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My Best Writing Advice Part 2: The Three Keys to a Professional Routine

My Best Writing Advice Part 2: The Three Keys to a Professional Routine

Last week I drew out a very long analogy to demonstrate why having a professional writing routine before publication is, in my opinion, one of the most important skills you can develop as an unpublished author. I claimed that, “Having a predictable, productive, and sustainable approach to your writing is just as important as writing well.”

Now, if I’m going to claim that predictability, productivity and sustainability are the three keys of professional writing, I should probably define what I mean by those terms.

Key 1. PREDICTABILITY
I work analogous to a lot of women who, on top of writing, carry the majority of the domestic duties in their home, such as parenting, childcare, cooking meals, keeping house, and supporting their other family members’ careers, hobbies, educations, interests and pursuits. Some of them also have their own full-time or part-time jobs on top of those responsibilities. Because these responsibilities are constant, pressing, and relatively important, it’s easy for writing to get put at the bottom of the stack. When writing time becomes contingent upon these unpredictable factors, it becomes unpredictable itself. There’s no way of knowing when the next writing session will come, how long it will be, or whether or not that time will be interrupted.

Predictable writing time comes from prioritized writing time. I know that’s a tall order. We all come from different families and situations. But remember, I’m comparing the development of a professional writing method to the development of a professional manuscript. It’s okay if it takes just as long to evolve.

Personally, I’ve found my most useful method of predictability is writing at the same time every day. Last year I had to break my writing time into three blocks throughout the day. Other options might include having a designated writing day of the week, a few days every month, or otherwise basing your writing time off of something you know you can count on. Think of it this way: it’s better to make your writing time rely on the position of the sun rather than everything under it. 

Key 2. PRODUCTIVITY
Blocking off time to write is the first step, but actually writing within that predictable period is just as important. Some authors create a quota for themselves, whether its hourly, weekly, or monthly. Some use websites and applications like Write or Die, a terrifying, seat-of-your-pants application that “punishes” you when you don’t write fast enough, or Written Kitten, a much pleasanter website that shows you pictures of kittens as you meet certain benchmarks. Googling “productivity methods for writers” will provide you with plenty of fun and effective ideas. My personal productivity method is a combination of a 600-word daily quota, using the Self Control application, and Victoria Schwab’s “calendar trick” or “sticker method.”

Finding the productivity method that’s right for you can be just as challenging as honing in on a predictable writing time. Be patient with yourself and experiment with different techniques.

Key 3. SUSTAINABILITY
Once you’ve found a predictable, productive writing routine, it’s time to focus on making sure it stays balanced with the rest of your life, and is something that you can maintain over long periods of time. Methods that work during NaNoWriMo, for instance, might wreck your life if you try to apply them every other month of the year. What is more, your definition of sustainability may change — like when your baby who took a nap for two hours every day becomes a toddler who doesn’t like naps at all — in which case, your ability to adapt may become the secret to sustainability. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, learning when to be flexible and when to make exceptions, is a key component to consistency. Rigidity and austerity may carry you for a time, but their uphill-nature is doomed to burnout. Sustainability means working to balance your predictability and productivity, while also nurturing your inner and outer life. Find a method that feeds your soul.

For me, the trick to creating a sustainable writing practice has been not only making my writing predictable and productive, but making my domestic life predictable and productive as well. When I have a time designated to make dinner, for instance, I don’t have to multitask. I don’t carry my entire mental load every hour of every day, I just carry one thing at a time. I know when I’m supposed to be writing and when I’m supposed to be making dinner, so there’s no inner battle about what should be taking precedence at any point in the day.

So, there you have it. A non-professional writer’s definition of a professional writing routine. I suppose only time will tell how effective my three keys are. In the meanwhile, thank you for coming on this journey with me.

~Christine

p.s. Next week, I’ll share the exact schedule I used last year to get six hours of writing time in every day — with two hours to make dinner and limited screen time for my kiddos. It’s kinda magical, so stay tuned.

My Best Writing Advice Part 1: “Riding” Like a Professional

My Best Writing Advice Part 1: “Riding” Like a Professional

Imagine you have a horse, a newborn foal, fresh out of the caul and at first it can’t even stand on four legs. It learns to walk, awkwardly, and you fall in love. Let’s say there’s a parade coming up in a few years with a prize for the best horse, and you believe in your horse and want to get that prize. So you feed your horse and give it water. Sometimes you give it treats — apples and carrots — and it nuzzles you and oh, isn’t everything just wonderful?

It comes time to train the horse, which you thought would be easy, since you and your horse had always gotten along so well, but now it’s bucking and butting and you’re yelling its name like an expletive and you’re yelling its name and expletives, and part of you still loves it, and part of you is starting to hate it, and part of you wonders why you ever thought you could raise a horse and train it. Eventually, though, you and the horse learn to cooperate with each other. You give it more food and water, more apples and carrots, but most of all, you give it sweat and tears, and somehow that results in you loving the horse more than ever.

After what should have been an inspiring four-minute musical montage, but actually ends up being a grueling decade spent mostly in isolation and the somewhat-disturbing throes of obsession, your horse is full-grown, a purebred champion with a shining coat. Tada! You take it to the horse-parade. Your wildest dreams come true, and your horse gets first place. Everyone is so excited about your horse they want it right at the very front of the parade and you are so, so proud. You have arrived.

And then the parade starts.

And you realize something terrible.

You don’t know how to ride a horse.

You, however, are tied to your horse, and now this parade is moving. There’s no stopping the parade and there’s no stopping your horse. There’s no saddle and no stirrups. You can try and get on the horse now, or you can try to keep up. Heaven forbid you lose your footing, or get tired, or burn out and end up dragged along by the horse and trampled by the parade. Morbid? Certainly. And suddenly, this dream-come-true has turned into a complete nightmare.

The horse is your book. The parade is publishing.

Here’s a thought I’ve had a lot lately. It can take years, sometimes decades, for an author to get a book published. I work with a lot of writers, I share their hopes and dreams, and I get a lot of advice from people who have “made it.” Most of that advice has to do with writing a really good book. Everyone is obsessed with writing the most amazing book they possibly can. And almost everything I read and hear about how to do that has to do with writing craftsmanship. How to craft wonderful prose and compelling dialogue and believable characters and worlds and magic systems that work. How to write a synopsis, and a query, and a pitch. The idea, of course, is that if you produce a marvelously-written book, and a marvelously written pitch, you’re going to get published. Your awesome horse is going to be in the big parade. And that seems to be the focus 99.9% of the time. Because what matters more than the sheer awesomeness of your horse?

Well, you. And your ability to ride it.

So. How do you learn to…ride a book? What’s the equivalent here?

You learn to “ride” your book by refining your riding process — I mean, your writing process. Having a predictable, productive, and sustainable approach to your writing is just as important as writing well. Learning to organize yourself, to create a schedule or a quota, is just as crucial to a writing career as the material you produce. Think for a moment about some of your favorite (living) authors. Do they appear to be riding on top of their horse, or does it look like they’re being dragged behind? Because the truth is, you can get a book published without knowing how to keep a deadline, or without knowing how to keep yourself healthy — mentally and physically. Just like you can get a horse in a parade without knowing how to ride it. The difference is going to be whether you’ll be able to enjoy that success, or feel trampled by it.

Consistency and organization are learned skills. They don’t come automatically, at least not to me. People who meet me in my adult life often assume I’m a “Type-A” personality and I’ve always had my ducks in a row, was probably class valedictorian etc. Which is hilarious, because I didn’t walk with my class and barely graduated high school, but that’s another story for another day. The fact is, I’m advocating for a healthy method of writing because I’ve struggled to find a healthy method of writing. And after almost ten years of writing every day, I can finally say I’ve hit my stride. I’ve cracked the code on my own productivity, and, frankly, happiness in my work.

This isn’t an article about putting your “butt in chair, hands on keyboard,” or “writing every day.” It’s about realizing the value of a method that feels as professional and polished as the manuscript you’ve been slaving over. My writing advice? Make your method match your manuscript.

Today, I just wanted to convince you it’s important.

Next week, I’ll break down what makes a method professional — before publication.

