Kelly McCullough writes fantasy, science fiction, and books for kids of varying ages. He lives in Wisconsin with his physics professor wife and a small herd of cats. His novels include the, WebMage and Fallen Blade series — Penguin/ACE, School for Sidekicks, Magic, Madness, and Mischief, and Spirits, Spells, and Snark — Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. He has Patreon and Ko-fi pages for those who are interested in supporting his work more directly. He also dabbles in science fiction as science education with The Chronicles of the Wandering Star — part of an NSF-funded science curriculum — and the science comic Hanny & the Mystery of the Voorwerp, which he co-authored and co-edited — funding provided by NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope. Kelly on Twitter, Facebook, G+, ello

Monday Meows

May 25, 2020 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Hep, hep, I’z trapped! I’z being oppressed!

Did you hear something that sounded like a kitten?

Nope.

And neither did you. Not if you know what’s good for you.

‘s okay?

‘s all right.

F***ing catnip dreams.

Monday Meows

May 18, 2020 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Every time I count, I come up with an extra foot…

Oh, honey…

Just let it go.

I think I can get out of here this way…

Why everybody so weird, I sleeps now.

 

 

Monday Meows Shakespearean Edition

May 11, 2020 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging

I come not to curry Caesar but to braise him

You what the who now?

The salad that cats dish lives after them.

The hell…

The broth is best infused with the bones

Wake me when it’s over.

So let it steep with Caesar.

He ain’t clever, he’s my brother.

The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was delicious!
Shut up and say, goodnight, Gracie.
Goodnight Gracie?

Monday Meows May The 4th Be With You

May 4, 2020 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

May the 4th be with you!

Live long and pawsper!

Wrong franchise, dudette.

I Jedi, see my robez!

Taste the force!

What does that even mean?

Halp, I iz trapped in a trash compactor!

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Soon, my apprentice you will belong to me!

Monday Meows

April 27, 2020 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

You may kiss the royal paw…

May I really?

I don’t want to, you can’t make me, and I have knives, so there.

I iz puzzled.

Have you ever really looked at your box?

World Building: In depth or in focus

April 23, 2020 in Publishing, Writing

Some brief thoughts on worldbuilding adapted from a note I wrote to a writer friend this morning.

Nota bene: I describe myself as world driven writer. I would cheerfully write travelogues about worlds that exist only in my head if I could get paid for it. Since I can’t, I’m a novelist. I ADORE world building. It’s also not what writing is about. So…

World building more generally. There are three main ways to crack that problem from where I sit.

1) You can do what I do, which is more or less have a big chunk of world jump into your head in one go, and then sit down and extrapolate how that plays out and how you got to that point with a thousand years of alternate history that literally no one will ever see taking up space in your head. This works really well for me, but that’s more or less a side effect of how my brain is wired, and while I do a pretty good job of focusing down from there to find the actual story, it’s not a great plan for most people.

X) A brief digression. Any writing advice that helps you advance the story you want to tell is good advice. Any advice that causes you to freeze up, feel despondent, or otherwise does not help you move the story forward is bad advice and should be discarded without a second thought.

2) Bullet point the big things in your world building. The ones that really matter. In this case: what happened to cause your apocalypse? Ignore the rest until you need it. When do you need it? When it directly impacts the story as you’re telling it and when it’s something your Point of View characters would know and can express within the needs of the story.

3) Don’t world build outside the confines of the story at all. Tell the story. Focus tight on the bits you think are important, the emotional context, the family struggles, the really cool setting, independence, overcoming the post-apocalyptic landscape. When you need something outside that focus to serve as a lever in the shape of conflict or peril, write the scene with [fill in world detail here] and don’t worry about what needs to go there until you see how the story unfolds and tools you need to make it happen.

World building isn’t really a goal in itself. You need a world in which your story can happen, but it doesn’t have to be a big bold fully fleshed thing. If that stuff makes you happy, go ahead and write it. If it doesn’t, you can think of the action of the story like the action of a stage play. Focus on what has to be painted on the canvas walls or set on the prop table to make the story work in the enclosed space of the play. The fact that it’s all just happening in an enclosed and artificial environment surrounded by what is essentially a big empty block of space painted black doesn’t really matter to the action of the play.

Monday Meows

April 20, 2020 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

I spy with my…is that my…oh, wait, it’s my line! Hey gurl…

You, sir, are a cad.

My bruder is computer assisted design? Whoaaaaaaa…

Have you been into the nip again?

No nip here.

DUUUUUUUUUUUDE!

DUD? Me no gets it.

