The State of the Things

Hello, friends, it’s been a while.

This update is a bit overdue, because my brain (and my schedule) has been pretty full the last couple of months. So let’s dive on in!

If you’re not following me over on ye olde twitters, I left my day job in early September so I can write full-time, and hopefully next fall, go back to school to pursue that degree in astrophysics I didn’t go for the first time around. (No, I am not kidding.)

It was an incredibly hard decision to make. I loved my job – I got to talk about books all day. My colleagues are fantastic people. I adore my booksellers. And yeah, even though they’re no longer my accounts, they’ll be my booksellers forever, damn it. I’m still saying things like, “Oh, we have a book about that on the list,” or “We published <insert Orbit author here>. I loved that book.” But as my job responsibilities increased, the time and attention span I had for writing had steadily declined. I’ve been doing a shit-ton of writing for RPGs this year, but that meant there wasn’t a whole lot left for my own stuff.

I have, in fact, just tallied up all the words I’ve written for various games this year and uh. It’s currently at a hundred and thirteen thousand words. 113,400 at the moment, to be exact.*

That’s a sobering moment for me, because haha I’d been a bit down on myself for not writing enough, when the truth of the matter is, I did a hefty portion of that while I held down a full-time job that required a lot of travel. That’s more words than Night Owls, which clocked in somewhere in the 90K range.

So. Yeah. I’ve been writing! And I’ll update the My Works page so it’s all there.
/adds to to-do list.

I didn’t settle right down into writing, as there was travellin’ to do. I literally quit my job and went to Disney World. The trip was planned well before I gave my notice! But it was an amusing thing to say when people asked what I was going to do next. Came home and wrotewrotewrote for a couple more games, then was off again to be staff at Viable Paradise. While I was there, the fabulous Pippin Madconald and Erin Black unlocked a part of a story I’ve been struggling with for five years, since was a VP student. That’s a thing that’s getting written sooooon. Home again, more RPG writing, and off once more to Metatopia. (I will write about Metatopia at some point soon, I hope, because hooooly shit it was wonderful, and on several different axes.)

So, now I’m home, and caught up on deadlines, and I suspect it’s starting to finally, nearly three months later, sink in. I’ve been having end-of-work dreams all week long. Dreams where I’m in the office even though I’m no longer an employee, or I’m cleaning out my cubicle and finding things I’d forgotten about. (One involved me finding a tote bag, because of course it did. See: white lady in publishing.) I think — now that I have time to think — it’s maybe me letting go of the things I didn’t get done.

Okay, then, brain. You do you.

Learning that I don’t have to be at my desk 9-5 is strange. I’m still trying to get my head around it as I figure out how this all changes my writing process. I learned during a couple of deadline sprints that I can get deeply into the writing groove at three or four in the morning, but I’d really prefer to be sleeping then. I am pretty sure that groove hit because I’m on the East Coast, and at that weird liminal hour most of my social media feeds are quiet. When the Northeast got hit by that big windstorm the last week of October, we lost power for one day and internet for two. I got scads written during that time. I recognize that this is very much a me-vs-the-shiny thing, so I’m navigating the best ways to minimize distractions. (That’s not a call for advice, just acknowledging that it’s part of this adjustment period.) Minimizing my browser helps, so I don’t see the little dot letting me know there are new tweets to look at. I close Slack and sort of forget it’s there for a while. I learned that if you click toward the top of your screen and give your mouse a wiggle, everything else you have open in the background gets minimized.  Sometimes I afk altogether and write longhand. Letting this all be a work in progress, rather than perfect at the start, has been a challenge. But I’m getting there.

What’s next, then?

I’m working on a YA Arthurian fantasy with Hillary Monahan. I’ve put in some nice words in a zero draft of a new solo thing about an aging rockstar and her deal with the devil. I’ve got that SF short story that wants writing. I’ll be around here a bit more, and am pondering things I might stick in a biweekly-ish newsletter. I’ve got a date with Netflix, one of my favorite shows, and and a notepad for a blog series I’d like to do about the storytelling therein. I want to read all the things, and tell you about what I’m digging.

