Conversations Between Writers


Jeffrey Petersen

Jeff is a writer of many things who just recently got back from the Paradise Lost Workshop. I also once ended up owing him (and delivering) a severed toe but neither of us remember why. You can follow him on Twitter and he can be lured with cheesecake.

Minerva Zimmerman: So you’re back (From Paradise Lost)! Tell me ALL THE THINGS!

Jeff Petersen: I am. Paradise Lost 5 was a blast. I haven’t been to San Antonio since I was a kid, so it was fun to see the Riverwalk as an adult. I tell you what, that place is NOT OSHA compliant. I almost got pushed in the river a couple times.

MZ: Is it bad that I imagine you were playing a ukulele while almost falling in the river?

JP: I would never put my ukulele in danger like that! Heaven forbid. It was safe in the room, and only came out at night, in the relative safety of the Con Suite

MZ: Awww, but this ruins my images of you doing a Texas Troubadour impression. MY DREAMS ARE CRUSHED.

JP: I forgot to buy boots and a cowboy hat too. I have crushed all the dreams.

MZ: *gasp*

JP: Apart from all the new friends and great critiques of my opening chapters, it’s like I didn’t get anything out of it.

MZ: Hehe. So tell me a little bit about the workshop. I’ll admit I’m not really familiar with it or who teaches it.

JP: Sean Kelly and his wife put it on every year, and they bring in a few professionals in the writing business to give lectures and do story critiques. This year we had Delilah S. Dawson, Chuck Wendig, and Robert Jackson Bennet, who were all fantastic.

MZ: oh damn! You were at THAT! I saw some of the stuff on social media.

That sounded like a blast.

JP: There may have been some debauchery and revels.

There were definitely churros, ukulele and Cards Against Humanity.

MZ: Were they non-disappointing churros? I worried about the churro you wore as a hat. There’s nothing more dangerous than a disappointing churro.

JP: Honestly, they were disappointing churros from the flavor and texture perspective, but they worked well as hats

MZ: That is the saddest thing.

JP: I also had disappointing flan. For a place so close to Mexico, the Mexican food is surprisingly hit and miss.

MZ: I found tex-mex had better sopapillas. I’m surprised about the churros though. Generally things involving frying were better.

JP: I did have an excellent pan dulce. It was moist and delicious.

MZ: You also recently became Oregon-adjacent geographically.

How are you settling in food-wise?

JP: I’m basically a Carebear Cousin to the Oregonians. I’d say I’m the friendly manatee with a piece of cheesecake on my tummy. And also in my tummy.

I’m actually quite happy with the food choices I’ve found. The Mexican is less expansive than San Francisco, but I’ve found great Indian and Chinese food

And they have about 200 kinds of apples in the produce store

MZ: and they all taste different

JP: I have only eaten 3-4 different kinds. I’m a little intimidated.

MZ: Yeah they really should give you an apple fact sheet when you move

It’s like when you move to the Oregon Coast they give you a copy of Goonies and issue you a Black Lab

“Not a dog person? DOES NOT MATTER. HAVE A LAB”

JP: Am I supposed to have picked up a dog? What kind do you get in Washington?

MZ: I think you’re OK where you are. It seems to be a coastal thing. I mean otherwise the neighbors don’t know how to refer to you around here because no one learns human names. Only dogs.

plus you have kids, so they can refer to you by children.

JP: Some of my neighbors don’t have kids or dogs, so I have to call them by their actual name.

MZ: ooo awkward.

JP: It feels funny

MZ: Oh, right, writing. We should probably get back to that before we talk about dogs and tacos for an hour. So what was something new you learned at PL?

JP: That’s tricky. I’m not sure if it was a much learning something new as being reminded about things I needed to focus on.

MZ: That’s important too

JP: I got a lot of good critiques, and when they all remind you to keep increasing the tension, it’s a pretty good time to torture your characters a little more

MZ: It does feel a bit like you’re a fictional sadist sometimes, writing.

I mean you have to basically start bad and get worse, and then make it almost better… and then pull the rug out.

JP: It’s an odd feeling. You like your characters, and ultimately you want them to succeed at their quest, but if you don’t make it a challenge, the story isn’t satisfying.

MZ: I want to say it was Jim Butcher who said that each book is basically the “Worst Day” for that character in a given time period.

so you have to show how it isn’t this bad all the time without actually showing it? Basically by having the characters react the way you would when shit goes terribly wrong.

JP: Nobody wants to see the character pick up their mail and watch TV all day because they have nothing going on. They have to fight a dragon.

MZ: Right, and I think it helps to take it one step further and start the scene where the protagonist has just tripped with a dragon over them.

JP: We want to see people trip and get up and still win, despite the difficulty.

MZ: Also making the reader ask questions is SUPER important

so the very first line of a story needs to give the reader a question they care about answering.

