inasmuch as it concerns Yahoo! Yeehah! Woopie!:
I gots somethin' ta cheer about, I does.
Practice Makes Permanent, On Skates and Off
- 2,670 wds. long
As blogged earlier, I was a RollerBull in this year's San Fermin en Nueva Orleans celebration. This was my second year participating, and I have every intention of going next year, too.
Last year, it felt like a huge big deal that I opted to skate from the Bourbon Orleans (roughly in the center of the French Quarter) to the Encierro starting line and central wrangling point at the Sugar Mill (a ways down Convention Center Boulevard). For one thing, it was more than a mile (or 27 laps as reckoned by WFTDA, for those of you playing along at home). For another it was more than a mile skated on unfriendly terrain.
I'm talking about the flagstones and cobbles around Jackson Square, treacherous to roll over. I'm thinking about grates and utility hole covers requiring unexpected sessions of careful toe-stop walking. I'm remembering how every bump and pebble on Decatur rattled right up my shins for blocks. And then there were the sidewalks that slouched down to the street at the curb, the curbs pocked with helpful raised bumps, the cross-streets where the asphalt broke up into holes filled with gravel and sand.
So, yeah, all that, and I was wobbly like a baby deer. But I got better over the course of that long Saturday. By the time I was hours deep in the Crescent City Derby Devils' "To Skate or Not To Skate" pub crawl, I was toe-stop hopping up curbs on Bourbon Street and skating backwards on Royal. I didn't fall down but once, and that was on a particularly rough curb-street seam on Rampart as I parted ways with the remaining pub-crawlers and headed back to my hotel room
Even more impressive was the improvement between last year and this. We are talking leaps and bounds here. Things I used to toe-stop walk over, I just rolled over without a second thought. Or I hopped over them. I started hopping over the street car tracks, y'all. Or cross-stepping over them at an angle, at speed. I climbed stairs.
Sure, you'd hope I was a more stable skater after a year of constant derby practice, right? If not, what would be the point? Still, it's improvement that comes gradually. Like the increasing height of a younger sibling you live with for years: You don't necessarily notice until you suddenly look up one day and realize he's taller than you are. And when it's a skill, you don't just fail to notice improvement; you actively deny it, because every practice is full of "I shouldn't have done that" and "I could have done better."
But then one day it's a year later and you watch yourself moving around downtown New Orleans on your roller skates like you were born that way. And you think, "When did that happen?"
During the afterparty after the Bombshells' July 6 bout, one of my earliest Boulder County Bombers trainers--now retired from the league though still teaching skaters in a different capacity--gave me a fantastic compliment. "You've come so far since last year," she told me. "You weren't looking at your feet at all. Instead, you were all like, 'I know where I want to be and what I want to do, and I'm gonna do it!'" I took that compliment and I hugged it, y'all, it meant that much to me. But it took all my street skating on San Fermin weekend to come to know it as truth.
It gets even better. During the CCDD scrimmage the next day, I barely fell down at all. None of this wiping out while trying to return to the pack after chasing the jammer crap. And even in the second half when I suddenly seemed to be every opposing blocker's favorite target, I didn't so much go down as get pushed around. Temporarily. Which is great, because I wasn't looking forward to catching air over that concrete surface. But it was surprising. This wasn't just "better than last year." This was "better than last week," including the July 6 bout. What gave?
What gave was, I'd spent the whole previous day staying stable on unfriendly terrain. The day before, too. You can't spend some eight hours on skates in a weekend and not be affected by it.
Practice makes permanent, as my old guitar teacher used to say.
So this is where I bring things around to writing. ("When I talk about derby, I'm talking about writing.")
That scrimmage was Sunday the 14th. Monday the 15th I got on my departing train. And Tuesday the 16th, displeased with having done precisely nothing productive during the New Orleans to Chicago leg of the journey, I devised a schedule of writing tasks to do while in transit from Chicago to Denver.
Item 1: 30 minutes of "story idea of the day" freewriting, starting as soon as the sleeper car attendent has finished with the "welcome to the train, here are your amenities" ritual.
