Wednesday, June 14, 2017

New Blog

My new website is up and running, and from now on, my blog will be posted there. You can find it at

I may not be posting daily, just when I have something to say. When I have a news announcement, you'll find that on the front page of the website:

For now, most of the content is the same as on the old site, but I'll be adding more to it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


I think I had a pretty productive day yesterday. I got a good start on rewriting based on my new idea, though I then figured out what I needed to go back and fix in what I rewrote yesterday.

Today, though, will likely be my “get stuff done” day since I have that appointment to see a doctor about my knee, and that will probably kill my writing time. While I’m out, I can run all my weekly errands so that Wednesday can be a good working day.

I tried to unwind a bit by watching a movie last night. I’d recorded the 1948 production of A Woman in White from TCM. I read the book when I was immersing myself in Victorian literature before I wrote Rebel Mechanics (and when I thought it was going to be a lot more gothic than it turned out to be), so I was curious about the movie. Unfortunately, movies of that era were somewhat lax in anything resembling authenticity. The story is set in England. Almost all the characters are British (except for the Italian). In this movie, almost all the main characters were played by American actors, who weren’t even trying for British accents. Most of them were using that “mid-Atlantic” accent of the era, though one sounded like he was maybe from Georgia. But then most of the supporting characters either were British or were doing passable British accents, which made it even more jarring. I had to turn it off midway through. It’s a frustrating story to begin with because it’s centered on the concept of helplessness, with some of the main characters entirely under the power of others, and then there are some of the attitudes of the period that make you want to smack the characters’ heads together. But when you throw in the accent issues and the melodrama that came with that period, I just couldn’t take it.

I guess the helplessness thing was also getting to me because I’m seeing a doctor today about my knee problems, and I really hate seeing doctors. I’m braced for the “there’s nothing really wrong, it’s all in your head” treatment. Or else the “why didn’t you get something done sooner” lecture, to which the answer is all those years of constantly being told there’s nothing wrong and it’s all in my head. But at least maybe today I’ll get some answers and the start on a path toward fixing it. I miss being able to go on long walks, being able to go hiking on uneven surfaces, being able to dance. I’m getting out of shape and I can feel it, and I hate that.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Superhero Movie Weekend

I actually took a weekend and didn’t do any real work during it. It turned out to be a big movie weekend. Saturday, I went with friends to see Wonder Woman. I’m not the biggest fan of superhero movies. In fact, I’m totally burned out on the genre, but I really liked this one (maybe because it was as much a WWI costume drama as it was a superhero movie). A lot has been written about its feminist themes, and all that, and I did appreciate the way Wonder Woman was treated here — her costume is functional ancient Greek-style armor rather than a satin swimsuit with a brass bra, and all the “look how beautiful she is” camera shots were focused on her face, not her body — but I think the main thing I liked was the total lack of cynicism. Diana was 100 percent pure, good, and sincere, and that was treated as the right way to be. Everything she did, she did out of love, wanting to bring peace to the world and help the people who needed help. No excuses about it being hard or impossible or you can’t help everyone. Maybe it was a bit naive, but she wasn’t wrong about it being important to just try. She was a strong female character not just because she was a good fighter, but because she had that strong moral core.

The other thing I liked was the relationship. They didn’t have to weaken Steve to make Diana more powerful. He was strong, brave, and capable enough that he could easily have been the hero of his own movie, and he was strong, brave, and capable enough to recognize Diana’s abilities and not see them as any kind of threat, instead recognizing what an asset she was. Yeah, he had his “damsel in distress” moments in which she had to rescue him, but that wasn’t because he was weak. It was because she had superpowers and could stop bullets. He was able to recognize her strengths and incorporate them into his plan, so they made a great team. That’s the kind of thing I’d like to see more often in movies. Neither member of the couple has to be relegated to sidekick or love interest. Both of them can be strong, and they can mesh their individual abilities to be stronger together.

But it turns out I was missing the context for the framing story, so I found that the Batman vs. Superman movie that sets it up was available on HBO on demand, and the Man of Steel movie that set that one up was on TNT on demand, so I watched those on Sunday, and wow, what a hot mess. I’m amazed that they managed to make Superman dark and depressing. I guess my instincts were right to avoid those, in spite of my fondness for Amy Adams and Henry Cavill. They did a good job with what they were given, but Man of Steel was more like Independence Day than like a Superman movie, and Batman vs. Superman was clearly written by and for those Internet nerds who get into epic debates over which superhero could beat up which superhero, and never mind that they wouldn’t be fighting because they’re on the same side. Wonder Woman totally stole the show in that movie, and the only really interesting parts were the bits setting up the Wonder Woman movie.

Is it too much to ask to get at least one scene of Lois Lane and Diana together in the Justice League movie? I like Amy Adams’ take on Lois Lane, even if she’s been criminally underused so far, and Diana is so wonderful (I just hope they don’t pile on a bunch of modern-day cynicism now that she’s a century older).

And now I think I’m burned out on superheroes once more. I need to find myself a good costume drama. A good romantic comedy would be nice, but they don’t make those anymore.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Old Ideas, New Ideas

I’ve been struggling with this book I’ve been working on for a long time. It has a “fun” premise, but I couldn’t figure out a setup to get into that premise that had any real stakes that wasn’t pretty serious. I did eventually figure that out. But then I’ve been feeling like not enough happens to take advantage of the fun premise. That’s been frustrating me.

But last night, I had a breakthrough. I decided to take a step back and think of things that could happen in that setting — what would a visitor to that place want to see and experience, aside from the plot? There was something that came up on that list that rang all kinds of bells of something potentially fun that will totally change the way the characters interact with the world and what kind of activities they could get up to.

The funny thing is, the core of that idea goes back to a book I wrote nearly twenty years ago, when I was writing category romance. I wrote a proposal for a book that took place in a similar setting, and it had this kind of event and activity (but without the magic). The line I was writing for at the time closed while I had my proposal in, and the editor suggested I try turning it into a single title book and recommended an agent. I did write that book and got an agent, but the book didn’t go anywhere (something I’m kind of glad about now because that wasn’t a career direction that would have been good for me). This particular sequence, though, has stuck with me. And now I can use the roots of it again. I can’t copy and paste scenes, or anything like that, but the research I did for it and the imagery I developed in my head may work, as well as the kinds of events and activities that might come up. Though with some really wacky twists.

Mostly, though, I think this old book is what sparked the idea. I was thinking of things that could happen in this setting and thought of what happened in that book, which made me think of those events, which made me think of how I could use them in this book.

Now I just need to figure out how, exactly, that will affect my plot.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Summer Schedule

I’m now on full-on summer schedule, since we had our last choir rehearsal until August last night. I’m trying to decide how that will affect my work schedule. I’ve been doing writing Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday as Getting Other Things Done day, then writing Thursday and Friday (and sometimes Saturday). I do find that my brain needs a break — if I’ve had a really intense writing session, I don’t get a lot done the next day — so that midweek break may stay. Wednesday is also usually a good day for running errands because most people are at work that day. I’ve thought about going to a kind of “summer schedule” like the publishers do and moving my “do other stuff” day to Friday to give myself three-day weekends. The possible downside of that is that I don’t get the midweek break, while a long weekend might make me lose momentum.

Or I could be sane and not be rigid about it. If there’s something I want to do on a Friday, I can write Wednesday and take Friday off. If I’m really productive the rest of the week, I can do other stuff on Wednesday and take Friday as a partial holiday. I work for myself, so I can be flexible. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this.

I spent yesterday working on the web site stuff. I think I have all my existing content entered. Now I want to proof and test the whole thing before letting the developer know I’m ready to pull the trigger and make it public. I need to add a lot of new stuff. I can tell where I was really enthusiastic to start with and have lots of extra stuff for the early books, and as my career progresses, the bonus content starts to fade out. I guess I got discouraged. It’s hard to get motivated to do something when you don’t see results, and my web site didn’t seem to have any impact on my readership or sales. But I promise to try to do better. Writing will always be my #1 priority, but I do need to sell more of what I write, so I should do more promo.

However, I got some news yesterday that gives me more incentive to get this book done so I can get it out on the market. It’s going to be a big writing day, I think.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Stronger Goals

I was going to do a writing post about CPR for stories that need life, but most of the tips boiled down to goals, so instead I’ll talk about the importance of character goals. If your story seems limp and like it’s not really going anywhere, or if your plot is getting derailed, there’s a good chance that the problem comes down to your characters’ goals. Here are some common problems:

1) The protagonist doesn’t have a specific, concrete goal
By that, I mean that you could write a scene in which the character obtains that goal. It might not be a scene that ends up in the story, since goals often change during the course of a story as characters learn the difference between what they want and what they need, but you should be able to write a hypothetical scene of the protagonist achieving his goal. That’s why vague goals like “stop evil” or “find love” aren’t specific and concrete enough to drive a story. What would the scene look like when that’s achieved? It’s better if the goal is something more like “Destroy evil Lord Whatever’s doomsday device before he can use it” or “get married to a man I love.” Those are scenes you can visualize and dramatize.

You may need two of these goals for the protagonist. There’s what she wants at the start of the story before the initiating incident. A character should have something they want out of life even before things get crazy — a job, a promotion, a vacation, a peaceful retirement, to bring in the harvest. Then there’s the story goal that arises when the situation becomes known or begins. That’s where you get things like “stop evil Lord Whatever’s evil scheme,” “destroy the One Ring,” or “solve the murder.”

