In truth, I should have known better. Than to think I would manage even my reduced blog schedule while in the process of moving. Or, in other words, I did not intentionally skip posting for the entire month of July, yet here we are. In August.
Unsurprisingly, this also means I haven’t really managed much in the way of fiction writing, either, though I’m gearing back up with that (and even pumped out several hundred words for Tanner and Miranda just last week!) and am eagerly looking forward to settling into a stable writing schedule once again.
In the meantime, some highlights from the past month:
My first visit to Yosemite, complete with a hike up El Capitan
Spending over a week with my family back in my hometown
A grand roadtrip comprising of more than 4500 miles, epic scenery, and all the summer storms I’d forgotten about because they don’t happen in California
Opportunities to catch up with various friends I hadn’t seen in Way Too Long
At some point I’ll definitely upload some of the pictures I took in Yosemite before the smoke descended; with absolutely no exaggeration, that park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. But that will have to come a different day. Today, I’m just going to have to be satisfied with a quick post to infuse a little life back into this blog– and the fact that I’ve actually got the energy to do some writing tonight.
So, it seems like I’ve slipped down unofficially from weekly posts to biweekly, mostly because life is busy being Busy and my braincells are spinning around in all the different places (wheeeeee!). That being said, I’m going to go ahead and make that unofficial schedule official for the next couple of months: at least until my move is finished and I’m a little more settled in in a new state.
I am still here, and still writing (always!) just at a slower pace than I had been. And as proof, let me share one of my recent warmups/writing prompts that I enjoyed! Ten minutes, based off of an AI generated image (how’s that for futuristic?), and lots of fun. If you’re interested, I’ve included the picture the computer came up with down below, too!
So, without further ado and absolutely no editing, enjoy a peek at what happens when I get a time limit and a fun prompt.
The noose was closing. Inch by inch. Moment by moment. It wouldn’t happen today, might not happen tomorrow, but the end was coming. The game was coming to a close, and when it did, Saava would have lost.
Someone else might have used the inevitable end as an excuse to indulge in angst and terror. Or maybe they wouldn’t have had a choice. Others might have turned and used what very little agency remained to them to face their looming death with what the stories called pride and honor.
Not Saava. It would have been easier if she could. But as long as she still drew breath her mind refused to admit defeat. Not even when every logical part of her knew that the end was coming and the horrors it would bring. Not even when she knew she was nothing more than a dead woman walking. Not even when she knew her continued flight would mean greater pain and vicious punishment when they finally caught her.
And it wouldn’t be long now. There were only so many hiding places aboard Citrion Station, and she’d already used most of them. And she had already lasted longer than anyone thought she would. Had thought anyone could. And against some other Hunters, maybe it would have been enough.
Not for her.
Not against Foliak’s Bloodhounds.
Outside, she heard footsteps. And she froze. Even when every cell in her body shrieked that she had to run, she held still. Held steady. Held onto the mantra that had been the only thing to keep her alive these past five months.
Don’t run. Always hide. Let them pass you by.
But the day would come when they wouldn’t pass. Because there would be nowhere further for them to go. Or for her. And then the bloody end would come.
The footsteps receded. She opened her eyes again. And looked up. And she could have laughed. Because the game wasn’t over after all. There was another player. And he was on her side. Or else she read that familiar, fresh white symbol on the bulkhead all wrong.
As of yesterday, I have officially read as many books this year as I did in the entirety of last year. Or in other words, having finished reading thirty five books by the end of May, I am well on my way (and ahead of pace!) for my overly ambitious goal of seventy five by the end of the year. Assuming I don’t get completely derailed when I go through a big move in a month or two. Heh.
On a definitely related note… I’m currently in awe of Connie Willis’s ability to plot out stories. And by “in awe” I mean “feeling marginally inadequate because wow she’s good”. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that her WWII time travel story Blackout/All Clear is flawless, it’s easily one of the best things I’ve read this year and a display of formidable skill. A very slow burn story, but once it gets going, boy does it. And the way she weaves a thousand different plot threads, themes, and references into a sudden and cohesive whole that appears out of nowhere and goes straight for your emotions…
…let’s just say I’m still recovering.
