I’m weird

I was going through my notes archive and found this weird little thing I wrote a few years ago. Enjoy!

 

How to Cook and Eat the Avengers

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So you’re thinking of invading Earth. I’m sure you’ve already got a detailed plan for how to defeat The Avengers, but have you thought of what to do with them next? With the proper preparation, each Avenger will yield a unique and memorable meal.

Iron Man:
Place live Avenger in a large stock pot of tepid water. Slowly increase temperature until struggling ceases. Do not be disturbed if you hear a noise akin to screaming, it’s merely his soul escaping his body and does not last long. If you are squeamish, get him intoxicated prior to cooking, he’s less likely to notice. Once fully cooked, break through exoskeleton and enjoy.

Captain America:
Season liberally with cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. Wrap in pastry dough and deep fry until golden brown. Serve immediately or freeze to eat later.

Black Widow:
Eat raw. This Avenger has a natural kick.

The Hulk:
If obtained when fully ripe (dark green) this Avenger will serve a large gathering. Roast on a spit for at least eight hours and carve. Meat will be tender and juicy. Do not cook if meat is pink, servings will be small and bitter.

Hawkeye:
Generally bland. Smoke or marinate to infuse with flavor. Best on sandwiches.

Thor:
Only for the daring of palate. Flavor is strong and like many Scandinavian cuisines, the aftertaste can be unpleasant. Pair with pungent cheese and amber ale.

Bon appétit!

The Year in Books: 2015

As I’ve done for the past five years, I kept a list of all the books I read in the past year. Each year the list has gotten longer.

Total Books Read: 102

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Of those:
46 print books
56 audiobooks

Of those:
24 graphic novels
8 ebooks
4 read for critique
16 borrowed from the library
13 short story collections or novellas
30 young adult
9 Middle Grade

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Favorite author numbers:

3 Neil Gaiman
3 Rainbow Rowell
2 George RR Martin
4 Holly Black
1 Jo Walton
1 Jonathan Carroll
1 Jim Butcher
1 Connie Willis

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Favorite Reads:
Eleanor and Park and Carry On both by Rainbow Rowell
The Darkest Part of the Forrest by Holly Black

Honorable Mentions:
The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland For a Little While and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making both by Catherynne M Valente
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
The Martian by Andy Weir
Hold Me Closer Necromancer and Necromancing the Stone both by Lish McBride
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
Ballroom Blitz by Veronica Schanoes

Lots of great books this year! I could add another fifteen or so honorable mentions, but I don’t want this post to go on forever. I didn’t even list any comics! Comics are the best!

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Book related highlights:

I did some writing. And am still query agents. It’s a long process. A story I wrote a while back was published in the MinnSpec anthology By Polaris Bright. And a Game of Thrones parody I wrote was published on McSweeney’s here.

I attended Wiscon and saw the Tiptree Award ceremony. I’ve already read one of the shared winners, My Real Children, which was wonderful. I’m really looking forward to reading the other, The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne. I went to readings or panels with Alaya Dawn Johnson, Eleanor Arnason, Ellen Kushner, N.K Jemisin, and many many others. I came home with lots of new books and haven’t begun to dig into then yet. Chances are high a few of them will make it onto the next few years’ lists.

While the convention itself was pretty awesome, my favorite part of the trip was listening to the audiobook of the Martian with my sister and brother-in-law on the drive there and back. It’s just a super entertaining and suspenseful book and listening with a few people added to the experience as we speculated about how the hero going to get out of the current life-threatening jam. I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I’m not sure it can top that.

I also attended Nerdcon Stories right here in Minneapolis. I got books signed by Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black, and Maggie Stiefvater. And got to see many other authors speak including John Green, Maureen Johnson, John Scalzi, Stephanie Perkins, Patrick Rothfuss, Matt De LA Pena, Lev Grossman, and a zillion others. Other notable guests included Hank Green, Paul and Storm, and Dessa Darling. Of course, I brought back another pile of books.

