December 12, 2013


Once, at a writing conference, I learned that the woman I was chatting with was the mother of eight.  Upon hearing this, my first thought was amazement that she was upright, showered, and indistinguishable from any other woman at the conference. My second thought was to ask her for advice.

"How do you find time to write?" I asked.

"It is really hard," she said, nodding sagely like she got this question all the time.

I waited attentively for her pearls of wisdom.

The woman sighed. "There are just too many good books to read. I always get distracted. I'm working on it, though."

And that was it.

It's weird. Over and over it seems, I run into the often-loud opinion that it's impossible to write while there are small children in the house. I don't seem to find the same advice about demanding jobs or graduate degrees or volunteer work or playing DnD. In fact, the only position I've heard as routinely labeled as a black hole for writing is that of being SFWA president.

For me, at least, telling myself that "I'll write more when I'm less busy" or "I'll write when I'm feeling super-organized, inspired, and well-rested" has always been a bigger danger to writing than cuddling a newborn on the rocking chair. Whenever the echo of naysayers begins to creep in, I think of that mom of eight. There are dozens of things I do with my time everyday. I just need to make sure that writing is one of them.

November 4, 2013

Updates: Books, Board Games, Babies

1. Drift is still on schedule to come out next year. I've been getting to see the cover concepts; it's very exciting! Also, reading/writing my bio is still weird.

2. You may have noticed a recent dearth of board game reviews/match-ups. After moving, I'm mostly playing games I already know with friends who live nearby, instead of lots of new games at a board game shop. So I hope to have more of these, but I expect them to be slow in coming.

3. But, I have been working on formatting a free, print-and-play board game that's played in Drift. It's abstract -- think Checkers or Go -- but I think this will be fun for readers who also play board games. I'm planning on putting this up when the release date for the book is closer. Maybe on release day to celebrate. :)

4. You've probably also noticed a slowing of blog posts here. It's been a busy few months, moving out-of-state and settling into a new apartment while keeping up on writing, edits, and everything else. "Everything else" includes getting ready for a new baby in our lives, who is finally due this month! So, I expect blog posts to be slow through the holidays, too. Next year, it looks like I'll be part of a new blogging project...but I'll give more details when everything's in place.

5. The Kickstarter for Not A Villain: Book 2 ends in five days. The project has already funded (hurrah!). The artist/writer, Aneeka, is someone I know in real life, and she tells an amazing web comic story. If you're not familiar with it and want to check it out, the comic is here.

6. Gem State Writers, where I contributed until leaving the fabulous state of Idaho, has just closed its doors. If you've enjoyed it, and want to say good-bye, click here for the final post.

October 15, 2013

Word Choice in Secondary World Fantasy

I've been obsessively editing a new project. One of the annoying and wonderful things about this is finding words that don't fit in the novel's setting. English is full of idiomatic expressions I take for granted.

I can't have a character barrel past someone in a culture that uses large, earthenware pots for food storage.

The phrase "keeping someone at bay" sounds silly in a land-locked society.

Having anything ingot-shaped is problematic when there's no metallurgy.

Sometimes this is infuriating. I'd described one character as having "silvery hair." It's not a particularly unique phrase, but "silvery" came with connotation of wealth and status that matched the character. But with no silver in the book, it had to go.

"Gray" just wasn't the same.Gray is the color of over-boiled cabbage and old clothes. I'd keep the nod to her age but lose all the connotations I liked. Wikipedia's list of colors gave no easy solutions.

So I started thinking about what was available in the setting instead. Plants, animals, food. Eventually I settled on "slate-gray hair." Slate felt hard, unforgiving, perhaps even reminiscent of an angry 1800's school teacher -- another important aspect of this character.

I probably could have chopped the adjective. Her dialogue is already hard-nosed, her dress opulent. But that tiny word clued in her age, reinforced the viewpoint character's fear, and now backed up the setting. Obsessing over one word probably wouldn't make the novel better, but after dozens of changes, I feel like the novel is a bit richer and a bit more itself than it was before.

September 3, 2013

Favorite Daily Science Fiction Stories

I've been subscribing to Daily Science Fiction for two years now. Weird. It doesn't feel like that long.

If you're not familiar with the magazine, Daily Science Fiction e-mails a SF/F story every weekday to its sucribers (subscribing is free). Monday through Thursday is flash fiction, generally under 1,000 words and sometimes much shorter, while Friday stories run longer.

