Monday, December 31, 2012

Goals for 2012 redux

Happy New Year's Eve. I'm at work, waiting with crossed fingers that those political types in Washington will reach a "fiscal cliff" deal and do it quickly, so I won't be changing out the front page story at 10 p.m. tonight. As the last day of 2012, it's time to look at the goals I made for the year and see how I did.

1. Dip my toes into epublishing. Success! I published one ebook in 2012: my short story collection "Snake Oil and Other Tales of the Weird West." So far, it's only available on Kindle, but I plan to rectify that in January.

2. Apply to a writers workshop. Yep, did that. I applied to Orson Scott Card's Bootcamp, but I wasn't accepted. I'll try again next year.

3. Enter Writers of the Future every quarter. Again, success, although I've grown disillusioned with this contest over the past few months. I haven't decided whether I will continue to enter every quarter in 2013. I'm not sure this is the best use of my time and energy anymore.

Tomorrow, my goals for 2013.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Submission stats for 2012

This afternoon, I made what will likely be my last story submission for 2012. So it's time to look at some stats for the year. Figuring out these stats will probably also be the last time I use Duotrope for anything significant. For those who don't know, Duotrope is going to a pay-only service next year. I could definitely afford $5 a month for the service, but I dislike how the folks at Duotrope went about handling the whole thing, so I won't be subscribing. Anyway, on with the stats:

Total submissions: 39
Submissions to pro-paying markets: 34
Stories currently on submission: 5
Total acceptances: 5
Acceptances to pro-paying markets: 2

It's the last stat that is a huge deal for me -- my first pro-level sales. One of those has been published and one will be next year.

Story publications in 2012:
30 Pounds of Human Tissue, Daily Science Fiction
The Spinners, Every Day Fiction
Caged, Every Day Fiction
Father Francis and His Mechanical Bees, Every Day Fiction

Stories slated for publication in 2013:
Catch a Fallen Star, Fireside Magazine
Malfunction, Raygun Chronicles anthology, reprint

I should note that all my story publications in 2012 were flash pieces. That's mostly thanks to a project this year between me and fellow writer Dustin Adams to write a flash story every month. Two of my five stories currently out on submission are also flashes. My two stories slated for publication next year are both longer.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Doctor Who: The Snowmen


For Christmas this year, I wanted a really good Doctor Who special. And unlike last year, Steven Moffat delivered. The evil snow globe/ice woman plot line doesn't hold together very well, if you stop and think about it for a minute. If it takes nine months to ice-ify one woman in a pond, then how does this signal the end of humanity? But the villain is secondary to this episode. The point, of course, is to introduce the Doctor's new companion. And in that, we have a roaring success. Clara is fun to watch. Jenna Louise-Coleman has fantastic chemistry with Matt Smith. And I'm a sucker for romance, which has been missing ever since Rose left the TARDIS. I wonder what River will think of the flirty, feisty souffle girl Clara Oswin Oswald.

But you can read reviews and recap just about anywhere. Here, I'm going to speculate on the questions we were left with at the end of The Snowmen. (Because it wouldn't be a Moffat episode if we weren't left with some mysteries.) Unsurprisingly, all the questions are about Clara.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

What's up with Clara?
She died in Asylum of the Daleks. She died in The Snowmen. Both times, in dying, she saved the Doctor. But she's still out there in another time, as we see when modern-day Clara is hanging out with her own tombstone. The Doctor says this is impossible. He also said, at the opening of The Snowmen, that he's been saving the universe for a thousand years and the universe doesn't care. Maybe this is the universe's way of telling him it does care. He essentially made a deal with the cosmos that he would stop the Evil Snow Globe of Death if Clara were allowed to live. The Doctor got what he wanted, though not in the way he expected.

How many Claras are out there?
Beats me. At least three. Which one is the original Clara? Probably the one who will end up in the TARDIS with the Doctor

Is she human?
I'd say yes. It doesn't seem that she's aware that she's reincarnating, despite repeating her dying words to the Doctor. Then again, we do see her modern-day incarnation standing right beside her own tombstone. Is that coincidence, or does she remember her past (and future) lives?

What's causing her to reincarnate?
My completely uninformed guess: At some point in her travels with the Doctor, something happens to her that causes her to be born and reborn and reborn again. Because the reincarnations seem to span all of space and time, it might have something to do with the TARDIS. Or a temporal shift or loop. If it were the TARDIS, that would explain why her lives (and deaths) are linked to the Doctor. And I wouldn't be surprised if it also somehow plays into the Fields of Trenzalore and the question that must never be asked.

But ... we have to wait until April to learn more.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Catching up on movies

Capsule reviews of a few movies I've seen recently both in the theaters and on DVD:

Skyfall: My hubby and I went to see this for my birthday, and I loved it. The latest James Bond outing had just the right amounts of action and character, with a few nice twists at the end. Javier Bardem has become one of my favorite Bond villains. I didn't particularly like Bond's callus treatment of one of the requisite Bond girls, which made him come across as too Machiavellian.

Snow White and the Huntsman: Awful, awful, awful. Did I say this was awful? The character development is nonexistent except for the evil queen's, the love triangle is completely unnecessary, and there's no resolution to the relationship between the two title characters -- if there's a relationship at all. And Kristen Stewart is miscast.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days: Hey, it's Thanksgiving break, my kids are out of school and the local cheap theater had an afternoon matinee. My kids loved it, especially my 8-year-old son. For me, the story felt like a succession of skits rather than a unified plot, but I suppose that works well for kids with short attention spans.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Anthology announcement: Raygun Chronicles

I'm psyched this morning to share some news: My story "Malfunction," which was published last year in Ray Gun Revival, will be included in a best-of anthology coming next year: "Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera for a New Age," edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt. The anthology will be a mix of reprints and new stories from folks like Mike Resnick, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith and Sarah A. Hoyt. Yes, I'm name-dropping because I am beyond excited to be included among such company. The project is being funded through Kickstarter early next year. I'll post more details as I get them, and you can check out the official announcement here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Doctor Who minisode

This made my day a little brighter: A new Doctor Who minisode previewing the upcoming Christmas special. P.S. I really like Jenna-Louise Coleman.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

What I'm looking forward to today

Good morning, and it's a snowy one here in Denver. The streets are dry, but snow dusts the trees and grass. It's beautiful. Today is the 36th anniversary of my birth, one step closer to 40, and I'm feeling the years: back ache, stiff neck, sore throat and stuffy nose. But it'll still be a good day. Here's why:

My family: Yes, I have to work today, as I do every Sunday. But at least for a few hours, I'll spend time with my husband and kids. The two little ones have already given me birthday hugs, which is adorable. Maybe we'll go out to lunch. I hope so because I could really enjoy a Sweet Tomatoes salad and strawberry lemonade.

Big damn heroes: Tonight, the Science Channel airs its 10-year anniversary special of Firefly, one of my favorite shows of all time. Alas, Firefly didn't even last a season, thanks to some probable sabotage from Fox execs and a high concept that a lot of people just didn't get. But the 13 episodes (and movie) were awesome and worth celebrating.

Skyfall: OK, this one won't happen today, but the hubby and I will have a nice dinner-and-a-movie date either tomorrow or Tuesday. I can't remember the last time we went out on date, and ... James Bond. You can't beat that.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Veterans Day, and that we all do our part today and every day to honor the men and women who have served our country.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"Caged" is up at Every Day Fiction

After a week of fighting off a nasty cold and exhausting myself at the day job with election and post-election coverage, I completely forgot that I had a story up for publication today until it landed in my e-mail box. What a nice surprise! So here's the official announcement: You can read my science-fiction flash "Caged" at Every Day Fiction, a tale of family, survival and ... a cage. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

This is it: the climax of 18 months of campaigns, ads on the television, ads on the Internet, ads in the mailbox, ads on the radio and vast amounts of media coverage -- especially if you live in a so-called battleground state. I took my daughter with me to the polls this morning after explaining to her the importance of voting and how, in many places in the world, people don't have this right and responsibility. She's only 5, so it mostly went over her head, but I'll take any opportunity to give my kids a small civics lesson.

So, yes, I voted today. I hope you will, too.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Writers of the Future, Quarter 3

Another honorable mention. Unlike last quarter, when I was happy with that result, this time it's a disappointment. This story is better than an HM. Under the judgeship of Kathy Wentworth, I think it would have been a semi or finalist. What does this tell me? David Wolverton's tastes and my stories do not connect. Writers of the Future is a fantastic way for new writers to gain visibility, but it's not the only way. In the past 24 hours, two people whom I trust have suggested that I need to stop entering this contest and focus my attention elsewhere. Try a different path. I'm thinking they're right. I'll probably enter a trunk story in Q1, just for the hell of it, and that will be the end of it for me. Four years is long enough to be beating my head against this particular wall.

