struggling

June 1, 2020

#blacklivesmatter

U.S. folks:  please make sure you’re registered to vote, then vote blue.

It’s hard watching the world right now. I have a book coming out next week, and I had all these plans to promote it, but I’m feeling small and useless.

So here is an article about all the books featuring black voices and black history mentioned in the Luke Cage TV series.

Here’s a list of black-owned business to support in Denver.

We’ll get through this, I think. It’s just really hard not being able to see what that looks like right now.

 

This brightened my day, though:  My niece has been working on stop-motion animation, and she made me this film. I love it.

 

I’ve found over the last couple of months it’s really important to have things to look forward to. Even if it’s something simple like getting to see Hiddleston’s Coriolanus next week, planning a walk in my favorite park, getting takeout from a favorite restaurant, or opening a nice bottle of wine. Since my usual events I really look forward to — concerts, movies, trips — are not happening at the moment (Bubonicon has officially been cancelled, so that’s off the list), I need to find other things to fill that gap. And it helps. Something to break up the days a little and make me smile in the morning.

I got this idea from my niece and her family:  a Future Joy Jar. If there’s something I can’t do now, but can maybe do later, I write it down and put it in the jar. At some point I’ll be able to empty the jar and make bigger plans. Go to the symphony, reschedule my dive trip, that sort of thing.

I’m just not sure when it’ll be the right time to open the jar. Not yet, I don’t think.

Until then, I will look forward to little things, like walks and new books and the next project.

 

TV watching update

May 25, 2020

The Ghosts of Sherwood is out in about two weeks. Well, that snuck up on me. Watch this space for more info! (And yes, there will be an audio edition!) For now, here’s a video of me reading the start of the story.

Pandemic TV viewing continues. I finished The Last Kingdom season 4, and it continues to deliver what it’s always delivered. The first couple of episodes don’t seem to match up with the end of the previous season, but the story sucked me in soon enough. I had a delightful moment I need to tell you about:  Since last year I’ve been listening to The History of England podcast, which is narrated in a comforting British accent, told with humor and insight, and really digs into the historiography — what historians have said about the history over time. I started so I could get more background about the reigns of King John and King Henry III for my Robin Hood stories. And then I just kept going, jumping back to the Norman conquest for another story I want to write, and then even further back… which led me listening to all about how King Edward (heir to Alfred the Great) and his sister Aethelflaed, the Lady of Mercia, consolidated power. And that’s exactly what The Last Kingdom season 4 is all about, and it confirmed what I’ve suspected all along, that the story — the show and Bernard Cornwall’s books — are something of a sideways history. If historians don’t know exactly how something happened. . .it’s Uhtred! Uhtred did it! So it is here. The podcast tells me that historians aren’t exactly sure how Edward and Aethelflaed convinced the ealdorman of Mercia to put Aethelflaed in charge of an exclusively male position. Well — it’s Uhtred! So that’s fun.

On another level the show is a catalog of early medieval combat and battle strategy, and it’s kind of brilliant. I think it should be required viewing for SCA fighters. This season, we got a siege of a walled town. Gah….

I watched Picard. Much like ST: Discovery, it has some moments of brilliance — and some of the dumbest, most bone-headed plotting I’ve ever seen, along with (what I think is) unnecessary grimdark. The Romulan baddies were laughable cliches. I was so interested in Hugh and the Borg rehabilitation project — and the show just flushed it. I dunno. I keep saying I’m going to stop watching and then Trek keeps pulling me back in…

I’ve been watching and enjoying the National Theatre productions on YouTube. Right now it’s Gillian Anderson and Ben Foster in A Streecar Named Desire. Both fantastic actors in a very well written play about people being horrible to each other.  In a couple of weeks they’re posting Tom Hiddleston’s Coriolanus, which I’m really looking forward to.

Onward…

 

Black Sails

May 18, 2020

I’ve finished all four seasons of Black Sails, and I think it’s one of the best written, best plotted TV shows of the last ten years.

Also, this show did something extraordinary:  It gave me the exact scenes I imagined in my mind — and it did this twice.

Shows and series never do this. My idea for the third Alien movie — Newt, all grown up, facing her trauma and drawing on her resilience. Nope, not gonna happen. The future history of Terminator, with a kind and sensible John Connor? Nope, not gonna do that either.  I would have written a scene showing Steve Rogers at Peggy Carter’s grave — the MCU didn’t give me that, and that’s okay, but it still demonstrates that what I write and what others write just isn’t the same. (This is a good thing.) By their nature, series drop clues, establish foreshadowing, and we spin out those potential stories in our minds. This is how storytelling works, by raising expectations and then meeting or upending — or sometimes, disappointing them. This is why fanfiction exists, so we can have the stories we imagined rather than what we got. Though I will argue that not getting what we expect all the time is absolutely essential. This is why we look outside, for the stories we couldn’t possibly tell ourselves.

But there’s always those what ifs. . .

Needless to say. . .*SPOILERS*!!!!

Black Sails opens season 4 with a huge gun on the mantel, a hint that a character we thought was dead — whose death has been driving one of our protagonist’s rage for the entire show — is not actually dead. And oh boy does that start the story wheels spinning. What would it look like for these two characters who meant so much to each other to meet again after ten years? I played that scene out in my mind, hoping desperately that the show would give it to me. I worried so much — the show couldn’t possibly not give me that scene, after dropping such elephant sized hints. But there were a million ways that plot thread could have gone. . .not the way I wanted it to.

