Friday, December 27, 2019

Ebook of Ordinary Wonders Available!

Although I don't normally post on Fridays anymore, I have some news that I should have shared a couple of weeks ago. I've published my first short story collection. It's called Ordinary Wonders: A Fantasy Short Story Collection, and it contains eleven short stories. Some of them were independently published, some are reprints from anthologies, and a few of them are completely new. This collection also includes the four short stories from Young Seasons. (I had originally planned to prepare a print version of Young Seasons but decided it was too short.) Here's the full list of stories:

Letters to Psyche         
The Owl and the Spider’s Son  
Silver Rain      
Bugged Out at the Museum      
Caps in Red and Gray  
Blood for Sap, Sap for Blood   
Henry’s Harness          
But Not Today
Last Locomotive from Wistica 
To Name the Anilink   
Jenna’s Rosebush

Currently, this collection is only available as an ebook. I have to go through both KDP and Draft2Digital for the paper version, and it's more difficult than I expected, especially since I decided to experiment and create my own cover. (Sorry, Maria.) I'll post again once I have it figured out. In the meantime, the eBook is available for $2.99, which is a great bargain. Click this link for a list of available retailers.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

My Thoughts on The Rise of Skywalker (Spoilers)

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! Since Christmas is tomorrow, I figured I'd post a day early. And what better to post about than The Rise of Skywalker? My family and I saw it Friday night and will see it again tonight. I'll summarize what I liked and didn't like about the movie after my first viewing. There may be some spoilers, but I'll try to keep them brief.

Things I Liked

Leia--This was supposed to be her movie, so I'm glad they were able to find a way to incorporate her and give her a heartfelt sendoff.

Seeing Favorite Aliens--It might be fan service, but I still enjoyed seeing Porgs and Jawas, even if for an instant.

The Climax--I can't talk about this without giving away a lot of the movie, but there were quite a few moments of awesome there.

Kylo's/Ben's Arc--Maybe it wasn't a complete redemption, but we did get to see how he and Rey are two sides of a single coin.

Things I Didn't Like

Pacing--Especially in the first half of the movie, I felt like we jumped from place to place without enough time to process everything. It wasn't always clear who was going where--characters would be onscreen without explanation.

No Explanation for Palpatine's Reappearance--This should have been foreshadowed earlier in the trilogy, IMO. How did he survive, and why did he wait so long to return?

Too Many New Characters--While I liked Janna, I felt like she was used to replace Rose, who should have had more screen time. I would have preferred more time and character development for established characters.

Rey's Backstory--Honestly, I would have been happy leaving it with what we saw in The Last Jedi. I like the idea of the Force being accessible by "nobodies" instead of just those from a special bloodline.

I went into this movie not knowing what to expect. I liked it, but my favorite movie in the saga is still The Empire Strikes Back.

If you've seen The Rise of Skywalker, what did you think of it? What's your favorite Star Wars movie? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Pantsing as Experimentation

I saw a meme on Facebook recently saying that pantsers (writers who don't outline their stories) use the first draft as an outline. While that may be true to some extent, writing the first draft provides me with more than an outline. The first draft allows me to get to know my characters better, beyond what a character sheet can tell me. As I write, I can feel out my characters' quirks, reactions, and more. It also helps me establish settings and help me figure out how the characters solve problems. Of course, it's possible to develop all of this separately prior to writing the book, and even I will agree that it feels like a lot more work to write a draft, then try to extract an outline, transfer information to a writing bible, and of course take the story through one or more additional drafts before finishing it. Why then does pantsing seem to work for me when outlining ahead of time doesn't?