I've kept a folder in my e-mail just to keep track of my favorite DSF stories; I've pulled this handful of recommendations from there. Some of these are humorous, most of the rest tragic. Fiction this short seems to lend itself very well to ending with a laugh or a gut wrench. In any case, if you're looking for something (short) to read, here's some suggestions:

August 23, 2013

Co-op Train Game: A Free PnP

Forever ago, when I went to LTUE, I printed this free Co-op Train Game designed by Randy Cox. It seemed like a nice way to show the kiddos I hadn't forgotten them.

Of course, no one played the game until after I returned home. Sigh. But since then, it's become one of our favorites. And one of the few kids' co-ops that I know.

The essence of the game is to move about the board, pick up goods from the green spaces, and then deliver them to the appropriate yellow locations. Everyone works as a team trying to make the deliveries before the sun marker reaches the end of the day.

August 16, 2013

There and Back Again

So, the new blog layout didn't seem to load correctly half the time. Alas. I've returned to the simpler template, but hopefully made the blog easier on the eyes in the process.

My posts have been sparse of late for two reasons: moving out-of-state, and moving out-of-state while completing edits on Drift. The book cover is currently being designed, the text is getting close to its final form. This is all feeling very real; it's exciting watching all the pieces come together.

July 28, 2013

Blog Changes!

So, Twitter pointed me to the Dynamic Views format for Blogger. I like how easy it is to navigate. I'm still working on reformatting the blog, especially figuring out how to get my banner pic back, but I'm hoping in the next short while, I'll have all that smoothed out. The preview function doesn't work very well, so if you see anything truly odd-looking on the blog, I'm probably checking some formatting issue. If this isn't easier to read, let me know!

July 18, 2013


My latest (and last) post for Gem State Writers, "Adapting" is up, here. Enjoy!

June 13, 2013

A Macro for Line-Editing in Microsoft Word

Today at Gem State Writers, I'm talking about the What, Why, and How of Line Edits.

But here, I wanted to share (with permission) the excellent tool my husband programmed to assist with line edits.  He watched me spending hour after hour using CTRL+F to go through my list of potentially problematic line edit word list...and then programmed a button into Word that instantly highlights every one of these.

Line edits went much, much faster.  Here's the technical bits:

The list of words is easily customized.  It is a Visual Basic Applications script so it should work with all versions of Word, though how to set it up will be different for newer versions of Word. On the new version the Visual Basic Editor is in Developer tab.

June 6, 2013

K-Drama for the Epic Fantasy Reader

At least once a week, I read something on Twitter about TV that makes me want to respond "you really should be watching historical Korean dramas."  Frustrated with episodic stories that go nowhere? Historical k-drama. Longing for wide-sweeping, big-scope stories?  K-drama.  Want interesting female characters?  K-drama.  Lamenting there's no chance for tragedy?  K-drama.

I'm fairly new to watching this genre, but it explodes my epic-loving brain.  Sweeping stakes.  Politics that really...well, make sense as politics.  Often, novels and movies talk vaugely about "political power" or "influence," but the dramas show how people are power.

Really, the historical k-dramas utilize a whole series of tropes I'd never seen before.  The first historical k-drama I watched, I felt like I'd just discovered Robin Hood and King Arthur for the first time.  It's changed the way I think about fiction and storytelling.

And so, if you love epic fantasy...big, rolling stories that are worth every second...I've got a pair of reccomendations.

Faith.  A warrior travels forward in time, looking for a legendary doctor to save the Queen's life, and brings back a plastic surgeon instead.  This story is half-historical, set in the mid-14th century reign of King Gongmin of Goryeo -- a turbulent time where the king tries to assert Goryeo's independence from Yuan (China).  But there's also some fantasy elements -- a bit of time travel, and some combat magic.

This is an easy show to drop into.  Having someone from the modern world kidnapped into 1300's politics allows for a gentler learning curve.  For all the sweeping drama -- coups, military maneuvers, betrayals and manipulations -- I loved the occasional funny character moments that sneak in.  The king and queen's relationship here also gave me the epiphany that I don't hate romance...I just like a specific kind of romance, which this had in spades.  Literally, I jumped up and down and squealed like a broken saxophone when this married couple held hands.  One day, I hope I write a romantic plot line half as emotional.  Overall, this series is twenty-four episodes of goodness.