My favorite part of this convention was the daily mainstage shows. Many of the guests got to make thoughtful or funny or both fifteen-minute speeches, and then there were games and deconstructionist puppet shows and mock debates. They’ve released a couple of the speeches and games on YouTube. I’m really hoping they’ll post the moment where the entire auditorium sang “Bye Bye Lil Sebastion” it was glorious.

This year I got addicted to the web series Nothing Much To Do, an adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. And the sequel Lovely Little Losers, adapted from Love’s Labors Lost. Both can be found on their creator’s channel. They will soon be releasing an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it won’t be a continuation of this series. I will miss these characters. Beadick and Pedrazar forever!

The BBC adaptation of one of my favorite books, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, was very good.

So that was the year in books! I’m currently reading The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke and The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. So how was everyone else’s 2015?

 

The Bat Signal: Gotham City’s Best Gossip

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I had a lot of fun writing this. 

BRUCE WAYNE: BILLIONAIRE PLAYBOY OR TROUBLED REPROBATE?

Like me, I’m sure you read Clark Kent’s profile of Bruce Wayne in last Sunday’s Planet, hoping for a few juicy tidbits about the world’s most famous orphan. Sadly what we got was a puff piece about his latest “charitable” project. Sure, sure, world hunger is terrible, blah, blah the needy, but what do really know about Wayne? For someone who has spent most of his life in the public eye, little is known about the reclusive billionaire.

Is the butler pulling the strings?
Who can forget the now iconic photo of a grieving, eight-year-old, Wayne at his parents’ funeral, with no one but a domestic servant by his side? But who is this butler? This Alfred Pennyworth? Was there truly no other person Thomas and Martha could trust with their only child—not to mention his considerable inheritance? A source close to the family believes Pennyworth wormed his way into the Wayne’s inner circle (blackmail anyone?) and made himself indispensable. After their untimely and tragic deaths (side note: some have cast doubt on the random thief myth), their friends were shocked to learn that the late couple had left their son in the care of an employee. The source confirms that Pennyworth, afraid of losing his cash cow, raised young Bruce in isolation, and fostered a sense of dependence in the traumatized boy. His Svengali-like influence over “Master Bruce” as he ironically calls him, lasts to this day. Now in his seventies, Pennyworth continues to play the role of the dedicated manservant, all the while making sure never to lose his grasp on his adult charge. Including meddling in his romances.

Why can’t he settle down?
Our boy Bruce is anything but a wallflower. Barely a day goes by without a picture surfacing of Brucie with the latest über model on his arm. But they’re as disposable as his income. One of the recent castoffs revealed he lavished her with attention in public, but in private he was distant and distracted. He often disappeared for hours at a time with no explanation. The man has commitment issues, that’s for sure. It’s hardly surprising considering that most of his long term relationships (as infrequent as they may be) have ended in tragedy.

Is Wayne cursed? Or is his sinister valet removing them from the picture? Or could it be Bruce’s true interests lie elsewhere?

What’s with the series of younger male “friends?”
I’m not the first to notice that Bruce Wayne prefers the company of young men. Everyone remembers his “ward” Dick Grayson. While it’s hard to fault Wayne for wanting help a fellow orphan-by-murder, there is something off about taking in a teenager less than a decade his junior to “raise” as a surrogate son. Grayson for his part, fled stately Wayne Manor the moment as he was of age, and has remained tightlipped about his former benefactor.

Less well known is that since Grayson flew the coop, Bruce has “mentored” one high school aged boy after another. What makes this fact more disturbing is that every last one is a physically fit brunette who could pass for Grayson’s doppelgänger. Another source who wishes to remain anonymous, claims Bruce dresses his new protégés in his erstwhile companion’s clothes. And call me cynical, but isn’t it a little too convenient that his lately discovered illegitimate son fits the profile perfectly? Let’s hope little Damien’s trust fund can cover the inevitable therapy bills.

