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.

It has been an interesting summer so far. The disconcerting global weather, the awe inspiring New Horizons Pluto flyby, the start of the run-up to the presidential nomination race (by turns fascinating, depressing, and hilarious), the tumult of the EU-Greece drama, and so much more. It makes you feel hopeful and discouraged all at once.

The world whizzes on, but here in New York things are slower in the summer. Quieter. The city always seems to slumber this time of year. Even with the tourists, New York depopulates in the summer. With so many people seeking refuge up the coast or out on Long Island, those of us who remain have the place to ourselves. Granted, our prize is sticky, hot, and often quite smelly, but there’s nothing I love more than New York in the summer.

It’s a wonderful time for writing, too. One can hunker in the air conditioning during the middle of the day, typing like mad, then venture out for inspiration in the evening. Walks in the park with a melting ice cream offer time for contemplation. There are lectures (I went to one last week on facing the engineering challenges of searching for Earth-like planets around other stars) and classes, museums, shows, concerts in the park, or just strolling the city’s neighborhoods, watching the human drama unfold.

It’s like New York takes a Valium this time of year and everything feels possible but not too urgent. Dreamy.

The temperature is over 90 out there today, so I think I’ll pull the shades and write. But later…later there will be ice cream on the stoop while I watch the city go by.

The Doneness

And by that, I mean my current novel project.

Yes, it is done! As soon as I finish polishing my pitch materials, I will begin querying agents. So, for the time being, this project is completed and it is time to begin the next one.

First, a small celebratory dance  <dances around apartment until cat bites her>

Ahem. Alright. That’s out of the way. What’s next?

One of the things I most enjoyed about working on Project Awesome was delving into the mind of an outsider trying to find her place in society. I’m pretty sure I’m not finished with this idea and that it may play some role in the plot or theme of my next project. But, I also know that I want to try my hand at a new genre. I love urban fantasy and I’m sure I’ll write more of it down the line. Heck, if I sell Project Awesome, I’ve got plenty of ideas for sequels. For now, though, I’m thinking along the lines of a science fiction novel.

I really want to explore some of the ways society will change under the twin pressures of time and technology and I like the hopeful idea that we’ll one day succeed in making it off this rock and out into the vastness of space. So, that’s where I’d like to venture in my next novel.

Before I get too far down this road, though, I need a primer on the universe. My knowledge of the solar system, galaxy, universe, and our place it in is pretty rudimentary. So I’m brushing up by taking a few courses on Coursera. I’m enrolled in an AstroTech course from the University of Edinburgh, one on the Origins of the Universe from the University of Copenhagen, and a class called Imagining Other Earths from Princeton. All for free! I love Coursera!

All the traveling I did early in the summer impeded progress on these classes, as did finishing Project Awesome. But now that I’m in Brooklyn full time for the remainder of the summer and Project Awesome is off my plate…it’s time for some learnin’!

Stay tuned. I’ll no doubt share some of the fascinating things I come across in the classes, as well as my evolving ideas for the next novel project.


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