Monthly Archives: October 2013


Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s in the fall (my favorite time of year), there’s copious amounts of candy around (I’m a fan) and I get to pretend to be someone else for a few hours (my inner latent actor coming out).

Now that I’m an adult, I don’t dress up for Halloween as much as I would like to. I usually have good intentions, but time gets away from me and I end up wearing a cat-ear headband and drawing whiskers on my cheeks with the eyeliner pencil that’s hiding in the bottom of my make up bag. This year, though, some friends from work and I are doing a group costume: Downton Abbey. I’m dressing as one of the maids. Do I have my costume yet? As of this writing (10/25), no. But you’re reading this on the 30th, so let’s all pretend I have my costume and it’s all ready to go and I’m not running around Chicago at 9:00 p.m. on a Wednesday trying to find a black dress.

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Why “If you can quit, then quit” pisses me off

Yesterday I ran across a bit of “advice” that I’ve seen bunches of times before (which is why I’m not linking to it) and that never fails to annoy me: “If you can quit (writing, the violin), do.”

This is bullshit. I can count the number of things I can absolutely not quit on one hand, and those are body functions like beating my heart and inflating my lungs. I could quit writing. I could quit learning to draw, or playing the piano, or exercising. I could quit my job (but that would be a bad idea). I could probably even quit reading. I’d be pretty bored, but I could do it.

I suppose it’s supposed to be encouraging. But it pisses me off because it smacks of “writers are special people who were meant to be writers” and a bit of “got to keep the newbie writers down so I don’t lose my bestseller spot”. There are enough stories to go around for everyone.

Do you want to write? Then write. Do you want to write just for fun, not publication? Then have fun. Do you want to write for publication? Then work your ass off–either you’ll fail or you’ll find the necessary passion along the way (and maybe still fail). You don’t have to be 100% committed when you start.

But that doesn’t fit in a tweet.


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Some nights I sit next to husband while he plays video games.  This is a good way for me to decide if I like a game enough to try it myself, and an opportunity for me to make helpful comments on his style of play, which he always appreciates.

This week it’s Bioshock Infinite.

Me: “Why are you looting those coins from the altar??”
Tim: “Because I need salt and health.”
Me: “But those are offerings!  You’re stealing from the collection plate.  You’re totally going to hell.”
Tim: “I know.”

He’s not very far in, but the game has a creepy cool steampunk/American Revolution mix to it, which is something I haven’t seen before.  It’s also a good kick start for the imagination.  The floating utopia city, monument island, and the airships all bring up different kinds of possible story ideas.

On the other hand, it’s really really violent and has some disturbing elements to it that I wasn’t expecting after the relative calm of the first thirty minutes.  We’ll see how the rest of it goes.

Tim: “Are you blogging this?”
Me: ……….

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Anyone who has any sort of aspirations of being a writer knows about National Novel Writing Month (aka Nanowrimo or Nano). Folks commit to writing 50,000 words during the month of November. Lots of my writing peeps do it. I never have because I tend to be a slow writer.

That’s about to change.

One of my goals is to write a book a year. With the Big Move of ’13 and Long-Ass Writing Assignments and running the Origins Library, I haven’t written one this year. You may recall I started one, got 24K in, and scrapped it. So as not to fall short of my goal, I’m going to to Nano. Which means I need an outline of some sort and a slightly-better-than-vague plan of where in the hell I’m going. First-drafting tends to take a lot of out me emotionally and mentally; we’ll see how I fare.

Wish me luck, guys.

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If you’re going to write, you better love writing. That’s pretty good advice, considering the standard work to pay. Usually, it works for me.


But there’s always something though, isn’t there? Some part of the process that’s just damn hard to love. For me, it’s copy editing. Combing through a manuscript, over and over, trying to find every misplaced comma, every stupid spell-check homonym, every there/their/they’re screw up. Searching and searching, until the only thing I notice anymore is just how much I now hate this story.


Guess what I’ve been doing today?

And you know what’s the most galling thing? The fact that I know however careful I’ve been, their’s no guarantee that I haven’t missed something.

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Random Tuesday Thoughts

Related to something I can’t link to: I enjoy reading stories and then seeing what other people thought of those same stories. That’s one of the things that attracts me to slush reading, and to contests on the writer’s forum that I belong to, and to…other contests. Somehow it’s completely different from all those high school English classes where part of our grade was based on participation in the class discussions.

Possibly because it doesn’t also involve a one-hour timed essay on naturalism and the theme of the story.

