Stargate Monuments

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Martha Wells

The Invisible Woman


Atlantis Dark
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Weekend

Let's see. Saturday we went to Sherwood Forest Faire outside Austin. It wasn't too cold, in the upper 60s to low 70s, but it rained off and on through the morning. We were sitting in the Paleo Hookah Bar tent (I've never tried a hookah because I really hate tobacco, but they also sell fancy teas and coffees) while the bands were talking about how/where they were going to play. (The stages have small roofs, but not really much shelter if it starts to pour.) (Rain is not kind to violins and drums.) But it had cleared up by the time our friends arrived around noon, and we went to hear Circa Paleo play. They had gone ahead and set up on the stage, and of course as soon as they started, it started to drizzle and rain again. They went ahead and played the whole set, while edging closer and closer to the back of the stage. I hope nothing got ruined.

The food as usual was great. I had the ginger chai at the Hookah Bar tent, and a bacon and egg puff from the Bakery. (the Bakery is weird. It's very good, but has terrible signage and seems to be trying to conceal the fact that a) it exists and b) has a long menu of items. I think it's run by maybe two people at most and basically has all the business it can handle, so is trying to stay under the radar.) I also had spinach and feta crepes at the meat-on-a-stick-and-crepes place, s'mores on a stick (homemade marshmallows dipped in chocolate and covered with graham cracker crust), and some excellent falafel at the Jerusalem Cafe (which also has the roving Turkish coffee and baklava cart). A lot of the places have food that's cooked to order right in front of you, so it's a very good eating experience.

Then Sunday afternoon I fell down the stairs, as I have done a few times before. They're carpeted stairs, so I just have bruises and rug burns, and I'm not hurt. I think the carpet is the problem. The upstairs carpet is at least twenty to thirty years old and it's basically gone bald, and is very slippery in dry weather, and since we've had to run the heat a lot so far this year, the inside of the house is very dry.

A few links:

* Pew: Americans are ‘Actively Engaged’ with Public Libraries
More than two-third of Americans are engaged with public libraries: Some 30% of Americans are highly engaged with public libraries, and an additional 39% fall into “medium” engagement categories.

* Cat Rambo: You Should Read This: An Appreciation of Andre Norton Andre Norton was also a huge influence on my when I was growing up.

* Lee and Low: 10 Great Women of Color Whose Stories You Should Know
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SGA Maps
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Plot Stalls

I was talking a bit about plot stalls on Twitter, and said I would do a post, so here it is. This is just what works for me personally, so remember your mileage may vary:

A plot problem, or plot stall, or writing yourself into a corner, is when you're going along pretty good, writing your story, and you suddenly get stuck. You don't know what's going to happen next. Or the thing you wanted to have happen next doesn't seem to make sense anymore. The story was going along smoothly, now it's all awkward and bumpy and wrong. You will find yourself having to explain why characters are doing things they are doing, coming up with elaborate justifications for actions that you know in your gut are out of character. Hand waving things that really don't work. And then you may just hit a point where you can't go on.

It's not that you're lazy and you don't want to write, you're not blocked, it's that you know something is wrong and the plot path you are on doesn't work anymore. It doesn't feel right. It doesn't match the image of the story that is stored in the back of your brain somewhere. Whatever it's supposed to do, it's not doing it.

The reason a lot of writers and artists watch Project Runway is to listen to Tim Gunn's tutorials. He's been a teacher and a mentor to creative people for a long time, and a lot of what he says can apply to any artistic project. One of the things he will tell people is, to paraphrase, "you need to free yourself from this" where this is the thing you've worked yourself into a corner over. That means you need to step back from the flawed thing you have been trying to fix and mentally start over. Your basic idea is probably still good. But somewhere along the way you went off the track from it.

The longer the work, the more likely the plot problem doesn't originate at the point where the story-car slid off the road and your writing came to a halt. The plot may dead-end in chapter six when you realize this is just not working, but the groundwork for chapter six was actually set up in chapter two. Chapter Two is where your problem starts, not chapter six. You need to stop hammering at chapter six, trying to make it work, and think about how you got there.

Take a fresh file or sheet of paper and start outlining the plot so far, in simple declarative statements. "Janine wakes up, discovers someone has broken into the cargo hold of her airship." "Janine calls Esther for help, and they find footsteps and follow them out of the compound." etc.

Just outlining it like that may help jog something. Are Janine and the other characters taking the next most logical step to figure out their problem? Did they/you make an assumption somewhere that doesn't make sense? Is the solution too easy? Is the solution too complicated, because it's trying to fill in plot holes that shouldn't be there in the first place? Are you making the characters do what you would do rather than what they would do?

