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Information Love

Things I had to look up today (so far — the day is still young) for writing-related research:

1. loincloths (for women)
2.  kopi luwak (cat poop coffee; processed in the bowls of the civet and harvested from their feces)
3.  bears

This is all very, very tame.  I think most writers probably earn a spot on some government watch-list for our online searches; mine have included everything from making bombs to assembling guns, disposing of bodies, bull-riding, giving birth in the wilderness by yourself (I discovered there’s an actual reality show about just this thing, which is a little too much nature, thank you), how much sperm a dragon might produce, setting broken legs, determining how long it would take to starve on the open sea, various infectious diseases (such as lycanthropy), how many mice would it take to make a fur hat, mermaid sex, spontaneous combustion —  you know, normal stuff.

Google is magnificent for this sort of thing.  So are libraries and librarians, but some questions are more embarrassing than others.  From the list above, I think you can probably guess which ones I’d rather not discuss out loud.

All of which matters only because, as writers — and, hopefully, for non-writers as well — there’s no such thing as too little curiosity.  In fact, the more curiosity, and the weirder it is, the better.  You never know what’s going to be useful. And don’t wait until you have an idea, either. I love used bookstores (well, any bookstore), and prowling the non-fiction sections — history, science, etc — for all the fascinating and incredibly specific subjects that some lovely individual(s) researched the hell out of.  Whether it’s the history of salt or the class politics of shopping malls in Latin America, fill your head with information.  Read the newspaper.  Watch documentaries.

Research can spark inspiration, just as much as inspiration necessitates research.  It’s part of the fun of creating worlds and characters, and stories!

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Staying organized (and nostalgic)

I used to blog a lot more than I do now — I blame Twitter, of course.  It’s easy to jot down a quick message in 140 characters, and then I hate to repeat myself here:  it’s a bit redundant.  But today I was flipping through my first blog, Web Petals, which I started writing waaaay back in 2003.  Remember Livejournal?  I mean, Livejournal still exists and plenty of folks use it, but it’s been a while for me — and I’d forgotten some of the features I loved.  Like those fun icons that would go with my posts.  Here are some of my favorites that were always showing up at the blog.  Some of them I made, others I picked up from sites where designers posted icons for public use.

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Anyway, so there I am feeling nostalgic, and I stumble upon an old post of mine, back from 2009 — a New Year’s resolution. To get more organized.  It made me laugh.

My own organizational skills are notoriously bad. Dreadful. Pathetic. Crummy. Maybe sad. I do, however, have a yearly planner, because there’s too much going on not to make an effort. I make a list of all the things I have to write for the year, and then go through and mark the dates. I’m good at marking dates and making lists. I love lists! So much fun. I feel very productive. Especially when I get to cross something off. Give me a gold star for effort, baby.  Seriously, though — I need whatever structure I can give myself. I write a lot.

Not much has changed. I still love lists.  The difference after all these years, however, is that I’ve learned how not to be overwhelmed by my lists.  You can see above — I’d make lists for THE WHOLE YEAR.  I’d set deadlines for myself that I wouldn’t meet, and then get disheartened.  It was all with good intentions, but it wasn’t actually productive.

Now?  I make teeny bite-sized lists that are all about the present, the immediate future, no more than a week or two out — and it’s all part of a conscious effort to not feel overwhelmed.

This is my calendar (see below).  I’m not showing a page with actual lists because there would be way too many spoilers on it (sorry), but what I love about this calendar (a Lena Corwin Deskpad) is that it allows me to see the full week,  every day, all at once — and the columns aren’t big enough for me to go crazy with too much work.  I keep it small, I keep it essential.  Monday?  Maybe there’s a dentist appointment, an interview, and a certain number of pages I need to write.  Tuesday?  Could be more pages, plus a few emails I need to address.  You get the drift.  A little bit each day.

Some people have digital calendars — that’s cool.  I like writing things down.  Whatever works is fine, but keep it simple, especially if you’re someone who gets overwhelmed (like I do — and it doesn’t take much, trust me).  The hardest part about this job is that as writers we have to stay self-motivated — all the time.  Especially when deadlines are always around the corner.  Organization is part of that process, knowing what needs to be done, and when; trying to manage all the moving parts of being a writer.  I don’t always do a great job with it, but I keep trying to improve — and this calendar and my little teeny manageable lists are part of that.

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Guernica

The poet Lauren K. Alleyne interviewed me for Guernica, some time back in November, and we had a long, lovely conversation about everything from race, romance novels, Marvel, and more.

