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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Sale Sale Sale Sale

I sold another story.  To a pro-paying magazine.  Details to follow once contracts are all worked out etc…  But man, it’s nice to have a sale.

Follow Heinlein’s Rules for Writers. It pays off.  Seriously.  I almost trunked this story due to thinking that the content might make it too hard to sell.  Ha! I was so wrong.  Good thing I ignored that stupid inner demon voice, eh?

So yeah, I have to go dance on a couple more rooftops. Then, I really should finish this novel.

Feet, Meet… Wet

So after a lot of thinking about it and some very good discussions with people at the workshop this last weekend, I’ve decided to get my feet wet with the whole electronic publishing thing. I already had plans for an experiment with longer fiction, which I’m going to talk about closer to the things happening date (not for months… stay tuned!). But I hadn’t really thought about putting up short fiction yet.

However, I do have a few literary stories that have made some submission rounds (you think spec fic mags are slow to respond? Try the lit fic world, whew). A couple even got nice rejections from what I think are prestigious literary magazines (and certainly ones that pay fairly well). Two of my stories got me into graduate school (MFA program which I then dropped out of…). So I know the stories aren’t horrible, they are just hard to place.

And now they are available online. I bundled two surreal shorts together, and then put up the longer ones separately. Will I sell any copies? Who knows? But I haven’t resubmitted them in a bit (even though it would have increased my race score I guess) and so they weren’t doing me much good sitting on the computer. If you want to read them, they are cheap (inexpensive?) and found here for Kindle and here for other formats (the sidebar there has the other two stories).

So I’ve decided to change my submission habits a little.  I still intend to submit every story I write to every pro-paying magazine and to the handful of good semi-pro zines that I love.  If a story then doesn’t sell to those magazines, I’ll put it up online.  It’ll take a while for each story to make those rounds (looks like about a year to two years so far), but at least there will be no trunk.  I’ll also probably (depending on if/how well anything sells online) put up stories of mine that I have sold and then gotten the rights back from.  This ebook stuff is a brave new world and interesting changes are coming for everyone, and damn but I want to be a part of that.  I think it’s good to stay on top of the changes and for me to get my feet wet learning how to put things online.  There are readers out there and they’ll vote with their dollars on the quality of things.  Plus it is good practice for writing blurbs, right? *grin*

Anyway, as other stories finish the submission rounds, I’ll be slowly putting them online.  I have a great friend doing my covers and I spent quite a few painful hours learning to format for Kindle.  It’s a fun new thing to try at the very least.  And as I said, I have a crazy/awesome idea for an experiment starting up in a few months, so eventually I’ll post a nice long thing about that.

Meanwhile, I am running into my own writing deadlines full speed.  I signed up for another novel workshop in October and haven’t even started the book I want to workshop.  So I guess I’d better stop blogging and go (have my characters) kill a few people and wrap up the current novel.  Lots of work ahead, but I feel good about.  I’m so busy between writing and Starcraft 2 that I’m (mostly) not even stressing about WotF results.  Crazy 🙂

Getting Over Lazy

I’ve been writing a fair amount in the last month, but when I looked at the results in terms of finishing projects, it doesn’t look so good.  I’ve finished two things in the last month. Two.  Not exactly on target with where I want to be by the end of the year.  It’s time to quit being lazy and work on the second of Heinlein’s Rules: finish what you write.

It’s easy for me to finish short stories generally.  Once I’m writing one, I tend to just get it done (usually within one or two sittings).  Novels are tougher to finish, though the endings so far of them are a lot easier than the beginnings and middles.  I’ve been tinkering between two novels lately, getting some done on each but not really making huge progress with either.  Part of this is fear.  Once I’m done, I have to send it out.  I’ve worked out a way to overcome that fear by putting together the package for each novel before I finish, so at least that part of the work will be done so I can just focus on getting the book done.

The other part of this is just sheer laziness.  I like to work in bursts, when stuff “comes” to me because I’m lazy and making my brain focus and compose is annoying if I’m not in the mood.  Yep, just lazy.  I know it is laziness because if I have deadlines (real or imagined), I have no problem dumping the “must be in the mood” and getting the work done.  I think I can combat my current lazy with some good old habit-forming.  I like to take days off writing, but for the next while, I’m not going to.  I think I need to build up a nice streak, get in the habit of not letting myself take days off (usually I justify days off because I know I *can* write 10k words in a day to catch up if I have to).  So starting today, I’m going to get in at least 3,900 words of fiction a day at least 6 days a week, with the seventh day goal being 1,250 words.  At that pace I should be able to finish everything I want to finish by the end of the year.  It really doesn’t help that I keep adding things I’d like to finish to my project list.

