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The Hot Mic - Issue #10 - 2021 Is Buried

The Hot Mic - Mur Lafferty's Weekly Newsletter
The Hot Mic - Mur Lafferty's Weekly Newsletter
It’s that time of year.
TOC:
  • Cover Reveal: The Ophelia Network
  • Interview!
  • State of Mur and the podcasts
  • Stuff I like
  • WorldCon wrap-up
  • It’s Okay Not To Be Okay
  • Aaaand 2022

Hot Mic logo, microphone, and Christmas ornaments overlaying saying 2022
Hot Mic logo, microphone, and Christmas ornaments overlaying saying 2022
Cover Reveal!
2021 was rough as I struggled through various issues with editing. In talking to some friends at WorldCon I think I’ve identified the issues, and hope I can move forward with some confidence. So it’s been a long time coming, but here is the cover for my novella, “The Ophelia Network”:
Bright red square with Morse code in background, foreground has title and shadow hands with a puppet.
Bright red square with Morse code in background, foreground has title and shadow hands with a puppet.
“The Ophelia Network” comes out May 26 on Audible! This is my “Blues Clues Meets 1984” story that I’ve been kicking around for a while. In short, with the Internet being constantly monitored and media censored, future resistance folks find that they can send coded messages via a children’s show. We meet the woman hired to put the codes into the show, as well as the boyishly charming host, who has no idea why the songs don’t quite scan…
Interview
Last week I was on the Novelist Spotlight and we talked about an hour about writing, routines, and more. The title pegs me as “Uber Podcaster” which immediately made me wonder if he was saying I was an uber driver and podcaster… it’s been a rough month, stay with me here.
Check it out on Apple Podcasts, or search Novelist Spotlight on your preferred podcatcher.
‎Novelist Spotlight on Apple Podcasts
State of the Mur and Podcasts
I won’t lie. It’s been a rough fall. I’m looking at 2022 thinking “Well, maybe this year will be better” but now I realize I’ve been thinking that since December, 2016. I’m getting kind of tired.
I’ve missed a few live streams, but hope to get back to it today. I’m trying to take time off but work on a lot of admin stuff in the time. Next year, I hope to renew my Patreon tiers, bring regular interviews to I Should Be Writing, and relaunch Ditch Diggers.
I’ll talk about more later, but right now, just picture me and the podcasts both just chilling.
Stuff I Like
Single All the Way:
Following up on the Christmas talk, I watched Single All the Way last week, which was very cute. Our Oblivious Hero (OOH) and his best friend Nick go to OOH’s hometown, pretending to be together to avoid being set up by his mom. The movie manages to portray a loving family that are not homophobic, but trying very hard to overcome their ignorance and welcome their son in a way that makes him know they love him. Mom quoting from a parenting a gay kid book is amusing, but the best scene came when son’s long time best friend (hint love interest) Nick is in the basement helping Dad with the plumbing. This is paraphrased since I’d rather get this out with paraphrased quotes than try to find the exact quote in the movie and just end up watching the whole thing again because ADHD is real y'all.
Handyman Nick is fixing plumbing. BFF’s Dad is behind him, holding a flashlight.
BFFD: How’d you learn how to do all this stuff?
Nick: Youtube and HGTV.
BFFD: What’s that? Homosexual Gay TV?
Nick: …you could say that.
BFFD: I’ll have to check it out… it’s not porn, is it?
Nick: (smiles to himself) Kind of.
I got a real sense of “curious, not mocking” feelings with this exchange. The older parents really are trying very hard to learn about their son’s world, and it’s clumsy and sweet.
BUT–I am straight and cis, so I could have been entirely wrong with how I read these scenes, so I went to look for some gay commentary. I found Emma Specter’s piece in Vogue, 43 Thoughts I Had Watching Single All The Way. Number 15 is “Michael Urie’s [OOH] dad thinks HGTV stands for Homosexual Gay TV Network, which, LOL.”
Specter’s article is almost enough to make me want a Vogue subscription to read her other work.
Another romance nice touch (pay attention, writers!): Mom tries to set Nick up with her super Hot Spin Guy, who looks at OOH the way Poe looks at Finn when they find each other again in Force Awakens. The dude is athletic, kind, funny, and clearly into OOH. Being with a terrible partner while the perfect one is right in front of you is played out. (It was the thing I hated about A Christmas Kiss, incidentally. Everything was good, except the antagonist was cardboard evil.) Hot Spinny figures out pretty quickly that OOH is in love with Nick, as all his stories feature him. He ends their little dating thing, pushing OOH gently toward the right person.
I call this the “Karen Filippelli Character.” In the Office season 3, Jim’s girlfriend Karen was smart, funny, pretty, and kind. Until some secrets got out, she and Pam got along great. You still wanted Jim and Pam to get together, but you can’t really point out anything wrong with Karen. Well, except … she wasn’t Pam.
