Out Writing

I promise a political post soon. I’ve watched 3 debates, and we need to comment on some things. But I’m leaving work early today to go cook dinner for my husband and kids and then climb back into my binder to go write, and write I must. I am closing in on this draft, and I still want to be done by the end of October. Work has decided it wants to finish me, however, so it becomes a war of will.

Besides the political post, I need to talk about Paradise Icon, some of the cool things I’ve been reading lately, and a couple of more meta posts. But right now I gotta right some vampire suspense, and try to keep it a middle school level of scary.

Write well, fellow scribblers.

The Next Big Thing from Christopher Kastensmidt

Christopher was kind enough to send me his Next Big Thing. I love the Elephant and Macaw Banner short that was published a couple years back in Realms of Fantasy. You know, the story that got him nominated for the Nebula?


What is the title of your Work in Progress?

The Elephant and Macaw Banner

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I wrote a novelette called “The Fortuitous Meeting of Gerard van Oost and Oludara” back in 2007. While I researched that project, I fell in love with the world and characters, and realized the duo had a history going way beyond that tale. Before I’d finished that first story, I’d already come up with an entire three-novel arc for them. That novelette ended up being a type of origin story, and is now the first chapter of the novel.

What genre does your book fall under?

I like to call it historical fantasy, although many call it sword & sorcery. In any case, it is set in sixteenth-century colonial Brazil, and includes elements of Brazilian folklore.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje would make a perfect Oludara. He’s over six feet tall and even speaks Yoruba! It’s hard to imagine an actor more perfect for that part, although Nollywood probably has some up-and-coming actors who could also fit the bill.

I think a younger Ron Perlman would have made a good Gerard van Oost. A Dutch actor would be interesting, although I’m not sure I know any.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?

A Dutch traveler and African slave meet in sixteenth-century Brazil and travel the wild lands there in search of adventure.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I don’t know yet. I’ll probably send the novel out to some agents when I’m done.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I’ll let you know when I’m finished! I’ve been working on the series on and off since 2006, and stories set in the world have already been published in the U.S., England, Brazil, The Czech Republic and Romania. The novel is slow writing because each chapter introduces new places and characters. In any case, I hope to wrap up by June of next year at the latest.

What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

The traveling pair of adventurers was inspired by Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Grey Mouser series, one of my all-time favorites.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I began consulting in Brazil in 1997 and moved here permanently in 2001. Some of the first books I read were history books, and later I researched Brazilian folklore and travelers’ tales for a video game project. All that kind of stewed in my mind until I had the idea for the first story. The two most direct inspirations are Hans Staden (a German mercenary captured by Brazilian Natives in the sixteenth century) and the bandeirantes (bannerman) who explored the Brazilian wilderness in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I do massive research for this series (I have some two-hundred books I use for reference), and after publishing the first story, I began posting some of this information overflow to a website, for readers curious about the history and culture of the time. I also post series news and artwork there.

I also hope to take this series to other media. I already have a graphic novel in the works, and I’m discussing a possible video game with some companies right now.

(and check out this awesome art for the graphic novel!–Cath)

And let me wrap up by thanking Catherine for the chance to appear on Writer Tamago!


Always a pleasure, Chris!

Living with Osteoarthritis: Food Processor

There comes a time when you get pretty darned tired of just grabbing a banana.

This weekend, rather than waiting for Christmas, I went out and bought a Kitchen Aid food processor.

This seven-cup beauty has a shredding blade, a slicer (gonna be great for that apple tart I want to make next week), and the usual food processor blades of whirling death. Yesterday I shredded huge amounts of golden beets making a slaw flavored with orange juice and apple cider vinegar, a little goat cheese on top. Thank you, Weight Watchers recipe book.

I’m eating it now. It sings and dances in your mouth.

The food processor is probably an investment Bryon and I should have made in our kitchen sooner than this. It makes eating healthier less of an onerous chore, as our previous kitchen tool for this was a dull knife. Tomorrow I’ll be making a mashed sweet potato and pear puree. Expect reviews.

The cost was about $110, so very economical for this versatile of a kitchen tool. It is a distinguished silver, and has three settings: low, high, pulse, plus several different food guard attachments. It’s easy to assemble and re-assemble, and most of the pieces lock for safety purposes.

Also, here’s that beet slaw.

Continue reading “Living with Osteoarthritis: Food Processor”

An Open Letter to Viable Paradise XVI

I really should address this as an open letter to XIV, XV, and XVI, but I didn’t get the idea to do it until this year. Whoops.


