correction

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!

 

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news of the week

January 8, 2018

This week sees the paperback release of Martians Abroad (link goes to NPR review).

Also this week, I’ll be Author Guest of Honor at MarsCon in Williamsburg, Virginia. (Note — an East Coast visit!)

COINCIDENCE?!? I think not.

So I’ve gotten through a few more episodes of both The Orville and Star Trek Discovery (still not caught up on either one, though) and I’ve decided something. I think I would like The Orville better if it really was branded Star Trek, and I would like Discovery better if it wasn’t. Strange, but there it is. A Star Trek entirely about the goofy barely competent but totally Starfleet-earnest D team? I’m so there.  An SF space opera about a war-torn future in which a bunch of really unpleasant scientists are trying to develop status-quo changing technology? Again, I’m so there.  But as it is…with both of them it’s like I keep expecting to be drinking apple juice but getting grapefruit juice instead. Not necessarily bad, just… not quite right.

I also think everyone on Discovery should get honorary Emmys for be able to say “spore drive” with a straight face.

 

2018

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.

 

So, I don’t rank the Star Wars movies. I mean, I probably could if someone threatened me or threw money at me. But really, I don’t see the point. Because apart from the first one, none of them really stands alone. All but the first depend on some kind of prior knowledge of the existence of the Star Wars universe and the saga of the Skywalker family. The recent ones have really depended on that knowledge, and audience expectation of what it means to watch a Star Wars movie. So now, much like the MCU, we don’t have individual movies that can be fairly graded as movies — we have chapters in a long-running thing that we haven’t really developed filmic language to discuss.  (Previous long-running film franchises, like the James Bond movies or even the Mickey Rooney Andy Hardy films, were a collection of stand-alone films, designed to be watched in any order. Not so much with Star Wars and the MCU.)

At some point in the late 80’s, my family got the VHS box set of the original trilogy, and we blocked out a whole evening to watch the whole thing back to back. This felt radical at the time, long before the age of the binge-watch. And the trilogy in one sitting was a revelation. It’s one story. It really is. Each film is three acts, but the trilogy as a whole is three acts also, with each film being an act. For a long time after that, I refused to watch each film individually.  If I was going to watch Star Wars, I was going to watch 6 hours of Star Wars. (This has changed. These days, I’ve been known to pop in the Return of the Jedi DVD and skip past all the Tatooine stuff to get straight to the Battle of Endor. Because big space ships FTW.)

I confess I haven’t watched the prequel and original trilogy all in one sitting — but I have watched the Machete Order. (And here’s my review of it.) And again, it really does all feel like one story. Story and imagery from each film calls back to the others. There are echoes all the way the through.

I could sit here and talk about how I like The Last Jedi better than The Force Awakens. It’s got more emotional complexity, it subverts our expectations rather than playing to them, which is ever so much fun. But TLJ doesn’t stand on its own. It needs to the setup in TFA to be able to do what it does. Part of its emotional impact comes from knowing what happens in TFA first.

I have favorite chapters in favorite books — I’ve been known to take Bujold’s A Civil Campaign off the shelf just to read the Council of Counts/proposal chapter over and over again.  But I can’t take that chapter out of that book and somehow say it’s better than the other chapters. Because it needs the rest of the book to be what it is.

Plus, no one ever lists the Ewok movies in their rankings of Star Wars films.

 

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.

 

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2017

Have a safe holiday season. As we head into the new year, I’m wishing for peace, safety, health, and happiness for all.

Be kind to each other, and to yourselves.

 

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