A Death in November

So. Back in 2005, when National Novel Writing Month rolled around in November, I wrote Fred Again, a novel about a police detective and a young woman facing Lovecraftian forces beyond their control, and winning. Sort of. There was a lot going on in that novel.

The title Fred Again didn’t come from me, though. It came from my friend Nicole. You see, I announced in October that I had no idea what I was going to write, so I simply solicited titles from my friends on the Internet, and decided that with that title, I’d simply sit down at midnight on November 1 to see what came out. As a reward for suggesting a winning title, I said, I’d kill the friend off in the manner of their choosing in the novel. I got so many great title ideas that I decided to use them as chapter titles, meaning that each chapter featured a gruesome death scene featuring my friends. It was a blast to write, and, by all accounts, a blast to read. And the really neat thing is that Fred Again sort of set me on a new path in my writing. Up until then I’d been writing straight horror or science fiction, and not enjoying it too much. With Fred Again I made the switch to comic horror, and my writing has been a lot more fun since then.

It’s been ten years since then, and once again I have no idea what I’m going to write for National Novel Writing Month. Actually, that’s not entirely true; I had an idea, but it requires planning and outlining and what not, which, at this point, I just don’t have time for. So I’m going to do what I did in 2005: sit down at midnight on November 1 and start writing and see what happens.

Of course I have no idea what the title of the novel will be, nor what the chapter titles might be, so once again I’m soliciting ideas.

So: Got a novel/chapter title suggestion for me? Post it in the comments on this blog post, reply to me on Twitter, or post a comment in Facebook. As a thank you, I will happily write you into my novel and kill you off in the manner of your choosing.

Suggest away!

Ways to Spend Money, Redux

Hm, I’m noticing that it’s been awhile since I’ve posted here to my blog. It’s nobody’s fault, in particular, I’ve just been busy. And when I haven’t been busy, I’ve been… well, busy. Busy busy busy. I took a class in advanced PHP/SQL and that took up a LOT of time. And now that the class is over, I’m working on finishing up the final project for that class: basically, I’m rebooting Holidailies, a blogging community which has been running pretty much consistently for over ten years.

Between that and other projects, I’ve had very little time for writing or for blogging. This is weighing upon my soul.

For now, though, I’m soothing my aching heart by writing this quick blog entry during my lunch break at work. I want to offer you a couple of different ways to spend money, which I know is something you really want to do.

First, you could donate to National Novel Writing Month’s Young Writers Program through the nano_15_wat_poster_online_imagefundraiser that Jennifer and I are running. It’s called The Night of Writing Dangerously, and we’ve participated before.  The Young Writers Program is a fantastic way to encourage children up to age 17 to stretch and flex their creative energies by writing novels or stories themselves. I know several children who have participated, and their creativity is awesome. This is highly recommended.

And, of course, I’d like to encourage you to spend $2.99 and purchase the Kindle edition of my novella, The Winds of Patwin County. This little story has gathered some great reviews, and I’mThe Winds of Patwin County Cover particularly proud of it. Now, I know that not everyone has a Kindle or a Kindle app on their smart phone or tablet, so I am preparing a paperback edition that will hopefully be up for sale on Amazon soon. But, again, this is one of those projects that have been put on hold while I focus on Holidailies.

This novella comes with a content warning, though, and I should stress that it is definitely not safe for children. When they make the movie version, it will definitely be rated R. So if you want to do something that’s safe for kids, then, once again, I recommend donated to our fundraiser.

That’s it. Soon, I will have more to say. I promise that this blog won’t languish for too long before my next post.

About that writing thing

dragonreadingThis past weekend I participated in an online intensive short story workshop taught by Mary Robinette Kowal, who’s written some of my favorite stories (including “Lady Astronaut of Mars“, which is a beautiful story and you really ought to read if you haven’t already). It was amazingly educational — I took pages and pages of notes — and very inspiring. I used to participate in the writers’ workshops at various science fiction conventions, but I haven’t done that in awhile; I ended up getting nothing but positive comments, and while that was certainly good for my ego, I felt like I wasn’t actually learning anything. In this workshop, I learned to recognize two of my major flaws as a writer:

  1. Character motivation. Some of my characters lack consistent internal motivations for their actions, and this is definitely something I need to work on in order to develop as a writer. The other flaw is this:
  2. Tone consistency. The story I wrote for the class started out as a horror story, but ended up as a buddy comedy. This was not my intention; I had always meant it to be comic, but the opening scene with the main character was just too dark.  I have the opposite problem with another story I’ve been working on for years, “Burying Uncle Albert”. I have ideas on how to fix this.

