new year, week one

January 10, 2020

It feels like it’s been a busy productive week so far, and it’s fun to see other folks having this same experience. Like there really is a communal energy out there? All of publishing shuts down over the holidays — this year, what that meant was I got two sets of page proofs sent to me right before the holidays, due back right after the holidays. Ha! But those are done. Next, I’m spinning up book promotion and travel plans for this year. This feels very different than this time last year, when I didn’t really having anything new coming out. This business is so strange sometimes.

Speaking of strange… another window into freelance life:  30% of my income for last year landed in my bank account in the last two weeks of the year. This was mostly happenstance — finishing up a couple of big projects right at the end of the year, which means I got paid right at the end of the year. But this is one of the reasons freelancing can be so fraught — you just never know when the money is coming in. Don’t worry, I’m fine — but this is exactly why having savings that can cover 6 months to a year’s worth of expenses is such a big deal when you work for yourself.

I’m just about ready to pull the trigger on a trip to New Zealand for Worldcon this summer/winter. I’ve started looking into tours, and there’s just so much to see and it’s just so exciting! I’m also looking at pictures of birds. Ahh….

I’m definitely attending this year’s International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, March 18-21. This will be my first time at this conference, and I have to say, I’m really looking forward hanging out in Florida right at the moment I start getting brutally sick of winter.

I re-watched the first episode of The Witcher, and all the clues about the timeline are right there. The trouble is, if you have no context for anything and the names haven’t registered, it means nothing. It just sounds like vague fantasy jargon. Once you have context…then all becomes clear.

 

decade in review

December 30, 2019

It’s that time again, everyone’s posting not just the year in review, but the decade in review.

Here’s the one I did ten years ago. That was a big decade.

This decade has been about consolidating, I think. Becoming established in my career rather than being on the rise. Going through my stuff and throwing a bunch of it out, making my house look like a grownup lives here and not like a college dorm room.

The trouble with consolidating is it often doesn’t look like progress.

(The political situation in the U.S. has gone completely to hell in the last ten years, and definitely feels like the opposite of progress. Let’s leave that aside for now.)

Ten years ago, urban fantasy was at the height of its popularity. I was publishing two Kitty novels a year plus side novels. My career felt kind of huge. Since then, I’ve changed agents, changed publishers, and my career looks quite a bit different. Instead of signing four-book contracts for a bestselling series, I’m basically selling one book at a time as I write them. I confess, as a type-A planner I kind of miss knowing what I’m doing several years in advance. My career has a whole lot less structure than it did ten years ago. This time last year I had nothing in the pipeline. Now, I’ve just released two novellas, have two more coming out in 2020, two short story collections, and a novel. That’s how things work now — I literally don’t know what my situation is going to look like a year from now.

On the other hand, in the last ten years I’ve been nominated for the Hugo twice, won the WSFA Small Press Award, the Colorado Book Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and am, in fact “established” in a way that still seems weird.

So I need to interrogate the concept of “progress.” What does “farther along” actually look like? Making more money? Selling more books? Having more stuff? Bigger stuff? Or just feeling better about things? Does the concept of “progress” take into account things I have no control over, like the state of publishing and the country’s political situation? In fact, there may not be such a thing as progress. Just rolling with it.

So, consolidating has been a good thing, I think. If I spent my twenties and thirties hustling my ass off, I’m spending my forties taking stock and building a foundation for what comes next.

The crazy thing is I’ve usually felt like I had some rough idea of what came next. (Type-A planner, did I mention?). Now? No clue. No idea. But whatever it is, I hope I’ve built a pretty good foundation for it.

 

happy holidays 2019

December 24, 2019

I have a confession:  I’ve really been enjoying the holidays this year.

And I’ve been trying to figure out why, so I can maybe replicate this feeling. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

I’ve focused on the process rather than the day itself. So often it feels like the holiday season is a frenzy aiming toward this single moment, this single destination — Christmas, or Yule, or whatever — and it turns out to be a bit of a let down to spend all that stress and preparation for a single event that is over and done with just like that. All of us sitting there with the chaos of wrapping paper and presents and cold spiced cider thinking, That’s it? It’s done?

Instead, I did a lot of baking and thought about enjoying that. Putting together gift bags. Wrapping presents and eating food and going out with friends — it’s all part of the holidays. It’s all part of the celebration. There is no preparation — the preparation is the holiday, if that makes sense.  All of this is what I like about this time of year, not any one moment.

Which brings me to. . .why? I’ve been thinking about why I actually go through all this gift giving and decorating and music and concerts and parties and the rest. And it really is about the time of year, about distracting myself during the dark of winter, giving myself something to look forward to during these short cold days. Giving myself a stretch of time that isn’t ordinary, that marks a transition between this year and the next. A liminal space to mark the passage of time. To put away what was and prepare for what will be, and celebrate all the good things in my life.

“The holidays” aren’t a thing. They’re a process. It’s ongoing.

