LTUE 2020

Obligatory LTUE recap time!

One reason I love going to this con is that I always get so many ideas, just being around so many other writers and going to so many panels. From zombies to medieval sieges to colonizing the ocean, I’m so chock-full of thoughts they’re about to start pouring out of my ears. Fabulous.

The commute to the con is also part of what makes it such a good trip. I love planes and trains, and once you get past security, airports are pretty good too (despite the jacked-up restaurant prices). Something about liminal spaces just really really does it for me.

I also got some new reading material, and have already polished off one of the four books I bought at the signing on Friday. (Goodreads review is incoming — but in the meantime, suffice to say I love a good villain manifesto.) It’s really cool to connect with other indies, and that’s actually going on my to-do list for 2020: reading more indie work. Classics like Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion and The Martian by Andy Weir are good (no, I’m not just saying that because they both got movie deals out of it), but there’s so much more out there. And that’s the whole point of indie! That you can put anything you want into the world. What wonderful freedom as a writer; what wonderful freedom as a reader. Time to get going!

Related to that point, or kitty-corner to that point, is something else that hammered in this time that hadn’t been emphasized in the other LTUE cons I’ve been to. Brad R. Torgersen was the writers’ keynote speaker, and it was really cool. The guy’s worked really hard for a really long time. A guy like that says something, and you best listen. And one thing he said was that if something (a story, a genre, whatever) isn’t working, try something else.

That sounds like the most obvious thing in the world. But it needed to be said — or at least, I needed to hear it.

I’ve pretty much been bashing my head in trying to write the fourth Iron Gentry novel. I’m about 2/3rds of the way done with the manuscript. But I just can’t get any farther with it. Ok … so I took a break, and wrote a whole 40k draft of a romance. And then I went back to bashing my head against that Iron Gentry book for the rest of the year. And wondered why I wasn’t able to get anywhere with it.

Brad R. Torgersen’s keynote was like a lightbulb going ding! over my head.

If romance is what really scratches my id right now? If that’s what I’m excited to write? Then, dude, what the heck am I doing writing anything else??

Now, it’s still gonna be historical or supernatural or scifi, because it’s still me we’re talking about. I’m not completely switching gears. But the Tomelin books are (mostly) done; the main trilogy for Callan and his family is over. I can afford to branch out into different worlds at this point.

And, you guys, I’m really stoked. I have SO many ideas. I’m already almost 3k into a new draft.

And that’s the whole point of LTUE, after all. To develop, to get better — and to get out there and write.

So I’m off to go and write.

writing is like brushing your teeth

or: get ready for an overly-explained metaphor that you’ll have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the post to read.

My new laptop has been up and running again for just over a week now, and in that time I have written nearly 28,000 words — today I’m hoping to cap it off at a neat 35,000. On Goodreads the other week I mentioned that using the Writeometer app is a good way of making writing fun, because the neat little bar graph and line graph show my progress (and the bright green graphics certainly make it nice, and the little inspirational writing quotes on the main app page are super cute).

But what it also does is it keeps me honest in not only how much I write, but how long it takes me to do it. What it comes down to — and I can’t claim that it makes sense, all I know is that that’s how it works — is that if I don’t time myself to write as much as I possibly can within 20 minutes, and do so multiple times a day, then I waffle around a bit and at most I’ll write 5,000 words.

The week before my old laptop died, I clocked almost 12,000 words, none of those using timed sessions.

Between yesterday and the day before, I clocked nearly twice that amount. By timing myself, 20 minutes at a time, for nine hours yesterday and six hours the day before.

Now, that wasn’t all in one go each day. I had to get coffee and eat food and take out the recycling and water the plants and get the mail and sleep. And what I found is that I naturally fell into a rhythm of 4 sessions in a row, then getting up and stretching my legs and running errands as needed, then getting back in the saddle.

And waking up this morning, I knew very well that doing marathons like that isn’t sustainable: because my wrist hurt, and because my eyes felt like they’d been dried with a blow torch. I normally spend my days staring at a computer screen, but not quite in such a concentrated manner, and dang if it doesn’t make a physical difference.

