30 December, 2021

Good DAY to you, 2021. I said--GOOD DAY!

Right, so--the year began with an insurrection and it's ending with Omicron, but in between there was a lot of writing--and teaching; I have a day job, and will for the foreseeable future--but I'm here to talk about the writing. I don't usually; there are writers out there who do, and do it well, and I usually figure I don't have too much to say that they haven't already. Also, the day job is teaching writing, so I do a lot of talking about the writing process, just not my own. But really, truth: I think "I can write about writing here on this blog, or I can, you know, go write." And I usually go write. 

Not that this blog isn't writing, but--oh, you know what I mean.

Anyway. My writing. My fiction. And 2021. 

I had a book come out: NIGHTWATCH ON THE HINTERLANDS, in October. It's a good book. I enjoyed the hell out of writing it. It's related to the RORY THORNE books--same multiverse, same arithmancy--but a different cast and a very different tone. 

Anyway. 2020 was a hard year for most of us, publishing and publishers included, and though NIGHTWATCH made its pub date on time, there were some bumps along the road. 

While we navigated those bumps, I drafted a set of proposals and accompanying sample chapters for what I thought would be the next set of books I'd be writing. Then the bumps became pits and mountains. The two books meant to follow NIGHTWATCH became one proposed sequel, and the third book was abandoned. (Not because it sucks or it got rejected--it never got submitted--but because I don't really want to write it anymore. I have other ideas that are more interesting.)

And here's where I start talking process

I don't outline. I don't plot. I get a couple characters with distinct personalities, I present them with a problem, a situation, and I set them loose to solve it. I have ideas, but no set path forward, no sequence of events that must happen. This is how I run my D&D campaigns, and this is how I write my novels. Character-directed. If I get stuck--I have this brain full of plot devices up there, so many tools in the box--and one of those will work. A misdirection. An explosion! Something unexpected. Whatever. 

Now, NIGHTWATCH is already a little unusual; I actually had a plot in mind. It's a murder mystery, see, among other things. The basic structure was already there, even if the details weren't. I even had signpost events along the way--this encounter, this discovery--because in a murder mystery, you need those.

So. 2021. With the sequel to NIGHTWATCH (let's call it WINDSCAR), I started with not one, but two synopses already written. Book two was meant to be more SF-horror, claustrophobic and harrowing. Book three was going to be the more epic battley one. And I had to condense  these into one synopsis, which I did. Which looked good, it made sense, and the publisher bought it. Huzzah! 

Now I just had to write it. And here is where I got cocky: this time, I had a synopsis before the zero draft. I had a map. A plan. I thought it would be easy. Write what's in the synopsis. It's right fucking there

So I did. I had a brutal drafting schedule. I had to write this whole book over the summer, June-September, because I wanted the zero draft done before fall quarter started so I could revise before sending the first real draft to Lisa. 

Fortunately no one had any travel plans this summer, and I am a natural workaholic. (It's my coping mechanism--when the world is a hot mess of shit and trashfires, and I can control almost none of it--I control what I can, and that's work. Anyway.)

I drafted. And drafted. And it was like breaking bones, that drafting, but I hit the marks on the synopsis and I even finished the zero draft of WINDSCAR early, beginning of August. I took a week off, but I already knew it was a hot mess. It felt forced, it felt contrived, it was too compressed and the pacing was crap--

Then I figured out why.

First, the synopsis that had looked good on paper was too much for any one book, unless I wanted to write 250K, which I did not. Which I could not, if I wanted to hit the deadlines. (It's due to my editor March 1, pub date October. It's already tight.)

Second, and more importantly: I'd been hitting my synopsis marks, but I hadn't given the characters any reasons to hit those marks with me. Their motivation was underdetermined, and even more underwritten. I typically draft as if I am experiencing the action along with the characters--what does X think? How is she feeling? What makes sense for her to do now? I think she should go--nope, no, she wants to go here instead  For WINDSCAR, I wrote more like I was a director. Go here! Go there! Do a thing! Feel this way! And it wasn't working. 

So there, now at mid-August, I was looking at 120K and throwing about 50, 60, maybe 70K away and rewriting the back half to two-thirds, and the summer was more than halfway over.

So...I did. I revised. I rewrote. Partway through that, my word processor crashed. As in stopped working. As in erase and reinstall. I decided I could lose a day (or more, if the reinstall failed for some reason) or I could just... use a different word processor, the one built into my OS. So I did that, and I kept to my schedule.

I finished draft 0.2 in September, just before school began. Essentially I NANOWRIMO'ed twice. The second draft was better, I could feel that, but it was also not quite done. 

But I was. 

I revised one more time, so that Lisa didn't have to look at my frankensteined horror of a draft. There was no time for my beta reader, so I sent it to Lisa in November, knowing it was missing an actual end, but also knowing I needed confirmation that the story held together enough to warrant an ending. And also knowing I needed a goddamned break from the thing, because at that point I was calling it That Fucking Book. 

I reinstalled the word processor. It went fine. I taught my classes. I baked, I knit, I cooked. I gamed--finished a long-running campaign I'd been DMing, made a new character for one that's starting in 2022. 

