Monday, May 30, 2016

More writing resources

I've got a new computer. Right now I'm not entirely sure where said new computer is (I lent it to my husband last night and haven't gotten it back yet) but in any case a new computer means I have to get used to a new keyboard and, in this case, a new operating system, and I'm at high risk for losing important files and information.

I am looking forward to having a keyboard with 100% functional keys. My youngest is right now in the midst of the key-pulling phase of life and the throwing things on the floor that are in his way phase of life. Though my current laptop has survived its exposure to my child, its keys pop off in the middle of words (useful keys, too--like H, W, S, and E) and the screen only has two positions, neither terribly ergonomic.

Lest I lose these links I'm going to post them here:

Sunday, April 3, 2016

What I've been thinking about

I'm not writing much. I finished a very short (like 1000 words short) story last month and other than that I haven't finished much. I've poked and prodded and massaged a few things here and there but it's all been in little snippets of time that I can steal from other things or multitask into writing.

But I've been doing lots of thinking.

My last post was a bunch of links to resources on writing people of color (PoC). That's one thing I've been thinking about--how to represent PoC in a realistic, non-exploitative way. I'm white and I've been white all my life and I think the only moments I've had that really give me insight into being a PoC is when I take my kids to certain stores and the ladies there watch me like a hawk to make sure my kids don't touch anything. It's distinctly uncomfortable, but you know, I only experience it when I have my small kids with me. I don't have to deal with it all the time, or deal with police officers finding obscure rules to ruin my day simply because I drive while dark-skinned.

Those moments with my kids color my day, but only my day, not my whole life.

Not too long ago there was a certain bru ha ha over JK Rowling appropriating Navajo culture (specifically skin walkers) for her Harry Potter-verse. After talking to some people it seems her sin was taking a Navajo boogeyman (the skin walker) and 'rehabilitating' them. That's a valid literary thing to do (think of 'Wicked' for a wildly successful example, or 'Maleficent' for another) but it didn't work for Rowling because there's no broader understanding that skin walkers are evil. Instead of accomplishing a fun twist of a trope, she walked all over the feelings of a lot of Navajo Harry Potter fans. I suspect that if she wasn't a big name nobody would have cared, her story simply wouldn't have sold to anyone. She have just been one more white person riffing badly on Navajo culture.

That's not the kind of thing I want to fall afoul of. I don't want to be 'that girl' telling the stories wrong.

Some people were not just upset about Rowling twisting skin walkers, they seemed to be upset she was using the stories at all, exploiting an underprivileged, downtrodden group's mythology and profiting from it. As a writer I find that idea problematic because I constantly steal from other cultures, other writers, other media makers of all sorts. Most of my ideas are derived from the white American culture that we're all stewing in but that totally ignores most minority subcultures. If I can only steal ideas and myths from my own, dominant white culture that makes it very hard to address the very real dearth of non-white characters in literature, including in genre fiction.

Needless to say, I'm a bit conflicted on race. I'm bored with stories about white boys. So, so bored. I want to read stories about PoC and to put PoC in my stories. But it seems like as a white person you have to do it exactly right or you end up in hot water because, hey, PoC are sick of being misrepresented, and rightfully so. I wonder if PoC are okay with white people including them in our stories, or if want us white folks to just stay out, to let them write the stories that borrow from non-white traditions and feature non-white protagonists.

And I wonder how long all of this will last. In a decade will this no longer be such an issue? Is this a problem now because so many non-white cultures have been ignored for so long and they're now finding a voice? I hope that the next decade will see a bunch of minority authors telling all of us their stories, giving their communities the voice and the standing and the confidence that white people have enjoyed as a part of our privilege. I hope in a decade it won't matter so much that I'm a white person writing people of color, that there will be enough cultural understanding of minority cultures that they have their own tropes--true, representational mythologies--that anybody in the broader culture can call on when writing their stories.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Diversity resources I've discovered lately

Putting these here so I can find them later.

Crash course in the history of black science fiction

People of Colo(u)r destroy Science Fiction Essays

Wikipedia entry on Fred Hampton (Black Panther)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


I am a good cook. There aren't many things in this world that I will say I am just good at but you know, cooking is one of those things I will fess up and say, I am good at this. I've spent years learning to cook and learning how to cook better and better.

And yet sometimes I still fail. This weekend was one of those times. I've been planning a crock pot lasagna for weeks and I finally put it together and served it to my family, fully expecting them to take a few bites and, again, tell me how wonderful the dinner was.

Sadly, I'd forgotten to spice my sauce.

Cheap-o supermarket lasagna would have been better. Salt is really quite a necessary ingredient to all food, especially when tomatoes are involved, and lasagna without just a little bit of oregano and black pepper, and a copious addition of fennel seed is lackluster at best. The sausage I'd cooked in the tomato sauce, and expected to flavor it, came out bland and with a texture reminiscent of sawdust.

