Nov 27


This morning I had to suffer through a seriously boring training session for a DNA software module that I will never use (yet I am somehow expected to write a manual for it even though I know absolutely ZILCH about processing DNA). I tried to pay attention and follow what was going on, but after about twenty minutes of listening to the analysts talk about quantifying something-or-others I finally gave up and succumbed to wandering-mind syndrome which led to me making a lot more notes for my Lucifer novel. At least I looked busy!

In the process of my quiet brainstorming I started thinking about the first novel I ever wrote. I ran across a hardcopy of it over the Thanksgiving holiday and sat down to read the thing. I wrote it about a dozen years ago, a Big Fat Fantasy novel which clocked in at about 170K words–and that was just “Book One.” It was very much a First Novel, a total wish-fulfillment piece with a main character who resembled myself to a degree that had me writhing in embarrassment as I reread it. However, I thought that perhaps it could be rewritten/edited to fix that and some of the other weaknesses. Perhaps take it apart and rework it, and make it better.

So, I took a day out and deconstructed it. (Deconstructing novels is pretty much how I learned how to write mysteries. I took several of my favorite mystery novels and took them apart, going through chapter by chapter. I essentially wrote out a synopsis for each one, then studied how the author worked in false trails and action and suspense and tension.) And in the process of tearing apart this first novel of mine I discovered something: It’s not… bad, but it sure as heck isn’t good. Lots of tropes, heavy-handed romantic overtones, cardboard characters, thin plots… you get the idea. But, the cool thing was that I could SEE this. I could see the weaknesses that I’d been oblivious to a decade ago. (Heck, even just a few years ago!) And, I could see ways that the book could be made Good, and Different, and–in my opinion–pretty darn Cool. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any realistic way to do this by just rewriting and editing the existing book. At the most I miiiiiight be able to salvage some scenes, but overall the darn thing would basically have to be rewritten from scratch.

Perhaps I’ll put that on my list of Books I Intend To Write.

Nov 27

A Challenge for December

I signed up for Holidailies again this year. I’ve done this for many years, though I missed a couple of years during my various blogging hiatuses (is that the plural?) For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it’s basically just a challenge to post to your blog every day during the month of December. The years that I’ve done it I’ve pretty much managed to make my goal.

But I think I’m going to step it up this year. Yes, it’s a challenge to post frequently, but I want to make this a writing challenge this year. Yes, I can find some sort of minutiae about my life to post every day, but can I write something good every day? Can I write an essay every day? Or a scene? A good one?

You see, I’ve discovered that the more I write, the more I write. And, the better I try to write, the better I actually write.

This is (obviously) a different sort of writing challenge than NaNoWriMo, since in NaNo it’s essentially pressure to get the words out, and it encourages people to write like crap. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all about writing crap first drafts. That was my writing process for my two Demon novels and it worked pretty darn well for me.

But I haven’t seen any equivalent writing challenges that really focus on quality. (Yes, I know that there’s a National Novel Editing Month sometime in the spring that’s supposed to follow up on NaNo, but that’s not really what I’m shooting for here.)

So, I’ll put this challenge out for the writers who read this, especially those of you finishing up NaNoWriMo. You don’t have to join Holidailies, but if you’re up for it, post “Thirty-One Thoughtfuls” in December.

(Okay, I don’t like “Thirty-One Thoughtfuls” for the name of this challenge. I am completely open to suggestions.)

Nov 26

How I spent my Thanksgiving holiday

Well, we had a fairly low-key but still pleasant Thanksgiving. Jack, Anna, my mother and I went to a nice restaurant in the city which basically took care of Thanksgiving-day dinner stuff. Didn’t suck at all that mom picked up the tab. :) We went ahead and cooked a small turkey on Friday and ate off of that for the weekend.

On Saturday Jack took Anna to see Bee Movie in the afternoon. They’d already seen it, but the point of the exercise was to give me a couple of hours of free time, which was greatly appreciated. I managed to grind out another 500 words or so on my Lucifer novel, which is MUCH slower than I usually write, but I’m still in the slow and painful start of the book where I’m still trying to figure out the feel of it. However, I have a feeling that this is not going to be a fast book to write.

After they returned from the movie I bundled the kid into the car and left Jack to his own devices while I met my sister and her family at an indoor rock-climbing gym over in Slidell. After college (i.e. a couple of decades ago!) I very briefly dated a guy who did rock climbing, and so I gained a small amount of experience with climbing and rapelling. However, the indoor gyms are a whole ‘nuther animal, and really loads more fun for the novice since you can start out on “easy” walls and move up to harder walls at your own pace. Plus you always have someone belaying you, which takes away the ohmygodi’mgoingtofall aspect of climbing up a really tall wall. I had not intended to give it a try at first, but my sister called me a wimp and other similar names, and so I had no choice but to at least give it a damn try. And I actually made it to the top! Okay, so it was the “bunny slope” version of a climbing wall, but I still made it all the way up.

