rants


It’s been so long, and unfortunate, too, as I really would love to be prolific with blog entries. It’s interesting how we’ve finally found a schedule at home, now, but it does little to allow for extra time, even writing. I know that will come back as Baby gets older, and when breastfeeding is no longer a marathoning extravaganza because there will be too many toys and dogs and cats to play with, and then suddenly bed. So until then, I’ve come to find peace in this being my life right now – at her beck and call, for as long as she needs me. It’s really quite exciting, because every day there’s something brand new that happens. People say “oh, they grow up so fast,” and wow, nobody was kidding. Only yesterday she had scrawny little limbs and big solemn eyes and today she’s plump and holding her head up for ten minutes during tummy time and squealing at her mobile. Yesterday she actually grabbed for a toy while on her belly. I’ve never been so proud.

16 weeks old!

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So as sad as I am about how quickly she’s growing, I’m also thrilled … it makes me feel so unbelievably successful. And at the same time, it’s helping me become ready to pick up Harvester again – the lack of writing time has somehow made the plot churn in my brain (in a motivating way). Plus, I’ve been craving books more, and taking more chances on reading things I’m not sure I’ll like. Based on all that, I am fairly confident I can make the book work, which is very exciting.

In other news, I’ve decided to step down from Lightspeed Magazine. It’s been a terrific two + years, and I’ve learned more than I could even describe and met some truly lovely people.

What else? Finished The Passage, which started off strong, and then for me went limp about halfway through, dropping any emotional resonation. Read the third Mira Grant novel, the first half being new and entertaining, and the second half containing just about the same content as the first two books and all kinds of dancing around the main relationship instead of letting us actually experience it. Just started the new Datlow/Windling anthology, After …. and I hope its everything it promises to be.

And one last thing – I’ve been trying desperately not to comment on too many “Go Romney” posts I see on Facebook by my friends… and John keeps telling me to not mix friends and politics. But if you can’t, then who can you speak about politics to? I guess what it comes down to is that I cannot understand how ANY woman would vote for Romney, given what he and Ryan have said/claimed/voted for in the past. This is even before the “Binders Full of Women” thing the other day; that was just a dumb comment he made while floundering to stand up to Obama. And so I see these smart women choosing to (proudly!) vote for a man who does not empower women, who wants to control their reproductive rights (and frankly, their HEALTH), and who would rather give all the power to men than dole it out equally. (And don’t even get me STARTED on the environmental issues…) So yes, there we go. If you’re a woman, you shouldn’t be voting for Romney, not with his policies. If you care at all about the future of our environment, the same. And Obama isn’t perfect (who is?) but at least he’s aware of those two things. Which are really the most important to me, I suppose.

John says we’re moving to Canada if Romney gets elected…I suppose we’ll see what happens in 3 weeks.

And we’re back!

The quick excuse for my absence? Some seriously ugly nausea and exhaustion for the last four months has bumped this blog to a back burner, as much the rest of my life. But in nineteen more weeks John and I should have a baby girl. Everybody’s telling me the puking is worth it, and that I might even forget about it once Baby Josie’s here, so there you go. At least now I want to drink coffee again.

As if tax season and pregnancy weren’t enough, I’ve given myself nineteen weeks to get the first draft of the first Harvester book finished. I’m at 43k right now, so it’s not entirely unthinkable, although since I’ve yet to hit that momentum stride, most mornings it seems a lofty, ridiculous goal. But I am able to get up at 5 am these days, when I couldn’t a month ago, and I consider that a terrific step forward. I’m intending to use this blog as a check-in for wordcount and momentum, at least weekly, and hopefully that will help me get back in the swing of things. Plus, it’s a place to complain about the issues I’m having.