JP: My readers usually ask, “What is Jeff smoking, and where can I get some?”

MZ: Lol, I don’t know about that 🙂

JP: Spoiler alert: it’s whisky, and you don’t smoke it

MZ: lol

JP: Well, technically the distillery might smoke it

But I don’t.

MZ: Well, I like to think the first scene the reader needs to ask “Who is this? Where are they? What are they doing?” and CARE about answering them… and the author needs to sort of dribble clues without outright answering them until a new question has been asked.

and that’s how you drag the reader through at the pace you want them to go

JP: That’s one of the things we talked about at PL, every time your characters answer a question, that should bring up a new question, or complicate their life in some way. Delilah also gave a talk about how to write a sex scene, which I highly recommend, if you get the opportunity.

MZ: Did she talk about counting legs?

Legs are like the worst in sex scenes or fight scenes.

JP: She talked about counting hands, but the basic premise is the same.

MZ: I don’t recommend writing either kind of scene in public.

I’m always trying to block it out by moving my body to count limbs…and it has to look completely stupid.

JP: Maybe that’s why I like adding squids to my books. The fighting scenes are much easier to block out when you have essentially unlimited legs.

MZ: I have not tried this.

JP: I wouldn’t recommend it. Let’s keep squids my thing. I can’t have everyone writing squid books

MZ: Heh

So you’re working on YA book right now?

JP: It started out YA, but it has since settled comfortably into Middle Grade

MZ: Ooo

that’s fun, but hard

JP: I’m also half way through a New Adult RomCom, which is an entirely different animal, and fun in its own way

MZ: Oo! I’m excited to read that

I mean, anyone I somehow ended up owing a severed toe to, is exactly the person whose RomCom I want to read.

JP: It’s tricky going from young and innocent to tawdry and adventurous. I don’t think I have a severed toe in either book, but I do have severed tentacles in both.

MZ: oh my.

please don’t send me a severed tentacle… the dogs will get into it and that would just be a mess.

JP: I have no intention of writing any romance for the squids, just to make that clear. They’re comic relief and possible face-eaters exclusively.

MZ: Also, I am SO looking forward to your kids getting old enough to wonder why their Dad has a severed toe.

This is how family stories get started.

JP: Never chop wood without shoes on.

I like to teach my kids valuable life lessons young.

MZ: Heh.

JP: I still have all 10 toes, just to clarify for the readers. All 11, actually

MZ: Right, this one is extra. I found a donor.


JP: “Donor”

MZ: Is there anything else you want to make sure we talk about?

JP: Word of mouth book recommendations. Write reviews for books you like, and tell people about them. I want to recommend Omega City, a great MG adventure I just read about a group kids who find a secret, underground city and explore it while being chased bad guys. It has a distinct Goonies feeling, which is awesome.

MZ: Ohh cool! Yes. I’d say I pretty much read 90% based on recommendations at this point. And reviews do matter. And it doesn’t matter when you do them. Share what you love.

JP: I love the genre fandom. It’s great to connect with people who love the same things, and it’s the best way to find more things you love.

MZ: Exactly! And the more people you meet the more likely you are to find new things like other things you love

JP: One of the presenters at PL was Marko Kloos, who writes Military SF. He self published a book, and the word of mouth went crazy and he sold about a billion copies in the first few months. So recommendations can make all the difference.

MZ: We all hope for that too 🙂

But honestly, it’s enough if one person finds it and loves it.

JP: I wanted to borrow his lightening jar, but he’s still using it, so I guess we’ll all have to make our own.

Especially if that one person is an agent 😉

P.S., I’m looking for a good agent.

MZ: I’m glad you had a great time at PL. It sounds like a great experience. And if you get an agent off of this you have to let me know, cause that would be awesome.

JP: I absolutely will. And I’ll buy you a whisky.

MZ: Agents: Seriously if you’re looking for good writers, let me know. I can hook you up.

Thursday Thursday Thursday


Well, it’s the end of my work week. I guess that’s not really true, because I’m a writer and there’s really no end to the work week. In fact I have A LOT of work ahead of me starting very very soon. Woo Edits! I have edits to do. I’ll probably have a lot more to talk about writing when I’m trying to put off doing edits. 😀



Stephen Colbert funds every teacher grant request in South Carolina – Guys pay attention. He funded EVERY SINGLE ONE IN THE WHOLE STATE and it was only $800,000. Go and look at what teachers near you are asking for. You can make a difference.

Soldier refuses to give up. – “The march was the last event required to earn the Army’s Expert Field Medical Badge, a decoration awarded to those who pass a rigorous battery of tests for medical professionals in the Army. Less than 25 percent of those who attempt the required course typically pass.” Spoiler: She did.

