Monday, December 22, 2014

What's inspiring me right now

So I kind of already had space scifi in mind for a future/next project.

Then I saw this .gif somewhere (I've sourced it from Daily Mail in this linkage). It's what astronauts see out the window on reentry.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Collecting my thoughts

Took kind of a break there. It's typically needed, after NaNoWriMo. After running a library program for NaNoWriMo (today was the last day for that). The decompression is good. Perhaps a bit of self congratulation for writing every day (pretty much) for the month. After a month of submitting stories every day.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014: done!

Please excuse my absence. The news is NaNoWriMo has been completed, though the novel has not. I'm still thinking about it, which is unusual. So far as my NaNoWriMo track record goes, I wrote the first two to "The End" during the span of November, didn't finish the third, failed the fourth, and since then haven't finished a novel during the time. In at least one notable instance (Zombie Safari) I came to loathe the novel and was bored out of my skull; I took what was a short story, tried to make it into a novel, and made it a mess with my steampunk. So, best forgotten largely, though I could/should probably finish the short.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

Is that a comet I hear?

This is what Comet 67P/Churyumov/Gerasmenko sounds like, if it's tinkered with a bit so the sound is in a range humans can hear:

Pretty cool, I thought. It's easy, on the Internet, to click through things super fast without taking a moment to consider what you're doing. I mean, stop and listen to that. Listen to the whole thing.

This is a rock flying through space, which no human has set foot on. Remotely, we've put a spacecraft near it, and from that spacecraft landed another craft on it to study it. The guy at The Oatmeal illustrated an amusing comparison in some peoples' abilities with regards to this.

But wait, there's more. Some of these were recorded by a space probe in 2001. Again, the pulses or whatever are not in an audible range for the human ear, and so they had to be tinkered with.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Some submission updates

NaNoWriMo or not, I guess it's best to at least give you updates on my October Madness submissions.

I got a personal rejection on Saturday

Additionally, I got three rejections on Monday, two form one personalized. The personalized one kind of stung, because it was on a story which had been held for further consideration. The other two....well, I say they're form, because that's my rule of thumb. If I'm confused at all, it must be form. Some forms just seem nicer and less "canned" than others.

Truth be told, though rejection sucks, I'm glad I know now. One of those form rejections was from a story I submitted long before October Madness, back in August! Of course, lots of magazines take even longer than that. The slush pile (though mostly electronic by now, and not actually a literal toppling pile of mail) can be very deep indeed in other well-known magazines I'm waiting to hear from, like Tin House, or Agni, or Asimov's Science Fiction.

I do have one more story I've been notified has been held for further consideration, so fingers still crossed on that one. The others, I'm trying to be more relaxed about. I'll hear when I hear...though obviously I hope for it to be sooner rather than later!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

NaNoWriMo Playlist

I've mentioned before, I do so enjoy listening to music while I write. Sometimes it's one song, over and over, if the fancy strikes me. Sometimes it's the writing playlist I came up with back in 2007, for that very first NaNoWriMo. And other times, I make up a new playlist for a new piece (and The Last Song's playlist didn't really stay what I laid out in that post. But elements are there).

This November, I've made gestures at doing a new playlist for the novel, tentatively titled The Twelve Apostles. It's an amalgam of things which interest me, bikers and exorcisms (the religious occult in general, really), and magic in otherwise gritting real life settings. The soundtrack for Sons of Anarchy has made its contributions, to be sure (I haven't finished watching it yet, don't say ANYTHING about anything but the first season, if you must comment on SoA).

Monday, November 3, 2014

Just some Exorcism information

Evidently, in 1999, the Vatican revised both the rules of and the Rite of Exorcism. The original rite, "The Roman Ritual" (or the foundation thereof) was written in 1614. The Pope frequently talks about the Devil as a real entity on Earth to test people and their faith. There are priests trained and appointed to perform exorcisms (it's not as easy as the movies make it look, of course, both to get an exorcism and to actually cast out whatever the force is). do we reconcile information like this in contrast with what I recounted about the Pope recently, and with Vatican II rulings and the Pope's recent assertation that "God is not a magician", and Science and Religion are not mutually exclusive.

I...dunno. I guess I feel like there's room in the world for both the scientific and the fantastic. I can tell you the next course on Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation is being held in Rome in April of 2015 at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum and is, by accounts I find, open to those who can attend. I can only assume it's in Italian, the (as yet undetermined) price of admission does not include lodgings, and you need to get yourself to Rome. It seems like it would be fascinating to attend; five days to cram your brain with these topics, in a sanctioned manner? Yes please.

It's hard to reconcile demonic possession with mental illness as well. There are very sad and angering stories of people with schizophrenia, or developmental disabilities, being injured and even dying during an exorcism, which is perhaps one reason it's so hard to get the Catholic Church to do one; they want to be certain without a doubt something like demonic possession is the case, and not brain chemistry. It's a terrible mistake to make, and causing more pain and suffering is never the intent (should never be the intent). I'm not sure how one ever reaches that certainty but, God willing, it will never be my job. I just like to read about it and, sometimes, write about it.

(why yes, my current novel in progress opens with an exorcism; how could you tell?)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Almost Done....

Only a few days left in October Madness (October Insanity? October "for the love of God, somebody publish my stories"?) I've gotten two rejections in the last two weeks, one on teh 23 and one on the 28. Those stories have gone back to the end of the queue.

I've submitted a story to The Book Smugglers, because they're doing short stories now and holy shit was the first one amazing. Go read it now, it's called "Hunting Monsters" and is by S. L. Huang.

I've sent stories to Fantasy Scroll Magazine, The Stoneslide Corrective (where my friend Libby has some stories published, and just recently won a contest), Lakeside Circus, Daily Science Fiction, and The Virginia Quarterly Review.

I've edited, finished, and written from scratch a number of stories this month (two of my submissions were 100 word flash for Janet Reid contests). I'll have a more full report next week, after it's all over and after NaNoWriMo has begun. I feel like I've done quite a nice job keeping myself from overthinking my NaNoWriMo project (though man, Space keeps intruding. I need to write a space novel soon. But not this month. I don't think. Maybe it'll ambush me anyway.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Digital Vatican

You may or may not be aware, the Vatican is digitizing its collections.

Think about this a moment.

There are things in the Vatican collections which are entirely unique. Hundreds of years old. Fascinating and beautiful and even, dare I say, education and/or informational. And they're digitizing it. I cannot begin to describe my joy. 4000 manuscripts. It's too much to ever get to, I'm sure, but it's there and I'm happy. It's one of those things I think about sometimes; the Vatican contains so much history, which hardly anybody is able to scratch the surface of. Access is limited (though I confess I don't know the full details of this. I'm sure scholars are permitted to do research there. I'm sure showing up at the Vatican and saying "let me in, I'm Catholic!" though true, would not just let me in.)

The Oxford library (the Bodlein Library specifically) has also made some of its super old manuscripts available online, for free.

Another fantastically amazing religious book which is available to view online now is the Gigas Codex, which translates to "Giant Book", but is also referred to colloquially as the Devil's Bible. It's the "real" Bible, as it were, in Latin [of varying dialects], but also contains a big huge picture of the devil, and then other non-Christian-Bible style documents. Oh yeah, and legend has it that it was written by a monk who traded his soul to the Devil so the book would be finished in one night, like some kind of fucked up Christmas Carol. National Geographic did a neat documentary on it, and it really is a huge book. Like, coffee table sized.

Pope Francis actually puts quite a lot of emphasis on the Devil, mentioning him in speeches fairly frequently. I confess I haven't really paid attention to prior popes' speeches, so I'm not familiar with all of the content. It could be that secular media are just blown away that we Catholics still believe in such things, I don't know. This year in May was the 9th annual Exorcism and Prayer for Liberation conference in Rome, and Pope Francis has only been pope since 2013, so clearly the Devil has still been in mind.