The tally in 15 quarters of entering:
  • 1 semi-finalist
  • 1 silver honorable mention
  • 8 honorable mentions
  • 5 rejections

Sunday, October 21, 2012

MileHiCon

It's almost 1 a.m., so this is going to be a quick post. This weekend is MileHiCon here in Denver, which is my only convention of the year. I love conventions and wish I could do more, but getting time off to do so can be difficult. Mostly I've been attending panels, catching up with local writer friends and making new acquaintances. The last of those things isn't easy for me -- I'm very much an introvert -- but I'm making the effort to come out of my shell.

Tonight, I participated in a reading with six other writers of weird west and steampunk stories. Some of us read excerpts from short stories and others from novels. I read from my only story that combines weird west and steampunk, called Snake Oil. The evening was a lot of fun with some great stories, but also tiring. We started at 10 p.m. finished about midnight.

So now I am heading to bed to rest up for the last day of the convention.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stuff and fluff

I can't believe we're already halfway through October. This month and this year are flying by. The goal I set myself for this month was to write four flash pieces, one each week. So far, I've written two. The first one was dead on arrival, just didn't work at all. The second one is a fun piece of fluff, but I don't know whether it will find a market. And now an idea for a short story has wormed its way into my brain and won't let me go. I might have to abandon flash pieces No. 3 and 4 and write the longer story instead. That wouldn't be a heartbreaker, as neither of the first two flashes hit the bull's-eye (and one missed the target completely).

In other news:
  • The Kickstarter campaign for Fireside issue No. 3 has five days left, which means there's still time to contribute.
  • MileHiCon is this weekend in Denver. I will be there all three days, and I'm taking part in a reading Saturday night of weird west and steampunk stories. I haven't decided what I'm reading yet, but I'm sure it will be from my new ebook collection. If you're at the con, please drop by!

Monday, October 8, 2012

"Father Francis and His Mechanical Bees" is up

Today marks the publication of my steampunk flash story "Father Francis and His Mechanical Bees" at Every Day Fiction. This story was so much fun to write. The idea came to me when I was out watering the backyard vegetable garden and a bee almost flew in my ear. It got me wondering what the world would be like without bees. The story went from there. There's a dirigible, a swarm of, yes, mechanical bees, and an AI who thinks she's Annie Oakley. I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Political neutrality in public

It's that time of year again, when pollsters and campaign volunteers knock on doors. I get asked many times in an election season if I'll "answer a few questions." I always say no. I don't put bumper stickers on my car or signs in my driveway. I am officially registered as an independent. And you won't ever, ever see me at a political rally.

This isn't because I disdain the political process. In fact, I'm quite passionate about it, so much so that I had to delete my Facebook account last year when I couldn't stop getting into heated debates with my in-laws. It's because I'm a journalist. Specifically, I'm the wire editor for a major city newspaper, and most of the paper's national election coverage is my responsibility. I cannot under any circumstances make my political leanings public if I am to maintain my journalistic credibility. Occasionally, I get an e-mail or call from a reader (usually angry and yelling), about how I am obviously bias and have an agenda to get so-and-so elected. But here's the thing: the comments are just about evenly split between those accusing me of being a liberal and those accusing me of being a conservative. I guess that means I'm doing my job right.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kickstarter for Fireside has begun

The Kickstarter drive for Fireside Magazine issue No. 3 is going on right now. If you contribute $9, you get ebooks of all three issues. For $10, you get a printed copy of issue No. 3, which will include stories by Daniel Abraham, Elizabeth Bear, Mary Elizabeth Kowal and Lucas J.W. Johnson. And for a larger contribution, there are other rewards. So please go support this great, up-and-coming magazine.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Adventures in epublishing

After about a month of wrestling through ebook formatting, editing, etc., my first ebook is available for purchase on Kindle. It will also be available on Smashwords, Kobo and wherever else I can think to put it over the next few days. Here's the description:

Snake Oil and Other Tales of the Weird West
"A boy's life changes when a snake oil salesman with a dirigible comes to town ... An easygoing cowboy's troubles begin with a six-shooter, some moon men and a girl ... Annie Oakley travels west incognito on a train attacked by a gang of ghost bandits. A collection of three weird west short stories from Jennifer Campbell-Hicks: Snake Oil, Cowboy Jake and the Moon Men, and The Great Ghost Train Robbery."

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sale! "Father Francis" to EDF

I'm happy to announce that "Father Francis and His Mechanical Bees" will appear in Every Day Fiction. This is the second story of mine that EDF has accepted this month and the fourth overall. There's only one tiny downside to this: All of my flash pieces except one have now sold, and the spate of sales has seriously depleted my number of stories out on submission. My goal for October: Write new flashes and get them out on the market.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Submitted for Writers of the Future

Today I sent off my 16th straight submission to Writers of the Future. For most of this quarter, which started July 1, I've struggled with writing an entry for the contest. Two weeks ago, I finally hit on an idea that I could get excited about. I pounded out the first draft in a week and spent another week revising and polishing. Now that I've submitted for Quarter 4 and that monkey is off my back, I can commence with wondering how my Quarter 3 story will fare. Oh, and with writing the next one.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sale! "Catch a Fallen Star" to Fireside Magazine

I'm happy to announce a story acceptance to a fantastic new magazine, Fireside, that has published the likes of Tobias Buckell and Ken Liu. Sometime in the coming months, they'll publish my science-fiction story "Catch a Fallen Star." Fireside's announcement post is here. This magazine funds each issue through Kickstarter, and the campaign for issue No. 3 starts Oct. 1. Be sure to donate!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sales! And other writing news

The past couple of weeks have been crazy busy, which is the reason for my blog silence. First the good news: I sold two stories last week within hours of each other. One is "Caged," a science-fiction flash story that will appear in one of my favorite markets, Every Day Fiction. The other I can't say anything about yet except that it's awesome. How's that for a teaser? I will give details when I can, hopefully sometime in the next few days.

I've been working on a couple of projects this week. My priority right now is to finish my next Writers of the Future entry. For most of this quarter, I've been waffling about what to write, starting stories and then abandoning them. I finally hit on an idea I love last weekend -- two weeks before the entry deadline -- and have been writing the story longhand over the past few days. The first draft is done. I'm in the process of transcribing it onto my laptop, along with some revision and polishing.

My other project harkens back to the goals I set for myself for 2012: the publication of my first ebook. I hope to have it up at least for Kindle readers in the first week of October and Smashwords soon after that. More details to come.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks


Woot! Doctor Who is back, and boy is it back in a big way. The season seven premiere delivered on all sorts of levels. My thought processes went something like this: Hey, look, daleks are scary again! No, Amy and Rory, what happened? Oh my God, is that ...? No, it couldn't be. Holy crap, it is her!

Big spoilers ahead.

Stop now if you haven't watched.

OK, let's get to it.

The biggest development by far is the surprise first appearance of Jenna-Louise Coleman as Oswin, who will be taking over for Amy and Rory on companion duties later this season. She's a survivor of a spaceship crash on a planet populated by insane daleks. She makes souffles, hacks the daleks' computer systems and completely out-manics the Doctor -- and she does it all without being the least bit annoying. Coleman absolutely steals this episode, and opening her character's arc in the first episode of the season is a touch of genius by Steven Moffat.

This is Oswin's end, reminiscent of the introduction of River Song, albeit even more tragic because Oswin has been converted to a dalek and doesn't know it. This creates a rich arc for the coming season. The Doctor will, sooner or later, figure out that he and his new companion have crossed paths before (or later, from her point of view) and that he cannot rescue her from her eventual fate. If he does, and she's not on the dalek planet when she's supposed to be, the Doctor, Amy and Rory will die there. I'm pumped to see where the writers take this, and I'm confident now that the role of companion will be in good hands.

Now for the rest.

The Doctor
Anyone who's #newtowho might have gotten a skewed impression of the Doctor from this episode. He wasn't as goofy and childish as he usually is. He seemed to have a lot of anger boiling just below the surface. Granted, he's dealing with his most ancient enemies, the ones who forced him to destroy his own race, but overall this Doctor comes off as older and more weary. The years (centuries?) have worn him down.

The Ponds
Pre-episode, I believed that some outside force had driven Amy and Rory apart -- but, no. They did it to themselves. Seeing them angry and bitter is painful. On the one hand, I'm relieved they reconciled before the hour was out. On the other, divorce is such a huge plot development that it should have taken another episode or two for them to work through their issues, maybe even all the way to episode five in New York. It would be very "Joss Whedon" of the show to reconcile Amy and Rory, only to have Something Horrible happen five minutes later.

The Daleks
In my opinion, the last time the daleks posed a credible threat to the Doctor (or to anyone) was in the first season episode "Dalek," in which one lone little pepperpot wiped out an entire fortified underground bunker and almost killed Rose in the process. The daleks have never seemed the least bit frightening since, until this episode. The "eggs" scene with Rory was chilling; he's lucky that insane daleks don't have very good aim. And what they did to Oswin was truly horrifying.

