Category Archives: writing

I’ll Just Put This Announcement Right … Here

I’ve signed the contracts, which I suppose makes it official enough to announce: Silence in the Library will be publishing two of my novels this year. The first is a YA set in a school for World Domination, and the second is an urban fantasy set in Prohibition-era Chicago. Both will be out later this year. SitL uses a unique model; they run a kickstarter to cover initial publication costs, so be prepared. I’ll be blathering about these books again soon enough.  

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Watch Bad Movies to Improve Your Craft

Bear with me.

So the other night the husband and I watched Kick-Ass 2. While the third act is pretty cool action scene, the movie overall isn’t great. I watched it mostly because I loved the original Kick-Ass so much. As I lay in bed (and honestly, again the next day) I kept thinking things like, “you know, if they had cut out the X storyline and made the Z storyline that felt tacked on into the main storyline, it would have been much better and would have nodded to comic-book tropes, too” and “or they could have made Kick-Ass the main character and Hit Girl the protagonist, like they did in in the new Mad Max,” that sort of thing.

My writer brain wanted to make the story better. My writer brain recognized what wasn’t working in the story and thought of ways to strengthen it.

We storytellers usually talk about how reading good writing will help make your writing better, and that’s true. One should definitely spend the bulk of one’s time consuming good story. However, there is something to be said for reading/watching/experiencing a subpar story so you can recognize it when you see it and think of ways to make it better.

Come to think of it, that’s good advice for editors, too.

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Another Day in the Salt Mines

And I actually enjoyed it!

Progress on the current WIP–the novel set in 1920’s Chicago I’ve blathered about before has hit a few stumbling blocks.

  • My kitten chewed through my laptop’s power cord, not once, but twice; each time meant a week away from the novel.
  • I traveled for work and was away from home for a week.
  • After living in Chicago for two years, we finally stopped paying for our storage unit, which means we have to clear it out and find homes (which mostly means the garbage) for all the stuff.

All of which has shown me that having consistency in my environment is a crucial part of my process. I tried writing on other laptops while mine was out of commission, but it just wasn’t the same, mostly because that laptop didn’t have Word and so I had to use Office online and work through a saved version of my manuscript on Dropbox. Great in theory. Horrible in execution. I just kept thinking “but this isn’t the real document” and I got thrown off my game. Apparently I’m not one of those writers that can write anywhere, anytime, and with anything. My recent experiences makes me appreciate and respect those sort of writers even more. Also, when my normal environment is in chaos–like, say, having a room filled with boxes of junk that need to be parsed–I can’t concentrate. I can layer of dust on the shelves, apparently, but not a lot of clutter.



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Publishing Income and Sexism


No, this isn’t a post about how women make less money in publishing (I suspect that’s true, but I don’t have hard-and-fast data; if you cared, I’m sure other bloggers have written about it). This post, really, is nothing more than an observation.

Several writers publish their writing income each year. You know that dream you had as a kid about getting to school and realizing you’re naked? Yeah, I imagine publishing your income is a bit like that. I’ve seen a few men post their incomes–and to be honest, I’m not sure if every single one of them post their day-job income along with their writing income. Regardless, they post their earnings, and the vast majority of comments I see are “hey, thanks for sharing,” or “that was super-informative, thanks.”

Yesterday, a writing acquaintance posted about another writer who had posted their income (including both writing and day job). The acquaintance’s post was basically “yeah, boo-hoo, I’m so sorry you’re only making X dollars a year.” The first comments on this thread were of the “the author shouldn’t be complaining,” ilk. Two points: 1) just 20% of the author’s income comes from writing and b) the author is female.

Now, I’m not usually one to beat the sexism drum. I think it’s like anything else: if you believe the world is nothing more than one big ball of sexist fascists, well, you’re going to think everything comes down to sexism. In general, I don’t see the world that way and so my first reaction typically isn’t “well, he’s a guy, so …” or “of course that happened, she’s a woman …” Having said that, I have to say this: what in the fucking fuck. Really. A man posts his income and folks are like “thanks for sharing;” a woman posts her writing income and folks are like “quit complaining, you should be happy to make X.” I mean, come on. 



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Creating Something Out of Nothing

So I’m in the middle of a staycation from the day job, which means I finally have large chunks of time to devote to writing/editing projects (and, who are we kidding, watching West Wing). I’m working on the next Origins Game Fair Library anthology. The stories are great and so the work is enjoyable. It just sort of struck me today as I finished one of the stories: two months ago, this story didn’t exist. These characters didn’t exist, their situation didn’t exist, I didn’t have any clue about any of them. And now, today, I’ve been moved by fictional characters. I care about them. I care what happens to them. All of the stories I’m reading are set in the future, on asteriods and in space ships and on other planets. Alss of them feel very real to me.

Yes, this is due in large part to the skill of the authors and their deftness with words. For whatever reason, today I’m reminded that writers just make shit up in such a way that readers believe it. It’s … sort of magical, when you think about it.

