Heather Shaw


   Nov 19

Busy. And did I mention I’m busy?

I know, long time, no post. Enter the long list of the usual excuses, etc., here.

Moving on…

My summer was busy, but that was mostly my own doing. When Tim has writing deadlines, I try to take River for longer periods of time on the weekend, so he can get writing done. I’ve always been the sort of person who likes to go DO things, so thanks to email newsletters such as Red Tricycle, each weekend I found something fun and new for River and I to do. Since July we have gone to several neighborhood festivals, Gilroy Gardens amusement park, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the Northern CA Renaissance Faire, Ardenwood pumpkin patch, and so on. We also went swimming several times (driving over the hill to the valley to escape the cool Bay Area summer). Liza and her girls joined us for some of our adventures, much to River’s delight (he and her daughter Kyra are near the same age and go to the same preschool).

We also went to WorldCon in Reno (we took my mother, who was visiting and was a good sport, to babysit) in August, and World Fantasy Con at the end of October. And we’re leaving for vacation (a REAL vacation, which we haven’t done in over 3 years) in a week.

In other words, damn, we’ve been busy!

I restarted my novel many times over the summer. As WFC approached, I made myself settle down and stop throwing out words. The only way out is through, and all that. I also wanted to be able to tell my friends that I was actively working on my novel, so there was a nice bit of self-inflicted peer-pressure that got me past the first few thousand words. Whew!

That jump-start, combined with the energetic inspiration that comes after a con with all one’s writing friends, was enough to get me to stay in motion, and I joined Tim in a sort of personal NaNoWriMo, the end result being that it is now November 19th and I have written on my novel every day so far this month. Whoo! Now, the daily goal is butt-in-chair writing for a minimum of 15 minutes a day, and I should admit that some days that just means 300 words. But, y’know, 300 words every day is way more than 0 words, and it eventually adds up.

There’s also a benefit I hadn’t expected from stopping after only a few hundred words. This book is near-future, and although I have a lot of what I want to do with it worked out, I don’t have many of the details. What does it look like when Laney (my main character) walks through her town? I had no real idea. I wrote a little into the scene, then gave up after my 15 minutes and went to bed. But the next night, when I sat down to work, I realized that my brain had answered the question for me, and I knew *exactly* what it looked like! I’ve read about this before — how your brain will puzzle out solutions for you while you sleep — but I’ve never really “seen” it in action in relation to my writing. I assume, as I get further into the book and there’s less description and more plot, I won’t need this help from my sleeping brain, but for now, it’s awesomely helpful.

I just took on a freelance writing project, which is due next Wednesday, but I’m hoping to blow through it this weekend. (I can do seven articles in one weekend, right? Sure, sure I can.) I also need to use some home writing time to get ahead on dayjob stuff so I can relax during our vacation. So, what I’m saying is, I’m busy.

Oh! I should mention in here that Tim and I wrote a collab Xmas story, which was have sold to Podcastle! Titled “The Ghost of Christmas Possible” it should be available for download around Christmas. It’s a sort of “A Christmas Carol”/ “Carnacki the Ghost Hunter” mashup, and it was a lot of fun to write with him.

I will make no promises about regular blogging, but this sure was nice, wasn’t it? Maybe I’ll try to do it again sometime :-) In the meantime, I do post to my Twitter account fairly regularly. Find me there; I’m @heatherlyshaw.

   Jun 04

And they’re off!

Well, yesterday, in the midst of feeling sorry for myself because I’m sick and was home with River and unable to nap, it occurred to me that since I couldn’t do anything about the sick or the not napping, I might as well write a little and make myself feel better. So, I did. I wrote about 600 words on my new YA, thus beginning it before Saturday afternoon, as I’d promised myself.


Today I’m STILL sick (am so sick of this!) but I still managed to crank out 1116 words just now, for a grand total of 1723. I’m at the beginning of Chapter 2 now. Ideally, each chapter will end up longer than that — I’m hoping to average about 2k a chapter and about 32 chapters total — but I’m not going to sweat it right now. I really want to keep the forward momentum.