I think for me, part of what drives me to write is the experimentation aspect of fiction. As a writer, I get to create characters and worlds, put them in tough situations, and see how they work. I need the details provided by actually writing the story to determine how successful it will be. Sometimes it doesn't work; like all writers, I have trunk stories that will never be published. Sometimes I start a character down one path and decide it's not working, so I have to scrap what I wrote and start over. While it can be frustrating, it's part of the process. As I go along, it gets easier. It took me about two years to write the first draft of Dryads to Discover but only five months to finish the first draft of Dryad in Doubt. Part of that was because I was working on more short stories during Dryads to Discover, but part of that was that I didn't know the characters very well with the first story. I felt more confident with them in the second book, and it was easier to draft a middle section.

Now it's time to start the final book in the series, Dryads and Dragons. I'm torn between starting where I left off and trying to create a rough outline first. Given what I've said above, I should start writing it. I don't want to do a scene-by-scene outline, but I do feel the need to establish the major acts of the book before getting started. Hopefully by the time this post goes live, I'll know what approach I want to take and be on my way.

Do you feel your stories are experiments, or do you like to outline them first? How much do your stories change as you draft? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Story Selected for Third Flatiron's Best of 2019 Anthology!

Since I sent in the reprint contract last week, I can officially announce that my short story "Specimen 1842," originally printed in Third Flatiron's Hidden Histories anthology, has been chosen to appear in their Best of 2019 anthology. The anthology will be digital format only, and the anticipated publication date is February 1st, 2020. I'm thrilled to have my story chosen and will be posting buy links to the anthology when they become available.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

IWSG: Living the Writing Life

At last, we've arrived at the final Insecure Writer's Support Group post for 2019. The IWSG  is a group where writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! (And no matter where you are on your writing journey, we all have our insecurities.) Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook, and Twitter feed. 

Our hosts this month are Tonja Drecker, Beverly Stowe McClure, Nicki Elson, Fundy Blue, and Tyrean Martinson.  

Our question for December is really an exercise in imagination: Let's play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writing self, your life, and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

 Although this question asks us to imagine our ideal writing life, realistically, I don't think it'll be possible to reach it until I retire, simply because of family and financial obligations.  I also find it hard to crank out new words eight hours a day. It's one thing to sit in an office and be productive from 8:30 to 5:00, but as a consequence, I find it hard to shift my brain into writing mode outside of my normal writing time. So, what would be a dream writing life for me? I'd start by getting enough sleep, not staying in bed too long after I wake up, and exercising first thing in the morning. I'd either walk outside if the weather is nice or on the treadmill with a book when the weather is bad. After breakfast, I'd putter (yes, I'm middle-aged enough to putter) around the house for a while taking care of chores. Then I'd devote the rest of the morning to things like marketing, blogging, checking e-mail, and other publishing and administrative chores. (Of course, if this really was my dream writing career, I'd have an assistant to take care of some of that for me.) I'd write at home in the afternoon, ideally getting down a couple thousand words. After dinner, I might relax for an hour or two, reading or crocheting, before putting in another writing session. While I currently might write until almost bedtime, I'd like to finish the day by reading some more before going to sleep.

Sounds like a tranquil and productive life, doesn't it? One good thing about this schedule is that it would allow me mental downtime to think up new stories. Our society requires everyone to live a fast-paced life, and with constant distractions (yes, I'm thinking of the smartphone games I'm addicted to), it's hard to find mental space for creativity. On the other hand, even I, an introvert, admit that long-term, this lifestyle would isolate me. While day jobs do take up a lot of your time, they do force you to get social interaction and be exposed to new things. I think I would have to factor in some sort of outside class or regular meeting to make sure I get enough stimulation. This schedule might not work now, since my son is still in school. It might be more feasible when he starts college. My husband's job or health would also affect how much time I'd spend writing and how much on other things.

What would your dream writing life look like? How much time would you spend writing and how much on other things? Would you isolate yourself or seek out other people? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Classic Books and Modern Culture

Saturday night, I finally finished reading Don Quixote. It was nearly a thousand pages long, though it could have been a quarter of the length if the writing style was simpler and the side characters' backstories were omitted. Despite being a tedious read, it still seemed surprisingly relevant. Don Quixote can be a warning for taking one's fandom to extremes. His difficulties in distinguishing fantasy from reality, as well as his finding explanations for facts that don't agree with his fiction, find parallels in the fake news and conspiracy theories of today.

