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.)



2017, a summary

December 29, 2017

This is the year that lasted ten years. I’ve been a bit relieved that I’m not the only one who thinks so.  So much happening, so much out of any of our control.

In an effort to head in to the new year with some momentum and positivity, I’ve made a list of good things that happened this past year. Things I need to remember to balance out the stressful and overwhelming.

Seeing the total solar eclipse. The Colorado Book Award. Being a Hugo finalist. Going to Iceland and Helsinki. Yellowstone with my family.  Bannerless. Protest marches.  Because while the reasons we’ve been inspired to march totally suck, the reality of getting out there and doing it is important and meaningful.

Here’s to a meaningful 2018.


2017 in review

December 20, 2017

What ho, it’s that time of year again when I list all the stuff I did this year, for easy reference. Once again, I’ve been busy:


Martians Abroad. I consider this YA even if it wasn’t technically published that way. From Tor Books, January 2017.

Bannerless. From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 2017. The sequel, The Wild Dead, will be out in July 2018.

Refuge of Dragons. The e-book sequel to Voices of Dragons, published March 2017.


“A Big Break in the Small Time,” as part of Wild Cards: Mississippi Roll, from Tor Books, December 2017.

Short Stories

“Dead Men in Central City, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Sept/Oct. 2017

“The Evening of Their Span of Days,” Infinity Wars, ed. Jonathan Strahan, Solaris Books, September 2017.

“Bellum Romanum,” Urban Enemies, ed. Joseph Nassise, Gallery Books, August 1, 2017.

“I Have Been Drowned in Rain”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, April 2017.

“Alchemy,”, March 2017, as part of the Nevertheless, She Persisted compilation.

“Redcap,” Nightmare Magazine, January 2017.

A special and entirely self-serving note in regard to anyone using this list to help with award nominations:  This year’s Hugo Awards will once again include a Best Series Hugo. There are some pretty specific requirements for a series to be eligible, including one that there be a new installment in the series that year. The Kitty Norville Series wasn’t eligible last year because I wrapped up the novels the year before. I admit, I was kind of bummed.

This year, however, I have two short stories set in the world:  “Dead Men in Central City” is about vampire Rick, and “Bellum Romanum” is the origin story of Kitty’s long-time nemesis, Roman. So the series is eligible this year. Just sayin’.


Star Wars: The Last Jedi

December 18, 2017

I spent part of yesterday digging out and then reading part of the manuscript for my second trunk novel. I have some thoughts about that — like, the prose is actually pretty dang good, it’s the story and tropes and ideas that are weak, and at some point I want to talk about that and what it means about being a better writer and so on.  Anyway, the reason I was looking at it in the first place is that there’s this storyline in The Last Jedi that really got to me, like really, like my id was on fire and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Two days later I realized it’s because it’s very similar to a storyline in that old novel manuscript of mine. How weird is that?

Oh, and I’m now a Kylo – Rey shipper, and no one is more surprised by that than me.

What else to say that isn’t spoilers? Lots of commentary online already, some of it good and some of it off the mark, I think. Like The Force Awakens, there are scenes that harken back to the first trilogy, right down to the framing. But while in TFA those scenes had the feeling of fan service (“Look, it’s Star Wars! Turned to 11!”), The Last Jedi is doing something different.  A suggestion:  don’t look at how those scenes are similar to the earlier ones. Look at the differences, because unlike with TFA, TLJ is messing with us. It’s playing on our expectations, and then subverting them. Luke says to Rey early on, “This isn’t going to go the way you think.” He’s talking to us as much as to her.

I think this will either drive you bonkers, or you’ll love it.

I thought it was wonderful.

On a more technical level, it runs a bit long, there’s a lot crammed in and a couple of the plot lines are kind of a mess. There’s a lot going on, but it all looks like Star Wars, and the characters are just great.

Especially Kylo and Rey.



two weeks…

December 11, 2017

I thought I was doing okay but I just checked and there’s just two weeks until Christmas and there are still some people I need to get gifts for, but at least I think the post office run is ready to go, I’ll do that this week. (I try to only go to the post office once in December, ideally before that last week. And bring a book while I’m waiting in line…)

And all the movies. So many movies coming out over the next couple of weeks. Like, oh, Star Wars? Will Poe and Finn get their buddy caper story? What’s up with Rey and Ren? It still feels like such an embarrassment of riches, three new Star Wars movies three years in a row. Who would have thought? Who ever would have thought?

My niece called me last week to tell me all about Return of the Jedi, which she had just seen. So she’s now got the original trilogy under her belt. I asked, and yes, she likes Ewoks, so we’ll have to sit down and watch the Ewok movies soon. OH YES WE WILL. Yub nub!

And now I go back to work. A bunch of stuff I need to update on my website. Lots of events coming up. Barreling into the new year already, peeps…



November 24, 2017

Loscon is happening…like right now! Right this very minute!

The schedule is available here.

Now excuse me while I go Guest of Honor the place up!



and that’s my wednesday

November 8, 2017

There comes a point where it’s just easier to shave the dog’s backside than try to clean that up.

At least I’ve started playing holiday music.