Writing-wise, the past week has been good. I submitted one story, and wrote two, none of which currently in submittable state, but hopefully I’ll have enough feedback mid-week to send at least one out.
Also, today I flashed, after a long time, over at Liberty Hall. I had forgotten how much fun flashing is, especially when the Muse comes up with something unexpected. (While the Mews are totally predictable and *whinewhimpercomplain* the entire time I’m trying to write). And I really like the little story I produced. It’s highly unlikely it will remain at flash length (very few stories of mine do), but I like it anyway.
On the other hand, writing has been extremely frustrating in the last year. For starters, I haven’t sold anything in the last six months or so. This is, for the most part, due to the fact that I haven’t been writing many stories up to a submittable stage. And then, most of what I have out is still with the editors, who take forever to get back to me.
Only adding to my frustration is the fact that, of all the stories I sold last year, only two have seen print. The others are still waiting publication. For some, like ASIM and the Quiet Shelter There anthology, I knew that they wouldn’t be out until Summer 2012. Others, like Warrior Wisewoman #4, have encountered financial issues. Others, I have no idea where they’re at.
It’s not a money issue for me. Well, at least not *just* a money issue. I just feel that the initial joy of getting that acceptance letter got flushed down the drain by circumstances beyond my control.
I’m guessing that the best cure for this is to write more. Send more stories out. Balance the scales over these “unfortunate” stories. But there are times when this is getting very, very hard.
One of my goals this year is to be more consistent with my writing. Moreover, I aim to rediscover the Lost Fun of Writing. And, by goal, I don’t mean a New Year’s Resolution. My kittehs laugh at those. And then pee all over them. Which what generally happens to them, by the end of the year, figuratively speaking. Or not.
Anyway, I’ll give another go to this Write 1 Sub 1 thing. I tried it last year, and then Life happened, which included computer woes, sick cats, health issues and ongoing financial troubles. On the other hand, a large part of 2011 consists of empty days: I cannot recall what I did during those times, especially from February to May. But I do recall how every one of my stories came to be, even though it was painful at times: I had to endure heat without a/c, my back and shoulders hurt, I came out of my study (or back from my coffee shop) to find kitteh chaos but, in the end, I had my stories.
I don’t want any more empty days.
So I’ll give that W1S1 thing another go. Pretending, of course, that Week One did not exist.
Write 1: Expanded a Liberty Hall Flash from 1000 words to 4000. Historical Dark Fantasy, based on a mix of Aegean myths and inspired from the works of Greek poet Nikos Kavadias. It was a challenge to write: First Person POV, present tense, and a male POV at that. The setting was also a challenge: early 16th century Barbary Coast. I had to research a gazillion little things for every other line: food, spices, currency, clothes, expressions, evil eye traditions, naval terminology (shoot me now), and many more. But I loved the outcome.
Sub 1: The above-mentioned story. But I won’t say where. All this research about the Evil Eye rubbed off some superstition on me. I fear that if I say more, I’ll jinx it.
Anyway, off to work on my Week 3 assignment. And I hope I’ll be able to keep it up.
Until, that is, Diablo 3 comes out. Oh, hello there, Black Hole of my days… :/
The last couple of weeks have been of the “Writing? What writing?” type, due to a number of factors, mostly health issues. And now we’re entering heatwave season here, so writing won’t be as easy.
And I have three deadlines in June, including WOTF. I have no story for them. Unless something fitting comes back, I might have to sit this quarter out. As for the other two, one story is researched and outlined save for a few details, and the other has a 1000-word opening that I may or may not keep.
On top of that, RBE is having their annual fundraising challenge (details here, check it out!) with a cool theme and awesome art, and I’ve already been bitten by a plot-kitten for that one. At least the deadline for them is far in the future, alongside next quarter’s WOTF, so I have time for this. I hope.
Oh well. At least I flashed (sort of) this week over at Liberty Hall. I’ve given up hope that my stories will remain at flash length.
When I’m sitting down to write, the cats line up to sit on my lap.
They watch the cursor blink and the letters appear with great fascination, occasionally pawing at the screen (spellchecking?), purring and kneading my thighs. Ouch. During my last check-up, the doctor thought that those scars were from cutting myself. *sigh*
What really fuels the Muse, though, is when they start to purr. Then I know I’m doing something right in the story, that the setting has come to life, my characters’ motives make sense, and that the plot holes are filling up. Or, perhaps, a cat just crossed the story’s background.
