The novel draft is progressing. In fact, in the last 18 days I’ve written about 26,000 words. I’ve written every single day and I’ve done a super-human job (at least for me) of not going back and agonizing over every word and sentence.

Forward momentum wins.

Well, until this week. I’ve gotten to the end of the first act of the novel and I’m not entirely sure what happens next. I mean, I know the broad brush strokes and I have an idea of where I’m headed and how it all ends. But the specifics of how I get there? No clue.

I’ve been participating in NaNo, and the spirit of NaNo is to plow ahead and see what comes out, but I like to have a plan. I like to think first about themes and character arcs and how the specific events of the plot work to develop both. I like to work and rework those elements as I go.

Sometimes when I plow ahead without an outline it feels like I’m making wonderful progress. So many words, so fast! But it’s always three steps forward, two steps back. I end up having to tear out most of what I’ve written and rewrite it after I’ve thought through my outline, my themes, my character arcs.

So, I’m taking a short break from the flood of words to figure things out, do a little outlining, and make sure that the words I write are moving things where they need to go.

I’ve got a new novel cooking. Brainstorming is done. The outline is ready(ish). Nothing remains but to write the damn thing. You know, the easy part (hahahahahaha!)

In the spirit of motivation and accountability, I’ll be writing along with the hordes of others participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal is to ride the collective manic ra-ra-ra energy of thousands of other writers to complete 60K in the month of November.

What you end up with, of course, is likely to be a slightly fetid, overwritten, ugly first draft. But most first drafts end up in that condition anyway, whether you take one month to write them or three. 60K is also a bit shy of a full novel draft (most of my novels settle in the 80K range). Still, it’s a good start and a nice external push to just get it done.

I’ve done NaNo once before, and it went pretty well, though pumping out lots of words without going back over them, revising, and rethinking is not my natural inclination. I like to tinker as I go, so plowing ahead and promising myself to fix all the mistakes and work in all the lovely nuance later will be a real challenge.

I like a challenge.

So, no time to write more here…I’ve got a good 2K write today if I’m gonna keep the pace.

Laters, and happy writing, fellow NaNoers!

To be amazed

I keep thinking about last night’s eclipse.

To be honest, I’d kind of forgotten it was even happening, but then I saw something about it on social media (of course), so with very little preamble or expectation, my husband I decided to walk a block up to the park to check it out.

We sat in the grass in the dark (a rarity in of itself in Brooklyn) and watched the sky for almost an hour and a half. There were other people around us, some alone, some with kids, some with dogs, some with wine and weed. No one sat too close, but scattered through the park, little islands of smartphone lights and voices in the night, their presence was a comfort under such a sky.

Overhead, the moon passed in and out of wisps of cloud, the Earth’s shadow nibbling through it until it was totally obscured, glowing and red and seemingly huge.

It was truly amazing.


I gasped. Actually gasped.

So did other people, and it made me realize how rare it has become to truly have your breath taken away by something beautiful and unexpected. It wasn’t just that the moon was eclipsed, or appeared very large, or was the most incredible blood red color…it was the reminder of the cosmos, of the sheer magnitude of it all. That we’re just little ants on a rock falling around the sun, a rock that will one day fall right into the sun and be devoured and destroyed and reborn as dust spreading into the vacuum to become new stars and planets and life.

Truly, we humans have done incredible things. Our time on this planet has been quite short–far less than earlier species of hominins, for example–yet in that time we have built, destroyed, dreamed, and reshaped this planet to our liking far more rapidly and efficiently than any other species. Whether that’s for better or worse is hard to say. Maybe one day our dreams and belief in humanity’s manifest destiny will take us off this rock and out into the stars, where our ancestors will watch Earth burn up a long, long time from now. Maybe not. Maybe our run is winding down. Maybe we’ve reached too high, too fast, too carelessly.

Looking at the moon last night, though, I felt like it didn’t matter. Whatever we do or don’t do as a species, and as individuals, is so fleeting. So precious and so very now.

Maybe rather than worrying about it so much, I should just live my life, try to be happy, and let myself be amazed more often.

One of the things I’ve been working on lately is developing the idea for my next novel. I had such a great time writing my last project and was so pleased with how it came out that, while I want to do something different, I still want to take the magic of that forward with me.

Typically when I start a new project, I spend time brainstorming, often with a big whiteboard where I can use different colored markers to daisy-chain ideas as they evolve. After I feel I’ve come up with a workable world, characters, and a plot rich with potential conflicts, I start on an outline. I work and rework that outline for awhile and then begin the first draft.

This time, though, I decided to try something different. Before moving on to outlining, I started playing around with different characters, backstory events, and world-building elements by writing shorts. It’s been fun and also extremely illuminating.

Characters that looked fantastic on the whiteboard aren’t coming to life once they’re thrust into a narrative structure. Other characters are stealing the show. Since the novel will be science fiction, putting future technology into scenarios where it has to work and feel real has highlighted problems as well as seeded new and better ideas. Bringing events to life that are meant to be part of the novel’s backstory is helping me refine and hone the novel’s present.

Some of the shorts actually work as shorts, but plenty of them don’t. That isn’t the point, though. The point is to build and explore the ideas, improving them in advance of actually drafting the novel. This approach has afforded a low cost medium to experiment and further develop plot ideas and characters before I invest in the novel itself.

Plus, fun!

My short horror story THE NEW ARRIVAL is now available as a podcast on Pseudopod. It’s preceded by a short bit encouraging folks to participate in a flash fiction contest, then the story intro begins at 1:20.

Pseudopod is an award-winning and very wonderful (if scary!) podcast and there really is nothing like hearing your work read aloud. So, so cool :)

Enjoy…and let me know what you think!


Yup. It’s August. I’m sure most of you already noticed this, but I’m still having trouble letting go of July. After all, July is so “ah, it’s warm and the summer is all before me.” August? Not so much. August is more sweaty subway platforms and the looming weight of September bearing down on you.

I have three weeks until I head back to the classroom and begin shaping the minds of another hundred or so college students. Three weeks seems at once so much and so little. What to do?

Well, since I’m all done with THICKER THAN WATER and am just managing queries at this point, it is clearly time for something new. I’ve been studiously researching and brainstorming and I think I’m zeroing in on what I want to write next…but the world building is proving difficult (read: fun as all get-out, but hard). So I’m thinking I’ll start with a few exploratory short stories and try fleshing out my ideas that way. We’ll see how it goes.

My husband and I are also planning an end-of-summer, get-the-hell-out-of-NYC’s-sweltering-wasteland trip to Nova Scotia. By this, I mean that I’m planning the trip and my husband is making noises like he might show up at the airport if I tell him when and where.

So, yeah, that’s pretty much my idea for August. Get some new stories written, complain about the heat, and go hiking in Nova Scotia.

Wrangling (failing)

I’m supposed to be brainstorming my next novel project. Instead a flood of ideas for a sequel to THICKER THAN WATER are pouring into my brain, demanding to be written down, examined, and expanded.

In my Coursera classes, I’m trying to grasp the concepts behind the properties of planets and what determines their temperature but the physics is making my brain jump sideways and backwards and all I can do is scribble the word “albedo” over and over in my notebook and think about what a pretty word it is.

When I take a lunch break and watch Neil degrasse Tyson talk on COSMOS about the life cycle of stars, rather than interrogating the concept of a hypernova all my brain wants to do is get weepy when Tyson pontificates in his deep, calming voice about how we’re all made of stardust.

Much as I try, I can’t seem to wrangle my brain today.


Or I could just drink tea and listen to Tyson and doodle the word “albedo” all day.


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