Thoughts on Clarion West

One of the many hats I wear at this Katie moment in time is helping out a bit with the Clarion West Writers Workshop. What is this thing, you may ask? It’s a six week intensive writing workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy writers. Every week there is a different professional writer, and every week it is hoped you write a short story. Which may sound sort of doable, and in practice is bananas, because the short story will be critiqued by everyone.

I went to Clarion West in 2005 and loved it so much. There’s probably a couple reasons for that. First, I am, at my core, a summer camp kid, and CW echoes back to a summer camp experience where you get thrown in and your life gets changed forever and you meet weird friends you would have never met otherwise. Second, it’s a truly excellent and thoughtful program that smart people have been running for a long time.

Anywho, I’ve been picking up people from the airport and hanging out at the house a small bit as students arrive for the summer, and no one has asked me for any advice on the workshop but if they did? Here’s what I would say (and it applies for any writing program, really).

1. In advance of the workshop, read a thing or two by your teacher/s. It will help you know what they are really good at, and therefore how they can help you. Also, it’s flattering to have people who’ve read your work, and you want to make friends with the instructors. They can be huge for helping you out in your writing career.

2. Out of ideas on what to write? Sometimes the problem is you could write anything, and therefore it’s too huge. So give yourself some constraints. Mine, during Clarion West, was writing every week a story that was in the same vein of the author. So for my Octavia Butler week, I had creepy aliens, and for Andy Duncan week I did alternative history.

3. In any kind of workshop situation, there’s all kinds of FOMO (fear of missing out) moments because new friends are always doing this that or the other thing. But here’s the secret: you won’t miss out on anything if you do what you want because wherever you are, that’s the moment you want to be in. And if you decide to stay in to write? How incredible that you get the chance to do that.

4. You will fit in some ways, and you will be the outcast in some ways, and both things are fine. For me, it was such a wonder going to Clarion West and meeting all these SFF writers who were smart and literate. I was a pig in awesome mud. But also, I was leftier than almost everyone else and often found myself arguing with people in my head and real life. So it goes.

5. Stretch your writerly muscles. Write things that fail. Write things that suck in new and exciting ways. Write things you care about so much it makes your hands shake to get it on the paper.

6. Feed the animal. You are the animal. Take yourself on walks, eat healthy food, talk to loved ones, and get your sleep.

Big luck and love to anyone in a writing workshop over the summer, but especially to the Clarion West class.

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What do we want? Brains! When do we want them? Brains!

Pacing the pace

Working today on editing and pacing. Pacing is one of those sausage-making aspects of writing that readers don’t generally consider too much or notice, but for the writer? Oh, it is a doozy.

How fast do things move? Where are the lulls and moments of reflection? And how do you tell the story you need to tell at the correct rate that will keep the reader engaged and interested, but not so action packed and breathless that a reader feels stressed out.

One thing that is true of most books is that they are about the most important period of time for the main character/s, and in that respect the pacing shouldn’t and can’t reflect what real life is like.

For example: me, today? I had a nice breakfast of leftover things on the edge of wilting, played with my kids, and then wrote a bunch of thing.

My main character: she woke up, went to Hell, almost drowned, and then made the great decision to follow a demon into a dark forest.

I often think about how, in all my writing, at the end of the story there comes a great unspoken and unwritten about time where the character chills out hardcore and recuperates from all that happened to them.

There’s TV programming, in, I think, Norway? Or one of those gloriously socialist and Scandinavian countries, where they show five hours of a train moving through the countryside. Or four hours of a burning fire.

Really. This is all it is, and it’s wildly popular.

I get that, I really get that as a writer: that desire to leave behind some of the sturm und drang of the stressful culture of narrative and relax.

I get it, and maybe someday I’ll write my opus about drying paint. But not today.

And speaking of narrative, a picture tells a thousand words, no?This is my kid, diligently picking up flower petals after dropping them flower-girl style, because she didn’t like the mess they made.

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New Fay Morgan Chronicle Book

So thrilled, so thrilled! Here there be unicorns, spiders, and succubi. I love this book and hope you do too. Things go bad, so bad, for Ms. LeFay and her trusty wizard friend when they try to figure out what’s going on with this hunt that has come to Seattle. And yeah, that’s right, I said Merlin is her friend, just a friend, and nothing else, and jeez, why do people keep thinking it’s anything more?

Book 5

The Hunter’s Prey

 

The Demon’s Revenge: the 4th book in The Fay Morgan Chronicles.

Book 4 

I am so pleased and happy to announce that the fourth short novel of The Fay Morgan Chronicles is out (The Demon’s Revenge), and I hope you love it. This book is a Morgan le Fay and her trusty shopgirl Lila caper, and I had so much fun writing their dialogue and loved the way they are such opposite women, yet have such a good friendship. There are huge character developments with both of them, and some plotlines that have been brewing since book 1 are answered, like what kind of creature Lila actually is, and what Morgan will do now that she fully understands the full depth of her own history. And of course, as per usual, things do not go at all as planned. Here’s the book’s blurb:

Morgan le Fay, the immortal and legendary witch of Avalon, is done with her life. She’s through with making terrible decisions and hurting those she loves. Now there’s just one more thing she has to take care of: she has to help her faithful assistant Lila change into the terrible creature that has remained hidden within her for so long.
Lila has no idea any of this is going on, but does know that she’s sick of Morgan moping around, and that she desperately needs her friend and mentor’s help because the paranormal denizens of Seattle are all starting to act sort of… evil.
Soon Lila and Morgan are trying to piece together the strange clues that will literally lead them to the gates of hell, all while Lila is starting to change. And with her change… everything changes.
The Demon’s Revenge is the fourth short novel in The Fay Morgan Chronicles, an urban fantasy series. Fans of The Dresden Files and The Lily Harper Series should enjoy this series.

