Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sale! "Djinn Coin" to Every Day Fiction

This is a nice way to close out 2013: I opened my e-mail this evening to find an acceptance from Every Day Fiction on my make-a-wish-with-a-twist flash "Djinn Coin." I think that means the story will on the roster for January, which will be a nice way to start 2014.

Happy New Year's, everyone!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor



"Raggedy Man, good night."

The finale of the Matt Smith era of "Doctor Who" ended up a lot like his tenure as a whole: at times brilliant, funny and moving, and at other times a hot mess; mostly satisfying but could have been better, if only Steven Moffat hadn't tried to cram in everything plus the kitchen sink and a Cyberman head.

Actually, that's unfair. I loved the Cyberman head.

The Time of the Doctor tried to wrap up every loose thread from the Smith era, and as a result felt like Moffat had a list he was checking off as he went. What are the Silents? Check. Who blew up the TARDIS? Check. Appearances by Weeping Angels, Daleks and Cyberman? Check, check, check. There were references to River Song, the War Doctor and Ten's meta-crisis regeneration. Oh, and don't forget the crack in the universe.

And yet, and yet, I cried. Or very nearly. Because the last 10 minutes could not have been more perfect.

The plot is this: There's a mysterious signal broadcast across all of time and space. The Doctor and Clara go to investigate. They find that just about every alien race the universe is also parked around the planet where the signal is originating from. On the planet's surface, the Doctor finds that the signal is coming through a crack in the universe -- a remnant from the explosion of the TARDIS way back when -- and that it's the Time Lords asking the question hidden in plain sight: Doctor who? Which means this planet is the one the Doctor has tried to avoid at all costs: Trenzalore. If the Doctor answers, that gives the Time Lords confirmation that they've found their universe and they will come through, sparking a resurgence of the Time War. And yet, the Doctor cannot abandon this town and its people to all the bad guys floating around their planet. So he holds the line, for centuries, until he is about to die from old age, and with no more regenerations, that will be his end. But Clara persuades the Time Lords to shoot a new cycle of regenerations through the crack, the Doctor uses his regeneration energy as a weapon to blow the Daleks to kingdom come, then regenerates into Twelve (or Thirteen, depending on how you count it).

You'll notice I didn't mention Clara's family Christmas dinner because it had no effect on anything that mattered. The episode would have benefited from dropping the pretense of being a Christmas episode all together and used that extra time to tell the Doctor's story. Perhaps then the episode would have had some breathing room and not felt quite so crammed.

Despite the issues with the writing, Matt Smith brought his A-game. This is arguably the best performance of his tenure. He's at times funny and goofy, while at others gives the fantastic, sweeping speeches that his Doctor is known for. The death of Handles the Cyberman head shouldn't have been so moving, but Smith sells his quiet grief so well that my eyes watered a little.

But the waterworks didn't really threaten until that last scene in the TARDIS. The Doctor says he will never forget one minute of the time that he was Eleven. He takes off the bow tie and drops it to the floor. (No gesture could have carried more symbolic weight than that for the end of Eleven.) For one beautiful moment, he imagines Amy Pond coming down the stairs to the console: "Raggedy Man, good night."

If anything, Karen Gillan's cameo was a reminder of the electric chemistry she had with Matt Smith and what the show has been lacking since she and Arthur Darvill left. I hope that with a new Doctor, Jenna Louise Coleman's Clara will get a fresh start out from under the long shadow of Amy and Rory.

Speaking of the new Doctor, we finally got a good first look at Peter Capaldi in the role. It was a bit of a shock how fast the regeneration happened. No morphing of the faces. It was just a snap of the fingers, and there he was. In those few seconds, what did we learn? He gets to keep the Scottish accent. He looked rather crazed, but that might have been the regeneration aftereffect. And he doesn't know how to fly the TARDIS. What's that about? We'll find out in about nine months.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sherlock minisode

It's a Sherlock minisode! Merry Christmas, everyone.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Writing update

This morning I reached "the end" on the first draft of my Quarter 1 Writers of the Future entry and now have 11 days to revise and polish before the deadline. That might not sound like much time, but it's much more than I've ended up with the past two quarters. Feels like a luxury, even with the busyness of Christmas between now and then. I really like this story. I'm not a fantastic judge of what does well in this contest, though, so we'll see how it goes over.

I wrote the bulk of this story at a Starbucks near my house. I'm more productive at writing when I'm away from the house and its myriad distractions. The coffee shop was unusually empty when I arrived there about 9:30 this morning. By the time I left an hour later, the place was so packed that a woman was making her claim on my tiny table by dumping her stuff there before I had even finished packing up my laptop or had put on my coat. A part of me wanted to maliciously say I had changed my mind and no I was not leaving, but my bosses wouldn't have been happy had I been late to work. So I let the rudeness pass.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Publication Day! Every Day Fiction

My story "An Unauthorized Tree" is live today at Every Day Fiction! It's flash piece about a dystopian world where the EPA forbids unauthorized growth of plants and about a man who defies the law. This tells you how crazy my week has been that I forgot it was publication day until I saw the story in my e-mail box.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

This past week

Happy Saturday. It's less than two weeks until Christmas, and I've hardly wrapped a thing. That's because I've been busy with two projects with looming deadlines. The first is my next Writers of the Future story, for which the submission deadline is Dec. 31. The other is a cross-stitch I'm trying to finish in time to give it to my daughter for Christmas.

So here's how my days went this week. Got up about 7:15 to take the kids to school; walked the dog; went to Starbucks to write until it was time to go to work; went to work; came home from work and put the kids into bed; cross-stitched until I fell asleep. This is how next week will go as well, and hopefully I will have a finished story by Friday. The cross-stitch is more iffy on whether I will get it done in time.

We here in the Denver area suffered another community tragedy yesterday when a student at Arapahoe High School entered the school with a shotgun with the intention of killing a teacher. The teacher was warned and left the building, hoping to lure the student out. Instead, the teenage boy ended up shooting and wounding two students before he killed himself.

The good news is that our law-enforcement officers are so well-practiced in dealing with these kinds of situations that they knew exactly what to do, which meant the whole thing was essentially over in 14 minutes and the casualties were blessedly low. The bad news is that our law-enforcement officers are well-practiced in dealing with these kinds of situations. Our front page headline this morning on The Denver Post was one word in large, stark type: "Again."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Writers of the Future Quarter 4

I don't think I've ever been so happy to report this particular result in all the time I have been entering the Writers of the Future contest: Rejection! Yes, I'm happy that my story was form rejected. When I opened my e-mail and read the "your story didn't place," it came as a relief, and I have none of the usual jealousy of those who are finalists. I'm happy for them and am thanking my good luck that I'm not dealing with that pressure this time around.

So, in 20 quarters of entering:
Finalist: 1
Semi-finalist: 1
Silver honorable mention: 1
Honorable mention: 10
Rejection: 7

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cold snap + snow

The temperature this morning at Denver International Airport was -15, which ties the record for this date. We have about 4 inches of snow on the ground from the storm yesterday, and the temperature is not forecast to get above freezing until next Tuesday. That's an entire week of below-freezing temps. In walking my dog this morning as the thermostat said 1 degree, Buddy's paws kept slipping on the snowy sidewalks like a car spinning its wheels.

But according to a fascinating Denver Post article this morning, this isn't the worst weather the city has seen on Dec. 5. One hundred years ago today, the biggest blizzard in state history dumped 45.7 inches of snow on Denver. The best part about this article, which you can link to right here, are the photos. Nowadays we have an army of monster-sized plows; back then, they cleared out the snow with horse-drawn wagons. Someone at The Post did a fantastic job trolling the archives for this stuff.

Today is also my husband's birthday. We've had some historically bad weather on his birthday before. In 2002, when we were living in North Carolina, the state got hit with the worst ice storm I have ever experienced. Looking out the living room window into the dark on Dec. 4, I could see the explosions from transistors. They went off with booms and pops like fireworks. Power was out across most of the region for three days, which meant no light or heat, while temperatures remained in the 20s. The temperatures this week aren't that bad, all things considered. We can handle a little cold.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Raygun Chronicles and Fireside Magazine

I have a couple writerly bits and pieces to pass on, so here we go.

Fireside Magazine, which this month is featuring my story "To Catch a Fallen Star," is running a year-end subscription drive. There are prizes, and of course you get great stories by amazing writers like Ken Liu and Chuck Wendig. The drive runs through Dec. 15. You can read more about it here.

And Raygun Chronicles is live a couple of days early on Amazon in hardback, with trade paperback and ebook to follow soon. You can also order through Barnes and Noble, and there's a Goodreads giveaway. (BTW, Goodreads readers are giving the collection a five-star rating.) If you're thinking about buying this collection because you love space opera or you're looking for a holiday gift for someone who does, now is the time to put in your order. Buying in the first week will help push the anthology's rating higher and give it a more long-term profile on Amazon and other sites.