And the week after that, I’ll tell you what works for me.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
~Christine

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game Recommendation: Broken Age

Game Recommendation: Broken Age

So there’s this game called Broken Age that came out five years ago. It’s a point-and-click adventure game, which means you have an interactive story that moves along as you solve puzzles. It has gorgeous two-dimensional art, a fantastic story, superb voice acting, and a live score featuring the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and a small ensemble of San Francisco musicians. In short, it is a marvelous game and I can’t believe I’d never heard of it until recently. (Come on, Big Brother, if you’re going to violate my privacy and use consumer algorithms to inundate me with ham-fisted advertisements, you should probably have figured out what games I like by now.)

Bubs and I really enjoy playing adventure games together, and I have to say, the story dragged us in the moment we came to the opening split-screen: a girl named Vella, leaning against a tree in a peaceful-looking village on the left, and a boy named Shay in a bed on a spaceship on the right. Whichever character you click on first is the one you start with, but what’s even more fun is that if you change your mind or get stuck on a puzzle you can toggle over to the other character and play on their storyline.

The writing is witty, the world is Hitchhikers Guide-level quirky, and the humor is delightfully dark. Bubs loved it just as much as I did. It has ice-cream avalanches, friends made out of yarn, a “Maiden’s Feast” where the maidens ARE the feast, peach trees in the sky, hipster woodsmen, boa constrictors, a cult leader voiced by Jack Black, talking spoons that are really enthusiastic about their job, and lots and lots of mysteries.

It took Bubs and I about seven hours to complete the game together, and it stayed awesome all the way to the end. As a matter of fact, the next day Bubs picked it right back up and started all over again because he loved the story and gameplay so much.

That said, it had a few cons. The biggest drawback was that there was no way we could have completed the game without looking up hints and sometimes even walkthroughs. There were a couple of puzzles we had to pull out a paper and pencil for, and I can’t decide if that was more fun or less fun.

Since I’m recommending this game from a family-friendly perspective, I should mention that there’s some crude humor. Characters say, “Oh my God” throughout the game, which irritated me. A character is stuck in a tree by his underwear at one point, which Bubs found HILARIOUS, and I thought was fun. But there were some comments that went over Bubs’ head that got an eye-roll from me. Example: Shay solves a puzzle using a toy called “Grabbin’ Gary,” and when it works, he comments that “It’s so good to be grabbed by a professional.” There were some similarly inappropriate remarks made by the talking silverware.

That said, those are the only drawbacks I can think of, and as for me and Bubs, the problems never got in the way of us thoroughly enjoying the game. I’d say that the pros completely and totally outweigh the cons. The hand painted art makes the whole thing feel like an animated picture book, the story consistently surprised and delighted me, the humor was spot-on 90% of the time — and even crossed into laugh-out-loud territory on several occasions, the music was lovely and worked as a perfect soundtrack, and the voice-acting brought so much life and personality to the characters (Elijah Wood voices Shay, which was so much fun; but the actress behind Vella, Masasa Moyo, was my favorite.)

Overall, if you enjoy adventure games and weird-yet-lovable things, this game is an absolute treasure.

If you’re not convinced yet, check out this trailer:

Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
~Christine

 

What I’m Working On: Autumn 2018

What I’m Working On: Autumn 2018

Hey guys! I know I just did one of these updates last month, but Autumn starts on September 22nd this year, so I’m going to go ahead and give you the fall writing slate. I also wanted to let everyone know that I’m planning a series of blog posts about HOW I get so much writing done, because that seems to be what a lot of you are curious about. I’m excited to share my secrets with you — as soon as I can organize them into neat little posts!

IN DEVELOPMENT:

  • NEW! History 100 Essay
    A historical essay about the scientists who aided in the creation of the atom bomb, and the emotional and psychological effects it had on them when the United States government decided to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Due: October 2018
  • “SETI@home”
    A 1-2k word personal essay about my late grandpa and a nostalgia-driven look at the SETI@home project. SETI stands for “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” It’s the program Jodie Foster was working on in the 1997 movie Contact. The SETI@home project was a small offshoot of SETI, developed in 1999 as a way for everyday people to donate their CPUs, or computer processing cycles, to help process radio signals from space. UPDATE: I’ve completed my interview with Dr. David Anderson (computer programmer) and have an email interview with Dr. Eric Korpela (SETI astronomer) currently ongoing. Goes on submission: September 2019
  • “Space Circus”
    Sci-fi novelette, still in development but I’m shooting for something around 30k words. It was inspired by several classes at Storymakers 2018, especially those taught by Sarah M. EdenDan Wells, and Charlie Holmberg. During the conference I doodled a picture of a girl in a space suit and imagined what her story might be, and I decided she was going to run away and join the space circus. UPDATE: I’ve decided to make this my NaNoWriMo project and will be drafting it this November. Goes on submission: undetermined


DRAFTING PROCESS:

  • NEW!The King Beneath the Mountain”
    A ballad about a king asleep in a mountain, as told by the witch who put him there. It’s a love story. Goes on submission: November 2018
  • Clarion West Application
    Clarion West is a six-week writing workshop taught by six authors and/or editors. My favorite short story author, Amal El-Mohtar, is going to be one of the instructors. Only 18 people get into the program every year. Admission is based on a 30-page writing sample and a personal essay. For my 30 pages, I’m planning on submitting the first three chapters of my Island Book, plus a synopsis. Those have already been drafted and are in the revision process, but I have yet to start on my personal essay. Applications open in December 2018 and close in March of 2019, but I want to give it my best so I’m working on it now. Goes on submission: December 2019
  • “The Island Book”
    Historical fantasy novel about 100k words. This is the first installment in a series of books about two families struggling for control of a fictional island. Magical beings and speculative science get involved. Chaos ensues. UPDATE: I’m on schedule to get the first draft done by May 2019. Goes on submission: July 2021


UNDER REVISION:

  • “Honeybee”
    Sci-fi short story I’d like to be about 5k-7k words. My original draft was 5k, but the premise is kind of far out and so many of my beta readers had so many questions, I decided to let myself wax verbose on the second draft and answer all the questions. This resulted in the story swelling to 9k (almost twice the length of the first draft). I figured I could review how the additional 4k felt and shave it down if needed. Adding more narration and more backstory, as well as changing the starting point, made the whole thing feel like the first chapter to a Young Adult dystopian novel instead of a sci-fi short. It was so far from what I wanted, I considered shelving the whole project. But I talked to my critique partner Kris, and she helped me create a vision for draft number three, where I could refocus and hone in on the story I most wanted to tell. So that’s what I’m currently doing. UPDATE: On schedule! Undergoing copy-edits. Goes on submission: September 2018
  • “Submarine”
    Sci-fi/fantasy short story around 10k words. When looking for ideas, I often begin with my resources. My husband and brother-in-law both worked on submarines for three years, and I simply couldn’t pass up the spec fic opportunities. The story deals with the ethics of nuclear war, toxic masculinity in the military, and mermaids. After writing a complete draft of this story I’ve decided to go in an entirely different direction with the style. So…I’m rewriting the whole thing. Goes on submission: February 2019


ON SUBMISSION:

  • “ALIENS!”
    Sci-fi short story about 5k words. This project was inspired by my years in Japan, one very interesting SCUBA instructor, and memories of my grandpa introducing me to various SETI programs. The whole story is essentially a conversation–hopefully an interesting one. On submission since: January 2018
  • “Satellite”
    Sci-fi flash fiction about 650 words long. The concept behind this story is so niche I have no idea if it will ever get published. That said, I think it may be one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. I’ve recruited help from my husband and my best friend from high school to help me with some of the technical stuff. They’ve been geeking out about it, which is absolutely thrilling to me. I brought the story to my library writing group and had one person understand it completely, one person understand the gist of it, and three people who couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I asked the group if there was a way to balance the story so it could be understood by a wider audience. The group unanimously advised me to ignore the wider audience, commit to the idea, and charge ahead with it. On submission since: May 2018
  • Storymakers Classes
    I’ve pitched two classes to teach at the Storymakers 2019 writing conference! One is about how to commission an artist (I’ve both hired artists and been hired as an artist, so I feel pretty qualified for this one). The other class is about how to deconstruct strong visual icons in popular/classic media, and how authors can use this knowledge to create their own icons. I feel less qualified to teach a class on writing craftsmanship, just because I’m not yet published, but I’m very passionate about the topic and my background as an artist has given me some unique insight. I’ll know if my classes have been accepted in November, and Storymakers 2019 is in May. UPDATE: I ended up pitching two more classes, one on structuring chapters and dialogue, and one on Joseph Campbell’s monomyth. On submission since: August 2018
  • NEW! “Robot Overlords”
    I meet with a local writing group that likes to issue out weekly prompts, and I used to never do them because I wanted to focus on my novel and shorts. When I was in highschool though, I really enjoyed writing poetry, and I’ve started writing poems for the group prompts. I liked one of my poems so much I polished it up and submitted it to a magazine. It’s a science fiction poem about a girl who lives in a post-apocalyptic world run by robots, and it chronicles seven very important seconds of her life. On submission since: September 2018

Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
Christine

Meet JJ and CC – The First Tylerbots!

