Guys, I’m starting to get excited about movies in 2019. I haven’t felt excited for any movie releases for months, keep in mind. Then I saw this:
If there were two people in this world more worthy of taking up the mantle of MIB, I cannot think of them. The movie is coming out in June, and I think it’s going on my most anticipated films of the year list already. I’m hoping it has everything I like about Thor: Ragnarok
Also a thing I’m looking forward to? You probably don’t have to guess. This trailer dropped a few weeks ago and…. I’m cautiously hopeful?
Like admittedly I’m only hopeful because the narrative weight seems to be being placed on Iron Man and the Cap/Black Widow duo (my favorite Avengers movie is actually Captain America: Winter Soldier, followed by Ragnarok, followed by all the Iron Man movies because I can’t pick one? But Natasha and Steve play so well, I love them.) I’m a little nervous about what they’re going to do with Thor because honestly I feel like he ranked as the Most Shafted Character in terms of overall development in Infinity War. Also have I mentioned that if that’s really how they killed Loki I’m never going to forgive anyone?
I am slightly less excited about Captain Marvel mostly because I am just…Marveled out. The continued introduction of new heroes is exhausting. I need them to chill. That said, I will definitely be in the theater for a woman-led superhero movie. I do not like the actress’ voice, though, and I hope that it will grow on me.
Other movies I am probably going to keep an eye on, though I haven’t decided if I will see them yet, include the Terminator Reboot, Charlie’s Angels, Zombieland 2, Aladdin, and Dark Phoenix.
The New Mutants is the last movie on my tentative list. I’ve not been seeing most of the recent X-Men titles in theaters, mostly because I’m just not that excited about them. But this seems like an example of taking a franchise idea and doing an original spinoff with it, so I will see how future trailers go, despite the rumors about delays. It looks a lot more horror focused, which is not my usual cup of tea for movies, but the premise seems really interesting. Plus a couple of the actors are ones I like.
Are there any movies you’re looking forward to? Let me know in the comments! If you want to read my previous movie reviews and analysis, you can do that at the Movies tag.
I’m kind of at a crossroads this year, as I’ve alluded to in previous posts. Writing a book takes up so much time, and there are so many projects in the wings that I would like to be working on. Just off the top of my head I can think of three or four books that I have partially outlined and begun research on. Only one of those will get written this year, if I’m lucky. I don’t have any specific contractual obligations to guide me as to which one I should pick.
Last year I wrote two novellas and rewrote part of a novel. You can estimate that I probably wrote about 60-75 thousand words in that process, not counting my blog time, etc. That is barely a book. Really in speculative fiction I need about 90,000 words to make a book, at least. So you can see, easily, that writing a book is a minimum of a one year commitment. That’s assuming I work on nothing else, which is not how writing works. There’s still editing and submissions and everything else.
So, with all that said, I wanted to be very intentional about my goals this year.
1. Focus on my edits and submissions
I have written a lot of stuff, and some of it is very good, and some of it I have self-published. But I have realized after five years as a self-published author that my writing speed and my lifestyle mean that I’m probably better suited to being a traditionally published author, or at least a mix of the two. I can’t keep writing things and not putting them out there, not trying to move towards that eventual goal. So while I will be writing new work this year, my number one goal will be to improve some of my existing stories and submit them to agents and publishers and magazines. Accordingly, I want to accrue fifty rejections or an acceptance by the end of the year. That’s a little under one per week, so I’m going to have to work hard.
2. Give myself permission to work on something new
There is nothing more frustrating than having to pick from amongst these ideas clamoring in my head. I want the time to do them all. I want to be able to write you so many books, so many worlds. But I only have so much time – a few hours of the week that I snatch greedily for my work. That’s all I have.
So this year I am going to pick the story that’s been shouting the loudest, and go for it. I’m not going to think about the market or if I can sell it. I’m just going to do it. I’m going to write the story I hope I can get out before I die, every time. After that, we’ll see. So my goal is to have a new project picked out soon. Once that happens, I hope to write 30,000 words on it before the end of the year.
3. Continue my Patreon
For self-publishing projects, I have my Patreon, and I plan to keep that up. It’s been a somewhat stable source of income, unlike most of my other work, and I would like to see it grow. Unfortunately, there’s little I can do to control the growth of pledges besides talking about my Patreon, so the goal here is to talk about my Patreon projects regularly. This means at least once a week there should be something up on Twitter or Instagram about Patreon. I’m already doing some of this, so the goal will be to keep it up.