How is Wayne Enterprises staying afloat?
Not all of the mysteries surrounding Gotham’s second most famous resident involve his personal life. While Wayne Enterprises perennially sits in the top five of Forbes’ most profitable corporations list, one has to wonder where the profits come from. A W.E. insider says the company develops hundreds of products a year that never make it to market. Wayne Tech’s computer division reportedly makes the likes of Apple and Google look like mom and pop operations. Yet the prototypes, once approved, are shelved for a future release date that never comes. Similar stories have leaked about their automotive and athletic equipment subsidiaries.

Theories abound. Everything from war profiteering to money laundering. Nobody actually suspects Bruce himself, he’s spotted in the corporate offices less often than a Borneo elephant. But surely his negligence left the company wide open to corruption.

So what is happening inside Wayne Manor?
Honestly, I don’t know. The truth could be wilder than anyone imagines. But there is no doubt Bruce Wayne is hiding something. During a recent segment on The View, body language expert Rita Voorhies said he displays all the mannerisms of a practiced liar. Until we get definitive answers, this humble blogger will have to be content studying the leaked photos from the canceled People’s sexiest man shoot. And contemplating the important questions. Where did he get all those scars? And how does he manage to make them look so hot?

 

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Winter Is Coming and I’ve got a cold

image(Did you see what I did there? Ice and Fire!)

 

I recently read all five Song of Ice and Fire books, and am eagerly awaiting book six. But since George R.R. Martin is dragging his heals, I thought I’d write it instead.

 

Disclaimer: I was on cold medicine when I wrote this.

 

A Song of Ice and Fire Book 6: A Crucible of Cats

Prologue: Character Who Is About to Die So No Need To Learn Their Name

POV character pushes open medievilish wooden door. An axe whooshes through the air like something quite sharp and axe-like. POV character dies very painfully. We won’t know that this death is significant for at least ten more chapters.

Chapter 1: Tyrion

“Hands of gold are always cold but a woman’s hands are warm,” Tyrion thought gloomily to himself. Then he did something super cool in the moment but probably foolish, if you can see ten steps ahead, but you can’t so it’s just entertaining.

Chapter 2: Arya

“Who are you?” asks the kindly man.
“Nobody,” replies Arya Stark of Winterfell.
“Liar. You are the most badass eleven-year-old in literature. Now go assassinate somebody who means nothing to you instead of one of the thousands of people who’ve directly wronged you.”
“‘Kay. Vhalor Morgulus.”
“The other phrase I don’t totally remember,” the kindly man says in response.

Chapter 3: Jon

“Winter is coming.”
“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
“Cut that out already! I know some stuff, and you’re just the echo of the voice of the chick I lost my virginity to, so it’s not like you’re a walking encyclopedia or anything. Ghost, to me.”
He walks off in huff, never to be heard from again. And you never find out who his real parents are. Neener neener!

Chapter 4: Daenarys

Daenarys finally flies her dragons to Kings Landing. Everyone loses their shit. Cersei is eaten by Drogon. Only Tommen escapes. He will maybe one day return to gain back his stolen throne, riding astride Ser Pounce, and it’ll be like a vicious circle. Like in Kill Bill when Uma Thurman told that little girl to seek vengeance on her. Or maybe not. Also something about Stannis but everybody skims those chapters anyway.

END

 

I think I really captured GRR’s voice.

 

 

 

Reading to an Audience: in which I read to an audience.

This weekend I participated in a workshop put on by the MinnSpec authors group about reading to an audience. Something I have very little experience with. So I signed up to read an excerpt.