One last thought on this episode: Unlike last year's premiere, this one stands on its own. Perhaps that means we'll be seeing fewer complicated season-long arcs and more rousing standalone adventures like this one. I hope so.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Doctor Who: Favorite Season Six moments

It's been nine months since the last time we got any new Who, but tonight is the season seven premiere. I've been watching the Pond Life minisodes online this week, which were all adorable and fun until the last one. SPOILERS AHEAD I suspect the "Ood on the lou" that also likes to make breakfast and wash clothes told the Ponds something cryptic and horrible about their future, and Rory thought the only way to keep Amy safe was to leave her. I doubt he left because of "irreconcilable differences." I mean, come on, this is the Last Centurion who stood guard over Amy in the Pandorica for 2,000 years. A man like that doesn't just up and leave at the first sign of trouble. We'll find out soon enough.

In celebration of the new season, I'm going to go back through some of the most memorable moments of season six. MORE SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Doctor dies, "The Impossible Astronaut"
Of course we now know that he didn't die. At that fixed point in time on the banks of Lake Silencio in Utah, River shoots a robot body with a miniaturized Doctor inside, who makes it out completely unscathed. But when "The Impossible Astronaut" aired, I was shocked and bursting with questions. Who killed the Doctor and why? Who was the little girl who called Nixon? What's up with the Silence? And when the Doctor's closest companions build a floating pyre and mourn while his body burns, I admit I teared up a little, too.

The Doctor and the TARDIS say hello, "The Doctor's Wife"
Episode writer Neil Gaiman gave us one of the best Who episodes in a long time with "The Doctor's Wife," and he uses a plot device that works only once: Put the spirit of the TARDIS in a human body. But such a body cannot hold her for long. After a fantastic sequence of scenes in which the Doctor and the TARDIS get to say the things to each other they've always wanted to, the TARDIS returns to to her rightful place inside the ship. But before she goes, and while the Doctor cries and asks her to stay, she tells him one last thing: "Hello."

River is Amy and Rory's daughter, "A Good Man Goes to War"
I thought about including the revelation that the Amy on the TARDIS is a ganger and she has been abducted and is pregnant to boot, but really that's only a step toward the Big Reveal of River's parentage. River Song is Melody Pond. The Doctor is giddy when he figures it out. Amy and Rory are stunned. And the entire Who fandom goes, "I knew it!"

Old Amy and Rory at the TARDIS door, "The Girl Who Waited"
This entire episode kicks ass, but the scene at the end at the TARDIS door with Old Amy on the outside and Rory on the inside is heartbreaking. Rory can't let her in or TARDIS will not be able to sustain the paradox of two Amys the Young Amy inside will vanish. So Old Amy tells Rory not to open the door. After decades of waiting for the Doctor and Rory to come back for her, she chooses to sacrifice herself so that it will have never happened. Also, Karen Gillan knocks this performance out of the park.

The question the Doctor must never answer, "The Wedding of River Song"
Silence Will Fall. The Question That Must Never Be Answered. These are things that have been hinted at since the Eleventh Doctor first crash-landed in Amy Pond's front yard. In the final scene of last season's finale, we finally hear the question, and it's obvious and intriguing all at the same time: "Doctor Who?" If the Doctor ever answers the question, the implication is that Very Bad Things will follow.

Now, onward with Season Seven and the last stand of the Ponds.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stuff and fluff

My story "30 Pounds of Human Tissue" is now posted to the Daily Science Fiction website. It's been there since Monday, but I haven't had the opportunity to blog about it until now. Enjoy!

My husband and I took the kids to see "The Amazing Spider-Man" yesterday at the local cheap theater. With five people in the family, the $2.50 theater is just about the only way we can afford to see movies outside of waiting for the DVD release. Anyway, I did not enjoy this reboot as much as the original Sam Raimi movie. This new version is too dark and angsty for my tastes. There was so little joy in it, especially in the way-too-serious relationship between Peter and Gwen. Let Batman keep the angst, and let Peter Parker have some fun. I also think the movie would have benefited from cutting about 15 or 20 minutes from the run time.

WorldCon is this weekend in Chicago and DragonCon in Atlanta, and I will sadly not be at either one. But I will be watching the Hugo Awards ceremony online and rooting for Stanley Schmidt to win for best editor, as this is his last chance. His retirement as Analog editor was announced today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Some of my favorite flash

Coming on the heels of a publication of one of my flash stories, I was thinking the other day about what my favorite flash stories are. I receive two flashes in my e-mail box most mornings, courtesy of Daily Science Fiction and Every Day Fiction, so I read a lot of them. But a handful stand out. Here are four of my favorites:

Ponies by Kij Johnson. The last line kills me every time.
"Hello," Said the Gun by Jay Lake. I love the tension that comes from a protagonist not understanding how much danger she's in.
Evil Robot Monkey by Mary Robinette Kowal. A wonderful idea, wonderfully executed.
Freefall by Eric James Stone. A great premise; the resolution is what makes the story.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Thank you

I had some anxiety over my pro-publishing debut, the normal jitters worrying that no one would like my story. So the positive response I received yesterday was gratifying and a little overwhelming. I've never received so much feedback on one of my original stories.

Today I went out to the mailbox and got another pleasant surprise. My contributor copy of the new Triangulation anthology, "Morning After." This anthology was my first stint on the other side of the slush pile, as an assistant editor rather than a writer, and I'm proud of the hard work that the editing team put in. The experience gave me new perspective on what editors are looking for, which in turn will help with my writing. So here it is:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Publication day

Subscribers to Daily Science Fiction are receiving my story "30 Pounds of Human Tissue" in their e-mail boxes today. Nonsubscribers will be able to read the story next week when it goes up on the DSF website.

Some background on how this story came about: A friend and fellow writer, Dustin Adams, posed a challenge a few months ago that we both write and submit a flash story every month. This was the second story I wrote as part of that challenge, and DSF was the first place I submitted it. As for the idea itself, like many of my story ideas, I can't pinpoint one thing that sparked it. But I love robots and I love children, and so putting them together seemed to make sense.

My house: Enter at your own risk

The homefront looks somewhat like a sick ward this weekend. My daughter picked up a cold last week, then gave it to one of her brothers, then to me and my husband. We sound like a NyQuil commercial: coughing, sneezing, sniffling, etc. Only my oldest son has managed to avoid getting the virus. I hope the kids are feeling better by tomorrow for their first day of school -- especially my daughter. The first day of kindergarten is a milestone, and I don't want her lifelong memory to be, "I was so sick and miserable that day ..."

So I've been going to work and sleeping, and that's about it. No writing to speak of the past couple days. I hope the virus goes away soon because it's killing my productivity.

Friday, August 17, 2012

August, so far

It's been too long since I last posted here. Let's see what news I have to share since the start of August.

Not much.

I've been writing, of course. I finished a 4,000-word story that my critique partners did not like very much. They suggested ways to fix it, but I don't know whether I'm willing to start from scratch on a story that I'm not overly passionate about in the first place. So I started a new story instead, an expansion of a flash piece I wrote a couple months ago, and I'm thoroughly enjoying this one so far.

I finished reading Carrie Vaughn's "Kitty and the Silver Bullet" a few days ago. I plowed through it, as I almost always do with Carrie Vaughn's books because her writing style is readable. I'm now reading Lev Grossman's "The Magician King." I blogged about the first book in that series, "The Magicians," last year. I loved Grossman's writing style but not his protagonist. We'll see whether Quintin can manage to be a less-miserable person this time around.

And the big news: On Monday, I will have my pro-writing debut when Daily Science Fiction publishes my flash story "30 Pounds of Human Tissue." Only DSF subscribers will get the story that day. Everyone else will have to wait a week until it's posted to the DSF website.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Triangulation: Morning After

Hey everyone. This is letting you know that the first anthology for which I've been on the other side of things -- i.e. assistant editor -- is now for sale in paperback and in e-book. This newest offering from PARSEC Inc. is "Triangulation: Morning After" and we have some fantastic stories to share. In reading submissions, I was amazed at the imagination of our writers in how many ways they found to interpret the theme. You can buy your copy on Amazon here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

EW cover

In the midst of many months of Doctor Who drought, Entertainment Weekly comes along with a gift. I am so looking forward to getting this in my mailbox.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Writers of the Future, Quarter 2

I was bracing for a third straight rejection in a row, but I was pleasantly surprised this evening to find out I received an honorable mention in quarter 2. The running tally in 14 quarters of entering:
  • 1 semi-finalist
  • 1 silver honorable mention
  • 7 honorable mentions
  • 5 straight rejections

A few words on Aurora

No one I knew was in the theater about 20 miles from here Friday night when a madman shot more than 70 people and killed 12 of them. That doesn't make it less heart-wrenching. My prayers go out to the family and friends of those who were killed and injured. I have hugged my children that much tighter the past couple of days, especially my 5-year-old daughter, who is only a few months younger than the shooter's youngest victim: an adorable little girl named Veronica.