May 24, 2013

Bricks and Sunlight

My short story "Bricks and Sunlight" is now out in Volume 3 of Suddenly Lost in Words.  Over Memorial Day weekend, on the 26th and 27th, the issue will be available for free on Amazon, here.

I've been chewing over the ideas in "Bricks and Sunlight" for a long time, but the ideas only recently grew into a story.  I hope you enjoy!

May 11, 2013

Dirt Candy Review at Bookshop Talk

My review of Dirt Candy is up at Bookshop Talk!  It's half cook book, half comic book, and all fun.  Check out the review here.

May 9, 2013

GSW & Review

My newest post, "Rockets and Leaf-Mould" is up over at Gem State Writers, here.

I was also happy to read this great review of my novelette, "The Temple's Posthole" up at Tanget.  This is, I think, my best story to date.  It's always nice to see people enjoy something I wrote, but I especially enjoyed this review because they enjoyed something I did on purpose.  You can read the whole review, but here's the excerpt that made me smile:

But what I love the most is that the story still centers around the characters and the mother-son relationship. I see precious few speculative fiction stories where characters younger than preteen play an important role, so it is delightful to see a narrative that not only has a strong supporting child character, but also pegs his age perfectly with age-appropriate dialogue and action....Even if you are not a parent, you will still find plenty to appreciate in Hutchin's dramatic first person narrative.

April 30, 2013

Raspberry Pudding

My short SF story, "Raspberry Pudding" is out in this issue of Abyss & Apex.  You can read it online, for free, here.  I had a lot of fun writing this story -- I hope you enjoy!

March 25, 2013

SFWA Membership

I am now a member of SFWA.  It's kinda surreal.

Joining SFWA has been a goal of mine since I was thirteen.  I used to reward myself for meeting my writing goals by reading articles on the SFWA website.  I read all of them -- many times.  There were a good deal fewer articles then.

I learned that real writers submit stories and collect rejection letters.  When I got my first such letter, in all its form-like splendor, I saved it in a folder with pride.  I knew I probably wouldn't start selling anything until I had enough of those to wallpaper a room, but I was on my way.  Another article covered proper manuscript format.  I learned I should write, submit, and then forget about the submission and write something new.  Other articles covered bad contracts clauses, vanity presses, and other potential pitfalls.

In short, SFWA established good habits in my malleable young brain and helped me avoid scams.  And now I get to join them.  Just in time to vote for the Nebula Awards.

March 12, 2013

Building Their Bookshelf

The way physical space affect human behavior fascinates me.  Grocery stores are experts at this, using the physical layout of the store to maximize profits.  Last week, I learned how to change the physical space of a bookshelf to help my kids.

Normal bookshelves are not particularly friendly for small hands.  It's impossible to see the covers, and there's an amount of fine dexterity required that makes taking books out (or putting them back!) frustrating.

Then I visited a friend, who'd made a horizonal book rack out of a shipping pallet, like this.  Genius.  Pure Genius. Easy to see the books.  Easy to grab them.  Easy to put back.  Easy to riffle through.

March 4, 2013

Write up on The Temple's Posthole

The story-behind-the-story of "The Temple's Posthole" is now up on Side-Show Freaks, here.  I talk about postholes, moms in fiction, and bread and circuses.  Enjoy!

February 28, 2013

Book Announcement!

It's official!  From Publisher's Weekly:

Stacy Whitman at Lee & Low Books has acquired North American English and Spanish rights to the YA fantasy Drift by debut author M.K. Hutchins. In the book, Tenjat decides to save his family from poverty by joining the island's Handlers, who have the dangerous job of protecting their island – a giant turtle – from the "naga" monsters that surround them. Publication is set for spring 2014 under the Tu Books imprint; the Ashley Grayson Agency brokered the deal.

Needless to say, I'm thrilled to be able to tell everyone about this!  Working with Stacy on this book has been amazing. 

I started writing this story some seven or eight years ago.  Every few years I'd take it out, polish it up, then toss it in the back of the drawer while I worked on other projects.  It never quite felt finished.  Drift might still be in that drawer, if not for a library presentation from Laura Bingham.  I chatted with her afterwards, and she gave me the sage advice that submitting manuscripts is rather like doing the laundry: it isn't always enjoyable, but I should get into a routine of doing it.   

