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I’m not dead

But I am headachy from exposure to the brightly burning orb in the sky. Go find some pictures of cats or dogs with which to entertain yourself. I will get you started.

Cats that forgot how to cat

Dogs that forgot how to dog


Lone Shoe

Time to get out my beret again!

Lone Shoe
a poem by Amanda Helms

Lone shoe,
Alone shoe,
Who left you
On the highway?
Was it a child off to play?
A white-collar worker who could not delay?
A slick suspicious figure who hates light of day?

Oh shoe,
Lone shoe,
Gone is your mate!
You have no date!
You must think
You do not rate!
How can we
Your sadness sate?

Please, be not blue.
For I believe
Loved you.

Srsly. I don’t know why I don’t move to New York to resurrect the beat scene. ANY DAY NOW I am sure to be made the Poet Laureate.


Let the Kermit flailing commence!

It is with great enthusiasm and much Kermit-flailing that I announce my acceptance to Viable Paradise 18.

For those who did not click on the link above, Viable Paradise is a week-long writing workshop focusing on SFF. It pulls in successful instructors–this year’s bunch includes Steven Brust, Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and Scott Lynch, among others–and has an awesome track record of its students going on to be published (N.K. Jemisin, Myke Cole, and Mur Lafferty immediately spring to mind). I am so, so excited to be accepted.

My application piece was the early pages of my novel, SECOND SUN, for which I became a finalist in the Colorado Gold last year. (I believe my blog post about that was lost when I switched my domain host last year; sorry.) It’ll be interesting to workshop it, because based on feedback I’m getting from agents, it’s “almost there.” I’ve not been too enthusiastic about working on it, however–I spent a solid 18 months on it and got burned out, and was unsure what I might do to get it “there,” anyway. So perhaps I’ll have a light bulb moment about it at VP.

In the meantime, I’m planning to work on revisions of a wildly different project, a YA comic fantasy. I’m also world-building and perhaps and may begin drafting what I think is going to be YA SF. And, yanno, I’m Kermit-flailing.



Creative State

It’s been awhile since I’ve provided any sort of writing update, and I find myself with a dearth of post ideas. So:

I’m 98k-ish into my current project (though I already know at least 10k of that will be scrapped). I’m calling it YA comic fantasy, and it is a 3rd revision of an idea I used for NaNoWriMo, twice. I’ve actually written the last scene and was debating whether to consider the the draft done or to go back and add a scene or two I already know I need, based on changes I made during the latter half of the book. I decided to add one scene that is truly a new addition, and to address another couple of scenes that would be rewrites “plus some additions” during revisions. So I should finish the draft this week, which is one week later than my self-imposed deadline. Not terrible, considering if I’d wanted I could’ve just rolled the scene I’m working on into revision territory.

Things I’ve learned during this book:

  • I will never be able to truly leave behind “discovery writing” or “pantsing” or whatever you want to call it. My best ideas usually don’t come to me until I’m in the midst of writing.
  • During writing, I will also come up with ideas that would change the whole course of the book to implement–and they’re not ideas that are necessarily better; just different. It’s better for me if I can recognize these as “subplots for another book” at the outset, so that I don’t divert from whatever plan I do have that is working. (And I’m getting better at this.)
  • I do relatively well with writing 25k or so words, pausing to reassess/brainstorm the next bit, writing the next 25k or so, and rinse and repeat until done.
  • The Magic Spreadsheet is awesome.
  • My first ideas for endings are usually pretty lousy.

What’s next after this draft: I have short story I’ve been fiddling with that I’d like to finish during the “let the book lie before revisions” period. Also some world-building and research for the next big project after this one (and in truth, this book has been a placeholder project while I try to get my act together for that).

I haven’t worked out hard deadlines for any of the above. I like to have at least a 2-week break before starting revisions (often longer), but my overall writing goal for the year was to get one book nice and fully revised, and to have at least the rough draft of one more. I’m almost halfway through the year, and that second goal is looking more difficult.

And now, a random picture:





In last week’s cop-out post, I mentioned that one of the topics I’d considered writing on before copping out was the fallacy of the notion of beginning to write once retired.