Item 2: 60 minutes of short story revision, rewriting the ending of "It's For You" from the bit where Arista's phone starts ringing, starting an hour before my dinner reservaton.
Item 3: 60 minutes of novel planning, starting as soon as the attendent converts the seats in my roomette into a bed.
And then I did those tasks. I did them almost precisely to order and to my planned schedule. I went to sleep Tuesday night feeling quite pleased with myself. I thought, "If only I could keep this kind of work day practice up, it would become a habit. Practice makes permanent, after all."
Unfortunately, I have far more practice making permanent the habit of avoiding the work and fleeing anything to do with writing. So it's an uphill battle. I've gotten very little done between then and now.
But today, knowing my working day would end at 1 PM (Avedan was coming over for lunch and Spiral Knights!), and being kind of disgusted with blog posts like the one I wrote yesterday (whining about not writing, making excuses about not writing, anything at all about not writing), I still managed to do 30 minutes of freewriting, 60 minutes of revision work on "It's For You" (the bit where Arista discovers the mystery phone's location and takes steps to answer it), and 60 minutes of novel planning.
My next working day is Monday, and the work will begin after I get home from the farm. We'll see if I can't get a little practice at making healthy work habits permanent then, too.
News from the Slush Front
News the First: Bad news is, "The Seeds of Our Future" will not be appearing in Fearsome Symmetries. The not-so-bad news is, it was rejected while still at number 1011 in the queue on the day after World Horror 2013 ended. Which is to say: Having an existing relationship with an editor by no means ensures future sales (no surprises there, right?), but it can sometimes get a story read more quickly than otherwise, especially if the editor would like to append to the response a timely note along the lines of "Good to see you at the con!" Which sentiment I was happy to return. All in all, a pleasant story submission and con meet-up experience. Can't complain.
So there's that. News the Second: When I saw Jason V Brock at World Horror, I asked him, "So can I tell people?" and he was all, "Of course you can!" So now this is me telling people: "Lambing Season" is slated for publication in Issue #3 of [NaMeL3ss] Digest, which is tentatively estimated to go to print for a July release. Tentatively. I'll post updates as updates warrant posting.
(The purchase page for [NaMeL3ss] Issue #2 will probably give a better idea of what the publication is like than will its main website.)
And with that happy news, I shall disappear for the weekend. Chez LeBoeuf-Little is celebrating anniversary number fifteen, which will involve puttering around a historical Colorado mountain town and not doing pretty much anything that counts as "work". See y'all... oh, Tuesday evening sounds good. Let's do that.
World Horror Day 3: Very Briefly (Because I Am Tired)
This, the third day of World Horror, was no exception to the weekend, in that it contained many lovely things. Among them stands out with distinction a panel presenting a deeply moving appreciation for Clive Barker, who was one of tonight's recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Clive Barker is larger than life; he is not so much an author or an artist or a film writer (though he is all of these) as he is a sort of avatar of the universal creative force. Though he was not here in New Orleans to accept the award in person, he did send a few words for his representative to say on his behalf. Basically, that he hopes to match his 30 years of creativity so far with at least another 30 years of works to come. I'll drink to that.
I rather drank a lot today. It's New Orleans; it's too easy. There was the bloody mary with my baked ham po-boy from Mother's at lunch, the Abita lemon wheat that I pulled out my stash on my way down to Caitlin R. Kiernan's reading (Kiernan received a Stoker tonight for superior achievement in her novel The Drowning Girl), the cabernet shared out during the pre-Stoker "happy hour" reception, and the bottle of Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan nut brown ale I couldn't resist at Cochon where my cousin and I went out for our second dinner together of the weekend. I am surprised I am feeling no worse than tired.
In the spirit of the Stoker Awards, just for fun, I should like to pretend to hand out a few of my own to particularly memorable moments of the day. And so I shall.
