Demons, Werewolves, and Zombies, Oh My

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I took on the challenge of editing the Monsters! anthology. I knew I’d get some solid stories by talented authors, but the depth and breadth of those stories impressed me. The stories that play with familiar tropes like zombies and demons do so in unique ways. Several stories touch on the idea that the real monsters in the world reside within us. Some make you laugh, some make you think, and they’re all worth your time. It was an honor to edit these stories, and it makes me happy to see it out in the world. Be sure to back the kickstarter so you can be one of the first to discover how this group of authors tackle the monster theme.

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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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Kelly referenced Mad Max in her previous post, a movie I finally hauled myself off to the theatre to see.

(At 10 am, because the kids were still in school, and so I didn’t need a babysitter. Going to a movie at 10 am is kind of awesome, because it was cheap and me and my wife were the only ones in there. It does, however, make you feel awful adulty. I remember when most of the movies I saw were midnight shows.)

Anyway, Fury Road was awesome. There’s a lot of good stuff there, which you can find out about easily enough by trolling the fan sites and Twitter. Or you could perhaps go see it. What I wanted to comment on, though, was one tiny portion of the world building that happened in the film. The Warboys would spray their mouths with silver spray paint before doing some particularly suicidal move. Basically, they were making their mouths look like they were chromed, like the front of the cars that are central to the whole Mad Max post-apocalypse. None of them say this though, they just scream about being shiny and chrome as they leap to their dooms.

It’s little touches like these, unexplained but obvious in the context, that really punch up world building.


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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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Top-Secret Productivity Hack!

So it turns out that going over a 9 item checklist for each page of my novella takes kind of a while. But! I recently discovered a new productivity-boosting trick to get my butt in my chair with my printout and multicolor pen.

I sprained my ankle.

No tennis. No yardwork. No going to the park and walking around. No painting (my drawing table is set up for standing at). No computer! (My computer is on a standing desk.)

If I hadn’t been at a stage where I was working on real live dead trees, this would have been an anti-productivity hack. But since I was working on paper, and it’s really easy to edit on paper with your foot propped up on a chair, two pillows, a towel and a ziploc of ice, I spent more time working on the novella than I would have otherwise.

The bad news is that my ankle is feeling much better. Yesterday I spent three hours digging up grass for my garden, and today I played tennis. Maybe I’ll sprain the other ankle tomorrow.

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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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Only 855 things left to do

I’m slooooowly working through the final draft of my novella. Slowly because I have a 9-item checklist for every page, and there are 95 pages. It’s hard to estimate since I’m scribbling on a printout, but I’ve increased the length of the section I’ve edited by about a fifth so far. People always talk about cutting during revisions and edits. My stories grow.

My checklist comes mostly from two workshops I’ve taken: one from a while back on getting deep into the character’s head, and one from a couple months ago on depth. Which is basically the same stuff, but with a different way of approaching it. Sometimes I need to look at the same thing two or three different ways to make sure I’m not missing something.

I would have liked to finish the novella this week, but dayjob stuff is busy, so it won’t get done. The end is in sight, though!

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I just needed to put this somewhere..


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Cons, 2015 edition

I’ve been spending far too much time gawking at the Hugo train wreck (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can try GRRM’s Not a Blog or File770 for a breakdown. Really though, it may be best to just consider yourself lucky and move on.) However, with all the talk of WorldCon, I decided I’d throw up my con going schedule for this year.

FogCon– already done! Lots of fun, as always, and a few days of writing next to the Pacific afterwards.

Mo*Con– A little con in Indianapolis that I’ve been having a lot of fun with. Good discussion, and small enough to meet everyone.

WisCon– First con I ever went to, and haven’t missed one yet. This will be number 8. I can only remember that because our second daughter was only three weeks old at that first one, and we were carrying her around the con with us.

CONvergence– first time going to this one, mostly to visit old friends in Minnesota.

GenCon– Big fun in Indy. Just wish I could get a decent hotel…

I think that about wraps it up. No WorldCon or World Fantasy this year, their both a bit far and I’ve got enough travel piled up already.


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Recommending a book I haven’t read is risky. What if I end up not liking it?

But my other option for a blog post today was the Hugo award nominees, so here you go:

I’m looking forward to reading David Walton’s new novel Superposition.

SUPERPOSITION is about a family torn apart, a man falsely accused of murder, and a race to control a quantum technology before a powerful creature destroys them all. With the breathless pace and mind-bending plot twists of films like Inception or The Minority Report, SUPERPOSITION delivers a technology thriller that stands with the best in the genre.

It’s a quantum mechanics mystery/thriller and it got a good review in the Washington Post recently.

I can’t say much more that that because I haven’t read it. But combine physics and murder and I’m in!

(Fictional murders only please. Or historical.)

The author’s a member of the same writing forum I am, and the things he’s said about it were enough to get me to preorder. So it better be good, because I’ve already got a copy waiting for me to read.

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