going forward

So, my sadly-neglected blogging career (ha!) on this site needs a reboot.

How I’m going to approach the reboot is the big question. The reality is that my time is limited, and my previous approach was not getting many results. I lacked focus, and often felt that I was all over the place in my blogging. And honestly, it had turned into a big chore, so it was easy to let it fall off my plate.

I’d like to avoid that this time around. I want blogging to be a joyful experience. I don’t want to spend hours agonizing over topic and word choice and wondering, “Does this help my brand?”

And I definitely want to reach readers. For all of my blogging history, the majority of my audience has been other writers. Many of those are ALSO readers, don’t get me wrong. But there are already so many great blogs out there that target writers. I love to talk writing, but not all the time.

The one thing I AM going to do is share more of my fiction, especially in the flashfic format. A while ago, I challenged myself to write flashfic inspired by the planets of our solar system–just because. I have three from that challenge I like and want to share, so keep an eye on this space for them.

To the friends, fellow-writers, and readers who were still there when I emerged from my cocoon (“She’s aliiiiiiiiive!”): What kinds of things do you like me to talk about? What types of posts have you enjoyed in the past?


how to collaborate with another writer: a case study

One Small Step: an anthology of discoveries launched last weekend at Conflux. I’m honored to have a story (co-written with the super-talented Jo Anderton) included in it.

This was my first ever collaboration, and I thought it’d be useful to talk about how the process worked out for us.

The Setup

Last fall, Tehani Wessely, editor of the anthology, contacted Jo and me with the idea of collaborating on a short story for One Small Step. We (metaphorically) looked at each other, looked at Tehani, and said, “Sure!” After all we’ve been friends for almost a decade now (has it really been this long, Jo?) and have a lot of experience with each other’s work. Even though our styles are different, we have enough common overlap that we could (probably) handle writing a short story together.

It was also the perfect project for collaboration. Neither of us was playing in the other’s sandbox (“hey, want to write a story in my world?” “Er… no.”) nor was our canvas unlimited (“So what shall we write together?” “Uh, I dunno”). We had a theme (discoveries), a form (short story), and a deadline.

So, we got to it.

The Idea

Almost immediately, we ran into some uh… differences in our processes.

Me, I come up with an idea, then run with it. I churn out several pages to see where it’ll go. Sometimes the idea works, sometimes it doesn’t. I have lots of unfinished short stories on my hard drive. I consider them regrettable but expected casualties of my writing process.

Not so with Jo. She isn’t willing to latch on to the first shiny idea that floats by. She wanted to wait for something special, the idea that set her story senses a-tingle.

So we waited for the lightning strike (some of us more patiently than others). A week or so later, Jo emailed me a photo of an old woman huddled in a doorway with an ornate doll next to her. “I think there’s a story in this picture,” she wrote me.

By golly, she was right.

We were both fascinated by this picture and traded speculations back and forth for days. Both of us agreed that dolls were creepy (I kept having flashbacks to Child’s Play). Then I remembered Hinamatsuri, or Dolls’ Day in Japan. We put the two together and I–yes, well I did what’s natural to my style–forged ahead and wrote a bunch of snippets exploring character, plot, and setting.

I think Jo knew I was chomping at the bit, so she let me. We talked over the snippets a lot (and I learned something about Jo: she doesn’t like to write about royalty). Both of us were very excited and creeped out about what we were getting. And I really appreciated Jo’s insistence on digging deep into the idea and taking it from good to great. “Good enough” doesn’t exist in her vocabulary, and it’s a lesson I’m applying to my own writing from now on.

An Aside

I’m going to pause here to mention one very important thing: do not look at a collaboration as something that will save you time. More likely, it won’t. Jo and I could’ve probably written two stories each in the time it took us to write Sand and Seawater.

Think about it this way. When you’re writing your own story, you only have to satisfy two people: You and Your Muse. When you’re writing with someone else, there are two Yous and two Muses, and they all need to be on board. It’s bad enough keeping one pairing happy, but two…!

(Oh, and apparently, our Muses have some telepathic connection that doesn’t go through us. Now that is also creepy.)

The Actual Writing!

All right, so once we were happy with our ideas, we started writing! Luckily for us, there were two POVs, so Jo took the doll and I took the old woman. We alternated scenes, and I noticed a style difference right away. My scenes sprawl, while Jo writes tighter. Once we hammered out the plot and nailed the climax, we each went through to cut out redundant material and tighten everything up. (I may be a first-draft sprawler but I’m ruthless when wielding a red pen).

A fitting concluding scene took us a bit of back-and-forth, but I think, again, we nailed it.

Checklist For Success

I would call this a very successful collaboration. Not only did we sell the story, but:

  • We are both very proud and pleased with it.
  • This is a story that neither of us would’ve come up with on our own.
  • And–most importantly–we’re still friends. And we both see this experience as a net positive, not something to be quietly shoved into a closet and never ever done again. We’re both too much of loners to do a lot of collaboration, but who knows? In the future you might be seeing more work with both our names on it. *is deliberately vague and mysterious*

Jo has her own thoughts about our collaborative experience here (link might not work until later in the day, since she’s already gone to bed). Update: Link works!

Have you collaborated? Share your experiences!

so, what’s going on with Rainbird?

A few weeks ago, I drew back the curtains on my latest work-in-progress (and next self-published ebook).