I did not expect to be as nervous I was. My history with Improv pretty much wiped out any fear I once had about public speaking. But there is a difference between acting out a scene you’re making up on the fly, and reading a piece you’ve spent months obsessing over every word choice. In the former, if you say or do something stupid it’s the character who did it, and you were just making it up anyway. In the latter, you’ve had time to rehearse so any mistakes can’t be waved away as no time to prep, and you have to portray all the characters, and maybe you’ve put in too many multisyllabic words that’ll make you tongue tied, and not to mention that the audience is all other writers who will know that you’re a hack who writes in cliches…

So anyway, when I stepped up to the mike my nerves responded with the full body shakes. I got through it somehow, and I don’t think the shaking was that obvious (though I haven’t watched the video to confirm) (oh yes, there was video). In fact the audience seemed to enjoy it, and gave some very good feedback, and when I read the passage again to implement the notes there was no shaking at all. I did have the advantage of going third so I could take advantage of the tips given to the first two authors.

So without further ado, here is the video of me reading a short excerpt from Tooth or Consequence. Actually I read it twice, pre and post notes.

Tooth or Consequence reading

Progress Report: Everything is Great, Everything is Grand

http://youtu.be/t9_zKm2Ewaw

via The Muppets – Life’s a Happy Song [Official Music Video Lyrics] – YouTube.

Things have been going quite nicely as of late. The seemingly endless winter appears to be overish. My arm is healing. No more cast, no more pain, but I do have to do regular physical therapy to regain full strength. I’ve started a new job that I really like, though it is occupying some of the brain space that used to be devoted to writing.

On the writing front, I turned in my last Betsy-Tacy review for Forever Young Adult. I don’t know yet when it will be posted, but you can read the first four here, here, here, and here. It’s been great revisiting these books that meant so much to me growing up. As well as sharing them with people who feel the same. I’ll probably put a cap on the reread by reading Emily of Deep Valley, the only one I’ve never read. As well as the long out of print Betsy-Tacy Companion, which I treated myself to as a Christmas present. Since FYA wasn’t promised those, I’ll post the reviews here.

Last summer one of my stories won the Geek Partnership Writing contest. I’ve received the certificate in the mail and the official announcement is now posted here.

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Got to admit, it was really cool to see my name.

In other contest news, for the fifth year in a row I’ve entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. This is the third year for Random Acts of Nudity. In 2012 it reached the semifinals, last year it was cut in the first round. This year it’s reached round 2, but didn’t reach the quarterfinals. Still it bested last year’s result.

Speaking of ABNA, one of the fellow writers I met through the contest runs a blog called Word Soup. He takes five hundred words of a work in progress and “boils” or cuts and condenses it to trim out the excess without losing the content. Just reading the previous posts has trained me to look for the unnecessary wordage in my writing. So I offered up a passage from Tooth and Consequence to be boiled. You can read it here. While not every suggested rewrite sounds exactly like my voice, most are spot on. I’ll definitely be coming back to his suggestions when I start revising this manuscript. Considering that my most recent revision on a different story cut 15,000 words without fundamentally changing the story, boiling is a skill to hone.

This Sunday I attended a discussion with fantasy author Emma Bull, hosted by the Minnesota Speculative Writers Meetup Group. Ms. Bull is the author of many books, including the urban fantasy classic War For The Oaks, which happens to be set in Minneapolis.

A few of the highlights:

She is in the process of writing a short story, or possibly a novella, inspired by the character of Wonder Woman, if rather than a comic book super hero, she were an urban fantasy character. I want to read that! She thinks it will become a series, though it will have to be finished and published first. She admitted to working a bit slowly, so it could be a while before it sees print. If anybody hears about such a story, let me know.

She is also working on the sequel to her novel Territory, to be called Claim. The novel is set in Tombstone Arizona in 1881. The gunfight at the o.k. corrall will be a major event within the book. I asked her if the gunfight in the book would follow the course of the historical gunfight and she said yes, mostly. She’s clearly done extensive research on the gunfight and Tombstone. It’ll be interesting where the fantasy element comes in.

