Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Is It Okay If?

May 27, 2020

Cactus Flowers and Bee

Is it okay if I admit that the one thing I’d like to do right now is go write fiction?

I’ve been out of my house and yard only rarely.  One of these jaunts was to visit a greenhouse and help choose a few items for our garden.  Another, was to pick up Roary, the kitten.  This has left me little opportunity to come across oddities to stimulate the writing of lively essays.

However, in that time, I have released Wolf’s Soul, the eighth Firekeeper novel, available now as a Kindle (mobi) e-book , and as an e-pub e-book from Barnes and Noble, Google Play, i-Tunes, and Kobo.

If you prefer print, Wolf’s Soul is a trade paperback from Amazon.

But that’s hardly new news, although very exciting for me.

Even if I may be short of essay-stimulating material, my imagination is working fine.  So, is it okay if I go write more of the yet-untitled fourth novel in the Star Kingdom series?  That way, one of these days, you can join me on the planet Sphinx where almost-sixteen year-old Stephanie Harrington is discovering what David Weber playfully termed “skullduggery in the bush.”

An Open Letter to My Gamers

May 13, 2020

My Current Game Noteboook and the Proof

Months and months ago, when I wrote the Acknowledgements to Wolf’s Soul, the sequel to last July’s Wolf’s Search, which finally went live last week—you can read more about it here—I knew exactly what I was going to do when I got the first proof copy.

I was going to hand it to one of my current gaming group (maybe we’d roll dice to see who) and ask that person to read the first several paragraphs of the Acknowledgments aloud.

But, by the time the proof came out, the Covid-19 shutdown had begun and we were no longer meeting.  I hoped that by the time the book was available for purchase, we’d be meeting in person again, but that hasn’t happened.

So, I’m going to share this will them and with all of you.  Ready?

First of all, there’s a very special group I want to thank. Without them, Wolf’s Soul would have taken a lot longer to be finished.  These are the members of my current gaming group: Rowan Derrick, Melissa Jackson, Cale Mims, Dominique Price, and my husband, Jim Moore.

There was a point when, overwhelmed by too many projects unexpectedly coming to a head at one time, I realized I was burning out.  Something had to go. Reluctantly, I realized that I was going to need to give up running our weekly game.  I was crushed, because gaming may be the single activity that helps me recharge my creativity.

What can I say?  I’m a storyteller.  Gaming reminds me that stories are fun, not just my job.

My gamers are all seriously busy people, with high-end, stressful jobs.  I figured they’d be glad for an excuse to reclaim their Sunday evenings.  Instead, they insisted we keep meeting.  Rowan, despite having just started a new job, took over as gamemaster.  I stepped to the sidelines as one of the players.  As I started working through the backlog that was weighing me down, burnout ebbed and writing Wolf’s Soul became fun again, rather than a chore.

There’s a sequel to this…

As I said, when the Covid-19 shutdown hit, we all agreed to minimize vectors and stop meeting in person.  Jim and I knew that while, for us, the shutdown meant becoming more or less hermits, our gamers were going to all be working from home and/or the office, so their stress level and exhaustion levels would not be at all reduced.  In fact, we were resigned to the fact that, after many years, this might be the end of this particular group…  Life does that sort of thing.

Then, one day, Dominique e-mailed: “Okay! We miss you guys! Do you want to try roleplaying over Zoom?”

And so we started up over Zoom.  As the week before our first Zoom game, I kept finding myself thinking “We’re gaming this weekend.  I wonder what I should bake?” only to come up short and realize that, while we might be gaming, we wouldn’t be having our usual snack potluck.  I still feel funny when the coffee finishes brewing and I can’t share or put on water for tea for the non-coffee drinkers.

But gaming again has been fun.

It’s probably a coincidence but, soon after we started gaming again, my imagination relaxed and my writing on my current project, the first of the new Star Kingdom novels I’m collaborating on with David Weber, really picked up.

So, thank you, Cale, Dominique, Melissa, and Rowan—and, of course, Jim.

Wherever the future takes us, I’ll remember our games with special fondness forever more!