Silver Bar found on what is believed to be wreck of the Adventure Galley – Hmm. There’s some weirdness between the lines here. It very well could be exactly what they say, but it is a little odd to be doing a big PR thing with the silver bar prior to having other test results and things… unless the government was going to shut down their ability to recover items.Curious to find out more about this team and such.

Heads up! – The Russian Cargo ship is set to fall out of orbit on Friday.

United Arab Emirates sending probe to Mars – I am so excited about this! There are so many great things that can happen with more countries having space programs. I want to read SF about the UAE space program in 200 years! Especially if you extrapolate it having full-funding for that entire time.

It’s tree bukkake season – We’ve got pollen sign the likes of which GOD has never seen.

Measles vaccine may help the body fight off other infections too – Ooo I want to see more research in this drop of other infectious disease deaths after vaccine campaigns. Like, is it tied to parents getting other vaccinations as well, or does the vaccine itself work against other diseases? The article isn’t really clear.

Treating C. diff with it’s own non-toxic spores – Whoa. Why on earth would that work? Is it starving them by overgrowing super fast? And the not-reestablishing normal gut fauna makes it seem like not a great alternative to other methods.

Whiskeytown USA – May 8-9 in Portland Oregon. JUST SO YOU KNOW.

A Choose Someone Else’s Adventure Game Played by Text – There is an astronaut stranded on the moon and you’re the only person they can communicate with. What an amazing concept.

Ebola causes eye color change in man – Whoa weird. Especially that it went back!

Things regarding Revision (IT IS OUT HAVE YOU BOUGHT IT YET?! Also if you buy the paperback on Amazon you get the ebook free.): Over the Effing Rainbow,NPR, MRK: My Favorite Bit, terribleminds, Holy Taco Church, Alasdair Stuart,,

Happy Wednesday


Guess what everyone? WE ALL SURVIVED MONDAY AND TUESDAY!!! *Throws Confetti*

What? Sometimes you have to make your own celebrations. The world is often a scary, confusing place and it helps to remind ourselves about the wonder and triumphs along the way.


Science of Human Decomposition

Astronauts heading to Mars risk brain damage – Cosmic Radiation is No Joke. We need better ship shielding stat.

Empathy Cards for Cancer Patients (and others) – OMG These cards are SORELY needed. And here’s where you can buy them.

Need to Identify a historic glass bottle? – This site will help you when you find historic trash buried in your yard!

Sci-Fi writers make 10 year predictions 

Update on NASA propulsion drive thing – Awwww other people are even more skeptical about stuff than I was.

Solar Flare! (insert lensflare here)

Self-driving Semi hits road – Now, maybe it’s just me, but I think I’d rather we had human-driven trucks that self-driving cars would caravan behind using it as an additional guide to in-road sensors and just enforced current trucking regulations. I mean, I think professional drivers are a better fail safe human system than your average driver if we’re going to have lots of self-driving cars (which I am ALL for). It just seems weird to have the trucks go driverless first. It makes lots of sense to me for driverless cars to use all of the semi-trucks already on the road as an additional sensor resource though.

Long-shuttered Hospital seems to have told mothers in the 1950-70s their babies died then sold them – O_O Not fiction. Should be fiction. This is horrific.

Bank sends ATM to you – The future is lazy and still doesn’t have flying cars but we can now order an ATM. (or I imagine park an ATM in nightclub areas on busy nights). But I dig that it is basically the mobile bank goblins have in WoW. Now for my rocket boots!

Police divers searching for bodies find prank underwater tea party –  I would assume this was the best outcome the police divers could have possibly hoped for… and now they can only be disappointed in the future.

Cache of Mark Twain’s newspaper stories found – and I’m sure he didn’t really want us all to read his early work 😀

If you saw the assisted suicide robot bear article…it’s now on Snopes. – Though really the button suggesting you sign up for the Richard Dawkin’s Swimsuit Calendar at the bottom of the page should have been a clue.

CA Attorney General Kamala Harris’ aide busted over ‘3,000-year-old’ Knights Templar police force – This is amazing.

DIY Self-sufficient floating island – Ooooooo neat

Littoral Spaces – New Warren Ellis article comparing shorelines and creative endeavors.

…And it’s Allergy Season again

Hmm. Well, I’m not doing great at this blogging every day thing. I’m thinking that maybe not blogging on the weekends is a reasonable thing, and I was congratulating myself about this decision… when I totally blew off Monday too. Oops.

My lungs are currently quietly rebelling. Normally I can tell when I’m having a problem because my ribs hurt, but that isn’t happening right now. It wasn’t until I couldn’t figure out why I was still sleepy even after caffeine that I finally thought to check my oxygen levels. It’s kind of weird because my asthma is right at the level where I won’t DIE without treatment but when it gets bad I feel kind of dizzy, light-headed and drunk, and go staggering around being unreasonable trying to finish everything I was already doing before I lay down or take a treatment. Low Oxygen Me is not particularly bright. Hoping that a breathing treatment when I go home for lunch clears stuff up for a few days (also it’s supposed to rain for a few days which should, in theory, knock down the pollen in the air).


