February 2, 2018

Just a couple of links to share:

This month’s issue of Lightspeed includes my December movie reviews: The Shape of Water, The Man Who Invented Christmas, and The Last Jedi.  I feel like I’ve talked about all these movies a lot, but the fun challenge of writing these reviews is to arrange my thoughts in a compact and cogent form that also maybe says something about the genre, the tropes, the movie’s thematic cohesiveness, and so on.  I think just about every movie is saying something, whether it means to or not, and I always like to try to suss out what that is.

The February issue of Locus Magazine has a cover interview with me.  I knew this was on the way. What I didn’t expect was that I’d be sharing the cover with Ursula K. Le Guin’s obituary. I’m a kind of a mess over that, especially since in the interview I talk about Le Guin’s influence on me — namely, writing across genres, writing anything and everything, and not really worrying about categories.  If I ever have even a fraction of the career she did…

Also included in the issue is the 2017 Recommended Reading List. Just in time to get some reading in as award-nominating season starts.  I have two works on the list: my short story “I Have Been Drowned in Rain,”  and Bannerless, the little novel that could. I need to go back and check, but I think this is the first time one of my novels has made the Locus Recommended list. So you know, there’s always more milestones to cross.




January 26, 2018

My friends went to Paris and brought me back a used book, and I have to talk about how happy this makes me.

This is a book about a killer robot. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m going to, because it’s by Kate Wilhelm. Multiple award winning, co-founder of the Clarion Writing Workshop Kate Wilhelm. One of the great beloved authors of SF&F Kate Wilhelm.

Now, I have never heard of The Killing Thing. I’ve never heard anyone talk about this book. It’s…shall we say it’s not a classic? The title…it’s not precisely riveting, is it?

And isn’t that great?!  The great writer Kate Wilhelm once wrote a skinny paperback novel about a killer robot.  What this means for me, what I thought about the minute I saw this:  not everything has to be a classic.  Writers sometimes worry so much about every single thing they do getting attention, getting accolades — especially in the online world when it seems like everyone is talking about awards and bestsellers lists and year’s best and all these bells and whistles.

But not everything we do is going to get bells and whistles. And that’s okay.  It’s more than okay. It’s just a fact of life. Write the thing. Then write the next thing. Write a novel about a killer robot. Win the Hugo for a different novel ten years later.

You just keep writing.

It’s great.



appearances update

January 19, 2018

Looks like I’ll be heading to Norwescon, March 29-April 1, Seattle WA. The Philip K. Dick Awards announcements are there on March 30, and I’d love to be there for it. I just can’t say no to a good party, and this looks like a good one.

And I’m headed to the Denver Women’s March tomorrow, snow or no. We’ll keep this up for as long as we need to, to promote a path of inclusiveness and compassion.


Wednesday update

January 17, 2018

I almost typed in “Monday Update.” So I’m at that stage of post-travel recovery where I’m not sure what day of the week it is. I got home to an email box full of things I needed to reply to or do RIGHT NOW and I’m a little flustered.

Also, I’m trying to decide if I’m actually getting sick or if I’m just still dehydrated and exhausted. Fun times!

I had a good time at MarsCon!  And I got some really big news while I was away:  Bannerless is a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award. I’m so honored and blown away by this I hardly know how to respond. I got the email with the news while I was sitting alone in the Charlotte airport waiting for a connecting flight, and it was all I could do to not burst into tears. So I bought a big bag of chocolate instead.

There’s a lot I like about the writing business. One of the things I don’t like is waiting.  You send out a story or book on submission. And then you wait. You get a thing in the publication pipeline. And then you wait. This is where indie publishers jump in and say “If you did everything yourself you wouldn’t have to wait!” Ah, but if I did everything myself I wouldn’t have quite so much time to write the next thing…  The best antidote for waiting is to work on the next thing. This is part of why I come across as being so prolific.  I’m waiting on a lot of stuff right now. And I’m working on maybe six different things? Yeah, about that many. There’s a lot to look forward to this year, I think.





