Sunday, November 12, 2017

Stuff and Fluff

Weekly roundup!

Maybe I can make this a usual thing again.

I completed my 41st orbit of the sun yesterday and am working on orbit No. 42. When I was a kid, I thought anyone older than 40 was ancient. Now I don't feel particularly old. There's a lot of life and creativity left in this body, and a lot of cool stuff to come.

To celebrate my birthday, my family treated me to lunch and a movie. We saw "Thor: Ragnarok," which is soooo much fun. There were a couple of twists I didn't see coming. It's always a nice surprise when that happens. I would go see it again in a heartbeat.

Coming on Tuesday, big news for the anthology "3rd & Starlight," in which I have a story I wrote with Aurealis Award winner Nick T. Chan. Stay tuned!

My current reading: "The Speed of Dark." I've never read it before, and I'm wondering how I missed it because it's amazing. Elizabeth Moon writes in the viewpoint of an autistic man in the near future who must decide whether to undergo a new procedure that would make him "normal." This is the level of writing I aspire to someday.

TV watching: I recently finished the first season of Stranger Things. I'm not one for '80s nostalgia, so what prompted me to watch it? I was starting to feel like I was the only science-fiction geek who hadn't. My verdict: three out of four stars. The kids are fun, and the Upside Down is terrifying. I'll watch season 2 at some point, but other shows will come first, like Outlander and Mindhunter.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Publication! "Three Times" in Joe Ledger: Unstoppable

Hello, friends.


Something big happened last week:

Joe Ledger: Unstoppable by [Maberry, Jonathan]



I have a story in this exciting anthology, co-edited by Jonathan Maberry and Bryan Thomas Schmidt. These are stories by other authors based on the Joe Ledger books by Jonathan Maberry. The book released on Halloween. As I write this post, according to Amazon rankings, Ray Porter's reading on Audible is #1, the Kindle version is #3, and the paperback is #14. You can make your purchase through Amazon right here.

Sometimes on this blog I will share how a story or publication came to be. So let's talk about my story "Three Times."

Bryan Thomas Schmidt had previously published one of my stories, "Malfunction," in his anthology Ray Gun Chronicles. About two years ago, he invited me to submit a story proposal for this project. Confession time: I'd never written a story proposal. This was painfully obvious when I sent over my proposal to Bryan and Jonathan, and it didn't pass muster. The less said about that, the better.

I'm not one to give up, though. Knock me down and, well ... you know how the rest of that goes.

So I sat down to write a second proposal. This time, I took a completely different angle. I admitted to myself that I was not knowledgeable enough in certain areas to write an action story about a military-style team of monster hunters. This could have been a problem when writing in Maberry's fantastic world about military-style monster hunters.

What I am good at: Quiet stories that tug at the heartstrings. How could this fit into Joe Ledger's world? In his novels, Maberry occasionally switches for a short time to the viewpoint of an ordinary person who is affected by Joe Ledger's team and the monsters they are hunting. Most of those people end up dead. I wanted the story of one who survived and how that person dealt with the trauma of what they had been through.

I also wanted to write about a character whom I loved who disappeared from the series too soon (for me): Grace Courtland. Grace was strong and confident and capable. She was the sort of woman who could inspire others to make more of themselves and to be better.

I took those two ideas and wrote a proposal in about fifteen minutes. I didn't agonize over it or revise it. I wrote it and sent it off. Jonathan and Bryan gave me the go-ahead to write the story, so I did.

The story ended up being about more than I intended, which stories tend to do. Yes, it's about surviving trauma and using it to become stronger. It's also about: How journalists struggle to deal with the tragedies they cover. How a woman copes with sexist stereotypes when she isn't a strong and confident person. How a mother isn't always a great mom but can always do better. All this sounds gloomy, I know. But really, this story is full of hope and optimism. And zombies. I loved writing it.

So now "Three Times" and Joe Ledger: Unstoppable are out in the wild. Hooyah! I hope you enjoy every story in the collection.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

So This Happened ...

Image result for jodie whittaker




This is Jodie Whittaker in the announcement that she -- yes, she -- will be the 13th incarnation of the Doctor.

The news has been out for a few hours, which means it's already old news that in this year's Christmas episode, the Doctor will regenerate into a woman. We'll have a new showrunner in Chris Chibnall and a new era for the show in a big way.

The Internet has reacted as you would expect: with calm and reasoned discourse.

Or not.

Seriously, I'm feeling encouraged for society that the majority of the Twitter reaction I've seen this morning is positive, though there's been enough sexist trolling that you don't have to look far to find it.

My initial reaction was excitement. Yes! Finally!

Followed closely by: She looks familiar. Who is she?

A quick search on IMDB confirmed that I had indeed seen her before in "Broadchurch." She was also in "Attack the Block," which I haven't seen but is now on the top of my Netflix list. Any movie that stars Finn and the Doctor has got to have something going for it.

I was cautiously optimistic when Peter Capaldi was announced, but I didn't enjoy his Doctor until this past season, when the tone became lighter and Pearl Mackey came on board. This past season blew me away, and I suddenly wanted Capaldi to stay. Bill, too. And Nardole. The entire dynamic in the TARDIS clicked in a way it hadn't before in the current run.

I am also cautiously optimistic about Jodie Whittaker. I'm curious how the character will change -- not just because of the new incarnation but because of the change in gender. Will this fundamentally change how the Doctor views and approaches the world? Or will the character continue on as before because, as Capaldi's Doctor recently said, Time Lords have moved beyond worrying about differences between the sexes? (He also said "One can only hope" when asked by the Master: "Is the future all female?")

One last thought for today: The announcement fits the recent pattern of regenerations being guided by whatever happens to be at the forefront of the Doctor's mind at the time. Nine sacrificed himself for Rose and regenerated into a man who was attractive to her. Ten didn't want to go and regenerated into a similarly young and energetic hero. Eleven was thinking about Amy right before he regenerated into a man with a Scottish accent. And in Twelve's contact with Missy and the Master, he found the female version to be the preferable one. (Also a possible factor: Bill's last words to him were about her preference for women.)

The changing of the guard is exciting. There's so much potential.

I'm eager to see where the show goes next.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

New Year, New Start

I've been absent for a while. So, update:

I left The Denver Post in June, followed by a long and sometimes frustrating job search. That's over now, and I've jumped from print to TV journalism as an assignment editor at KDVR/KWGN (known to local viewers as Fox 31/Channel 2). I'm about a month into the new job, and I enjoy it. Good people, interesting work.

I stopped writing around the end of October. The hiatus wasn't on purpose. It just happened. One day, I was writing, and the next, I wasn't. I found it difficult to write while job-hunting. I also wasn't in a good place emotionally, having been out of work for a while. The good news is, my emotional state is improving a little more every day, and I'm starting to write again. My two current projects: a five-week-five-story flash-writing challenge called Weekend Warrior, and a novel that was at about 26K words before I hit the block. I also plan to post more often here, at least a couple times a week.

That's all for now.

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.