Tuesday, December 17, 2013

First Professional Sale! Quitting Day Job! (Not Really!!!)

The term is over! No papers to write, no homework to do, no lectures to attend, huzzah!

Well, that's not entirely accurate. I actually have a bunch of reading to do, NOW, for NEXT term ... ah, that's the way of college, I suppose. Not that I mind it at all, because otherwise, suddenly, I sit down in front of the computer and come up blank. It's been so long since I wrote any fiction that I don't have any stories brewing in my mind, and so, nothing's coming out. Hmm...

I do have a half zillion ideas just sitting in storage, waiting to be pulled out and dusted off and elaborated into stories. Still, I have to get into the right frame of mind for that. Every last one of my submitted stories has, in the meantime, come back to me. So I have to work up a new round of submissions too, before heading back to school in a few weeks. It's not easy to be simultaneously in editing-mode and writing-mode. Oh, and I still need to get around to "finishing up stories that only got halfway completed"-mode. All this and Christmas, work, newspaper recruiting, and preparatory homework assignments! Again I wish that sleep was an option, not a requirement.

At the end of October (I believe it was just a week or a few days after my last blog), I submitted a flash fiction story with a Christmas theme, guiltily thinking that maybe I'd done it too late since most publishers like to have substantial warning to properly publish holiday stories. Not that I'd had the chance to do it sooner. So I just sent it out into the vast ocean of submissions and hoped!

And promptly got back a response ... accepted! Daily Science Fiction, which is a pretty self-explanatory web magazine, opted to buy "The Christmas Zombie" (a pretty self-explanatory story) and, better, to publish it on Christmas Day! If you are subscribed to DSF you can get the story emailed to you on Christmas, because that's what DSF does--emails awesome SF and/or Fantasy stories every weekday, for free! If you'd rather complicate life than have things made easy for you, you can also check out all of their stories at their website (above), although stories are put up on the site a week after they're emailed.

I'm thoroughly excited because this acceptance is my first professional-level sale! Best Christmas present ever! If you don't know what on earth a professional-level sale means, this is distinguished as making at least $0.05/per word for a short story. It's more than a lot of places offer, even if it doesn't sound like it and doesn't add up to a huge amount compared to the work that goes into creating a piece of fiction ... but I'm just happy to be able to make a little money doing something so fun! A lot of people I know don't realize just how hard it is to sell fiction. I don't know if I'll ever make a living doing this, but it's nice to earn a little pocket money ... and share around my stories, to boot! And now I can put a professional market on my resume!

I haven't got the wildly rousing level of excitement from most folks that I would've liked. Most people I annoyingly inform of this don't have a clue what "professional-level" means, much less the significance of being published at all! Which results in the common response of, "Oh, that's nice." I think a lot of them expect that once you've been professionally published, you are now Stephen King and don't need to have a day job. Unfortunately not. Although, the way I see it, it's one step on the stairway to world domination! Bwahaha!  And when I correct people who think by "story" I mean "novel", it's strange how their distant approval turns into, well, what looks like disappointment! For humble little me, who sold my first story only a little more than a year ago, novels are way in the future! (Not least of all because I don't have the time to devote to that sort of writing, agent-hunting, querying and cover letter-ing, submitting, etc. Novels are, indeed, a many-headed beast, while short-stories are quite manageable solo.) There are just so many secret ins and outs to the world of selling fiction, most people don't realize that novelists virtually always start out selling short stories in order to PROVE they are good enough writers to those novel-publishing presses. Which I suppose I still have to work on, so ... on to the next round of submissions!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Somehow, this Blog has been Written

It feels like it's been well nigh 9/10ths of eternity since I last posted a blog, even though it's only been two months.

Two very, very long,



                                                             sleepless months...

Full of homework and work-work and other ostensibly important stuff. Sigh! Needless to say, not a lot of fiction writing has been done in this time, much less even thinking about writing. Darn it! Hard to imagine not even having the time to blog, but I've just ended up exhausted all the time, day and night, and haven't felt like spending my free time doing much else than napping and watching funny cat videos.

Which, by the way, my cat approves of. Both activities, I mean.

And yet--and yet! Somehow* among all this running and scrambling and homeworking, I've had the good fortune to sell another story! Yay! I've fallen way behind on submitting, and keeping track of my submissions, but still, it happened!

*An author like Ursula K Le Guin might warn you that a word like "somehow" is a bad literary choice--a cop out, if you will. If a homework project is "somehow" completed, or the hero "somehow" fights off a host of bloodthirsty man-beasts with only a wooden spoon, or a fleet of aliens intent upon conquering Earth "somehow" goes undetected until it's looming at the edge of the stratosphere, then the reader will have a problem withholding their incredulity at this squirrelly lack of explanation. What do you mean, you "somehow" failed to notice that your boss had been transformed into a giant inter-dimensional leech until just before he attempted to suck your bone marrow out through your nose? Somehow, indeed**! 

**Although I must still stand by my original statement--somehow, this story sold! I honestly don't know how it had the time to do so, but it evidently worked for the editors (whom, I have been assured, also don't have time to be doing much of anything they're so busy). In the world of small press, it may be a matter of months before publication becomes a thing, but here's the basic rundown of who, what, and where:

Crossed Genres Publications has accepted "Two Hearts" for inclusion in the forthcoming Fierce Family Anthology. This anthology is centered around the theme of characters who identify as LGBT and who, with the support of their families, overcome external challenges or problems. I liked the idea of presenting family in this context of supporting and encouraging, and that's why I wrote "Two Hearts"--although this doesn't make me any less surprised that it was accepted! After "The Second Wife," this is my second acceptance by CG Press! Very excited, because having someone like your work enough to buy and print it is always a good feeling, and one I don't suspect will ever get old!

Now, if only I had the time to enjoy it like I should!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sorting the Books from the Chaff

I just had to return a book to the library when I was only halfway finished with it.

Well, it was over 1000 pages (1111, to be exact). Double-columned pages, with small print, which I suspect means more like 1500 real pages. Or so I felt while reading. It was a great book, but cumbersome for reading on mass transit--or anywhere, really.

I will plug that book because I see no reason not to: The Weird, edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer. If you like weird fiction you will find a lot of things to like there--I did! Stories by authors as varied as H P Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, M R James (no relation), Fritz Leiber (my favorite!), Leonora Carrington (a Surrealist painter!), Stephen King, Kelly Link, China Mieville, and just about any other author you can think of when the phrase "the Weird" is mentioned. Roughly, the book includes one story per year since 1900.

I got halfway through the book ... by skipping a bit. Yes, I will admit to skipping through some of the best known authors in the history of speculative fiction--I just won't say which ones.

I used to read everything I picked up from one cover to the other. That included acknowledgements and copyright pages (even though they were so boring! Yuck!). I had a sense of obligation to the task of reading--if it was to be undertaken, it must be completed as well. Don't you do a disservice to a book by not reading it all the way through? Even if it bores you to death? Just like a person, you have to give a book the benefit of the doubt and finish before declaring it a huge stinky waste of time and paper!

