How Writers Write Fiction: Storied Women


I did a really stupid thing and signed up for a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through the University of Iowa.  It started on October 11, and will end on November 21.  (See why I’m a bit insane?)  If I spend time doing assignments and watching lectures for the MOOC, it’ll take away from my NaNoWriMo time.  But I’m trying to do both!  Like a crazy person!

So far so good.  I’m enjoying the class.  I’m running a bit late on my first writing assignment, but it’s been an inspiration to me.  I’ll keep up a running commentary as I go along.

The MOOC can be found here, though I’m not sure if it’s possible to join the class after it has started.  I think it is, though!  I hope people will join me in my crazy! 🙂

Book Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

darkmatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch

I’m not sure how this book came to my attention.  Perhaps it was recommended for me on my Audible list, or perhaps I found it randomly.  With so many things going on in my life, sometimes it’s hard to remember how I come across things!  I’m glad I did, though, this was a fun novel that had me intrigued from the start.  It also gave me a lot of things to think about!  Mental chewing gum of the best kind.  My husband and I had a lot of things to discuss when I’d finished reading this novel!

Poor Jason Dessen.  After leaving his beautiful wife and teenage son at home and celebrating his friend’s award over drinks, the college professor is abducted and drugged.  He wakes up in a world that’s similar to his own, but vastly different.  He struggles to find his wife and son, struggles to understand what’s happened to him.  Is he going mad?  Is this an illusion or an elaborate prank?  Or is this something real–an alternate world in which he wasn’t married to his wife, and his son was never born.  If so, how will he get back home to his own reality?

While I was reading this novel, there were a couple of points where I thought, “sure, I know what’s going on.  How has the main character not figured this out yet?  He’s supposed to be a smart guy, a guy who studied alternate universes and physics and stuff… how has he not put two and two together?”  The first half of the book had me feeling smart.  I knew more than the main character did about the struggle he was going through!  It was pretty awesome.  And the trials and tribulations of the poor dude had me glued to the story.   I loved the descriptions of the different worlds, the alternate universes… and then…

Remember that point when I thought I was so smart?  It all turned around later in the novel.  There was a point where my whole brain lit up.  Realization occurred.  It’s hard to explain without giving away too much of the plot, but I realized that an infinite number of Jasons were headed back to a single Universe… which meant he was going to run into himself.  That’s where things changed and the book got a whole lot more interesting.

I won’t say any more because I want you to read it.  🙂  Then comment below and tell me what you think!

NaNoWriMo 2016 Prep

Always intimidated by NaNoWriMo?  I wrote a blog post here on how to Brainstorm and plot out your novel.  Not exactly easy, though it’s broken down pretty well there.  Here’s my thought process so far–I know I have (only) 23 days until NaNoWriMo 2016 begins!

Writing is Hard.

P.S.  You can friend me on NaNoWriMo here.  Please do!  I’d love to keep in contact there!

NaNoWriMo 2016 is just around the corner.  So you know what that means.  Everyone who’s a plotter (like me) is plotting their little hearts out, scouring their how-to books and trying to figure out what the plot points and pitch points are.  Sounds interesting?  I like to think so!  I normally do my plotting by hand first, then transcribe into the computer.  That’s a better way for my brain to process all these things.

Then I have a basic outline.  Right now my outline has about 28 points.  Perhaps it will translate to 28 chapters?  I’m not sure.  Some things need to be rearranged, added, and taken out.

I’ll be slamming fingers into the keys all November, ignoring my friends and loved ones, neglecting my kids, and forcing out those two thousand words I’ll need each day to reach my goal.  I’m super excited about this project I’m working on.  It’s another Young Adult, Science Fiction novel, and I think it’s gonna be a wild ride.

Please consider supporting me, NaNoWriMo, and Miranda is a Lie (working title) by donating here.  I’m raising funds to attend NaNoWriMo’s Night of Writing Dangerously in San Francisco.  I would appreciate any support you can give me! 🙂

Here’s that link again:



Book Review: Nos4a2

Nos4a2 NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

I heard about this novel on the radio morning show that I listen to every day when I take my kids to school.  And since I’ve had great recommendations from the show in the past, I put it on my Audible list.  I gotta say, I’m glad I did.  I really enjoyed this book.

NOS4A2 is a supernatural suspense novel by a master of horror, Joe Hill.  The story takes place over the course of a young woman’s life, from when she was a small child until she faces down her demons.  It comes out early on that Victoria McQueen can travel through thought to find lost things–though, at a price.  She ends up in a struggle for her life against a man called Charles Manx.  Kept eternally alive by his Rolls-Royce with the vanity plate “NOS4A2,” Manx elicits help from his simpleton sidekick, Bing, to kidnap children and their parents.  Then Manx takes the children to the mysterious “Christmasland” where their fate remains uncertain.

