Saturday, January 25, 2014

On First Drafts

Confession time: I'm doing it again. Neglecting this blog because I don't feel like what I have to say is worth sharing. Not a good habit for a writer, even one as erratic as myself.

The good news, though, is that I actually sat down and wrote a short story this week! It's about 3K in length, and it's awful. Really awful, in fact. But my first drafts always are, so I'm not overly concerned.

Some writers enjoy the first draft, with its freedom to let the imagination run rampant before later drafts start fussing over the details. Not me, though. First drafts are like pulling teeth for me. Something about a blank page (whether paper or pixels) just intimidates me to no end. I do better with revising. Though it's always a lot of work, and often quite a slog, I find it easier to reshape what's there into something better, something stronger. Creating it in the first place is scary stuff in my world.

As with everything, this brings me back to art. When I start a sketch, I block in the shapes very lightly, and very loosely. Often it bears very little resemblance to the finished (or idealized) product, and it's easy to get discouraged ("This looks like crap! I wasted how much time on this?") But subsequent passes refine each shape, making sure their proportions, placement, and relations to one another are right before I put in the details. This is how I think of my writing — each draft gets the big stuff into place until I start refining down the details.

In summary: "I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter." ~ James Michener

Thursday, January 16, 2014

10 Random Facts About Me

I'm not very good at talking about myself. In fact, I'm what's known on the internets as a lurker. I will read what other people have to say, privately agree or disagree, but rarely post my own thoughts. Sometimes it's out of sheer laziness, sometimes it's just because I don't think what I have to say is worth putting down. An excellent quality in a writer, I know. So if my posts here on this blog are infrequent or incoherent, now you'll know why.

I love to knit and crochet. I don't get to do as much of it as I'd like, because my eyesight is terrible, so I can't just, say, knit while watching tv because of constantly having to take my glasses off to see my stitches, then glasses on to watch tv, and so forth (see above, re: laziness) And I'll admit, I usually don't want to take time out of my day to knit or crochet because there are always so many other things to do (I call it Creative ADD).

I lived in Ontario, Canada for ten months when I was eleven. Even though this happened to coincide with one of the coldest winters the region had seen in some years, I really enjoyed my time there and would love to see it (as well as the rest of the country) again someday.

I love plants and flowers, but can't grow them to save my life. My mother has two green thumbs, and sometimes I think she can make things grow just by looking at them. Sadly, I did not inherit that ability. So I compromise by doing as many paintings of nature (especially flowers) as I can manage.

I am too wordy for Twitter. This probably stems from my love of run-on sentences, big words, and commas. 140 characters?! I'm just getting started!

I took dance lessons from age twelve to twenty-one. Jazz and modern were my favorites, though I did take some ballet, and a smattering of other styles as well. Though I don't dance anymore, I enjoyed it a lot, and love watching others dance (when I can find anything on American tv, that is).

Back in St. Olaf… I have seen every episode of Golden Girls and The Simpsons more times than I can possibly count, and can usually Name That Episode in under a minute.

I home-schooled for two years. I actually skipped seventh grade, entered high school at thirteen, and graduated two months before my 17th birthday.

I have a near-perfect memory… when it comes to things like movies, music and television (just don't ask me to remember why I've walked from one room to another). I can recite nearly every line of movies like Clue, Princess Bride, and Highlander, to name a few. What can I say, some things just stick in my head, the more useless the better.

I lived in Arizona for nine years before seeing the Grand Canyon. And it's not like I live in the southern part of the state, where it can be a long drive to reach the Canyon. I don't know why, it's just how things worked out. But it was certainly worth the wait!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

On writing, and dreaming big

I never set out to be a writer.

I've always loved reading, so wanting to create my own stories came naturally. And I did make up my own stories over the years, when the mood struck me. But my first love has always been art - and since 2005, specifically watercolor paintings.

Art is who I am, and how I see the world. Which pigments would best capture the exact shade of blue of an Arizona sky? What kind of brushstrokes would best express the needles of a pine tree caught in the sun? When I see shadows on a white car, I study how the shadow changes from grey to blue to purple as it curves along the car, away from the sun. I live and breathe art.

