Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

For Various and Sundry Reasons

June 16, 2021

This last week was one of those weeks when I’m glad that my work schedule includes scheduling time for the unexpected.

For various and sundry reasons that I will not bore you with, I had to get a new computer.  Let me reassure you that I lost no files that I can’t live without.  This situation qualifies as a major expense, as well as a major hassle that meant I didn’t have time, energy, or clarity of mind to write, even when most of my writing now is addressing editor’s notes for Aurora Borealis Bridge, the second of my two “Over Where” novels, which will be coming out Spring of 2022.

(The first of the two novels is Library of the Sapphire Wind.)

Throughout this process, I’ve had excellent IT support from my local ISP, which has once again earned my loyal support.

Last week I told you about the interview I’d be doing with David Barr Kirtley of Wired magazine’s “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” podcast.  I’m happy to report it went very well, and I think was a lot of fun for us both.  It should be out later this week, and I’ll post the link here next week, as well as to the Friday Fragments, if I have it by then.

One thing the pandemic transformed was how science fiction and fantasy conventions reach their audience.  In 2020, several went virtual.  In 2021, several, including Bubonicon, New Mexico’s longest running (and often only) convention, will be virtual again.

However, one aspect of this change that can be beneficial for someone like me, for whom going to any convention other than Bubonicon entails a great deal of expense and travel time (even relatively “local” conventions like those in Arizona and Colorado involve hundreds of miles of driving), is that I’ve found myself invited to participate in conventions I otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend.

Earlier this year, I did a panel and reading for Flight of Foundry, and this weekend I participated in the pre-recording of a panel about the forthcoming Space Western anthology, Gunfight on Europa Station, in which my story “Claim Jumped” appears, for LibertyCon in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I’m also hoping to do a reading, and it’s possible another panel, all of which would have been out of my reach a year ago. That said, as with in-person conventions, I’ll need to budget my time and energy, because virtual or not, panels take a lot of time and energy, and if I’m thinking about space westerns, I’m not thinking about whatever I’m writing. So, for various and sundry reasons, I didn’t do as much work on Aurora Borealis Bridge as I hoped to going into the week, but here’s hoping that this week is less filled with the unexpected, and more with the writing I love and find so very stimulating and inspirational.

It’s That Time Again!

May 5, 2021
Alyssum Among Hollyhocks and Baby’s Breath

Putting in the garden always reminds me how similar writing and gardening are.  It’s really no surprise how many writers are also gardeners.

Over the last few weeks, Jim and I have been doing a lot of gardening, none of which involved going to plant nurseries and picking up flats of plants.  Nor, until this past weekend, did we do much with the seeds we purchased earlier this year and set by.

Instead, what we’ve been doing is getting the soil ready for those plants.  This has involved trips to get horse manure, doing so early enough that it would age before we dug it in.  We’ve been emptying compost bins.  Digging compost trenches.  Emptying containers of the old potting soil and replacing with fresh.

Note: We live in a part of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where “soil” is a misnomer.  We have pretty much pure sand.  If we don’t “amend” (to use gardening  jargon), our plants don’t have a chance.  Even native plants struggle.

As of this past weekend, we’re finally putting seeds in (radish, carrot, squash).   Eventually, as nighttime temperatures warm, we’ll put in bean seeds.  And we’ll see what the plant nurseries have to offer by way of starter plants.

So, what does this have to do with writing?  Well, writers also need to prepare their “soil,” and I’m not certain that any genre is as demanding in this way as Science Fiction and Fantasy, because in order to “just make it up,” it’s necessary to know how things happen, why things happen, and a lot more.

For that, you need to do a lot of solid research.  One thing that concerns me is how many of budding writers who came to the genre through visual media (movies, television, computer games) don’t understand that these are not great sources for how the universe—or even our own single planet—works.

Spaceships do not “swoosh” when in flight through the void.  Horses cannot be left saddled, bridled, ready to go, as if they are organic cars.  And some of the armor and weapons, especially those in computer games, may look fantastic, but they wouldn’t be functional, much less practical or protective.

I spent much of the last week and a half reading and researching so that I can make a relatively small point in the manuscript I’m revising not only cool, but plausible.  As with my garden, I do my best to make sure my creative “soil” is amended, so my that story can grow stronger and flower forth.

Super Wandery Wandering

March 31, 2021
Wandering On High

Some of you may have seen an “out of stock” notice for Wolf’s Search on my website bookshop.  I’m happy to announce that my new supply arrived last Saturday night, and it’s now back in stock.