I’ve read a bit lately about how protagonists–especially female protagonists–don’t have to be likable.  And I think it’s true; I don’t have to like a character to want to know what happens to them.  I do have to like a character to worry about their fate, and I think that may make a huge difference for some readers, some authors.  In this book, I don’t think that Victoria McQueen is a particularly likable character.  But I do think we care about what happens to her fate.  She’s surrounded by much more sympathetic characters: her son, and his father.  We care deeply about what happens to them, so we also care about what happens to Vic.

The special abilities that some of the characters had was very inspiring to me.  I kept wondering what other kinds of abilities could characters have, and where would those stories go?  The librarian character that Vic meets on her journey was one of my favorites of the whole novel.

I also have to mention how amazing Kate Mulgrew was in her reading of this novel.  The performance was wonderful.  My husband recognized her voice right away, but I was so wrapped up in the story and the storytelling that the voice and the words became one and the same.  It was flawless.

Book Review: Codex by Lev Grossman

codexCodex by Lev Grossman

I found this novel when I searched for other works by Lev Grossman.  I absolutely loved The Magicians Trilogy, and have read those books at least a few times each.  So I figured I would love other works by Lev Grossman, and I wasn’t exactly wrong.  I wasn’t exactly right, either.

The title Codex refers to a medieval text that has been lost to time.  Edward Wozny, an investment banker, has taken a new position with his firm across the pond, and is moving in only a couple of weeks from New York to London.  In the mean time, he’s given the task of cataloging the library of one of his firm’s highest clients.  Along with the help of Margaret Napier, a medieval enthusiast and grad student, he seeks to unravel the mystery of the Codex’s location, and how it ties in to his employers.  A secondary plot involves a role-playing game that keeps Edward up until all hours of the night.  Will the Codex tie in to the mysterious game?  What will happen to Edward’s life once the mystery takes over?

I don’t think I really understood this novel.  I think it was more “literary” than I’m used to reading.  I like me some genre books; science fiction or fantasy, especially if it has magicians or vampires in it.  I went into this book kinda blind, having only known about the author and knowing nothing about the plot.  As I was listening to the audiobook I kept waiting for the vampires to pop out of the woodwork, or the magic to enter the story.  It probably wasn’t fair of me to start reading a book when I hadn’t even glanced at the back cover copy.  I had no idea what kind of a book it was supposed to be.

Then again, I did enjoy the characters.  I liked Edward Wozny and his relationship with Margaret Napier.  As strange and unusual as it was.  I also liked his friends who played the game online.  There were some interesting characters there who kept me engaged, kept me reading.  I didn’t really understand the parallels between the book and the Codex or the book and Edward’s life.  I was at a loss sometimes as to why I was still following the story.  It wasn’t the basic Hero’s Journey like I’m used to reading, but something different.  And still interesting.  I read through to the end, and though I’m not sure I completely understood what I read, I’m glad that I read it.

Book Review: The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

thegirlwithallthegifts The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

This is another title that they were talking about on my morning Radio Show.  I should probably plug them every time.  I love listening to Sarah and Vinnie on Alice at 97.3.  They give the best book reviews!  Whenever Sarah says she loves a book, I’m pretty much guaranteed to love it, too.  And the fact that they’re local celebrities who promote reading is a big plus in my book.

Melanie, a 10 year old girl with a genius IQ, is kept in a cell.  She’s strapped in a rolling chair when she’s moved to her classroom, and is bathed once a week by chemicals.  She only eats once a week, too.  The world was hit by a terrible disease, turning human beings into “hungries,” that only move–and fast–when food is apparent.  Otherwise they stand around staring blankly, and rot.  Something’s different about Melanie and her classmates, though.  Helen Justineau is Melanie’s teacher, with whom Melanie has formed a sibling/parent relationship.  All hell breaks loose at the base where the children are being held, and Melanie, Ms. Justineau, a scientist and a couple of soldiers must break free and head to the last reported human city in the country.  Will they find their way, or will they be eaten by “hungries”?  What makes Melanie so special?

Normally I don’t do zombies.  There’s something about them that really, really freaks me out.  I had to be drunk to watch Resident Evil (the first in the series, and in the middle of the day) and even movies like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead  freak me out.  But for some reason, I really like novels about zombies.  I don’t know why.  I enjoyed I am Legend (though, that was more vampire than zombie) and The Girl With All the Gifts was really great.  It was a page turner in that I wanted to know what happened next.  I found that I created emotional connections first to Melanie, then to Ms. Justineau… and then even to Caroline Caldwell.  The characters had realistic desires and fears, and interesting backstories.  Of course, as they’re running for their lives from undead creatures seeking to eat their brains, it’s hard to call it “realistic”… but I believe it is as much as it can be.