This year already feels like a trust-fall exercise. Accordingly, I’m going to reassess these goals a few months in and see how I feel. If things feel comfortable, or the right kind of scary, I’ll leave things where they are. But if I feel like I need more definition, I’ll address it then. You may see me in April totally redefining everything here. I give myself permission to do that, if that’s what is needed.
I want to keep making lovely stories for you, but I also want to write for myself. And that means I have some hard choices I need to make about where I see myself. Thanks in advance for supporting me in this process.
It’s that time of year! Let’s see how I’ve done on my New Year’s Resolutions.
Last year’s resolutions were:
Finish Daughter of Madness.
Successfully attend Futurescapes.
Successfully attend my planned events, RAI and MystiCon.
Figure out my next novel project and start on it.
Be better at not over-committing myself, and on following through.
Keep up with my short story craft.
I think overall I’ve done pretty well with all of these. Daughter of Madness is published. I drafted APM and took it to Futurescapes to workshop, which was a blast. I made it to Roanoke Author Invasion and had one of my best years there, and attended MystiCon as well. And I have continued to write and edit short stories, though I’m a little behind on some of my work there.
As for my next novel project, I’ve been working on research and outlines for a couple of ideas. I’m not really sure what I’m doing yet, and more on that next week, but I did finish a whole other novella after APM for my Patreon subscribers. The Patreon is a huge win this year, in my opinion, though I am excited for it to continue to grow. I didn’t have any specific resolutions regarding it, so everything has been extra credit, as it were.
As for not over-committing myself…this is a thing I am still working on. I don’t think that I will ever be totally free of the impulse to add to my plate on projects. But I’ve been a little less frantic in the latter half of this year, trying to take the time to recharge. I’ve also been working on figuring out what I actually want from my writing career. That navel-gazing will probably continue going forward, but I’m hopeful that it will be valuable time spent prioritizing my efforts, and that those priorities will help guide me in balancing the many aspects of my life.
Thanks to everyone who has supported me this year. Here’s to the end of 2018!
Have I mentioned I read a lot? I feel like I have. But in case you didn’t know, I read. A lot.
And sometimes I really need something quick and lovely to rake its claws down the insides of my heart. That’s where short stories come in. Somehow, this medium can pack a punch that leaves me pining for days, sometimes far longer than a novel. So with no further ado, I give you the nine short stories that I have dearly loved this year. While the list is not exhaustive, these are some of my favorites and I hope you will like them, too.
The day never really dawns, not like in poetry or paintings. The clouds just stretch and itch at the sky, so it’ll scratch a scab wide enough for the sun to show face. Winter’s got hold of the city and all the other cities ‘round, and sometimes the sky’s just too weary to bother.
The world we live in is unforgiving, and if you sometimes want to remake it, I recommend this story by A. Merc Rustad.
There is no way to mark the seasons, here in the underworld, Mebuyen’s town with its endless river and little stone house. The sky turns from a pale gray day to a soft blue night, and there are no stars. She recognizes all this only because of Adriana’s endless questions. Mebuyen answers, and tries not to grow fond. She’s too old for that sort of thing.
Isabel Yap remains one of the brightest voices in the short fiction world right now, and this story is no exception. Dealing directly with the current political climate in the Philippines, this story is rawly human and will twist your heart into knots.
Okay, another tear-jerker here from writer Rachel Halpern. This one is about mermaids and families and you should probably know there are content warnings for suicide and self-harm associated with this story. But I promise it’s about healing, too.
My ship’s been voted ugliest on Corona Nine Station ten years running. Her name is Goodluck Gray Pearl, after my parents and my auntie, the way my auntie named me after her auntie, Chrysanthemum. No one but her calls me Chrysanthemum—to everyone else I’m just Nata, because I didn’t want anyone getting weird botanical ideas. I don’t know what the Pearl looks like, and I don’t care. She’s my elephant: Each of her parts feels random, unrelated, and adds up magically to spaceship. All that matters is that I can weave them together into a set of wings so we fly across the void, faster than anyone else.
If you look at the publication date for this one, it technically came out in 2017. Fortunately, I didn’t find it until 2018 so it made this list. Alex Wells is responsible for this grungy-lovely piece of science fiction featuring a blind smuggler. The science on this one is really fun.
This story by Maria Haskins wraps up our list. It’s another story that might make you cry, and I listed it previously on the blog.
I hope you enjoy these reads! If you have a story you think should have made my list, leave it below. I’m always looking for more stories to read. I hope everyone has a lovely holiday, if you’re celebrating, and I’ll catch you next week for the last post of the year!