And then I realized there is way too much stuff in the world to read. Just because a book is a classic, or popular, or awesome, I don't have to finish it if it doesn't strike me. Maybe the first book I ever refused to read all the way was Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables when I was 14. Because I hated it, and his writing. I tried to read him again a few years ago and, no, I knew what I was doing the first time I put him down in disgust. Still don't like him.

Reading, I have come to decide, should be a matter of taste and not a duty or obligation. I wish I could read every classic back to The Aeneid and feel enriched by all of them--but there are just too many and I probably won't like 90% of them! This is why I consciously refused to be an English Major! Because, when enforced, reading is arduous! Majoring in it would probably ruin my enjoyment of reading.

As a writer, you are taught certain techniques for catching the attention of readers. Which means I am on the lookout for a catchy first sentence, a quick plunge into action, an obvious and interesting protagonist, when I start reading. If I don't find what I'm looking for, I skip. Well, I give it a couple pages first. Maybe 30 or so, if it's a novel.

So I should know better than to let others entice me to read something I don't care about and yet ... and yet in The Weird, I did. The editors promised a certain story to be groundbreaking, fascinating, and a complete renewal of the weird tale. Or something like that. So I read the whole 40-some pages (more like 50 real pages!!) even though I didn't understand or like it from page 1. Needless to say, I was irritated and frustrated by the ending. What can I say, that story just wasn't made for me, so I shouldn't have read it. It's not a matter of not giving someone a chance, but of simply being incompatible. That story and me were not a good fit.

And so I've come full circle, from reading it all no matter how drivelly, to reading for proper mechanics like an editor. Which isn't so bad, I suppose. Since there's so much out there to read, you really do have to sift and sort to find what you like. And there's no reason to read what you don't want to!

(Unless you're an English Major.)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Review for Daughters of Icarus

Well here we are, at the very beginning of the month, and already it's shaping up to be a good one! First thing after waking up at a grouch-inducing hour the other day, I opened my email to find a link to a review of Daughters of Icarus, my first publication. And I was more than a little thrilled to find this summary of my tale:

"More folktale than fantasy, ‘Ancestors Enthroned’ by Marissa James is the story of a young woman who revives the long-lost tradition of embalming the dead in order to mount them high on an inaccessible cliff overlooking her village. Kherlaji becomes renowned after embalming her father, and steadily becomes a world-famous and undying tender of the dead. A piece that is sweet rather than punchy, an ending more inevitable than twisted, but moving, memorable, convincing and potent. Lovely stuff."

If you would like to read the full review by Djibrl al-Ayad, you can find it at Future Fire Reviews. For me, it was nice to have someone read my story and appreciate it the way I'd intended. As a writer, you never know that you've done the whole story-telling thing properly until someone tells you so, be it an editor, reader, or reviewer. So I guess I did something right this time! Warm fuzzies going on here!

I would say a lot of other things as well but I don't know what else to talk about that's as cool as that, actually. It is perhaps the hottest week of the year and our refrigerator has decided to give up the ghost--how about that? Not as exciting at all, though it forced me to eat a bunch of ice cream at once. Our back yard garden has been overrun by gourd plants that I can't imagine why anyone in this house planted--I mean, what are we going to do with them? I have a lot of writing to do, not only on the fiction side but also on the side of proposals and thesis papers, and I'm not even officially in school right now! Well! With all that happening, a humble little fiction writer needs a nice review or two for encouragement!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I had an Adventure and Someone Else was the Protagonist

I've been wanting to blog for a while about POV choices in writing, and actually that IS what I'm going to discuss today. But before that --

Yes, there's an anthology call out right now for speculative stories about coffee! Find a little more info about it here, but it sounds fun. Now I just need to come up with a story by the deadline at the end of August, right? I'm thinking a few cups of caffeinated fluids derived from pulverized roasted tree-beans should provide ample inspiration.

For someone who drinks an almost worrisome amount of coffee every day, this is totally something I should send a submission to! If not because I always write speculative fiction about coffee (I haven't yet, ever), then because, on principle, I should write such fiction. It's like loving cats and never writing a story about cats! Oh, wait, I haven't done that either, never mind ...

Don't tell my cat or she'll be furious.

But I wanted to write about Point of View choices in fiction! If you've read any how-to-write books, you know that POV can be split infinitely--some authors say there are 2 options when writing fiction, while others list over 30. If you can distinguish 30 different sorts of POV, why bother? Just lump them back together, because I can't keep track of all that!

It's really not that complicated to me. Either you write a story in first-person (I/me) or in third-person (she/her). I wrote a story in second-person once (you/your), but this is a morbidly limited POV. Whenever you read second-person, it sounds like a letter someone wrote telling you what to do, and for me comes off contrived virtually always.

I've never sold that second-person story, in case you're wondering, and I always roll my eyes when I have to read this in someone else's fiction. Stop telling me what to do! I'm not in your story, I'm just a reader--just passing through!

But here's what's been bothering me: I read the guidelines to a magazine somewhere the other day that explicitly stated they prefer third-person stories to first-person. Why? I thought. Then: Everything I'm writing these days is in first-person! Is this true of other publications and they just don't tell people? Is this a pan-cultural subconscious reality that people feel, but don't always articulate, and which now means I'm not going to sell anything ever ever ever again?

Then I thought: Hey, how many stories do I read on average that are first vs. third-person? What are the percentages? And honestly, this isn't the sort of thing that I notice when I read. I just read a story and if I like it, I like it. It's funny to think that I only really notice that a story is third-person when it uses the male main character's last name in place of his first name (see my blog from Monday, August 27, 2012 for an honest-to-dog rant on that topic), and I only notice first-person-ness when you never declare whether your character is male or female.

So come on, what's the big difference? Is there one, even? You could argue that a first-person perspective is more immediate, direct, and intimate. Just as you could argue it's less interesting in the sense that, well, if this character is narrating this story, obviously they lived through their adventure and, presumably, turned out all right. Unless it's an HP Lovecraft tale--in which case, it's first person but the narrator is now a gibbering blob of jell-o. And yes, he used first person because of its directness and intimacy in capturing the descent into madness which virtually all of his characters partook in.

But first person has its limits. For example, you can only follow one character, get inside of one mind (yes, I've seen this rule broken, but generally speaking ... ). What if you need the reader to know things that the main character doesn't? Then you can't use first person. What if the main character is the sort whose mind you don't want to get inside? Well, then I'd argue that this isn't a very good main character you've got, but that's just me.

The advantages to third person don't seem all that great or significant--so why would someone prefer it? I guess first person can start to sound narcissistic (I led the charge, I declared my love, I wrote a blog), but only if you don't know how to approach your topic properly. And it can be one-sided (although the point of a story is generally to follow ONE character through something that happens, and hopefully out the other end). And it can start to sound like wish-fulfillment, as though the author is putting herself into fantastical and self-serving situations. But third person can be abused in just the same way, so that a character becomes a cipher for the author's ideal self, solving crimes single-handedly while saving the day all in time for dinner!

