Entries in novella (15)

Tuesday
Apr162019

Novella!

So I haven't updated here in a while because I haven't finished reading anything in large part because I've been writing instead. It's Camp NaNoWriMo and I've been feverishly working on a new project.

I'm stoked to have finished the first draft of my first attempt at a novella. I'm happy with how it's turned out, even if it needs a proper title, some research and a lot more work before I'll start looking for beta readers. But it's sitting just under 30k words and it was a lot of fun to write.

I thought the process for writing a novella would be different from writing a full length novel, but it really wasn't. I studied the structure of All Systems Red as a starting point and built the plot of my novella from there. This novella differs from my novels in that it's got a simpler, straightforward plot, and no B-story or side quests. But unlike a short story, there's more room for the world-building, characters and setting to breathe.

As my reading time diminishes, I find myself opening up doorstoppers less and less and I've been reading novellas more. I might just do the same with my writing.

Anyway, some people have asked what the novella is about, so here's the rough draft of the query letter I've started for it:

What would you do to keep your children safe? Serri was a simple mage working as a government safety inspector until creeping fascism and an unhinged Empress brought war to her doorstep. Now she’s learning just how far she’ll go to prevent her powerful teen daughter S’ryja from being ground up by the war machine. Serri barely hesitates to seek the help of a rebel network, committing treason, and fleeing with her daughter.

But she must leave her wife and youngest child behind, and that soon becomes the least of her worries as the Empress’s forces close in on the rebels. With the royal guard on her heels and a hundred leagues of dangerous wilderness ahead of her, Serri must grapple with whether she’s made the right decision as she and her daughter run for their lives.

(Agents, call me)

Saturday
Dec292018

Hope at the End of the Longest Year

Like in 2017, this year was hard fought and draining. Trying to get things done amidst creeping fascism has been incredibly hard. And because having fascists loose everywhere else in the world wasn't bad enough, the greedy idiots here in Ontario had to go and elect Thug Fraud to premier. I truly, deeply hope that horrible man goes the way of his equally horrible brother VERY soon.

Anyway, when I'm not wishing death on The Worst people in power, I'm probably reading a book. Maybe writing one. I still hit a lot of my writing goals, though I've been lagging behind all of December because of severe depression.

Heh, you want your favourite creators to keep creating? STOP ELECTING FASCISTS

Anyway, here's the breakdown of how I did this year, despite all the bullshit.

Writing
I hit most of my writing goals this year, and the ones I didn't hit were because I swapped them for something else. I've done a lot of work on Blueshift 1, revised book 2 and rewrote book 3 for NaNoWriMo. Books 2 and 3 still need work, but I'll get to them later. I'm happy with the trilogy as it is right now and look forward to polishing the rest. I've been querying book 1 and getting some good feedback from agents, though no contracts yet.

I got Fireborn polished and out into the world and it's also had some positive feedback from agents. I will continue to query both books in the new year.

I wrote and submitted three short stories but, while one of my stories got shortlisted for an anthology, ultimately nothing has gone into print this year. It's a tough industry, but I'll keep working to improve my craft until I can wriggle my way in.

I've looked into novellas and have read plenty of what Tor puts out. I haven't attempted to write a novella yet, but I've started to outline one.

I didn't end up outlining the next two books in the Fireborn series for a few reasons. One is that I'm just not as interested in the series as I was, though I'm sure that will change once I deal with the fact that I'm not entirely sure where I want the next two books to go. And finally, there are a lot of compelling reasons not to work on the rest of a series until the first book is published. So instead of working on books I can't sell/publish right now, I plotted and started writing something different: The Spider's Eye, a stand-alone epic fantasy.

I'd wanted to get a good portion of Spider's Eye written by now, but I was sick for most of November so my NaNo goals fell short, and then I've been severely depressed all of December and didn't get anymore writing done. I've done some more research and some planning on Spider's Eye, but that's it.

And my shiny (not so new) idea is still percolating in the back of my mind. I'm still not entirely sure what I want to do with it, though I'm leaning toward the novella format. And then I've got to do an epic amount of research and... I just really hate research.

Anyway, I've learned now to keep my writing goals flexible because I'm inevitably going to be more interested in certain projects than I think I will be and less interested in others. And I've got enough ideas to work on that I don't have to force myself to finish one thing if I (temporarily) stop loving it. So I didn't necessarily hit the things on my list, but I still did about the same amount of work.

