Sunday, March 30, 2014

Flash Fiction: Klara and the Clockwork Djinn; or, Matchmaking at the Museum

This week's Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge is Five Random Words. He chose ten words, which follow, and the goal is to write a 1000 words piece incorporating five of them. I've chosen to write a story that takes place within my Steampunk "world" (timeline?), which largely takes place in South Africa (it seemed like a lot of stories took place in England, or in India, and my fascination with South Africa had recently taken hold, which I talked about here in greater detail).

(I'm unsure of the title. Don't judge me.)

 Klara and the Clockwork Djinn; or,Matchmaking at the Museum

Friday, March 28, 2014

Editing and Anticipation

So, in these last days of March, before April and Camp NaNoWriMo, I've finally cracked open The Last Song to do some editing. It's kind of funny, when I finished writing it, I wanted to go through it right away and do reworkings and editing. But instead I waited a month and a half.

Distance is good. Distance from your writing isn't quite the same thing as "fresh eyes", but it's as good as you're going to get. And if you're like me, you want your work to look as good as you can make it before you give it to somebody else to read, even if it is your best friend.

There are scenes I'm cutting entirely. There are chapters I'm shifting around. I'm sure Draft 3 will be a mess, and it'll be Draft 4 or 5 before I show it to anybody else. An issue I'm having is The Last Song seems awfully "normal" for the first few chapters, before the urban fantasy stuff really kicks off, and I'm concerned that "too much" normalcy will put off people expecting genre. So I'm putting in foreshadowing, or some shit. But of course it'll probably be so oblique nobody gets it and it'll need to be fixed more. Such is my life.

However, I'm also finding things I absolutely love. Sentences I dig, imagery I feel I nailed. I took two paragraphs from two different chapters and put them together and suddenly, it was just right. So despite the mess it is, because that's what shitty first drafts are for (thanks, Anne Lamott!), it isn't irredeemable table flipping mess, just the regular sort (and to note, cutting and pasting large passages while using a touch pad on a laptop vs. a mouse is rather difficult).

I've also actually been planning my April project, at least in a loose "Chapter 1 has this, Chapter 2 has this" sort of manner. Not a true outline, but a decent enough guideline with where I want the story to go. I "created my novel" on the Camp NaNoWriMo site, with the title Esto Quod Es ("Be what you are") and left the word count goal at 50,000, because what the hell, right? If it looks like I'm not going to make it, I'll bring it down closer to the total I think I'll actually attain. No big. It's camp, much more relaxed than November.

Are you doing a Camp NaNoWriMo project? What are your goals?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Selections from my bookmarks

I've been bookmarking links for years. You know how it goes; you see something you want to read, but maybe you're not in the mood for it right that second. Or maybe you don't have time. So it goes.

My bookmarks are"organized". I have many folders, have had good intentions for all of the headings. Some of them pertain directly to particular writing projects (so I've got ones called "Rebel yell" and "Detroit"), at least three are for recipes I've almost certainly never cooked, and many are just things I thought might be interesting. One folder is called "inspiration", because of the piles of information in it, there's sure to be story fodder.

So, while looking at those bookmarks instead of editing The Last Song, I found a few I figured I'd share. In a way, they're loosely connected in my mind.

I thought these pictures were eye-catching, and would eventually lead me to some story or another. They're all from the 40's, if memory serves, though they're in color (!).

This one is from XKCD, and is a Radiation Dose Chart, using Sieverts, which is the unit for an absorbed dose, named after Rolf Maximilian Sievert, who studied the biological effects of radiation.

Here's A-E on The Observatory ~ The Tough Guide to the Known Galaxy. Links on the bottom take you to the rest of the definitions on the site. I'm glad I re-found this one, as I've been trying to build the vernacular for my science fiction space culture. The writer also has the blog Rocketpunk Manifesto, which looks to have even more great information on it.

And I forgot about this charming Forbes article, Why I Named my Dog After Neil Armstrong, published in 2012 not long after Neil Armstrong himself passed away.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Wheels in the sky

Did you know that you can see all kinds of recent pictures of the moon, courtesy of the Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter?  They in fact released a mosaic image of the north pole of the moon, something that blows my mind.