Every time a tragedy like this happens, it shatters a perception of safety. Movie theaters are a place to have fun, be entertained and spend time with friends. No longer. But you can't live in fear. Pick out a movie and go, and send a message.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Geek happiness

This photo from the Entertainment Weekly party at Comic-Con fills me with nerd joy. Who else thinks the Doctor (a k a Matt Smith) and Captain Tightpants (a k a Nathan Fillion) should do a project together? Maybe Matt could get in on Doctor Horrible 2 as a sidekick to Captain Hammer or the new superhero in town. Oh the possibilities ...


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Firefly: 10 years, really?

Hey, the Science Channel is going to give me a birthday present. They're going to film the Firefly cast's Comic-Con panel this Friday and also do an in-depth roundtable, and then show the special along with a Firefly marathon on Nov. 11 -- my 36th birthday. The Comic-Con appearance and the special are marking the 10th anniversary of the show. Ten years, people! And I'd venture to guess Firefly is more popular today than it was when it originally aired. Ten years ago, I wasn't married (although I was engaged), and I certainly wasn't a mother to three. What was life like before marriage and kids? Sometimes it's hard to remember. But I do remember a friend and I going over to her house once a week after work to eat popcorn and watch Firefly. I loved that.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fireworks

Most Colorado fireworks displays were canceled this year due to the state being a tinderbox. One wrong spark, and we would be dealing with a wildfire in the middle of the Denver metro area. Of the few displays that went on, one happened to be right across the street from my work building, so my husband and I packed up the kids and went to watch from the Denver Post's 10th floor balcony. The show lasted about 20 minutes. My 5-year-old loved it. My 8-year-old was disappointed that the show didn't go longer.

At least we weren't in San Diego, where the display malfunctioned and every firework went off in a span of 15 seconds. My son really would have been disappointed. Then again, I can't imagine the chaos of the Denver display, being set off from the top of the City and County Building in the heart of downtown, going off all at once.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Writers of the Future, Quarter 1

After 190 days of waiting, I broke down and queried the Writers of the Future Contest administrator about my entry from quarter 1 - the one I submitted the week before Christmas. Since then, the presiding judge has died and been replaced. I also entered by paper sub, which always takes longer to judge. All this added up to an epic wait. It came to an anti-climactic end with a response to my query and a straight rejection. This is the first time in four years that I have received a straight rejection two quarters in a row, but seeing as it has been almost eight months between responses, it doesn't feel like two straight quarters.

In 13 quarters of entering:
  • 1 semi-finalist
  • 1 silver honorable mention
  • 6 honorable mentions
  • 5 straight rejections 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Denver Post copy desk cake

On Friday, the last day for the majority of the copy editors at The Denver Post, two of the page designers graciously made a cake for the occasion. Here it is, in all its typo-ed glory.


Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day! My family celebrated this morning with my husband, who is indeed a wonderful, wonderful father. When I met him, he was already a father to a 3-year-old boy, and his devotion to his son (now our son) was one of the many reasons I fell in love with him. And of course, there's my own dad, who was my soccer coach when I was growing up and from whom I got my love of reading. He's now a great grandpa, too, and is known as "Papa" around our house. I couldn't be luckier to have these men in my life.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Midmonth update

Is it already halfway through June? This year is flying by fast. Today is a black day at my place of employment, The Denver Post, because it's the last day for most copy editors. Only eight of us are staying out of 23; the firings were necessitated by newsroom budget cuts. I thought for sure I would be one of those being shown the door, but instead of dealing with unemployment, I am grappling with survivor's guilt -- and with how to produce a nation and world section each day essentially by myself

Now, on with the mid-month writing update:

This week I'm in revisions mode. I revised a flash based on a rewrite request and polished up another flash and got that submitted. Tonight and tomorrow, I plan to finish and submit my Quarter 3 story for Writers of the Future. There's a good possibility that as of Saturday, I will have three stories out to WotF at the same time, which has happened to me only once before. With all the revisions done, I can start the Quarter 4 story next week.

Words of fiction written: 1,000, which is one flash. I have a lot of catching up to do to reach my goal of 5,000 for the month.
Stories started: 1
Stories finished: 2
New submissions: 3
Stories out on submission: 8 (from 1 day to 178 days waiting)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Getting back to normal

I have a reason for my blog silence: I had all four wisdom teeth out on Wednesday and have been in recovery mode ever since. Two of them were impacted and horizontal, and those are the holes in my mouth that are taking the longest time to heal. I'm up to eating soft foods. My diet this weekend consists mostly of scrambled eggs, refried beans, oatmeal, yogurt and fruit smoothies. Oh, and I cannot believe the number of medications I'm taking. I have greater respect now for people who take a medley of pills at various times all day, every day. I have to do it for only a week, and I can hardly keep it all straight.

True Blood starts up tonight, and for the first time ever I get to watch the episodes as they air because we now have HBO. For all the previous seasons, I've had to wait for the DVD release, which usually comes about a year after the season airs. I haven't watched last season yet except for the finale, so I'll be watching both seasons at the same time. Should be interesting.

Writing progress: I finished a flash piece last night about a priest, an AI who thinks she's Annie Oakley, a dirigible and some mechanical bees. It was damn fun to write. My third-quarter entry for Writers of the Future is basically done, and I'm hoping to submit the story this week.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Stats for May

May was a difficult month for me personally, and that affected the time I devoted to writing. I feel like I'm getting somewhat back to normal now, so hopefully June will more productive than the past couple of months have been.

Words of fiction written: 4,000 -- below my goal of 5,000
Stories started: 2
Stories finished: 1
New submissions: 5
Stories out on submission: 8, which is a record for me
Sales: 1, to Daily Science Fiction

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Matt Smith carries the Olympic torch

A few years ago, David Tennant's Doctor landed in London 2012 and carried the Olympic torch. On Saturday, his successor in the TARDIS did it for real. What an amazing experience that must be for all the torch bearers. Sooooo jealous.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Back in the saddle

The past few weeks have been difficult. It had something to do with this. OK, it had everything to do with that. I haven't had the desire to write, as all my thoughts have been consumed with worry over my career and how I was going to support my family, though I did struggle through finishing one flash piece. Now that my work situation has smoothed out a bit (although not entirely), I find that my thoughts are turning away from panic and back to writing. I started a new story yesterday and have written about 1,000 words so far. It's such a relief to find myself excited about sorting through plot points, themes and dialogue. I feel like the story is really clicking, and I have hopes that it will be one of those rare gems in which everything just works. If you're a writer, you know what I mean.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Doctor Who minisode

Yesterday, a minisode of the Doctor and Amy at the Olympics was released online. It's part of a scriptwriting competition for kids and aired on a kids show in the UK. It's cute and silly and I don't understand how could a weeping angel run through a stadium full of people. But it's a better writing effort than I could have done when I was young. So, congrats to the winning writers. Also, Matt Smith really will run with the Olympic torch this weekend. If I find any photos, I will post one here.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ring of Fire

Today is the first time in about 20 years that Denver will get a partial solar eclipse. The moon will cover 80 percent of the sun. The last time we had a solar eclipse here, I was in high school. My science teacher set up a telescope with a special lens in the senior courtyard. When I wasn't in class, I was out there watching the eclipse. It was fascinating and beautiful. At its peak, I thought the sunlight might dim, so it would feel more like early twilight. It didn't, but the temperature dropped.

I'll be working this evening, so I can't watch. But I have bugged my husband into helping our kids make a pinpoint viewer out of a shoe box. Another 20 years might pass before we get another event like this, and I don't want them to miss it.

Here's a nice graphic that shows the path of the eclipse.

And here's how to make your own pinpoint viewer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Avengers

My hubby and I took the whole family to see The Avengers today. My kids are 5, 8 and 16, and they all loved it, although the sound system was too much for my youngest, who spent most of the movie with her fingers in her ears. There are plenty of reviews out there, so I'm going to take a different tact on talking about this movie and play "How do you know you're watching a Joss Whedon production?" If you haven't seen The Avengers -- or any of Joss Whedon's various television shows or movies -- and you don't want to be spoiled, stop now.

I'll say it again: HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD.

OK, you've been warned.