I’m eyeballing a Patreon as well, because I like having things like electricity and heat. (I am extremely privileged that my husband can support us both while I write. I know that I can sell stuff. But freelancing means the money comes in sporadically, so!) The rewards for that would most likely be flash pieces, snippets of works in progress, and maybe some tales from the Night Owls ‘verse. If there’s anything else you’d like to see, drop your ideas in the comments.

So that’s the state of the me. More soon, but right now, I’ve got a conversation between Billie and the devil to finish, so she can start getting the band back together.

<3

*frustratingly, if I didn’t already have a SFWA membership from my book sales, all those words would not qualify me for one. But that’s another post.

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Boskone 2017 Schedule

If you’re at Boskone this weekend, here’s where I’ll be!

Friday
Victorian Vampires
9:00pm
Westin, Harbor II

Victorian vampires were more than just bloodsuckers. They had style. They had charisma. They had that special, unmistakable something. What is it that keeps us coming back for more? Why are these creatures such a perfect fit for this time period? Will their allure endure, or will they fade into the dusty annals of horror history?
Panelists: Theodora Goss (m), John Langan, Hillary Monahan, F. Brett Cox, E.J. Stevens, Lauren Roy

Saturday
Reading
10:00am
Westin, Independence

Like it says on the tin, I will read things to you. Stuff I wrote!
Panelists: me

The Perfect Teenage Hero
11:00am
Westin, Harbor III

Teenage heroes are not just relatively younger adults. They are people who step up to save the world — perhaps because of their youthful enthusiasm, not-yet-dimmed idealism, and unique perspectives. What does it take for a young Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or Katniss Everdeen to emerge? What experiences change them? To what extent are they just pieces in older players’ games? Can they really do it on their own?
Panelists: Ken Altabef (m), Lauren Roy, Jeremy Flagg, Erin M. Hartshorn, Michael Stearns

Sunday
Brick and Mortar: Bookstores Then, Now, and Tomorrow
12:00pm
Westin, Marina 4

Despite surges in online and ebook sales: at least for now, bookstores are here to stay. Our panelists share their favorite stories about the printed matter palaces they love, how to support them, and what continued life they’re finding in today’s publishing world. How can we make better use of our bookstores? What purpose do they serve for authors, publishers, and readers? If they ever disappear, whatever will we do?
Panelists: Joe Siclari (m), Maryelizabeth Yturralde, Robert Howard, Ian Randal Strock, Lauren Roy

The Sense8 Sensation
1:00pm
Westin, Marina 4

It’s shot on locations worldwide and produced by the creators of The Matrix and Babylon 5, yet this Netflix TV original has largely flown under the radar. (Still, season 2 starts in March.) Panelists examine the intricate storytelling and dizzyingly diverse connections of this sens8tionally groundbreaking SF show. From gender, race, and religion to the struggle of coming to terms with one’s identity, Sense8 treats its subjects in ways network television would never touch. SPOILERS ABOUND for nonviewers, but why not sneak a peek anyway?
Panelists: Darlene Marshall (m), Lauren Roy, Gillian Daniels, Rob Greene, Jeremy Flagg

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Arisia 2017 Schedule

Somehow Arisia has snuck up on me. I’ll be there this weekend, huzzah! Here’s my schedule:

SATURDAY

Crafting Memorable Worlds
10:00am, Faneuil

Before your characters go off on an adventure, you must first set the ‘stage’ upon which they will make their journey. Where do you find inspiration to build your fictional world? What ‘laws’ must your world follow? How do you describe it without purple prose? Our panelists will discuss how to make your world a character in your story and shape a canvas so memorable your audience will never want to leave.
Heard the Dice Hit the Table: Games as Fiction
11:30am, Marina 1

In the last 40 years, SF/F has had an uneasy relationship with the kind of games that generate fiction, both tabletop and computerized. From magazine submission guidelines that warn off fiction that sounds like it came from a tabletop game to stories about people playing games, gaming is clearly part of the storyteller tradition. How does fiction incorporate gaming and game materials, and what in gaming might help us find interesting literature?
Writing YA Fiction Teens Will Actually Read
4:00pm, Marina 3

Young adults are particular about what they read. Vampires? Werewolves? How about a spaceship warrior queen with a sword and a psychic cat? Before you can write it, it seems they’re off to the next great thing. But if you *listen*, young people are brimming with story ideas. Our YA-expert panelists will discuss what teens *wish* authors would write, what makes a teen’s eyes roll, and how to get past the gatekeepers to reach your teen audience. There will be Q&A at the end.
Keeping Long Tabletop Campaigns Interesting
7:00pm, Faneuil

GMs, has this ever happened to you? The campaign has stretched into its winter years, and every companion book and monster manual has been used. Your players are completing each other’s sentences, and you can even recite their likely takeout order from every local place that delivers. Don’t worry for help is here! Panelists will discuss ways a GM can keep a long-running campaign fresh and exciting.

