Speculative Chic

 

Hey guys, I have a new venue. I’ve been writing speculative fiction reviews over on Speculative Chic, a blog where a bunch of women (and some not women) write about all things science fiction and fantasy. We talk about movies, music, TV, video games, and most of all, books.

I have a regular column on the fourth Wednesday of every month but I also do about two or three reviews a week, so watch out for those. This is a great forum with lots of fantastic people and opinions. We’re blogging through the Hugos right now, which is actually how I got started with this group. They needed someone to talk about The Vorkosigan Saga and I love talking about The Vorkosigan Saga.

So if you’re interested in everything speculative (or if you really miss my dulcet tones), head on over and check us out.

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A Long Awaited Update

In case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been doing the last couple years…

 

I decided to take some time off from the blog to concentrate on this project, and it’s been a very rewarding experience. Thank you for all the support you’ve given me over the years.

 

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Magic Carpet Ride (or How I Learned to Mono-ski)

So I decided to learn to ski. I grew up in New York and took skiing lessons when I was seven, and I went a couple times in high school and later. But it’s been over seven years since my injury, and in the meantime, I hadn’t really thought about it much. But over New Year’s we had some friends in town and while we were driving them around Winter Park, I realized how much I missed it. And how silly it was that I hadn’t tried out the alternative.

Mono-ski

The National Sports Center for the Disabled is located in Winter Park and offers lessons and programs for all kinds of disabilities for all kinds of sports, not just skiing. Jim, Bethany, and David were my super awesome sidekicks for the day (or the pick-kendra-up-after-she-falls-down team). Let’s just say it’s a lot harder than it looks when you’re staring up at the mountain all starry-eyed saying “I could be a paralympian!” First, they fitted me for a mono-ski, basically a chair on a ski as seen below in the very blurry picture.

fitting a mono-ski

Then we went out to the bunny slope where I learned how to glide, turn, and turn to a stop. Theoretically. I still think the best way to stop is to fall over but my back disagrees, so I guess more practice is in my future.

 

 mono-ski bunny hill

mono-ski bunny hill

 And can I just say kudos to David for running around in his ski boots up and down a hill all day?

After I could stop reliably, and you know, not ski off a cliff, I took the plunge and actually went up the mountain to find a nice easy green run. Getting the mono-ski up on a chair lift is interesting — or terrifying, considering you can’t see the lift underneath you, just your legs dangling over the abyss. Not sure the chair lift ride is my favorite part of skiing anymore. But you just sit there and the lift literally scoops you up. Pretty cool.

Once at the top, I had a lot more fun on the green run than I did on the bunny slope. Mostly because I could go longer between falls. It’s funny though, to watch the video. It did not feel that excruciatingly slow at the time. I could have sworn I was about to break the sound barrier.

By the end of the day I felt like it was all starting to click, though at that point the exhaustion had kicked in. I went home and got some therapy from the best source possible.

Therapy Jonas

 I want to thank my instructors for being so patient and flexible. These guys really know what they’re doing. And I can’t be the easiest person to teach with my do-it-wrong-million-ways-before-I-do-it-right kind of learning. I wasn’t ready to race Picabo Street by the end of the day, but I will definitely be heading back to get it right before the end of winter.

 

mono-ski magic carpet

Well you don’t know what we can find,

Why don’t you come with me, little girl,

On a magic carpet ride.

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PPWC Changed My Life!

I registered for the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference yesterday. This is the one I go to every year and while I was trying to justify the expense to my husband (it’s a little pricey to be honest), I realized that it’s kind of changed my life. Not in that sappy infomercial way, but it’s changed the way I see myself as a professional writer.

Writing is a lonely, solitary activity. Sure, you can get together with other authors to write but it mostly looks like this:

nano write in

It’s something you do by yourself in your own head. Especially if you’re in the stage I’m in now, plugging away perfecting your craft, waiting for someone to notice. I don’t have an agent or an editor, I don’t have fans. The only contact I have with the outside world in a professional capacity is through critique partners and beta readers. The conference gives me a community, a chance to connect with peers and gain perspective on the industry I’m trying to shove myself into. It was at my first conference that I decided to call myself a writer because that was when I finally felt like one.

