The Wandering Inn, by Pirateaba

I just marathoned the audiobook editions of The Wandering Inn by Pirateaba, one of the largest web serials ever. I am agog.

10.1 million words, so far.
2.5 million of it is in audio, so far. That’s like 200+ hours of listening material.

The TWI series is actually bigger than my Torth series, which is a measly 1.1 million words in its entirety. TWI has more main characters, a larger world, and a bigger word count. It’s bigger than Game of Thrones and The Wheel of Time combined. The author is still putting out 2 chapters every week. They (no idea what gender the author is) have an active fan community, 4,000+ patrons on Patreon, and they (or their publisher?) hired the most talented female audiobook narrator I’ve ever heard.

And the series is awesome. I really got into it. Fair warning: The first book suffers from some amateur storytelling, including a main character that is hard to like or connect with until later on. I nearly quit a few times. But I’ve learned that my favorite series have problematic beginnings, so I pushed through, and I’m really glad I did. I’m ranking this one right up there with my all-time favorites. The author gets better and better, and the series is pure fun. It has the magical ingredient: Really outstanding interpersonal character dynamics.

It’s interesting that it remains addictive even without any majorly oppressive grimdark plot thread. Like Beware of Chicken and He Who Fights With Monsters and other SFF web serials that took off, TWI is light rather than dark. It’s fun rather than grim.

By comparison, I’m worried about how my series will fare on RoyalRoad. Mine just isn’t that light. It has a majorly oppressive galactic empire that needs to be defeated. One of my main characters goes super dark in Book 1, and spends the rest of the series on a redemption arc. Readers love that character–but only if they get past the beginning “gauntlet” of evil oppressive crap that he gets involved in.

I do have length on my side. 450+ chapters ready to go. But mine is finite. It has an ending.

I want a career like Pirateaba’s! They are incredible. They are the Brandon Sanderson of the web serial world.

You know what else? I think this whole web serial phenomenon speaks to the state of the publishing industry. The Wandering Inn is just as good and just as much fun as The Wheel of Time. If this was the 1990s, it might be the new Wheel of Time. Yet here in the 2020s, it’s an underground fandom instead of a trad pub juggernaut.

I think that’s due to the way algorithms are causing readers and literary agents to overvalue trends and books that are already popular, while also tamping down emergent stuff with unrealized potential. Pirateaba’s series has great word-of-mouth, which is allowing them to break out of the underground niche a bit and realize some of their vast potential. I’m sure 4,000+ patrons has enabled them to write full-time and hire an assistant and all that. But they only got there by writing an addictive series with millions of words and consistently adding new chapters. And even with their success, their fandom is still quite underground.

We live in unfortunate times for the arts, I think.

I’m really glad to have discovered Pirateaba, even if it was through underground channels where adventurous readers hang out. I think they have a great career ahead of them.

A.I. Artwork And Writing: a writer-artist’s perspective.

From what I’ve seen, A.I. generated artwork has a certain aesthetic to it. Faces are rarely defined. Imagery may be riotously detailed, which gives a superficial impression that it was lovingly worked on by hand for many days, but it lacks a coherent theme. That gives the impression that it is dreamlike imagery, or slap-dabbed together by someone in a creative frenzy. It is a certain look.

Perhaps that aesthetic will always be appealing. But I wonder if it will wear out its welcome? I’m already getting worn out on it. I feel as if I can recognize it when I see it, and it’s not what I want for my finalized novel covers. (Short stories, maybe.)

And I think the same applies to Jasper A.I. and other A.I. writing tools. People who read a lot of blogs and articles are learning to recognize overly emotional language that is incongruously used for conveying generic or low-value content.

I’ve seen A.I. performers, where people pay a service that simulates an actor to read lines. There is an uncanny valley effect with those. The “actor” looks quite human, but they blink a bit too often, and their smiles are quick and small and weirdly constrained.

I don’t know how the arts will adapt to these things. But speaking as a writer-artist, I’m not thrilled about it. I think this is all part of the race-to-the-bottom in the arts. Companies don’t want to pay artists and writers. Now they don’t have to.