2) The protagonist’s goal isn’t what’s driving the story
This is what often happens when the protagonist’s goal is too vague because it’s so big — defeat evil. Meanwhile, the sidekicks have smaller goals, so they may be more specific and concrete, and that makes them stronger and more interesting. Or the villain may be driving the story, so the villain has a very clear goal for the outcome of his evil scheme, and the hero’s goal is only to stop the villain. When this happens, you have a weak protagonist, and the story isn’t very interesting.

To fix this, take a good look at the protagonist’s goal and see if you can come up with something better. You might also consider that the character you’ve picked to be your protagonist isn’t actually the most interesting character in the story. Maybe you should switch. Or you could combine characters.

It’s a little trickier when the villain is the one with the strong goal and the hero wouldn’t have to do anything if the villain weren’t up to no good. This is where having a goal to begin with helps — there’s something else the hero wants, and having to stop the villain is getting in the way of that goal. You can also give the hero a plan in relation to his goal that’s very specific. Frodo’s story goal isn’t to stop Sauron. His goal is to destroy the ring. He’s not really reacting to Sauron. He’s going about his mission.

3) There’s no conflict associated with the goal
If there’s no opposing force keeping your hero from achieving his goal, you don’t have a story. That force can be inside himself, can be society itself, can be nature, or can be another character. You get a stronger story if the protagonist and antagonists’ goals are in direct opposition — if one achieves his goal, that will keep the other from achieving his goal. If there’s no opposing force, then rethink your goal.

4) You forget about the goal as you write
It’s easy to come up with character goals when you’re developing and planning a story. But then you start writing and things happen, and you might lose track along the way. Maybe not the really big things that are driving the plot, like the villain’s evil scheme and the fact that the hero wants to stop the evil scheme, but you might not sustain the more specific goals or the internal goals that aren’t about the main plot. Or, you might forget the story goal when writing individual scenes instead of making each scene be a step toward the story goal. When you get stuck or bored in the middle of a story, this is often the reason. Go back to the core goals and it might give the story more drive and energy.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Bad Electronic Morning

I don’t know how I’m going to schedule my day, since the piano competition is on a break today, but I guess I’d better get used to it, since the rest of the competition, other than Saturday, is going to be at night and then it will be over. I’ll have to find some other thing to keep me at the keyboard (the computer one, not the piano one). I was happy that my favorites made it to the final round, and for Friday night’s concerto event, we’ve got two Rachmaninoff pieces (though not my absolute favorite).

I did learn that I really can’t work while listening to Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto. I can’t help but stop to listen. I’ve used some of his other music as background music for writing, but that one piece just gets me. I can’t even read while listening to it. I think there’s a story that this needs to be my soundtrack for, but I haven’t found it yet. It starts all strident and angry, then there’s this swooningly romantic interlude, and the final movement is passionate and fiery. It’s basically a romantic story — they meet and there’s conflict. Maybe they’re even enemies. But then they fall in love and have a tender moment together, and after that the two of them are fighting together, the two of them against the world, putting everything on the line for love. I guess that’s why this piece is so popular with pairs figure skaters. There’s a big, dramatic start, then a quieter, more graceful moment, and then a big, passionate finish. Except to get within the time limit, they chop it up brutally.

This morning seems to have been electronic failure time. At the very same time, my atomic clock went out and my cable box must have been trying to update and froze midway through the reboot. The clock was a matter of batteries, but then I had to find a way to get it to reset and find the signal. I tried contacting the cable company via online chat when the box was frozen midway through what looked like a reboot, stuck at the same level for an hour, but their chat window froze. I finally resorted to the old unplug it and plug it back in trick, and that seems to have worked. Not that I was watching TV at the time, but it just bugged me to see that “L-8” on the readout instead of the time, especially when I was having to manually set the time on the atomic clock before it found the signal, and my other source for accurate time wasn’t working. The cable thing must have been a system issue because it affected both of my boxes.

This is making me glad I backed up my computer last night. Maybe I should stay away from my cell phone.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Classical Work Scheduling

I have discovered the key to productivity: Classical music.

It’s not the Mozart effect. It’s the scheduling effect. The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is going on right now in Fort Worth, and they’re streaming the events online. For the semifinals, that has meant that they start a recital at 2:30 in the afternoon, it runs about an hour, there’s a 20-minute break, then another recital. They start up again in the evening at 7:30 with two contestants doing Mozart concertos (so I guess there is some Mozart effect), which takes a little more than an hour, a 20-minute intermission, and then two more.

That ends up being the perfect schedule for a writing day — an hour, a break, another hour, a dinner break and time to do some other things, then an hour, break, hour. I’ve been getting so much done while listening because I don’t want to get up to do other things during that time, and it’s like having a built-in timer.

This week, the classical radio station is intensifying the effect, playing a famous piano concerto performed by a former winner each day at 1. Today is Rachmaninoff’s second concerto, which is my all-time favorite piece of music, so I suppose I have to listen.

Since Thursday (when I remembered this was going on and discovered the streaming), I’ve rewritten three chapters of the novel, revised a novella, and revised a short story, as well as done a lot of work on content for the web site. Sunday I took a break from work and did crossword puzzles and read while listening.

Though all this virtuoso piano work makes me feel even worse about my struggles to use both hands and play more than one note at a time.

Meanwhile, it is possible I’ll end up with even more incentive to write and time to devote to work later this summer. I’ve had a wonky knee that’s been bothering me for nearly a year. Well, it’s actually been bothering me my whole life and I had surgery to fix some of that more than twenty years ago, but it went out on me in a different way last summer in a ballet class. It reminded me of a time when I pulled ligaments, so I did what the doctor had me do then and braced it and rested it, and it got better. then it went out again, and I had another couple of weeks of bracing and resting. It got better, then buckled out from under me on the stairs. Rest and bracing, and it got better. It started really hurting during my recent trip and hasn’t gotten better, so today I made an appointment with an orthopaedist. I’m hoping it’s just a physical therapy thing, but I’m worried that it’s a ligament tear that will require surgery. At least this time around, while I have a two-story house, I mostly live on the ground floor, especially during the summer, and I could easily arrange things to not need to go upstairs for a while. I mostly would just need to move the keyboard and harp downstairs. The last time I had knee surgery, I lived in a third-floor apartment. While I was at home, I was okay, but coming and going from home, especially when carrying things, was a challenge.

Anyway, my insurance has a high deductible, so seeing a doctor gives me incentive to write so I can earn some money, and if I’m not really mobile, that means I have time to write. The appointment’s next week, so I hope I’ll get some answers then.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Snail Watching

We had a nice rainy day yesterday, which is normally good for my productivity, but this time, it served as a distraction because it brought out the snails. A swarm of snails converged on my patio and front porch, and this proved so fascinating that it distracted me. Last summer, I found evidence of snail trails in my living room, but never saw a snail in the house. Now, seeing them having a convention just outside my house made me wonder what they’re up to. I do have a story idea in there somewhere.

Really, it’s interesting watching them move. Some of them were pretty speedy. They covered a decent amount of ground. I could outrun them, yeah (which kind of ruins the horror movie potential), but they still moved faster than I expected. Then there were the ones who barely seemed to be moving, I’d look away, then look back and they’d moved at least three feet.

We’re supposed to get still more rain today, but I will have to resist the lure of snail watching because I have work to do. I’m still getting content into my new web site, which means re-evaluating the old content. I’ll probably keep adding new stuff even after I launch, but I’m trying to get stuff in so I can launch. And then there are the two writing projects I’m juggling.

So, no playing with the snails today.

Thursday, June 01, 2017


Yesterday was supposed to be a non-writing day, but I ended up writing for nearly 3 hours. Oops. Or not. I guess I wanted to make progress. I’m juggling two different projects, a novella and a novel. I work on one until my brain gets tired, then switch gears. So far, it’s working pretty well, and I seem to be getting a lot more done. I still got my “get stuff done” stuff done, too. It’s that schedule shift. I seem to be a lot more productive when I go to bed early and get up early than when I stay up late and sleep late. I sleep better, so I’m spending less time sleeping, and that alone gains me nearly an hour, and I seem to be more likely to productively use extra morning time than extra night time.

I guess it’s a good thing I’m not going to any conventions this summer because that kind of schedule is completely out of whack with the way they schedule science fiction conventions. Nothing much happens until 10 in the morning. The “early” programming is usually a stroll at 9 a.m., which is late if you have programming at 10 and need to be able to shower and change clothes before programming. If you wake up by 7 in the morning, you have a few dead hours. At the Nebulas conference, they didn’t open the hospitality suite until 7:30, and that was just coffee. Breakfast wasn’t supposed to be out until 9. Then all the socializing tends to take place at night in the bar or at parties, and that doesn’t usually kick off until about 9 p.m., which means you miss most of it if you like to be in your pajamas and reading in bed soon after 10.

I wonder if there’s a coffee shop con equivalent to barcon for morning people.

It was worse for me on the west coast. I was taking hour-long walks in the morning before the WorldCon in Spokane and didn’t go to a single party.

But this summer is my personal Productivity Con. I want to get a couple of books written and one started, while also ramping up my promo activities. I’m calling it a “writing retreat” and treating it like I’m at a resort. We’ll see if that tricks my brain into going into high gear.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Random News Updates

One downside to getting up earlier: when I want to run errands before I get the day started, but the place I need to go doesn’t open until 10.

