#NaNoWinner2016 Finally

On the 23rd, I finally finished my ninth NaNo this year. That’s the longest it’s ever taken me, and more than twice as long as my previous longest (10 days). But I still finished.

And here’s why it took so long. I’ve already discussed the beginning of the month. Now, the end.

On November 17th, at about 2am, my father passed away in our home from complications of prostate cancer. He spent about four weeks in hospice care. As you might imagine, this impacted my ability to write. I needed two days to recover from just the loss of sleep that night.

2016 NaNoWriMo Wordcount Stats. Conveniently with a minimal number of numbers.

Thank goodness I don’t make productivity bar graphs all the time.

To finish NaNo, I had to set aside Spirit Knights 4 in favor of some short stories I plan to submit to various places. For some reason, a series of books about death are hard to work on right now. Go figure. My wordcount also sputtered after I crossed the magical 50k line, as it often does.

If you’re still reaching for the finish line, keep on truckin’. You have two more days. If you’re nowhere near finishing, keep on truckin’. You have the rest of your life. If you’re already finished, keep on truckin’. When one story ends, another begins.

For my Spirit Knights fans, I still anticipate releasing book 4 in time for Norwescon (mid-April). As far as I’m concerned, four months is plenty of time to write and release a book, and it’s half done already. And while you’re waiting, audiobooks for this series are a thing! Girls Can’t Be Knights released earlier this month, Backyard Dragons releases in early December, and Ethereal Entanglements is on schedule for an early January release. With luck, book 4 will release simultaneously with its audiobook.

For my The Greatest Sin fans, we’re expecting to get book 5 out by June. We’re also working on audiobooks for the first four, and hope to begin releasing those in 2017. We’ll probably catch up to release both print and audio at the same time with book 6. If you’ve read and loved them, please take a minute to leave a review.

For my Maze Beset fans, stay tuned for short story news! And if you want a fresh short story from me, regardless of the ‘verse it resides in, I’ve been published in a few anthologies this year: Into the Woods, Merely This and Nothing MoreUnnatural Dragons, and Artifact.

Weirdest #NaNoWriMo Ever #amwriting

For the first time since I started doing NaNo in 2008, it’s the middle of the month and I’m not up to 50k yet. Everyone tends to expect me to reliably churn out 50k in a week or less, because that’s what I always do. Except this year.

It started well. I slapped down 5k a day, which is less than my usual NaNo, but a healthy amount. Then came Jet City Comic Show on the first weekend. I hadn’t expected to write much during the show, and I didn’t. I did expect to be able to pick it back up and churn at my usual pace on Monday.

The end of Daylight Savings Time messed me up this year. I guess I’m getting old or something. Then the election invaded my brain no matter how hard I tried to shut it out. I’m still roiling on the inside about my dad. I’m now worried for my LGBT friends and family, my son has taken the election results quite poorly for a variety of reasons, and I’m concerned about the future for my daughter, who is autistic, needs extra supports, and will be transitioning out of school soon.

Reading about attacks on various marginalized/minority groups has been disheartening to say the least. Watching people try to incite riots has been distracting. I stood at the bus stop with my son and faced a dozen middle-schoolers who are terrified about the election results and had to tell them the world is not ending when I’m not so sure it’s true.

Perhaps this should be obvious at this point, but I did not support Trump. I don’t like vague ideas over concrete plans. I don’t like putting people down over raising them up. I don’t want to make America great again. My idea of the future doesn’t involve bringing back the past. Every mistake we make is a lesson to be learned, not a blueprint to be followed.

That said, if you supported Trump, you’re not my enemy. I’m a citizen and a patriot. I don’t hate people for disagreeing with me. I don’t hate people for having different ideas or beliefs. Hate is the path to the Dark Side, and however much I may joke about having cookies, I am, in truth, a member of Starfleet*. In the Federation, we strive to understand and accept everyone. Bring hate to my ship, though, and I will kick your ass out the airlock.

And now, I’m plunking away, just trying to finish Ghost Is the New Normal by the end of the month. I’m not in a bigger hurry because that won’t help anything. I’m taking time to do the things that make me happy. This week, instead of being all NaNo all the time like I normally am in November, I’ll go see Doctor Strange, watch the TV shows I like, get some extra exercise, and make a pumpkin cheesecake for my mom. I’m going to figure out where I’m donating for this holiday season too.

For all my fellow NaNoers, keep on keeping on. If you’re stuck, write about how this past week or so has made you feel. If it’s writing, it counts.