I mean, you read so many, right? Or, well, I read so many. If there were a monster that could only fill the deep gullet of its belly with words, then I would be that monster. I read a LOT. It’s like breathing.
So every year I try to keep a list of the books that make me smile or laugh out loud or weep uncontrollably and every year I doubtless fail. I know there are things that I will miss, books I really loved but that I can’t quite bring myself to put on my best of list and books that touched me despite not being my favorite and really, who am I kidding? I love all the books, unless I don’t. I’m not really a halfway kind of person when it comes to the written word, and so when I read a book I either love it or, more rarely, hate it. If it makes me feel sort of meh, I don’t finish.
Anyway, the point is that these books are happy, good, glowing things that are worth your time. There’s probably something on this list for everyone and if there is something you’ve read and liked and you want to know about stories like it, I can probably point you in the right direction. It’s a talent of mine.
Without further ado, my 2018 list for novels and novellas:
Urban Fantasy, Portal Story, Coming of Age, LGBTQ. This book has a lot going on. The pacing is good for the scope of the time that is taken up in this novel. It’s also a standalone, so don’t worry about getting into this and having to commit to some long series. Everything you need is contained within its cover from the beginning.
I read this book early in the year and it read, for me, like a balm. It’s the story of a boy who is used to not being loved, and all the problems that he makes for himself because of that habit. And it’s the story of his friends, who stand by him despite his best efforts, and of the magical world they call home. I hope you read it and love it and feel comfort.
I’ve mentioned this book before, but since it technically came out this year I need to mention it again. I met Bryan Camp at WFC in November of 2017, devoured his book, can’t wait for more. Also he’s a cool guy. This book is set in New Orleans, but unlike most of the similar books mining such a rich setting, The City of Lost Fortunes feels real and lived in. That’s probably because Bryan is a native, and a native with good attention to detail and a love for the city he calls home in all of its chaotic glory. Urban Fantasy.
Epic Fantasy. This book takes place in the same secondary world that Bear previously created for The Range of Ghosts. Because of that, it is easy to see just how far she has come as a writer. Range of Ghosts and the ensuing novels are solid, well-written, and inventive. The prose in The Stone in the Skull, however, practically leaps of the page. It nonetheless loses none of the excellent elements of the original world, expanding on them in ways that feel natural.
Some of my favorite books in secondary world fantasy have been written by this author. Her skill in research in writing is something I aspire towards. Also she’s a gem and she liked my dress at Futurescapes. It is one of the highlights of my life. So I hope you will read this book and enjoy it as much as I did.
You may remember a few years back when I discovered Ilona Andrews. This husband and wife team write the most excellent romance and magical action. This year I have read several of their works, since I’ve been in the mood for romance recently, but since I do love the world of Magic Shifts I decided to recommend this one. It is the start of a trilogy that can be read alone, but I wouldn’t waste the chance to read the recently completed Kate Daniels series, of which this story-line is a spin off. Romance, Urban Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic.
This is the only novella that made my list this year. I did read a few, mind, and there were some exceptional ones. But there is only so much space on this list and I’m kind of pushing it as it is with seven titles instead of my usual five or so. Luckily, you can read Glory’s Teeth as a standalone, though the author has other works in this world if you can’t get enough.
This book was an unexpected find. I actually saw the author post about it through someone else I follow on Twitter, proving that, occasionally, social media does sell books. The story made me absolutely sob. It’s about a girl who also happens to be a wolf destined to consume the world, the torment of feeling empty and alone, and the hunger to be alive. And it is so very, very delicious. Urban Fantasy, Norse Mythology.
Gritty, inventive, excellent – these are all words one might use to describe Rebecca Roanhorse’s debut release. And it is definitely gritty. The gore in this book is not to be underestimated. Nor is the refreshing approach to the world. Roanhorse uses her own Native heritage as inspiration in creating a dynamic, grungy world where myths come alive, and not always for the better. While it’s not necessarily a hopeful book, it is a solidly vengeful one, and it sets up nicely for future sequels. Action, Urban Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic.
Last but definitely not least, for those of you who haven’t heard of this wonderful book, we have Space Opera. Ambitious it may be, but this book sticks the landing, as Valente is wont to do. In a story reminiscent of Hitchhiker’s Guide but definitely it’s own, with aliens and absurdity and tongue-twisting prose, Valente takes us on a journey that seems to be about what makes good music but is actually about what makes someone human. Above all, this is a hopeful read. It’s the story you didn’t know you needed in 2018, the longest and shortest year on record, and I have it last so that you will remember it best. Science Fiction, Weird, Eurovision.