And now I'm off to the coffee shop to plot out my next story. The end-of-month deadline for Writers of the Future will be here before we know it, and I haven't written a word yet for that contest. Time to get going on it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

November stats

Time for my monthly writing stats (except for the months when I forget). I wrote an astounding (for me) number of words this month. Most of the word count got poured into a Sleepy Hollow fanfiction, which I wrote simply for the pure joy of writing. The rest of the words went into a co-writing project with the talented Nick T. Chan. (You can read his Writers of the Future winner here.) So, onward with the November numbers:
  • Word count: 14,500
  • Submissions: 1
  • Stories on submission: 7 (longest time out is 106 days, shortest is 4 days)
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 1 (which you can find here)
The next couple of months are shaping up to be good ones for publication. Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera for a New Age releases in two days (Dec. 3). Every Day Fiction will be publishing my flash "An Unauthorized Tree" on Dec. 17. And Abyss & Apex will publish another flash, "To See Sarah," in its January issue.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor



Rarely is there such hype for one episode, even when that episode is marking an extraordinary 50 years for a television show. The expectations for "The Day of the Doctor" were sky high. Here's the amazing thing: The special doesn't disappoint. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's fantastic. One of the best Doctor Who episodes since the reboot. There is so much going here on that 24 hours later, my brain is still processing. But I'll do my best to set aside the squee! and share some thoughts on what we saw and what's coming next. I have a lot to say, so here we go.

From here on out ... massive spoilers!

The Doctors
All 13 make an appearance in some form or another, but I'm going to focus on the big three: John Hurt, David Tennant and Matt Smith. The Warrior, the Hero and the Doctor. My main joy from this episode came from watching the three of them interact. Tennant steps back into the role of Ten like he never left, and Hurt makes for a great addition to the canon, especially when he voices his curmudgeonly disapproval for the "younger" Doctors' antics. I'd love to list all the wonderful lines and exchanges among these three, but then I'd be transcribing quotes all night.

The actors and the writing are equally good when the tone goes serious and Hurt's War Doctor comes to understand how his destruction of Gallifrey affects his future selves. Ten carries the immense pain and regret with him, and Eleven tries to convince himself that it never happened.

Then, of course, they choose to rewrite their own history (sort of, seeing as it really always happened that they time-locked the Time Lords instead of killing them, but only Eleven remembers it correctly, and my head hurts thinking about it) and it's happy and hopeful and gives the Doctor (and the show) new purpose for the next 50 years. Or at least the next four or five.

The companions
Let's talk about Bad Wolf Rose first. Billie Piper isn't playing Rose, for starters, and I am so glad of that fact. Rose's story as it relates to the Doctor is done and should be left as it is. So, Rose is actually the sentience of a Time Lord weapon called The Moment that Hurt's Doctor is threatening to use to end the Time War. In that way, she's a lot like the TARDIS. The Moment chooses a form from the Doctor's future. It makes sense that she settles on the companion who arguably has had the biggest personal impact on the Doctor -- or in the War Doctor's case, will have an impact. She plays the Ghost of Christmas Future to the Doctor's Scrooge. There's a tiny part of me that wishes she and Ten had gotten the opportunity to interact, but I can't see how it would have gone well. After all, this isn't really Rose. Ten's double-take upon hearing the term "Bad Wolf" was enough.

Now onto Clara. I complained last spring that Clara wasn't a character so much as she was a plot device, i.e. The Impossible Girl, a mystery for the Doctor to solve. Dalek Clara and Victorian Clara had purpose and personality, but current-day Clara did not. I had hoped that would change after the Impossible Girl mystery was solved. Since this is the first time we've seen her since then, this was the test. And she kind of, sort of passed. There's an understanding between her and Eleven now that she has seen the whole of his time stream. They are comfortable with each other, and that seems to give Clara more confidence to be her own person. She has a job as a teacher. She drives a motorcycle into the TARDIS and shuts the doors with a snap of her fingers. She steals Jack Harkness' time vortex manipulator. She persuades Eleven to change what happened to his people. It's a step in the right direction. I like this Clara. I hope she hangs around.

Cameos
I'll admit it. I let out a spontaneous crazy-sounding laugh when a 13th TARDIS joined the others around Gallifrey and we were treated to a half-second shot of Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. Or rather, Capaldi's distinctive and fierce eyes. I am more excited than ever to see what he does with the role after he makes his first official appearance in December.

I was spoiled on the Tom Baker appearance, unfortunately, so that wasn't as much of a surprise. And -- don't all throw tomatoes at me now -- but I have never watched a Tom Baker episode of Doctor Who. Still, he was great here as the Curator, and I love the strong implication that in some future incarnation, the Doctor becomes the keeper of Britain's secret trove of alien artifacts.

The one cameo I really wanted to see that didn't quite happen was Christopher Eccleston as Nine. When Hurt's Doctor started his regeneration, I had a moment of hope that all we had heard about Eccleston wanting nothing to do with the 50th was a lie and we were about to get a glimpse of Nine. Then the scene cut away, darn it. If there's a letdown in this episode, that was it.

Where do we go from here?
To Trenzalore. When Eleven answered Ten's question about where they were headed, he was setting up the final chapter in his own story. And as we saw in the preview, the Doctor will be taking a Christmas holiday, unintentionally, on the one planet he wants to avoid above all others.

After the season finale last spring, I said if that episode was intended to wrap up the Silence Will Fall arc, it was a seriously disappointing way to do it. Turns out "The Name of the Doctor' was the appetizer. We get the main course one month from now with the Fall of the Eleventh and the Silence and, finally, regeneration. This won't be a sweet Christmasy special like the past few years but rather something akin to "The End of Time." Bittersweet as we say goodbye to Eleven but also hopeful with the introduction of Twelve.

But that's still four weeks away, and Steven Moffat and Co. have given us plenty to chew over until then.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Doctor Who: 50th Anniversary weekend

I started watching Doctor Who with the Eleventh Hour, which was Matt Smith's debut as the Doctor and Steven Moffat's debut as showrunner. It aired (according to Wikipedia) on April 3, 2010. That makes this weekend more like my 3 1/2 year anniversary with Doctor Who. It seems like it's been longer than that, in a good way. I enjoyed my first taste (of fish fingers and custard) so much that I plowed through every episode since the reboot in a matter of weeks.

But unless you're living under a pop culture rock, you've heard that Doctor Who is 50 years old, and this weekend is the birthday bash. The highlight of the festivities is the airing of the anniversary episode "The Day of the Doctor," which will air at the same time across the globe. That's early Saturday afternoon here in Denver. Whovians across the U.S. and probably the world will be gathering to watch it in theaters. Several theaters in Denver are taking part. Alas, I will be at work and will watch on the plain old television in my plain old living room when I get home that night. I just hope I can avoid spoilers all afternoon.

Beyond that:
  • There's "An Adventure in Space and Time," which is a documentary drama about the early days of Doctor Who. BBC America is airing that Friday evening. Once again, I'll be watching it on DVR after work. (Are we seeing a trend here?)
  • Google is doing a fantastic Doctor Who doodle and game that will go live here in the states at midnight Saturday. But you can play it now by going to Britain's Google homepage.
  • If you haven't watched them yet, there are two new minisodes online, "The Night of the Doctor" and "The Last Day," both of which are easily found on YouTube.

To sum up, it's a good weekend to be a Whovian.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sale! To Abyss & Apex

I found out today that my flash story "To See Sarah" will be published in Abyss & Apex in the issue that goes live in January. I'm glad to finally share this sale on my blog. I received the acceptance in June but held back on the announcement until the contract was signed. I did that today. It's exciting that one of my stories will appear in this great magazine that I've been enjoying as a reader for many years.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Royals" parody

If we old-fashioned newspaper journalists had a theme song, this would be it. I'm not going to type out the lyrics because someone else already did it here. Enjoy!



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Publication Day! at Fireside Magazine


It's a beautiful sunny November day here in Colorado, and it's also publication day for me at Fireside Magazine. My science fiction story "Catch a Fallen Star" is the featured short story of the month. The story takes place on a planet that crosses orbits with an asteroid belt. During the time of the Pass, no one is allowed above ground. But when a clever boy breaks curfew, it's up to one of the planet's "rat catchers" to bring him in, while meteors are falling from the sky. If you're not already a Fireside subscriber, you can buy the individual issue or a subscription for the whole year. It's a good deal for a lot of great fiction every month, and, of course, you get to read my story.

In related writing news, Diabolical Plots has posted their list of the Top 10 podcasts at Every Day Fiction, and my story "The Spinners," read by the wonderful Folly Blaine, comes in at No. 4.

