Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Conventions and the Indie Writer

Normally I would be posting my WisCon schedule this time of May, but for multiple reasons, I'm not attending this year. (I could theoretically get a one-day pass for Sunday at the door, but there's only one panel that afternoon I'd want to attend, and I'd miss the Guest of Honor speeches anyway.) I'll miss seeing my friends and visiting the Farmer's Market Saturday morning, but I admit it is nice saving money on the hotel and not juggling convention plans along with a birthday party for my son.

When I first started attending WisCon twenty years ago, I wanted to break into professional publishing. I was super excited about meeting not just authors, but agents and editors. I participated in writing workshops and learned "money flows to the author." I participated in panels and Broad Universe readings to get my name out there. How useful are these activities to an indie author? Well, I feel improving my writing craft is a lifelong journey, but these days I work on it mostly by reading books on writing and working on different projects. It's always nice meeting other authors, and I may want to hire another editor at some point for developmental or copy editing, but I'm no longer interested in acquiring an agent (or letting one acquire me). I've never sold enough books at WisCon to justify the expenses, and there are local comic cons and literary festivals I can participate in for little or no cost.

WisCon's emphasis on intersectional feminism makes it unique, and I love the excuse to return to my favorite city in the springtime. Hopefully next year I'll be able to attend. (At least there won't be any Star Wars movies opening Memorial Day weekend.) In the meantime, I have a comic con at my local library to prepare for in September.

Do you go to conventions? If so, do you find them helpful for writers? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Kindle Organization

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have noticed my announcement last week that I appear to have run out of storage on my primary Kindle. Of course, all of my books and samples are stored in the cloud, so I can download them and delete them at will. The problem is that when I first started my Kindle library, I was able to sort my items into collections by genre and read/unread status. I probably have thousands of items now, which makes it impractical to keep my collection sorted. (I discovered recently that you can put items into collections through the Amazon website, which is easier to use than the Kindle. However, since you still have to assign items to collections individually, and the status isn't immediately apparent, it's tedious work.) So I keep unread items on my Kindle and delete them as I read them. However, I still add items to my library faster than even I can read them, so at some point, I may have to delete unread items from the Kindle, which means I'll forget about them.

Any recommendations on how to better organize my collection? If so, feel free to share them in the comments.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Future of Humanity (and a Group Giveaway)

Michio Kako interviewed both scientists and science fiction authors for his recent book The Future of Humanity. If you want to think about the long-term future of the human race, this is a book worth reading. Kako lays out in an orderly fashion how we can establish a settlement on the moon; then gradually work our way to Mars and moons in the outer solar system; and leave the solar system, the Milky Way, and possibly even our universe. Of course, there is the slight problem of overcoming the current obstacles we face first. Besides colonizing space, Kako also suggests that we may overcome death (I wonder if I'll live long enough to see that) and will adapt ourselves to new planets while still retaining our basic humanity. I guess it's up to the science fiction writers to fill in more details about that.

Speaking of speculative fiction, I'm part of another group giveaway on Instafreebie. You can check it out at this link. The giveaway runs through the end of the month and includes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I hope you find some interesting new books there!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Bookshelf Maintenance

Recently, as I bought an eBook version of The Years of Rice and Salt to replace my paperback, I realized how little bookshelf maintenance I have to do these days. When I was younger, I lived in apartments with limited space for shelves. I also bought a lot more paperbacks than I do these days. Every so often, I'd have to organize my bookshelves. Each genre had a separate section, which was further organized by author surname and (if necessary) series. I preferred to get paperbacks because they took up the least space, but occasionally I'd find a random niche for hardcovers. Books didn't get shelved until they were read, so I'd usually have several books to place in the right locations, which would then bump other books to a different spot. Unfortunately, I'd also have to purge older books to make room for new ones.

These days, I seldom have to add books to my shelves, since it takes me much longer to make progress on my to-read stack. Instead, I tend to get rid of paperbacks once I have the eBook. While I still enjoy looking at my shelves and remembering what I've read, I'm not as attached to the physical books as I used to be. I have more space for things, but I want to declutter.