Dear Reader, I got my scene. I stopped the episode and played it back twice. I don’t think I’ve ever had a show match so closely what I had imagined for such an important moment. Which means the show skillfully manipulated me, much to my delight. There’s just something marvelous when other writers push my buttons this hard.

And then the show did it again. Perfectly.

So, I spoiled myself when I looked on IMDB for the list of characters, because Jack Rackham and Anne Bonny are important characters through the whole show. . .but there’s no Mary Read. At least not yet. But I had to know, so I looked. . .and found “Mark Read,” played by a woman actor, for exactly one episode. Oh. . .yes! I thought.  This is going to be excellent. This means they’re going to end the series with Read walking onto the ship and meeting Anne for the first time. And she’s going to be passing as a man, which Mary Read really actually historically did for most of her life.

And that’s exactly what happened. It was so beautiful.

As I said, this is one of the best plotted shows of the last ten, maybe twenty, years. Maybe ever. I’m talking Babylon 5 levels of plotting — four seasons all laid out, the dominoes set up and knocked down. A dozen characters with really good, satisfying arcs. An end that actually ends, instead of scrambles for some kind of tangled tying-up of loose threads.

What a wonderful thing to watch during the pandemic stress of the last couple of months.

And now I’m on to the fourth season of The Last Kingdom

 

I’m teaching my online workshop on How to Write Superhero Fiction again this year! It’ll be June 13, two hours of commentary, tips, and exercises on building your own superhero world and characters!

Here’s the link for more info and how to sign up!

 

Global Big Day 2020

May 11, 2020

Saturday was the Global Big Day bird count, in which birders all over the world try to spot as many bird species as they can in a 24 hour period. I’ve participated for four years now. I really look forward to it, even though every year I end up feeling like I’m not a very good birder.

This year, I was worried about going to my usual birding spots, which are popular public parks and likely to be crowded. So in the interest of social distancing, I picked a spot on private land that I’ve been wanting to birdwatch at for awhile:  the farm where I ride horses. It’s got a stand of cottonwoods along an irrigation ditch, which is excellent bird habitat. I got up early, was out there with my binoculars by 7:30 am, which is virtuously early for me.

It was a good plan. Then the wind started blowing. Then it got cold. The sun was shining, but I was shivering and battered within an hour. And the birds just don’t come out when it’s that blustery. Only logged 14 species, and I was a bit disappointed. Highlights:  western kingbirds and a blue-gray gnatcatcher.

I seem to be doing worse and worse at this each year. But hey, at least I got out there at all, right?

I’ve just about decided not to wait for the next official Big Day, but at some point pick a nice, warm, sunny, beautiful day and do my own personal Big Day, no pressure.

 

The pandemic, when so many of us are getting self-taught crash courses in video production…

Here’s a quick clip of me reading from THE GHOSTS OF SHERWOOD!

This is due out in early June, and will be available in paperback, e-book, and audio!

In other news…

The weather is FINALLY warming up. Spring seems to have come very slowly to my neck of the woods. But it’s here.

This Saturday is the Global Big Day, which I’ve been happily participating in for the last few years. Things are a little different this year, and I was worried that my usual favorite birding spots would be crowded and that I shouldn’t go. But I’ve got my eye on an isolated chunk of private land — the farm where I’ve been riding horses has a great stretch of cottonwoods along an irrigation ditch. Great bird habitat, and I’ve been wanting to get out there to see what I could find anyway. So that’s my spot this year.

I’m excited. I’m looking forward to it. It’s really nice being excited about something right now.

 

Monday update

May 4, 2020

I just realized I haven’t updated any of my websites to reflect that everything has been cancelled. I should probably do that.

Trying not to feel like I’m dropping balls. I mean, it’s not like things are “business as usual” at all. But every week there’s a few things on the “to do” list that haven’t gotten done and it’s hard not to beat myself up, at least a little.

That said, the writing seems to be going well so far. I wrapped up the editorial revision of what’s going to be my next published novel. Right now we’re calling it QUESTLAND, and I hope that’s the title we go with. It’s about a high-tech fantasy gaming resort that goes horribly awry. . .and it’s up to the bard to save the day.

I also finished the first draft of the Neolithic fantasy novel and sent it off to my beta reader. That felt good, let me tell you.

And I’ve started something new. Stay tuned…

 

masks

April 27, 2020

Like lots of cosplayers and historical recreationists, I have been sewing masks. It takes me a long time to sew them, so I haven’t been making a lot. But I managed to get my whole family masked up, and now I’m making them for donation.

I haven’t had to buy new supplies to do this. It’s all from the pre-existing stash. I might finally be making a dent in it! Which feels pretty good, especially for such a good purpose. I’m making my own bias tape, which is tedious (even with the tricks I’ve been learning, and the bias-tape gadget a friend 3-D printed for me), but it’s saving me from having to order or track it down elsewhere.

I’ll probably keep making them, a few at a time, since we’ll likely be at this for awhile.

I’ve been nattering on about Robin Hood for over a year now, and I’m happy to say that it’s all been to good purpose:

The Ghosts of Sherwood has a starred review in Publishers Weekly!

Pull quote:  “Vaughn’s masterful worldbuilding and lovable cast promise more good things to come in future adventures.”

This is a really big deal and has made me very happy. Like, maybe I wasn’t nuts in tackling this whole project in the first place?

Like, maybe the timing is exactly right for a story about a family who loves each other and supports each other, with characters who are fun to spend time with?

The release date is still a month and a half off, which in these harried times seems like a really long time.

Soon, soon…