But if you write realistic characters, what's the difference between the POV you use? Either way your characters can't be one-sided perfect heroes who are only weakened by kryptonite and witty banter with girls. They need to think and fail and question and struggle and not refer to themselves by their own last names in internal monologue. They need to exist in a world aware that it's there around them and they are not the center--or they need to have this belief come crashing down on their heads. They need to do more than be worshipped and loved and agreed with. In short, they need to be people who are not only convincing but interesting and, above all, worth rooting for.

What's the big difference between making the story about "me" or "her" if the same adventure is had? I still don't know, but maybe someday I'll write a story both ways and see what I find out.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Women Continued ...

So in my last blog I complained about the two ways female main characters are presented in fantasy fiction that irritate me the most--in short, the big reasons I never used to like writing ladies as leads. Because, well, if I have to write women the same way these authors do, I honestly don't want to ...

The moment I hit the Publish button on that blog, I came up with a whole other host of "female attributes" I don't like. Some of these things are really subtle, or at least so deeply ingrained by our culture that it was hard for me to put my finger on just what I didn't like about this character or that one. But I guess the difference between what I wrote last week, and what came to me after publishing was that those things I discussed last week concern the ways female characters solve problems, while most of the problems I have with ladies in fantasy fiction is that they DON'T. Solve problems, that is.

After receiving a slew of kindly rejection letters (form and not), I picked up on a theme; my characters weren't proactive enough. Most were male characters, and that may be relevant to the discussion, actually. But the thrust of the non-form letters was that, sure, stuff was happening, but the main character was not the one moving the plot. Or, not nearly as much as he should be. I've worked to change that and at the same time paid especial care to the activeness of main characters in other people's stories. So that I can point and say "You're doing it wrong, ha!"

Or not. More like I'm seeking for some unwritten definition of what is proactive enough. Just recently I read (most of) a fantasy novel in which the main character was a young woman who unconvincingly became an assassin; tropes ensued, none of which are worth remembering. The issue for me was the author's huge struggle with making this character two irreconcilable things; she was naïve, awkward and uncouth, and yet had been hired to be a cold-blooded assassin. If you can buy that maybe you can read the whole book; I got halfway through and never managed to swallow that huge pill of unconvincingness. How did this utterly clueless and incapable character prove herself worthy of being an assassin? That was never discussed. Or, maybe it was in the second half?

More irritating in the case of this story, and many others I have read, the main character, being an ingénue, becomes the un-glorified sidekick of some cool hunky warrior guy who knows what he's doing. Women=naïve, clueless, foolish, emotional beings. Men=cool, suave, controlled, capable members of society. Only by learning from him and sleeping with him does she begin to grasp the world, or people, or herself.

Gag reflexes: engage!

So let's get back to the topic at hand: proactive-ness and problem solving. How did this girl solve her problems and push the story forward? Why, just as any girl would in real life--she bumbled around stupidly, demanded things awkwardly, and, once she'd got the hang of human interaction, did her best to emotionally manipulate her hunky lead whenever they couldn't agree. She didn't have a real purpose behind this emotional tide, most of the time. 

Although, she didn't get everything she wanted, either. I mean, guys are bigger, cooler, and can get shoutier. And when they're hunky super-warriors, they know better than you and can boss you around and leave you behind while they go out to save the day. Because even though he'll teach you martial arts and sleep with you, and maybe sometimes let you emotionally manipulate him, when it comes to saving the day he'll do that. You wait in the cave.

To the author's credit, I must say she didn't seem very convinced by her own female lead. She was writing a trope character and seemed painfully aware of it, which made the character even more unconvincing. Really, this character is a trope that has existed for so long that it's a wonder it's still around!

This book is just one example, and I'm sure you could come up with your own without much thinking. Really, such asinine romances are everywhere, in which a girl discovers herself and the meaning of her existence, etc., in a hunky guy; throughout she's generally powerless except for her ability to cry and guilt the guy into doing what she wants while he protects her, blah, blah. I find such pathetic characters to be a bigger and more pervasive "fantasy" than the idea that magic or dragons might exist. People don't really believe in dragons, but they do believe women are largely emotional beings, and men naturally more capable in all ways that count. Whatever those are.

So perhaps you can see why I'm thinking a lot about an epic fantasy with a female lead, and why this would be just as difficult as it would be important? Because men in the real world can be whiny and manipulative and clueless, and women can be capable and cool and strong. OUTSIDE of any issues of sexuality, I mean.

Let me return to the heart of the issue, then. My characters who weren't proactive enough were all male. If they'd been women, would this have been an issue? Maybe subliminally, but I doubt to such a degree. In fiction we expect male characters to be the ones who get in fights and kill bad guys and save the day. And while proactive female characters are cherished too, their way of "progressing the story", I've noticed, is often subtler, smaller. More realistic, maybe? Well, that all depends on what you think women are capable of, I guess.

I don't want to beat a dead horse here so let me close with one last observation--something I've observed in my own fiction as well as in others'. The general rule seems to be (subconsciously) that stories hinging more on emotion--especially if it's despondency, misery, depression, loss of everything you loved--use women as leads more often, while action-based stories use male leads. Again, because women are more emotional and men more active? It gets tiresome to read so many depressing stories where women are victimized, sad stuff happens, sadder stuff ensues, and maybe if you're lucky there's a bittersweet ending.

We need to stop using woman as a byword for "victim" in fiction!

I mean, come on, who doesn't want to break that rule?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Inventing Real Women

Recently, I've been reflecting on a post I wrote awhile back about my tendency to write main characters who are male. Through no intent of my own, my three publications so far have had female main characters; two for anthologies that were specifically looking for this. Does this mean that I write female characters better, or that having a blatantly girly name like Marissa immediately discredits my male characters in editors' subconscious, or is it random? Maybe it has to do with the different sorts of subject matter covered with male vs. female main characters--and yet, those three publications don't have a lot in common in this sense ...

But looking at my latest round of submissions has evidenced a changing trend, it seems. Without thinking about it, I managed to split the stories evenly, half male and half female main characters. So, I tallied up all my marketable stories and found that the shorter ones (say, 0-5000 words) divide evenly, while most of the longer (and older) ones (5000 all the way up to 20,000) have mostly male leads. The difference? Longer stories are, for me at least, more often epic and action-oriented in tone. Which is sort of obvious, as you can't get too epic in under 5000 words.

So this means two things. 1) I have been writing a lot more stories under 5000 words lately, and a lot more with female leads, and 2) I have concurrently moved away from epic action tales. The first is good, while the second is maybe not so good. Something in my subconscious is telling me that female main characters don't belong in epic action tales. They can lead stories, just not big adventurous ones. The rest of me, now aware, disputes this.

I mean, it hardly sounds fair!

Theoretically there could be all sorts of issues with having a female main character who is, say, a swordswoman or assassin or something. Foremost being the believability factor. Is it logical to put a woman into the role of sword wielding super-barbarian? Or whatever? If the answer is yes, which it certainly should be, can you accept the fact that a cast-iron bikini is not logical battle armor? Nope, this epic women thing isn't as simple as it so often sounds.