Do you keep paper books after you've read them? If so, do you have a special way of organizing your bookshelves? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Thanos' Motives and Actions (Infinity War Spoilers)

 I'm very much a newcomer to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), so I've only seen two of the previous movies (the first Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther) and a highlight video before watching Infinity War on Sunday. While I have enough background to follow the story, I'm sure there are a lot of nuances I missed. In particular, since this movie focused on Thanos, I feel like I need to learn more about his motivations to understand some of the actions he took (or didn't take).

For starters, it seemed to me that once Thanos obtained the Reality Stone, he could have eliminated his opponents anytime he liked. If he could turn their weapons into bubble guns, there are definitely plenty of other ways he could have made his path to the rest of the stones much smoother. Maybe I don't know enough about the stones' power to understand what, if any, limits they have. It does seem to me that their power increases exponentially as you acquire more of them.

Another question I have about Thanos' actions was inspired by a discussion I saw on someone else's Facebook feed. If Thanos wants to kill off half of the universe's population so everyone else has enough resources, why not double the amount of resources instead? Or why not set a cap on the sentient population of the universe to be below the total carrying capacity? There are plenty of other, more compassionate ways you can solve this problem without causing such a massive amount of genocide--though then you wouldn't have a cinematic-worthy conflict. I think I heard a line in the movie about a similar mass murder on Titan, so perhaps Thanos is just repeating something from his personal experience.

For me, part of the reason I'm obsessed with analyzing Thanos is because he's such a powerful antagonist. As a writer, it's important for me to develop the villain's motivations and actions as much as the hero's. The line between hero and villain can be very narrow at times. Just as the hero gets funneled down a particular pathway during the course of a story, the same must happen to a villain. Sometimes the only difference between a hero and a villain is what the character learns over the course of a story and how that influences her final choice.

If you saw the movie, what did you think about it? Did you feel Thanos made a good villain? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Science Fiction and Society

Last week, I got to be part of a project on science fiction. A friend of mine has a son who was preparing a report on the subject, and since he needed to interview a science fiction author, he asked me. His topic turned out to be how science fiction influences society. He already had examples of scientists who chose their discipline because of science fiction, so I gave him another angle: how science fiction affects politics and protests. Here are a few points I made during the interview:

  • Aliens can be a metaphor for the "Other," and how we view the aliens can reflect how we treat marginalized people in our own society
  • The first interracial kiss shown on TV was on Star Trek. (It might have been more acceptable in a science fiction context than in a mainstream one.)
  • Women have been dressing as handmaids from The Handmaid's Tale at political protests
  • Dystopian novels like The Hunger Games, where a teenager challenges a corrupt system, had inspired teenagers with their own protests.
How else do you think science fiction affects society? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

IWSG: The Writing Season

Does it seem like May to you yet? It's hard to believe it's time once again for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. You can learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter. The co-hosts for this month are JQ Rose, C. Lee McKenzie, Raimey Gallant, and E.M.A. Timar.

Here's our question for the month: It's spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than others, or not?

The short answer is no. As much as springtime is my favorite time of year, that doesn't mean I find it more inspiring than other seasons. If you're familiar with my Season Avatar series, you know I've written about all four seasons. Spring itself turns out to be a short, busy time of year for me. Usually the weather in my area doesn't get spring-like until late April, and by June it can feel more like summer. May is a busy month, since I typically have to prepare for both WisCon and my son's birthday at the end of the month. (This year I'm not attending WisCon for various reasons.) When the weather is nice, I like to walk outside instead of exercising on the treadmill, so I end up reading less. I try to write all year around, and stories can be set in any season.

Do you have a favorite writing season? If so, feel free to share what it is in the comments.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Continuous Learning

Sometimes no matter how often you do something, there's still new things to learn about it. For instance, yesterday my family and I went to the Museum of Science and Industry. We're members, so we visit about two or three times a year. Whenever we go, we usually check out certain key exhibits, such as the U-505 submarine and the Coal Mine. I've lost track of how many times I've seen the U-505; in fact, I remember seeing it with my dad when I was a girl and the submarine was still outside. Although the basic story remains the same each time, every tour guide provides different details. Yesterday, the tour guide told us that the sub sank only eight merchant ships during its career, which was much lower than other German submarines. I asked the guide why this was, and apparently French saboteurs tinkered with the sub while she was in port so that she would break down quickly, shortening her patrols. In fact, this poor performance may have contributed to the suicide of one of the submarine's commanders in the control room--and I've never heard any tour guide talk about that. (That might be because it happened well before the sub's capture--or perhaps the guides don't want to discuss it in front of kids.)