What?  Website bookshop?  What’s that?  You can find it here.  Shipping via Media Mail is included in the price for orders within the U.S..  At least for now the prices remain the same, although if some of the dreaded changes predicted for the U.S. do happen, I may be forced to charge more because I’ll be paying more for shipping.  Signing and personalization is free, which is a good deal, when you consider that you pay extra for signed items from sports and media stars.

The shop includes a large number of my older works, and will for as long as I have copies.  Then they will go out of print, possibly forever.  Since not all my older works are available as e-books (I’m working on these, but I only have so much energy, time, and money), this may be the best way to find some of my older works.

Wandering off on another point…  As I recover from a long extended course of writing, I’ve been catching up on chores: shredding, filing, sorting.  Shredding is proving to be a lot like time travel, bringing up memories of trips gone by, even older technologies.  In one file I’d missed, I actually found a physical plane ticket as issued by a travel agent.  (Remember those?)

I’ve also been going through magazines and tearing out pages with interesting pictures.

It’s very odd, but while I’m a visual enough writer that I could sit with one of those artists the police use to create sketches of suspects and work toward perfect portraits of my characters, I often have trouble without a visual to start from.  I know what they look like, but since I don’t cast media personalities as my characters, I can’t say: “Just like the guy who plays X in Y, but only blond with blue eyes.”

But I love visual images, and browsing through them often stimulates my imagination, thus the file.

I’ve been mulling over a lot of things lately.   Most of these are either not coherent enough for me to discuss or would take a lot of research for me to write about here, because I tend to specifics, not generalizations.  I guess you could say they’d make better panel topics than essays or blog posts.

Right now my thoughts are a tumbling kaleidoscope of images, and I’m waiting to see what story they will shape.

Secret Writerly Wisdom

March 24, 2021
Amaryllis Budding Forth

Life has been quieter than usual, even, and that’s saying something.  Although we’re working on getting parts of the yard ready for spring, we won’t be doing  much planting for several more weeks.  Heck, the majority of the garden won’t go in until early May.

I’m not writing anything I’m ready to talk about.

So, here’s my secret writerly wisdom: Writers who are writing are usually pretty boring people.

If they’re telling you about trips or cons or lecture tours or the cake they baked or their daredevil hobbies, they’re not writing.  What you’re soaking up is the Not Writing.

The realized writerly life is about as fascinating for the outside observer as watching paint dry.  There’s change and transformation, but even watching an amaryllis grow (they can grow several inches in a day) is probably more enthralling.

Oh…  Why is our amaryllis caged?  To keep Roary from biting it, of course!  He still tries, and we’re going to need to uncage it soon, but at least the buds are getting to form.

Adaptability

February 24, 2021
Adapting to Uncomfortable Situations

For many years, my standard answer to the often-asked question: “What do you think is the most valuable quality for a serious writer?” has been “Persistence.”

I still stand by that because, without persistence, a writer won’t write, won’t finish, won’t proof, won’t eventually learn about markets, and all the rest.  However, this last year has made me think about a trait I’d like to add: Adaptability.

I sold my first short story in the late 1980’s.  My first novel came out December of 1994.  Since then, I’ve seen publishing change dramatically.  Most, if not all, of the tidbits my dear Roger Zelazny shared with me about the marketplace wouldn’t apply today.  Time and again, I’ve had to adapt.

But that’s not what I’ve been thinking about.  I’ve been thinking about adapting as a useful skill for a writer.  Why? Well, because when something goes wrong, all that persistence can be made switch direction.

Here’s one example.  Late in 2020, I was just beginning to exchange e-mails with David Weber, with whom I’m writing the “Star Kingdom” novels, narrowing down what we’d be putting in the fifth novel (SK5) in the series.  Then he was diagnosed with Covid-19.  He inaugurated the New Year by spending  nine days in the hospital and, as of this writing, is still less than his usually energetic self.  Has this impacted on my schedule?  Of course…  How could it not?

Nestled In

Here’s where adaptability comes in.  One thing I learned a long time ago was that when a project is finished and sent out, forget it and move along to something else.  Although I thought I’d be writing on SK5 by now, I’m not.  Instead, I’m contently nestled in with a project that has, in revision and self-editing, morphed from one very long, unwieldy book into two much more reasonable-length novels. 

Sounds self-evident, doesn’t it?  It’s not.  You won’t believe how many creative people get stuck with what “should have been” and so miss out on the chance to work on something that might give them a lot more pleasure than fussing.

Now, forgive me for not chatting longer, but if I work steadily I can finish off my revision of another chapter or two before I need to take a break and work on…  Bleah.  Tax stuff. 

Catch you later!