One of the things she was most excited about is a fitness app called Zombie run. The conceit is that the runner is a messenger for a town in a post zombie apocalypse world. You run with your headphones in and s voice gives you missions to complete and warns you when there are zombies chasing you and you need to speed up. It also follows an episodic narrative. After talking at a convention about how much she loved it (she’s now completed both a 5 and 7k) she was contacted by the story editor for the app, and has written two episodes since.

She said the fastest she’s ever completed a book was when she collaborated with Steven Brust on the epistolary novel, Freedom & Necessity. She started it out of the blue by writing a letter by a character she was discovering as she wrote. She realized it was a game and the only person she wanted to play with was Steven Brust. She put it in an envelope, drove to his house, rang the bell, handed him the letter and drove away. He had no idea what it was all about, and thought he’d done something so terrible she could only confront him in a letter. Once he opened the letter, he was on board. They then wrote the book in turns by answering each other’s letters. I kind of love that idea, where you have no idea where the story is going until you get your partner’s section. Though they did stop about halfway and plot out the end. I’d love to try this sometime.

Finally one of my favorite moments was when she said that during her research for Claim she saw an update in a Tombstone Epitaph from the period. It said something along the lines of “We still have no information on the origin of the severed arm found in the road last Monday.” She read that and thought “I know where it came from” and a new subplot was born. I like this because it’s so similar to a story Neil Gaiman told during a talk I wrote up a few years ago for Read Comics. In which he read a news story about a large brass bed found in the London sewer system, that no one could figure out how it got there and his first thought was “I know.”

To close out this list of good things and links, I made a batch of chocolate tarts filled with caramel whipped cream, for a charity bake sale at work. They sold out within ten minutes. They were delicious if I do say so myself. I’ll probably write up a post with the recipe soon.

I wrote a story about Neil Gaiman’s toaster

There are many things I should be working on right now, but the idea for this weird story would not release me until I’d written it down.

 

A Plan Gone A’Rye

In retrospect there were a few holes in the plan. Perhaps he could have been more thorough in his research, but Corsokrops of the Guidant Nebula was morphological life form of action. He was proud that his superiors had selected him for a preliminary role in what was sure to be a spectacular conquest. His assignment was to spy on the most powerful person in America. The intelligence Corsokrops gathered would be key in overthrowing the government. The global chaos following the crumbling of a super power would pave the way for a full scale invasion.

Corsokrops studied American current event publications, to find the one person who would have the most important secrets.  To be honest he skimmed the publications, as he was wont to do. He hated wasting time, not with such a glorious mission at hand. The articles were terribly dry, and while there were some recurring names, they provided few clues. He soon discovered, toward the middle of most of the publications, a list of public figures, ranked in order of importance. The same name appeared at the top of each list. The man carried an impressive title, American Gods. Not just one god—a pantheon. Clearly this was the man Corsokrops was searching for. He infiltrated the man’s home, disguised as an innocuous appliance. He settled in to absorb the state secrets.

He had misgivings from the start. The man’s appearance was altogether unkempt. He had a mass of wild, curly hair, that rose and fell in odd, abrupt angles, and several days’ growth on his chin. His clothes were rumpled and seemed to be chosen only because they were all of one color. There was none of the gravitas Coroskrops expected in one of his station. The man, for his part, regarded Corsokrops skeptically.

“Have I always had this toaster?” he wondered aloud. Corsokrops emitted a high pitched hum. A subliminal tone to assure the man that he had indeed always had this toaster and there was nothing to be alarmed about. The disheveled man shrugged and loaded Corsokrops with two slices of raisin bread.

This is where the plan started to fall apart. He had chosen the form because he had seen it in numerous American homes. It rarely appeared to be in use. Not like the large cold box or or the radiation cooker. He believed its function to be primarily esthetic. Of course he had made his studies late in the evenings. He was not one to wake early if he didn’t need to. The bread played havoc with his central processor. Soon he was billowing smoke from very uncomfortable parts of his anatomy.