So, some random news updates:
I have a design for a new web site. Now I’m in the fun part of adding all the content to that framework. I’m hoping to launch it either this week or next week. Then I may be making some changes to the way I blog. The front page of the site has a little news item section where I can do status-type updates of the latest news about me or my books. Then the blog is for more in-depth posts. That may or may not be daily. I will post when I have something of substance to say.

The Japanese edition of A Fairy Tale is out — at least, I got my copy in the mail. It’s probably been out for a while because this book took the slow boat from Japan. I think their treatment of the cover is really interesting.

I’ve developed a new cooking obsession: homemade yogurt. A few years ago, I read an article about making certain things at home vs. buying store-bought. I tried some of them, just to see how they worked. Yogurt was on the list, but I didn’t try that. Then a few months ago, someone I follow on Twitter mentioned it and posted a link to an easy recipe. I was thinking about that while I was at the Nebula awards weekend because last year, the person running the hospitality suite offered homemade yogurt at breakfast, and it was soooo good. I guess that popped it back into my head, I found that recipe, and thought I’d give it a try. It’s really easy — just pour milk into the crock pot, let it heat to 180 degrees, turn off crock pot, let it cool to 110 degrees, stir in starter yogurt, wrap pot in a towel, let sit overnight, and then strain. Here’s the recipe for more specific instructions. It was so amazingly good, practically a totally different substance from what you buy in the store. My standard breakfast has become yogurt and fresh fruit. I made a half recipe when I tried it, and I’ve just about eaten it all in less than a week, so I think I’m going to make a full recipe this time. When I’m deciding whether to make something at home vs. buy it in a store, I look at the cost savings, the effort, and the quality, and this wins all around. It takes a lot of time, but most of that is sitting, so there’s very little effort. As for cost, I ended up with the equivalent of about 6 containers (not counting the amount I set aside as starter for the next batch) for the cost of one container of store-bought Greek yogurt (and that was on sale). But the main thing is the quality. The taste and texture as so much better. Even without any sweetener, it can work almost as a dessert. In fact, I did make a sundae out of a scoop of yogurt and some of my homemade strawberry jam. I may try putting some in the freezer to see if it works as frozen yogurt — I know it won’t have the same texture as frozen yogurt you buy in a store, but I’ve frozen regular yogurt before, and it works okay.

Anyway, one of my morning errands will be to pick up more milk to make more yogurt.

I’ve been getting a lot of good progress done on writing. The changes I’ve made to the book I’m revising seem to be working. I may have finally stumbled upon the right approach to it.

Now I think that by the time I get dressed and out the door, the stores should be open.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Back to the Slums

I enjoyed a bit of a holiday weekend. I still worked on Monday, but I didn’t keep to my normal schedule or expectations. But today it’s on and all-in. I’m still on an earlier schedule, which means that today I’m more or less on my usual “ideal” routine, except I fit in a half-hour walk and am still slightly ahead of where I typically would hope to be at this time of the morning. Supposedly, exercise makes you more creative. We shall see how that goes this afternoon. Yesterday I got the first two chapters of that novel revised. There’s some tweaking to be done, but otherwise I think it’s going well.

Tonight is the finale of that Victorian Slum House show on PBS, and it turns out that they did address the issues of alcohol and sanitation in the 1890s episode. They kind of skimmed past alcohol, just mentioning that there were some people who spent up to a fifth of their family income on alcohol and that there were a lot of temperance movements, but they didn’t make any of the participants spend their rent money on gin to show the effects on the family, and they didn’t get into the fact that a lot of the temperance movements weren’t so much about sobriety and morality as they were a movement against domestic violence. That’s why these movements were driven by women — women and children were getting abused when men came home drunk or when men wanted more money for alcohol and their wives hid it so they could pay the rent or buy food.

They addressed sanitation when they got into the various reform movements that came along in the 1890s and how there were efforts to inspect the slums for cleanliness. Some of the participants got to visit a public bath house — what’s now a public swimming pool. From some of the other research I’ve done, those public pools weren’t really about cleanliness — you had to wash before getting in, and that was where the “bathing” part came in — but rather about health. There was a belief that there were health benefits to soaking in water. Then they figured out that it was also fun, and that’s where we got swimming pools. These participants talked about this being the first time in weeks they really felt clean, so I guess they weren’t getting modern showers offscreen.

Tonight, they’ll be moving into the turn of the century and the end of the Victorian era and see how our various families ended up.

And, no, this isn’t research for the Rebels series, though it’s interesting to compare London to New York of that timeframe. I have something else in mind that’s more Dickensian, but secondary world, so it is London-like but not actually London.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Victorian Slum Life

I feel like I’m really back in the swing of things, after doing two full days of work-related stuff. Yesterday I finished a draft of a novella that’s going to need a bit more work, but at least I reached an end point. I also figured out the problem I was having with a short story I wrote a couple of years ago. I like the voice in the story, and there’s some good stuff there, but it seems to jump too abruptly to its ending, and I have now figured out what to add to make the ending fit better. Then I can start submitting it and see what I can do with it.

I spent most of the evening doing research for a future project. There’s been an educational reality series on PBS that fits with something I’ve been researching — Victorian Slum House. They re-created an East End slum tenement and have a group of people living there to experience life in that era. Most of them are participating because they had ancestors who lived in that area in that time, and they wanted to learn what their ancestors experienced. It’s really sweet that there’s one family in which it was the grandmother who wanted to see how her grandfather grew up, and her granddaughters eagerly participated because they knew it was important to their Gran. One man in the group is a tailor in real life, making bespoke suits in London, so he’s the resident skilled laborer, and the rest have to kind of make do. Each family is assigned a room or rooms in the house and a profession/backstory, and then they have to figure out how to make enough money to pay the rent and buy food. They’ve converted the prices from that era to modern money, so that we have more of a perspective (and that helps when the people who have to sell things go into the market to sell to modern Londoners). Each episode covers a particular decade, and the producers change the circumstances each week to show how the world changed — technology, the economic conditions, laws, mix of newcomers, etc.

They start in the 1860s and go to the 1890s, and I just have one more episode to go. I’ve been reading on life in that era, so seeing it play out and affect real people is fascinating. The attitude toward the poor in that time was absolutely horrendous, especially since it supposedly came out of their interpretation of Christianity (some of it is eerily familiar for our time). There was so little opportunity, and there was so much exploitation of vulnerable people.

It is rather sanitized. They show that there’s a communal privy in the courtyard, but otherwise they don’t even mention bathrooms or sanitation, so you have to wonder if the participants really had to use that privy or if they had a regular bathroom anywhere nearby. There are likely health and safety rules governing that sort of thing. Everyone looks pretty clean, and some of the women are obviously wearing makeup (and not just “being on TV” makeup), but they don’t address the issue of bathing. The issue of alcohol hasn’t come up at all, and that was a major problem in slums. They haven’t diverted a man on his way home from a day’s work and made him spend all his wages in the pub on gin. So, it doesn’t quite work as true research other than getting a generalized feel for re-creating a similar world in a fantasy novel.

What I have found interesting is the dynamics among these people. Those teenaged granddaughters are so enthusiastic even though it’s their grandmother’s deal. They dive right into all the work, whether it’s hauling baskets of watercress to the market to sell, making paper flowers, or even telling jokes to people in the street in hopes of earning a penny or two. The ones who had ancestors living that life are in awe of how strong they had to be, and there’s a touching scene of a woman finding the graves of her great aunt and uncle who died in infancy. The whole group has come together as a community, trying to help each other even though they have the tough dilemma of trying to make it, themselves. The shopkeepers don’t want the children to starve, but they won’t be able to pay their own rent if their customers don’t pay their debts. There was one family, a single mother and her kids, who really weren’t coping well, and the others did their best to help them, bringing them in on their piecework enterprises so they’d have some money, but they still didn’t quite get into the spirit of it. The others were all working hard, getting up early and staying up late to work, and this family would sleep late before finally joining in on the work, and then would go to bed early. They ended up leaving, sneaking out during the night — they were used as an example of what some people did when they couldn’t pay the rent and were in debt to the shopkeeper, but they didn’t show up in the following episodes, so I’m guessing that family just left the show.

The whole series is available to watch online at the PBS website. I’m not normally a fan of reality TV and the “let’s watch ordinary people try to do this thing” sort of show, but this is cooperative and educational rather than competitive. They bring in historians to talk to the participants about what the era was like and what was happening.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Nebula Conference Thoughts

Now that I’ve been home long enough to process everything, I thought I’d share some thoughts on my trip last week. I will admit that I found last year’s Nebula conference rather discouraging. I had a good time largely because I had local friends who were on the staff, and it was fun hanging out with them, but the conference part was difficult for me. I learned a lot and got some good business things out of it (that’s how I found my web designer), but I felt very alone and invisible in the crowd, and it was disappointing seeing that I was totally unknown in spite of having been published in fantasy and a member of the organization for more than a decade. There was very much an “in” crowd, and you could see the cliques.

This year was better for me. It helped that I’d met some people the year before. It also helped that I got there a day early and went on the pre-conference walk to the farmer’s market for lunch, so I met some people there. I was on a programming item the first day, so people talked to me at the opening reception and I didn’t feel quite so lost and alone there. I still feel like a nonentity in that world, but that means I have a huge opportunity of people who haven’t discovered me yet. And, at the same time, I learned from some of the panel discussions that I’m a lot more successful than I realized. There were some things I took for granted that I thought would surely apply to others who have a lot more recognition than I do if they applied to me, but it turns out that financial success and recognition don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. I’m making decent money, enough to live on without needing another job. My books from more than a decade ago are still in print and earning royalties. I’ve had a book optioned for film. My books do really well in audio. Sometimes it’s frustrating chugging along in obscurity while watching other people get the recognition, but I’d rather have the financial success than the fame any day. So, I came away feeling better about myself and about my career and able to see my lack of recognition so far as a huge opportunity of an untapped market rather than as any kind of slap in the face.