The biggest problems I've had with female leads in fantasy fiction fall in two categories (looks like today is the day of twos!). Firstly, if you accept the widely held belief that a main character must be proactive to move the plot, then these females do so by being amazingly annoying, noisy, pushy, whiny, demanding, rude, and snotty, and these are accepted as typical female traits. Often these are younger main characters who propel the story by either being obnoxious or pretending they are, or by opening doors they shouldn't, touching things they shouldn't, breaking things they shouldn't, crying/fainting/etc. to get their way and move the plot ... in general being or pretending to be immature as though this is how young women should/do behave and solve problems. Or even save the day.

*Oh, and don't ask how many such stories I've read--it probably hasn't been all that many, really. You just have to read one or two like this to be pretty irritated and repulsed. But I promise you it's been more than one or two. If I didn't like snotty little girls when I was in grade school and having to coexist with them, why oh why would I want to read about them as though these are virtues? I guess because little boys get all the good qualities?

The second way in which female fantasy characters are presented is, obviously, as over-sexualized iron-bikini-wearing super-chicks. Which is no more complimentary than the snotty-baby image. This image lets us know that a woman can do anything, including slaying gods and banishing demons, as long as she is amazingly sexy and mostly naked. The greatest threat to super-babe in these instances doesn't come from the possibility of death/pain/maiming which she might suffer at the hands of enemies, but rather that her oh-so-sexy self may be subjected to abuses of a different sort. As though I really want to read about this, either, and have random authors informing me that even in made-up worlds women (even strong and capable ones) are concurrently viewed as sexual and inferior objects. Why can't this just NOT happen once in a while?

Honestly, why not? This question has bugged me since going through my own stories. Why can't there be female characters who solve problems and lead epic stories like REAL women? And, moreover, what would this look like? I'm still thinking about it and certainly I don't have all the answers, but I can tell you that, at least, when I write this theoretical epic story, there will be no whining or breaking of things, and also full suits of armor.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Awesomeness--Now in Bottled Form!

So I didn't get around to blogging yesterday, though I wanted to. That's because I was trying to do MORE IMPORTANT THINGS, such as ACTUALLY WRITING. Yes, real fiction writing is more important, sorry. Whatever secret formula I employed yesterday, it worked, as I finished the short story I was working on then plowed straight through another from beginning to end in 3 hours! Actually, that deserves a few more exclamation points.


There we go. Yeah, it was surprising to conceive, plot, and write a story out all in one sitting--can't remember the last time I did, if I EVER have. If I could bottle and sell that, guess who'd be first in line to buy it? The story I finished took me about 7 days for 4500 words, which isn't bad. A few days and I'll send it out for a call at the end of the month. Yay!

The one I started and finished came out to roughly 2000 words, which was my estimate when I started. I never estimate properly--for example, 2000 is how long I thought the 4500-word one would finish up. Strange how (mostly) everything worked out as I intended it to....

I decided to do this 2000-word story on a lark--there was a call for dark versions of Grimms' Fairy Tales so I did a little research and an idea hit me. And I wrote it.

Yes, I have said before that I dislike reworked fairy tales. On a related note, hubby and I tried to watch Oz the Great and Powerful or whatever it was called and JUST COULDN'T. I wanted to barf the whole time, and rolled my eyes whenever he wasn't looking. I don't think we made it halfway through... Never even liked the Wizard of Oz; don't think I've ever watched it all the way either because, honestly, do I have to? If you know the plot, as I suspect you do, it's just painful to watch the bad makeup and corny acting and heavy-handed moralizing and offensive use of people with dwarfism. Nothing about that movie was ever "magical" to me. In the case of the new film, corny acting and bad costumes and flying monkeys in bellhop uniforms aren't an improvement.

I guess for me the world of Oz was just too juvenile or unbelievable or flat-out unpleasant to want to visit. Yeah, even as a kid. I shudder at the thought of skipping down a yellow brick road and always wished I could cut that lion's nasty mane of Goldilocks curls.

Okay, I'm over it. Getting off topic here. Anyway, so I'm not crazy about fairy tale retakes, and yet I did one of my own. Does this make me a hypocrite? No. Well, not entirely. Here's the difference: everyone has read Cinderella or Red Riding Hood or the more popular fairy tales. The ones we know best largely involve female protagonists who get into situations with thinly-veiled sexual undertones (a "slumber" that can only be broken by "true love's kiss", being cornered by a "wolf", the consequences of pricking your "finger" on a "spindle", eating a poisoned--read "forbidden"--fruit). Naturally none of these ladies can save themselves. Naturally, a lot of rehashes replay these stories with a feminist bent, so that they do.

It's gotten to the point that seemingly every fantasy writer in the world has tried their hand at this, if only to be able to say they did. Or to try and do it better than the last person? Please. Cinderella is Cinderella. Your version is not going to be more memorable than the one that's been pounded into our brains since toddlerhood. And if you're going to retell a story you can only change so much of it, meaning that ultimately you end up following the same old plot line with a few alterations. This is just the inevitability of retelling a well-known story--in order to keep it identifiable, you can't change everything. In order to make it new, you DO have to change SOMETHING.

How to write a retelling of a fairy tale without initiating the *yawn, Snow White again?* reaction? Here's my solution: don't do Snow White. Or any of the popular tales. I certainly can't add anything worthwhile to the loooong list of Snow White/Cinderella/Red Riding Hood retellings. In no small part because I have no passion for these stories. Although I suspect the passion has been flogged out of the stories themselves, not out of me.

So I took one of the more obscure stories because this way no one has preconceptions about it. There aren't 5000 other versions to compare it to. Bwahaha.

This seems like a good time to mention that a lot of original fairy tales do present female protagonists who not only take care of themselves, but their families, while saving the day. And there are so many other undercurrents of meaning in these stories that can be interesting and useful to a fiction writer. I picked the story that spoke to me best--my interests, my writerly abilities--and that's probably how I banged the whole thing out in a matter of hours. Because--haha--I already had a basic shape, just had to change things up a bit and write them down.

This call will be coming due at the end of July, so I have some time to sit on it and fix it up. I could've put off writing until all my submissions for June are sent out but, actually, sometimes you have to just write what's at the forefront of your mind, get it down on paper (digital paper for me) and get done. So I did.

And, as you can maybe see, I'm rather overly proud of myself for it, too.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

All Avenues Exhausted, Time to Climb on the Roof

Okay, so now I have tried everything, be it my desk in my cohabited room, the couch in the TV room, the dining table where no one eats, the table on the back porch. Even the badly-lit unused bedroom has fallen prey to my attempts to find a place where I can SIT and WRITE and not be DISTRACTED.

Firstly, I thought no one would be able to find me there for, oh, the whole day when really it took 2 hours before my hubby came in looking as though he thought I might've run off to join the circus. Which hadn't happened ... although ... then again, it's not too much different, is it?