1. The script
Watch enough stuff written by Mr. Whedon and you start to catch onto the snappy back-and-forth between the characters and the action-oriented bait-and-switch. Thor is lecturing his brother Loki when out of nowhere, Iron Man swoops down to carry off Thor, and Loki snarks at the empty air. Captain America gives orders to his team amid an alien invasion; he finally gets to Hulk and says, "Hulk ... smash." Loki lectures Hulk about how high and mighty he is compared with puny humans, and Hulk slams him around the room like a rag doll a few times and leaves him whimpering in the floor. (Yes, in the floor, not on it.) All this is vintage Whedon.

2. Someone important dies
Tara ... Wash ... Wesley ... Anya ... Penny ... Ballard ... and now Agent Colson. Someone will die going into the big finale. Watch enough Joss Whedon shows, and you know it's coming. The reasons are myriad, but in this case, it's to make the heroes realize they need to stop fighting one another and go kill some bad guys.

3. There's a giant pit where a town/military complex used to be
Remember what happened to Sunnydale in the series finale? Yeah, there wasn't much left but a giant crater. Watch the opening sequence of "The Avengers," and you're going to experience some serious deja vu.

4. There's a big, bad portal that needs closing
In "The Gift," a goddess' henchman opens a portal to a hell dimension and lots of nightmarish creatures come pouring out until Buffy closes it with her own blood, sacrificing her life in the process. In "The Avengers," a god's henchman opens a portal into outer space and lots of aliens and flying fish things come pouring out. No one dies closing it, but Tony Stark comes close.

5. Cameos!
Alexis Denisof and Enver Gjokaj both make appearances.

And in an aside, the introduction of Black Widow has a lot in common with the introduction of Sydney Bristow on "Alias." A beautiful red-haired woman dressed in black is tied to a chair while someone threatens to pull out her teeth. Maybe Joss and J.J. are comparing notes.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Movie review: Contagion

The last movie I watched was about an astronomical disaster wiping out humanity. This time, it was a biological disaster almost wiping out humanity. My next movie is going to be a dumb comedy, I swear.

Two points in particular struck me about "Contagion":

First, if a previously unknown, fast-moving virus broke out and killed millions of people worldwide, this is what I imagine would happen, on the scientific, governmental and societal levels. This movie feels real. At no point was my disbelief not suspended. The plot follows several characters: scientists who try to trace the virus to its source, find a vaccine and contain the outbreak; a widower who's determined to keep his teenage daughter alive while society breaks down into chaos; an immoral blogger who uses the people's fear to gain fame and profit.

Second is the all-star cast. I was counting the number of Oscar winners and nominees on the screen: Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, John Hawkes, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard. Holy cow. How did Steven Soderberg manage that? Probably by virtue of being Steven Soderberg. Not all of them survive to the end. One character dies horribly in the first 10 minutes. But when the film is called "Contagion," there needs to be a Patient Zero, right?

Possibly my favorite part comes at the end, after all is said and done. We go back to Day 1 and find out exactly how the virus started. Its origins are so mundane that they're scary, and I'll probably think twice the next time I'm about to dig into a plate of pork.

Friday, May 4, 2012

April stats, a few days late

Life has thrown a few curve balls -- or maybe heat-seeking missiles -- at me in the past week or so, which is why I'm late in posting my stats for last month. They're not good. I attribute that to two factors: burnout at the start of the month and life issues at the end of the month. That left me with about two weeks in the middle of April when I was writing and everything was good.

Words of fiction written: About 3,500 -- well below my goal of 5,000.
Stories started: 1
Stories finished: 1
New submissions: 1 (That is awful. I've been waiting for a couple of specific markets to reopen that promised to do so in mid-April or the start of May, but so far they have not.)
Stories out on submission: 4 (Two stories are currently not out on submission because I'm waiting for two markets -- mentioned above -- to reopen. I also have a flash that is almost ready to send out but is in need of some revision first.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sale! to Daily Science Fiction

It's been a long time since I got to announce an acceptance, so I'm happy this morning to share the news that Daily Science Fiction will publish my flash story "30 Pounds of Human Tissue." No word yet on when the story will see print (or in DSF's case, when it will land in e-mail boxes). I've been a subscriber to DSF for more than two years and am impressed by the consistent quality of work the editors publish. I'm psyched to be part of it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Running

Today is one of those days that reminds me of the amazing healing power of exercise. I had a horrible morning on several fronts: physical, financial and in writing. I got one of those rare rejections that I had such high hopes for (as in my high hopes were rare, not the rejection itself), and I immediately burst into tears. But after I calmed down, I pulled on my running clothes and shoes and went out into the neighborhood. I ran for about 3 1/2 miles without stopping and afterward felt much better about the world. There's so much out there that I can't control, and on days like this it makes me feel helpless. But when I'm running, it's only me and the pavement. I love how strong I feel. It helps me remember that I can push through whatever obstacles the world throws at me and keep going. And keep running.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Movie review: Melancholia

Nothing scares me more than the prospect of destruction on a planetary or universal scale. Sometimes I have difficulty sleeping after watching such a movie, and yet I keep putting them on my Netflix list. There must be something wrong with me. Anyway, this time it's "Melancholia" - a ponderous film that hammers you over the head with how beautiful The End will be.

The movie opens with a succession of gorgeous, slow-motion images of what happens in the Earth's final moments, ending with a newly discovered planet slowly closing the gap with Earth and smashing into it. The setup takes eight minutes, and then - knowing how it's going to turn out - we get to the story.

It's about two sisters, depressed Justine and loving but frustrated Claire. The movie's first part focuses on how badly one woman (Justine) can screw up her own wedding. The second part is more interesting. The closer the planet Melancholia gets to Earth, the more Justine comes back to life and the more Claire - who also has to worry about her grade-school son - descends into debilitating fear.

There's a horrible sense of helplessness about the whole thing, which is the part that scares me most about these kinds of movies. The protagonists can do absolutely nothing to change their own fate or that of the human race. The only decision anyone can make is how to die. No wonder Justine is depressed.

Despite the horrible and inescapable ending, those final seconds - in which a massive blue planet fills the sky, dwarfing the three humans who sit terrified in an emerald green pasture - are very, very beautiful.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sad news

Those of us in the Writers of the Future community -- and the science-fiction community as a whole -- woke to shocking, sad news this morning: writer, former winner and presiding judge K.D. Wentworth passed away on April 18. She was 61.

I never met Kathy, but this is upsetting news for me nonetheless. The first time I entered Writers of the Future, she awarded me an honorable mention and sent back the first page of my story with a handwritten note of encouragement. That little note meant the world to me. Amid reading hundreds of entries, she took the time to tell me I was on the right track. I didn't plan to enter the next quarter, but after receiving that tiny bit of encouragement, I sent off another story, and another, and another. Two years and many entries later, I received a full critique from her, and her insight and advice were spot-on.

In an industry in which impersonal rejection is the norm, K.D. Wentworth gave encouragement and hope to hundreds (thousands?) of new writers to keep trying. To not give up. I will appreciate that always.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Congratulations are in order

Less than 24 hours after watching the Writers of the Future winners accept their awards in the annual ceremony, I came to work today to find out about a winner of another sort. Craig Walker, a photographer for The Denver Post, has won his second Pulitzer in three years. The guy is amazing, all the more for being such a nice and humble person.

If you want to see how well someone can tell a story through photography -- and an important story at that -- check out Craig's winning entry here.

And here is the Denver Post story on his win.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mid-month update

Here we are already halfway through April. How the heck did that happen? This year is flying by. Flying, I tell you. Tonight I will be watching my good friend Nick T. Chan -- and a whole bunch of other great writers, too -- receive their due at the Writers of the Future awards ceremony. Alas, I cannot go in person, so I must settle for instant streaming. Maybe next year, it'll be me up on that stage. I can only hope.

I finished reading Timeless by Gail Carriger a couple days ago, the fifth and final book in her Parasol Protectorate series. I've enjoyed every page of the series and am sorry it's over. Next on my reading list is Mary Robinette Kowal's Glamour in Glass. She'll be here in Denver signing at the Broadway Book Mall on April 26. Come out to the signing, if you can.

Now, onward with the mid-month stats.
  • Words of fiction written: 1,500, which is way below where I should be. However, I was burned out after marathon rewrites in March and took a 10-day break at the start of this month. So really, I've written 1,500 words in the past week.
  • Stories started: 1
  • Stories finished: 0
  • New submissions: 0 (Everything that can be submitted is already out somewhere -- except for one story, for which I'm waiting on a specific market to reopen.)
  • Stories out on submission: 6 (Days out span from 192 to 15.)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

And watch out for evil bunnies.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hugo nominees

Nominees for the 2012 Hugo Awards and the John W. Campbell Award for New Writer have been announced. You can see the full list here.