However, the HUGE surprise was Anna. After about 20 minutes of watching other people climb up walls, she decided she wanted to try it. So we rented a harness for her and let her go at it. She didn’t like the rope at all, so I let her free climb on the short walls (with me hovering anxiously ready to catch her!) She had a blast, and by the end of our stay there was scurrying up the wall like a little spider. I was, of course, ridiculously proud of the fact that my three year old was swarming up the wall with such ease. (I’ll take pictures next time!)

Then, on Sunday, I gave Jack some more free time to prepare for trials he has this week, and took Anna to see… yes, Bee Movie. (Sheesh!) Someday I’d like to see it without sixteen “I gotta go potty” interruptions.

Nov 21

I have to be able to calculate my word count, y’know?

Over the weekend Jack gave me one of those lovely gifts called Time To Write, wherein he took Anna off for various activities and I went off to a local cafe to pound some words out on my Lucifer novel. I worked for a few hours and then met him and The Kid over at a mutual friend’s house, where a small group of people were watching the Saints get slaughtered.

I sat down next to Jack and he asked me how my writing had gone. “I managed a bit over a thousand words,” I replied. Our mutual friend looked at me in amazement and said, “Oh my god! You just wrote a thousand words? I don’t think I could write a thousand letters!” Some good-natured teasing followed about what skills she did possess, and then another woman spoke up, looking at me with a tilted head and a small smirk. “So you’re a writer? You must be really bad at math, right?”

I smiled sweetly. “Actually, I have a degree in math from Georgia Tech.”

Then I leapt up from the couch and yelled, “So SUCK ON THAT! HA! BoooooYA! BITCH! Go Me! Go Me!”

Okay, I didn’t do that last part, though I dearly wanted to. But I probably didn’t need to anyway since the expression on her face was satisfying enough and she ignored me for the rest of the day. I later found out that she works in medical sales and is reputed to be quite successful, so in retrospect I can see that this was just a superiority play, a you-may-have-talent-but-that’s-all-you-have slap.

But DAMN it was sweet to nip that shit right in the bud!

(I mean, really! Since when do math and writing not mix?)

Nov 20

“Come on, Anna, don’t you want to watch Lazytown?!”

I think I’m developing an unhealthy fascination for Sportacus…

Nov 16

Things you can’t ignore

I woke up at 3:30 this morning to the not-so-distant sound of a smoke alarm chirping somewhere in the house with its cheery message of doom for its battery.


I tried to ignore it.


Crap. I got up, thinking that it was the downstairs alarm, so I staggered to the hallway and listened.


Oh. Crap. It wasn’t downstairs. It was upstairs.

It was in The Kid’s room.

I was instantly assailed by visions of The Kid waking up, and me losing out on all hope of getting back to sleep. I cracked open the door to her room, mildly shocked to see that she was still asleep.


I cringed at the sound and muttered some choice invectives under my breath about the timing of the death of the battery. I slid into her room, and then climbed up onto only piece of furniture that could be easily and quietly moved to allow me to reach the alarm. Unfortunately it was one of those glider ottomans, so I began a balance routine that would have made a Cirque performer proud.


Scowl. Scowl. Balance and wobble. I reached up to the damn alarm and twisted it off the base, It came off obligingly… an inch. I muttered a few more choice invectives as I realized that the damn thing was wired into the house alarm system. (A system that we gave up on using a very long time ago.) So, I wobbled and balanced, and attempted to unplug the damn thing from the wall.


I could NOT get it unplugged. The Kid rolled over and I held my breath and froze, attempting to muffle the damn chirps of the alarm with the sheer power of my mind.


Could. Not. Get. It. Unplugged. I stepped down from the ottoman without doing a faceplant and returned to my bedroom. Could not find a flashlight anywhere. Managed to find a swiss army knife. Managed to find my phone. Returned to the kid’s room and to the wobbly ottoman and to the dangling, chirping alarm.


I pressed a button on my phone and held it between my teeth to give me some light. Pried the damn alarm away from the damn plug, which finally came free with a lovely sharp sound of cracking plastic.

