National Novel Writing Month

So. Nanowrimo. I spent a lot of time considering which idea I’d tackle this year. I’ve got a whole cache of ideas waiting: a post apocalyptic one, a werewolf one, a fantasy one, a steampunk version of ‘Puss in Boots’ that’s way cooler than it sounds (and, come on, it sounds pretty cool already). But this year, since I was already exploring mystery in a Gotham online class I decided to tackle a mystery. I’m simultaneously revising a time travel novel and, comparing the genres side by side, I can see all the pros and cons. Writing a modern-day mystery means having to get things right (things like how the legal system works), and you can’t just make that up. I enjoy research, but will admit, it can be a bit exhausting if you’re tackling a profession or a scenario that you don’t know much about. Of course, while you’re free to make up things like “how time travel works” it can be a real challenge making a made-up thing sound at all believable when, say, you know nothing about physics.

I’m bouncing back and forth between the two and wondering if I’ll end up loving contemporary crime fiction more than speculative fiction. Realistically, I imagine compromising and eventually writing sci-fi detective novels. That could be even more awesome than steampunk Puss in Boots.

 

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Mark Sheppard at Tree City Comic Con

Before the madness of Nanowrimo starts up, I wanted to say something about Mark Sheppard‘s appearance at Boise’s first-ever comic con. He was awesome. You can see a clip of him speaking at the event. The audio is a little hard to make out in spots (the venue’s acoustics were not great) but if you really listen you can catch some of what he’s saying. (I was just delighted to find a clip from that day.) Even without getting all the words, you can tell how sincere he is. What he’s saying, basically, is how cool fandom is. He starts by saying that he doesn’t trust anyone who’s not a fan of something, and goes on to say that finally fans’ loyalty is starting to pay off, at least a little. There were, naturally, people in the audience in costume, and he said how great it was to see people “wearing what they love.”

His enthusiasm and respect for his fans made me like him all the more. And I liked him plenty to start with, he’s been in some of my very favorite TV shows. As much as I enjoyed the fact that I was seeing the guy who was Badger in Firefly, and Lampkin in Battlestar, and Crowley in Supernatural, I was really, really impressed with his public speaking skills. He was engaging the entire time, he spoke clearly, he took questions with great aplomb, and he was perfectly at home addressing a crowd. It made me wish I could be half that effective when I speak. It also made me reconsider the value of participating on discussion panels at writing-related events. Because after hearing him talk, if Mark Sheppard had been selling a book, I would have been first in line to buy one.

(I wanted to add thanks and credit to Natasha Stephenson, whom I do not know, but whose video I’ve shared here. You can find more clips she recorded from the convention here.)

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Gotham (class, not city)

This fall I’m taking a mystery writing class from Gotham Online – one of my favorite places to get writing instruction. I used to think that a college education, combined with a few how-to books on any given genre, should be enough to get me started in any writing venture. And there’s nothing wrong with thinking that (because it’s probably correct) but it doesn’t account for time or discipline. The schedule and participation of a class not only keeps me focused on learning a new set of skills, but it also cuts out some of the trial and error that’s involved the learning.

There’s also the networking that goes on and critiques and individualized instruction, none of which come from a how-to book. I’ve taken sci-fi writing from Gotham in the past, but mystery is a new adventure. (It’s also one of my favorite genres to read.) So, here’s to learning new things! Hopefully I’ll soon be adding to my genre repertoire.

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Expectations

Disappointment and I are such old friends that I no longer have any qualms about letting myself down. While this is a fabulous approach for self-acceptance it’s not so great for getting things done. So, when a friend recently proposed holding my writing efforts to her standards, I was horrified. After discussing what would amount to a part-time job’s worth of hours-per-week, I promised to email her every day and report in on how much writing I’d done. I was really, really worried I’d acquit myself poorly. That was a month ago. So far it’s been a whole new writing experience. Chores, errands, and diversions of every sort used to preempt my writing because I could just write later. Now, the idea of telling someone else “I decided to rearrange my sock drawer in lieu of pursuing my dreams” makes me cringe.