Meet JJ and CC – The First Tylerbots!

This is CC (below left) and JJ (below right), the new mascots for ChristineTyler.com.

I’ve actually wanted some robot mascots for several years now, and started collecting materials when I was in Japan. CC’s music box, for instance, plays Always With You from Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. I knew I wanted a robot theme for my blog images when I rebooted the site, but since I hadn’t made the robots yet I had to settle for stock images. Apparently taking pictures of adorable little robots doing daily tasks is already a thing! Now that I have my own robots though, I can take much more specific pictures +  I don’t have to pay royalties to use someone else’s work.

The figures’ heads, hands, feet, and JJ’s torso are made out of spray-painted wood blocks that I found at a thrift store. Their arms are plastic tubing I ordered online, and have pipe cleaners in them so they’re posable. JJ’s hardware came from my husband’s real robot supplies. It was Nathan’s idea to have the wires coming out of JJ’s head and I kind of love it. 

As soon as I started taking pictures I realized JJ was going to be our wild card. His extra long legs make him extra fun to play with. 

Don’t be fooled by CC’s demure expression. She totally digs it.

Of course, no robot-making session would be complete without my kids getting in on the action. Here are Bubs and Rosebud with their own projects. Rosebud is particularly proud of the pink hair she drew on her robot and has informed me that next time I make a robot it needs to have pink hair like hers. 

Bubs brought his robot to school for show-and-tell today. His has wheels. Pretty boss idea. Both kids were really excited to give their robots “gear hearts.” I found those at Joanne’s at the last minute and I agree they make a perfect addition. 

They’ve been having a lot of fun with them.

I have plans to make more robots soon — as soon as I can get my hands on some silver spray paint, because I’d like to build an entire robot army. But in the meantime, JJ and CC are my first two, and I’m really really happy with how they turned out. I’m also excited to be able to bring them on some future adventures…which I’ll have more details about as soon as I get some details nailed down.

In other news, I’ve submitted a poem to a science-fiction and fantasy magazine. Yes, a poem! I attend a local writing group that meets once a week and gives everyone a prompt. Our prompt a few weeks ago was a “word soup.” That meant we had five random words to do whatever we wanted with. The words were CLOCKS, ADVANTAGE, TOURNAMENT, CUNNING, and PLANT.

I ended up writing a poem about a woman who runs the Olympic 100-meter dash against six robots. Why are there robots in the Olympics? Why does she run against them? Does she win? Well, those are questions the poem will answer. Cross your fingers and hope it gets published.

In the meantime, please enjoy this robot selfie:

Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
Christine

 

 

 

My Writing Space (featuring: the Happy Board)

My Writing Space (featuring: the Happy Board)

Want to see what my writing space looks like? Or, at least what my desk area looks like? I actually enjoy switching up my routine and writing in different places around my house, because I tend to procrastinate when things feel too familiar or repetitive. But I do have a “writing base,” as you will, and my favorite part of it is my Happy Board. This is where I like to put things that inspire me or make me feel inexplicably happy when I look at them. So, for those of you who are curious, I thought I’d diagram some of my favorite components of my Writing Base and Happy Board.

  1. Portrait of Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni (1489 – 1490) by Domenico Ghirlandaio, from when Nathan and I went to the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid. This is one of those paintings you have to see in real life to understand why it’s so special. The orange paint of her dress was glowing like a neon sign. It was completely arresting.
  2. Note from my older sister, Heidi, that she gave me when I was probably about five years old. It reads: Christine, I do not know how you feel about being small. Although I can realy tell you are not happy with it! I’m not going to start saying there a a lot of things you can do when your small and the things you do I cant. But I will tell you that I can see you are not happy rite now and I do not blame you. Just reamember that I do not care how small you are! I love you just the same!!!!!!!! Beside I think you look cute small! You remind me of a pretty little ballireana! Love, Heidi.
  3. Brochure from the Olympic Peninsula, where I grew up. I think there’s a map of Hurricane Ridge on the other side.
  4. Train tickets from Spain.
  5. Post-card from Casa Mia, a restaurant my family and friends and I went to a lot when I was growing up in Washington.
  6. Post-it note from Kandice, a friend I made in Japan. It reads: Christine, Please come in and make yourself at home. We were going to get together and she had to run out for a minute. It warmed my heart to feel trusted and invited in while she was gone.
  7. Post-card from Snoqualmie Falls, where my husband and went on our honeymoon. It’s also where they filmed several scenes from Twin Peaks, which is an awesome show.
  8. Post-cards from a buddhist monastery in Japan. My friend April and I went to a meditation session and some monks hit us on the back with sticks. It was awesome.
  9. Map of Hida no Sato, a very peaceful historic village in Japan.
  10. Map of Hobbiton from when I went to New Zealand with Nathan, Bubs, and my sister Emily. (Little Rosebud hung out in my uterus the whole time, so she was technically there too.)
  11. Playbill from a Pacific Northwest Ballet performance of the Nutcracker
  12. Bub’s school project about eclipses.
  13. Post-card from Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, WA.
  14. Map of Cordoba, Spain.
  15. Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening (1944) by Salvador Dalí, from when Nathan and I went to the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid.
  16. Raven Boys book jacket drawn by Maggie Steifvater, from when Kris and I went to a book signing in Denver.
  17. Me and my little sister, Emily, on a beach in Washington.
  18. Note from my friend Christian from when she sent me a jar of her homemade maple syrup.
  19. Emily and David’s wedding announcement.
  20. The first birthday card my best friend Kris ever sent me, where she called me a “lovely badass,” and I decided that was the best description of me anyone’s ever given.
  21. Bib number from my first 10k.
  22. Picture of Laini Taylor from a book signing in Denver, and the note she sent me when I won her book trailer contest.
  23. Fishing with my dad. I was probably about five or six.
  24. VIP pass from when I met Lindsey Stirling in Tokyo. As if her talent wasn’t enough, I got to find out she is an incredibly kind person as well, and I’ll always be grateful for the advice she gave me.
  25. Big headphones.
  26. Goal chart — front and center.
  27. Star stickers, because I’m fabulous.
  28. Hubble Deep Field.
  29. Hydroponic garden. I’m a little sad I ended up taking a picture when there are only a few sprouts, but there’s usually lavender or hibiscus or rosemary in here. I like starting seeds with the Aerogarden and then transferring them out when they’re big enough. I’ll have to do a post about my indoor garden in the future, as I have a bit of a green thumb.
  30. Bamboo ukelele. I just got this as a birthday present to myself when I turned 32 this summer. My favorite songs to play lately are Skye Boat Song, The Rains of Castamere, and The Last Unicorn.
  31. Eolian mug my sister-in-law, Ashtyn, gave me for Christmas last year. It makes me so very very happy.