I stopped today partially because I’m not well — going to go lay down and watch some So You Think You Can Dance here in a minute — but also because I am absolutely positive the words are complete crap today. Embarrassing dreck. Awful. Etc. ‘Course, usually when I feel that way, I’ll come back later and read them and think “oh, it’s not nearly so bad — some of this is even good” so, y’know, I’m not going to worry about that, either. And if it is crap? Well, that’s what revisions are for. And you can’t revise unless you have words on the page.

I might try to blog about stuff that’s more interesting soon. Tomorrow River and I are going to a birthday party (for a 3-year-old) that was supposed to be at a park, but with this rain, it’ll be crammed into an apartment instead. So, that’ll be interesting, especially if I still feel this awful. Today we spent the morning in the Kindergym at the Y, where it was packed with kids (again, because of the rain). Thank gods for that Kindergym — huge soft shapes, climbing aparatus out the wazoo (a train, a fire engine, two different playsets), a climbing wall and even a bounce house, all on a matted floor. River always finds tons to do in there, and he likes it when there are other kids to play with. He was really well-behaved today, too, and the one time he injured another kid it was totally an accident and he apologized very sincerely. He had a great time, and we were there for over two hours. I love it when he’s happy.

   Jun 02

Where to Begin

Today I was home sick from work, and, while that might sound like “gee, I bet you got lots of writing done” it was a real sick day, where spending more than a few minutes at a time sitting at my desk was more than I could handle. Also, the little bit of trying to string words together made me feel even muzzier and headachy, so I declared it Not A Good Day To Begin.

I did, however, think about my book a lot. I explained to Tim my caste system, as well as the status of women and how that manifests itself in this society, and he seemed to think me not crazy, which is good. I’m also, every time I talk to him, slightly changing up the way I say the book will begin. See, I want to get the beginning right, or at least close to right, so the rest of the book flows from that. But where to begin isn’t always the easiest thing to decide.

Traditionally, I’m a “write-your-way-in” sort of writer: I cut paragraphs or pages from the beginning, or I throw out drafts, because even though I thought I was drafting, I was really just info-dumping/ working things out for myself. But this time I’m trying very hard to have a clear idea of who my characters are, where they are, why things are happening to them, what the society is like… all ahead of time.

But even having worked most of that out, there are so many decisions to make before you write your first word. First person, or third (or something fancy, which is better suited for short fiction, at least for me at this point in my career)? Do you start in media res, or open with some lovely descriptive paragraphs? Where in the story do you begin? How/ when will you use any flashbacks? How many viewpoint characters?

And so forth.

Anyway, I do have some of this worked out. I think I need to both set the scene (since this is a nearish-future world) *and* have something plot-driving happen in the first chapter. I have an idea about this, and today’s laying in bed thinking nailed some of that down, and tied it in neatly with some other stuff I want to do. So, that’s exciting. And I came up with some nasty things to happen to my character, which aren’t so nasty that you can’t have them in a YA (at least, not the YA I’ve read recently) but will still effectively make things tense. So, that’s… um, good? (It sounds weird to say it’s good something nasty will happen to someone, even if that someone is fictional. But I’m pleased it will work for the book.)

I am, if I’m being honest (and it’s late and I’m still sick and getting tired despite having spent most of the day in bed, so), I am a little terrified of starting. Because I want to start well. I want to nail the voice. I want to get in the flow, and just go go go.

I have a chunk of writing time coming to me on Saturday afternoon. I promise myself that I will start, or have started, by then.

   Jun 01

The YA Challenge

Today is the first day of the Theodora Goss YA Challenge. The idea: we’re each going to write our own YA book in the months of June, July and August (and track our progress). (Well, originally it was Dora’s own challenge, but she’s encouraged others to participate. A good way for writers to be social/ motivated.) And, because I’ve had this novel idea that’s only gotten more and more vivid over the past couple of weeks (seriously: I have papertowels with notes I scrawled on them while half-asleep in the middle of the night about this book), I have signed up to participate.

So! Here it is! Day one! And… I have the flu.

Stomach cramps all day long, ending the day in body aches and general misery.

