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Archive for December, 2013

My flash fiction story A HISTORY, IN REVERSE has gone live on Every Day Fiction. You can read it (and rate it!) here. Please feel free to leave a comment over at the magazine – I (and they) would love to know what you thought.

This tale tells the story of humanity’s last, distant ancestor searching for answers about the history of our species as we face extinction millions of years in the future. But, it’s not as depressing as it sounds!

Give it a read and let me know what you think.

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Buried Alive

Just a quick missive from the grading mines to let you know that while I’m slowly being borne down into the pits of Hell by exams, I believe I will make it out alive. I believe I will survive, shedding the skin of one stale semester and emerging fresh and whole in the New Year.

Alternatively, I might perish – crushed into oblivion under the weight of multiple choice questions, True/False quandaries, and red ink.

Either way, I plan to have eggnog and cookies by my side. If I go down, I’ll go down fat and fighting!

In all seriousness, I’m closing out 2013 late this year. I still have one final exam to administer tomorrow afternoon, a long plane ride out to Seattle, and plenty o’ grading to pass the time en route. But then it’s vacation!

Family (Sis and brother-in-law! Gam Gam and Pop Pop! Adorable nieces!), food (yes, there will be pictures of the gluttony), lots of Pilates and relaxation and writing (I haven’t given up hope of finishing the first draft of Project Awesome by the end of the year), and even some x-country skiing (if the snow cooperates).

How about you all? If you celebrate, what holiday plans do you have in store? If you don’t celebrate, how will you be wrapping up 2013?

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Just a quick link to share today, in which Aaron Van Hughes kindly offers his thoughts on my latest publication, Discarded. Check it out on Fantastic Reviews! Thanks, Aaron šŸ™‚

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Geekomancy by Michael Underwood (Urban Fantasy, 2013, 284 pages).

Geekomancy pitches itself as Clerks meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This description isn’t too wide of the mark, and that is a glorious thing.

Imagine a world just like ours, except that all the genre stuff we geeks squee over (from Firefly right on down to D & D) is real. Want to fight like Buffy? Well, if you’re a genremancer, all you have to do is watch a lot episodes and you’ll be able to magically channel the Buffster – badass moves, cutting snark, and all.

Wish light sabers were real? If you have the right kind of magic — and belief — they damn well are. Secretly believe that there are Druids, and Steampunk heroes displaced in time, and trolls, and psychic paper? In Geekomancy, they’re all real, real, real.

The plot of Geekomancy revolves around a barista named Ree Reyes. While Ree is your nothing-average-about-her geek girl, her existence is pretty mundane. Until, that is, a man named Eastwood blows some trolls up in the alley behind her cafe, ushering Ree into the thrilling (and often perilous) world of magic. Eastwood enlists Ree’s help in solving a series of teen suicides with a supernatural twist and things only get crazier from there.

Geekomancy is a fun read. The pacey story isn’t the only draw, either. Testing your own geek cred against the rapid-fire genre references is just as addictive as the it-ain’t-always-black-and-white plot. The narrative wraps up with a satisfying resolution but leaves the door cracked wide enough open for what will hopefully be several sequels (there is currently a book 2, Celebromancy).

In short, if you’re looking for a quirky distraction from all the holiday festivities and family fun, and if you’re a true genre-loving nerd, Geekomancy was written for you.

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So, I’ve mentioned a couple of times lately that I’ve been struggling with my first draft of Project Awesome. This struggle has been frustrating, and not just because it means the draft isn’t getting written as quickly as I’d like. It’s frustrating because I wrote an outline. A really detailed outline. I outlined the heck out of this novel.

I know exactly what I should write next. So why am I getting stuck?

It’s actually taken me three cycles of “stuck/unstuck” to figure this one out.

I’m getting stuck because my outline is wrong. It’s telling me to write things that I want and need the characters to do but which they just wouldn’t do.

Now, I know this is one of those big rules of writing – don’t force the characters into inauthentic actions just to serve the plot. I know this. But somehow I have still created an outline that is telling me to do that very thing.

Sigh.

I guess learning and doing are two different things, but since I was at least able to figure out the problem and fix it, I’m going to chalk this one up as a win.

Still, it’s frustrating, and I think it highlights some of the problems with relying too heavily on plotting (and, perhaps, on the rather artificial and somewhat dishonest division of writers into “pantser” and “plotter” camps). Of course, whether we favor outlines or free writing, we must all sometimes engage in both practices.

I’m usually kind of a control freak (which is probably why I favor outlining), but lately I’ve forced myself to diverge from the outline and just write, just see where my characters want to go – authentically and as themselves – in this rather sticky predicament I’ve created for them.

It’s rather liberating.

Go figure.

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The holidays are getting into full swing around the Suri household. Our tree is up and decorated (so pretty!), I’ve finished all my holiday shopping, and I’ve made my first batch of homemade eggnog. Today is Cookie Day.

Every year Sid and I throw a big Holiday Party at our place, where I serve eggnog and bubbly and tea sandwiches and…cookies. Now, I’m not usually a cookie person. They’re a lot of work and, in my view, not as good as cake or creamy desserts. But at the holidays, cookies are a must. This year I’m trying two new recipes, Lisa Dupar’s “Crack Cookies” and Carmelitas (both on my sister’s recommendation).

I’m endeavoring to make all the cookies today and then freeze them for next weekend’s party (when I’ll be busy making the aforementioned tea sandwiches, which – btw – are a shitload of work but so worth it).

The house is warm from the oven running all day and smells like ginger and cinnamon and sweet cream cheese and caramel.

These little treats (as, of course, one must taste, taste, taste when cooking) are helping the weekend’s other big project along — grading. We’ve come at last to the end of the semester. My final exams are still looming, but I have a big ole pile of research papers to get through by Wednesday.

In between the cooking and grading (and Pilates classes!), I have gotten some writing done. Actually, I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough on Project Awesome and pounded out about 3k this weekend. As regular readers know, I’ve been getting stuck and unstuck and stuck again on this novel draft A LOT. So, for now, I appear to be unstuck. And that, dear reader, is worthy of another celebratory cookie!

Happy Holidays šŸ™‚

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Well, all the leftover turkey has been devoured, the Christmas tree has been purchased, dragged home in the cold and erected in the living room, and the various home improvement projects started over the weekend are done (new grout and caulk for the tub!). Thus, it is official:Ā  the holiday is over and it’s back to reality.

I have two weeks of classes to go, followed by a nearly two week span for final exams (tragically, I’ve got a final to administer on the very last day of the semester, Dec. 23rd). So, while there’s lots of grading ahead, course prep is winding down and I’m hoping to squeeze in more writing time. I have a couple of short stories in early draft stage and am determined to get the first draft of my urban fantasy novel (PROJECT AWESOME) wrapped up by the New Year. I’m at about 65K, so with maybe 20K to go this might not seem overly ambitious, but I’ve also been stuck for about two weeks with no forward movement. Sigh.

I think part of this is due to my feeling a little down about my writing. I’ve mentioned to many of you in recent months that I’ve been frustrated, chewing on the sense that I’ve been working hard and producing material that I think is really strong and just getting rejection after rejection. I know I should be driven on by my own need to write and my own sense of progress and enjoyment (and I am!), but honestly, I really needed some sort of external encouragement and validation. What can I say? I’m only human.

Anyway, I finally got it. I sold two stories this month, which felt — frankly — fantastic. The first of these, DISCARDED, is now available to read over on Electric Spec. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Okay – off to enjoy the Monday commute!

Hope you all have a great week šŸ™‚

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