Meanwhile, I learned a lot — about social media, Facebook advertising, conflict resolution (both for career matters and using it for characters), what actual teens look for in YA fiction, fairy tales as a storytelling medium, audiobooks, finances for freelancers, dealing with discouragement, and the list goes on. Even when I was on a panel, I usually learned something new from it. I believe I attended a session during every time slot, except for the slot during which I was getting trained on using my new web site architecture.

Treating this weekend as a professional conference is relatively new. It used to be just about the awards ceremony, but has come to be a lot more like the RWA national conference, in being a professional conference that contains an awards ceremony. Membership in SFWA is still limited to those who have met certain publishing standards, but the conference is open to everyone who’s interested in writing science fiction and fantasy. I’d say it’s very worthwhile to attend if you have writing ambitions. There’s not a lot of “how to write 101” stuff, but there is a lot of good information on the business of publishing and managing a writing career. I will very likely go back next year because I think there’s a lot more bang for the writer’s buck than, say, a WorldCon. Plus, they give you a big bag of books. I was pretty ruthless about winnowing it down to the books I was sure I would read, and I even read a couple during the weekend so I could put them back on the swap table instead of hauling them home. And then I got to the airport and my bag was only 33 pounds, so I could have brought more home with me.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


I was out of town last week when I had a writing post scheduled, so I’m catching up this week.

I’ve written in the past about the difference between surprise and suspense in writing — the times you want to shock your audience and the times you want your audience to know what’s coming so they have time to dread it. But although we worry about spoilers and ruining the surprise, there are times when it may be bad to surprise your readers.

One case is when there are genre expectations. It would be a big surprise if a romance novel didn’t end with a couple getting together or a mystery novel didn’t reveal the identity of the killer, but most readers wouldn’t be pleasantly surprised. You might be able to get away with that in literary fiction, where you can use those genre expectations to create something different, but if your book is shelved in those genres, that kind of surprise would be a bad thing. Romance readers want the couple to get together. Mystery readers want the mystery to be solved. The big question in romance is how they get together and the emotional journey the characters take. The big question in mystery is who the killer is, and readers don’t even always mind if they figure it out before it’s revealed, as long as it’s still a bit of an intellectual challenge.

Another case of a bad surprise is when the surprise isn’t properly set up. It’s easy to surprise your audience if something just falls out of the sky, without any setup to indicate that things falling from the sky is a possibility. When I see writing like that, it reminds me of a mystery-themed party I once went to. It was a big banquet at a hotel, and each table had paper and pencils to keep track of clues, as well as table decor that looked like it might contain clues. Every so often, the emcee came out and told us about some new development. We were diligently taking notes and trying to piece it all together, but when they announced the “solution,” it was some random thing that had absolutely nothing to do with what had been announced. It turned out that it was all a joke, and the solution was the punchline. I guess they thought it made for a good icebreaker, but it was absolutely impossible for anyone to have solved the mystery. You may surprise readers by doing that sort of thing, but most of them will be angry that you didn’t play fair. The solution needs to have been set up properly so that you can look back at the story and see the clues. The trick is to hide the clues in plain sight alongside other clues and to give each clue multiple layers of meaning, so that there’s another reason for it not entirely connected to the solution. One of the better examples of this is the movie The Shawshank Redemption. Everything that happens in the story makes sense in that context — and then there’s a big twist. After the twist is revealed, we see that everything we saw before also had an entirely different reason behind it. Without the twist, the story still makes sense and would have been a good story. The twist changes everything, but it still makes total sense. The second time you see that movie, knowing the twist, it’s an entirely different film.

On the other hand, if you set something up, you need to use it. There’s the old trope of Chekhov’s Gun — that if there’s a gun on the mantel in Act One, it needs to be fired by the end of Act Three (or something to that effect). If you bother to set things up, they need to go somewhere or readers will be annoyed. It may not go where you expect, or may not be directly related to the main plot, but something really should come of it. The more you draw attention to it, the more important it is that you go somewhere with it. If you can cut a whole scene or other story element without having any impact on the plot because that thing really makes no difference, then don’t put it in there to begin with. This applies to pointless side trips, character backstories, desperate messages, and quest items. Even if it’s a red herring, it needs to matter and be relevant in some other way.

Then there are the things that the audience wants to happen. It may not be a huge surprise when these things happen, but the audience is usually okay with that because they’d be disappointed if it didn’t work out that way. Readers of genre fiction generally want to see the couple get together, the villain defeated, the battle won by the good guys, the bad person get a comeuppance, the underdog rise to the occasion. You can keep in some element of surprise by allowing this to happen in an unexpected way, but if you don’t give readers what they’re hoping for, you need to give them something they’ll like even better. Sometimes tropes exist for a reason, and that’s because these are things we enjoy seeing. You can twist them to some degree, but twist them too far or undermine them, and the result is an unsatisfying story.

Finding the balance between surprise and satisfaction is an ongoing struggle for writers that becomes more difficult as readers become more sophisticated consumers of stories. But it’s worth it to put in the work to find a way to meet expectations while keeping things fresh.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Home from My Travels

I’m home from my travels and very happy about that. I won’t be traveling again until October other than to visit my parents (unless I have a whim about taking a summer vacation). I like seeing other places, but the process of travel is getting harder, and I’m really spoiled by my fancy bed so that I have a hard time sleeping even on a good hotel bed, since it’s flat. Maybe before my next trip, I’ll gradually adjust my bed closer to being flat so I can be used to it. Then again, I seem to remain much healthier sleeping on an incline, so I might want to be as healthy as possible before traveling.

On the other hand, there’s a lot I miss about hotel life. I love having a totally non-cluttered space. It’s very peaceful. To get that at home, I’m going to need to do a total possession purge, then do some organizing so that I have a place for everything and can get everything in its place. And then I need to form good habits and tidy up as I go. The daily housekeeping service does help, but the real key is that I like to have everything put away before the daily housekeeping service, so my room is reasonably neat even without the hotel maid. All I really need the maid to do is empty the trash and give me fresh coffee cups.

But enough about the process of travel. It was a really good conference. I went to this one looking at it as more of a professional development and networking event, and it didn’t disappoint on those terms, but I think it might also have given me more of a promotional boost than the more promotion-oriented conventions do. I came out of it with a bunch more Twitter followers and tweets/retweets, which broadened my name recognition more than I seem to get from other cons.

I went to a panel during each session of the con, took a lot of notes, and got a lot of ideas, both for writing and for general professional life. It may take me a little time to process it all. My brain is full.

I didn’t get a lot of sightseeing done, but we did do a group walk to the farmer’s market on the first day, so I was able to stock up on some good food to have in my room for snacks. On Sunday after the conference ended, I walked over to the incline railway across the river. It’s the kind of thing they have in Europe at ski resorts for getting up and down mountains. Here, it’s for ease of commuting. It was built in the 1870s and uses counterweights — two cars connected by a cable, and one car going down the mountain pulls the other one up. I’d just been researching this kind of thing for the book I’m working on (though with a cable car rather than on rails), so I took lots of pictures and some video. All this was happening on a rainy day during a playoff hockey game, so the town was very quiet. My hotel was across the street from the arena, so I timed my dinner in the hotel restaurant to end just as the game was ending. I managed to get out of there just as all the fans started swarming in. I watched the flood of people leaving the game from my hotel window.

The conference will be back there again next year, so maybe I’ll find other things to see, or maybe I’ll ride that railway on a clear day.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Book Report: Past and Present

This will be my “chicken with its head cut off” day of travel preparation. Actually, though, I’m mostly ready. This is more my day to clean my house so if I die in a plane crash, I won’t be embarrassed in the afterlife by people seeing it when they come to clean it out. Also, it’s nice after spending several days in pristine hotel conditions to come home to a reasonably clean house. I like not cringing upon opening the front door.

Otherwise, I have the laundry done, my wardrobe planned, I’m mostly packed, I have my presentations ready, I’ve made sure all the relevant accounts are logged in on my travel devices, and my lists for everything else I need to do and pack are made. The goal is to have all the heavy lifting done by mid-afternoon so I can rest and relax this evening, and in the morning I can get up, eat breakfast, get dressed, throw the last-minute things into the bag, and head for the bus stop.

I’m hoping to do a lot of reading on this trip, with a backlog of books on my Kindle app. I’m annoyingly between books now because I just finished a big one and I don’t want to start a new one that I won’t be taking with me (between all the stuff on the tablet and the giant bag-o-books I’ll be getting at the conference, there’s no reason to bring a paper book with me). This might be a good time to read short stories.

The big book I just finished was The Shadow Land, the latest by Elizabeth Kostova. Like her earlier books, there’s a present storyline and a past storyline. In the present, a young American coming to Bulgaria to teach English helps a family get into a cab outside a hotel, only to discover once she’s in her own cab that one of their bags got mixed up with hers, and that bag contains a crematory urn. With the help of her cab driver, she sets out to track down and find this family so she can return it. This quest turns out to be more complicated than she expected, and it reveals some secrets that go back to the early days of Bulgaria’s Soviet occupation — secrets that someone is willing to kill to keep hidden. Meanwhile, we get the parallel story of what happened during that time.