The fact that the world has been ravaged by zombies makes me wonder if this book (like most zombie books, actually) should be shelved in “zombie” or “dystopian” or “post-apocalypse” or… where?  Supernatural Suspense?  Horror?  I really don’t know.  I wonder if I would have liked the book more if I’d come into it blind.  The only thing I knew about the book when we started listening to it on audio was that “there are zombies.”  And my husband and I were absolutely hooked as we listened to it on a drive from Ashland, Oregon to San Francisco, California.  It was an excellent way to pass the time while I drove.

They’ve made a film adaptation of the book, and I haven’t seen it yet.  I’m a little nervous to–as scary movies are much more scary to me than scary novels.  But I am looking forward to seeing it.  I’m waiting to rent it and watch it at home during the daytime, when I can stop and pause if I need to.  I’ve noticed a few differences already between some of the characters.  They’ve changed the skin color of Melanie and Ms. Justineau, which I’m assuming was a casting choice.  I’m also curious to see how faithfully it follows the plot.  As I hate spoilers, I’m avoiding interviews and reviews of the film until after I’ve seen it.  Only time will tell.

Back to the Future and Ghostbusters

Over the past two nights we showed my daughters Back to the Future, and Back to the backtothefutureFuture Part II. I was a HUGE fan when I was a kid. I wanted a Delorean. I thought Michael J Fox was a dreamboat. I practically worshipped Doc Brown. I wasn’t really surprised when my girls liked the films because they were a huge part of my childhood, but I was surprised when the girls LOVED them. My younger daughter can’t keep interest in a feature-length film if there are no muppets or cartoons, but she watched the ENTIRE movie BOTH nights.

Then I put on the Documentary “Back in Time” to watch with my husband and I was a little shocked. It’s a total SAUSAGE FEST. They interviewed TWO women, both actresses in the films. The rest of the interviews were ALL MEN. All male fans, all male current industry professionals with opinions, all male industry professionals who worked on the series.

The only other woman who appeared was there with her husband.

I had to turn it off. I was disgusted. Do women not have opinions? Do women not count? The documentary was made in 2015. Aren’t we in the twenty-first century? How is this STILL an all-boys club???


Thank GOD for Ghostbusters (2016). After watching Back in Time and thinking about how male-centric so much of Hollywood is/was, I’m glad that my daughters have women like Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler to look up to. Strong, confident women who are leading the way for others in their field.

I dropped off my older daughter at Drama Camp this morning and left with my head held high. Here’s to the next generation of strong, funny, smart women who will take this world by storm.

Book Review: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

agent_to_the_stars Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

I’d listened to Lock In by John Scalzi, because Wil Wheaton read it.  I was a big fan of Wil Wheaton’s performances in the audiobooks of Ready Player One and Armada by Ernest Cline.  (Both are excellent books, if you ask me.  Super fun and highly entertaining!)  So I searched for other books that WW had read, and found Lock In.  It was a great book.  When Agent to the Stars popped up on my recommended list on Audible, I had to click.

In this amusing novel, Thomas Stein, a promising, young talent agent in Los Angeles, is contacted by the Yherajk, an alien species seeking representation.  They want to introduce themselves to humans, but face certain peculiarities that make humanity likely to turn their noses in disgust.  Thankfully, the talent agent has ideas how to make this transition a smooth one.  But will he be able to control his alien charge in the mean time?  And what about the downward spiral of the young actress he’s also representing?

Of course, part of the reason I may have loved this novel so much was undoubtedly Wil Wheaton’s performance.  I could listen to that man read the phone book, because I’m sure he’d have me laughing my backside off most of the time.  I loved his interpretations of the story.  He reads without trying to put on crazy voices for all the characters, but I find I don’t miss them.  Some audiobook readers do a fantastic job of putting on voices and accents for all the characters, and some just read like I would.  I like the laid-back style.  I like Wil Wheaton’s style.

When it comes to the plot of the book, I was a big fan.  I was into it right away, as my major in college was TRFT (Television, Radio, Film and Theater) so I have a soft spot in my heart for all stories that take place in Los Angeles, in the film industry.  The main character’s role as an Agent was interesting to me, too, as that’s a part of the industry that I haven’t paid all that much attention to.  It fascinates me how that relationship works, how the agents’ relationships are with the rest of the industry, and each other.

