Some things

I’ve been really tied up with dayjob stuff recently, and I know that is hurting my ability to give you good blog content. Fear not! There are some interesting projects coming down the pike.

For example, I’m working on putting together an IRL monthly reading group where we will read one book or novella a month that is “feminist”. For the purposes of this group I am looking at feminist to mean that it was written by a woman and/or has an engaged and diverse cast of characters and/or directly deals with feminist issues and themes. It’s a broad definition. (We’ll be working to include WOC in this as well.) I imagine that you will see posts regarding the stories in question and some of the conversations we have at these sessions as they get off the ground. Our first meeting date will be in August, so look for more information then.

In other news, I will be going to see VALERIAN (the S.O. wants to go, and I’ve hard the graphics are great). We’ll see how I like it. Maybe there will be a review post! ATOMIC BLONDE is also coming out soon and I am oh so ready.

I also spammed and finished The Last Airbender over the past few weeks, which means I’ve been taking up most of my reading time with watching. I know I’m late to that party, but it was really good. It gave me a lot to think about with regards to well-handled multi-POV plot pacing. I think it’s going to be really helpful as I move into re-outlining and further tweaking DoM.

Recent reads included finishing Catherynne Valente’s Deathless, which I have….mixed feelings about. Her words are beautiful, as always. The story made me sad though, which was probably the intention. I don’t quite know what to do with all that.

I also finished Jackalope Wives and other tales by T. Kingfisher and, as always, I freaking love her stories. Just really, really good. Like I cannot even tell you how good. I was messaging a friend throughout being like “this is what I want to write!!! How does she do it??”

The novelette is out to beta readers, and so far everyone seems to like it, which is awesome. On a personal front, it’s birthday season for the extended family, which, in addition to dayjob overtime, has been throwing a wrench in my getting-things-done mojo. Seriously, it seems like everyone I know was born in the summer sometimes.

I’ll tune in soon with some more fun stuff, but for now I’m going to go collapse in an exhausted heap and recover my mojo.

 

Resolutions and execution

Friends, as of two weeks ago we were halfway through 2017 and I realized that it’s probably about time to check on how I’m doing with my New Year’s Resolutions. So here they are, and here’s some reflection on how well I’ve met my goals.