Aquarid Meteor Shower Peaks May 6

Dinner Tonight: StCG Shrimp Tacos

Man Who Cut Out His Own Appendix – HOLY CRAP. Also, wow I didn’t know appendix removal was compulsory for some Antarctic scientists and suggested for future space explorers.

Thomas Edison Talking Dolls Heard Again – WARNING: CREEPIER THAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE

Satanic Temple fighting Abortion Waiting Requirements through Freedom of Religion – I wish I had a bit more blood oxygen and could put a cohesive explanation here about why the Satanic Church/Temple don’t actually have anything to do with Satan/The Devil, but you could just use the internet to look it up. Needless to say this is a very good thing and hopefully gets due attention of how religion is being used.

Sara Dessen talks about dating an older guy (20 when she was 15) – Wow, this sounds really familiar (and yet different in many . I bet it does to others too.  This might give you some good points to bring up with the girls in your own life that are close to hitting this point in their life.

Good Advice from Chuck Wendig in which he gives you a story outline anyone can use

Hidden maps in naturalist drawings – Ooooo

Most Interesting Debate In Your Field – one of those few places it is a good idea and interesting to read the comments

Conversations Between Writers

cUNzMYuP Revision_Cover

Andrea Phillips

Andrea is an author, game designer, transmedia specialist and not at all secretly plotting to take over the world. Her debut novel Revision comes out on May 5 from Fireside Fiction Company. It is the story of a trust-fund barista caught in a web of quantum entanglements when she accidentally rewrites reality to announce her engagement to her tech start-up boyfriend. You can read the first three chapters for free RIGHT NOW. You can also check out her website and follow her on Twitter.

Minerva Zimmerman: whenever you’re ready let me know. I think I’m awake enough

Andrea Phillips: 🙂 I AM READY FOR YOU

MZ: …that sounds like a threat


MZ: I’m pretty sure that isn’t in question 🙂

Hello! Happy May Day to you.




It’s just

You know

MZ: yes. Your first novel comes out next week. I think you’re allowed.

AP: Haha

MZ: I know you’re doing a lot of guest posts and things so I’m going to try and talk about stuff you haven’t already.

AP: hahah OK 🙂

MZ: For starters, i want to talk about your cover. Cause it is amazing.

AP: isn’t it just gorgeous?

MZ: It is gorgeous! And, what most people don’t know is that it is illustrative!

AP: The cover gives me Imposter Syndrome

Because it looks like something you’d see on a reprint of like… an Asimov book, right?

MZ: it is a very slick cover

Sent at 8:37 AM on Friday

AP: And: YES! The swirls are the kinds of designs you get when you’re searching for, say, new types of subatomic particles

MZ: …which feature in your story

AP: Yes

I am a world expert in propagating sketchy science, it’s my hobby

MZ: I think they should give SF writers cards that say we’re licensed for doing just that.

AP: They really should. I could keep it right next to my artistic license that lets me use bad grammar for effect.

MZ: Heh.

I’m hearing the little editor on my shoulder yelling and pouting and throwing stuff when you say that.

AP: I was a rained copy editor back in the day, you know — I went to J-school and worked for a print magazine and everything


A TRAINED copy editor

…But I’ve come around to being a descriptivist, and also concluding that most of the things people fight grammatical holy wars over are just a matter of style, not correctness

AP: It comes down to “taste varies”

MZ: It’s true. A writer’s voice CAN be edited out. I’ve found there are some editors who get my voice and some who don’t.

AP: I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve had it happen to me. It’s really uncomfortable.

MZ: The worst, was I didn’t realize that’s what was happening to me for 10 years because my main reader didn’t get my voice.

AP: I’ve been in situations from client work where  characters have their personalities filed away entirely and wind up talking in American corporate-committee modern

Oh gosh that’s the saddest thing.

Have I ever told you about the creative writing class I had in college?

MZ: On the other hand, it’s made me a much stronger writer overall.

No! please tell.

AP: The teacher told me my writing was too sentimental.

MZ: …what?!

AP: In retrospect, I think this was code for “you are too girly and you write girl things and not serious man things.”

MZ: yeah I was just going to ask if the teacher was a man.

AP: But some twenty years on, I’ve also come to learn that emotion is the thing I’m kind of good at?

I mean, other writers do stunning action or lyrical prose or breathtaking pacing or mad plot twists.

MZ: I think that combining the human element with the technology element is what SF is all about.

AP: I am good at making characters that seem like people, and that FEEL THINGS.

MZ: And I’ve had the pleasure of reading Revision, and I think you do that quite well.

AP: Thank you 🙂

My favorite SF is about people and how people are always the same, forever and ever, throughout time

MZ: I also really really like near future SF which this is. It’s so very close to being our own world.

