Tor Books Submission Reply (Spoiler: It’s a no)

Which is to say, “We are sorry to say that it’s not right for us at this time.”

Which I expected.

Still sucks.

Okay.  Back to it. But later.

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What I Want as a Writer

Every writer has a dream of what they want for their career.  For some, it’s riches (ha!  HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!), for some, it’s getting a place at the table that is SFF Publishing and fandom, and for others it’s fans.

Me?  I don’t hope for riches, though I certainly won’t say no if the option ever comes to me.  A place at that table would be nice, but not all writers get that, either.  Fans?  Yeah, sure, but that’s secondary to what I really want.

I want to entertain readers. More than that, though, I want to affect them.

I want to make readers weep the way Melanie Rawn, Anne McCaffrey, and Harlan Ellison made me weep.  I want to make readers think the way Harlan’s introductions, or Asimov’s robot stories, or even Star Trek made me think.  I want to make readers so eager for my next book that they haunt bookstores (or, I guess, book sites these days), the way I checked for the next CJ Cherryh or CS Friedman novel.

I want teenage readers to be so in love with my work that their parents see my name on a book and know it’s a good choice for their kid, the way my aunt knew that buying me a new book by Anne McCaffrey was a good choice even though she never read the stuff.  I want to make people second-guess their lifelong beliefs once in a while.  I want to make them laugh.  I want to make them smile, sit back, and say “Man, that was a good story.”

And I want to create book evangelists, who shove one of my books into their friend’s hands and say “No, really, read it, it’s awesome,” in the same way I insisted my friends read Ian McDonald’s Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone or Children of Dune.

I want to write passages so achingly good that they make the reader cry not just the first time they read it, but every time, just like I still cry when I read the ends of books 2 and 3 of The Books of the Last Herald-Mage trilogy, even though I see the flaws in those books, too.

I want to console people drowning in grief just like Steven Gould consoled me through Jumper, and how Neil Gaiman did in just about the entire run of Sandman.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I want to be for others the same thing so many writers were for me.  I want to be their clown, their muse, their lifeline in moments of self doubt, and their solace in times of grief.

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The Home Depot Loop

Almost every time I decide to do a new home repair project, I end up going to Home Depot multiple times.

No matter how much research I do, no matter how prepared I think I am, my initial supply run will miss something that I won’t realize I need until I’ve gotten into the process.  So I’ll go get that thing.  And then, further down the line, I’ll realize I need something else–either because I forgot about it, or because something’s not working right and I need a part to fix it.

Today I was replacing an anti-siphon sprinkler valve.  I got the old one off, and realized I needed new PVC Solvent Cement, because the stuff I had had turned to jelly (which means it’s not safe anymore and won’t work, either).  So I went to get some.  And then I realized the pipes on the old valve are about 1/2 an inch wider than the inlets on the new valve.  So I had to go back for a clamp to bring the pipes together–and if that doesn’t work when I test the pressure, I’m going to need to dig the whole thing up, through the old rose vine roots that are in that bed, and basically start from scratch.

Sometimes I miss the days I could call the landlord and he’d deal with it.

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WIP Progress

After a writing dry spell in which I simply couldn’t focus enough to write, I’m finally moving forward again.  The Year of Rage, which may be a standalone but is meant to be book one of Rage Across the Stars, is now plotted out.

Unlike my last book (still being shopped), this one is told from multiple third-person POVs, and will tell five overlapping stories I’m pretty sure I’ve nattered about here before, though it’s changed somewhat.

The story is ready.  This afternoon, while my child does her spins in gymnastics, I’ll be trying to start this roller coaster.

I’m actually looking forward to it.

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What I Need to Keep Writing: A Realization and a Resolution (and a tiny bit of whining)

When I attended Viable Paradise 17, back in 2013, I got a massive shot of “YES, YOU COULD BE A PROFESSIONAL WRITER OF FICTION” juice.  And that kept me going, when I got home, so that it took me about another year to finish the book, even accounting for all the rewrites required by what I’d learned at VP.

At that point, my self-confidence was flagging.  Surely, this book sucked.  Nothing any of the pros at VP had said about the book, or about my skill, was real.  They were just being nice.  So I sent the book out to Beta, and while I got some feedback that was critical of elements of the book, most of them were also quite complimentary, with a running comment being variations of “If I’d bought this in a bookstore, I’d consider it money well spent.”  That renewed my self-belief, and I spent a few months rewriting and editing quite happily, and polished it up.  Then I sent it out to agents.

I’ve talked before about how the agent submission process is long and often debilitating. Nothing has changed. And so, my “Writer self-belief” is now at an all-time low.  And I’m finding myself working on a new project, but unable to actually write.  I’ve got an outline; I know the shape of the plot… and it’s going precisely nowhere.