So there’s that. The workshop was intense; Saturday’s session was twelve hours long, and Sunday’s was fourteen. And during each break, we would have homework: write something, then critique two other students’ output. We didn’t have any more than an hour at any point during the course of the workshop when we weren’t learning.

I highly recommend this workshop to you the next time she offers it.

In other news, I’ve decided on a fiduciary goal with regards to my writing: by the age of 50, I want to be earning enough with my writing to be able to cut back on my hours at work without loss of income. I think it’s a doable goal, but it’s going to require some hard work on my part.

I can do it, though. I’m sure of it.

Of course, I’d love to write full-time someday, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Maybe when I retire.

[A-Z] V is for Victory!


Sort of.

So I went and wrote twenty-six blog entries, including this one, one for each letter of the alphabet. I did it out of order, and got scolded for that, but who says the alphabet has to be in alphabetical order? In library school I learned that order is what you make it. Is the Library of Congress catalog system in alphabetical order? It most certainly is not. I rest my case.

Next year, though, I plan to do the alphabet in order.

But which alphabet?

Bwah ha ha haaaaaa!

This is the last post brought to you by the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

[A-Z] E is for Episcopalian

Shield_of_the_US_Episcopal_ChurchSome of my earliest memories are of going to church at St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in Cupertino, California. It was a small church, as I recall, and I was a typical kid in a typical church: active, nerdy, investigatory. My mom let me bring toys, of course, and there were coloring activities in the church bulletin and Sunday school classes, all designed to keep little kids like me from being too active and disruptive of the service. I don’t remember my baptism, of course, but I do remember being confirmed at that church by Bishop C. Shannon Mallory in 1982. I have a copy of the 1977 Book of Common Prayer that I received as a gift for that event.

As I grew older, of course, I grew away from the Episcopal Church. I went to a Catholic high school, but while there was a first Friday Mass every month, we weren’t all required to pray every morning and that sort of thing. There were elements of the Catholic Church and its theology that appealed to me, and elements that did not.

When I went to UC Davis, I sought out the nearest Episcopal Church, which was St. Martin’s, not too far away from the dorm I lived in. But then I found myself drawn into Intervarsity College Fellowship, and hung out with a more conservative crowd of Christians than I was used to. I went to a Baptist church for awhile, until I heard from the youth pastor there that all my gay and lesbian friends were going to Hell, at which point I decided I’d had enough.

For awhile I went to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Davis, which I liked for its social progressivism, but which didn’t quite sit right with me for its theology — or, rather, lack thereof.

So I wandered around for a bit. For awhile, I practiced Wicca. Then I explored the Bahá’í Faith for awhile, enchanted by its embrace of other theologies and mythic systems, as well as its socially progressive attitudes. But eventually I came to dislike some it its elements. At least one of my Bahá’í friends turned out to be rather homophobic, and while I don’t know if this represents the faith as a whole, it was hard not to make the connection.

When Jennifer and I met, I ended up going to a Methodist church for awhile. It was easy; after all, it was the church that her parents went to and it was located in our home town, and it was the church we got married in. I like the Methodist Church very much, but I confess it just didn’t feel like home to me.

So when we moved to Sacramento, I decided to start attending Trinity Episcopal Cathedral downtown. It definitely feels more home-like than any of the other churches and faiths I’d explored throughout my life, but there is still something missing. I’m not sure exactly what. The theology is there, the progressive social ideals are there. Maybe it’s just that I didn’t grow up there.