AP: This is why a lot of old-school SF falls flat for me, because it doesn’t actually reflect human beings as frail and prone to error

Stupid Hero’s Journey.

I think mid-future SF is super hard to write now, it’s either ten minutes into the future or a thousand years

MZ: I’m very much a character-driven writer who adores exploring fantastical elements or future technology. So near-future is so hard to get right.

AP: It helps to look at a technology and go through the things we know people are going to do anyway?

MZ: Cause you have to really extrapolate from now.

AP: Like “how does this affect people trying to get sex? Or people trying to make themselves look important? How does this change how people will make others miserable if they can?”

MZ: Exactly, I mean… think about OK Cupid

AP: Hah

MZ: and Tindr and all of those things

they’ve fundamentally changed how people date… in what, 10 years?


AP: I mean, one of my favorite things about history is ancient Roman barracks with penis graffiti left by the ancient Roman soldiers.

Our impulses haven’t changed in thousands of years

MZ: yeah, young men are still young men

AP: We have new and different acceptable behaviors and expressions, right? And who the out-groups are change

So you go from ankle-length to knee-length skirts in a generation

And then onward to bikinis a little further on

But the core behaviors of using clothing to signal your social status and attract friends and romantic partners like yourself, that’s still the same

And the rest of it is just set dressing

So we have different courtship methods now, right? But the same basic motivations are in play. 🙂

This is one of those things I think about allllllllll the time

MZ: My personal research topic of choice is religion in the United States, and you can track these patterns of revivalism through time.

AP: Technology isn’t changing us at all

If anything, we use technology to allow ourselves to be EVEN MORE HUMAN than we were before

MZ: Pretty much in religion, the current generation will have more in common with their grandparents generation than their parents.

AP: Yeah? It’s a cyclic thing?

MZ: Oh yeah, it’s very reactive.

AP: Fascinating

MZ: So permissive hippy parents have relatively uptight children who then have children who rebel by being permissive.

AP: Hmmmmmmm I see.

MZ: to overly simplify it.

and there’s US-centric mythology with religious overtones and all sorts of stuff.

But yeah, I mean to understand current patterns you have to look to the past, and pretty much skipping a generation helps you quite a bit.

AP: You know there’s the hard-core atheist transhumanism movement

And even they keep basically reinventing religious ideology under a different name

MZ: Which I find really fascinating right now because of how it omits the people who could be most helped by transhumanism.

AP: So simulation theory, and suddenly you have a creator again

Or people actively working toward the Singularity, which is the Christian Rapture by another name as best I reckon

Sent at 8:59 AM on Friday

AP: Argh this is makes me so sad and angry

MZ: well, “helped” is an ablest thing, because those who are most likely to actually have the sorts of technology transhumanists revere are disabled.

AP: How incredibly prosperous Western society has become as an aggregate, and how many people in the world (even in Western society) live in precarity

We’re bad as a species at putting our resources toward big things that can increase net happiness

MZ: but the transhumanist narrative doesn’t talk about the disabled.

AP: Yeah, I wonder why that is?

Star Trek got it right, didn’t they? Geordi Laforge was blind, which is why he had his badass glasses.

MZ: I suspect they don’t think it fits the narrative if you don’t give something up.

That there’s no sacrifice.

it’s that christ-mythos thing.

AP: Odin plucking out his eye for wisdom

MZ: yeah, or that.

AP: Sacrifice is a powerful narrative

I feel like you don’t see it that much in genre, though

MZ: sacrifice?

AP: We like our clean, happy endings.

MZ: Not sure I agree with that.

AP: I mean it happens to some extent, but it’s relatively uncommon — and if there is a sacrifice, it’s nothing actually as important as all that

This is why it’s a BIG FREAKING DEAL that Joss Whedon and George RR Martin actually kill beloved characters

Because genuine and meaningful sacrifice is relatively uncommon 🙂

MZ: I think it happens more in fantasy right now.

AP: It’s uncommon enough that when it happens, it’s ‪breathtaking and not the thing that of course you expected.

You think so?

MZ: SF feels more reactive at the moment, which is why there’s more dystopia and such.

AP: I’m trying to think of books I’ve read in recent times that end in giving something up that can never be replaced

MZ: So weird thought thing here.

AP: Last First Snow, I think

MZ: James Cameron’s Avatar

Let’s set aside the problematic White Savior thing for now, and focus on that the protagonist is a disabled man who through technology is able to interact with an alien species.

AP: I have never seen it 🙂

MZ: you’re familiar with the concepts though?

AP: Loosely, yeah

No fear of spoilers or anything ^_^

Sent at 9:08 AM on Friday

MZ: So currently transhumanist narrative is that this protagonist can’t transcend his humanity with technology because it is adaptive for him. But if someone gave up their own body to use it, they are somehow greater.