I hope you enjoy these reads, folks! Don’t forget to let me know if you’ve read one of these, I’d love to hear how you liked it.
National Novel Writing Month is a cool idea, and I usually try to participate in some fashion every year. The first (and much different) draft of my first book was written in this time. I’ve never made 50,000 words, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, but I usually do somewhere between 20-30,000, since I find it useful to set these personal targets.
You, however, could have made all sorts of words this month. Maybe you hit that 50,000 word mark, maybe you didn’t, maybe you went farther. It doesn’t really matter where you are in your writing process, the advice below will work for you.
Finish the draft. This is not a foregone conclusion, even if you hit the 50k mark. For most genres, 50,000 words does not a book make. Some industry standards to keep in mind are 100,000 words for a fantasy or science fiction novel, and 75,000 words for a young adult novel. That’s a lot more words. Hopefully you still have more of your outline to write through, but maybe this is a matter of going back through and fleshing out your draft. Your writing process may be something you’re still figuring out, and that’s okay. Just keep in mind that your finished wordcount at the end of NaNoWriMo may not be what the industry is looking for.
Revise. This is probably the most important step in any project. My favorite way to do this, honestly, is to trunk the book for a month or so. Put it somewhere dark and allow it to ferment. When you come back to it, come back with an editor’s eye, not a writer’s. Think about what works and what doesn’t, and start whittling it into shape.
Proofread. Wait, I hear you saying, isn’t proofing part of the revision process? Yes, and no. I always treat my manuscripts to an extra proofing session or three. My revision process focuses on plot, setting, and overall structure of the book. My proofing process focuses at the sentence level. This is where you find your typos, your awkward sentences, your misused words. It’s a vital step, so don’t skip it.
Research. If you’ve done all these things, and done them well, now you are ready to query (if you are going the traditional publishing route) or consider self-publishing. But you don’t want to just launch yourself at either option without considering the merits of both. Read a lot. Remember to read stories from people who have been successful as well as those who have failed. Decide what kind of work you are interested in taking on and assess your own skills critically during this process.
Research some more. If you are going the traditional publishing route, there’s a second bit of research you need to do. You need to figure out who to query, and why they would want your book. I suggest making a spreadsheet to track your queries that’s particular to your manuscript, but you can manage your tracking however you want. Make a goal to submit a certain amount of queries per day or week or month. Structure things so that you can hold yourself accountable. Personalize your queries, but stay professional.
Submit. This is the last step if you’re pursuing a traditional publishing process, and it’s the hardest part. Hitting that send button always feels, to me, as if I’m falling off a building. My heart is up in my throat, my stomach is trying to climb that way, and everything seems too sharp. This is normal. It’s okay to feel anxious about this process. Use the schedule you made and the list to keep the task feeling less personal. Treat yourself to chocolate or something every time you successfully submit. There are a number of tricks, but I suspect you will know what works best for you.
Forget. Once your queries are out there, forget about them. This is not to say you shouldn’t put an alarm in your calendar or something to remind you to follow up (depending on if that is something that the agent or editor you have queried allows). It means that you should not spend any conscious processing time on it. This is a self-protection skill, honestly, and one that’s hard-earned for me. Submit and forget. When you get good news in your inbox, you’ll be happier for it.
Congratulations on getting through NaNoWriMo, and good luck with your story!
Thanksgiving comes to a close at last with a visit from my brother this weekend. I have so much to be thankful for this year, including the support of my Patrons and family and friends. So accordingly, I thought I would share a little gift.
I’ve pretty much only been talking about my NaNoWriMo goal of finishing the first Black Roses novella this month. Well, here we are, nearly at the end of NaNoWriMo, and while the novella is a bit longer than I thought I expect I will be finished very soon! Which means that, following some initial editing, I will be all set up for the roll out of the first Black Roses novella, All the Roses Black, a weekly installment of a creepy Bluebeard retelling. You can find out more about this project and support it for access at my Patreon.
But to sweeten the pot a little and encourage you to participate, I’ve put together this brief excerpt of my writing playlist with all of my favorite songs for this story. I’ve also made a Youtube version for those who want an easy link.
I hope you enjoy these songs! We are so close to the goal for this project to come alive, and I’m very excited.
To get this serial novella as it comes out, all you have to do is pledge! Check out my Patreon for more information.