I mentioned last week how important goals are in the writing process. I can set myself goals and in fact I do, but without the outside influence of an editor or even a whip-wielding friend, I don’t have any impetus to make goals let alone keep to them. But the last couple years I’ve found my professional life revolving around the conference. I’m usually pitching my work to an agent or an editor, so I spend the first half of the year editing, polishing, and writing my pitch. The second half, I’m putting everything I learned at the conference into practice and sending out queries for the final draft. It’s completely reshaped the way I work as a writer.

So this year I’m working frantically to get A Shroud For My Bride ready to pitch in April. It needs at least another draft if not two before then and I need to write the pitch for it. A cadet cop with OCD has to reconnect with her vigilante father in order to catch a murderous enchanter? Maybe. I guess I’ll work on it.

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2014 Here I Come

Last week I took a look at all I’d accomplished last year, which got me thinking about what I want to accomplish this year. Years of physical therapy have taught me that goals are very important. I do a lot better when I have a goal to work toward. Not just physically. Months of Delve Writing goal sessions reminded me I tend to wander aimlessly when I don’t have a deadline.

So this year, I plan to:

  • Finish the final draft of A Shroud for my Bride and have it ready to pitch by April 26th
  • Attend the Pikes Peak Writing Conference, so excited for my fourth year
  • Pitch A Shroud for my Bride to Sara Sargent from HarperCollins
  • Write the second draft of Skin Deep
  • Write the first draft of either By Hook or By Crook or A Matter of Blood
  • Read five books a month- four fiction and one on writing (need to whittle down the stacks)
  • Finish the Minecraft model of my fictional city (this is too work, you’re just jealous you can’t call video games working)
  • And finish one quilt every month (start an Etsy store cause, you know, that went so well last time)

Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me. Ah! What am I doing here? I ought to be writing.

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A Year in Review

In the spirit of the season, I’ve been looking back at 2013 and looking ahead toward 2014. I always find this time of year depressing. It’s too easy to compare where I am now where I was this time last year and see very little difference. And apply that to a lifetime. What have I accomplished? What has my life been worth?

I tend to find my self-worth in output. And when I work eight hours a day, five days a week and see no measurable profit at the end of the year, it’s a serious blow. I know all that work resulted in something, but with no agent hooked, no publisher interest, I’m not sure I believe it.

So I’m going to try something to convince myself my time has worth. Maybe I can visualize this year’s accomplishments.

This year I:

  • Finished the final draft of By Wingéd Chair 
  • Pitched By Wingéd Chair and queried over thirty agents about it
  • Finished both the first and second drafts of A Shroud For My Bride
  • Wrote the first draft of my seventh book, Talon Force during Nanowrimo
  • Increased my online presence through Facebook, Twitter, and this blog
  • Attended my third writer’s conference
  • Joined Delve Writing to hone my craft with a great community of writers
  • Read forty-four books. Okay that’s depressing no matter how I look at it considering I usually read 100 books in a year. I’ll give myself a bit of a break since I wrote so much this year, but I’ll have to step up my game in the future.
  • Spent a month world-building for my series and created an encyclopedia for the details
  • Not to mention all the personal things like my sister’s engagement, joining the youth group staff, cleaning the basement, numerous vacations, celebrating my seventh anniversary, and discovering gnocchi

Wow, when I look at it that way, I accomplished quite a bit this year. There’s a lot on that list to be proud of. And a couple things to improve on next year. Next time I start to doubt my progress, I can look back and see just how much I’m doing.

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Hearts on our Sleeves

Writing is a solitary profession; honestly, it’s one of the things I love about what I do. But the greatest irony that goes along with that is how much of ourselves we end up sharing with the world.

I just finished some polishes on By Wingéd Chair and I’ve sent it out to a couple beta readers. I meet with a critique partner regularly, but there’s something different about sending your work to readers you respect and want to impress. Critique partners are supposed to tear your stuff apart if only to make it better. But by the time it goes to a beta reader, it should be marketable, if not publishable. So it’s a bit more nerve-wracking, especially since these are friends and family members I’m going to have to face again.