Rainbird is a science fantasy novella that grew out of a short story I wrote last year. My protagonist, Rainbird, is both strong and vulnerable, generous and impulsive, determinedly cheerful in trying circumstances but, like everyone else, has her blind spots. The setting is the sunway, a gigantic track made from the bone of an immense dragon upon which this world’s artificial sun moves. Betrayal and love, atonement and duty are some of the themes of the story.

I have a cover for this book. I’ve had it beta-read, and two more people have said “yes” to reading it for one last spit-and-polish. I’m less than ten pages away from finishing version 4 of the story.

And I’m afraid to release it.

I didn’t recognize the fear, at first. I was going great guns on my latest pass through Rainbird when I just–stopped. And I haven’t touched it for almost a week.

I told myself that it was because we got sick (true). I told myself it was because we were busy (also true). I told myself I needed to work on another project whose deadline is coming up very soon (that too).

But those reasons merely disguised the real one: fear.

Fear that it will disappoint my readers. Fear that it will be savaged by reviewers. Fear that it will sink my fledgling career. Fear that it’s not perfect. I feel that if I only hold on to it a bit longer, it will magically become so.

Times like this I need to go read Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s wonderful post on perfection. I cried–or at least got teary-eyed–when I first read it. There is no such thing as a perfect story. There is no such thing as story that everyone, everywhere will love. There are just good stories that find their own fans.

As for Rainbird? I love this story. Some–not all–of my beta readers love this story. I know that I’ve done my best with it, and there is no way to make it better without tearing out its heart and turning it into something altogether different.

It’s time to kick the twin demons of Fear and Perfectionism to the curb. It’s time to get on with my copyedit so Rainbird can go seek its audience. It’s time to stop clinging and let go.

So, what’s going on with Rainbird?

It’s coming out this fall. Soon. Watch this space for the release date.


She’s a half-breed in hiding.

Rainbird never belonged. To one race, she’s chattel. To the other, she’s an abomination that should never have existed.

She lives on the sunway.

High above the ground, Rainbird is safe, as long as she does her job, keeps her head down, and never ever draws attention to herself.

But one act of sabotage is about to change everything.

For Rainbird. And for her world.

how the internet is changing my brain

I need to change my Internet habits.

I spend a lot of time online for both work and pleasure, and the line between the two often blurs. It’s easy for that to happen on the Internet. You get on to check reviews and samples for homeschooling curricula and, before you know it, you’re watching a video of dueling cellos while ogling pictures of steampunk-themed sand castles and it’s 1 am and five hours have gone by.

So this podcast by Michael Hyatt (via Jodi Lea Stewart) came at the right time for me. Navigating the Internet is like a balancing act and I fell off a long time ago

I’m not a scientist and I can’t discuss the latest research on how the Internet is changing our brains. But I do know that it’s had a negative impact on my brain in the following ways:

First, it’s turning me into a consumer rather than a creator. Guys, there is such a LOT of cool stuff on the Internet. Thoughtful and witty and entertaining blog posts. Gorgeous photos and awesome art. Funny memes, useful how-tos, amazing facts. I could spend hours immersing myself in other people’s words and images.

And quite frequently, I do.

But the thing is, if I’m consuming then I’m not giving myself the time or space or silence to create. And if I don’t create, if I don’t bring art from within me, I feel down and depressed.

Which leads me to another aspect of the Internet: it’s shortening my attention span. Ever notice how you surf the web? You read a short blog post, follow a link to a two-minute video, move on to a series of pictures with funny captions, then tweet or change  your FB status. You’re restless, constantly on the move, clicking links, opening and closing tabs.

If it doesn’t grab right away, if it’s not broken up with lots of white space and cute images, if it’s too difficult to get into, you move on.

And that’s filtering into other areas offline. Follow an argument through several pages of densely-written text? Phbbt. Reached a snag in my current story? I’ll just check my RSS feed for a few minutes. I wrote a paragraph? Hooray. Now I can go see if someone mentioned me on Twitter.

Uh. No. In order to write the kinds of stories I want to, I need to dig deep into myself. I need to burrow into my characters’ heads, wear their skins, feel the bite of the wind and the stench of sewage and the ache of muscle… and I can’t do that if I’m running off every ten minutes.

The Internet keeps me sedentary. I am my brain and my body (and my soul, but I’m not getting into that discussion right now). They feed each other. Ever notice how many ideas come to you when you’re doing a repetitive action, like washing dishes or sweeping the floor or–this is a big one for me–pacing a room? My muscles work, kickstart my brain, and boom! I unsnarl a plot point, a coy character starts talking, and I get a new story idea.

The Internet can cause unhealthy dependence on casual relationships. Online interactions are like a drug. Every comment on a blog post and every retweet can give a momentary high, leaving one craving more. My life, though, is not measured in blog subscribers, twitter followers or the opinions of perfect strangers. When those things take away from the real, important work of raising my children and investing in my close (on and offline) relationships, they’re taking a place that’s not meant for them.

And lastly, too much screen time makes me feel bad. If I spend too much time staring at the screen (and this includes TV and video games) I come away feeling jittery, anxious, sad, or down. And then it’s hard for me to reconnect with the world around me, with my family, with my own stories, with God.

And with that, it’s time for me to get off the computer and take my children outside to see what butterflies and dragonflies we can spot!

How is the Internet affecting your brain? What guidelines govern your Internet usage?