The question is: Will the public accept A.I. art and writing as equal to the real thing? Or will they tune it out eventually? Will they tend to gravitate towards art and writing created by real people? Or will enough people fail to see the difference, or fail to care, so that the money flows towards A.I. tools more than it flows to human writers and artists?

Beware of Chicken, by CasualFarmer

Beware of Chicken: A Xianxia Cultivation NovelBeware of Chicken: A Xianxia Cultivation Novel by CasualFarmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a writer, one can learn a lot from this breath of fresh air in the Fantasy genre.

One can write secondary world fantasy without war. Without prison scenes or gladiator scenes or slogging through a hellscape scenes. That doesn’t mean this book lacks suspense or escalating stakes or power progression. They’re there. There’s a magic system and fun characters, including a very proud rooster who was unexpectedly uplifted to sapience.

As SFF writers, we learn that our heroes are only as powerful/smart as our villains. In other words, we’re supposed to create strong villains to challenge our heroes. In this book, the strong villains are implied off-screen. They’re … somewhere, causing wars and stuff on some other continent. Sometimes local villains or bullies show up, thinking they’re badass and that they can easily defeat the simple farmer. Jin defeats these with ease, sometimes without even realizing it, because he’s so powerful. Then he goes back to farming or planning weddings or building snowmen and playing with friends. He is the Hidden Master. So cool.

Watching a supposedly simple farmer defeat bad guys with ludicrous ease is unexpectedly satisfying. It’s like that scene with Mat and his quarterstaff in Book 3 of the Wheel of Time.

I never thought I’d enjoy a book that’s all about mundane stuff, albeit in a fantasy world with magic. But this was just cute. And engaging. It’s like I got a book version of Stardew Valley instead of World of Warcraft or something. I would actually like to read the next one, when it comes out.

Consider me a disciple of CasualFarmer.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Umbrella Academy, best show on TV

When it comes to media, I read far more than I watch. The last show I binge-watched was Breaking Bad. I’ve also adored Game of Thrones (except for the final two seasons) and Stranger Things. I can name other shows that amused me pretty well: Bosch, Reacher, The Venture Brothers. But I think Umbrella Academy has edged out to be my actual favorite. It has all the ingredients I crave, and they’re done exceptionally well.

One thing I appreciate about Umbrella Academy is that the show-runner doesn’t waste time on long, lingering close-ups of faces or pointless scenes. Nor do the writers skip any world-building or story setup. Every scene is well-thought-through, well placed, and flows seamlessly to the next. Their sense of timing is *chef’s kiss* perfection.  That’s so important for cinema, yet I rarely see it done this well.

Another thing they have going for them is synergy. That cast of characters… it’s incredible that a show can have *so many* characters that remain interesting for multiple seasons and have great interpersonal dynamics and rapport with each other. Listen, I’ve written an epic series with a big ensemble cast of characters. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes effort that goes into making every one of them interesting, relatable, likable, and to amp up character contrast so that their interpersonal dynamics keep changing and remain engaging. Umbrella Academy proves that you can have 10+ regular characters in a show with 10 episodes per season (I’m including Pogo, Sir Hargreeves, “Mom,” and others) who contrast well with each other and remain memorable.  That’s just impressive. This is a skilled writing team plus a skilled casting director plus really awesome actors.

The special effects? Super impressive. I’ve seen shows with comparable budgets go very wrong in this area (Wheel of Time, how I mourn what you could have been). Umbrella Academy pays a lot of respect to visual artistry. The lighting, the costumes, the effects… just wow. They are superb. Perhaps that’s to be expected for a show based on graphic novels.

The music? Umbrella Academy even gets this right. I love the original score. I love the pop music they choose to blend into every episode. “Run Boy Run” by Woodkid has become one of my favorites.