FF: You Must Remember This

May 1, 2020

Mei-Ling Embraces Miss Marple

I’m just about finished with the biography of David Bowie I’ve been reading.  My general impression of this book overall is that the editor has an agenda.  This is a good time to remind people that “biography” and even “autobiography” are not fact, but a delicate dance between fact and opinion, because the writer, compiler, or editor makes choices as to what to include and how to lead into various sensitive issues.

With David Bowie: The Oral History, I was particularly annoyed by the lack of a bibliography, since without that the editor is creating the impression that he spoke to each and every person, and at the time the book was compiled when, in fact, he is clearly cherry-picking from a host of sources.  That said, reading it was an interesting intellectual exercise.

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.

Recently Completed:

Last Ditch by Ngaio Marsh.  Audiobook.  Largely from the POV of Alleyne’s now-grown son.  Minor complaint, in the light of having also recently read Spinsters in Jeopardy is that there is no mention of the fact that this is not the first time Alleyne’s job put his son at risk.

Spinsters in Jeopardy by Ngaio Marsh.  Audiobook.  This one goes back to when Alleyne and Troy’s son, Ricky, was six.  A bit of an initial jolt after him being a young man in Last Ditch.  Also raises the question of why the kids of detectives are so often precocious and rather bratty. 

In Progress:

Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie.  I could probably recite some of these aloud, but I needed something both absorbing and yet familiar to read before bed.  My dreams have been loaded with anxiety.

Pasttime by Robert B. Parker.  Audiobook.  Just starting.  I read this years and years ago, and cannot remember anything but that I liked it.

David Bowie: The Oral History compiled by Dylan Jones.  Bowie is dead.  Editor is mixing reactions of friends and family to the event with a look at the cultural impact not only of Bowie, but of reactions to his death.

Also:

Smithsonian magazine, which has apparently been put on a diet.  The letter’s column contains a reference to the Covid-19 pandemic, which brings the issue into current events.

So I Figured

April 29, 2020

Clarence In His Burrow

When the time came to write this week’s Wednesday Wanderings, I had no idea what to wander on about.

I did, however, have ample ideas as to what to write on my current work-in-progress, the yet-untitled fourth book in the Star Kingdom (aka Stephanie Harrington or Treecat) series that I am writing with David Weber.

So I figured as follows…

Most of you who read these wanderings do so because you’re interested in my fiction writing or, perhaps, in snippets from the life of the person who has written fiction that you have enjoyed.  In that case, you’d be glad that I was spending my time writing fiction.

Those of you who look these up because you’re family or friends and want to know what’s going on at Chez Lindskold/Moore would know that a Jane Who Is Writing Fiction is a happy and contented Jane.  Therefore, you’d rather have me writing on SK4 than staring at the screen, trying to figure out what clever thing I could wander on about.

As for the rest of you, those who are reading this for reasons I cannot fathom, here is a picture of Clarence the Toad in his burrow.  I’ll add to it an invitation to ask questions that might plant the seeds for future Wednesday Wanderings.

Now, off to the planet Sphinx, in the Star Kingdom of Manticore, where…  No, I’m not teasing, I won’t know what happens until I write it!

Thyme For Irony

April 22, 2020

Pink Chintz Thyme

I’ve had a twist in my stay-at-home, work-from-home, whatever you want to call it, lifestyle.  Before I tell you about that, an update.

The cover for Wolf’s Soul,  the sequel to Wolf’s Search, is still not right, so I’ve ordered Proof Three.  So I don’t bore the folks who tuned in last week, here’s a link to a mysterious masked writer and a copy of Proof One.

I’m thinking about using the proofs as one-of-a-kind giveaways.  Does that sound interesting?

(If you’re really eager, sign up for my mailing list, because at least one giveaway is going to be exclusively offered there.  There’s a link on my website.)

So, now for the twist….

I’ve been very careful about self-isolation because I have allergy-related asthma.  For five days of the week, not much changed.  My office is in my home.  I work for myself.  Jim is retired and took over most of the errands about a year ago.