Monday, November 11, 2013

On the 37th anniversary of my birth

Happy Veterans Day! And happy birthday to me. Thirty-seven is an odd number. Prime. Somewhere in the hinterlands between 35 and 40. Not young anymore, but not old either. Except for the occasional bodily pain, I don't feel 3/4 of the way to 40. So there's that. I treated myself to seeing Thor: The Dark World this afternoon and enjoyed it thoroughly. I don't care whose names are on the movie posters, Tom Hiddleston's Loki is the best thing about the Thor movies. Also my family gave me a couple of new Blu-Rays and a totally fantastic stuffed Dalek who says "Ext-term-in-ate!" when you squeeze him. That's going on my work desk next to my TARDIS lunchbox.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Doctor Who: 50th Anniversary trailer

Geronimo! Allons-y! The trailer for the 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who is here, and it makes my inner geek so very happy. My favorite parts: Doctors comparing their hardware, i.e. TARDIS interiors and screwdrivers. It's difficult to judge from this, but it looks like Matt Smith and David Tennant are having a roaring good time.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Bits and pieces

  • I finished watching Homeland season 1 last night. Yes, I'm behind. My husband and I turned to each other when the credits rolled, and he said something along the lines of, "That was messed up." I couldn't agree more. I was yelling at Saul when he was telling Carrie about Nazir's son: "Say his name! Say his name, damn it!" And when it comes down to it, everyone thinks Carrie's theories are crazy, including Carrie, when in reality she is a Cassandra, doomed to speak the truth and never be believed.
  • One of my fellow Launch Pad classmates from this past summer, Jamie Todd Rubin, has an article about the experience in Clarkesworld this month.
  • Chapter 3 of my Sleepy Hollow fan fiction is posted at Fanfiction.net, and I'm still having a ball writing it. I've churned out more than 7,000 words in a week.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sale! to Every Day Fiction

My e-mail box was a happy place this morning, with an acceptance on my science-fiction flash "An Unauthorized Tree" at Every Day Fiction. This will be my fifth publication there (you can find a list of some of the other EDF stories here) and will probably go live sometime in December. I also had a few notifications of reviews and "follows" on my Sleepy Hollow fan fiction, which is very gratifying. It was a good start to the day.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Writing fan fiction

Sometime over the past couple of weeks, I've hit a wall on writing. It might have been because of the almost-but-not-quite from Writers of the Future. I don't know. Anyway, I've been trying to put on an optimistic face and work through the blockage, but my strategy hasn't been working. Or rather, yes, I have been writing, but no, I haven't been enjoying it. Putting my butt in the chair just hasn't been fun lately. It has been a chore.

This isn't good. First and foremost, I got into writing because it's fun. Because I love to tell stories. When it's not fun anymore, it's time to take measures to remind myself of why I'm doing this. It's time to make it fun again. And that means dropping the original fiction for a week or two and writing fan fiction.

Fan fiction is where I started more than 15 years ago. It's my first love. I've written tens of thousands of words about my favorite television shows. About five and a half years ago, I switched to original fiction and have hardly written a word of fan fiction since (except for a couple of Dollhouse one-shots). That is changing this week.

The chosen fandom for my fan fiction binge is Sleepy Hollow. I love the premise and the dynamic between the two main characters. (And I should feel guilty about shipping for Ichabod and Abbie, because he's married to someone else, but I don't, because his wife is boring. Also, she's not technically alive.) I have written 1,000 words or more each day for five days running without breaking a sweat. There's no pressure. I don't worry about living up to any editor's expectations. I don't worry about where I might sell the story. I'm not thinking about aiming for SFWA qualification. All I am thinking about is telling the story. It's freeing.

Now, if only I can translate that to my original fiction ...

If you'd like to read the Sleepy Hollow fan fiction I have titled Possession, I'm posting it at fanfiction.net right here. Chapter 1 is up. Chapter 2 will follow tonight.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

October stats and other stuff

Goodness, my submission stats for last month were horrible. But here's the thing: I have eight stories out on submission and five of them have been waiting for a response for more than 31 days. Another one, my Writers of the Future finalist, is on hold until the end of the year. That left two stories to make the rounds in October. So ...

Submissions for October: 2
Stories out on submission: 8

I expect some of those longer wait times will be coming back with responses soon, so November will be better for submissions. Also, for the year, I'm now at 39 submissions, which ties my total for all of 2012, and there are still two months left in the year. That's going to make 2013 my best year ever for number of submissions.

I lost a lot of momentum on writing last week. That's partly because I'm to the climax scene of my work-in-progress, and although I know what is going to happen, I'm not sure yet how it will happen. I need to sort that out before I write it, but I plan to have the story finished by Tuesday night, the end of my weekend.

I also lost momentum because of some semi-binge television watching: Homeland Season 1, and catching up on Sleepy Hollow on Hulu. Very different shows but both very enjoyable. I'm especially geeking out over Sleepy Hollow. Fun premise and great characters who actually have unforced chemistry with each other. It's alternately scary and hilarious. The cast is nicely diverse without drawing attention to it. And, yes, Tom Mison is nice to look at.

And finally, a few days ago, I got to see the artwork by Hugo-winning artist Galen Dara that will accompany my story in Fireside Magazine when it gets published Nov. 15, and my God it is beautiful. Captures the story perfectly. I couldn't be happier.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Carrying on

Story rejection is hard. Losing out in the final judging of the Writers of the Future contest is the hardest rejection I have ever received. But I've started to bounce back much faster than I thought I would. I'm not devastated. I'm not indulging in self-pity, or burning all my notebooks. My general outlook on life is forward-looking, and that's serving me well right now. I'm looking forward to submitting my finalist story to other editors (though that's on hold until I know whether WotF wants the story as a published finalist), and I've written 2,000+ words on a new short story since Monday.

Entertainment consumption this week: I've watched the first five episodes of the first season of "Homeland," and it's fantastically good. I also watched the premiere of "Dracula" last night and was underwhelmed, mostly because of the heavy-handed stylistic approach and the overly loud, dramatic musical score. "SHIELD" continues to lose my interest a little more each week. And the shipper in me is looking forward to Emma-Hook smooches on "Once Upon a Time" with the hope that they won't be the last for this couple.

The week's stats:
Word count: 2,100
Submissions: 0
Stories out on submission: 8

I'll close with the song I've listened to a lot this week:


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Writers of the Future: Non-winning finalist

It's been about 24 hours since I got the You-didn't-win call instead of the Are-you-sitting-down call. I certainly didn't want to be writing this particular post, but it is what it is. First off, congratulations to the Quarter 3 winners. I look forward to reading your stories in the anthology next spring. With the rollercoaster of being a finalist now over, I thought I might share some thoughts on the experience.

When I say rollercoaster, I mean it. The past month has been full of serious ups and downs, none more so than the bookend calls to inform me that I was a finalist and the one to inform me that I will not be going to the L.A. workshop in April. There's the agony of waiting. The congratulations from friends and colleagues. The dream I had one night of going online to see that the results had been posted and I was not among them, but I hadn't gotten a call yet one way or the other.

A fellow non-winning finalist said to me yesterday, there's a special pit in the stomach that no one else really understands except those who have gotten the You-didn't-win call. Then there's the argument that, all right, I didn't win but I made finalist. That's an accomplishment in itself. And yes it is. But to get so close and not win is heartbreaking. In the end, the absolute worst submission of the entire quarter -- the person who sent in their grandmother's award-winning cookie recipe -- got the same result that I did.

I'll be honest. At this particular time, I would rather pro-out of the contest than go through all that again. Will that stop me from entering? No. I will keep sending my best stories to Writers of the Future every quarter until I can no longer do so, either from winning or disqualifying myself with too many professional sales. But I dread getting the You're-a-finalist call for a second time. The next time I get an e-mail stating my straight rejection or my honorable mention, I will breathe a sigh of relief.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bad Lip Reading: Game of Thrones

Love this. I watched at my desk at work (shh, don't tell) and had to make a serious effort not to laugh out loud. Jazz hands!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Saturday stuff and fluff

This week was another week of waiting. No acceptances or rejections or submissions, and not much writing done. Probably like the other seven WotF finalists, I'm focusing my willpower on my cellphone so that it will ring. The fact that the phone is not ringing only proves that I don't have that particular superpower.

The rest of my time, I've been at the day job, with most my focus on editing articles about the government shutdown. I've been trying to find new ways every day of writing headlines about essentially the same thing. Or I've been spending time with my husband and kids. So, in all, not a terribly exciting time. Next week, there's MileHiCon, which I always enjoy, and hopefully a phone call from Writers of the Future.

Fun stuff:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Some love for Raygun Chronicles

The anthology "Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera for a New Age" is getting some nice publicity ahead of its December release. SF Signal has posted the table of contents, which it calls "impressive." And yes, that is me at No. 8. Between this release and another story publishing next month in Fireside Magazine, it's going to be a good end to the year.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Thoughts on Gravity

I saw Gravity this afternoon in 3D Imax. I figured, hey, if I was going to shell out the money to see it in the theaters, I better go all the way. And I am so glad I did. This is more than a movie; it's an experience. Ninety minutes of nonstop intensity combined with an inspirational story about human ingenuity. If you have the opportunity to watch it on a big screen, preferably in 3D, then you should do so.

