It’s strange, chatting to the people in various spheres of my life. The verdict on 2013 seemed mostly unanimous: it was a year that knocked a lot of people flat. Sure, there were good moments, but the consensus generally seems to be cautious optimism to embrace the New Year.
I don’t usually do resolutions…but there are a few things to which I’m looking forward, and which I’d like to accomplish this year.
The Book Formerly Known as Strix
This. Book. Oh my God. This book. My frustrations with Strix are infamous. For whatever reason, this book kept kicking my knees in all through 2013. Fortunately, Gabrielle is a wonderful, patient editor who helped me morph it into a new book (albeit one with the same premise).
So far as I’m concerned, Strix is dead. Not every book lives, which is a terrible, hard thing to learn. But! But but but! I’m incredibly excited by this new book. Since there is no longer a strix in it (the adage “murder your darlings” became my personal mantra, chanted as I huddled in the corner of my darkened room), I can’t call it that anymore.
When it comes out depends on how fast I write. Possibly spring 2014? Whether I podcast it depends on too many factors to guess right now.
Victorian Dark Fantasies
I had so much fun writing the VDF. I think it’s a solid book and this year, my goal is to shop it around. We’ll see what happens. And since I realized halfway through that it’s not necessarily a standalone novel, a sequel may be in the cards.
After all, I’d love to send my dynamic duo south. There are more politics and history to explore there, and for one character, that lovely northern accent may start becoming a slight problem….
Back to School
When I graduated last June, I declared that I was taking a break from academia.
Then Stonecoast emailed.
And so in ten short days, I’ll be boarding a plane to Portland, ME, for my first Stonecoast residency. Doing my MFA there definitely falls into the “If You Told Me This Two Years Ago, I Would Have Laughed At You” file. I’m astonished and nervous and ridiculously excited and slightly sick to my stomach all at once.
My goals: learn stuff, write better, keep on top of everything.
God, I miss podcasting. I’m making more time for it in 2014. Mostly, things are in the “Seekrit Projikt,” “vague planning and idea-bouncing” stage, but expect more Canadian accents in your headphones this year.
Friends and Family and Such
At the end of my last grief counselling session, the therapist said, “Well! It sounds like you have some really good people around you.”
“Yes,” I answered, without missing a beat. “I do.”
2013 found me leaning on my friends far more than I’d usually be comfortable with. But they were there. You know who are you are, and I thank you with all my heart.
But being a functional human being and paying some of that kindness back/forward is a major life goal for me this year. For the first time since my dad died, I feel on an even keel. I feel capable of being a good friend and actually contributing to my various relationships again.
My metaphor for 2013 is thus. Imagine coming home and seeing a wrecking ball and gaping muddy pit where your house used to be. You’re shocked and devastated, and can’t conceive how this could happen. As you sort through the ruins, you realize that some things are too broken to save. Others are way stronger than you ever imagined.
Eventually, you clear out most of the wreckage. Then you find someone strengthened your existing foundations and installed some new ones, too. While the loss is heartbreaking, you can build something entirely new and utterly wonderful on top of it.
May 2014 be a year of building. All of my best, to all of you.
Dragon Con felt subdued this year. Not that it was small; I swear there are more people every time, and this year I actually needed 30 minutes to travel between panels. Nevertheless, a lot of faces were missing. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun, but it was a different convention than last year’s.
Now, the fun stuff: what did I do for three days? (Yep, I skipped out early Monday morning; Tuesdays at cons are too depressing for me.)
I chatted with editor Gabrielle Harbowy about Strix and saw a very early mock-up for a potential cover (spoiler: I love it…which means I should possibly get this darn thing finished). I wandered the dealers’ room and finally met Thomas and Sarah of Brute Force Studios. I went to some panels and readings, where I met Suzanne Church and caught up with Rob Sawyer. I wrote. In a happy twist of fate, I discovered that the Hyatt was screening a 24h/day Doctor Who marathon all weekend long, which gave me a place to retreat when I needed to recover but still wanted to feel like I was participating in the convention.