Weekends changed, absolutely.  That’s when Jim and I would go out, see friends, host our gaming group.  Going anywhere or having guests ended for me over a month ago.

This year, maybe because of our wet (for us) winter, allergens are at a high level.  So despite my being careful, my asthma ramped up.  About two weeks ago, I had to add a medication that has taken about half my voice.  The half that remains sounds as if I’ve swallowed a rusty scrubbing pad.

Okay.  Maybe not that bad.  Well, not all the time.  However, if I talk for more than a few sentences, my throat gets tight.  So here I am, now properly self-isolated because I can’t even take a phone call without scaring the person on the other end.

But I’ll manage.

Two more weeks to go on the meds (which are helping a lot) and I should be back to what passes for normal.  Meantime, our gaming group is now experimenting with meeting on-line via Zoom.  When we did, I kept the hot drinks on tap and managed all right but, later, my throat called me a few choice names.

So there you have it.

Oh, the picture?  That’s pink chintz creeping thyme.  To me creeping thyme is a great plant to illustrate irony because—ironically—it doesn’t much mind being stepped on.

Or maybe I should think of it as a thyme of fortitude.  Yeah, I like that!

Okay, I’m off to romp with the treecats.  The yet untitled Star Kingdom novel 4 (in collaboration with David Weber) is taking shape and I want to see what happens next.  Later!

No Fooling!

April 1, 2020

Mei-Ling’s Attention Is Split

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of emphasis on the idea that people should “make the most” of their enforced stay at home time to read or do art or write that novel they’ve been meaning to write.  While this is presented as a positive message, I see it as creating extra pressure at a time when we just don’t need it.

First of all, “Stay At Home” does not immediately mean “staycation.”  For many people staying at home means trying to work from home while dealing with kids who, in turn, are trying to learn how to do their lessons on-line and discipline themselves when they’re used to being kept in order by others.

Whether you’re an adult or a kid, working from home is not easy, especially if you’re used to thinking of your home as your “play space,” rather than your work space.  This is one reason why Jim and I have a dedicated office—so it’s possible to walk away from work at the workday’s end.

Further, I really feel for those people who are in jobs that have been deemed “essential.”  At a time when the refrain is some variation of “stay and home and stay safe,” they’re walking out the door every day, haunted by the awareness that if they want to stay employed, they can’t “stay safe.”  Worse, this is going on with “make the most of your stay at home” providing the sense that everyone who is staying home is whooping it up, binge watching shows, cooking fancy meals, leveling up on the computer game of their choice or whatever…

As someone who has worked from home since mid-1994, my work life has not really been changed…  Except that it has been.

Many years ago, I learned that uncertainty can take over my writer brain.  Instead of my subconscious playing out scenarios for the characters in whatever story I’m working on, it’s busy spinning scenarios large and small.  Should we keep that dinner date for Saturday?  (No.)  Will the vet have Kwahe’e’s prescription? (Maybe.)  If not, can we get what he needs somewhere else?  What do we do if any of our elderly (and in our case, non-local) family suddenly get sick?  Will the small businesses survive?

I’ve been a writer for a long time, so I’ve learned tricks for easing myself into my writing space, but I’m not going to pretend that it’s been easy or automatic.  Making it harder is that I’m transitioning into a new project (Star Kingdom novel 4) while waiting on the proofs of Wolf’s Soul, so I’d be a bit off-balance anyhow.

I’m more or less fine during the day, but when I sleep the nightmares get hitched to a variety of elaborate carriages, some often so real that I need to do a reality check come morning.

Despite my overactive imagination, I feel as if I’m a lot better equipped to deal with forced isolation (as of this post, I haven’t been away from my house and yard in two weeks) than many.  I’m an introvert by nature, so while I miss seeing my friends, having my weekly RPG, and the like, having my social life restricted to Jim, the cats, the guinea pigs, and the fish isn’t all that different from normal.

I think that’s where my dislike of the “make the most of” refrain is coming from.  I already am doing that.  I do that every day.  And I sympathize with those people who, on top of dealing with the cascade effect of a pandemic, now feel they should be on holiday or becoming great artists or authors or whatever.

