#hashtagforeverything – RGADC

There was a time when the hashtag was still merely a pound sign.  Now though, hashtags permeate the minds of the millennial generation. Not only do they appear on phone screens, but they also worm their way into conversation. I’d say I think of them because I’m a social media intern, but that’s not really true. There’s just a #hashtagforeverything.

IMG_2567 (1)

Here are some highlighted hashtags from the trip so far:

#ShouldaGoneWithGaston

  • This is my personal favorite, and the hashtag I use by far the most frequently. My friend and I were on the way back from Evita on the metro when a handsome man walked up to us and asked for the bathroom. Of course, there was no bathroom, so he stayed and talked to us while we waited fifteen minutes for the next train. His name was Gaston, he was Chilean, and he spent a lot of time trying to persuade us to go dancing with him. But on a Thursday night after a show with work on Friday? I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. I don’t know what was wrong with me. I’m supposed to make the most of this time in my life; I’m supposed to go out dancing with a hot Chilean man on a Thursday night if I have the chance. But I didn’t because I wanted to sleep. I regretted it as soon as I got home. Still think I #shouldago    newithgaston.

#AOTUSlol

  • AOTUS = Archivist of the United States, a position appointed by the President. The current Archivist is David Ferriero, and he’s basically in charge of everything Archives. He also makes really good pancakes (with chocolate chips). He’s kind of like our governmental celebrity here. Every now and then he’ll walk past our desks or our education center and we’ll all exchange looks and make a big fuss over the AOTUS. “He waved at me!” etc. The actual hashtag though came from a misread text but it felt fitting. #aotuslol

IMG_2555

(That one time the AOTUS made us breakfast. It was such an important moment.)

#TheBradyBunch

  • Tier 1, as my friend group jokingly calls each other, has been hanging out since week one. It’s a little bit of an odd concoction of friends, and we willingly adopt anyone who comes our way, so our numbers fluctuate a lot. But it’s a comfortable friend group and feels so natural. Early on in our DC stay, we were eating at a hole-in-the-wall taqueria when a man, who we suspect may have been homeless, came up to us and told us “we looked like the f—ing Brady Bunch.” He proceeded to name us all after the characters and never asked our actual names. I was Carol Brady and my lovely friend Joachim was deemed my Mike. For about thirty minutes he just stayed and told us story after story, suggesting bars, and only ever calling us by our Brady Bunch names. I could barely understand him, but it was one of the most entertaining and strange encounters I have ever had. We never saw him again, but we all walked away afterward happily singing The Brady Bunch theme song. “That’s the way we became #thebradybunch!”

IMG_2558

(Some of the “Brady Bunch” [Tier 1] at Halloween. I’m trying not to smile, since it messed up my makeup, but that’s really hard when you’re having fun.)

#JournalLikeJefferson

  • Did you know Jefferson journaled daily about the weather conditions? Yeah, well we didn’t either, but our boss at the Archives is a wealth of information. He wrote the weather in his journal consistently and continuously. For fifty years. He recorded and studied meteorology  That’s commitment. Have a daily habit? Really, I need to write more every day. A set word count or the like. Maybe I’ll finally start the habit and #journallikejefferson.

#InternHell

  • There are a couple things we’ve been warned not to do as interns, primarily to never think any job is below us. However, if any of us mess up, we joke that we are going to #internhell. “Was that you who jammed the printer? #internhell.” “Don’t fall asleep on the job. #internhell.” You get the idea. Some interns in the program have really bad experiences, but our supervisors are very understanding and forgiving. So, thankfully, #internhell remains a joke alone.

#TexasTakeOver

We’re contagious. Apparently. A Texan in DC is hilarious to begin with. We are fascinated every time it rains. I’m praying to see at least one snow here. The changing leaves are mesmerizing, and apparently they aren’t even as beautiful here as they are other places. We also rub our “y’all”s off on the people around us. Honestly, I think I use it more now that I’m away from Texas than I did before. It’s as if I’m honoring my home by sticking to my “y’all”s. Now our friends have caught themselves on a y’all every now and then. We make a grand joke about “y’all” scaring strangers away. We just can’t help it. It’s almost like we get into their heads. It’s a full-out #texastakeover!