Have you learned anything new about something you thought you already knew well? Feel free to share your story in the comments section.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Three Strikes and You're DNF (Did Not Finish)

If I get far enough in a so-so book, I'll often force myself to finish it for the sake of completing my annual Goodreads Reading Challenge. However, if a book is bad enough in the beginning, it goes in the Did Not Finish pile (though I remove unfinished books from my Goodreads collection). Here are three reasons why I recently set a book aside:

1. Cliched characters.
2. Poor handling of POV--The viewpoint character didn't just see other characters' body language but also knew the mixed feelings that created them.
3. Plot holes--This particular book was a cozy mystery. Even though the POV character had just arrived in a small village, well after a murder had been committed and with documentation to prove she'd been traveling, the local police still suspected her of the crime, and it was strongly suggested that they would be able to convict her. No one suggests she hire a lawyer, so naturally, even though other characters tell the protagonist to do nothing, she decides to investigate the crime herself. I don't see many cozy mysteries that mention lawyers, and there obviously needs to be a reason why the main character becomes the detective. I just couldn't suspend my disbelief in this case.

I should point out that almost all the reviews for this book on Amazon and Goodreads are positive. Several reviewers mentioned that they liked a snarky side character, so perhaps he kept them reading.

What makes you set a book aside? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, April 23, 2018

World Book Day and Birthday Sale!

Today is not only the anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, but also World Book Day. My husband can confirm that every day is Book Day for me. It's a happy coincidence that I'd planned to announce the start of my annual birthday sale today. My birthday is this Saturday, so from now through next Monday (April 30th), Twinned Universes, Scattered Seasons, Chaos Season, Fifth Season, and Summon the Seasons are only $0.99 each. The Season Avatars Complete Box Set is also on sale for $4.99 (as opposed to the normal price of $9.99). Take advantage of this offer while you can, and I hope you enjoy the books!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fierce Hearts: Women of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Giveaway

One of the ways I've been promoting Scattered Seasons is by giving it away on Instafreebie. Currently, it's part of the Fierce Hearts: Women of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Group Giveaway. This event runs through the end of the month and features over 130 free books. Even if you already have my book, check out all the other ones available! You just might find a new favorite book or author.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Predicting Plot Twists

As a writer, I think about plots and plot twists when I'm reading other people's work. It's a bit of a challenge to guess the plot twist before the big reveal. However, the story can feel too predictable if the plot twist is exactly what I thought it would be, and of course it's not fun if you're completely wrong. Perhaps the happy medium is getting the plot twist right but realizing there's more to it than you first assumed.

Writing satisfying plot twists is also a challenge. They need to be the right kind of twist, deepening the story. Darth Vader's big reveal at the end of The Empire Strikes Back wouldn't have meant much if he had turned out to be Han Solo's father, since Luke and the audience had no emotional connection to Solo Senior. (Perhaps he'll show up in next month's movie.) Since Luke's goal was following in his father's footsteps, finding out his father was his nemesis was much more dramatic. Twists also have to arise organically from what previously happened in the story. It's not satisfying if they come out of nowhere, and that doesn't play fair with the reader either. There ought to be clues embedded in the story. Fortunately, if they're not in the first draft, they can be seeded in later.

One of my favorite plot twists that I wrote occurs in Twinned Universes (though I can't obviously reveal what it is). What's your favorite plot twist, either one you wrote or one you read? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Hobbies and Writing

Hobbies can be a good break from writing, and they can also generate ideas for stories. However, they can compete for scarce writing time. I'm experiencing this with my crocheting. I enjoy doing it, and people seem to like the Star Wars characters I create. On the other hand, I'm making less progress with my stories because I'm crocheting. For instance, when we drive somewhere, I take my crocheting along instead of my netbook. I'm actually thinking of selling some of my amigurumi characters at a craft fair or bazaar at some point, so I need to build up inventory for that. (I'd also bring books to sell.) But the faster I crochet, the slower my writing goes.

What do you think is the ideal ratio of hobby time to writing time? Any tips on keeping them in balance or for participating in a local craft fair? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Things I Did at C2E2 2018....