 

On Kindness

April 15, 2020 in Musings, Politics/Public Service, Speaking Up

I have a little bit of extra bandwidth at the moment because the pandemic is hitting me a lot less hard than many for a variety of reasons*, so, I thought I would expand on something I wrote yesterday. I said that now might be a good time to be gentle with each other and to practice the skill of kindness. I said that, because more than anything that’s what I believe will get us through this crisis.
COVID is a world changing event and it’s still very much in the early phases. It’s likely to get a lot worse before it gets significantly better and it will change everything about our world. It will change how we relate to each other. It will change how we understand community. It will change our beliefs about the powers and needs of government and social safety nets. We will lose people who are dear to us. We will lose people we don’t know well who have impacts on our lives we never anticipated. Distribution chains and the economics of business and government are going to be changed. Health care and the whole idea of lean, just-in-time processes are going to be completely different. We, as individuals, as communities, as nations, and as a world are going to be as radically changed by this experience as our forebears were changed by world wars, by the depression, by plagues…hell, by the fall of the Roman Empire.
I’m not going to make predictions about how those things will change us all because I don’t know what it will all mean in the longer run, though I have some thoughts. But one thing I do know is that, right now, at the front end of this, we need to be thinking about who we want to be in the face of this adversity. Do we want to be the rugged, individualist characters from a badly written post-holocaust book where only the strong survive, or do we want to be smart, caring, social beings who reach deep and learn how to take care of each other and to treat those in need as we would want to be treated ourselves? We can scratch and claw and express our stress with each other through anger and bitter words, or we can strive to be kind, to be gentle, to help each other be better.
I know which way I want to see us go, but I don’t know which path we will walk. I talk about practicing kindness as a skill, because I believe that it is exactly that. It is a group of behaviors that we can focus on and improve if we try. I am not by nature kind. I have a volatile, even dangerous temper, I am naturally impatient with people who don’t learn as quickly as I do, I can be petty and I have always had to fight with a tendency toward contempt. I have spent my entire life striving against those impulses that make me the worst version of myself. In times of stress that becomes simultaneously harder and more important and I have invested enormous time and intellectual labor in tamping down those impulses and teaching myself to turn to the techniques of kindness when I feel them. I often fail, especially in the first few seconds of a quick response, and because of that, I have taught myself to fight against that first instant reaction, to wait, and to think, to force myself into second and third thoughts. I have learned kindness, not as a first impulse, but as a thing to always reach for.
It’s not easy for many of us, and if you choose to try to practice the skill of kindness it’s quite possible you will fuck it up as thoroughly as I do from time to time, but the rewards are immense, both in terms of being able to look yourself in the eye in the mirror and in terms of building a better community of friends and neighbors. It is a skill that undergirds civilization and it is one that I know you can manage if you want to and aren’t already there. I believe in your ability to be that better person and in our ability to get through this all and out the other side as a better community and civilization. I believe that we can use this time of enormous fear and stress to grow and change and become better.
I know some of you are trapped at home alone and that your anxieties and depression are trying to eat you alive. I know some of you are locked away from loved ones you desperately want to see and hold and simply be with. I know that some of you are trapped inside with loved ones and discovering that maybe working away from home is better for your relationships than all this time together. I know some of you are trapped with people you don’t want to be with. I know that some of you are desperately afraid for your health, your loved ones, and your ability to keep putting bread on the table and paying the rent. This is a time of incredible uncertainty and pain and loss for so many. You all need us to be gentle and kind with you, and I know that even when you’re angry and desperate and wanting to lash out, you can see that we all need the same from you.
Be gentle, be kind, strive to be your best self. That’s how we get through this and come out the other side with pride in who we will become and how we handled the great challenge of our era.
_______________________________________________________________
*Full disclosure because I do understand how fortunate I am and how that colors my thinking.
–I’m used to being home alone because I write novels for a living.
–I already sorted out dealing with Laura being home all the time because her sabbatical started 9 months ago.
–I’m less stressed out about the publishing industry being on fire, because my career was already on the rocks.
–My career woes do not jeopardize our being able to afford life.
–I processed my career woes and started putting a recovery plan together months ago.
–I adapted to my career woes, by embracing the idea of a joint sabbatical to rethink why I write.

Monday Meows

April 13, 2020 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

I do plumbings now!

No, I haven’t seen Wooster, why do you ask?

I was just setting up this new counter for bowling for monkeys…

Bowling for monkeys? You’ve piqued my interest…

We who plumb are not amused.

Iz bowling bawl!

Fine, I play too.

 

 

Monday Meows

April 6, 2020 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Hey gurl…

Not this again…

VA-VA-VOOM!

I thought you fuckers said you deleted that shot.

So bored.

So betrayed.