Just using this as an example.

AP: nod

MZ: So I think the sacrifice narrative can be inherently problematic too.

AP: I think there’s a longing to be free of the frailties of meat, in transhumanism circles, there’s a perception that bodies are weak and unreliable and… irrational, basically

But if you’ve ever been through any significant hormonal shifts — like having a baby, say — you come to realize that a lot of who you are is determined by chemical processes in your body

There’s not an electrical true-you just in your brain ready to be uploaded

MZ: Yeah, I think women are more aware of such things because of that.

AP: What makes you is also your body!

MZ: women and trans individuals are more conscious of it.

AP: Yeah, I’d think so. And not even all women!

MZ: True, I mean I wasn’t when I was young that’s for sure.

AP: It’s amazing how your behavior and thinking can so substantially change

MZ: It really feels like these meat suits should come with a manual.

AP: I’ve reached a point where I’m old enough to recognize I’m having some sort of feeling and reaction, and then interrogate it, “Is there a reason for this, or is it a thing my body is doing right now?”

MZ: Oh my, yes.

AP: And sometimes my body is just feeling anxious or sad or snappish and mean, and there’s not a REASON for it

MZ: So much yes. This is very much a 30+ sort of realization.

AP: It’s such a relief to know that you can have those feelings and it’s not because of anything in particular going on, just a thing your body is doing right now.

Because it doesn’t mean you have to do something big and dramatic to address it, beyond maybe… getting more sleep, cutting down on caffeine.

MZ: getting some pain killer for the pain you weren’t consciously paying attention to

AP: You can address it at the BODY level and not the “get a divorce and quit my job and abandon my family and drop out of my degree and move to another continent” level

MZ: And sometimes actually thinking through 2 months of doing the “drop out and move to Europe” plan helps too cause you realize you can’t even ask for the bathroom in any of the countries you can afford to get to.

AP: Ahahahah yeahhhh.

MZ: and then you end up cracking yourself up and either writing a story or getting over yourself and making dinner.


not that I’d know anything about this.

AP: Ahahahahhaah.

Some days are like that.

Anyway, your meat suit is important.

We should take better care of our meat, it’s YOU just as much as you brain is. 🙂

MZ: There was a thing about the most important bit of advice writers would give others and the one that stuck with me was:

‪“­Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.” – Margaret Atwood

AP: Oh Margaret Atwood, so much wisdom

MZ: …and I think that, “Persistence.” and “Know thyself.” are probably the only universal bits of writing advice.

AP: “Don’t read your own reviews”

“Nothing good can come of it”

MZ: eh, I don’t think that’s necessarily universal, but probably not a good idea before breakfast

AP: Hahah

It’s hard to filter out “universal” from “applicable to most people” to “actually this only works for like, you.”

MZ: Yeah, and you never have it totally figured out.

It’s a process not a destination.

AP: Stupid processes.

MZ: So, 5 days until release.


I think four now?

MZ: Let’s talk a little bit about what that does to a person


MZ: Cause I think that’s important.

AP: The emotional landscape of publishing your first novel is like nothing I have ever beheld before

And I’ve released nonfiction books, I’ve done games, I’ve written other self-pub stuff, so you’d think I’d at least know what to expect.

MZ: I’m starting to suspect each milestone is different and new… which isn’t particularly reassuring

AP: Now, I’m neurotic in the first place, so when I launch a game I’ve put a lot of myself into, the last-minute feeling is: “Oh god, this sucks, and people are going to hate it, and people are going to hate me personally, and I will NEVER WORK AGAIN.”

Exactly that.

So I got used to that cycle for releasing games, and I knew that the downside is basically people don’t play your game, and not that you get shunned out of town and die in poverty.

The problem I’m having with Revision, actually, is that reception has so far been a lot better than I expected, and I just don’t know how to process it?

MZ: Yeah, I’m much better equipped to deal with negative emotion than positive.

Positive stress makes me puke.

AP: It’s the thing where you brace your tent for a wind from the east and then something comes from the west and knocks it down.

MZ: It’s why I never got to play at Chucky Cheese as a kid.

AP: And I’ve been over here quietly managing my expectations so I don’t get my hopes crushed: well, I figure I will sell SOME DOZENS OF BOOKS, I say, and I make Hugh Howey jokes while knowing it’s a lottery ticket kind of thing and not actually a plausible outcome from all of this

But people I respect are saying this is a good book and it’s getting, like, reviews in reputable outlets, and like

I can’t EVEN

I am feeling basically every possible variety of human emotion all at the same time

MZ: Yeah, I imagine your brain is trying to tell you to prepare for doom… and yet everything is inflating hope and your brain is like “noooooo not hope… hope is dangerous”

AP: Yeah, I think that’s it.