“I wanted to reverse that and tell a story with five women for every one man, and not comment on it. There’s no virus that eradicated men; the book is just not about them. Instead there are a ton of women running around, ruling the world, making war, having adventures. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but what’s been interesting is seeing how surprised people are at the amount of female representation in the book. I knew there would be some commentary that Monstress has a lot of women—I wasn’t actually being deliberately naïve—but readers have been really taken aback. They keep saying it’s “bold territory” that men aren’t the focal point, and this says to me that the only feminist stories we’ve been able to consume and tell are ones in which the patriarchy is still front and center. What has been made clear to me after seeing the response to Monstress is that we’ve basically accepted this civilizational lie about women that we don’t have agency, that women on average don’t make an impact on the world, that women aren’t really that important. That’s the great lie of patriarchy—and patriarchy won’t accept that the average woman has made this world just as much or more than its greatest men.”


 

Also, Fizzgig is my spirit animal. giphy1

#myfavoritethings: Bunnies + Sharks

I am an absolute professional when it comes to staying comfortable.  My dedication to the art of pajama-wearing is matched only by my rigorous attention to pie, tea, and cat pictures on the internet.

My need for comfort, however, doesn’t end when I take a break from writing, and venture out into the world.  Oh, NO.  I am committed, friends.  Especially when it’s cold out.

Lately, though, I’ve been getting a little bored with my winter sweaters.  Comfortable, yes.  But I’ve been wearing them for the last couple years, and even though they’re perfectly sturdy and warm,  I really needed to liven things up.  Which is why I sort of lost my mind when I found a sweatshirt company in California that makes the MOST comfortable cozies I’ve ever worn — and in the CRAZIEST designs.

Yo, BUNNIES RIDING SHARKS.

Who even comes up with that?  I applaud you, mysterious individual and/or team.  You are a mad genius. I love you forever.

The company is called All Things Fabulous.  They don’t have an online store.  You can scrounge the internet for their cozies (Revolve and Nordstrom have some), or just call their store directly and place an order over the phone. That’s what I did (that sales clerk was heroically patient with me).  I found their Tyrannosaurus Rex sweatshirt online, and one where kittens are riding parrots (yes, that exists, I adore it), and after that the hunt was on.  I am now officially obsessed.

They’re not exactly cheap, but I don’t splurge often — and for a comfort-hermit-writer like me, it’s worth the extra cost to wear a sweatshirt that is covered in BUNNIES RIDING SHARKS.

AHHHHH!

(and Bambi with butterfly wings – AHHHHH!)

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Dirk & Steele

Some months ago, Victoria asked: “Have you stopped writing your Dirk & Steele novels? If not when will the next book be coming out?”

The Dirk & Steele novels, for those unfamiliar with them, are part of a paranormal romance series that I wrote from 2005 to 2011. There are eleven novels total, and they’re about shape-shifters, mermen, psychics, gargoyles, witches — solving crime, falling in love, finding acceptance.  All set in our modern, contemporary world.

I loved writing them. And I would love to say that I haven’t stopped writing them, but the truth is that the publisher wasn’t all that interested in continuing the series.  They wanted me to do something new.  Which was about to happen, back in 2011 or so, but then my life turned topsy-turvy, I quit writing novels for a couple years (burned out, exhausted), and in that intervening time I moved on to other things.

Every now and then I think, “yes, let me return — there are still characters I love, ideas that I never was able to explore,” but realistically, I don’t know if that will happen.  I’m working on a novel, but it’s very different from my other work, partially because I’m different. I’m not the same person I was five or six years ago.  My voice as a writer has changed.  Also, I’m swamped.  I’ve got four different projects I’m working on, all near and dear to my heart. There just isn’t space right now to go back.

Sometimes, as writers, we have to let go — even when there’s unfinished business.  Maybe one day I’ll find the head and heart-space to return to Dirk & Steele, but if I do, I suspect the series will look very different.

Oh, but for fans of the first novel, Tiger Eye, check out the video game that was made, based off the book.  Part 1 is Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box and Part 2 is Tiger Eye: The Sacrifice.  I know it sounds crazy, but I always forget these exist, so when I do remember I’m very proud of myself for recalling the obvious.

Oh, and years ago Kalman Andrasofszky (we worked together on NYX) created some amazing illustrations for a few of my novels.  Here’s the only one he did for the Dirk & Steele series; specifically, The Fire King.

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