Maybe Janine should call the airship police, maybe that's really her next most logical step, maybe it's the natural thing for her character to do. If there isn't a reason she shouldn't do it, maybe she should. Maybe it will add a layer of complexity to the plot that will lead you to the next step, and open up more interesting possibilities.

(There's a bit in Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night where Harriet is working on her book, dictating it to her secretary, and she is trying to write a scene where a guy, Wilfred, finds the murdered man's handkerchief in his girlfriend's room, and assumes she has it because she's the murderer. The scene just won't work, and finally the secretary says, "If that happened to me, I'd assume the laundry just made a mistake." Yeah, pretty much. Wilfred isn't going from A to B, he's going from A to M, and most of the readers are going to need a willful effort to follow him on that journey. It just doesn't make sense. Harriet solves this by going back to the beginning of the book and making Wilfred the kind of person who would naturally make the assumption, on very poor evidence, that his girlfriend is a murderer.)

If that doesn't help jog something, look at the individual plot elements. Are there any that make you, in your heart of hearts, go "blegh." Are you actually stalled because you're really thinking "I don't want to write this part because it's boring"? This isn't a report for work, it's fiction. If it bores you, it's going to bore your readers. Get rid of it and think up something better. Maybe you picked the easiest thing, the first thing you thought of, when you should have pushed yourself and picked something different, trickier, edgier. Maybe it shouldn't be Janine's airship, maybe it should be her sentient flying whale.

If that still doesn't work, try explaining your plot to someone in person or email. When you're thinking about a plot, telling it to yourself, you can unintentionally gloss over the tricky bits that don't work and they slip past. When you're trying to make another person understand what you're talking about, those tricky bits stand out like they're lit up with neon.

But basically the key is, for me anyway, to step back. If you're trying to get through a maze and you come to a dead end, you go back and look for the first wrong turn you took, you don't stand there pressing your body into a hedge trying to will the pathway to appear.


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The Cloud Roads
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Weekend

I had kind of a bad weekend, mostly because of allergies causing off and on intense headaches, and anxiety. I don't think the allergies caused the anxiety -- it's pretty much always there, but with all of it together I just crashed and didn't want to leave the house. (I didn't delete all my online accounts, which I get the overwhelming urge to do occasionally and manage mostly not to. So go me!) We did get a bunch of rain which is always good at this time of year, but it's the rapid passage of cold fronts and warm fronts like a dvd on fast forward that really aggravates my sinuses.

I did get some work done on the fourth Raksura novella, but I've been rewriting some sections I wrote earlier that no longer work, and so I would write for six hours, adding new material and deleting old, and end up with exactly the same word count that I started with. So it's hard to tell if I worked enough for the day or what progress I made. That's been going on for a couple of days. I hope I'm finally past that point.

I watched the finale of True Detective this morning at 7:00 am to avoid spoilers, and it blew me away. That was an awesome dark ride of a story. I can't wait till the dvd comes out. And I'd recommend to people that if they watch it they try to do it in two to three hour blocks if possible. It's only eight episodes and it works better in big chunks. I don't want to talk about it because I don't want to spoil anybody else.

It's going to get warm today, up in the 70s, so I may go outside and stare at my dead trees and dead plants in what's left of my back yard.

***

* The Chesley awards for SF/F art is taking suggestions for nominees here. Matthew Stewart won a Chesley for the cover of The Cloud Roads in 2012 Chesleys which I was very happy about. This is a great award and you all should go suggest art for it.

* Con-or-Bust has more free con memberships fans of color can apply for and some are first come, first served.

Element of Fire cover
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Post for International Women's Week

I wrote this post for International Women's Week at E. Kristin Anderson's blog: Guest Post from Martha Wells: Rewriting My Childhood

It's basically about looking for books with female characters when I was growing up in the 70s, why I wrote the Emilie books, and lack of representation.
So all this is basically why I wanted to write the Emilie books. We know now that representation of women, of POC, and LGBT characters in MG and YA books is important. But I don’t think we’ll ever really understand the real long term effect of not seeing people like you in the books that you live your life through, that give you the strength to go on, that form the only mental bulwark against a cold angry reality for so many kids. I know I was basically raised to see myself as a secondary character in my own life, and what that did to me. I have no idea how much worse it must be to see yourself as completely absent.

***

* If you missed it earlier this week, I had a book come out: Emilie and the Sky World

* If you're in town and are interested, I'm doing a presentation for the SCBWI: on writing SF/F for kids and teens

* I'm also going to be a guest at LeoCon on March 29, in Commerce, Texas at TAMU-Commerce.