When I got home and turned on the laptop, I came across an article from Entertainment Weekly in which astro-experts break down the inaccuracies of the movie, mostly of the scientific variety. I find the article to be fascinating. What surprises me is how many people in the comments section decried what the scientists had to say because this is just a movie. Let's face it: Most people's scientific knowledge and their misconceptions come from movies and television. If we want a more educated public, then we need more accurate depictions of science in our entertainment.

Yes, I'm a nerd for believing that and proud of it. I like education. But I also like being entertained. And I have to say that Gravity is a hell of a movie with astounding visuals and fantastic storytelling and acting, even if some the physics are wrong.

I recommend that everyone go see the movie and then read the EW article (in that order or you will get seriously spoiled), and enjoy the best of both worlds.

ETA:
Astronaut Mark Kelly has written a piece for The Washington Post about Gravity that's well worth reading. And there's also this one from Slate.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What I'm reading

The folks at SFSignal have a post to today asking the following questions. Their questions were posed specifically for science fiction and fantasy, but I'm going to open it up to all genres. Here are my answers.
  1. The last book I finished reading:  "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" by J.K. Rowling, which I read aloud to my kids
  2. The last book I did NOT finish: "Fifty Shades Darker" by E.L. James. Yes, I tried to read this pile of drek. I claim temporary insanity.
  3. The last book(s) I bought: Three at the same time: "Tongues of Serpents" by Naomi Novik; "The Long War" by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter; "Kitty in the Underworld" by Carrie Vaughn
  4. The last book I bought that I already owned: I don't do this.
  5. The last book I shared with someone: Do my kids count as "someone"? The Harry Potter series, then.
  6. The last book I raved about: "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn.
  7. The last book I did not enjoy at all: "Fifty Shades Darker" by E.L. James
Now I'll add in another question: What am I reading now?

Four books, actually. "Cuckoo's Calling" by Robert Galbraith (a k a J.K. Rowling); "Beyond the Sun," edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt; "Tongues of Serpents" by Naomi Novik; and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" by J.K. Rowling (to my kids).

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Saturday stuff and fluff is waiting

I've heard from previous finalists (and experienced vicariously through a friend) about the agonizing wait between that wonderful phone call to tell you that you're a Writers of the Future finalist, and the second call that will either send you soaring or break your heart. Now I'm experiencing it for myself, and yes, it's agonizing.

I do a decent job of keeping myself busy. Kids, household chores and errands, writing, reading and the day job are more than enough to fill the hours. No matter what I'm doing, my brain inevitably strays back to the same questions over and over. Will my story hit the right buttons with the judges? Am I off to L.A. in April, or is it back to the drawing board? The problem is that there's nothing I can do about it. I sent in the best story I could in June, and now the decision is completely out of my hands. So I write something new. I play with the kids. I do the grocery shopping and go to the dentist. I go to work. I write some more. And I wait.

Stats for the week:
  • Submissions:2
  • Stories out on submission: 8
  • Word count: 3,200

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thoughts on S.H.I.E.L.D. so far

This is the show I was looking forward to more than any other for the fall season. A Joss Whedon production based off Marvel superhero movies that I have generally loved? I'm there. But so far I've been underwhelmed by what I've seen on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (And typing those periods every time is going to become annoying.)

Is it just me, or does this come off as a poor man's Firefly? Motley crew of misfits? Check. Giant airborne home and command center? Check.There are shots of the plane known as The Bus that reminded me of Serenity, especially the door that leads in and out of the cargo hold. The S.H.I.E.L.D. team echoes the Serenity crew except they're not as interesting (so far) and are way too young and pretty. I enjoyed Agent Colson in the Marvel movies and still like him here, but the only new character who intrigues me is Melinda May. She has personal pain. She has secrets. And she isn't annoyingly chatty or eye-rollingly idealistic.

There are good spots. The trademark Whedon dialogue is present. The special effects are good. But this show hasn't jelled yet. I'm willing to give it time to find its footing. Buffy's first season didn't wow me, either, but it evolved into something amazing. I only hope ABC gives S.H.I.E.L.D. time to find its footing, which it might, because it isn't Fox.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

September stats

September was an unusually productive month for me, at least in terms of getting words onto paper (or the screen). My submission stats aren't too impressive because most of my stories on submission have been out for weeks:

Submissions: 2
Stories out on submission: 8
Stories finished: 2
Approximate word count: 7,500

I have four stories that are in limbo between acceptance and publication. Two of them have solid release dates, and two do not. There's another story that is a Writers of the Future finalist, but I don't know yet whether it's a winner or a rejection. Some of my higher-than-usual word count has resulted from being named a finalist. I've gone somewhat manic over the past week, and a lot of that excess crazy energy has gone into writing.

Also, if you're looking for some short fiction to dig your teeth into this week, I'd like to point you toward two stories written by friends and writing colleagues. Nick T. Chan's "Sisters" is up at Galaxy's Edge. This was a Writers of the Future finalist and a story that stuck so much with editor Mike Resnick that, as he says the introduction, he tracked Nick down to acquire it. Also, the new issue of Plasma Frequency is up, and Dustin Adams' "One World" is the cover story. This one has a great twist ending that you'll just have to go read. Right now.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stuff and fluff is on cloud nine

The week that was ... was fantastic. I reached a goal I've had for five years, which goes to show that insane determination eventually pays off. Because of the congratulations that have poured in, I might fool myself into thinking I actually won Writers of the Future, but no. Five unlucky finalist stories every quarter don't make the cut. Over and over, I've watched this happen to friends and writing colleagues. So I'm not straining too hard to pat myself on the back just yet. (Besides, the scoliosis makes that kind of difficult.)

But, for a moment, a happier thought. Writers are told to use visceral reactions, but rarely do I experience a big visceral reaction like those I put into almost every story. On Wednesday night, I did. The phone rang about 8:30 p.m. while I was stuck in stop-and-go traffic in a construction zone on the interstate. The caller ID said "unavailable." I was pretty sure I knew who was calling, and then was more sure when the person left a voicemail. After five long miles, I pulled off at my exit into the parking lot of a gas station and listened to the message. If I were to write what happened next as a scene in a story, it would go something like this:
She snapped shut her flip phone and stared at the hastily written phone number on the scrap paper in her lap. Her chest tightened. Something between a sob and a hiccup escaped her lips. Then another sob, and another. No, this wouldn't do, not sitting in her Corolla under the harsh lights of the Conoco parking lot. She took deep breaths, and when she was calm again, she dialed the number.

"Hello?" said a woman.

"Hello," she said in a casual, friendly tone. "May I speak with Joni Labaqui, please?"
So there you go. Yep, I almost cried.

Submission this week: None. One last week, though.

And now I'm off to finish polishing my next Writers of the Future entry, which is due in three days. One of these quarters, I'm not going to push it right to the deadline.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Writers of the Future Quarter 3

Anyone who's been dropping by my blog for the last, oh, five years, recognizes that I post these updates on my Writers of the Future finish every quarter. (Actually, last quarter I skipped, but that's neither here nor there.) Every quarter except one in which I made semi-finalist, I've reported an honorable mention or rejection. So I'm very happy to share the news that this quarter, I am a finalist!

I had convinced myself several quarters ago that I was never going to break through that ceiling, that my writing style and the sorts of things I write aren't suited for this contest's judges. At least for this quarter, I'm happy to admit I was wrong. I hit the bull's-eye ... or pretty close to it. Out of eight finalists, three are chosen as winners. All other things being equal, the odds are against me pulling out a win, so I'm preparing myself for a sadder result. But win or lose, this is a big achievement for me.

The stats in 19 quarters:
Finalist: 1
Semi-finalist: 1
Honorable mention: 10
Silver honorable mention: 1
Rejection: 6

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ups and downs

Most of the time I keep an even keel on writing, weathering the rejections and the critiques and my own critical eye. But this past week, I've felt somewhat bipolar. A week ago, I was hosting a pity party for one, feeling like my writing sucks and I suck and why am I even bothering? Today, it's the opposite. Today I feel like this:


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saturday's stuff and fluff is soggy

This past week has been devastating for Colorado's Front Range, from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins and every place in between. I feel very lucky that none of my family members have been flooded out (that I know of, at least). Our house is fine. Our neighborhood is fine. But drive 15 miles up the road to Boulder, and it's a different story entirely. The week has also proved exhausting in the day job. The Denver Post has been all over this story in a kick-ass way. Reporters, photographers and videographers are spread across the state, and here in the newsroom, those of us on the copy desk and production staff have been working hard to put all that coverage in the newspaper.

