Let’s all go to the lobby …

Before I write up a post on how well my reading on Friday went (Spoiler: It was great!), I want to do a quick review of the movie Mockingjay: Part 1 that I saw this weekend: I really liked it. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

It’s not an action movie, exactly, although there is some action in it. In the way that Katniss both is, and is not, an action hero. She’s an action hero in that she’s completely competent in the things she does well, she’s confident in what is right vs wrong, she’s able to take actions and save people. But she is never, not once, in charge of her fate. And she knows it to her core – she is smart, and her anger and lashing out are justified. Whenever she tries to be in charge of her fate, someone rips that from her grasp. That never stops her from trying. But it does unavoidably break her, in ways that this part of the story explores.

When we start out this movie, the very first scene clues us into the fact that this narrative portion will be mostly psychological. I don’t want to spoil the plot for people who haven’t read the books, but I don’t think it’s a secret that both previous parts of this story involve horrific things happening to and around Katniss, over and over. And she has a psychological reaction to it. Not a good one. (Note – I will try not to, but there may be spoilers for plot below, so if you haven’t read the books, proceed with what caution you like.)

I know people who dislike the 3rd book because nothing happens in this part of it, that there’s a lot of mooning around, and everything is boring. But I think that’s a misreading of the text. I mean, you get out of it what you get out of it. But I don’t think you can have all of books one and two happen, and then just get right to the action for book three. Not with a human. Not with any human. Not and still be really writing out how actual humans actually react to trauma. Katniss is dealing with multiple, awful trauma. And it keeps happening. What this story shows is how she works to pull herself together – it’s a hugely important part of the story. And, I would say, a hugely important thing to show in story. I don’t think we show it enough, how people pull themselves together and what the costs are of, specifically, this kind of (war, psychological) trauma. And how much work it takes, and how different people heal differently.

Add to that mix the fact that both leaders – Coin and Snow – are fighting a psychological battle with each other, and with the minds of the people they lead and oppose. They’re using the tools they have: tools like Katniss and Peeta. They’re using them against not only each other, and each other’s people and fighters, but using them against themselves – Katniss and Peeta are tools each to batter the other, and are trying not to not be. I think that hit me in this movie harder than it did in the text. The framing of the parts outside of Katniss’ point of view were particularly strong in this film. That may have helped. I know people who have seen this movie and found it slow, or boring, but again, I think they missed the point. The point that I get out of it, anyway: war breaks people. Unrelenting war unrelentingly breaks people. Broken people can fight, but you won’t always get what you’re expecting. The cost is always too high, and leaders are always willing to pay that cost with other people’s minds and bodies.

This movie does set up the end really well. I wasn’t convinced, going in, that we needed 2 movies for the last book. But now that I’ve seen it, I can see their reasons, and I agree with the decision. It may have been made for money, but the writers and director made some pretty inspired choices. They’re continuing on the trend of the earlier movies to show you how propaganda is used, how spies are used, how people are used, to further government agenda. And as before, they are showing you the human cost of those uses. The end of this movie is not a reason to cheer. It is a reason to question every war, every prison, every covert action any government has ever taken in human history. If you aren’t both chilled and heartbroken, then I think you weren’t really paying that much attention to the narrative. Your call, but I feel you missed out.

 PS All of the acting was fantastic: Solid kudos to all the actors. It was sad to see Hoffman and know he’s gone.

If I could write I’d set all the words free ….

It’s release day! I know, I know – this is a technicality, since the big online stores have been shipping my book early already, and I had one early signing event, etc. But it is the release day for the ebook! So if you’ve been waiting to get your electronic hands on the ebook of “A Ragged Magic,” now is your chance! Order from Amazon or Barnes & Noble at any time! And here’s the reminder that my first author reading event is this week on Friday, 11/21 at 7pm at the University Bookstore. There will be cake after. (Confirmed!) {Added: Your reminder that you can also order this book from any bookstore you like – your local indie shops, or your big indie online shops like Powells, are perfectly happy to order it for you. Go books!}

A_Ragged_Magic_ARC-front-cover (1)

In honor of release day, here’s a little something I wrote about writing, rewriting, love, loss, and perseverance.

It took me 18 years to write my first book.

All right, that’s not strictly true – it took me 2 years to write my first book. The first time.

I was 23 years old, finishing my college degree, working two jobs, all the trimmings. While waiting for a bus outside on a spring day, hoping it wouldn’t rain, I pulled my notebook out and started writing – as usual. A character showed up in my head. The first line of the story flowed down, the beginnings of that first scene flowed down, and I felt fantastic. Story was often easy, then. Maybe not great, or even good, but it showed up when I asked for it, and I wrote it down. Some of those words are still in that first chapter – some of them were Good Enough, even after all this time, to stay.

