A lifetime of juggling

My motivation has been super terrible in the month of February, probably because January kicked my butt. The dayjob got wild those last two weeks, there was some general drama, and I finished APM, the novella I had been working on, which rang in at a little under 26k. Which, by the way, you can see a sample of on my Patreon at the $1/month tier.

We also did the math on our finances (finally) and realized we’re really going to have to cut back on some of our discretionary spending, what with being house owners and such. The bills have been much higher than expected this winter – though I am hopeful they will go back down once the weather breaks and that will take some of the stress off. That means that writing lunches are a lot harder to swing. (Since my office doesn’t have a break room or anything, I was going out to get lunch in order to have privacy to do non-dayjob work, but that’s not going to fly now.) Add to all that the fact that the S.O. has gone to dayshift and it’s been a weirdly off-kilter couple of weeks, though not bad. I’ve enjoyed being in the kitchen more despite the obligation, and not going out as much gives the S.O. and I more time together usually.

All of this is to say that I rolled into February feeling exhausted, mostly, and really hoping for a snow day or three, and six days in that has not let up. But, being as it’s February, I’m technically behind on some of my deadlines with DoM (I built a cushion, but I didn’t want to use it this early). I am, however, back into editing as of this weekend. This round of edits is the good kind – tweaking word choice, adding detail, and making sure character dialogue and general descriptions are consistent with the prior book. It’s weird to realize how much I have evolved as a writer, honestly, comparing the two texts. I hope that I am successfully keeping the tone and voice of the prior work in a way that makes reading between one and the other fluid. I have 426 pages to get through and I think I’m on page 30, so it’s going to be a long month.

Jumping back to writing has been really difficult this time around, probably because I have been doing so much of it for so long without really feeling like I’ve hit any milestones. Impostor syndrome is a writer’s bread and butter, but I do feel that there’s a need for some positive feedback occasionally on this long road, and it feels like it’s been a while since I’ve had any of that. World Fantasy Convention was awesome, of course, and it was great to meet new friends and rekindle connections with old ones. I am really happy to have done that. But it was expensive. Futurescapes will be as well. Though I am excited, doing these things means using up my limited vacation time and using up money that we probably need for home repairs and other such fun adult things. And it’s time that I can’t rest. Lately, I feel sorely in need of rest. Preferably rest involving a mountain cabin with no internet, snow, and a hot tub, but I could handle an island instead, just a tent and the sand and quiet there, too. You need rest to regain your chutzpah, and the quality of that rest is important. Self-imposed isolation seems like the way to go.

So after Futurescapes, I’m going to take a break from appearances and workshops until next winter and focus on some other, non-writing projects for a few months. The goal is to push through April, get Daughter of Madness out, make it to MystiCon, RAI, and Futurescapes, and then take a break. During my break I’ll be creating for fun and mostly focusing on some of the things I need to wrap up at home and at the dayjob. Plus it will be summer, and maybe I can at least get some time on the riverbank, or maybe a long weekend adventure in.

That’s technically three months from now, but it’s something to work towards. Until then, it’s back to juggling.

The big screen in 2018

It’s a new year, which means so many new movies that I get to look forward to! Though I doubt that I will enjoy anything as much as I enjoyed Blade Runner 2049 and The Last Jedi in 2017, I’m willing to give all of these movies a chance. Most specifically, Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time, my two most anticipated films for the year.

Something is going to surprise me, of course, and I am totally ready for that. No doubt I will also be disappointed as well. But for now, in release order, here are the stories I’m looking forward to seeing on the big screen in 2018.

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Black Panther – February 16th

Black Panther is the most anticipated movie of 2018, and so far the graphics and costume design, not to mention the casting, look amazing. I am going into this movie with a lot of nervous anticipation, mostly because I really, really don’t want Marvel to screw this up.

Annihilation – February 23rd

Yes! It’s finally here! I wrote about this movie last year, and it remains an anticipated film. I think that it’s going to be even creepier than I thought it would manage, and I’m feeling a little bit better about the direction they are taking with it (it seems like a combination of Annihilation and Authority, at least in part). The trailer released late last year, and February is just around the corner!

A Wrinkle in Time – March 9th

Have I mentioned how here I am for Storm Reid in A Wrinkle in Time? Making the decision to cast this movie so diversely is a wonderfully visionary one, and brings a refreshing newness to a well-loved text. I can’t wait for this film. If you haven’t seen the trailer, I recommend a watch.