MONDAY

Vertigo on TV: iZombie and Lucifer
11:30am, Faneuil

While neither show really stays close to their comic-book origins, both *iZombie* and *Lucifer* are successful shows that have been adapted from Vertigo books, and both have dedicated fan audiences. We’ll discuss both shows, talking about our favorite and least favorite elements of each, as well as how the process of changing from the comics has made things better or worse.

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2016 Award Eligibility Post

It’s that time of year where I ought to post my list of things published. Self-promotion is haaaaard, but it’s part of the job.

Here’s what’s come out:

If you’re an RPG-type person, two books I’ve worked on came out this year. I’m all star-eyed to have worked on them:

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Readercon 27 Schedule

Hellooooo cats ‘n’ kittens!

I’m going to be at Readercon this weekend, and I’ve got a pretty keen schedule. If you’re going to be at the con, come say hi!

Thursday
9:00pm
Books That Spoil Themselves
Panelists: John Crowley, Jim Freund (leader), Max Gladstone, Yves Meynard, Lauren Roy

“Little did she know that was the last time she would see him alive” and similar lines in books go beyond foreshadowing and into the realm of spoilers. The movie Stranger Than Fiction explores the use of the phrase “little did he know,” and Joe Hill’s The Fireman (among many other books) includes several examples. Why and how do authors use this often derided literary device, and how does it affect the reader’s experience of a story?

Friday
7:00pm
Single Wise Advisor Seeks Same
Panelists: Kameron Hurley, Victoria Janssen, Shariann Lewitt, Robert V. S. Redick, Lauren Roy

Epic fantasy abounds with wise advice-givers who help steer heroes in the right direction. These figures are often epicted as elderly, unmarried or widowed, and childless. (Exemplars are Gandalf, Dallben, and Granny Weatherwax. The rare exceptions include Belgarath, Nanny Ogg, and Miracle Max.) Why do we find it so difficult to imagine these grandparental figures having emotional lives of their own? How might the shape of epic stories shift if advisors have more to do with their time than sitting around advising?

Saturday
1:00pm
My Character Ate WHAT?
Panelists: John Chu, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ada Palmer, Lauren Roy, Catherynne M. Valente, Fran Wilde (leader)

“My Character Ate What?,” based loosely on Hollywood Squares, that uses food in SF as the subject matter for questions.

Sunday
10:00am
New Worlds For Old
Panelists: Susan Jane Bigelow, Greer Gilman, Theodora Goss, Lauren Roy, Ann Tonsor Zeddies

Our GoHs have created their own worlds and retold stories. What’s the difference in approach between creating from “scratch” and “reimagining”? Is one harder than the other? Do we ever really create worlds wholly our own or are we always cannibalizing bits of other worlds? Would we be able to tell meaningful stories in worlds utterly different from our own? How much of a world is physical and how much is societal behaviors and norms?

12:00pm
Reading
Panelists: Me!

I will entertain you with stories. On the docket: “In Memoriam: Lady Fantastic,” which I’ve been calling my angry lady superhero obituary, and a selection from Cantankerous, my YA SF work-in-progress. Think Leverage meets Firefly. 

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Boskone 2016 Schedule

Boskone is this weekend, and I’ll be there doing stuff!

