Monday, August 03, 2015


I have been getting slack about posting. What is there to report? It's the middle of summer, sunny and warm, though not dreadfully warm. The highs this week are predicted to be all in the 70s. Not bad for August. The foliage is all lush and deep green. The flowers are going crazy. I finished proofreading the hwarhath collection and took a week or so off, now am getting back to work.

I'm going to be doing a reading at the Subtext bookstore in downtown St. Paul, either this month or in September. I will post the exact date when I have it. If any of you are in the area, you might want to come. I really dislike reading to only one or two people.

I should remind you that I have essays in Strange Horizons, a new one every two months. I've had trouble find my voice, as aspiring writers used to say. But I think I'm finally getting it. It costs nothing to read Strange Horizons and they have good material. Give them a try.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


I will be at Diversacon this weekend. It's a small local science fiction convention, which is attended by a lot of my friends. I'm going to be on four panels, at the following times:


Noon: Leigh Brackett

4 pm: Writing Routines


11 am: Folk Tales and Fairy Tales

4 pm: Marvel Movies

Two more


My friend Sean Murphy took some author photos of me. I hate, hate, hate being photographed. But Sean got me talking about -- among other things -- otcopuses and great white sharks and kept shooting and got some good results. Usually, I look grim and tense when I'm photographed.

I think this is my favorite, though it isn't a head shot, which is what's need for an author photo.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Other Thoughts on Psychological Survival

The advantage of writing a detailed synopsis -- or merely plotting ahead -- is, if you know where the story is going, you can force yourself to keep writing, even when you don't feel like it. If you don't know where the story is going, it can be difficult to write through resistance.

I don't believe in writer's block, because I feel you are giving power to the problem by giving it this name. In my experience, it's possible to keeping writing, even if you don't want to. (This is a personal response. If someone else feels writer's block is a real thing, I can only defer to her knowledge of herself.) Plotting ahead makes it far easier to keep working, and writers usually feel better when they are writing. So one key element of psychological survival is to keep writing.

The one thing a writer can control is writing. So this is the thing to focus on. Several people on the panel said promotion and marketing are a waste of time. I know it's common wisdom these days that writers need to self-promote. I'm not good at it and don't like it. I keep this blog, so that people can find me on the Internet. I could do the same with an up-to-date website, but I haven't done that yet.

I do facebook because I enjoy it. I like cat photos. I like the latest stories from NASA. I like kidding around. I do some pushing of my work, but mostly I hang out and chat. My sense is, the contacts made through facebook are somewhat useful. But I do it because I enjoy it. Facebook is also can be a huge waste of time. So if you do it, pay attention to the time.

For me, community is important, which is a reason for facebook -- and going to cons -- and belonging to two writing groups. I like knowing other writers and editors and critics and readers. I get help information and emotional support, and I find SFF people fun and interesting.

There are two parts of psychological survival. One is do the best job you can as a writer. The other is dealing with the emotional effects of setbacks. That's where you get to ordinary self-care. Eat well. Exercise. Seek help if you are feeling really down. There is some evidence that writers and artists are more subject to mood disorders than (say) scientists. The studies are too small to be anything except suggestive. However writing can be a very up and down life. The highs are fantastic. The lows can be severe. It makes sense that writers might be moody.

I guess that's the only advice I have: write and take care of yourself -- and realize that the writing life can be difficult.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Pscychological Survival for SF Writers

Someone on facebook asked what the panel was like, and I wrote the following.

(The panelists were me, Kelly McCullough, Joan Marie Verba, Adam Stemple and Wesley Chu. Chu's career seemed to be taking off well, but the rest of us have all had setbacks, not career stoppers, but enough so we have thought about psychological survival.)
(The panel) turned into a combination of self care tips, such as get exercise, don't rely on alcohol, see a doc if you are depressed, and writing tips. What do you do when you seem blocked on a story? Wesley Chu impressed me. He is apparently a very disciplined writer, who outlines his novels in detail. When he isn't able to write, he revises the novel synopsis or works on background.

Someone -- Adam or Wesley -- talked about focusing on the things you have control of, and don't make yourself crazy by worrying about the parts of getting published that you can't control.

Writing groups are good. Day jobs can be great, since they take off the pressure to make money. Adam is working in a warehouse and loves it. He gets paid to do physical exercise 40 hours a week.
I will add more later.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

CONvergence Con Report

July 2:

Brian Thao Worra is doing a poetry reading tomorrow on the theme of giant lizards. He felt he was short of poems, so I wrote one, beginning it in the hotel lobby while watching at car ad that featured a happy, white, middle class family going to the beach. So the poem is about a happy family at the beach and giant lizards.