  1. To make this marriage thing stick. To get the wedding plans planned and then let it go to be what it will be. To continue to remember that relationships are work and require cherishing just like any other small, precious, hopeful thing. Remember that time I got married? I did that. It was awesome. It’s like getting to know one another again right now in some ways. So much of our lives were on hold for the wedding, and now there’s free brain-power to figure out what’s next. But I think we’re doing pretty well with it, so I’m marking this one off.
  2. To find us a home and plant it with flowers and fruit and all good things. To experiment with growing sweet potatoes and lemon trees and mangoes, because I can. Okay, the only part of this I’ve done so far is the sweet potatoes. I KNOW YOU’RE OUT THERE, HOUSE!
  3. To attend all these conferences I’ve signed up for, and most especially to make it to WFC in San Antonio in October. Selfishly, I’m most excited about seeing my family there, but also super jazzed about Martha Wells being the head honcho for this go-round. I survived many of the conferences, and just remembered I still haven’t made reservations for WFC. Oops?
  4. To finish Daughter of Madness and get it to my readers, sometime this year, no matter that I’m behind. To not feel guilty about that behind-ness. To give you an outline of next steps with this, I need to: finish the rough draft, send it to beta readers and/or an editor for a look, and then do second rewrites as well as deep line edits. I’m also in the process of doing the cover design which will hopefully be finalized this month sometime, so be looking for that! (I am focusing on being excited, so excited, to bring this book to you and not intimidated by all the to do’s that still need doing.) Marking off half of this, which seems appropriate considering the timing. Check out my post from last week for more updates!
  5. To re-issue Child of Brii, taking it back to my original vision for it, before I got caught up in word counts and mess. I sort of did this. The book is back out there, anyway. I feel pretty okay about that.
  6. To start something new – either the last Creation Saga book, which I’ve honestly already got about 10,000 words of from cuts from Daughter of Madness, or the Child of Brii prequel I’ve got planned, or maybe both. Ideally I’d get the roughs for both finished this year but realistically it’s probably one or the other. And maybe… Eek, I have not done any of this. 
  7. To start something entirely new – it might happen anyway if I’m being honest, because I’m excited about a great many projects right now. There are octopuses and mermaids and werewolves and princesses and warriors all begging for my attention at the moment, so you’ll know as soon as I do what I pick up next. Marking this off, but don’t consider it over. There’s more new stuff longing for passage through my pen.
  8. To put honest work into querying a project that I have previously referred to as ‘The Zombie Book’. This requires putting together a synopsis, since that’s the last element I’m missing, and updating my agents list for queries. I’d also like to finish the spin-off story from that novel, and hopefully find it a home, or maybe hold onto it until it’s time. I did this part, at least. And it was fun times, my friends. Now to do the rest.
  9. To love and care for those important to me. To visit my brother finally, and to make time to travel with my soon-to-be husbandOh, we traveled. Did we travel. And more to come!
  10. To never stop believing in myself and my work. To continue to try to find homes for my short stories. To write new ones, as the mood takes me. To write for the sake of writing. This is an ongoing goal, especially the last bit. And it is a hard thing to do, every day. But I love writing, friends.
  11. To take care of myself. To make sure I eat well and exercise, which is hard, and that I get enough sleep, which is easier but still doesn’t always happen. To climb some more mountains, and float some more rivers, and spend some time under the stars. I can’t mark this off because I want to do more of it!
  12. To fear less and try harder. Basically, this is an ongoing life lesson, and I’m not afraid to work on it forever.

Some things are ongoing. Some things we can’t mark off. The work of a life is never over, and thank goodness.

I’m looking forward to what these next six months bring, my dears.

A time for edits

To everything there is a season. A time for brainstorming, and a time for reading books. A time for scribbling in notebooks, and a time for typing. A time for writing, and a time for edits.

It is my time for edits.

You know that I have finished the DoM draft, and that I have a cover. Unfortunately, I still don’t feel comfortable setting a release date. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it took me a lot longer than I thought it would to write DoM. It was my first time writing a sequel, so that was part of it, and I was going through a lot. Getting engaged, planning a wedding, my grandfather dying, learning not one, but two jobs. It puts a damper on productivity, all that change, and my deadlines slid past in a sea at turns colored with regret and the apathy fueled by having no more spoons.

Second, this book came out seriously broken, which is not unusual for many writers when they get to the end of the actual creative process and move into rewrites but for me? I’m having to rapidly become a better self-critic. It’s taking me a lot longer to wade through the pages than it would have if I had written the thing with a clearer vision. Heck, I wrote past the ending by something like 20,000 words. For those counting, that’s about a fifth of a book. That means I have a head-start on Book Three, if I can get DoM in a place where I haven’t written myself into a corner with two of the characters, that is. Since that’s basically the problem with the draft.

So, here we are, July 2017, and there is not a final book, and you are all probably sad. I am sad, a little, but I’m also excited because I know I can do this. Writers do things like this. We have these moments in our lives. Especially when we have dayjobs and families and all the other things that human beings have.

In the interim, I’m focusing on actually writing shorter works. If you follow me Twitter, you’ve seen me posting about a novelette project. That is scribbled and off to early readers, mostly because I had so much fun writing it. It’s a spin-off from a book that I’ve had completed for a while but that I haven’t published (see: season for edits) and that I had hoped to find a publishing house to represent, since I think it will do better. The world is one that I enjoy writing immensely. I’ve also been working on some short pieces for upcoming anthologies I know will have slush submissions. (I’ve pretty much queried my trunk, so it’s time to start creating new stuff.)