Though I don't think you need me to tell you I think Pope Francis is a rock star. Calling out a Bishop for spending millions on his official residence? Not picking up the red leather shoes the former Pope Benedict had made for him? Auctioning his own Harley (and leather jacket) for charity?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Don't be that creeper

Not too long ago, I mentioned in a post about submissions and rejections that a writer is never to engage. Don't reply to the rejection. Don't reply to your reviews (should you be lucky enough to have reviews). Don't do it.

No idea what this is from. I lazy and found it here in an image search

Monday, October 20, 2014

Lazy Link Roundup™ October 20 2014

So I haven't had any rejections in a few days. It's kind of weird. I've submitted to Spacesuits and Sixguns, Betwix, Tin House, and Asimov's Science Fiction since last I reported. A couple of days I've subbed two in one day, but overall I have 26 submissions planned just now, even if they don't match properly to the days. This week's Chuck Wending flash prompt is only 500 words instead of 1000, so I may dash that out to bring the current total to 27. Another couple stories are almost done, but I know better than to try too hard with shorts.

In novel prep news, a couple of links I've perused lately. Not all of these are novel prep, but some are. It's almost always justifiable.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Obligatory NaNoWriMo 2014 post

As you well know, NaNoWriMo approacheth. I think this year's theme, Your Boundless Novel, is really pretty neat. They also are having a pre-sale of the winner shirt, and I really like that too. Though I'm confident in reaching 50k, I'll stick with my tradition and order the shirt when I've won.

I've tentatively titled my project The Twelve Apostles. I'm expanding on a short story I wrote in college; it was so nice of me to leave all this expandable material laying around, wouldn't you say? I've begun to think I should do some kind of an outline this week, of the high points at least. It's the novel I thought about writing last year and did not. I know how it begins, and I'm pretty sure I know how it ends, which is a leg up on some of the things I've written (or half written, as the case may be).

It's interesting, coming to NaNoWriMo after a month of submissions. Especially since I re-read, edited, and wrote so much material in October as well (no, I didn't keep track of word count). I have a distinct sense of what my particular writing's flavor is, or what I perceive it to be. There are themes across my short stories I didn't necessarily decide, consciously, to include. There's a certain act structure I frequently follow. I also know how to delete giant swathes from an MS, which is frequently necessary. First drafts are first drafts, and as I've taken to saying, National Novel Writing Month sounds better than National First Draft Writing Month. If you reach 50k, that's awesome. If you write anything at all, that's awesome. But don't pretend it's ready for professional consumption, because unless you're Marilynne Robinson (who reportedly does not edit a whole lot, but probably does not also speed draft), you've got a long road ahead of you. Getting it on the page is the first monumental step when you're making a novel happen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rewriting (my) old stories

Doing this October Madness thing (which apparently is a sports term? Stupid college sports taking terms. Whatever) I've had to delve into my backlog of existing material and read it over to see what was worth sending out. What adjustments had to be made, what could be added, what could be cut. I haven't yet finished any of my tail-end stories, or the ones which were just a sentence and a title, but I did some serious work on stories I wrote in college when I was very full of myself.

Friday, October 10, 2014

October Madness update, 10/10

Well, I'm slowly starting to run out of stories. I think I only have 6 left which are "done" and/or "ready". Have to spit-shine the others, which at one time I thought were ready. Funny how opinions change.

Let's see, on October 8, I sent a story to Apex. October 8 is also the day I received my first rejection of the month, from Fantastic Stories of the Imagination. That story will go out again before the end of the month.

On October 9, I sent a story to Urban Fantasy Magazine, and then jumped the gun (went to bed before midnight) to send a story to Buzzy Mag.

We've got people visiting this weekend, so I've already sent Saturday's sub to Shock Totem.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Honorable Mention

Almost every time Janet Reid has a 100 word flash contest on her blog, I enter. Most of the time I get nary a mention, which is fine. There's tough competition over there, and a lot of talented, thoughtful writers. But twice (!) now, I've gotten into "special recognition" categories. The first time was for "not quite a story but man oh man", and now in this most recent nod, the category was "Special recognition for entries that weren't quite stories, but if they were the start of novels, I'd want to read on". It's hard to write a beginning-middle-end in 100 words.

But, for your perusal, here is my entry in the "We Are Not Good People" giveaway flash contest (it's by Jeff Somers, and is the sequel to Trickster. I haven't read it yet, but I loved Trickster. So you should check 'em out.) The words to include were "cat, blood, spirits, magic, pants"

I was careful to set things up just so: salt circle, folded-pants with their customary dusting of cat hair, with an old fashioned dial phone resting on top. Music was always optional; the spirits didn't guide me one way or another, so I slipped a record on the turntable.

The witching hour. I pricked my finger and flicked my blood into the flame of a balsam candle. The record cut out and I waited in the silence. The magic's tidal pull rolled around me, and finally, the phone rang. I reached across the circle to pick it up.

"Hi Dad."  

Who knows, maybe there's a novel in that and maybe I'll send it to Janet Reid when it's finished. That's personalizing a query for ya! 

(for October Madness, I send a story to Shimmer yesterday, and to Apex regular submissions today.)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Writer Goals

Ava Jae posted a Writer Bucket List Challenge over on Writability last week (go check out her list). Frankly, I'd never heard the term "bucket list" until that Morgan Freeman/Jack Nicholson movie came out, and I really don't like the term. I'm unable to face my own mortality with so cavalier a phrase as "kicked the bucket" (which is what I'm assuming it's derived from. I haven't seen it).

But, goals are good and goal setting can be very motivating. Besides, blog advice posts always tell you people love list posts. And it's interesting to lay out your goals sometimes, take stock, so I figured what the hell.

(here's some Elka, for further motivation or atmosphere or something.)

Friday, October 3, 2014

My October Subs so far

So far so good for the October Submission Game (title pending)!

On October 1 I submitted a story to Strange Horizons. They're following me on Twitter now, and I can only assume it's because I have, in my Twitter history, shared stories from their site, retweeted some things, and mentioned how I always love their stories which is why I sub to them. But it's hard not to read into, y'know? I tried to tell myself I wasn't that kind of writer. But we all are, if even a little. Ugh.

On October 2 I submitted a story to the Apex magazine Stealing the Spotlight microfiction contest (you have 'til the 15 to submit, in fact). 250 words or less, on five beasties they don't feel get enough spotlight. Super cool! I wrote a hellhound story. I feel like they fit into my Urban Fantasy "mythos" pretty well, and I can revisit the notions.

On October 3 (today!) I submitted a story to One Story magazine. I've gotten personalized rejections from them in the past, so maybe this one's the one! (heh, get it? The one? One story? I'll just let myself out....)

I also still have two pending submissions from prior to the game's start. I daresay if I get an acceptance (!) on one of them, I'll give myself a day of grace. Time to get some more pieces ready to submit, as right now it looks like I've got thirteen or fourteen or fifteen I'm "sure" of (sure is an iffy state of mind), and obviously that's just about half. I could write four more stories for the Apex thing (you can enter up to five, one for each beastie) and that could be fun.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October Submission Challenge (I'm not sure what else to call it)

Well, I sent in my first story submission for the October Submission Challenge. The story is one of my newer shorts, and I sent it to Strange Horizons.

Taking part in this....challenge? Game? Madness? has a couple of purposes for me. One, I'll put endings on some stories I've beein githering about for YEARS. Will they be the right endings? I guess I'll find out. But all these half finished stories laying about are kind of like having half finished coffee cups laying about. Nobody will consume them in their current state.

(ew. that was a terrible metaphor. Ah well.)