And now you’ve seen a little corner of my world. 🙂

Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
Christine

 

 

What I’m Working On: Summer 2018

What I’m Working On: Summer 2018

I think we’re overdue for an update on my current projects! I picked the picture of the robot juggling all the lightbulbs because…well…

IN DEVELOPMENT:

  • “SETI@home”
    A 1-2k word personal essay about my late grandpa and a nostalgia-driven look at the SETI@home project. SETI stands for “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” It’s the program Jodie Foster was working on in the 1997 movie Contact. The SETI@home project was a small offshoot of SETI, developed in 1999 as a way for everyday people to donate their CPUs, or computer processing cycles, to help process radio signals from space. The most exciting part of this is that I’ve contacted the director of the SETI@home program, Dr. Eric Korpela, and he’s agreed to an interview! Goes on submission: September 2019
  • “Space Circus”
    Sci-fi novelette, still in development but I’m shooting for something around 30k words. It was inspired by several classes at Storymakers 2018, especially those taught by Sarah M. Eden, Dan Wells, and Charlie Holmberg. During the conference I doodled a picture of a girl in a space suit and imagined what her story might be, and I decided she was going to run away and join the space circus. Goes on submission: undetermined


DRAFTING PROCESS:

  • Clarion West Application
    Clarion West is a six-week writing workshop taught by six authors and/or editors. My favorite short story author, Amal El-Mohtar, is going to be one of the instructors. Only 18 people get into the program every year. Admission is based on a 30-page writing sample and a personal essay. For my 30 pages, I’m planning on submitting the first three chapters of my Island Book, plus a synopsis. Those have already been drafted and are in the revision process, but I have yet to start on my personal essay. Applications open in December 2018 and close in March of 2019, but I want to give it my best so I’m working on it now. Goes on submission: December 2019
  • “The Island Book”
    Historical fantasy novel about 100k words. This is the first installment in a series of books about two families struggling for control of a fictional island. Magical beings and speculative science get involved. Chaos ensues. Goes on submission: July 2021


UNDER REVISION:

  • “Honeybee”
    Sci-fi short story I’d like to be about 5k-7k words. My original draft was 5k, but the premise is kind of far out and so many of my beta readers had so many questions, I decided to let myself wax verbose on the second draft and answer all the questions. This resulted in the story swelling to 9k (almost twice the length of the first draft). I figured I could review how the additional 4k felt and shave it down if needed. Adding more narration and more backstory, as well as changing the starting point, made the whole thing feel like the first chapter to a Young Adult dystopian novel instead of a sci-fi short. It was so far from what I wanted, I considered shelving the whole project. But I talked to my critique partner Kris, and she helped me create a vision for draft number three, where I could refocus and hone in on the story I most wanted to tell. So that’s what I’m currently doing. Goes on submission: September 2018
  • “Submarine”
    Sci-fi/fantasy short story around 10k words. When looking for ideas, I often begin with my resources. My husband and brother-in-law both worked on submarines for three years, and I simply couldn’t pass up the spec fic opportunities. The story deals with the ethics of nuclear war, toxic masculinity in the military, and mermaids. After writing a complete draft of this story I’ve decided to go in an entirely different direction with the style. So…I’m rewriting the whole thing. Goes on submission: February 2019


ON SUBMISSION:

  • “ALIENS!”
    Sci-fi short story about 5k words. This project was inspired by my years in Japan, one very interesting SCUBA instructor, and memories of my grandpa introducing me to various SETI programs. The whole story is essentially a conversation–hopefully an interesting one. On submission since: January 2018
  • “Satellite”
    Sci-fi flash fiction about 650 words long. The concept behind this story is so niche I have no idea if it will ever get published. That said, I think it may be one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. I’ve recruited help from my husband and my best friend from high school to help me with some of the technical stuff. They’ve been geeking out about it, which is absolutely thrilling to me. I brought the story to my library writing group and had one person understand it completely, one person understand the gist of it, and three people who couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I asked the group if there was a way to balance the story so it could be understood by a wider audience. The group unanimously advised me to ignore the wider audience, commit to the idea, and charge ahead with it. On submission since: May 2018
  • Storymakers Classes
    I’ve pitched two classes to teach at the Storymakers 2019 writing conference! One is about how to commission an artist (I’ve both hired artists and been hired as an artist, so I feel pretty qualified for this one). The other class is about how to deconstruct strong visual icons in popular/classic media, and how authors can use this knowledge to create their own icons. I feel less qualified to teach a class on writing craftsmanship, just because I’m not yet published, but I’m very passionate about the topic and my background as an artist has given me some unique insight. I’ll know if my classes have been accepted in November, and Storymakers 2019 is in May. On submission since: August 2018

On top of all that, I’m going back to (online) college on September 3rd! I’ll be working on my Bachelor’s Degree in English/Creative Writing, with an emphasis in Screenwriting. Stay tuned to hear more about it!

And…everything else.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
Christine

© Gorodok495 | Dreamstime.com

I Got My Fifth Rejection!

I Got My Fifth Rejection!

Wow! I just sent off a story to a magazine that gave me an estimate of six weeks wait, and they replied in three days! Since I’ve been hearing back from these venues so frequently, I’m planning on making this the last time I share each and every rejection on its own. From now on I’ll share every five rejections or so, at which time I’ll make a compilation list. That way you can still read every letter word-for-word, but it doesn’t turn my entire blog into a never ending list of rejection posts. In the meantime, I have so many posts planned that I can’t wait to share with you. I’m particularly proud of my last post, Adventures in Research: Bad Luck Bananas.

But let’s take a look at #5:

Dear Christine,

Thank you very much for letting us see “[TITLE].”  We appreciate your taking the time to send it in for our consideration.  Although it does not suit the needs of the magazine at this time, we wish you luck with placing it elsewhere.

Sincerely,
[Editor]

As you can see, this is another form rejection, so not much to comment on here. I’ve sent the story to another venue that’s actually one of my very favorites. I didn’t send it there sooner because I’m doubtful that it fits the tone they’re looking for, but I may as well try it out.

I’ve compiled a binder where I can collect all my rejections, and honestly, I kind of love flipping through it. Maybe this is when I find out that I’m a masochist? But I’m not sure if I view rejection the same way most people do. When I was a teenager, I heard a story about a guy who wanted a job, but instead of making “getting a job” his goal, he made a goal to get “twenty-five rejections.” He figured that eventually, he’d fail at his goal and get a job, hahaha. So every time he got a rejection he celebrated, because he was one step closer to his goal of twenty-five rejections. He got a job before he ever hit it. So he was happy in his “failure,” and then happy in his “success.”

I love that story, because I think reframing our definition of success can make the process itself such a joy. I *feel* more successful and more legitimate as an author now than I ever have, and that feeling rings true when I flip through my binder of rejections. I hope someday I’ll have multiple binders, with pages spilling out, with a treasure trove of contradictory feedback and laughable failures. Maybe even some heartbreaking failures that I can look back on and see how far I’ve come, how much I’ve conquered. Because my idea of success is doing the work. So, right now, I’m doing the work. And I am succeeding.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
Christine

Adventures in Research: Bad Luck Bananas

Adventures in Research: Bad Luck Bananas

I’ve researched a lot of random things in the name of my writing. To my left is a bookshelf with titles on it such as: The Conlanger’s Lexipedia, The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, Science and Society in the 16th and 17th Centuries, the Crystal Bible, Crowning Anguish: Memoirs of a Persian Princess from the Harem to Modernity, The Secret Life of Plants, and — my personal favorite — Barbecued Husbands.

You can tell a lot by looking at people’s bookshelves. Particularly if they’re a total weirdo or not.

The thing is, even though the research is done for my book, it often just translates into a familiarity with a time period or a topic, and the chance of an actual detail or historical fact making it into the manuscript is…low. Any one of those facts becoming useful or relevant in real life? Slim to none.

Which brings me to last month’s fishing trip. My dad, husband, two brothers-in-law, a nephew, and I, all went deep sea salmon fishing on a small charter out of Ilwaco, Washington. We woke up at five, drove to the docks, and got our licenses. The sky was a beautiful silver overcast, the birds were flocking for shoals of bait just under the water, and we even saw a humpback whale. My brother in law, David, caught a good coho at the beginning, but after that, things slowed down. Way down. We spent a good eight hours perched on our poles. Our skipper couldn’t understand. He’d taken the boat from one promising spot to another, but the fish just weren’t biting. In all, our entire group caught six salmon. That’s a lot less than we’d hoped for.

And then my husband, Nathan, took out a banana. He pointed to the “NO BANANAS” sign on the cabin window and asked, “Is that for real?”

I followed his gaze and stared at the sign. And I, mind buzzing with ten years of random book research, registered what had happened. I realized our fishless fate had been sealed the moment we brought our lunch on board.

“Sure is,” said the deck hand.

“Why?” Nathan asked.

And then I spoke. For my moment had come.

REASON NUMBER ONE. Venomous spiders like to hang out in bananas, like Banana Spiders, which is a name for several species including Golden Orb Weavers, which look amazing and won’t kill you but you probably don’t want your eighteenth century sailing vessel infested with them, and Brazilian Wandering Spiders, which have a nastier bite — the effects of which we’ll leave to this wikipedia description:

The venom of Phoneutria nigriventer contains a potent neurotoxin, known as PhTx3, which acts as a broad-spectrum calcium channel blocker that inhibits glutamate release, calcium uptake and also glutamate uptake in neural synapses. At deadly concentrations, this neurotoxin causes loss of muscle control and breathing problems, resulting in paralysis and eventual asphyxiation. In addition, the venom causes intense pain and inflammation following a bite due to an excitatory effect the venom has on the serotonin 5-HT4 receptors of sensory nerves. Aside from causing intense pain, the venom of the spider can also cause priapism in humans. Erections resulting from the bite are uncomfortable, can last for many hours and can lead to impotence.