Several of my friends had exciting things happen: Mur Lafferty won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (i.e. the Hugo that is not a Hugo). I can’t think of anyone more deserving, and I’m absolutely thrilled for her. Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris picked up another Parsec for Tales from the Archives. Again: so very proud.
Also, Sylvester McCoy, better known as the seventh Doctor, presented at the Parsecs. He pwned the ceremony. He needs to get his own podcast which I will then listen to obsessively, because he was brilliant…though I’m sensing a trend towards very short acceptance speeches next year!
And that was about it, really. The post-con haze is settling upon me, and I’m very cognizant of the fact that I now have to work for eight days straight while juggling three different writing projects and starting Strix-the-Podcast.
So, you know, a typical month coming up. 😉
I’m in an anthology entitled “When the Hero Comes Home 2,” the second volume of the acclaimed “When the Hero Comes Home.” The Hero anthologies (along with “When the Villain Comes Home”) are about what happens after “ever after.” When the journey is over, the battle done, and the hero returns in victory or defeat…well, then what? Can you really come home again?
This theme is close to my heart; I got my invitation to submit only a few months after returning from New Zealand. So basically, the conversation went like this:
Gabrielle: Hey, Katie, do you write short fiction?
Me: Um…I could.
Gabrielle: You know you’re getting an invitation to Hero 2, right?
Me: I do now. (thinking) So, I totally just came home from a long adventure to the other side of the world….
I don’t usually gravitate towards writing short stories. But it’s something I’m trying to do more of, so I was really grateful for the opportunity to write something for Hero 2, especially because the theme was so meaningful to me. In the end, I’m quite pleased with the way my story (“After the Winds”) turned out. Things change while you’re away from home: not just for you, but for the people you left behind. How do you deal with the fact that you’ve all become different people who have grown in different ways, at different rates?
(And my usual rule applies: I’ll shamelessly borrow places (oh hai, NZ!), but nothing else.)
The coolest thing about Hero 2? All the other authors in there. There’s some serious talent here – I work with really cool people. 🙂
So where can you get this wonderful book? Well, it’ll be off the printer and on Amazon very shortly. In the meantime, the ebook version is available early…at a discount!
There’s also a Goodreads page!
And more excitement! Dragon Con is this upcoming weekend, and I will be there, despite the fact that my con preparation looks like this:
Oh, yeah, Dragon Con…mmm, that’ll be fun…
Hey, what day is my flight?
What TIME is my flight?
Lalalala, writing away on a new book…
…I guess I should edit Strix more, because I’ll see Gabrielle soon…
…at DRAGON CON! When is that, again?
I guess I should pack soon.
Where am I staying again?
Oh yeah. Ok. I know where that is.
Don’t I have a confirmation number or something? Hey, when do I need to be at the airport?
What’s my name? Who am I?
If you’re around, come say hi. I’ll have a few copies of Hapax on hand to sell in back alleys. I suspect I’ll be mostly lurking by the podcasting and alternate history tracks (not on any panels, but always looking to learn things!).
See you soon!
By the way, I’m twenty-two. It occurs to me that I never did a birthday post. Mostly because…reasons. I don’t know—I was busy with Strix or something.
Speaking of Strix, the manuscript came back to me. Then I fiddled around with it some more, and tossed it back over the wall to my editor. Scripts are off to the actors for Strix-the-Podcast (you knew that was coming, right?). I’ve begun recording my narration and amassing a collection of music and sound effects. I’ve nearly hit ~10,000 words on The Victorian Dark Fantasy. The Secret Kids’ Opera Project got the thumbs-up from the artistic director and the music makes me squee. When The Hero Comes Home Volume II (I’ve got a story in there) comes out soon. I write for two blogs. There are various other projects at the “Hey, KT, wanna do X for me?” stage of things. Also, I have a dayjob, and it is an awesome dayjob.
Somehow, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m not doing enough.