And trying to figure out how I can get that good. Or. You know. Anywhere close to it.
The answer, as much as there is one, is to keep writing and to keep reading. So I guess I should get on that. This next Tanner and Miranda scene that’s causing me so much trouble isn’t going to write itself, after all!
In the meantime, what about you guys? Read any good books lately?
In the never-ending quest to keep the writing-wheels rolling, I have found another tool. Or maybe I just remembered one of my old ones existed. Namely, journaling. Not the kind where you keep a diary of your thoughts and impressions of the day, though I understand that can help as well. Rather, the kind you put in a writing journal.
In high school, I had an amazing teacher who agreed to advise/supervise me while I spent two semesters writing fiction. (Best. Teacher. Ever. I even got school credit for doing NaNoWriMo that year and I’m still using the advice she gave me.) Required work was relatively limited from week to week– there was some reading and a final project each semester– but the one thing I had to turn in every week was a document with my journal entries from the week: five in total, whatever I happened to write over a ten or fifteen minute period, usually with nothing more than a single word as inspiration.
And she would read them all and give me feedback. Every week. Like I said. Best teacher.
So I’ve started journaling again. Sort of. At least, I’ve been putting the writing sprints I’ve been doing lately with my sister into a single document, labeled with the date, how long I wrote, and what the prompt was. If nothing else, it’s proving to be helpful in getting my (occasionally stagnant) creativity flowing. And now that I’m documenting it all in a single place instead of scattered across several different documents and strewn about my harddrive, I’m interested to see what sort of trends show up as I continue to do it more often. And what ideas coalesce out of the ether. And what strengths and weaknesses become easier to pick out.
And, most of all, I’m looking forward to seeing if an extra infusion of discipline to my writing habit makes it that much easier to avoid getting stuck.
And what about you, fellow writers? What are your tricks for convincing your brain and your fingers to do their writing on days when neither want to cooperate?
Several of the books I’ve read most recently have reminded me of something that I already knew– namely that I really enjoy stories with an interesting, creative setting. You know. In case my preoccupation with science fiction and fantasy hadn’t already given it away. I also can’t remember if I’ve written about this in the blog already or not, so please bear with me if it starts sounding like I’m just rewriting an earlier post.
Anyway! Consider this another entry in my continuing quest to figure out why certain stories grab me and refuse to let go. Because I’m pretty sure this is part of it.
To some extent, I suspect this is why most fans of sci-fi and fantasy enjoy it the way we do. There’s a reason those of us who grew up with it spent so many hours daydreaming of ways to get ourselves to Narnia. And also why we have discussions about which Hogwarts House we would belong to, and why those “who would you be in X fictional world” quizzes are so popular.
I imagine it also helps that when something is well-known, the fact that we can talk about them (giddily) with other like-minded fans only feeds our enjoyment. But then there’s the stories that are not as widely known, or with a less rabid fanbase, that– for me– result in the same level of borderline-obsessive focus.
Like, for instance, David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. The books are definitely fun, particularly the earlier ones, and though I know he’s written more in the same setting beyond the ones that focus around the titular character, I haven’t gotten to them yet. Unlike some of the other stories I’ll mention in this post, Weber does enjoy a pretty decent following. Probably because there’s a lot of us who think that “female Horatio Hornblower in space” is a whole lot of fun. That being said, the books, fun as they are, also aren’t the masterpieces that, say, The Lord of the Rings or Red Rising are. The stories and the characters are fun, but there’s a reason this little gem makes so many of Mr. Weber’s fans laughing.
Then you’ve got stories like Andrea K. Höst‘s brilliant Touchstone series, which I just reread and got a forcible reminder of why I should really look up more of her work. The writing is lovely, and while I know some people don’t particularly like the journal format that the books use, I think it works very well for the nerdy, comforting story she’s telling.
And for all these two series are very different, I found that they have something in common. They captured my imagination. Completely. It’s stuck. Not going anywhere. In Weber’s case, it means that I will happily read for hours on end about the technological advances of the Royal Manticoran Navy’s missiles, and how it changes the way their massive space battles play out. In Touchstone, it means I will read everything about Cassandra Devlin and the Setari and the spaces that I can get my hands on.