For example, blocking. That’s been on my mind a lot, given the mistakes I made with the three books before this. All were YA, so not only am I having to do a lot of revising as I actually go in order to keep this from being too Harry Potter, but there where there was previously (in the last books) a lot of waking up in the morning, getting from one place to another, going to sleep, etc…now there’s just me staring at the page, wanting to avoid that issue completely. Problem is, in a lot of places I just don’t know how, especially when Heloise’s City is every bit as much a character as her. So that might be an issue I grow with, or I let it be ugly and wrong as I write, and then go back and fix upon revisions – which is easier said than done.

In the meantime, some worthwhile links:

  • This Lev Grossman article, which vastly encouraged me. I have such strong opinions when it comes to books (and short stories, for that matter) and this was written so eloquently that I found a good deal of encouragement in it, both for the state of the market and the eternal why-do-people-like-the-shit-they-like question.

And because this is Valentine’s Day, some four-legged love.

Title brought to you by one of my favorite Nine Inch Nails songs from the album The Fragile. I listened to this song on repeat after Mom died. Well, the whole album, really.

My little sister had her first kickboxing match on Saturday. I’m so proud of her, and holy shit does she have a strong right hook. Even if the other girl plays a little dirty about a minute into this first round. Way to go, Krista! (She’s in the pink and black shorts.)

Story idea of the day? Singularity. When it’s not explained. I’ve had that on the brain for a few weeks now after reading this very clever story that danced around the idea without tapping too much into the science of it, and I loved it. Maybe something will come of that in my own writing.

Story to read for the day? “Substitution,” by my terrific friend Brooke Wonders, possibly one of the most ridiculously brainy people I’ve ever met. (The ONLY thing I can possibly out-knowledge her in is short story markets and maybe classical music, if I’m lucky.) This gorgeous tale came out in Daily Science Fiction this month, and is mixed with equal parts lyricism, intelligence, and that uncomfortable emotive note at the end that left me still thinking about it two weeks after my first read. I cannot wait for the day when I can get my hands on Brooke’s first short story collection; the creepy and surreal resonance of her writing is exactly the sort of thing I look for.

I finally finished the beast of a revision of “North like a Star,” my first-week story at Clarion. Cleaned up the drama, but it still needs a good hack and slash, says my first non-Clarion reader, of which I agree. Too many conflicts have overtaken the main inciting incident, so if I can narrow out 3 or so of those and figure out a new reason for why Bellis gets to the factory, the problem might be solved. And, keep the draft under 5k – right now its pushing 6,500 words. The downside is that I despise the story (after two months of trying to get through this revision), so maybe if I put it away for awhile, some of that will take care of itself? Which means its time to pull out Harvester the novel (again – it seems to fluctuate) or write something new; I think I’ve burnt out my revision momentum for awhile.

What I’d really like is to write a flash. Something brief and sweet or sharp, and clever. A palette-wetting read. A palette-wetting write, so I’m up to tackle longer things again, instead if feeling burnt out.

Article of the day? I avoid politics on Facebook and Twitter as much as I can, simply because while I believe as strongly as the next person, there’s no way to convince anyone to change their point of view in a medium like that, especially when I grew up in a state like South Dakota and now live in Oklahoma – I am the minority amidst my peers in both states. But here’s a link to the article more than worth reading; not to pit one political party above another (which the author gets a little dramatic about – I think his point is made without needing to be so excessive?) but because of the truth in it, not the least being our troops are out of Iraq, health care reform has begun (I haven’t yet met one person opposing this who has been personally affected by it or lack of it – of which now John and I can relate), gay rights in the military, and a push to fix the economy, all done against opposition and hate, despite proclaiming to have the same religious beliefs (which honestly baffles me). Anyway, I found the article very encouraging, and lately, I’ve felt hopeful about the state of our country.

What I’d really like for Christmas is a Caribbean vacation. Instead, we’re staying home, and John’s family is coming over for mimosas and brunch. Then, we’ll likely join the rest of the city at the movie theater? We’ll see – happy Holidays to all!