There is even a hint that OOH has gotten Hot Spinny some modeling work in LA, getting him out of the podunk town. He didn’t give him his heart, but he did get him a cool job in a town with a lot more gay people. I do wish they’d followed through with that.
Downsides: As I mentioned in the last newsletter, I love a good fake romance trope. It feels like the writers pitched it, loved it, wrote it, and eventually decided to throw most of it away, which makes all the effort questionable. The family knows Nick and OOH aren’t together after about an hour of being home, and then Mom attacks with Hot Spinny. They completely threw away all opportunities of “Y'all can sleep together,”** or “give him a kiss for our mistletoe moment picture!” or SUPER awkward proposals (like Love Hard). Instead, the romantic heroes stay AWAY from each other, with OOH on dates with Hot Spinny, and Nick at home with the family, saving the pageant, doing handyman things, and being badgered as OOH’s nieces harass him into admitting he has feelings for OOH.
** Okay there was a forced sleeping together scene, but that was because the teens took over OOH’s bed and “fell asleep” before he got home from his date, so he had to bunk with Nick. Who sleeps with his shirt off. It doesn’t get naughty at that point, but is sweet.
Oh come ON, spoilers! Nick and Our Oblivious Hero almost kissing in front of a decorated house.
Oh come ON, spoilers! Nick and Our Oblivious Hero almost kissing in front of a decorated house.
Santa Cruise
I do love a good Christmas romance but this one turned me off since it really has an excellent opener for a thriller on a cruise ship and I kept waiting for scary shit to happen. When it didn’t, I lost interest.
I mean, think about it. Four high school best friends join a singles cruise at Christmas hoping to find a man or at least get a tan.
But then the murders begin! When Santa is found a) dead, and b) one of the friend’s high school boyfriends, accusations start flying and everyone wonders who they can trust.
And perhaps the killer isn’t done.
I’m telling ya. Printing gold.
Book Cover: closeup photo of a snow globe with a cruise ship inside.
Book Cover: closeup photo of a snow globe with a cruise ship inside.
[UPDATE: While I was searching for the cover for Santa Cruise, I found another book by the same title from 2006, by some unknown author called Mary Higgins Clark… I guess someone else has already printed that gold… dang.]
…That tranquility vanishes when two Santa suits disappear from a locked room, a storm develops, and an attempt is made on a passenger’s life. As the Royal Mermaid sails through troubled waters, Alvirah, Regan, and Jack uncover clues that lead them to dangerous criminals not on the original guest list…
Book Cover: illustration of a wreath and a hand floating at sea, cruise ship in distance.
Book Cover: illustration of a wreath and a hand floating at sea, cruise ship in distance.
Rock Paper Scissors
I also just devoured Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney. No spoilers, but I will say that I’m getting good at recognizing tropes and patterns, but a good author can still totally baffle me. Highly recommended.
And I can’t tell you the clues that I caught, cause that’s a spoiler, but as I learned from Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, when an author is doing something that looks sloppy or poorly described, that is on purpose. In Poirot’s case, a specific bodily tic was mentioned so many times I thought Christie was getting sloppy in her description. Nope. That was a clue. And I will say no more to avoid spoiling a many-decades-old book.
But Rock Paper Scissors did that amazing thing where I totally thought I knew what was going on. I knew who this mysterious woman was, and I knew what happened with that person who died, and I was feeling all smug and stuff. But I was almost 100% wrong on several levels.
There have to be a few annoying tropes in this kind of book, I’m learning. A POV character deliberately misleading the reader for effect is irritating. I was going to include a spoiler here but I realized it’s a huge spoiler so I won’t do it. I just need someone to talk about this book with me, dammit.
Anyway, if you are a fan of psychological thrillers, I would love any recommendations. I can’t handle dead kids or sexual assault, by the way.
Book cover, aerial view of a church in the woods, snow blanketing everything
Book cover, aerial view of a church in the woods, snow blanketing everything
Things that surprised me:
  • Dune was better than expected.
  • The mini series about Hawkeye managed to take a boring, unlikable character, and tell a kick ass fun story. And it passes the Bechdel test with flying colors.
  • Learned how to play the board game Viticulture and was actually pretty good at it.
WorldCon
It feels so long ago when it was only two weeks. Weird. I’ll give some bullet points.
It was wonderful and awkward to see people again, people from the SF community I only see at cons. Some interactions were pure joy, others were awkward as if we forgot how to human.
I lost two Hugo awards, but I lost them in the best way. Escape Pod lost Best Semiprozine to Fiyah, which is an amazing magazine and gets a lot of crap for the sin of publishing SFF Black stories by Black authors on the Internet. And no one mispronounced the magazine name either.