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Tomb Raider – March 16th

I am…possibly pretty skeptical about this movie, but I plan to see it. I loved Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider when I was a kid, flaws and all, so any reboot of the story is going to be a little hard for me, especially one that looks to deviate so drastically. I’m not really a fan of the game it’s based off of either, but I’m not a gamer to be fair. I will probably see this one, but I am going to be side-eyeing it.

Avengers: Infinity War – May 4th

So I’m not the only one in the universe who was really kind of meh about the last Avengers installment. However, Thor: Ragnarok gave me life and I have good feelings about Black Panther. I’ll be seeing this one in theaters, if only so that I can lambaste it with everyone else. I have to admit that I’m most interested in Captain America and Thor’s arcs in this film. Iron Man is getting annoying for me – Civil War sealed that, though I love RDJ in the other Iron Man films. However, it really felt like Captain America gained complexity in that film. Likewise, Thor did some growing and changing, too. While I still can’t forgive Whedon for the whole Natasha-Bruce love arc bullshit, I am interested to see how the team brings these new, evolved characters into the mix.

Solo: A Star Wars Story – May 25th

Continuing the side-eye situation, we have the Han Solo prequel. Will I see this? Let’s be honest here, the answer is yes. Am I skeptical of it being done well? Also yes. It’s going to be a hard sell to have anyone filling Harrison Ford’s shoes (or Billy Dee Williams’ for that matter). I’m at least more hopeful than I am for the Tomb Raider movie, if only because I have enjoyed all the other installments of the new Star Wars to date.

 

Mulan – November 2nd

Bringing up the end of the year, we have a live action of Mulan! This is part of Disney’s effort to make money off of past classics, and I will forgive them many prior indignities if they get this movie right. So far rumors are promising, but we shall see! Anyway, I’m far more excited about this movie than the prior three on this list.

What are you looking forward to watching in 2018?


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What have I been reading?

I realized I haven’t shared with you all the magical things I’ve been reading and watching lately. Sure you got my “Best of 2017” post, but that’s not really indicative of all the things I’ve loved recently (though there were several things I enjoyed on it). Honestly, recovering from the holidays is taking a bit longer than I thought in terms of getting my feet back in under me, which is fine because reading all the books is, as ever, one of my favorite pastimes.

On the non-book front, I did go see Thor: Ragnarok when it came out way back in November, and it was so much fun. You got my post on The Last Jedi, and I finally made it to The Shape of Water, rounding out my anticipated movies of 2017 list. All of them were lovely, it’s been a great couple of months for movies honestly, though The Shape of Water was not quite what I was expecting – it struck me as a modern fairytale more than anything. In retrospect, that’s in like with del Toro’s style.

I’ve also been enjoying occasional forays into Brooklyn 99, which we discovered on our honeymoon and has become our chill date-night favorite. I finished Mahoutsukai no Yome, which started off super feel-good, got pretty dark, and then made it back to feel-good. It’s a found family situation with fairies, so despite some of the weird undertones with Chise being bought and sold, I’ve really enjoyed it. (I was really skeptical at first, but really it’s a pretty tame anime on the gender relations front.)

As for reads, I’ve enjoyed T. Kingfisher’s Seven Daughters, Mira Grant’s Into the Drowning Deep and M.R. Carey’s The Boy on the Bridge on the horror front. I’ve also been doing some reading into gothic literature, including checking out Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray, though I’ve only just started Dracula. I have consumed Seasons 1 and 2 of Roadtrip Z by Lilith Saintcrow, picked up because I’m looking into the serial publishing process and what that looks like. And for fun I read Grave by Michelle Sagara, finishing out the Queen of the Dead trilogy. A few of these may knock loose some reviews, etc. Pretty creepy reads lately, in other words, and more planned.

On the less horror front, I recently finished Elizabeth Bear’s The Stone in the Skull which was so very good. It’s set in the same world as A Range of Ghosts, and I think it’s honestly better. I didn’t think that was possible, but that’s how I feel. It pairs well with K. Arsenault’s The Tiger’s Wife if you’re looking to double up on your Asian-based fantasy worlds. I’ve also squeezed in Lightning in the Blood by Marie Brennan, a sequel in a series of novellas about archetypes who are reincarnated over and over, also an epic fantasy style deal. And I just started reading Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen, which is a weird western tale.