Held breath. Looked at The Kid. Thanked the gods that she had picked tonight to sleep like the dead. Wobbled on the ottoman. Had a sudden flash of me falling off of the ottoman and impaling myself on my swiss army knife, all while husband is out of town. Wondered if The Kid would wake up if that happened. Was glad that I had my phone in my mouth because if I did fall off and impale myself I could probably still dial 911 with my tongue.


Climbed down from the ottoman. Managed to escape The Kid’s bedroom. Returned to my bedroom and turned on the light. Let out a silent scream as my retinas burned away. Attempted to remove the damn battery from the damn alarm. Used the swiss army knife some more. Cracked some more plastic. Finally removed the battery. Exhaled in relief.


Agh!!! What new hell is this?! I took the damn battery out!


I contemplated opening the window and chucking the thing into the street.


I then realized that the damn chirps were dying out. Damn capacitors.

It finally went completely silent. The Kid was still asleep. It was only 4am. My alarm was set for 5am.

Miraculously, I was able to get back to sleep.

Nov 13

Muse musings

While at WFC this year, I had the very cool experience of having several people come up to me and tell me they liked my post(s) on convention networking. That was nice to hear, but then quite a few people told me that I should expand/rewrite it into a proper article and make the effort to sell it to a proper magazine-type-venue.

I’m a bit ashamed at myself that the thought had not even occurred to me until it was suggested. So, I think that will be one of my projects for the coming months.

I’m also starting to reap the benefits of NotNoHellNo (i.e. sticking the almost-done book2 in a virtual drawer and letting it stew for a bit..) This morning, while cuddling with the kid and watching Little Einsteins, I had a terrific flash on how to manage the Big Fix for one of the Big Problems with the book. (The flash had nothing to do with Little Einsteins, by the way.) The big reason that I had put the book aside was just because of that: I knew that there were some big problems with it, and the more I beat myself against it, the more I got screwed up about what was needed. I’ve been through this before, and fortunately the set-it-aside method has worked its magic once again. (My project for this afternoon will be to type up notes on exactly how this Big Fix is going to work.)

I’m also coming a lot closer to knowing just how my god/satan book is going to be structured. I’ve been in pretty heavy research-mode on this one, and the biggest thing I’ve discovered is that No One Agrees on how free will works. This is a very cool thing for me, since that means I can really do a lot with the concept.

Anyway, I’m trying to be more disciplined about setting out my writing goals, and then backing it up with the appropriate work since I really truly do want to build a career as a pro writer. Jack and I are in long-term planning mode for how it could work for me to quit the day job, and what factors would have to fall into place for that to happen. Ken Scholes had a really terrific post in his LJ about work and motivation, which is highly worth the time to read. His process seems to be much like mine, i.e. work hard andget it written. It’s funny how when I started really busting my ass with the writing I started experiencing something akin to success. Go figure. It’s much like something I overheard a bodybuilder say once: “The harder I work out and the cleaner I maintain my diet, the better my genetics seem to get.”

But I’m not going to say that luck doesn’t play a part. As Jay Lake has pointed out many times, publishing is not a meritocracy. Just because you’re the best writer with the best stories/novels doesn’t mean you’re going to have the best career as a writer. But if you haven’t backed up that lucky break with a lot of hard work, then that big break is going to slide right on by.

Nov 9

November writing

No, I am not doing NaNoWriMo.

Instead I’m doing NotNoHellNo. (This consists of sticking the mostly-finished draft of Book2 in a drawer and forcing myself to not look at it until the beginning of December.)

However, I haven’t given up on writing completely for the month of November. I am presently in the process of researching/brainstorming/outline-drafting for the next book I want to write: God is broken. Satan is burned out. Free Will was a mistake.

I waver between being really excited about writing this book, and being really terrified of writing this book. What I want it to be is far more ambitious than anything I’ve ever written before (in novel-length, that is.) My goal is to have the basic gist of it roughed out and a first chapter written by the end of November. So far I have five “starts” written, and none of them feel right, and I just don’t think that my usual process of plowing ahead and coming back to fix it later would work on this book.

Should be interesting.

Nov 7

WFC2007 pics

Pics have been moved to the WFC 2007 pics page.

Nov 6

WFC 2007

Okay, so yes, a good blogger would post frequent con updates and reports while at a con, especially if it was, say, a big con like World Fantasy, and even moreso if it were pretty much the only con that said blogger attended during the year.

Fortunately, I have never claimed to be a good blogger.

However, I will do my best to at least hit the highlights now for both of my loyal readers. (Though I think that perhaps my readership has grown slightly in the past few weeks? I might have three, or perhaps even four loyal readers!)