For anyone who is new to this series, I do recommend the first three short books first, as the series is very episodic and each book builds on the last one. Also, for anyone who is frustrated by reading this series one short novel at a time, I am going to be soon publishing a book 1-3 as an omnibus, and will do the same for books 3-6 etc. Which begs the question: how long will this series be? I have no idea, except to say I am having a ton of fun writing them, people are buying them (thanks!), and I have a lot of terrible and strange things I’d like to do with these characters, so we shall see.

 

Updates from the Sparrow Nest

First and foremost, thanks to any and all of you who are reading my Fay Morgan Chronicles. I am so pleased that I have flung these books out into the universe and they are being caught by you and you and you. I have just turned in book four “The Demon’s Revenge” to my official editor, the talented Erica Satifka as well as my unofficial editor and long suffering love, Elijah, who always and forever reads all my work. What a catch!

One thing I love about writing these books is they are set in my home town, Seattle, so whenever I go anywhere I am always collecting small, local details. Like, I have been taking my kids on long walks through our neighborhood and we have a game of pointing out all the signs of spring: crocuses, budding cherry trees, and the changing flora the local Buddhist Temple sets out as an offering to the huge, golden, Buddha statue. And, in the fourth book, do Lila and Morgan go on a walk through the city and notice such things? Indeed.

I am also crafting the fifth book of the series and trying to wrangle the disparate and disjointed threads and weave them together, and oh, I’m just realizing as I type this that that is the main metaphor for how Morgan makes spells. See what I mean? Real life influencing my writing, of course.

And last, in one other writing project, I am starting to put together a fledgling new young adult book that has all my heart and hopes in it. It’s called Always Falling Up, and is about the sadness of climate change, and the audacity of being able to feel hopeful and take action inside of the truth of our planet and species. Oh, I love it. Oh, I am very confused about how to write it. But my brain keeps picking away at it and I have all these sapling scenes and I think I know who the characters are, though they may shift and change.

What a job. What a life. All is good. Hope there’s lots of signs of spring in your neck of the woods.

It’s Alive!

The third book in the Fay Morgan Chronicles, The Witch’s Hunger, is alive and living in Amazon world! I’m so excited to get this story out into the world, and hope you love it. It’s a trickier book than the first two, in that some of the longer plot arcs get revealed, while other parts.
Book 3

The Witch’s Hunger? Is Morgan le Fay the witch who is hungry, you may be asking? Yes indeed, but the question is, hungry for what? Read the book and see.

On another note, apologies to anyone who pre-ordered the book. You probably got a pre-order cancellation not about it. Due to some misreading on my part of the uploading process to Amazon, things went quickly and terrible wrong. In fact, I believe I was heard muttering at 3 a.m. last night “I’m ready to be stressed out about something else.” I hated to have them cancelled, because I did have the book ready to go in time (hence its publication today), but so it goes.

And last, should you want to write a review on Amazon, please do! (And thanks.)

I’m reading a great book….

I’m sick, the kids are sick, and so we are watching too much Frozen (the movie), drinking lots of tea and warm water, and reading lots of books. The kids gravitate toward their all time favorites: anything with the heroic Lowly Worm, as well as bell hooks’ Homemade Love which we can basically read on repeat forever.

I’m reading a young adult book like usual (I’m on the Norton Award Jury for YA and MG science fiction and fantasy, so I read an ungodly amount of great teen fiction). At the moment I’m loving “Expiration Date” by William Campbell Powell. It’s a book that I’ve had on my shelf for a while, and it’s taken me a while to read it, for no good reason besides the title and the cover point to a certain type of dystopian near-future thriller that I’m a bit burnt out on. But, when I did start reading this book, I found something really unique and beautiful. It is an end of the world story about robot children when humans are no longer able to bear kids, and even better than that, it’s a meditation on humanity and personhood that I’m finding quite profound, as well as amusing and provocative. It’s a book that’s as much about being in a band and having an unrequited crush on a cute boy as it is about the end of the world. I highly recommend it.

Whenever I get books to read for award consideration, I never know how well they are doing out in the world. And yes, I suppose I could go look up some numbers and figure this out, but I don’t really want to. I want to take each book as it comes, and do a better job of not judging a book by its cover, and dive into it optimistically. And this book? I hope it is doing really well out in the world.

My Superbowl Sunday

I went for a walk with my toddler during the middle of the game today. It was spooky–no cars, no humans, anywhere, except for this other duo at the park who were twenty-somethings having a fight in that way of being in love with each other but being incompatible and so bone weary of their loops. They were lovely and vibrant, but I was glad to be on the other side of it all with my exuberant and laughing kid jumping in every puddle and giving me a hundred side glances of love.

There was a moment, when we were almost home again, when all of a sudden I heard screaming from every nearby houses. Even Monster, this asshole dog who lives down the street, started howling. Ten seconds later there was fireworks. My neighborhood is all about the illegal fireworks.

The Seahawks had just scored a touchdown seconds before half-time, and it was this moment where everyone was doing this same thing, in their separate spaces, but feeling the same joy and pride, and even me, not watching the game and being out of step with my city, even I felt something good.