So: writing is like brushing your teeth. If you’re anything like I was as a teenager (and college student), and you forget to brush for days at a time until finally about a week later you realize your teeth are absolutely covered in gross slimy fur, then when you finally do brush your teeth (taking five minutes to excavate and floss and all the rest) your teeth feel so shiny and slick and clean that you wonder why you don’t do this every day.

I do brush my teeth regularly these days. And (knock on wood) I haven’t gotten a cavity yet. But the procrastination to the point of discomfort, and then the mad rush to do a week’s worth of time in a matter of hours, is the exact same whether you’re brushing your teeth or whether you’re writing.

And frankly, it’s healthier to write 3,000 words a day for eight days than it is to write 24,000 words in the space of 48 hours.

The long and the short of it is that by the end of the day today, the rough draft of my first romance novella will be going up for edits — and by the end of next week (given a more reasonable pace rather than a marathon), so will the fourth Iron Gentry novel.

update roundup

or: the Case of the Over-Caffeinated Laptop.

First off, an extremely belated happy 2019! LTUE was two weeks ago now, and the con crud has run its due course. I have several sparkly new ideas to either turn into new projects or add to existing projects, and a whole bunch of new reading material. Shoutout to Natalie Whipple, whose book The Vengeance Code is first up on my to-reads, and who had some great insights in the “Pantsing: Making the Most of Draft 0” panel.

In terms of actual writing, the fourth Iron Gentry book is still on Draft 0. For the last few months – well, basically, up until a week ago – it had been extremely slow going. Then all of a sudden, something in my brain went click and I was averaging nearly 1700 words a day (the same as a NaNo daily word count). Everything coming up roses, all was well, one of those days I clocked over 5000 words –

– Then yesterday the great coffee spill of 2019 occurred.

Reader, I wept. I bawled like a little baby. That laptop has everything on it, not just my writing, and there was only one viable USB port left on it – and the last time I backed it up was back in September.

If nothing else, this has hammered in the lesson that I really, really ought to do weekly hard drive backups.

According to the various tech support sites, for liquid in the keyboard the device is supposed to air out for 96 hours before you should even try to revive it. So for the next three days, it’s mobile devices only. Thank God for tablets, right? I would hate to be typing this up on my smartphone.

If everything goes well, I should be back in business Monday evening. At which point it’s full steam ahead, and aiming (ideally) for a mid-April release.

I’ve decided, in the interim, to work on some projects that I can’t sell for money (aka fanfiction). That way I can try to keep the high productivity going and maybe even turn it into a habit. It makes sense to me to have links to all of my writing in the same place, too, not just some of it – so as I update fanfic, I’m going to post links to them on here as well.

A Harry Potter/Les Misérables crossover fanfic is a very different subgenre of fantasy than Iron Gentry, considering the time period if nothing else. And I find that my writing style changes a little between original stuff and fanworks. (For one thing, I would never dream of selling something written in the present tense. But that might just be me.) But it’s really fun as a hobby, honestly; and fanfic lets me do crazy whackdoodle crossovers that I can’t use to turn a profit, too. And since original flash fic isn’t working out for me as well as I’d hoped, fanfic seems like the best way for me to get free writing samples out there.

Wish me luck on my laptop – and see you soon!

countdown to the end

Or:

A teaser for Cliff’s Edge, the last of the Callan books in the Iron Gentry series.


The forest rolled across this part of the country like a thick green blanket, covering the northern sprawl of mountains down through a spread of flat land, where the only things that interrupted the green were the patchwork brown of farms and the massive gray clutter of a city. In the swath of land between mountains and civilization, take a magnifying glass and look closer at the forest there. The road was relatively narrow, compared to the greater thoroughfare on the southern end, and the trees were just beginning to be tinged with the gold and scarlet of autumn.

A meandering half hour’s walk away from the city, among the gray and brown tree trunks, there was a flicker of something that could only be seen by the right eyes.