Drift came out of the drawer once more.  Off it went to Tu Books.  And to my delight, it stuck.

The Unexpected Outline

Over at Gem State Writers today, I have a post up, "The Unexpected Outline," about how writing processes change over time.

February 22, 2013

The Temple's Posthole

My novelette, "The Temple's Posthole," is now up at IGMS.  This story was illustrated in color for the cover of the issue, and the art's gorgeous.  Check the story and the art out here.

February 19, 2013

LTUE Highlights

In no particular order...

1. I listened to James A. Owen make a rather convincing argument that goats, in fact, would be a valuable space commodity.  I wish I could replicate the awesomeness of his comments for everyone who wasn't in that jam-packed room.

2. I met most of my writing group in person.  We're spread across three time zones, and I now know faces where before I only heard voices.

3. Discovering the green room, and that the green room had eclairs and croissant sandwiches.  I was on just one panel, but the amazing LTUE volunteers always made me feel welcome.

February 1, 2013

LTUE Schedule

I'm very happy that things have worked out for me to attend Life, the Universe, and Everything 31.  This is the first conference I ever attended, and going last year felt a bit like going home.

I'll be participating as a panelist for the first time this year -- "Using Anthropology for Inspiration," a topic I'm very excited about.  It's Saturday at noon, for anyone attending who want to come by.

January 24, 2013

Through the Window: POV

My January post is up at Gem State Writers (here) -- this time on POV and seeing it through a child's camera.

January 17, 2013

Comparison of Kids' Games

Ever since Christmas, I've been playing a lot of board games.  Lots and lots.  All designed for little people.  This is by no means a comprehensive list of board games designed for kids -- but it's the handful we've been playing.

Cootie.  This is one I played as a kid.  It's super-simple.  Roll the dice.  Obtain the corresponding bug part.  Build your bug.  Run around the house and play with the cootie bug afterwards.  My kiddos have been playing this one for some time.  They learned some pretty handy board game skills -- like taking turns and rolling a dice.  (Dice-rolling, I learned, is counter-intuitive.  If you need a six to win, why would you try to get a six by dropping it, instead of setting it on the right face?  We used a cup to roll the dice for a while).  Super-simple game, cool components.

Candyland.  Players draw a card on their turn and move to the next spaces the matches the color on the card.  There are some special cards that transport the player to a particular spot, and some spaces that do good or bad things.  The hardest part of this game is figuring out which direction is forward on the twisty, wiggly path cutting through abundant illustrations.  But I think the illustrations are also a large part of why the children like the game.

Sequence for Kids. This is my favorite, and the reason I decided to write this post, because I'd never heard of it before.  I thought it would take my kids some time to learn, because it's a more complicated game where playing actually requires strategy (Cootie and Candyland are completely random).

Each player has a hand of three cards. Each turn, they play one card and place one of their chips on one of two corresponding spaces on the board.  The first to get four chips in a row wins.  There are four free spaces, and two special cards: a unicorn that allows the player to play anywhere, and a dragon, which allows players to remove a chip.

Everyone learned the rules, if not the strategy behind winning, quickly.  I was pleasantly surprised at how this worked for both ages in my house.  The youngest just plays whichever animal he likes best.  The 4yo has caught on that the choices he makes influences the outcome of the game.  He's still learning the strategy, but he's abundantly fond of blocking people.  Cootie was a great game to learn some basic game-playing skills on and have a good time, and I feel Candyland is in that same vein.  This game feels like a great first step into strategy.  And because there's strategy, it's one I'm happy to play over and over.

Hungry, Hungry Hippos.  No taking turns.  No strategy.  Just chaotic marble-chomping.  I don't know why, but there's something oddly relaxing about lever-mashing and hoping for marbles at the end.  Kids think this is hilarious.  Lots of fun -- which is, after all, kinda the point of games.

Anyone have some favorite kid's games?

January 2, 2013

Near Future SF

Last year, my short story "Under Warranty" was published in Cucurbital 3.  The main character, an embezzling AI, is trapped inside the circuitry of a baby mattress that monitors its occupant's vitals as a preventative for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). 

I'm happy to say that the future is coming faster than I thought, and my story may not be science fiction very soon.  Today, I saw this video:

Very cool.  I hope the Owlet monitor is available soon.