And just like that, a weight comes off, and I can enjoy all this a whole lot more.

Happy Holidays. I hope you all get a chance this season to take a moment and breathe and simply be.

 

Here they are!

“The Ghosts of Sherwood” is scheduled for release June 9, and “The Heirs of Locksley” on August 4. I can’t wait!

 

books everywhere

November 20, 2019

I’ve got a bunch of books on my coffee table at any given moment. Just stuff I’m going over and want to have on hand. Or stuff I want to go over, or keep meaning to look at, and so on. This is also a pretty good snapshot of what’s happening in my brain most of the time. Which is why I’m usually distracted by five or ten or twenty different things. I don’t really mind so much. I usually manage to get stuff done, and I’m never bored.

Here’s what’s currently on my coffee table:

Marvelocity, Alex Ross. My favorite comic artist’s retrospective of his work with Marvel heroes, plus talk about his journey as an artist.

The Company They Keep, Diana Pavlac Glyer.  An academic examination of collaboration between the various members of the Inklings.

Jane Austen In Style, Susan Watkins. Survey of the fashion, culture, and manners of the English Regency period. (Yes, I want to write more Regency werewolf stories.)

Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook, Ian Brodie. For possible New Zealand trip.

Respect the Spindle, Abby Franquemont. Because I’m trying to actually learn more about spinning rather than just doing it.

Handspindles, Bette Hochberg. Ditto.

The Book of Kells. The guidebook from the Trinity Library exhibit, just because.

Celtic Heritage, Alwyn Rees and Brinley Rees. Still in absorbing mode from various early Ireland research.

Early Celtic Art in Ireland, Eammon P. Kelly. Ditto.

This will probably all change in a couple of months.

 

 

A little context

November 15, 2019

Now that Badlands Witch is out…  That’s the reason I took that sudden quick research roadtrip to South Dakota last June. And another post here. I really like travel, I like research, and South Dakota is a day’s drive away, so I just did it.  A bunch of what I saw ended up in the story, so it was really worthwhile. Even getting the tedious drive into the story made the trip worth it.

I did the research trip to Donner Pass for Dark Divide back in 2015, which tells you just how long I was working on that story.

And I seem to be systematically sending Cormac and Amelia around to various National Forests for their adventures. Maybe for the next one I should check my list of where I want to travel and make sure to set the story there…

Here is Deadwood, from the vantage of the Mt. Moriah Cemetery.

writing novellas

November 7, 2019

Have I talked yet about writing novellas, and how novellas have suddenly become a really big deal for me?  In 2019 – 2020, I’ll have published (just a sec, let me count) six new novellas. Prior to 2019, I think the number of novellas I published, in total, was three. (If you count Refuge of Dragons as a novella — it’s at about 41,000 words, which is technically novel length, but it feels like a novella to me.)

So what happened? Why am I suddenly writing a ton of novellas when I didn’t before?

Part of it is market forces. When I first started writing and submitting stories, I really only knew of three major markets that published novellas — the digest-sized SF&F magazines. And they generally printed one each month, and you’d be competing with folks like Connie Willis for those slots. So I just didn’t write novellas at all. Four to six thousand word short stories seemed to be my sweet spot and plenty of markets would publish those, so in a pure numbers game it made sense to focus on that.

A lot’s changed since then. E-books have made novellas viable on both the traditional and self-pub fronts. I look at what Martha Wells did with the Murderbot Diaries, what Lois McMaster Bujold is doing with the Penric and Desdemona stories — building a big following with these nuggets of stories put out on a regular basis — and I think that’s great. Audio has also become a huge market for novellas.

The other part of it is creative frustration. I’ve talked about the Year of Stalled Projects, when I worked on a bunch of stuff that I had to move to the back burner for various reasons. 2018 was also a bit of a creative stall-out for me. One of the things I did at the end of 2018 was go back to that list of stalled projects from 2015 — and realize that maybe some of the projects I had thought were novels were actually novellas. One of those 3/4 finished novels? I streamlined it and got Dark Divide.  “Gremlin,” which appeared in Asimov’s SF earlier this year, was an idea from my novel file that I decided might be better served as a novella.  The Ghosts of Sherwood (due out next spring) was also an idea I had tucked away for years and years until I decided if I couldn’t get a novel out of it, maybe I could try a novella. And it worked.

I don’t have a novel out in 2019, and it’s looking like I might not have one out in 2020 (but there’s one finished and in the hopper, so we’ll see).  But novellas have saved me. They’re faster to write than novels, but they still offer the satisfaction of big stories with multiple threads. It’s kind of the best of both worlds:  instant gratification and meaty storytelling.  I may be taking a break on the novel front, but I’m still working and still getting my stories out there, which feels great.

Here’s the list:

Gremlin (Asimov’s SF)

Dark Divide

Badlands Witch (due out next week!)

El Conquistador tel Tiempo (Part of The Immortal Conquistador, due out next spring)

The Ghosts of Sherwood

The Heirs of Locksley