Monthly Archives: January 2016

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.


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.


Filed under movies, writing

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

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.

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.


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?


Filed under book stuff, conventions, housekeeping, writing