I’m not one to resolve to read “more” books this year. That’s too much tracking and keeping on track for my taste. Nor am I much for taking another crack at “great” works that I’ve opened before and never gotten beyond the first few pages. Instead, this year I’m going to focus on easy reading resolutions, ones I’m nearly certain will bring me pleasure and be easier to keep.
First and foremost, I will try reading a few books outside my usual genres of science fiction, fantasy, and science fact. For example, there are marvelous books about food and cooking that go well beyond mere recipe compilations to engage the senses, inform, and even serve as a bit of a travelogue to fascinating places and times.
OK, I’m on a roll! Here are a few more resolutions that seem feasible:
- I’m going to seek out more works by writers from other lands. I’ve found some of my favorite new authors by doing this.
- I want to read at least a half hour every day. I might do so as soon as I wake up, before daily events distract.
- I won’t force myself to finish any book that turns into a slog. Reading every page isn’t like finishing all the food on your plate. Come to think of it, enforced membership in The Clean Plate Club isn’t such a great idea either.
- I will seek out a few books that were made into new movies or streaming series. I usually find the book version to be a deeper, richer experience. Even when this isn’t the case, it can be fascinating to compare them.
- I can easily talk up more books I love. With so much competition for readers’ attention, authors need as much favorable press as possible from all quarters.
- I’m going to read at least one banned book. You know why.
- I’ll keep on supporting my local libraries monetarily and with book donations. Things haven’t gotten any easier for many of them recently.
Do you have reading resolutions for 2023? I’d be interested in what they are. How will you go about acting on them?
Look closely at the three indentations to the left of my hand. They are tooth marks in this leg bone of a triceratops. Ouch! If you’re wondering, this is a cast, not the real fossil, thus intended to be touched.
Hey guess what, everyone? I’m now a book reviewer for Analog Science Fiction and Fact! If all goes according to plan, my first column is slated to appear in the March/April 2023 issue. Can you tell how excited I am? The plan at this point is for me to write every other column.
There’s nothing like the fun of picking out an intriguing new novel to read. Now, all the books on my To Be Read heap are clamoring more than ever to be the next one. Suddenly, things are different as I need to select ones that I think will interest Analog’s science fiction readers. It’s been great fun assembling a bunch of novels centered around a common theme. I threw in a non-fiction work, too, that fits the theme. Oh, and I’m already contemplating what the next group will be. The only downside I see is the impressive number of thoughtful, exciting, satisfying books I won’t have enough time or space to get to. Ah, but that’s the plight of all us inveterate readers, isn’t it?
Now here are a couple of questions, dear readers: Do you read book reviews? Why or why not?
I’m pleased to announce that I had a couple of items published in 2022:
- Etruscan Afterlife appeared in The Reinvented Heart, edited by Cat Rambo & Jenn Brozek
- The Holy Wars of Mathematics: A Secret History of the Calculus of Chicanery, which appeared in 99 Tiny Terrors, became available via Amazon.
My Virtual Appearances (still available to watch!):
- Go Indie Now panel on writing hard science fiction
- Go Indie Now panel on love interests in fiction
- Con-Tinual panel on archaeology, anthropology, and paleontology in fiction
My In-Person Appearances:
- Balticon 56 (science fiction convention in Baltimore)
- Chicon 8, (World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago)
- Multiverse (SF & fantasy convention in Atlanta)
Most Enjoyable Reads:
- Hot Moon by Alan Smale
- The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
- A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
- Booth by Karen Joy Fowler
Most Unexpected Pleasure:
- Being invited to write a regular column. Details soon!
- San Diego to Seattle via plane, automobile and overnight train
- Runner-up: summertime spent at a lake in the Adirondacks
Best Educational Opportunities:
- Smithsonian Institution on-line classes about art, archaeology, and world heritage sites
- Close Runner-up: The Rambo Academy classes for writers at all skill levels featuring many different aspects of our craft.
Best Museum Experiences:
- Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles
- Royal Ontario Museum, especially dinosaur fossils and minerals
Most Entertaining Streaming Series:
- Enstrom almond toffee
Things to come in 2023: Watch this space for announcements about:
- Murder at the Westminster Dino Show
- Who’s a Good Hellhound?
- Other fun stuff I can’t disclose yet!
