Teacups and Thaws

teacupMy writing teacup lives on my desk. Not because I drink tea from it while I’m writing — not often, anyway, I’m usually facedown in a bucket of coffee — but because it’s a sort of story-talisman, I suppose? When I saw it for sale I thought, That is exactly the sort of teacup Farin would have, and so I bought it. It is a concrete Farin Thing that lives in my world.

Farin is the sixtysomething widow who runs the tea house in Nishar. My alpha reader calls her Tea Grandma and summed her up in a comment thusly:


You will meet her first of anyone in the book (well, if you’ve read “After Burning,” you’ve already met Vulo — the Wolf — but Farin is the first book-POV you meet in the book), and I love her to bits, but she’s also been a character I’ve struggled with and for a while I was tangled in the question of whether or not I should excise her entirely. But after I spent this last miserable weekend running stupidly into walls, I managed to break through a wall, and what was waiting on the other side of it was the Answer to Farin.

When I hit a story-wall or get tangled in a story-problem, I tend to want to stare at it, sweating blood, until I solve it or die trying. But I’ve also found (often enough that I really should know it by now) that solutions will almost always come to me when I walk away from the story and let my brain wander around something else for a while — a book, a TV show, a video game.

So we’ve entered the foothills of Readercon and I will definitely not have this draft finished by then, but — I’m going to WorldCon in Helsinki next month, and I do think I can have it ready and readable by then.

New goal! Don’t look at the old goal!

Writing things: Morning pages, yesterday and today, check and check. No new or side projects, all focus is on the novel, but that’s flowing again at least (for a given definition of the word flowing).

Life things: I will send in my passport renewal forms tomorrow, I will, I will. Making butter chicken in the slow cooker for dinner tonight; last night was a homemade pizza night (broccoli and béchamel; caramelized onions and thyme). Many walks have been had.

Reading: Just embarked on A Darker Shade of Magic.

Watching: Witnesses on Netflix.

Today’s novel-relevant research: Many YouTube videos of thawing river ice flows. The growing range and seasonal cycle of Hamamelis mollis.

Today’s novel-working song:

Around the Campfire

Tomorrow is the start of another session of Camp NaNoWriMo, and I will be moving into a virtual cabin there with a klatch of VP classmates and Slack friends. Our cabin has been dubbed Murdercabin, so you know it’s a good one.

I’ve done regular NaNo for years (and “won” it intermittently), but my first effort at Camp NaNo, back in April, was not a success. I was doing well for the first, I don’t know, eight days or so! And then the rest of April happened. April was … not the cruellest month, but definitely kind of a shitheel. So here we are in July and I’m going to try it again. Cross your fingers for me.

July will not be a shitheel! July is actually required by law to be nice to me because it is my birthday! Also Readercon! They happen on the same weekend, in fact! Smack in the middle of the month — and my goal (oh God, I’ve used the word goal before, haven’t I? look, I’ll just wedge those other goals into the coat closet and we’ll pretend you never saw them) is to have some coherent, completed thing — completed, like, with an ending and everything! — that I can talk about knowledgeably at Readercon. By Readercon. So, you know, more or less two weeks.

This should go swimmingly.

Adobe SparkThe Camp NaNo site encourages you to post a little mock-up cover for your project, so I did the thing. Ha ha, my Art Skillz™, let me show you the bleak and gaping void where they do not exist! But I adore this photograph — one of many supremely spooky photos taken by Nick Brandt at Tanzania’s toxically alkaline Lake Natron — and the world it suggests.

The Two Rivers world is not a nice place. This is a good picture for it.

Anyway, cross your fingers for a gentle July.

Current comps: It’s City of Blades meets Range of Ghosts, with a twist of Annihilation.

Writing: Did morning pages. Dithered about novel-things in preparation for NaNo work, made some character notes re: Vulo for myself. Rewrote the same three sentences a dozen times. Not much useful elsewise. (Assuming any of the foregoing was useful.)

Daily things: Today is my mother’s birthday.

Walked. Made cookie dough so tomorrow I can bring cookies to new neighbors. Played hostess to a trio of four-year-olds and introduced them to the wonder of limeade, which they all proceeded to refer to as lime-onade. Did not introduce them sufficiently to sunscreen, whoops. Brought honor to my child’s house by single-handedly capturing our neighborhood Pokémon Go gym for the first time, and then valiantly defending it for exactly five minutes and fifty-five seconds until yellow team’s goons rolled back in.

See you next month, tomorrow.