It’s perpetuated in a commercial for an investment company commercial that encourages you to think about saving your money for your retirement, when you’ll be able to do all the things you ostensibly didn’t have time for, back when you were beholden to the shackles of the old 9-to-5. One of the examples this commercial dramatizes is that of Writing the Great American Novel. We see a youngish man, sitting down at a desk and optimistically about to begin his Great American Novel. Life intervenes: marriage, and then children (signified by the man’s office being turned into a nursery), and I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but I think we’re also treated to visuals of the man’s child heading off to college and then getting married herself. At last, the child’s room is reconverted into an office, where our protagonist, now gray-haired and slightly stoop-shouldered, is able to sit down again and at last get started on his Great American Novel. It’s quite a lot to pack into 30 seconds.

Now: saving for the future is good, especially since today’s workers can’t count on social security to see them through their retirement years. But all I could think as I watched this man shoving aside what was supposedly his dream was, if writing is really his dream, it’s not a good idea to wait to pursue it until retirement. (And that applies to any dream, really.)

Even setting aside the typical caveats of “you could get hit by a bus tomorrow,” it takes a freaking long time to get good at writing. The average retirement age is now 67. If our protagonist hasn’t worked at writing, he still has his ten thousand hours or million words or whatever you want to call his “training period” before he should think about submitting his book. Let’s be generous and say he’s willing to make writing his full-time job, and he gives himself a 40-hour work week. Going by the ten thousand hours figure, he has 250 weeks, or just under five years, of practice before him. So, yay! by 72, he’ll be ready to submit to agents or publishers.

Or, by the million-words figure, if he gets in 10,000 words a week (which in my experience is entirely doable and potentially even a low word count, when able to devote 40 hours a week to writing), in about two years, he’ll be ready to submit to agents or publishers (which seems to be the route one normally expects to take, when dreaming about writing the Great American Novel).

But finding an agent* takes time.† And then having a publishing house buy the book takes time. And then having the publishing house actually publish the book so that it gets into the hot little hands or ereaders of consumers takes time. Even if submitting by age 72, it’s quite possible that our protagonist wouldn’t have a book out in buyable fashion until he’s 77, if all goes well.

Life expectancies are going up; according to Social Security’s Life Expectancy Calculator, if a man born in 1982 makes it to age 67, he can expect to live until age 84. A woman could expect to live until age 86.

That would leave, potentially, seven to nine years of enjoyment of living one’s dream. Not even a tenth of one’s life.

And that is why, after finishing this post (I draft them and schedule to post later), I am going to work on my fiction. Less than a tenth of my life is not enough.

*Or going the indie route

† Well, going the indie route should take time. That many people thinks it doesn’t need to is what leads to the loads of bad self-published books being heaped upon the populace.

  1. The nature of love
  2. Why all those “plan for your retirement when you can write the Great American Novel!” commercials are a fallacy
  3. Cheese

Clearly, I need to get in the habit of doing more* prep work.

*Or any at all, whatevs.


Alas, Poor Brussels Sprouts

Because it’s been too long since we’ve had any bad poetry.


Alas, poor Brussels sprouts

In the vegetable world, you hold little clout.

Yet if people truly knew you, I do not doubt

That they would like you, even more than trout!


For when I braise you in a melted pat of butter

Your tasty taste sets my heart aflutter!

Into my napkin I then mutter,

“Anyone who doesn’t love you–is a nutter!”


True, your looks leave something to be desired;

In all that greenness, you are mired.

Making you pretty can leave one tired.

So it is a good thing I’m no pro chef–or I’d be fired.




So in lieu of a real post, enjoy this picture taken during a trip to Seattle in 2011. Enjoy it, I say!



Dear Birds Who Start Chirping Outside My Bedroom Window at 3:45 in the Morning:

I hate you.

With the rage of a thousand fiery suns,




3 observations re: ideas

  1. Asking writers where their ideas come from is like asking oysters how they make pearls (or cancer; take your pick).
  2. Ideas propagate like rabbits listening to Marvin Gaye on loop.
  3. As with children, it is difficult to tell if ideas are ugly unless they belong to someone else.