Category Archives: Writing

Watch the Endeavour Award!

Virtual Orycon is Friday-Sunday 11/13 to 11/15 and it’s free. Come watch the Endeavour Award presentation at 6 p.m. PST Friday. I was a judge for the award and they say they will recognize me. https://www.facebook.com/orycon/photos/a.10150789749745833/10158765348735833/?type=3OryCon

The rest of the programming looks like there’s a lot of great discussions coming up.

A Day in the Life of a Writer

Do you envision my day beginning with a beautiful fountain pen and crisp, blank pages awaiting my musings or dare I say, insights? Do you picture me putting fresh paper into a typewriter and pounding away until The Story sits in a neat pile of pages on a polished wood desk?

Hah! Here’s one day this week: It starts when, upon waking, I realize I forgot to include something in a chapter I said I’d send off today. So I do some quick reworking via computer before breakfast. Food and tea are accompanied by a side dish of email. That’s when I discover my spam filter claimed for its own the galleys my editor sent me a full week ago. Yikes. They need to go back today.

Once that’s done, including a detour to verify that I have properly employed an infrequently-used adjective, I can get the promised chapter shipped out and eat lunch.

Next up is outlining a few scenes, which bring the conundrum as to the best point of view in a novel told from several characters’ viewpoints. None of the three choices is clearly best. I take a stab at reorganizing some scenes.

Then I look at email again and see that an editor needs my bio. Given the publication’s length constraints, I dig out a recent one and update it.

By now, thoughts of putting a well-balanced fountain pen to creamy paper are a fading memory. However, a blog post to end the day…well, here you go.

WRITING ABOUT WRITING ABOUT DINOSAURS

Dear Readers, The marvelous Catherine Schaff-Stump prodded me into revealing a few of my tricks for bringing dinosaurs to life in your imaginations. Hears hoping the writers among you may find something useful in creating wonders of your own. Oh, and hey, if you’ve never checked out Cath’s Abigail Rath series, you are in for a treat!

WRITERS: YOU ARE NOT DOING IT WRONG DURING THE PANDEMIC

Writers fill my screen, their faces showing intense concentration as we sit silently before our laptops, each in our individual rooms, plying our craft. Three months ago, I would never have dreamed of writing fiction this way. Heck, I was never terribly fond of writing in a coffee shop with others at nearby tables, let along with a group of my colleagues in the same room.

Then came the pandemic and all of my words fled. Every single last one. After struggling for weeks, in desperation I completely shook up my long-standing writing habits. I’ve always found accountability to others to be a useful tool, whether on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. So I gave group writer sprints a try, reasoning that the result could hardly be worse than zero words. To my great surprise, my words came back.

How does a writer sprint work, you ask? A bunch of writers assemble via Zoom at a prearranged time and begin by saying what we each intend to write. Sometimes we’ll take a “Twitter pledge” to stay off social media, that great distracting bane of many writers and destroyer of productivity. Someone will set a timer and we’ll spend thirty minutes or so of silently writing. Well OK maybe with an occasional comment in Chat. Then we’ll all unmute and go around with brief updates as to how we each acquitted ourselves.Those who accomplished their goal for the sprint get applause, cheers, thumbs up, etc. Lather, Rinse. Repeat.

I have no earthly idea why this radical overhaul of my method works. Maybe it has something to do with an occasional cat waving its tail at a webcam or a dog come to beg for treats. Anyway, I’m putting it out here NOT to say you must adopt this method, or any specific method whatsoever. My point, instead, is that if what you are doing no longer seems to work, try something else. Whatever helps during this terrible pandemic is good.

We are all different people with many and varied approaches to our creative processes. My friend Jason Sanford has written an insightful piece on how the pandemic has affected a number of writers. Some keep chugging steadily along. (Awesome!) Some have been unable to produce anything. Some have had to abandon works in progress and begin afresh. The approaches are as varied as the writers and their creative endeavors. My point is to simply suggest that this could be the time to try a fresh approach.

SUPER-CHARGED FROM AMAZING CON!

There I was, chatting with writers, readers, editors spanning the globe: Vancouver, Virginia, Poland, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Thailand…the list goes on! I’m talking, of course, about the very first Amazing Con, brought to you by the terrific folks who write for, edit, and publish Amazing Stories.

What a kick! With the talented and enthusiastic Frank Wu, I got to update con-goers on new developments involving dinosaurs. Plus, like any author, I had a great time reading a soon-to-be-published short story involving…dinosaurs. Then I switched hats to moderate a panel of short-fiction and novel and game writers talking about world-building.

For everyone who thinks virtual events are but a pale imitation of the face-to-face gatherings those in our field prize, I assure you they are not! Despite the time differences, virtual conventions facilitate participation by people around the globe-literally. This includes

  1. those who don’t have the financial means to transportation and hotel rooms
  2. those who have physical conditions making such attendance difficult or impossible
  3. those whose time constraints and/or family situations preclude in-person events

The first Amazing Con was such a success that plans are already afoot for the second one next year. I hope everyone will check out the Amazing kickstarter to keep this esteemed publication going!