Which classic stories do you feel are most readable or relevant today? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Baby Yoda and Alien Lifespans

If you've been anywhere on social media in the last week, you've probably seen the cutest creature ever from Star Wars: The Mandalorian (yes, even cuter than the porgs):

(Photo Credit: Disney)

I'm talking about Baby Yoda, whom I'll refer to here as BY. It's not clear yet if BY is actually Yoda's child, but since no one knows the name of Yoda's species, the child has to have some kind of name. (Since we don't know the child's gender, I'll use "they" and "them" pronouns.)

BY is supposed to be 50 years old, but they appear to be an infant or young toddler. Since BY can get out of their carrier, let's assume they're developmentally equivalent to a two-year-old human.  It's mentioned in Star Wars that species age differently, and we know Yoda was about 900 years old when he died. Still, BY has already spent about 5.5% (50/900) of their total lifespan as an infant/toddler. A two-year-old human has reached about 1.7% of her maximum life span, using 120 years as maximum age. Is that a significant difference? It's hard to judge on so little data. If species age at different rates, it might make sense that they would spend different proportions of their life at different stages. Sentient, social species like humans need to have longer childhoods to learn the rules of their world. That said, if you're going to have an extended childhood, it would make sense to be equivalent to a four-to-ten-year-old human child, not an infant. The older child is slightly less dependent on caregivers, can explore the world independently, and has enough brain power/development to make sense of it.

Of course, there are some good explanations for why BY might still be a baby or toddler after fifty years. Here are a few of them:

  • The child was first sensed while they were in an egg or in stasis, so they might not have actually been born fifty years ago.
  • Yoda's species is strong with the Force, so the Force may affect the child's development. (The Force could limit the child's growth, or the child may need to grow slowly to master the Force.)
  • There might be some environmental factor limiting the child's growth. For instance, the child may need some nutrient found only on the species' home planet to mature. (This is my favorite theory and what I would use if I was writing this story.)

Are you a Baby Yoda fan? Are you content to adore their cuteness, or do you want to learn more about their species? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Libraries of Unwritten Books

I recently read a book called The Library of the Unwritten, by A.J. Hackwith. Not surprisingly, the book is about a library full of books that have not been written. Some of these books can't be written because their authors have died, while other books have authors who haven't been inspired enough to write them yet. Perhaps it's fitting that the library is located in Hell (although the library is considered neutral territory), as not being able to finish one's books would probably feel like a punishment for many writers.

One thing that felt strange about this library to me was that the books were all stored in a fixed form, though their characters could escape and change. For me, unfinished books are constantly in flux. I may imagine some scenes vividly, but they often change as I try to capture them on the screen. For every scene like that, there are many more that I won't know about until I write it. Even then, a book may become completely transformed from draft to draft, like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. For me, a book isn't fixed until it's published--though sometimes I would still like to revise books I released years ago.

How do you feel about unwritten books? Do you think of them in finished or unfinished form? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

IWSG: Weird Google

First of all, good luck to anyone participating in National Novel Writing Month! I've already written over 55,000 words in my current work in progress, Dryad in Doubt, so my goal for this month is to finish it instead of starting something new. And if I don't finish this draft in November, I'll do it in December (or whenever I figure out the third act of this book.)

Anyway, it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. You can learn more about this group on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter account. You can sign up for their newsletter here.

Our hosts for November are Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie.

Our question this month is, "What's the strangest thing you've ever googled in researching a story?"