Regardless, 2 hours isn't enough time for me to get much done in. Not that the badly-lit room full of other people's junk was the most conducive environment, but I just needed to find somewhere quiet so I could focus on a submission that's due in a few days. I swear, next time they can't find me it'll be because I'm in the crawlspace under the house. That should work out pretty well, right? Well, if there's enough space to open my laptop.

Really what I need is a desk and a computer and a cubby hole with nothing else. Nothing on the walls, no stuff to distract me. Well, maybe snacks and music, but those are necessary. I've noticed I can work quite well at a walled desk at the library--if there's not someone on a cell phone next to me. And people who don't write don't understand how far off track a single small distraction can get me. Even if you're not trying to distract me by scrambling eggs in the room where I'm trying to write, sorry, but you succeeded anyhow. That's how it is.

Now that we're in summer and my last round of submissions has returned to me unaccepted, I have to get to work on some more. Yeah! Besides I have a half ton of things I need to get around to, including: plugging into a tree, listening to psychic double-speak, revisiting Pygmalion, finding the fingerprints of ghosts, using time travel to create a masterpiece, becoming a mask, falling in love under lunar trees, tracing the cause and effect of chaos, digging where archaeologists don't want you to--oh, or at least writing about them. What's more, going through my list of stories to submit, and then scanning the documents I have filed as stories, there's a disappointingly large amount of them unfinished, for various reasons (most of which lead back into the territory of being distracted constantly while working, to the point that I moved on to something else I thought I could finish). I could probably complete most of them, and I should so they can make the rounds, too.

I will admit I have a story on file that I started in 2011, I do believe, and though I like it a lot, I still haven't figured out how to end it. Mysteries of life.

But hey, here's hoping that can happen before Fall Term starts!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Editing in Evidence

The term is almost over and summer's almost here! If that doesn't lift the spirits, I don't know what will!

Unfortunately, however, summer is only three months of awesome--three months which I intend to overfill with personal obligations. I will be writing a paper, and working (hopefully more) and trying to churn out some fiction, which I can then fold into amusing origami shapes and send to potential publishers ....

Meanwhile, since it's been so long since I've done any fiction writing, I think I'm going to brush up on my basics again. Besides wanting to watch/read art related stuff, I want to pick up the ever-handy Strunk and White's Elements of Style, and maybe also Browne and King's Self-Editing Your Fiction. Strunk and White is THE guide to writing, whether you're a reporter, biographer, student, or fiction writer. I've read it a handful of times, and it's always helpful to go back to, just to get a reminder of things that may have fallen to the wayside. That said, it's a very general guide, and doesn't give a lot of advice that's immediately useful for fiction. Although the co-author, E. B. White, was the guy who wrote Charlotte's Web, so he knew what he was doing writing this little book.

Browne and King's is more useful if you want actual blow-by-blow assistance with fiction-writing issues. They do a good job of everything from sentence structure to giving tips on how to effectively guide a story. These authors, both fiction editors by profession, know what publishers will and won't accept, and how you can shape your story accordingly.

Maybe I'll also hunt up a couple other editing books, who knows? It's always good to get a new perspective. I've read dozens of such books in my life, and can also recommend Ursula K Le Guin's Steering the Craft, or Stephen King's On Writing (which is half biography but sneakily makes its point about compelling writing in this aspect too...).

For the most part if you read books on editing they'll give you the same dozen or so tips. Maybe spoken in a slightly different way, but this just means that the same issues crop up for authors, editors, and publishers when it comes to What's Good. That said, I wonder if this changes? I mean, Strunk and White is from, like, the '20s or '30s, and Browne and King was published in the (gasp!) '90s. Are they still relevant? Well, judging from the fact that EVERYONE still recommends that you read Strunk and White at least once in your life ... I guess that one is.

On the other hand, I've read editing books by people who don't have the experience, or who you've never heard of, and though they'll give you the same pointers on adjectives and POV, it doesn't feel quite the same coming from some random person who may/may not have the credentials to back it up. It makes me wonder what an Idiot's Guide to Fiction Writing might be like. Hmm, maybe I'll see if the library has a copy of that...

Hey, how did this post turn into an editing advice corner? I think it has to do with the fact that I need to get down to some editing of my own pretty soon. But hey, maybe this could be useful to someone else, too!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Playing with Fire!!!

Wahoo! I have survived writing 2 (count em, 2!!) papers! It's lovely and exciting and ...

Oh yeah! Playing with Fire is out!!! I've been meaning to do my happy dance for a couple days now ... anyway, check it out right here. Oh, and there's a final version of the cover--a little different than I posted earlier. Looks cool!


I think I said this before, but this is one of the first SF stories I've ever written, and the first to get published. And, now I'm batting 3 for 3 in stories sold-to-female protagonists. Interesting. I wonder; if I went by a male pen name, would this still be true? Hmmmm.... We shall see.

Anyway, the anthology looks really good (and affordable--hey!) so take a look! As far as authors are concerned, they pretty much only care for you to read the story and worship it, but I suspect that the lovely people over at Third Flatiron Press would appreciate it if you bought a copy, to make writers like me worth the price they paid. :)

Oh, no, I'm not cheap. You can't buy me with just any old kind of granola ...!

I also feel really smart because I just realized that Third Flatiron Press is named after a mountain called Third Flatiron. Which is a part of their logo. And here I thought it was just a pretty picture ... sigh ....

Ah, well. Back I go to the paper-writing ....

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Time, Time, See What's Become of Me ...

I woke up this morning when something dawned on me: it's Sunday. This made me happy for a few reasons. First off, no work, school, second job, volunteer shifts, doctor's appointments, phone calls to make, or errands to run. Huzzah! And secondly (should I be embarrassed to admit this?) I remembered that Winter Well is out--as of Friday! Two days after, I finally got around to noticing the date. Sheesh, talk about doing too much stuff. Honestly, after last Monday's Blog Hop, I haven't had time to think about it. Which I seem to say a lot these days. About various topics. To everybody I know.

Anyway, it's out! And purchaseable (don't tell me that's not a word!). Right here: http://crossedgenres.com/titles/winter-well/ !

The awesome cover, again. Because it's awesome.

Naturally I'm inordinately excited about this. I'm entitled to it. And some chocolate fudge ice cream, or cookies, or a confetti shower. I actually don't know what I want to celebrate with. And is it too late to celebrate now? I--I don't know!!!!

What I do know is, I'm glad I read the whole anthology when I got a galley copy (bwahaha ...) because now ... I DON'T HAVE TIME!!! --It's almost finals week, so when I say this currently I do it with a slight bit of maniacal laughter attached ... Don't worry, a couple more weeks and it'll pass, and then things can go back to "normal." Whatever that is.

The only other thing I'll say is, my NEXT story comes out pretty soon, too. Third Flatiron will be publishing Playing with Fire, with Meteor Story nestled among its pages, on June 1st. ... Wait, that's not even a week away! Why doesn't anyone tell me these things??? Oh, they did. I just DIDN'T HAVE TIME to remember to put it in my day planner as something really important. Which it is.

playingrough250.jpgCover for Playing with Fire. Requires more flames and burning, if you ask me. But then, I don't know which story it relates to.