1. Spent wayyyy too much money.
2. Sold Star Wars amigurumi (though unfortunately I can spend money much faster than I can crochet Porg.)
3. Helped my husband win a whopping $0.56 on HQ Trivia.
4. Showed off my status as "Mother of Porgs." I actually had two of them safety pinned to my shoulders.
5. Hunted droids until I dropped.
6. Saw local and out-of-state friends.
7. Reunited with a high school friend.
9. Became Empress of the Galaxy--for a moment.
10. Fulfilled every Jawa's dream of catching K2SO and Chopper.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

IWSG: April Showers for Authors

A new month means another post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. If you're not already familiar with this group, you can find out more about them on their website, Facebook group, or Twitter feed. This month, our hosts are Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Renee Scattergood, and Tamara Narayan.

Here's our question for April: When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing? 

I've been writing for over twenty years now, and yes, I've experienced plenty of clouds and rain in that time. Here are some of the things that have kept me going over the long hall:

  • Belief in myself
  • Passion for my stories and characters
  • Support from my husband
  • Support from other writers
  • Confidence in what I've already accomplished 
  • Security in knowing I can publish anything I think is ready to find an audience
  • Pure stubbornness/habit
  • Maturity (or at least being a lot busier and having more responsibilities now than I did when I was younger)

What about you? What keeps you going when the writing isn't? Feel free to share in the comments.

Monday, April 02, 2018

The Owl and the Spider's Son Now Available!

For all of those participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge this year, I wish you the best of luck! I was planning on joining the challenge again, but with all the writing and crafting projects I'm already working on, I decided blogging six days a week was too much this year. Maybe next year, if I start preparing posts sooner, I'll participate.

Anyway, I do have some exciting news today. My short story, "The Owl and the Spider's Son," was published yesterday by Enchanted Conversation Magazine as part of their Animal Tales issue. Here's the direct link. The story is about the weaving contest between the goddess Athena and Arachne, told from Athena's owl's point of view. I hope you enjoy it! Don't forget to read the other stories as well.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Interview with Jay Chalk

Today I have an interview with Jay Chalk, author of Revolution 2050, which will be available on April 3rd.

Tell us about yourself.
First off, thanks, Sandra, for inviting me.  My name is Jay Chalk.  I’m a former trucker turned high school teacher.  I received a Bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in English from the University of Texas at Tyler and have been teaching high school social studies the past 20 years.  I’ve written four novels and I’m working on a fifth.

Please tell us about your latest work.
Revolution 2050 is a dystopian sci-fi due out April 3rd.  In the novel, America has suffered through another, albeit brief, civil war.  A political party called the Directorate restores order east of the Mississippi River, where it begins its stranglehold on constitutional freedoms.  By the 2040s, it’s morphed into a full-blown totalitarian regime.  Those escaping its claws have fled west, forming the U.S. Western Alliance.  The protagonist, Sam Moore, is a young high school teacher and Directorate member, living in what was once South Carolina, now renamed Carolina Province.  The adoptive son of a wealthy Directorate Commissar Colonel, Sam lived the sheltered, pampered life of the ruling elite.  The nucleus of the story is his realization that he’s nothing but a facilitator, brainwashing young minds into the Directorate’s anti-God, anti-American ideology.  The story follows his transition from follower to leader to revolutionary.

What drew you to writing?
I was always an avid reader and hoped one day to have the time and fortitude to sit down and actually write a story.  As a trucker I would keep a journal describing where I’d been and what emotions my surroundings evoked.  While in college in the early 1990s, two English professors told me there was “voice” in my writing and encouraged me to continue writing once I graduated.  I wasn’t sure what “voice” meant at the time, but continue writing, I did.  Writing just seemed a natural form of expression to me, like talking, or playing the guitar.  Yet I’m still humbled that people will read my work.

Do you have any writing habits, such as writing in a certain location or time day?
I’ve got a small desk in one corner of my living room with a great outside view.  That’s my favorite spot to write.  If working on a novel, I usually start before sunup and write until everything I have to say is out.  It could be a few minutes, but usually turns into an all-day affair, sometimes stretching into the evenings.

How do you get the inspiration for your stories?
I teach U.S. government and enjoy political spectacles.  I’m also a student of history.  So, you probably know where I’m going with this.  In today’s world with 24/7 mass media reporting, I’m surrounded by inspiration.  Three of my four novels have a political “reaction” to not only historical but also current events.  Russian author and Cold War dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, along with Orwell, Bradbury and Huxley heavily influenced my writing.