“What’s the use of a toaster that won’t toast?” The man grumbled. He turned Corsokrops over and dislodged the charred bread. Corsokrops was grateful for his assistance, but damned embarrassed just the same. What a terrible miscalculation! “And look at this mess!” The man sighed. “Crumbs everywhere.” He lifted Corsokrops and carried him toward the waste receptacle. Corsokrops hummed frantically. “Well…maybe it can be fixed,” the man said, setting him back on the counter.

This routine repeated daily, but Corsokrops was initially optimistic. He could connect into the man’s electric thought translators. There was no doubt he was gathering vital information. There was a crisis brewing involving a woman with clothing fasteners for eyes, luring children into a parallel dimension. Corsokrops’s superiors would be very interested in this. The woman could be a valuable distraction or a formidable wrench in their plans.

He paid close attention to the event as it unfolded. A female child was currently in her clutches, but surprisingly it looked as though this insignificant minor could gain the upper hand. Corsokrops waited on baited vapor to learn the outcome. It was slow coming. Almost as if the man didn’t always know what was happening. Sometimes the events seemed to shift and rearrange themselves. As though reality had changed its mind. The eventual conclusion was not, as it turns out, relevant to the invasion plans. It was still quite satisfying.

He continued to watch the man’s devices, searching for vulnerabilities in the country’s defenses. America was far stranger than he’d initially realized. Sometimes it was called England. Ghosts often popped up. And assassins. Deities died and were born. For a while an entity called the Doctor was looking promising. Nothing came of it.

Corsokrops feared his superiors were growing impatient. He  was desperate to produce something of value. He expanded his searching to older thought translators. The man was constantly discarding translators in favor of faster, more distracting models. He found vast records of unusual and engrossing phenomena. A secret city that existed below and concurrent to a well known one. A fallen star that became a sentient being. And the discovery of something called the San Grail.

It was only recently that the penny dropped. The duck pond was what did it. It could not be both a duck pond and an ocean. Preposterous. What he’d taken as accurate histories were in fact flights of fancy from a remarkable—but insignificant to the scheme of things—mind.

He filed a disillusioned report to the home office. They politely informed him that the invasion plans had been scrapped over a decade ago. He was written off as lost in action. Their many extraction orders had gone unanswered. Corsokrops performed a diagnostic test and determined the problem was due to build up of raisins in his incoming message receptors.

“You’ll want me to come back then?”

“All espionage positions are filled at the moment,” the bored sounding bacterial life form said. “I’ll see if I can find you a place in accounts if you like.”

“I guess. No hurry.” The man had finally started the sequel to Neverwhere. Corsokrops hated to leave in the middle.

 

This story was inspired by this question and answer from an interview with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer.

9. I don’t really have a relevant question, so I’m just gonna ask how many toasters you have at home?

NG: “There is only one toaster and it is TERRIBLE. It eats toast, and then I have to turn it on its side and shake it to get the toast out. And toast crumbs come out too and go all over the kitchen.

Why do I have such a toaster? Surely I can afford to replace it. Sigh.”

The whole Q&A can be found here.

Progress Report: Reviewing and Revising

I’ve written a review for Forever Young Adult on Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series. I’ll be reviewing the whole series for them, but this one covers the first four books. I’m thrilled to be writing these reviews because I love both the books and and the website. Here is the link.
I’m currently working on a rewrite of My UnDead Ex, and trying to ween myself from my dependence on exposition. It’s an uphill battle. I’m still querying Random Acts of Nudity, to no avail. I don’t know how much longer I’ll keep going, before retiring it and starting over querying another project. I’ve also gotten some feedback on Tooth or Consequence and have got some inklings on what to do with the revision. And I’ve written a short children’s story that I think will make a cute picture book, though I don’t think my drawing skills are quite up to the task. It might be something to work on in between projects. I think I’ll leave you with an anecdote that has been on my mind lately.
I was around eighteen and working behind the bakery counter of a grocery store. One day a baby in a shopping cart appeared in front of the counter. It must have been pushed there by a parent. In fact I’m sure it was. But in my memory there is no parent just the baby. This was without a doubt the most adorable baby that ever was. It has big round eyes and chubby cheeks. And even chubbier legs. It was smiling a huge toothless smile. Other shoppers stopped to aw and coo over it. One of the produce stockers came over and tickled the baby’s bare toes. This was one ridiculously cute baby.
I remember very clearly the thought that went through my head as I watched this scene unfold. I thought, in all seriousness, “Anything that cute can’t be what it seems. It’s probably an alien in disguise, here to enslave humanity with its adorableness.” That was the day I realized I was kind of eccentric.

