Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Well that was a full month.

First, a poetry collection assembled by assorted disparate members of my writers’ group has come out. It contains several pieces previously seen here as well as a range of similar-ish things by other writers. I’ve only flipped through it so far but as poetry goes it stands out for being accessible and straightforward as well as poetic. Also, the cover art is gorgeous.

You can find Over Land and Rising at Amazon.

November is home to literary events Wordstock and Orycon here in my ‘hood – that is, three-plus days packed full of writerly events, panels, workshops, and of course shopping. I discovered the urban fantasy Enter the Janitor, which is just as much fun as it sounds like, and a couple of authors I look forward to getting to know. My to-read pile has grown beyond all reason (not that it was reasonable before) and I also learned a few potentially useful things in terms of writing.

Among those things was some insight into the fun world of submitting. The short fiction panel at Orycon opened up a whole range of markets beyond what I already knew – which is good, because the piece I last mentioned having submitted to Uncanny Magazine has now collected four rejections – one of them personalized, with feedback. One of my upcoming projects is to launch that one into a second round of submissions.

Also in the world of submitting, “The Way Home” is finally finished. This time last year, it wasn’t; this time last month, off it went (just for fun) to F&SF whence it was promptly returned. However, that was not only expected, but perfectly timed. “The Way Home” is now available on Smashwords and has been submitted to the Library Writers’ Project, my community’s annual dose of local library love with which I have twice so far been successful. Wish me luck on this one – “Way” is my heart-piece, a bit odd-sized and weirdly shaped for conventional publishing, and I hope it finds a home here.

Then of course there was Nanowrimo. I really didn’t expect much of this; my last Nano fizzled at 25k, and this month was full of travel and literary weekends and wine. It was somewhat to my own surprise that I managed to write 25 days out of 30, even on airplanes – and at 8pm on the very last of them, verified 50,219 words.

All shitty-first-draft, but that’s the point.

I noticed this round that writing without concern for quality allowed all sorts of ideas to come flying up out of the muck. I went places I might not otherwise have considered, opened new doors, tried out new directions. All of these will help the executed projects in the end. On the down side, it was exhausting. 50k in a month is not a sustainable pace for me, though it’s certainly good for a jolt every now and then. My challenge this month is to work out what IS a sustainable pace. 5k a week? 3k? 500 words a day? (not doing so well so far, this being the 5th, but I think vacation is just about over.)

So what’s next??

Nano encompassed two projects: an idea for the BBC playwriting competition I mentioned last time, and something involving wizards, gender roles, and an unkindness of ravens. Both stories have a rough structure, an arc, a beginning-middle-end. Both need a LOT of work to be readable. The deadline for that competition is Jan 31, and my writers’ group has expressed a desire to perform scenes together, so my next task is to get that script into some sort of functional shape.

Once that’s done, then we’ll see about those wizards.


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It’s well past time for an update, isn’t it?

This time last year I posted that I was possibly close to done with a piece that had been on my mind for half a decade. Turns out, I wasn’t: the draft I was finishing then went to a beta reader, got heavily revised, and then went back around my critique group. Now I’m pretty sure it’s almost done. One more read-through, maybe, and it’s off to F&SF.

I also currently have a piece in the queue at Uncanny Magazine. Yes, I finally caught an open window, with a piece of the proper length, a piece that my critique group at least thinks is very strong. It will be at least another couple of weeks before I hear back, and I’m trying not to have any expectations.

Tomorrow, NaNoWriMo begins again. I haven’t participated the last couple of years, and the last time I did participate I only managed about 25k words. Not nothing, but not what I was going for. This year, my projects-in-process are all wrapped up, and I have a number of potential new ones in mind. I’m not sure what I’ll tackle tomorrow: a radio play for the BBC’s International Radio Playwriting Competition, or a sequel to one of my finished works, or maybe a new story that’s been kicking around my brain for a while. Maybe a bit of everything, as none is likely to reach 50k words on its own.

In the meantime, in honor of established tradition, my previous Nano projects will be free on Smashwords with coupon codes below.  Share and enjoy!

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I don’t remember writing this, but I definitely still think it:

(from Fandom Psychology at themarysue.com)

This is definitely a question I have had since becoming a fan. I was never a fangirl as a child; I liked pop singers and baseball players, but they were arguably real people, and I was inarguably a teen going through a phase. In any case, none of it prepared me for what would happen when I started watching Doctor Who in my thirties.

Fiction allows us to experience events outside our own lives and to become immersed in other people’s points of view. It teaches empathy and broadens our minds. Imagination and storytelling are powerful human traits; fictional characters are as real to us as historical figures, people in other countries, even family members who passed on before we were born. We choose to empathize with Frodo in the same way we choose to empathize with Anne Frank, and our minds treat them exactly the same. But fiction has a cushion of safety around it, one that makes it easier to process. There are strong parallels between the aftermath of the Battle of Hogwarts and the aftermath of the Holocaust of Europe; a person can learn as well from either, but one pill is a lot easier to swallow.