And then ... ? I don't know, actually. I'm waiting on a few submissions that have taken a suspiciously long  time to get back to me, but after Playing with Fire, I don't have any more upcoming publications. Well, at least it's almost summertime and I can get serious again pretty soon!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Next Big Thing - Work in Progress

Well, here we are, and time for my part in the Next Big Thing Blog Hop! My lovely editor for Winter Well (coming out this Friday! So excited!!), Kay Holt, tagged me to participate today.
But before I start: please note that I fiddled with the questions. Yes, all those strike-throughs were me needing to make the questions relevant to my own writing. Haha. Because if we're going to talk about writing BOOKS, as in, stories that are so long they can fill two covers all on their own, that's something I haven't been bold enough (or free enough) to do for years. Come on, people, books are serious work!
I also wanted to say thanks to Kay for hunting me down to take part--yes, even having to resort to the ol' stone-and-chisel of email because I don't exist in the fast paced world of Twitter. I apologize for being an inconvenience! I still can't stomach one more social media!
And for all you readers out there, please use your imagination to conjure the toughest, most no-nonsense reporter voice for the questions. That's right, don't let me off the hook easy!
So, without further ado ...
1. What is the working title of your next book story?
I don't win any creativity points for this one: Samurai. I'm sure something better will come up but I just haven't put any thought into it yet.
2.Where did the idea come from for the book tale?
The main character, Tsutomu (he's the samurai) and some of the supporting characters exist in another tale I've written, which has a different main character although the story revolves around all of their interactions and adventures. Tsutomu's actions instigated the events of that tale becoming what they were--at the beginning of it, he'd 'kidnapped' a girl , Needlani, in order to save her from being sold to someone. This tale goes back in time to explain how he managed to kidnap her, and why he had to. (Don't worry, she was in on it.)

The concept for the world they inhabit, which is roughly equivalent to the late 1800s (the setting is roughly equivalent to the Ottoman Empire at that time) came to me in a different way. Originally the idea was for a world where national borders delimit chronological spaces--as in, you could step across the border of a Victorian world back into the 1700s. Or some such. I'll probably still use that idea, but in this story it shifted over to: what if countries were laid side by side with all the "boring parts" taken out? And so the Iymah, eminent sorcerers and traders, stepped in (probably from an alternate dimension) and basically dissected the world and put it back together how they thought it should be, which meant only keeping the parts that produce saleable product. Goodbye deserts, goodbye grasslands and oceans. It's not a good setup from an ecological point of view, and also creates a huge mix-up of peoples and cultures. Which is why our samurai is in the Ottoman Empire. Although, you don't get to move across borders unless the Iymah say you can. So how are you supposed to get out, with a priceless girl in tow?

3.What genre does your book yarn fall under?

I would call it steampunk fantasy, as it takes place in a Victorian Era world with trains, dirigibles, guns, but also sorcery. I wanted to write a steampunk tale that could also, logically, (HA!) be ethnically diverse. In this world, everyone's on the same footing regardless of race or background because the Iymah consider everyone equally inferior to themselves. Although, this may sound like some other imperialist power that was running around in the 1800s, hey?

4.What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Imagine the toughest, smartest, and probably scariest-looking Japanese actor you know. No, I don't know who that would be, but that would be Tsutomu. He's average height and square-chinned.

The Iymah are all tall and good looking in a dangerous sort of way, with skin that's bone-white. So I would elect Matthew McConaughey to be one of the main antagonists.

I can't think of anyone to play Kehel, but he's Tsutomu's local love interest. A pretty boy with a long, straight nose and lots of curly hair.

Needlani, the girl who this whole caper circles around, is easy because she's imbued with sorcery that gives her the ability to change her appearance. She can assume 30 different faces. So pick 30 widely different actresses you consider attractive, and there you go.

Finally, I will need to have Guillermo del Toro direct, because I don't trust just anybody with crazy ideas like this.

5.What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book story?
The world's last samurai leaves his past behind hoping for a peaceful life as a harem guard--only to become embroiled in more intrigue, romance, and danger than he ever thought possible. (Based On a True Story!--okay, it's not, but still...)

6.Will your book tale be self-published or represented by an agency?
Once finished, I will fold this tale up into an origami airplane and toss it in the direction of any publishers who might be interested but, seeing as it's probably going to end up novella-length, who will that be? I don't know, but I'll try. I just love the characters so much that I have to write this story, if only to make myself happy.

7.How long did/will it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I started writing this over six months ago, then got stuck on a teeny weeny plot point, then got distracted, then school swallowed me like a raging tsunami. The answer, if we're talking only the time I put into writing it, would probably be "a couple months". The answer with life inserted into the mix is, "maybe I'll have it done before September?"

Oh, and I anticipate 40-50 pages, finished.

8.What other books yarns would you compare this story to within your genre?
I have trouble thinking of anything as weird as this. As a matter of fact, I wrote the original tale acutely aware that I wanted it to be pretty damn weird so people wouldn't have anything to compare it to. But I think if you took the movie Looper and mixed the feel of it with, say, steampunk tales like Entrapment by Jay Lake, and then took your high school history book and essentially pulled it inside out, you'd have a feel for the world we're operating in.

9.Who or what inspired you to write this book story?
As I mentioned, this was originally an offshoot of a different story--an explanation of where that one came from, if you will. But also, I was drawn to Tsutomu because I wanted a main character who could be strong, confident, and intelligent while being both non-white and homosexual. And I wanted to present all of this as normal and in no way impeding his ability to be an utterly awesome hero. 
And by the end of this tale, Constant Reader will know how this mess ended up where the next story takes off from. 
10.What else about the book tale might pique the reader's interest?
What more do you want? It's got samurai, and dancing boys, and magically infused girls, and dirigibles, and bad guys, and almost no white people, and romance. Cussing, drinking, smoking, fighting, intrigue, and attempted murder and successful kidnap! There's nothing NOT interesting! As a wise author once said--"Don't write the boring parts."
And so it is time, now, for me to tag the next author in this ongoing chain of wonderment. Kay tagged Anna Caro to go next in the Winter Well chain on the 23rd, so check out her blog, too!
I, however, would like to tag the wonderful Kait Heacock. (Fortunately she said I could!) Kait is a reporter at the Rearguard newspaper where I'm an editor, so I am quite familiar with her non-fiction. I wonder what she'll discuss for the Blog Hop though? Find out next Monday!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What Happens Next

Oh my gosh! I haven't blogged in forever! Hello, it's me again! Good to see you!

Oh, and I even have a topic this time!

Often when watching movies with my husband I do this thing that's probably exceptionally annoying: I guess out loud what the next plot development, or line of dialog, is going to be.

I couldn't tell you my batting average, but it seems pretty good. At least, the hubby is fairly impressed now and then when I can say "a potato" three seconds before the actor on the screen says "a potato."