When I started out this year, I was thinking I’d write four novels and get to 30 or so short stories out to markets.  Then I kept having novel ideas, so it turned into five novels.  Then because of a conversation at one of the workshops, I decided I was going to aim for 80 short stories on top of that.  I’ve since revised that down to 40 or so shorts, not because I don’t think I could write 80, but because at 27 I’m already a little sick of the admin work of keeping track of them so I don’t accidentally sim-sub or something that I think 40-50 will be the max I want to track at a time (and it’ll be a level that, god forbid, if I start selling some, I can replace them).  And on top of that, the novel ideas just keep pouring in.  I’ve shunted four over to next year already.  I’m aiming at seven this year (two of which are shorter, one 50k, one 65-75k).  Frankly, I’d love to slow down, but my brain won’t let me.  See why I can’t afford to continue being fearful and lazy?  I don’t have time!  At the least I’ll be getting a lot of practice in and hopefully improving.

Current projects and current word count:

MG novel- ~12k

Suspense/Crime novel- ~8k

Sci/fi novel- ~7k

Sekrit Experiment project- ~1k

Paranormal Mystery, Horror Western, Irish Historical, and Regency Romance- no words yet

Also have one novella that stands at ~1300 words and another that had nearly 5k on it (which I haven’t touched in a year since I really need to redraft the whole beginning, grr).

So… plenty to finish.  I should get on that.

Sometimes it Pours

Woke up at 4am because of the cat.  Stayed awake because I’d been having an awesome dream about being a stowaway on an alien ship that then got attacked by pirates and knew it could be a super cool short story.  Normally when I have a story idea it has to brew for a week or a month or a year.  Apparently all this one wanted was about 4 hours.

Well, it’s a story anyway.  After 7.5 hours of nearly continuous writing, the monstrosity that is “Crawlies” is now complete.  After a “oh god how messy is this” editing pass it stands at 7715 words.  Bleh.  I was aiming for 4000.  Is this what plot does?  Cause baby, this story has plot.  Hell, it’s got everyting. Provided that everything means aliens, pirates, an 11 year old protagonist, bombs, and exploding head jokes.  My research firefox window currently has open windows from wikipedia for oxygen toxicity, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and squid.  Lord save me, there’s even slang.  It was like this character waltzed into my head and wouldn’t shut the hell up.  Of course, she’s 11, she doesn’t shut the hell out anyway.  I wish writing was always this easy.  Even if it doesn’t let me do anything else.

Now that my work day is gone, I’m going to go eat something (sorta forgot to do that in the ‘writer will finish or she gets the hose again’ fog I’ve been in most of today).

In the other kinda of ego-boosting news (no, not the yet again “close but try again” rejection I got today), one of my poetry chapbooks sold at the bookstore COLD.  As in a random stranger who is no relation to me chose my little self-published being sold on commission chapbook all by himself with no arm twisting from my mother and paid COLD DELICIOUS CASH for it.  I feel pretty good about that.  Poetry is hard to sell, and this means that mine was good enough to attract a random human’s interest.  Or you know, so bad he couldn’t resist buying it to chortle at the next wine and schadenfreude party.  I’m going to believe the former.  For my peanut-sized ego’s sake.

Ok, now, to post this monstrous new baby of mine somewhere for critique.  Oh why oh why is it so long?  Curse you baby.

But I love you.  In fact, today (and probably only today), I love writing.  Thank you writing gods.  Now, can I please have a nice compelling dream about how to finish this novel? K thanx.

Oh yeah, and if you think I was kidding about my mother arm twisting people, you should talk to Ken Scholes*.  I’m surprised he made it out of there without a chapbook.  Lucky bastard.  You know you’ve hit a sad sad hole in your social life when your mother has to do your networking for you.  Thanks mom.  28 is just like 8, somedays.  At least she didn’t try to arrange a play date or anything.

(*Ken Scholes is, in fact, as far as my limited mother-twisted arm contact with him has gone, a supremely tolerant and nice guy. Buy his books).

