Learning Paralysis

At the end of the Writing Excuses cruise, while we all mingled in Dazzles, drinking bellinis and rum punch and quietly envying the top ten attendees who had each written over ten thousand—and in some cases twenty thousand—words during the week, Mary Robinette Kowal got up on stage to talk to us about what was going to happen after the cruise. Don’t be surprised if you don’t write for quite some time after you leave, she said. The majority of people who leave this retreat don’t put hands to keyboard for weeks or months afterward. Writing is suddenly very hard.

The idea behind that was that now that you’ve been introduced to a whole bunch of new techniques and methods of writing and outlining, you’re paralyzed by trying to keep everything in your head at once. It’s like trying to drive for the first time after driver’s ed: your brain is so flooded with trying to remember to adjust the rear-view mirror and the driver’s seat and release the parking brake and put the car in drive and check both side mirrors and on and on that you sit there for a bit, unsure if you’ve remembered everything you need to remember before you can start to drive.

I didn’t think that was going to apply to me because I’m not exactly new to writing. Although the retreat was really helpful and I highly recommend it, I don’t think I heard anything *new* during any of the panels. Yet it’s been a couple weeks since I got back and I haven’t written a single word since the flight home.


My rockin’ bridesmaid dress from Rent the Runway.

Okay, part of that is because what with my brother’s wedding immediately after the cruise, and then the flood upending my life and forcing me to live out of a suitcase while everything else I own is packed away in trash bags in the garage, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities. But since things have started to settle down, I haven’t been able to write a word. Even the story I started to write on the cruise has come to an abrupt standstill. Nothing feels right to me; every idea seems unoriginal. Every time I try to make myself sit down, my brain rebels against it. In related news, I’ve clocked over 140 hours in Fallout 4, 60 of those in the last couple weeks.


The rehearsal dinner contained a surprise skeleton.

Am I using this convenient explanation as an excuse for my own laziness? Well, probably. I want to write. I just am having a lot of difficulty putting butt in chair (or whatever the equivalent expression is for a standing desk).

Nanowrimo starts in 12 days. This is going to be my fourteenth year doing it, so I can’t not do it. I need to get my act together in the next two weeks. The first step is probably going to be to take the batteries out of my Xbox controller and hide them, but after that, we’ll see.

Cruise vlog teaser trailer and bonus post-vacation disaster


The loudest birds in the Caribbean

My dad picked me up at the airport last night, after my flight home from Ft. Lauderdale and the Writing Excuses Retreat cruise to the eastern Caribbean. “I think a mouse died in the wall while you were gone,” he said offhandedly. “There’s a smell.”

Yes, there was a smell. If you’ve ever had a mouse die in your wall before, or if you’ve ever stumbled across a corpse of any kind, you know what that smell is like. When I stepped into my bedroom, the stench went from disgusting to truly horrific. If it was a dead animal, it was a lot bigger than a mouse. I decided I would sleep elsewhere, so I held my breath and ducked into the room to grab my pajamas. Two steps into the room, my foot squished in the rug.

Oh crap, the cat peed on the rug, I thought to myself. Squish. Wow, the cat peed a lot. Squish. …This isn’t cat pee.

At some point while I was away, the hot

water heater sprung a leak. I don’t know how many gallons of hot water drained through the wall and into my bedroom, but it was enough to completely saturate the rug, the bed, the wall, a pile of old comics, some photo albums, a bottom drawer full of clothes, and god knows what else. I’m not sure yet how much is salvageable, but the wall-to-wall carpet definitely has to go. You do not understand how bad it smells in there. That’s what happens when you add hot water to a hundred square feet of carpeting and then let it sit several days.

Now there’s going to be a mess of insurance adjusters, water heater mechanics and flood recovery people swarming the house in the next three days before I have to race out to western Massachusetts for my brother’s wedding this weekend. Yay for post-vacation surprises!

So: my WXR16 cruise post is going to take a bit longer than expected. I have a lot to talk about and many pictures to show you, but until then all you get is this stupid vlog trailer I made on the plane. Oh god, I laugh so hard every time I watch this. iMovie has the best trailer templates. I was tempted by the Bollywood and Teen Movie themes, but in the end I had to go with Horror.