Green and Growing


This is the kitchen windowsill at present: from L to R, it’s parsley, Thai basil, lavender and sage together in the white pot, my daughter’s sproutling sunflowers in a kit she got for Easter in the green tray, a pair of anonymous succulents (Tatiana could name them, I’m sure), an olive tree, Genovese basil, and rosemary. I’m not doing much with the garden out back this year — which currently consists of strawberries (or “rabbit food,” per the local rabbit community), a dwarf apple tree, and a few perennial herbs, all choked by morning glory — but I’ve planted tomatoes (plum and cherry) in containers with more basil. We’ll manage happily through most of the summer with our CSA veg, but we can never have too many tomatoes or too much basil. I’d grow sweet corn here too, for the same reason, if only we had the space and sun for it. Alas.


This is this week’s CSA haul. June is still basically springtime as far as Massachusetts’ growing season is concerned, so still lots of early greenstuff: lettuce, kale, escarole, cabbage, hakurei turnips, green onions, peas. The zucchini are a nice nod to summer’s entrance, and the kohlrabi — well. I never have any idea what to do with kohlrabi. The internet always suggests I just serve it raw as sticks or slaw or in salads, but that is because the internet has not met my family. There may be four-year-olds out there who will eat kohlrabi slaw or sticks of raw kohlrabi, but my own child is side-eyeing those kids pretty hard from behind her box of Cheez-its.

Writing: Did morning pages. Took a walk through the cemetery and had some useful thoughts from inside Sirin’s head; came home and remembered to jot them down. Reworked Vulo’s first novel-scene (I know, I know …) to introduce a crucial plot element sooner and to establish his condition better. Read K’s story for Sunday crit group. Reconsidered the opening of Ratri and Shrike’s story per a kind Shimmer rejection.

Cryptic index card note-to-self from last night: Whales vs. angels

Daily things: Made blueberry jam and two loaves of bread.


I promise not to bombard you with as much in future, but it’s a solid start, no?



Important Character Questions, Part I

I’ve recently been posing “Important Character Questions!” on Twitter, and it’s fun and I will probably continue doing it. Exactly zero of the questions is actually important, most are and will be completely absurd, but that’s why I love them. I’m a sucker for those Tumblr RP prompts that are all, “What’s your character’s favorite ice cream flavor? Preferred sleeping position? View on Brexit?”

And because I figure it’s only fair, I will answer them myself here. (The characters in question will be my Ash characters unless otherwise noted.)

The questions so far, in chronological order: Continue reading Important Character Questions, Part I


Friends, I am so bad at this whole blogging-regularly business. You may have noticed. I’m going to throw a whole bunch of updatey things at you at once, okay? Get ready to duck:

  • My story On the Occasion of the Treaty of the Thousand Rivers, A Visit to the Gallery came out in Lackington’s Issue 10! In May! Yes! More than a month ago! Timely announcing, Wren! It should be available to read free in a few days.
  • The No Shit, There I Was anthology Kickstarter was fully-funded and then some, thanks to all of you, so blessings upon your house(s) and I hope you all enjoy The Storyteller’s Sleight when that appears.
  • My child is deeply preoccupied lately with the question of why cars do not have eyebrows.
  • I was accepted to Viable Paradise! Yes! VP20, hip hip hurray! Martha’s Vineyard, here I come! I’ve been floating joyfully since Saturday, and not even a form rejection this morning could jostle my mood. I laugh at you, form rejections! I laugh at you.
  • The novel is coming along so beautifully at this point that I’m half-afraid to type that lest I jinx it. The first 65K words or so are in very clean and satisfactory beta-shape, and I am slowly kneading the remainder into something less like a lump.
  • I had to replant the beans because insects ravaged the first planting.
  • I have three more Kinverse stories in the works.
  • I’m going to be at Readercon next week. Yes, it’s next week! Already! I hope to see you there!
  • My birthday is in two weeks and I will be unconscionably old. I’m pretending Readercon is my birthday party. It’s so nice of everyone to come!
  • I think that is all.

Yes! I think that is all! Hurray! Carry on.


FRIENDS, I have joined Habitica, so if you are there too we should be comrades. I’m invisible_inkie, and I am a very smol rogue, as is my wont. The underscore is important because I’m pretty sure I joined it in the past as invisibleinkie but couldn’t remember any of my info, so, underscored it is! The new me.

(Forgetting prior login information is already a well-ingrained habit of mine so I didn’t really need practice on that one, thanks anyway, Habitica.)

This last week has been Things Happening; my most recent story sales draw closer to the world as I’ve turned in edits on one and an author bio for the other. I’m back at work on the novel and having considerable fun with the current part of it: my main protagonist is an extremely irritable person, and right now I am busy making his life as irritating as possible, which gives me great joy.