Anyways, these are the daily ins and outs of writing. Without the wedding sapping up all my energy, my productivity has definitely increased. I am very hopeful I’ll have something to share with you soon in terms of news.

For now, I’ll just keep editing.

Wonder Woman: a tale of two movies

I’ve been waiting a long time to write this post, because I wanted to make sure that I was writing it for the right reasons. Reading this article by Tabby Biddle at Huffington Post helped me clarify that I was not just being a random crazy person, and that my feelings were shared by at least some women. I don’t agree with everything in the article, but I agree with the sense of confusion and anger the writer felt at this iconic movie.

It’s funny, how a movie about women’s empowerment made me feel like that.

As the Huffington Post article describes, if you’ve seen Wonder Woman, you know the beginning is full of badass women. However, the main plot of the movie actually starts when Steve Trevor crash-lands his plane into the island of Themyscira. The pace really picks up here. Diana makes the somewhat strange decision to leave the island that is her home. Her mother makes the decision to not send anyone with her, which is curious since she is constantly worrying about Diana’s safety. The world of women, the world of sense in this case, since the character’s decisions do not jive here, begins to fall apart.

Diana leaves Themyscira, and journeys to the land of the patriarchy. And this is where I get annoyed.

There were so many opportunities to do a movie about World War I, one of the greatest conflicts of our history and one that is often overshadowed by the more recent World War II, in a way that would really shed light onto the politics and issues of the times, onto the broad way that the “war to end all wars” affected so many people. Not just the men who went to the fronts, but the women.

Oh, you didn’t know there were women at the fronts in World War I? Spoiler warning: women are everywhere.

Now I will say that Wonder Woman did a decent job of showing more than the pressed, American white male hero for this movie. Steve was definitely a focus, but there was an attempt to express nuance. The reference to the genocide carried out against the Native Americans, while a bit pat, was at least a step in the right direction. But somewhere, Wonder Woman decided to embrace the “exceptional woman” trope. Diana is able to hack it in the trenches, but Diana is an exception. She has super powers. Her hair is always perfect. She’s not even human, actually, so why should she be held to human norms? This echoes pretty strongly as well with the “just one of the guys” trope we see in a lot of media. The only woman Diana encounters is Etta Candy, a secretary. When she is introduced, Diana immediately denigrates her  and her career. “Where I come from, we call that slavery.”

By itself, Diana’s relationship with Etta would not be problematic. Put in the context of all of her other relationships with human women, it becomes so. We get, in order: the refugee who has somehow crossed no-man’s-land to be hysterical in the trenches; the elite ‘German’ woman whom Diana presumably beats up and leaves naked in the woods; and the evil scientist who, in the end, has simply been the pawn of a man and a male god masquerading as a man for the whole movie, despite her genius. (I could go on about how the only physically disabled or disfigured person with speaking lines is said same female scientist, but that’s a whole other post.)

Even in Themyscira, Diana was held apart. In that case, it was because she was a god (unknowing, but still a god). When she comes to the human world, it is made clear that, though she is treated like a woman at points, she is in fact included as one of the guys because of her godhood. That would be a sticky thing to deal with no matter who else was on screen with Diana. The fact that only men are onscreen for ninety percent of the time skews this equation from sticky to downright uncomfortable.

So, back to those women of World War I.

A good place to start is talking about how much the economic landscape changed in places like London during World War I. All the men were at war, for the most part, which meant, as in the US in World War II, that women stepped up to fill their jobs. Women weren’t just secretaries or spending their time shopping – they were working in factories, featured in propaganda posters, and probably doing other jobs besides. Women were everywhere. Half of a given population is women, on average, and half of the men were at war. For every one man on the average street, it would be fair to say you should see at least two women.

And women were on the front, too, mostly in noncombative capacities. Women were ambulance drivers, nurses, doctors, and reporters. Notably, Flora Sandes even served as active military. She received seven medals. Many of these women were British citizens, but women from other countries – France, notably, and others involved in this sprawling war – played similar rolls. Not one of these women, or one woman like them, appeared in this film.