And then I got last Fall’s kittens, especially Purrpurrita and Brunhilda. Those will purr at road construction level, giving me a much needed boost to write more. They’ll lie belly up, kneading the air, purring… and then they’ll fart. Plump, exposed bellies, and hind legs that work as gas-releasing levers. Oh, and yes, kitten farts smell like lavender.
And I have no idea what those Editors-on-lap are insinuating about my writing.
The setting: Minoan Crete, before the Thera explosion. The players: two assassins, a Minoan man and an Egyptian woman. In the background, priests and politicians trying to pull their strings and force them into a deadly dance. But there’s always one last thing, one final decision no deity or mortal can steal from a determined man.
The Last Dues Owed: a short story of mine that will appear in the Assassins: a Clash of Steel anthology from RBE in May 2011, as I’ve just heard from the editor.
That’s the first Sword & Sandal/Peplum type of story and I had great fun writing it, although the fighting scene (which consists about two thirds of the wordcount) was as easy as pulling teeth. *sigh* And so was research, considering how little is known about that era of Minoan Crete.
But still, I’m glad it worked and it found a good home.
My short story “And the Psychopomp Followed the Lyre“ has finally found a good home: Expanded Horizons, an e-zine I have worked with in the past and recently made the British Fantasy Awards Longlist, alongside Clarkesworld and Fantasy, to name just a couple of other nominees.
Dash, the editor, is a great person to work with, and I’m happy to be published with them again.
“Psychopomp,” a story that started as a Liberty Hall flash, went through several incarnations before ending in its current one. It deals with a god’s search for purpose in a world that has changed too much and has little use for gods anymore. Hermes, the Psychopomp, finds what was lost in the most unexpected place.
Also, it has cats. Duh. And scorned goddesses, and hell hounds, and a cranky old Charon.
And it’s my second story sale within a week. Hey, Universe, I could get used to that. *pokepokenudgenudge*
The longlist for the British Fantasy Awards 2010 has been announced. I’m not in them (yet-check again in the coming years, says the Muse /Mews), so I will do what any self-respecting cat would instead. And I don’t mean pee in the nominees’ slippers, although Interpurr has been notified and their own cats will take care of that on my behalf.
So I’ll just brag about the people I know and made it in the longlist:
- Ellen Datlow, editor, for three anthologies (Poe, Nebula 2009, and Best Horror).
- Eric T. Reynolds, editor, for the Origins anthology.
- Aliette de Bodard, writer, for her short story “Golden Lilies.”
- Dash, editor, Expanded Horizons e-zine.
- Terry Martin, Editor, Murky Depths magazine.
Here’s to more of my writerly friends making it to the list next years! (And their cats, too).
Over the past few months, I’ve received quite a few critiques of a certain type that first frustrated me and then got me thinking. And, just to be clear, this rant isn’t aimed at the critiquers; I’m not angry of them or anything. I’m just wondering how this reflects to the SF readership at large.
And let me explain further with specific examples, although paraphrased.
1. Bob, the Pyramid Builder
Comments from critters on historical fantasy:
“Those names are so weird. Why isn’t anyone named Bob or Mary?”
Or its variation:
“Netjerykhet is such a complex name. You should use nicknames so your readers won’t get confused.”
Nicknames? Seriously? And it’s not as if I give everyone in my stories railroad names like ‘Mentuhotep II Nebhepetre’. I try to keep the ancient names short, like Hapi. But when there’s an actual historical figure featuring in my story, a person who has been mentioned in historical texts, I can’t shorten their names to indulge certain readers.
Unless those readers are the majority. And this thought troubles me.
2. Who’s this guy again?
Moving away from the woes of writing historical fiction, but (probably) dealing with short attention span again, I have to wonder if it’s me or the critter. Snippets from a story (paraphrased):
“Mary’s sister had killed herself, unable to face the humiliation. Oh Jane, Mary thought, why did you leave me alone?”
3-4 paragraphs later:
“In Mary’s dream, Jane was there, her wrists slashed open.”
And here comes the critter’s comment:
“Who’s that Jane gal? Perhaps you could tell us more about their relationship and how she died?”
Head, meet desk.
If this was one isolated incident, I’d just brush it off. Gods knows I’ve goofed aplenty in my own crits. Sometimes, real world issues interfere, kids cry, cats complain, colds mess up your head and you cannot be 100% there. In a similar way, if there was a consensus of comments pointing to something unclear, I’d go back and clarify.
But no. There’s always a random comment from certain people at random parts of the story that indicates to me that they missed my not-so-subtle hints. Do I really need to spell it out for them?
“Jane was Mary’s sister who cut her wrists to kill herself.”