Something else I enjoy: that despite the busy week at work, my switch to a mostly-weekend writing schedule means that I don’t fall too far behind in my scheduled writing hours even if I work through lunch or stay late. Or even, when I stay late, I can still get my allotted evening’s work done.

It does mean my blog posts are shorter than I’d like.

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Much Ado About Storytelling

The other night I watched the Joss Whedon film version of Shakespeare’s  Much Ado About Nothing, and then I watched the director commentary on the film, because that’s just how I rock a Friday night–pajamas, cuppa tea, and watching the same movie twice.

Truthfully, though, I was looking forward to watching Whedon’s commentary because, for me at least, he’s entertaining, he takes a conversational approach, and he’s funny, and that carries through the whole film.  A lot of his remarks pertain to visual storytelling, of course, but there are things of interest to me as a writer as well.

*Note: the following contains spoilers for the play.

If you watch the commentary on Much Ado, notice how Whedon talks about character motivation.  Much Ado is a tricky play, because, as Whedon says, characters are constantly lying to one another, perspectives are skewed, and their actions at times don’t make much sense at all.

For example, Whedon talks about how the character of Claudio was a challenge to portray onscreen because he’s supposed to be this fine, brave, intelligent soldier, yet he’s duped twice by the prince’s evil brother, which causes him to publicly shame and slander his bride-to-be, Hero, forcing her to fake her own death to salvage her reputation.  Did I mention there are elements in the play that don’t make a lot of sense?  Anyway, so Claudio’s basically a huge jerk until the end of the play, but Hero forgives him anyway.  Why does she do this?  And how do you present that so the audience, especially a modern audience, will buy it?

In the play, the two have no dialog of reconciliation, so Whedon added a scene in the movie where Hero silently watches from atop a hill while Claudio visits her grave.  This allows her to see his grief and remorse, and paves the way for their eventual marriage.  It’s a very short scene, no words needed, but it has a lot of storytelling impact.

And even if you don’t learn anything about character motivation from watching the commentary, I’d recommend it simply because fans of Angel (like me) will find a neat little shout-out.  Ah, Fred and Wesley.

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Do you read Daily Science Fiction? You could if you wanted to. Go to their site and give them your email, and they will send you stories. On a daily basis. Hence, the name.

It’s easy and convenient. Or, if you wish, you could just go there, and read the stories off the web. Also easy and convenient. And free. It’s all free too!

Oh… And maybe you should do it soon. Because my story, Conjugation, they just sent it out. But they’ll be posting it on Monday. So you can read it.

If you want to.



((or just click the recent stories tab))

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Reading as a Writer

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that it’s tough for a writer to read books. It’s one of those job hazards that no one really talks about. It’s hard to turn off the writer brain long enough to appreciate the story. Like anything, it takes practice. After a while you get to where you can put aside the writer brain long enough to enjoy a book. Of course, the writer brain makes its presence known as soon as you close the book (or turn off the device, as the case may be).

I recently finished Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. It’s the story about two young women–I’m never exactly sure of their ages, perhaps late teens or early twenties, but since this is marketed as YA let’s call them late teens–fighting for England during World War II. One is a pilot and the other is a spy. The spy has been caught by the Gepesto; the first part of the book is her written confession. Queenie–the spy–writes at length about her friend Maddie. The second part of the book is written from Maddie’s point of view. The story is deceptively intricate. I assumed the first part had been written by an unreliable narrator; how truthful would a spy really be when caught by the enemy? This point was driven home once I read Maddie’s point of view. Queenie, already an exceptional character, becomes even more so. The story itself is good, but the unique structure brings out its nuances. This book works on a lot of different levels. I would like to see the movie if they could somehow keep the structure intact.

And the ending is truly heartbreaking. I’d heard about people crying at the end of this book, and I joined their ranks.



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Coins of Chaos

Guys. YOU GUYS. An anthology came out yesterday called Coins of Chaos, and it just so happens I have a story in it.

Here’s the description:

During and after the great depression they were traded for food, sex, shelter, and power. Twenty of the seemingly ordinary nickles carved with dark representations of world evils and imbued with magical powers that transformed the deliciously macabre bits of lost art into carriers of death, destruction, and ill luck.
Where these coins go, so does his will. Each coin is imbued with his malice and a desire for destruction. With each life ruined… the Carver’s life goes on. Seventeen stories tell the tale of the Carver’s legacy: coins designed for beauty morphed into catalysts of pain.

Pretty cool, eh? If you’re into dark fantasy, give it a try.

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