Sunday, June 25, 2017


I have been really bad at keeping up with my schedule this summer.

I guess that's not really surprising. During the school year, my days are highly regimented. My time is so limited that, if I want to get anything done at all, I have to carve out a specific time to spend on each task. The level of "get up and go" I have in me doesn't matter all that much, because the schedule itself is unforgiving. My 300 or so students don't care so much about my energy level or about the fact that there are so many of them--they want their grades; they need me to lead class. So I do. And I jealously guard the time I have for my writing--for the work that I love.

But things are different in the summer. I'm still working. I have one class that I'm leading over the summer--but it's one class of 16 compared to six classes of 40 plus.

This opens up so much time. At the start of the summer, I had the best intentions. I'd spend my days writing--wrap up a short story for a local anthology, start re-drafting the second book in my trilogy, outline book three, spruce up my submission packet, and send out new queries. I'd prewrite and schedule blog posts to give me more time on the weekends. I'd use my mornings for marketing work for Evin and "Smoke," and my afternoons for new projects. And I've done some of these things: a couple of interviews and guest posts on other blogs, a promotion through IWIC, some query refining and some new submissions. I've got about 600 words on the anthology project, which is turning out to be more of a struggle than I'd anticipated.

But by and large, I've not kept up with my schedule. I've had to fight to pull myself out of bed most mornings, and by the time I do, the time that I planned to spend working is half gone. So, rather than work, I loaf around. I promise myself that I'll work in the afternoon. And I do, about two thirds of the time, but lost days are much less infrequent now than they usually are.

Some of this might just be recovery. My schedule this spring was unforgiving. My three jobs are technically all part-time, but when you add it all together, my work weeks were well over 40 hours, and that's before we get to the hours spent working on Canus and other parts of project 2016. In the past year and a half, I've treated writing as another job--one I love, but one that requires a lot of work and a sizable time commitment. I'm still getting things done, though the pace has slowed down. Maybe a few lazy days in a week during the only time of year when lazy days are an option isn't such a bad thing. And I've been able (willing?) to take the time to read both in and out of my genre, which is both relaxing and helpful in terms of improving and focusing my own writing.

But it makes me feel miserable. I feel like every moment that I'm not working is a wasted one. If I were a real, serious writer, I'd me making use of every minute of this time (I guess that Daily Beast article got to me more than I thought--though I still think the piece was misguided and ultimately harmful).

There has to be a balance. I can't procrastinate--there's too much to do, and by mid-August, the time I'll be able to devote to it will be limited. But I also can't beat myself up every time I take a break, and I shouldn't fault myself for trying to relax a little during a time when I've got a lighter load to carry. Figuring out how my process has to work in these different circumstances is a struggle, but if I can manage to find the sweet spot between productivity and rest, this could be a great time.

Saturday, June 24, 2017


It's been a busy few weeks. I've been pounding the pavement, as it were, trying to get the word out about Evin  and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." In case you've missed it, here are the interviews I've done in the past few weeks.

I hope you enjoy them!

First, a video interview with Lorana Hoopes on her show Lorana Writes the World. (Watch for my cat, Stormageddon, to make an appearance.)

I also had the chance to do a live interview on the ArtistFirst Radio Network program Authors First on June 20. The live broadcast has come and gone, but the show has been archived here. Sit back and listen to me chat about myself, my books, and the wonder that is the Wishbone television series.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Team Building

A few weeks ago, there was a Daily Beast article that made the rounds on creative Twitter. I'm not going to name names, but this is what I typed into Google when I was trying to find when it was published.

Look, there are a lot of issues with this article. Most attention has been given to taking apart the premise that someone who isn't writing everyday should just hang it up and stop trying. I don't intend to retread that ground too much. Yes, having a writing habit is important--for me, it's crucial--but everyone works in different ways, and as long as you're getting the work done, it ultimately doesn't matter if you're writing every day or a few days a month.

There were a lot of smart people who gave some pretty excellent takes on that aspect of the article. Literary agent and blogger Eric Smith (who I had the pleasure of seeing at ALAWW back in February) gave one of my favorites.

The part of the article that bothered me--the part that convinced me to write this post--was the part where the author said that he hated other writers.

I'm not paraphrasing there. "What is certain is that on that same day [when I start writing my novel], whichever one it is, one thousand other people will start their novels. In order to publish mine, it has to be better than theirs. So, forgive me—I pretty much hate them."

I had two initial reactions to this statement.
1. Yikes.
2. That's the most self-sabotaging thing I've every heard.

The article's author isn't wrong on one point: thousands of people do start writing novels, and plenty of them don't finish. But where this goes awry is with the creation of this needless sense of competition. It flat out doesn't make sense. From a reader's point of view, reading one good book doesn't stop me from reading another. That I read one person's book doesn't mean that I won't read someone else's. In fact, good books usually make me hungry for more books. Someone else's success doesn't hurt your own chances, because it's not like there's a finite number of books that will be read. People will keep reading new books as long as there are new books to read.