I don't remember everything I've looked up over the course of my writing career. Since my current project is about dryads, I've been researching trees, and I blogged recently about some of the extreme trees that will play a part in this book. I've also had to research the main setting: Madison, Wisconsin. Probably one of the strangest things I've looked up for this project are hospices in Madison for a scene location. While I've drawn inspiration from maps and pictures, I changed some details about the location (which I try to keep unspecified) to better fit the story. I've also looked up layouts of local hospitals.

What weird terms are in your Google history? Feel free to share them with us, since Google will probably find a way to profit off them anyway.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Day It Finally Happens

The day before Halloween might be a good time to talk about witches, vampires, and mummies, but life has horrors that are far worse. Mike Pearl, a columnist who suffers from anxiety disorder, tries to manage his fears by studying how likely some situations are and what their impacts would be. In his book, The Day It Finally Happens: Alien Contact, Dinosaur Parks, Immortal Humans--and Other ImPossible Phenomena, Pearl examines all the situations listed above and more.

Some of these events, such as freeing all slaves worldwide, are good events, while a supervolcano eruption could theoretically kill half of humanity by blanketing the world in ash and causing a volcanic winter by blocking sunlight. Others, such as ending oil dependence and no longer killing animals to eat, would be a mixed blessing. Pearl introduces each event with a scenario showing how it might occur. He also rates how likely it is each event will occur in this century along with how plausible it is, how scary the event is, and whether or not it's worth changing our habits to avoid the event. Some of these events are more plausible than you might expect, such as creating a dinosaur park. (Pearl suggests this could be done by selective breeding and genetic manipulation, since actual dinosaur DNA would be too badly damaged to use.)  In my opinion, some of the topics he discusses, such as the end of British royalty, seem frivolous compared to the extinction of all fish or learning aliens do exist.

Although some of the scenarios Pearl discusses would be catastrophic if they ever occurred, Pearl attempts to assure us in an Epilogue that the future isn't lost. Humanity may not always exist in its current form, but our descendants would be better adapted for their environment. We may be able to avoid demise if we're able to colonize space. We also know too little about the universe to know what will happen in the far future. He stresses that he wants to convince us the future is worth it:

Some of the horrors I've outlined won't be avoided, and some will. Some of the wonderful things I've predicted won't happen, and others will....If we fundamentally don't believe in a future at all, I'm pretty sure of one thing: it'll be more horror than wonder.

As a science fiction writer, I try to predict the future even knowing how unlikely it is I'll be right. It's always interesting to read what other futurists think. Do you find these kinds of books useful for your own world-building? Free free to share your thoughts in the comments. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The To-Do List

As always, I have so many projects yet make so little progress on any of them. Here are some of the things I'd like to work on or have in progress:

1. Crochet: I recently completed a pair of fingerless gloves, but I might make some more pairs for other people. I'm also learning how to make Harry Potter characters.

2. Knitting: As if crocheting isn't enough, I want to learn how to make socks and sweaters. First, I need to start with a scarf kit.

3. Writing: In addition to Dryad in Doubt, I started a
new short story for an anthology.

4. Marketing: I recently discovered a site called Book Brush that allows you to make marketing images. Below is one I made for the Catalyst Chronicles series. I need to make more graphics for my other books.

5. Mailing List: I set up an account on MailerLite, but I have to finish importing my list from MailChimp. (MailChimp's prices have gone up, which is why I want to switch.)

So, yes, I have reasons for not blogging as much as I used to. In fact, I should end this post and start writing.

Anything interesting on your to-do list? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Jury Duty

When you have to juggle a lot of roles every day, a disruption to your routine can feel like a real curveball. That's how I felt when I got a summons for jury duty. I've been summoned before, but either I no longer lived in the area or didn't get called for standby duty. This time, there was no standby option, and I'd been assigned to a court in the city of Chicago, where I don't drive. Fortunately, a friend was able to pick my son up after school, and I was able to use the Metra train and Uber to get to the courthouse.

