And another thing…

In lieu of posting an entire review of Steven Pinker’s book “The Sense of Style” I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this work and wish I could thank him personally for this, from page 205: “There is nothing wrong with beginning a sentence with a coordinator.” So, with that, the defense rests.

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National Novel Writing Month

So. Nanowrimo. I spent a lot of time considering which idea I’d tackle this year. I’ve got a whole cache of ideas waiting: a post apocalyptic one, a werewolf one, a fantasy one, a steampunk version of ‘Puss in Boots’ that’s way cooler than it sounds (and, come on, it sounds pretty cool already). But this year, since I was already exploring mystery in a Gotham online class I decided to tackle a mystery. I’m simultaneously revising a time travel novel and, comparing the genres side by side, I can see all the pros and cons. Writing a modern-day mystery means having to get things right (things like how the legal system works), and you can’t just make that up. I enjoy research, but will admit, it can be a bit exhausting if you’re tackling a profession or a scenario that you don’t know much about. Of course, while you’re free to make up things like “how time travel works” it can be a real challenge making a made-up thing sound at all believable when, say, you know nothing about physics.

I’m bouncing back and forth between the two and wondering if I’ll end up loving contemporary crime fiction more than speculative fiction. Realistically, I imagine compromising and eventually writing sci-fi detective novels. That could be even more awesome than steampunk Puss in Boots.


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Mark Sheppard at Tree City Comic Con

Before the madness of Nanowrimo starts up, I wanted to say something about Mark Sheppard‘s appearance at Boise’s first-ever comic con. He was awesome. You can see a clip of him speaking at the event. The audio is a little hard to make out in spots (the venue’s acoustics were not great) but if you really listen you can catch some of what he’s saying. (I was just delighted to find a clip from that day.) Even without getting all the words, you can tell how sincere he is. What he’s saying, basically, is how cool fandom is. He starts by saying that he doesn’t trust anyone who’s not a fan of something, and goes on to say that finally fans’ loyalty is starting to pay off, at least a little. There were, naturally, people in the audience in costume, and he said how great it was to see people “wearing what they love.”

His enthusiasm and respect for his fans made me like him all the more. And I liked him plenty to start with, he’s been in some of my very favorite TV shows. As much as I enjoyed the fact that I was seeing the guy who was Badger in Firefly, and Lampkin in Battlestar, and Crowley in Supernatural, I was really, really impressed with his public speaking skills. He was engaging the entire time, he spoke clearly, he took questions with great aplomb, and he was perfectly at home addressing a crowd. It made me wish I could be half that effective when I speak. It also made me reconsider the value of participating on discussion panels at writing-related events. Because after hearing him talk, if Mark Sheppard had been selling a book, I would have been first in line to buy one.

(I wanted to add thanks and credit to Natasha Stephenson, whom I do not know, but whose video I’ve shared here. You can find more clips she recorded from the convention here.)

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Gotham (class, not city)

This fall I’m taking a mystery writing class from Gotham Online – one of my favorite places to get writing instruction. I used to think that a college education, combined with a few how-to books on any given genre, should be enough to get me started in any writing venture. And there’s nothing wrong with thinking that (because it’s probably correct) but it doesn’t account for time or discipline. The schedule and participation of a class not only keeps me focused on learning a new set of skills, but it also cuts out some of the trial and error that’s involved the learning.

There’s also the networking that goes on and critiques and individualized instruction, none of which come from a how-to book. I’ve taken sci-fi writing from Gotham in the past, but mystery is a new adventure. (It’s also one of my favorite genres to read.) So, here’s to learning new things! Hopefully I’ll soon be adding to my genre repertoire.

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Disappointment and I are such old friends that I no longer have any qualms about letting myself down. While this is a fabulous approach for self-acceptance it’s not so great for getting things done. So, when a friend recently proposed holding my writing efforts to her standards, I was horrified. After discussing what would amount to a part-time job’s worth of hours-per-week, I promised to email her every day and report in on how much writing I’d done. I was really, really worried I’d acquit myself poorly. That was a month ago. So far it’s been a whole new writing experience. Chores, errands, and diversions of every sort used to preempt my writing because I could just write later. Now, the idea of telling someone else “I decided to rearrange my sock drawer in lieu of pursuing my dreams” makes me cringe.

I’m a little embarrassed at how much writing I wasn’t doing before. But it just goes to show how much it can help to shake things up. Now, when I find I can’t sit at the computer for one minute more, I take a notebook to the kitchen and write longhand, standing at the counter. (A little of that goes a long way, in case anyone’s wondering.) My writing my not have improved (yet) but I’m certainly doing a lot more of it.

Stay tuned. Next up, a new writing class through GothamĀ andĀ Nanowrimo.

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