I’m a little embarrassed at how much writing I wasn’t doing before. But it just goes to show how much it can help to shake things up. Now, when I find I can’t sit at the computer for one minute more, I take a notebook to the kitchen and write longhand, standing at the counter. (A little of that goes a long way, in case anyone’s wondering.) My writing my not have improved (yet) but I’m certainly doing a lot more of it.

Stay tuned. Next up, a new writing class through Gotham and Nanowrimo.

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Galactic Football is Back!

I’m too busy writing stuff to talk about what I’m writing, but not too busy to suggest everyone check out Scott Sigler’s latest podcast! Book 5 in the Galactic Football League series is being podcast (available in hardcover and, by next month, as an audiobook). But, you can catch it episode-by-episode via iTunes or through his website. I’ll confess, I had my doubts about “sci-fi football” – but this has been one of my favorite series, ever. If you haven’t been following the series, I highly recommend the entire thing. (Just starting out? Start with The Rookie.)

Few things delight me so much that I think everyone should try them. The GFL series is right up there with chocolate ganache and amusement park rides that go upside down while spinning. Seriously. It’s that good.

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September

When the Taos Toolbox workshop ended in July, I left better equipped to tackle my writing and with lots of new ideas to consider when it comes to publishing. And then I got back to the nuts and bolts of daily life. Throw a couple of wrenches into the works, and it’s suddenly September, and I don’t seem to have accomplished a thing.

I kept planning to take the time to say something about Taos, but the experience was so complex that I couldn’t sum it up quickly or neatly. I kept planning to apply what I’d learned to my novels-in-progress, but what I’d learned was too much to put into immediate practice (like trying to unpack boxcar in a single afternoon).

So here I am, adding a blogpost to say that I’m doing things. Just not things coherent enough to report on -yet.

 

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Tides of Possibility

I’ve been sitting on this good news for a while: I sold a short story to the “Tides of Possibility” anthology. One of my lessons-of-late as a professional writer has been to never jump the gun on announcing a publication. Things can fall through, so I like to wait until it looks pretty certain, and this one does. The story I sold is the same one that got an honorable mention from the Writers of the Future Contest, so I’m excited that it’s going to be published.

Also, Goodreads is holding a giveaway of a copy of Trust and Treachery, so do pop over and enter for a chance to win.

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Best Laid Plans

Taos Toolbox is still two months away but already I’m thinking of making my packing list. (Yes, I’m serious.) I wanted to know more about what to expect, so I searched for blogs by previous attendees. I was very glad to find a post by Amy Sundberg about her experience at the workshop. I contacted her with questions for some specific details and she was very helpful. (She’s a member of both Codex and SFWA, and her blog is really quite good.)

While I have a better idea of what to expect, I still haven’t decided how to get there. I haven’t found an enormous advantage, yet, in the question of drive-vs-fly. So far both options are equal in terms of cost, hassle, and time. Reaching a get-away-from-it-all destination requires, perhaps obviously, getting away from it all…literally.

 

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Trust & Treachery at Amazon

Trust & Treachery” is now available. It contains a story of mine (“Listener”) and a great many others, so readers should be able to find several favorites in it. Editors Day Al-Mohamed and Meriah Crawford were super helpful and a delight to work with.  I wish I could give a review of the whole thing, but haven’t seen it yet. More details on the other authors are available at the book’s official website.

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A Little Room in History

While I describe myself primarily as a speculative fiction writer, I do occasionally write historical fiction (or spec-fic with historic elements) and also have an academic background in historic architecture and in the settlement of the American West. When it comes to writing about the past, it’s key to stop (a lot more often than you’d expect, really) and ask yourself “how did they do x back then?” or “did x exist in that decade?” Continue reading

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