Anyway. It'll also keep my mind off the approach of NaNoWriMo. Or keep my mind in just the right stage to approach NaNoWriMo, which is to say I'll be thinking about my novel, but not obsessing it into the ground so I can't actually write it in November. I'm pretty sure I have my idea. One of the shorts I'm finishing has to do with it in a satellite fashion, which is interesting.

And, thirdly, if I submit prolifically, it will increase my chances of publication. Casting a wide net is much better than just dangling a couple of hooks, and I haven't lowered my submission standard. I will send only to magazines whose work I've enjoyed, who will pay me (the Submission Grinder helps immeasurably with this).

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sometimes, voracious fans can push me from "indifferent" to "against it"

I'm not morally against Doctor Who. Theoretically, it should be in my wheelhouse. But I've become so inundated by the fandom because, y'know, I exist on the Internet, that I actually shrink from Doctor Who mentions. I hate it when "my" daily shirt sites of Doctor Who shirts (which is a lot).

So then I feel like a person in an Elder Scrolls game, where sometimes they just HATE your character and scowl at them on sight, because of what they're dressed in or something.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The submission and rejection cycle

I've got...four stories still out at magazines. I got a form rejection from one magazine this week. I'm dreadfully hopeful about one of my submissions, in such a manner that each email I have makes my heart leap into my throat, like it's the rejection coming in. Or an acceptance. I just can't even.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lazy Linking™ September 23 2014 (space news)

I stayed up super late on Saturday night to watch the SpaceX resupply launch to the ISS. Cargo includes mice (apparently), a 3D printer (!) and a bunch of experiment equipment. Dragon (the SpaceX ship) will return to Earth with frozen lettuce samples which were grown in space. Space lettuce! They want to know if it's safe to eat, natch, and if it's a viable thing to think about doing, say, on the Moon or Mars. Dragon also has solar wings, which were spread in the third phase of the launch, after the Falcon rocket and its Merlin vacuum engine (I'm not making this up) deployed or fell off or whatever they're said to do.

there's actual accepted naming conventions for Space Things, as set forth by the International Astronomical Union. So sure, you can spend that fifty bucks or whatever to "name a star", but its real name is going to be numbers and letters, or Canis Major, or whatever.

And in Mars news, the MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) craft inserted in Mars orbit on Sunday night.

Scientists have made diamonds into nanothreads, which seems as though it might work as well as (or better?) than carbon nanofiber in order to make a space elevator.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Playing Dress Up

I still haven't made any kind of headway on which novel to work on next, what to title my newest short story, etc. It's that time in my writing cycle, I guess, where ideas are fomenting and I just need to leave the lid on. Interestingly, a literary agent at Corvisiero Literary Agency put up a blog post which kind of helps me in this regard: Productive Procrastination. I guess I am technically procrastinating, as I can just sit down and squeeze the words out, whether they want to come or not. But instead, I'll do some side "sketches", as it were.

See, every once in awhile I remember Polyvore and how cool I thought it was when I found it. Look, you can create outfits for your characters! Endless applications! (well, maybe not endless, but as many applications as there are characters, anyway).  So I've played "dress up" with a couple of my characters.

Oh yeah, and I've been sick all week, as a further excuse.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

You like it when I'm spontaneous

So, Mahria (and her husband) came to visit a couple of weeks ago. We had a weekend of gaming and fun, which was very cool. We're doing the Pathfinder "Rise of the Runelords" adventure path.

She and I were standing in the dollar store during a supplies expedition, and I looked down at a square, foil-wrapped package. It was labeled Ed Hardy, and for a moment, I wondered why the fuck Ed Hardy had come out with a condom line. And if it made a fake tattoo on one's....member.

I pointed this out to Mahria, who gestured as one would at one's...member and said "I got it for you, baby. You said you like it when I'm spontaneous." We then dissolved into hysterical laughter, to the chagrin of our fellow shoppers. This is what happens when Mahria and I go anywhere together.

But this is what it actually was:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Geographic Issues

Due to my diatribes/obsessions on South Africa and Detroit, you may have noticed that even if I'm significantly altering the history or even present rules of reality in a real-world place, I want to be pretty accurate with regards to said real-world place.

Novel-wise, I've so far only done my home state of New Jersey once, this past November. I set it in my area, but just prior to my birth. So, enough overlap of geography I was very familiar with, combined with those apocryphal things of an era (and area) which give places in time their flavor (and no, that novel isn't finished, though I did hit the requisite 50k).

Manasquan Inlet, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's the time of the season

I get it. Fall is in the air. Some people like things other people do not. But seriously, even Chobani has a pumpkin spice flavor ("limited edition"; can you imagine just for a moment how fucking stupid I think "limited edition" food items are? Seasonal, I can get. Shamrock Shakes year round would clearly produce just too much happiness. But "limited edition" suggests once it's gone, it's gone forever. And that's silly with foodstuffs.)

But anyway. Fall is not my season. Summer is. So fall is equivalent, in my perception, to summer being pried from my grasp. Literally stolen. Not a fan. Fall is also when both colleges come back to town, and I end up with an hours-long cavalcade of high-pitched idiots shrilling themselves down my street to head to Frat Area. I just want to sit on my porch with a shotgun and the Doberman and tell them to move themselves along, quiet-like (I don't do this. I sit inside and glower at them from dark rooms.) So that's what "back to school" means for me now, noisy nights and clueless people (who I feel should be displaying a modicum of intelligence as college students, but that's one of life's big contradictions!) coming to the library to see about getting cards. Sometimes it means swag discounts on office supplies, which are great for gaming, but I don't even like Halloween anymore (though I do like candy corn still. So I've got that going for me).

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What's in the fridge?

I have a period of time  (period of mood?) when I've finished intensively working on one project and haven't really moved on to the next. The Last Song has finished 5 rounds of editing/drafting/deleting/writing from me and is now, electronically, in the hands of two readers. I have mentioned before, I am not the "did you read it yet? did you read it yet?" writer, and hope to never be. That's a great way to drive one's friends away, and I'm great at doing that to begin with.

So. I haven't yet settled on what I'm doing next. I haven't completed Esto Quod Es (the April 2014 novel) to "The End" yet, but I feel like it isn't done percolating yet.

I've got a short story I wrote in July that I should probably read again, to see if it actually works. If it does, I should figure out where to start sending it.

I'm number 60 in the queue for my F&SF electronic submission. It's a blessing and a curse to know where you are in line, something I've discovered while submitting to Clarkesworld.

So I've got that feeling, you know, when you're hungry and you don't know what to eat? So you circulate in the kitchen, open a cabinet or two, go through the fridge. That's how I feel about writing right this second. I look at the files I have, read some articles, mentally comb through my ideas. Is it time yet for the biker novel? The bitcoin one? Space? I don't know. Maybe I need to finish an existing short story, to add something else to my small bundle of offerings. Maybe I need to do this week's Chuck Wendig challenge (though I won't, because I'm pretty sure next week's challenge is to pick somebody's beginning and write the end, and I don't want to do that). Maybe I need to write the next installment of Klara.

Or maybe I need to read (perhaps the "ordering of takeout" equivalent in my prior metaphor). I'm currently reading Wild Thing: A Novel, by Josh Bazell, which has been quite amusing (apparently it's a sequel. Ah well).

What do you do, when you're between projects?

Monday, August 25, 2014

I kind of think I probably don't need that....

Two years ago (!) I posed about the word "that"; how most sentences retain their meaning without it, how it's overused in writing (I definitely overuse it in my first drafts!), that kind of thing.

In editing The Last Song, I've noticed a couple of other words or phrases I've overused, the removal of which seem to strengthen the sentences, and the writing overall. "Probably" is one; it's one thing to use probably in conversation. It happens. It's cool. But in descriptions? It can be very frustrating to read "probably" over and over. You just want to know, "well is it or isn't it? Why won't you tell me?"