It’s nearly the end of NaNoWriMo and the Thanksgiving season has begun. So far I have attended three Thanksgivings of one stripe or another, and I’m crazy behind on wordcount. I’m convinced that whoever placed NaNo in November did it specifically because they thought only children and college-aged folks would be interested. Adults spend far too much time in November cooking for other people to be able to summon the creative juices to write 50k.
Luckily, I am not writing that much. My NaNo goal was only 20k. I could conceivably do that in four (terrible) days if I had to, and I have already gotten pretty far along so I won’t have to do that to myself. And, despite being behind, there’s good news!
You may have seen this post, so let me explain what this means.
My writing process is sort of strange. As with most people, the process changes from book to book. However, with most stories I hit a moment when things start to cohere. Last weekend, as I was sitting in a restaurant waiting for a friend, I realized that I had finally discovery-written enough that things were starting to come together.
You see, I’m not a pantser, but I’m not a planner either. I’m more of a baker of stories, when it comes down to it. I plan out the ingredients according to the recipe I come up with, and then I start mixing things together. The end-goal remains consistent but sometimes the steps can be malleable. As any good baker knows, there’s usually a point part of the way through where you’re not sure if you’re doing it right. Maybe you didn’t add enough water or milk, and it needs a little more. Maybe you didn’t add enough flour. Whatever it was, you need intuition to take you in that direction, to get you to the perfect consistency of dough or batter.
And once you have that consistency right, the rest of it is just patting and rolling the story into shape.
Anyway, it’s an imperfect metaphor, but I’m living proof that you don’t need to outline 100% or to free-write 100%. I’m pretty sure if I did either the story that would come out would be dead, lacking the spark that makes it worth reading. For this story, I had a clear idea of the two main characters, parts of the setting, and the end I was working towards. I knew the bones. As I have written, I’ve been adding flesh and color in ways that, honestly, often surprise me. The story is beginning to take on a life of its own, and that means I’m doing something right.
Have you ever rewatched a movie and realized how much it shaped you?
For Halloween, the S.O. and I were looking for a spooky watch. I don’t really like horror in the gory sense, but I am into anything with vampires, werewolves, and monsters of various stripes, especially if there’s some good action involved. While we were zooming through Netflix options, the S.O. mentioned he had never seen Van Helsing. I gasped, grasped my wounded heart, and immediately demanded that we rectify the situation.
For those unfamiliar with the title, Van Helsing is a pulpy, ridiculous, lovely movie that is riddled with issues. It is not a feminist work by any means, despite featuring several named female characters with distinctive personalities. It’s got fridging, and my least favorite trope of sex-in-exchange-for-being-saved. But it remains one of my favorite movies from my teenage years. The S.O. hated it, which I kind of expected. And I, upon watching it as an adult, realized that I had been profoundly influenced as a writer by this film.
There’s a wonderful scene in this movie where Van Helsing is attempting to rescue Anna Valerious from the clutches of Dracula. You know the one – the ball, the dance, the bright red dress. The moment when Anna looks in the mirror and realizes that everyone you see, all the beauty and glitter, is a lie – no one will help her.
I realized that some iteration of that moment happens in one of my books. The red dress, the powerlessness, made it into a scene in Child of Brii. The sense of disorientation I felt in that moment was shocking. Sure, I loved this movie, but that bit of inspiration wasn’t a conscious decision. The red dress, I would have said, was based off of any number of other things. But in that moment I realized that the red dress came from this film.
Recently, I read an article by Kameron Hurley for Locus Magazine, where she said:
I found myself sharing the many real-life stories, anecdotes, experiences, and other things I’d read over the last 30-some years that went into building the worlds and people and concepts for this single piece of fiction. I was fascinated at the reminder that I was the only one who could have written this story in just this way. These were pieces of my life, all bundled up and remixed. It’s this unique blend of experiences that helps make up a writer’s voice.
For better or worse, Van Helsing and every other pulpy, delicious thing that I love is part of my voice. For a long time, I wrestled with feeling ashamed of wanting to write things that weren’t “heavy” enough, that held romance as an element, that featured women in fancy clothes or with female friends – and of writing stories that contained werewolves and demons purely for the delight of them. Maybe getting older has changed my tastes, or maybe I just don’t care as much anymore. Either way, I think the kinds of stories I’m willing and able to tell are becoming more balanced.
I still want to write works that show women as more than just pretty baubles, and I no doubt will. But I don’t think the red dress is a bad decision either. The glitter is worth writing as much as the gore. I need both. So I’ll take to heart this lesson from my old problematic favorite. They say to steal like an artist. I’m happy to steal from the stories that have shaped me, and to make those stories my own.