It doesn’t make you weird to fall in love with a fictional character. It makes you human.

No further comment required.



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Recently my sister invited me to submit a story to a group that sells themed anthologies for charity. I haven’t read the group’s previous work, but the theme of the next collection intrigued me, so I wrote a story with intent to submit.

After a couple of false starts and a lot of nothing, I finished the story. My writers’ group delighted in it. I went back to the charity group – with second thoughts now, as a charity hadn’t been selected, and what if I didn’t like it, what if I’d rather sell my story – to find that I had only a quarter the preferred minimum word count.

I’m not going to quadruple the story’s length; that would entirely not work. I messaged the group, to ask if the minimum was firm: the answer was “kinda” and “we’ll get back to you.” They haven’t.

Do I wait? Do I submit elsewhere in a hurry, and hope for a response before the charity group’s deadline? Do I submit without concern for the charity? The magazine I would most like to appear in is not currently accepting submissions, but what if they open next week? Next month? Do I submit to one of my old standbys, because why the hell not? Last time one magazine got back to me in 24 hours…

It’s possible that this is why writers are crazy.


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Three gleaming planets
lined up in the eastern sky
covered in robots.

Lately I’ve been waking up to Venus shining in my bedroom window. Yesterday I learned she wasn’t alone; this morning I went out to see Venus, Mars, and Jupiter lined up in the sky, with the crescent moon shining overhead and Orion keeping watch alongside. Mercury might have been visible too, if I’d had a clear horizon.

Earthsky’s Visible Planets

Mars is much made of these days, with its water and its Ridley Scott movie and its Curiosity Rover. The red planet has quite a complement of robots aboard: active rovers Curiosity and Opportunity, orbiters Odyssey, Express, MRO, MOM, and Maven, and a whole litter of past missions. Venus most recently played host to Messenger, but has its own share of defunct machines scattered about. Galileo orbited Jupiter for two years and dropped an atmospheric probe before falling to its own demise in the gas giant’s eternal haze. It was startling to look up at those specks in the sky and realize that humanity has touched them.

Saturn is an evening star these days. If Portland’s own eternal haze should lift tonight, I’ll look for that gleaming yellow speck and think of Cassini.

Earth, the pale blue dot.

Earth, the pale blue dot.



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It appears that reading about writing helps me write.

‘Generation One’ came almost whole out of reading How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. John Truby’s Anatomy of a Story formed and guided ‘Dreamscapes’ and ‘The Edge.’ All kinds of things came out of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.

Now, I’ve been dry for close to five months. Finishing ‘Nicky’s Dragon’ was a struggle. ‘The Way’ has started and stopped a dozen times. So has ‘Cambaria.’ No new ideas, no new beginnings.

This week I picked up Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, a collection of essays by genre writers on topics from title to character to setting to sitting down in front of the keyboard and getting things done. This week I wrote 4000 new words on an old idea, fresh and alive again, and a thousand or so on two entirely new ones. I wrote a half-dozen blog posts, and added content to a bunch of character bios on Fanlore. I’ve hardly gotten any actual work done; I’ve written in notebooks waiting for the bus, in the car, on my home computer for three hours at dinnertime, an entire morning at my job. I don’t want to stop.

It’s probably a coincidence. But that doesn’t mean that next time I get stuck, I won’t pick up a book.


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Since both fiction and grief have been frequent themes here, I’d like to share a comment I made over at The Mary Sue:

Fiction is a wonderful way to process real-life trauma. Reality is too real sometimes; you can’t let yourself feel what you need to feel, it’s just too big and too hard. But in fiction you can let it in.

I lost my mom when I was a teen, both too young and too old to process it appropriately. Since then, two fictional characters have given me access to that process. One, I won’t identify, because you might read the book and oh boy not seeing it coming was everything. We’ll just say she was so like my mom from the beginning: taking care of everyone, not worrying about anything, just handling it, basically just eternal in the way moms are. Having a POV character wake up to find her GONE was traumatizing in the worst/best way. I definitely dealt with some unprocessed emotion after reading that book.

The other was Lis Sladen/Sarah Jane Smith. The actress, also like my mom in many ways, had just passed when I finally watched ‘School Reunion.’ The whole conversation about how things change, and time passes, and everything ends – especially given that she was already gone, her impact made – was incredibly empowering to me.

So yeah, fiction can cause you grief, but fiction can also help you deal with that grief, in ways that sometimes the ‘real’ world cannot.

(Original here.)

Also, here’s the poem I wrote for that first, unidentified character (beware, there’s a clue in the comments): Misunderstanding

and for Sarah Jane: Angel and Goodbye, Sarah Jane


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