January 10, 2018

So it turns out the paperback of MARTIANS ABROAD isn’t coming out until April. I was working on old information. Apologies for the confusion. Apparently no one is more confused than me.

Actually, Colorado weather might be more confused. It rained today.

Anyway — see you at MarsCon in a couple days!



January 5, 2018

Agh, it’s a new year!

Hit the ground running.

Copyedits on The Wild Dead. 3000 words on new novel. One short story rough draft, new short story outlined. A couple more committed to.  Waiting on replies on like three other projects. Convention next week.

And about a million other things I want to do.

Let’s do it.


The back-and-forth between Rey and Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi really got to me. Like in a MY ID IS ON FIRE HELP ME kind of way.  I couldn’t stop thinking of it. Such a slow burn, such a build, so intriguing.

And then I remembered one of the storylines from my second trunk novel:  two mages on opposite sides of a war learn to communicate telepathically and end up helping each other, becoming more important to each other than their respective causes.

Oh yeah. That’s why my id lit up.

(Another writer friend of mine had this exact experience, with this same trope in an early piece of her own trunk fiction. But I’m not here to talk about the ids of young women writers and how the hell Rian Johnson managed to tap into the ids of young women writers.)

I’m here to talk about what I learned when I dug out that old manuscript and looked at it for the first time in 18 years.  Happily, the prose in this novel was quite good. Line by line, the writing pulled me through and had a lot of good images, turns of phrase, and so on. But the sum of those parts was not particularly stunning. So what’s the difference? What made that novel unsaleable, and my current work not just saleable but, you know, reliably good?

In a single word, the difference between my writing now and my writing twenty years ago is maturity. And it would have driven my twenty-five year old self who wrote that book batshit insane to hear that.

Because I thought I was pretty smart then. And I was. I thought my ideas were pretty good. And I guess they were. But I was writing the first thing that came into my head, I wasn’t thinking about it too hard. I wasn’t delving.  And the thing is that’s okay, that’s what first novels are for, to get that first layer of standard storytelling and received tropes that we all grow up with out of our systems. To learn to how tell a story before learning how to tell your story.

That old trunk novel is full of dead mothers. Like, all the mothers are dead. They all died differently and only one died in childbirth, but holy cow y’all, I was apparently really not interested in mothers.  The names are terrible. Uninspired. Obviously. At the time I must have thought it was clever, but now it just reads boring. I had naming conventions, I wasn’t doing it randomly, but it didn’t come across as a richly developed world. It came across as someone putting together a quick D&D game.

I didn’t really have anything to say. Like, I didn’t have opinions, or I did but they weren’t powerful. They weren’t passionate.  I hadn’t learned to take a stand in my fiction. In fact, I was probably being careful not to take a stand — didn’t want to offend anyone, right? But you have to take a stand. Good fiction has to say something.  The old manuscript has the feel of a kid who’s only ever watched 80’s cartoons trying to put on a play. Versus someone who’s been around the block deciding she has something to say and this particular thing is the best way to say it.

Alas, I’m afraid the only way to fix this is time, and writing the million words of crap.

The differences between me then and me now are a grad degree and twenty more years of reading stuff and learning what works and what doesn’t. Developing voice and not relying on the top-layer of stuff I’d been exposed to and was reacting to. Having my own thing to say rather than trying to find a shiny way to say what’s already been said.  What maturity brings to my writing:  Most of my work now makes some kind of argument.  Even if that argument is “I can write a better pirate story than Pirates of the Caribbean 2.”  I’ve seen and experienced a lot more, and while I really did have a lot to say when I was 25, these days I have a much better idea of where what I have to say fits into the bigger picture. And that’s where voice and originality come from, I think.

Mind you, in another twenty years I’ll probably have to reconsider all this yet again.

(For those keeping score, I wrote and submitted three novels, over the course of maybe 6 years, before writing Kitty and The Midnight Hour, my first published novel.)