As usual, I haven't read many of the fiction nominees.
  • None in the novel category. I'm working my way through George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, but I haven't gotten to "A Dance With Dragons" yet.
  • One novella: "The Man Who Bridged the Mist" by the excellent Kij Johnson.
  • One novelette: "Ray of Light" by Brad Torgersen. I'm happy to see him nominated. Although I don't know him personally, I've been in an online writers group with Brad since before his first pro sale. It's inspiring to watch how far his career has come in so short a time.
  • None of the short stories.
And as usual, I'm most familiar with the film and television categories. I've seen four of the five long-form nominees and am rooting for either Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. Doctor Who dominates the short-form category with three nominations. The best of those episodes is "The Doctor's Wife" -- although "The Girl Who Waited" gets better every time I watch it.

Congrats to all the nominees. The winners will be announced at WorldCon, held Aug. 30 - Sept. 3 in Chicago.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I wonder how often this happens

My 7-year-old is the sweetest boy a mother could ask for (not that I'm bias or anything). He has sensory processing disorder, which has resulted in developmental delays in his motor skills, so until last year he was in his school's special education program to get the extra help he needed. He's also very impulsive, and I hear some interesting stories from his teacher. For instance, my son recently took in a lesson while half out of his desk with his head on the floor.

This week, the school psychologist tested him for the gifted and talented program. I've always known he's whip-smart, but I didn't expect anything to come of the testing. Instead, he tested at a "superior" level. He's well above the threshold for being considered gifted. The appropriate people at his school will now come up with a plan to help him reach his academic potential, which will go into effect next school year.

The upshot of all that: My son is both remedial and gifted.

Huh.

Now I'm no dummy. I skipped a grade in elementary school. (As a side note, that destroyed my social life for years after and I absolutely will not allow anyone to do that to my son.) I graduated high school with a 3.9 GPA and college with a 3.8. I suspect that by the time my son hits high school, he will be leaving me in his intellectual dust.

It's overwhelming to think about that with my sweet, impulsive boy who has difficulty forming his letters and wants to operate a crane when he grows up. I am looking forward more than ever now to see where his life's journey takes him. I don't think it will be to a construction site.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

End of March stats

As of a half-hour ago, I am entered in Quarter 2 of Writers of the Future, which is my 14th consecutive submission in the contest. I have never cut it so close to the deadline, which is about six or seven hours from now. I've spent the past week making a critical revision to my story. My protagonist has a goal, but she had no deep, driving, personal motivation for achieving that goal. As a result, my readers would have no reason to care whether she was successful for not.

That's fixed now. I finished the rewrite last night about 2:30 a.m., and I'm happy with the result. However the story places (or doesn't place) in the contest, I've given it my absolute best effort.

Wrapping up March:
  • Words of fiction written: Hard to say. Except for a 750-word flash piece, my work this month has been redrafting and revising. I'll estimate that I've written 2,000 new words since the middle of the month. Add in the first half of March, and that comes to a total of 5,500.
  • Stories started: 1
  • Stories finished: 2
  • New submissions: 7
  • Stories out on submission: 7

Friday, March 30, 2012

Anything that can go wrong ...

This is why you shouldn't push a story to the last minute. The current quarter for Writers of the Future ends tomorrow, which is the drop-dead deadline for submitting my story. I've been working on this story for almost two months, going through a first draft, a redraft, and now a significant revision. I'm down to one last scene. I had planned to work on revising that scene before work, but I woke this morning to find that my laptop has crashed. So I will likely be staying at work after my shift to use my computer here.

If I win Mega Millions tonight (yeah right ...), my first stop tomorrow will be the Apple store for a shiny new laptop.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Doctor Who Season 7 trailer

Watering at the mouth yet for Season 7? This might slake your thirst for a little while. But it's still a long, long wait until the fall.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Writing progress and other things

Here's how the story process has gone this quarter for Writers of the Future:
  • Write story
  • Decide story isn't good enough
  • Redraft story from scratch
I finished the redraft two days ago and sent it to my first readers, who are doing a fantastic job of sending me their feedback in record time. I appreciate this because the quarter ends March 31. I have only a week to get my story into submission shape. That week also happens to be my kids' spring break, which means I'll be spending time doing things with them when I usually would be writing. It'll be interesting, squeezing out time for revisions.

In completely unrelated news, here is the woman who will replace the Ponds aboard the TARDIS:


The actress' name is Jenna-Louise Coleman, and I know nothing about her except that she looks adorable in a sweater. And she's going to have to be pretty awesome to make me OK with Amy and Rory checking out of Doctor Who.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cat is out of the bag

Last August, I made my best sale to date to Digital Science Fiction, an up-and-coming pro-level market publishing e-book anthologies. My story was to appear in the sixth anthology, due out this April. In October, I got some disappointing news that Digital was putting new anthologies on hold for the foreseeable future. I was also asked to not say anything publicly, and so I kept the news to myself.

Editor Michael Wills has now blogged about the Digital Science Fiction silence. I'm happy to see that he plans to continue with the anthologies at some point in the future. I will be happy to submit more stories there when he does

A little talk about football

Let's start by getting this out of the way: I am not a football fan. My husband is fanatical. He loves the Cowboys. He's been playing fantasy football since before most people knew what it was. But not me. I tolerate football.

That changed last season. What changed? Tim Tebow. Yes, I admit it. I like Tim Tebow. I like that he's not a prototypical NFL quarterback. I like that he's erratic. I like the Tebowing. I like that he started every interview by thanking his lord and savior and spent most of his microphone time praising his teammates instead of tooting his own horn. He isn't a great quarterback and might never be one, but he makes the game fun and exciting to watch.

But that's over now. The Broncos are signing Peyton Manning, which means they will go back to being a typical boring football team. Even if they win the Super Bowl, which is obviously what they're aiming for, I won't be watching. The magic will be gone.

I can't see how Tebow will stay in Denver now. Last season, he led his team to an incredible, improbable winning streak and to the playoffs. This season, he would be watching from the bench. He could probably benefit from learning from someone like Manning, but I doubt it will happen. Besides, anyone think Manning would put up with the fans screaming his backup's name every time he flubs a pass?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ides of March update

I love this time of year. On my run this afternoon (in weather warm enough for shorts and a tank top), I saw crocuses in bloom. And in downtown, there are daffodils. A few smallish trees are starting to put out their leaves. March and April are historically the snowiest months of the year here, but in between storms, it's warm and beautiful.

For the middle of March:

Writing: I've been busy redrafting a story to submit to Writers of the Future. The deadline for the quarter is in two weeks. I'll make it, but barely. I also wrote a flash piece. Grand total of new words: 3,500. That's well ahead of my modest goal of 2,500 by the middle of the month.

Submissions: I've sent out five new submissions in March, with a total of six stories on the market. Days out range from 0 to 161.

Reading: Not as much as I would like. I'm almost done with the current issue of Asimov's and will dig into Analog after that.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Writing progress and other things

Since the start of the month, I've been working through a redraft of my next Writers of the Future entry. Mostly my focus has been on replacing infodumps (i.e. characters talking about what's going on) with action scenes. I'm also simplifying the plot, boosting conflict and clarifying themes. An unexpected side effect of all this is that the redraft is coming out several hundred words shorter than the first draft.

I finished Tobias Buckell's novella "The Executioness" last night and enjoyed it a lot. I'm also working my way through the most recent issue of Asimov's magazine. The only story so far to blow my socks off is "Riding Red Ted and Breathing Fire" by Carol Emshwiller.

And in the life of the Hicks family, my daughter has viral conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pink eye. But being the viral kind, medicinal drops won't help. We have to wait for it to go away, which the doctor says will take about a week. In the meantime, she can't go to preschool and will be hanging out with boring old mom in the afternoons. I think I've already failed in my goal of preventing anyone else in the family from contracting the pink eye. The virus' next victim: me.

Friday, March 9, 2012

10,000

That's the number of page views this blog has gotten since its creation in August 2008. Whoop! In celebration of this momentous, world-changing event, here are the most popular posts ever for Jennifer's Musings:

Is Firefly Coming Back?: This one is the runaway winner with 1,818 hits, which goes to show that even 10 years later, you can't stop the signal.

Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut: 340 of you wanted to read about my Lost-style speculations after the Season 6 premiere. In retrospect, I didn't guess too badly.

The Social Network: 209 hits. I disliked the movie and still stand by my review.

Doctor Who: The Rebel Flesh: 82 views. This was one of my least favorite episodes of Season 6, and I really didn't have much to say.

Doctor Who: Favorite Season 5 moments: 81 views. You all really like Doctor Who. Me, too. Obviously.

There you have it, the top 5 posts for the first 10,000 hits. May the blog go on to 20,000 and beyond and hit the next milestone in less than 3 1/2 years. Ha.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A little crazy, a lot of happy

And now I will take a moment to go "Whoo!" and do a happy Snoopy dance. Because Fiona Apple is releasing her first album in seven years this summer, called ...

The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and the Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do.