But there's really nothing to be impressed about. For me, this is just a natural reflex that comes about from having been steeped in fiction--whether written or filmed--for all my life. And, on top of that, from having absorbed a wide array of plot points and lines of rote dialog in that time, as well as from reading up on writing theory. When you're watching a comedy and you just know the punchline to a joke is going to be the most unbelievable thing you can think of--well, think of that, then.

For example, we used to love to watch this show called Dead Like Me. Oh, how I miss it. Once, when the main character suddenly had to explain to her rather old-fashioned boss why her computer password was a creatively inappropriate word, I took my wildest logical guess.

"It was my hamster," I decided for her.

"That was my hamster's name," George said. Yes, a girl named George. Deal with it.

My hubby thought this was some real impressive, maybe pseudo-scientific, ability. Next I'd be bending spoons and weaving carpets with my brain! No, I'd just spent so many hours watching this show, and other shows and movies like it, that it made sense. What else would a girl like George say when put on the spot?

I wonder if other people out there have this experience. Studying the ins and outs of how to write, or construct plots, or create characters, puts me in the position of always analyzing other people's writing (including films and TV), even if only at a subconscious level, to decide what happens next. Or which main character gets the girl. Or whether the monster is behind the door or in the vat of toxic chemicals. If I can figure out how a story is going to resolve well before I get to the end, I get bored and feel patronized. Maybe this is why I so rarely watch movies a second time, or reread books--the surprise is gone, I've got it figured out, and that's what held my interest.

Sometimes I think it would be better to be in my hubby's shoes. He has no reason to study plot construction or writing theory so, when watching a movie, he can just think, "This is so cool! This is great!" while I'm thinking, "Wow, the music and shadows build tension so effectively--I wonder how I'd turn that into words on a page? If the monster isn't in this vat of chemicals this whole movie is a cop-out--oh, and why was this main character chick sleeping in her makeup, again?" (Why do they ALWAYS do that??)

After delving into the many theories of how to make a plot into a well-oiled machine, it's almost impossible to watch movies purely for entertainment anymore. Sometimes it works, but more often, not. Which is disappointing. I don't watch movies because I want to see how the actors/directors/scriptwriters effectively portray pathos, but because I want to be entertained. But now that I know some of these secrets, it's impossible not to see them in everything I watch and read. Alas! The magic is gone! Or something.


In other EXCITING NEWS, my third short story has been announced, along with all the other contents for Playing with Fire, Third Flatiron's newest anthology! My THIRD story, THIRD Flatiron--sounds like it was meant to be! You can take a look here: http://www.thirdflatiron.com/liveSite/pages/news if you're the sort of person who likes to look at lists of names and story titles. I do believe Third Flatiron has saved the best for last with this book. Ho, ho.

If you like to look at LONGER lists of names, I'm also posted on Writers of the Future's blog for Honorable Mention right here: http://www.writersofthefuture.com/blog. You have to hit "read more" and really search, but I'm in there, I promise!

ALSO AWESOME is the fact that I will be participating in a Blog Hop next Monday. All right, so I'll be honest: I don't know what it is or what happens if I do it wrong (the blog gods shall smite me! Save yourselves!!), but I'm going to do it anyway. I will be answering questions about what I'm currently working on (HA! Surviving, that's what!) which, I must admit, looked easier before I started trying to answer them. So stay tuned, all! It's going to be lots of fun! 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

(In)constant Reader

I recently realized I haven't done the whole WHAT I'M READING thing lately, which is in large part because the answer to that is an unrelenting: TEXTBOOKS. When I'm not reading one, I'm generally too exhausted to read for fun, so I watch something instead. It bums me out to read something recreationally only to realize I'm too tired to pay attention. Better to zone out to a Nova program about ants.

Except, for Spring Break, I did read a book--a real live book, on paper and all! Except, it was so small, and the print and line-spacing so big, maybe it wasn't really a real book. I didn't do the math or anything but there were only a hundred or so little pages. I feel like it was a novella stretched out into book format because, well, it was by Joe R. Lansdale, and people will buy a novella by him even if it's pretending to be a novel--just barely.

Not that it was a bad book--no, I liked it, even if the plot felt pretty simplistic and overly moralistic as compared to his stuff I've liked the most (which either implies I have plenty on morals of my own, or the opposite, maybe? Hmm...). A couple times in the book he makes the point that what's going on isn't a movie, but real life (to the characters!) and seemingly we should accept this as the reason why the plot is so linear and undramatic. I don't dislike novellas, as they don't drag on forever, but I also don't feel like a book should be that short. Maybe put two novellas in there for me?

So there's that. And now I'm working my way through Misery by Stephen King, because I heard at some point someone gets a leg axed off or murdered with a lawnmower and I will  read 350 pages for that. Yes indeedy. Also, it's the kind of writing that's easy to follow, entertaining. If I space out for a paragraph, I won't miss an enormous plot point like sentient moon-cats overrunning the earth. Probably.

Otherwise, I have a book on African Art, one on Modern Art, one on 19th Century Art, one on Art Theory, and one on How To Write About Art. All of which I should be reading right now?

Just nobody tell my teachers, I'll get there soon!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Fly, Birdie, Fly!!!

So I was settling down for a long and intensive school term (four classes plus two jobs equals what? No life!) this last week, starting to think of topics for term papers (about 50 pages' worth of them). Good thing I sent out a dozen fiction submissions during Spring Break, as I feel I won't have time again until Summer Break.

Less than two weeks after, my replies have started trickling in--already two or three stories have been shot down on the wing (what can I say? When submitting to a new market for the first time you just throw something and see what happens. Even after reading a couple issues you can't know how *your* work will be received alongside that). After about a year of trying to sell, I'd developed the impression that a quick response from a publisher meant they were REALLY not into the story. Because if they like something they'll hang onto it and mull it over and compare your overuse of parentheticals to other stories they really like, right? (Well, so I thought.) And seeing as rejects have already been coming so fast and furious back at me this go around...

So yesterday when I got a response from a story I expected the same deal--they'd read it fast and decided, just as quickly, not to give it a second thought. When, to my surprise, it was an acceptance! Woohoo! Maybe I shouldn't be celebrating until after the contract comes in, goes back, and gets me paid!!! But I can't help it because, well, woohoo!

This story (sigh, sniffle, wipe a nostalgic tear from my eye) was my first foray into science fiction. If you want to call it that, but there's an equal amount of fantasy in it. It's also a modern day tale, which I really have to be in the mood for to write.

Also, I think I wrote out the original all in one miraculously undistracted sitting, but this may just be the nostalgia wiping out the memories of pain and agony that generally accompany fiction writing. Right?

When I excitedly told my brother, who did a first reading of the story, that it had been accepted (I wrote it over a year ago, he read it maybe 6-8 months ago), he said, "Oh. I didn't like that one."

To which my response totally wasn't to sass back, "Shows what you know about selling fiction then, or quality, or saleability, or science fiction-space-college-fantasy-comedy-dramas full of biblical references and drunk pot-smoking co-eds."

Instead I was more like, "Yeah, whatever. But it sold!"

