[Blog] Retroactive Hiatus

If I’d had a little more foresight, I might have posted up something like this at the beginning of the month instead of spending the entirety of May fooling myself into believing I could keep up with my schedule…


Like the title says, I’m considering May as a retroactive hiatus month. So, no story this month, and it covers that blog post I missed a few weeks back, too. But! June should be a calmer month (she says, full of optimism and deadly naivete), or at least one with less house guests and a more predictable routine– so I’ll see you then!


[Blog] eBook size

For all my griping about how ebooks just don’t match up to paper ones in my books (ha, ha), there’s one aspect I don’t think I’ve fully realized until more recently. And that’s their size. Or rather, the fact that outside of a number on the bottom of the screen telling you how many pages a particular book has and/or how long it thinks it’s going to take you to read said book, there is absolutely nothing differentiating a tiny little novella from some behemoth that has designs on all your free time for the next two weeks.

Now, I grant you, this has its perks. For one thing, if you’re the sort of person who might balk at some eight hundred plus page epic, if you don’t happen to notice just how long it is until you’ve been well and truly hooked, you might end up reading something wonderful that you otherwise would have assumed you didn’t have time for. That being said, if you’re the sort of person who is usually reading several books all at the same time, and you happen to pick up an ebook copy of some brick of a high fantasy novel that you assumed was something like four or five hundred pages long and is, instead, twice that length, you might have to adjust your schedule or accept that your library loan is going to run out before you finish.

At least with a paper book you’ll know what you’re getting into.

Now, don’t mind me, I have to go read another couple chapters of The Priory of the Orange Tree.


[Blog] How To Write A Sad Scene

In the book I’m currently reading (The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri), I just finished a chapter containing one of the most effective depictions of grief I’ve ever read. It is beautifully written, of course, but no more so than the rest of the book has been. Its strength does not come from flowery language or overwhelming descriptions. There is no devastating itemization of the pain the characters are going through, no over-the-top metaphors attempting to capture all this human feeling and pin it to the page.

If there was, it wouldn’t have worked half so well.

Rather, she just takes several pages to describe the space the character that died once occupied and a few minor details of their existence, as well as an almost emotionless description of the actions taken by those they left behind. And the result is devastating.

It reminds me a little of That One Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you’ve seen it, I suspect you know exactly which one I’m talking about; it’s not easy to forget. If you haven’t, I won’t spoil it here, other than to say that what the episode shows Buffy going through in the wake of a sudden and unexpected loss is similarly powerful in the way it is utterly mundane and so terribly painful in the way it seems to just stretch on and on.

Both, I think, are phenomenal examples of the writer’s constant quest to show and not tell. As mentioned above, they don’t expend much, if any energy, in depicting every feeling, every emotion. Rather, they slow the action down to a snail’s pace and invite the audience to walk beside the characters as they have to continue on, handling all the things that must be handled when such things happen. There is, if anything, a distinct lack of emotion as the characters that might be expected to feel those emotions don’t have the time, the space, the ability to do so while so many things have to take precedence.

Maybe it’s that very lack of catharsis that allows both to weigh so heavily. There is nowhere for the grief to go so it just builds, piece by piece, growing until it cannot be ignored.


[Blog] Update – May ’23

Happy May, everyone!

Here in Colorado we’ve been having some truly gorgeous days, all sunny and in the 60s and 70s and it’s been wonderful (she says, thereby summoning a snowstorm in retribution). It’s been lighter in the mornings, too, which combined with the fact that I usually don’t have to scrape ice off my car before heading to work has been a very welcome change.

Kinda like last month, my writing continues to progress slowly but consistently as I figure out how to juggle it with other priorities and responsibilities. Like the need for sleep. And social interaction. My work schedule currently leaves me with a lovely opening of a few hours on Tuesday afternoons, which has been perfect for relocating to a local coffee shop to get some work done. Sadly, that will all be changing in a week or so, and I’m not yet sure what the new schedule will look like. Bidding for shifts every few months is rough, guys.

Reading this month went fairly well, though! I’m definitely enjoying the fact that I set myself a slower pace this year, if only because I don’t feel like I have to devour the words on the page or risk falling behind. Don’t get me wrong– I enjoy the chaotic drive of doing it that way, or else I wouldn’t do it. But having this year as something of a break is really nice and makes me feel like I can take the time to read things a little slower, or try out some slower reads.