One Won Twenty-one

January 1, 2021
Mei-Ling Is Ecstatic Over My Christmas Book

Happy New Year!  Featured above is the Christmas book I curled up with last week.   I hope you managed to chill from the holiday rush as well.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading.  I’ve discovered a lot of good books that way.

Recently Completed:

The White Cottage Mystery by Marjorie Allingham.  This was a Christmas gift from Jim, an early, pre-Campion novel.  It’s a good story in its own right, with the extra bonus of seeing how it’s first life as a magazine series influenced the style, and even things like paragraph length.

Wild Magic: Immortals Book One by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  It’s funny, but I like Alana a lot better in these books than I do in her own series. 

In Progress:

Armenian Folk-tales and Fables retold by Charles Downing.  I enjoyed the translator’s note at the beginning.  I’m about a third in.  Armenian heroes definitely have the best horses.

Wolf Speaker Immortals Book Two by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  Daine is a year and a half older, now facing the consequences of a dark time in her past.  Warning for wolf purists: the wolves are more like dogs in their body language, with a culture built more around human idealizations of wolves than “real” wolves. 

Also:

I’ve been doing a lot of unstructured writing, testing out my new pens and loosening up my writing.  Feels good.

Getting Ready

December 30, 2020
Now All I Need Is Black Coffee and Some Paper!

We’re just a few days out from the New Year.  Now that my Christmas preparations are taken care of, and we’re in the middle of that lovely liminal space between holidays, I’ve been readying myself to start back into my writing routine.

Over the years, I’ve been given some lovely mugs celebrating my work as a writer, and I’m marshalling these along with a new fountain pen to launch me into creative mode.

Although the majority of my writing is done on my computer, I often start a new piece longhand.  Maybe because I started writing fiction longhand, it’s as if there’s a hotline between my writing hand and my Muse that isn’t always there with the keyboard.

Even my choice of keyboard is made to provide the absolute least interruption between the Muse and getting the story into a form I can share with other people.  I use a very old keyboard on which I’ve worn away about half of the letters from frequent use.  (I really need to get some of the stickers that have been recommended to me.)  I even have a back-up of the same old model for when this one goes, because the point for me is not thinking about the act of writing.

In that way, I guess my root perception of myself is as a storyteller rather than an author or writer.  I’m just a storyteller who prefers to use writing as the way to tell my stories.  However, as my gamers can tell you, I can spin a pretty decent yarn with nothing but the spoken word.

One of my self-assigned challenges for this year may be to use a cool digital voice recorder Jim gave me for my birthday to make short audio files of some of my work.  However, on the whole, I don’t really like to listen to myself composing.  For that reason, I hope that—unlike my buddy David Weber—I don’t find myself needing to transition to voice-activated software.

That said, if the choice is that or not telling stories, you can bet I’d learn.

Now, although I’d promised myself a break (or maybe even because I took a break), I wrote a bit (longhand) the other day that got me through a rough patch in my current novel revision.  I think I’ll go insert it into the manuscript, then see if the Muse wants to talk some more.

Baking and Decorating

December 23, 2020
Persephone Unpacks the Tree

Busy time here, as we squeeze in decorating and baking into our already busy lives. Here and there, I’m even finding time to write.

Our young cats, Mei-Ling and Roary are enjoying the changes and fuss, quite possibly because Persephone greets it all with enthusiasm.

Blissed Mei-Ling

Wishing you and yours a happy whatever your choice of celebration is!

Roary Samples the Tree

Flickering

September 30, 2020

A Flicker Feeding in Front

Jim had total knee replacement surgery on his left knee yesterday (Tuesday, 9/29/20).  The build-up to this is part of the numerous disruptions over the last several weeks.

As you may have gathered, Jim’s not only my husband and best friend, since his retirement and, even more, since Covid-19 shutdowns, he’s taken over all the errands.

Now it’s my turn, as well as taking over everything he does around the house–which is a lot.

So, if I’m a bit slow responding to Comments or e-mails, this is why.  First priority will be taking care of him and keeping the household running, second will be writing.

The picture, by the way, is of a flicker (which is a sort of woodpecker) on the brand new bird block we got so Jim could bird watch while he’s not able to move around as much.  At the rate the flicker is going (as well as the other birds), we may need another really soon!

I’m Writing

September 23, 2020

When Life Gives You a Brick

Today’s WW is going to be short because I’m writing.  Last week was insane.  Not all bad, just insane.  This week is going to have lots of interruptions.  Next week is going to be worse.

When the going gets tough, this writer gets writing.

Not everyone’s solution.  Not everyone’s way to cope.  But mine.

So, off to another land, one I hope to someday share with you all…

Take care!