Days Like These

Finally started a new short story, one of three I intend to write this month.  It’s going to be a bit of a challenge because I’m trying to keep it under 4k words and write about two star-crossed lovers on a dying Earth who happen to be teenaged boys.  It’s different, but I feel like writing a love story.  It will get me back in the mood to work on Chwedl, or something.

To write the beginning I ended up watching rocket take-offs on youtube.  For research. Really.

And people wonder why I choose to write science fiction and fantasy? Heh.

Now to find that awesome article in one of my Analogs’ about lunar bases and space stations.  And figure out how I want this story to end.

Bits and Thoughts

I’ve been catching up on my issues of Analog and Weird Tales.  Often times I find Analog stories to be too technical for me to engage and Weird Tales stories too ‘horror’.  I prefer stories that focus on character first and everything else second (yes, I’ll even forgive a lack of coherent plot if the character issues drag me in enough).

However, I found two stories so far that are made of so much awesome I have to share how much I loved them.

The first is a short piece in Weird Tales Nov/Dec 2008 titled “How to Play with Dolls” by Matthew Cheney.  I assume looking at the length that this is flash fiction, which is a very hard length to do well in any genre.  Cheney pulls it off beautifully.  The story is engaging and haunting and full of just enough weirdness.  The images are perfect and there’s the right balance of telling and emotion.  He handles the underlying issues of the little girl in a way that isn’t overdone and the ending is strong, poignant even.  Find it, read it.  It’s flash at its best, in my opinion.

The story in Analog that caught my attention is in the June 2009 issue.  “Attack of the Grub-Eaters” by Richard A. Lovett has a somewhat unfortunate title in that I read the title and winced.  I had no idea what to expect.  Then I saw the format of the story, which is in forum posts and winced more.  When reading short stories, however, I always give a story at least two pages to keep me reading.  It took less than that for me to be hooked in this story.  By page three I actually stopped, went and got my husband, and started over reading it to him again (that was before I even got to some of the more awesome parts of the tale too).  The framing of this story is totally unconventional, but it works.  Hell, it better than works, I think it allows for the author to build tension and utilize dialogs in ways that a normal story structure wouldn’t.  In parts it’s laugh out loud funny, in others I was reading the way I’d read a particularly juicy flame-war; that edge of the metaphorical seat “oh god what’s going to happen next…” sort of car-crash-can’t-look-away sensation.  And thinking about it now, I guess “Home and Garden Saves Iowa” wouldn’t have been a great title either, though perhaps more apt.  Screw the title.  The story hardly needs it.  I’m going to give this copy of Analog to my dad I think, since his mole killing competitions with our neighbors are the stuff of (small town) legend.  Again, find the story and read it.  I can’t gush enough.

All right, setting gooey fangirlness aside now, back to writing related stuff.

I posted a story in the JBU slush.  I’ve lurked on that site a while, sometimes out of schadenfreude but mostly out of genuine curiosity about the way they do things since JBU is unconventional in many ways.  I’d never posted a story for consideration for two reasons.

One, JBU likes optimistic and often lighter work.  I don’t really write optimistic stuff.  My stories are often about people trying to deal with bad things that don’t necessarily have a rosy resolution or explanation.   After I wrote the story that became The Spacer’s Blade, I thought “hey, maybe this would work for them”.  I didn’t post the story immediately after I wrote it, however, for reasons that lead me to reason number 2 of why I’ve never posted there.

JBU slush has some of the most blunt and to the quick critiquers of anywhere I’ve ever seen.  In some ways it’s refreshing to not have to wade through a bunch of accolades that essentially mean nothing in terms of how to improve one’s writing.  In other ways, I don’t know why anyone would put themselves through that process without first getting the story as far as they could on their own.  Before this, I didn’t feel I had a story that was nearly up to snuff yet for that kind of criticism.  I didn’t want to waste my and other people’s time with typos, loose sentence work, and other easily fixed but sloppy writing mistakes.  (Caveat, this does by no means imply that I catch all that stuff in my various drafts.  Errors sneak right past me all the time.  I just try to make sure they have to roll a nat 20 to do it).

