Chapter Two of DinoLand is live at Geek Eccentric today!

Picture 1It’s the first Sunday of April and that means that DinoLand’s second chapter is online today at Geek Eccentric.

This month’s chapter features a new point of view character, a brachiosaurus with a problem and a possible business deal that could cause even more problems for the people at the park who love the dinosaurs. Oh, and a child disappears.

Head on over and check it out, sci-fi and dinosaur lovers.

 

DinoLand news and even bigger news.

Just a brief post to tell you that the second chapter of DinoLand goes live at Geek Eccentric tomorrow. (Update: Click here to read it.)

Quite frankly, I’m proud as can be to be posting the chapter as scheduled, especially because of my second piece of news: On Tuesday, my husband and I became parents to T.W., a little boy.

We know next to nothing about babies, so there’s been a big learning curve here. Fortunately, the baby knows nothing about human society, so for all he knows, we’re doing everything right. And bonus: he speaks no English, so he doesn’t understand us when we say things like “He’s been quiet for a long time. Is he still breathing?” or “Oh no. I just realized the last time I changed a diaper was in 1994.”

Not that I mind any of this.
As terrified as I’ve been of motherhood my whole life (and that terror is not entirely gone), T.W. is the most excellent, most natural addition to our household. I’m just really happy he’s here.

Mommy's little writers block.

Mommy’s little writer’s block.

 

 

Undertow: the first piece in my short story experiment.

undertowSome things take me a while.

More than a year ago, I decided to release some of my previously-published short stories electronically on Amazon. So I waited for an evening when my husband was out, then climbed into the bathtub with a handful of seashells, a tube of red food coloring and a camera, because that’s what committed authors do.

Then I asked people to vote on the bloody seashell photos on my Facebook page. And then I started working on the short story itself, which was published in 2003 by a journal, but which I wanted to tweak.

I ended up tweaking it a lot. It took me a good year, and I didn’t post much about it, but I’m happy to announce that it’s done, the cover art is complete and the story itself is finally posted on Amazon.

Thank you to everyone who voted on the images last year. I look forward to my next project, which will probably involve me taking photos of rusty tools in a dark basement with just a flashlight as a light source.

 

The “what are you reading” survey so far: no one wants to admit to reading erotica.

It’s been two weeks since I asked readers to tell me all sorts of things about who they are, what they’re reading, and — most distressing for many of them — what their favorite books are.

I am nowhere near where I’d like to be with this survey; so far I have only 32 respondents. I’m renewing my plea for people to take the survey (you can click the link to the left or start the survey by scrolling to the bottom of this post) and share it.

That said, I’d like to share what I’ve learned so far from the survey:

  • 41 percent of respondents are between 20 and 30, and therefore could be extras on Girls.
  • The top three genres respondents read Literary Fiction (12 percent), Historical Fiction (8 percent), and Mystery (8 percent).
  • One brave soul admits to reading Erotica. (Come on! It’s an anonymous survey. I know there are more of you out there.)
  • While 47 percent of respondents prefer physical books, 47 percent read both physical books and ebooks interchangably.
  • Lots of people get their books at the library.

My favorite answers for Who Is Your Favorite Author so far:

  • John Irving, Wally Lamb, Truman Capote (I think this might be cheating)
  • Impossible to pick one.
  • A. J. O’Connell, then Salman Rushdie.(Thanks, Mom!)

My favorite answers to What Is Your Favorite Book of All Time so far:

  • Also a very difficult question to answer, but if I could only read one book over and over again for the rest of my life, I would pick A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.
  • You have to be kidding!

Thank you to the 32 people who took the survey so far, and once again, I beg you all to take the survey below and share, share, share. I want to get as much data as possible so I can keep sharing it with you all.

Chapter 1 of DinoLand debuts today!

Chapter 1 of DinoLand is live over at Geek Eccentric right now. DinoLand, Ch. 1I’ve just run around the house yelling “Ahhhhh, it’s alive” and now that I’m settled down, I’m posting here while I can sit still.

If you like dinosaurs, sci-fi, or thrillers head over to Geek Eccentric and check out Chapter 1. If you really like it, return on the first Sunday of each month for a new chapter.

(FYI: I’m going to be changing this page today so that you’ll be able to access the latest DinoLand chapters right from the menu at the top.)

I really, really, hope you enjoy this. Rawr.

 

Writing after the MFA: The Book

Now What MFA Guide

Yeah. Now what?

After I graduated from my MFA program in 2011, I wrote about how it can be a struggle to keep writing after getting a Masters of Fine Arts degree in fiction: you leave a ready-made community of writers and a system of built-in deadlines and head back out into the world, where life is waiting in the shadows, twirling its proverbial mustache and rubbing its hands together with wicked glee, just waiting to get in the way of your good writing habits.