I’ve been trying to catch up on crits I either owe or have promised that have slipped by, because of my sudden lack of available time: I’ve begun to get up at 5am simply to get in an hour + on Harvester the novel. It’s not nearly as much time as I need, nor does it allow me to rewrite and revise the stories waiting for attention – 5 Clarion stories, plus 2 written previously that need editing before submission.

However, I’ve got 22k of the first Harvester book written, 40k of the second (as I’d initially planned those to be a single book), and the 3rd just revealed itself to me the other day. I’ve been wanting a new book for a long time now, and now, diving into it, despite the vast overwhelmingness of the project and my fear of another novel (and trilogy) and all the what-if-this-doesn’t-succeed-again fears, I’m happy to have it, and even happy to get up an hour early for it.

I still need to find the right music for it, too, to listen to while writing. None of my previous soundtracks work, nor does anything new. I need a science fantasy soundtrack, since that’s what this book is. Alternate reality, where serious dark magic exists, as does alchemy that cures cancer.

The real reason for this post is what Elizabeth Bear called “the reader backpack,” which she brought up one day at Clarion and I’m guessing no one in my class has forgotten yet. I consistently see this as in issue in Lightspeed slush – even with some of the really, really impressive stories that we don’t end up taking for whatever reason. And I just read a story from a talented fellow in my writing group that had the same issue, so I thought I would ramble on about it a bit.

So, Bear’s concept in my words: every story comes along with a backpack that the reader puts on when they read. A nice, empty backpack. First line, (with new characters/setting/conflict) a rock gets added. Next unusual revelation/question asked, a second rock. Now here’s where things either get better or worse. The author can lighten the backpack by removing rocks (answer questions), or make it worse by adding – which happens too often. Give the reader a rock with every question introduced, and they’re so bogged down without answers that they’ll stop reading because they cannot stagger down the path of the story any longer.

Bear’s suggestion was 1st question/rock, 2nd question/rock, then answer 1st. Hand out 3rd question/rock, answer 2nd. Move along like that so the reader is constantly intrigued, but you’ve got to remove enough rocks that they won’t get annoyed and throw down the backpack altogether.

While I’m on the bandwagon…

I also see things that don’t work for the story. Too much going on, too many unusual structural choices (which in an of itself are awesome) alongside intense content and you’ve got an indecipherable blob of genius that no reader like me (I’m slow-witted when it comes to stories) can decipher. Every element in the story works to serve the greater purpose of the story, but if you’ve got too many elements doing the same thing, or doing too many things, your gorgeous tech-happy alien story has turned incomprehensible. (And I am so guilty of this, too.)

Just like everything else in life, it’s all about the balance.

Oh, and while I’m here – reading. I’m almost done with Embassytown by Mieville, of which I have mixed reactions. Just some absolutely brilliant things going on there, including his very thought-out alien race. But wow did it get sloggish in the middle; I put it down for almost 4 months, and only picked it back up again because I had bought the hardback and decided I need to at least try and finish it. I slogged through a few more chapters until holy shit the apocalypse and it FLOORED ME for 3 more chapters of breathless reading until I hit expositional apocalyptic summary, to which I’ve slowed up again, although I think its very important I watch what he does because of my own apocalyptic novel. So…yes. So many amazing things, but I prefer a book I inhale consistently.

Also finished Valente’s Deathless. Some absolutely stunning prose, and I found the first half of the book captivating in a way I rarely come across these days, (the Baba Yaga scenes are absolutely priceless). Because of that, truly a must-read. On the technical side, I like books that push forward, driving to the end (even in a subtle fashion), and this one doesn’t do that. While consistently gorgeous and evocative, the motivations dwindled in favor of consistent, evocative imagery, which wasn’t enough to keep me intrigued. As a result, the last third of the book was hard for me to finish as I wasn’t invested in the protag’s journey anymore (which was also my reaction to her Palimpsest). Despite that, I’m certain I’ll go back to this book one day; it’s simply too lovely and original not to.

And I will add again that this James Tiptree, Jr. collection is the most amazing thing I’ve read all year, still (with Caitlín R. Kiernan’s Sirenia Digests‘ second). A must read for every SF reader/writer.