As you might expect, the intensity of the day job and the general stress of living in an area that has gotten 10 inches of rain (give or take) in a matter of days has not put me in a writing sort of mood. But I'm trying. I want to finish the rewrite on my work-in-progress this week and get it out to my first readers in time for comments to meet an end-of-the-month deadline.

I've also received the galleys for my story in the upcoming anthology Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera for a New Age. The table of contents is packed with fantastic writers. And the cover is beautiful. The editor has posted the cover image to the Kickstarter page for the anthology, so I don't think he'd have a problem with me sharing it here:


Submissions this week: A big fat zero. All my stories that are in shape to go out on submission are in editors' slush piles. I expect I will receive responses on at least a couple of them in the next few days.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Colorado creek flooded

I took my dog for a walk this morning along the trickle of water that runs through my neighborhood, and this is what it looked like. The creek's name is Little Dry Creek. Ponder the irony of that for a while.



The water treatment plant in our city is offline because of too much silt. Interstate 25 north of here is closed because it has disappeared under a lake. Thousands are being evacuated from the worst-hit towns. If anything, the situation is worse this morning than it was yesterday. And it's still raining ...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Raining and pouring

Mother Nature has apparently forgotten that Colorado is a desert because we've gotten more than 5 inches of rain where I live in the past 24 hours. And the rain is still coming down. The creek that runs near my house, which is called Little Dry Creek, is about ten times its usual size and has just about washed out the bike path where I walk my dog. There's no gently rolling down this stream; the water is a raging, muddy torrent. The damage in Boulder, which is about a half-hour northwest of here, has made national news this morning. At least two people are dead. Roads are washed out. Homes are flooded. Some mountain communities are inaccessible.

This is one of the craziest (and most dangerous) weather events we've had along the Front Range in years. The photos are unbelievable, and I'll direct you to The Denver Post website to see some of the damage. If you live in the area, stay safe!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Saturday! Stuff! And fluff!

Happy Saturday, everyone.

I've been wrestling this past week with a rewrite on a hard SF story. I don't usually write hard science fiction. This one came out of the Launch Pad workshop in July. That week I wrote a flash that I later realized was less of a story in itself and more of a premise for something longer. This work-in-progress is the "something longer." The first draft is decent, but the opening pages needed help. After three false starts, I finally have a hook that is compelling and gets right to the crux of the story. Which means the rest of it will fall into place relatively easily. I hope.

I have no new submissions to report, due to having received no rejections.

I've been following the coverage this week of the Toronto film festival, and several movies have premiered there that I am salivating to see when they make it to the hometown theaters. On the top of my list is "Gravity," about two astronauts who are left drifting in space after their shuttle is destroyed. The previews look amazing, and the early reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Another movie picking up critical acclaim is "12 Years a Slave," which sounds like a tour de force of a story and also stars many of my favorite actors. Third on my list is "The Fifth Estate," partly because I've been handling newspaper coverage of Wikileaks for years now and partly because the new film stars Benedict Cumberbatch.

Also this week, in a fit of nostalgia, I've been doing a rewatch on a 1980s British television show called "Robin of Sherwood." This show started airing on Showtime when I was 8 or 9. I have the entire series on DVD, but I haven't watched it start to finish in years. I'm about halfway through the second season (each season is only six episodes), and some details have jumped out at my adult self that I never noticed as a child. Almost every episode deals with religion in some form or another. There's no sign of the cursing, blood, nudity and sex that have become the staples of premium cable shows. In fact, the romance between Robin and Marion is ridiculously chaste by today's standards. The writers depend not on gritty realism but on good stories.

Related to that, I also reread the one and only fanfic I ever wrote about "Robin of Sherwood." I'm not in the habit of rereading my old stuff, but I remembered being particularly proud of this story, which I published at fanfiction.net in 2001. In rereading it now, I winced. A lot. My writerly self from 12 years ago had a disastrous sense of pacing and an aversion to the word "said." The characters rarely  "say" anything, but they do pronounce, call out, tease, reply, plead, mutter, admonish, soothe and insist, and that's just in the first two scenes. On the good side, it's gratifying to see how far I've come as a writer since then.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tom Hiddleston and the Cookie Monster

There is nothing about this that isn't made of awesome -- and adorableness. And the good side of delayed gratification? That's something one of my children definitely needs to learn about.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Stuff and fluff, a day late

Yesterday was an exhausting day, mostly thanks to my day job. Labor Day weekend means more advertising in the newspaper, which is a mixed blessing. It's more revenue for the paper but also means a proportionally larger news hole to fill. And if that wasn't enough, I was kept more than busy thanks to Obama's statement on Syria. The upshot is, I didn't have time or energy for blogging.

Labor Day weekend in downtown Denver also means the always delightful Taste of Colorado festival (sarcasm alert!). As has become typical for me over the past few years, instead of hanging out with fellow writers at WorldCon or fellow geeks at DragonCon, I am dodging jaywalking pedestrians and red-light-running vehicles while navigating the business access lane on Broadway to get to my office. I would rather be in San Antonio or Atlanta. But I still plan to watch the live-streaming Hugo Awards ceremony tonight.

I wrote a couple of flash stories this week and submitted one. The other needs some work.

Submissions this week: 2

I'm reading Mary Robinette Kowal's "Without a Summer," which I'm enjoying just as much as I enjoyed the first book in the series -- that is to say, a lot. I'm also reading Ted Chiang's novella "The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling" at Subterranean Press.

Overall stats for August:
Word count: Not sure, but between 6,000 and 8,000
Total submissions: 8

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday stuff and fluff

Let's see ... the week that was.

I finished the first draft of a 7,000 word short story and did a happy dance in the kitchen, which my kids laughed at. Silly Mom, bopping around the kitchen. If they were older, they probably would have been embarrassed rather than amused. I also did some minor tweaking on another story that is now ready to go for pro-market submissions after I get receive my inevitable no-thanks from Writers of the Future sometime in the coming weeks. (BTW, that's not a reflection on the story, which I think might be my best ever, but a reflection on how my style apparently doesn't push the right buttons with the WotF judges. Yet I keep entering every quarter. Is that the definition of insanity?)

Submissions this week: 1

My body is finally adjusting to the earlier wake-up time required for getting the kids to school. Maybe I'll have energy to go running (OK, OK jogging) in the mornings this week. I haven't done much of anything resembling exercise over the summer, so I'll be starting slow. That woman you see huffing through the neighborhood, looking like she might keel over onto the sidewalk at any second, thus requiring CPR and possibly a call to 911 ... that might be me.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Back to school

This week has been a strange one, but I need to get used to it because it's going to be my new normal. For the first time in 11 years, since my now-stepson came to live with me and my husband (then fiance) full time, there are no children in the house during the school day. Our youngest is in first grade this year, which is her first time in full-day school. That results in a bit of an empty nest. It's a mixed blessing. My days off are now flush with hours and hours in which I can do pretty much whatever I want, but I also miss my kids.

This week, I used that time to finish my current work-in-progress, which came in a little under 7,000 words. The dog and I went for some walks. I caught up on television shows. I've done some reading. Oh, and chores and errands. But the house is too quiet, and I found myself doing my writing at a nearby Starbucks. I remember being single once with all my time as my own, but that was so long ago that I've forgotten how to handle it. It'll come back to me how to use the time soon enough, I'm sure.

 Bits and pieces:

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday stuff and fluff

Weekly! Update! Whoo!

The work-in-progress has passed the 5,000-word mark. I'm loving the story and characters, and I'll hit "the end" on the first draft sometime this week or next. My kids are back in school on Monday, which will make my mornings quieter and more conducive for writing. I also hope to get back into running several times a week.

Submissions this week: 2

Favorite writer of the week: Chuck Wendig. His serial The Forever Endeavor is publishing in Fireside Magazine. Friends of mine have recommended his work to me before, and I've never gotten around to reading it. After reading the first part of The Forever Endeavor, I'm going to track down more of his stories. Fantastic style, excellent use of dialogue.

Cool astronomy news: A Japanese astronomer discovered a new nova last week. With a decent pair of binoculars, you too can find it in the night sky and say you've seen a stellar explosion. More information here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fireside Fiction Company

Fireside Magazine has a new name (see above) to go with its relaunch, which officially went live yesterday. I've been a big cheerleader for Fireside, not just because it'll be publishing one of my stories (although that makes me a very happy writer). It's because, as a reader, this is one of the few publications out there, online or in print, in which I enjoy just about every story that gets published. I can't even say that about the Big Three (Asimov's, Analog and Fantasy & Science Fiction). Right now you might be saying to yourself, "But, Jennifer, I didn't contribute to the Kickstarter, so how can I read all this great fiction?" Not to worry. Subscriptions are available, or you can purchase single issues.

In other news: Google Maps will take you inside the TARDIS. Seriously. It locates the Police Telephone Box on a street corner in London, and if you click on the double arrows, you can go inside the bridge. Awesome.

