So you wanna create a universe?

My UCLA Extension Writers’ Program course, “Creating Universes, Building Worlds,” is officially open for students this week. This is a ten-week course that runs online, available to anyone in the world (well, fifteen anyones, anyway). Classes start on June 29th and run to September.

Anyone is welcome, including students who’ve taken the class before and simply want to workshop another short story with a new group. If you have any questions, let me know.

Ten Totally True Minnow Facts

And the writing point about this is: are your characters at least as different as my two cats?

1. Minnow drools like a running firehose when she’s being petted. Bites, too, and seems entirely unaware that she’s doing it.

2. She can’t move her eyes very well–it’s like they’re too big for her skull–and so turns her whole head to look at things.

3. She really likes to chew on plastic, and has that fiendish cat way of finding it wherever it is hidden.

4. She sings, operatically, late at night to the one toy that came to our house from her first home. The aria-yodels to Turtlebaby are heartfelt and loud, and if they happen to wake one out of a sound sleep, they can convince you that she’s regurgitating her own pancreas.

5. Minnow is the first cat we’ve ever had who wasn’t either black and white or gray and white.

6. She is a creature of passions. She loooooooves Turtlebaby. She loooooves the rubber zoom groom brush that keeps her overcoat glistening and soft. When she wants love she scampers around looking bug-eyed and beseeching.

7. She gives every appearance of enjoying it when I photograph her.

8. Somehow this matches up with the big bulgy eyes–her skin feels drum-tight. It’s not the loose rolling cat flesh one usually encounters, and when she purrs it’s a thrum, an intense hum bound in a high-pressure sheath.

9. She prefers cheap, grocery-grade treats to the healthy vet-bought ones. Baby loves her junk food.

10. Another passion: she lives to eat grassy things, especially chives, and loves to nom them back like an antelope cropping the savannah before coming indoors to spew green-laced biocontent all over our floor.

Ten true facts about Rumble

There is (barely) a writing-related point to this post, which is as follows: It’s Friday morning: do you know where your characters are? Do you know as much about your protagonist as I know about my cat?

1. Rumble is willing to pretend to follow a small but fixed number of rules. Since we have been strictly enforcing the ‘no jumping on Minnow’ rule, he has decided he is no longer banned from the kitchen.

2. The one commercially available toy that Rumble will always play with is the Silly Kitty hemp mouse, which, according to Sophie’s Pet Palace, is about to be unavailable forever.

3. Rumble was named for the very loud kitten purr that we almost never hear anymore; as an adult, his purr is very grunty.

4. But once, late at night a couple years ago, I woke and he was doing it, purring like a motorboat between our sleeping heads.

5. When we got back from Alberta after the worst of the family funerals, he slept, for one night, with his cheek on mine.

6. There are three identical hairbrushes in my house. Two are mine and one is Rum’s. If he sees me brushing my hair, he looks beseechingly at me and meows and meows and meows.

7. If Kelly is braiding my hair, he’ll sit up on a stool in front of me so I can simo-brush him. He will get up on the stool if he sees us fetching hair elastics. He will come running if I bang the hairbrush on the stool.

8. Rumble will often come if we call Minnow’s name. Because why should she get any love? (I think you can guess what happens if we call his name.)

9. Sometimes if we’ve both been gone awhile and have come home, he’ll forget we’re back, and go to the door and cry for us.

10. He loves David Attenborough’s The Life of Birds and will always come check out what’s on the toob when he hears Sir David’s voice.

11. He can’t count to ten and probably doesn’t want to know ten things about your pet, but I might.

12. Even when he is hogging my office chair, he is pretty photogenic.

Writing links, three bags full

My Spring 2011 Novel III class starts up next Wednesday and it’s about a fifty/fifty mix of students I’ve had in earlier classes and people I’ve never met before. It’ll be interesting to see what that’s like: half the projects will be new to me, and the others will be novels I’ve looked at quite closely.

One of the things I do with these classes is sift useful links from the flow of the Twitternets and other places and post them as guest lectures. Some are so valuable that I post them pretty much every time . . . which means they’ll be reruns for the folks who’ve taken my fall class.

I thought, for the sake of interest, I’d look at the links I considered postworthy last quarter. There’s a lot of them, and some were things I looked up as discussions progressed, so if it feels like the context is lacking, that’s why. There’s some interesting stuff here, and you all know a lot came up in the past quarter that could have gone on the list too, but this is what ended up hitting my classroom. Feel free to propose your faves in comments.

Scott Edelman – fifteen minute video, “How to Respond to a Critique of Your Writing

Juliette Wade – Character-driven approach to kissing and sex scenes
Jay Lake – Producing Story
Kay Kenyon – The Mush Factor
Jon Sprunk – The Journey from Seedling to Bookshelf
Jane Friedman – You Hate Your Writing? That’s a Good Sign!
Sonya Chung – Writing Across Gender (This essay quotes the sex scene from BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, so maybe don’t read it at work.)
Chuck Wendig – Storytelling and the Art of Sadness
Three from Cat Rambo – Three strategies for snaring the senses, Five things to do in your first three paragraphs, and Why Titles Matter.
Nicola Griffith – Narrative Grammar – An Exercise
Suzannah Windsor Freeman – Seven Tasks to Bridge your First and Second Drafts
Joe McKinney – Rules for Writing about Cops

Revision and editing
Jan Winburn – How to Edit Your Way to a Can’t-Miss Story (be sure to check out the slide show.)
June Casagrande – More Parsing Larsson

Marketing Books / The Publishing Industry:
Query Shark Blog
Anna Kashina – Interview with editor Peter Stampfel
Charlie Stross – How Books are Made
Christina Thompson – How to Write a Book in Ten Easy… Years?
J.E. Fishman – Twelve Common Miscperceptions about Book Publishing
Stina Leicht – On Agents
YA Fantasy Guide – Interview with Agent Sarah Megibow
Colleen Lindsay – Word counts for fiction, all kinds of fiction

The ever-changing state of self and e-pubbing:
John Scalzi – ePubbing Bingo Card
James Maxey – Pouring Cold Water on Kindle-ing
Eli James – The Very Rich Indie Writer
Tonya Plank – Meet Amanda Hocking
Book View Cafe

Turning Research into Narrative
Steve Pinker – Ten minute video on Language as a window into human nature
Yasmine Galenorn – Research Notebook from Hell

Life as a Writer
Finally, two from John Scalzi – “Writers have as much (financial) sense as chimps on crack“, and a tough love link on work habits.

Bridge over the River Staycation

I have been working on a few fiction projects at once these past few weeks: drafting one book, thinking about another, and poking away at a quartet of stories. I prefer to sink a little more deeply into one thing, but I have been playing around a lot these past couple of weeks, even with my fiction time.

(Fooling around at this point in my life seems to include playing with WordPress, which is how I ended up loading the new theme for my site. Very Indigo Springs / Blue Magic appropriate, I think! Well… blue, anyway.)

The reason for the playing around was that Kelly and I were loafing as much as was possible, because she’s changing to a new job and we don’t know yet–but will soon!–how it affects our vacation plans further down the road. And next week I am not doing the mentoring gig at all, though I am doing some other teaching and will still get up and write fiction, perhaps in a less random fashion.

That makes this the week where I catch up everything I neglected last week, and get ahead on everything I plan to neglect next. I knocked two big tasks off the mountain today, and hope to seriously dent another tomorrow.