Reading
So I hit this one out of the park this year. I've read 66 books! If I finish the one I'm currently reading over the weekend, it'll be 67! About a third of that has been the children's books I've read to my daughter (chapter books only, not counting any picture books). I've read a lot of novellas this year too, including a double-read of the Murderbot diaries because I love them so much.

I've read loads of books from the library and the vast majority of the books I read this year were by white women. I'd like to keep reading more diversely and I'm still not reading as many books by people of colour as I could.

Family
I've gotten really bad at family stuff, and a lot of it is the stress of the current political climate. I just don't have a lot of energy for things. What energy I do have goes more toward time for my daughter than to my spouse and the extended family. So we still did plenty of family activities, but my spouse and I have spent another year not having many date nights. We're both just so tired. Not sure what to do about it other than just keep trying.

Health
Hey, this one was a smashing success! I did all the walking until the weather got cold. I did plenty of kickboxing. And I even lost weight! I lost and have kept off 10 lbs! Now that I've found something that works (I'm using the MyFitnessPal app), I'm hoping to keep up this trend until my knees stop hurting. We'll see how it goes.

Travel
So this year was all about the travelling. I suspect that travel is partially my midlife crisis? It's also my creeping-fascism coping mechanism. So I went to more than two new (to me) national parks in both Canada and the US, including Yoho NP in BC and Volcanoes NP in Hawaii. I went to a lot of new places this year, and it was magnificent. I went back to the national parks in Tobermory as well, and returned to Sequoia NP with my daughter for a week before we went to WorldCon76. I am now out of money, but it was well worth it!

2019 Goals

Writing
Submit 3 short stories
Write Blueshift short story "Making Waves"
Plot & write Mage War novella
Plot Mage War novel
Finish, revise, and polish Spider's Eye
Do NaNoWriMo
Look into writing a MG series
Keep querying Blueshift 1 and Fireborn
bonus/swap in:
Research and planning for shiny idea
Start writing shiny idea
Start querying Spider's Eye

Reading
Read 30 books
Read 15 books from my shelves
Read 15 books by POC

Family
One family event per month
One date night per month
Continue after school activities

Health
Regular kickboxing
Regular walks in warm months
Lose some weight (any amount will do)

Travel
One mother/daughter trip
One family vacation
Anniversary vacation

Anyway, 2018 has been the longest decade of my life. Congrats for surviving! We all deserve cookies just for that alone. If you managed to actually accomplish anything this hellscape of a year, bonus! Here's hoping we're all still here and kicking ass at the end of 2019.

Monday
Oct012018

Exit Strategy

It's impossible for me to talk about the Murderbot diaries without gushing so you're just going to have to bear with me because I just love this series so damn much! The final novella is no exception. If you haven't read All Systems Red, then pop over to my review of it and then maybe grab a copy. The series is a little dark and brutal, but also delightfully snarky and fun.

So Murderbot has been drifting through the galaxy, collecting adventures and trying to figure out just what it wants out of life. It has faced down its murderous past and started looking at ways to take down GrayCris, the corporate political entity whose murderous greed kicked off the series to begin with.

And after returning from its last adventure, Murderbot discovers that its mostly-owner and probably-friend Dr. Mensah is missing and probably in trouble. It could be nothing, it could be a trap, and Murderbot kind of just wants to hide out in a hotel and watch TV because it's having way too many feelings about all of this.

But it goes after Dr. Mensah, intending to save her and bring down GrayCris for good. It finds other members of its original team and starts plotting with them. Hilarity and chaos ensue. The ending is so good it made me laugh AND cry, at the same time.

Murderbot stories always make my black little heart grow three sizes and something about this particular book filled me with hope when I desperately needed it on this dark and stupid timeline. One of the best things about the series is that it's a novella series. These stories are snack sized. Like candy for your soul.

There's a full length Murderbot novel coming out in a couple of years and I'm super excited for it. But this final book in the novella series closes enough doors to be satisfying, but leaves enough open that I wish the novel was out already. So I highly recommend the entire series.

