Apr 23

Still Alive & Kicking

Posted: under Life beyond writing, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  April 23rd, 2016

March and most of April were eaten up by illness, aftermath of illness, another illness, and attempting to get the rewrites done on Cold Welcome and catch up on things left undone while sick.   Including church music.   I am well again (fingers crossed) though far, far behind in physical fitness, housekeeping, and progress on the book after Cold Welcome.    Energy level is slowly coming back.  The rewrite has been delivered to Editor (April 15), and her remaining comments, if any, will be dealt with in the copy edits.

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Mar 04

Whirlwinds

Posted: under Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  March 4th, 2016

(Mirrored from Universes blog)

Working on the rewrite of Cold Welcome.  On Monday, I sent Editor the latest draft of the new ending, and in light of Editor’s comments worked on it some more, then started in on front-to-back run (actually crawl!) through combining her original letter, the marked up manuscript line edits,  and the changes that would be required by the new ending.   This also involved having two versions of the first chapters on the monitor at once, the letter, a stack of reference printouts, and the marked ms beside me on the desk. Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb 23

Tuesday Toolkit for Writers

Posted: under Uncategorized.
 February 23rd, 2016

Every person has a toolkit, a set of skills (physical, mental, emotional) that they use to navigate their life.   When you learn something–anything–it becomes part of that toolkit, and the more tools you have, the more of life’s challenges you can handle with less strain than the person without those skills, that knowledge, that attitude.

It’s easy to imagine what tools you need for “basic getting along” when you look at small children who don’t have them yet, and how we help children develop: they need to be able to communicate with others, manage their own bodies and their own emotions, complete the “activities of daily living” (dressing and undressing, keeping themselves clean, feeding themselves, etc.)   I have a book, written maybe 25 years ago, that lays out in detail the skills those authors thought a disabled child had to learn before he or she could live independently.  I was a grown woman who’d been living independently for decades and I hadn’t mastered all those skills!   (I call a plumber or electrician to do some of the things that book mentioned.)

But what about writers?  What is–or should be–in a writer’s toolkit?  What skills, in and out of writing, does a writer have to have,  what’s nice-to-have but not that necessary and what are the specialized tools that are only needed rarely, or by some specialists?   On some Tuesdays I’ll be writing about the writer’s toolkit, and today’s tool is…

Curiosity.  Whether writing nonfiction or fiction or plays or poetry, a writer needs a good stout lump of curiosity.  Trained curiosity.  Focused curiosity.   Curiosity about words (what’s the word for that thing on the end of a fabric shoelace?   What did nice mean before it meant what it means now?), about language as a whole, about, well, everything.   People–what they do, how they do it, and why they do it.    Machines–how they work and how they fail.   Plants, animals, soils, rocks, landforms, weather.

Curiosity keeps new information flowing toward the writer, and that fills the well of imagination, where it can combine with older sensory impressions, facts, opinions, ideas and provide the meat that clothes the bones of a story.   Curiosity makes the research fun, rather than a burden.   The person without curiosity has little motivation to learn, to do any research, to pay attention to other people, to the sights and sounds and smells and flavors of a location.   And that makes for very shallow, very dull writing.

Writers with a high Curiosity Quotient never run out of ideas because they never run out of questions.    “I wonder…” is a thought that should be in every writer’s head at least once a day.  “I wonder why that guy just slammed his mug down and left the coffee shop.   Angry?  Scared?  Just remembered something important?”   “I wonder what’s under this street?”   “I wonder what exactly happens when a goose is sucked into a jet engine–what breaks first?”

Curiosity bothers some people.  It bothers parents when their kids ask embarrassing or inconvenient questions.  It bothers many teachers when a student asks a question that’s off-topic or unexpected, not in the book.  “Don’t look–don’t touch–don’t ask–” is thrown at a lot of kids (at me, too)  and so as adults many people have trained themselves not to let their curiosity out of a box.

But to be a writer, you need curiosity, the kind that leads you to read more, explore more, listen more, look more, smell more, taste more.   A writer’s curiosity is broad, not confined to one topic or one field of knowledge.   Encourage your own curiosity (exercise it if it’s weak!)  It’s OK  to spend a week or a month or a year following a new rabbit trail down the hole and through the whole burrow.   Next week or month, something else will grab your interest.  That’s fine.  Even if you’re working a full-time day job, raising children, and short of money…there are ways to keep your curiosity busy and your imagination’s well filling.

When I was much younger, and of a lower economic status than most other students, I was asked why I wanted to study physics (that being unusual for a female in those days) and answered that I was very curious.  Some wag in the group sneered “I can see that!” and everyone laughed.   (I didn’t yet know that retorting “Fourth term fallacy” might have turned the joke back on the sneerer.)   I did learn that admitting have wide-ranging curiosity–just wanting to learn–wasn’t acceptable for girls like me, but the habit was formed.  I didn’t quit being curious; I did quit talking about it.

I have no idea what that person is doing now, but I can say that being curious–wanting to learn, to understand what I learn, to stretch my mind and stuff more into it–has been a great strategy for me in more than writing.

(mirrored on Universes blog)

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Feb 23

Sheep, Wool, Paksworld

Posted: under Background.
Tags: ,  February 23rd, 2016

http://www.hakaimagazine.com/article-long/no-wool-no-vikings

This article, found today on Twitter via a friend’s tweet, is a terrific resource for anyone interested in how wool was used–and the kind of sheep that could be raised in a subarctic environment.  The method of collecting the wool from these sheep is the same used worldwide for collecting an animal fiber from animals that shed annually (it’s used for quiviut, the underfur of musk oxen, and a century or so ago for the undercoat of sheep on the western most Hebrides island, St. Kilda.