Here’s where you can find me, if you’re so inclined:

FRIDAY
Loose Ends and Contradictions in Doctor Who
6:00pm, Marina 4

*Spoilers, sweetie!* Doctor Who has become infamous for its loose ends and contradictions — most of which get explained away with a little timey-wimey flash and sparkle. Yet, we still love The Doctor. In fact, many of those seeming problems tend to open future storylines and plot points. Which do we most want to see resolved? Which seem too far gone to pull back? And will we see River again … or has that loose end been tied?
Panelists: Susan Jane Bigelow (M), David McDonald, Lauren Roy

 

SATURDAY

Dating 101 in Urban Fantasy
11:00am, Marina 3

Magic is in the air! Dating comes with its own unique sets of rules when finding love within urban fantasy novels. You never know what secrets your special someone is hiding — or what’s really so “special” about her. Our panelists share their best advice for how characters can find true love while fighting against the imminent destruction of everyone and everything they hold dear.
Panelists: Darlene Marshall (M), Max Gladstone, E.J. Stevens, Charles Stross, Lauren Roy

 

Marvel Films vs. Marvel Comics
1:00pm, Harbor II

Marvel’s film and comics divisions are now under separate management. But differences have been apparent from the first as they expanded the mix of characters and story arcs. From Blade to Iron Man and X-Men to The Avengers — from Pepper Potts to Peter Parker, and Ben Grimm to the galaxy’s most motley “Guardians” — how have your favorites made the transition from panel to pixel, or back again? What elements of the comics should be retained, mixed in, or discarded? How true are they staying to the original source material? And most importantly, for you, which genre is the most pure fun?
Panelists: Gillian Daniels (M), James Bacon, Robert Howard, Errick Nunnally, Lauren Roy

 

The Sandman Legacy
3:00pm, Burroughs

At a time when the comics industry was trying to survive, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman was published. Back then, many thought comics were dying. The Sandman opened their eyes. A gateway comic series for new readers, including women, how has its reputation fared in succeeding years? Looking back at its success, what impact has it had on comics? Could you describe the series’ influence on today’s comics, fiction, and film as, well, Endless?
Panelists: Steven Popkes (M), Susan Jane Bigelow, Grady Hendrix, Lauren Roy

 

Autographing
4:00pm, Galleria

I will scribble on your stuff!

 

Superhero Open Mic
9:00pm, Marina 1

Kapow! Live from Boskone … enjoy the knock-out stylings of our program participants and audience members who share their open mic skills in the first-ever Superhero Open Mic. Each person gives his/her best 5-minute superhero performance – story, poem, song, skit, interpretive dance, or whatever! OPTIONAL: For extra appeal, feel free to come dressed as a superhero! Cash Bar Available.

The Rules: Boskone members are invited to join our participants in the open mic by signing up for one of the eight open slots at the door to the event, which opens for sign-ups at 8:30 pm. Each performer is given a firm 5-minute time limit (max), including set-up time. So a quick transition between acts is key.

Participants: Walter H. Hunt (M), Kenneth Schneyer (M), C.S.E. Cooney, E.C. Myers, Garth Nix, Don Pizarro, Lauren Roy, Mary Ellen Wessels

SUNDAY

Reading
10:00am, Independence

Friends, that Hillary Monahan can’t make it on Sunday, so she’s handed me the keys to her reading. I’ll probably preview a bit of my YA SF novel-in-progress, Cantankerous, and whatever Hill puts in my inbox for your listening pleasure.

 

Kaffeeklatsch
12:00pm, Harbor I/Kaffeeklatsch 2

Do you like coffee? like coffee, too! We should drink some (or the beverage of your choice) together! And talk about things!

 

They Played the Game of Thrones and They Lost
2:00pm, Harbor II

Some were good and some were bad, but all of them are dead. They have ceased to be. Rung down the curtain. Joined the choir invisible. Stiffs. Ex-Westerosi. Let’s pause to pay homage to characters who met their untimely ends at the bloody hands of George R. R. Martin, and recall their glorious or dubious or just plain icky ends. And while we’re at it, let’s speculate about who’s the next to go. Because there’s no use hoping that anyone will make it out alive.
Panelists: David McDonald (M), Laurie Mann, Lauren Roy, Michael Sharrow

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Arisia 2016 Schedule

Whoa, hey, Arisia is this weekend, and I’ll be there, doing things!