So to keep a long story short (too late): although I've been drawn to storytelling for as long as I can remember, it was never my go-to mode of expression. Whereas art came naturally to me, writing has been a challenge. Oh, not the basic, high school English class stuff. But the nitty-gritty of plotting, structure and the like just doesn't come naturally to me. In a lot of ways, learning to write has been like rewiring my brain to function in Mandarin - utterly foreign to me.

All this to say I've never been the most prolific writer. Or the most dedicated, if I'm going to be honest. Many ideas have come and gone over the years - some I plan to revisit, some are probably best left in the past. In the spring of 2010 I got the spark of yet another idea, for the story that would become Last Night in Ghosttown. And somehow, my interest in it never waned. Sure, the writing always went on hold when I'd get inspired for another painting. But I kept going back to LNiG, and plugged away on it for over three years. My ultimate writing goal when I started my little novella was to finish it. (Nothing like dreaming big!) Despite a long journey filled with lots of self-doubt, hair-pulling and trips to the library, I finally finished it in the summer of 2013. And to my great surprise, I actually liked it quite a bit. Frankly, this was more than I'd ever hoped for.

So imagine my complete shock when I received an offer to publish Last Night in Ghosttown. It's so far beyond the scope of what I would have ever dreamed that I still can't quite believe it sometimes.

I don't know where my writing will take me next. There are far too many characters, and their stories, bouncing around in my mind for me to stop now. I can only hope that my next project doesn't take me three and a half years to finish! Talk about dreaming big.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2013: Looking Back

2013 was, in most respects, an awful year. Personally, I was sick a lot. Artistically, my alter ago was very productive, creating 15 paintings last year. And as a writer, I started with an all-but-trunked WIP, Last Night in Ghosttown... and closed the year with a sale for LNiG to be published in 2014!

When 2013 started, I hadn't touched Last Night in Ghosttown in seven months (blame my alter ego for taking over my limited attention span). I decided 2013 would be the year I'd finally finish that poor thing, after starting it waaay back in 2010 (why yes, I am the world's slowest writer). Somehow I managed, in fits and spurts, to finish the third act until I reached the pivotal ending scene - and got completely stuck. The ending I’d intended for years just felt... stale, somehow, and I didn’t know what to do. LNiG probably would have languished in Unfinished Hell forever if not for the friendly, much-needed prodding of my wonderful beta readers. With their metaphorical kicks in the butt, I finished it... and with their encouragement, I took a chance and subbed it, expecting absolutely nothing to come of it. And on the last day of 2013, I received a contract offer. Happy New Year indeed!

And now, thanks to the amazing people of Eggplant Productions, Last Night in Ghosttown will be making its debut to the world in a few months time. So to everyone who has helped me in this long and unpredictable journey, I thank you. You’ve all helped me to achieve more than I ever would’ve hoped for. Group hug!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Welcome to my blog, wherein you'll find ramblings on writing, fantasy and sci-fi, and whatever else comes into my mind. Any resemblance to coherency is purely coincidental!

My sci-fi novella "Last Night in Ghosttown" will be released this May by Eggplant Productions:

Last Night in Ghosttown by Kathryn McKade explores love, loss and hope set in a far-flung, future Bharat empire. 
In the Maharajah’s Consortium every aspect of citizens’ lives is monitored by the GRID.  Throughout the galaxy, on every planet: money, property, even lives are tracked by General Resource Interactive Display.  Everywhere, that is, except for Ghosttown.  Ghosttown: slum, theme park, holy city, the city that time forgot. 
Enter Dev. In five days he leaves for Misra 7, a planet entrenched in a war so deadly it’s known as The House of Death.  So it’s one last hurrah before he ships out. 
Despite being on a strict time table, Dev allows a would-be thief, Rishi, talk him into handing out expensive med-gems to the sick and needy.  What Rishi gets out of this, Dev doesn’t know.  What he does know is that he keeps putting off his departure date, and he can’t deny that Rishi is the reason. 
Does Dev stick around for Holi, help the people trapped in Ghosttown, and risk getting branded a deserter?  Or should he clear out before he gives up his heart to Rishi?

More info coming soon! I can't promise I'll be the most frequent blogger, but I will do my best not to let this blog languish in cyberspace.