The wrong kind of eyes — or rather, a person with the wrong kind of eyes — squinted against the setting sun. The light filtered through the multicolored trees and turned the road into a dappled kaleidoscope of emerald and amber, alternately searing into his vision and leaving him in sudden darkness. The air was crisp and cool, but not unpleasantly so; what leaves that had already fallen crunched gently under his boots; it was the kind of evening that promised to get darker very quickly, but that would be no less benign when the sun had finished setting.

Therefore when the traveler heard a rustle, behind him on the right side, at first he thought it must be a squirrel or a rabbit. And when he turned, and could not find the source of the sound, he shrugged and put it down to the stillness and camouflage that prey animals often employ.

Then a shiver went down his spine, like someone had very lightly traced a finger down the middle of his back. But those shivers happened sometimes for no reason, didn’t they. “Someone walked over my grave,” he muttered to himself, and shook his head.

Close by, something laughed. Only it wasn’t what you’d call a laugh, exactly — it was closer to a snicker, the kind of sound you stifle behind your hands when you’re about to pull an awful prank on someone.

It wasn’t the kind of sound the traveler liked to hear, even on a sunset-dappled road not too far from home.

“Who’s there?”

The trees, innocent in the whole affair, remained silent and immobile.

“All right, come on out, I won’t whup you if you don’t deserve it,” the traveler said, using the same stern tone that he took with his oldest children. “You leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone. That’s the end of it.”

Something else rustled behind him, and he spun on his heel to find the source of the sound, and now it was beginning to unsettle him that he still couldn’t see it. Whatever or whoever it was, it wasn’t possible to move that quickly, was it? Unless there were more than one …

“You stop that nonsense right now,” he said sharply.

“Or what?” said a rusty voice behind him.

This time he knew that it was a finger tracing down his spine, and he couldn’t suppress the automatic shudder of revulsion.

“Or what?” the voice repeated. “Tell us.”

He whipped around again, and he still couldn’t see the owner of that voice, and his own cracked automatically. “Show yourself!”

“If it please thee,” said a second voice, slyly, and he shuddered again.

Suddenly before him there were two feathery silhouettes. One of them turned to snicker at the other, and he saw the thick, sharp shape of a crow’s beak.

“What, thou wilt not speak, now?” said the other. It drew closer, its scaled clawed hands flexing at its sides. “Seelie got thy tongue?”

The first one laughed again, nastily.

“What are you?” he croaked.

“Stop talking,” said the second. With a click of its beak and a wave of its hand, suddenly the man felt his jaw glue shut. Instinctively he yelped with surprise, but only a muffled sound came out; and when he then tried to shout, he was just as unsuccessful. This, more than anything else, made his heart beat wildly against his ribcage. He stumbled backwards; his breath came fast and hard; he felt as though he were breathing through a straw, and wanted desperately to throw up, to scream, to do anything. He wanted to run, and knew that he would only fall over if he tried, because he couldn’t breathe; and he couldn’t, he couldn’t fall down around these things. He might be frozen stiff with fright, but at least he was upright.

“This one en’t putting up no fight,” said the first creature to the second. “Recall the last one?”

“Oh aye,” said the second. It sniggered. The creatures’ clawed feet made the leaves rustle as they approached, circled around him slowly once, and came back to stand before him. “Then again, the last one had somethin’ goin’ for it. This one? Not so much.”

“Still,” said the first. It stepped close to him — uncomfortably close, and he smelled the fug of decay on its glossy black feathers and gagged — and with its neat clawed hand, it prodded sharply at his shoulder.

Its bright black eyes glittered with cruel amusement.

“There now, human man, let’s see how fast thou can run.”

He didn’t need telling twice. But it wasn’t long (in fact it wasn’t much longer than a minute’s worth of reedy panicked breaths) before he tripped, and went down, and they caught up to him with their wicked-sharp claws.

And it wasn’t until the next day, around mid-morning, that a different traveler on a wagon found a mute, terrified, mutilated man by the side of the forest road.

“You’re lucky to be alive,” said the second man to the first, but bundled him up in his spare cloak to keep off the autumn chill and helped him onto the wagon …

… And never knew, or never understood, the haunted look in the first man’s eyes that told him he knew exactly how lucky (or unlucky) he had been.