One of those slower reads this past month was Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel. I only made it through about a third of it before my loan was up at the library and I had to go back on the waiting list (alas), but my impression so far is that it is beautifully written with some very interesting prose. For those unfamiliar, the book is the first of a trilogy of historical fiction novels set during the reign of Henry VIII and following the character of Thomas Cromwell. Mantel uses a really interesting mix of direct and indirect dialog in her writing that took a while for me to get used to, but once I did, I found it engaging and immersive. I’m very much looking forward to getting back to it.

I also started A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, a novel set during the Chechen conflict of the late ’90s and early 2000s, moving between various viewpoints and telling a very human story. Lots of lovely prose here as well and very real characters, and I’m looking forward to finishing this one too once the library gets another copy available.

As for books I actually finished, the one that was the most fun was the second of Brandon Sanderson’s secret projects. Since it’s still so new and I know there’s a lot of people (like myself) who have been enjoying the experience of going in blind when the new stories drop, I’ll just say this: it’s like no other Sanderson I’ve ever read, not to mention being a mix of genres and ideas that you wouldn’t think should work– and yet it does. It really, really does.

I also finished up Babel by R.F. Kuang, which is a fascinating combination of historical fiction/alternate universe fantasy (translation is magic!) that provides a biting commentary on colonialism (with a particular focus on 19th century British Empire) by tweaking the world just enough that you can look at the actual historical events with a slightly fresher eye. My one complaint is that it was almost too didactic at times, but given how many times I’ve caught myself thinking about it since finishing, it’s well worth the read.

Finally, I blitzed through The Way Home by Peter S. Beagle, in which he revisits the world of one of my favorite books, The Last Unicorn. Technically a pair of novellas, both following the character of Sooz, I really enjoyed dropping back into the gentle-yet-melancholy fairy-tale world that made me fall in love with Unicorn in the first place. The first (and shorter) of the pair is Two Hearts, which is my favorite of the two. With lots of characters fans will recognize, it felt the the most like the first book. The second, Sooz, I also liked, but the plot felt a little less carefully crafted, and some of the emotional and physical trauma our heroine suffers seemed somewhat gratuitous and over the top, though the writing was as beautiful as ever. Mostly, I just want to go re-read The Last Unicorn again.

Anyway! That was my April, more or less. Goals for May include more reading and setting myself back on a regular and more demanding writing schedule in the hopes of getting more finished– hopefully without burning myself out in the process. Onwards!


Correspond (II)

It was only supposed to be a day. Two days at the most, then back to the safe, sweet oblivion of coldsleep while the years and the light years slipped away. Two days, and she wouldn’t be the only conscious soul in all this great and awful void, with nothing but the creak and hum of the ship for company. That was what the new nanite interface was supposed to guarantee. Yet here she was, four days in.

Still awake.

Still alone.

Still no closer to a solution, any solution, than the moment she first woke up.

She felt so stupid. Since when had new tech ever worked as well in the field as it did in the lab? There was always another variable, always something no one predicted, always some way for everything to come apart at the seams. She’d just assumed it would still function well enough. Usually, she could find some way to get it that far. Usually, she had help. Usually.

She still didn’t know exactly what had happened. Her first assumption, that the trouble was just a nasty fluke of untested hardware and confined to the nanite systems, hadn’t survived even her first, cursory survey of the ship’s systems. The damage was too widespread.

And it was damage. That was the terrifying part. A software glitch would have been bad enough, with all its attendant troubles and impossibilities. But software could be reset. Worked around. Coaxed and tricked and prodded.

Fried and melted circuits, not so much. If she could get the sensors and the logs back online it might have recorded what had happened. A violent flare from some alien star, perhaps. A band of dark energy. Or just a fault built into the system itself. At the moment, it didn’t matter.

They had backups, of course, and redundancies. You wouldn’t try something like this without them. Not if you hoped to survive the attempt. The trick was just that all the important bits assumed there would be more than one set of hands available to make the replacement.



There were. Or there could be.