I know you’ve just had a wonderful week. Three years ago, this very week, I journeyed out to Martha’s Vineyard. I watched glow in the dark jellyfish and I walked blisters on my feet by the sea side. I sat up late at night, my stomach churning as I worried about what people would say about my work, even though my exterior was rippleless. I washed dishes unbidden; I sat at the feet of Buddha, and I came home with new wings on my ankles.

I met twenty-three other writers of promise, all of whom I’ve interviewed, and many of whom I see on a still regular basis. I continue to read their work, and they continue to impress upon me how good they are, and sometimes I even wonder how I became one of their number.

I met six wise instructors. My session with John Scalzi changed how I draft. When Dr. Doyle told me that she thought my story was just like an Edward Gorey story, I was delighted. Laura Mixon was also magical in my session. The lectures and the sessions enabled me to take my work seriously, and for the first time I stopped believing I wanted to be a writer, and I was a writer. And there were three counselors who underscored this belief at every opportunity.

Listen now. This is very important. Right now you are empowered. You probably feel you can go home and you can do anything. AND YOU CAN. What will happen after the euphoria wears off is that your life and its mundane demands will try to rub the new shiny glitter of your experience away.

You must not let that happen. You must talk to your classmates, talk to your teachers, talk to your writer buddies, the people you sweated with and listened to, that community of intimate writers you built. Don’t let that dwindle.

I found myself recently in the place of realizing that I wasn’t taking myself seriously as a writer. It’s not easy to stay in that place when so much of the world competes for your time. BUT you can do it. Remember: you are part of a writing community now. You’ve bonded. You never have to go it alone.

Welcome to something larger than yourself and as large as yourself. Your imagination. Your writing career as a spec fiction story teller. I’ll see you in the bar, and I look forward to hearing all about your time on the Vineyard, and the stories you publish.

Welcome to the family.


I’m back to working on my Mac. I’d been flirting with buying a new power cord for a bit, but kept jiggling it and it kept working. Last week I woke up and there were exposed wires, so I rethought that. As soon as I’m done dinkin’ around here, I’ll be working on transposing the writing that I’ve done recently in word back to Scrivener. And then it’s smooth sailing into the last chapter (possibly two) of my third trip through the book.


It’s been a bit since I’ve stepped back and looked at my life to weigh my sense of balance. Here we go. Let me hide this under a cut. There is a bit about writing under here, but you know, other stuff as well. I didn’t mean to spend this morning in my head, but there you go.

Continue reading “Manifesto?”

TT Profile #4: Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde is both a Taos Toolboxer and a graduate of Viable Paradise. Thanks, Fran, for stopping by.

Tamago: Tell us about the first thing you can remember writing.

Fran: I remember writing new Starblazers and Superfriends scripts for my neighbors to act out – that totally dates me, doesn’t it? And I remember a poem I wrote in third grade that made it into the school newspaper. It featured a flying horse, I’m pretty sure.

Tamago: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Fran: Probably seeing that poem in print was enough to toss me over the cliff. I was a huge reader, and I’d read anything. The local indie bookstore would sometimes sneak me an ARC, especially if I helped them shelve books, or told them what I thought of a book I’d just read. And the local librarian, Mrs. C., encouraged me to write. So I was a bibliophile first, then a writer – by third or fourth grade, probably. There was a bit of time later when I wasn’t doing very much writing, but that passed.

Tamago: Who are your writing role models?

Fran: I think Daniel Abraham has a great attitude about the writing life. I read N.K. Jemisin, Vylar Kaftan, and Elizabeth Bear‘s blogs a lot for inspiration. Steven Gould’s a big proponent of the “Be good, be on time, be nice,” model, and I do my best to keep that mantra in mind. Debra Doyle has an excellent blog about various elements of writing, and her husband James D. Macdonald gives wonderful tips over at the Absolute Write forums. Also Mur Lafferty and Mary Robinette Kowal with their podcasts. And I love the enthusiasm of the SF Squeecast for genre fiction.

I try to write every day, so the writers who remind me of that habit, especially when I’m dealing with family needs or calendar snafus, are my biggest role models. But most of all, my role models are my peers and my writing groups – the people who nudge me on, even when the going is tough, and whom I nudge back now and then.

Tamago: How does having an advanced degree in poetry affect your writing?