I’m a total sucker for flashbacks woven into a story, with activities in the present uncovering events in the past, and this is a particularly interesting and painful chapter of history. The characters come to vivid life, and the descriptions of the places they visit make me want to visit Bulgaria. However, I don’t think this one lives up to the promise of her first book, The Historian, but that may just be because I keep expecting that book’s magical realism/fantasy elements. There’s one little possible bit of “woo-woo,” but otherwise it’s a straightforward novel. It might be different if you come to this book without that expectation or if you were someone who didn’t read The Historian as fantasy.

One of the story ideas I’m hoping to play with this summer is a past/present book, and I imagine it’s a lot harder to pull off than it would seem from reading it.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Rewriting History

It’s off to the Nebula conference week, and I have a hefty to-do list. I was supposed to do more of it over the weekend, but I got wild and crazy and decided to have a weekend. Plus, there was this knitting problem I had to fix. But now I have a ton to get done in the next couple of days. Eeep!

Anyway, since I posted about the cancellation of Timeless on Friday, the network changed its mind and there will be a season two. It will be a shorter season and will likely run during the summer. Not this summer, but the next one. They had fun with the way they announced this, framing it like the Time Team had gone back in time to change the network’s mind and rewrite history. There was even a video one of the cast members did in character, in which he acted like they’d just come back from the mission and were reporting their success. There’s been some talk about treating this like a family show (with somewhat educational content). They put the first season on in the late slot, but it’s pretty squeaky clean and involves the characters meeting with interesting historical figures. It’s perfect for an early evening, watch with the whole family thing (Mark Hamill even mentioned that his family has been watching it together in an interview that was in Parade this weekend).

Meanwhile, the season finale of Once Upon a Time falls into the “don’t get me started” category because they set up some potentially cool stuff, and then didn’t use any of it. Red herrings are one thing, but devoting most of an hour to characters going after a goal and then that goal not actually meaning anything is another thing entirely. I think the main problem with these writers is that the only story element they really value is surprise. If you see something coming enough to anticipate it, they think they can’t do that thing because it has to be a surprise. So they go off in another direction with no setup, but then they don’t even come up with a good reason behind what they did set up. And I spend a lot of time yelling at the TV and stress knitting. But I learn a lot about how not to write.

And now I have a busy day of doing laundry, going to the library, writing a presentation, and cleaning house ahead of me.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Network Reading Conspiracy

The network renewals and cancellations are starting to come out, and it looks like the networks want me to have more time to read and write.

I wasn’t so sad about Emerald City being canceled. I liked the concept, and it had beautiful imagery, but by the end of the first/only season, I pretty much loathed most of the characters, had no clue what was going on (in spite of having watched it all), and kind of wanted everyone but the dog to die. The dog could come live with me. Everyone else, I was ready to see go. But I have to admit, that if it had been picked up for another season, I was curious as to where they’d go with it.

But they also killed Timeless, which was my favorite new series last year. It was fun and a bit silly, and I loved all the characters. Even the villain had his sympathetic moments because he wasn’t entirely wrong. He was just going about the entirely wrong way of dealing with things. There were time travel twists and turns and great costumes. So, of course, it had to go because we aren’t allowed to have nice things and probably the world needs more reality shows.

I have very mixed feelings about Once Upon a Time getting renewed. This show seldom lives up to its potential, and the writing in the past two seasons has been utterly terrible. Like, it comes across like an ugly first draft when you’re just throwing out ideas without giving them any thought or looking back at what you’ve already written for continuity purposes. The characters aren’t allowed to act like any actual people, plot threads are set up but not really resolved or resolved with a handwave, and resolutions come out of nowhere. Right now, they’re setting up for what’s supposed to be the Final Battle between good and evil, but the “evil” side is a character we only just met, and there’s absolutely no motivation for this battle to take place, other than Because Evil. ARRGGGGGHHHH.

The musical episode was cute, with good music and mostly excellent performances, but the writing for it made absolutely no sense. I liked the framework of why these characters were suddenly singing, but most of the musical scenes didn’t actually fit the framework, and I wanted to bang my head against the wall because it was yet another wasted opportunity, given the talent they were working with.

And then the actress playing the main character announced she was leaving after this season. She got her happy ending with a big wedding (with an inexplicable musical number — fortunately, she married a tenor who could pick up a song and go along with it when she started singing during the ceremony for NO REASON WHATSOEVER!), although there’s still the finale with the Final Battle to go, which seemed like a natural ending point, and I was okay with the series being canceled. But now it’s renewed with a drastically reduced cast, but that cast includes a character  who just got married whose wife won’t be on the show anymore. I’m worried we’ve got an Aliens thing going on here, where we spent all this time leading up to an outcome that’s now going to be undone between seasons.

Really, my issue with this show isn’t just the terrible writing. It’s that they keep talking about it being about hope, while it’s actually a non-ending black cloud of doom and gloom. In the past few seasons, our heroine spent a story arc knowing that the villain was trying to turn her dark, then got turned into the Dark One when she took on the free-floating Darkness to save everyone else, then spent half a season being psychologically tortured by having this darkness within her, then her boyfriend got mortally wounded and she used her power to try to save him, turning him into a Dark One, and when he was able to fight that off, she still had to kill him to try to end the Darkness for good, only it didn’t because it got hijacked, so she then spent half a season in the Underworld trying to save her boyfriend, only to fail, and then when he managed to get a second chance at life and they were going to get to be together, she got a prophecy that she was doomed to die. But the writers talk non-stop about how this is a show about hope. I can see why the actress wanted out. She must want to slit her wrists after spending the last few years that way.

So, whether or not I come back with the show will depend on what the concept for the reboot will be. I like one of the confirmed returning characters, loathe the other two. I don’t know who else will be involved.

Otherwise, I’m mostly down to PBS and limited-run series (the half-season series, like The Magicians, Game of Thrones, etc.). I have to say, it’s kind of liberating. I am reading a lot more, which is good for me.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Library Love

I am now totally done with children’s choir for the year! We had our last performance last night. The performance was fine, but in our last run-through before it I think some of the kids were trying to make sure I didn’t miss them too much, and it wasn’t the usual suspects. But then there were a couple who sat next to me during the pizza party afterward, one who seemed to be trying to stick as close as possible after he learned that I won’t be his teacher next year. I won’t get to notice or enjoy the break for a couple of weeks because I’ll be traveling next Wednesday.

I’m still on the fence about how my “do everything but write” Wednesdays are going and whether I need to stick to that. I’m way ahead on how much time I’m spending writing, though that may be more due to consistency than to this way of working. I want to work on the things I’m working on, so there’s less slacking off. I think in some sense, having to make up for taking a day away forces me to feel like I should be more productive on the days I am working. On the other hand, I do feel like I’m getting more non-writing things done by devoting a day to it. I got my taxes done early this year with minimal stress, I’ve managed to do some promotion-related things I’ve been procrastinating for a long time, and my housework is somewhat improved (at times — after a busy weekend and a trip out of town, things are a bit scattered right now). I’ll have to think about how I’ll want to handle it this summer when I don’t have choir on Wednesdays.

In other news, Rebel Mechanics keeps getting the school and library love. It was great when it got named to the Texas Lone Star List, but I suspected that had a lot to do with the fact that I go to church with one of the committee members. Now, though, the book is on Oregon’s Battle of the Books reading list, and I don’t think I have any connections there. Apparently, they do a kind of quiz bowl thing about books, where schools form teams and compete against other schools in contests based on a list of books. So, every middle schooler in Oregon who participates in this contest will have to read my book. I really do have to be grateful to librarians for discovering and loving this book. They’ve done a lot more to promote it than the publisher did.

And now I guess I need to get this new book ready to maybe find a new publisher so I can capitalize on all this recognition. Surely some other YA publisher will see this attention and want to get in on it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Goodbye to the Kids

A week from today I’ll be off to Pittsburgh for the Nebula weekend with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This is more of a professional development/networking conference than a fan convention, but there will be a booksigning that’s open to the public during the event. The signing will be at 8 p.m. on May 19 at the Marriott City Center. Here are the details if you’re in the area and interested.

I did my pre-travel errands today, picking up stuff for the trip and my preparations for the return. I make sure I have a frozen dinner of some sort in the freezer when I’m coming home from a trip so that I can just zap something for dinner instead of having to cook or leave the house again for takeout. I’ll be getting home at dinnertime for this trip, so that’s even more important. Even a frozen pizza would have taken more prep time than I’d have liked.

I tried looking for clothes, at least one new top to wear for this trip, but I had no luck. Usually I find one or two cute things at TJ Maxx, but either ours has gone way downhill, I caught it on a bad day, or the current styles aren’t working for me because there wasn’t a thing that even slightly tempted me. I guess I’ll just stick with what I already have and figure that most of these people won’t have seen the usual suspects.

Tonight is my last activity with this year’s children’s choir. They were very cute if a bit unmanageable when they sang in church on Sunday. Now we’re doing it again for a “sharing program” for family. I just have to run through their song with them and direct them, and then when they go back to their parents I’m done with this group. I’ll have the whole summer off before it starts again in the fall. I will have to restrain my joy when I say my farewells. Actually, even the challenging ones are sweet kids that I’m sure I’ll enjoy even more when I get to see them in passing without having to be responsible for them. I suggested that with these kids, a bottle of wine, vodka, or tequila would be appropriate teacher gifts. I think they thought I was joking. Except when I needed that was while I was working with them, not afterward. Chocolate is also acceptable.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Published "Fan Fiction"

I noticed that my reading in the last couple of weeks had a theme: it’s essentially published fan fiction — stories based on other works. Otherwise, it was two very different books.

