Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Already the ides of April! And it’s National poetry month

See more blackout poetry here!
I love poetry, and this year I’ve started writing it again. Perhaps you’ll see some of it on this very blog one day. While I tinker around reacquainting myself with verse and rhyme, here are some poetry resources, because this month isn’t over yet!

Of course you can read some actual books, 
like IRL. Here are the ones I’m working on.


WATCH: Pixels

To find poetry readings, see if there is a local or regional poetry organization where you live. Check out your local college English department, and of course, your local brick-and-mortar bookstores.
If you want to try something more casual, check out a poetry slam. These events often take place in bars. These are a friendly competition where poets read or recite their own original works and are judged by the audience. Energetic and emotional, these are often poems of protest, but anything goes. The form has its detractors (mostly among poets, natch), but I find them vital and fun and think it’s definitely a form worth checking out. Find a listing of poetry slam events here.


If you’re feeling flush, check out the gorgeous Elegy for a Dead World game, available for both PC and Mac. I haven’t tried it yet, so here’s a review.

  • Complete a poetry madlib over at Language is a Virus
  • Or check out this often hilarious Haiku generator
  • To play IRL, buy some actual fridge magnets for your actual fridge buy multiple sets. Leave poetic messages for spouses, children and siblings…
  • Ohmygosh! There’s a SciFi magnet


  • Check out these poetry prompts on Tumblr.
  • Every April, NaPoWriMo hosts a poetry writing challenge and celebration. Join with other intrepid poets to write a poem a day for a whole month.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Golden Hour

The Obliteration Room by Yayoi Kusama

Way back in 2011, when Paolo Bacigalupi was my pro at ArmadilloCon, I mentioned that I was worried about keeping up with my blog. He said, "Don't worry about your blog, you're a writer not a blogger, right?" This is seriously good advice, and it’s only taken me four years to begin following it.

I have had a productive spring, and find myself with over a dozen stories in submission – more than ever. The more stories I write, the more I value my fiction writing time. That said, I still need a place to park my random musings, so this blog isn’t going away. But, I will be updating less frequently.


Even letting my blog slide, it’s a daily a struggle to carve out writing time. Anyone who’s tried to fit their creative endeavors around the beautiful chaos that is life knows that some days (or weeks or months) this harder to accomplish than others. When I get busy, I fall back on what I’ve come to think of as my “golden hour.”

In medicine, the term refers to the first hour after a trauma or medical emergency. The theory is that if the patient receives treatment within that hour, their chances of survival are significantly increased. A neglected story is like a casualty laying on the side of the road, vitality ebbing, waiting for the ambulance to come roaring up.

If I get caught up in the day-to-day and ignore my current story for too long, it dies a kind of slow death. When I come back to it, I have to backtrack, retrace my steps, rereading until I can revive it. This is time that would be better spent on the next story. Also, Something important happens when I touch the work daily. A story in progress is a living thing inside my head, and I need to keep the characters, the tone and emotion present.

I’ve found that one hour a day is enough to keep a story vital, present and workable. Luckily, since no lives are actually at stake here, I’m free break this hour up any number of ways. I’ll jump in for 30 minutes in the morning and grab another 30 while my kids watch videos in the afternoon. I’ve done four 15-minute chunks of revising. I plunge into the work quickly and immerse myself for however many minutes I have. 

During busy times, my golden hour is the lifeline that will keep my story alive – one hour at a time. 

Illustration from Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid

BTW: My dark mermaid story, The Gyre, was mentioned on K.Tempest Bradford’s column on io9 alongside two other fantastic stories – one written by the award-winning Ken Liu! So, that is thrilling and an honor!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Read The Gyre at Luna Station Quarterly

Click on the story link in the side bar to read my dark mermaid story, The Gyre, over at Luna Station Quarterly. This web zine has been around for six years, but this is their first print issue. I love seeing publications make the leap from web to print! (I love it even more when that means one of my own stories is entering the realm of ink and paper.) Consider supporting them by buying a print copy of this inaugural physical issue. 

While you're there, swing on by the Luna Station Press' gorgeous website and see what other exciting things they are up to.

More about the North Pacific Ocean Gyre from the Singularity Hub

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek

Leonard Nimoy as Spock. See more images of him smiling on the set here.

