The Ides of October

Is anyone else bothered that the Ides of a Month is on the 15th of some months and the 13th of other months? It’s based on an old Roman calendar where months either had 31 days (Ides on the the 15th) or 29 (Ides on the 13th). I guess it makes the number of days after the Ides consistent (except for February, but screw February). They also did not fix it when they switched to 31 and 30-day months.

Internal consistency is not always required for your fantasy world. (But maybe be prepared to explain why.)

Anyway, happy Ides of October.

get vaccinated

The Year of COVID and Ants II

Yeah, so writing during COVID, with two young boys in the house and an eternal ant infestation, has been . . . difficult. Was really looking to the vaccine making it go away, but between Delta and the idiots, it doesn’t look like that is happening. So we’re on Year Two of COVID and Ants.

Attending first in-person conference since my last entry shortly (half capacity, masked event), with little new material to bring. Wish me luck!


Southern California Writers’ Conference

So it’s February again and I’ve come back from my favorite conference with renewed vigor.

The Southern California Writers’ Conference in San Diego is a treat. It’s got a great community, great workshops, and a great format for writers. They have Read & Critiques throughout the day (and through the night) and I love their Advanced Submissions. Instead of a blank pitch session, you submit ten or fifteen pages to an author, editor, or agent and they share their thoughts on your work. Sometimes the agents request manuscripts, sometimes they just give advice. Either way, they read your work. I like that.

For writers working on their pitches and query letters, Jennifer Silva Redmond and Marla Miller put on a great Pitch Witch workshop.

Also, this conference gives giving me awards. And taking my picture.


World Building from the First Word

I’m going to be giving a talk on world-building! A free Shop Talk, sponsored by Coffee House Writer’s Group.

Friday, Aug 9, 6 PM to 8 PM,
Cafe con Libros
280 Second St.
Pomona, CA 91766


All the best books have worlds we can fall into, settings that put us right in the there with the characters. Setting influences everything that happens, everything the characters do, and it helps the reader experience their journey. But how we do we create a captivating world? How do we build the believability and majesty into our works in a way that makes it come alive?

The simplest answer is word by word, but we’ll cover it in greater detail.

Building a world for your story is crucial, and this workshop will help you hone your skills. We’ll cover:

•The prep-work of knowing your world
•How to present your world in a way that avoids information dumps
•Using the five senses plus motion and space
•Understanding, embracing, and respecting cultural boundaries
•The different requirements for world building in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, suspense, etc.


Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove

If you’re interested in an eclectic collection of short stories and flash fiction, Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove may be the anthology for you!

Whether there’s an incident at the front desk, something not quite right with the room, a bear stopping in for a beer, or a resolute robot revolt*, lives change by the minute within the grounds, rooms, and corridors of the legendary Hotel Stormcove. Lovers meet, witches gather, friends connect, and those in need always find shelter.

*Robot Revolt is my addition to the anthology, which you can find on page 1.


“Political Correctness”

My writing group’s Facebook feed has blown up on two posts regarding the way writers deal with “political correctness.” The first post was an article about Amélie Wen Zhao’s BLOOD HEIR, which the author withdrew from publishing after several advanced reasons noted some racist tones. The second post was whether it was offensive to describe a character as having mocha skin.

Many people chimed in about the evils of political correctness and censorship, and that you should write whatever you wanted. “Political Correctness is the curse of the modern era.” One suggested that since “anything you write these days is going to offend someone, somewhere. This leaves you with two choices — don’t worry about offending the ‘perpetually offended,’ or quit writing.”

I think they are missing the point.

I feel one of the author’s job is to present truth. Not the whole truth, or the absolute truth, but distilled nuggets of truth.

It could be a memoir, a story about the boundless friendship a dog brings, or how two alien races can stop murdering each others’ planets and choose coexistence. Somewhere in the story you are writing is your little nugget of truth: the reason or the lesson the story tells that’s big enough or true enough that everyone should read it.

So you write your story with its truth, and you share it, and someone points out that one of your alien races bears an amazing resemblance to the indigenous people of New Guinea, but not in a good way. All the stereotypes are reinforced, and it turns out they’re the bad guys who really need to change and the other aliens, when viewed in that light, really do metaphorically represent the Portuguese and — even though you had no intention of doing so — it appears you’ve written a novel celebrating European colonialism and the exploitation of indigenous people.

Should you scrap your novel because it’s now a different beast? Should you ignore the criticism and publish anyway? Should you give up writing entirely, since there’s no way to please everyone?


One of the reasons we go to the critique groups is to make our writing better. We want to polish our works — we want that nugget of truth to shine. And the details that reminded people about the indigenous people of New Guinea are not the nuggets of truth. You pulled details out of your subconscious to make the aliens seem real. They were flavor to put your readers into a world. They’re not the nugget of truth, and they can be changed.

(From what I’ve been able to gather, this is the route Amélie Wen Zhao is taking, by making major revisions before publishing. But I’m not certain, don’t quote me on that.)

And if changing them helps you share your nugget of truth, why wouldn’t you do it? Why wouldn’t you describe someone as having “warm brown skin” when “skin the color of mocha” might offend some of your readers? Is the word “mocha” your nugget of truth?

If making a small change doesn’t affect the integrity of your work and will help people receive your message, you should consider it.

And if you’re writing something where you don’t know if it’s going to offend people as written, get some sensitivity readers. If you’re writing about a culture you’re not a part of, you should have someone from that culture read your work. Then listen to what they say.