Here’s where:

I Live, I Die, I Live Again! Mad Max: Fury Road
Friday, 7:00pm, Marina 1

A sequel 30 years in the making that no one was demanding became one of the most acclaimed films of 2015. Was Tom Hardy a great replacement for Mel Gibson? Was the foregrounding of Imperator Furiosa and a largely-female cast a genuinely feminist act, or is the acclaim given to the movie a sign of how bleak genre filmmaking has become for women? How does a movie in which everyone is physically and/or emotionally scarred work as an action film? And does the plot itself hold up, and does it matter?
Panelists: JoSelle Vanderhooft (m), Barbara M. Pugliese, Randee Dawn, Joey Peters, Lauren N, Roy

Fantasy Reading
Saturday, 10:00am, Hale

I will read a thing to you! I don’t know what that thing is yet!
Featured authors: Matthew Kressel, Shira Lipkin, Julia Rios, Lauren M. Roy

Character Interactions
Saturday, 7:00pm, Bulfinch

You have your cast of characters, now how do you get them to interact the way you want? How can you make them fight, love, and laugh at each other convincingly? How do you make changes in a relationship between characters come about naturally, rather than seeming forced? Our panelists will elucidate on the finer points of getting your characters to behave with each other on the page the way you imagine them in your head.
Panelists: Vikki Claffone (m), D.L. Carter, Ken Altabef, Timothy Goyette, Lauren M. Roy

Mysteries in Games
Monday, 10:00am, Marina 1

Mysteries and investigation stories seem like a perfect fit for gaming, and many of us enjoy finding clues and questioning highly suspicious suspects. Sometimes though, the trail goes cold because of failed dice-rolls and imperfect mechanics. What approaches are RPG systems using to keep the mystery story moving? What should a GM do when the investigation stalls? Panelists will discuss which techniques can create an exciting and satisfying mystery-solving experience.
Panelists: Lisa J. Steele (m), Brian Liberge, Ed Fuqua, Andrew Kirschbaum, Lauren M. Roy

Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Monday, 2:30pm, Douglas

Hal Clement, Alice Sheldon (aka James Tiptree Jr), and so many other authors kept working their mundane jobs while writing. What can a day job bring to your art? Should going full time be the goal?
Panelists: Caren Gussof (m), Gabriel Squallia, Michael A. Burstein, Lauren M. Roy

I don’t have an autographing slot, but if you have something you’d like me to scribble in, come find me or tweet at me (@falconesse) and I will be happy to deface your book with my signature.

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When Sneaky Dialogue Trips on a Branch

Fair warning: some Star Wars: The Force Awakens spoilers within.

spoiler space

and some more

and a little more

If you don’t want spoilers you should have clicked away by now.

Okay.

I’ve seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens twice now, and let me start by saying this: I loved it. It was all kinds of fun, full of stellar characters and action and banter and and and *lightsaber noises.* I loved how they let Finn and Rey revel in being fucking awesome. Finn’s whoops when he’s in the gunner seat on the TIE fighter, and Poe being all “Fuck yeah, buddy!*” Finn and Rey escaping in the Millennium Falcon and rushing up to each other going “You were awesome!” at each other for a good gushing minute.

You can expect a couple more Star Wars-ish posts, but I wanted to state up front how much I dug the movie before I poked at a thing that needled at me. It in no way negates my overall enjoyment! But I think it’s useful for writers to take note of, and to be aware of in their own work. Ready? Here goes.

By the time Han and General Leia are reunited, we are fairly – possibly even 100% – certain that Kylo Ren is their kid. I’d need another rewatch (oh poor me) to know if it’s confirmed at that point, or if there’s still the possibility that he’s Luke’s son instead. We’ve seen him talking to Darth Grandpa’s melted helmet by this point, so we know he’s either Luke’s or Leia’s for sure. And Supreme Leader Snoke has given him shit about not having confronted his dad yet, which again, could refer to either Luke or Han. We also have a moment, when Han’s telling Rey and Finn about an apprentice turning on Luke, where you can infer that said apprentice is Han’s son – I’m not sure if it’s implied in the dialogue there, if it’s the way that Harrison Ford delivers the line, or if my storyteller radar was simply pinging and telling me this “apprentice” wasn’t some rando mini-Jedi.

Anyway. By the time Han and General Leia get to talking about their son, it becomes very quickly clear that Kylo Ren = the son in question. If we weren’t sure before that point, we are now.