The story I posted is the fourth draft.  It’s been through the sff online writing workshop and critiqued by four pros at Norwescon.  And it still got mixed review at JBU.  I’ve rewritten the beginning paragraphs for the third time now based on what I’ve been told.  I’ve had two readers go over it and the third will get to it this weekend before I post the revision in the Slush.  So what is technically version 2 for the slush and version 5 for my records will, in fact, have gone through three revisions post the revision I did based on comments before the JBU sees it again.  I do this partly because I really want to be a professional writer, but also because once again, I don’t want to waste time with simple mistakes.  I want to know what the readers think of the STORY, not get bogged down in the sentence level stuff.

That said, I’m not taking all commented advice.  I can’t.  It’s one of the things I’ve learned about the dangers of workshopping.  Not everyone is going to like everything.  A writer has to parse what advice will improve the story and what might improve it but turn it away from the original vision in the writer’s head.  I know the story I’m trying to tell with The Spacer’s Blade.  If in the end I work out the things that people point out that I agree are keeping it from being that vision (because, hey, it’s not there yet- I’m pretty hard on myself as a writer too) and the barflies still don’t think it’s what they want, that’s ok.  Maybe it isn’t a fit for JBU.  I think it could be, but I’m going to try to walk the fine line between what people want to read and the kinds of stories I want to tell.

And in the end, no matter how much I want to be published, if I’m not writing the stories that I want to tell, well, I’ve failed even so.  I don’t think it’s an either/or.  With enough work and practice and some more work, I think I can find that balance, that happy zone where what I’m writing is transmitting to the reader exactly the kind of pleasure that I get when I read awesome things (see above gushing, for example).

Now, back to editing something else.

Thank You Fruit Tree

Six false starts and as many days later and I’ve finally moved into chapter 2.  Apparently it takes techno, sharp cheese (Razors of flavor…sounds like a bad punk band), and giant glorious bing cherries.  As William Carlos Williams put it,

“Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold”

So today I have 3.5 pages of decent progression.  I’ve decided to tell foreshadowing to take a hike, it’ll work itself in or it won’t, but the plot bus is leaving.  Foreshadowing is something I can write in later if needs be.  I’m still annoyed with myself for getting stuck in the first place.  And for it taking a mental pumping session akin to psyching myself up for athletic performance to get me working again.  Not that I believe brilliant gems should fall onto my screen without any effort, but it is always frustrating when you can see the story in the periphery of the mind but not quite make the leap to reach it.

Onward! Tomorrow, I finish the chapter and perhaps start the next one.

I have failed short story Monday, however. I might write one this week, but frankly, I’m thrilled enough to be writing novel again that I might just go with the momentum of that. We’ll see.

Premier of Short Story Monday!

Short Story Monday Begins!  I’ll try, for the sake of organization, to keep these Monday posts at least similar in appearance.

Story Title:  Space Bones

Word Count: 4158

Plot Summary: While being escorted to her Court Martial, a Captain and her escort encounter something wondrous in hyperspace.

Time to write first draft: About 4.5 hours.

Other Comments:  This story is actually in two parts because I got to what felt like one ending and wanted to continue from there just to see how it worked.  So the first part is 3332 words and the second is 826 or there abouts.  When I sat down to write in the wee hours, I had nothing but the title.  I liked the title, however.  I started and got about a paragraph into one story and realized it wasn’t the Space Bones story.  So I cut and saved it to a note file for later and started over again.   After working so much on my novel, which is third person omniscient, I really wanted to write something in first person.   I find first person much easier to sustain than third, so it’s sort of like taking a big old brain break.

I used The Rough Guide to the Universe by John Scalzi to generate some places and names and ran with it from there.  The story is a rough sketch, sort of like the bones referenced.  I like that about it.  We’ll see what my unfortunate readers think.  Because, oh yes, I’ve created a nice little list and I’m going to mail these Monday stories to my dear friends.  Don’t pity them too much. They can opt out, I won’t hate them for more than a year or six. Truly.

Now, back to breaking my brains on Casimir Hypogean.

Tidbit of a Beginning

So… I started the rewrite.

I’m calling it Casimir Hypogean until further notice.

And now, for your enjoyment, here are the first few lines:

“…. Mist, pervasive and cloying, settled in between the tall buildings of Casimir’s spiral streets. The fog dimmed the bright advertisements pasted on screens, blurred the shining lamps and ever searching eyes of the security drones. On the far outskirts of the shell, beneath the conical towers of the aeroponic gardens, two shadows were up to no good.  ….”

(Now, to get things going properly, because I got two pages into the first chapter and realized it would work better as the second chapter.  So I restarted the first chapter.  I like it okay so far.)