Why I write

Well, it’s been a hell of a week and a half around here, but I’ve found (as I have in other hard times) that writing can be a pretty good balm for unhappiness.

Since returning from my father-in-law’s funeral in New Orleans, I’ve been slowly trying to reestablish a (small) sense of normalcy.  Writing has been a big part of this.  I’ve continued work on my newest novel project, Project Awesome, which (coincidentally) addresses issues of loss, and I’ve started revising one of the shorts I wrote during my story-a-week experiment.

The Olympics have helped, too – nothing like a multi-week marathon of excellence and victory to lift your spirits (or, if you watch too much, numb you to everything).

This summer has also been one of travel for me.  In fact, out of the 11 weeks since the semester ended I’ve spent over half (6) of them on the road.  And…I’m leaving again on Tuesday for a week-long visit to Seattle.  I thought this might have a negative effect on my writing productivity, but I ran the numbers and I’ve actually written a respectable amount.

Since the summer started, I’ve drafted 15,000 new words on Project Awesome.  I’ve read and processed feedback on ABSENT and devised a plan for revising that novel.  Finally, I’ve drafted four new short stories (totaling about 8,000 words).  I didn’t write at all in Spain, or last week in New Orleans, so excluding those three weeks, that’s about 3,000 words a week (not counting the revision work on ABSENT).

Not my highest weekly average, but not bad for such a topsy-turvy few months.  More than anything, I’ve been reminded through all of the highs and lows of this summer that writing isn’t just something I want or like to do, it’s something I need to do.  Writing gives me a sense of purpose and strength.

Do I want to be successful?  Do I want to sell books and make money?  Of course I do, and I believe with hard work and patience, those things will come.  More and more, though, I’m realizing they are not the reason I continue to write.

I write because it is the most fun thing I’ve ever done, because it provides me with challenges and puzzles and stretches my imagination and brings me joy.  I also write because it’s the best way I can find to make sense of life – especially when life hands me a bucket of really rotten lemons and I have no choice but to drink their bitter juice.

Like right now.

So, if you will excuse me, I think I’m going to make some tea (the other balm for my soul) and go write.

Week in review

Greetings from hot and hotter Kansas City, MO!  I flew in yesterday and will be spending a week doing archaeological work with my colleagues and our students.  Provided we don’t all melt into puddly little pools of dissolved human, that is.

As some of you know, usually this time of year we go down to the field in Honduras to excavate.  However, because of the recent drug-related crime, we’re skipping Honduras this season and doing labwork and write up instead.  It’s sad, but life goes on.  And, frankly, it’s almost as hot as Honduras here in KC anyway.  If I close my eyes and imagine farm animals outside my bedroom window at night, it’s practically like I’m there 😉

In anticipation of being away, I spent the last week powering through a story a day.  I did pretty well with this exercise – ending up with 4 1/2 stories (my Friday story never got finished, alas).  I think they all have potential to be submission-worthy once I get a chance to revise and polish them up.  My story elements generator did it’s job, providing me with interesting combinations and helping me stretch my imagination a bit.

Anyway, it was a busy, productive week and I’m hoping for an equally good one coming up (though archaeology focused rather than writing focused).

Since I’m traveling, the blog may be a bit quieter than usual this week, but I’ll put up some story prompt for you and try to post an update later on.

Until then…stay cool!

Readercon, here I come!

Tomorrow I’m hopping the Amtrak up to Boston to spend the weekend at Readercon!

Readercon is the first Con I ever attended, and one I’ve gone back to year after year.  I like it (obviously).  It’s small.  The writing track is emphasized.  Lots of cool people usually attend, and it’s not too far from New York so it doesn’t feel like a massive production to go.

This year there are a number of panels I’m really excited about, including one about incorporating Anthropology and fiction, one on re-imagining protagonist agency, another on writing cities (a topic I can never seem to get enough of), and one on unexamined assumptions in Science Fiction.

There also look to be a few panels that might provide inspiration for my current writing projects, including one on time travel and another on paranormal diseases.