What stuck in my craw was this: from that point on, they refer to him only as “our son.” I know there’s a whole taking on a new name thing when he becomes a Sith apprentice. I do get that. And that Han yelling “BEN!” when they’re on the catwalk is supposed to be a Big Significant Moment. So the reveal here is less about “SURPRISE! OUR KID IS KYLO REN, THE VILLAIN OF THIS FILM” and more “We named him after Obi-Wan.”

But…the dialogue didn’t work. It became one of the few points in the movie where you could see the writers’ hands on the keyboard.

Think about this – when you talk to a friend about a person you both know well, do you refer to that person as “our friend,” or do you call them by their name? I might refer to someone by their relationship to me if the person I’m talking to doesn’t know the third party – and even then, it’s probably going to be “my husband Greg” the first time he’s invoked, and “Greg” thereafter. But when we all know each other? It’s first names all the way.

So watching Han and Leia twist themselves into knots to avoid saying “Ben” got frustrating fast.

Maybe – maybe – you could argue that it’s too painful for them to say his name, but I’m not going to buy it. If a few of those “our sons” had been “he/him” instead, it would have flowed better, and not sounded like the writers were trying to avoid a reveal. I also can’t believe they’re trying to keep other people from overhearing the conversation. Han and Leia are iconic figures to the Resistance. Their people sure as hell know they had a kid thirty some-odd years ago. Most of the people around that table probably remember little Ben running around the base. They ruffled his hair. They let him, I dunno, climb into the X-wings and pretend to fly them. Even if Luke’s new Jedi training program meant he was trained from the time he was little, like the kids Grandpa Anakin wiped out, you can’t tell me the news of Han and Leia’s Impending Sprogling didn’t get the same kind of attention Will and Kate’s did. The first child of the heroes who toppled the Empire? They would’ve had enough baby shower gifts to keep the Falcon from leaving orbit.

Which means the only people they’re really hiding his name from is the audience.

It’s a narrative trick that can be super-effective if done right, but once your readers (or viewers, or listeners) spot it, often becomes a blinking light that says “AUTHOR SECRETS HERE.” Sometimes it’s a thing that becomes more obvious on re-read. Once we know that Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, Ben Kenobi’s lines to Luke in A New Hope take on a different meaning. Likewise, when you’re reading A Game of Thrones, discussions of Jon Snow’s parents become revealing in what they don’t say.

I don’t know all the secrets of hiding – concealing? Withholding? – key information from your audience. But if you’re working on a story that requires you to do so, some things I can think of that might help you avoid getting caught palming the coin:

  • Have beta readers who are good at Figuring Shit Out. These might be your friends who read George RR Martin or the Wheel of Time books (damned Aes Sedai…). If you’ve got gamers among your beta readers, also a good potential pool. We never believe that NPC’s dead until we see the body.** Ask them to mark down the point in the story where they saw what you were doing, and how they knew. How close is it to your reveal in the text?
  • Read your dialogue out loud. If you can hear the tap-dancing, it’s time to take another look.
  • Figure out the earliest point you want the reveal to happen. Does the story still work if somebody figures it out before then?
  • Read and watch media where you didn’t see the twist coming. Where are the clues, now that you know to look for them? How are they presented?
  • Likewise, read and watch media where you totally saw the twist coming.  What tipped you off?

You’re probably always going to have some readers who see where you’re going before you want them to. That’s okay! We can’t outsmart everyone, every time. And being tricksy is haaaard. See: why I don’t write mysteries.***

What are some of your favorite methods for misdirection? Which ones do you regularly spot? What stories have genuinely surprised you? (Warning: there may be spoilers in the comments.)

*not a direct quote
**And even then, we question.
***Technically, I wrote one for a creative writing class in high school. I cringe to this day.

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Looking Back, Looking Ahead

I’m not a New Year’s Resolution person, as you might gather by this post happening on January 3rd, not the 1st. I used to be! But it turns out that Here is a thing I would like to do quickly becomes Here is a thing I failed to do and oh god I’m a terrible person awfully quick. In recent years, I’ve figured it’s better to treat those things as a sort of rolling works in progress list, revisited every now and then.

Clearly, since it’s been, uh, a couple of months since I blogged, dusting this place off is one of them.