Writers put everything into their work whether they intend to or not. Our ideals, hopes and fears leak into the story even when we’re using our imaginations or playing devil’s advocate. I reread my novel and I’m amazed and a little embarrassed by how much of myself ends up on the page. So when I send it off to readers, I can’t help wondering what will they see when they read it? Will they see my insecurities? Will they read more into this than I intended?

We’re taught to develop a thick skin if we want to be better, but you can’t pretend a novel doesn’t mean everything to you. And it’s easy to see this as discouragement, to refuse to let your novel go for fear of what other people will say. Because when you send it into the world, you’re laying yourself bare, hanging your heart on your sleeve.

It’s scary to be so open with complete strangers, but there’s something truly special about being known. And in the end, isn’t that why you wrote the book in the first place? To give the world something of yourself?

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So This Guy’s Still Doing Awesome Things

I was out till three in the morning last night with some friends at The Hobbit double feature (great movies by the way),  so today is a slacking off kind of day. I figured I’d share something cool with y’all then head back to bed.

Remember this guy?

I love that Aaron teamed up with Devin because he does some really gorgeous short films and music videos. I can always tell a Devin Graham piece by about two seconds in.

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A Nano Defense

Nanowrimo 2013Well, last week I finished up Nanowrimo 2013 with 60,000 words of a book I’m calling TALON Force. It’s a middle grade urban fantasy with kind of a Warehouse 13 flare. Except instead of magical artifacts, Nate and his team manage magical creatures.

This year, through Delve Writing, I was in contact with a lot of writers who were new to Nanowrimo. I found myself explaining Nano and its purpose in a writing world, which made me look at the process in a new way.

There was still the argument that Nano is a way to help you get words on the page, especially if you’re a perfectionist or you struggle with commitment. But then there are the people who argue back saying, what’s the point, if everything you’re writing down is crap?

I have a rebuttal — but wait, Ernest Hemingway said it best: “The first draft of anything is shit.” Anyone who tells you otherwise has never written more than the first draft. So doing Nano just gets the crap out faster so you can get to the making it better part sooner. If you want to be a real writer, you’re going to have to suck it up and do that anyway. Don’t believe me? Ask E. B. White. “The best writing is rewriting.”

But that can be discouraging, too, to be told to have low expectations. I’ve always said Nano is about quantity over quality. Except this year, I started realizing it’s closer to finding quality in quantity. The more you write the better the writing will be. You’ll find genius ideas buried in the excrement, beautiful turns of phrase will pop up in unexpected corners of sludge. And it’s funny, but the more you look at the crap, the more you realize it’s actually a pretty solid foundation that just needs to be swept and mopped.

It is nothing less than amazing to write a novel. Even if you have to spend months or even years (guilty here) making it worth other people’s time. Never underestimate that experience.

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Our Impact

Tru ConfessionsTru Confessions by Janet Tashjian

When I read a really short book, I don’t feel like I’ve gotten to know the characters well enough to review them. That happened with Tru Confessions. I only spent about an hour and a half of my life with Tru, so I didn’t connect with her the same way I would have with a character I’d spent a week with. But I’m going to try to talk about her anyway, because she’s pretty cool and deserves a special look.

 

Tru wants two things in life: to find a cure for her brother and to host her own TV show. When a local cable channel announces a contest for teens, Tru sees a way she can maybe get both.

Tru’s brother Eddie is developmentally delayed due to asphyxia during birth. But this isn’t his story. It’s Tru’s. We see her move from her longing and a desperate search for a way to make Eddie ‘normal’, to acceptance of who her brother is and will remain. There is never any lack of love, but over time Tru realizes it’s okay if she grows up while her brother doesn’t.

One of the things I really liked about this book was Tru’s voice. She’s snarky and funny while at the same time being painfully honest. Congrats to Tashjian. I’m not sure she could have dealt with these hard issues for young readers in a better way. Tru lays out her guilt over Eddie’s condition, her desire to fit in, and her secret shame, and we move through them with her, coming out the other side in a better place.

This blog normally deals with disabilities from a first person view, whether through fiction or real life. But I think it’s really important to bring in perspective from those who live with disabilities without actually having them. In our own pain or self-righteousness it’s easy to forget that our struggles impact those we love.

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