Looking at the preceding paragraph, I realize the absurdity of that statement. That’s partly why I wrote everything out. Nevertheless, it’s a very real feeling. There is this nagging sense that I should be doing more. I should have The Victorian Dark Fantasy written already! I should have another podcast! I should blog more! I should be freelancing and writing more short stories!
Part of me says, “Heck yes. I’m young. I can still survive on willpower, day-old pizza, and caffeine. If I’m going to be doing all of this, now is the time to do it.”
The other part of me says, “You know, there might be a reason you’re perpetually ill…”
Burnout is a problem for creative types. And as my long-suffering family can attest, it’s always been a particular problem for me. Not that it’s a problem that I really know how to solve, because the answer I come up with always seems to be, “Do more work!” It’s like running laps in July to forget about thirst.
Of course, it’s also really fun. That’s the trap. The more we enjoy things, the harder it can be to draw the distinction between work and play. At which point, forget about rest. Of course, this backfires eventually….
I suspect it’s also linked to Imposter Syndrome, which is hugely prevalent among writers, actors, artists, musicians, academics, and so forth. If you’re scared that someone’s going to point out what a fraud you are, it makes sense to be trying to churn out as much work as possible. Either something will be good enough that you no longer feel like a fake, or at the very least, everyone will be too distracted to realize your fraudulence.
This isn’t a terribly effective tack, either. It’s hard to create when you’ve tapped the well dry. Really, it comes back to balance. It isn’t all “on” or “off,” “black” or “white,” “all” or “nothing.” It’s quite possible to work hard without working yourself to exhaustion. I realize the irony of me saying this…and I also realize that I’m going to be struggling with this one for a while. But better struggling with it than blithely unaware, eh?
Conventions always slip my mind. I book the hotel room, the plane tickets, and listen to the pre-con buzz, but it never dawns on me that I’m actually going until…oh, the night before. Then, it’s a mad scramble to pack and organize books, and it still feels unreal until the moment I pick up my badge.
That’s how Balticon feels right now.
I have my schedule. Apparently, my past self was very crafty and booked my flight and hotel a while ago. I even have plans to meet up with a few people.
It still doesn’t feel like I’m actually going.
Nor has it really sunk in that I’m going as a guest. I’ve termed this feeling “Cinderella Syndrome.” Every so often, I look at my Facebook wall and think, “Oh, wow. How has this become normal?” Answering that would be another post in itself…and may or may not crop up on a few panels next weekend.
Speaking of panels, here are the ones I have confirmed:
4:00 pm – Meeting Other Podcasters
5:00 pm – Professionalism and the Emergent Writer
2:00 pm – Writing Real Children
11:00 am – Autograph Session (and reunion with Tim Dodge! Woot!)
12:00 pm – Professionalism and the Young Writer
1:00 pm – Reading
8:00 pm –From Page to Pod
10:00 am – Introvert’s Guide to Social Media
So…basically, I don’t intend to sleep this weekend. At all. If you’re around the con, come say hi! I like people. 🙂
Writing may also be a bit iffy. I’m just over 1/3 of the way through the Massive Strix Rewrite. If I keep to this 2000 words/day pace, I should be finished in just under a month (hopefully I can cannibalize more words from the original draft near the end, but I’m not holding my breath).
We’ll see. The dayjob, while awesome, is also very physically tiring…but I’m incredibly anxious/eager/excited to get this thing out to Gabrielle and my cast.
Next week: The Balticon Round-Up!
For a number of years, I Should Be Writing has been both one of my staple podcasts and an inspirational mantra. Personally, I’ve found it useful in re-directing my focus. Facebook’s hold is a lot easier to break when you can exclaim out loud, “Wait a second—I should be writing!”
It’s a principle we hear a lot. Writing every day keeps you writing, every day. A writer is someone who writes. Write or die. Don’t break the chain. The first rule is write. BIC: Bottom In Chair.
Again, all good ideas. If you’re spending your time on the Internet, TV, and random chores that really could wait a few hours, and getting a few hundred words every few days, your chances of finishing that story/novel/script are about nil.