This is not how I want to write. But it left me wondering how this reflects to readers in general, and not just critters.
3. But what does Bob feel now?
I blame this on how-to-write books.
It’s the middle of a fight scene against dragons (or Cthulhu, or the Antichrist, or Sauron or any other big bad Evil Guy). Bob has trembling knees, almost drops his sword and thinks he should have stayed in bed that day. Or something along these lines.
Gee, I wonder what he may be feeling.
Do I really have to spell it out? Bob was scared/terrified/whatever?
And then there’s its evil twin: What is Bob thinking?
In the middle of a dragon fight scene? During the adrenaline rush and its “Fight or Flight” effect? Newsflash: sometimes, people don’t think. They’re just trying to avoid getting barbequed. They don’t have the time to calculate the pros and cons of hiding under that wagon or inside that well or in that cave. (Yes, someone actually suggest I should do that). There’s a fraking dragon after them, for catnip’s sake.
I don’t blame only how-to-write books. I also blame action movies with their slow motion scenes, in which the hero can eat breakfast, boink his girlfriend and have a smoke in the duration of a single kick/shot. Yeah. Sorry, fight scenes in fiction rarely work this way.
Again, the above rant does not apply in places I’ve failed to display my characters’ emotional response. Those become apparent very quickly, and there’s generally a critter agreement on those. Moreover, if something is lacking, at some level I already know it and it takes just one comment to identify it. This rant is aimed at those instances where critters seem to wake up at random intervals, post a random comment to show they’re still reading. Much like what some of us did during classes back in high school or university.
But it still leaves me baffled.
So is this a sign of the times, an indication of reduced attention span of modern readers, or should I just find myself new critters?
The Aether Age Anthology, forthcoming in Summer 2010 from m-brane sf and Hadley Rille Books, is a collection of short stories set in a shared world based on alternate history. In short, the ancient Egyptians and Greeks evolved faster to space-faring nations.
Namely, a world after my own heart.
So I was ecstatic when I got the good news: two of my stories, “Orion’s Dawn” and “Heart of Carnelian” will both be included in the anthology. And this makes me happy as a purring kitten.
“Orion’s Dawn” was the first I wrote, during NaNo 2009 no less, and in some way the easiest of the two. Probably because it popped up complete in my head during a sleepless night when the Mews (and my Muse) just wouldn’t shut up and get to sleep. After the first draft, my awesome critters in OWW start hammering me: my heroine needed personality, conflict, that fight scene needed, well, some actual fighting, and oh, by the way, no, you cannot haz Mars. Or any other Roman/Latin name. And what will I call Cydonia? (Answer: I still have no idea. I just left it as that).
Que a couple of weeks of headdesking followed by research followed by even more headdesking that ended with a very long weekend and painful, line-by-line editing to address the issues. And, lo and behold, I was done three days before the deadline.
While my Muse (and the Mews, I’m sure) were ROFLing, I discovered that the deadline had been extended and that the editors were now accepting multiple submissions, with the possibility of two stories from the same author getting accepted and published. The Muse, of course, had to hit me with another story idea; an incomplete one. As if I was going to be *that* lucky a second time. Then “Heart of Carnelian” took shape during a Liberty Hall Flash Challenge, under the working title “The Old Lion”, and within the next couple of weeks it grew from under 1000 words to over 3K.
And then I gave up.
On the last day before the new deadline, I was without an ending. On the last twelve hours, the Muse came back and brought the ending. (I can’t possibly type that fast to add another 1000 *good* words, can I? I can’t. Or perhaps I can?) Unfortunately, a bad cold came along with my wayward (and whimsical) Muse, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open to gaze at the PC screen, let alone type. So, one day after the deadline, somewhat disappointed, I check the Aether Age blog for updates. And lo and behold, authors with stories half-finished could request an extension. Feeling really squirrelly at this point, I emailed the editors and got my extension.
After a typing marathon, during which the Mews displayed their annoyance at my missplaced priorites (noms and litterboxes come before writing, therefore pee on both your couches), I finished the first draft and sent it off to my awesome critters at my personal group in Critique Circle. I cracked the whips, bullied and purred, and they offered their invaluable feedback. So I wrapped things up and submitted that as well. Had I been given more time, perhaps I would have made more changes. It might have resulted to a stronger story. Or perhaps not.
But this taught me two things:
- Not to give up on stories that I know they have potential.
- How much two annoyed tomcats can spray against the headboard of my bed. Oh the fun. Next time I’m on a submission deadline, they’ll be wearing diapers.
(Cover art by M. S. Corley)