(artist rendering of LRO, from NASA page)

It got me thinking about other orbiters we have. Because we do have other orbiters.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Flash Fiction: McCarthyism

This story came from a Chuck Wendig prompt, SomethingPunk.

To wit:
Cyberpunk. Steampunk. Dieselpunk.
The literary subgenre -punk contains, as I see it, a couple key features –
a) A world taken over by the technology or fuel source or by humans (often in an authoritarian role) attempting to control the utilization and implementation of that tech or resource.
b) Characters who represent an anarchic, rebel “punk” vibe in this world.

your job is to write 1000 words of fiction in a new SomethingPunk world.
Where [Something] is a noun (tech/resource, most likely) you choose.
Definitely no cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk.

I picked Vaxxpunk. Usual disclaimer, this was posted with little editing, after I picked at it and stopped and restarted all week long.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Submission, rejection, sunrise, sunset (and what is up with spreadsheets?)

I'm really not into spreadsheets.

I don't really know how to use Excel. Or spreadsheets. Not really. I mean, I can open the program. I can put things into the little boxes. But what's the point? I don't know!

I know you can do all kinds of....math and stuff...using Excel. I know LOTS of businesses want you to have any idea of how to use it (because that's what they put in their want ads) but beyond that? I've got better grasp on nuclear physics. And I'm not exaggerating.

I use, er, "spreadsheets" to keep track of my story submissions and rejections. One file is active submissions, the other file is rejections, with the titles and the venues. I've only got three things on "active submission" right now, two short stories at two different magazines and Learn to Howl at Angry Robot books. I had 4 (probably my most at once!) but the turnaround for Clarkesworld is very fast indeed. I sent the sub at like, 5 or 6 on Saturday afternoon and had the rejection already on Monday. Holy crap, right?

Really, I don't mind the fast rejection. To me, waiting is worse. I agree with Tom Petty entirely, the waiting is the hardest part (also, I never watched that video before. Oh, the eighties). I only sub to paying professional markets, so I know I'm aiming high. And I'm going to continue to do so (and it seems like I read an article where somebody professional talked about how this was good and a way to improve and I forgot who it was and where, of course).

But, I've been getting rejections for years. I think my first story submission was to Glimmer Train, in 2003. I've also subbed to Asimov's, Cemetery Dance, Apex, Agni, Tin House, and Strange Horizons. Sooner or later, I'll get a yes. Then I'll actually have something to put in a "bio", because telling them I work at a library and have a psychology degree seems pretty slim.

Monday, March 17, 2014

It's amazing they put up with me

Me: That baby sounds like a coyote. Or wait, no, a fox!
Coworker: I don't know what a fox sounds like.
Me: Ringadingadinga
Coworker: .....okay, I walked into that.

Library Patron: I like your announcement, you're very professional. You don't really have that soothing, fall-asleep-to-it tone of voice quite, though.
Me: Oh, it's not meant to be soothing.

Me: I don't typically like book covers. Like if they have people on them? I don't really like that.
Fiancè: That's....really weird.

Coworker: Yeah, you're totally Tyler Durden, aren't you?
Me: I want you to hit me as hard as you can.

Fiancè: I need pants.
Housemate: That might help.
Fiancè: Couldn't hurt.
Me: Every day, five thousand children are hurt by pants. Be part of the solution. Not the problem.
Fiancè, looking to the dog: Elka, kill her.
Me: In the arrrrms of the angelllll......

Coworker: You know, if you're interested in going into the military working dog program, they've got an upper age limit and you're running out of time pleasedon'tkillme.

Friend: I scared her with my bellybutton
Me: If the dog ends up on my laptop, I'm gonna stab you.
Friend: That smile says yes. I'm gonna go over here now.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Just a few notes...

As I stated last week, Camp NaNoWriMo has relaunched their web site. I've kind of dithered around, wondering if I would do April, or July, or both. Not sure about July still. April is almost certainly a go, as I've decided on a project (I think) and have begun....well, not outlining. It's like a synopsis, I guess, just a "this happens then this then this", very basic, chapter by chapter. I'm also trying to write it without any actual speculative elements at all. That's right. No magic, no werewolves, no science fiction. Straight up fiction. Or maybe it's a "thriller" (I really need to read more about what people think that means.)