*Ha! Nerd yoink!

F*ck Cancer #amwriting #NaNoWriMo

Normally, I keep the personal stuff light and minimal, as my life tends to be boring and constant.

Today, I wish to talk about my dad. It has nothing to do with the election.

A little over a year ago, we got the Big C diagnosis for Dad. He was 78 then. In his time, he’s been a pilot, an Army rocket scientist, a NASCAR enthusiast, a Christmas tree farmer, a blueberry aficionado, and an amazing do-it-yourselfer for nearly anything. He’s been strong, capable, and an awesome dad.

Last spring, we found out the Big C we thought he’d beat had spread to his femur and pelvis. Little by little, bit by bit, we’ve watched him lose everything but his stubbornness and sense of humor. As I type this, he’s bed-ridden in the guest room of the house where I live with him, my mom, and my kids. He’s not expected to make it to Thanksgiving.

I only know some of his accomplishments because I helped my mom preemptively write his obituary. Which was a surreal experience. As I worked, I wanted to include jokes I knew he’d find funny, but resisted. It’s an obituary, dammit, and I’m not much of a humor writer. Even weirder was having my dad read it and say he liked it.

In the dead of the night, when everyone else is in bed, I wonder about other scenarios for how this could have gone. “What if…” the F/SF writer in me ponders. I can’t stop myself from doing it even if I wanted to. It’s how my brain works.

What if they’d noticed the cancer a year earlier? What if we’d lost him suddenly instead of this drawn-out struggle with nurses and transfusions and chemo and and and? What if we’d decided to move to where the folks already lived instead of dragging them to a new place? What if I’d made any one of fifteen different choices in my life that would have significantly altered my personal trajectory?

This isn’t about regrets. I don’t really regret any of those things, I just wonder. Like I wonder what would happen if an ancient order of knights hunted ghosts, or a secret IVF experiment unwittingly yielded superheroes. Same thing.

As a result of my dad’s unexpectedly worsening condition starting a couple of weeks ago, I won’t be attending EuCon or OryCon, both in Oregon. I was really looking forward to both, but that’s not a regret either, it’s just another thing. Before we moved to Olympia with the folks, I couldn’t afford babysitting to go to a day-long event, let alone a weekend convention. The freedom to do these conventions and events may have gone to my head a smidge and led me to oversubscribe this year.

And now, here I am, grieving in bits and pieces for what is inevitable but has not yet happened while trying to write a book about hope. About family. About love and pain, joy and disaster.

Dammit, Big C. You’re an unexpected, unwanted house guest that won’t leave and won’t shut up for five minutes to let us think or even breathe.

A few days ago, I encountered a problem and had the immediate thought, “Oh, Dad would know what to do.” Followed immediately by, “If he could get out of bed.” Pretty soon, it’ll be, “If he was still here.”

My Dad, 1937-2016 (probably).
He always knew what to do.

One Day More #NaNoWriMo

It’s Halloween. Around my house, this is also known as The Day Before NaNo. Tomorrow, I’ll grind out words. Today, I have to do all the things that come before grinding out the words.

My handy pre-NaNo checklist:

  • Cut all finger- and toenails. Consider painting them, then realize I only have glitter nail polish, which is super-distracting while typing.
  • Rewrite the outline that I just now realized is dumb.
  • Prep the document.
  • Tell my kids I’ll see them in a month.
  • Sign off Facebook. Alas, not forever.
  • Stare out the window for fifteen minutes so I remember what it looks like outside.
  • Tie off all other pending projects, either by completing or just finishing the current chapter, so I can focus on the three I’ll be working on for NaNo.
  • Wish I could take down the Halloween decorations today instead of taking up precious NaNo time to do that tomorrow.
  • Make sure I have a clear path between my beanbag and all of the following (may or may not intersect): my bed, the kitchen, and the bathroom. Front door is optional.
  • Remind my kids not to bother me unless the need is dire.
  • Have a conversation about the meaning of “dire.”
  • Feel smug that I’ve already voted. Mail-in balloting FTW.
  • Catch up on TV shows so I can’t procrastinate by watching them during the first week.
  • Finish the video game I’m in the middle of. Or at least get to a reasonable stopping point where I might have a chance to remember what to do when I load it up again in December.
  • Refresh my memory about basic stuff from Spirit Knights 1-3 so I don’t do anything really stupid while writing #4.
  • Stack on my desk a copy of every book I might write a sequel or related short story for. Add Plotto, my Writer Emergency Pack, and a small quantity of emergency snacks.
  • Realize I can’t stack anything on my desk until I clean it, so do that first, then pick up the stack I already made and relocate it to my desk.
  • Sneer in disgust at my Chicago Manual of Style, then stick it on a shelf where I can’t see it from my beanbag.
  • Wash my beanbag. It needs that once a year, right?
  • Prep one last make-ahead meal. Tip: cut your cheesecake into quarters and freeze each single-serving piece.
  • Panic.
  • Pretend to sleep.