One of the best things about the ongoing story is its complexity. They are juggling multiple timelines due to time travel, yet maintaining story cohesion and continuity. That is what really impresses me. I purposely avoided writing time travel into my epic series, because I was already juggling armies, space armadas, teleporting heroes, and mutant super-geniuses who can read minds. I’m seeing Umbrella Academy and nodding to the writers in respectful awe. At the same time, I can understand why the show-runner said that he’ll probably end it on season 4. Every season adds another layer of complexity, and holy moly, they created a storytelling masterpiece.

Finally, I admire how the show puts in moments of kindness and levity. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It subtly pokes fun at the asshole characters, and subtly uplifts the kindhearted characters. It riffs on superhero tropes. It remembers to have fun, giving the characters moments where they’re singing karaoke or going on road trips in between saving the world. It sends a message about the strength of sibling love. It’s just sweet. And messages like this seem to be so rarely found on TV.

There. I summarized my admiration without giving away a single spoiler!

Chemotherapy Update: Infusion #4

I’m about to undergo my fourth and final infusion of oxaliplatin. This is hardcore stuff. It’s a “platinum agent” that goes directly into my arteries through a medical implant called a “port”, like I’m some kind of electronic device. What does ox do? Well, aside from making me feel awful–anemic, fatigued, nauseas, and sick–it kills fast-growing cells in my body. Those cells might all be benign cells, such as bone marrow, digestive tract cells, and hair follicles. Or they might be evil cancerous tumor cells. This aggressive chemo treatment is meant to reduce the chances of the cancer taking root elsewhere in my body.

I’ve learned a lot on this journey. To catch you up: I had concerns for more than a year before I was diagnosed with cancer. I thought I was having sudden and severe food allergies, severe enough for me to make multiple visits to my primary care physician. She assured me “It’s not cancer.” Her reasoning was that my white blood cell count was normal, so therefore, I guess she thought the pain was all in my head. I am still angry about that misdiagnosis. The takeaway: Pain is not something to be dismissed, even if your doctor tells you it’s nothing. Always pay attention to random pain. It means something.

The pains became worse and more frequent. Intestinal cancer is hard to find or diagnose, and I was misdiagnosed at two different Urgent Care centers. When it became unbearable for a week in December, my husband figured we should skip the medical centers and go straight to the ER at the nearest major hospital, Baylor Scott & White. The staff there kept me overnight, ran scans and so forth, and within a day, I was told that I had a cancerous tumor and needed emergency surgery to get rid of it. That was shocking. A colectomy is major surgery with risks, and I was asked to agree to it ASAP. I was otherwise healthy–no co-mormidities, I exercised daily–and I am relatively young. I never expected anything like this. But I am grateful to the gastroenterologist and surgeon at that hospital. They gave me the news straight without any sugar-coating.

So. The tumor was removed, along with 21 lymph nodes in order to stage the cancer. Recovery from that surgery was very painful and rough. But within two months, I was more or less back to normal. I went to an oncologist, who strongly recommended this “cap-ox” chemotherapy regimen, which is standard for colon cancer beyond stage 1. I sought a second opinion from an expert at MD Anderson, which is a major cancer center in Houston. The oncologist at MD Anderson strongly recommended the same thing.

Which brings me to now. I began the cap-ox treatment in April. It’s really no joke, as far as side effects go. And the effects are cumulative. They get a little worse each time. I am astounded that some people endure this chemo regimen for years, or even for their entire lives. I am very, very lucky in that my cancer has not metasticized. Otherwise I would need to be on chemo for much longer.

What side effects, you ask?

Well, right now I have a rash on the soles of my feet which makes walking difficult. It gets worse if I walk any distance. That’s an effect from the capecitabine pills, which are the “cap” part of the cap-ox regimen. So never mind my daily walks. I can’t do those. Nor can I go swimming, because chlorine will exacerbate the rash. I’m not exercising much these days. Also, I’m anemic. I feel weaker than usual. There are gastro effects which are somewhat mitigated with pills. I’m immunocompromised. So I’m not traveling. My hair?  Every time I brush it, the brush comes away with a bird’s nest of hair. So it’s falling out a lot more than usual, yet no one can tell, because it was so thick in the first place! I guess it might all be gone if I was on this chemo for 2+ years. But that isn’t the plan.