Fran: I think the benefit of any advanced degree is the depth of reading. So, I have an MFA in poetry and a masters’ in interaction design and information architecture. Both of those inform my writing, because I still read heavily in both fields. Poetry makes me very aware of words, and somewhat obsessed with sound and rhythm. Sometimes I have to watch that I don’t get too ensorcelled. It also gave me a nice grounding in epic literature. Information design keeps me current with technology and the programming required to make it work, as well as narrative techniques for games, visual hierarchies and wayfinding, and new techniques for hypertext fiction.

Tamago: I know you write science fiction, fantasy, and YA. Do you find that your writing process is the same or varies for these different types of speculative fiction?

Fran: I think it’s the same – a lot of research, then a bit of seat-of-the-pants writing, then a plot outline and scene studies. Then I’m ready to write and … oh look the kitchen needs cleaning…

It kind of goes like that.

I average 1,000 to 3,000 words a day. On tough days, it’s a job to get to 500 words, but I still try to do it. Even if they’re words that I’ll toss out later. Most days, I find writing a synopsis for what I’m going to work on helps me hit my goal faster. But some days I forget to do that and I flail all over the place.

So it’s sort of like that, too.

Tamago: How did you come to apply for Taos Toolbox?

Fran: My friends Oz Drummond and Gregory Frost suggested it.

Tamago: I know that you’ve been to both Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox. What advice would you give an author who is considering a neo-pro workshop?

Fran: Submit your best work. Give your group the best critiques you can. Remember that everyone – students and instructors – at a workshop are human beings, and try to treat people with respect.

Do your best to silence your brain weasels after a critique – they’re going to tell you that the comments you just received are an overall indictment of your value as a writer. The brain weasels are wrong and you are better than they are.

Tamago: Which writers would you say are your influences?

Fran: In no order whatsoever: China Mieville, Jorge Luis Borges, N.K. Jemisin, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Flannery O’Connor, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Elizabeth Bishop, Charles Stross, Greg Egan, science writers David Quammen and Richard Preston, William Gibson, Pat Cadigan, Neal Stevenson, Neil Gaiman, Tom Waits, Joe Haldeman, Andy Duncan, Genevieve Valentine, Italo Calvino, Connie Willis, Walter John Williams, Jo Walton.

Tamago: What are you working on now?

Fran: I’ve got two short stories in development, one for an anthology. I am polishing my second novel, Bone Arrow.

Tamago: Where can people find out more about you and your work?

My website.

Thank you for having me by, Cath.


Thank you for coming by!

World Con Panel: Committing Series

with Jason Hough, Elizabeth Moon, Adam Troy-Castro, Mary Robinette Kowal and Chris Gerrib

Lots of different types of series.
Series that are really one fat story arc.
Series that have an arc for each book. (Something needs to bring these arcs together.)
For example, the Discworld series, where the setting unifies the books.
Also, the template series. A reboot of characters, say Spiderman or James Bond.

Series can have multiple POV.

Planning a series takes a different type of planning than planning a novel.

Sometimes writers are asked for a stand alone book, and then asked if they can write more books.

It’s better if you can put the books out faster.

Sometimes series last longer than you want (Sherlock Holmes as an example.)

How do you handle the orienting back story? It’s okay to leave it out if it’s not referent to the current book.

Scott Lynch cited by Mary. Sequel to Lies of Locke Lamora does not tell you what awful thing happened in Lies of Locke Lamora, only that it was bad.

Kowal’s Glamour in the Glass is a book that stands apart from the first book.

Back story is best if it comes out in the narrative.

Cliff hangers!
Early serials cheated terribly.
Reread your first book and make sure you are dealing fairly with the cliff hanger.

Watch out for continuity errors.

In a long arc series, sometimes there is no good place to break a book. So cliff hanger!

Cliffhangers can alienate an audience.
Pay off must be there.
This is the same for a cliff hanger at the end of a chapter as well as one at the end of a book.

You may want to have a series bible, digital or in notebooks.
Although sometimes your notes may go by the wayside, and you may surprise yourself as you write.

Make sure you read your book aloud for audio book concerns.

What do you do if you are tired of the series?
Suck it up and write the character.
Go back to the last place you were excited. What excited you? What still excites you?

Some issues may never be resolved at the end of the book.

If you have the whole series written, let the publisher know. That might make them more interested.

Any book can go on, unless it’s the end of the universe.

The Next Big Thing

I’ve been tagged by Fran Wilde to do The Next Big Thing, a post about one of my WiPs.

So, without further adieu,

1. What is the title of your work in progress?

The title is Abigail Rath Versus Blood-Sucking Fiends.