So what do you do? I’ve tried to answer that question for myself on this blog a few times, but now I can share a project I’ve been working on with several other writers, which answers the question in much greater depth.

Allow me to introduce Now What? The Creative Writer’s Guide to Success after the MFA. It’s a non-fiction book containing essays by 46 contributors who all attempt to answer that very question: Now what?

The book’s electronic edition is being launched this very evening at the AWP conference, so if you’re out in Seattle right now, you should definitely head to the swanky launch party at the Seattle Art Museum tonight at 6:30 p.m. I won’t be there — I’m too close to my due date for travel —  but all sorts of fun people who are still allowed to drink will in attendance.

I worked as a chapter editor on this book for a little more than a year, so I can say with authority (because I’ve read my two chapters over and over and discussed other chapters with other editors) that although the book is aimed at MFA grads, you don’t need to be one to benefit from the book.

There are essays about finding agents, about the publishing industry, about working with writing groups and there’s one chapter, which I think will be very popular because it addresses the question of how to make ends meet while working on your masterpiece.

Definitely check it out if you’re at AWP this week. (I mean, there’s a party and you’re right there – why wouldn’t you go?) If you’re not there, check it out on Amazon, and if you’re more interested in a physical book, no worries; the paperback edition will be released in July. (Did I mention that the book also includes an article about e-books vs. physical books? Guess who contributed that one.)

 

Things I’m learning from my first foray into serial fiction.

I posted a little while ago about DinoLand, my sci-fi novel which will be serialized, starting this Sunday, over at Geek Eccentric.

photo credit: Scott Kinmartin via photopin cc

photo credit: Scott Kinmartin via photopin cc

Well, it’s almost dinosaur time and I’m as nervous as an attorney staring down a T-Rex in the rain. Since this is a brand new  process for me, I thought I’d write a little bit about what I’ve been learning so far.  Here are some of my first take-aways:

 Starting out with a lot of material doesn’t necessarily mean you have less work to do.

I started this project with more than 200 pages of DinoLand, written over a period of two or three National Novel Writing Months, including a ridiculous amount of backstory. When I started importing all that into Scrivener, I realized that unless I write a prequel, I’m not going to use all of this material. Also, the work that I am using needed several rounds of edits. So while I have six months of DinoLand written and outlined, months 3 through 6 still need edits and work. (Chapter 2, for April, is already edited and turned in to the artist.) Speaking of which…

Working with an artist is an incredible experience. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by that.

Working with Max Farinato has been my favorite part of the DinoLand project so far. It’s amazing to watch his sketches develop, and even more amazing is the way I’ve seen the world I invented taking shape in his art. Every time Max sends me a sketch, I gush uncontrollably about how much I love his work, which is true, but maybe not helpful to him.
There should be some sort of guideline for working with an illustrator, because I suspect that I haven’t been easy to work with. For example, I probably should have sent him rough ideas of what my principal characters look like so that the art and my prose will match. I forget that I haven’t described everyone on page one of chapter one. I should probably also ask more often what he needs from me to make his job easier.

Oh my god. The comment section. Oh my god, the comment section.

Despite the fact that I’ve been blogging for a long time, it has somehow just occurred to me that people will be able to comment directly after reading my chapter. It’s not like I haven’t gotten comments on fiction before — short pieces of mine have been published in journals with comment sections — but I think of novels as something that are put out to the public as a whole. If a novel receives criticism, it’s in the form of a review on another site, not in a comment section. So despite the fact that I consider myself a Big Damn Progressive Child of the Internet, I’ve still been thinking about fiction and novels in a very old-fashioned way.

And lastly, Does serial fiction work differently from a novel? I’m not sure.

While comment sections are relatively new, serial fiction is not. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last two years reading novels that were originally published as serial fiction: Anna Karenina, The Count of Montecristo, Bleak House, Great Expectations. I don’t know if anything was changed before they were compiled into novels, but it seems to me that there has to be some repetition if a novel is released serially. If you’re releasing a chapter every week or month, you need to remind your readers of certain things that they can’t just flip back and check if they’re holding the book in their hands. Of course, now we have links – I can just link chapter two to chapter one – it’s the one thing I can do that Dickens could not, Still, every chapter should be able to stand alone, right? That way, if someone stumbles on chapter three before reading one and two, the reader won’t be totally lost. How do comic writers do this? How do television writers do this? Am I overthinking this? I might be overthinking this.