Of all the stories you’ve written, which one is your favorite and why?
That’s a tough question.  The smart answer would be Revolution 2050.  However the sequel, which for now will remain untitled, actually moved me more.  There were times when I was writing Revolution 2050’s sequel that I freaked out inside.  “Desperation” describes Revolution 2050.  “Sacrifice,” describes its sequel.  The sequel would be my favorite by only a “tad” because the story unfolds closer to home.

Do you write in other genres?  If so, which ones?
As a matter fact, I do.  My unpublished novel, Final Run, is a present-day thriller.  The protagonist is a trucker who inadvertently becomes  involved in human trafficking.  The head of the human trafficking ring is the son of a prominent U.S. Senator.

Who are your favorite authors and why do you admire them?
John Steinbeck—hands down.  To me, Steinbeck’s writing gives emotions a flavor I’ve never known.  His novel, East of Eden (my personal favorite), could be the bible for character development.  I’m also fond of Stephen Coonts and how he develops his protagonists’ inner voice and conflict.  And of course I can’t leave this topic without mentioning my love for JRR Tolkien’s fantasy world and his trilogy, Lord of the Rings.  I still have the box set I purchased in high school for $2.95 sitting on my bookshelf.  I often wonder if Tolkien were a new writer today, could he breakout in today’s instant gratification world?

What other writing projects are you currently working on?
I’ve mentioned the sequel to Revolution 2050.  It’s completed and waiting for some serious editing.  I’m currently bogged down in the final book of the series.  It’s set in the early 22nd century.   The  protagonist is the adult son of one of the previous characters.  That work is heavy with the sinister use of bio-technology,  its symbiotic attachment with social media and its effect on humanity.  I’m not sure what direction I’m taking the story, though.

What’s one of the goals you hope to achieve with your writing?

My main goal is once people read the novel, I’ll hear them say something along the lines of, “This author is on to something; this could actually happen.”

What are your favorite non-writing activities?
I’m a private pilot and absolutely love flying.  I hope one day to own my own plane.  I’m also a beekeeper, but more on the hobbyist side.

What’s something people wouldn’t be able to guess about you just by looking at you?
What an interesting question.  I’m sure other authors have experienced the following (at least I hope they have—or it could be just me!):  If it comes up in conversation that I’m a published author—especially of fiction—I get the strangest looks.  Then I hear something that goes like, “You’re kidding…” or “You don’t seem like a writer.”  Now there’s a dozen ways I could reply to that, but I usually just laugh it off.  Yet the question begs to be asked: what does a writer/author look like?  Most would reply to me with, “Not like you!”      

Coming April 3, 2018 -Revolution 2050 by @jay_chalk Amazon B&N Kobo #scifi #dystopian

Twitter: @jay_chalk

Monday, March 26, 2018

Dozing with Dinos--and Porgs

Saturday night was our third Dozing with the Dinos event at the Field Museum. I don't think I blogged about it last year, but this year we brought Porgs in addition to Stan (the T-Rex), Rex (the brachiosaurus named after clone trooper Captain Rex), and Oscar (the stuffed orca we adopted on our honeymoon). The original trio may be a bit jealous of the porg, but surprisingly they all behaved when we got to visit the Fossil Prep area and the dinosaur storage area. (The first three pictures are from the fossil prep area outside the Evolving Planet exhibit, and the porg is checking out dinosaur eggs in the storage area.) They also checked out some other exhibits, as you'll see below.

Studying porgs' relationship to other birds.

I think the porg were a little too curious when they examined this cast of a T-rex skull.

 The boys check out Sue's new digs.

The boys try to offer the porg to the Egyptian dead.

Did the Egyptians have a porg-headed god?

 Off to all go exploring together!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Plot Points and Pacing

One advantage of reading eBooks is that you can see the percentage of the book at the bottom of the screen. Some books on writing offer suggestions as to what plot points should occur at what points in the story. It's cool to read a certain event, look at the book percentage, and realize, "Oh, yeah, this is about the time that should happen!" It gives me hope that even a pantser like me can internalize plot structure.