Happy Friday! A movie is in order this weekend, I think.

I’m too keyed up to write much of anything. I’ve been pretty much useless at work, and useless at home, pacing about and counting out every…moment…that…ticks…by. Plus, there’s the acquisition of our first house, and all the tedious little details that must be taken care of before it’s OURS. Soon, hopefully. As soon as I come back to real life in August.

This is what my next six weeks will look like:

8:00am – 9:00am Breakfast
9:00am – 1:00pm Class (typically 3-4 stories are discussed)
1:00pm – 2:00pm Lunch
3:00pm – 5:00pm Individual Instructor/Author conferences
6:00pm  – deadline to distribute following day stories
6:00pm – 7:00pm Dinner
Evening: Reading and critiquing following day’s stories / writing / additional activities organized by Instructors or Students

Perfect.

I’ve made myself a list of topics I eventually want to write stories about, as well as happening to find this week 4k words of a post-apocalypse/alien tale that I hadn’t been expecting. We’ll see what happens with that.

In the meantime, I came across an old blogpost of Neil Gaiman’s on free speech, specifically addressing a topic that most people shrink away from. Eloquent and something worth thinking about, especially if you want to be challenged on what you think and why.

And I’m off!

For the first time, with “Sarscon 8,” I’ve written something that was easier upon the first draft – the act of putting raw thoughts and ideas to paper  – rather than the maneuvering of events and motivations to form something more cohesive as a whole. Usually, revisions delight me. But this story, and my struggling to find its core, has genuinely made me want to stop writing. Dramatic, yes, but the truth, and after six hours a day for weeks on this, trying to force it to work, I’m ready to be done with it.

However, I’ve gotten several excellent critiques on it, with a few more to come. Perhaps that will whip it into submittable shape. At least it has some shape already, a shape I believe can eventually work.

There was a disappointing article on young adult books by the Wall Street Journal, which has raised quite a fuss (you can find a good deal of it on Twitter with the hash tag #YASaves). Now, I understand the author’s point. I really do. And then when you add to the question, the age of your child, and how old is too young/old for YA, it grows even more complicated. But the Hunger Games books aren’t for a nine-year-old, unless your nine-year-old happens to be one that would understand the larger picture. I’ve met nine-year-olds that could read those books. But they’re the exception, as is the Hunger Games trilogy. The same is true for ten-year-olds, eleven-year-olds, and so on.

The real problem, in this case, is the ignorance of the parent in this article. You can’t just walk into a bookstore and expect to find something “good and wholesome and perfect for your child” on the shelf. You have to educate yourself on both your child and what’s out there. This woman walked in blindly, and what does she see? Lurid covers, in the Twilight era. Yes, because lurid sells. Is all the content lurid? Not all. Very little, in my reading experience (which is significant), although lurid in that much of it is poorly written, ludicrous and not worth reading. Just like ANY genre, for ANY age. Plus, factor in personal preferences, and you’ve got a situation you can’t just “walk into.”

Also, the direction the article takes is just ridiculous – Meghan Cox Gurdon simply doesn’t know what she’s talking about.  Not that I was around forty years ago to know what YA books were like, but eighteen years ago, hiding the V.C. Andrews & Danielle Steele books at the bottom of my 12-stack pile from the library, I checked out books like Madeleine Polland’s “To Kill a King,” where the main character’s family had been brutally massacred by a king, and so she set out to kill him herself, for revenge.  (Polland wrote several other intense books with violent events happening to the main character’s family.) Elizabeth Marie Pope’s “The Perilous Gard” was so powerful for me that I not only grew obsessed with the Tam Lin folk tale (who arguably, depending on your version, rapes and impregnates an innocent girl), but by the time I’d turned 28, I’d written an entire YA novel inspired by Pope’s vision of Tam Lin, which for me, is still the best retelling out there. (The Queen made people lose their MINDS.) Let’s not even get started on authors like Jane Yolen, who has written stories with violence and women and power that I will never forget. And there’s Elizabeth George Speare and hell, what about Lloyd Alexander, who invented zombies? (I know, loose interpretation…)

All that to say, Kyle Cassidey offers a rebuttal more factual than my personal experience. Also another on Npr.org, full of truth: kids are smart, and intuitive, and the world isn’t getting any brighter. And when I’m a parent and the world has changed even more, hopefully I’ll be able to teach my kid how to navigate through it.