Lisa got WINDSCAR back to me in December, well ahead of our original schedule--which is great! Because I have about 15K more to write (she guesses 20K. I am in firm denial). I have spent the holiday break writing like it's summer all over again, although at least this time, I really am revising. And I would always, always rather revise than draft. 

So I guess the point of all this is... I don't write well to synopses. I am not likely to be a plotter. I suppose there could be a book someday where I am a plotter, but it's not my preferred headspace. 

I learned that I can write fucking fast when I have to. And when I am not trying to hit marks on a synopsis, I can write pretty well at that speed. I always underwrite, so the speed of production does not appear to affect that at all. I also learned that I hate to write that fast. It's not a long-term sustainable pace, even when there isn't a day job tugging my sleeve and demanding attention.

So I will start 2022 actually finishing WINDSCAR, writing that ending, and hopefully getting Lisa's eyes on it one more time before it's due. And after that...after that, I have nothing under contract to anyone. 

And I have an idea. I even have notes on how it starts. We'll see where it goes.

12 November, 2021

NIGHTWATCH-related links, plus jack o' lanterns

 Y'all, it is already in the 90s here this AM, in mid-November, which is not old-normal but may be new-normal and anyway, it's hot, which does not segue naturally into hey here are some interviews I did about NIGHTWATCH ON THE HINTERLANDS, but we post with the segues we have, not the segues we want. 

An Interview with Nerd Daily

An Interview with Paul Semel

I have turned in the NIGHTWATCH sequel (heretofore referred to as WINDSCAR) to my long-suffering agent, who will probably tell me it needs an ending because it kinda just stops, and...well, that is fair. But it just stops at 115K, so there can't be too much more. I hope. 

And I hope even more that November remembers it's the month of rain and chill, or at least grey skies. If this nonsense continues, I'm gonna start looking for sandworms.

And because I missed Halloween (well, I didn't miss it, but I missed posting), here are the Eason Collective jack o'lanterns of 2021. I am not sure why it took us so long to go full D&D, but I, for one, am not turning back. The beholder is Nous's creation. He does one seriously artistic thing every year, and it is his jack o'lantern. I favor simple shapes, but I am a sucker for dragons, so... dragon. Red, of course. 

Beholder jackolantern

dragon head jackolantern

19 October, 2021

Nightwatch on the Hinterlands is here!

Nightwatch on the Hinterlands is loose in the world.  You can acquire it in all the usual places, and you should, because Tinycat said so. Do you want to argue with Tinycat? 

(Spoiler: you do not. She is more obstinate than either of the kaiju boy-cats. She will wear you down.) 


As many times as this happens--and this is #6--a book release day is a rush. So much goes into producing a novel--I wrote it, yeah, but my amazing agent, Lisa Rodgers, and the incredible team at DAW, are the ones who make sure the story is dressed polished and ready to go outside. So thanks to all of them for getting the story to you. 

I had fun writing this one (which is not always the case), and I hope you enjoy reading it, too. 

09 August, 2021

The Golden Cowbell

a large golden cowbell on a leather strap
Back in June I received notice from a librarian at the K. Weldon Library (International School of Geneva, La Ch√Ętaigneraie Campus) that How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse was the winner of a Golden Cowbell award. Which--cool! I am delighted to win awards, and delighted that Rory is a hit with a) kids at all and b) kids who don't necessarily speak English as a first language. So yay! 

After a very long journey, with a stop off at JABberwocky, it arrived. 

I was expecting a cute little tourist-sized cowbell, the kind my mother has hanging on her wall from the trip we took to Switzerland was I was...10? I think. This, however, is not that cowbell. 

On that trip to Switzerland, I remember waking up in the hotel to the sound of cows being driven up the actual street outside to their mountain pastures. They wore bells, and those bells were very loud and distinctive. Functional bells

This is one of those bells. It is also quite lovely. I smelled the leather strap when I opened the box. The bell itself is heavy and shiny. The brass fittings on the strap are very shiny (the astute observer may see me reflected in the cow as I took this photo). I was delighted to receive the award and now I am doubly, triply, extremely delighted to receive the bell itself. 

Thank you, students who voted for Rory!

30 June, 2021


 Y'all! I am super excited to announce, reveal, shout from the rooftops my new, upcoming novel, Nightwatch on the Hinterlandscoming October 19, 2021.


white title on a background of red and black wires that still manage to look a little bit organic

I pitched this book to my agent as "HALO meets D&D meets a mystery".  Its working title was Tin Can Fun Fur. And it was a blast to write. 

While it's set in the same world (multiverse?) as THE THORNE CHRONICLES, it has a different narrative vibe (and it's, like, 100 years in the future).  No princesses here. This is dirtside, street-level mystery-solving, with a cast of xenos and plenty of small-p politics.

If you're a fan of arithmancy in action, or want to see more tenju, alwar, and/or vakari, or just think OMG this cover! Is the inside as cool as the outside? (yes)--well you are in luck, because...

Preorders are happening now at all the usual places. 

See you in October... 