I don’t know whether I’ve mentioned either of these things here in the past, but I have both a Tumblr and a Pinterest board dedicated to the novel and its world, if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

Signs of the Season

20160321_123424Yesterday was the Vernal Equinox, and today that’s my backyard; we had a spring snowstorm overnight, hopefully the last of the season. It’s too warm today to sustain snow, so most of it is already cheerfully running from the eaves and puddling in the sunshine. My daughter was enchanted last week to find crocuses and creeping myrtle in bloom, but she was equally delighted to splat through snowmelt puddles today. Pretty much every weather is the best weather when you’re three.

20160321_162048Meanwhile, the garden is still in its Platonic plotting stage, which is frankly (for me) the best part of gardening. Seed Catalog Season is my favorite season. (Some of my particular favorites: John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Seeds of Change.)

We belong to a local CSA, so I don’t feel too much pressure to be extravagantly vegetable-competent, but I like to try. I grew up eating homegrown vegetables — one of my earlier memories is of being dispatched in a summer twilight out to the garden with one of my mother’s mixing bowls to pick lettuce and peas for supper — and the nostalgia is kind of its own reward.

Gardening is another thing that fell into the void of PPD. Last year I was recovered enough to potter about with my perennials — strawberries, rhubarb, raspberries, a pair of apple trees, herbs — but this year I’m looking forward to peas, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplant, pumpkins, potatoes, windowboxes and cutting flowers. My daughter has already laid claim to a container of her own and declared her intention to grow sunflowers beside her backyard playhouse.

We’ll see what the rabbits that nested in our upper garden terrace and ate most of my strawberries last year have to say about any of this. Garden reality is a knottier negotiation than garden daydreaming.

If you’re likewise inclined to garden fantasies, you ought to be following Ursula Vernon on Twitter and Tumblr. Her hand-lettered and illustrated diary pages on Tumblr are as inspiring as they are charming, and her occasional vegetable rants on Twitter are not to be missed.

Happy seed season to you.


Not the Month of Letters

20160302_162818February was the Month of Letters! March is not the Month of Letters. It’s probably a metaphor of some kind, therefore, that I’ve just gotten round to sending some people some letters.

Do you want a letter? Look, friend, I’ve got a rubber stamp of a bird, okay? You definitely want a letter. Get me your postal address in some way (DM @invisibleinkie on Twitter, email wrenwallis (at) gmail, etc.) and I will write you a letter. Or you can write me a letter! And get one back! I have an address for that sort of thing, you know. It is:

Wren Wallis
PMB 237
14 Milliston Rd.
Millis, MA 02054

Ancillary Mercy

I just finished Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy. It came out on Tuesday, but I saved it until today to read because I knew I would have a long tattoo appointment to endure, and then I read the entire thing in one galloping stretch, train ride through tattoo through second train ride. Now I just want to lie dreamily on the floor.

I laughed a lot. I cried, too. I made startled and/or gleeful noises out loud at inopportune moments and drew Looks on the train. Really, so highly recommended. So much fun, and right now I am so rapturous from the reading that I can’t even be sad the trilogy is done.

That will be tomorrow, I expect.

Reading Notes

I’ve just finished Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, which honestly surprised me by wrapping me up so thoroughly in its second half that I stayed up well past my bedtime the other night to gallop through to its end. It’s a perfectly charming fantasy dressed up in witty and impeccable Regency style, and I want to be best friends with both of the main characters. The author’s command of her milieu is a delight.

I did have one fair problem with the structure of the story, but as it doesn’t seem to have diminished my overall enjoyment in the slightest, that’s probably just my inner crank waving her cane. I liked the book; I expect you will too.

A book I was very much expecting to enjoy, and had been looking forward to for months, was Paul Cornell’s Witches of Lychford, and I suppose it’s mostly to its credit that I was disappointed chiefly by its brevity. It is a novella, and so entitled to be short, but I wanted more from it: more development, more stakes, more … I don’t know. I will set it aside wistfully and hope it is the introduction to something splendid and substantial, and/or that these women (is it too much to hope?) make further appearances in Cornell’s Shadow Police series.

(Of course, I already have a list of wishes/demands for the Shadow Police series that’s half as long as my arm, but in that case, what’s one more? I love that series, by the way, and those characters, and if you haven’t read the books yet I direct you to them at once. Cornell’s treatment of his brilliant cast is such that I want to scoop them all up protectively and make soothing noises and tea. I am casting really stern looks in your direction, sir.)

I’ve just this morning begun reading Kai Ashante Wilson’s Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, and am already so absorbed in its language and the texture of its world that it’s hard not to play hooky from my own work.

But I won’t. I’m going to work, I will, as soon as I finish posting this.