Which cheers me up. I liked the story a lot when I wrote it (anything that you can bang out all in one sitting--or believe you did--generally fits this description), while I still put it aside for quite a while before submitting it  anywhere (first try!!!). Why? Because I didn't really know if anyone would take a story with so much weird stuff going on and somewhere along my fictional career, too, I've developed the impression--not just from myself but from others--that comedy doesn't sell. Not that it's a flat-out hilarious farce, but .... when you get really attached to a story you don't want it to fail. Even if that means nervously holding onto it, uncertain whether or not to hide it from the world and keep it safe, or throw it out and see if it can fly on its own. I don't want something I'm really proud of to get shot down, but do I really want it to sit around and gather dust, either? Shouldn't people see it?

I suppose on that front I should say I got a smidge of feedback on one of my rejected stories so far--one line of why they didn't like it, but personalized, not a generic 'no thanks'. Another one I really like and want the best for. And seeing as that's true, it'll do me good to take that line of advice, consider its value, and see if I can't use it to improve the story for its next go around.

But, until then, woohoo!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

An Easter Miracle!

Seeing as it marked the end of Spring Break, freedom, writing, and even the sunshine we'd been experiencing for a few days, I wasn't all that excited about Easter in the days leading up to it. Then, on Saturday, my car decided to approach death's door as I drove to work. Meaning that I had to wait for my family to get out of church (after I was done working) so they could drive behind me just in case the poor thing breathed its last on the way home.

It did stall a few times, but we made it home. A veritable Easter miracle!

Once home, we all sat down and had some Easter candy--you know, taste-testing to make sure it was good for the next day. And that's when my brother said, "Oh, and this came for you in the mail today," and gave me a package.

Which turned out to be this:

My copy of Daughters of Icarus--my first publication! Woohoo! Best Easter present ever!

Naturally I've read about half of the book since then--and it's all pretty awesome! I'm surprised at the wide array of stories, settings, and themes; but then, that's what they were going for in this anthology, I do believe. You should get a copy. Which you can, here: http://pinknarc.com/books.htm.

Reading my own story again, which I originally wrote 3-4 years ago and haven't reread since sending it out 8 months ago, I'm sort of surprised at how good it sounds. And, also, at how much my writing has changed, even in subtle things like sentence structure, since this. And yet, somehow, it was likable enough to go in the anthology alongside previously published authors. Which makes for a good bit of encouragement to keep on writing and improving all the time.

Huzzah! Cheers! Now, on to the next publication!

And in the meantime, I'll read the rest of this and get down to some homework. Yes indeedy, school is back in session!

Monday, March 18, 2013

And the Winner is ... Somebody Else

So my most stressful final of the term is over, and actually it wasn't a case of pulling teeth so much as scratching my head a little. It turned out OK. Or at least better than I anticipated.

After which, I turned on my computer and promptly got some happy news that distracted me from any/all thinking about the final. At this point, I'm so happy I couldn't tell you what I wrote about anymore!

Sometime during class I got an email from the Writers of the Future contest saying my story got an honorable mention in the first quarter of their yearly contest. Which is super exciting (!!!) seeing as I haven't got any such notice from them before. It doesn't mean money or wealth or fame but, heck, I get a certificate! That's pretty groovy.

As I've collected a healthy armload of rejections along the lines of, "it was good, but not what we wanted--oh, but send us something next time", I'd started to wonder how sincere these words were, or if this is the form letter everyone gets from certain publishers. Is it? Maybe. This honorable mention, though, feels like a step up from that. I don't get money or a second chance for the story to win, but it's nice that someone's acknowledged and appreciated my work.

Even better is the timing--it comes right at the end of winter term, like some sort of plan. It's cool to think that, even though I haven't had much time for writing or even submitting, my stories have still been out there doing their best for me.

The only trick is, the second quarter's coming up soon and I don't know what to send in next! More cowboys, perchance?

Come on, who can get tired of cowboys?  

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Almost Full-term ...

So we've reached the final countdown for winter term--which is a relief, because I'm ready for spring to start. Yes, I'll have classes then, too; but at least it'll be sunnier.

I'm really excited for the end of this week because then I'll be done with my big projects--my papers and class presentations are all coming in the next couple of days. And then they'll be turned in, out of my hands, and maybe (just maybe!) I'll get a chance to do some writing before I have to focus on my finals. And my jobs. And next term.

And yet, according to my chart of reading periods, there are a bunch that close in March--miraculously, just after spring break. So I'll have some time to get things prepared and ready to send.

And then on to the next term! Yay!

Well, hopefully I'll be ready for it....

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Saga Begins!

So aside from living under a rock recently, cool and exciting things have been happening to me. I had two stories accepted for publication last year, meaning that they'll soon be coming to a bookstore/e-Reader near you! Whether or not this is exciting to anyone else, it's a huge step toward authorship for this little green bean. Details shall be forthcoming as I obtain them, but this is what I can share now:

The awesomeness that is Narcissus Press will be publishing "Ancestors Enthroned" soon--this SPRING, I do believe, in an anthology entitled Daughters of Icarus. The blurb on the website explains the theme thusly:

"What can women tell us about the world? In this new collection of science fiction, a stunning assembly of authors explore the work laid before the daughters of Icarus, left behind after the prideful fall. Whether the worlds they imagine are hopeful or desolate, each sheds new light on the possibilities of feminism. Daughters of Icarus is a bold exploration of the present, past and future."


Did you see that? Whether or not they meant to, Pink Narcissus called me "stunning" (You can tell we haven't met in person). Knowing my own story backward and forward, I'm curious about what the other writers contributed. And I love the cover art.

Maybe I shouldn't admit it but this is one of those stories I sent out on a lark, my overall thinking being: "What the hey, it's gathering dust, I'll throw it at somebody's wall and see if it sticks!" Which it did, crazy enough.

If the idea of feminist SF gives you pause, I can promise you there are mummies. Trust me, mummies.

My second acceptance was from the lovely folks over at Crossed Genres Press, who picked up my novella (short novel) "The Second Wife" for a collection called Winter Well. Here is their stunning cover art:


They summarize "The Second Wife" thusly: Enslaved by a monstrous lord, a sage seeks answers in the stars and finds more… desirable problems.

Coming in MAY!!!

I can also promise Mayanesque bloodshed and awesomeness, though if I say anything else it'll probably be a spoiler.

I banged this story out solely for the anthology, just barely scraping by the deadline. Happy that it found a home because I got quite attached to Lady Akam as I wrote her. Hopefully you'll come to like her, too.

It comes as a surprise to me (maybe to no one else in the world) that my two acceptances thus far have been of stories featuring female protagonists although I'm a writer who feels uncomfortable writing women. Does this just mean I subconsciously try harder to make them believable? Or, does it mean that I shouldn't be so uncomfortable with female characters and should just embrace my inner warrior woman/sorceress/mummification artist? After all, it's not like there's some trick to being a woman in a world where I make up all the rules.

Never mind all that--just get ready for these awesome anthologies to become available soon, so you can tell me how many typos you found! Enjoy!