MZ: so it’s like punching a marshmallow of emotions

in a microwave

AP: “No, NO, DON’T start thinking about how nice it would be to remodel your bathroom!”

There’s a lot of “just because critics like a book doesn’t mean it’s gonna sell” going on in my brain right now.

MZ: Yeah. Being the first novel it’s just… a big ???

the expectation is unknown

AP: You know that horrible feeling after you’ve had a job interview, and before you know if you got the job?

I’ve always hated that.

Your whole future hangs in the balance and you just don’t know what’s going to happen, and it’s 100% out of your hands.

Basically it’s like that, except because it’s also personal creative work, it feels like a referendum on your worth as a human being at the same time.

And of course it’s NOT, but the emotional parts of your brain are not generally known for taking in all the facts first! Or my brain, anyway.


Making s’mores in the microwave is the BEST THING.

And everyone should always do it.

MZ: We just bought a fire pit, so we’re probably making some the old fashioned way this weekend

AP: I’m jealous

We have a gas grill which just isn’t the same

MZ: some friends of ours are trying to get us to make bacon s’mores


MZ: apparently you can roast strips of bacon over the fire the same as marshmallows and then just smush them together. This seems… unwise

AP: Those friends are mad geniuses

Never part from them

MZ: but it’s apparently delicious

AP: Also, hook me up

MZ: 😀 bring a roasting stick

AP: You know what? I think my official Launch Day snack is going to be s’mores.

MZ: There are s’more shaped marshmallows in the store right now

square so they fit on the graham cracker better

AP: Starbucks just introduced a s’more tart? That they apparently warm up for you?

MZ: …don’t tell me that

AP: It’s like a little graham cracker tart shell filled with chocolate with a marshmallow on top

They have a special oven setting for it and everything.

MZ: Starbucks is like one of the only things we have in the boonies

cause they literally are everywhere.

AP: And suddenly my body is convinced this is the ONE THING that will make me feel better ahead of launch. ^_^

So I used to work on 34th St. between 7th and 8th Aves. in New York

There were literally five Starbucks within a block

MZ: we had 3 Starbucks in town for awhile… 2 were literally across the street from each other and there are only like 10k people in the whole county

AP: Like, not even around the whole block, either

It’s madness.

MZ: We’re going to put a Starbucks on the moon.

I betchu

AP: I wonder if we’ll discover in future years they’ve been lacing their coffee with cocaine all this time.

MZ: I’m not a big coffee drinker, I think most of their coffee tastes burned.

AP: I’ve heard that complaint

I mean, you go to Starbucks for espresso, basically ^_^

MZ: I like tea though, and pastries.

AP: I had a chai habit for a long time

MZ: and giant frozen beverages of caffeinated doom

AP: Maybe I should go back to that, it was very enjoyable.

MZ: hahaha yeah you know what

we’ll find out the drugs were in their milk the whole time

AP: Hahahahah

…Man now I want to go get one of those s’mores tarts.

MZ: Well, I should probably let you get back to your day, and possibly get a s’more tart.

AP: I wonder how I could justify this.


MZ: On the way to pick up your daughter?

AP: …I could

MZ: wait wait, I’m enabling this madness

this is terrible

AP: Ahahahahah



MZ: Heh.

AP: ^_^

MZ: You could pick her up a Friday treat “just because”

AP: Maybe. Maybe. I’ll have to give this careful thought.

MZ: and make it all about her. Yes. This would work.

AP: I’ll just… I’ll be going now…

MZ: Congratulations and Commiserations on your upcoming release. 🙂

AP: Thank you for chatting, this has been fun. ^_^

Thanks! I just have to live through another week.

MZ: then… s’more party!

Ugh super Busy Day

Too Many Links and I promise you more of my brain tomorrow:

Reproductive Coercion – a real-life example of what it is and how technology can enter into things

A Mother’s Suicide Attempt and the Guilty Burden of Statistics – (TW for suicide, maternal guilt, like whoa) A mother muses about the effects of her suicide attempts, on her children after reading a long term study about the same. Fascinating, but seriously, be in a really good frame of mind if you’re going to read it.

Bats have wing sensors – Biology is NEAT

New Space Drive Test Succeeds– Interesting.

Beetle Blasts Suggest Better Engine – Doods. DOOOOOODS. Explosive chemical beetle farts and how to use them to power things.

Musing about Technology


I don’t wear a watch. I don’t want to wear a watch. I stopped carrying a watch when I got a pager and I’d been using a pocket watch before that. I haven’t worn a watch in so long I automatically feel my pockets when someone asks what time it is. I find the concept of the smart watch completely baffling. I like the health monitoring aspects of it, and I think a lot of people can really improve their lives with that sort of data, but REALLY don’t want to share my pulse rate and such with advertisers etc. because yeah there’s more targeted advertising and stuff they can do with that than people are currently thinking about. Market researchers are going to be combing all of the data they can with that to see if there are buying trends that relate to menstrual cycles or other predictable health patterns. I mean your club card coupons already track a lot of this through your buying habits.

