Category Archives: Writing

(Some of ) What I Did this Summer

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Purple Mountain Majesties

I recently spent two weeks in a beautiful place, both mentally and physically. I was accepted (huzzah!) into Taos Toolbox, which was held in Angel Fire, New Mexico.

Walter Jon Williams organized the workshop. Nancy Kress co-taught brilliantly. We were treated to guest lectures and schmoozing with Steven Gould,  E.M. Tippetts, and (damn, I buried the lede):
George R.R. Martin!

It was intense. Eighteen budding science fiction and fantasy authors from four countries wrote, read, attended classes, and/or critiqued each other’s work almost every hour we were awake.

I did sneak in some early morning walks and one hike. The above photo is your evidence.

I’ll share more about the workshop and some of the writers I met there in upcoming posts.

Happy Independence Day!

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A Writer’s Christmas Wish List

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Okay, so it’s been a while since I’ve shared what I’m up to. Am I claiming that I was too busy to blog? Bad CB! No cookie!

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been doing, at least in the writing department:

  • I did NaNoWriMo again this year, and got my 50,000 words. I’m not done yet; still working on the exciting climax. You know how it is with ballerinas who are suddenly infected with lycanthropy; they have some serious issues.
  • I finally have my previous novel—a historical fantasy set in 1870s Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska—more or less ready for alpha readers. I hope to have a beta version by spring.
  • I’ve continued submitting short stories to magazines. No acceptances yet, but I made at least editor’s one short list. Still waiting to see how that turns out.
  • And…I’ve decided to apply to some workshops. I’m talking the serious sci-fi/ fantasy workshops where you have to send a writing sample, spend a chunk of money and 1-6 weeks of your life learning whether or not you have what it takes to get your short stories and novels traditionally published. Think workshops like Clarion, Clarion West, Odyssey, Taos Toolbox, and Viable Paradise.

So here’s what I want for Christmas. (You don’t really have to get me anything…)

Help I need in December/January:

  • Read what I what I think are my best short stories (about 20K words total), and vote for your favorite 2 or 3; if you’ve successfully applied to one of the workshops mentioned above tell me which of those stories you think might get me into a competitive workshop
  • Tell me how you got into Clarion, Clarion West, Odyssey, Taos Toolbox, Viable Paradise. Gory details? Trials and tribulations? I’m all over whatever you want to share. If you’re willing to point me to anything you’ve written on the subject of applying to or attending a competitive workshop—or if you’re willing to exchange emails/chat about the experience— I can’t tell you how much I’d love to hear from you.
  • Give me tips on writing an essay about myself that would persuade anyone to give me a shot at one of these workshops. Or read mine (once I’ve written it) and tell me how to make it more convincing.
  • Alpha read my western fantasy novel (about 100K words). This means reading the story and just giving me general impressions, but no need to heavily edit.

Help I may need in March/April

  • Alpha read my novel about the werewolf ballerina (not finished yet, but I think it will be about 100K words)

Help I may need in May/June

  • Beta read my western fantasy. This would happen after alpha readers have checked it out. Most of the major flaws should already be dealt with. You’d be spotting continuity  and other errors, helping me make it read better, stuff like that.

If you’re able to help with any of my above wishes, please comment below or message me via Facebook/ Twitter/Google. And let me know if you need a similar Christmas present…

WorldCon (aka MidAmericon)

It. Was. Awesome.

I loved seeing people I knew from various past writing classes like Mishell Baker, Stina Leicht,  Ada Milenkovic Brown, Vanessa Rose Phin, and Will Gordon, receiving hugs, and generally hanging out.

And Spotting a wayward T.A.R.D.I.S.

And fun with Ann Leckie novels, like:

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Grabbing Ancillary Justice/Sword/Mercy swag
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Morgan Swim

as Lieutenant Tisarwat

And any awesome panels and presentations (more than I can fully represent) including:

Ready, Set, Flash! starring Lee Harris, Deirdre Murphy, Chris Phillips, Vivian Trask, and James Van Pelt: a game show where brave authors wrote a complete flash fiction piece in five minutes based on prompts supplied by the audience.

Enjoying Urban Fantasy with Yanni Kuznia, Melissa F. Olson, Max Gladstone, Stina Leicht, and Diana Rowland,  wherein authors formed Venn diagrams with their bodies in order to explain what urban fantasy is.

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Diana Rowland and Stina Leicht at the urban fantasy panel

Sarah Pinsker’s concert. I love Sarah Pinsker’s fiction, especially “Our Lady of the Open Road.” Sarah’s also a singer-songwriter. Her lyrics are fully as awesome as her stories, so I’ll be picking up some of her music. She played a few songs from her new CD. Can’t wait until it drops!

…And Yesterday was Already Tomorrow: Ancient Greece and Rome in Science Fiction with Robert Cape and Timothy Phin. Tim delineated many ways in which you could find the Roman Empire in the Radch (aka the civilization Ann Leckie builds in her Ancillary novels).