The worst part of chemotherapy happens 2-5 days after each oxaliplatin infusion. That’s when the mitigating drugs wear off while the ox infusion is still working its cell-killing magic. On those days, I get so weak and exhausted, I can barely walk up stairs. I have to stop and rest every few steps. It’s really a pronounced effect. Keep in mind that I am a person who typically goes for brisk hour-long walks on a daily basis.

Oxaliplatin also causes sensitivity to cold. That means no ice water, no smoothies, no reaching into the freezer, no running my hands under cold tap water.  If I do those things, I feel an electric shock sensation. Also, it worsens the neuropathy in my fingers and toes and lips, which is another terrible side effect. So far, the neuropathy has been temporary. It goes away after 8-10 days. I really hope it never comes back. I’m an artist and writer who needs to be able to type. But I have learned that it is permanent for some random unlucky patients.

Okay! That’s enough complaining. I just wanted to de-mystify what chemotherapy entails. There are different chemo regimens for different types of cancer; my experience is not universal to all cancer patients. But it is standard for colon cancer. It is also known as an aggressive treatment. There are slightly gentler treatments for patients with health complications.

On the happier side, this will be my final infusion! I expect to feel fully healthy and back to normal by mid-July. It takes a while for all this stuff to wear off.

And yes, the medical professionals will scan me and check up on me for 2 years on a regular basis. It’s important to monitor me, because cancer is evil and can be sneaky and recur. I am told that the chances of recurrences are 10%. I really hope I am a lucky one who never sees it again.

I’ve learned that cancer runs in one side of my family. My grandparents on that side both died from intestinal cancer–but they were in their 80s and 90s. Same with at least one of their siblings. One of my aunts on that side has defeated lung cancer and breast cancer. My parent on that side also has signs of blood cancer, and has defeated skin cancer. So… yeah. It lurks in genetics. I hadn’t known how widespread it was on that side of the family until this happened, and the family stories came out.

Wishing you all a healthy and cancer-free life!

Feeling Seen, Not Yet A Marketing Machine

I am becoming loud & proud about my self-pub procrastination. I was ashamed of it for a long time. I was constantly making excuses, and assuring friends/readers that yes, I will have the books for sale soon.

No.

In reality, here it is: I hate the concept of turning into a marketing machine.

Once I set the ball in motion on Amazon, I will have to transform into some kind of savvy businessperson if I want my epic series to have any chance in hell at being noticed. The fate of most self-pubbed books is that they drown in the ocean of obscurity. There’s a new book published every minute on Amazon. The self-pub success stories pour a ton of ad spend and marketing efforts into their series. This article about the failure of the long tail  says it well.

Instead of diving into book marketing, I’m very comfy serializing online. Readers kind of show up without me having to deploy ads or pour effort into newsletter swaps or study the dark arts of email campaigns. Readers say wonderfully nice things to me. It fulfills the part of me that wants acknowledgement/recognition for the magnum opus I’ve created.

So I’m admitting that I am procrastinating. I am freely telling people that I’ll get around to publishing and marketing my Torth series eventually… but I am enjoying the serialization life for now.

Also, I am probably going to do one more Hail Mary pass with literary agents. Yeah. Masochistic, I know.

At least this time, my expectations will be so low they’re subterranean. I’m aware that my series has no accurate comps, it does not match hot trends, it does not have a gimmicky angle that can be summarized in a sentence, and oh yeah, it’s not a stand-alone with series potential. It’s a full-fledged epic. Book 1 is an eternal problem. I was never able to make it behave.

But a few adventurous readers did take a chance on it, and some kept reading. So Book 1 does work for some people. I just don’t think that most literary agents are adventurous readers. They’re looking for “the same but different.”

Ah well. Why not collect at least 150 rejections, amiright?

