Friday, September 2, 2016

Publication Day! In Clarkesworld

Yes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

WorldCon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 8, 2016

John Oliver on journalism

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


Friday, August 5, 2016

Writing, job hunt and Olympics

Flyby post today.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What I've been reading

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

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

Friday, July 22, 2016

Progress report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 11, 2016

Publication Day! "Goosed" at Daily Science Fiction

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

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

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

Friday, July 8, 2016

#amwriting

Two weeks ago, I left my newspaper job. Suddenly, I have 9 to 10 hours a day back in which I can do anything. Within reason. So what am I doing?

First, I'm writing. Yes! I'm putting down at least 1,000 words a day, working on a as-of-yet untitled urban fantasy novel that combines two of my favorite things: magic and journalism. If you were to ask me what my book is about, I would describe it as "'Spotlight' with magic."

I write for about an hour or two a day. I could do more, but I won't. That's because I don't want to burn myself out by pushing too hard, too fast. In running, I'm a long-distance runner, not a sprinter, and I'm a long-distance writer, too. At a steady, comfortable pace, I can keep going forever.

At this pace, I will have the book done by the end of the summer. Woot! I love the characters, the storyline, the concept. I'm excited to write every day. That's half the battle right there.

In addition to writing, I'm also looking for a new career and am exploring a lot of different options. I spend a good chunk of every day checking out the openings in the Denver metro area, writing cover letters and sending my stuff to potential employers.

The rest of the time, I'm enjoying life.

I'm spending quality time with my husband and family, taking walks with my dog, doing yoga in the living room, cleaning the house (which is long overdue), and reading books. I'm on my third book in two weeks.

The two I read before, which are both excellent and I recommend:
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Justice Calling by Annie Bellet

Now I'm reading The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher, which is a fun read so far, despite being a large enough volume to use as a doorstop.

Let's see. What else to report?

My fourth story with Daily Science Fiction will publish on Monday, featuring the meanest protagonist I've ever written. If you're one of the 11,000 subscribers to DSF, I hope you enjoy getting it in your email box.

And I've sold a story to one of my very favorite markets! Stay tuned for more on that, when I have details to share.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Well, I'm back

I've been gone from this blog for a long time. Over the past year, my job ate my life, but for a good cause. I'm afraid that blogging was toward the bottom of my priority list, and therefore it just didn't get done.

As of a week ago, I'm no longer employed at The Denver Post. The separation was voluntary. I looked at my options and chose the best one. The lesser evil, if you will.

I already miss the newsroom, and my fellow journalists in the bunker.

I don't know yet what's next for me. I'm peering down a lot of different paths and thinking about which one I want to walk. There are plenty of options out there for a good writer and editor, and I am a damned good writer and editor.

In the meantime, I'm writing. A lot. And reading. And spending time with my family. And starting to catch up on a year of television viewing that went by the wayside (because TV shows, like this blog, fell too low on my priority list.)

My worries aren't for myself. I'm going to be fine. My worries are for The Denver Post and the journalists who are still down in that bunker, fighting the good fight.

The enemy isn't one you might expect.

The Denver Post and many other newspapers operate under the umbrella of Digital First Media, which is owned by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that has shown by its actions that it doesn't care about maintaining healthy businesses. It's only interested in squeezing out every last penny of profit for its anonymous investors.

DFM's owner is killing it.

Those of you who say newspapers are dying anyway are wrong. Dead wrong. The Denver Post made a big profit last year. Yet the newsroom has gone through two rounds of staff reductions in the past year, losing nearly 50 people. That's both young, hungry journalists and seasoned veterans who have been in the industry for decades. That doesn't include the job losses among those working on the press and in advertising and in IT.

A healthy press is critical to a healthy democracy.

Yet this country's press is under siege from greedy hedge funds.

If you want to learn more, go to dfmworkers.org. Make sure you sign the letter and read the article "How Alden Global Capital has pillaged the news -- a tale in 19 Tweets."

And support your local newspaper because

#newsmatters

Monday, April 4, 2016

Publication Day! In Fireside Magazine

Hi guys.

Long time, no see.

Let's see. What's going on right now today.

"The Memory Who Became a Girl" is live in Fireside Magazine. This is my second appearance in Fireside, the first being about 2 1/2 years ago. Issue 32 also includes stories by A.E. Decker and Jordan Taylor. You can link directly to my story from right here. And a taste of what you'll get:
At one time, people launched the ashes of their loved ones into space. Now they launched memories.

Those memories were uploaded after death and stored on a chip in a box. A digital urn. An echo of life. The boxes were loaded by the thousands onto the massive generation ships leaving Earth. Engineers. Doctors. Scientists. Those whose knowledge would be of help on the journey’s other side.

The girl was different.

Other things going on:
  • I've sold my fourth story to Daily Science Fiction! "Goosed" will probably appear there sometime this summer or fall.
  • My current writing project is a short story for the anthology "Joe Ledger: Unstoppable." I'm excited about this story; it's turning out very well.
  • Last week I did my writerly duty. I voted for the Nebula Awards and nominated for the Hugo Awards.

That's about it. Happy April, everyone!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Publication Day! At Galaxy's Edge

Happy New Year's, everyone!

Last year, I celebrated the new year with the publication of my story "Star Box" in Flash Fiction Online, which I think it is one of the best pieces of flash fiction I've ever written.

This year, I'm celebrating with the publication of a much longer story "The Bone-Runner" in Galaxy's Edge. This is the second time my work has appeared in the pages of Mike Resnick's magazine, which means the first one wasn't a fluke. Now my goal is to go for No. 3.

The story will be free online for the next two months. You can also buy ebook or print versions of the magazine. Information is on the Galaxy's Edge website.

A little backstory on the story (because I'm always interested in how stories come about):

In January 2015, my online writers groups held an annual contest in which the participants write a flash story (750 words or less) each weekend for five consecutive weeks. Each week, we'd get four prompts to choose from to write the story.

In week four, we got what has become the most popular prompt: rummage title generator. The lovely folks who run the contest come up with hundreds of titles, and you pick one and write a story to fit. I chose the title "Running Down the Bones." I wrote a 750-word story about a brother and sister who are scavengers in the ruins of a city (called "the bones") whose very air is poisoned by a chemical cloud, a remnant of some long ago war. The siblings find a lion cub whose mother has died. The sister wants to save it, and the brother to kill it.

I posted the story to the group. The main response: This needs to be longer.

So I made it longer. More than 5,000 words longer.

That flash story is still in there, though modified to fit the larger story I was telling.

(Side note: I wrote in four of the five weeks of that contest, and all four stories are now published. The others are: Transference in Nature Futures, Prime Time in Nature Futures, and Found Day in Daily Science Fiction. This year's contest starts next week.)

I hope you will go read my story, and the many others in the new issue. Enjoy!