Stargate in Distance
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Book Recs

So yesterday was Emilie day! Today is book link day.

Here's an interview with me: Stellar Four: Adventuring with Martha Wells


Books:

* Kickstarter Companion Book by Heidi Berthiaume
Because of my love (and constant promoting) of Kickstarter projects, people began to ask me about how they could do a Kickstarter project. Thanks to over 15 years of experience with information architecture [Translation: organizing stuff and writing technical documentation for non-technical people], I'd not only backed a lot of Kickstarter projects, I'd analyzed them and had a lot of detailed answers to provide.

* Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine
Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, knows all this. He expects to die for his cousin, for his house, but a spark of rebellion still lives inside him. At night, he is the Prince of Shadows, the greatest thief in Verona—and he risks all as he steals from House Capulet. In doing so, he sets eyes on convent-bound Rosaline, and a terrible curse begins that will claim the lives of many in Verona…

* The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen
It isn't until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren't really visions. Alex is a Descender - capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.

* The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan
Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.

* The Kindred of Darkness by Barbara Hambly
When James Asher and his wife Lydia's baby daughter Miranda is kidnapped by the Master Vampire of London, the stakes are high: blindly follow the Master Vampire's instructions, keep out of the way of the human networks that serves the vampires, destroy the interloper who seeks to seize control of the London Nest, and find the key to the Nest's tortuous inner workings: The Book of the Kindred of Darkness.

Wheel Icon 2
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Emilie Day

Emilie and the Sky World is out today!

It's available at:
Barnes and Noble, Powells, Chapters Indigo, Mysterious Galaxy, The Tattered Cover, Book Depository, Book Depository UK, Books-a-Million, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon.ca, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, or look for it in an independent bookstore in the US through Indiebound.

eBook: Barnes and Noble NookBook, Kobo, iTunes, Books-a-Million ebook, Amazon US, Amazon.ca and DRM-free at The Robot Trading Company.


Chapter One


Emilie took a deep breath and knocked on the door.

Twilight had fallen, and the quiet street smelled strongly of dinner. Karthea's house, like all the others, had a chunky stone facade and wood-framed windows with cheerful curtains and potted flowers on the stoop. The gas lamp on the corner had already been lit, glowing bright in the failing daylight.

There was no answer immediately and Emilie began to wonder if Karthea had closed the school temporarily and gone on some journey. If so, it was less of a disaster than it would have been a fortnight ago. Emilie had money enough for a room at an inn or boarding house, but it would be disappointing not to see her cousin. And wandering through town looking for a suitable place to stay was considerably less daunting than it had been a fortnight ago as well, especially considering that she had company.

"Maybe she didn't get my letter, or the package I sent," Emilie told Daniel, who stood patiently beside her. "Though I'm not arriving when I said I would."

"I think I hear someone inside," Daniel said. "It's nearly time for dinner, maybe she's just busy with--"

The door flung open, and Karthea stood there, wearing an apron and holding a partially peeled beet. "Emilie, you're days late! I was so worried!" Her eyes fell on Daniel, and she frowned in confusion. "Where have you been?"

"Karthea," Emilie said, smiling. "I have had an adventure!"

Karthea's eyes widened, then narrowed. She grabbed Emilie's arm and dragged her inside. To Daniel, she said, "Excuse us, please," and shut the door.

They stood in a dim hall, lit by a gas sconce and from brighter lights in the room at the far end. Emilie could hear the voices of young girls somewhere nearby, and a clatter of dishes. It smelled homey and comfortable, of books, dust, boiling beets from the kitchen. She took a deep breath. She had meant this place to be her refuge; it felt better to be coming to it as a guest.

Karthea still held her arm, and was trying unsuccessfully to look intimidating. Karthea was mostly Southern Menean like Emilie, with warm brown skin and dark eyes. She and Emilie looked a little alike in the face, though Karthea was taller and myopic and always wore eyeglasses. She had inherited their side of the family's somewhat unmanageable hair, and hers was just as frizzy and curling as Emilie's, in the process of escaping from the band she had tried to use to confine it. "Are you eloping?" Karthea demanded.

It was so unexpected, Emilie laughed. "Of course not!"

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Stargate Pyramid
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Weekend and Emilie

My laptop had been acting a little odd for a while, and on Friday it became very obvious there was a heat problem with the battery, even while it was in sleep mode. So I had to bite the bullet and buy a new one. I don't use my laptop for anything but writing, using the internet, and working on my web site, but I use it for that pretty much from 7:00 or so in the morning to about 10:00 at night, six to seven days a week, so they don't tend to last as long as they should. I use Macs, mostly because they preform well for what I need to do with them, and in memory of the one that stayed alive just long enough to clone itself to the new laptop before its hard drive failed, and the one that didn't lose any files even when it suddenly extruded a melted battery.