The first was A Little in Love by Susan E. Fletcher. This book is basically Les Miserables from Eponine’s point of view. It seems to stick pretty closely to canon, just fleshing out the offstage parts about Eponine’s life. As she lies dying by the barricade, her life flashes before her eyes, and she remembers her childhood when her family took in Cosette, the ups and downs of her family’s fortunes, their move to Paris, meeting Marius, learning that he loved someone else, and then choosing to be at his side anyway during the revolution. It’s an interesting perspective on the familiar story that will probably appeal to all the drama nerd girls to whom “On My Own” is a personal anthem, but I think I was hoping for something more.

Then I continued in Star Wars mode with a tie-in novel I found at the library, The Cestus Deception by Steven Barnes. It’s set during the Clone Wars and centers on a mission led by Obi-Wan Kenobi to uncover how someone is managing to make robots with Jedi-like abilities and try to stop that without destroying a world’s economy and driving that world even further into the arms of the Separatists. Barnes is a noted science fiction author, so this reads more like a science fiction novel than like a Star Wars book. There’s a lot of worldbuilding to explain the culture of this world and its dominant race. Although Obi-Wan is a central character, the protagonist is really one of the clone troopers, and that’s where this book gets really interesting. Barnes creates a culture around the clones, figuring out what kind of social structure and philosophy they might have. When you think about it, it’s kind of a bunch of identical twin brothers fighting together, and that’s the way they come to see themselves, even though they’re also aware that they’re considered to be more or less cannon fodder. There’s some really good stuff in there that I wish had made it into the prequels. The Clone Wars were mostly a letdown in the films (I haven’t watched the cartoon series), and this explores the ethical issues of a clone army, as well as getting into the psychology of the clones themselves. Things get really complicated for our central clone when he meets a woman who was once in love with Jango Fett and who can’t help but have feelings for his clone.

I’d say if you’re reading to get more insight into that era of the Star Wars universe and Obi-Wan, you might be disappointed, but if you like a good space opera with interesting characters, alien races, and cultures, this would be a fun book even if you’re not a Star Wars fan. I’ve found myself actually a bit haunted by the clones’ situation.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Desperately Wanting to Write

I made it through my crazy weekend, and I’m now in my usual post-convention “I never want to be around people ever again” mode, except that a week from Wednesday I’ll be heading to the Nebula Awards conference. That one’s more of a writing conference than a fan conference, so it won’t be quite as draining, but I suspect that after that one I’ll be really glad to not have any more conferences or conventions until September. I’m looking forward to some in-depth writing time. And reading time. My next mostly unscheduled weekend is Memorial Day weekend, and I’m already thinking of how I’m going to spend my cave time.

I was thinking that it would be nice to have this book done by then, but then I looked at the calendar, and I guess not. Time is moving very quickly. I had a list of things I wanted to have done by June 1, and they don’t seem to be happening. On the other hand, I’ve spent more time writing this year than I had by late July of last year, and in that time I completed most of a book and revised it and wrote an entire first draft of another book. That’s basically two books in less than six months, which is nothing to sneeze at. Maybe I shouldn’t be so critical of myself.

But I really do want to get these projects done because I have so many other things I desperately want to write.

In fact, even though I’m in recovery mode from a convention, what I really want to do is work (possibly because it’s either that or housework). It’s going to be a patio writing day.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Appointment with a Doctor

I planned to use yesterday as a Getting Things Done day, but then I got things done and ended up working. I’m re-brainstorming the book, and I’m finding all kinds of new potential depth in it. I think I needed to write an ugly draft to explore the world and characters, and now I’m going back to actually write the story. I may finish this thing someday, but when I do, it’s going to be good.

Today I head off to WhoFest DFW to talk Doctor Who and time travel and hang out with friends. I have a lighter day on Saturday, which is good because Sunday is going to be busy, with the children’s choir and the chamber chorale in the early service, then the chamber chorale and the choir in the late service, and I’m singing alto in the choir for the late service because we’re doing a piece with a big alto part and our choir is top-heavy with sopranos, so they asked for volunteers to move over to alto. I usually sing second soprano, so I figured I’d stand a better chance than the first sopranos. I guess I’m trying to make myself less musically extraneous. Sopranos tend to be a dime a dozen, but I make myself slightly more useful by being able to switch among first soprano, second soprano, and alto. It’s just taking some getting used to looking at the alto line. Anyway, after church, I’ll have to rush back to WhoFest for another couple of panels.

And speaking of music on Sunday, Once Upon a Time is attempting a musical episode that will air Sunday night. I’ve heard bits of the music, and it’s actually pretty good. Most of their cast has musical experience, and it shows. I’m a bit iffy on the plot device used to make the episode a musical and on the role the songs play in the story (from what I can tell, the songs are basically just the characters singing about their main character trait, rather than providing any kind of inner revelation), but the music and singing don’t make me cringe. It’s just such a shame that such a good cast and good premise have been wasted by absolutely terrible writing that just keeps getting worse.

Though I have realized that one of my back-burner ideas might actually give me an opportunity to use some of my own mental “fixes” for this show, to take the elements I like and do them the right way. That’s so far from what they did on the show that I’m not sure anyone will be able to tell the origins of the inspiration (and, actually, it was a totally independent idea, but I realized it was an idea where I could fit some of the things I wish they’d done on this show).

And now I have an appointment with a Doctor that I need to get ready for.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Star Wars Day

May the Fourth be with You! It’s Star Wars day, and I don’t have anywhere to go, so I guess there’s no real reason to wear a Star Wars t-shirt that no one will see, but I think I will anyway.

Then I’ll have to switch fandoms because this weekend is WhoFest DFW, a Doctor Who convention. I’m a panelist as a low-level minor local celebrity to fill out the time between major guest events. Fortunately, the convention is just down the street, so I can run home after my events.

I took a few days off this week to visit my parents, and now I have an awkward in-between day between that trip and the convention, during which I’m not sure how much writing I’m likely to get done. This may turn into my designated Get Stuff Done day to handle everything else, then maybe do some brainstorming later once all that is taken care of. I think I’ve figured out the issues in the plot of the book I was working on. Now I need to figure out how to implement those solutions.

Meanwhile, I finished children’s choir for the year last night. They’re singing in church Sunday and then there’s a sharing program Wednesday night, but I’m done with the teaching part and having to manage the classroom. Last night, I ended up surrounded by the kids in my class at dinner. They all sat with me (away from their parents!). I got a non-stop discussion about what they do in school, who their friends and family members are, what food they like, how high they can count, how high they can count in Spanish, etc. That meant I managed to eat my dinner in time to get to my next rehearsal because I didn’t have to talk at all. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. But I guess it’s good that they like me.

Now we’ll see if we can manage to sing Sunday without the boys starting a fight or otherwise getting into trouble.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

To Plot or Not

One of the big debates that arises between writers is the issue of whether or not to plot — sometimes characterized as “plotting” vs. “pantsing” (writing by the seat of the pants). George R. R. Martin has referred to it as “architect” — creating detailed blueprints before starting work — vs. “gardener” — plant some seeds and see what grows — writing. Either way, it mostly comes down to whether a writer plans ahead, creating an outline before doing the actual writing, or just writes the story as it comes. There are pros and cons to both approaches.

There can be a lot of spontaneity with “pantsing,” since the discovery process happens during the writing. Following threads of a story as they arise can help a writer avoid a formulaic plot. A lot of pantsers feel like they would waste the sense of fun and discovery of the writing process if they used it on the outline instead of on the book itself.

On the other hand, this writing process may require a lot of revision and rewriting. Discoveries made later in the book require changes earlier in the book to set them up properly, and plot threads that ended up going nowhere need to be trimmed. Writers who write this way need to pay a lot of attention to continuity to make sure all those drafts still fit together and that everything is consistent. Because of this, it may take longer to write books this way.

On the plotting side, there can be an advantage in figuring out how the plot works before the draft is written. Some writers who do extensive plotting may only write one draft and then proofread it. They’ve done all the discovery process in their outline, so the draft only requires the outline to be fleshed out, and that can mean faster production. Being a plotter also helps when you reach the level in your career when you can sell on proposal. You can write a synopsis of a book and sell the book before you write it. Pantsers can really struggle with this.

On the con side of things, plotting can lead to reduced enthusiasm for a project if the fun part is figuring out what happens. Sometimes, the plot doesn’t work once you start writing, and trying to stick to a planned outline only gets you sidetracked. The outline is what you come up with before you’re really immersed, and if you’re coming up with an outline based on story structure, there’s a chance that your story will come across as more “rote” and won’t really let your characters breathe.

Which is best? The one that allows you to complete a book and make it good. Different people work in different ways. It’s worth trying both approaches and seeing what works for you, and that may change over the course of your career. You may need to plot in your early books as you figure out how a story works, and then you may be able to start pantsing because you’ve internalized that and have done your plotting in your head. Or you may start as a pantser until you figure out your patterns, and from there you may be able to plot first. There’s also a lot of middle ground. The plotting may be just the general turning points, and you improvise from there. You may just know the beginning and the ending when you start. You may outline a few scenes ahead of where you are but without outlining the whole book to begin with. Some books may require more careful plotting than others. If you’re stuck on a project, you might want to try switching approaches. If you’re a plotter and are struggling to write the book you outlined, try throwing out your outline and seeing where the story takes you. If you’re a pantser and don’t know where to go next, try outlining.