So! quick 2015 recap:

 

Writerly Things

Fiction:
Grave Matters, February (Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon)
The Fire Children, June (Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon) 
“The Eleventh Hour” in Fireside Magazine, July

This is where I point out that, if you’re eyeballing your nominations lists and think any of those are worthy of appearing on your ballot, have at it! I’m also in my second (and therefore final) year of Campbell eligibility.

Freelancing:
The alternate ending I wrote for Eternal Lies is out in the world!
Our hard copy of Vampire: Dark Ages 20th Anniversary Edition arrived and it is beautiful. I might be a bit biased, what with having contributed to it.

I wrote for several other RPG projects last year. More info and links when I get the go-aheads.

Travel

I thought I’d traveled a lot in 2014. Oh, past me, you sweet summer child. My job changed a bit last year, which means I now get to go out in the field and visit my bookstores. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a wee bookseller, and it’s been wonderful getting out on the road and meeting my new buyers and their teams of eager, enthusiastic booksellers.

The year was also con-tastic: Arisia and Boskone – the latter during one of our many snowmageddon scenarios – followed by C2E2, GenCon, and WorldCon.

I attended our annual nerd family reunion out in Seattle in July, was on staff at Viable Paradise XIX, and trekked down into the mountains of Tennessee with Hill for a Murder Yeti retreat. As you can tell since I’m writing this, we were not eaten by bears. Or murder yetis.

Other Things

In any given year, I read a whole ton o’books. Part of that is the dayjob, part is my commute, part is just, y’know, liking to read. I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet of them all, and the grand total is… 43! Slightly shy of a book a week, but considering the travel and deadlines I’ve been under most of the year, and that whole writing thing, I’m pretty happy with it. This count is only for prose fiction, by the by. If you added in trades of the comics I read (woohoo Ms. Marvel, Saga, and Captain Marvel!), I’d probably hit a book a week easy. I do intend to do a best-of post. Theoretically while people are still mulling their ballots!

That post will also include thoughts on movies and TV shows I watched, because there were a lot of those as well. I make grabby hands when it comes to a good story, regardless of medium. It was a pretty good year for story (Mad Max: Fury Road! Haven! The Expanse! Star Wars: The Force Awakens!) so I’ll have some things to say in that regard as well.

Onward to 2016!

Let me get the hard announcement out of the way: I’m sad to say that Ace declined to buy more titles in the Night Owls series. That doesn’t mean I’m 100% done with my crew of smartass bookselling monster hunters, but it’s going to be a bit before their adventures continue. I am mulling some options, including potentially dipping my toes into self-publishing for Dead Letters. (The mulling includes taking a look at the contract for the first two books and chatting with my agent about what I’m allowed to do in that vein.) I may also post some short stories featuring the cast up here. First things first, though, I need to finish writing it, and paying projects are going to take precedence.

I will be attending Arisia, Boskone, and WorldCon for sure. Am mulling GenCon, Readercon, and 4th Street Fantasy as well. Without a book coming this year, my attendance at some cons is going to be based on what I can afford.

One of the realities of having a day job and a writing career is, even though it’s nice that the day job means I can use vacation time to attend cons, not all of the con-attending is, y’know, vacation. Cons are also work. Here, take a peek at what my month-by-month looked like last year:

On the road again. And again. And oh, look, again.

On the road again. And again. And oh, look, again.

With the exception of May, every month had some kind of travel or social aspect to it. (I didn’t travel for the holidays. I spent them with family and friends, and while they’re all people who I love dearly and am comfortable and happy being around, that doesn’t mean the holidays aren’t frickin’ exhausting.) I realized around September that I was feeling super-tired, even though I’d used up a whole bunch of vacation days. But when you take a closer look, there were several times throughout the year that I’d work a full week, go to a con, come home and go right back to work. No time to decompress.

Also figure that for several of those months, I was either under deadline for RPG writing, promoting Grave Matters and The Fire Children, and trying to do that thing where I write another book.

Two things toward the end of the year put all of that into a bit more perspective. At the writers’ retreat, I spent two solid, eight-hour days doing nothing but writing. Since we were in the mountains, internet was going to be spotty to start. The house did have wifi! HOWEVER. when you have 40 writers connected to it – whether we were “researching” or vacuuming cats on Twitter – the signal bogged way the hell down and was basically useless. Which meant no distractions, woohoo! I cranked out something like 10,000 words over two days. Then, at the end of the year, I had the week off between Christmas and New Year’s (she says, in her last hours of said time off…) It took me a couple of days to get the slacking out of my system, plus there were holiday things afoot, but by… Tuesday? My brain was bombarding me with story things. I haven’t been as productive as I was at the retreat, but it’s been nice to feel the words flow.