#NaNoWriMo is Coming

Year number 9, here I come. Also? Win number 9. Because I will win again. It’s not in doubt. The doubt is over when and by how much.

This year, I have three complications to NaNo.

  1. I’m an ML. This isn’t much of a complication, since it really just means a little extra work in September and October. I did it last year and the only way it interfered was later in the month (after I already had my win) when people stopped showing up to the write-ins and I had to sit alone with my laptop in strange places instead of working from home. No biggie.
  2. I’m working 4 conventions between now and Thanksgiving. Renton City Comic Con is this weekend at the Renton Red Lion on S Grady Way. This is my second year doing Jet City Comic Show in Tacoma. After that is EuCon in Eugene, Oregon, followed by a return appearance at OryCon in Portland. That’s it for me for the rest of the year, but it’s a total of 9 days out of November when I won’t have time to write more than a handful of sentences. Plus the 3 Mondays following when I’ll be half-dead. 12 days is almost half the month. What idiot arranged that? (Me. It was me.)
  3. My home front situation is less than ideal. A little over two years ago, my kids and I moved in with my folks. Everything seemed great until health issues started to infringe. Now my dad is in hospice care. If you’re not familiar with the term, it means he’s not expected to be with us much longer. This is kind of a downer for creativity. It’s also eating time out of my day as things happen that need to be dealt with and I’m the one strong/skilled enough to do it.

Despite all that, I anticipate having the first draft of Spirit Knights 4: Ghost is the New Normal complete by the end of the month. If I’m lucky, I might have something else to go with it. We’ll see.

If you have no idea what NaNoWriMo is, go check it out!

2016 Sucks. Still.

I have work to do. My projects are many and my deadlines loom like a looming thing that looms loomingly. Or something like that.

Ever since that repulsive Trump video surfaced, I can’t stop watching political coverage. I wonder what mad thing will happen today, what disturbing new revelation will come up. And I don’t even care, because I’m not changing my vote at this point.

Fiction isn’t allowed to be this messed up. Fiction has to make sense and be believable. Protagonists and antagonists alike need to have clear motivations and goals or they aren’t relatable or understandable. Even when we blur the lines between good guy and bad guy, we still need to have some overarching plot that paints a context so there’s a story.

No wonder I can’t stop watching this stuff. It’s insane. We’re at the point now where we debate whether facts are facts or not. It’s not about massaging data to support a point anymore, something politicians have been doing since caveman days. It’s about claiming the data are generated by a conspiracy and not really factual.

Ugh.

I didn’t watch any of the previous three debates, and I’m not watching tonight’s either. The highlights have, thus far, been plenty to make me uncomfortable.

I think all the beloved artists dying this year somehow destabilized the Earth’s orbit or something. #startanewconspiracytheory

#Cyberpunk New Release: Introducing Darkside Seattle

I’m tired.

Between the start of a new school year, a bunch of conventions, finalizing a few projects, and driving a lot (still! again!), September has been quite a month. Here’s the cool thing I’ve been working on for a while without saying one effing word about it:

Ladies and gentlemen, meet my new cyberpunk novella series. Darkside Seattle is a character-driven series of origin stories depicting a grim, cybered future full of complex people who want to be good guys. Government surveillance is cranked up to 11, the rich are very rich, and the poor eat PROCESSED FOOD PRODUCT.

Hideo had everything–a beautiful wife and daughter, a penthouse suite, and a career as a highly skilled surgeon. Emphasis on “had”. Now he’s stuck where no one wants to be: Darkside Seattle. Crumbled buildings, broken roads, and failed lives litter his struggle to find a way out of this mess.

Now available on Amazon!

I plan for this series to have 8 novellas and at least 2 novels over the next few years. It has supplanted Chowndie, the book that may never be, in my priority list. I still hope it can come together, but I’ve accepted the fact it’s just not working. But this series is. With luck, I’ll have the second installment this winter, and both Spirit Knights book 4 and The Greatest Sin book 5 this spring.