Take care, folks.  Be well.  Do what you can.  Don’t feel pressured to do one iota more!

Veering Off Target

March 25, 2020

Aftermath

Saturday afternoon Jim and I were out in the yard throwing atlatl darts, as one does on a lovely spring afternoon.  One of my shots hit the edge of the stacked hay bales we use as targets, veered right, went through a cedar tree and then through both sides of a five-gallon bucket we had set to catch rainwater under a gutter.

The bucket slowed the dart—yep, despite the darn things being taller than I am, the proper term for them is “dart”—thus preserving the thirty-two gallon trash can filled with water that was there.

So, good luck?  Bad luck? Raw chance?

How you choose to see it is up to you.  Or who you are, I suppose.  The bucket would say “bad luck.”  The trash can “good luck.”  The dart “raw chance.”

All I know is that I need to get another bucket…

Dealing with what I can is how I tend to function.  On that note, I’ve had a lot of queries as to how Jim and I are doing in these days of social isolation and such.

I’m happy to report that very little has changed.  I already work from home.  Jim is now retired, so not only doesn’t he need to go into work, he’s available to run what limited errands we need run.  This keeps asthmatic me one step away from random infection.

Certain things are slowing down.  Wolf’s Soul is to the stage where I need to review a print proof.  Since I use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, needless to say, there’s a slowdown.  I’ll get the proof when I get it.  The e-book is pretty much completed, but I’m holding it so I can release both books at the same time.  This also enables me to make sure any errors I catch in the print version can be fixed, if necessary, in the e-book as well.

With the new e-book versions of the three “Breaking the Wall” novels out, and Wolf’s Soul as far along as I can take it for now, I’m moving my creative energies over to working on the yet untitled fourth novel in the “Star Kingdom” series I’ve been doing with David Weber.  I’ve been working on SK4 through all the rest, but much of that work has been in the form of research rather than actual prose.  My hope is to get prose written this week.

I may be writing longhand for a bit, because that’s often a good way to convince my brain to go sideways into a new universe and set of characters.  We’ll see.

I wish for you what I wish for myself: May you turn bad luck into good luck, and embrace what chance hands you.

Special Saturday Surprise!

March 21, 2020

A Mysterious Hero Enters the Fray

The art above was inspired by a post I made on Facebook and Twitter recently.  It was drawn by John Poling, a New Mexico comic book artist and Army veteran.  (You can see his work at Dos Guerros Comics) In my post, which I’ll repeat here in just a sec, I challenged people to be the fighter of their choice against the menace of hysteria and fear.

Here’s what I said:

Fear.

Fear is really dangerous, but for some people it feels exciting. That’s why roller coasters remain perennially popular. You’re scared, but deep inside you know you’re safe.

Covid-19 is a real threat, but I want to encourage you to be positive about dealing with it. Not afraid. Containment can work. That’s why efforts to do so are being promoted.

Promoting safe actions through fear, though, that’s ultimately going to backfire.

I was talking with my friend, artist Elizabeth Leggett, about this the other day. When I expressed my frustration at the hysteria and fear-mongering, she reminded me that this is a fight. We’re down now. We can win.

So instead of being afraid, imagine yourself the fighter of your choice. Imagine Covid-19 slipping on a bar of soap. Drowning in a pool of hand sanitizer. Whatever. But don’t give into fear because, after the excitement is over, fear leads to stress and stress makes you more vulnerable.

Wishing you good health! Clean hands. Calm souls.

John read the shorter version of my post on Twitter, and was inspired to draw the fighter of his choice: The Liberator.  About the Liberator, John says: “the Liberator was a character I wrote and played in a wacky web series 10 years ago, and I felt a bit of humor was needed considering the epidemic.”

I wish I could draw, because I’d draw a swashbuckling two-handed fighter armed with a sword carved from soap in one hand, a bottle of hand sanitizer in the other, or hmm…  maybe a squirt gun with hand sanitizer.  That sounds like fun!