Yeah. Fiona, I have missed your crazy. I suspect this one will get shortened to The Idler Wheel, just as another of her album titles was shortened to When the Pawn. That one went on for 70 or 80 words. I don't usually get excited about an album release (not like I do about a movie or book release, such as Naomi Novik's new one coming out this week), but Fiona Apple is one of my favorites.

And here's one of my favorite of her songs, from her first album:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Laugh break

We're starting off March here in the Mile High City with clouds and snow. All day. Blech. Also the muscle spasm in my shoulder is acting up something awful, and I started the day with a story rejection in my e-mail box. So here's a little something that makes me smile.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wrapping up February

Happy Leap Day! Really, an extra day on the calendar should not be associated with leaping, which involves jumping or skipping over something. The name would be more accurate if we lost a day instead of added one. Anyway, with another 14 hours until March as I write this, the stats might change. But as of right now, here's how I did for February:

Words of fiction written: 5,100
Stories started: 1
Stories finished: 1
New submissions: 4
Total stories out on submission: 5

I hit my modest word count goal for the month. I did not finish the first draft of my next Writers of the Future entry, as I wanted to, but I am one longish scene from the end. However, the opening scene will take some serious revising before I send the story to my first readers. I've come to realize I started in the wrong place and the first three pages are a big infodump. That's OK for my purposes of getting oriented but not OK for the final product.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscar redux, and a trip

In my Oscar picks, I got 13 right, which is more than half but not as good as I've done in some years. I missed actor and actress, although I enjoyed the acceptance speeches of both Jean Dujardin and Meryl Streep (which, along with best picture, were the only awards I saw).

The reason I missed most of the Oscars ceremony was because my two youngest children and I traveled over the Rocky Mountains to Grand Junction this weekend for my grandpa's 90th birthday celebration. The trip can be difficult in winter, but we had clear skies Saturday and Sunday. I caught up with a lot of distant relatives I haven't seen in a long time and some I don't ever remembering meeting. I heard a few variations on: "The last time I saw you, you were 4 years old!" Most importantly, I got to spend some time with my grandparents for the first time in months. I hope I'm doing that well when I hit 90. Despite spending 10 hours on the road over two days, the trip was definitely worth it.

On a side note, at these kinds of gatherings, I notice people are generally remembered for one thing, and it's all they get asked about. For instance, one of my cousins does a lot of traveling (in the U.S. and abroad) for his job, so we all ask him about where he's been over the past few weeks. As for me, I am the writer of the family. Everyone asks me how the writing is going and whether I've had anything published lately. If I have to be labeled as something, I'm proud that it's as a writer.

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Oscar picks

I will be driving over the Rocky Mountains on Sunday night, coming back from my grandfather's 90th birthday party (90!) when the Oscars ceremony will air. So I won't be watching for the first time in years. But I still enjoy making predictions on who/what will win. Some of my picks are based on critical opinions and some are blind guesses. Almost none are based on my opinions because I've hardly watched any of the nominated movies this year. Here we go:

Best picture: The Artist
Actor: George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Actress: Viola Davis, "The Help"
Supporting actor: Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
Supporting actress: Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
Animated film: Rango
Cinematography: The Artist
Art direction: Hugo
Costume design: Jane Eyre
Directing: Michael Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Documentary feature: Undefeated
Documentary short: Saving Face
Film editing: The Descendants
Foreign language film: A Separation
Makeup: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Original score: The Artist
Original song: Man or Muppet, "The Muppets"
Short film animated: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Short film live action: Time Freak
Sound editing: Drive
Sound mixing: War Horse
Visual effects: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Adapted screenplay: The Ides of March
Original screenplay: Midnight in Paris

I'll post how I did on Monday.

Monday, February 20, 2012

General updatetry

The Nebula Award nominations came out today and you can read the full list here. Once again I've managed to read next to nothing that the bulk of SFWA members thought was great last year. I've read none of the novels; one novella (Kij Johnson's wonderful "The Man Who Bridged the Mist"); one novelette ("Ray of Light" by Brad R. Torgersen); and one short story ("Shipbirth" by Aliette de Bodard). I have some catching up to do.

However, I have been reading other things. This past week, I finished "Storm Front" by Jim Butcher and "The Alchemist" by Paolo Bacigalupi (which was nominated for a Nebula last year). I highly recommend both. I've started "Kushiel's Dart" by Jacqueline Carey, which will probably take me several weeks to get through because it is a door stop.

Tor.com is doing a Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch. They're now starting in on Season 2, which is my second favorite season (No. 5 is the best, IMO). I feel nostalgic every time I read one of the posts and get an itch to pull my DVD sets off the shelf. I love one of the comments on today's post -- made by editor extraordinaire Gardner Dozois, no less -- who points out that every evil thing always kicks off its take-over-the-world plan by attacking the Bronze. Ha! It's because the Bronze is The Place To Be, of course.

And a last note: the Oscar's are this weekend. I usually watch the best picture nominees as they come out on DVD. So far this year I've seen ... Moneyball. That's it. The only other nominated movies I've watched: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Bridesmaids, Kung Fu Panda 2, Rango, The Muppets, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and Jane Eyre. So when I make my Oscar picks later this week, I'll be doing it based on critical opinion and not my own. Oh well.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Writing progress

We are (almost) midway through the month, so it's time for an update.

Writing: So far this month, I've written a 1,000-word flash story (dark fantasy) and 1,500 words on my next Writers of the Future entry (science fiction), which is coming along swimmingly. My goal is at least 5,000 words per month, so I'm right on target for reaching that goal in February.

Submissions: I've sent out one new submission this month, for a total of five stories on the market. Days out range from 4 to 129.

Reading: I've finished the current issue of Asimov's and am now reading the current Analog. No stories yet stand out as gold. I'm also listening to "Storm Front" by Jim Butcher, which is the first book in his Harry Dresden series. Mr. Butcher is a master of pacing and tension. There's a lot to learn from there. Also, it doesn't hurt that the audiobook's narrator is none other than the fantastic James Marsters, a k a Spike on "Buffy."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thank goodness for Good Samaritans

I parked in a usual spot in downtown Denver today and walked a half-mile from my car to the office. About 6 p.m., I walked back to get my car and move it into the office parking garage. (I pay the cheap option on the garage, which means I can get in only after 6 p.m. and on weekends.)

Anyway, I started up the engine, put it in drive and the wheels spun. Put it in reverse. The wheels spun. I spent five minutes turning the wheel this way and that, going forward, going back. I was stuck. And the sad part is that the snow is mostly melted off. I just happened to park in an ice rut.

I went across the street, where a guy was using a pickup with a plow attached to the front to clear out a pay lot. He very nicely agreed to give me a push. No good. He went and found a friend who was also clearing snow. The two of them still could not get my car out. So they enlisted another guy. By this time, I was very thankful that so many of them were out clearing snow from a parking lot at 6:30 p.m., when most people are home eating dinner. Finally, with three big guys pushing the front end of my car, my little Corolla rolled backward out of the ice and onto dry asphalt.

I checked later and found out the parking lot is leased for use by employees of a local hospital: Exempla Saint Joseph.

Too bad it wasn't the other hospital owned by Exempla in the area: Good Samaritan.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

42 hours of snowfall

We take our winter seriously here in Colorado. The latest storm started with some flurries Thursday evening and didn't move out until noon today, after it had dumped about 18 inches of white stuff on the driveway. (My back and shoulders ache from the shoveling.) More than 17.1 inches would make it the biggest February snowstorm in Denver's history. I'm guessing we set a record.

Most Denver-area employees wisely called in sick Friday and stayed off the roads. Unfortunately, I work in a profession that doesn't grind to a halt for anything. Come holidays or snowstorms, the newspaper comes out every day. So I plowed into work and back home again last night, which was the worse part as far as road conditions went. There are a handful of nighttime work commutes every winter in which I grip the steering wheel white-knuckled, creep along the interstate at 40 mph and - once I have pulled into the garage - thank God for getting me home in one piece. Last night was one of those nights.

Writing progress: Running total of 5,300 words. I plan to get another 1,000 to 1,500 words written this weekend. I'm feeling really good about this story so far.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stats for January

Words of fiction written: 5,000
Stories started: 1
Stories finished: 0
New submissions: 4 (all the same story)
Total stories out on submission: 4

I'm generally happy with the word count, but I know I can do better. The flash fiction project I'll be starting this month will increase the number of stories and submissions. It's not a race, but I won't make sales if I don't write more and submit more.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Quick update

I've been busy with writing-related stuff the past couple of days. I've written about 1,000 words on the work-in-progress and plan to add another 500 or so tonight. I've also been catching up on slush reading. And I'm taking on another long-term project with a friend that involves writing one flash piece (1,000 words or less) per month, trading stories for quick critiques and getting them out on submission. It'll be good for me to jump back into doing flash. I haven't written one in more than a year.

