Mystic Falls

July 3, 2017

Last week, I went straight from Seattle and the Locus Awards Weekend to West Yellowstone and a family vacation visiting Yellowstone National Park.

I love this place. I absolutely love it. For a week I relaxed and tried to soak in as much of the wild energy as I could.

This was one of my favorite spots that we visited:  Mystic Falls, at the end of a lovely mile-long hike.

mystic falls

I’m just going to soak this up a little more before I get back to work and go through all those emails…


music for Bannerless

June 28, 2017

I’ve talked about this before, that while the Kitty novels all have comprehensive playlists, most of my other books just have one inspirational or unifying theme song.  This is also true of Bannerless.  It’s a song that popped up on one of my Pandora playlists, and every time it did, particularly while I was writing the book, it struck into my heart.  It was so evocative and haunting, and seemed to capture exactly the tone I wanted with the novel.  By the time I was wrapping up the final revisions, I had purchased the entire album it came from and set it on repeat. But this song, the first track on the album, remained The One. If this ever becomes a TV show, I imagine this in the opening credits.

Dead Can Dance’s “The Arrival and the Reunion,” from the album Aion.

Bannerless is due out July 11.


barn owl

June 26, 2017

Sometimes, birding happens when you don’t expect it. “Oh yeah, there are a couple of barn owls living out in the arena,” the co-owner of the farm where I ride said. WHAT?!  See, with the nice weather I haven’t been in the indoor riding arena in a couple months. So I checked it out.

So wonderful. This is so happy making. He didn’t seem too bothered by my presence, but he did watch me the entire time I was watching him, no matter where in the arena I went.

Also, I’m reminded of the babe…



June 21, 2017

My review of “Colossal” is live at Lightspeed! To recap: I really liked this story about a woman who is also a monster trying to do the right thing.

This week, along with wrapping up the next draft of the sequel to Bannerless (it’s finally coming together…), I’m prepping for the Locus Awards Weekend, where I’ll be taking part in all the usual festivities (including seeing if “That Game We Played During the War” wins the award for short story!), but also teaching half of the writers workshop, along with Connie Willis.

I’m planning on teaching about voice, which it’s said can’t actually be taught, so this is something of an experiment. We’ll see how that goes!  Here are a few of the books I’m drawing on for examples. (I won’t use all of these, but I wanted to have a selection to pick and choose from.)

So my biggest obstacle to better birding is the fact that I’m most definitely, decisively, not a morning person. Of course, the best time to see birds is in the couple of hours after dawn (you know, when all the birds are singing so loudly right outside your window).

Saturday I got it into my head I was going to get out to the Walden Ponds area at the crack of dawn. Didn’t quite make it, but I did get there at 7:30 am. (People who know me will be entirely amazed at this. I did it, guys! 7 freaking thirty!)

I sort of had this idea that if I got out early enough the birds would just swarm me, come right out of the trees and pose for me, making them easy to watch and ID. This did not happen. Like, at all. But, there were a lot more of them singing, and I bagged a few ID’s I don’t normally see at that spot:  lots of yellow warblers, a couple of cedar waxwings.

I did have two really great birding moments:

First, a whole flock of wood ducks. Half of them males in full plumage. Arguably one of the most beautiful birds in North America and they were all just right there.

Second: a western wood-pewee sitting on her nest. Her tiny little adorable cup-like nest, just comfy as she pleased, with papa bird sitting nearby. I would never have ID’d her without papa bird sitting there. I went home and checked the guide for the species, which describes their adorable cup-like nests. (I really like my new birding guide, because frequently it says exactly what I put in my field notes.)

Sometimes I get really frustrated, because I’ll spot a bird I can’t ID right away, and I make notes as best as I can — and then the guides fail me. The birding app fails me. They seem to contradict one another and my notes that I thought were so good aren’t good at all, because there are 15 species that size and shape that have a little bit of yellow on their bellies, and I forgot to write down the leg color, which turns out to be the decisive marking. I’m a terrible birdwatcher, I’m afraid.  I never thought I’d be able to ID this little gray thing on her tiny nest. But I googled “western wood pewee nest” and it’s right there, that’s just what she looked like. I’m calling it.

I bet if I go back in a couple weeks there’ll be little baby pewees sticking their heads up.

In other news, there is a bird called a wood pewee.



book run!

June 16, 2017

I made a library run this week (and also picked up the latest Vanity Fair Star Wars preview!):

I’ve never read A River Runs Through It even though I adore the movie, and I decided it was finally time. And the library has this cool thing where they put a shelf full of popular books right by the entrance and I’ve heard great things about Underground Railroad and it was right there so I got it too.

Oh, and look what came in the mail:  the finished copy of Bannerless!  It’s a book!

I’m revising the sequel to Bannerless. (Bannerless, due out in less than a month! Read the first chapter here!)

This is the second major revision. The first was after completing the messy first draft, to make sure everything hangs together, that the plot works like it should, to implement all those changes I realized I needed to make only after I finished the whole thing. This second revision is in response to comments from my first reader, in this case my agent. His comments were good, and zeroed in on the biggest issue, which was basically a matter of intensity:  the overall structure of the novel is fine, but it needs more.  More plot, more connections, more implications, bigger stakes.  It’s a simple comment, but kind of huge from a revision standpoint.

This sort of feedback is pretty typical for me and my writing. I need multiple drafts, because I spend that first draft getting down the structure, but then I tend not to fill it with enough stuff to make the book really pop. And I usually need a first reader to point that out to me. So, it’s on to the next big draft.

This revision is going slowly, slower than I like. It feels different from previous revisions. Usually, I feel like I’m moving scenes around, messing with cause and effect, picking a few big story beats to work on. Big picture stuff. This one, I’m just about rewriting the whole thing. I’m going through it chapter by chapter, re-writing entire conversations, putting in whole other levels of meanings. Two characters are now twin sisters, when they weren’t before. That one character with the ax now has a personality just aggressive enough to suggest he’d use that ax on someone. That mysterious lurker is lurking a whole lot more.

I’m not moving scenes around. My original story structure is solid. But holy cats I’m shoving a lot more story into it. At least I hope I am. I want the finished book to feel more intense and ominous. The next stage, it goes to the editor, and we’ll see what he says about it.

I still don’t have a title on this one that everyone likes. Argh.