Wonder Woman has been praised as a feminist movie. Perhaps the first half of this movie was in fact feminist. There were several named female characters, and some really interesting backstory and character dynamics (that unfortunately did not get developed to my satisfaction). But feminist writing does not only include women who are exceptional or outside of the patriarchy. It must engage with the patriarchy not just by sending a character in to yell at some old white dudes, but also by refusing to embrace the narratives accepted as history.

There are other things worth discussing with this movie. Steve Trevor’s almost-fridging is notable, as is the question of virtue and womanhood. Why the decision was made to base the movie in World War I and whether it actually furthered the thematic content of the movie as argued is worth exploring. Also, I could write a whole post on how I almost convinced myself that I liked this movie after reading Joss Whedon’s rejected trashfire of a script and the way that women are constantly gaslit for wanting fair and equal representation in media. But just paying attention to historical context and opportunity would have made this the movie we deserved, so I’ll stop here.

Further reading regarding some badass broads who were on the frontlines, mostly in World War II:

Rejected Princesses

Clare Hollingworth

 

 

Honeymoon (We’re back, cont’d)

So, honeymoon! What did we do? Where did we go? What did we eat? All important questions, obviously. For this post I’ll tell you some cool overview stuff and for later posts I’ll come back and dig into some of the experiences I think will be useful from a world-building/fact-finding perspective, just because there was some really cool stuff I learned at some different museums and I think you will enjoy it.

We were gone for two whole weeks, and we stopped a lot of places, but most of our time was split between the city of Montreal, Canada, and the lovely state of Vermont. So I’ll start with Montreal and see how far we get. We’ll be moving back into writing stuff soon, for sure, and if I have any good news I will share in real time, of course. But you only get one honeymoon, hopefully. This is the first long vacation I have taken since my career shift two years ago, so we definitely lived it up.

The wedding, as mentioned, was amazing. It happened Saturday. We took all of our things home Sunday and tried to recuperate, and then Monday about noon (much later than intended) we headed up the interstate. This was a roadtrip, you see, which is an awesome thing if you’ve never gone on one with just a couple of close people. You need to get the balance right – enough stuff brought with you that you aren’t upset when you need something and don’t have it, but not so much that you can’t all sleep in the car if you need to. A fine balance, roadtrips. We hit ours pretty perfectly – our trunk was full, and a good portion of the back seat, but not so much we couldn’t lay our seats back if we needed to. That first day, we made it all the way up to Syracuse, NY, about a nine hour drive from our little corner in Virginia, listening to audiobooks and napping and generally doing as you do.

The next day, we continued our journey to Canada by way of northwestern New York. We found a little city called Oswego for lunch. The food wasn’t exceptional, but we got to see the borders of Lake Ontario.

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Next, we crossed into Canada through the Thousand Islands. The border crossing was quick and relatively painless, actually, in some ways more painless than flying. It was my first time crossing a border via land. The only disappointment was that they didn’t stamp our passports. I love having stamps in my passport.

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Right across the border, we stopped at a tower from which you could admire the landscape. You can see the border crossing, and the bridge we came over, and all of the many islands that dot the largely aquatic landscape. I’d love to visit this place again – they have river cruises and haunted castle explorations. I was sad we were only passing through.

Next, we arrived in Montreal!

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The S.O. was severely disappointed in the coffee situation but this is coffee at my speed. I’m not a regular coffee drinker, unless it’s cold brew. Unfortunately, part of the reason I’m not a coffee drinker is also the caffeine intake, which he desperately need but I am not dependent on. That was a hard transition for him, all that espresso.