However, this write-at-all-costs mindset overlooks the fact that sometimes, you really shouldn’t be writing.
I learned this the hard way. Looking back through the archives, I realize that I have been blogging about Strix/The Next One for far too long. This book has taken me too long. Partly, this is because I couldn’t find the way into the story. Partly, I realize in hindsight, I was writing when I shouldn’t have been.
Let’s rewind. Exactly one year ago, I was in New Zealand, starting Strix. I was experiencing culture shock. I was homesick. I was adapting to a new university. I was in a somewhat-difficult living situation. Then I was backpacking, never in one place for more than three days, writing in noisy hostels after being outside from sunrise to sunset.
The book I wrote was not very good.
When you look at how it was written, that’s perhaps not terribly surprising. Of course, I don’t want to pin all of Strix’s problems on the circumstances—realistically, I just didn’t do a very good job—but they certainly didn’t help.
While I was editing Strix, a lot of family stuff was happening. At one point, I was overwhelmed enough to stumble into a priest’s office.
A week after that, my dad died unexpectedly.
And yet, I still tried to edit the damn thing. I gave myself an extra month, ignored everyone telling me to take it slow, and churned out a first pass before fleeing to Virginia for a few days.
My first real, slow sinking feeling occurred when I realized I’d forgotten to include chapter twelve…and my first readers hadn’t noticed.
I sent Gabrielle an apology, and worked feverishly on a new first pass. A few weeks later, I got this DM: “I finished Strix. Can we chat?”
End result? I’m all but starting from scratch. And yes, Gabrielle was absolutely right (I cannot stress enough just how fortunate I am to work with her). It will be a much better book this way, and where before Strix felt like an obligation, now I’m actually excited to write it. And yes, she not only gave me permission to share this, she suggested it.
Hindsight is a powerful tool. Again, I take responsibility for Strix’s problems; I chose to keep writing in the face of advice to the contrary. However, it’s possible that if I had waited, I might not have found myself in the current situation.
Sometimes, it seems like we think we can push through anything, write through anything. After all, suffering feeds art, right? We can write through pain, turn it into grist for the mill, and ignore all stress and exhaustion in the name of our art.
There’s a guilt that builds up around not-writing. It can be blessing and curse: it keeps you writing, but sometimes it creates anxiety over “not being a writer” where there really isn’t cause for it. As regards to turning hardship into story…yes, this can be done. Writing is cheaper than therapy. However, there is a caveat. One of the best pieces of advice that I received (which I nodded at, agreed with, and then promptly didn’t act on) came from my ever-wise friend Blythe:
“You shouldn’t use things until you’ve dealt with them.”
Homesickness in Dunedin and grief in Toronto. Both colour Strix—neither did so in terribly effective ways. Mentally, psychologically, spiritually, I wasn’t ready. And that’s ok. If you are not ready, if you are not able, it is ok not to write. In fact, you probably shouldn’t be writing. It is easy to think in absolutes and hold writing above all else, but it can be damaging, and that hurts the quality of your work.
If you are in great physical or emotional pain, you may not write well.
If you are undergoing major life changes, you may not write well.
If your environment lacks stability, you may not write well.
If you have other major upheavals happening—work, family, whatever—that must be dealt with and require a great deal of energy, you may not write well.
Really, it’s ok. It’s natural, it’s human. But it’s worth recognizing. Know your limits, and know that waiting in the short term may save you lots of work in the long run. Sometimes, admitting, “I can’t” is braver than saying, “I’ll try.”
I’m still not functioning at 100%, but I know that I am functioning well enough, and that my current circumstances are peaceful and stable enough, to try Strix again. For reals, this time.
Best wishes to all of you on your own journeys—and remember to rest, if you need to.
It’s hard writing blog posts after cons. Mostly because the whirlwind of sight, sound, emotion, and experience defies compression into words. This is especially true of WFC2012, given that it was my first con as an author with a book actually out. Nevertheless, I shall try to recapture the weekend…not necessarily in any coherent way (indeed, I am indebted to Chuck Wendig’s portrayal of World Con).