12 May, 2021


When there is absolutely no way to invisible repair the clapotis, repair it boldly. The patch keeps the same pattern, but sets it at an angle, and adds an extra corner at the bottom because why not

And! Nearly a year after tearing a hamstring, I'm back road-running. The healing period was spent running laps up, around, and down the 7 flights of parking structure, which kept the cardio and let things heal and made other things stronger. (Of course I did not rest.)

I also changed my gait completely, a mix of necessity and intent, which I'm given to understand one shouldn't do? Or something. Whatever. I am far happier than I thought I'd be to be running again. I look forward to it, even.

And! It doesn't hurt. I had forgotten what that's like.

I came late to running--in my 30s--because I'd always believed I wasn't built for it. I pronate pretty badly on a heelstrike, which is my "natural" stride, and end up pulling my body weight forward, rather than pushing off from the ball of the foot. Turns out I could, and did, muscle my way through for a while, with a scattering of IT and piraformis injuries (treated with months on an elliptical). But the hamstring, boy howdy. There was ouch and then there was ouch and then there was literally unable to touch my toes. Like, could not. Pain override.

It was the yoga that clued me in, hard. I couldn't do things I'd always done. A quick search told me what this was. Torn hamstring! Tendon?! I had to let that heal. And that meant I was going to have to stop running.

I was terrified. There was no gym access! Walking isn't enough! I'd get...well...fat.

And here let it be said: this is not about fat-shaming. This is about body dysmorphia and eating disorders.

11 April, 2021


( ...originally typo-titled "bleated," which might be kinda appropriate too)

I was going to write about getting the vaccine when I got the second dose two weeks ago (Pfizer). I had imagined--based on my unexpected emotional reaction to the first dose--that I would have Feelings. First shot, we'd gotten a spot unexpectedly, because a coworker posted on Facebook that a nearby vaccine site was accepting appointments right now for educators and we jumped on that. After that jab, I realized how much stress I'd been under, and how even one shot made me feel like...not that things would return to normal, not that everything was okay now, but...like there had been a pressure, a discomfort to which I had become so accustomed I no longer noticed it, and now it was gone. I noticed the negative space of it, the place it had carved out in my psyche. I thought that the second shot would herald a return of that feeling, but it didn't. I was just relieved. 

That was two weeks ago. If there is such a thing as officially vaccinated, all the immunities as in place as they will be... we're there. Our region is coming out of restrictions, things are reopening, and great! But I am in no real hurry to go back to the restaurants I haven't been to in over a year. I've grown accustomed to the take-out sandwiches on Friday "date night." It feels weird to think about removing a mask in public. And eat in public? Egad. Visiting a zoo might be nice. Or a museum. Or a store that isn't faithful Trader Joe's. But be around people? No, thank you. My latent agoraphobia has taken root this last year, hard.

(I better get over that before classes start in the fall. Because barring a new pandemic, they will. We've been super lucky here--the UCs have shut the fuck down and stayed that way for in-person instruction. How delightful to have official policy dictated by science and public health, instead of political toadshit.)

And I wasn't going to write about any of this, sweartogod. I was going to write about The Patchwork Terror and how, in his quest to eat all of Tinycat's scarfed-and-barfed breakfast, he chewed a big chunk out of the first clapotis I ever knitted. And how I did not quite freak out because he's not Idris: he shreds and gnaws whatever he eats to tiny pieces, even wee bits of kibble-treats, so I was pretty sure he hadn't swallowed long strands. (He never did throw up a damn bit of it. Where has it gone? The obvious answer--through him--has not manifested. He either reduced that wool to tiny pieces and digested it along with his food or it's still sitting in his gut, making itself into the grandmother of hairballs.) 

But also, ferfuckssake, I was upset, too, at the destruction. The loss. That clapotis--hours and hours of knitting, out of a indie-dyed colorway--is irreparable and irreplaceable. Of course PT was, is, more important, and I would set fire to the clapotis myself to keep him safe, but he's also fine, and fortunately not inclined to chew on textiles unless someone has thrown up on them first. This is a one-time catastrophe. 

But then, as I began writing, I realized--the worry, the fear, the anger, the guilt about being angry over a ruined thing on which much work had been spent, the grief over what was destroyed--felt familiar. This was a fresh wave of it, sure, but that's why I noticed it, after so long being numb to it. It's what I felt last spring. 

Anger. Fear. Guilt. That sinking, sick feeling of knowing something is irreparably mangled, and there is nothing to be done for it except figure out a way to salvage what's left: make it, if not beautiful, at least defiantly functional. Somehow. Wabi sabi. (And even if it's not beautiful again, ever--the clapotis will be warm. It will be of use. And it will be a story). 

I wish I could say that I think the world, post-pandemic, post the 45th president, will be like this clapotis. I don't think it will, though. We can't wabi sabi what's happened. We won't be past BLM because we're not past white supremacy. We can't get past anti-science insurrectionists because they're still crawling all over the Capitol. We can't even get people to take the fucking vaccines. I don't know how that sort of damage becomes functional again, that it can be patched. I hope I'm wrong. I don't know what happens if I'm not.

In the meantime, I have a clapotis to mend.