The shocker of the night: as we left the ballroom, our assistant editor told me that SB Divya and I were first in the Best Editor, Short Form category for three rounds, until Ellen Datlow passed us. We came in second, but a super close second! (Please don’t ask me to explain vote tallying. I barely understand it, and can’t teach it. Look it up online if you want to know how we got more first place votes and finished second.) Considering we were the newcomers to the category, and up against Sheila Williams and Neil Clarke and Datlow, finishing second was a genuine shock.
A total of 31 positive (one of them being false) Covid cases came out of WorldCon. I know I was exposed to person before they knew they were infected, and another one was at the Hugo parties, but I don’t know who they were, but regardless, we’re all fine here. It was nice to be social, albeit with the stress of pandemic hanging over us.
Best part was we got to dress up and look fancy again, after two years of sweatpants, and damn, we looked good.
Pictures! First by Hugo Finalist Paul Weimer (used with permission) and then two phone photos:
Photo of me and Numbers Ninja, me in green sequins, NN in white tux. Photo by Paul Weimer
Photo of me and Numbers Ninja, me in green sequins, NN in white tux. Photo by Paul Weimer
Photo of me and jim, looking spiffy. Me in green sequins, Jim in black tux.
Photo of me and jim, looking spiffy. Me in green sequins, Jim in black tux.
Photo- selfie of me, Jim, and Numbers Ninja.
Photo- selfie of me, Jim, and Numbers Ninja.
State of Mur - Okay Not To Be Okay
So far the last few months of 2021 have give me: a fractured finger, a case of shingles (on my FACE), scary dog drama (I don’t want to go into it. The dog is fine.), a relative in the hospital again during the omicron spike*, a very fun freelance job started and then I had to quit for personal reasons, losing two Hugo awards, and uhhh, I think that’s it. There’s probably something huge I’m forgetting but whatever.
The pandemic itself is wearing me down. I know that sounds stupid to say NOW since we’re, uh, 20 months into this thing, but I thought I was doing okay. I was vigilant and wearing masks and washing hands and getting as many vaccinations as they would put into me, but looking at a new spike and choosing isolation has brought me down. I have discovered it’s useful to tell people close to you, “you know, I’m not doing great today. I’m not mad and no one has hurt me. I just feel bad.” Strangely, the isolated holidays have both hurt and helped me. I miss family but it’s been nice to be able to wear pajamas all day and not worry about the social strain of visiting people.
BUT in the modern day “how are you doing?” question, I am great. Husband and kid are home and happy and - if not entirely healthy, we don’t have Covid at least. We had a lovely Christmas (And I look forward to gaming and Twilight Zone tonight). At Worldcon I got to meet a creator I really admire (Sam Rosenthal, creator of Blaseball). I got to watch my good friend Ursula win BOTH awards she was up for (Lodestar and short story Hugo), and we got to dress up for the first time in 2 years and we looked awesome. I picked up a new hobby, started cycling by turning a bike into a stationary bike in the basement, and bought myself a fancy camera for streaming and photos that I now have to figure out how to use. I’m starting a new book shortly, and blurbs of my upcoming book are really positive. And I have y'all.
Thanks for being here. Streams are back in their usual times and podcast goodness next week.
*I know this is flippant, but I realized that COVID might teach people the whole Greek alphabet.
A look ahead to '22
I’m also tired of thinking that the arbitrary changing of a calendar will make life better. We’ve been thinking/hoping that since 2016. This year I’m determined to make my own way, know what I can control and what I can’t, and if the world is crap, then I will do what little things I can to help it, but I can’t feel responsibility or think I have the power to change something, and get discouraged when I can’t.
I’ll be laying out my plans for 2022 for my Patrons shortly.
Take care tonight. Be safe if you’re going out, and sleep well if you’re staying in.
Happy New Year. We made it.
Roll Credits
You can support me on PatreonJemi, or just buy me a Ko-fi. That helps support my many creative projects.
If you can’t support via financial ways, you can help by telling a friend about my work, or leaving a review of my podcasts or books, or forwarding this newsletter!
Just want to catch the podcasts? For I Should Be Writing, you can subscribe on iTune or take this RSS feed and plug it into your preferred player. Ditch Diggers is on hiatus but you can find back episodes here: iTunesRSS, and Spreaker.
Or just search I Should Be Writing, Ditch Diggers, or Mur Lafferty on any podcast site.
Podcast credits: ISBW production by Summer Brooks, ISBW theme song by John Anealio, DD theme song by Devo Spice, art by Numbers Ninja, site design by Clockpunk Studio and hosted by Libsyn.
This newsletter is BY-NC-ND 3.5 Creative Commons licensed.
See you next week time!
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The Hot Mic - Mur Lafferty's Weekly Newsletter
The Hot Mic - Mur Lafferty's Weekly Newsletter @mightymur

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