Category Archives: Writing

A Major’s Minor Flaw

I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I was a pretty lousy English major. I couldn’t diagram a sentence to save my life (or my self-respect) and I would not read anything that bored me, which was nearly everything (I arrived at class early to eavesdrop on my classmates, from which I gleaned enough details to pass quizzes). I did well on essays because, despite reading precious few of the assigned pieces, I could hone in on some key point and belabor it with zeal. I attended class faithfully, wrote well, and had an excellent memory for the few things I learned along the way. Those few things have not served me well. Continue reading

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Filed under 10 o'clock Scholar, Writing, Writing Process

Story Grid: How to Revise, in Baby Steps

Like too many other budding novelists, I have been writing for years under the assumption that if I just keep putting in the hours I will somehow, magically, develop all the skills I need. Again and again I have finished a novel, tried to revise it only to make it still-lackluster, and moved on to the next new project thinking that this time I’d get it right. I thought, mistakenly, that I was simply bad at revising until I realized that it was just something I’d never learned how to do. After accepting the fact that revision was a skill set all its own, I went in search of how-to resources. There are a great many books out there aimed at helping writers improve their craft, books with advice on how to improve plot, pacing, characterization, etc. But I couldn’t find any with the basic, step-by-step instruction that I needed. Until now. Continue reading

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Filed under Professional Advice, Writing

Gimmicks Don’t Help

I’ve admitted it before, and I’ll admit it again: I was not a typical or an agreeable English major. Part of the assumption people make about English majors is that we all must love literature, which is a class of reading material all its own. My university offered two options, an English BA that emphasized literature, or one that emphasized writing. I took the latter. I distinguished myself (not in a good way) by once telling a professor that the John Donne poem he’d assigned us was “the worst thing I’ve ever read” – only to have him look mildly horrified and counter that he’d written his dissertation on Donne. Continue reading

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Filed under Random Thoughts, Writing

The Problem of an Ambitious Mess

I haven’t posted in a while. For reasons. Let’s start at the beginning. Back in the spring, a good friend (who knows my penchant for dawdling) extracted a promise from me that I would finish a 90,000-word-minimum draft of a mystery novel I was halfway finished with. This draft’s deadline? August 1. Now, August seems a long time away when you haven’t even dragged the lawn  mower out. I agreed it was a fair deadline. And then I got invited to an awesome workshop. Continue reading

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Filed under Writing, Writing Process

The Dive-Right-In Disclaimer

A decade ago I emailed the only person I’d gone to high school with who’d gotten a PhD in History. This was someone who had a good job and even better sense of humor. I asked if they thought my plan to pursue an MA in History was a good, or a bad, idea. Their reply was “if you love History and you don’t care if you ever make a dime, then dive right in!” I took that advice to heart, went to grad school, and got exactly what I expected: a fine education, a new set of academic skills, and a degree that was only marketable in the most narrow of niches. (In short, I went after that degree knowing that I probably wouldn’t make any money with it.)  Continue reading

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The Sound of (horrible) Music

The way that some people are picky eaters, I’m a picky sci-fi fan. The way others might wrinkle their noses and pluck mushrooms from their casserole, I remove lots of things from my sci-fi buffet. I’d like to like it all. I really would. But I don’t. And I have a confession. I wish I could like Blade Runner. I really do. But I don’t like it and the reason why – tragically – has almost nothing to do with the story itself. I hate the music. While I appreciate the idea of replicants and the exploration of what-makes-us-human, I can’t get past the awful soundtrack. I’ve tried. It’s (to me) so, so, so awful that I don’t plan to ever attempt watching it again, unless it’s muted and I’m just reading the dialogue captions. Continue reading

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Worldcon Highlights

I’ve been meaning to say something witty or profound about Worldcon 2015, which was a delightful experience from start to finish. I’m really glad I went, and am equally glad that it was in Spokane which meant a short journey to a relatively familiar place. I enjoyed being part of the writing-critique workshops, helping out with the kaffeeklatches, and meeting some favorite authors (notably, Gail Carriger and Matt Wallace). The other volunteers (and the people in charge of the volunteers) were lovely people to work with and I found having duties to perform helped structure an otherwise overwhelming amount of possibilities. Next Worldcon, I think I’ll arrive a day earlier, if possible.


My only real regret was something beyond my control – the air quality. Spokane was, during Worldcon, home to the worst air pollution in the country. That put a pretty severe damper on outdoor activities for a lot of folks (though, we did enjoy one clear, beautiful morning). I had hoped to do a little more walking and exploring outside – but, aside from that, I had such a good time that I’m looking forward to subsequent Worldcons. I did find the historic carousel, and made several trips to Atticus Coffee.


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Filed under Conferences, Writing

Where I intended to go vs. where I needed to be

I am participating in the Writing Contest: How Writing Has Positively Influenced My Life (hosted by Positive Writer), and I would love to say that writing has made me more insightful, more sympathetic, more creative, and more disciplined. It might have. But the biggest impact writing has had on my life is my social skills. I needed to improve them…I needed, in fact, to acquire them in the first place. I went from a shy adolescence to a near-reclusive young adulthood. I went to college and sat in the back of every classroom. I took jobs in maintenance, data entry, and research, in positions where I could deal with other people as little as possible. For years I used my free time to write and write and write, and dreamed of the blessed day when I could quit going out in public altogether. I wanted to be a New York Times bestselling author, and have my groceries delivered, and write in seclusion and never face the peril of interacting with other human beings. Ever. Continue reading


Filed under Random Thoughts, Writing

Old West Research

So, one reason I haven’t posted in a while – I’ve been busy. Top of my to-do list is revising some historical fiction that, even at this stage, requires a lot of last-minute research. For example, despite growing up in farm-and-cattle country, I actually didn’t know the exact definition of “oxen.” I mean, sure, I’ve seen an ox. But the textbook definition? I had to look it up. Sadly, once armed with this precise knowledge, I realized I needed something else for my story. Continue reading

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The Resolution-less New Year

So, I have only one resolution for 2015: more bike rides.

And that’s it. I started doing more writing and revising months ago and will keep doing that. The Minnows Literary Guild started off the new year with a fresh anthology release, and my writing goals, efforts, and plans are all proceeding exactly as I want them.

The very best part of my single resolution is that I get to wait for better weather to bother with it. So, 2015 is awesome already. (That’s right. It’s awesome already.)

ranch and ride 029

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