The same with "kind of", which has two meanings. There's "What kind of dog is that?" which okay, fine. You can say "type of" or "What breed" or whatever instead, but not too terrible. Then there's "It was kind of a pain". Is it or isn't it? "It was a pain." Say that instead (and there's that word again).

It's occurred to me to wonder if, organically, I've begun the attempt at removing most/all "weasel words" from my novel but no, apparently weasel words are something else and not like this:

But whatever words one might want to get rid of, suffice to say the "find" function you can do in a document is a Godsend.  Called somebody by two different names? Find and replace. Can't remember what kind of guitar it was? Find guitar. Did the thing with cats happen before or after this conversation? Find cats.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Man vs. Self (Or, when your Bad Guy might also be your Good Guy)

I'm almost done editing The Last Song for this round (you ready, Kelly?). I still feel very good about it, which is either awesome or worrying. I honestly can't tell, but if I'm not my own advocate, who is? Right? Right.

My main character is not a nice person, necessarily, and doesn't always do the right thing. I guess I need to go so far as to call him an antihero. He's his own worst enemy, as the trope goes, and he's a great example of Man vs. Self in that English class you had years ago on "conflict". There is no Bad Guy in the story, no villain; just our POV character and his mistakes. His occasional self loathing. Y'know. Like you do.

But. I also hope the reader roots for him, y'know? He's got a goal, and regardless of the past (and there is a Past), goals should be attainable. Goals tinged with regret and perhaps apology especially so.  Personally, I like characters who have flaws. Squeaky clean characters (and people) may or may not (in my experience) lean towards the self righteous, and that just gets my snark up. People with flaws, especially when they're aware of said flaws, strike me as more genuine, more human. It makes a character come off the page better.

In a way, this came from an Absolute Write post, as some things do. I didn't read the thread, though. I just kind of scrolled through the recent stuff, wherein somebody was asking "What if I don't have a bad guy?"  I thought to myself, "Well, I don't have a bad guy! I mean, creepy things happen, bad stuff happens, but there's no 'villain'. It's all scenery and setting and experiences rolled into the narrative." And I've read books like that, of course, where there's no "enemy".

In fact, I'd say most books don't have an "enemy", most narratives have no true antagonist. In a way, the universe is too indifferent to take the time opposing everybody individually, no matter how important we are to our own narratives.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Grocery Store Inspiration

For whatever reason, I end up spending what feels like a lot of time in the grocery store. It isn't a whole lot of time, actually. I can shop swiftly and efficiently, with a minimum of forgetting the exact item I visited the store for.

But, my very first job (other than the dog walking "business" I had when I was 10) was cashier (and later customer service) at a grocery store. Foodtown, if you must know, though it wasn't the Foodtown with the towering clown out in front so that's all right. But running a register can be inspiring in that "slice of life" literary kind of way. Also in a weirder kind of way, I guess.

Other experiences are from the customer side of things. For example, every time I've gone into Wal Mart in the past six months or so (which all told has been blessedly few) that Kary Perry song "Roar" has been on the radio. I cannot claim to be fond of that song. There are other times, though, when a song you LOVE comes on the radio. While I myself will likely never rock out to "Don't Stop Believin'" in the bread aisle, I can imagine somebody giving in to that desire.

Other times, you can tell when somebody's found what they were REALLY looking for, instead of a "sort of close enough" example; the grocery store I visit most has an organic section nestled in the middle of it, and occasionally I find those organic items next to the real thing. Like "Oh, this is where the rest of the yogurt is! I don't have to get this dairy free overpriced stuff made from coconut tears."

Obviously, fellow customers are also story fodder. That woman buying a shitload of organic, making-stuff-from-scratch food, using reusable grocery bags even when your store doesn't have a good way to do it, wearing a cardigan and driving a forty year old Volvo? There's something there.

The guy asleep on his feet buying a bajillion frozen dinners who gets a phone call from his wife, who is a night nurse? Yup.

Cell phones give us a pernicious window into peoples' private lives, because frequently people don't seem to understand that they are on the phone in public. That means everything they say is IN PUBLIC. Even when it's private phone-things to be said while you're alone at home or even in your car. It's interesting. And story fodder.

Friday, August 1, 2014

White Rabbit

July was a pretty good month.

I completed 30k of a fantasy novel, which included The Dreaded Prologue™, but in this case the prologue totally made sense because the book is about two characters who are 1. in the prologue and 2. directly affected by the...inciting event? that happened there. Inciting event is probably the wrong term, because it's supposed to be the kick in the ass your main character gets, and while what happens certainly was a kick in the ass, it wasn't the kind everybody's talking about.


The writing workshop went well. Not everybody was finding the time to write at home, and/or were having troubles, so for most of the month we did writing prompts, talked about Important Writing Things™, etc. In the last two sessions, though, we brought work from home, read it out lout, and mini-crititqued it. Answered the "would you keep reading?" question. That kind of thing. I'm going to run another workshop in November, for real National Novel Writing Month, with an eye towards people starting a longer work and adding to it throughout the month. Kind of what Camp was, but not really.

So what now?

Obviously my fantasy novel isn't done. Not at 30k, and not story wise. However, I think I'm going to follow my typicaly MO and "put it to bed" for now. Maybe I'll finish reading and editing and tweaking The Last Song so I can send it to Kelly, or maybe I'll fully finish my April novel, because of course I didn't finish it yet, though it's so very close, and I have to figure out how my Claudio stand in is going to die.

Oh yeah, and at least one of my Twitter buddies has said I should definitely keep going with Klara and the Clockwork Djinn, so I'll work on installment two and post that...eventually. Our goal is to motivate each other, and set a post date. So if I get done early, I guess I'll keep working on the serial installments. Maybe do one a month? That's downright Dickensian! We'll see.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Crunch Time

Well, two days (ish) left of Camp NaNoWriMo. I've got some few thousand words left but, I can do it. In theory.

I ran into a local writer-acquaintance, and she asked how my NaNoWriMo had gone. I mentioned lowering my wordcount goal, but also that I'd written and worked on other stories in that time. She pointed out that those words counted. So maybe I'm closer to the overall original 50k than I thought? I don't think every additional project I touched adds up to 20k fresh words, though, so I'm happy with my July goal of 30,000 words added to the new fantasy novel.

This week's Chuck Wendig challenge is a three sentence story. I got one comment on my entry, so we'll see if I'm selected as a winner. This week, he's selecting a handful of people to receive electronic copies of his writing books, so that's pretty cool. I do like seeing what people achieve in these flash challenges (...I mean, obviously. Or I wouldn't participate, and I wouldn't post about them nearly as often as I do).

Monday, July 28, 2014

It isn't personal. But it always feels that way, right?

Apparently Clarkesworld magazine is just too good at reading through their slushpile. This week they said, both on Facebook and Twitter, that the pile was running low. I happened to have a story I'd considered sending them anyway, so polished it (again) and sent it along. My rejection came on the same day! Exciting to get eyes on my work so quickly. Not exciting to have such a fast form 'no'. Clarkesworld stories are lovely and well written. I haven't yet seen a Clarkesworld story which made me think "this is crap I don't want to read".

The Submission Grinder has been fun to play with, and really encourages me to submit. It's terribly useful to have all of those venues listed there, and searchable, either by magazine name or by other criterion you have in mind. I get a list of professional paying markets which accept fantasy short stories with just a couple of clicks, and they even list story style, from "absurdist" to "transgressive".

Rejection is one of those things you get very wrapped up with as a writer. Even with a form rejection, we seek meaning in every nuance. How fast, how slow. I got what seemed to be a form rejection lately, but at the end, they said "sorry it took so long" (paraphrased). Does that mean I got far in the consideration? No idea. Maybe all the forms say that, it's my first rejection from this place. I have gotten a couple of personalized rejections in my life; one of them was from One Story recently, which made me happy with my story and eager to seek another home for it.

