Bits and Bobs

When I was a fledgling author wife, one of the NYT-bestselling author wives took me aside, and warned me that my days of accomplishing the honey-do list were over. “You’ll have a week to two after he finishes a book. But right when he starts unpacking the garage, he’ll get that distracted look in his eyes, and then start wandering off to write.”

All I have to say is, she was right and I was wrong. So if you’re blocked and don’t know what to do, ask your spouse what the to-do list entails. I’m willing to bet plots will spring upon you when one third of the carpet is shampooed, characters will come when a quarter of the lawn is mowed, and subplots thrive on the way back from taking the first load to the dump.

And for all the folks trying Nanowrimo for the first time – yes, the urgent need to write that scene striking when you’re up to your elbows in soap suds is perfectly normal. So is figuring out the plot twist in the shower, or right when you are raking leaves but before they’re bagged.

…now, for real life imitating art, I have found that The Great Author does foreshadow. You see, earlier this year, a friend of mine died. In his final months, he mentioned several times that he really wanted to get a maine coon kitten, because he loved the breed, and the elderly cat needed company. However, he knew the chemo was a holding action, and wasn’t going to burden his mother with a kitten when he went.

The pouting about lack of kitten, however, was flamboyant enough to drive his friends to plot how to make one appear on his doorstep. Another few months, and we might have pulled it off.

Well, when his friends gathered for his memorial, and the last practical jokes decreed by the will, between all of us we also ended up taking home four kittens, all abandoned by their barn cat mothers and hand-raised on the farm. Three of them are black with silver underfur, and the fourth is a tabby coloration, and completely fearless.

In a surprising yet inevitable moment, google image search has revealed that my black and grey kitten is, at least partially, a “Black Smoke Maine Coon.”

This is me, looking up at the Great Author, and going “Really? REALLY? That’s your plot twist? One last practical joke, that you two were in cahoots to play on us?”

…anyway, excuse me. I’m going to be wrangling a three-month-old kitten almost the size of my adult cat, and already fluffier than her.

And, tangentally, on reverse-engineering your subcategories and targeting ads, here’s an interesting interview of Chris Fox by Joanna Penn here

(There’s a transcript below the audio, for those who prefer it that way.)

One of the parts that caught my eye was the analysis of what subcategories are underserved, or “hot” – and the identifying the common tropes and expectations. While most of us here aren’t writing to market, the same process can be done in reverse when trying to identify where to put your books. What tropes do they have? What subcategories do they fit? Of all possible choices, which ones are markets with a lot of eyeballs?

In other notes, two great books are out for you to read. The first, by a good friend Tom Rogneby, is free this weekend:

Tales of the Minivandians

Tom has taken tales of everyday life with a wife, husband, a house whose drains don’t always work, and a small boy who delights in mischief (and dogs with muddy paws), and retold it in a series of short stories cast in High Epic flavor. It’s hilarious, heartwarming, and an altogether delightful read. It’s also free today, with a sequel coming soon. Pick it up and enjoy!

The second, by the inimitable Mad Mike, is the fresh debut of the latest in his freehold universe:


Angie Kaneshiro never planned to be a spy. She was a veteran of the Freehold Forces of Grainne, and was now a tramp freighter crew-woman who hadn’t set foot on the dirt of a world in ten years. Angie was free, and that was the way she liked it.

Then the war with Earth started. One thing Angie knew was human space. She knew where the UN troops garrisoned, the methods they used to scan and chip their own to control them. Even better, she had a mental map of the access conduits, the dive bars, and the make-out cubbies people used to get around restrictions.

The UN forces may hold most of the stations, the docks, and the jump points, but now the Freehold of Grainne has its own lethal weapon. The Intelligence branch sends a freighter crewed with Blazers, special forces troops. All Angie has to do is lead them through the holes. Responsibility for the explosions and wreckage will be theirs. But war is complicated, and even the most unwilling of heroes can be forged in its crucible.


    1. I’m supposed to finally get my replacement computer at the end of this month. More than a year without my own? Yes. Ought to be interesting to see what I can accomplish.

  1. Thanks for the Chris Fox interview. Someone slightly more familiar with a different set of computer languages than the ones that I use ought to be able to write a script that would search Amazon and identify the subgenres in which there are good openings, i.e., automate the process that was described.

  2. I have found that I do some of my best plotting in the shower each morning for writing later on. Not too much while cutting the lawn though.
    Used to be able to come up with lots of stuff at work, but now that work is writing, well, I guess it still applies, just not in the same way anymore 😛

  3. I used to have my best thinking times during the commute to work of a morning – when I still worked for someone else.
    Now, it’s when I am running. Prime thinking time, there.

  4. Snagged the Minivandians book, looks worth giving it a read.
    I’ve read Angeleyes, excellent visit to Mad Mike’s Freehold vs Earth universe and the war between them, this time from a totally different perspective. One note of caution, as Mike himself has stated, this one is a bit more “adult” than his usual fare. In my opinion a masterful treatment of a character’s ethos and morals in a world far different from our own.
    And this advice to all readers, if you like a book the best tip you can give an author short of hard cash is to log on to Amazon and leave a review. You don’t have to have purchased through Amazon to do so. It could have come directly from Baen, a bookstore, or the public library. Reviews still count and affect how Amazon pushes the book to its customers.

  5. I really enjoyed Minivandians, but there are actually two parts to the book. The first is suburban life as medieval adventures. The second is closer to a novella with less modern and more epic adventure and Sagas.

    I get ideas while walking, or trying to read serious academic monographs. *Sigh* Or stories just leap out and attack me at really bad moments, like waiting to hear the results of my annual classroom evaluation and so on. My muse . . . she is a [female dog of breeding age].

  6. Back when I was assembling furniture, it was just mindless enough that I could think of stories and clever things all the time. But ever since I’ve been working on assembling airplanes, I haven’t been writing nearly as much, virtually nothing to be honest.

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