Meanwhile, I have the excuse of chemotherapy for being lazy and not turning into a self-promotion marketing machine quite yet. I’m halfway through treatment. Hair is falling out, blood pressure is low, and I get very fatigued every third week due to oxaliplatin infusions. The other two weeks I can function pretty much normally. Hopefully there will be no trace of cancer after this.

Oh yeah! My new stand-alone novel-in-progress is a BREEZE in comparison to the Torth series. I’m not zooming ahead with passion on it. But dang, it’s easy and enjoyable. I think it may be easier to market, as well.

I’m also having a lot of fun creating 3D low poly art assets for my husband’s indie game. It’s his magnum opus, in the same way the Torth series is mine. His abilities with programming are blowing my mind.

Wheel Of Time: Ep01—03 on Amazon Prime

I watched the first three episodes of the Wheel of Time, which is an adaptation of one of my favorite book series. Is the internet ready for my hot take?

First off, let me acknowledge that a lot of time and work went into creating this show. That is true for any show, but it is particularly true for a big budget epic fantasy with an international audience. They spent that budget. Efforts were made. It is easy to be an armchair critic. But…

I am a writer who went to pro fiction boot camps and film school, and my inner critic never shuts off. I wish someone would hand me that budget to create my own series, because yes, I thought they made a few mediocre and poor decisions.

Without giving away spoilers? Here’s my take. 

Their writing team forgot that rule number one is to make heroes likable. It’s a simple guideline, but it’s easy to overlook when you’re juggling ten thousand other concerns. The film adaptation of my favorite series made the main heroes kind of … meh. They’re not admirable. They don’t do anything that would cause a viewer to root for them. To the contrary, a few of the heroes seem like pouting ingrates. A few of them make stupid decisions without any explanation given on screen, such as shouting in a situation where bad guys might hear and then attack them. That sort of behavior is not going to win over viewers.

The show also takes itself very, very seriously. Too seriously. Every song is mournful. There are no moments of levity between tense scenes. There is no wit, no jokes, not much fun. The books had a tone of playfulness and sense-of-wonder and adventure. The show would have done well to break up the tension with a few moments of kindness or fun moments (not only emo moments) between characters.

Even the scenes where crowds are laughing come across as false, like advertisements for a Renaissance Faire. It’s like the cliche of “women laughing while eating salad.” If the background bystanders in every tavern are having an apparently uproarious time, it doesn’t seem believable.

HBO’s Game of Thrones had its own problems, but one thing they got right was the artistry. GoT went above and beyond with costume design, sets, and musical score. I don’t see that in Amazon Prime’s Wheel of Time. The costumes, sets, and music are okay. They work for the show. But they’re not outstanding on the same level of GoT, despite having a similar budget.

The WoT characters look like they went shopping at only the best outlets for faux woolens. Instead of living in a remote medieval-style village, they look like tourists who enjoyed a spa day and who are now hanging out at a high end Renaissance festival.

I don’t have a problem with the show’s pacing. I see reviews complaining about that, but I think it’s a factor of other problems that can look like pacing issues. They are sticking to the books in a loose way, and that’s fine.

On to my specific problems, solutions, and thoughts about each hero.

 

Spoilers ahead.

 


Perrin

I get why the TV writing team chose to make Perrin axe his pregnant wife by accident. They’re setting up his central character conflict, which is whether he should use the axe (be a violent warlord) or forge a hammer (be a gentle blacksmith). The goal is to make Perrin afraid of his own violence. It’s a good idea to set that up as soon as possible with his character.

But they could set it up in a way that makes Perrin look heroic rather than dangerously and stupidly reckless.

For instance: Have him go into berserker mode while killing Trollocs, using up all of his finely forged weapons and then seizing crude implements to continue the slaughter. Have someone he loves (his wife or his mother) look at him with absolute disgust. Show how that look cuts him and makes him ashamed. Show that loved one flinch away from him. Then show his guilt and shame.

There are several problems with setting up his conflict by making him a wife-killer.

1) Wife slaying is not a good look for a hero.