Progress Report

Once again it’s been a while between updates. Lots of things have happened since then. Most exciting for me was that my short story, Wandering Eye, won the Geek Partnership Society’s Scot Imes Award for short fiction. The official announcement hasn’t been posted yet but when it is, the story will be available to read on their website and I will link to it.
The award has given me a little confidence boost and has motivated me to start submitting more of my short stories for publication. I also attended a lecture hosted by the Minnesota Speculative Writers Group on the subject of selling stories. I learned a lot, but what struck me the most was the point that writing stories is great, but they can’t and won’t do anything for you if you don’t try to sell them. It’s better to let them sit on an editor’s hard-drive than sitting dormant on mine. So I’ve been polishing up my small backlog of stories and begun sending them out.
I got to read the story out loud at the award ceremony. It was my first public reading (for a very small audience) it went pretty well, though I was cursing myself for including so many multisyllabic words to trip over. The ceremony was held at CONvergence, Minnesota’s annual genre convention. I’ve gone for the last three years. It’s a big melting pot of geek culture and always a lot of fun.
I had a photo op with the Tardis.
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That is my Little Doctor shirt I’m wearing, available for sale here.
As usual I attended several book themed panels and left with tons of titles added to my To Read list. Including some from special guest authors Paul Cornell, Emma Newman, and Adam Stemple. I can’t wait to get reading.
Speaking of reading, I recently read Jo Walton’s Among Others. It had been recommended and lent to me by my sister and her husband. They told me I had to bump it to the top of my pile. I’m so glad I listened!
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It’s a beautiful, original, quiet, treasure of a book. The main character spends the majority of her time reading books herself. There’s magic and fairies and terrible danger but they’re not presented like any magic or fairies or terrible danger I’ve ever read before. And I’ve read lots of stories involving magic, fairies, and terrible danger. I’ve even written a couple.
One of the most compelling aspects of the book for me was how immersed in books the main character is. The books she reads are all classic scifi novels. Nearly all the books she mentions were on my family’s collective shelves as I grew up. Even though the book is set in an English boarding school in the seventies and I grew up on the North side of Chicago in the eighties, the authors referenced Poul Anderson, Roger Zelazny, and Ursula K. Le Guin, to name a few, gave me the same sensation as if it were set in my old neighborhood. I knew that world like the back of my hand.
So I’m urging anyone to whom that sounds remotely interesting to bump it to the top of your pile.
In other news, I finished the first draft of my middle grade fantasy. And yes it involves fairies and magic. It is my sixth completed manuscript which is a nice milestone. I’m tentatively calling it Tooth or Consequence, it’s 40,000 words long for the time being. I’m currently editing it to get it into the hands of my beta readers.
Speaking of whom, two of my critique partners also had great news. One got picked up by an agent and another got a book deal. I’ve read their books and they couldn’t deserve it more, they are both so talented. I can’t wait to encourage everyone I know to buy their books, they are terrific.
And I participated in Write On Con, an online writers’ conference. There were many informative articles and forum events about the publishing world covering just about every angle. All of the conference content can be found here.