Chuck series finale: The responses I've seen on message boards have been pretty evenly split between those who loved the finale and those who hated how it ended. I fall in with those who loved it. The final episode was a skip down nostalgia lane, re-enacting some of the best moments from the past five years (the Wienerlicious! Chuck downloads the Intersect!). The supporting characters all got happy endings (Jeffster as German pop stars! Subway buys the Buy More!). Most of all, I loved how the final scene on the beach was not an ending for Chuck and Sarah but a beginning. A new adventure. No, they didn't get their little house with the white picket fence. This was better: It was romantic and hopeful and perfect.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Chuck versus The End

I don't latch onto many television shows for their full run. "Chuck" is one of them. For five years, I've enjoyed watching Chuck Bartowski - a Buy More employee with a protector in his pocket and a government computer in his head - save the world from evil alongside CIA Agent Sarah Walker and NSA Agent John Casey. But now it's over. The series finale airs tonight.

Really, "Chuck" should not have made it this far. Every season, it was in danger of cancellation but somehow managed to pick up another 14 or 15 episodes. That was partially due to several determined fan-based Save Chuck campaigns. The best one: fans went to Subway on air dates, bought footlongs and filled out little response forms saying they were there to support "Chuck." The next season, Subway was a major sponsor of the show, and Buy More employees frequently bit into juicy footlongs. Great stuff.

But the head of NBC entertainment recently (and with more than a little nastiness) said that those fan campaigns did not translate into viewers. Thus, we have reached the end.

What I will remember "Chuck" for the most is its ability to wink at the audience. This was a show for and about geeks. The characters often quoted from classic geek movies: "Come with me if you want to live." They referenced geek shows: "This is just like what happened that one time on 'Alias!'" They hired geek actors. Scott Bakula and Linda Hamilton played Chuck's parents. Timothy Dalton was the Big Bad one season. Carrie-Anne Moss came on this season as a love interest for Casey. Guest stars included Morgan Fairchild, John Larroquette, Bruce Boxleitner, Nicole Richie and many, many more. The casting directors were absolute geniuses.

I work tonight - as I do every Friday night - so I will be watching the two-hour season finale after I get home. I will probably shed a few tears, especially if Chuck and Sarah finally get their Happily Ever After. And I will do a little boppy dance as the opening theme ("Short Skirt/Long Jacket") plays one last time.

Also in honor of five years of "Chuck," creator Josh Schwartz wrote some thoughts on the show. Go read them here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I write in crazy

This morning, I got a phone call from my grandma, who is 80+ years old. We talked about this and that, and she said she had read the latest batch of my stories that I had sent to her and Grandpa. She said my writing has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years and that I'm so good at it. Then: "But the things you write about are crazy." I laughed so hard. That is the funniest thing anyone has said to me in weeks. Thanks, Grandma.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

And the nominees are ...

I'm a sucker for the Oscars, and this morning we have the nominees. Last year, I made an effort to watch all the best picture nominees, which I succeeded in doing ... but not before the winners were announced. This year, I have a long list of watching because I have seen exactly zero of movies up for best picture. I would have liked to see the latest Harry Potter or The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on that list, but alas no.

However, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close got a nomination? The critics were ho-hum on that movie and no one went to see it. But I suppose it's important, being a post-9/11 film, and therefore Hollywood's elite feel important by giving it a nomination. (Wow, how did I get to be so jaded?)

What I have seen: Dragon Tattoo, Kung Fu Panda 2, Rango, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Jane Eyre and The Muppets. I love that the song "Man or Muppet" was nominated. Obviously I have seen none of the big ones, and my best catagory is animated feature. You can tell I have kids.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Applying to Boot Camp

One of my goals for 2012 is to apply to Orson Scott Card's Boot Camp writers workshop, but my worry was that he might not hold it. I had nothing to worry about. Boot camp applications are now available, for June 18-23 in Greensboro, N.C.

Going to this would require I pay for tuition, an airline ticket, room and board. Not cheap. But I've heard from many fellow writers that the cost is worth it. If all goes as I hope it will, I'll be spending a week in beautiful North Carolina this summer. If not - because only 14 spaces are available - I will continue to save my pennies and apply again next year.

I've had a busy couple of days (volunteering in my daughter's preschool class, going to the theater with my husband, getting my annual medical checkup), so I haven't done much beyond tweaking what I've already written. I can't keep skipping days like this. Even if it's only a couple hundred words, I need to write every day.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Broncos, day after: Over and Ouch

The game was ... well, probably the less said of that the better. It was a better-than-expected season, a promising start for the future, and never, ever boring. But as was shown twice this season, the Broncos cannot hang with the Pats. Oh well. I hope the Patriots go on to dismantle next week's opponent.

In other news:
  • I'm reading Carrie Vaughn's "Kitty Takes a Holiday," which I checked out as an e-book from the library. I love how the Jefferson County Library system has pretty much everything Vaughn has written available on e-book. So far, I'm enjoying the story.
  • I went running this morning (OK, it was more of a jog) for 3.5 miles without wearing myself out too much. I got one small blister. I really need new running shoes.
  • I haven't done a whole lot of writing in the past few days but I plan to make up for that today. The goal: Get to 2,500 words on the work-in-progress before the day is done.
  • I've signed on as a slush reader for Triangulation anthologies. Submissions for this year's anthology are open through March, and the theme is "morning after." Get to writing those stories!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Go Broncos!

I don't expect us to win today. Then again, I didn't expect us to win last week. Serves me right for underestimating the Power of the Tebow.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

USA Today's top 100 books for 2011

USA Today has published on its website its top 100 best-selling books for 2011. Some interesting tidbits I noticed about the list.
  • Four of the top 10 books are young adult. Three are written by Suzanne Collins. One is a biography. I've read five of them, and my 7-year-old son has read one (not hard to guess which one).
  • You have to go down to No. 18 to find an adult fantasy book, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, which was originally published in 1996. Martin's newest installment in the series comes in at No. 26.
  • Stephenie Meyer doesn't show up until No. 38 with Breaking Dawn, and it's her only entry on the list.
  • There's a heck of a lot of James Patterson. I wonder how many of these books were released this year.
  • At No. 56 is The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan. I read about this book recently and that Chan published it herself as an e-book. As far as I can tell, it's the only self-published book on the list. (But I'm probably wrong about that.)
  • There's a lot of Diary of a Wimpy Kid (by Jeff Kinney) and teenage Olympian gods (by Rick Riordan). In fact, there's a lot of YA in general. Parents must be buying loads of books in the hopes that their kids will actually read them. I hope they're succeeding.
  • A couple of oldies but goodies: What to Expect When You're Expecting (No. 85) and To Kill a Mockingbird (No. 88).
  • Hey, look, it's J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is No. 99.

Friday, January 6, 2012

More on e-publishing

In my quest to gather more information about electronic publishing, I came across a guest post by self-publishing novelist Elle Lothlorien at JA Konrath's blog. Hers is an interesting story because without much apparent marketing and by raising the price on her one novel, she has made several hundred sales per month since last fall.

This sounds contrary to common sense, that increasing the cost of your book results in more sales. She has theories about why this happened. But her post doesn't explain to my satisfaction the big question, probably because there's no easy answer: Why did lightning strike for her and not for the hundreds (or thousands?) of other self-publishing writers out there?

Part of it is probably the genre she chose to write in: romantic comedy. Part of it is probably the stellar reviews her novel was receiving. Out of curiosity, I opened the free sample on "The Frog Prince" and got about three paragraphs in before coming across a Denver-centric reference to the Brown Palace Hotel. I went back to read Lothlorien's bio and saw she lives in Denver. That sealed the deal. I clicked on the "buy" button. Why? Partly because I want to judge for myself why this book took off the way it did, and partly because I want to support a fellow local writer. It's my first purchase of a self-published book. We'll see how it goes.

Writing progress: Another 400 words written last night, for a running total of 1,200 on the work-in-progress.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sweating with the resolutioners

Today in real life: I made my first trip of the year to the health club. It was crazy crowded. I'm guessing the influx comes from all those people who made a resolution to get into shape and that the crowding will lessen in about two to three weeks.

And I saw the excellent new movie version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" yesterday with my dad and sister. I've read the book. The movie made some omissions and minor changes - and one big change that surprised me when I saw it but I later decided I liked because it tightened the plot. Rooney Mara is Lisbeth Salander, exactly as I had imagined her. Because I read the book knowing that Daniel Craig would play Blomkvist, I would have had a hard time imagining anyone else in the role. It worked for me.

Today in writing: This is the first time I've included a daily word count in my blog for weeks. I'll take that as a good sign that I'm coming out of my writers depression. I wrote about 400 words on the beginning of a new story. It takes courage to start a story. As I've said before, the story is absolutely perfect in my mind before I start writing, and it's hard to give that up by putting words on the page. But it must be done.