And in personal news, my kids are going to back-to-school night tonight. It's hard to believe the school year starts Monday. My daughter is so excited to start first grade she can hardly stand it, while my son, who is starting fourth grade, is dreading the end of summer vacation.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday stuff and fluff

Happy Saturday, blog readers. This is the second week in a row that I'm doing general updatery stuff on Saturday morning, and maybe I can make a habit out of it.

First, some good news: Fireside Magazine will be going live next week, Wednesday, Aug. 14. My story "Catch a Fallen Star" will be going live in November. Fireside published three issues last year in paper and ebook, and now is revamping the format for online. Every month there will be three or four stories. I've seen the schedule of what's publishing when, and the talent lineup is great.

The writing is going well. I did my 200+ words every day this week except one, and that was because of a horrible, no-good, nausea-inducing headache that reduced me to a sad, huddled figure under my bed covers in a dark room. Can't write when I can't see straight.

Story submissions this week: 2

And now to get on my soapbox for a moment: a bit on the next Doctor on "Doctor Who." I've read from several online commentators this week that the casting of Peter Capaldi is going to drive away a certain segment of the fandom: those who were on board because they like their Doctor young and hot. I watched a video today of a British teenage girl throwing a fit when Capaldi came out on stage for the announcement last week. ("Ugh," she said with a look of disgust.) I'm one of those who's in for the long haul on this show because I like the premise, and I think the quality of the writing and acting is more important than whether the person playing the Doctor will make People magazine's Sexiest Alive list. That being said, I'm going on the record that David Tennant and Matt Smith would be lucky to look as good at 55 as Peter Capaldi does. From what I've seen, he has poise and confidence and, yes, is quite handsome. So give the man a flattering haircut and costume, and let him do his thing. All will be well, Whovians.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What it's like after Launch Pad

One of my fellow Launch Pad workshoppers passed along this comic strip today, and it sums up perfectly what it's like coming back from an intense week of astronomy education. The strip is called "Sphere" comes from xkcd.com.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Stephen Colbert does Daft Punk

I was not up all night last night doing anything. Thanks to a horrible, no-good, nausea-inducing headache, I slept for going on 11 hours. But Stephen Colbert was dancing the night away. Seriously, one of the funnier videos I've seen in awhile. Enjoy.


The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Doctor Who: The new Doctor is in

I started watching "Doctor Who" with Matt Smith's first episode, so the changing of the guard is a new experience for me. Now it's official that Peter Capaldi will succeed Matt Smith. The announcement -- which was made in a broadcast that aired live in Britain, the U.S., Australia and probably elsewhere, too -- was not unexpected. The British bookies had stopped taking bets a few days ago, so sure they were that Capaldi had landed the role.

I'm not really familiar with Capaldi's work. I know from online reports that he guest-starred on the Pompeii episode of "Doctor Who" and had a role in "Torchwood: Children of Earth." I haven't re-watched either of those in years but probably will do so now. He's most well-known for his role as a foul-mouthed spin doctor on "The Thick of It."

He made a good first impression on me in his short interview during the big announcement, and most of the social media reaction has been positive. He looks like the Doctor to me. I've read comments comparing his appearance to an older David Tennant, and also someone who said he looked like he could be Rory's uncle. I've also read comments complaining that Capaldi is too old for the part (he's 55), but I think that casting an older actor is a brilliant move by Steven Moffat. I'm hoping Capaldi brings more maturity to the Doctor. I've enjoyed the bonkers energy that Matt Smith has brought to the show, but I'm excited by the possibility that Number 12 might be more intellectual and perhaps a little darker.

Check out Capaldi in his short BBC video introduction. I love mischief in his expression, the slightly evil grin. There's a hint of danger there. As I read on one blog earlier, there's potential to worry about this Doctor. The writers might not go that route, but they could, and that's cool.



The more I think about it, the more I like this casting. Of course we won't know how well it works until next year, but I'm optimistic that the role of the Doctor is in good hands.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday stuff and fluff

My "Tortoise and the Hare" approach to writing seems to be working. About two weeks ago, I decided to put less pressure on myself to produce big word counts. There are too many other nonwriting things on my plate (and I'm too slow a writer) for me to realistically say I'm going to write several hundred words per day. The general result of making those kinds of goals is that I freeze up and don't write at all. Not good. So when I came back from Launch Pad, I set the goal of 200 words minimum every day -- slow but steady, like the tortoise who eventually wins the race. So far I have hit that goal and then some every day. This past week, my word count was between 1,500 and 2,000.

Submissions this week: 2, one of them out for the first time

In other news, a mixed blessing: I think I've pinpointed the source of the unrelenting nausea I've been experiencing for the past three weeks, and it's dairy products. In the few days since I've cut all dairy from my diet, I've had no stomach issues. However, this is distressing to me. I love milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream. But apparently my body is saying "no."

I watched the first half of the first episode of BBC's "Broadchurch" online last night, and I will definitely finish it tonight. I cried watching it. There were actual tears, which never happens for me. I'm looking forward to the official series premiere next week. I'm also looking forward to the reveal tomorrow of the actor or actress who will replace Matt Smith on "Doctor Who," though I am miffed at BBC for how they've handled it. There was to be a "big announcement" on Thursday, and then the announcement was ... that they're going to make an announcement on Sunday. Very lame, BBC.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sale! to Stupefying Stories

The contract has been signed, so now I feel that I can share the good news that my fantasy story "The Witch's Key" will be appearing Stupefying Stories. I've enjoyed reading the stories that have been published in the Stupefying Stories Showcase, so I'm happy that my story has found a good home. I don't know yet whether my story will appear in the Showcase or in the magazine itself, or when publication might happen. I'll pass on the details as I get them.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

What I'm reading

Between kids, work, writing and household chores, I sometimes find time to pick up a book.

I'm about halfway through Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, which I'm reading because it was recommended to me by a friend. It's YA alternate history steampunk, and it's an easy, fast read. I'm enjoying it quite a lot. Enough to move onto the next book in the series? I don't know yet. I'm also reading the new science-fiction anthology Beyond the Sun, and I've loved every story so far. If you're a fan of short fiction and SF, I recommend it. (Full disclosure: the anthology's editor has bought one of my stories for a different anthology to come out later this year.) And I'm reading "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" out loud to my kids at bedtime at a pace of about 10 pages per day, which isn't fast enough for my son, who is constantly asking what happens next.

As for writing, my word count for the week so far is about 1,000, and I hope to boost that through the weekend. Story submissions made this month: four.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Back from space

I returned home from Wyoming and the Launch Pad workshop a few days ago. I've kept busy with plenty of chores and errands and miscellaneous things that had been put off for a week. Now they're all basically done. So I can breathe again and relax for five minutes before the to-do list fills up again.

I haven't had an opportunity to write up my final thoughts on Launch Pad, but that post is coming, hopefully this weekend. In the meantime, I would like to direct your attention to a post from fellow attendee Jamie Todd Rubin on all the wonderful people who were in our workshop group.

Also, a fantastic website I discovered this week: NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Since getting back, I've received a story acceptance and a story rejection. (More on the acceptance later after I've signed the contract.) I've written about 1,000 words on a new story inspired by my workshop experience. I've taken my car to the shop to repair the damage from getting rear-ended earlier this month and have been driving a much nicer rental car that I am loathe to give back. And I have taken another step toward a medical diagnosis for one of my kids, but alas the slow, multi-step process will not be completed by the time school starts again in the fall.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Launch Pad workshop: Day 5

We're getting toward the end of the workshop, and people are starting to feel it, that we're a little sad that it's almost over and that our brains are very full. Finally I have a photo to share of our Launch Pad class outside the business building on the University of Wyoming campus. We're waving at Saturn, though the camera caught me in an odd pose that makes me (far left) look more like I'm introducing a product on The Price is Right.



Black holes were the first topic of the day, and one that I'm fascinated by. We talked about how they're formed (when the mass of a neutron star passes a certain limit, it collapses into a single point, or singularity). We discussed black holes' escape velocity and the Schwarzchild Radius, and touched on Hawking radiation. Other points: spaghettification, time dilation, gravitational redshift and the gamma rays released in a black hole's creation. I'd get into more detail, but I don't have the time or inclination to transcribe pages of notes. Maybe later.

Next: galaxies. We discussed the formation of the Milky Way and why it looks like a spiral. Dark matter came up, which is mass not primarily created by stars (but beyond that we don't understand its nature). Bits and pieces:
  • Our galactic center is somewhere off toward the Sagittarius constellation.
  • The sun is about 2/3 of the way out from the center.
  • The total mass of the Milky Way's disk is about 200 billion solar masses.

The afternoon lectures were about science ethics, or rather the unethical or silly things that some famous scientists got up to in their research or personal life. After that, we talked some more on science-fiction applications for astronomy, in this case interstellar travel and worldbuilding on alien star systems. And we finished with a guest lecture from amateur astronomer Ruben Gamboa on what it is amateur astronomers do.