Embedding isn’t working, so click it to go straight to the Instagram page.


Enjoy, and I’ll talk to you once things settle down.

WorldCon recap!

iron throne

Long may she reign.

Last Wednesday, I flew to Madison, WI, to meet up with Aimee Ogden so the two of us could undertake the 7 hour drive to Kansas City, MO. That meant I had to get up at 2:45 am for a 5:00 flight out of Boston, so I could get to Madison by 9:30 am, and subsequently get to Kansas City by 5:30 pm, when we had dinner plans.

Despite the tight schedule, Aimee agreed to a quick side trip to the World’s Largest Wooden Nickel, which is in Iowa City, IA, and was worth every minute.

Continue reading

WorldCon plans

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The Newport to Providence ferry, through a Prisma filter.

In two days I’ll be at my first ever WorldCon. It’s the first SFF con I’ve ever gone to, though not the first con by a long shot. I’ll be traveling with Aimee Ogden, who just sold three short stories last week, like a rock star, and who I totally won’t be killing and eating to absorb her powers.

I went through the WorldCon schedule and ended up choosing 83 things that I was interested in. They issue you a time-turner when you pick up your badge, right? That’s going to be a thing? There’s absolutely no way to choose between How Do Fungi Turn Plants into Zombies and Futuristic Crime Investigations and Earth. We’re Stuck Here! and Pacing the Novel and the Star Trek promenade and Lightning Talks, for example, and all of those are just on Wednesday at 3pm.

Anyway, if you plan to be there, drop me a line! Perhaps we’ll cross paths at some point. Watch this space in a week for a post-con recap and, if I get around to it, perhaps even a travel vlog.

Review: Ghostbusters (no spoilers)


In the opening scene of the new Ghostbusters reboot, a tour guide is giving a tour of a haunted house. “At the time that it was built, it was the height of luxury,” he says. “It had such features as a face-bidet and an anti-Irish security fence.” Gesturing into a sitting room, he adds, “Rumor has it that this is where P.T. Barnum first had the idea to enslave elephants.” Continue reading

Cold Turkey Writer

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Scene from a recent trip to Newport, RI.

Here’s a thing you must do right now if you are easily distracted like me and can’t focus on writing:

Go to Cold Turkey Writer and download the app. It’s free, unless you like it enough that you want the pro version. What it does is, when you open the app, it opens to full screen, and you cannot quit or minimize it until you reach your wordcount/time limit. And that’s literally it. Either you write, or you don’t access your computer.

In the past I used apps like Self Control, which turned off my internet for a certain length of time (my default was 6 hours). Which was fine, and reduced distractions, except I tended to turn it on and then go do something else for 6 hours until the time expired. Great for doing things like laundry; not so much for getting words done. What’s great about Cold Turkey Writer is that I can’t use the internet, or anything else, until I write the words. And cut and paste doesn’t work, so I can’t just write a bit and then copy and paste it a bunch of times to quickly get to the goal. I have to write.

My routine right now has been to set it before I go to bed. That way I don’t get up in the morning and lounge around reading Twitter and Feedly until it’s time for work, and then get home from work and do the same until it’s time for bed. Instead, I don’t get access to any of those things until I reach my goal, and if I don’t reach my goal, welp—no internet for me.

So if you have problems with productivity, check it out. It might help.

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My only regret in taking this photo is that I didn’t see the unicycle owner ride up.

In other news, I’ve been rewatching the entirety of the Star Trek series. So far I’ve seen all 79 episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, as well as the first 6 movies. In the past, I’d only ever seen Star Trek: Voyager, since it was airing on TV when I was growing up. (And fuck you with your “Oh my condolences.” I LIKED Voyager, okay?) I already knew the major plot points, but I wanted to see all of it. The television series is entertaining, if fluffy. The movies have been pretty good except for The Final Frontier, which was terrible. (Holy shit, who thought Kirk, Spock and McCoy singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” around a campfire was a good idea?) I look forward to seeing the rest.