If someone tries to tell you that the way they write makes them a “real” writer or a better writer, smile and nod and go about doing it the way that works for you.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Different Directions?

I spent a lot of the last week or so of working on that book wanting to finish that draft so I could work on something else. And then I finished the draft and started working on something else and found myself sidetracked by thinking about the book. I ended up spending a lot of Saturday brainstorming things I can do in the next draft.

I’m still wrestling with the approach to take. My dilemma is that the concept is fun and quirky, but in trying to give some serious stakes to what’s going on, I may have taken it to a darker place than I really wanted to go, and that seems to sap a lot of the potential fun out of it. So I started brainstorming other things I could do with this concept, and I haven’t been able to come up with anything totally different. I don’t know if I’m too set in what I’ve already written or if I really have done the best thing for this concept.

Next, I tried brainstorming other things I could do with the plot I have. Is there a way to keep the stakes high but make it less dark and gloomy? I think I may have found a compromise that takes things in a different direction that might be interesting. It doesn’t necessarily change the main plot, but it changes the emotions surrounding it and changes the outcome.

Obviously, more thinking is required.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Audio News!

Oops, didn’t get around to posting this morning. I went to vote early for the upcoming city election, and the polling place is at the library, so you can probably imagine what happened. I restrained myself to three books and two of them are work-related. But there was a lot of browsing. I also walked and took the long way, both for exercise and because that’s the way to avoid the campaigners set up in the parking lot. If I come to the library from the canal footpath, I’m within the no-campaigning zone before they can see me, since no one ever sets up on the footpath.

The big news today is that the audiobook version of Frogs and Kisses is available today! They’d given me a date in June, but I guess they were ahead of schedule.

You can find it here:

I still don’t have any news on audio for the second two Rebels books. Apparently, the audio sales were “modest,” so the publisher isn’t exactly leaping to pick up the rest.

And now it’s time to get to work.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Side Stories

One more kindergarten choir session to go! They weren’t too bad last night, but I had additional adult help. I think they’d have been completely out of control without that, since the extra help was a family member who had family authority over a couple of the biggest problems. I got confident enough to get out the Boomwhackers — plastic tubes that are cut to certain length so that they’re tuned to play notes. They function kind of like playing handbells, with each tube playing a single note. We managed to get something that sounds almost kind of like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Victory!

Today is going to be a heavy-duty writing day. I ended up doing all my errands yesterday. I’d thought I’d be getting a haircut today, but when I went to the online scheduler (one reason I love this salon — I can make an appointment without a phone call), there was an appointment available yesterday afternoon, so I went and took care of it all yesterday. That means today I get to do nothing but write. It may even be a patio writing day.

My plan is to do some shorter pieces in the Enchanted, Inc. universe, like that Sam short story, but longer. I’m aiming for the 20,000-word range. These will focus on or be from the perspective of secondary characters, so it’s sort of the “lower decks” of that universe. What’s going on while Katie and Owen are busy elsewhere?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Done With the Draft

I finished the draft yesterday. There are still a few scenes to write, but I’m in the wrapping up phase after the main plot ends, which is where the character and emotional arcs are resolved, and the character and emotional arcs are what I want to focus on in the next draft, so I’m not sure yet how they’ll be resolved, and that means writing those scenes now is rather pointless. The current draft ends with the resolution of the main plot, and I have to figure out how to tie off all the other loose ends along with the character arcs.

For now, I’m going to take a little break from this book and write a short piece, then I’ll get back to this one. I already have ideas for what I want to do with it, but my brain needs a break.

I did discover one way to up my productivity. I usually do my writing in the afternoon. The aim is to start writing after lunch, but that tends to slip as I get ready to work. It sometimes looks like a kid who’s trying to put off bedtime — I need a story, I need a glass of water, I need my pillow fluffed up, I need a blanket, I think I hear something. But in my case, it’s more like I need my notes, I need my pen, I need the timer, I need a glass of water, I need my word count M&Ms, I need my writing music, etc. Yesterday, I set all that up before lunch, so when it was time to write, I just sat down and went to work. I’d done a thousand words before the time I usually get to work. I will have to do that in the future.

Today, though, is mostly errand and business day, though some errands may get moved to tomorrow because there’s one that can’t be done today, and I might as well just make one trip. Also, my weather radio went off three times this morning, starting at about 5:30 and going off again every time I went back to sleep. There were severe thunderstorms in other parts of the county. I guess it just gives warnings for your county and doesn’t break it down by zip code. I may need a nap before I can face the kindergarten choir tonight.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Star Wars Stories

Last week, they announced a slew of upcoming Star Wars novels, and that made me remember that I’d heard good things about one of the pre-Force Awakens novels, Lost Stars, by Claudia Gray, so I decided to read it.

The story follows two childhood friends who are about the same age as Luke and Leia, born around the time of the fall of the Old Republic and rise of the Empire, but they grow up on an Imperial world, so they have a very different attitude about the Empire than we’ve seen in most of the Star Wars stories. They want nothing more than to grow up to pilot TIE fighters. The story follows them as they attend an Imperial military academy, and then we get a kind of “Lower Decks” view of the events of the original trilogy, as they’re present or aware of most of the major moments, but seeing them from an entirely different perspective. The events surrounding the Death Star send them in different directions and make them question the meaning of loyalty.

I’m not sure how well this book would work as just a science fiction novel for someone who wasn’t familiar with the universe and the story, but it really works to flesh out that universe for people who are fans. We get into the heads of people who fight for the Empire and see that they, too, are fighting for things they believe in, and then when the things they believe in come into question, they’re still fighting for the people around them.

It’s interesting to see what other people think of the main characters from the original movies and how they see those events. So, if you’re a Star Wars fan and want more of that universe, this is definitely worth reading.

This and those announcements of other new books have reminded me of one of my earliest writing ambitions. I’d always made up stories in my head to entertain myself, and our main neighborhood group game was what you could probably call live-action group fan fiction, so I’d made up characters and stories to fit into other “universes,” but once I saw Star Wars, it really jumped into overdrive. Since there was a shortage of female characters, I had to make up characters to play, and that turned into an elaborate mental narrative. Even before Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, the first tie-in novel, was published, I wanted to write a Star Wars book. A lot of my earliest attempts at writing started as mental Star Wars stories that morphed into something original before I put anything on paper. Still, I would have preferred to write them as real Star Wars stories. I just had to change them because that was an unrealistic dream.

But then I realized last week that it’s not quite such an unrealistic dream. I’m a published author. I’ve even written for the publisher that does the Star Wars books. I’m not sure how to pursue it or if I even really want to. There are plusses and minuses. The money is good, and it’s a good way to become a “bestselling” author. It’s a good way to gain a lot more name recognition. But there are a lot of constraints to writing in someone else’s universe, and the attention that comes with it can bring with it a lot of negativity. It brings out some of the more obnoxious fanboy elements, those people who nitpick every detail and throw a fit if it doesn’t match their mental version of that universe. I’m mostly invisible to those people now, since I’m pretty obscure as an author, but doing a Star Wars book would throw me into the middle of that nastiness. I can imagine what they’d say if my name were announced and then they went and saw those cartoony covers — probably something about how I’m going to destroy Star Wars by turning it into a romantic comedy.

Still, whether or not it’s something I end up pursuing, it’s kind of cool to realize that something that seemed completely out of reach when I was a kid isn’t entirely unrealistic now.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Approaching May

I’m closing in on the end of the book — wrote about 5,000 words on Friday and 2,000 on Saturday. I’ve finished the main plot and just need to do the character resolution and wrap-up. That should easily happen this week. Then I need to revise the whole thing, but I may take a slight break and write a shorter piece first. I’ve done so many drafts of the beginning that I need to clear my head before I tackle it again.

Meanwhile, I’ve realized that May is closing in on me, and so I have a lot of stuff I need to get done before I go to the Nebula Awards weekend, which is essentially the annual conference of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I’m doing a presentation and am on a couple of panels, so I have to actually prepare. And then there’s the usual getting ready for travel stuff. This year is going by so quickly.

Before that, I have WhoFest DFW in a couple of weeks. It’s a local Doctor Who convention, and as a local author and low-level celebrity (that should probably be in ironic quotes), I help fill out the programming slots for events that don’t involve the actual celebrity guests. It’s just down the street from my house, so it’s easy to just run over when I have a panel and then get back home. I’m mostly on the program items that are indirectly about Doctor Who, like other books/TV shows/movies about time travel.

So, that’s my May. Plus writing. Lots of writing. I’m behind my planned schedule, though I’ve spent more time writing this year than I had done up to the middle of July of last year. It’s all those rewrites and false starts of this book, which means I’ve put in the time without the forward progress.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Non-Fiction TV

I’ve mentioned how my television viewing has waned, but I’ve noticed another trend: a lot of what I’m watching now is non-fiction. Most of what’s on my DVR is documentaries. Some of them are work-related, tied to a book I’m writing, plan to write, or might write something along those lines someday. I have a couple of documentaries about being a ballet dancer saved that I’ll watch/re-watch before I work on the next Fairy Tale book. I’ve saved a documentary on the Dust Bowl that’s part of the worldbuilding for a book I have in mind. But then there was a series on the art of the gothic in the Victorian era and how the Gothic Revival was about the reaction to industrialization that I recorded more than a year ago because it looked interesting, and it turned out to be the basis for my worldbuilding in the book I’m working on now that wasn’t even a gleam in my eye at the time I recorded it.