And in both cases, that is in large part thanks to the worldbuilding. These authors succeeded in creating worlds so compelling that I am happy to visit them again and again and that I think about them randomly even when I’m not reading their stories. J.S. Morin does a bit of the same, especially with the way magic works in his various Black Ocean series. Fringe does it in the way it creates a world so similar to our own, just with weird science causing all manner of mayhem.
Perhaps all of this is just outing me as an escapist, though even that’s hardly as damning a truth as some people make it out to be. But whatever way you want to slice it, the fact remains that some authors do a remarkably good job at creating strange, new worlds, and it’s a particular pleasure of mine to go exploring them for a while.
It is easy– so easy– for us writers to get bogged down in plot holes. Those funny, niggling realizations that something about our carefully crafted stories doesn’t quite make perfect sense. That our characters could have found a better way of doing things that would have greatly simplified everything and kept them out of a great deal of trouble. And to some extent, all that is good. If we find the holes we can plug them and make our stories tighter and more streamlined. Better. And that’s what most of us are trying to do, right?
And yet. What happens when filling those plot holes ends up burying our plot itself? Some plot holes absolutely need to be filled in, of course, and I don’t mean to argue against that. But sometimes when you do it, the choice is between making it all make sense logically and letting it keep that weird spark of magic that attracted you to your idea in the first place. And I think when it comes down to it, it’s better to keep the magic.
Or maybe I just need to get better at filling in my ok holes.
Just a quick check-in this week! After a stretch of time with the writing just coming slow and difficult, things are starting to move along a little more easily again, which is so nice.
Part of it, I think, was just the fact that I was changing gears to start the next story/chapter. I’m enjoying the very episodic nature of this particular project, but it definitely comes with some of its own special difficulties. Like finding a good way to work the pacing.
I also think it was working a lot better than I thought it was, because when I opened up a new document and essentially retyped the 1400 words or so I already had just to get back into the flow, it wasn’t half as bogged down as I thought it was. So yay!
Speaking as someone who rarely (if ever) writes without a soundtrack, there’s an undeniable connection between story and music. And I know I’m not alone– my sister and I regularly exchange writing music recommendations, and various other fellow writers and I have frequently discussed the best tracks to use for inspiration for a given scene.
Of course, it’s not just writing. Any form of storytelling seems able to reap some benefit from a good soundtrack. Exhibit A: movies. When done particularly well, the scene will stand on its own, but add in the perfect music to your thriller and what was only mildly nerve-wracking becomes wildly unsettling. And that’s not even mentioning what effect you can have by removing music at the right time, too.
Or how about video games? Sure, most of our favorite video game soundtracks are written specifically to be more or less ignored as you try to make your character look like they know what they’re doing, but the good ones are adding to the experience while they do just that. And how are you supposed to stay perfectly unaffected when the first epic chords of a boss battle track start playing?
Writing and music both aim to interact with our feelings. Our thoughts, too, of course, particularly in the case of writing. And while it’s a relatively recent thing that most anyone reading this post has easy access to both music on demand and writing materials, there’s a reason not so far removed from all this for why we still have ballads kicking around from hundreds of years ago.
This one’s from the second story in the collection. Specifically, it’s my first attempt at an opening. It didn’t quite work the way I wanted it to, but it was fun to write and I think it had some amusing parts, so I’m sharing it here! Enjoy!
The four hundred credits Hildy paid into our account for the single day of work were enough to pay our rent and buy food for the next week— and not much else. Certainly not enough to start paying off the debts I’d left behind in Sol, and when we paid Doc Amil for stitching Tanner’s leg back together it was painfully obvious we couldn’t wait long to find our next job. Not long enough to Tanner’s leg to finish healing, despite the limits that put on what sort of work we could take.
For example, hiking all over the rougher parts of the Outlands was out of the question. I called that a silver lining. Tanner grumbled and pointed out that it wasn’t my leg with eighteen stitches in it.