Short version: I ate too much, slept too little, met tons of extremely cool people, had a marvelous time, was very ready to come home to my darling family by the end.

Longer version:

Got into Saratoga Springs Wednesday night. Thought briefly about going down to the conference center to see if anyone I knew was around yet, but then considered my fatigue factor and thought better of it. Instead curled up in bed and watched Transformers on the hotel pay per view. (The plot had more holes than a fishnet, but the effects were good and the actions scenes were entertaining.)

Thursday morning I had my one brief shining moment of discipline, and actually put on workout clothes and went down to the hotel fitness center and slogged it out on the cardio machines for 40 minutes. That was the last time the fitness center factored into my schedule for the remainder of my stay there.

I made it down to the conference center around ten-ish on Thursday, and started running into people I knew. Many hugs ensued. A short while later I saw L.E. Modesitt, who promptly stole me away for lunch. Lovely lunch, fantastic company, delightful conversation.

Met and/or reacquainted myself with many more people throughout the day, including Ken Scholes who was walking about a foot off of the floor throughout the entire con. (He just sold five books to Tor.) Exceedingly nice and cool guy. Met many other Codexians (online writer’s group) and I was going to try to name the ones I met, but I realized that I would most assuredly leave some names off, so I am just going to skip that entire attempt. Met lots and lots of really cool people. Um, same disclaimer as before re the attempt to name you all. It was great to meet all of you!

Other highlights:

Rob Sawyer noticed that I’d lost weight. Woo! What a guy! (He then tried to introduce me as “Denise”, but since he’d noticed I’d lost weight I wasn’t all that put out.)

An Editor who has not yet seen my book wanted to hear more about my book after hearing a brief precis from Lee Modesitt, and I had the chance to sit down with said Editor and give him my pitch. (By the way, just as a note to up-and-coming writers, when an editor asks you the title of your book, it’s probably a good idea if you can remember it! Jeeeeeeeeez. But apart from that one brain fart, I think I managed a fairly decent pitch. )

Had a really fun dinner with Tim and Serena Powers, and Walter Jon Williams and Kathy Hedges. Had a really fun lunch with Doug Cohen and Jetse de Vries. Had many other fun meals throughout the weekend, and shockingly was still able to fit into my clothing on Monday. Also did lots of hanging out and catching up with Daniel Abraham. Always an utter delight.

Spent some time (not nearly enough!) with the very lovely Jae Brim. Later she and I took our annual “Walter and his Witches” picture with Walter Jon Williams.

Had breakfast with an enormous passel of Codex members. Very much fun to finally put faces/personalities with the names.

Attended a number of the parties but had little patience for the press of bodies, so did not stay long at any of them.

Bounced ideas for my next novel off of Blake Hutchins, and then bounced more ideas off of Daniel Abraham. I now have what I think is a really great core/premise for a book that has the potential to be extremely good enough that I am now going through the “Holy Crap, am I good enough to pull it off?” angst.

Met Jack Dann. Learned that he was wearing blue and white striped boxers. Learned that Gardner Dozois was wearing white and blue patterned boxers. “HooterVision” became the new catchphrase.

Called it a night by midnight or close to it every night, which I think contributed greatly to my overall enjoyment of the convention since I was not completely exhausted by the end of it. Just mostly.

Ran into John Picacio, Ted Chiang, Lou Anders, and Edmund Schubert at the Albany Airport on the way home. I experienced some brief panic over whether I would make my connection in Newark, since the next flight out of Newark to New Orleans wasn’t until 8pm, and I really wasn’t looking forward to a nine hour layover in Newark. I had decided, though, that if I did miss my flight I would find a way to go into NYC for a couple of hours. Unfortunately I had already packed my coat, so I was debating purchasing a new one. Fortunately, the pilot on the Albany to Newark leg decided to fly at about Warp 6 and I made my flight without having to do more than a very brisk walk between gates. This was also helped by the fact that Edmund Schubert spoke to the flight attendant on my behalf and arranged for me to switch seats from the back of the plane to the front of the plane, which probably bought me another ten minutes, easily. Good thing that he did, since my alternative plan was to mug John Picacio for his seat (1A.)

The rest of my journey back to New Orleans was uneventful, though I was disappointed that there was no in-flight movie. (There was one on the flight up there, and it really helped pass the 3.5 hour flight quickly.)

Picked my daughter up from daycare, and had the utterly delightful experience of her running into my arms and squeezing me in a three-year-old version of a bear hug. It was friggin’ awesome. Reintroduced myself to my husband later in the evening.

Very good con. Can’t wait until next year!

Pictures are forthcoming.

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