My recent viewing seems to have been focused on World War I, with a three-part American Experience documentary that was really eye-opening. I knew some about that war, but there were a lot of things that weren’t really covered in school, like how the politics worked, both in Europe to set it off and in the US to decide how/when we would get involved. Then there were the things going on in the country at that time, like some really virulent racism and an extreme curtailment on civil liberties. There was also a film related to the war, done in dance, but I wasn’t that impressed by it. The choreography was kind of blah, that contemporary pseudo-ballet that mostly involves a lot of writhing on the floor and making pained expressions.

I also finally got around to watching an Independent Lens piece from a few months ago about the tower shooting at UT. Having gone to the University of Texas, I was pretty familiar with the incident. The bullet holes are still there on the buildings and statues, and I had a habit of looking for the ones I knew about as I walked around campus. They became like landmarks for me. This film portrays the incident in a rotoscope animation, with voiceovers by the people being depicted. That made it very intense and personal, and the shock was seeing some of my familiar bullet holes being made. I’d planned to watch it so I could delete it, but I’m going to have to watch it again to take notes because it was an excellent study on people under stress — the victims, the heroes, and the bystanders. They really got into the physical and emotional sensations and their thought processes, and it’s the kind of stuff that I think I could use for characters to make their reactions more authentic.

The other thing I found a little shocking was just how familiar that version of the university and the area around it was to me — a lot more familiar than my more recent visits. Then I realized that there was less time between that incident and my time at the university than there has been between the time I graduated and now. This film was made in commemoration of the 50th anniversary, and I made my pre-registration visit to do some paperwork, set up a local bank account, and generally scope things out on campus on the day of the 20th anniversary (I got to watch a lot of national news crews at work on campus). The explosive growth of Austin didn’t start happening until late in my time there, so the campus and the area around it hadn’t changed that much between the time depicted in the film and my time there, but a lot has changed since then. It made me feel very old and weirdly nostalgic. I don’t even really like going around the campus now because too much around it has changed.

Meanwhile, a couple of weeks ago it must have been “programming for fantasy writers” day on the National Geographic channel because there was a documentary on finding the “real” Atlantis and one on Stonehenge.

And on the fictional side of programming, with the season finale of The Magicians, there’s even less TV to watch. So maybe I’ll get this book done. And then another.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Home Stretch

Yesterday was supposed to be my day to get stuff done other than writing, but I got through my to-do list and still had time, so I got some writing done, too. I’m in the home stretch, with about 20,000 more words to write in this draft, and it’s all outlined. I’ve even seen a lot of the movie in my head. So I’ll be in intense writing mode for the next few days. I tend to write the first quarter and the last quarter of a book quickly, with the middle being the hard part.

I’m also in the home stretch for children’s choir. Just two more sessions where I’m responsible for them and need a lesson plan. This week wasn’t too bad, since a family member of one of the more challenging kids asked if I minded if she sat in. That resolved a lot of the issues, and where it didn’t resolve them, it provided one-on-one handling of anything that came up. I got to focus on teaching, but that meant I had to improvise because I’d put together my lesson plan based on the usual huge gaps I have between activities for getting things under control or having to stop repeatedly for discipline. Without that, I ran out of things to do. I guess I’ll need to come up with more activities for the next couple of weeks since she asked if I minded her coming for the rest of the time. I restrained myself from falling at her feet and whimpering in gratitude.

Today’s writing may be interesting, as allergies have struck with a vengeance. I’ve had times when I’ve been up all night coughing, but up all night sneezing, as I was last night, is new. I guess I won’t be sitting on the patio to work today.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Early Career Planning

In my writing posts, I’ve been talking about writing advice that’s good or that depends on the individual. I found myself thinking once again about that convention panel on career planning for pre-published writers, and there are some things that you might be able to do to give yourself a boost besides just writing. I don’t think all of these are mandatory, but they could be helpful if you do them well. Still, though, the main thing you need to be doing is writing. If you don’t do that, none of the rest of these things will do you any good. I’ve seen a lot of writers stall their potential careers because they got caught up in being involved in writers organizations and conferences, etc., and they thought of that as being writing work, but it kept them from actually writing. They may have been a big shot in the organizations and knew lots of editors because of that, but without anything written, all those connections did no good. So, with each of these activities, you have to ask yourself if you’d be better off spending that time writing.

1) Join a writing organization
This is a good way to network with fellow writers, learn about the craft and the business, meet industry professionals, get feedback on your work, and start getting your name out there even before you’re published. Some of the national genre-specific groups allow unpublished writers to join, and many have local chapters with monthly meetings. There are local groups that meet for critiques or that have speakers. Many libraries and bookstores sponsor writing groups. Check Meet Up, your local library calendar of events, bookstore calendars, or do an Internet search for writing groups associated with your genre.

2) Attend writing conferences
Many of these writing groups sponsor annual conferences. They may be smaller local affairs, just one day with a few guest speakers, or multi-day national conventions with a number of industry professionals. At these events, you can hear expert speakers on the craft and business of writing and schedule pitch sessions with editors and agents. These can be rather expensive, so you might get more bang for your buck if you’re fairly advanced and have a manuscript ready to pitch.

3) Look for other events that include writing activities
While a lot of writing conferences may cost hundreds of dollars to attend, there are fan-oriented genre conventions that include writing activities that may only cost about $40 for the weekend. Look for science fiction or mystery conventions. Many of them include a writers’ workshop and panels on writing. The guest panelists for these events are usually published authors, so even if the convention itself doesn’t include a lot of how-to panels, it may offer you the opportunity to network with writers and talk to published authors.

For any of these in-person activities, you need to present yourself professionally. Don’t shove your manuscript at anyone, don’t corner anyone and force them to listen to a description of your book, don’t derail a panel by asking an irrelevant question that only applies to you or that is only a thinly veiled pitch for your book. Don’t be a jerk, in general. Meeting industry professionals in person can be a positive that helps your career, but it can also hurt you if you make a negative impression or come across like someone who’d be difficult to work with.

4) Study on your own
There are a number of online writing workshops and classes, some free, some at a reasonable cost. Authors, agents, and editors have blogs and write articles on writing. There are books about writing. There are online communities for writers. There’s a lot you can learn without leaving your home.

5) Establish a platform
Do you know a lot about something that might relate to your writing? You might be able to establish a platform based on that before you publish a book, and leverage that into a platform to promote your book. If you’re a lawyer who’s writing legal thrillers, you could write a blog or tweet about legal issues in fiction. Review books and movies involving lawyer characters from the perspective of a lawyer (though you might want to be careful about too much snark about books if you hope to sell a book to editors who published the books you’re tearing apart). Ditto if you’re an aerospace engineer writing science fiction, a folklorist writing fantasy, etc. You can talk about costumes in genre movies, analyze the music, create recipes for dishes mentioned in fiction, or whatever your area of expertise or interest might be.

You can also do this sort of thing if you have a strong voice and can write funny pieces about your own life, witty dissections of movies or TV series, or explorations of pop culture. There are novelists who had huge followings before they ever had a book published.

But don’t feel you have to do this. It takes a lot of time and effort and only really pays off if you have a huge impact.

6) Enter writing contests
I’m actually kind of iffy on this one. There are some manuscript contests sponsored by reputable writing organizations that can get your manuscript in front of editors or agents, skipping the slushpile. But there are also a lot of scams out there. I would be wary of any contest that promises publication as a prize because that prize comes with strict contract terms, with no negotiation. If your book is good enough to win the prize to be published, it’s good enough to be published the normal way, and you might get better terms doing so because then you’d be able to negotiate. For short stories, getting the prize of having your story published on a website means you’ve given up first publication rights and will have a harder time selling it to a real publication. So be sure of what you want out of a contest, who’s judging it, and what happens if you win.

Mostly, though, it’s about the writing. None of these things will do any good if you don’t finish a book and revise it until it’s in publishable condition.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Working Out the End

After a day of brainstorming, I think I’ve figured out what needs to happen for the rest of the book. I dug out my notes from a book on story structure I checked out of the library years ago, and that sparked some ideas. My notes included questions I forced myself to answer, and while I did that, I started seeing the movie in my head.

I know there’s some stuff I’ll have to go back and fix in the next draft, like making a character who’s been drifting on the periphery more prominent and actually defining him, and making the heroine a little more flawed at the beginning so she has room to grow. I’m also not totally sold on the way I did the middle, and there’s one character who may end up being deleted, depending on what I do with the middle. I could eliminate him entirely, except for one critical thing he does in the middle, but once he’s there, I can’t find a way of ditching him. Either he never appears and I find another way to do what he does in the middle, or I’m stuck with him for the rest of the book. I’m worried that his presence dilutes another character who plays a similar role except for that one thing that only he can do, and I think that other character is more interesting and fun.

But first I think I’ll get to the end, and then I’ll make decisions. Let’s see if he earns his keep and does something valuable leading up to the end.

One other thing that came from digging up that old notebook:
That writing book had some exercises for discovering the story you need to be writing. One was to list all the elements you love in books. I did that list, and looking at the list now, I’d say that about 75 percent of them are in this one story. So maybe I’m on the right track.