She could invoke Emergency Protocol C and bypass the safeties and the new nanotech interface the Twins had gotten, same as her. She could send a Full Wake Signal through their systems. It would just take a few keystrokes. A few command codes entered directly into the coldpods themselves. It should still work. She had checked.

But a Full Wake meant it would be years before they could go back into coldsleep. It wouldn’t be so isolating with more than one of them awake. Not as bad as this. But they only had so much food, so much water. So much air the ship could purify for the fragile humans inside. So, no. She wouldn’t use a Full Wake. Not unless she had to.

(The thought, the fear crossed her mind that the computer had been forced to resort to using the Full Wake to pull her out of coldsleep. But, she reminded herself, that would have showed on the medscan. It had to.)

Not that it was going to be functionally all that different if she couldn’t get her own damn interface to work the way it was supposed to. And if it was a choice between going slowly mad on her own and dragging one or two more souls into this hellish limbo just to make sure the mission didn’t fail right here, right now…

It hadn’t come to that yet.

She still had things to try.

If she could just get their nanite systems to start working the way they were supposed to, both hers and the Twins’, it would be alright. It would all be alright.

That was her first thought. Her first plan. But when the first day and half of the second passed without any kind of progress, she had to abandon it and find another. A tactical retreat. Not defeat. That’s what the Twins would have said.

It wasn’t defeat.


[Blog] Smells of Seasons

Sometimes it’s a smell that makes it truly feel like the seasons have finally changed. The sights help too– new leaves on the trees, turning them green with a surprising swiftness; splashes of red and yellow, blue and purple as the first flowers bloom; the scattering of raindrops that cling to all the surfaces that were so recently covered by frost and snow. Yet for all that, it’s not until the first morning I walk outside and smell the sweet tang of damp earth that it really feels like winter is over.

Never mind the fact that there’s a non-zero chance another drop in the weather accompanied by another storm might blanket the world in snow once more before the week is out.


[Blog] Catharsis

Sometimes in the chaos of day to day life, it’s easy to let a thousand other things take priority over writing. This is especially true when coaxing stories out of your head and into a readable form doesn’t also translate to something that helps pay the bills; if you don’t write, the only visible consequence is that your document remains blank and your novel unwritten, whereas if you don’t go to work, make dinner, do laundry… you get the picture.


To leave it at that is to sell the entire thing short. Because sure, on the one hand my writing is “just” a hobby. And yeah, if I want to change that I’m going to have to pour in a whole lot more effort and give it a significantly higher priority than I’m doing now. And I’d by lying if I said that wasn’t the goal (one of many, hence my trouble).

Yet on the other hand, thinking like that forgets that we humans are wired to tell stories: to entertain ourselves and each other, to make sense of this crazy world we live in, to talk to each other about God and life and death and everything. And I think that’s why, for me at least, there’s a distinct benefit when I do take the time to write every day. It has a leveling effect, as if it provides an outlet for all the spinning thoughts that would otherwise remain trapped in my skull. It’s not perfect; nothing is. But it’s a heck of a lot better than what happens when I don’t write.


[Blog] A Book of a Different Cover

Generally speaking, my first impulse when choosing what book to read next is to go to the piles/lists of recommended fantasy or science fiction I have yet to read. Goodness knows there’s enough there to keep me busy for a long, long while, including several that I know I’m going to enjoy once I get to them. Yet for all the many, many offerings in the realm of speculative fiction, there are so many other books that are worth the time it takes to read them. Most of the time, they’re books I never would have thought to pick up if someone hadn’t told me about them in the first place.

Which, I think, is where libraries come in.

Because while I’m in just as much (or more?) prone to the dangers of browsing Thriftbooks as anyone else, the books I end up buying are usually more sci-fi and fantasy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I enjoy them. I love that half my personal bookshelves are filled with them. I have absolutely no intention of changing the ratio any time soon.

But when I can just put in a hold at the library for whatever book someone recommends to me, I don’t feel like I have to stick to “safe” choices. The worst that happens is that I return it early, unfinished. And the best is that I read and love a book I would never have touched otherwise.