Today is the last day of class, and tomorrow is a travel day.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Launch Pad workshop: Day 4

Before I get going into Day 4, I'd like to direct you to the blogs of some of my fellow attendees, who are also posting about the workshop this week.
I'll add more links to the list as I get them.

We've been going at a fast pace here at Launch Pad, so this morning we took a mental break and exercised our bodies instead. We took a field trip about 20 minutes east of Laramie for a hike around Turtle Rock in the Medicine Bow National Forest. Again, I wish I had photos to share because the forest is beautiful: pine, aspen and massive rock formations. We hiked about three miles on a loop. A couple of people took spills, but there were no serious injuries. We ate a picnic lunch while being harassed by an aggressive chipmunk, then headed back to the university.

The first afternoon class taught by Mike Brotherton focused on the end stages of stars. Before today, I knew vaguely about red dwarfs, red giants and white dwarfs, but I couldn't explain to you the differences between them (except that two of them are red and one is white) or how they're formed. Ditto for novas and supernovas, and neutron stars. Now I can. So this was a very informative lecture.

In the second class, the director of the university's astronomy department, Daniel Dale, talked about his specialty of infrared astronomy and the dust that fills so much of the universe. Cosmic dust is something I've never really thought about, but it's there interfering with astronomical observations and bombarding the Earth with 40 tons of material every day.

Tonight we have an evening free of programming. Some of my fellow workshoppers are at a bar, which is a typical place for socializing for science-fiction writers. But I'm not a drinker, so I've retired to my dorm room for some rest and writing. I've written a 500-word flash piece that I got the idea for on the hike this morning, and written this post. Now, some reading before bed.

Launch Pad workshop: Day 3

Last night we returned to the dorms about midnight, and I was too tired to do much of anything but pass out in bed. After almost nine hours of sleep, I'm feeling a little more up for blogging about the day's events. Day 3 is the day when I was really cursing myself for (a) forgetting my camera and (b) not owning a smartphone -- because the photo opportunities were too good to pass up.

After breakfast again at the Turtle Rock Café, we started class at 10 a.m. The topic: binary stars and exoplanets. We learned about the qualities of binary stars and how astronomers find exoplants around stars too far away to see with telesecopes. I didn't take as many notes as I did on Day 2, but here are some of the highlights:
  1. 50 to 80 percent of bright stars are binary systems.
  2. We find exoplants by using the Kepler telescope to look for changes in the spectrum as a planet passes in front of its star. The amount of light our instruments pick up from the star drops a tiny amount.
  3. Scientists have found 3,000 confirmed or candidate exoplanets, and more than 300 of those are Earth-sized planets. We think there are 1 billion terrestrial planets in the Milky Way.
  4. A next steps? Mapping those Earth-like planets for habitability, and finding exomoons.
We then spent an hour examining data from Kepler looking for planets ourselves, and I think I could have done that all day. I should mention that one of us found what looked unmistakably like a planet, and maybe more than one around a single star.

In the afternoon, we spent two hours learning about the qualities of stars: how we measure distance, mass, temperature, radius and luminosity. Some of this went a bit over my head; I'm going to blame it on exhaustion.

And then last night, we piled into SUVs and vans and drove up a mountain to WIRO: the University of Wyoming Infrared Observatory. It's a really big telescope. This is when I wished I had a camera, but I'm sure some of my fellow attendees are posting photos online that I can link to later.

I rode up with Mike Brotherton, one of our instructors and the man behind Launch Pad, and two other attendees. The road up is dirt, one lane, twisty and frequently drops down a cliff on one side. You also have to watch out for wildlife; a deer ran right in front of us. The altitude on the mountain is about 2,000 feet higher than Laramie. Thankfully I've had no issues with altitude since I've been here, and I didn't last night, either. (Mike says it's typical for a Launch Pad attendee to end up in the emergency room.)

We spent a couple of hours at the observatory watching two undergrad students operate the telescope and do their research. Both students are here for the summer. They sleep during the day and work at WIRO at night in three- or four-day shifts. WIRO was built in 1977, and the age shows a bit, though everything there works beautifully. The telescope itself is covered with bits of duct tape.

We got back to the dorms at midnight, exhausted but happy.

This morning, we're going to start the day with a hike, and I need to get ready to go.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Launch Pad workshop: Day 2

Before I start in on recapping the day, I want to give a big thank you to the folks who funded this year's workshop. Our primary sponsor is Uwingu, which supports astronomical education. And many people made individual donations as well, and you can check out the list here.

I started the morning by writing about 500 words before joining my fellow attendees for breakfast at a local diner, where the food was good and the conversation mainly focused on picking apart the scientific inaccuracies of Pacific Rim. Then, off to a full day of classes.

The instructors here are good at cramming a lot of material into each day. In the morning session, we covered the electromagnetic spectrum and everything on it. I had a vague understanding before of how light works, but now it's much better. There's still plenty to learn, though. A few interesting tidbits that I didn't know:
  • Our atmosphere allows only the radio spectrum and visible light to the surface, along with a little bit of ultraviolet and infrared.
  • Some birds and insects can see ultraviolet light, and some flowers have UV markings that create a "landing pad" for pollen-collecting insects.
  • Chicken-wire fencing blocks radio signals.

In the afternoon, we did some lab work with the electromagnetic spectrum, examining the various spectrums made by certain elements. After that, it was a lecture on gravity and motion, and then the first of a few talks we'll have this week about the science that science-fiction writers get wrong. I will admit that my Daily Science Fiction story contains one of the errors discussed today, but I won't tell you which one. Ha.

After dinner, we trudged up to the roof of the university's physical sciences building for some star-gazing and telescope-gazing. I have not seen such a starry sky since I was a kid at Girl Scout camp. Beautiful. A few highlights: Saturn with its rings and four brightest moons; two nebulas; a globular cluster, and the Andromeda galaxy. For the first time in my life, I also saw the constellation Scorpio, which is my zodiac sign.

A great end to the day.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Launch Pad workshop: Day 1

I'm in Laramie, Wyoming, this week on the campus of the University of Wyoming for the Launch Pad astronomy workshop for science-fiction writers. We have a fantastic and diverse group of 14 attendees and three personable and knowledgeable instructors. Yesterday was a travel day from Denver; everyone flew into DIA. Then it was two hours up the road to Laramie. Today, we started the workshop.

The morning session was used for introductions and a talk about just how big space really is. To paraphrase Douglas Adams: It's big. Really big. Mind-bogglingly big. Part of the lecture involved this video right here, which was made in 1977 and holds up very well today:



After lunch, we discussed two aspects of astronomy that affect us here on Earth every day: seasons and moon cycles. I admit that I had been carrying around a misconception my whole life about what causes the seasons. I knew the seasons are caused by the tilt of the Earth's axis, but I did not know that they're also caused by the angle of the sunlight hitting a given spot. A direct hit from the sun creates more intense heat. But in winter, sunlight hits the Earth at an angle and becomes diffused over a greater area, and there's less heat as a result. We finished up the afternoon with a talk about our solar system.

Because the forecast called for clouds this evening, we rescheduled our telescope time for tomorrow and went to see Pacific Rim instead. Robots vs. Monsters. The movie strikes me as a high-quality version of Power Rangers, but it's a lot of fun if you don't think too hard about it.

And now it's time for shower and bed.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Midyear story stats

We're six months into 2013, so it's a good time to take a look at the story and submission stats so far for the year:

Total submissions: 21
This is on track for a higher count for this year than last, but only barely.

Current submissions: 6
The longest submission in my queue right now is 100 days and the shortest is 0 (the Writers of the Future entry that I submitted 15 minutes ago). I have a flash I need to revise before sending out again, and another flash for which I have a rewrite request but I just can't wrap my head around how to accomplish what the market wants. I think that one will end up being a withdrawal.

Acceptances: 1
I'll share the news on this one later on.


Of course I'd like to see more acceptances, but there's not much I can do about that. I write the best stories I can, send them out and hope someone likes them.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

It's not all bad

So yesterday sucked, but there's good news to share, too, in regards to writing and publishing. I can't share all of what I know, unfortunately, because some things aren't finalized enough to trumpet to the world quite yet. But here's what I can share:
  • Fireside Magazine is set for a launch date of July 8. Whoo! I have a pretty good idea of when my story "Catch a Fallen Star" will run, but I can't say yet. Be assured that when I can say, I will say it loud.
  • I will be attending the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop for writers in mid-July at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. I'm very much looking forward to going because I'm a science-fiction writer who's lacking a strong educational background in the sciences.
  • I finished my next Writers of the Future entry last night and am doing some quick editing before submitting it. The deadline is tomorrow.

Friday, June 28, 2013

When it rains ...

What a day, what a day.

I started this morning frantically trying to finish the story I will be entering in this quarter's Writers of the Future. The deadline is in three days. I reached "the end" in my notebook and now I have to transcribe into the file on my laptop and do some cleanup.