Because that's what you need to do when you get rejected. Read the story again, polish it some more, and submit it again. The people rejecting your story are rejecting the story, not you as a person. Your story wasn't what they needed in that moment at time, or didn't have the flavor they look for overall. That's cool. One day, it'll be "yes".

Friday, July 25, 2014

Progress reporting ~ July 2014

Hello!  Not much bloggery here this week. Ah well. It happens, right? Right.

So, I've lowered my expectations for this session of Camp NaNoWriMo. Too many other ideas, too much sickness and/or headache harshing my mellow, that kind of thing. I am not abandoning this fantasy novel, as I am enjoying it, and am fond of my main characters, but my new goal for July is 30k. Still an appreciable total. Less of a crunch. I'm at about 22k, so I feel much happier about that, more relaxed. Fantasy novels are supposed to be long anyway (loooong). Can't rush epic.

In other news, my writing workshop has gone well. The participants were less novel-y than I expected, but they got writing done, which was thrilling. They loved doing writing prompts during the sessions (one of the most amusing ones: Buying a crossbow with a 20% coupon from the newspaper), and they all wanted to read out loud, which was cool. I was rather laissez-faire, didn't want to force anybody into anything, and it resulted in a fairly open group with good dialogue. This week we brought 2-3 pages from home, working from one (or more) of four prompts I gave them at the end of the prior session, (I say "we", but I didn't bring pages), read them aloud, and did a bit of critiquing. I'm happy to say that, with every piece, I wanted to find out what happened next in the story.  And the smiles on peoples' faces when they heard that was terrifically rewarding.

This has gone well enough, in fact, that I'll be running another workshop in November, for the "real" National Novel Writing Month (also, NaNoWriMo is hiring a Chief Operations Officer. Apply by August 15!). I'll perhaps push for more of a cogent continuing work, as opposed to mostly doing prompts and prompt reading, but I'm happy to play the hand I'm given. We also talked about publishing, more than I'd anticipated, and I was happy to realize how much I'd learned, from the Query Shark and also from Absolute Write. I am not a lawyer, and I''m not a "real" expert or professional, but I can talk the talk well enough, and tried to direct them appropriately to good resources. We talked about rights, and submissions, and shot story markets today, which was cool.

So how about you? How was your July writing, be it for Camp NaNoWriMo or otherwise?

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Silver Lining

If you haven't heard of it before, check out The Submission Grinder. I already keep a spreadsheet of my stories and where they've been submitted to (read: rejected from), but the Submission Grinder keeps track of how long the work was on submission, when it was rejected, form rejections versus personalized, etc. It's a neat resource to look at.

Unfortunately, what I've been clocking since I signed up has been rejections. Granted, that's what I've gotten since I started submitting, so I'm used to it, right? Pretty thick skinned by now, I'd say.

As the rejections roll in, it's occurred to me to stop subbing for a little while. I think I'm going to take the cue from Michael Seese and submit stories throughout an upcoming month. He did it last October, a sub a day, so that's 31 pieces of writing. I don't think I have quite that many that are "worth it" at the moment, but I've been piling them up as time goes on.  On Monday, I wrote a story that is not my Camp NaNoWriMo project. It needs editing, of course, but I'll wait a bit before reading it over again. This one can go in the "submission pile". There's a couple of rewrites I have in mind for stories which have been submitted at least once. There's a couple rewrites I have in mind for flash I've done in the past but never put anywhere.

So, we'll see how many I get written and fixed, and see how many venues I can find/think of which will be open at the time. Onward and upward!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Finish this story your past self started

I woke up this morning with a story in my head that was not my Camp NaNoWriMo novel.

No, this story is a short one, and I should be working on it instead of blogging about this random inspiration, so I can write it and get back to the novel. But you know how that goes.

It isn't often I have a short story idea that occurs beginning-middle-end in my mind. I won't say it's already complete and I just have to get it down, but I definitely have more of a framework than I normally would otherwise. My hard drives are rife with stories which have started out well (more or less) and then I stopped. So I have no idea where I was going. I may never know. Occasionally I look at these stories, and I think I do intend to finish them all, somehow, some day. Good intentions and all that.

But it's a writing exercise in itself, isn't it? Finish this story your past self started. That's your only clue.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Assorted Twitter and writing fun

Every once in awhile, people come up with pretty perfect things. They might be kind of simple, really. But perfect.

An example: The Worst Muse Twitter account. Pure fried gold. Go look! Tell your friends! Each tweet is damn funny, and also inspiring, in a good way. Perhaps in the worst way? No. Whatever. Writing is supposed to be fun, have fun. Play first, polish later.

Another (and this one got crashed one night because Neil Gaiman used it): You Are Carrying. You tweet the word "inventory" to is, and get an @ mention back with your, well, inventory. What you're carrying. This one is a Chuck Wendig prompt; we'll see if I can shoehorn that into my rife Camp NaNoWriMo schedule. My wordcount goal is still 50k, but we'll see if I get there or if I have to change it. I've been behind a couple of times in my still Untitled Fantasy Novel. I'm still having fun with the random name generators, though.

The Camp NaNoWriMo workshop I'm doing at the library is going well. I think only of my participants are actually doing a novel; most of them are people who really just want the time and motivation to write, and maybe some accountability. For the meetings, we've been doing a variety of writing prompts I come up with ahead of time. Some are the run of the mill "here are 5 words, write for five minutes" type, and others are based on stuff I spotted in the paper. A fun one this past week was "I've never bought ___________."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I'm not like other writers. I'm exactly like other writers.

I'm reading MFA vs. NYC right now. It's an interesting read, though not what I thought it would be. Truth be told, I don't know what I thought it would be. Vindication that I had not gone for an MFA? Some kind of cosmic "It's all right you didn't get an English degree, you'll manage publication anyway?" Nobody but me made me get that Psychology degree. Arguably, I would've gotten better grades and been happier without it.

These answers are out of left field, I know. The book is essays on, you guessed it, NYC experiences and MFA experiences. New York City, because arguably that's where the hub of publishing has been for a good long time.

picture from Wikimedia Commons, of the "Metropolitan Tower, the Russian Tea Room, and Carnegie Hall Tower looking south from Central Park"

Friday, July 4, 2014

A history of my character naming in role playing games

I was thinking the other day: I remember almost every character I've ever created for tabletop roleplaying game. I say "almost" to cover my ass.

I have a problem coming up with character name a lot of the time. I have little disparate scraps of paper all over the place I try to write names on that catch my eye. When creating a character for a game, I come up with name last. Frequently, it's also the case with my writing. In the fantasy novel I've started, I'm using a Fantasy Name Generator for the fun of it (there's also a crapload of variety in name generators here). Find and Replace is a boon to writers.

But anyway, I thought it might be fun to list the character names I've had/used for roleplaying games, and what kind of character it was ("class" for Dungeons and Dragons, and White Wolf categorizes differently).

unicorns from NYPL digital collection

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Recent Flash fiction Entries (no winners yet!)

I know I talk about Janet Reid a lot, but what can I say? She's professional and informative, both of which are invaluable in pretty much any industry.

Well, every once in awhile, she'll do pretty regular flash fiction contests on her blog. She gives us 5 or whatever words to use, and a 100 word limit. I posted once before about getting a favorable comment from her on my entry.

I haven't gotten any more honorable mentions just lately, but I figured I might as well share what I'd come up with.

Most recently was the Get Well Soon Writing Contest, with key words "Evil, mono, virus, piper, blush." Here's my entry:

Black hat means never having to say you're sorry. Not that I'm evil. The shrink said I had certain sociopathic tendencies. I told him it wasn't a real diagnosis, and besides, he just wanted to sleep with me. Very Freudian.

