So Long, 2013.

Since 2009 or so, New Year’s Eve has been more of a “thank God it’s over and I can try again” celebration for me, but this time around was different.  I was honestly sad to see 2013 go, because it was an amazing year full of progress and adventure.

2013 was the year I landed a gig as a freelance contributor for Popular Mechanics, kept working steadily at NFC Times, and got to do some exciting work for some other awesome projects, including Petcentric and Home Depot Military; it was also the year I had two more short stories published and won National Novel Writing Month with a finished rough draft.

2013 was the year I attended a citizen science workshop in Dallas, took a research trip to Austin, and covered an industry conference in Las Vegas; it was also the year I climbed a volcano in New Mexico, went snorkeling in Florida, hiked White Sands and Hueco Tanks, and saw Hoover Dam.

2013 was the year I was there when my family needed me; it was also the year I discovered Coursera and took several fascinating online classes, finally learned to knit something other than garter-stitch rectangles, made handmade Christmas gifts for everyone on my list, and caught up on the classics of science fiction.

2013 was the year I made new friends and finally reconnected with old friends; it was also the year I left my native Texas and moved to Kansas.

I’m grateful for the awesome opportunities and those ahead of me this year, and I hope that 2014 builds on last year’s awesomeness.  Here’s the plan:

  • Revise that draft of Spellshocked and submit it for publication
  • Write a short story every month except November and submit as many of them as possible to good markets
  • Win National Novel Writing Month a second time
  • Do more and better work for Popular Mechanics, NFC Times, and my other contracts
  • Take (and actually finish) more classes on Coursera
  • Finish up that Skywarn storm spotter certification course
  • Learn to crochet (my grandma has already promised to help with that one)

I can’t wait (and since this post is a few days late, I don’t actually have to).

I Climbed a Volcano and It Was Awesome

A few months ago, I drove my 13-year old car – the one with the gas gauge that reads Empty regardless of its actual state – 20 miles out into the desert of New Mexico so I could climb a volcano for Popular Mechanics. The resulting article was posted today, and here it is for your enjoyment:

“Get Out There: New Mexico Desert Volcano Adventure”

I was surprised by both how remote Aden Crater is and how accessible it is.  In a time and cultural setting where most experiences are structured and packaged in some way, it felt very adventurous to just drive into the middle of nowhere, find a volcano, and climb around on it.  It’s an experience I’m still very glad to have had and shared with my husband, who is the best adventuring partner anyone could ask for.  Looking back on it from my motel room in Tucumcari, New Mexico, on my way to a new home in Kansas, I think it’s one of the coolest things I did with my time out West.  Most of all, I’m really excited to have the chance to share it with the awesome people who read Popular Mechanics.

For more adventures in the borderland, you can also read all about

Never Say Never Again

Last year, I gave National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, in the online world) a firm but gentle “It’s not you, it’s me” speech and vowed never again to spend a November panicking over word counts.  My reasons were sound, and the decision seemed utterly sensible in light of my work situation and my fiction writing goals.

Predictably, on November 1st, I launched into a new story.  It’s tentatively called “Misspelled,” and it’s an urban fantasy through which I’m hoping to explore things like PTSD, grieving, and how Army combatives training would hold up against necromancers.  Yeah, it’s sort of hard for me to keep my “Serious Hat” on for very long – it’s windy here, you know.

I have always struggled with the impulse to edit every sentence as I go, usually seven or eight times until it’s “perfect”.  That habit is most of the reason for the stack of unfinished drafts languishing on my hard drive.  Honestly, I would rather have a finished draft that needs heavy editing, so this month’s insane writing marathon is apparently some sort of aversion therapy for my compulsion.

Four days in, I think the current draft of Misspelled is shaping up the be worst thing I have ever written.  On Day Two, I realized that in my haste, I had painfully dislocated my protagonist’s shoulder in a barfight, only to forget all about it by the next page.  So far, I’ve fought the urge to go back and fix that and other errors, but I have a whole file full of notes for future revision.

Author Chris Hill recently made some very astute and very important observations about National Novel Writing Month and the whole speed-writing trend on his blog.  It started one of the best comment threads I’ve read in a long time, because lots of people have opinions, experiences, and insights to share, and it’s interesting to see some real discussion on this topic.  Ultimately, the real takeaway is this: National Novel Writing Month may or may not (depending on the writer) be a great motivating tool for finishing a first draft of your novel, but please, for the sake of your own credibility and that of any other writer who hopes to self-publish their best work, remember that what you are writing this November is a first draft.  Revise, edit, seek feedback from trusted friends, hire an editor, and make sure your work is finished and polished before you head over to Createspace or Amazon.

Meanwhile, I’m going to keep plowing through this draft.  It’s horrible, messy, awkward, and slightly embarrassing – but that’s what a first draft is.

Blog 2.0: The Reboot

Intro posts are awkward, aren’t they?  I feel strange just launching into a post on autoimmune disorders or gender in science fiction or moving to Kansas, because it seems like some context is necessary.  However, I also feel as though providing that context is probably not going to fully reflect the type or quality of blogging I plan to attempt here.  That sounded pretentious, huh?

I am genuinely terrible at blogging in any sort of consistent manner.  I try really hard, but I’m slowly resigning myself to the fact that I may update three times in one day and then not scribble another word here for a month.  One post may be some insightful and well-researched commentary on technology and society, the next may be a book review, and the one after that may just be some slightly batty rambling about my latest (mis)adventure.  At long last, I’ve decided that that’s okay, because this is not my actual job, although it is an activity that I hope will complement and support my actual job, which is science/technology/industry journalism, with a side order of horror and historical fiction writing when I have some mental RAM to spare.  It’s an eclectic and sometimes slightly chaotic mix, and so is this blog.

And that’s okay, right?

So, this is me.  Prior to journalism, I’ve been an EMS dispatcher, a search and rescue volunteer, and a nautical archaeology student (so at least I’ve been consistently eclectic and chaotic).  I know how to knit a scarf (but please don’t make me try to purl), stabilize a sucking chest wound, or haul down a jib in the middle of a storm.  These days, my free time is mostly spent exploring cemeteries, taking as many online classes as I can squeeze into my schedule, and trying to grow edible things.  I was born and raised in Texas, but it seems that I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks moving to Kansas, where my husband has just accepted a job (we are both excited about that; he is less excited about Kansas than I am).

With that out of the way, I can get going on a real post.  Brace yourselves.