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Why God Why

Okay, so I’m being a little melodramatic … but only a little.

There’s a reason I typically don’t write in December. The biggest reason is that I generally don’t have any big projects on my plate. My novel-for-the-year is done, I won’t edit the Origins anthology until the New Year, I’ve already turned in the story for an anthology that was due in mid-December, that sort of thing. December is my month to watch movies, send Christmas cards, go to parties, eat too much food, and maybe–just maybe–poke at a short story or a query letter. Maybe.  

This year is different. I have a novel due at the end-ish of February, and I’m a slow writer (it turns out I’m even a slow writer when I have a full outline and I know exactly where I’m going) with a full-time job, so of course I’m working on it over the holidays. Throwing another monkey wrench into things? The husband and I are buying a condo in January and so will be moving. Also, I have a 5-day trip planned for my 40th birthday in February.

I am no where near where I wanted to be by this time. I am no where near close to being even a quarter of the way done with this novel. I am starting to get stressed. Freaked out, even. In the back of my mind I know I’ll get it all done because I have to get it all done, and yes it will be stressful but it will happen and life will go on and the world isn’t going to end.

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In the Word Mines

So I have officially started writing the new book–working title PROHIBITED–and I’m having a lot of fun. My usual process goes something like this:

  • Get idea for character/situation
  • Noodle around with worldbuilding
  • Answer most brainstorming questions with “I don’t know, I’ll figure it out as I get there”
  • Tear my hair out while writing the first draft
  • Figure out what the book is actually about as I finish it
  • Live large during the rewrite

This time it’s gone more like this:

  • Get idea for character/situation/setting
  • Research the hell out of time period
  • Noodle around with worldbuilding
  • Write/submit proprosal
  • Really flesh out the world/setting
  • Delve deep into character motivations
  • Write/submit detailed outline
  • Live large as I write the first draft

At least, so far. Admittedly I’m not far into it, but already I see a difference. I’m not wondering what happens next; I already know. I’m not finding out who my main character is; I’m already quite familiar with her. I find that I’m spending more of the writing time teasing out how to best present the information I already know rather than figuring out what I know. Usually I find first drafts emotionally draining. So far, I’m finding this book to be energizing. Each session I’ve exceeded my word count goal, and when I stop I can’t wait to sit down again. This is probably a combination of all the prep work I did and the setting (which I absolutely adore).  


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So right now I’m neck-deep in 1920’s Chicago research, and I have to say I really, really like it. This is almost a new concept for me. I don’t usually do much research for my novels and stories (with the exception of my stories for the Crimson Pact series, which follows the demon-fighting antics of sequential generations of women). I’ve never been a big history buff, either. I get confused about dates and motives and what the heck started World War One anyway (yes, I know Ferdinand got assassinated. I can’t tell you why or how or what that actually did to destabilize everything).

Prohibition-era, though … that’s where it’s at.

The era in general and gangsters in particular have always fascinated me. I’ve always been intrigued by the notion that folks who operate outside the law have their own moral code and rules for enforcing that code. And the fashion! I love flapper dresses and mary jane shoes and long necklaces. Doing the research now is giving me all sorts of ideas, and once I sit down to write the outline I’ll probably have to hold myself back from putting it all in one book. That’s what sequels are for, right?

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Shameless Self-Promotion, Post #582

At least it feels that way sometimes. On one hand, I feel pretty fortunate that I have stories to promote. On the other hand, it’s easy to tell myself that no one–even loyal blog readers such as yourselves–really care that I have anything coming out, anyway. On the other other hand, well, I can’t get faithful readers if I don’t tell people my stuff exists. So. Without further ado:

1. Chicks Dig Gaming is a non-fiction book filled with essays written by women about … you guessed it … gaming. Jaleigh has an essay in this, too, so you should buy two copies. Or something. It comes out in November but is available for pre-order now.

2.  The Bard’s Tale is an anthology-slash-cookbook about … you guessed it … bard’s tales. The stories are either told by bards or feature bards as characters. Each story is illustrated and is accompanied by a recipe. I think it’s pretty cool, and I’m excited to be a part of it. The kickstarter runs through October 21st, but don’t wait! Five bucks gets you the ebook.


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Okay, okay, FINE. I’ll tell you the secret.

Sort of.

So I’m working on a new project. While I won’t tell you the particulars, I will tell you it’s speculative fiction set in Prohibition-era Chicago. So you know that that means. Flapper girls and speakeasies and maaaaagic. I am so, so excited to build this world and research the era. I’m reading history books! I’m researching gangsters! I’m watching documentaries! Next I’ll research fashion and language! I will also be keeping my liquor cabinet well-stocked, because you know. One shouldn’t research Prohibition without a drink in one’s hand. By the time it’s all said and done this will be the most research I’ve ever done. Hopefully my liver will still be functional.

Right now I have a solid story concept and a nebulous idea for a plot. Right now it’s also the Best Idea I’ve Ever Had that I Will Naturally Fuck Up Somehow Because I’m a Shitty Writer. So all systems are normal.


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