Plus, lots of good friends from VP and Paradise Lost will be there.  So, should be fun!

I may post some musings and updates while on the road, so check back soon!


Sorry for the long silence here on Comedy and Tragedy.  I’m in Seattle right now, and one of the major reasons I came was to help babysit my nieces, aged 1 and 4, while my sister was on a safari in Africa.  So, the explanation for my silence is the same as the explanation for the title of this post.  I want to give props to all the parents I know.  Like big, huge, major, gargantuan props.

The last 72 hours were intense, fun, exhausting, and very eye-opening.

Admittedly, I came into my sister’s house with very little child care experience and kind of hit the ground running without much of a clue, but damn.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so utterly gutted–or the last time I didn’t have time to eat or pee or even realize there were strange, unidentifiable substances on my clothing let alone do something about it.  And that’s not even mentioning having time to write or do any sort of work for myself, because, of course, when there are kids in the picture they must (and should) come first.

The end of the day would roll around and bath time and story time and everything else would be over.  We’d stagger downstairs to face the disaster zone that had been created and recreated 43 times that day (bits of food all around the baby’s chair, toys strewn across the floor, cat vomit from the morning that we hadn’t had time to clean up, and cookie dough on every other unsoiled surface from an ill-planned baking adventure) and there was one and only one thing I wanted to do: drink while watching mindless shit on television.

What blows my mind even more is that I had help.  My brother-in-law was there and he was very hands on.  It wasn’t like I was dealing with the kids on my own.  I’m sure those of you who have children will be laughing at me and thinking, “yeah, what did you expect?”

My answer: I did expect it to be just like this.  But expecting something isn’t the same as experiencing it.  I guess I knew having small children meant it was really hard to squeeze in time for your own projects, housework, and personal hygiene but I didn’t understand what that really felt like until now.

So, I want to give props to everyone I know who has kids, and especially to my writer friends who not only have kids but also have jobs and still manage to get writing done.  I am in awe of you all.

What’s up?

As regular readers know, I recently returned from a trip abroad (to Spain).  It was a wild ride, full of plenty of highlights, a few lows, and no small amount of ineffably delicious food and drink.  I’ll try to get some reviews, photos, and thoughts online soon.  In the meantime, I shall just say that Spain remains one of my favorite places to visit and the trip was relaxing and restorative enough to send me home with a major yen to get back to work on my writing projects.  So, mission accomplished.

Being a traveling fool, I’m actually heading out again on Friday.  This time?  A trip to Seattle to visit family.  I’ll be spending time with my little nieces, helping my mom with a tour she’s hosting in her amazing garden, going camping at Mount Rainier (if the weather holds), and doing a little research for my current novel project, which takes places in the Pacific NW.

Between now and then, I plan to write like a maniac.  I’ve got a new short story — the first I’ve written in some time, actually — that I’d like to put finishing touches on and send out, plus forward motion on the Urban Fantasy novel I’m drafting.  I owe a few crits, too.  So that’s on this week’s agenda as well.  Reader feedback on ABSENT has been trickling in, so by the time I return from Seattle, I hope to take some time to sit down and sort it all out, make a plan, and start revising.

Then, if I’m not sick of traveling, I’ll head up to Boston for Readercon.

That’s my forecast for late June/early July.  What does the next month hold for you?

Get thee to the capital: Madrid

Right now the hubs and I are sitting on the train watching the Spanish countryside fly by.  In a few hours, we’ll arrive at Atocha station in Madrid and the last phase of our holiday will begin.  This is sad because it’s the last few days of the trip.  But it’s happy too, as Madrid is a favorite city of mine.

Madrid is a fun city to wander in, and that is exactly what we plan to do, exploring historic neighborhoods, snoozing in the shade at Buen Retiro park, eating in tapas bars, and (of course) visiting some of the city’s incredible museums:


Our holiday ends on Sunday, when we troop back to the Madrid airport and fly home to New York.  Hopefully the break will invigorate me for a summer of non-stop writing 🙂

Llegada Granada

After four days of imitating sloths in Mallorca, the hubs and I are ready for some sightseeing.  Up first, two nights in Granada.  The lure here, of course, is the Alhambra:

…an incredible complex of palaces, gardens, and fortresses in Andalusia.  The site was built first by the Moors and later taken over and added to by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor.  We plan to spend most of our time in Granada here and are touring the palace at night and gardens during the day.