Monday
Aug062018

Rogue Protocol

This is the latest in the Murderbot diaries, a novella series about a cyborg-ish security unit who just wants to hide in its cargo box and watch TV while its humans are constantly demanding its attention. I love how Murderbot is always so down on what idiots its humans are while being begrudgingly fond of them.

In this one, Murderbot is a long way away from its almost-friends, trying not to worry about or get too attached to yet another group of humans who just can't seem to keep themselves from almost getting killed.

Murderbot is out on the edge of the galaxy, trying to find some solid evidence against the company that tried to kill its humans in the first book, All Systems Red. It gets a lot more than it bargained for in this book.

Murderbot still can't handle its soppy emotions, but is having a lot more of them, slowly inching toward acting more human. Of course, being human means being vulnerable, and Murderbot suffers a heartbreaking loss in this one that really shows it where its metaphorical heart lies, no matter how resistant it is.

The action in this story, like the others, is nonstop and the snark brilliantly keeps pace. I would ride or die for Murderbot. I've already preordered the final novella in the series and look forward to the full length novel slated to come out in a couple of years.

Wednesday
Jul252018

2018 Hugo Reading Round-Up

Okay, I have finally (with a week to spare!) finished my Hugo reading. Below are the major prose categories, with my choices in bold. I've included links to my reviews of the novels and the longer novellas, but will give a quick summary of what I thought of the shorter formats.

Best Novel

  • The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi (Tor)
  • New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit); note: DNF so no review, I really didn't like the author's style and the story just didn't grab me
  • Provenance, by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
  • Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
  • The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Best Novella

  • All Systems Red, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
  • “And Then There Were (N-One),” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny, March/April 2017); note: really cool idea but still not really doing it for me
  • Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing); note: DNF (for now), the world-building is really fascinating but the characters and story weren't grabbing me, but I'll likely go back to it when I have more time/patience
  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing)

Best Novelette

  • “Children of Thorns, Children of Water,” by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny, July-August 2017); note: this was a neat story set in a world I'm familiar with, but it didn't quite have the teeth to compete with my top pick
  • “Extracurricular Activities,” by Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com, February 15, 2017); note: also set in a world I'm familiar with, and a lot of fun, but lacking "teeth"
  • “The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, September 2017); note: one of many fun stories on this ballot about the life and humanity of bots, this one had all the stakes but also a hopeful ending that I needed
  • “A Series of Steaks,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, January 2017); note: this story was a lot of fun, but really felt like it should have been written from the assistant's POV since she was the real hero anyway
  • “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time,” by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny, May/June2017); note: This was a gut punch of a story and I really really liked it, but it was a little bleaker than I like, even if the ending was hopeful. Also, I dislike vampire stories in general.
  • “Wind Will Rove,” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s, September/October 2017); note: Cool concept but it really felt like a slog to read.

Best Short Story

  • “Carnival Nine,” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, May 2017); note: This story was way too bleak for me.
  • “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand,” by Fran Wilde (Uncanny, September/October 2017); note: I wanted to like this one but it just wasn't for me.
  • “Fandom for Robots,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny, September/October 2017); note: This one was a lot of fun, just didn't hold up against the fierce competition.
  • “The Martian Obelisk,” by Linda Nagata (Tor.com, July 19, 2017); note: This story was so bleak I was depressed for days, even if the ending had a smidge of hope
  • “Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon, (Uncanny, May/June 2017); note: This was a bit of a gut punch, but in a good way. It's still making me happy and it's been weeks since I read it.
  • “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™,” by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex, August 2017); note: It was hard to choose between this and Vernon's story, but in the end this one just left me feeling absolutely gutted and I'm just so done with bleak stories right now.

As a side note, Tor.com is really kicking ass and taking names with its novella publishing line. I'm actually looking at writing a novella to send in to them, since they're kind of on fire right now. I love the novella format! A little more meat than a short story or novelette, without the time sink of a novel.

There was a lot of great SFF released last year! Some of which didn't make it onto the final ballot and choosing favourites in some of these categories was really difficult, to the point I was often deciding on the subjective principle of "it made me happy" because all of these stories are just so damn good.

I hope you'll go out and find the stories on this list. They're well worth the time! And I leave for California in exactly 2 weeks! (Even if it's nearly a month until the actual Hugos, which I'm going to miss anyway because the award ceremony is on Sunday night... who does that?)