So knock on wood this one does well too.

We also have a pretty big weekend with friends coming into town, and we went to Sherwood Forest Faire on Saturday. It was a great day for it, overcast and cool, starting out below 70 and warming up to nearly 80 in the late afternoon. Then Sunday mid-morning a cold front came in and we went from 70s to 22 with freezing rain and ice pellets. That's what it's doing now. I want my old climate back. None of my native plants are native anymore, everything's dead. So that's depressing.



Emilie and the Sky World is coming out tomorrow in paperback and ebook, and you can find the first chapter here.

When Emilie and Daniel arrive in Silk Harbor, Professor Abindon, an old colleague of the Marlendes, warns them that she's observed something strange and potentially deadly in the sky, a disruption in an upper air aether current. But as the Marlendes investigate further, they realize it's a ship from another aetheric plane. It may be just a friendly explorer, or something far more sinister, but they will have to take an airship into the dangerous air currents to find out. Emilie joins the expedition and finds herself deep in personal entanglements, with an angry uncle, an interfering brother, and an estranged mother to worry about as well as a lost family of explorers, the strange landscapes of the upper air, and the deadly menace that inhabits the sky world.

Stargate Monuments
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Writer Aaron Allston passed away

I woke up to very bad news this morning. Austin writer Aaron Allston passed away, while at an SF/F con in Missouri. He had had a bad heart attack in 2009, and had recurring health problems from that, but he was only 53. And of course, as a writer, he couldn't afford to stop working.

I've known Aaron so long I don't remember when we met. He was a kind, funny guy, and always great to talk to. I remember sitting around with him and several other people talking late at night at the first WorldCon in San Antonio in 1997, but I know we met before that, probably at AggieCon. Sometime later we were both at the Texas Book Festival together, and he offered to denounce me in the SFWA Forum since the festival guide had gotten my bio wrong and said I won a Nebula award instead of just being nominated. We had just done a signing together in Austin in October of last year.

Here's an obituary by Allen Varney

Wheel Icon 2
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Links

I got a lot of stuff done yesterday, and I don't know how, because I didn't feel all that productive. I've typed my passwords wrong so many times I expect if I ever get one right on the first try, the site's not going to let me in because it's going to think it's someone impersonating me.

links:

* Kate Elliott: The Squee of Ile-Rien: Comments on Martha Wells’ Fall of Ile-Rien Trilogy which is also mirrored on Live Journal. I really needed to see this yesterday. It hasn't been a good week for me. And it's hard for me to look back on the trilogy in some ways, because they were the books that killed my career for a while.


* There are GoodReads giveaways for both Emilie and the Hollow World and Emilie and the Sky World.


* Sarah Rees Brennan: Ok, don't get me wrong because it's just curiosity, but I have to ask:
When someone is traditionally published after writing fanfiction, they get treated like trash, both by people who think fanfiction is weird rubbish and by people who themselves like to write and read fanfiction. I've had this happen to me too, and I can tell you it's really not fun, especially when it comes at you from people you really didn't expect it from.


* A follow-up by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: On fandom, parasocial relationships, and what we don’t know
Oh, the fictional friends I have made! But this tendency also has the potential to come with a variety of side-effects, because while fiction is often purposefully written to make certain we know tons of stuff about the personalities, backgrounds, inner workings, flaws, strengths, moral status, and emotional cores of the characters on the page, this is not true of parasocial interactions with real people. When your brain tricks you into thinking that you really know a fictional character, there are many ways in which that is true. But when real people are involved?

It’s not true. It’s not true at all.

John and Teyla - Uh Oh
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Still Here

I should make a post! Though I don't feel like posting.

links:

* 2013 Nebula Nominees Announced and the Nominees for the Andre Norton Award for YA It's an incredibly strong list with lots of great books and stories.

* Nominations are still being taken for the DetCon1 (NASFiC) award for YA and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. ANYONE can nominate by email, you don't have to be a member of the convention. Nominations have been extended to March 7 because they want as many nominations as possible from as many different people as possible.

* I'm doing a presentation in College Station, TX, on Saturday March 22 on Writing Speculative Fiction for Kids and Teens as part of a program put on by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

* On Saturday March 29 I will be a guest of honor at LeoCon in Commerce, Texas, at TAMU Commerce.

* And I have a new book coming out next week on Tuesday, March 4: Emilie and the Sky World The first chapter and links to where to buy it are on that page. It's set after Emilie and the Hollow World but I think they both work as standalone novels.

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