IMG_2556 IMG_2557

(But really, look at those leaves. Everything turns brown so fast in Texas.)

Truth be told, I really am missing Texas right now. I will desperately miss DC when I leave, since I’ve really fallen in love with living in this city. But I’m missing my home – especially in the midst of NaNoWriMo when I want so badly to be writing with everyone there. Of course, I know once I get there, I’ll miss everyone here, like #thebradybunch. It’s sad to have one such wonderful, but busy, semester, and then see everyone disperse at the end of it. Now there’s only a month left, and I’m not sure how to feel about it. I don’t want my time here to end, but I also can’t wait to be home. This semester has been incredible, but there is only so much time left to it.

So I’ll leave you with one more hashtag that’s both sad and hopeful: #behomesoon.

“A Reaper Reminisces” Short Story

I meant to write a full short story for Halloween in honor of a few friends here. Then I fell very sick this week and haven’t felt like doing anything more than staring at a wall. The story won’t be nearly as effective coming later in the year, but I still intend to finish it. I needed to share a creative piece in the midst of everything else going on. I’m devastated that I’ve been falling woefully behind on posts this month, but I still hope to progress on this blog before my time in DC is up! Who knows, maybe I’ll finish that short story sooner rather than later. Though I’m doubtful, knowing that November is NaNoWriMo. So I pulled a story I wrote ages ago for your reading pleasure (I hope).

I can’t remember when I began writing this, or why. Probably a time when I was quite heartbroken for reasons forgotten to me now. But I pulled it from the depths of my drive to share for this Halloween. Yes, maybe it’s more about the idea of love than an immortal reaper of souls, but I felt it could still be fitting.

On that note, happy Halloween!


I do not claim to have felt love, nor do I understand the justification of such a feeling. I have only witnessed the pain it has caused. Love gives up, gives out, and ends lives. It is a wonder to me why so many put their hearts at risk, especially when the risk is so clearly unworthy of them. Humanity would be much more formidable if not for the presence of love. Humanity would live much longer.

Love is not weakness, as some believe. No, love is very strong indeed. However, to love is to die. To survive, one simply must not love.

To my knowledge, there is no emotion that has demanded more death than love. Since my knowledge is considerable, you should assume that as truth. Hatred is fearsome, but it simmers from a fiery base in love, whether of self or others. Tragedy sits heavily on the minds of many, but none is so gripping as the grief of lost love. Anger, exhilaration, sadness, fear… They pale in comparison to the loves I have seen.

I remember the same loves that humanity holds in history. Tristan and Isolde, Samson and Delilah, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Antony and Cleopatra all spun fantastic tales to be told over and over through the ages. I was there to witness them all. I bore witness to the true pain that no modern mind could comprehend, no matter how they imagine. Only I know the true tragedy, and only I wonder how different the situations may have been with the extrication of love from the equation.

I will not deny the beauty of love. It is stunning and commanding in it’s awesome power. It is the basis for belief and hope, among all the negative inspirations it also spawns. To be fair, I have seen many good born of love in my years. Those same years when loved ones were gripped by tragedy, love united them. Love creates a bond between people that cannot be broken, however much it is beaten or twisted. Humanity is not all bad. Love draws humanity to save itself with moves of service and compassion. It is as if humanity could not exist without an all-powerful love.

No, I cannot claim to explain love. I cannot ever understand it.

But I agree that humanity would fundamentally be different without love.

Without love, humanity could not be humanity.

Perhaps that is justification enough.

Informational Interview 2/3: Jana Laiz

the-twelfth-stoneweeping-under-this-same-moon

The Twelfth Stone and Weeping Under This Same Moon
by Jana Laiz

Jana’s Website
The Twelfth Stone on Amazon
Weeping Under This Same Moon on Amazon

When I found out that we were required to conduct informational interviews for our portfolio, I immediately began to fret. Writers who are willing to take time from their busy schedule to talk to aspiring writers are hard to come across. Writers also aren’t easy to find. It’s not so easy as to go online and search in order to find someone. Thankfully, I stumbled across a connection to Jana, and I’m so glad I did. My roommate here went to high school with Jana’s daughter and gave me her website to look up. When I was able to interview Jana, I connected with every word she said. She has a brilliant personality, and I can’t wait to buy The Twelfth Stone for my collection (No, I have not yet read it, but it seems right up my alley. As soon as I have money, it will be at the top of my list).