But that kind of binary morality doesn't last past the first blush. Maybe I am a socipath, but it doesn't mean I don't want to hold hands in this monochromatic monotone drone of a Gibsonite future. None of my viruses were damaging, per se. After all, who doesn't like bagpipes? I thought police did especially, until the handcuffs snapped shut.

Winners found here, and congrats to Donna Everheart, because hers was great, and followed my thoughts for the rest of the day after I read it!

Prior to that was the Face Off Writing Contest, with key words "rose, berry, child, parker, finder". My entry:

Mrs. Parker had cuts on her hands; he noticed when they lit their cigarettes. "I never wanted children," she said.

"Haven't found the right woman." Too involved in his work, they always said.

"Is that how you became a people finder?" Missing toddler, dropping temperature. The golden flag of Drift's alert. The berry bramble tore up his arms when he lifted the little girl out, cheeks rose red.

"I guess."

"Will she be okay?"

Not with you, he thought, finishing his cigarette, stubbing it out. "You'll have to ask them."

When he left, she was still out there, smoking.
 Winners found here.

I have a lot of fun writing these. I also have a difficulty writing a complete story, beginning middle end. I seem to end up with oblique referential pieces, or things which seem to be pretentious gestures at O. Henry. Practice makes perfect, that's for sure, and I'm going to keep doing it. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Planning a Fantasy Novel

Well, Camp NaNoWriMo is breathing down my neck, and I've got a coverless Untitled Fantasy Novel registered as my project on the site. But I know what I'm doing, and 50k words is my goal.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This post has a title. And some content. Just a bit.

Well, I "created my novel" on the Camp NaNoWriMo webpage. I've got it named Untitled Fantasy Novel right now.

A couple of things I've been looking at, worksheet-wise, in order to perhaps organize myself in order to actually write a freaking novel during July while running a once a week workshop at the library. As you well know, I'm unfamiliar with crazy traditional ideas like outlining, considering I've abandoned nearly every one I've ever started.

Story Idea Map

Writers Cheat Sheet

I've also got a file I just keep on my desktop called "ideas that went into fantasy novel" with phrases like "The Wasteland" (meaning T. S. Eliot's) and "Magic without MAGIC". Useful to me, anyway. I think maybe one day I'll enjoy pinning things to a wall or corkboard or whatever and then stringing them all together like brilliant minds do on cop shows and criminal movies and suchlike.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Science Fiction for everybody! It might change your life.

Daniel Keyes passed away. I didn't know he was still alive, and I found out only because he isn't. He wrote Flowers for Algernon, a fantastic science fiction book that's only just so science fiction-y. Near future science fiction (Though I guess at this point it's near past science fiction?), in that you don't need a whole new vocabulary to comprehend the story.

I first read "Flowers for Algernon" as a short story, I think in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame volume that Isaac Asimov edited, which included other beautiful beautiful stories like "Mimsy Were the Borogroves" and "A Rose For Ecclesiastes".  This kind of science fiction, deeply rooted in a reality that the readers know but is somehow also changed, has influenced my own thoughts and writing strongly. When the deeply familiar (or even casually familiar) is profoundly changed by environment or action, it speaks to us. It unsettles us. And it makes us think. This is the purpose of books, of writing, of science fiction and fantasy. I feel.

The topic of science fiction specifically was on my mind today, as we near summer. There's an adult summer reading program now, and we're supposed to "read across" Literary Elements, which include "Things you should have read in high school", "Classics", and "Self Help". Arguably, science fiction books could be used in each category. So, Flowers for Algernon is what you should've read in high school. Frankenstein is a fairly reliable "Classic", and The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead   could be "Self Help", yeah?

Poetry, I hit a snag. Science fiction poetry? Well, io9 came through for me, with "The Best Books of Poetry for Every Kind of Science Fiction Fan". Of course my library system doesn't have it, but Cyborgia , by Susan Slaviero, immediately caught my eye and I ordered it on Amazon.The blurb describes Slaviero's "scathing playfulness", and I hope somebody says that one day about me, instead of "God, Jen, you're so mean."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lazy Link Roundup June 18

Hello and welcome back to the Officially Named (yeah, whatever) Lazy Link Roundup™!

First off I'm going to give you 21 Secrets for Shopping at Sephora. Not because I've ever set foot in a Sephora, or because Sephora or Buzzfeed is offering me money (hint: they're really not. I wish they were), but because some of the things on the list are fabulous novel fodder. I feel. Have to remember to use my "I statements".

Next, here's a link to get a free PetMassage CD. I haven't gotten one myself, so I cannot vouch for the efficacy of the product. But it dovetails nicely with this magnificent Youtube video on Proper Opossum Massage. I cannot vouch for the seriousness of your reaction. I know I watched some other videos and then laughed until I wept and my fiancé strongly encouraged I put the laptop down.


In other news, if you haven't watched True Detective yet, you should. NO SPOILERS. I'm not done yet. But go do it. DO EET. It is everything I want from a television show. I also quite enjoyed the first season of Bates Motel (the second season isn't on Netflix yet). And Game of Thrones, but I read the books (mostly) first thankyouverymuch (I only just recently read the most recent book).

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Some fun prompt websites

I've been looking up writing prompt websites, y'know, because I'm a super nerd and prompts are fun.

I haven't really used any of these sites I'm going to link to you. But I may use them when running my Camp NaNoWriMo workshop. I got my first signup already! A little less than 3 weeks 'til July 1. Are you camping? Are you ready?

There's a Tumblr just full of writing prompts, called Writing Prompts, oddly enough (this is going to result in my not recognizing the words "writing" or "prompt" as a word after I'm done typing this post. This other Tumblr calls itself Awesome Writing Prompts but...I'm not sure they are. Maybe it's because of the expectation? The final Tumblr offering I'm going to give you is I Dare You to Write, because we could all use a little creative antagonism.

This guy's blog has a "master list" of speculative fiction writing prompts, which is pretty rad. Typically, I can turn a story speculative or weird without much effort, so it's almost a relief when it's expected. It almost makes me want to go the other way, and write a literary story from a speculative prompt. Like, DON'T IMPOSE YOUR GENRE ROLES ON ME.

The Prompt Machine has an interesting premise, wherein they say "All stories can be boiled down to the following: A wants B but can't have it because of C." They boast literally one million possible variations on their clickable prompt generator thing. gives you, y'know, one word and then you write about it for sixty seconds. You can sign up, and I assume that means it'll save your one minute writing binges under your account. I got "decadence', but I was writing this post, so I didn't do it. Nor do I have an account.

There's something about the randomness of writing prompts that appeals to me. It's also a facet of tabletop RPG's I like. You can make whatever decisions you're going to, the story is what it is, but sometimes a whole lot hinges on the roll of a single die. Will you succeed? Fail? Die? It's fascinating.

But, if you're not into randomness, I can get that. What about positive reinforcement? There's Written? Kitten! You write 100 words (at minimum; you can change it), they give you a picture of a kitten, puppy, or bunny.

Monday, June 9, 2014

On blog novel serialization

It really pays to follow blogs of people in the industry, and I cannot recommend Janet Reid's blog enough. She's a literary agent with Fineprint Literary Management, in New York City. She blogs frequently, is often on Twitter, and is rather approachable in both of those venues. Alas, she doesn't represent my genre(s), though she does rep some great authors (like Patrick Lee and Jeff Somers).

