Little annoying things while reading

So…there are a lot of BIG terrible things going on in the world right now, but I’m not going to talk about those. No, I’m going to be totally petty and share some of those tiny, insignificant things that have thrown me right out of books, sometimes temporarily (like right now) or permanently.

Everyone gets chicken pox.

Dear author, I think you’re my age and while everyone got chicken pox when we were kids, have you talked to a parent lately? There’s this thing called a chicken pox vaccine now, and at least in the US, most kids don’t get chicken pox anymore. Lucky them.

The apple had a maggot it in.

Uhhh, no. Maggots are fly larva and they eat meat. Decomposing meat. In fact, they’ve been used to clean human wounds both in the past and right now. (There is a picture of a maggot in this article in The Atlantic, but if you google this instead you will get MUCH WORSE.) Ok, so when researching this, I found out that there in fact are apple maggots (so I’m wrong) but they are actually fruit fly larva (so I’m not wrong?). (I googled this too and EWW.) But the only things I’ve found in my apples were probably Codling moth larvae, which are slightly less gross looking. I have now learned something. Sorry, authors, for badmouthing you.

The MC used oars in a canoe.

On a recent visit to Central Park in NYC I saw people rowing row boats backwards (with the flat part going forward) so I guess boat knowledge is not that common? But no. Oars are used in a row boat; paddles are used in canoes.

Mama instead of mamá

This was in an English language book with occasional Spanish words. This was VERY distracting. Mama means breast in Spanish. Mamá means mother. Not the same thing. Probably not the author’s fault, but the publisher should have done better.

/petty rant.

What about you? What throws you out of a book?



It’s been a while! Life happened, I got sick, my job got hard, we moved from New York to Bangkok (I know! we moved to Bangkok. I still can’t believe it), I got sick again, and all the while I’ve been writing, writing, writing fiction.

So I’ve been gone, but now I hope to be back.

On Killing | Myke Cole

On Killing | Myke Cole.

Killing is a chain.

Fan­tasy seems to iso­late the act to two bel­liger­ents, the slayer and the slain, at least as far as the con­se­quences go. But the truth is that, in law-enforcement, coun­terin­sur­gency, and war, the ulti­mate act is the result of the efforts of dozens if not hun­dreds of people. Each is a par­tic­i­pant. Each owns the expe­ri­ence. Each is changed by it. Permanently.

Those changes are rarely positive.

I thought about the treatment of killing a lot while I was writing The Desert Wall and The Red Fortress, and how casual it can seem for the character who is doing the killing. I didn’t think that seemed very realistic, but rather a product of casual killing on TV, in the movies and in video games.

More things to read (besides Mike Cole’s post in its entirety): What It Is Like To Go To War by Karl Marlantes and On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by David Grossman

State of the Writer

Hello! I haven’t been around here much.

I was struggling with my WIP that I’ve been working on, on and off for the last two years. I have a full plot arc for the main characters but the subplot involving a third character just hasn’t been gelling into anything. A few weeks ago, Tam challenged me to write a short story with a writing prompt of strange place names and I wrote the big climax for my WIP in a fit of inspiration. I thought maybe that would get the rest of it going too, but instead I wrote the short story, which turned out to be a chapter of a book I wrote the opening chapter for two years ago.

Since then I haven’t been able to stop writing the shiny new YA biopunk* science fantasy thingy that I started. Words have been coming like they haven’t been coming for months. 1000, 2000 even 3000 at a time, when I’ve been lucky to get 100 lately.

*Apparently this is a thing, but it’s not the thing I mean. I’m thinking more how Kameron Hurley talks about her God’s War books as bugpunk.

I think I’ve been working on the wrong thing. Or the shiny new project has been sitting in the back of my brain for long enough that I’m ready to write it. And the WIP, which I made a lot of progress on before grinding to a halt (like my first car, which leaked oil like a severed artery until it ran out, seized up and blew smoke all over the highway) needs to sit in the back of my brain.

I just hope it’s not for another two years, but I begin to detect a pattern. Two years here, two years there. I fight against it. I don’t want to be a slow writer. I don’t want to wait and flounder around wondering what I should be writing and not writing, which makes my unhappy and cranky. On the other hand, I love the feeling of flow, of the knowing what should be next, without having to strain so much for it. My subconscious has obviously been doing the work while I went about life.

And this one feels different (what a joke, each novel I’ve written or attempted to write has felt different), like it’s less of a rough draft than it usually is, with more of the details there. With maybe, dare I say it? slightly better writing than I usually have at this point in the process.

Everyone says don’t compare yourself to other writers. It’s hard not to when it seems publishing is speeding up exponentially and writers are writing two books (or four) a year (though not necessarily publishing them). But I’d have to say don’t compare yourself to yourself either. Just because the last book was hard doesn’t mean this one will be. Just because the last book was easy doesn’t mean this one will be. And maybe I was reaching too far beyond my capabilities with that WIP and I have to wait to grow into it (which isn’t a bad thing). Sherwood Smith told me once she is still waiting to grow into a story she wants to write and she’s been writing for decades.

Meanwhile, I’ll just chant my litany of other writers who have said they are slow: Franny Billingsley, Libba Bray, or um, that’s the end of my list. Who else has said they’re slow?

And a question: Anyone have a favorite scene from a book or movie where one character threatened another? It’s for the shiny WIP. I’m trying to figure out how I want a scene to go.

Pitmad: First 250 words


Malenie was hiding. The sun burned hot and brilliant on the white plaster and dull adobe houses, banishing the shadows from even so narrow an alley. Sweat prickled along her hairline. She leaned against the wall, its grit rubbing off on her back, and tried to stop panting. Fear and humiliation made a hard fist of her stomach, urging her to run again. Only two streets over, the market hummed with activity, promising safety.

“I hate them,” she whispered soundlessly, though she wanted to shout. She had been careless after almost a moon without trouble, and now here she was, with at least one bully somewhere behind her. But a cactus never has just one spine, and bullies never travel alone. She tucked her black hair behind her ears, pressed herself closer to the house behind her and crept forward. She peeked around the corner, thinking, Please.

The boy was so close she smelled fennel and anise on his breath as they both recoiled. “Told you,” said the tall girl with him, stepping forward and forcing Malenie back into the alley. Malenie’s heartbeat seemed to shake her whole body, demanding that she fight or run. Run or fight. The boy followed half a breath later, straightening his shoulders, trying to look bigger, but the girl didn’t notice. Pursing her lips, she looked Malenie up and down. “Where you going, Red?”

The insult stung and Malenie said, “I don’t want to fight,” knowing it was the wrong thing to say even as she said it.


I’ve hurt my shoulder by spending too much time at the computer, so I’ll probably take some time off from the blog. Hopefully not too much.

Also, it’s good motivation to actually set up a desk in our new home. We’ve only been there for eight months. I’m hoping to set up a treadmill desk if I can find the room. The idea of not sitting is so attractive now that I have a 9-5 office job.