Jana is clearly a gifted writer, as her novel Weeping Under This Same Moon was deemed ForeWord Magazine’s book of the year gold medalist, and some of her other books have been silver medalists and finalists. She also has enough of a passion for English that she works to share that passion with interested students as an educator. Though she has taught numerous subjects, she is certified for ESL, TESOL, and Elementary education. As I could never be a teacher myself, it is encouraging to see writers who can teach and inspire writing in others.

Unfortunately, I did not get a direct transcript of Jana’s interview, so the responses below are paraphrased, drawing as much as possible from her direct words. I hope that many writers find the same familiarity and affirmation in Jana’s words as I did. Anything in bold is my commentary or questions.


What drove you to become a writer?

Jana has been writing since she was 6. Around then, her mom gave her an old notebook she’d used in high school, then Jana’s grandfather gave her a teeny-tiny pencil and, boom, she became a writer. “I love to make words and put them together to make them sound beautiful,” Jana says.

What experiences or ideas have inspired some of your novels?

Jana is most proud of her 2008 book, Weeping Under the Same Moon, which was inspired from a real life experience of working with Vietnamese refugees. She loves teaching and wants her work to make a difference in the world. So she picks topics that she’s passionate about to entertain others, to inspire others, but also to make a difference.

How do you conduct the research for your stories? Do you have any resources you might suggest?

“The internet is a great resource. Always go to legitimate sources, on the internet and at the library.” She has also had personal experiences sway her writing.

How do you plan your stories? Or do you at all?

“I do a lot of daydreaming and a lot of walking and thinking. Books take a lot of time to percolate. It’s very organic.” Jana begins a foundation for her characters, but after that, they build themselves and grow on their own. In The Twelfth Stone, one of her favorite characters appeared out of nowhere at a bus stop and ended up changing the direction of the story. “I love him. I think he’s a real person. Whether he’s from the recesses of my mind or another plane, I don’t know, but he’s real.” Which I think many writers would agree with. We’re not crazy, we promise. Well… Not too crazy.

What is your writing process like? Chronological or scene-by-scene? And how do you edit (or re-write) your own work?

“Sometimes I can write for ten hours straight and it feels like an hour. Other times I sit for ten minutes and it feels like 10 hours.” Jana writes chronologically from beginning to end, but when she edits she often moves scenes around. “I like to say I’m eclectic. I always read it out loud; I think it’s absolutely critical.” After reworking her draft, Jana gives the manuscript to her daughter for editing, then gives it to a professional editor.

How do you publish your work after the process? What made you decide to take that route?

Jana is commercially published, in part because she created her own publishing company. “I had a great agent when I did Twelfth Stone before Twilight and Harry Potter, but we got a ton of fantastic rejections.” At the time, publishers didn’t believe young adult fantasy had much of a market and were largely unwilling to risk underwhelming sales. HP was a decisive turning point – boy were they wrong. So she started her own company and has published her own books. It has gone really well, to the point of potential movie deals. Although she has to work to create her own platform, she agrees it’s ultimately worth the effort.

How do you balance writing with the “real” world?

“Make time.” Why does that make it sound so easy? Jana is a full time writer and also a teacher for ESL. “I teach to feed my writing habit. Even when I’m not writing words on paper, I’m thinking about stories. And don’t ever delete,” she adds. “You might need it one day.”

What is it like to write for a span of audiences? How do you adapt your writing?

“I don’t really adapt my writing. I write to please myself. I don’t say, I’m gonna write a YA novel, I just write. Maybe I’m young at heart and yet also an adult, because a lot of stories I write have crossover audiences. Don’t make rules for yourself. Write for the love of it. And if you have a great story to tell, you’ll have an audience to read it.”

What advice do you have aspiring writers?