However, this week, she addressed the question of Serialization On the Web. If you'll recall, one of the March Flash Fiction prompts I did resulted in "Klara and the Clockwork Djinn; or, Matchmaking at the Museum", a story set in my Steampunk South Africa. I've thought about doing a serial novel, writing more about Klara, and her "sky jockey", but I'd hesitated, because I don't really want to self publish. I don't feel as though I've got the skills and/or the handle on the industry for it. Do I really want to be my own editor, cover designer, advertiser, and accountant? Nope. Yes, self publishing authors frequently pay people for these jobs, but, well, a trade publisher takes care of that for you too! So is online serialization a bad plan, if I then wanted to query the novel?

What Ms. Reid says, ultimately, is "But don't worry that in publishing a book to the web you've closed any doors. It's the amount of attention the book receives that will determine that."

And really, that's how Fifty Shades of Grey worked out. First it was Twilight fan fiction (I'm not sure on which site, but there are numerous fan fiction sites). It was very popular as such, is my understanding. Then, E.L. James filed the serial numbers off enough that it was her own story; no Bella or Edward, no vampires. Then she self published it, and then the Random House deal came along. Pretty swag, right? Regardless of how you feel about the book itself, she's a success story.

(or, reading the Wikipedia article, it was boutique published first, not self published? Whichever. I'm a little unclear, but am admittedly lazy and don't want to read more in depth info on it. You get the gist.)

So anyway. If Klara's story happens to take off (pun intended! Zing!), and get a following, and then I put the thing together and polish it up and query it, I can point to that following as a success. I can say "I've already got all these fabulous Steampunk fans!"

Just some musings, to which I am prone (see blog title). The second chapter isn't written yet, lest you've gotten your hopes up. Though I guess it's worth asking: Do you want to read more? I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Am I Qualified?

July is only a hop, skip, and a jump away. My "information meeting' for the Camp NaNoWriMo writer's workshop thinger is in the last week of June. I've got the general idea of a novel hammered out. And I've paused with the "who do I think I am, anyway?" notion.

I'm 'just' a library clerk, no master's degree. My degree is, in fact, in psychology. I've never run a workshop of any kind before, on writing or otherwise. I'm not necessarily a very patient teacher, though having a dog has helped me a bit. I've taught Elka all kinds of things.

This isn't a 3 a.m. panic or despair or anything. I'm not tearing at my hair or garments, wailing that I'm not good enough. I'm confident I'll do just fine, actually.

I've done NaNoWriMo since 2007. I've done Camp NaNoWriMo since the year it started. The only November session I've failed was in 2010, where I abandoned my idea halfway through and started a new one. Combined, the two novels were almost 50k, but just short.

So, in short, I know how to get my shit together and make the  little electro-letters crawl across the page. I pants it like there's no tomorrow, because if I don't write it for my characters, they don't have a tomorrow. I plan, sometimes, making valiant effort at outlines that only make it to chapter 6 before being abandoned. Some of my outlines are "longer", but I'm typically no more faithful to them.

How to translate this to other writers, though. To people who haven't written in a long time, perhaps, and want to try it again. To people who have never really written, and want to give it a shot. To people who've tread water and need that glimpse of shore to head towards.

To be a writer, you need to write. That is the long and the short of it. I write, therefore I can head a workshop. Novelists without degrees teach at colleges all the time, right? (maybe?) Maybe I should be more worried about it, but I'm not going to worry about my worry, that's getting a little too meta, n'est-ce pas? I'm just going to keep on keepin' on, plan my last couple of workshops (I've got the first few laid out in general). Come up with some fun prompts, fun ways to implement them  (dice? index cards?) This is exciting, and exciting is good.

And July is my favorite month.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Stop planning and get it done!

I realize the title makes it seem as though I spend loads of time planning novels, perhaps outlining and plotting and other meticulous things. I don't. Some people do, but I don't.

July approacheth, and another Camp NaNoWriMo. I do intent to participate. 50k words? Yeah, I'll leave that as my goal, though fantasy novels are supposed to be longer. Maybe I can hit the high points of the main plot and sketch out a subplot to weave in later.

I've been planning a fantasy novel. Letting it percolate, only poking it with a stick once in awhile. "Normal" fantasy, maybe it'll be epic, not urban fantasy. I don't want to let it percolate too long, though, and just wither on the vine. So far as plot goes, it's general fantasy; a kingdom falls, the erstwhile heirs are separated, usurpers take the throne, erstwhile heirs grow up, get reunited, take the kingdom back. A million stories like that, I'm sure. It's the world that sets fantasy novels apart. I'm thinking low magic, and I've got to consider races other than human sooner or later. I'm trying to consider fantasy and folkloric beasties which don't get used a whole lot; there will be a distinct lack of dragons, I'd say.
Worldbuilding is just one of those things. It can occupy more of your time than the story does, and so much of it can end up remaining behind the scenes. No infodumps, we want to avoid infodumps. So you just have to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

My main characters aren't even named yet. I've got a general sense of their experiences, their demeanors. I know we'll be working in third person, likely omniscient. The novel doesn't have a title yet, but that's nothing new.

Are you camping in July? What have you got planned?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge: Scarlett Promise

Another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge, this one random title. There were two lists of twenty words each, and the assignment was to get a random number from each column, make a title, write 1000 words. I got "Scarlett Promise". Here it is, pretty much hot off the press, as it were. I ran spellcheck, obviously, and fiddled with some paragraph order.

Scarlett Promise

Friday, May 30, 2014

July is just a month away

Spent some time today working on what exactly I'm going to be doing for my CampNaNoWriMo workshop at the library. Until the actual group has met, I don't want to get myself too mentally locked in to any one setup or approach; different people may want different things. It's also important to me to know the age ranges. If I end up with a 17 year old and/or a 16 year old, I'm going to want to anticipate toning my language down, anyway. Content need not suffer.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reservoir blackberries

I'm not always in the right mood for poetry, but when I am, it's like a key finding a lock.

Today, I'm in the mood for it, able to be at work but still in the simmering aftermath of a badly sprained ankle. It's rainy and muggy, just the right pressure combo for me to have a headache at the edges of things, driven off partially by the ibuprofen taken for the ankle. But I can't take anything else, at least not for a few hours. So.

I read Sylvia Plath's "Blackberrying", led there by arcane Internet means, as it goes.  Sylvia Plath is one of the poets who pass the test with me anyway, but "Blackberrying" has something about it that I craved today, I guess. Perhaps my own memories of picking blackberries, though I never went with a bucket to gather them. No, my father and I would stop and pick some, eating as we went, when we were fishing at the reservoir.

We weren't supposed to be at that reservoir, of course; nobody was. But again, as things go, there was a traditional hole cut in the fence by generations of partyers and fisherpeople, we always caught and released, sometimes he brought cans of beer but mostly not. Mostly it was he and I and some soda, tacklebox replete with lures and a pair of pliers. At the far end, through the water, you could see the sunfish beds, and they would nibble at your ankles and toes if you stood there.

The blackberries would be in rocky bushes by the road the reservoir maintenance people use, a ring or maybe a horseshoe around the water. I crave the taste of those blackberries each time I buy a plastic box of them at the story, but they're never just so. Sun warmed, sweat salty, watery breeze, it's all missing. I can't very well buy a pint of air conditioned grocery store blackberries and leave them on the porch for awhile, hope they reach that fat soft stage where they velvet apart in your fingers and the seeds are sand grit between your teeth. I can't go back to fishing with my father at the yellow dirt-sandy reservoir, catch and release, the pride of the first time I was able to get a fish off the hook myself, firm and slippery in my palm, be careful of the fin.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Exercise those writing mucles!

Okay guys, poindexter time.

I'm one of those nerds who actually really likes writing exercises. Why? Because it gets me to write in a manner I mgiht not otherwise have explored. Example: the flash fiction challenges I post here sometimes.