Then I drove to work. Three blocks from my office, while inching through slow traffic at a light, a van smacked into the back of my car. I'm not injured, at least not beyond the usual soreness you'd expect when your car gets rear-ended. But my car's backside has a dent the size and shape of the van's license plate. (Turns out a third car hit the van, which then hit mine.) It should be noted that this is the first time I've ever gotten into an accident with another human. Deer and foxes, sure. But not humans. So now I'm looking at dealing with insurance, finding a repair shop and driving a rental for several days because I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I only hope I have my car back, repaired and ready to go, by mid-July when I go to the Launch Pad astronomy workshop in Wyoming.

Today I'm also making phone calls, printing out forms and generally working my way through the process of dealing with a behavioral medical issue for one of my kids. I don't feel comfortable yet sharing the details publicly, mostly because we're in a pre-diagnosis stage. The whole process has certainly been wearing on me for the past few weeks.

All this, and it's only 3 p.m. I wonder what will the rest of the day bring.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Neil Gaiman book signing

There aren't many writers I would go to a book signing for. There are even fewer for whom I'd be willing to wait for five hours to get to the front of the line. I can probably count them on one hand. Neil Gaiman is one of them. Tonight I joined 1,000 other fans at the Tattered Cover in downtown Denver to see Gaiman on what is being billed as his last book tour, for "The Ocean at the End of the Lane."

I finished reading the book last night. It's wonderful -- a dark and fantastic tale of childhood -- and refreshingly short. In these days in which it seems every major fantasy release must double as a doorstop, Gaiman's newest is less than 200 pages. He said at his signing that the difference in writing fiction for adults vs. fiction for young adults is that in YA, you leave out the boring bits. He did that here, too, except this isn't a book for kids.

So, the signing. As I said, about a thousand people showed up. And everyone had at least a couple of books. Do the math, and you understand why Mr. Gaiman needed a hand massage halfway through the line. I was No. 477, and he had been signing for more than two hours before he got to me, and he was gracious and friendly. He shook my hand after I told him that his work inspires me to write. As I'm writing this three hours later, at 12:45 a.m., he might be signing still.

Some tidbits from his talk that I found to be interesting:
  •  He writes his first drafts longhand.
  •  His metaphor for beginning writers: Writing is like making pancakes. You have to burn the first few to get to the good ones later.
  •  It took him about three months to write the first draft of "The Ocean at the End of the Lane," while "American Gods" took about two years, and "Coraline" took eight years.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Doctor Who: Who's next?

The news broke yesterday: Matt Smith is leaving Doctor Who after the 50th anniversary special and the Christmas special. After their initial surprise, fans all over the Internet started speculating: Who will play the 12th Doctor? Apparently the bookies like Rupert Grint and Russell Tovey. Grint is too much identified with Ron Weasley to make an effective Doctor, I think. Tovey (of Being Human) would be a better choice, seeing as Steven Moffat has cast him before in an episode of Sherlock (and he's also appeared on Doctor Who). I've heard the names of a few American actors thrown out there, but that would be a huge mistake. The Doctor must be British. (Still, Peter Dinklage would be awesome.)

If Moffat's smart, he'll go with an actor (or actress, but that sadly probably won't happen) who is mostly unknown and carries little baggage of past roles with him. Matt Smith hadn't done much previous to becoming the Doctor, and that worked out just fine.

But if Moffat were going to cast someone well-known, here are a few I'd like to see take on the iconic role. (Note: I'm not overly familiar with who's who in British acting circles, so you'll have to forgive my very American outlook.)

Benedict Cumberbatch
The star of Sherlock, who also is currently starring in the new Star Trek, has already said he wouldn't be interested in playing the Doctor, but a girl can dream. He also might suffer from the same problem as Rupert Grint, in that he's too closely identified with other iconic roles. But, that voice ... those eyes ... Sorry, I went fan girl for a sec there.

Tom Hiddleston
Yes, he's Loki. Another iconic role. But he has a wonderful intensity that I think would be a nice change for the role after Matt Smith's more clownish Eleventh.

Ben Whishaw
He's young and talented, a Shakespearean actor who's winning awards in Britain, and he's familiar to Americans as the new Q in the most recent James Bond movie. According to many of the articles I've been looking at today, he's a front-runner.

Hugh Laurie
Again, this is one step away from impossible. But let's take a moment to imagine the man who brought life to the acerbic Gregory House and the buffoonish Bertie Wooster traipsing across all of time and space in a blue police box.

Dan Stevens
He's Matthew Crawley on "Downton Abbey," which gives him strong recognition on both sides of the pond, and he's an actor I haven't seen suggested pretty much anywhere, which would make him a curve ball.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Amazon's Kindle Worlds and fan fiction

The news today is that Amazon has made a deal with Alloy Entertainment to allow fan fiction writers to write in Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl and get paid for it. This is part of the new Kindle Worlds program, and they're planning on announcing more licensing agreements in the near future. This has implications for fan fiction writers, for professional writers who do media-ties and fan fiction readers, and not all the implications are good.

As a former fan fiction writer myself, on the surface this sounds great. Getting paid for writing with someone else's world and characters? Great, right? Not so much. Before you decide to get involved in the program, take a look at the contract terms. You can read about it in more detail on John Scalzi's blog right here, but the gist is that the entertainment company can take your original ideas or characters and use them for their own purposes without paying you a cent, and Amazon can use your story for any purposes it wants without paying you a cent. Basically, you're giving up any rights you might have to your own creations. Bad, bad idea, folks.

As time allows, I'll look into this more and blog about it. In the meantime, for more information and thoughts from writers in the trenches, you can start here:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor


This is the episode I've been waiting for since April. It's not perfect. There are a few flaws, which we'll get to. But setting those aside, "The Name of the Doctor" is the best episode we've had since the season premiere. You can read recaps elsewhere, so I'm going to break down what I thought were the best aspects of the episode and a couple of things that Moffat and Co. could have done better.

Clara: The Impossible Girl
The mystery of the Impossible Girl was the No. 1 thing that I wanted this episode to tackle. Clara's character has suffered because of the focus on what she is instead of who. I'm glad to say that the answer for why she has been popping up all over time and space is simple, satisfying and believable. It didn't feel like a stretch at all, unlike the resolutions to some other Moffat mysteries over the years. And I loved the opportunity to see many of the older incarnations of the Doctor. Now that we're done with this mystery, I hope that Clara can simply be Clara and we will get some character development next season. (Because I've found Clara's echoes to be much more interesting and entertaining than Clara herself.)

(Side note: When "The Snowmen" aired, I wrote this, and it turns out I wasn't too far off the mark: "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.") 

The Fields of Trenzalore
What a fantastic idea to make this planet the site of the Doctor's tomb. Besides the emotional trauma of seeing your own grave, the Doctor faces multitudes of paradoxes in crossing his own timeline. In fact, he literally comes face to face with his entire timeline, from the first time he set foot in the TARDIS to his death, in the form of a pillar of wibbly-wobbly light. And the huge TARDIS also blew my mind. But I do have a gripe with how things went down on Trenzalore and that is ...

Silence Will Fall
We've been teased about what will happen on Tranzalore ever since Matt Smith's first episode. From the Silents to Dorian's warnings, there's been a multi-season buildup to what will happen to the Doctor and indeed the entire universe if he speaks his name on the fields of Trenzalore. So here we are at the moment, and the payoff is not nearly big enough. What happens if the Doctor speaks his name? A door opens. Granted, that door leads to the Doctor's time stream, and if that time stream is destroyed, the universe goes with it. Hence the silence falling. But I can't help it: I wanted something more dramatic than opening a door. In the end, the catastrophe is averted too easily and too quickly, and the Doctor doesn't say a word. It's River who says his name, and she does it with such nonchalance that it cheapens the importance of the act. I wanted much much more. My only consolation is that we don't hear what River says, thank goodness. And speaking of River ...

River Song
I like the idea of seeing River after her death, but her appearance needed more clarity. If she's a digital echo of herself, how can she be physically there? How can the Doctor touch her? I loved the kiss between them, but it seems like it shouldn't have been possible. And did this feel to anyone else like River's final appearance? She might turn up again, but with the kiss and the good-bye, I felt that this might have been Moffat's way of closing out the character.

The Doctor and The Doctor
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the last few seconds of the episode. Another incarnation of the Doctor makes his entrance, and he's John Hurt, and he's the Doctor's deep dark secret. But what exactly is he? A future incarnation? The Valeyard? A previously unmentioned incarnation that, perhaps, ended the Time War? We won't find out anytime soon. All I can hope is that the new Doctor will not be made into a mystery, that we will be told straight up who he is, where he fits into the Doctor's timeline, what he did and, most importantly, what he wants now. Only when we have all the information will we be able to truly enjoy what has the potential to become an epic battle between the Doctor and himself.