The award for "Most Serendipitous Moment" goes to the one where I arrived at the Lovecraft panel, approached a woman seated near the front of the room to ask if I might take the seat next to her, and read her badge as she turned toward me to answer in the affirmative. The panel was already underway, so I just whispered my thanks and hoped against hope she wouldn't leave early. She did not, so I did indeed get a chance to tell Madeline Ashby how very much John and I are enjoying her science fiction novel vN and the stunning world she's created therein. She expressed delighted surprise to hear such sentiments at a horror con, where she's used to going entirely unrecognized; and gave me the heads-up that the sequel, iD, will be out very soon.
The award for "Most Surreal Moment" probably should go to the one during which I went from a fly on the wall to an active part of the conversation: Ellen Datlow and David Morrell turned to me suddenly during the pre-Stoker reception to ask if I could help identify a short story that was giving David fits. (It involved a male main character peeling back wallpaper, convinced he would find the key to some mystery underneath.) I pulled out my ever-present laptop and applied my small share of Google Fu to the dilemma. Success, alas, was not to be ours. I added "-yellow" to the search string to exclude hits for Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"; Google threw up a sinfín of DIYs ("How to easily remove your old wallpaper without breaking the bank or your back"). I hope if David remembers the story he also remembers to let the rest of us know, because now I am intrigued.
And the coveted award for "Most Kind To the Author's Ego" goes to a moment not long after that, when a friend of Ellen's came by to ask her if she'd seen me, then realized he was in fact looking at me, and asked me to autograph his copy of Blood and Other Cravings. I was among those last few contributors whose scrawls he had yet to collect. One day, I suppose, given enough published stories and people reading them, I will get used to the idea that someone would scan a convention's attendee list in search of my specific name and then seek me out at that con to get my autograph. But when that day comes, I hope I continue to feel that thrill of excitement and gratitude I felt today at knowing I'd been the target of such a search.
...OK, so that was less brief than I intended. I think I shall drop off to sleep now.
Tomorrow: The fourth and final day of WHC 2013. Crawfish at Mom & Dad's. And probably a few more beers.
Writing + Derby = Bad-ass
I spent pretty much the entire working day finishing up revisions on a short story, which I then submitted electronically to a fantastic pro market just in time to not be late for roller derby practice.
I feel like I don't get to say that very often. I'd like to say it more often going forward. Although probably without risking being late. It would be nice to have less last-minute stress going forward, too. But, hey! Today I was a writer and a derby skater. It CAN be done! And I am doing it! Woot!
I win at today. And the best part is, tonight I got home from practice and said to myself, "Hey! I don't have a scary huge deadline hanging over me anymore! I done finished! I can go play Puzzle Pirates 'til my eyes fall out!"
That's the short version of today. Here's the long one:
Back in 2006 I went to Borderlands Bootcamp, and I brought this story of mine to be lovingly savaged by admirable writers and editors as well as my fellow students.
It was a manuscript critique workshop arranged into four break-out sessions each headed by two teachers and focusing on about eight different students' manuscripts. All students were expect to read and critique every single other manuscript because we weren't told in advance whose break-out group we'd be in, so people who didn't tell you about your story in person told you about it in email. That's a whole heck of a lot of critique. The sheer amount of it was enough to distract a body from the usual challenge of triangulating between different opinions; and there were a lot of different opinions too.
On the one hand, a fellow student emailed me a month before the bootcamp to basically say "OMG this is the best thing I've read in the whole bunch." On the other, one of the teachers in a break-out session started off by saying, "If I got this in the slush pile, I wouldn't buy it" (he is in fact an editor and he reads slush) and continued in a similar vein, hitting such points of interest as "It starts off way too slow. Cut the whole first section," and "Get rid of the aliens, you don't need the aliens, this is a perfectly OK horror story without the aliens," and "The sex scene isn't believable," and also "Here you make it sound like the main character is talking to a banana. 'Hello, banana!'" I think he may possibly have been worried, afterward, about how thoroughly he'd shredded it; when he ran into me at World Horror the next year or so, and he asked me "Are you still writing?" he seemed genuinely relieved that the answer was "Yes."
