Friday, September 2, 2016

Publication Day! In Clarkesworld

Yes!

This is how I feel today, along with some celebratory punching of imaginary things in the air.

Why am I doing this, you ask? Because my story "Aphrodite's Blood, Decanted" is in the September issue of Clarkesworld.

Sometimes when one of my stories publishes, I share the story behind it. Here's this one.

One of my writers groups, an online forum called Codex, holds an annual contest to write a flash-length piece over the weekend every week for five weeks. I've participated in this contest for the past three years. Also this year, there was a bonus round: write a short story in two weeks. Each short story must be based off a title that the writer chooses from a database of titles submitted by fellow Codexians. The database has thousands of titles.

I don't usually do the short story round, but my flashes had mostly been a bust this year. I got one good one, which you can read here, if you like. I decided to give the bonus round a try. After much rummaging through the database, I settled on this title: "Aphrodite's Blood, Decanted into a Glass Slipper."

Here's the fuzzy part. I don't remember how, from that title, I settled on a story about a lonely AI-controlled factory who's trying to bring people back to his nuked, uninhabitable city. I do remember going that route because the idea surprised me; I wouldn't expect a story with this title to be that sort of story. I shortened the title. I researched the how and why of decanting wine. I wrote a first draft, and I handed it over to my critique group.

One of my critique mates suggested I whack off the entire last scene, in which the AI's scheme is successful and people do return to the city. It's unnecessary, he said. I wanted some kind of resolution to whether the AI's scheme worked or not. Out of our discussion came an alternate ending. We laughed over it. The next day, I tried a draft with the type of ending we discussed, liked it, and submitted to the Codex contest.

The feedback from Codex was split evenly between those who loved the ending and those who hated it. Either way, I had evoked a passionate reaction, which every writer wants to do.

After more polishing, I submitted the story to Clarkesworld, a magazine I had been trying to get into for years and had never made it past the first-round slush readers. When the acceptance landed in my email box late one night after the kids were in bed, you can bet there was some (quiet) celebration.

The moral is: Sometimes it takes a village. This story would not exist without the folks who run the Codex contest, the anonymous writer of the original title, and my lovely critique group. Thank you, all. And if you read my story this month, or listen to it on Clarkesworld's wonderful podcast, I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

WorldCon

Last week, I ventured east across the Great Plains to Kansas City for MidAmeriCon II, my first WorldCon since 2008 in Denver. This was the first one since then that I could drive to, though Kansas City isn't an easy drive. Those Kansas winds are killer.

My traveling companion was my dad, who packed boxes of books into the back of my Corolla to get them signed by his favorite authors. It's my dad's influence that got me interested in science fiction and fantasy. I grew up surrounded by shelves full of the genre's classics, and even read a few of them.

We arrived at our hotel late Tuesday, and the con started the next morning. I wasn't a participant, which is to say I didn't sit on any panels or do any readings. Instead, I wandered the dealers room, watched panels, hung out in the SFWA suite, met up with friends and generally had a fantastic time.

The Hugo Awards ceremony was a highlight. I first learned such a thing as a Hugo existed as a kid, when my dad handed me his paperback copy of "Ender's Game" and it said on the cover that this book was a Hugo winner. Ever since, I've wanted to participate in the voting and be in the room when the winners were announced. I was happy with the winners, considering the behind-the-scenes controversy (Google it if you don't know what I'm talking about). Achievement unlocked!

Dad and I drove home Sunday, and I got back to work Monday morning with renewed energy and excitement.

Next year's WorldCon will be in Helsinki. Yeah. I'm not getting to that one. But I might be able to attend the one in San Jose in 2018.

Monday, August 8, 2016

John Oliver on journalism

On the most recent episode of "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver explained better than I have ever seen the importance of local newspapers, why they're in trouble and why you shouldn't shy away from paying for your news. Also, he's really funny, as evidenced by the trailer for the movie "Stoplight" toward the end of the segment. Please take 20 minutes out of your day to watch this instead of (or in addition to) videos of cats, and thank you.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Writing, job hunt and Olympics

Flyby post today.

The novel is coming along. I'm at 48,000-plus words and hope to hit the 50,000 mark today, which also will mark the three-fourths point in my outline. I don't know whether I'll have a draft done before WorldCon, which starts in two weeks, but that's still my goal.

I had an interview yesterday for what looks like a great position in government communications. I'm one of three finalists and will find out next week whether they want me, with my extensive media background, or want to go in another direction. I hope for the former. The people are nice, the work is varied, and I would have an actual office for the first time in my career. I also know a rejection doesn't mean I'm not qualified or wouldn't do a great job. (Because I am qualified and would do a great job, of course!) It only means they would want an extensive PR background, or marketing, or something else. The hard part now is waiting.