I know that one’s faith has a lot to do with how they’ve grown up. My experience with Christianity and with the Episcopal Church was, on the whole, very good, so I still identify as Christian (even though I’m more likely to say “Happy Zombie Jesus Day” rather than “Happy Easter”). But there are many toxic versions of the faith out there, some of them with far too much political power, and many people who have been deeply wounded by them and by practitioners, and this is a shame.

Hallelujah! It’s the A-Z Blogging Challenge!

[A-Z] T is for Thumb

A brief entry for you tonight. Then two entries tomorrow. Then the [A-Z] blogging challenge will be over.

At any rate, have you ever had a hangnail? The kind that turns your finger an ugly red color when you accidentally snag it on something, or slip when you cut it off with a pair a nail clippers? I have. When I was a kid I was prone to them all the time for some reason.

Well, the past few days, I’ve had a doozy of an infected hangnail. There was pain, there was swelling, there was infection, and more. Fortunately, it’s my left thumb, so it didn’t impact me in many ways.

Well, today I finally decided the pain and the grossness were a little too much to handle, so I decided to call my doctor and see what he could do about it. The nurse asked me why I had come and I said, “This,” showing her my thumb. She said, “Oooh,” and proceeded to take my vitals and led me to an exam room without another word.

After a few minutes, the doctor came in. “So, why are you here?” he asked. I showed him. “Oh my,” he said. “Hm, I think we’re going to have to lance that.”

And so he did. And what came out was very impressive. The doctor said “Ew.” I’ve never managed to gross out a doctor before.

And now, about four hours later, the wound is still bleeding, and I’ve got a wad of gauze on it. It still hurts, but not nearly as much, and for that I’m quite grateful.

This gross entry brought to you by the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

[A-Z] I is for Inconceivabilities

vizziniThere are number of things I can’t really conceive of, and this, of course, presents a problem in my writing. The earliest piece of advice that most writers get is “Write what you know”, which is actually pretty silly. Most writers, especially writers of speculative fiction, don’t know everything about which they’re writing. In The Fifth Hand, John Irving wrote about what it’s like to have a hand transplant, a subject that he has no experience with.

And all those worlds that science fiction and fantasy writers create for their fiction? They’re loosely based on what they already know, but most of it is just made up.

The same goes for horror fiction, of course. Stephen King has no idea what it’s like to deal with the sort of cosmic horror he created for It, but there it is anyway. And when I wrote “The Winds of Patwin County”, I had no idea what it was like to be in a marriage that was simultaneously falling apart and being rebuilt. Still have no idea what that’s like.

Some other things I have no idea about: what it’s like to grow up as a young girl in India. What it’s like to be a medical student. The nature of Hindu cosmology. How modern cosmological theory ties in with the nature of reality. What it might mean if the cosmic horizon which threatens to collapse reality actually reaches a quantum level and disrupts consciousness (I have no idea what that means; probably just nonsense). But these are all things that come up in my planned novel Padma.

Also: I don’t know what it’s like to be a young widowed mother living in a mining colony on a distant planet, whose child has been kidnapped by powerful forces intent on preventing the fulfillment of a prophecy. This is for my planned trilogy The Outer Darkness.

And, finally: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman of mixed African/Cuban descent. This is coming up in Code Monkey, though since my main character in that novel is a computer programmer sort of out of his depth in his job, the situation is not as dire.

So according to ancient writing wisdom, I shouldn’t write about these things because I have no direct knowledge of these things. I maintain, though, that I can. There are some experiences that are universal and can be extrapolated to unknown situations. I’ve never wanted to kill anyone, but I’ve been full of rage at points in my life, so can extrapolate from that.

Other experiences can be researched, of course. I know nothing of growing up in India, but that’s easily researched. What it’s like to be a female medical student? Probably a little harder to research, simply because I’d have to interview a couple at least and I’m quite, quite shy. Maybe I should just track down the primary care physician I had a few years ago. She was good, and probably can share some of her experience with me.

That’s all I’m going to post about today, I think. I have an infected hangnail which makes typing a little difficult, shoulder pain, and a headache. The kobolds are slowly fading away, thank goodness.

And you?

The A-Z Blogging Challenge? Inconceivable!