March 27, 2015
It’s AnomalyCon this weekend! I will be there in all my steampunk finery. My programming is all Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. Maybe I’ll see you there?
And the following week, on April 2 I’m co-hosting a screening of Highlander at the Alamo Drafthouse in Littleton, CO! There may be some dressing up on my part. Basically, given the closet of costumes I have, there’s no way I’m co-hosting a screening of Highlander and not wearing something awesome.
April 4, I’m taking part in the Mountain of Authors event with the Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs.
Yeah, looks like things are about to start getting busy again…
March 20, 2015
I haven’t had solid deadlines for a couple of months, and I’ve been doing a lot of revisions, and my motivation has not been what it should be. Revisions are hard — it feels like running in place sometimes.
So what do I do when I can’t seem to get anything done and yet feel like I have too many things on my list? Because it turns out that’s one of the things I do when I don’t feel like I’m getting anything done: I make to-do lists. I have so many lists on my desk right now.
Here’s what worked for me yesterday. I’m sharing in case it helps anyone else.
Work on one thing for half an hour then move on.
All the things I really need to get done feel like huge jobs. Daunting, big jobs. I’m doing a third draft on one novel, revising a zero draft of another novel, writing a speech for an event where I’m the keynote speaker — plus there’s all the new stuff I want to write. This is too much to work on in one day! So, I don’t have to actually finish the whole job. Any of the whole jobs. I can work on a little piece of each. For a short burst. Sprints, if you like.
I’ve always known about breaking big goals into smaller goals. This is why writers are often so focused on word count — you can’t sit down and write a novel, that’s too big a job. But you can sit down and write a thousand words. This is the same thing, but breaking a big day into smaller chunks — I couldn’t revise the entire book, but I could work on it for half an hour.
You guys, I got so much done yesterday. Added a polishing thousand words to the third draft. Finished a chapter of the zero draft. Added 500 words to the speech. Started a brand new thing that I’m so excited about.
And I knitted in the evening guilt free. I’m feeling good! And the jobs all feel doable instead of daunting now. So, let’s file away that strategy for the future.
March 18, 2015
A lot of writers talk about how writing is like describing the movie playing in their minds. I do that, too. But you have to be careful. You have to make sure you’re not just writing down endless inconsequential details and movements, that your characters aren’t constantly blinking and fiddling with their hair and sighing, because that fills in the space of the pacing you’re seeing in that mental movie.
Instead of focusing on describing the movie playing in your mind, think about the effect your words have on the reader. You aren’t trying to replicate a movie; your trying to prompt a visceral, emotional, intellectual reaction in your reader. See the words the way they would. Make sure they’re evoking what you want them to.
I find this helps with revising immensely.
March 16, 2015
What I’ve been watching:
After being really appalled by the couple of episodes I saw of History Channel’s Sons of Liberty miniseries, which would have you believe that the American Revolution was run by a bunch of Gen Y hotties vamping and fistfighting their way across New England, and that none of them had wives and families and Abigail Adams was a walk-on part, I’ve started on the HBO series from a few years ago, John Adams.
I love it so far. Very well acted and it seems awfully more accurate: the founding fathers were for the most part established, middle-aged men with families who had a heck of a lot to lose by fomenting revolution. Abigail Adams is really damned important.
We get to the reading of the Declaration of Independence — because every show ever having to do with the American Revolution has a reading of the Declaration of Independence — and in John Adams, part of that reading is done by Abigail and their daughter. Hearing this read in women’s voices — it seems like such a little thing, but it struck me powerfully. It’s seems really, vitally important to hear it read in a woman’s voice. And I’m trying to remember, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it read by a woman. This is a deep and striking thing that I’m still thinking about.
What I’ve been reading:
I’m reading a bunch of stuff from this year’s Nebula ballot so I can be an informed voter.
I just finished up a fantastic book about the Silk Road: Life Along the Silk Road by Susan Whitfield. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science has a great temporary exhibit right now about the Silk Road — I recommend it. This is where I picked up the book. Whitfield’s book isn’t comprehensive — it deals with mainly central Asia and western China from about the 7th to 10th centuries. But the way she approaches it is through the lives of the kinds of individuals you’d have met in these places during this time. There’s a ton of information about religion, culture, art, trading, warfare, but it’s all in the context of what these people’s lives looked like. It’s an interesting and fascinating way to present history I think.