WORLD FANTASY CONVENTION 2019

What better time than Halloween weekend for the World Fantasy Convention in LA, with a fantasy noir theme! For me it was a memorable time renewing friendships with writers, editors, agents, and others in our science fiction and fantasy community. Plus, you never know who you will meet for the first time! Here I am with one of the Amazing Stories first readers, Rebecca Partridge. I loved that she had on hand a copy of the issue with my latest story, “Conservation of Mismatched Shoes.”

You can find her con report here.

A WRITER READS REVIEWS

New writers are often advised not to read reviews of their work. The theory goes that reviews are for readers, not for writers who can do nothing whatsoever to make amends for whatever glaring faults the reviewer finds in their work. Worse yet, a few bad reviews–or maybe only one or two–just might dishearten the newbie author to such an extent that they wreak havoc on further creative endeavors.

What this well-meaning advice neglects to address is how a new writer, or even a well-established author with numerous publications to their name, is supposed to resist the siren call of the review. In my own case, for the longest time, I wouldn’t even admit to reading reviews of my work because I thought it showed a character flaw. Over time, I came to see that a great many writers, maybe even most of us, do read published reviews of our work. I suppose we could justify doing so on the grounds that it’s nonsensical for us to be the only ones who have no idea what professional reviewers are saying about our body of work. A lot of us also read Amazon and Good Reads reviews written by readers. Again, it seems to make sense to find out what our fans, no matter how numerous or how sparse, think of our stories.

There’s another reason to read reviews. Writing is, inescapably, a solitary profession for long chunks of time. It can also seem frustratingly like casting one’s work into a black hole from which not a solitary ray of feedback escapes. Who wouldn’t want to hear something?

Besides, there are times when that feedback can be extraordinarily gratifying. Take for example, Rich Horton’s review of the my own story, “Conservation of Mismatched Shoes,” in the July 2019 issue of Locus. It’s his favorite story in the issue! Mark me down as thrilled. Thrilled, I tell you! This isn’t simply a matter of basking in his kind words. My reaction has everything to do with the fact that while writing this one, I really struggled to portray the teenage protagonist and her older brother. Rich Horton deemed it “[a]n honest story, convincingly characterized.”

I intend to keep on reading those reviews!

THE SKY IS NO LONGER THE LIMIT.

Fifty years ago today I thrilled at the Moon landing, which I watched on a a grainy black-and-white TV with my parents and brother. From that day forth, the kid who was me believed she could, one day, work on the Moon if she wanted to. After all, our later-reviled President, Richard Nixon, told us that “The sky is no longer the limit.” Oh how I could hardly wait to land my own job on the Moon!

Technology has come a long way in fifty years, which is how I was able to sit on the national Mall yesterday evening with thousands of others watching a projection of the Apollo 11 rocket onto the Washington Monument. This was part of a program in which NASA and the Smithsonian commemorated the momentous achievement of all the women and men who poured their passion into making Apollo 11 a reality. And there I sat on the grass remembering my own dream job on the Moon.

Actually, my trip down memory lane began on a rainy night at the ballpark some days earlier. There, I chanced upon a replica of Neil Armstrong’s space suit, which got me to musing about what happened to that kid who thought she could work on the Moon when she grew up. I’ll tell you, dear readers. That kid, who is as much me as she ever was, went on to get a job on the Moon! That is to say, I became a science fiction writer and found out that when I unleash my imagination, the sky is indeed no longer the limit.

Writing Retreats?

Why should I go on a writing retreat when I have a home office set-up that gives me plenty of opportunity to amass all the words? I mean, it takes time and money to travel, eat out, etc. Even considering that many of the daily distractions won’t exist, will it be worth it to head out to do what I can do right here?

These questions swirled through my brain as I packed my bag not long ago and left for a retreat with some of my writer buds. I’ve done writing retreats several times before and have always come home rather surprised at how much I managed to accomplish. And that’s with–or despite–ubiquitous high-speed internet and face-time with people I haven’t hung out with nearly enough.

I’ve been giving some thought to why it’s easier for me to write in the company of other writers. For me, it’s a matter of accountability. When I see the intense concentration of my friends’ faces as they sit together grinding out words, peer pressure seizes me. My urge to sink into social media drops away. I find myself opening that unfinished piece and wrestling with it. Oddly enough, writing on retreat works best for me when I’ve reached a knotty place in the story. I find I’m less inclined to throw in the towel.

Caveat: Your mileage may vary. No two writers go about it in exactly the same way, so I’m pretty sure retreats don’t work well for some. Nonetheless, if you get the chance, give it a shot!

In Print Again: An Amazing Story!

   

By which, I am thrilled to announce my debut in issue 3 of the revived Amazing Stories. Kudos to Steve Davidson (the driving force) and Ira Nayman (astute editor) for publishing some fine short stories in the first three new issues of Amazing Stories.

Seeing my story, “Conservation of Mis-Matched Shoes,” in this revitalized magazine feels like an alternate universe. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. You see, the story is about navigating the multiverse. Hope you’ll give it a read!

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