[Blog] Update – April ’23

Welcome to April, everyone! Out here in Colorado things have been slowly starting to look more spring-ish, though not so spring-ish that it didn’t dump several inches of snow on us last night. And, sure it’s mostly melted now, but still. Even so, it’s been nice seeing things turn green and feel things getting warmer; I’m definitely looking forward to it being easier to get outside.

Not much else going on. Writing is continuing at a trickle, which is less than ideal but significantly better than not writing at all. It’s always been easier to go from writing a little to writing more than it is to start again from a dead stop.

Reading has also been a little slow, but that’s fine too. I finished The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie which I’d seen recommended all over the place for a while, and I found it… okay. It had some fun parts but ultimately was not my cup of tea. Apparently I’m just not a fan of straight grimdark. In retrospect, my need for likeable characters in my fiction should have told me that in advance. Oh well.

I also read Circe by Madeline Miller, and that was a fantastic read. It’s a beautiful retelling of the Greek myths surrounding Circe, and Miller’s prose and storytelling are both wonderful. I found the ending to be thoroughly satisfying (I was in the throes of a full on book hangover for at least half an hour after finishing) and I enjoyed how much a lot of her descriptions purposely evoked The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Fiction (Short)


Emia stood at the edge of the field and pretended she wasn’t shaking. It only worked because no one was there to see her. It was obscene. All of this. The fear. The anger. The dread. It had been an accident, a mistake. The sort of thing that could always happen when you tried to train a creature like Dilyku, no matter how careful you were and how many precautions you took.

A twinge of pain shot down her arm. Phantom pain, it had to be. The healer had promised that her wounds were all fully knitted back together. But the healer was only trained in treating the body, and Emia suspected her injuries ran deeper.

The easiest thing to do would be to turn around and walk away. The safest thing would be to pack her few belongings and begin the long trek back to her village, her family, her friends. She wouldn’t be the first. She wouldn’t be the last. It took almost as much luck as it did skill to complete the training, and no one expected her to stay. Better to accept failure and live than to try and try until she died in the attempt.


What if one more try was all it took? They had been so close, she’d felt it. She’d met Dilyku’s golden hawklike gaze and held it, held him, connected with him, and he had let her. He had bent his neck, and she had run her hands down the soft, long feathers, had traced the curve of his beak with her fingers. And then—

Then, disaster. Or so they told her; her own mind still refused to release those memories to the rest of her, though they bled through in her dreams. Too much noise, too much panic. A flurry of wings, claws, feathers. A gryphon’s fear takes on a deadly shape. Though, why Dilyku was afraid they couldn’t say.

Yet she had survived. And she had healed. And there was nothing in the world to stop her from trying again, save perhaps a nascent sense of self preservation. Because there was no reason to believe she would be so lucky if it happened again. And neither was there any certainty that it wouldn’t happen again.

And so she stood at the edge of the field, the one that stretched between her and Dilyku’s cave, and she trembled. A minute passed. Or ten. Or twenty.


The question rattled in the back of her mind.

Why are you doing this?

Her own thoughts stood in accusation. There were so many she’d left behind to come here, so many who were waiting for her to return. So many who would tell her she had tried hard enough, more than hard enough. So many who would welcome her back with open arms.

So many to whom she owed so much.

That was almost what decided her. Her life was not her own– not just her own. If the only thing driving her back across that field was her own pride, her own stubborn will, then that was not enough. It would never be enough. It never could be.

Yet even then she couldn’t just turn and walk away, because that would have been terrible, too. Maybe it was Dilyku’s claws and beak that had come so close to ripping her away from this would and flinging her into the next. That was just one, terrible thing, and there were other moments. So many other moments. Enough that she could never just leave, not without trying one last time.

She lifted her fingers to her lips and whistled, three long, clear notes. It was a request, she realized. A petition for Dilyku to grant her passage into his realm. He had only ever granted it with some amount of grudging impatience, a clacked beak, a thrash of his lion’s tail, as if he had better things to do with his time but couldn’t be bothered to drive her off.

And so when his call, shrill and fierce as any bird of prey’s, warm and friendly as the response of an old companion echoed back across the field, it was the last thing she expected. And when Dilyku himself leaped from the mouth of his cave and into the warm sunlight to look for her, she hardly expected that either. And she knew. For at least a little while longer, she had to stay. Because she had already left this other friend alone too long.