I am so sad to hear of Leonard Nimoy's death today. 

Star Trek was a big part of my childhood, and Mr. Spock was one of my favorite characters. I loved how he, and the show, emphasized logic and science as a way to navigate all the crazy, alien situations the crew of the Enterprise found themselves in. If Captain Kirk was the engine that drove them ever onward in pursuit of their mission "to boldly go where no man has gone before," then Spock was the compass. Spock's character works so well because he perfectly balances out Captain Kirk's, shall we say, rather histrionic leadership style. Don't get me wrong I love every member of the Enterprise crew. I loved the show for the sense of fun that is at the core of every episode.

When I was a kid we had one TV in the living room, the kind housed in a wood cabinet with a square screen that curved out. We didn't have a VHS or anything, just the TV with its twelve channels plus that wierd snowy UHF station. Star Trek reruns came on at 6:00 p.m. every weeknight, which meant that, every single weeknight I would doggedly negotiate with my mom to move dinner to either 5:30 or 7:00. I don't remember what I bargained, but I often got my way because I watched that show a lot. I watched it over and over, until all 80 episodes were as familiar as old friends. 

So, it is with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to Mr. Nimoy, you take with you a little piece of my childhood. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I Write About Gigantic Sequins at The Review Review.

I continue my forays into the world of literary fiction with a review of a nifty little journal called Gigantic Sequins over at The Review Review.  I quite enjoyed this one. You can read my review here.

I have been enjoying my forays into literary fiction, and it got me to thinking about the importance of reading around. If literary isn't your genre* that's cool, the important thing is to seek out and read a few things that you normally wouldn't. Writers should do this for the same reason that everyone should travel. Visiting a foreign place expands your understanding of the world, and forces you to examine your usual assumptions and beliefs. The gift of travel is that when you return, you see all the familiar aspects of your home life with new eyes.

This holds true when we read outside our normal preferences. Sometimes it's difficult going or uncomfortable, other times its surprising and brilliant. For me, it's always worth the effort because, when I return to my usual reading, I see it anew. I also bring this broader understanding to my writing.

So, pack an overnight bag, get out there and read around.
Check out more of Tom Gauld's cartoons!

* Literary writing is a style, with the word "literary" being appended to another genre as in, Cormac McCarthy writes literary westerns. It is also considered its own genre, usually contrasted with genre writing, called "Lit Fic."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Loving the One You're With

Check out more of Erik Johansson's surrealist pictures!

And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with.
~Stephen Stills
Oh, I want to write all the stories. I want to write them all the time and all at once! In December, I took stock of all my open projects. I’ve blogged about how important it is to finish. I believe that it is one of the keys to improving as a writer. Good stories need a beginning, a middle, and an end – and the process of creating a story has the same components.

Yet over last twelve months I managed to accrue several unfinished* projects.

When I get stuck, or my current draft starts feeling like a slog, that’s when one of my other unfinished stories starts to look oh so much more appealing. Writing a good story isn’t just mentally difficult, it’s emotionally challenging. I believe writing a good story, one that’s at the top of my game, should scare me. It’s natural when things get tough for that little voice to start saying that maybe I should jump ship.

This is the danger of multiple projects. I’m certainly not going to say you shouldn’t have a few irons in the fire. There are solid, legitimate reasons to let a certain piece of writing marinate for a time and that time can be spent on another project. But, it’s important to examine your reasons when the going gets tough, because that’s when you’ll hear the siren call of an unfinished project. I know, that other project looks amazing! And suddenly you’ve got so many great ideas for it. That’s what your journal is for, scribble down those ideas and get back to the project at hand; because it is crucial to commit emotionally to the story you’re writing. It’s scary. As a writer you know that it will cost something, but that’s your job – to give a little piece of your heart away with every story.

The good news is that all those other stories vamping around in the unfinished pile will wait until you get to them – and when you do you will be fully present when it’s their turn.