I first encountered 100 word flash when I was taking Intro to Creative Writing in college, though I gotta say, having up to 1000 words the way Chuck Wendig plays it is awfully nice sometimes. The fact that he'll frequently add extra parameters makes it that much more interesting, a story puzzle you have to figure out the edges and corners of.

When I'm reading a book about writing, on my own, I don't necessarily do the exercises. Sometimes I do. I've got the new writing book Jeff Vandermeer did (or edited? I'm unsure just now) on reserve from my library, and look forward to paging through its lovely glossy pages.

You see, I'm going to be running a Camp NaNoWriMo at the library in July, as part of our first-ever Summer Reading Program for adults. And I figure a good way to grease the wheels at weekly meetings is to have some writing prompts at hand, or exercises to talk about and recommend. I'm going to play it a bit fast and loose, because I don't want to plan rigidly and not be able to work with the group as it actually is, but I want to have things like this quantified and in mind.

So, tell me. What writing exercises do you like? What writing books do you like?

Monday, May 19, 2014

In which Russia takes its toys and goes home (or at least threatens to)

Perhaps not surprisingly, Russia has announced it would deny the US further use of the International Space Station (the United States was in fact suggested a trampoline as means of getting into space). Russia also, evidently, plans to leave the ISS by 2020 (its original mission target). This is after Russia's recent actions in Ukraine, and the sanctions the US (and allies) want to impose on Russia. This is also after the existing crew on the ISS kept working in harmony, or at least through a mutual notion of survival and professionalism, through said actions in Ukraine. Of course, cooperation with Russia was subsequently suspended.

NASA's space shuttle program ended in August of 2011.  Project Orion is slated to be NASA's new workhorse. The test launch is currently scheduled for September of this year, powered by a Delta 4 heavy rocket, and the idea is for it to carry humans by 2021. It's my understanding that Orion is the means by which NASA intends to grab an asteroid and bring it on home for an orbital science environment. Which is great. I'm glad we have something in the works, I'm actually really excited for the asteroid thing, which clicks well with my creative mind.

But. Uh. How will we get to the ISS in the meanwhile? We've been relying on Soyuz for years, since we lost our own ride before a new one was ready (Budget is the bad word when it comes to NASA, I'd say). SpaceX has three successful cargo missions under its belt now, with its most recent splashdown yesterday morning, but cargo and humans are not the same thing. SpaceX wants to have a manned flight by next year, but of SpaceX employees, not NASA astronauts. Boeing, in 2012, said it wanted to fly astronauts to the ISS "as early as 2015 or 2016." As of two days ago, Boeing's test flight is scheduled for 2016, with assembly beginning at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Oh and evidently (perhaps hilariously?) Virgin Galactic flights do not, technically, bring you into space. Very close, yes. But not actually space.

After all this time in space, even after working cooperatively with long-time frenemies, it seems ridiculous to be suddenly grounded. There's budget, of course. There's public opinion, I'm sure; a lot of people don't see the "point" of space. And space costs a lot, when you look at lump sums, though let me direct you again to Things That Cost More Than Space Exploration.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Eye in the Sky

So I said to my coworker: "Hey, the ISS put cameras on the outside of it, so you can watch it live stream Earth."

"Is it boring?" she asked.

I thought about it. "On one hand, yes. On the other hand, you're watching EARTH from SPACE in real time. It's simultaneously amazing and boring, and that such a thing can be both at once is absolutely mind blowing." She thought about it as well, and concurred.

The link I provided is on the Johnson Space Center portion of the NASA web site. It's neat because it shows you what the International Space Station is streaming in one window, and then shows you where above Earth the ISS is as well; it shows you where on Earth is nighttime, what time it is, etc. There are four cameras it can swap between. The Johnson Space Center is in Houston, Texas, which is also (I believe) where Mission Control, Houston is. So "Houston, we've had a problem here" during the Apollo 13 mission? That's who those guys were talking to.

But call up the livestream, and look at it for a little while. Put your boredom away and let the wonderment creep in. You're not going to see baby animals, you (hopefully) won't see much happen at all. But at the same time? You are watching what is almost literally everything. You can see the real horizon, the glowing curve of the planet we all live on and have to come from. You can see the solar arrays of the ISS. And sometimes? You can see some lights down here, when it all grows dark.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Dangers of Symbolism

You know the biggest problem with symbolism? Nobody's going to get it. Or, it'll be so blatant that it inspires the rolling of eyes.

Don't get me wrong. I in fact like symbolism a great deal. Subtle symbolism, not "hammer you in the face" symbolism. I haven't reread The Great Gatsby in a few years, but I've had enough people complain to me about their English teachers and that green light that I'd have to hazard a guess it was a bit too blatant.

I can understand. You want to strike the balance of something understandable and oblique. You want discussion to be made, but an answer to be indicated. Probably.

I've used symbolism on occasion. I use literary references far more often, and I can tell you, nobody gets those. Here I am, giggling a bit that I've referenced Crime and Punishment in my scifi novella (which will have to be edited again. It's be nice if I could strike the balance there, and either trim it into a short story or flesh it out into a full novel. But it just seemed so perfect where it was, at its 19,000 or so words).

I've been doing this "I'm a serious writer" thing off and on for more than ten years now. I'm not counting high school, though I did in fact write nearly every day in high school, with dedication noted by my peers. It's a shame that novel had to be such total crap. In that time, I've had a variety of readers, and an important thing for a snarky smartypants like me to remember is everybody hasn't read the same books. It's not like the good ol' days waiting for the latest Dickens serial to come off the boat from England, where everybody's shared the same handful of novels, gone through The Pilgrim's Progress ad nauseum, etc. etc. There are so many books, and we're all readying different ones. I'm not sure how many of my acquaintances have read Crime and Punishment at all, much less once recreationally and once for a college class.

But symbolism. The thing that inspired this post was my recent reading of George R. R. Martins A Dance With Dragons. It took me a long time to start the book (it was published years ago) and it took me a long time to finish it once I started. But there were two chapters which were clearly meant to relate to one another, wherein two characters both took...let's call them Significant Walks. I don't know if editing and timeline constraints made these chapters happen too close together (like, was one supposed to be in A Feast for Crows? Was the other supposed to be later, in The Winds of Winter?), but the fact they were meant to be Symbolism™ really struck me.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Places I've been "published"

Well, okay, not really published. But put up publicly where total strangers can take in my work.

I already told you about Housekeeping, my science fiction short story that my good buddy Jacob narrated and put up on Soundcloud. If you like what you hear, you should follow him on Facebook. He'd probably like that.

Now I've got another "credit", wherein my buddy Dave, who we game with weekly if not more frequently, has shared my piece on his blog. He's been doing a character journal of our Dungeons and Dragons game, which is the adventure path titled "Age of Worms", published in Dungeon magazine from 2005-2006, and he's graciously opened his blog space up for other players to contribute. My character, Larkin, is the party's fighter.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Camp NaNoWriMo April: Winner!

Well folks, I crossed the 50,000 word mark this morning. Unlike previous times, when I tried to validate the first go-round, my wordcount was 49,999, just barely off from what Open Office said I had. So I wrote another sentence, did it again, bingo!

Unlike some NaNoWriMo's, I never lost interest in my project this year. I didn't bog down, though there were days I was behind because of non writing activities. Real life happens, y'all, and you make up for it in writing time when you can. Do I regret any of it? Not the slightest bit.

But I'm going to keep going on this work, a serial killer thriller that's a riff on Hamlet, and finish the draft before I "put it to bed". Really, National Novel Writing Month has the best "ring" to it, but I've moved on to considering it "National First Draft Writing Month", for it's in first drafts you're concerned most with getting the words on the page in a pell-mell rush, hoping perhaps to give in to some transcendent madness of creation and achieve something greater than anything you'd tried before. It's in editing that the story gets ironed out, hemmed up, additionally embroidered.