“So, what did you find?” I asked, tossing him a bottle of painkillers and a fresh bandage before retreating back to the bathroom to brush my teeth while he doctored his thigh. We were back in our rooms on the third floor of Teddy’s, the large boardinghouse and hotel on the eastern side of Coville. Tanner and the eponymous Teddy had come to some agreement in the year Tanner had spent here on his own, which I suspected was the only reason we could afford the monthly cost for the place. The rooms were both small and comfortably furnished, and connected by a small shared bathroom, giving it the feel of a full suite.
“Lots of jobs we can’t take until I heal up. Three that would have the Rangers on us before we were halfway through. Eight—” he broke off, pausing while I imagined all his attention went to wrapping the bandage around his leg, “—eight that would pay us pennies and drive us out of our minds with boredom. And two that look promising.”
He knocked on the door as I finished brushing my teeth. I opened the door and stepped back to my room to throw my hair into a lazy braid. “Only two?”
A mouthful of toothpaste muffled Tanner’s voice. “Two’s lucky. It told you most of the work’s in the Outlands.”
I made a face. “You did, didn’t you?”
He grunted and spat. “Commpad’s on my bed. The one I like is on the screen.”
Squeezing past him through the bathroom, I snatched the device from where it lay on the pillow and scanned the message displayed on the screen. “Where’s Oriole?”
“Southwest,” said Tanner, appearing over my shoulder. “Technically in the Outlands, but you can get there by vehicle. Hovermule, in this case.”
“And who is…” my eyes tracked back up to the line containing the sender, “Ava Loesan?”
“No idea. Never met her. Teddy said she came by a few days looking for freelancers, though, and he referred her to us.”
“Nice of him,” I said.
“The rent comes on time when I have more work. And he likes me.”
Tanner aimed a slap for the back of my head, but I ducked out of the way, cackling.
“Keep that up and I’ll have him charge full price for your room. Then where will you be?”
I sighed. “Slumming it in some cheap flophouse. Can’t be worse than when I got to the stations.”
“Oh, but it can. The stations don’t have rats.”
“Shows how much you know. The nastiest rats I’ve ever seen were on the big station around Luna.”
“The only rats you’ve ever seen,” said Tanner.
I continued unperturbed. “This long,” I said, holding out my hands a foot apart for reference.
“With or without the tail?”
“Big, sharp teeth… a taste for human flesh.” I paused, grinning. “So, kinda like your sheep.”
Tanner aimed another strike for the back of my head, but I was already out of reach. He settled for a dirty look instead.
“Then in the interests of staying in lodgings that don’t have a large rodent problem, I’ll tell her we’ll take the job.”
“Sounds good to me. Wait— you said there were two possibilities. What was the other one?”
Tanner shrugged. “Some guard job down at the Landing Fields. Usually means you’re working for some offworld snob who thinks it’s the Wild West out here. They’ll pay alright, just not enough to offset having to talk to them.”
“Oh,” I said. “That kind. The Oriole job it is, then.”
Something a little different– this was my entry for the NYC Midnight 250-word Microfiction contest. I ended up receiving an Honorable Mention in my category (the piece had to be drama, show people eating seafood, and contain the word “rest”), which wasn’t enough to advance me to the next round, but was a solid showing regardless. Here it is in its entirety!
Kathryn’s fork pierced the salmon and clicked against the plate, but she didn’t bring the food to her mouth. It would have no taste, and the fish was too good to waste on an unappreciative palate. The woman sitting opposite her had no such trouble; she was already chewing a piece of shrimp and pasta. But Afton had never been able to resist seafood.
It had been so many years. More than it should have been. Enough that writing the email and sending it to an address she hoped was current was almost too much. Yet she had done it. And a week later she’d gotten the reply: three impersonal lines. But she agreed to meet.
And now they sat together in heavy silence. No words exchanged since the mandatory greetings. Kathryn said more to the waiter than to Afton. Afton barely met her eyes. Instead they hid beneath the quiet restaurant hum.
The quiet, restless voice in the back of her mind whispered that this was a mistake. A sleeping dog she should have let lie. A can of worms she shouldn’t have opened. A burned bridge that wasn’t worth rebuilding. All the excuses that let the years pile up. All the excuses that rang hollow now more than ever.
She forced herself to take the bite. She chewed it. She swallowed it. She took a sip of water, just to buy another moment.