Let me know how you’d arm the fighter of your choice.  Illustrations are welcome if you know how to attach them to the Comments!

5,000 Words Plus

March 4, 2020

Masked Dancer: Petroglph National Monument

Here’s a riddle for you.

Why is this week’s WW called 5,000 Words Plus?

Golden Cliffs

Jasmine and Her Ball

Apple Blossom With Bee

 

 

Skinny and His Kid

Breaking News! Breaking the Wall!

February 19, 2020

Three New Covers!

As I’ve been promising, there’s a sparkling new e-book reissue of my three “Breaking the Wall” novels: Thirteen Orphans, Nine Gates, and Five Odd Honors.  Read on to learn more about the series, extra content, and to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the cover design process.

First a word of reassurance…  Not into e-books?  Don’t worry.  Print copies are available at my newly revamped website bookstore.

The “Breaking the Wall” series was originally released from Tor Books starting in 2008 with Thirteen Orphans.  While Tor’s books were completely gorgeous, the new e-book covers better reflect the urban fantasy element of the series.

The new e-books each contain bonus content in the form of an essay about the “making of” the series.  These are expanded versions of pieces I wrote for Tor.com back in the day, with a lot more detail into my emotional journey as I wrote.

Never heard of the “Breaking the Wall” series?  Here’s the cover copy for the new edition of Thirteen Orphans.

A Dangerous Inheritance

Brenda Morris has no idea that her father, Gaheris, has a secret life.  He is the Rat: a key member of the curious cabal known as the Thirteen Orphans.  When she is nineteen, Brenda learns that all the omens show that Brenda will be his heir.

Brenda may inherit her place far sooner than anyone wishes.  Unseen enemies are stalking the Thirteen Orphans.  If Brenda does not join Pearl Bright, the Tiger, as she gathers the surviving Orphans to stand against their enemies, soon the Orphans—and their generations-long mission—will vanish, even from memory.

Bonus material includes an expanded version of the essay, “Why Thirteen Orphans?”

Interested?  You can find the new e-books at the following vendors:

Amazon: Thirteen Orphans, Nine Gates, Five Odd Honors.

Nook: Thirteen Orphans, Nine Gates, Five Odd Honors.

Kobo: Thirteen Orphans, Nine Gates, Five Odd Honors.

i-Tunes: Thirteen Orphans, Nine Gates, Five Odd Honors.

GooglePlay: Thirteen Orphans, Nine Gates, Five Odd Honors.

So, why the big change in the cover art?  It’s certainly not because the original art by Sam Weber wasn’t gorgeous, because it absolutely was.  However, over the years I’ve learned that these covers didn’t give most readers any idea that this series was urban fantasy.  The reviewers (who had the text in hand) caught on immediately, as this quote from Library Journal shows:

“This new series launch deftly mingles the fascination of the mah-jongg tiles and the animal lore of the Chinese Zodiac with a modern tale of discovery and danger.  This urban fantasy should appeal to fans of Charles de Lint and Jim Butcher.” Library Journal on Thirteen Orphans

When Jane Noel came on board as the new cover artist, I asked her to come up with covers that would say at a glance what sort of books these were.  First, she researched cover art associated with urban fantasy, and noted that they often emphasized the characters over the plot or setting.  With this in mind, she decided to feature one of the point-of-view characters, Brenda Morris, with one of the other key characters.

Jane Noel also decided that a series called “Breaking the Wall” should feature a wall appropriate to the book in question.  So, Thirteen Orphans has a zodiac wheel, reflecting the characters’ discovery of their relationship with one of the animals in the Chinese zodiac.  Nine Gates, which provides the first glimpse of the mysterious Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice, features a wall opening into the lands.  Five Odd Honors features a gate opening into…  Well, I’m not going to say too much, in case of spoilers.

The process of working with an artist who had read the books in the series several times was fascinating, showing me, once again, how the reader and author see the books in different ways.

So, there you have it…  Please let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll answer either in the Comments or in next week’s WW, depending on how much detail is needed.  Go on now: Break the Wall!