Lastly, I’ve got Oral History by Lee Smith to read. This is a deviation from my usual fare, but I thought I should read something by this Hollins author and also it is a bit in line with a project I’ve been working on. I’m holding on to it to read when I’m done with my first draft of said project, which should be sort of soon? Hopefully?

Anyway, there are lots of words going into the word-pit! Hopefully I will digest them and they will become magical new material.

What have you been reading?


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Year-end Creation Saga update

And we are back to Friday blogposts! Sorry for the hopping around, friends. I promised that I would update you about Daughter of Madness when I was re-capping my 2017 Resolutions, and here it is, the update you’ve all been waiting for.

Writing this book has been like pulling teeth. I guess that should have been the clue, way back when, that I was not doing something I was happy with, but it took me several months of poring over the draft to realize that I was not going to publish what I’d come up with. It didn’t fit who I’d become as a writer and what I wanted to say. Worse, it didn’t fit together – the characters marched hither and thither without meaning or agency, moving along on some predetermined arc I thought I needed to write to get to an ending that didn’t end up being the ending anyway. It was, in short, a trainwreck. The worst thing I’ve ever written. It lacked the spark that makes even a clumsy story fun. And I didn’t want this book to be a clumsy story. I wanted it to burn going down.

I think it will.

In many ways, the entirety of the Creation Saga is a problematic story. I guess that is true of everybody’s stories. Wrestling with that after years of growth as a human being has been a lot of what made this story hard to write. I still don’t know if I did it justice – I’ll have to wait for my beta readers to get back to me and tell me how palatable it is, and if that is a good thing. But I’ve worked really hard to smooth the edges that needed smoothing and file the others to a point. In the process, I threw out about 2/3 of the book, added 1/3 back with major changes, and another half of that wrote up from scratch, leaving a much shorter but more powerful book. It was something I couldn’t have managed earlier in my writing career, and we’ll see how well I’ve pulled it off this time.

So where are we in the process?

I’ve got a draft, well, a third draft at this point. It’s gone out to beta readers, who will tell me how bad it is. I will then try to make changes as I can, hoping to add some words back in to the total word count. Then I’ll do line edits, a rigorous process that I am NOT looking forward to. The official release is planned for April, to coincide with Roanoke Author Invasion. Hopefully I will have review copies in March.

There’s a lot of work to do still. But I think we’re on track.

Look forward to some fun promotional things in March, and some other cool life updates as we go forward.


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Star Wars, The Force Awakens

The new Star Wars is out this weekend, and by the time this post goes live I will hopefully be about to watch it. This is a cause for celebration, so your post is a teensy bit early this week so that I can recover Friday.

I cannot tell you how excited I am. Rian Johnson is one of my favorite directors, albeit little known. If you haven’t seen his other stuff, Brick and The Brothers Bloom are both fascinating movies. When someone shouts in the trailer “this is not going to end the way you think it will,” I believe them. Johnson never fails to have a twist in his movies, and I believe that The Last Jedi will be no exception.

Because the movie is so close to release, I’ve been thinking back on The Force Awakens, and, to a lesser extent, on Rogue One. We’ve had decades to watch and rewatch the previous Star Wars movies, even the terror that is the prequels, and come to our conclusions, to carve out a niche in our hearts for the familiar characters of Luke and Leia and Han. Most of us have never watched a Star Wars movie as a standalone, I would imagine. We’ve always known how the plot goes, always seen Luke not just as the whiny farmboy but also as the powerful Jedi who returns balance to the Force. When we watch A New Hope, we are watching it within the context of both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The Force Awakens has no such advantage.

Now we are finally getting the next installment in this new trilogy, a year later. What happens with The Last Jedi will make or break the previous film, as often happens with trilogies. I have faith in Rian Johnson, and in the creative team that is spearheading this reboot, personally. So today I want to take a moment to reflect on the main characters of each trilogy and their parallels. Luke, Leia, and Han, and Rey, Finn, and Poe. Specifically, at Luke and Rey.

Luke and Rey are the strongest and clearest parallels from each party. Both Luke and Rey are orphans. Luke is raised knowing that his aunt and uncle are not his parents, and that they are both dead. He knows, he thinks, who is parents are – his father, a war hero, his mother, a wife. Leia is more concerned with her mother, and remembers her more clearly, but her adoptive family raised her as their own. Finding out about her is not as much of a concern as supporting her new family. She knows who she is.