This is not going to end well for the family.

July 3:

I spent much of the evening at CONvergence. 6,000+ people is too many people. Every communal space was way too loud, full of excited young people. Some of the costumes were fantastic. Many were okay. The giant lizard poetry reading went very well. I then listened to a panel on made-up languages. Ruth Berman was on the panel and enjoyed it. I was not crazy about it, but maybe I was tired and ready to go home. So that's my con report.

My giant lizard poem went over well. People laughed at all the right places.

July 4:

As I went to sleep last night, I thought about what I'm going to wear today. I am still considering, though it doesn't matter. The only way to stand out at CONvergence is to be covered with flashing lights. The range of hair colors is amazing. No one can notice my stylish blue. There are ladies in corsets that push their breasts up under their chins. There are young women covered with jingling metal. There is purple hair, red hair hair, blue hair, pink hair. There are high heeled boots to die for. I would die in them, crashing down like a felled tree. So I will wear my modest New Balances and a nice outfit that no one will notice, except me.

Anyway, one more day at the con. I plan to clean house on Sunday, rather than going back. The commute across the Metro Area is too long. My panels today are Psychological Survival for Writers and Georgette Heyer. These are two separate panels, though Heyer is one way of coping with setbacks in one's writing career. Both panels are full. I think I will try to lean back and let other people hold forth.

In spite of my reluctance at the start of cons, I really enjoy them. I can feel myself coming out of my post-Wiscon funk, which lasted a long time this year. CONvergence is the perfect way to recover from Wiscon: a hotel jam-packed with costumers, oohing and aahing each other. And in among the costumers, friends...

Monday, June 08, 2015


My mood has been glum for a while. It shouldn't be this time of year. It's June. The day is sunny. "The lark's on the wing; The snail's on the thorn: God's in His heaven— All's right with the world!" And so on. I think I am not doing enough writing. That means I had better get out to the coffee shop and do more proofreading. The sooner I finish the proofreading, the sooner I can get back to writing new work.

Also, I need more getting out and walking and more SFF cons. There is one coming at the end of June and one at the end of July. I'm fairly introverted, which means cons can be difficult. But I think I may stirring up. An unrest cure. (The last is a reference to a Saki story.)

C.L.R. James

A comment asked me if I knew of anyone (besides me) who might dream of C.L.R. James.

I used to know people in Detroit who knew James from his time in the US, and I wouldn't be surprised if they dreamed about him. He was a very impressive guy. He could easily haunt one's dreams. His book on Moby-Dick got me to read M-D, which I very much enjoyed. He saw the Pequod as an ocean-going factory with a multicultural crew. (Multicultural sounds so weird in a 19th century context. -- A crew of sailors from all over the world.) So you get a job at a factory, and you realize that the boss is insane, which is a common experience. And you cannot walk out the factory gates, because you are on a ship.

Of course, there are many times when you can't walk out the factory gates. You know you won't be able to find another job. You can't afford to leave this job, even though the boss is insane.

Anyway, it's great way to read Moby-Dick.

I put a character based on James in my novel A Woman of the Iron People. It's a bit part, based on the one time I met James, and the character is in no way equal to James as a historian and thinker.

Sunday, May 31, 2015


This is in response to s friend, who wrote (correctly) "writing is hard, it's not supposed to be easy, (and this) comes into direct conflict with the market reality that you need to produce frequently and consistently to succeed commercially."

My comment was:

There are people who succeed without writing a lot and publishing regularly. William Gibson comes to mind. What about George Martin? He writes big books, but they don't come out quickly. However the rule seems to be frequent books, always on schedule. Either you do this, or you are likely to have a less impressive career. I opted for the less impressive career. I'm a slow writer, and I can find a lot of things more interesting than writing. There is a trap, which I got caught in. If you can't make a living by writing, you need a day job. The day job reduces the time you have for writing, which means you write less and writing takes longer, and you are less likely to be able to build a career. Some people are absolutely driven to write and publish and make time for the writing. I don't think I was ever that driven.

Discipline also helps, along with drive. I'm not sure I have enough.

I have two other problems. I want my stories to be the best I can do, and that may take more time. And I don't want to write the same story twice. The easiest way to make production is to repeat yourself. An assembly line doesn't work if every car is different.