Oh, and Mira Grant’s DEADLINE: holy shit. Seanan McGuire brings it. That is all I can say. I’m about half-through, and have been floored about 95% of the time (which is damn good). If you’ve read (and liked) FEED, go buy DEADLINE asap, especially if you’re a writer. It’s the most amazing lesson in how to send the reader into a tailspin, repeatedly.

I’m hoping above hope that the tension doesn’t let up, because I’ll be so sad.

>There was a lot of stuff going around on Facebook within the last week about National Gay and Lesbian Coming out day, which was the 11th, including ‘donating your status’ by putting in a quote like this:

” (Your name) is a straight ally and today is National Coming Out Day. I’m coming out for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality because it’s 2010 and you can still be fired from your job in 29 states for being lesbian, gay or bisexual and in 38 states for being transgender. Donate your status and join me by clicking here: http://bit.ly/d9yubh.”


I never did it because I didn’t want to provoke or instigate controversy among the very many conservatives I grew up with and are on my friends’ list (and who are by the whole more conservative than those at Wheaton, who are in turn more conservative than my Roosevelt friends, and now I’ve somehow landed myself in the Bible belt). But I very much wanted to. And I’m certainly not ashamed of what I think and believe, it’s just that I had-and still have-very little energy to expend on a ‘why or why not I think God/Jesus would be okay with it’ argument, or get into the very many reasons why I believe 100% that gay marriage should be legal’ which would only lead to the ‘don’t you realize you’re bordering on severe hypocrisy by what you’re saying’ conversation.

But this article (via wise Molly at Fantasy Magazine!) broke my heart a little today, enough to make me put down the short I was working on and write out my thoughts. (And also, because this is my blog, and I can say what I want.) As harsh as Dan Savage’s words sound, he is right, I believe. What he says is true, true, true.


The kids of people who see gay people as sinful or damaged or disordered and unworthy of full civil equality—even if those people strive to express their bigotry in the politest possible way (at least when they happen to be addressing a gay person)—learn to see gay people as sinful, damaged, disordered, and unworthy. And while there may not be any gay adults or couples where you live, or at your church, or in your workplace, I promise you that there are gay and lesbian children in your schools. And while you can only attack gays and lesbians at the ballot box, nice and impersonally, your children have the option of attacking actual gays and lesbians, in person, in real time.

Real gay and lesbian children. Not political abstractions, not “sinners.” Gay and lesbian children.

I have the right to say this, I think, because I’ve lived this perspective of the questioner in that link, for too many years. I’ve been on that side that see gay people as sinful or damaged or disordered, no matter how politely so, because I didn’t really learn to think for myself until after undergrad. And even then, it didn’t sink in until I was 21 and in grad school, and one my dearest, dearest friends–my first real ‘out’ friend, I suppose–looked at me and said, “Do you think I want to be gay? Do you think that I would choose this?”

It blew me away. And I’ll never forget it. Even now, I’m fully aware I don’t know quite what it’s like to experience that side of life, to deal with that kind of oppression and repression, and it grieves me to know that this is even an issue, because it’s just so simple.

God is love. And truth, to face what you may not understand, because you’ve never been there. He’s not hate, bigotry, and certainly not ‘your sexual preference is wrong and mine is right because I’m saved.’

End of rant.

Oh, and one last note: this is great news for our country. Hopefully the ludicrous and fearful worries of the ignorant will be ignored. This is a good start.

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