The character is a young woman in a lot of trouble, and she is going to be in more trouble before she gets herself out of it. It’s one of my favorite story types: someone in over their head, scrambling for ways out of a tidal wave of trouble. Sometimes the trouble is of their own making, but often it’s trouble that happens despite them, or to spite them. Trouble that crashes down without warning and screws everything up. I have always been drawn to stories with sudden, irreversible life implosion. Possibly because when I’m reading a story, the life that’s imploding isn’t mine.

I’ve had life implode on me a few times now. Sometimes implosions make for good stories, long after the fact. Usually while they’re happening I’m too busy scrambling and swearing. Maybe that’s why I enjoy reading that kind of story – what does life look like after it’s imploded? How do you continue on afterward? What kind of patchwork comes out of it?

It took some months after those first words to realize this particular story about a young woman in so much trouble was becoming a novel. I was nervous. A whole novel? Written by me? So daunting. With a lot of help from friends, I managed to finish it after about 2 years. I started submitting it to editors and agents, following all the rules of submission I could find in those very early internet days. I spent precious money on publisher’s guides. I started finding far-flung writer friends, and attending conventions. I paid money to print the whole dang manuscript out. I paid money to mail it around. I kept a notebook and my favorite pens with me all the time. Story still felt like a thing I could do, like the one thing I wanted to do.

After a year or two of submitting (and waiting), I got my first – very exciting! – ‘this is close: please try again’ letter from an editor. I worked to revise the story according to the notes and resubmitted. After many months of agonized waiting, I received a rejection: they really liked it, but not enough. I was crushed, but convinced I was so close. Meanwhile I was still looking for agents, and writing other things. I worked on other projects, but life was gathering up for implosion, and I wrote less. Story slowed down – it didn’t always show up when I asked for it, and it felt too much as though my reach not only exceeded my grasp but fell short halfway across the chasm. I struggled to finish anything, hoping that if I could just figure out the next story, I’d find my footing again.

I revised the first novel again over the next year. I submitted it to agents – and one of them decided she loved the book and took me on as a client! I was certain that my book would find a home now. I started a sequel on her advice, although I hadn’t planned one originally. I revised the first book again. But after several years, it was obvious we hadn’t found an editor who wanted to take a chance on this story. The words that had once felt so easy dried up. I wasn’t writing anymore.

Other parts of my life were bent on proving that sudden life-implosion is really no fun at all to actually live through, thus disproving the tortured artist trope. I felt tortured, certainly deeply unhappy, but I couldn’t write. Could. Not. Write. Considering writing was what had pulled me through other tough times of my life, I found myself lost. Story stopped showing up at all, even in my head. I stopped carrying notebooks and pens everywhere. There were several years where I wrote nothing, and I despaired of ever finding story again. I felt broken, because one thing I’d always counted on was story. Who was I if I didn’t make up stories, not even to myself? It frightened me that such a key piece of my personality could just disappear like that.

Slowly, with a lot of work and care, my life and my creative mind pieced themselves together again. I had ideas, and I started (a new) novel. I could write once more. It was such a relief, even when I floundered. At least story wasn’t gone from me.

Two years ago, my friend who is an editor was looking for manuscripts. We started discussing this at a party. My partner told him “Lindsey has a novel!” and emailed it to him on the spot from his phone. I felt worried and embarrassed. I downplayed it. “It got a lot of good feedback, but it needs work,” I told him. “I think it has some potential, but don’t feel obligated to read it. I haven’t looked at it in years.” He looked dubious, but said he’d read it. “I’m working on new things,” I said, trying to sound positive, realizing I am my own worst PR. “I think the new stuff is going really well. But feel free to read that one.” I smiled in an unconvincing manner and slunk away to introvert in another corner of the party.

Several weeks later, Fabulous Editor Jak ™ said he loved it – he had some ideas, and if I agreed to some changes, he’d like to publish it. Excited, I jumped at the chance. We discussed changes and ways to make the story better. I took the suggestion to make a certain minor character more important, to create a stronger tie to my protagonist, rather to heart. I kept thinking it wouldn’t take me too long to do this revision ….

I spent a year rewriting the whole book from scratch – same basic scenes, almost entirely different prose. With Hey Presto! Brand New Character Interaction and Growth. Except the hey presto! took me that whole year and a lot of banging my head on the keyboard. I rediscovered carrying notebooks around. I rewrote the old scenes by hand in the notebook, typed them up again later. I mulled. I scrawled. I called Jak and almost everyone I know in great gusts of nerves to ask what ifs and what thens. I … wrote. I wrote this novel. Again.