IN my random research roundup, I found a few interesting articles on people in modern times naming their houses and/or estates.  It was a thing I really liked when I read Gone With the Wind, that all the houses had names, and it's a thing I like when we visit the Outer Banks (wikipedia has a List of American houses). And of course there's Manderly.

I've also found Stick Figure Hamlet, which appears to be the entire play.

Last but not least is the Kerbal Space Program, which allows you to build your own space ship/program and was (I believe) created in some partnership with NASA. I heard about it because I saw an article that had updates to the game, allowing you to work on an asteroid deflection problem or something along those lines.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Confidence in Writing

It seems, in my experience, a lot of people who don't write choose not to. They feel like they "can't", or they don't like what they produce, or they fear others won't like it.

It's oft-repeated that we are our own worst critics, and I certainly see a lot of that. I know people who would like to be writers, or seem so, but they undermine themselves without ever getting under way. They block themselves at every turn, until they just give up in despair and frustration.

I try to be positive and supportive (here's where people who know me in person are gasping but no, really, I do!) I try to show how possible it is. I've even put forth the notion of doing it like one of those "fitness challenge" things that was floating around all of January (you probably saw the Plank one a bajillion times; I know I did): write 100 words the first day, 200 words the second, etc. until you reach the daily total you feel like you want to maintain. Even that was met with wrinkled noses and self doubt.

The thing is: if you don't make yourself write, you won't.

If you don't write, you're not a writer. If you can't give yourself permission to write, you're not a writer.

And, to crib some notes from NaNoWriMo (and probably others), there are stories only you can write, which will never exist.

We are our own worst critics. However, we must also be our own best champions. Doubt is worse when it comes from within. If you don't think something has value, it never will, regardless of what anybody says.

Value yourself. Value your writing.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Camp NaNowriMo 2014

So yesterday, I noticed on Facebook ( I think it was Facebook) that the Camp NaNoWriMo site had relaunched. First session is in April, after all! I guess they've leveled out and decided April and July are going to be The Sessions (the first year, if I remember right, it was July and August).

You can customize things regarding your project, starting with word count goals. I think that's one of the Big Scary Things about NaNoWriMo: 50,000 words, are you crazy?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Online emporiums (what a world we live in!)

There are a couple of stores online which I've perused a lot, but purchased from infrequently, if at all. That could be due to price, or due to the practicality of the items I was looking at. I'm sure we all have places like this.

American Science and Surplus is a store I've made purchases from. I regret missing the boat when they had wall padding (y'know, for your very own padded room!), but we've got such assorted wonderful items from them as plastic minis for D&D monsters, a stand with a magnifying glass and little calipers to hold things (for painting), stainless mini funnels for hip flasks, and those mylar survival blankets. Their prices are typically cheap, which makes the shopping all the more attractive. They have spy pens. And look they have big foam dice! I'm sure they're still too small to let the dog use, though.

I'd love to buy stuff from J. Peterman one day, but they're super pricey. I LOVE how their product descriptions are frequently short stories or flash fiction in their own right (like for Georgina's Sunset Polka Dot Dress), and they evoke a kind of Breakfast at Tiffany's Monte Carlo Golden Age of Hollywood kind of glamor in my mind. It's good stuff. And who wouldn't want a long velvet blazer for her hypothetical author tour? I definitely want one.

I like Etsy because you can find all sorts of random shit there, and I've made select Etsy purchases over the years. A dog treat bag and jewelry have been my primary purchases, and a stuffed toy for a friend who just had a kiddo. It's where I've gotten my rosary bracelets (I broke the first one and am too clums/lazy to fix it), and man, I'd love to find a religious medal of St. Christopher cynocephalus, but I'm not sure that'll ever happen. I also intend to buy a flask that says "Holy Water" on it one of these days.

And apparently I'm a crazy shoe person, so Fluevogs get perused occasionally (these are great. And these). I'm really hesitant to buy shoes online, though, because sizing is so weird sometimes. I also really need sandals I can wear to work for when the weather warms up, as I said "Okay, I can't keep wearing these" and threw out my old ones in a cleaning fit.  And I'm still yearning for Tieks, obviously. Though I'd probably get black ones because I get black everything.