From a writer's standpoint, I can't imagine viewing everyone else who's trying to write a novel as my enemy in no small part because working with and building friendships with other writers has been one of the biggest factors in my growth as a writer. I've written a couple of times about some of the ways that other writers have helped me. With longer projects, there's always a point where I can no longer see the forest for the trees, and there's nothing better than having another person who's familiar with storycraft to take a peek and see where things might have gone off the rails. Apart from reading and critiquing with writer friends, I've also found my local writer's group to be a boon.

It's not just about having someone else look through your work to help you improve it. Reading and critiquing others' work helps you figure out where some of the common pitfalls are (pretty much all of us in my local group have a hard time with beginning hooks, for example).

And other writers have different experiences. If I want to write a story with a military setting, I know three or four writers off the top of my head that I can go to for advice. I'm not limited to pulling from my knowledge and experience--there are other people who know how stories work who can help me cut through the material I find in research.

On top of that, there's value in listening to people with varying levels of publication experience. I can talk queries with people who've had success. I can hash out the costs and benefits of self-publication with people who have tried it out. I can compare experiences with small presses to find the best fits for my work. Being able to talk shop with other writers has encouraged me to try new things with my process. And some of those new things have made me a better writer than I ever would have been on my own.

Other writers aren't--and shouldn't be--the enemy. For me, writing has always been about community. Yeah, I do a lot of work by myself, but I rely on others that are in the trenches with me.

I guess what I'm saying is: if you want to write, do it. But don't view other writers as your competition--view them as a resource. They're people you can learn from and people you can teach. And that is what's great about it.

Monday, June 5, 2017


I went to see a movie this weekend, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. The movie I saw (I'm sure this will surprise no one) was Wonder Woman.

I'm not going to review the movie here--because I'm not sure how to frame all of my feelings about it. I thought it was great and enjoyed it, but there was, for me, an importance to it beyond the movie itself that I'm not sure I can properly articulate. What I really want to talk about today is tone. Wonder Woman, apart from being a really enjoyable movie, was something of a tonal departure from big-budget superhero properties (particularly DC superhero properties) in the last several years.

My overall enthusiasm for superhero movies and shows has cooled over the last few years. This isn't to imply that there haven't been cool things happening in superhero properties or that there haven't been recent superhero movies and shows that I've enjoyed (I thought Logan was a very well done movie, for instance). But superheros on film and TV have definitely started to feel a little bit like a slog.

Some of this is specific to trends within the superhero genre itself. DC and Marvel (to a somewhat lesser extent--though only somewhat lesser) have leaned pretty hard into the grim-and-gritty trend. It's understandable, I guess. The superhero renaissance we've been seeing over the last decade really got started with the wildly successful Nolan Batman movies, and part of the draw of those movies is that they don't treat the titular hero or his rogues like kid stuff. The stakes are high, the action is powerful--and we see the consequences to a greater extent than we have in the past. This all works within the context of the Nolan films. It suits what he's going for in tone, and (though angry-vengeance Batman will always be less interesting to me than broken-person-trying-to-fix-broken-people Batman) it matches his interpretation of the character. But, because entertainment is an industry that's really more about minimizing risks by replicating formulas that have worked before, the success of this film led to a slew of grim-dark superhero stories and reboots.

This isn't a trend that's limited to superheros. American media in general has jumped on the grim-and-gritty bandwagon in the last decade or so.

And this isn't necessarily bad. There are things that edgy, dark stories can do very well. Our lives and stories include moments of darkness and despair, and our fiction, films, and television should reflect these moments.

Here's where my problem is: at a certain point, "grim-and-gritty" became a proxy for meaningful.

Certainly, dark stories can be meaningful. Poignant moments are sometimes painful, and mediated version of these moments can be cathartic and help the viewer negotiate their experiences and emotions. But darkness is no inherently meaningful. That a story is grim, that a character suffers, doesn't make the story automatically meaningful. Killing off a character for the quick gut-punch to the viewer or reader doesn't necessarily make the work more powerful.

Wonder Woman had its share of darkness--the movie is set during World War I; painful moments are inevitable. But the powerful parts of the movie, the moments that were the most poignant, were the once that sprang from sincerity, not grit. The momentum didn't come from a thirst for revenge or anger or bloodlust. It came from a sincere desire to try to improve a bad situation. That was the motivation. That was the lens through which the action was framed.

I've found it hard to root for some of the heroes in movies in the past few years. I like a reluctant hero as much as the next person, and I like a redemption story--remember, the heel-face turn is one of my favorite tropes. But it was refreshing to see a hero that wanted to help people just to help people.

There's certainly still room for gritty and dark hero stories. But, at least to me, Wonder Woman speaks to the value of sincerity. We don't have to rely on dark, tortured heroes to create compelling, meaningful stories--we just have to tell stories that are true to the people in them. And, frankly, we could stand to see more stories about people motivated by their love for other people.