I am realizing that I am a writer who needs semi-regular bolstering of my belief in myself.  Which is lame, but there it is. I need to do more writing-related activities, at least once a year or so, to keep my belief in this path going.  Otherwise I crawl into a hole and stop writing, which drives me insane.  I want to write.  I maybe even need to write.  But if I’m not doing it, I lose the thread.

So: In the short term, more talking to my VP friends.  In the long term: Paradise Lost next year.  Maybe even Taos Toolbox.

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My Dream Cast for The Book

If I had unlimited finances and the ability to make a movie of my probably-never-to-be-published Seeking Home, I’d cast:

Tajen Hunt: Nathan Fillion

Katherine Lawson: Ming-Na Wen

Takeshi Lawson: Leonardo Nam

Liam Maxwell: Ryan Reynolds OR Matt Bomer OR Chris Pratt

Kiri Hunt: Molly C. Quinn (though she’s probably too old now)

Ben: August Schellenburg (But he’s dead now, so … hrm… Graham Greene?)

Quince: John de Lancie

Yeah, they’re all a bit too pretty, but they’re often the actors who inspired the characters in my brain.

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That Time I Yelled At My Kid in Public: A Story of Parenting In Progress

I haven’t been posting much, because aside from “Where I am now in my interminable monkeying with this new project I haven’t actually gotten ready to write yet,” I haven’t felt like I had much to say.

And then I remembered that one of the things I most love about Harlan Ellison–and yes, I get that he’s made mistakes, he’s still a brilliant writer, let’s move on–is his ability and willingness to expose his viscera in his introductions.

Well, if he can do it, I can, right?  I guess we’ll see.  So here, have an anecdote from an incident that happened a few years ago, and why it illustrates what I most love about my family:

Sometimes, parenting is hard.  Sometimes it’s even harder.

When my daughter was five or so, she and I went camping with my family–my aunt, my uncle, my sisters, and some family friends who are basically family.  Tegan did great the first day, on the drive up to the campsite, and she had fun that first night, but on the second day she got hit with a bout of “I want my mama.”

Now, Tegan is what most people would call “stubborn,” just like her mom and I, but which experts would call “Holy fuck, she must be Scottish!” She started needling me about how she wanted to go home, because she wanted her mom.  She just Would Not Stop.

At first, I was able to reason with her and handle it, but it got difficult really fast.  I was feeling overwhelmed by being the sole caretaker of her, being unable to relax, and dealing with her nearly-constant demands for this or that.  And after a good long while of hearing “I want to go home!” I was ready to burst.

Once more, I tried to reason with her.  Mama was having some quiet alone time, and we needed to let her have that.  We were having fun, and if she would just relax, and put her socks and shoes on for me, I’d take her to the playground, and we would have dinner, and then go to sleep, and we’d see mama tomorrow.

She was having none of it.

And finally, I snapped, and screamed “Knock it off!”

Now, when I say I screamed, I’m not telling you I raised my voice, and I didn’t yell.  I outright screamed, in a five year old child’s face, to knock it off.  At the top of my lungs.

Yeah. Parenting fail.

As soon as I did it, I knew I’d fucked up.  Her little face was in tears, and I was feeling like the biggest shithead in the universe, and the worst dad ever.  I couldn’t even dare to look away from her; I knew everyone would be looking at me in horror.

And then I felt a hand on my shoulder, and my aunt said, gently, “Take a breath,” and steered me back to everyone else.  And my sister Blair, took my daughter, and said “Hey, let’s go play and give dad a minute.”  And my sister Brooke handed me a beer, and said “Sit.”

Nobody lectured me.  Nobody said anything, except “It’s hard, sometimes, huh?” And I talked about feeling overwhelmed, and how I wasn’t sure how my daughter was going to grow up without hating me, because I just don’t have patience.  And the family friend told me stories about her losing it at her kids, and that they turned out pretty good (which they did).  And when Tegan came back, I gave her a hug, and she sat in my lap until it was time to eat, and gave me kisses.

That was the first time I ever really lost my temper with my kid.  I wish I could say it was the last, but that would be a lie.  But when it happens, I do what I did then–I apologize for losing my patience, and for making her afraid, and then deal with the actual problem.  I’m getting better now and heading off that kind of loss of temper and cooling down, but that’s a thing you learn over time–I wish I’d known it then, but I was still pretty new at the whole “parenting someone who can walk and talk and has her own mind and personality now” stage.

I just talked to Tegan about this incident–and she has no memory of it at all.  But she remembers other times, and she knows that my temper is a lot like hers–sometimes it gets the better of us, but we keep getting better at controlling it.

My daughter and I are super close.  She’s lost it at me, I’ve lost it at her, but when it happens, we handle it.  And we heal.

And the thing about my family that story illustrates is that we’re there for each other.  We don’t talk about how close we are, and we don’t generally say shit like “Family is Important,” but when the chips are down, we are there for each other.

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