REASON NUMBER TWO. You know who else likes to hang out in bunches of bananas? Termites. This is a problem when your ship is made of wood.

REASON NUMBER THREE. Bananas release ethylene gas. You can read this whole article on the effects of ethylene gas on humans, but here’s a highlight:

Ethylene enters the body primarily by inhalation of air containing ethylene, but can also enter the body by dermal contact with ethylene. Ethylene is of low toxicity to humans and exposure to ethylene is unlikely to have any adverse health effects. However, inhalation of air containing extremely high levels of ethylene may lead to effects including headache, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, weakness and unconsciousness. Studies have shown that ethylene is metabolised to ethylene oxide, which has more adverse effects on human health. 

In other words, breathing normal amounts of ethylene has little to no effect on people, but lets say you have an entire cargo hold full of bananas and its not getting the kind of ventilation anyone thought about until the modern era. In that case, going down into that cargo hold, or staying down there too long, could have some rather nasty results.

REASON NUMBER FOUR. Because of the rate at which they produce ethylene gas, bananas ripen and rot quicker than a lot of other fruits. That means they need to be shipped faster, and as they say, “haste makes waste.” Also, it was a heck of a lot harder for sailors to catch fish when the ship was booking it to the next port, resulting in anti-banana sentiments being even stronger in fishermen than general seamen.

REASON NUMBER FIVE: Bananas float in salt water, so when a ship carrying bananas sinks, everything goes down…except the bananas. At that point, those bananas are looking pretty guilty to superstitious sailors. (There were thousands of bananas on the Titanic, by the way. Coincidence? I think not!)

I relayed this information to my family — rather rapidly — and with the vigor of a woman who has just realized she’s arrived at the very moment her mental database of historical bad-luck-banana information is actually, miraculously, relevant.

My husband put the banana away.

Because that, my friends, is why we had a bad fishing day. Because bananas.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me. #nobananas
Christine

p.s. two of the six were mine. probably because *I* wasn’t the one who brought the bananas.

I Got My Fourth Rejection!

I Got My Fourth Rejection!

I’m pretty sure this blog is about to devolve into a big list of rejections, but sharing these letters with everyone has become part of my process now, so without further ado:

Dear Christine,

Thank you for sending ‘[TITLE]’ to [VENUE]. Unfortunately, we’ve decided it’s not quite right for us. We have to reject many good stories for a variety of reasons unrelated to their quality. We appreciate your interest in our magazine and wish you the best in finding a home for your story.

We thought the exchange between [H] and [S] was compelling, but we wanted more connection with (and resolution to) the first-contact thread.

Best Regards,
[EDITOR]

The first paragraph to this response appears to be their standard form rejection. The “no” statement is pretty general and it ends with a “happy send off” as it wishes the author “the best in finding a home for [their] story.” But then we have this second paragraph sentence tacked on there with a specific note. That’s a good sign! That tells me someone took the time to read the whole story and actually thought about what they liked and didn’t like about it. It’s so weird to think about my story being read by professional strangers…

It looks like they wanted more from the first-contact component of my story, so I could take a look at things and revise to bring that out more. I called Kris and she felt like it was a matter of preference, and that I shouldn’t jump into changing things. Still, getting super specific feedback like this is really valuable, and not something I want to just toss aside.

For now, I’m going to send it as-is to another magazine. If it continues to meet with rejection, I may consider revising it.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me!
Christine

Image © Nastassia Bas | Dreamstime.com

I Got A Silver Honorable Mention!

I Got A Silver Honorable Mention!

Great news! The Writers of the Future contest has posted their official winners for the Second Quarter of Volume 35, and I got a Silver Honorable Mention! This means that out of thousands of contestants, my story “ALIENS!” made it to the top 25. So while I didn’t win or even place, I’m happy to see my work is at a competitive level with other writers. It’s incredibly validating.

I had this to say about “ALIENS!” in a post I shared a few months ago: What I’m Working On

“ALIENS!”
Sci-fi short story about 5k words. This project was inspired by my years in Japan, one very interesting SCUBA instructor, and memories of my grandpa introducing me to various SETI programs. The whole story is essentially a conversation–hopefully an interesting one.

And well, it looks like someone at WotF found it interesting. Not interesting enough to win, but interesting enough to make it to the top tiers, and I am so so grateful for that. I would guess that the stories are judged in brackets, since it’s unlikely that every judge would read every story. I like to imagine that there was a judge championing my story, pushing it up, until it finally met its match and was superseded. But its nice to think that for a short period, someone believed in it.

In the meantime, the rights to the story still belong to me, so I’ve submitted it to a sci-fi/fantasy magazine to see if I can get it published, and share it with all of you.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me,
Christine

I Got My Third Rejection!

I Got My Third Rejection!

Want to see my latest form rejection?

Dear Christine,

Thank you very much for letting me see [TITLE].  I’m sorry it didn’t strike me as quite suitable to our present needs.

Sincerely,
[NAME]
Editor

So. This is the third rejection I’ve received for the same story. It’s the one I call “Satellite” in this post where I describe my current projects. I mentioned that it is very “niche.” It has a unique structure and style, one that doesn’t fit with most of the sff venues I read. I figured I’d go ahead and send it out to some larger publication venues in the odd chance that they might pick it up, but I didn’t have a high expectation. All three rejections have been short/form letters, which is likely an indication that the story isn’t just striking out, it’s not even in the ballpark of what these editors are looking for. This most recent letter’s wording, “didn’t strike me as quite suitable” reaffirms that to me.

Because of this, I think it’s time to try a different tack. This morning I sent “Satellite” to a magazine that’s quite a bit smaller than most of my favorites, but it specializes in more avant garde styles. If it isn’t received well there, I’ll probably continue to submit it to other venues. But since this is the venue I think is the very best fit, it’s unlikely it’s going to get picked up anywhere else.

I’ve enjoyed sharing these rejections online though. It gives me something to do with them, makes me feel like I’m creating something out of them by sharing them. And…next week, I’ll be sharing a bit of good news I’ve been sitting on.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me,
Christine

© Gorodok495 | Dreamstime.com

I Got My Second Rejection!

I Got My Second Rejection!

Want to read my actual second rejection letter?

Dear Christine,

Thank you for the opportunity to read “[title].” Unfortunately, your story isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now. 

In the past, we’ve provided detailed feedback on our rejections, but I’m afraid that due to time considerations, we’re no longer able to offer that service. I appreciate your interest in [name of venue] and hope that you’ll keep us in mind in the future.

Take care,
[name of editor]

I think sharing my rejections might become something of a tradition on this blog. After I got the first one I decided to print them out and start collecting them in a binder. Someday I’d like to bring my binders of rejections to book signings, because as a writer who aspires to publication, I always enjoy hearing about the journey other authors made in order to get there. But in the meantime, I don’t really want to wait to show them off. Getting these rejections took a lot of work, and I’m proud of them! Plus, maybe they’ll help remove some of the stigma and emotionality around rejections. Maybe seeing mine shared word-for-word will help inspire you to see rejection as a component of success, not an indication of failure.

It’s interesting that this venue mentioned the fact that they used to do personalized rejections and stopped. Honestly, it’s kind of a relief to get a form rejection, at least for a short story. If I were trying to sell a novel I’d much rather revise and resubmit, but part of what I love about short stories is…when they’re done they’re done. If one of my shorts doesn’t sell, I don’t think I’ll rework it. I think I’ll just write another one. I like the idea of finishing things, creating a repertoire, having a dozen or more stories on a submission circuit at once, and retiring the ones that just don’t make the cut, letting them be what they are. It feels more like progress to me.

When would I retire a story? Probably after I’d sent it to every venue on my list that it qualified for. Admittedly, it’s not a very long list. But I feel like, if a story isn’t good enough to be published by my list of favorites, it’s not good enough to represent me as an author. And I don’t mind waiting. Mm, “waiting” is not the right word. It feels too passive, doesn’t reflect the work I’m doing. Instead let’s call it, “biding my time.” And I am very, very good at biding my time.