I love books that give me a new take on alien life forms, and Agent to the Stars didn’t disappoint.  Without giving away too many details on the Yherajk, because I want you to read the book, I’ll say that Joshua is a very unique character.  He comes from a species I could never have dreamed up, but now feel I understand through Scalzi’s vibrant storytelling.  If we are to make contact with another intelligent species in the universe, who knows if it would look or act like we expect.  That’s why learning about the unexpected is so important.

I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more John Scalzi titles in the future–and I’ll listen to pretty much anything Wil Wheaton reads.

First and Only Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Read-Through

prideandprejudiceandzombiesI’m slogging my way through Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith. Most of my reading is done via Audible, and this is no exception. I have the book on Audio. I’m four hours in out of an 11 hour, unabridged reading of the title. Jane Austen’s classic has been enhanced by Seth Grahame-Smith, and is read by Katherine Kellgren. I wanted to read the book before .

Confession: I hate zombies. I hate everything to do with zombies. I could barely sit through Shaun of the Dead. I had to turn off the first episode of The Walking Dead after the first minute or so. (I even tried fast-forwarding through the… bad stuff.) So this is sort of a big thing for me–forcing myself to read this book. And then I don’t know how I’ll react to the movie.

It makes me wonder, though… am I having a hard time getting through this text because I’ve never read the original? Is it the Jane Austen that bores the snot out of me, or am I having trouble because of my loathing of all things zombie? I think it’s the former. I find myself waiting for the zombie scenes and snoring through the other.

I suppose I’ll write more on the subject when I’ve finished the book. Happy reading, everybody.

Date Night: CASNightlife and Sketchfest make science funny!

giraffe missy kirtley and hubs at sketchfest casnightlife 2016My darling husband and I had a wonderful time last night at the California Academy of Science in San Francisco. Their Nightlife program, combined with SF Sketchfest meant that science was funny last night–for grown-ups only. The 21+ event was held at the California Academy of Science from 6 to 10pm, and included some pretty awesome guest speakers and comedians.

(We took this picture outside of the “Africa Hall” because my younger daughter has a slight obsession with Giraffes.  More on Georgie Giraffe’s adventures later.)


After a quick tour of the California Academy of Science, and a stop at a few bars to check the signature cocktails, we decided to go to the “Probably Science” Podcast with Adam Savage and Paul and Storm.  It was a wonderful podcast, deliciously funny, and an opportunity to hear Adam Savage talk.  I never give up an opportunity to hear him when I can! probably science podcast with adam savage and paul and storm 2

It also introduced me to Paul and Storm–a comedy and music duo who sound like they’re right up my alley.  I will definitely be following what they’re up to after the Podcast.  Speaking of, I’ve never heard of “Probably Science” before, but I’ll be looking into that, too.  Highlights included giving up Pomegranates, coming up with random album names (Love Tenure) and band names (Lens Funk), and laughing so hard and long my face hurt.

probably science podcast with adam savage and paul and storm

After the recording of the podcast, in the same room (Africa Hall), we were delighted to be in the audience for a few “Fake Ted Talks.”  The first two were on how big the cosmos is, (spoiler alert: very big), and how long humans have been telling stories, (spoiler alert: very long).


missy kirtley and hubs at sketchfest casnightlife 2016

There was a Ted Talk from the future, fifty years from now–after the Earth was scorched, and the only humans who survived were from a Ted Talk.  Apparently, we elected Doug to be our Supreme leader and were working to put together what life was like back in the good old days.  (Food?)  Thanks, Emperor Doug!

fake ted talks

The next talk was about how to be a psychic.  Very enlightening.  I had no idea how to pronounce ‘tarot,’ or that ghosts really enjoy victorian designed parlour rooms.  Now I just need to figure out how to develop psychic skills.

adam savage fake ted talk

Adam Savage took the stage again to end the Fake Ted Talks.  While he seemed to love his own jokes as much as the rest of us did, I was distracted by his Einstein-like hair.  (Glorious.  Positively glorious.)


All in all, it was a delightful evening.  I hope we’ll have the chance to do it again, though I’m not sure we’d enjoy it as much if it wasn’t for the Sketchfest aspect.  I fell asleep on the BART ride back to the East Bay, showing just how old I really am.  (We got home around 11.)

hubs and me on the BART

cervantes statue in golden gate park

I took this pretty groovy picture of a statue in Golden Gate Park.  I thought it would look cool in the darkness, and had to put on my flash to get the look I wanted.  Thankfully, it came out pretty groovy.  I don’t know much about it, though, and it was too cold and rainy to hang around and google it on our phones.  I’ll have to go back another time (because I need an excuse to go back to the museums there) and check it out. 😉