But I did want to commemorate the first day of the YA challenge by posting in this blog again, by acknowledging that I AM doing this and I will be updating about it here. And, it’s not as if I’ve done nothing on the book. I’ve got pages and pages of notes (some of which are very silly and conversational, such as: “And then maybe she gets pregnant… No! I know! The OTHER one gets pregnant, that’s better!”) This weekend, I took those notes/ the thinking I’ve been doing on this book and I sat down and sketched out a rough outline of the book (the outline itself is 1700 words, but I’m not sure if they count, since very little of it will hit the book verbatim). That outline will change, but after how much I enjoyed my page 1 rewrite on the middle grade, I think I like knowing ahead of time sort of where I’m heading.

I also, today at the day job, picked up a just-published book that is incredibly similar to the plot of my book. At first, I was livid. How DARE someone I don’t know steal my idea? But, Tim pointed out that that just means it really is a commercial idea, and he read the cover jacket of this other book and assured me mine is really quite different in important ways. So, I’ve calmed down a bit. But, still!

Ok, must go back to bed now. I just wanted to note the occasion, say hi (Hi!) and mention the work I’ve already begun on this book. Now, where’s my ibuprofen?

   Oct 13

A bit o’ news

I don’t have a lot of short fiction to submit places these days, what with spending any fiction-writing time on my novel, but I did finally get off my duff and submit some of my flash-fiction pieces around. Most of these are from an “alphabet collab” I did with my husband, Tim Pratt and our friend, Greg van Eekhout, where we divided up the alphabet and wrote short-shorts (or flash fiction or “story bombs” or whatever you want to call them) inspired by the letter.

Anyway, not to bury the lede here, but I sold “Excrement” to Daily Science Fiction! I’ve never sold anything to them before, but they’re a fine publication and I’m very excited to see my piece up there soon. “Excrement” (originally “E is for Excrement” but, y’know, selling it outside the collab makes that not work so well) is one of my favorites from that project, so I’m very pleased to see it get a good home. I’ll link it up here once it’s published.

Thanks to the economy, my hours at my day job were slashed in half two weeks ago, so I’m scrambling to get more freelance writing work. (If you know of any, please e-mail me!) My cousin, Erika, pointed me to a very exciting project that I probably shouldn’t go into detail about, but I’m very excited about it and hope they like my resume. So, y’know, fingers crossed on that front!

Also, I’m looking for some part-time admin type job to help fill out the household income. Again, if you have any leads in the Bay Area on jobs, please e-mail me.

My husband, Tim Pratt, has lots and lots of good writing news. You should check out his latest entry for more details.

That’s it writing-wise for now! Ciao!

   Jul 18

“Little M@tch Girl” up at Escape Pod!

My science-fiction drug story, “Little M@tch Girl” is up at Escape Pod. There’s a discussion about it on their discussion boards. Normally, I find discussions of my work terrifying and, often, upsetting, but this one (so far) isn’t bothering me much. In fact, I’m pretty pleased with many of the comments. I know: I’m totally jinxing myself by saying that publicly. Still, seeing how other people interpret your work is like catnip to an author, and I just have to acknowledge a good trip.

In other news, I’m working on applying hand-written edits to my middle-grade novel, “Keaton T.: Junior Gene Hacker”. It’s taking me longer than I thought it would, but then it always does if I don’t have an external deadline.

   Jun 26

A bit about me…

Welcome! I’m Heather Shaw, writer, editor, mom, aikidoka, gardener, crafty person and cat-owner. But this page is mostly about me being a writer.

I have written lots of short stories, and even have had some of them published in nice places such as the Year’s Best Fantasy, Strange Horizons and Polyphony. You can check out my bibliography for a list of my publication, with links to those available for free online. My most popular story to date is “Single White Farmhouse” which is online in podcast form over at Escape Pod.

Lately, though, I’ve been working on novels. I’m in the final throes of editing a middle grade novel called, at the moment, Keaton T., Junior Gene Hacker which we’ll call a science fantasy. I’ve attended the Blue Heaven Novel Writing Workshop twice now, and am a much better novelist because of all the great advice and crits I received there.

I have an online journal, which I neglect too often. I’m far more active over at Twitter, and I occasionally do a photoset on Flickr though it’s mostly of my son, River, and the occasional con.

If you’d like to get in touch, you can email me.