Thanks for coming on the journey with me,
Christine

25 MORE of the Best Blog Posts by Patrick Rothfuss

25 MORE of the Best Blog Posts by Patrick Rothfuss

Two months ago I shared what I thought were Patrick Rothfuss’ top 25 blog posts, so click here for PART 1. But that meant leaving a lot of really great ones on the cutting room floor! There were interviews and funny stories, important milestones and comparing babies to fruits that were left out, and I really couldn’t bear to do that. Also, reading all eleven years of his archives was a lot of work and I’d like to squeeze some more juice out of it. So, without further ado, here are 25 more (plus some change) of Pat’s best.

Who Does Pat Get All Geeky About?
26) Books and Interview with Nnedi Okorafor: Pat interviews his friend and fellow Writers of the Future author, Nnedi way back in 2009. And here he blurbs one of her books, Who Fears Death.
27) Terry Pratchett: Pat gets a book signed by Terry Pratchett. He also shares some reflections after Pratchett passed away here.
28) Interview with Terry Brooks: An awesomely long interview with Pat and the legendary Terry Brooks that spans four posts and two blogs. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
29) Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal: Pat and Mary discuss the definition of Regency, and when presented with the options of Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp, she correctly chooses Nathan Fillion.
30) How to Embarrass Yourself in Front of Famous People: Pat meets Amber Benson and is silly. Also, Pat meets Felicia Day, proving that he, like the rest of us, completely loses his crap when he meets his heroes. 
Bonus: Pat does his best Prince Vultan impression for Neil Gaiman.

Why Do Pat’s Fans Love Him So Much?
31) Twitter, A Beautiful Game: Pat goes from luddite to the internet’s favorite troll with six sock puppet accounts.
32) Beautiful Games: Pat unleashes Tak upon the world and it is beautiful.
33) Closure: Pat keeps a promise and makes a teenage fan feel really special.
34) And Beside Her Came Andan: Not only are the books good enough to name your children after them, but Pat is cool enough to give Bast and Auri and Elodin and Kvothe a shoutout.
35) The Photo Contests: So many cute babies and cool cosplay, and so many people who like to read nekkid! (Make sure to click on “older posts” at the bottom of the search results so you don’t miss the glorious days of 2008)

What are Some Fun Milestones Pat’s Hit Along the Way?
36) First Editions, a Conversation, and Another Interview: How to tell if you’ve got a first edition of NotW.
37) New York Times Best Seller List: Pat makes “the list.” And does it again in 2011 — as #1.
38) Foreign Edition: Out of all the foreign editions, it’s the Japanese covers that have proved the most memorable, both the campy originals and the gorgeous new ones.
39) Unhappy Announcement: Not all milestones are happy ones, and that’s okay. Books (especially really good books) can take a long time, and that’s okay too.
40) Thirty Years of D&D: Pat has arrived.

Is There More about Pat’s Adventures in Fatherhood?
41) Modest Proposal: Pat discovers the weird world of comparing babies to fruits.
42) What All the Fuss is About: Oot is born.
43) Using Your Words: Cutie Snoo speaks with the power to ignite a man’s soul and melt his heart.
44) The Opposite of Father’s Day: Pat misses Oot and writes him a letter.
45) The Warning on the Door: Oot loves his dad. Fiercely and with strong language.

Any Other Random Posts Everyone Should Read?
46) My Brain: See Pat’s brain.
47) On Hollywood, Narnia, and the Nature of Stories: Pat did not enjoy watching Prince Caspian.
48) My Sweet: Pat writes a letter to his true love, a very special woman.
49) Ice Bucket Challenge: There was a time when everyone was doing this. But Pat does not like to do things the same way everyone is doing them. He likes to go a little crazy.
50) On Not Being a Winner: Pat has no plaque to use as a projectile in the eventuality of a zombie attack.

And that’s a wrap. Those are my notes. I guess the only question left to ask Pat is, “What’s your book about?

Later Space Cowboys,
Christine

I Got My First Rejection!

I Got My First Rejection!

Hey guys, amazing news! I got my first rejection! It was for my “Satellite” short story that I briefly described in this post. I knew it’d be a hard sell, and sure enough, here’s the reply I got:

Dear Christine Tyler, 

Thank you for submitting [title of story] to [anthology], but we’ve decided not to accept it for publication. 

We appreciate your interest in our magazine.

Sincerely, 
[name of editor]

I thought I’d share this with you guys for a few reasons:

One, if you’re thinking about submitting your work, you might be interested in seeing what a form rejection looks like. This is the kind of reply you get when the editor is not interested at all. Not so scary, is it? After getting this, I took about an hour finding the next best anthology, reading up on their submission guidelines, and sent it right off again.

Two, this is a huge milestone for me! If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I’ve been working on the same behemoth fantasy series for over a decade. Because I never queried my book, that meant I worked for ten years without ever submitting anything (minus pitch sessions at conferences, but that’s another story for another day). In other words, I was in “revision hell.” It sometimes made me feel like, despite all my efforts, I wasn’t actually in the game. I used to daydream about the day I could call my story “done” and start querying. I daydreamed about getting rejections — fighting the good fight alongside my writerly comrades. So this experience is literally a dream come true. You guys, I’m actually, finally, doing it. This rejection is proof of my efforts, and that feels so good.

Obviously getting rejected for a short story — that I already knew was pretty niche — doesn’t hurt as much as getting a novel turned down by a dream agent. But…that’s what makes it even more awesome. It means I get to hang out in the trenches and experience rejection without it being the book-of-my-heart on the line. I gotta say I recommend this tactic.

The third reason I want to share, is because there are some authors who do really cool things with their rejection slips and I want to be one of them. Stephen King had a nail he stuck all his rejections on, until one day there was too much weight and it pulled the nail out of the wall, so he stuck a spike in there instead. I’ve heard of an author who laminated all her rejections into one big ribbon and she takes it to signings and shows it off. Does anyone have any ideas for what I can do with mine? Please let me know in the comments section!

I should hear back about another short story I have on submission by the end of this month. I’ll let you know how that goes as well. Thanks for coming along this journey with me!

Christine

Image © Gorodok495 | Dreamstime.com

Buckle Up. We’re Back on YouTube.

Buckle Up. We’re Back on YouTube.

The next few videos are going to be awesome. They’re all about the trip Nathan and I took to Morocco and Spain last year–eating awesome food, riding camels in the Sahara, gaping at the incredible architecture and soaking in the art in Madrid. But I’m even more excited for what comes after that…cause for the last five years, YouTube has been a hobby, not a priority. I’ve been filming and editing videos on my own.

And I think that’s about to change.

So. What would you like to see? What would you like to know about the Tyler family? And where in the world would you like to follow us?

 

The Game of Thrones Death I Still Think About

The Game of Thrones Death I Still Think About

SPOILERS!!! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Over two hundred named characters have died on the Game of Thrones TV show. Including unnamed characters, that number shoots up to somewhere over sixteen hundred. But there’s one death I think about more often than all the rest. It’s not the one that made me cry the hardest (Hodor), or the one that makes me yell “DON’T GET COCKY!” at the screen every time I see it (Oberon), or the death that motivated me to go online and seek out pictures of Rose Leslie and Kit Harington happy and together on a romantic getaway in sunshiney Greece (Igritte).

Nope, it’s Rickon Stark.

Here’s a little reminder of what I’m talking about:

Now first off, let’s get that whole “zigzag” thing out of the way, okay? Sufficeth to say, Ramsay never would have let Rickon go if he wasn’t 100% confident he’d be able to kill him from that distance. When Ramsay was done messing around and missing on purpose, he shot Rickon straight through the heart. Even if Rickon had “serpentined,” Ramsay would probably still have hit him, albeit less accurately. If he’d missed completely, he’d probably just order a volley of arrows from his archers to do the job. Ever seen a cat mess with a mouse before it eats it? It likes to let it go and see it run…but not farther than it knows it can reach it.

Sansa knew this. The day before the Battle of the Bastards, John asked her, “How do we get Rickon back?” And she answered, “We’ll never get him again.” She didn’t know the future, she knew Ramsay. There was never a chance that Rickon would have survived that day, and the delusion that there was any chance at all was nothing but a sadistic manipulation.

On top of that, the actor who played Rickon, Art Parkinson, gives us a glimpse into what Rickon’s emotional state might have been as he was running when he said in an interview, “…in the moment, I really wanted him to make it. I put everything into it.” It sounds to me like Art understood the desperation his character would have been feeling at the time. That he was abandoned by his family and betrayed by his protectors at the age of six, and that this glimpse of hope, a loving brother with the power to save him just out of arm’s reach, would have overridden any tactical planning on his part. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and as Art said, “I really wanted…to make it.”