After waiting to go through the metal detector, I had to wait in line while being checked into the jury assembly room and assigned a group number. There were several tables for people to work. I'd brought my netbook, Kindle, and a paper book with me, planning to write after going through the first draft of Dryads to Discover. But soon after the orientation video ended, my group number was called. We had to line up, put on special stickers, and proceed to a courtroom in another part of the building. Actually, we had to wait in the hallway outside for about an hour due to a delay. During this time, the first group of names of potential jurors was picked. When we finally filed into the courtroom, it was almost noon. The first group of jurors had to sit in the jury box while the judge read out some initial instructions. Then we got a lunch break, though it was a little difficult figuring out where the cafeteria was.

When we finally reconvened, the judge spent a couple of hours interviewing each potential juror. It was interesting listening to everyone's stories. In particular, I noticed very few people identified themselves as belonging to a group. I was surprised by how many people were dismissed after this round. The judge went through two more rounds of picking names and questioning people. I was called in the second group. I hoped I'd be considered too eccentric, but I wound up being chosen as an alternate juror. That meant I had to stay and listen to the trial itself, but unless a couple of the regular jurors didn't show up, I wouldn't take part in the delibrations.

To protect the defendant's privacy, I'm not going to list names or describe publicly what the case was about. It felt like the actual trial itself was shorter than the jury selection process. However, since it was late afternoon by the time jury selection was over, the trial extended to another day. Four people, including the defendant, testified. We were also show video recordings as official evidence. We got a fairly late start the next day, but despite breaking for lunch, closing arguments were done by mid-afternoon. When the rest of the jurors returned to the deliberation room, the other alternate and I waited for the judge in his chambers. There, we received a check and a certificate before being escorted out of the building. The first day went so late that I didn't get back home until close to 8:00 p.m., but the second day, I returned around 5:00 pm.

Other details worth noting: we were instructed not to discuss the trial with anyone until it was over. Once we were assigned to the jury, we had to report to the jury room, and we were escorted in and out of there. There were bathrooms attached, and we were provided food and drinks (but not tea). All the bathrooms in this old courthouse had only one stall, which was quite annoying when other people were waiting. Jurors were allowed to bring cell phones with them (everyone else had to surrender them when entering the courthouse), but they were locked up during the delibrations.

I was allowed to call back to find out what the jury result was. It turned out that they reached the same decision I had, though the group took three hours to decide. Part of me would have liked to have participated in the discussion; perhaps I could have helped the group come to a consensus more quickly. I did appreciate getting home sooner, though.

Has anyone else been a juror for a trial? If so, what did you think of the experience?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters Cover Reveal and Preorders!

I have news so exciting that it can't wait until next Wednesday. Today is the cover reveal for Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters. Here it is!

The anthology will be released on January 7, 2020. You can preorder the eBook for only $0.99. The paperback will be available for $15.95, but if you order it directly from World Weaver Press, it's only $13.95. You'll also be able to get it in December. Here are the buy links:

Amazon paperback:
Barnes & Noble ebook:;jsessionid=1C9D64CAD685A99538A0DCBC6CE00FD3.prodny_store02-atgap08?ean=2940156531141
B&N paperback:
Apple iBookstore:
World Weaver Press:

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Fantastic Trees and Where to Find Them

Since my work-in-progress is about dryads, naturally I have to research trees. In particular, I've been looking up extreme trees, such as very old or very big ones. Here are some of the most interesting ones I've found, though I won't tell you how they affect the story:

Thimmamma Marrimanu is a banyan tree over five hundred years old and spread out over almost five acres. It's found in India.

The redwood trees along the coast of California and Oregon can reach nearly 380 feet in height. They can live over a thousand years.

Baobab trees in Africa can also live a long time, up to fifteen hundred years. They bloom for a single night, and their root systems are taller than the part of the tree above ground.

I plan to introduce trees from other continents as well, but I'm still researching them. 

Have you seen any of these trees in person? Do you have a favorite type of tree? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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