 

Progress Report: On Creation

I’ve been MIA from the blog for a while because I’ve been writing. I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo with my critique. My goal was to write 25,000 words in 30 days. It was touch and go for a while there, but I just made it. I’m now nearly done with the first draft of my sixth novel. It’s the first that I think I’ll probably add as many words as I cut once I start editing. The world needs fleshing out, but I’m really pleased with this one. It’s a middle grade fantasy and I’ve had a lot of fun writing it. It’d been over a year since I’d started something entirely new. I’d forgotten how exciting it can be to not know what would happen until I wrote it.
In the writing community there are two common methods of writing: pantsing and plotting. Writers who plot, work out the entire plot either in notes or outlines, or just in their own heads, before they write one word of the first draft. Pantsers, aka writing by the seat of your pants, don’t have a plan. They just see what plot appears as they write it. Of course there are infinite variations of either method. I tend to work best in a hybrid of the two.
Two or three months later I begin writing the draft. At this point I’m pantsing, letting the ideas come as they may, getting to know the character and their world. I may have an idea where things are going, but I’m never more than a single chapter ahead of myself. The story happens as I write it. And what I write informs what will happen next. For example, early on in this draft I had a character give Ben a gift. I didn’t know what the gift would be. I went through a couple of options, a sweater, a board game, a hat. Nothing felt quite right. I finally settled on an empty birdcage. Then I had to come up with a reason why this character would give her an empty birdcage. I decided it was because if she put a slice of bread and jam in the cage and hung it outside her window overnight, she’d find something inside in the morning. That led me to figuring out just what she would find. The thing she found in the cage has become vitally important to book overall. Things have happened that I had no inkling of when I began writing, and wouldn’t have had she gotten a sweater instead of the birdcage.
So I write, adding in new characters and plot elements as they come to me. But usually, somewhere between chapter five and ten, the plot tells itself to me, from wherever I am in the draft all the way to the end. I then plot it out chapter by chapter and continue to write based on those plans. That’s not to say what I eventually write matches what I wrote in those chapter plans. Even after I think I know where things are going, new scenes/characters/plot elements do crop up. I guess that makes me pantsing plotter, or maybe a plotting pantser.
The only downside to this method of writing is I tend to derail when I get to a part where I know what comes after the scene I’m about to write, but not what happens in that scene. I either stop writing until I’ve come up with a way to get from point A to point C or just write anything and hope it works. For example in the most recent chapter I knew Ben would find something she’d been looking for, but there would be an obstacle preventing her from getting it, only I didn’t know what the obstacle was or how she’d eventually get around it. I knew that this part was coming well before I got to it, and I’d been thinking of what it could be for a while. Everything I’d come up with just didn’t fit or would cause insurmountable consequences (just because you’re making something up doesn’t mean you can do anything you want). When I finally reached the point were I needed the obstacle, I stopped, let mu mind rest for a few days, thought about other things, and then out of the blue I had it. The perfect B to take me from A to C. But those days when I didn’t know if I’d find a solution were scary.
I think I’ve only got two more chapters to write in this book and I’m fairly confident in what will happen. I’ve already had an idea for the next book—not a sequel to this one. It’s a bigger, wilder idea than anything I’ve done to date, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull it off, but I’m pretty sure I’ll have fun trying. I’m also sure I’ll be riding waves of inspiration right into big nasty walls of uncertainty. That’s how I write.
In the meantime, I’m still querying Random Acts of Nudity. Nothing new to report on that front, though that could change soon. And my critique partners are reviewing My Undead Ex this month. I’ve already gotten really good feedback on it and should get more during our meet-up. Maybe once I’m finished with the current WIP I’ll go into revision mode on Undead Ex and finally fix some of the draggy parts. The new idea needs some time to percolate before I begin writing.
I’d be curious if any of my writer friends and acquaintances are also pantser/plotter hybrids. Or if my method would make them crazy. Or if they are hybrids, but their method is entirely different. Share in the comments if you are so inclined.