So that’s, let’s see – four major revisions, a long hiatus with bonus life implosion, an entire rewrite, then another revision (this one only took 2 months! I’m getting better) then copy edits. It took 18 years from that first sentence and character in my head to publication. And the words, while not as easy as they were in my halcyon youth, show up when I ask for them, at least most of the time. I am still friends with story, and sometimes story comes out to play.

This book went through many changes over those 18 years, but at the heart, it is the same story. The same character in a lot of trouble, who works really hard, through death and destruction and grief and doubt, to put her life back together again. Oh, and try to save the day, of course. From my older, and one hopes wiser position, I can appreciate the story – this story, that I wrote, mine – on new levels. Life implodes. If you work hard and hope, losing bits and pieces of yourself and adding others, pushing through pain and despair and the heartbreak and joy of other people, you can stitch something back together again. It might be mostly the same, but completely different. It might have scars and wrinkles and crabby knees. It might not look anything like you planned. But persistence pays off, and life and love are worth the work.

Title is from “If I Could Write” by Sam Phillips

When I’m out walking, I strut my stuff….

Hello, second week of November! The first week was pretty … ok, yeah, I’m going to go with epic. For me, anyway. Let me detail the ways.

Sunday was the really big day – after the con was over (and some lunch and walking unplanned shenanigans happened), Julie, Scott and I headed over to Beaverton for the Powell’s big SF author signing. There were about 26 authors there, all to sign books. It was my very first official author event! And it was great!

 1st signing There I am, poised to sign. Not long after that picture was taken, where I’d said “I need someone to take a picture for my mom – I promised her there would be pictures.” – my parents surprised me by showing up! I don’t have pictures from them on that yet, but their friends, the Dawsons, were there with cameras at the ready to capture my surprised face. Aww. Awesome family is awesome. I had no idea they were driving up from CA to come to the event. Apparently they scoped out the joint the night before, and cautioned all the employees not to let me know. Not hard for the employees, as they don’t know me at all. But now I am semi-famous at the Beaverton Powell’s as the writer whose parents showed up to surprise her at her first big signing. Awwww.

Then they and the Dawsons proceeded to buy multiple copies of the book. Mrs. Dawson apparently loves it and gushes about it to all and sundry. Yay! And even though Mom already bought and read hers, Dad wants his own copy. So I signed a bunch of books, which was pretty nerve-wracking. And then a couple of people I don’t even know bought the book, and others took my cards, so maybe they will try it out later. And and and … we sold all but one of my books! So that was pretty exciting.

Scott also sold almost all the stock of his book a the signing – yay! A good time was had by all. We talked to authors and readers and bought books and sold books. It was a good night. And if you haven’t, you should most definitely check out his book Homefront, by Scott James Magner – it’s a fantastic SF book, and his first reading for it is tonight! 11/12 at 7pm at the University bookstore. Buy his book – it’s gorgeous inside and out.


After the signing, my parents and the Dawsons took Scott, Julie and me out to dinner. From there we had to drive back to Seattle, but it was decent traffic, and only a little heavy rain at the end. All in all, a good day.

Orycon itself, over that weekend, was fun. I ended up not really participating in the con  very much, due to nerves and a need to be away from people from time to time. I went to a few parties, and talked with people in the bar, and I ate food with folks, but I felt kind of overwhelmed by things. On Saturday, I went across the street to the mall for an errand, and ended up staying to watch a movie – “Big Hero 6” – which was great. I highly recommend the flick. There were kids as small as 3 in the audience, but I think it’s more appropriate for slightly older kids – maybe 6 and up. Depends on your kid, though, and how scared and/or bored they get. But I absolutely loved it. A+, will def see it again.

I did go to the memorial for Jay Lake on Saturday night, which was put together by Ken and Jen Scholes, and others. It was very emotional, but not in a terrible way. We all cried, and missed Jay, and felt the support of community. It was good to do, for some kind of closure. But it was hard, too. I’m both relieved not to have to do that again, and desperately sad that we had to do it at all. Fuck cancer.

Now it’s the second week of November. Scott’s reading is tonight, other friends have readings on Friday and then next Monday. The 3rd week sees my book officially out (!) on the 18th. Hooray! Then you’ll be able to order the ebook from various sources, if ebooks are what you prefer. Scott has another signing and reading at Powell’s in Beaverton on Weds. And then … and THEN … on Friday it’s the big day! My reading at University Bookstore – 11/21 at 7pm, upstairs. If you know you’re going, it might behoove you to pre-order the book. I have no idea how many people are coming, now. As many as possible! But I’ve lost track of the numbers. Possibly because I have so many things to keep track of. Like reading in public. I have to practice reading some more. I have to order a cake. (There will be cake.) I have to … try not to panic.