“An Irish singer told me when I was working on Twelfth Stone, ‘Don’t give up one minute before the miracle.'” That is stunning advice, really, when facing an entirely objective field. The will always be rejection, but giving up means you could miss the miracle. Then Jana had one more piece of advice to add:

“If your editor tells you to kill it: kill it, then look at it, and then make the decision you feel is best for the story. Don’t let their word be law; it’s still your story to tell.”

Thank you so much for your time! It was a huge help.

“When your first novel comes out, send me a copy. Autographed!”


And I absolutely will! Jana was a great connection to make, and I hope to stay in touch with her past the requirements of this program!

History and Interests for All – RGADC

Why should I go to Washington? Freshman Renee thought. There’s nothing for me there.

At the time, I was a theatre education major who really just wanted to bring stories to life. In fact, I didn’t even want the educator part tacked on to my degree. Since then my motivations haven’t changed, only my methods. I still bring stories to life, only by writing them instead of performing them. Yet, when I thought of this internship opportunity Freshman year, I wouldn’t have seen myself here because I couldn’t imagine where I’d be placed.

What were they going to do? Set me to acting on a street corner to gain experience in my field?

But, oh, how wrong I was. There is something for everyone in DC. Especially for a few majors who rarely take advantage of it, but definitely should.

IMG_0029-0.JPG
(Beauty at the Kennedy Center, the gem of the city for a thespian.)

Theatre/Music/Arts Major:

I’ll start with this because I have experience here. My good friend here in DC was stationed at the Kennedy Center for her internship. Granted, she does the business side of work at the theater, which is to be expected, and is also very important to be familiar with. Still, she has had the opportunity to attend Evita for a discounted price, the upcoming opera La Boheme for free, and has met famous names and headliners in various art fields. Additionally, there are free musical, comedy, or dance performances every night at 6, in case you don’t get your fill of art solely on the events you get to see.

Not to mention, the arts are all over DC. Last weekend was art-all-night. Literally a night full of arts and beautiful things. Also, the other night my friends attended a party for upcoming playwrights hoping to get their works performed on stage. If I’d stuck with theater, these opportunities would have thrilled me, regardless of whether or not I was acting.

IMG_0024.JPG
(Don’t even get me started on the beautiful art galleries we have here. Cochran, pictured above, just closed for remodeling, but there are so many other wonderful things to see as well, like the Portrait Gallery pictured below.)

IMG_0028.JPG

Education Major:

I feel that this internship is a missed opportunity for many education majors. There are so many options that would be exciting experiences. One of the first internships I interviewed for was at 826DC, a non-profit that works with students to make writing fun and interesting. It would have been perfect for an education major. Or maybe having a job at the Department of Education, like my friend has, would be a good fit. Even my internship has aspects of education as much as we work with educating the public about NARA’s functionality and our holdings here. We even work a Constitution exploration lab with school groups that come in, which is way cooler than anything I got to do as a student on field trips.

Except maybe for that one trip we did to the Dr. Pepper factory where we invented, marketed, and bottled our own brand of soda. I still insist that Zip Zap would have been a big hit. And it’s still my favorite fictional soda.

IMG_0025.JPG

(Another Capitol picture? I see it every day. All roads lead to the Capitol.)

Political/History/Law/Criminal Justice Major:

Okay, but do I really need to explain this one? It’s Washington, D.C.

Sports Nerds:

The Nat’s recent loss was a tragedy for the city, and I don’t even call myself a baseball fan.

IMG_0027.JPG
(But it was fun to see a game with friends!)

Party Scene:

I won’t touch on this much. We’re all upstanding students here at TWC, for the most part (I’ve heard horror stories), but just know that there is one. If that appeals to people.

Foodies:

There’s a Potbelly’s on almost every corner. But that’s not necessarily what I mean. There are so many unique food places here. I wish I could try every restaurant in Chinatown, especially the Wok and Roll place that used to be the Surratt boarding house. We’ve got the big name places like the Cheesecake Factory, which I love. It’s not cheap, but their menu is incredible. The miso salmon is to die for. And dare I mention the one and only, Georgetown Cupcakes? Which I still haven’t had, but hear only the highest praise about.