Dinosaurs are not like children in that you don’t have to say you love all of them equally. For the longest time, whichever ones I was writing about at the moment were the ones I loved the best. Over time, however, I’ve come to see that my favorite is the Parasaurolophus. They had hollow horns and could blow air through them. I like to think they called to one another or possibly to their young.
Ornithomimuses-so called ostrich mimics–are also pretty neat with their long necks and gawky legs.
As a story-teller, I’m also partial to Deinonychuses, which were the real Velociraptors. With their sickle-shaped claws, they are great for moving the story forward. They are, however, kind of hard on the human characters.
These photos were taken at the Royal Museum of Ottawa in Toronto. I heartily recommend it. There are lots of other neat critters and excellent explanations of what makes them interesting.
National Novel Writing Month is November. It’s when lots of authors set out to write a whole novel, or at least 50,000 words of one, in a single month. Some writers can do so. Some cannot or chose not to. Many fine writers ignore the whole thing. That said, NaNoWriMo can be useful for newish writers in several ways:
- It gets them in the habit of writing.
- It gets their families, friends and those in their household in the habit of expecting them to be absorbed in writing.
- Lots of words, or at least a goodly number, end up on the page, words that can later be supplemented and improved later.
- It provides camaraderie with other NaNoWriMo writers. Thus, it can counteract the lonely aspects of this solitary endeavor.
Nonetheless, NaNoWriMO doesn’t work for everyone year after year. Here’s why:
- It causes some of us writers to compare our output to that of others. Now there’s a surefire way to sap the joy out of writing. Plus, it increases the pressure to crank out the words.
- It leaves those working on short stories, essays, poetry, and creative nonfiction feeling like afterthoughts.
- New writers who don’t end up with 50,000 words can feel like they’ve failed. Never mind that life events, holidays, academia, and work schedules are not conducive to a month of intensive writing.
- It takes some doing to adapt NaNoWriMo’s word count to the process of revising a work in process.
Final thoughts: if you are a writer and NaNoWritMo works for you, that’s great! If it doesn’t, for whatever reason you can identify and even if you don’t know why, please don’t think of it as a failure or yourself as a failure. Creative writing is not a win/lose competition.
This isn’t a real edit letter, although when procrastination sets in, an edit letter awaiting a response can feel this old. Let me back up for those who might not know what an edit letter is. After a story or book has been accepted for publication, the acquiring editor will usually send the author a letter explaining whatever changes the editor believes will improve the work. They range from minor stuff like commas and hyphenation of words, to adding or deleting sentences or paragraphs, or more significant issues. Sometimes editors will point out plot holes or the need to explain more about how a character acts or feels. They may include suggestions or leave the fixes to the writer.
As a writer, I never know what the edit letter may contain until it pops into my inbox. Thus the trouble begins. By this I mean brain weasels take hold before I have a chance to open the email. The brain weasels scream that the editor has decided not to publish my work after all. No, I reply, that’s absurd. Next the brain weasels say the editor has major problems with my work, intractable problems. That’s absurd, too, I reply. But wait. What if the editor has found something I don’t know how to fix?
You can see why I’m tempted to postpone opening the edit letter. When I do, it’s fine. Rather, there are some good suggestions that make for a better story. with relief, I fix stuff. As I turn in the revisions, I swear I’m never going to let the brain weasels play their tricks on me ever again. Then next time…
Ever since my corner of the world shut down in March, 2020, I’ve taken to writing fiction on Zoom in thirty-minute sessions with a bunch of other authors. I knew almost none of them when I began. Today, I am thrilled to call them my friends. I met a bunch of these good folks (you know who you are!) in person for the first time last weekend. It all happened over the course of three days at Multiverse Convention on the outskirts of Atlanta. I had great fun being on panels about writing.
Better yet, my writer friends were every bit as kind and smart and clever as I had suspected. Just look at the little wooden dinosaur one of them gave me! Now I simply must write a story featuring this plucky little horn-headed raptor. It will be my second story based on one of the gang.
Hey look at the neat new promo piece the talented folks at MultiVerse put together for me! It will be my first time attending and being a panelist at their convention outside Atlanta, Georgia. I can hardly wait! Come see me if you’re in the area on Oct. 14-16.