2) Perrin’s wife on the show seems way more competent than him in every way. She’s a better blacksmith, and she’s better at killing Trollocs. In contrast to that, Perrin comes across as a loser: a dangerous, reckless person who should not be trusted with weapons.

3) The show undermines his Axe vs. Hammer inner conflict in the second episode, when Mat gives Perrin his dagger. Clearly, the writing team thought that was a clever way to set up Mat’s need for a new dagger. But when Perrin accepts a weapon of violence which was forged by his dead wife, that implies that he is already accepting of the violence within himself. It also signals that he has emotionally moved on from “oops, I murdered by wife by accident.” It doesn’t make him look good.

Rand

Rand starts to become likable in the third episode. He steps up by taking responsibility for himself and Mat both. That is a glimmer of heroism right there. Yay! Finally.

It’s canceled a bit due to his apparent helplessness against an aggressive female innkeeper. He’s terrified of her. He can bust through an iron door, but he can’t face a woman who stole his sword?

And he acts not-so-bright in the beginning of this episode, shouting for Egwene where Trollocs might hear him. That sort of thing makes viewers lose respect for a character. And Rand isn’t doing anything smart to counterbalance his brainless moments. 

Unfortunately, Rand is quite unlikable in the first two episodes. The show gives no reason for his bitter distrust of Moiraine, after she literally saved Rand’s father from death. Rand shows zero gratitude for that. To the contrary, he accuses Moiraine of being manipulative and possibly evil.

And his character is all about pouting after being friend-zoned. Rand and Egwene have zero chemistry on screen. They are a crying emo mess, and Rand doesn’t come off as respectful and kind. He comes across more like a stalker than a friend.

Mat Cauthon

I totally get why the show’s writing team chose to establish Mat’s kindness right away, rather than wait two full seasons for Mat to get healed from that ruby dagger. His character doesn’t become a fan favorite until Book 3 of the book series. Until then, he’s an adolescent prankster who turns bitter and nasty due to an enchanted dagger. So the show went for the quickest and easiest way to set Mat up as a hero: Have him selflessly protect his impoverished little sisters from his terrible parents. Voila! Now he is an instant hero.

It was just too quick and easy. To a jaded viewer, it comes across as a cheap way to work in some character dev. 

Like Rand, Mat comes across as not-too-bright several times, particularly when he goes off exploring by himself in Aridhol (ep02). Not a good look for a hero. That kind of behavior needs explanation, or else it just looks stupid.

Egwene

Of all the heroes on the show, Egwene comes across as the best one so far, and that is only in contrast to the rest of them. She hasn’t done anything egregiously wrong. She isn’t reckless with an axe, no bad life choices, no pouting or blaming the wrong person for her situation. But she is bland. She hasn’t done anything heroic or kind, either.

Nynaeve

I like how protective of her people she is. That comes across, and the actress has enough fiery passion to sell it. But she has a moment in ep01 where she freezes in the battle, and it makes her look cowardly. The show could have handled that better. Her hatred of Moiraine also seems irrational, and could use more of an explanation.

Thom

They gave Thom a theme song. Or a guitar chord, anyway. That seems hokey, and it contrasts weirdly with the tone of the show, which is otherwise somber and taking itself ultra seriously. 

Moiraine and Lan

No comment for now. I think they’re doing all right. Lan looks very Samurai, and I think the show would have done better to give Borderlanders more unique fantasy costuming. But I would say the same for all of the costuming on the show.

Missed Opportunities 

Where did all the Trollocs go after the heroes escaped from Aridhol? In the books, Mashadar (the creepy black stuff that turned that horse into dust) killed the Trollocs who had been driven inside to grab the heroes. If they had done that on screen, it would have emphasized how badly the Dark One wants the Dragon Reborn. What a missed opportunity. Instead, the viewer is left to surmise that Trollocs aren’t such a big threat, since apparently they just randomly give up when the plot calls for it.