IMG_0026.JPG
(Because if I’m going to be here, I may as well eat in the place where Lincoln’s assassin and his cohorts met to take down the Union.)

Non-Profits and Causes:

There are places to serve everywhere. My roommates internship works with the homeless population of DC. This is where policy is made. Where better to make a policy change than here in DC, be it in education, animal welfare, or Title IX?

Sciency Stuff:

Because, let’s face it, there’s a Smithsonian for everything. And plenty of other places too.

Foreign Students:

Foreign affairs is a big market for internships. A lot of the foreign students I’ve met have loved spending time in the US, while also working in something applicable for them to take away.

And Every American:

I believe, even if none of the above appeal to you, that you could find something here to love, without even looking too hard. I also believe that every American should have the chance to visit D.C. as the heart of the country. A power resides in the city, an ongoing heartbeat that drives the country to action. This is history. This is present. This is the future of America. Seeing Arlington is powerful. Seeing the Capitol, Supreme Court, and Library of Congress is powerful. Seeing the Constitution is so powerful. I see it every day, and it never gets old.

I refuse to take my country for granted, regardless of if I agree with a person in Congress, or back a law that is passed. The United States of America is a wonderful, desirable place to live. There are flaws, but there will always be flaws. This is no utopia, and it shouldn’t be. We learned that from The Hunger Games, and other dystopian fiction novels. So admittedly, I have that Key song in my heart, beating with the city, and playing with the pride of being a part of this for a semester.

IMG_0007.JPG
(She is eternal – long before nation’s were drawn. When no flag flew, when no armies stood my land was born… Don’t mind that this is a song from Chess and is actually about Russia. It’s still beautiful.)

To Be Both Tourist and Guide – RGADC

IMG_1114

(She’s my mom; she’s my best friend; we’re silly.)

When I first arrived, my impression of D.C. was “white.” The Washington Monument. The Lincoln Memorial. The Capitol. And the most obvious: The White House. All white. All pure and symbolic.

IMG_1315

(As my Nana pointed out, Washington D.C. is powerful. It is impressive. It is timeless.)

As a sucker for symbolism, I shouldn’t be surprised that I love the city as much as I do. And I do love it. I get a thrill when I so much as look at the buildings out the window. And I knew this would be my adventure. I knew I would have the time of my life. I wasn’t even nervous or afraid.

I still didn’t expect living here to come so naturally.

IMG_1314

(Though I do still miss and am loyal to Texas.)

History was one of my strongest subjects in school, second only to English. I know the gist. I remember the gist. The things I’ve learned and retained since arriving in D.C. go deeper than the subjects taught in school. D.C. is built by the personality of history, not just the facts. That personality is visible everywhere: Watergate, the Smithsonians, the Eisenhower Executive Building, the Blair-Lee House, the Kennedy Center, etc.

In the first week I was here, my supervisors at the Archives and the professors at TWC all spouted off information as naturally as leaves change for fall. I never thought I’d be able to do that. Hearing them talk made me aspire to learn more. Maybe someday, I’d be a wealth of information to others, and I could summon it as needed for books, stories, and projects.

I just didn’t expect that to actually happen.

When Mom told me over the phone that she and Nana would join me in D.C. for the annual TWC gala, I was overjoyed. Mom is coming back with the rest of my immediate family for Thanksgiving, but this past weekend was Nana’s chance to see the city. We made the most of our girl’s getaway with every second.

IMG_1317

(We crammed a lot of sightseeing into three days.)

Except, even though we went to several places I’d never seen before (like the Vietnam memorial and Arlington cemetery), I didn’t feel like a tourist. The transition has been so smooth, so natural. I feel like a part of D.C. and I’ve only been here a month now. I feel like it’s my city, even though it isn’t. I think I take a piece of every place I’ve been as my own – Austin, Chiang Mai, and now D.C. – to keep in my heart.

IMG_1318

(Speaking of D.C. being powerful, the memorials here seal the deal.)