Of course, the scenes in between the plot points are where your characters develop and "earn" the next plot point. While developing the highlights of a story is important, it's also critical to make sure the rest of the story supports it. For example, once a character makes a decision to do something, I want her to do it. When it takes her half-a-dozen chapters after making a decision to do something, it can be a frustrating read, even if the intervening chapters wrap up subplots and increase the stakes. (That said, in a book I read recently, one character asked the protagonist to do something, but later sent her a message saying it was okay to wait. The message definitely worked against any sense of urgency the author was trying to create.)

Pacing at the beginning of a story can make or break the sale. For most eBooks, I download a sample first before buying it. If the story is supposed to have a speculative element, but the sample just sets up the normal, everyday world without a hint of fantasy or SF, I'm far less likely to read the entire book.

Do you have plot pointers or pacing peeves? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Milwaukee Trip

My family and I took an overnight trip to Milwaukee this weekend. My son is on spring break, so we thought it would be nice to take a short trip somewhere, even if we do end up revisiting the same attractions. After checking into our hotel Saturday, we had dinner at the Milwaukee Public Market and bought some games at a store we went to the last time we were in the area.

Sunday, however, we managed to check out some new places. One of the main reasons we went to Milwaukee was to go to the Milwaukee Public Museum. Although it's not as big as some of the museums in Chicago, it has some interesting exhibits, we have reciprocity with our Field Museum membership, and Alex likes a type of candy sold at the museum that he can't find elsewhere. However, they didn't open until 11:00 a.m., which left us with some free time in the morning. We wound up going to the Mitchell Domes. Eugene and I went there a long time ago; Alex has never been there. They had a special event going on to celebrate the spring equinox this week, so in addition to touring the different habitats, Alex also got to pet snakes and llamas. (The top picture is a sculpture in the Desert Dome.)

The museum did have a special exhibit this time. It was on the Mayan culture. We toured that, along with the butterfly exhibit (you can see pictures from both exhibits), but we didn't go through as much of the museum as we normally do. Instead, we left a little early to go to a rock shop in one of the suburbs. My son picked up an arrowhead and a few fossils, then we returned home.

When you travel, do you like to explore new places or revisit familiar ones? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Short Story Sale!

The contract is signed and mailed, so I suppose it's safe to make this announcement: I sold my urban fantasy short story "Henry's Harness" to Otter Libris' MCSI: Magical Crime Scene Investigation anthology. This is only my second sale to an anthology; the last one was so long ago my author byline for that story ("A Reptile at the Reunion" in Firestorm of Dragons) is my maiden name. I don't want to say too much about my current story, but it's set in my beloved city of Madison, Wisconsin, and the main character is a former pet detective. Further details about the anthology will be coming out soon, as the publisher is planning to start a Kickstarter to fund the project. I'll share more details once the Kickstarter is live. I'm excited to be part of this project and am looking forward to reading the other stories in the anthology. Hope you are too!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Project Updates

I have so many things going on right now it's difficult to keep track of them all, but here's a quick summary.

I'm continuing to crochet Star Wars characters and other items.Here's a TIE fighter I finished last week. My son thinks the wing arms are too long, so I'll make them shorter the next time I try this pattern. The Porg, of course, continue to be popular. At least they don't take very long.

Since I crochet so many Porg, I've decided to create a "Mother of Porg" outfit for C2E2 when I'm not in my Imperial Officer uniform. (I may leave the Jawa costume at home this year to simplify packing.) I have Porg-themed clothes and accessories from head to toe--though I'm still waiting for some of them to arrive. I'm planning to sew a skirt from Porg-print fabric in case the skirt I ordered comes late. When everything is complete, I'll post pictures.

All these other projects do take time away from my writing. Although I'm nearly done drafting a short story for Uncanny Magazine's Dinosaur issue, I don't expect to have it ready by the deadline, which is this Thursday. Maybe I'll save it for my newsletter subscribers. Hopefully I'll have more news to share about my short stories soon.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

IWSG: Celebrating Goals

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so if you've been following my blog for a while, you know it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post. You can learn more about the IWSG online, Facebook, and Twitter. Our cohosts this month are Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham, Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen Gardner.

For March, we've been asked the following question: How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/finish a story?

 I don't do anything to celebrate finishing a short story, but I have a tradition of finishing first drafts of novels with these lines: The End! 
The Very, Very, Very End! (Amen!) 
A Book Report on Peter Rabbit!