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We went to the Musee des Beaux Arts and saw a plethora of amazing artwork. Most of the art you were allowed to take pictures of, and this lovely really struck me. It’s from the floor of the museum that focuses on Inuit Art. This one was called Transformation, which seems to be a fairly common theme in the art we saw on that floor. It’s lovely. We also saw an amazing piece called Sea Change there, which I posted about on Twitter that day, if you were following that. The Musee des Beaux Arts has several buildings, each having several floors, and like many buildings in Montreal they are connected via underground passageways.

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After visiting the daytime exhibits of the museum, we climbed the nearby Mont-Royal. This is where Montreal gets its name, and is the highest point in the city. No building can be built higher than its peak. There is a lovely observation deck from which you can look out on the city below.

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That wasn’t the end of our experience at the Musee des Beaux-Arts, however. We also saw a lovely Chagall exhibit while we were there, which was super immersive. I’m always a fan of special exhibits like that if they are well-executed, which this one was.

Later, we went on to visit the Botanical Gardens and the Biodome. The Biodome was phenomenal, and you should definitely go, even though it is a bit expensive. Both of these attractions are located near the Olympic Stadium, which is pretty far away from the downtown, so we had to take the metro.

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I really, really enjoyed the Botanical Gardens, and I’m going to do a whole separate post on one of their exhibits for world-building purposes, but in the interim look at those peonies!

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We also saw this 275 year old bonsai on loan from Japan. That tree has lived about ten times as long as I have, which is baffling to think about.

Of course, all of these things exist outside of the most famous part of Montreal, which is Old Montreal. Those winding cobbled streets are where you will find the most tourists. And the crown of that experience is the Notre-Dame Basilica. We went, and it was gorgeous. The most stunning part, however, was the chapel that is in the back of the basilica, where no photos are allowed. No photos do the whole thing justice, honestly, but I’ve tried to capture the grandeur of the main section of the building here.

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Alright, that’s it! Tune in next week for my Vermont adventures!

And we’re back! (Wedding edition)

Friends, Romans, countrymen….we are back in the USA, and back at home! Which means I have so many things to tell you about, because I was gone for two weeks which is literally forever.

Coming back this week has been crazy hard, what with getting back into the swing of things, and the next few weeks I’ll probably mostly be posting about my trip experiences. Trust me, there is some awesome world-building fodder and other such in there, but if you are reading for reviews, etc, I am staying away from those until I settle down a bit and could get some reading done. I have to be honest, I did next to no reading on the honeymoon – with a couple of notable exceptions, mostly in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence – so the only thing I would have to write about otherwise is Wonder Woman and I’m not ready for that yet.

Anyway, digressions aside, I’m married!

It was a super hot day, and we thought we were going to get thunderstorms. Everything took twice as long as expected setting up. I should have been absolutely stressed, possibly hysterical, but I felt distantly calm. All that stress had been burnt out in the weeks before, and I was ready for whatever was going to happen to happen. So at 2pm, after managing set-up for four hours, I left and took a shower. There were spiders in the shower – we were out in the woods, and spiders are to be expected – but the water pressure was good. I washed my hair, blow-dried it for the first time in ages, put on my dress. Stuck the S.O.’s ring in my dress pocket along with the vows I had written but still hadn’t memorized. Ten minutes before pictures my friend finally finished pinning flowers into my hair.

Then the S.O. and I descended from our cabin out into the whirl of family. Everyone had arrived early, and it was hard to wrestle people aside for pictures. The set up was gorgeous, it was hot and the rain never fell, and everyone we loved was there. Someone rounded them up to settle them into their seats, and we said our vows. My dad cried. I cried. The S.O. cried. He was so dapper and lovely.

We had homegrown flowers, and home-baked pies, and stuffed peppers and goat cheese raviolis. We had beer and wine and good fiddle music. The band made me sing – an old ballad of love unto dying, which seemed appropriate considering. We had secret Scotch, which I drank far too much of, and lots of dancing and laughing and crying and goodness.

It was absolutely perfect. I have zero pictures to speak of, and a cup full to bursting still, two weeks later. There will never be another night like it, and that is as it should be.

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