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

I’ve seen a lot of movies about fearless monster hunters, and I had this thought: What would it be like to be a kid whose parents were fearless monster hunter? This book is about that.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

This is a middle grade fantasy. In some places it spans into horror, but since it’s for younger kids, I’m not trying to make it too scary. At least until the stakes are high. No, that was not a pun.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I would love to get Christopher Lee to play Lee Christopher. Yup, it’s that obvious. Reginald Rath would be Hugh Laurie. Pauline Rath would be Emma Thompson (with an American accent). And the kids? Well, there would have to be a nation wide talent search for Abigail, Vince, Marty, Coral and William.

5. What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book??

Abigail Rath wants to impress her parents with her natural monster slaying talents, but discovers that humans and monsters co-existing is much more complicated than she thought.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will be seeking representation for Abigail Rath Versus Blood-Sucking Fiends, as I do for all of my projects.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

One month. It was last year’s NaNoWriMo project. Currently I am in the third rewrite.

8. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

Would you believe Diary of a Wimpy Kid? Because there is a group of friends that work toward a common goal. And these three series: the Gilda Joyce series by Jennifer Allen, the Theodosia Throckmorton series by R. L. LaFevers, and the Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Hammer and Universal horror films. My husband Bryon, who has a great interest in and a vast knowledge of this unique kind of camp. My friend Steve, upon whom the initial portrayal of Reginald Rath was based.

10. What else about this book might pique your readers’ interest?

Well, I plan five of these, each a spin on a particular monster. Much of the action in the book takes place at a roller rink. I get to talk about vampires and sparkling. And I’m learning how to be Californian for the book.


You know Fran tagged me. Go check out her site above.

And I’m tagging:

Miranda Suri
Absent Post

Matt A. Hughes

Christopher Kastensmidt
The Elephant and Macaw Banner Post

Catherine Evleschin
Rivers Still Run

World Con Panel: Perseverance

with Tim Waggoner, Richard Lovell, Eldon Thompson, David Manusek, and Laura Ann Gilman

Formula for persevering; Stubborness plus ego plus goal equals perserverance

To be an author, you need a high tolerance for discomfort and uncertainty. This can wear you down.

You should be thinking long term. Finished? Publish? No, wait. Take time.

Don’t listen to everything everyone says.

It’s hard to make a living as an author. You need a day job and you need to persevere with your writing. Perseverance is also necessary for the long term career. There will be the grind of “I have to write this.”

Make sure you take a break every day, but also write every day.

While you have to writing, don’t think it is only onerous. Writing is a joy.

Treat each day as unique. Don’t focus on past failures. That is good advice for everything. Shake it off. Be done.

Continue on in the face of rejection. Remember every career has its ups and downs. Be diverse and flexible.

Don’t sweat the things you can’t control, like rejection, bad reviews. Move on. As something is released into the world, don’t obsess on it. It now has it’s own life.

Some stories about the most frustration moments in career.

Tim: My agent disappeared after 18 years.
Eldon: Dealing with Hollywood.
David: Hollywood.
Richard: Rights trouble and idea trouble.
Laura: Having a good story rejected for good reasons.

Stories where perseverance paid off?

Eldon: Selling my favorite book!
David: Writing a story in twelve year intervals.
Robert: Long time to publish a story.

Tim: Remember, dreams can come true.

Keep up your ego and keep working.

How do you know your ego hasn’t clouded your judgment? Beta readers. We write alone, but we do not work alone.


Using the awesome powers of orange juice and SHEER FORCE OF WILL I am back from the land of viral incompetence. Promptly after attending the wedding, I came down with some incapacitating tiredness at Toys R Us, and Bryon took me home, where I stayed until Tuesday.

When I am ill, I can’t do much. Reading or writing is generally out. So, in the great tradition of avoiding boredom, I watched through two seasons of Dead Like Me, once again appreciating some awesome character centered/quirky story telling. Then on Wednesday, because I woke up with the ringworm, Bryon had just gotten rid of, and I was tired of being sick, I stumbled into the doctor, who promptly gave me medicine for one thing, but no meds for the VIRUS, because that’s the way doctors roll these days.

However, Thursday, my antibodies triumphed. And I finished chapter 10 of Abby Rath yesterday. It’s SO good to be well.


So. I’m writing today. Yes, I am. I just wanted to let you all know that I hadn’t died in some sort of car accident or something. Tomorrow is vintage hair day with my friend Mary and her daughter Katie. Sunday is Greek dinner with Allen. AND this weekend, I’d like to get through chapter 11, which is new material and will need a couple of smoothing rewrites, ultimately.

How are you?