And I’ve done that in only a month. Walking around Lafayette Square, and even the National Mall, I felt more like Mom and Nana’s pocket tour guide than a tourist. I talked their ears off with random facts and tidbits on just about everything we passed. I also got tasked with all navigation, but that’s only halfway because I know my way around D.C. and halfway because I know how to work Google Maps effectively on a smartphone.

It got even worse when we reached the National Archives portion of our trip. We spent around an hour in the museum portion of the building as I pointed out my favorite documents and exhibits. I rattled off facts about our holdings, the Constitution, and the location of the nearest bathroom. All were things that I didn’t even realize I knew so well until I was given a time to share them.

IMG_1312

(Also, I’d never been in the Constitution Avenue entrance to the Archives before, so that was new.)

Really, I worried that my trove of trivia tid-bits on D.C. would drive them crazy, but they insist that they enjoyed it. I hope so. It felt good to share what I’ve learned. A lot of these stories are so cool, but history textbooks never touch them. I’d have been fascinated to learn about Dolley Madison in high school. Especially since, apparently, we’re related to her? So Nana says. Which is pretty darn cool.

No matter where I go from here, the personality of history will stick with me. The names and places never mentioned in a classroom, but that meant so much to this country and to me here, won’t go forgotten. I never expected to feel so natural here, but I am so glad I do. Being a part of D.C. is truly a beautiful thing.

IMG_1259

(But no matter how much I love living here, I’ll still desperately miss these lovely ladies.)

Informational Interview 1/3: Kitty Burroughs

THE POSTERCHILDREN: ORIGINS
by Kitty Burroughs, aka quipquipquip
Kitty’s Website
Kitty’s Patreon
TPC on Gumroad
TPC on Storenvy

The Posterchildren: Origins, or TPC for short, is one of my personal favorites in my bookshelf collection. Written by Kitty Burroughs, the series features super-powered teens working their way through public hero boarding school. It’s available on Storenvy, Smashwords, and Gumroad for e-book purchase. Storenvy also has merch and hard copy books.

Kitty also releases Timely Tales, monthly short stories that delve further into the universe, including character history and minor chracters. These are available in e-book form, but we be collected into series of 6 in hard-copy form soon.

There is also a much anticipated sequel: Retcons.

Kitty works very hard to make sure minorities are included, featured, and natural in The Posterchildren. Our world is heavily sprinkled with variety, but media often struggles to represent that properly, if at all. Kitty is very humble and makes no assumption of authority, but she cares about demographics that are rarely included in literature and aims to give them a voice. From a personal bias, I think she is very successful, as Kitty’s work includes some of the best character development and world-building I have ever read. I follow her work regularly, getting the monthly updates straight to my email and helping sponsor her Patreon for the reasons above. Needless to say, I’m a fan.

Two weeks ago, my friend, Cassidy aka ambientmagic, and I had the thrilling opportunity to interview Kitty about her writing and her process. Thrilling. To the point where I may have squealed, danced, and screamed afterward. Since the transcript of this interview is very lengthy, I only included the answers to the questions I specifically asked Kitty, which were more from a creative writer standpoint. However, Cassidy posted the complete transcript on her media representation blog, Representation Matters. If any of her questions interest you, hop on over to her blog to read them. Or hop on over to her blog anyway to read more about the importance of representation in modern media.

The interview (or as I call it, “Best School Project Ever”) follows.


Okay, first question. What drove you to become a writer?
Writing, just in general, or as a vocation? (Both.) I started writing when I was in fourth grade, and I didn’t really see it as a serious thing, because this was before fanfiction had really evolved on the internet, and really before we had internet in our home. I was sixteen or seventeen before we had internet in our home, so I had no connection to fandom at that time, but I was still writing fanfiction for myself. In the fourth grade, Sailor Moon was my first fanfiction. I was just writing for myself, because I had these stories that would entertain me, and I have terrible short term memory, so it was a way of preserving the stories for me to go over later on. I started sharing my fanfiction when I got into my Harry Potter phase in sixth or seventh grade. That’s when I started reading fanfiction online and participating in fandom in that way. I got to the point where I never saw myself as doing anything but writing. I kept doing it, it made me happy, I get weird and irritable when I don’t write (laugh), so it was one of those things I always knew.
I didn’t see it as something I could make a career out of until I was sixteen and one of my short stories won an award for promising young writers. I got a small scholarship for it, and I got to attend a four-day writing conference for professional authors in Portland. That was the moment when I realized this was a serious thing that I could probably do for a career. If I could get into this business, it could possibly, maybe support me. That conference was definitely an opportunity. I got to talk with both editors and agents, I got to practice my pitch, and really see what that part of the industry looked like. My family wasn’t supportive, because it is so difficult to get into the industry, and how much luck and opportunity is involved. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I was like, okay. Maybe I can do this.