So let’s try a little experiment. I’m going to turn on comments for this post. What’s your take on emerging technologies? Do you think devices like smart watches are going to help people live better lives or are the marketing uses of the technology going to outweigh the benefits?

Too Many Links – Wednesday

Archaeologists find Liquid Mercury – This is cool and also A Really Bad Day For Excavators who suddenly had to go look up how to deal with mercury. Surprise Mercury = Bad Day.

Probe depleted of propellant takes its last pictures of Mercury – The planet. Neat for us. Sad for probe.

New Saudi King changes line of succession

Fonts – This article relates to what to use on resumes

Sunken ships visible under Lake Michigan due to cold winter

inactive FM radio already in your smart phone? – Hmm interesting.  /ponders uses for fiction

Police pull over Delorean -snerk

Carcinogenic toxin found during turkey plague 

William Gibson on ignorance of technology keeping a work from becoming dated. 

How one doctor uses data to help people. 

Source of Antarctica’s “Bleeding Glacier” found. – whoa neat! Bacteria does funky stuff. Also there’s a bunch about under glacier salty water that the scientists are more fascinated with in this article, which is neat but I’m sort of fixated on the BRIGHT RED BACTERIA.

Indication that the source of several neurological diseases may be in the gut not the brain. – I think we’re going to eventually find a lot of diseases are more gut-related than we currently think.

An Animated Interview With Ray Bradbury: “You Can’t Think A Story”

Additional Too Many Links – Cause I am disorganized

I found a bunch of links from last week I meant to share…

Self-Controlling Octopus Arms.

How Your Brain Learns New Things. 

DC Super Hero Girls – I have mixed feelings about this. I like having more girl-oriented stuff… but that it is off on its own separated from the rest of the hero universe makes me icked out. I mean if it was kid friendly universes and then older fan universe, I could sort of see it… but that there’s the universe that is fine for boys and adults and then one for girls… that could be really icky.

Dinosaur sexual dimorphism. 

Pesticides Might Make Bees High. – Uh, this would actually explain a lot.

Second Quest – Zelda re-imagined in comic form with a heroine lead.

TOO MANY LINKS – Tuesday Edition

Smiley Faces help kids make better food choices. – I also want smiley faces and tangible rewards for making good decisions. I mean, basically they are gamifying eating… WHICH I COULD TOTALLY BE AWESOME AT. I totally want a sticker every time I pick water or ice tea instead of soda. *scuffs*

Remote controlled cargo ship spinning in space. 

Editing Mitochondria in Mice – This technique requires genetic material from both parents plus a second female without the mitochondrial information they wish to prevent in the offspring. There are a lot of really important uses for this potential technology but it also opens the door for non-hereditary disease edits.

Surgical robots can be hijacked or hacked. – Uh. Uhhhhhh. Holy crap.

I want a Titan I missile silo. Do you think we can crowdfund this for a writer retreat location?

VR representations of dead loved ones. – Yeah, so uhm we’ve talked about this in SF for a long time (myself included) and it’s getting eerily close to reality. I wonder if it could be a useful form of grief therapy or if it would be counter-productive for most people.

Spotify points out the age people start listening to new music again. – They claim this is indication of a mid-life crisis. I’m guessing it is just as likely to be the age they have kids old enough to claim they aren’t cool anymore. ALSO! isn’t it kind of creepy they are keeping this kind of track of your listening habits…

Santa wouldn’t brought her a saw instead of a barbie now she makes modular dollhouse kits. – This is pretty cool, but I know that I would have broken this set really fast as a kid. It’s a bit like a dollhouse version of Capsela (remember those?! They were awesome… and much harder to break than flat components)

Breaking the speed of light? – Looking forward to updates on this in the future. The reporting here seems a bit dodgy and using “warp drive” seems like a very specific word choice I don’t think the experiment really lives up to, but hopefully we’ll see more reports about it soon.

Is the universe a hologram? – I love this sort of thing even if it melts my brain and I just end up smiling and nodding a lot and/or feeling a little chemically altered without any actual chemicals. “Whoa man… like whoa. What if… what if the door is a jar? I mean, whoooa.”

New Dinosaur – AND IT IS ADORABLE OMG WHEN CAN I GET A PLUSHIE?!!!! I mean, you CAN hug a fossil but it really isn’t very satisfying.

Flying Squirrel sightings in San Bernardino National Forest area, Wanted. – I put this here for the few active hikers I know roughly in that general area.

Talking About Race – A conversation about how to try not to make things worse, what you can do, and a little of what not to do. Nowhere near comprehensive or exhaustive, but a good read to point people at.

Graphene Displays might bring us 3D displays. – *quivers*