Luke doesn’t, exactly. He’s a boy, a kid when we meet him, barely on the cusp of manhood. He has ideas about what to do with his life, but they are just dreams. Any shred of knowledge about his father, who, presumably, would not keep him bound to a farm in the middle of a desert, is something he jumps at. But all that said, he has a good life. He is loved, he is fed, and if he is questing he is not doing so out of desperation. It takes the Empire to unmoor him, though if he had had his way he would have gone off and made something of himself at some point. But his adventures, in his head, are bloodless. Until they’re not.

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Rey is a very different character.

Yes, she grows up on a desert planet. Yes, she is an orphan. Yes, she is preternaturally gifted with the Force, just as Luke will be – more so, even. All of those things are true. But that is the end of the similarities between Rey and Luke. Rey does not want to leave Jakku. Like him, she is forced to leave because of the Empire, but she does not want to go. She continues to try to return to Jakku, where her parents might find her. She believes, strongly, that someday she will be found. Rey’s childhood left her when she was less than ten, and she prays every day that it will come find her again.

She lives alone. She does not have enough to eat. She has no family to love her. Luke works hard on the farm, but Rey works harder, and the work she does has no safety net. Scavenging means that her death can come for her at any time, and it will probably wear a familiar face. There is no protection from her competitors. She must rely on herself, on her own fighting skills.

When Luke comes to the Force, his experience is in sharpshooting and mechanics. When Rey comes to the Force, her experience is in self-defense, in infiltration, in survival.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

I think that the differences between Rey and Luke tell us a lot about what kind of story we are going to get from this trilogy. Luke’s story was always going to be a hero’s journey, the classic kind, farmboy turned king, or, in this case, wizard. Rey’s story is much more complicated. Perhaps that is why it sits uneasily in the mind. There is no true parallel that we can latch onto. What does a woman whose skills are survival become? An assassin, or a spy, or a courtesan. Not a hero, not in our stories.

Perhaps it’s time for that to change.

December is come

It is the end of the year.

Jeez, that’s intimidating. The end of the year. We’ve got not a lot of time to get caught up with our writing progress and start thinking about next year’s goals. Also it’s the time of year when the “Best of” lists are coming out, which means I need to get my thinking cap on and review some of the magical worlds I’ve experienced this year. Look for my own best of list in the next week.

But first, let’s look at what has been accomplished this year. I’ve written a minimum of 60,000 new words of fiction this year, as well as all of my weekly blog posts at about 1,000 words a week. I know I’ve been productive. But have I met the goals I set out to meet? Let’s take a look.

  • 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. And I did this, and yea it was done, and it was good.
  • 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!  We’ve got a house! And I live in it! We need to do a lot of landscaping. And I planted some sweet potatoes, but I need to harvest them now that the frost has killed them. Success!
  • 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?  I did it! I so much did it! Wow that was an awesome accomplishment, actually.
  • 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! Okay so, I’ve got a whole separate post on this you’ll get soon. Suffice to say that things are moving. And it is good.
  • 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. Did I mention I also made a print book of this? 
  • 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. Okay so this one is complicated. I am mentally drafting the 3rd Creation Saga book, title TBA around the release of Daughter of Madness, but I can’t really strike it.
  • 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. Yeah, about that more new stuff. I started a new book, and it was neither octopuses nor mermaids to my surprise….but witches. You’ll hear more when it’s time, but I am so excited about this project.
  • 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. I have not gotten much farther on this, but I want to. Mostly DoM rewrites have really bogged down the time I can healthily spend not writing. That and moving. I did accidentally query a whole other project through PitMad, but that didn’t end up going anywhere even though it helped me to clarify some issues with that project.
  • 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! And my brother is still cool, and we had many awesome drinks and foods.
  • 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.
  • 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! I climbed so many mountains! Also taking aerial silks has been a great way to meet my fitness goals.
  • To fear less and try harder. Basically, this is an ongoing life lesson, and I’m not afraid to work on it forever.

Man, this was such a huge year. So much got done, and if there are a lot of things that didn’t get done, well, my goals were pretty ambitious honestly. Now it’s time to meditate on what I hope for the future, and come up with a new list for next year!


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