The reason I’m researching the Silk Road: for my fantasy novel that I want to write some day, I want it sent in a diverse and tolerant culture. This means not medieval Europe. Are there medieval examples of religiously diverse and tolerant cultures? Why yes, along the Silk Road — because it turns out people can be diverse and tolerant when there’s an economic benefit in doing so. Who knew?
March 13, 2015
I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of mourning lately.
I was having a crappy week anyway — various sucker-punchy things happened last week, and I’m still trying to get over them. And then the news about Sir Terry Pratchett came. I was already low, and the defenses caved. I haven’t been able to stop crying.
The odd thing is I haven’t ready very many of his books. (I need to read more — I know about Angua but I haven’t read any of her books yet and I really really should.) You see, I’m less a fan of his writing than I am a fan of him as a human being. I remember one Worldcon seeing him on a panel about traditional fantasy, and he used the phrase “consensus medieval fantasy” — that particular brand of pseudo-historical medievalism that so many fantasy novels seem rooted in. Isn’t that just brilliant? And then a few years ago at Capclave, he stopped by to do a sudden unscheduled talk, and I ditched the panel I was supposed to be on to go hear him, which I don’t regret at all. And toward the end he went on this glorious rant about the word “awesome.” About how us Americans completely misuse the word. Awesome ought to be reserved for gods and demons appearing out of the ether with lightning bolts — that’s awesome! But instead we use it for everything!
It feels like we’ve lost someone really important. I know he’s been ill for a long time and we knew it was coming. But it’s still really hard.
The sky where I’m at is very gray and gloomy today. I hope it rains. I could use a good rain.
March 6, 2015
I just realized: I have three new short stories coming out this month! This amuses me because once again these are stories written over the course of the last year and a half or so, for different publications, and they all happen to be coming out within a week or so of each other. These things really do come in avalanches!
Now Available: Operation Arcana, tales of military fantasy edited by John Joseph Adams. This has my story “Sealskin,” about a half-selkie Navy SEAL, not even kidding. Astute readers have been asking if this is a sequel to another story I have about a selkie, “The Temptation of Robin Green.” And the answer is yes, it is a sequel. I hope you enjoy it. And here’s yet another world I could definitely write more about.
Next up, March 10: The Doll Collection, a horror anthology edited by Ellen Datlow. My story here is called “Goodness and Kindness,” and it’s about Kewpie dolls. A peek behind the curtains: this is the first story I’ve sold to Ellen after 20 years of trying. I’m pretty sure I sent a story or two to her when she was still editing fiction at Omni. So, this is something of a milestone. And I pretty much got in because I know way too much about Kewpie dolls — my grandmother is an avid collector.
And third, March 17: My story “Sun, Stone, Spear” will appear at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. This story is a direct result of my trip to Ireland last summer, and I’m very pleased that some of my burgeoning obsessions and research from then resulted in a viable story — and maybe even more viable stories in the future. Let’s make “neolithic fantasy” a thing, everybody!
February 27, 2015
I spent a lot of Boskone joking that I was kind of enjoying the massive amounts of snow because Colorado had had a light winter so far. Well, we’re now on track in my area for having one of our snowiest Februarys on record — we’ve had three major snowfalls in the last week. And I’m patting myself on the back for successfully bringing snow back from Boston with me.
I’m having a busy kind of distracted ADD sort of week (cleaning, revising, finishing a draft, generally bouncing between too many things at once), so in lieu of a more in-depth blog post (and worrying about whether I should do more manifesto and less geek-tastic type posts? Hm? There’ve been a lot of manifestos out there in SF&F blog land lately. So maybe not), here’s another piece from my Big Fat Crafting Holiday Season:
This is a lacey pattern I got off Ravelry. You can find it here. I’ve probably knitted four or five of these. It’s relatively simple but deeply satisfying, when that beautiful leafy pattern starts to come through.
A gave this to my grandmother. It’s her color, and that’s exactly what she said when she opened it, “It’s my color!” I love it when I can zero in on a perfect gift like that.