One writer, three lives

Convention treasures.
Convention treasures.

What is it like to be a writer of fantasy whose family isn’t into fantasy? Here’s how I do it.

I sometimes envy the couples and families I meet at cons. When I go to cons, I go solitary. I meet my friends and fellow fans of course, so it’s not like I “wander lonely as a cloud” or anything, but cons are very definitely part of my writing life that doesn’t have much to do with the rest of my life. In my case, my conventions are one aspect of my identity as a writer that is separate from the other parts of my life. I am compartmentalized, and I’m not sure if that’s good, bad, or just is.


“How was the con?”

Generally my husband asks this on Sunday afternoon in August, when I’ve come back from Austin’s ArmadilloCon. I am usually dragging, weary, yet buzzing from the contact with friends and fandom, loaded down with books and art, and excited over bar conversations, book sales, exciting panels, great art, and the whole atmosphere of my tribe. If you came into my house, you would see very few examples of my participation in sf fandom. Some art in small spaces is pretty much all. I share a house with three other individuals, so the house has to speak to all of us. I don’t hide away my shiny, pretty things but they are part and parcel with the clocks, the upright bass, the saddle on the arm of the rocking chair (okay, that’s mine too), and once upon a time, the hockey gear.

I try to explain how the con was, but for my husband, it’s a foreign land. He came once to go out to get dessert with a bunch of people one time, because he’s a good sport, but for the most part, cons are my thing, not his.


“So what are you working on?”

My coworkers are amazing. My day job doesn’t look askance at my fiction writing, possibly because my day job is writing (business and industry analysis). My immediate coworkers know what it’s like to be creative people. So many of them are musicians and artists too, so they get it. When my first novel debuted, they came out and supported me at my first book signing.

I am often asked when my next book is coming out, which is a bit uncomfortable because of the pressure, but the question itself is unwitting. I think a lot of people don’t know how long it takes to write a book, and publishing news is doled out in small, irregular doses.


We’re entering a new phase here. The oldest is launched, the youngest goes off to college. The days of being a mom (Aidan’s mom, Kim’s mom) as my sole identity to teachers, pediatricians, and other parents, are slowly fading into the sunset. We’ve shared birthday parties, babysitting, school events — I’ve known some of these parents for nearly 20 years. And just like I know only vaguely what some of them do, they don’t really know what I do. That’s okay, I hasten to add — parenthood is a different kind of fellowship.

(Side note: Despite having a full life of work, writing, friends, and hobbies, this whole “empty nest” phase is killing me. I don’t want to cry when we drop off the freshman, and I will try to hold it til we get back into the car, but damn, I know it’s going to get me. The good news is I have friends who will totally let me be a blubbering idiot about it and pat my hair and say “there there” and ply me with alcohol.)

I never really thought of how compartmentalized all my writing aspects are. I’m used to it — I’ve been doing this for a long time. But I get a little bit envious when I see families and couples at cons and realize they have a closeness that I don’t. They don’t have to be asked, “How was the con” because their family already knows.

So, to my friends who go to cons by themselves: are you the only fan in your house? How does that work out for you?

And to my friends who go with their significant other and their kids: What’s that like? Am I romanticizing it?

How do you structure your lives?


The writing life — various and sundry

Well, let that be a lesson. When you suspect the computer is dying, trust your instincts. Granted, we ran MalwareBytes and it ran like a champ afterwards, and yeah, I thought that was the issue, but apparently not. The good news is that we rescued everything from the old hard drive and put it on the living room computer (except for my email but I think we can still recover that).

The other good news is that now I get a new computer. I have been looking at laptops. Not because I feel the urge to write in coffee shops, but it might be nice to have more flexibility (she writes wistfully).

I wrote 3 novels and countless short stories on the old computer. Had it for years. It was a complete workhorse until the end. A moment of silence for the Dell whatever it was. It probably far outlived its expected lifespan. RIP old son.

In other news, I’m working on a new project after a good six weeks of not working on anything. Also as in the way of things, that process has loosened up the blockage and now I’ve got another couple of ideas in the works. It sucks that I have to wait for a few days before I can start up again, but there you go — this time I am raring to write. Maybe I just needed the well to fill up again.

I’m on twitter, if you care to follow me. Also, let me know if you are on twitter and I will follow you. Thanks to my friend Lynett for getting me started. I am still feeling my way but my first impressions are that it’s quite egalitarian and therefore fun.

Books I’ve read

Doc, by Mary Doria Russell. Breathtaking and wonderful. I highly recommend it. It is absolutely lovely. Russell has such affection for her characters and I love that about an author. We are told to make things hard for our characters. I think Russell treats hers kindly because she knows that they have been through hell. I wish I could write with such compassion. (Coming after my rant about G.R.R. Martin, this should come as no surprise.)

Monster, by A. Lee Martinez. Funny and dark.


Soulless by Gail Carriger. I’m coming late to the party and enjoying it immensely. If Georgette Heyer wrote Victorian steampunk with vampires.

I tend not to write too much about my emotions here but I ended up in a funk today, partly because of the computer situation and partly because of who knows what.  But in the process of rescuing files from the old computer, I came across this one. Call it puppy therapy. I’ll take it.


The new office — out of the pantry at last! (Soon.)

My office.

Under the category of life changes, I will soon have a new office. I’m conflicted though. So many books and short stories have been written in my little pantry, with the washer and dryer going behind me, and temptations in the pantry to my right. How can I leave my space, my cocoon?

Fairly easily as it turns out, now that the opportunity has presented itself.

We had to do repairs to the ceiling in my son’s bedroom and also had the crusty old carpet removed (that was some nasty carpet too, and predated our ownership of the house possibly by decades. Should have been done long ago.) Son has shifted into his sister’s room. Daughter’s away at college, and it appears she will be staying there this summer as well. That being the case, we decided it was time. With the help of a storage unit, we’ve moved some of her belongings into storage, moved our son’s belongings into her room, and now have an empty space.

This will be our daughter’s bedroom when she returns home for visits or when, after graduation, she needs a place while finding her footing in the world. It is also to be our guest room, and my office. We will redo the hardwood floors, which were in great shape after so many decades under carpet, and repaint the walls and ceiling, and my desk will go by the front window.

What will happen when I make the transition? I’m such a creature of habit, and I know that ritual and space is so important for me to be able to write. But then again, I also know when I need to get over myself and embrace something new. I don’t think the new space is going to give me writer’s block (more and more, I don’t believe in writer’s block). I think it will revitalize my work. Sometimes we need to shake things up a bit.

Granted, Flaubert famously said: “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

But even Flaubert got out of the pantry once in a while.

Here’s the new space. I’ll post another picture when the office is up and running.

The new office to be.