And of course, the Hugo awards ceremony. Pat Cadigan was a highly entertaining toastmaster, and the results were much as I would have wished.

In other news, I missed most of the drama, of which there was apparently plenty:

 

But to finish on a more positive note: I think the most fun I’ve had in a while has been playing along with the launch activities around Mary Robinette Kowal’s Ghost Talkers.

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Cracking this code led to the next clue…

So much code-breaking! Sadly, I wasn’t able to make it to the Tor party Friday night. One lucky code-breaking winner received an original story, written by Mary to their specifications, on a 1913 Corona #3 portable typewriter, while they waited!

Now that’s how you launch a book.

Another Stinking Badge

They made a new badge on 750words.com and I’ve earned it!

At some point in the last couple of months, the lovely and talented Kellianne (or maybe her lovely and talented spouse, Buster) introduced a new badge for those who have written 1 million words. They call it the mega flock. I’m not sure when I received it; I just noticed it the other day.

Previous readers of this blog may remember that I threw a party to celebrate my millionth (verifiable) written word way back in August of 2014, but 750 Words didn’t have the badge then.

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Here’s what it looks like

I love stinking badges and other silly ways to gamify any improvement in my work habits. Thanks again, Kellianne and Buster, for keeping me on task.

For those of you who don’t know what 750words.com is, or what it purports to do, I talk about it here.

You can find the 750 Words site here.

A Squee for Uprooted

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The novel I most recently could not put down was Uprooted. Unless I have the opportunity to buy a signed copy, I tend to get my novels from the library, as I seldom reread books.

I finished my library copy, and then I bought this book.

I wish I could write the way Naomi Novik does. I have enjoyed all her Temeraire novels, but I really wanted to study Uprooted, see what Novik does to make it work so well. A little deconstruction, if you please. I have only barely started that work, but I’m looking forward to it.

This post does have a few gold stars about some of the awesomeness I found in the book. If you’re worried about spoilers, go read the book first!

We can start with the protagonist, Agnieszka. I found her completely believable as a peasant girl. She starts out in awe of people who might consider themselves her betters. Still, she has a wonderfully strong sense of self, an unwavering conviction about what’s right.

The novel’s stakes are big, and ones I applaud, having to do with love of family, friends, and home. Sure, there’s an ancient evil in the land that must be dealt with, but you learn about it through the eyes and ears of characters you care about.

Then the world-building is wonderful. You get totally immersed in this eastern European, medieval fantasy world, but Novik takes her time getting you there. First you care about Agnieszka, then you care about her family. You care about the Dragon, for Pete’s sake. There’s romantic tension between Agnieszka and the Dragon, and despite their different statuses, you have a feeling that deep down, they’re equals. That thread takes a while to reveal itself, however. In the meantime, you learn that the Dragon has lived long enough to know more about the Wood (the location of the aforementioned ancient evil) than anyone else, but not as much as he needs to know in order to take care of the problem. Which is where Agnieszka comes in. I expected her to be crucial to fixing things; the book seemed to promise that much early on. I don’t want to say too much about how things work out.

One thing I especially appreciated was that when Agnieszka does an amazing job dealing with a problem (like the abduction of her bestie, Kasia), it usually brings on more difficulties. This is not because she does anything stupid; she usually just has to deal with a horrendous event in a short time with little help. However, aforementioned difficulties sure keep the plot clicking along. Masterful!

Love, love, love this book.

Voices from the Dark

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The original release date for the latest Writing Journey anthology (I have a story in it!) was going to be today. It actually came out a couple of days ago, but either way, it’s available! In time for the holidays! Woohoo!

Here’s a little information about our anthology, Voices from the Dark:

Within each of us lies a darkness. A deep, unnerving essence that lurks at the fringes of our consciousness.

Eleven members of the Writing Journey set out to explore the darkness that lies in all of us. The Writing Journey beckons you to experience their darkness.

You can order the print book directly from CreateSpace here or from Amazon here.

There should eventually be an e-book available as well. If you’re waiting for that to happen, please let me know (comments below would be great!) so I can poke and prod the powers-that-be to make it happen.

NaNoWriMo 2015

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November, aka National Novel Writing Month, has come and gone. This time around, I was what they call a NaNo rebel. I’ve been meaning to work on short story writing for a while, and the stars just aligned this time around so that I wasn’t ready to work on a new novel. However, I could see outlining some stories and at least getting a start on them.

I called this effort #30Stories30Days, and will share more on how it went later. Most likely this sharing will come accompanied with begging for beta readers. If you’re willing to help me in this way, please comment (either below, on Facebook, G+,Twitter, or whichever way you find easiest) to let me know and we’ll figure out how to make it work.

Officially, I “won.” That is, I got my word count and then some. Final tally came in at 68,075.