- My dad and I haul books inside. No idea where to pick up badges, where the dealer room is, anything. But, look, it’s Gabrielle! I found my editor – I’ll be ok!
- Have a badge, but still stopped by organizers as I run in and out of the dealer room. “Dealer room’s not open yet.” “It’s ok, I’m with Dragon Moon.”
- Oh hey, Dragon Moon authors are awesome! Here’s looking at you, Leah Petersen, Clint Talbert, Marie Bilodeau, Erik Buchanan. Ed Greenwood is cool too.
- Erik Buchanan lives two blocks from me! Huzzah for carpooling!
- Service at the Fox and Fiddle is slow. Hungry…
- Back in Leah/Gabrielle’s room. Ed is smart. Ridiculously smart. I bask in his wisdom.
- Refining Hapax’s elevator pitch. Dealer room is slow, but we have candy.
- Leah fights gravity by falling off a stage. Her ankle is blue and swollen. Gravity: 1. Leah: 0.
- Selling books is like interpreting at Black Creek. After enough exposure, I learn the spiels for other people’s books. People wander by looking confused. Their confusion confuses me. Books are sold! And signed! Huzzah!
- Madeline Ashby is reading! She lived in the apartment under me for six months!
- Robert J. Sawyer is reading! But I have to leave early…
- Watch out – Marie Bilodeau might “bitch-slap” you (grinning all the while).
- Spicy Thai food. Much Twittering. Absolutely exhausted.
- Leah’s ankle is still swollen. We still have candy.
- Con organizer Peter Halasz is a very, very nice man. He tells me not to be nervous.
- Finally make it up to the Con-Suite. Into what magical land have I stumbled? People lounge on chairs (or the floor), eating free food and drinking free pop. There are nachos! And cookies! And best of all – root beer.
- Hey, it’s J.M. Frey – we’ve talked online, but it’s awesome to meet her in real life. Especially as she organized tonight’s shindig.
- Clint lends me his room for an hour. I practice my readings for tonight’s launch party, realize I’m practicing readings for a launch party in a hotel room at World Fantasy Con, and feel slightly rattled.
- Haul books over to pub. Set books up. Try to eat pizza. Fail to finish pizza. DMP authors are lovely and kind and supportive and I feel all warm and fuzzy
- OMG WHAT? PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY COMING TO THIS THING?!
- My roommate arrives with my rescued necklace, and proceeds to chat with writers, con-goers, etc., like a pro.
- Tony Pi is cool. He works at U of T. My friend Cat was his work-study student. The world is so small.
- OMG THERE ARE LOTS OF PEOPLE HERE NOW.
- Reading the scene wherein Serafine explains to young Praeton exactly what a Hapax is. Missing my cast like crazy, but imitating Syd and Blythe as best I can.
- OMG PEOPLE ARE BUYING MY BOOKS AND I’M SIGNING THEM.
- My grandmother reads the dedication and chokes up. I choke up watching her choke up. Gabrielle chokes up watching us both choke up.
- Go home with grandparents and roomie. Sit up for a while chatting and reading When the Hero Comes Home.
- Late start. Slow dealer room.
- Tweet from John Mierau – “you still at WFC this morning?” John Mierau? Author, podcaster, all-around good guy? Trying to figure out how John Mierau knows me.
- Selling books, following tweets on World Fantasy awards.
- Hey, it’s John Mierau! We know the same people! He reads my Twitter feed and has heard my promo! I’m stunned. “Can I bend your ear and steal your soul for ten minutes?” “Ok!”
- Chat with John Mierau!
- More books. Goodbye, Clint. Goodbye, Ed. Pack up table. Chat with folks at Bakka Phoenix bookstore. Return to Gabrielle/Leah’s room to divvy up money and have champagne and chocolate.
- Go home and die on the couch.
And the best part? Next Sunday, I get to launch Hapax all over again!