Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Unexpected Smile

August 12, 2020

Roary Admires the Cover of Wolf’s Search

Last week ended with an unexpected bit of good news.

The cover for Wolf’s Search (seventh book in my Firekeeper Saga) was one of the works included in the long list for the Chelsea Award in the Best E-book or Paperback Cover category.  Wolf’s Search is in very fine company as you can see here.

The credit for this achievement goes not to me, other than in that I had the very good sense to select a lovely piece of art, but to artist Julie Bell, who gave me permission to use her “Andre” for the cover art.  If you’re interested in owning a print of the piece, it’s available at her on-line shop.

Further credit goes to Linda Caldwell, who did the cover design, including the titles, format, and otherwise adapting Julie Bell’s art to the needs of my novel.

What else?  SK4 (the fourth book in the Star Kingdom/Stephanie Harrington series I’m collaborating on with David Weber) is now in Jim’s hands, and I’m using my “free” time to do a bunch of things to prepare for the next book.

Although these books are set in the Honorverse, they’re prequels set some 400  years in the past.  This means that, while much of the world building  must be done from scratch, it also must be careful not to violate anything in the future.  Another challenge is that this series features treecats in a more central role, which means developing an alien culture and its first contact with humans—while, once again, not violating anything that happens later.

So my current task is gathering together the results of numerous scattered conversations with David Weber, then creating reference documents.

I’m also working with my friend Jane Noel (art director of DreamForge magazine) on updating my website.  She’s doing all the pretty stuff, and I’m writing text.

Anyhow, I’d better get back to it.  Catch you later!

Don’t Be Discouraged

July 29, 2020

Roary Naps Next to Part of the Manuscript of SK4

Last week, after I wandered on about adapting my garden to the heat, I received a very humorous e-mail from a local friend who, like many people this year, decided to dive into gardening for the first time.

For weeks she had posted about buying “grow kits,” germinating seeds, sprouting plants, cutting herbs.  Then she started posting about how things were going wrong.  She’d misread the instructions as to how much room her plants would need.  The heat hit.  Everything wilted, and most of what she planted died.

She called herself a failure.  I call her a success.  Why?  Because she learned a whole bunch of things that, if she decides to try gardening again next year, will serve her well.

Learning to accept that failure is a form of success, if you choose to learn from it, applies to writing—or to any creative endeavor.  Success isn’t something that should be measured in word count or finished projects or sales or sales figures or awards.

If you measure success that way, the one thing you’re always going to be is a failure.  Why?  Because there’s always a higher bar to jump.  One day you’re going to find the bar you can’t jump—or maybe you will jump it, but only after a lot of falls.

As with gardening, success in a creative endeavor should be measured by what you learned and whether you want to try again.  Even deciding you don’t want to try again doesn’t make you a failure.  You’ve learned something about yourself, where you want to put your energies, and what excites you enough to be willing to fail again.

This week I’m immersed in proofing the rough draft of SK4, the still-untitled new Star Kingdom novel I’m writing in collaboration with David Weber.  Some people would see the many, many little red marks scattered on every single page as marks of failure, because these are all things I didn’t get right the first time.

I see them as marks of success, because they show how much I’ve learned over the years about all the aspects of telling a story, as well as that I love telling stories enough to keep learning about my chosen craft.

Bright Moment

July 3, 2020

I finished a rough draft of SK4 today.  About a 102,000 words.  MUCH polishing to do.

(SK4 is shorthand for the yet-untitled fourth Star Kingdom/Stephanie Harrington book I’m writing with David Weber.)

So… Tired…  But happy!

Once Again, I Was Reminded

June 24, 2020

Supported By Portulaca

Once again, this past week, I was reminded that the best way for me to write is to set the bar very low and see what happens.   On Friday, smoke from fires in Arizona were making me very headachy.  That, combined with having to make numerous phone calls and other distractions, meant that by the time I was able to settle into writing, I thought I was too tired to get anything done.

Nonetheless, I kept a promise made to myself  long ago to try to write at least twelve sentences every work day.  Within an hour and a half, I had written an astonishing ten pages on SK4.

How I came up with twelve sentences as my personal “low bar,” was something I evolved back when I had had a fulltime job as a college English professor.  Something  Roger Zelazny said about his own work habits got me thinking and…   Well, I’ve wandered on about this before, so rather than repeating myself, I’ll just suggest you look here.

I don’t typically write ten pages a day, so I was completely astonished.  I was also reminded that being upset with myself because I don’t think I can make a “good day’s work” is the best way to keep myself from getting anything done at all.

On that note, after a public service announcement, I’ll be off to write some more.

It’s been a while since I reminded you and, knowing that many people don’t read these posts every week, I’d like to note that Wolf’s Soul, the eighth book in the Firekeeper Saga, is now available.  Wolf’s Soul winds up the story begun in last July’s Wolf Search.  I’ve been getting e-mails and messages from readers, as they finish reading the book.  I appreciate the overwhelming enthusiasm readers are showing for the direction in which Firekeeper and Blind Seer (with me as scribe) took their story.

If you are so inclined, we’d all appreciate spoiler-free reader reviews on the bookseller’s website of your choice.  Word of mouth is the best publicity a book can ask for.  In these days of isolation, word-of-electron is even more important.

Now…  Off to write!

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!