On Thursday we hop the train up to Madrid to finish our trip with several days of museums, exploring, and grazing at every tapas bar in the city.

Adios Nueva York, hola España!

Today I’m off to Spain!

As you read this, I’ll probably be stumbling, jet-lagged and caffeine-deprived, through the Madrid airport as I transfer planes en route to Mallorca.

The hubs and I will be spending five nights here:


We shall eat, drink, swim, hot air balloon, and generally laze about.

Then it’s on to Granada to tour the Alhambra and up to Madrid for a few days.

I’ve got a few blog posts scheduled during my absence, so it won’t be total radio silence here at Comedy and Tragedy, cause I’m awesome that way.  Abrazos y besos! I’ll miss you all while I’m gone.

Updates to follow 🙂

Paradise Lost, and found

I’ve just returned from a weekend in San Antonio at the Paradise Lost writing workshop and I thought I’d share some thoughts on the experience (for some photos, go here).

Paradise Lost is organized by Sean Kelley and geared towards folks who’ve already attended a longer workshop (such as Viable Paradise or Taos Toolbox).  The goal of Paradise Lost is to provide a space in which people who are starting to have some success but are not yet full-fledged pros can hone their craft and share ideas.  In this, it succeeds.

The workshop spanned 3 days, which were fairly evenly divided amongst lectures by pros (this year’s pros were John Joseph Adams, Jay Lake, and Steven Brust), small group critiques, free time for writing, and social time.  It was an excellent balance, providing opportunities to learn, relax, and get to know cool new people.  I left this workshop feeling sated but not burned out.

The lectures, particularly those by John Joseph Adams and Jay Lake, were very career focused.  It was fascinating to hear an editor’s take on submissions, querying, slush, rejections, and the like.  John also encouraged those of us who consider ourselves novelists not to turn our backs on writing short fiction.  He pointed out short fiction is a great way for novelists to stay in readers’ sights during the long wait between books, to experiment with ideas that don’t lend themselves well to long form, and to increase our odds of getting nominated for awards (there being more short form award categories).  This really hit home and inspired me not to give up on short fiction.  Thanks, John!

Jay Lake talked a lot about social media, conventions, and productivity.  His big take-home seemed to be that you really need to do what works for you.  If you don’t feel comfortable tweeting, then don’t.  If you hate writing a blog, then don’t.  If you’re too shy to be the center of attention at cons, then don’t feel you have to try.  One topic he touched on was the pros and cons of getting on con panels.  I’d always figured this would be a Good Thing in terms of career development, but Jay wisely pointed out that you have to think about why you want to be on the panel, whether you’ll have anything valuable to say on the topic, and whether you’re enough of a “competitive talker” to have your voice be heard (or, if you are a competitive talker to be self-aware enough to know not to completely dominate the discussion).  I really appreciated the nuance of his advice.

Steven Brust was the final guest at the workshop, and his advice tended towards the writing side of the equation.  In particular, he offered some really clever tricks for getting unstuck, some ways to use POV to solve problems with plot and description, how to use cliche to your advantage, and some insights on using theme to move your story forward without hitting the reader over the head with it.

Best of all, though, were the great people I met — most of whom were previously strangers or faceless “voices” on the interwebs.  I love connecting with other writers, and this group was uniformly nice, talented, and fascinating.

San Antonio was also a perfect spot for a workshop like this — the Riverwalk was just outside the front door of the hotel, offering plenty of easy options for eating/drinking — all of which were happy to accommodate big groups.  All in all, it made for an enjoyable and productive weekend.

Paradise Lost is a recurring event, so if you think you might be interested, you should consider it for next year.  Once applications open, I’ll post the link here, and I’m happy to answer questions in the comments.