At least I have the Olympics to distract me this weekend. Summer games, Rio, Zika fears. Go Team USA! This is the only time I watch sports on television. I've already watched some women's soccer, which I love because I played soccer for years when I was a kid.

That's about it. Told you this would be short. Time to go write.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What I've been reading

One benefit to more free time: I'm reading more books!

Here's what I've read recently:
  • Half a King, Joe Abercrombie. The first in his Shattered Sea series. I've heard good things about Joe Abercrombie, but I'd never read anything of his. This struck me as enjoyable but pretty standard fantasy. Maybe I would enjoy one of his other series more?
  • The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin. The first in her series The Broken Earth, and a Hugo nominee. I wouldn't have read this if it weren't a Hugo nominee, but I'm glad I did. Jemisin is an excellent writer. My one quibble: This isn't a complete story in itself. Even with series books, I like each book to be self-contained.
  • The Aeronaut's Windlass, Jim Butcher. Again, the first in a series, The Cinder Spires. This too is a Hugo nominee. I like Butcher's Dresden books. This is different, a second-world fantasy. Both this one and Jemisin's take place in interesting worlds that I would hate to visit for real. Also like Jemisin's, this one isn't self-contained.
  • Ender in Exile, Orson Scott Card. I tried to read this one when it first came out and never finished. Now I'm reading all the Ender and Bean books with my son, and we gave this one a go. I didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoy Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead, but it's interesting because it fills in a hole in Ender's life.
  • Eclipse, Erin Hunter. This is part of the Warrior Cats series The Power of Three, which I'm reading with my daughter. She loves the Warrior Cats, and I enjoy reading these books with her but wouldn't read them on my own. Then again, I'm not the target audience.
What I'm reading now:
  • The Worker Prince, Bryan Thomas Schmidt. Book 1 of The Saga of Davi Rhii. Space opera! I love space opera. I'm only one chapter in, so I can't judge at this point, but so far so good.
  • Xenocide, Orson Scott Card. Moving on with the Ender saga with my son. I read this book when it first came out, when I was 15 or so, and it wasn't the story I expected or wanted. I know what to expect this time, so I hope to enjoy it more.
  • Long Shadows, Erin Hunter. More Warrior Cats read aloud with my daughter, a continuation of Eclipse.
What's next:
  • Murder in the Generative Kitchen, Meg Pontecorvo. The editor of World Weaver Press supplied me with an e-copy of this one before its official release! I'm looking forward to cracking it open very soon.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Progress report

A month ago marked the beginning of the grand experiment of me as a full-time writer. Or rather, me writing an urban fantasy novel between leaving one day job and starting the next one.

In one month, I've written 42,000 words. That's a record.

About 10,000 of that got dumped in the trash for various reasons. About 1,500 is a short story. The rest, about 30,000, is novel.

I've written at least 1,000 words every day since June 21. Also a record.

There are 3 1/2 weeks left before I leave for WorldCon, and my goal is to have a first draft done before then. I'm not writing a long novel. I'm aiming for 65,000 to 70,000 words. To finish the draft, I need to write 10,000 a week. That breaks down to about 1,400 words a day.

Starting today, my minimum word count per day will be 1,400. Before this, it was 1,000 per day. I'm upping the ante.

Another reason I plan to push harder: I've reached that point in the novel when I'm dragging. This happens to most writers, or so I hear. It's the point where you're convinced no one will ever want  to publish this thing you're writing, so why bother.

This reminds me of when I ran cross country in high school, and I would reach the halfway mark of the race with my lungs burning and my legs leaden, and I wanted to stop and walk. Of course I didn't stop. Instead, I pushed my body harder and faster. I had to prove to myself that I could do it.

So this is me, pushing harder, proving to myself that I can finish the book.

In other news: The deadline to vote for the Hugo Awards is the end of July. That's coming up fast. If you're eligible to vote, please do so, in whatever form that takes.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Publication Day! "Goosed" at Daily Science Fiction

Today marks my fourth appearance in Daily Science Fiction, with my fantasy story "Goosed." If you're not a subscriber, you can read it on the DSF website right here.

I wrote this story as part of a Codex Writers group challenge called Weekend Warrior, in which you write a story every weekend for five weeks. Each week you choose from a prompt. The prompt that produced this story was "Write about someone who gets a second chance when it seemed impossible." I wrote about a woman who curses her cheating lover but then gives him another chance to do the right thing and apologize. But by the end, I had to wonder whether my protagonist was the one getting a second chance: to show kindness and forgiveness.

Out of the five flash-length stories I wrote as part of this year's Weekend Warrior, "Goosed" is my favorite, and I'm glad it found a great home.