No panicking allowed. Picnicking, now, that is totally allowed. I approve of picnicking. Bring me some brie. Come to my reading, if you can. I’ll have someone take pictures. I’ll have goodies of the picnickable variety. I’ll have a slight panic attack. No, wait. I Will Not. But I might need your bright smiles to gladden my heart. Looking forward to it!

Title is from Blister in the Sun by the Violent Femmes

Come and I will sing you …

Here it is, the month that is All The Things All The Time – my month of the official-official release of my very first published work, my very first author signing, my very first author reading, and all that those Things entail. November! You are so busy I can hardly think straight.

A Ragged Magic,” of course, is only technically not out yet. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble will ship the physical copies to you now, if you want to buy through them. The ebooks, however, still seem to be waiting for the official release date of 11/18. 11/18 – date of official release! You may, of course, feel free to buy from wherever you choose, whenever you choose, in what format you prefer. There are other places to buy the book than the big online stores, however, if you would like that. Read on to find out more. (!)

This coming weekend I am going to Orycon, to hang out with writers and talk writery things and be social. This will be the first physical place where my book will be sold: In the dealer’s room, there’ll be a Per Aspera table, where all things Per Aspera will be sold, including my book. So if you’re going to Orycon, you can come by and see the book in the wild – so to speak. And me! I will be around. I should have pretty, pretty business cards and of course there’s the book. I can sign it for you, show it off, smile pretty for pictures. Boogie down with/near/around books – I’m usually up/down for a good boogie.

Also, if you’re in Portland this weekend (for Orycon or otherwise,) I’ll be participating in Powell’s “Sci-Fi Authorfest 8“, which is happening at the Powell’s Books in Cedar Hills Crossing on Sunday, 11/9, from 4-530 pm. My book will be there, too. There’ll be a lot of authors there, signing books, and I will be among them! Come buy books from Powell’s (you know you want to) and have me sign them! (Well, mine, anyway. Or others, if you like. If you buy them, you can do what you like with them.) So many lovely books, and all of us there, just hoping to sign them for you. I’ll have my purple pen and everything.

The following week is Scott’s reading at the University Bookstore here in Seattle. His new SF book “Homefront” is out and for sale and you should totally read it. It’s really good. Come to his reading, with Mark Teppo, and check it out for yourself!

There are a lot of really great readings at the University Bookstore happening this month, and I think I’m going to at least half of them. Social whirl, whee! You should check them out – it’s a great month for writers I know personally, and others I know not at all but I want to read their stuff. Books! Who doesn’t like books?

There’s my reading, of course, on 11/21, 7pm, at the U district store – which I’ve told you about already. Please do come. Feel free to pre-order books from University Bookstore – they’ll hold them for you until the reading. Feel free to order as many books as you’d like (mine, or any), of course. Ubooks is happy to hold or ship them to you! And if you can’t come to the reading, if you order through the store, I think they can make arrangements to have me sign it there and then they can hold it or ship it to you – although I don’t have any confirmation of that. I would like to sell my book either way, of course, and I’d like to make it worth the University Bookstore’s while to have me there. And I’d like to share this story with you, because I worked hard on it, and I think it’s good. In other (so many words) – buy books! Mine especially!

(My mom liked it – just in case you were wondering if I had family endorsements. She even had to call and leave me a detailed message about what she liked so much about it. Also my brother (the more critical one) said it was good and he enjoyed it, and he wanted to know what happens next. Which is a pretty big compliment coming from him. Family endorsements for the win! OK, Mom might seem like low-hanging fruit, but she reads as much or more than I do, so she’d just kindly tell me “It’s really not my thing, but you worked so hard!” if she didn’t like it. And Quinn would likely only say “Good job finishing something” if he thought it sucked. And my 9 year old nephew is reading it. That one … I don’t recommend exactly to those of you with young children. But, uh, his dad is letting him, so … I’ll let you know if he thought it had too much kissing. The death, I feel certain, he will approve of.)

The week after my reading is Turkey Day week, here in the States, and Mr. Sweetie and I will be traveling to the LA area to see a pretty large contingent of my fambly, including all the niecephews, at least one brother, two sisters-in-law, several cousins, a baby – 2nd? – cousin, both maternal aunts, and possibly my uncle. And my parents, too. Which will be fantastic, and also full of the stress of traveling on the worst US travel days of the year. I’m hoping for relatively easy flights. And some nice time soaking in all the fambly stuff.

The last week of November is slightly less hectic, but for recovering from travel, recovering from going to all the readings, and at least one more reading. Which will conclude All The Things All The Time month, and start December, which is similarly fraught with All The Other Things. But hey, books! Books galore! All the books! Get some books, my friends. I can’t recommend it enough.

Title is from Great Big Sea’s version of “Come and I Will Sing You (The 12 Apostles)”

EDIT: I see in reading this post over that I was on an “of course” and “however” bender. Please ignore half of them. Of course.