And if we’re going to talk about “stupid mistakes that resulted in unjust deaths,” we’ve got a long list starting at — oh I dunno — the Children of the Forest.

That aside, I’m not saying Rickon’s death is the saddest, or the most gruesome. It just bothers me more than any of them. And here are five reasons why:

  1. Wasted Magical Potential
    Now, I don’t know if all of the Stark children can warg or whatever, but Rickon is clearly and plainly clairvoyant. Throughout the show we see Bran develop these skills, but Rickon demonstrates these abilities even before Bran does. What’s more, he’s quicker to believe and act on the revelations he has. Here’s the conversation they have when Rob leaves:
    Bran: “They’ll be back soon. Rob will free father, and they’ll come back with mother.”
    Rickon: “No, they won’t.”
    By the time Bran gets to the family crypt, Rickon is already there, and we get this conversation:
    Bran: “That’s where I saw father.”
    Osha: “You see? He’s not here.”
    Rickon: “Here, Shaggydog.
    Bran: “Rickon!”
    Osha: “That beast is supposed to be chained in the kennels!”
    Rickon: “He doesn’t like chains.
    Bran: “What are you doing down here? Come back up with us.”
    Rickon: “No! I came to see father.
    Bran: “How many times have I told you he’s in King’s Landing with Sansa and Arya?”
    Rickon: “He was down here. I saw him.”
    Bran: “Saw him when?”
    Rickon: “Last night. When I was sleeping.”
    Of course most people remember this scene. Far fewer catch Rickon’s prophetic statement about chains, the house sigil of Umber, the family who would later decapitate shaggy dog and betray Rickon to the Boltons.
  2. Wasted Strength-of-Character
    Beyond his potential magical abilities, Rickon’s personality was actually an interesting one. Like his wolf, he became something of a feral child, but his early experiences clearly resulted in a strong sense of familial duty. When Bran tells him going North isn’t safe for him, and they must split up and Rickon must go with Osha, this dialogue happens:
    Rickon: “I’m coming with you.”
    Bran: “No, you and Osha and Shaggydog head for the Last Hearth. The Umbers are our bannermen. They’ll protect you.”
    Rickon: “I’m coming with you. I’m your brother. I have to protect you.”
    I’m sorry, but if you spend two seconds thinking about this you’ll realize how heartbreaking it is. Rickon really just has one rule: protect your family. Why? Because his family failed to protect him.
  3. A Childhood of Suffering
    Rickon was old enough to comprehend the love of his family, and he was old enough to comprehend its loss, but he wasn’t old enough to comprehend WHY everyone he loved was abandoning him. He spent his entire childhood in confusion and fear. He spent it hiding and starving and nearly freezing to death. Osha, bless her heart, kept him alive, but was never able to relieve his emotional pain or provide for his temporal needs. In the end, all of her efforts and sacrifice did nothing but prolong Rickon’s suffering.
  4. He Never Wanted to “Play the Game”
    In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. Most (though not all) of the deaths on GoT are suffered by characters who choose to play the game in one way or another. I’m not saying they deserved what they got, or anything of the sort, I’m just saying that the fact that Rickon never volunteered to be involved in his family’s war makes it all the more unfair that he would be the one MOST affected by it.
  5. The Cruelty of Hope
    The “hope” Ramsay instills in Rickon in the moments before his death are really just a metaphor for what George Martin, DB Weiss and David Benioff have done to their audience. On an intellectual level, I give them credit for excellent writing. On an emotional level, I’ll never forgive them, hahaha. The fact is, Rickon’s clear potential, his hard childhood, and his survival against all odds, led the audience to hope, and hope is a cruel mistress.

Now, some viewers, I’d say most viewers, didn’t care a whole lot about Rickon, and his death got reduced to a “could Rose have just shared the door with Jack?” argument. But the fact that Rickon felt like a “throwaway” character, or that his storyline seemed like a “waste,” conveys a really powerful message that spills into the real world. And that is, that every war is a war on children. That what once could have been a beautiful and interesting and complex life, has suddenly been smothered in ashes and blood and wiped off the pages of history. Children go missing. They suffer without understanding why. And when they die, no one seems to care.

And I think about that. A lot.

Things My Son Has Said

Things My Son Has Said

I’ve had a few interesting conversations lately with my six year-old son. We call him “Bubs” online. (Here’s an autobiographical video I helped him put together about a year ago.) I’ve been meaning to write these stories down, and I figure the blog is as good as anywhere else, and maybe you’ll get a kick out of it too.

First story, a couple weeks ago we’re driving home in the car…
Bubs: Can we watch Boss Baby: Back in Business when we get home?
Me: Um…no I don’t really want you watching that show…
Bubs: Why?
Me: Because I feel like it’s just kind of stupid.
Bubs: Well, you don’t have to watch it.

Fair argument. I let him watch Boss Baby: Back in Business when we got home.

And then when the kids were horsing around instead of going to bed one night…
Me: Can you both please stop horsing around?!
Bubs: What’s that?
Me: Screaming and running and jumping on stuff.
Bubs: Mom, sometimes those things are just part of life.

He lost that one and got sent back to bed.

But then Bubs had a really, really bad day one day. I was putting him to bed and he was very sad. He told me he’d gotten in five “fights” that day. FIVE. He was rather empathic. Mom yelled at him for whining at breakfast time, he and his best friend got in an argument at school, which got his teacher involved so he had a “fight” with his best friend AND his teacher, then he went to a new friend’s house after school and that friend wanted to watch TV instead of play with him, and then he got yelled at by dad when dad came home because he was arguing with his sister.

I usually tell my son stories before bed, so this time I told him a story about Little Robot, and his bad day with Robo-mom, Robo-bestfriend, Robo-teacher, Robo-newfriend, and Robo-dad. Pretty sure there was a Robo-sister in there too but apparently getting in a fight with his three year-old sister doesn’t count? All the same exact things happened, but adding “Robo-” to everyone’s name seemed to soften the blow and even made him laugh. At the end of the story, as if he were doing his best Charles Wallace impression, my kid says, “I like that you made the story about me and my day. It made me feel happy, because it made me feel like you listened to me.”

Robots make everything better.

But then we continued talking about his best friend, and what happened there. Apparently Bubs had become so incensed he’d slammed his hand down on his work table and shouted “THIS FRIENDSHIP ENDS NOW!” (That was how Robo-teacher got involved.) And then this conversation happened…
Me: “Whoa! Those are some pretty strong words! That must have hurt your friend’s feelings.”
Bubs: Yeah…I thought I was making the right choice. But after I felt bad, because it was really the wrong choice. He said sorry first and then I said sorry and we’re still friends.
Me: I’m glad you said sorry. Sometimes we can tell if we made the right choice or the wrong choice by how it makes us feel afterward, huh?
Bubs: Yeah, like when I’m sad, it’s probably because someone else did something wrong, but when I’m mad, it might be because I’m wrong and I just think they’re wrong.

And I’m still thinking about that one.

Much love,
Christine

p.s. The header image for this blog came from a recent “roly poly” hunt.

 

Adventures in Albuquerque

Adventures in Albuquerque

Last Friday my little family packed our things and piled into the car for a trip to Albuquerque (and I CAN NOT say that word without getting the Weird Al song stuck in my head). One of Nathan’s relatives passed away and his family was planning on holding a memorial on Saturday morning. Of course events like this are really important for all sorts of reasons, but on top of the obvious, a lot of Nathan’s extended family were going to be there, some of whom the kids and I were looking forward to meeting for the first time. And of course, the kids were stoked to see Grandma and Grandpa.

The drive was supposed to take us about seven hours. A couple hours into the drive, our battery warning light came on. Hubs was pretty concerned, considering we’d just replaced our alternator a couple months ago, and apparently these things are related. We made it to a mechanic (who had cars propped up on rocks instead of jacks), who couldn’t help us. The issue was not with the battery itself, which could easily be replaced. Instead, the bracket that held our alternator was broken. So then we went to another mechanic that called every mechanic around town for the replacement bracket they needed to fix our car and…no one had it. They said they could order the part and get it in by Tuesday. Remember, this was last Friday. We were planning on coming back on Sunday.

All the local car-rental places were closed, but even if they weren’t, we couldn’t rely on our busted car to get us there, and the town was too small to have any taxis, so…not an option.