I know the Vikings were supposed to have used wool sails, but it kept sounding improbable until I read this article, which describes how the sails were sealed, and how someone has, in this century, replicated the process and produced useful sails.  But wow, the Vikings would not have had any time to watch TV or surf the internet.

I imagined the Seafolk in Paksworld as similar to the Vikings (what I knew of them then)  so the Pargunese would also have had a lot of sheep.

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Feb 19

C.J. Cherryh: Grandmaster

Posted: under writers to read.
Tags:  February 19th, 2016

If you haven’t read any of C.J. Cherryh’s incredibly intelligent, complex, thought-provoking, entertaining science fiction or fantasy,   perhaps you don’t know how deserved this announcement is, and why some of us met it today with “About time!”   Cherryh has published somewhere the far side of 60 novels and many, many shorter works (though I think her novel series–very long arc stories–are her real metier, since they give her the space she needs to tell the kinds of stories she does.)  Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb 19

Will This Work For You?

Posted: under the writing life.
Tags:  February 19th, 2016

I’d been planning to mirror some of the Universes posts over here, when they were of general interest (or what I conceive as general interest)  but someone mentioned they’d hate to go to the next place and find the same thing.

How about this:  any post that I mirror somewhere else will be labeled on both sides of the mirror:  “Mirrored at [whichever].”    Then wherever you hit it first, you’ll know where else it is and not to bother.   Would that solve the problem?  You’d miss any site-specific conversation, but you wouldn’t be bored by seeing something in two places.

To demonstrate how that would work, I will mirror the post about C.J. Cherryh being named to the SFWA Grandmaster list over here, with its notice, and add the notice at the other end as well.  Or rather, I’ll do that after I eat something.  (Sorry–gluttony before work, at this time of day.)   And maybe someone will have said NO, PLEASE NO or something to convince me it’s a bad idea.

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Feb 17

And the New Stuff

Posted: under the writing life, Website Notice.
Tags:  February 17th, 2016

OK…time to check out Universes, the new website section and blog dedicated to my science fiction writing.  They’re subsidiaries off my main blog (for several reasons):

http://www.elizabethmoon.com/universes/

http://elizabethmoon.com/blog/

The blog design, presently based on the same (older)  WordPress theme as this and the other blogs, is giving us some difficulty, and we may switch to a newer theme.   I like the simplicity of the older one, but sometimes needs must.  Though that suggests that maybe the other three will have to switch soon, too.

 

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Feb 11

Still Not Quite There Yet

Posted: under the writing life.
Tags:  February 11th, 2016

I had hoped to have the new site & blog up by the end of last year.  Then by the end of January.  Then by the first week in February.

Various things have intervened–and you don’t need to know all the details–but I’m still sick and still haven’t gotten the site up and open for comment.   It’s all done but turning on the lights and ripping the “under construction” sign off the front, pretty much, but the remaining bit is being sticky.

Don’t have Editor’s letter yet, either, though my agent tells me it’ll be here very soon.   Meanwhile writing on the new new book is going very slowly, as I have to know what changes Editor wants in Cold Welcome before going forward into #2.

Rest assured, you will be the first to know when the *shiny* appears.

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Dec 31

Happy New Year

Posted: under Cold Welcome, Life beyond writing, snippet.
Tags: ,  December 31st, 2015

Though it’s tempting, in the current state of the world, to follow that up immediately with “As if…” actually I do always hope that tomorrow, next week, next month, and a New Year will see changes for the better.   And sometimes it happens.  Sometimes there’s a breakthrough, not only in science or technology, but in the hearts of individuals…and then those individuals’ internal breakthroughs propagate through those near them.  Not always, but sometimes.

What I hope for all of you reading this, in the coming year, are those inner changes that bring you closer to the person you were meant to be: a person with agency, a person with dreams and goals so exciting that you break through whatever has held you back (if anything has; some of you are full steam ahead already.)   I hope for all of you an environment that enables your growth.  Friends that care for you, and you for them.  Health, physical and mental, and health care for those times when health needs help.   Mentors, and mentees (if that’s the word): people who help you expand your lives and people who need your help to expand theirs.  Beauty, whatever beauty is to you–a view, a particular mug, a flower, a color that lifts your heart whenever you see it–indoors, outdoors, everywhere.   Enough of what you need, whatever that is.   More than enough, of love.

I am grateful for you, for others, for the natural world, for the cultures that lie behind us.  This world, this–as one of our prayers says–“our fragile island home.”

Let 2016 begin on the stroke of midnight in whatever time zone you’re in…but a new year begins every day.   May it be a good year for you. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dec 23

New Website & Blog Announcement

Posted: under Life beyond writing, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  December 23rd, 2015

It’s not here yet, because my web designer is over in London having Christmas with her family (her son married an Australian living in London–they got married in Denmark and are now living in London.)   And she’s retiring in March (this is Not Fair: she’s younger than I am and I’m not retiring yet!!)   But there will be a new website and blog specifically for the SF side of my writing.   You are the first outside the business to know (my Editor thought this was a great idea, as some of my SF fans are adamant about not sticking a toe into the Fantasy area, lest they be sucked into the swamp)  but never fear–if you’d rather hang out here,  I plan to mirror some of the content there over here (possibly not some of the straight science links I’m planning to include–your opinion on that is welcome.)   And this area will not go away.   There will be more short fiction coming out if things go as planned, and perhaps more long stuff later.

That  blog will be called “Universes” and, like this one, embedded in its site.  In this case, that site will be encapsulated in my main site, thanks to the ingenuity and cooperation of the site host and my web designer.  The Vatta books will be one “universe.”

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