It’s all or nothing time…probably.

I’m currently adrift in the grayish blobby starfields of writer’s block.

I’d like to talk a bit about how JUST WRITE JUST WRITE WHAT ARE YOU A LAZY COCKERDOODLE JUST WRITE advice knocks around my head, and whether it’s actually motivating, and what I do about it. If I’m honest, these days I’m lucky if I write a blog post. I’m luckier if I write a sentence of fiction that I don’t delete. Therefore it’s tempting, with that single sentence (be it grand or shitty), to hold it aloft in triumph and cross WRITE off my to-do list for the day.

At the same time, I can’t stand the whole black-and-white, all-or-nothing pep talks. They block me up more — if it were possible. And then I stare at the blank page in my computer screen, and think, I think I’d rather have some cheese or Haven’t had sex in a while, maybe I’ll go do that or shit, procrastinated too long, the kid woke up and is crying. When push comes to shove, writers generally say (or write. Ha. Ha. Ha.), if you’re going to write, you’ll choose writing. And they — those mythical, incredible powerhouses — are right.

So here is the useful part of this post.

Dubious Tips for Escaping the Graybobbleknit World of Writer’s Block 

  1. Go have sex. Maybe don’t talk a lot, but definitely do it. It’s okay! Feel good again! Sex can only inform your writing. If you’re claiming the mantle of celibacy (voluntary, involuntary, whatever label you’re giving yourself), go masturbate. On second thought, if involuntary, go talk to someone. Note: while sexing, you are not actually writing. Remember this.
  2. Eat Cheese. Or whatever. Eat it.
  3. Pick up the kid and whisper a story in his ear. This might be terrible advice if your kid needs to sleep and is having trouble getting there and you’re writing horror or even light surrealism. So, addendum, do not whisper YOUR story in his ear. Tell him about Copernicus the king cobra. It is the most somnolent story in the history of past-bedtime stories.
  4. Watch TV and read a bunch. Yes, a bunch. You might end up parroting the structure of Midsomer Murders, but that’s your own damn fault, isn’t it?
  5. Go outside for a walk or five. This is obligatory advice meant to be included in any and all advice lists, along with drinking water and listening to soothing music.

Go forth and escape! Coherency and sleep are for the useful.

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Judging like a judgey cover judger

I was looking through old post drafts today, and came up with this one. Some of you may know that Memory’s Exile never had the print release it was supposed to have. So I left this blog post unfinished and moldering in the Drafts folder. But it’s such an awesome cover, I want to share it despite the fact it never saw print. Here’s the original draft, from June 2018:

 

As my publisher is rolling towards print release, I realized something: I never talked about how much I love the cover for Memory’s Exile. This is the wrap cover for the print edition, created by Chris from MadMango.

MemorysExile_CreateSpace_6x9_490_white_LowRes (1)

Isn’t it gorgeous? Great job, Chris. ❤

 

Behold a White Horse

I’m fascinated by disease, illness, plagues, and their effect worldwide. Maybe it’s because diseases can be an equalizer: you might be the healthiest Heidi on the mountainside, have great access to medical care (and goats milk, and cheese, and bread, and a gruff-yet-loving Grandpa), and you still might fall victim to the same illness that kills a less-privileged person, or one that skips the old and infirm and strikes the healthy young. Viruses and bacteria thrive alongside us, with or without us. When I wrote about my made-up Leech virus, I thought about intensifying that inescapable bond.

Similarly I wondered what would happen if, after a global plague killed off a large chunk of the human race, the survivors all had to deal with a universal chronic disease requiring a form of health maintenance, or maintenance medication. Some of these wonderings come from my own experiences with chronic disease and navigation of the current U.S. health system, so I hope I haven’t come across as too jaded.

And now, here are some links to pestilent reading and watching, to get you in the mood for sickness, sores, and coughs:

The Plagues That Might Have Brought Down the Roman Empire (from the Atlantic)

Here’s a documentary about tuberculosis from American Experience, The Forgotten Plague.  I can’t find an embed link on there, so you can watch it on their site or see this version from youtube:

 

And if you want to gorge on cheese, bread, and naive sweetness, here’s freaking Heidi starring Shirley Temple:

Writing Space

My novel Memory’s Exile is set in deep space, on a refitted space station, Selas Station, orbiting a tiny, seemingly innocuous planet. While I’ve always loved science fiction and space fiction, I’m the definition of the astronomy layperson.  My questions for the science behind the story were pretty basic: what is the environment like out there? And in the space station?  What are their days like? What do they eat? How do they move, work, sleep? What happens if something goes wrong?

I tend to treat research as a siege: I find as many articles, essays, and books as I can find on my chosen subject, make a strong pot of tea, and read, read, read. While it serves me well in general, it can be a frustrating way to operate. There’s more information than I can take in, and that can fuel indecisiveness: am I reading enough, or the right things? If I stall out, I remind myself that this isn’t the end — there’s always the beta and future edits. Also, a judicious amount of handwaved science never hurt anyone. Well, except for any physicists who read my work and suffered convulsions of inaccuracy. Sorry, whoever you are.

In any case, I came out on the other side of the indecision gap, and found some decent research spots I’ll share with you. Note: some of these are for kids. That doesn’t bother me; in fact, it suits me. It’s a good way to get a simple grounding on a subject.

Space sites

  • NASA.gov is first on my list. There is so much good stuff on our federal space program’s website. Space shuttles, space stations, space exploration, galaxies, planets, what do you want to know about? They’ll have something on it. They’ve also digitized a ton of their documents here: NASA HQ Library: NASA Documents Online. One document I enjoyed was the food and nutrition PDF available here: Space Food and Nutrition
  • Space.com is a basic site, great for latest news, graphics, imagery on space stuff in the world.
  • SpaceRef is one I discovered recently, rather than during my research, so I don’t know it as well. Looks similar to Space.com, and also runs a side site called NASA Watch, which appears to be a watchdog blog for the federal program and stuff going on at that level. If you’re sensitive about how politics relate to space exploration, you might not enjoy the blog. To me, it’s a necessary component of humans and space, and I look forward to following it for more info.

Books

Find the space/astronomy sections in your library and browse. I used to work in an academic library, and happened upon some government docs about space life that informed some of the choices I made about living quarters on Selas Station. (Though most of those you can likely access online now through the NASA links above.)

Ask, Ask, Ask

The internet is full of communities and forums about space, physics, science, and fiction. Some of the ones I’ve used in the past are Reddit’s r/askscience and Ask Metafilter. On those sites people who give answers to questions might direct to another one like Physics Forums. Whether you go in a scientific or fantastical direction, poking through the site archives or joining and asking a question (keeping in mind each site’s rules for participation and behavior) is a good way to go.

Inspiration

Read other space science fiction. (Also read fantasy, romance, thrillers, mysteries; basically read everything.) Go to community ed seminars on astronomy, or if your local/nearby colleges give lectures open to the public, attend one of those. Follow space blogs. Check out image sites like these:

 

If you write about space and space exploration, what sites and tools have you used and liked for research and inspiration?

 

Disability in Science Fiction

Here’s a link to an essay by Kelly Robson:

My futures include disability

I never thought to wonder why I include characters with disabilities in my stories — and especially in my SF stories. They’re not boxes I’m checking; they’re simply people who worked in the stories I wanted to tell.

(h/t … I can’t remember, but maybe a tweet about the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction / Uncanny Magazine kickstarter? Which is ending soon!)