Nathan and I sat in the car and narrowed it down to three viable options:

  1. Call Kris and ask her to come save us and just take us home. (Kris has confirmed that she would indeed have come and saved us. Everyone, get yourself a Kris in your life.)
  2. Stay in a hotel for a night and then rent a car to drive home the next day. (The memorial was Saturday morning, so if we drove down Saturday we’d miss it completely.)
  3. Catch the next Greyhound bus to Albuquerque. Departs: 10:00pm, Arrives: 4:30am. (Our car broke down around 5pm)

And thus we had a rather classic set of roads set before us. Admit defeat, return to the known and the easy…or do it the hard way, take a risk, and go on an adventure. Well kids, we took the Greyhound.

We spent five hours trying to kill time, walked all the way to four different restaurants recommended by Google before finding out they were all closed, listened to our children bicker and complain, realized in a panic that if we didn’t retrieve our luggage, the mechanic might lock our car into his shop with all our stuff in it, sent Nathan running across town to retrieve said luggage, and then hauled that luggage around town, and then the bus station was closed in the evenings so there were no vending machines or bathrooms for anyone to use and let’s be real–all bus stations get a little creepy after dark. And finally, when we arrived, our two small children were as jet-lagged as if they’d flown to Japan (and I say that from personal experience.) At least, that’s one way to tell the story.

Another way to tell the story is like this: we took a walk along the river, found a weird metal thing in the water and decided it was a magical key from the Land of Hyrule, found a coffee shop with wi-fi and donuts and a four-way chess board (on which Bubs learned to play chess for the first time), we ate some stellar cheeseburgers and beef-stuffed sopapillas with Pina Coladas, and by the grace of heaven we remembered to get our luggage out of our car before the mechanic closed his shop, and we made it to the Greyhound station with time to spare! And we all made it to the memorial in the morning! Bubs was so tired he even slept through it, which was actually super helpful, hahaha.

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, have all had similar highs and lows. Meltdowns and naps. Lots of easily happy moments, and lots of opportunities to choose happiness.

I haven’t taken any pictures during this trip. Trust me, the idea of archiving the whole thing crossed my mind right at the beginning. The potential for a good story was obvious. But there was more than one adventure to be had. One was about “type two funny” travel disasters and the challenges of dragging children onto Greyhounds at four in the morning, and the kinds of things that make for good youtube videos. The other adventure was a little harder to grasp, a little quieter. It was about taking the time to get to know my kids a little better, teaching my son to play chess, spending time pretending to be mermaids with my daughter in the hotel pool, going to the family graveyard, meeting people I’ve never met before, and helping my husband manage being away from work for several unexpected days. I suppose I could have recorded those things too, and I have recorded that kind of thing in the past. All I can say is this: that a camera changes things. Sometimes taking pictures and footage enhances your experience. Sometimes the camera makes you an outsider in your own adventure. This time, I didn’t feel like looking at everything through a lens.

In the meanwhile, I’m still in Albuquerque. Looking forward to getting back home–hopefully tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, well, at least I’m in a magical, far away place, where the sun is always shining and the air smells like warm root beer, and the towels are oh so fluffy, where the shriners and the lepers play their ukuleles all day long, and anyone on the street will gladly shave your back for a nickel.

Wacka wacka doodoo yeah.
Christine

Image © Nastassia Bas | Dreamstime.com

Storymakers 2018

Storymakers 2018

Okay kids, I’m back from the Storymakers 2018 writing conference, and it’s time for a play-by-play.

First, Christina Parks came ten days before the shindig. She’s one of my best buddies (and one of the best writers I know). This year was extra special because she brought her five year-old daughter and 10 month-old daughter. We even hung out with our buddy Kris Atkins and her kids in Denver, and stayed overnight. It was a lot of kids! Much fun was had. Driving to and from Denver, I started reading I Feel Bad About My Neck out loud to Christina and it made the time fly. Christina and I happen to have the same *exact* palate, so we made a lot of freakishly delicious food. I made carrot cake that lasted all of two-and-a-half days. She even made meat pasties for the family one night, and let the kids roll out their own dough.

Storymakers is a writing conference in Provo, Utah. On the drive up, we had Christina’s two little girls in the car and they were COMPLETE ANGELS. Her baby literally did not cry until about 20 minutes before we arrived at the hotel. Her five year-old stayed with “grandma” during the conference, but Angel Baby stayed with us. With all the stresses of plane flights, long car trips, strange houses, weird hotels, and new people, this kid took it all in stride and amazed us all. Spending time with her was one of the highlights of the trip. Though one thing I often say about babies, is that having a good baby is like having a good bull. Even when they’re good, they’re still a lot to handle, and I was so proud of Christina for going to Storymakers regardless of the additional challenge.

On Wednesday, we went to the Austen Tea Party, a regency-themed get-together for historical or semi-historical writers. This year we were allowed to break from convention and wear anything from any decade. I wore my Moroccan kaftan, Christina wore a regency dress she made herself, and Kris dressed up like a 90s rocker chick. You know what though? I like our pictures from two years ago better, and I never got much of a chance to share those, so that’s going here, hahaha.

The next day, Kris went up to Salt Lake to visit family and Christina and I spent the morning walking Provo, visiting the temple grounds, and stuffing ourselves on Belgian frites and Hruska’s Kaloches. Those little things are like heaven wrapped in a cloud. The sausage and gravy is my favorite. We went there again before we left so Kris wouldn’t miss out.

On the first day of Storymakers we went to a three-hour intensive on social media. You can thank that class for me resurrecting the blog, since the instructor asked us to send her a link to three blog posts a month or so ago and at the time I didn’t have any. The class was actually really amazing and informative–something that’s hard to do with any social media class these days. One of the best takeaways was the idea of just focusing on something. Not trying to create an account everywhere, but really finding where you feel most comfortable and rocking that. I think YouTube + this blog are going to be my focus from here on out. So now I have to resurrect my YouTube channel…

Oh, and we wore matching shirts. Christina made them. Christina was kind of the woman-of-the-hour every hour that week. She knows how to make it happen.

Shannon Hale was the keynote speaker at the conference. When I came home and showed my son pictures, he said he wished he was there and that he thought the Princess in Black was really cool and it wasn’t fair I got to meet the author. I told him her big speech at dinner was about how there were no boy books or girl books, but just books for people, and he yelled “That’s right!!!” So apparently I’m doing something right.

We also had classes by awesome authors like Sarah Eden and Dan Wells. Dan’s class was really weird for me because I listen to him talk on the podcast Writing Excuses almost every day (they update once a week, but I listen to reruns), and getting to learn from him in real life was an amazing experience.

I also got to take a class from Charlie Holmberg, and lucky me, when I finally got the courage to ask her for a picture, she just happened to be with Adam Berg from Studio C. Whaaaaaaat?!

Another fun part of the conference was pitching my book to an editor. This is me right before my pitch:

Hahaha, I’m actually just kidding around. To be totally honest, I wasn’t super nervous about this pitch at all. I see pitches as an opportunity to fine-tune my concept and make some great contacts in the industry. This pitch also included a query and first page critique. The editor actually thought both my query and first page were really solid and didn’t have any suggestions, but I got some great feedback about what was working. We had a little bit of extra time, so he asked me if there was anything else I wanted to talk about. I ended up telling him about some of my short stories, even though he doesn’t rep them, but just for fun. He got really excited about the concept for “Satellite” and wanted me to send him a link so he could read it when it finds a home.

After the conference, our whole trio + Christina’s husband went to see Hamilton! Again, it was Christina with the hookups. She jumped on this whole thing months ago and had all four of us coordinate our attacks the moment the tickets went on sale. This woman knows how to make it happen.

The show was a revelation. I know everyone says this production is a work of genius, but it really is. It deserves the reputation it has. The talent was totally overwhelming, and there was so much to take away from it and think about later. I loved it so much.

And that was a wrap! Christina and her family stayed for some extra time with family in Utah, and Kris and I drove home. On the way back to Colorado we brainstormed an entire book together.

When I got home, I finally got Satellite on submission. Since then I’ve outlined plans for two more short stories. Storymakers is fantastic for so many reasons. The classes, the speakers, the friends, the professionals…but I underlying it all and making it magical is an incredible surge of creative energy. My fire is rekindled for another year. I’m home. I’m writing.

And I’m not going to miss my shot.
Christine

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