling again. Jumping in with both feet, and it’s been strange. Like, 85% normal and the last 15% is masks and atrocious bureaucratic hoops and paranoia. I’m really out of practice at this under the best circumstances. But I’m also glad to be doing it, not because it’s getting back to normal, but because it’s an attempt to approach the world on the terms of this new normal.

My next trip is going to be to Washington D.C. for Worldcon. Which is not usually in December, mind you, but is an attempt at scheduling around everything. Hey, you remember back last spring when we thought everything was going to settle down by now? Yeah, good times.

And a quick TV update. Only Murders in the Building was fun, a bit of a contemporary comedy intersecting with the obsession over true crime stories. Mostly it was really lovely seeing Steve Martin do his thing in something new.

Foundation. Oof. Y’all, I really wanted to like this. It’s awfully pretty. It’s been so long since I read the books I don’t really care about how good of an adaptation it is, I just wanted the show to be intriguing and interesting…and watchable. It is none of these. Disjointed, repetitive, and mostly going for sensationalism rather than a coherent story. I made it through episode 5, then bailed, and I’m sorry for that.

Next up: Hawkeye and the live-action Cowboy Bebop.

Olympics and Loki

July 26, 2021

I mean, not the Olympics and Loki together, though I would pay good money to see that.

I had meant to post something last week and totally didn’t. I’m going through a bit of a phase shift, mood wise and functionality wise, and it’s been kind of marvelous and I’m still assessing it. I’m not totally sure it’s pandemic related — life creeping a little back toward normal. Rather, I cleared a couple of big things off my plate and my mind and it’s felt great. As a result, productivity has ramped up — I weeded my yard for the first time all summer, plus gotten a bunch of other stuff done.

I felt so good about my productivity that I spent all weekend in my pj’s watching the Olympics and didn’t even feel guilty about it.

Longtime blog readers will know how much I love the Olympics, even knowing how much of a political and logistical trashfire they can be. I love the spirit and multiculturalism of it all.

But I gotta tell you, it’s weird this year. There’s a vague sense of impending disaster that might be misplaced but is still there. The lack of cheering crowds is surreal. The coverage is including stories of horrifically difficult training situations, given the lockdowns of the last year. Everybody looks just a little bit extra tired. Or maybe that’s me, projecting.

Anyway. I just want everyone to stay healthy.

Current TV: “Loki” and “The Bad Batch,” which continues “The Clone Wars'” tradition of giving us a kids’ show about incipient fascism. Timely, I suppose. I wasn’t emotionally prepared for two whole episodes about kid Hera, though. Oof, right in the feels, as they say.

Of course I really enjoyed “Loki,” for the most part. Weird and crazy and complicated and different. I loved every single actor and watching them play off each other. Right up until the last episode, in which the characters literally sat in chairs and explained the plot to each other. That…wasn’t good. It was like having a good run and then crashing into a wall, and I’m not knowledgable enough about the comics to be excited about Kang. My friend played me this to get me up to speed, so now I pass it along to you.

But I’ll forgive them because they gave us Alligator Loki, the hero we truly deserve in these trying times.

April update

April 20, 2021

We got six inches of snow last night. We’re getting slammed with spring snow this year and I kind of love it. Springtime proper is going to feel that much better when it finally lands.

I’m watching “For All Mankind” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” as they come out. “For All Mankind” is completely brilliant and has left me in tears nearly every episode. “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is…frustrating me, for various reasons. One more episode left in each series, I think.

Apart from that, new TV is exhausting me, so I did something a little crazy and started “Stargate SG-1” from the beginning. Now, I’ve seen lots of episodes of this over the years, it’s one of those shows in eternal syndication. But I’ve always seen them completely out of order and out of context. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any of the first season episodes until now. It’s kind of a trip. Like, there actually is a cohesive story here? Who knew.

Mostly my observation about it at this point is it’s very, very earnest. Also, SF fans really like shows with uniforms, don’t they?

Two weeks post vax I went on an outing to celebrate, to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Sue the T-rex is visiting and I wanted to say hi.

Now I want to go re-read all my Dinotopia books.