Rather than ask people to guess where that came from, I'll tell you: it's from "The Book Report," from the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown:

I saw the musical performed when I was in school (I think middle school), and the final lyrics just stuck in my head. Of course, I do remove them during revision, but it's still a fun way for me to mark the end of the first draft.

As for celebrating other goals, I treated my family to dinner the first couple of times I published a book, but I don't think I've done that for the last few. I didn't plan anything special for completing the Season Avatars series last year, probably because I was too busy with the marketing. It's never too late to celebrate, is it?

What do you do to celebrate your goals? Feel free to share in the comments.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Wakanda Worldbuilding

This weekend was super busy, as I participated in three Star Wars troops. Here are a couple of pictures from the troop on Sunday. (I'm the kneeling Jawa in the top picture and the shortest officer in the bottom one--yes, I switched costumes mid-troop.) However, I managed to find time Sunday morning to see Black Panther. 

Before I share my thoughts on the movie, I'd like to mention that I don't see many superhero movies these days (still haven't had a chance to watch Wonder Woman or Guardians of the Galaxy 2), and although I've read a little about Black Panther and Wakanda online prior to seeing the movie, I'm very much a newcomer to this world.

My favorite character (and favorite part of the movie) was Shuri. How can you not love a female scientific genius with an attitude? I'd love to see her be the protagonist of her own stories. In comparison, T'Challa, though noble and admirable, seemed almost too perfect to me.

To me, Wakanda was the key part of the movie. I was definitely intrigued by the mix of green trees, traditional items and customs, and advanced technology in the cities. However, I wanted more background on this country. What other factors beside vibranium shaped Wakandan history? How much influence did tribal customs, Bast, and other factors have in making Wakanda so advanced while the country hid its true nature from the rest of the world? I'll probably have to track down comics collections or graphic novels to find these answers. Hopefully C2E2 will be a good place to learn more about Wakanda--and enjoy Black Panther cosplay.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

2nd Person Point of View

You open a novel, expecting it to be told from a third person ("She said something") or perhaps a first person ("I said something") point of view. Instead, the narrator addresses, you, the reader, directly. But is that true? Are you sure the narrator isn't talking to one of the other characters, perhaps even herself, and you're eavesdropping on the conversation? You're never really sure how to interpret this book, even as you force yourself to finish it.

Does this sound like a Choose Your Own Adventure book from the 80s and 90s? Those books were also written in 2nd person point of view, where the narrator talks directly to the reader. I recently read a more contemporary book where part of the story was told in 2nd person, and the point of view didn't work for me. I never felt that I was really the one being addressed, and at times the constant "you" was distracting. Maybe that's because second person is an uncommon point of view, at least in the books I read. There might be other stories where it's more effective.

Did you read the Choose Your Own Adventure books when you were growing up? If not, are there other stories you've read that you thought worked well in second person? Feel free to tell us about them in the comments.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Short Story Markets

One of my goals for 2018 was to submit at least three short stories to anthologies, magazines, or e-zines. I'm happy to report I've already reached this goal, though I don't want to say too much about the stories or submissions out of the (admittedly irrational) fear that I'll jinx them. Of course, any stories that do get rejected can be sent to other markets or indie-published. (I will say that two of the stories are set in my Season Avatars and Catalyst Chronicles worlds, so it might make sense to indie-publish them if they get rejected.) In the meantime, I thought I'd discuss briefly how I've been learning about and selecting markets.

I'm a member of the Facebook group Open Call: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Pulp Markets. As the name suggests, it's a place for publishers, editors, and writers to share open calls for the specified markets. Many of the listings that I see are for themed markets that pay subpro rates. If the theme inspires me or aligns with a story world I've already developed, then I'll look at the pay and rights requested. If they seem reasonable, and if there's still enough time before the deadline, then I'll write the story and send it out.

I've been writing and submitting short stories for several reasons, but the two most important ones are to develop my writing craft and to potentially find new readers for my novels. (Working on short stories also allows me to work on other projects besides Dryads to Discover, which has been slow going. I'm not sure if working on other projects is helpful or harmful with this novel.) I would say more, but as I took a break from writing this blog to take care of a few things in the kitchen, I got another idea for a short story. This one's geared toward a professional market that closes March 15th. There are only a couple of openings, so this is very much a long shot. When you're not typing, please keep your fingers crossed for me!

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