At the end of ep01, Moiraine flat-out tells the heroes, “The Dragon has been reborn. And it’s one of you.” This would have been a great opportunity for character development plus exposition. “The Dragon has been reborn.” Then have the characters react, like “Blood and bloody ashes!” (or “WTF!”) and “Do you mean the guy who broke the world 3,000 years ago? That Dragon?” Reactions such as these would show what our heroes know of the world lore, as well as how seriously they take it. Then Moiraine could say, “Yes. That Dragon. And I believe it’s one of you.” That way, it ratchets up unspoken tension between the characters. It’s more dramatic. But the opportunity was missed.

Overall, the show feels very scripted. The world seems to be conveniently full of adventurers and significant people who are fated to teach our heroes what the Whitecloaks are, what a Gleeman is, and what an Aiel is. I’m sure that is a byproduct of promising a short TV season. The solution would have been to make the first season ten episodes instead of eight. Oh, and to prioritize a few scenes meant to lighten the mood and seem fun and spontaneous.


I will continue watching, of course. One can learn a lot about cinema and storytelling from watching adaptations, whether they are good or bad!

To be clear, I don’t think this one is abysmal. It’s functional. It could be better, it could have been worse. Three stars. Maybe the characters will gain some interpersonal chemistry or fun moments in later episodes. 

Wedding! August 2021

We got married!

Abby & Adam

Abby & Adam

Here’s our wedding website, if you want details about how we met and all that.

Adam has definitely changed my life for the better. He challenges me intellectually and creatively, he gives me excitement and a sense of peace, and he reads my books and supports my author career aspirations as a #1 fan. I’ve loved him for 9 years.

Nothing has really changed, but we made it official, with a rubber stamp and a meeting of our families. This was just the right size of wedding for us, small and casual.

Here is the recorded video of our marriage ceremony:

Afterwards, we stayed in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains, we drove up Pike’s Peak, we bought some artwork in Taos, and we watched the sunset in White Sands National Park. A beautiful week!

Thank you to everyone who showed up in person, and on livestream, and to everyone who sent us gifts and cards!

Epic Series Writers group

A lot professional advice aimed at novelists doesn’t quite apply to writers of epic series. Everything about a major series is different from stand-alone novels. The approach, plotting, and methodology are different. The pitching, audience building strategies, and marketing are different.

I want a place where we can find on-target advice and support, without needing to dig through a morass of posts aimed at other types of novelists. So I made a focus group.

Epic Series Writers on Discord

Epic Series Writers on Facebook

Come join if you write epic series! Lurkers are welcome, but I want this group to stay very focused on the unique challenges and concerns of writing a series with 3+ books, totaling more than 150,000+ words collectively, that has to be read in the correct order.

Icepocalypse 2021

Greetings from the disaster zone that is central Texas.

Don’t worry about me. We were in a better position than many Texans, since we had camping gear, plus we grew up in cold climates. So we endured several days without electricity, heat, or running water, but we found workarounds. I even managed to get a little bit of work and writing done—between huddling under blankets and putting food in the snow and figuring out how to recharge devices.

Let me tell you about the Icepocalypse! Songbirds froze to death. Cars were stranded on every road, as people desperate to buy food or water ventured out of their freezing homes. “Open” signs remained in the windows of stores that were closed and abandoned, including major chains. No one had time to take the signs down. People went skiing or snowboarding or sledding on hilly streets that normally carry tons of traffic. People chopped ice out of swimming pools in order to be able to flush toilets.

It’s pretty surreal. I grew up in a place where ice storms were a regular thing, but obviously, Texas ain’t prepped for that. Southern homes are not well insulated. They get cold easily, and apartments have sprinkler systems with delicate pipes that are not designed for deep freezes.

I’m not going to pretend to have answers about how to strengthen the electric grid. I’m sure it’s complicated af.

But I will voice my criticism about the electric utilities’ poor communication. Millions of people got one text message that said: “Expect rolling blackouts that may last up to 40 minutes.” That was it. Nothing more. The second-most populated state in the U.S. lost power for nearly a week without any warning, with no updates, and no apologies. Who’s in charge of public relations over there?

The icicles started to melt today. It will be in the 60s F next week, and we should have running water by then. Yay!

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