What inspired you to write The Posterchildren, specifically? (See Representation Matters blog.)

When you wrote TPC, did you consider going through a publisher, and what made you decide to self-publish? (See Representation Matters blog.)

Which is easier to publish, print or digital books? (See Representation Matters blog.)

You release new material regularly. How difficult is it to write to that deadline? And how do you hold yourself to that deadline?
It’s cute that you think I do. (laugh) I really try to keep things on a regular schedule, because if you don’t keep to some kind of deadline, you don’t do anything. You’ll keep pushing it further and further out, even if you’re not a procrastinator. It’s difficult for me to write to a deadline currently, because I just got a new job that takes up much more of my time than I expected. Since that has taken the reins, it’s not always easy to release content on schedule. The nice thing about TPC being a fairly small project is most readers realize that I am human, and it’s a one-person show here. I try to hold myself to it, but I also try not to beat myself up if bad things happen.

On that note, how do you balance writing with “the real world”? (See Representation Matters blog.)

Is there anything you would have done differently with your first book, Origins, that you can apply to the sequel, Retcons? (See Representation Matters blog.)

How do you research the religions, cultures, and sexualities that you put in your novels?
Well, I am white and a part of that majority, so I do my best to do as much research as possible. Most of my characters have had a very different background than mine, so their experiences are very different from mine. I try to read a lot of first person accounts, and search out voices from that minority, because it’s them I’m representing, and it’s their voice I want to prioritize. I talk to as many people as I can, and read as much material as possible.

Tell us why representation in your work is so important to you. (See Representation Matters blog.)

To switch topics, how did indiegogo and social media help you get your book out to the public?(See Representation Matters blog.)

What is your writing process like? Do you write chronologically, scene-by-scene…?
Well, I have ADD, and my writing process definitely reflects that. I have what I call my “slush pile” document, so whenever I think of something, I immediately write it down and dump it into that document. So everything, everything is in that document. When I want to find something in there, I Ctrl+F and hope I can remember some of the words I used that day. So my organization and writing process is just–a mess. (laugh) But it’s a semi-organized chaos that seems to work for me. I don’t write chronologically, but I do have bullet points and block out everything before I go into a story so I have an idea of the direction I’m headed and then let my ADD go in every direction, then piece it together at the end.

How many other people edit your works before they’re published? And how secretive are you about your plots before they’re released?
I only have one dedicated editor, who is my girlfriend, Arden, tumblr user mindgoggling who is awesome and has been with me on TPC from the beginning. She’s my sounding board, my editor, and also a resource because she’s Muslim, so that’s where I get a lot of details for Mal and his family. As far as secretiveness goes, I’m terrible. (laugh) It still hasn’t clicked for me that people want to hear about my original characters! I’m still a fanfiction writer at heart and I’m afraid I’m bothering people. I have a bad problem of telling people spoilers when I know they’re not going to tell the internet at large. There are some people I’ve spoiled by accident because I thought I’d already told them something. I use those people as a sound board to ask, does this sound dumb? Is it a good idea? Am I going too far over the line? Oops, I almost told a joke that was nothing but spoilers… Since this is my first interview, if you want to hear things, I’ll give you three free spoilers.
THE NEXT SEVERAL MINUTES OF THIS INTERVIEW HAVE BEEN REDACTED
Oh my God.
Oh my God.