* I have finished things! I currently have ten stories in various slush piles, just no publication announcements yet. So the grind goes. The cure is to keep writing more and better material and to keep launching it out there.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Other Story Forms: Comics

A panel from Beautiful Darkness

It all started for me when I was a librarian at the Queens Public Library in the early 90s. Shortly after I arrived, I was charged with starting and curating a comics and graphic novel collection. I hadn’t grown up reading comics and was a complete newbie. The library entrusted me with a budget of a few hundred dollars, which I took to a comic book shop (can’t remember which one now, or even which borough it was in). When I told the guy at the desk that I needed to start a collection for a public library, well his face lit up like Christmas. My only limit was that I could only buy bound books (actual comics are too ephemeral for public library use). He got out a big cardboard box and filled it with the basics from DC, Marvel, Vertigo, Dark Horse, Image and others. 

Curating a collection means you have to read it, or as much of it as possible. I’ve been reading comics ever since. While I appreciate DC and Marvel, the classic superhero comics don’t really light my fire (I prefer the movies as my superhero delivery medium). What really turned me on were the darker, quirkier graphic novels like V for Vendetta, Sin City, Watchmen, Maus. These are the comics I would later go on to buy for my own personal bookshelf.

Like genre writing, comics are often pooh poohed as a literary form, but they have so much to offer! If you love the lush visual stimulation of movies and also love reading, comics are the best of both worlds. Yet they are very much their own thing. They are a variety of story telling experience that shouldn’t be neglected. While it is important for writers to learn guidelines about plot beats and characterization. The greater the variety of storytelling experiences you engage in, the deeper your intrinsic understanding of story will be, and it will pay off in your writing.

There are a million million comics out there, and a million websites and blogs to tell you about them.* Here is my idiosyncratic list of the best comics I read over the last year (many of them borrowed from my local library, so not necessarily published recently – the Austin Public Library maintains excellent comics collections for both adults and Kids, BTW).


If you’re curious about comics, but feel like you can’t quite connect with the form, a good place to start is Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. Written in 1993, it is still a relevant and passionate primer for medium.



Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fionna Staples. Vaughn also wrote Y: The Last Man. This one has me hook line and sinker. It’s a sci fi soap opera in the best way. At the core it tackles issues of relationships and family.

East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta. Apocalyptic (as in the Book of Revelation) religious themes set in a science fictional weird west. Volume 1 was an excellent beginning, the following volumes are a little uneven in their pacing. The large cast of characters can make it hard to connect to emotionally, but when it hits its stride it’s brilliant. 

Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios. Another weird western about love, both twisted and true, and sacrifice.

Big Questions

Stand alones:

Big Questions by Anders Nilsen. A flock of small birds trying to make sense of a strange event. Very post modern in the literary sense. Beautiful minimalist artwork. Here's a NYT article about the book.

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann. A miniature world rendered in beautiful watercolor that is both violent and poignant. It captures the darkness and light touch of true fairytales perfectly.

Trillium by Jeff Lemire. I found this one challenging but worth it. Some sections are intentionally formatted upside down or progress backwards through time as truly star-crossed lovers travel through time, space, and alternate universes.

The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple. I found the artwork arresting and the characters fascinating. Ultimately, the story failed for me. It had too many ideas, which made the plot hard to follow and required too many characters, so that I couldn’t connect with the core of the story. Still, so much potential! I will read more by Dalrymple.


Some things for younger readers:

Stuff of Legend by Mike Raicht. This is a little dark in places, but the whole family fell in love with the characters and the world.

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel. We've been reading the very productive TenNapel's books for years. He's the creator of Earthworm Jim, Tommysaurus Rex, Ghostopolis, Bad Island... Cardboard is one of his bests IMHO.

reMIND by Jason Brubaker. Talking cats, and evil lizard king ruling an underwater kingdom. Great stuff! This comes as a gorgeous hardbound two volume set or you can read it for free on his website!

Monster on the Hill by rob Harrell. Adorable characters, lovely story. Great for younger kids.

Marzi by Marzena Sowa. A memoir in comic book form.  Marzena shows us what her childhood in Poland was like during the end of communism there. Beautifully told with lots of history
Clan Apis by Jay Hosler. A good story with real science about bees written by a biology professor.

The Wrenchies

* Criminally omitted from this post is the fact that the web is bursting with amazing web comics, only a fraction of which get bound into physical books. They deserve a post of their own, but since I have no idea when I might get around to writing such post, check out io9’s list of Best New Web Comics of 2014, or their 17 Fantastic Completed Web Comics to Binge Read.