D asked, "What kind of sausage is this?"

To which I replied, "Something you don't like."

Nobody ate more than one helping, and I didn't complain at all about my children throwing theirs in the midden heap.

Tempted to throw the rest of it out as well, instead I allowed DH to toss it in the fridge, where I vowed to ignore it until it started growing.

Of course, food around here is expensive and I'm not actually one to quit on things. A nibbling of a plan came while I was going about my daily life. I reasoned that if I mixed in some new sauce, something extra flavorful and with some more pleasant, better seasoned meat.

I bought some ground beef, seasoned it enough for twice as much, and cooked it with diced tomatoes. I spooned cold lumps of the lasagna into a pan and then poured the hot, well-seasoned sauce around it, then threw it in the oven to re-heat.

The result was wonderful. I had two helpings, as did D, and we fought over the scraps the kids left on their plates.

What does this have to do with writing, you may be asking? Well, most of what I write is bland, flavorless dreck the first time around. I am a good writer, eventually, but what I write is never good when it first comes out. I'm also an impatient person. I forget that the revision process is where all the good gets added, where I take my cold, flavorless lumps and turn them into a hot, gooey, unctuous mess that people will fight over. So next time I look at what I've written and am tempted to throw it out like garbage, or leave it until time has leached all the wonder I'd once felt for the idea, I need to remember my lasagna and what a little extra effort and a little extra heat can make.

Thursday, January 7, 2016


So it turns out this creativity thing is hard, and there's only so much of it that I'm capable of at a time. I had grand plans that while I had visitors and while I was on vacation from work I was going to spend some good quality time with my writing. I was going to GET THINGS DONE.

Unfortunately, it seems, there are other things that suck away my creative energies. Photography, for one. Conversing with other people for another. Or, say, designing a new bathroom. And since we're in the middle of a bathroom remodel, guess who isn't writing.

That's right, me.

There are just times in life where writing creatively isn't a possibility for lack of time or mental space and energy, or whatnot. More than a little frustrating, but hey, that's life. There are always things that seek to suck away creative energies for their own purposes and enjoyment (e.g.: children and spouses) and you can't always blow them off, especially if there's nobody around to pick up the slack.

Now that I'm back at work, now that I have some separation from my family and the mental chaos that comes of trying to figure out those interactions (which one might think would fuel writing but for me seem instead to inhibit it) maybe I'll be able to get back to writing just a little bit every week. Maybe I'll have reasonable expectations for what's possible with the time and energy available to me. Maybe I'll even find that extra well of will power, that extra bit of discipline that will let me get up earlier or write instead of watching TV at night.


Maybe I'll just be grateful for the little bits that I can do and let that be enough.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Leveling up

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Writing Excuses retreat in the Western Caribbean. Lovely, lovely time--wonderful people, fantastic instruction. I loved all of it.

Now I'm trying to write again. It's hard. I've been surrounded by other writers, many of whom are better than I am in one way or another. Some of them are better at characterization or plotting; many are better at finishing things.

We were warned that after an experience like this we'd find it hard to write because our tastes have improved but our skills haven't yet. We were encouraged to keep writing through that with the expectation that our skills will catch up eventually. So, even though I'm not writing fiction I'm writing this to remind myself that I need to keep writing, even if it's going to sound like crap to my own ears for a while.

I often feel like what I write doesn't sound good when I first write it, but like many people I've talked to if I put it away and come back to it later I find that there's something electric about it, even if I can see how I want to change things. I love that experience of digging through my writing looking for the lines that just light up on the page for me, or the scenes that make me shiver because I feel them.

Of course, all of this will be easier when I'm caught up on sleep! Staying up until two or three in the morning playing games and then getting up before 8 for breakfast left me just a tad sleep deprived (though might also jump start my returning to Adelaide time).

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Because I know so much

One of the reasons I don't write on this blog very often is because I feel like there's not much for me to say. I'm not a very good writer--I don't write consistently, and much of what I produce is just okay.

(Alright, I self-reject a lot. I've only actually entered two real contests ever and I did win one of them.)

Still, I think to have a blog you have to feel like you have something to say, something to teach others, and I'm not in a position yet to feel like I do have something to say.

Except, you know I do have things to say. I'm part of a critique group and you know, one of the things I see my fellow writers not doing is putting enough of their character onto the page. I read a lot of physical responses but so little of the thoughts, and especially the thought processes of characters. I want to see how a character is considering a problem or a conflict, how their world-view shapes what they think is appropriate or allowable.

I think as a beginning writer I should be better about including that myself. It's much easier to cut it out if it's too much than put it in later. And, if I'm doing it right it'll help me avoid the dreaded fate of indistinguishable characters. So, here's a goal for my next chapter: really drill down into what my character is thinking. Let her mull about her problems for a few hundred words, then go back and condense it down to something that's actually readable!