Okay. One thing I struggle with is placing clues at the right point. How do you decide when to release bits of secrets?
It’s funny because there’s so many hints you’ll see now that you know REDACTED, because to me, a good twist is one that people get two sentences before it’s revealed, and it all comes together for the reader on their own before it gets confirmed, rather than blindsiding them. As a reader myself, it almost feels rude when something is just dropped on you out of nowhere. It’s really fun and enjoyable when you’re going through something and there’s this underlying mystery and you can feel yourself build it up and explore it. It seems more interactive to me. That’s what I enjoy doing, is leaving those Easter eggs for readers. You have to take into account the pacing as well. Some arcs continue into the third book, and others are only for one chapter.

What strategies do you use to world-build and explore your characters?
There’s nothing worse than all your characters being the same, so I try to make them as different from each other as possible. My goal always, is to make the character’s voice obvious with dialogue tags, but without using obvious clues like catchphrases. Every character is a person; they have words they tend to use and overuse, they have a background that influences their word choices, and that is one of the most important parts of character building to me. As for the world-building, people assumed that since the series is so diversity heavy it would take place in an idealized version of the world without the prejudices we have here. I try to keep in mind, what is different about this world from the world as it is today? How would the existence of these groups of people influence history? That’s where I start to get my structure, and how to put the existence of posthumans into the world itself in a semi-realistic way.

Okay, this is the last question on our list. What advice do you have for people who want to start writing?
Do it. Write. To me, everyone has about a million terrible words in them. Your first couple of stories are not going to be any good. They’re going to be terrible and that’s just the way it is. It’s like any other craft, any other skill; you have to keep working at it. It’s something you acquire over time with practice, by putting in the hours, and it’s not waiting for the moment of pure brilliance and inspiration to strike. You have to work on it every day, and stick to it.

Snapshot Stories Pt. 2/?

I can’t say how many of these there will be. These three snapshots compose the second post in a series I can’t put a number to. The first can be read here. Thankfully, these didn’t manage to be as depressing as the first set, with #6 perhaps being the exception. These, more for me maybe than anyone else, have been a blessing. They give me a small writing project as I travel to and from work. They allow me to hone my craft in the little ways. They keep me immersed in writing, even when it’s not a big project. Plus, they’re a ton of fun.

In honor of the snapshots in the hall.

#4

The sign screamed, “DANGER” but he didn’t hear it.  Instead, he leaned casually against the edifice, pulling his tie tightly into a knot. The sheer walls of smoothly cut stone rose sharply around him, but they didn’t intimidate him. Even the dark hole marked with danger didn’t intimidate him. This was his territory. He was comfortable in it. If he’d wanted to, he could have dusted the stains of his pants and boots. If he’d wanted to, he could have had a suit to pair with his tie. But he didn’t want to. He was proud of the stains and his clothing. Every stone, every pipe, every rail had passed through his crafting palms, and that gave him power.

#5

She despised nothing so much as country roads. The car’s thin wheels carved its own rivers in the road, but the second the infernal machine crossed another set of tracks, the car jumped, and her teeth set to rattling. The only thing keeping her hat on her head was a ribbon that only ended up choking her. The driver argued that the view was beautiful, as if that could persuade her. Dust aggressively rained into her eyes. How could she see any view in conditions like this? Much less enjoy it. Besides, the views hid behind pitiful fences of basic wood and wire. She’d have to look past the eyesores just to appreciate the mountains. No, she despised the whole endeavor: the hot sun, the bumpy roads, and she resented the dust hiding in the creases of her favorite dress.

#6

Hell was smoky – the heavy kind of smoky that accompanied the acrid smell of burning wood. Hell was carpeted with thick, grimy dirt and prickly, broken branches. Hell had no sun. Hell had no sky. And hell heard only the cries of fallen men and echoing gunshots. He didn’t count the soldiers next to him as signs of life. Either they were dead men walking, or they’d long since given up on being anything else. The trees, destroyed and splintered, still reached for the unseen sky in a wicked parody of fingers. His own fingers twitched in reflex as he peered through the scope and waited for the illusion of a pause to end. In hell, there was no peace. And every time peace settled in his bones, he reminded himself that it was a lie. This was hell. This was war.

Just a reminder that these are not historical and include no basis for fact. They are only the musings of an overly-inspired writer trying to glimpse into a moment of time. Still, I hope you enjoy them.