Those are my thoughts so far, at least until Sunday, when the fictional dinosaurs stampede out of the gate at Geek Eccentric. I’m sure I’ll have more to say then.

Writing while pregnant

pregnancy, writing

That’s no moon.

At eight months pregnant, I’m a little nervous about my writing career. Mostly because writing while pregnant has not been easy for me. In fact, it’s been really difficult.

I’ve held off on writing this post because of the inevitable comments of those who will say things like “You think <insert activity> is hard now. What until you have <an infant, a toddler, a child, a teenager, etc.>” but then I realized that those one-uppers will always rear their heads, no matter how old my child is or what stage of life I’m in.

So screw it. I’m writing this now, because I wish I’d known it earlier and maybe someone else needs to read it: writing while pregnant has been a struggle for me. I truly hope that other writers don’t have as rough a time with it as I have, but just in case another pregnant writer is out there, reading this and beating herself up for her lack of productivity, let me say this to you: You’re not alone, lady.

I’ve always assumed I could write no matter what. In fact, I figured that if I ever did get pregnant, I’d go into literary nesting mode, write daily and finish churning out my novel and probably other projects as well. I thought I’d be super-creative.

That didn’t exactly happen. Every pregnancy is different, but a host of physical symptoms kept me from my desk: fatigue, nausea, pain, and now, in the last weeks of my pregnancy, an inability to get myself or my laptop comfortably positioned long enough to write a meaningful sentence. Seriously. I need a floaty Minority Report keyboard and maybe some anti-gravity for an hour or so a day.

The strangest side-effect for me as a writer was probably this: my brain hasn’t worked in quite the same way for the past 30-something weeks.

Let me try to explain what I mean by this: I can do my paid job without a problem. I can edit and revise, and I can outline and organize my projects, and I can even write articles. The problem is creativity:  sitting down to make art became all of a sudden, extremely difficult. (They don’t list that under symptoms in What to Expect When You’re Expecting.)

This is new to me, because I’ve never had trouble being creative. I was the kid who spent second grade staring outside the window daydreaming, and I’ve been the writer who can’t always knuckle down because she’s always distracted by new ideas. My new lack of creativity was a big, unpleasant surprise. Creativity became work, and I started to beat myself up about it: What’s wrong with me that I can’t produce 500 words a day? Why is everything I write awful?

Now that I’ve been living with this change for a while, I do wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself about it — I imagine that any person who undergoes any major physical shift, like injury or illness or chronic pain or a huge lifestyle shift — must go through similar issues. Our brain chemistry is delicate; any change can cause a shift in how we experience life.

It took me months to figure out how to work around the issue effectively, but eventually, (and later in my pregnancy than I like) I started to repeat something I’d heard from Nalini Jones, an MFA teacher I once had a workshop with: “If you can’t create, you can work.”

So now I’m editing a backlog of old work, both for my novel and for my new serial fiction project. I’m also forcing myself to write a little bit of a flash-fiction every week, because I’ve discovered that I can still be creative — it’s just hard now, the way that math was hard for me in grade school. I need to build that muscle just in case things don’t immediately improve when the baby is born.

And I take naps when my schedule allows. I still feel guilty about it, but I do it anyhow.

One of my novels is being published as serial fiction! (And there are dinosaurs.)

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

I have some pretty awesome publishing news. Are you ready? Get ready.

Geek Eccentric, a site I’ve been working with for a year now, will be serializing a novel of mine, DinoLand, starting on Sunday, March 2, and running the first Sunday of each month.

I’ve been working with an artist, the fabulous Max Farinato, on this project, and I am excited to be able to finally share this news with you all.

DinoLand is a book I started working on several years ago, as a National Novel Writing Month project. I’d planned it as a novel, but after Margaret Atwood’s success with the webserial Positron, I’ve been interested in trying that route myself.

What’s DinoLand about?
DinoLand is set in a sprawling, Disney World-like amusement park which has introduced live dinosaurs as an attraction. The park saved a dying mill town and its leader is revered as a genius and a hero for his work. However, a new attraction is being planned, one that may not be as beloved as the herd of Brachiosaurs.

We need to talk about Jurassic Park.
Let’s address the pink Tricerotops in the room. This theme park hasn’t got much to do with Michael Crichton’s Costa Rican Island, or even with Velociraptors. The park in this book is very different from the one in Jurassic Park. Let me put it this way: the real monsters in this book aren’t the big lizards.

Rawr.
Have I mentioned that I’m excited about this? Because I am. So. Excited. I’m a little nervous about starting a webserial around the same time that I have a baby, but this is a project I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I hope you’ll be interested too. So stay tuned for more announcements, links and posts. Let’s get prehistoric!