Which means, as I was filling out my 2016 planner, I realized I needed to do myself a bit of a kindness. Somewhere in there, this summer, I’m taking a week off just for me. Giving myself permission to spend the days as I like: cleaning my house, catching up on reading, going the hell outside. And, yes, writing. It seems like a pretty low-bar type goal, but it’s one I’d like to hit.

Note that I’m not complaining about the travel or the writing, by the by. This is a job, one that I love. But it’s also okay to have some downtime, which is a thing I struggle with.

Speaking of writing projects, here’s what’s on the docket:

  • Adrift – yes, still. Swashbuckling fantasy. Elves and an undead assassin aboard a pirate ship.
  • Cantankerous – YA SF. Think, uh, Firefly for teens.
  • “Blood in the Thread” – Still in the planning stages. This is my crane wife/seven swan brothers story.
  • “Spun” (or maybe it’s Spun) – My short stories have a bad habit of turning themselves into novels. This is one of those that’s threatening to do so.
  • Dead Letters and other stories from the Night Owls ‘verse – these are at the bottom of the priority list at the moment, but I never did tell you all what happened with that wraith in Val’s trunk. Or how Cavale met Sunny and Lia.

I’ve also started up a project that I’ve declared a trunk novel for the time being. Kind of a writing-without-pressure deal, and a bit of an experiment. I’m a fairly linear writer, and in this case I’m letting myself bounce around if I want to. And be inconsistent with details. And maybe tenses! It’s funny, for a panstser I sure feel the need to go back and fix shit when I figure out a new aspect of the story. I’m trying that thing where you leave yourself a note for future revisions and move on. We’ll see how it goes.

What are you looking forward to in 2016? What did you dig in 2015 that I should go in search of?

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Sasquan Schedule

I thought last year was a big travellin’ year for me, but it turns out this year’s got it beat. The rest of the year is work travel and writing things, so this is my last con until Arisia 2016. If you’re going to be at WorldCon, come say hello!

Thursday, August 20th

Worldbuilding and Sandbox Games
3:00pm, Room 303A (CC)
Panelists: Brooks Peck, Esther Jones, Andrea G. Stewart, Lauren M. Roy

Fantasy games such as Skyrim and Dragon Age: Inquisition, along with science fiction games such as Elite: Dangerous and Great Big Sky, provide an enormous open-world sandbox for players to explore.  What is the draw of these games, and the challenge of designing them?  What lessons can authors learn from games like these?

Friday, August 21st

Autographing
10:00am, Hall B (CC)

Reading
11:30am, Spokane Falls Suite A/B (Doubletree)
Storytime! Not sure what I’ll be reading just yet, whether an excerpt from something that’s already out, or a sneaky-peek at new material. I might leave it up to the room to decide! (And I am currently flying solo here – if you’re at Sasquan and didn’t get a reading slot, let me know. I am happy to share.)

Sunday, August 23rd

Game of Thrones: Expectations of Gender and Sexuality
12:00pm, Bays 111A (CC)
Panelists: Perianne Lurie, David D. Levine, Valerie Estelle Frankel, Lauren M. Roy

After five seasons, we have expectatons of Game of Thrones as having a lot of female nudity and graphic violence.  But, at the same time, it has some very strong female characters, and, among some of the characters, a more modern view of sexuality.  Do these contrasting views work against the show or enhance it?  What are some of the bigger surprises?

Worlds We Believe: YA Worldbuilding
1:00pm, 300D (CC)
Panelists: Jenifer Brozek, Kate Elliott, Jessica Rising, Lauren M. Roy

Have you ever sympathized with trudging through Professor Trelawney’s divination classroom? Does living in a Hobbit hole, spaciously provisioned seem not so far-fetched? Which district do you live in?  What about traveling through a worm hole at warp speed? Worlds that are easy to picture become a part of invested creators. What makes a believable world? What have past and present authors done right? Come visit other worlds with us.

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