By far, however, the most interesting comment came in what I think was my last break-out session, from a well-published horror author whose name I should probably not drop here without permission, because when someone gives you explicit permission to drop his name in another context, you respect that, yo. But what he said amounted to this: "This is a really interesting story with a lot of potential. It needs a lot of work, of course... [followed by a thorough and detailed critique] ... but I think after you've revised it--and really revise it, now, don't skimp on the revisions!--you should send it to Ellen Datlow. I think this would be right up her alley." Like, for her next open anthology call, you mean? "No, I mean, just send it to her. You can tell her I said so."
So I did what a lot of insecure writers do who don't deal well with the pressure of This could be IT! I made several abortive attempts to begin revising it, and then I sat on it for years.
Sam, Mac, if y'all are reading this right now, you can proceed to yell at me. But know this: A thoroughly revised version of it has been submitted, as of today, the last day of the open reading period, to Fearful Symmetries. It took me seven years, but I got there at last, yo. (Also, there are still aliens in it. Sorry, Sam. But they're more like Lovecraft aliens now, OK? Like, "Colour Out of Space." And they are the reason for everything.)
I did not mention the above-mentioned author's name in the cover letter. It was an open call, so I didn't figure I needed to drop names to get it read in this particular circumstance. I suspect that "Hey, you published something of mine before! Here's something else" would be a more useful thing to say. Besides, I feel like there's a statute of limitations on permission to name-drop.
But if I get the opportunity (i.e. if she buys it), I'd love to be all "Hey, funny story about this story..."
(It'll probably be the medium-length version of the story.)
Annnnnd That's a Draft
- 53,489 wds. long
It's not so much a revised novel as it is a brand new first draft written from a revised outline. It's got a lot of plot holes, its characters need more development, and there are places when I couldn't figure out how to get from A to B so I just jumped over to B and started writing anyway. But as a novel draft it wanders less than the first one. And, unlike the first one, which kind of dribbled off into December, it's got an honest to goodness ending. It's not the right ending, but it's an ending. It's got a denouement and everything.
Two small excerpts are up on my NaNoWriMo.org profile. For posterity, yo.
About the freelance gig we will talk later. Tonight I do not want to spoil my happy with thoughts of the miles to go before Friday the 7th is allowed to get here. Tonight I'm just happy that, this November - or, for that matter, at all - I wrote an entire novel draft from beginning to end.
One More Duck
Today I finally secured resort accommodations for Sirens 2012 . I purchased early registration while attending World Fantasy last year, then said to myself, "I have oodles of time before I need to do anything else!" That statement ceased to be true some time ago. The Skamania Lodge (in the majestic Columbia River Gorge, in Stevenson, Washington) showed no availability via their online reservations. I called the 1-800 number in hopes of receiving better news. A charming and pleasantly chatty reservations operator found me the very last room available and slotted me in.
Meantime, we also talked about French last names ("LeBoeuf" may have to be spelled a lot for people outside New Orleans, but it could be far, far worse), urban fantasy (she recommended Laura K. Hamilton; I recommended Carrie Vaughn's Kitty and the Midnight Hour), and various inspirations for writing fiction. As phone calls to hotel reservations go, it really was an unusually pleasant example of its type.
Now I just need to get my train tickets to Portland. I'm pretty sure I'm going by train. It's a straight connection from the California Zephyr to the Coastal Starlight. I've never been on the Coastal Starlight before. It's got wifi! The entire journey takes two overnights, not materially worse than Denver to New Orleans, though the Denver-to-Sacramento leg is 31 hours compared to Denver to Chicago's 18. But, you know, meh. More time with me and my laptop and/or knitting and/or sock-darning or jeans-patching. And less time trusting my belongings or my person to commercial airlines and airline!TSA, which trusting I'm slightly allergic to. (Amtrak!TSA exists, as far as I can tell, exclusively on video loops on infinite play in the Chicago terminals. I'm OK with that.) I can only rejoice in my spouse-given freedom from the 9-to-5 world that allows me to extend a weekend excursion by 48 hours on either side. Thank you, John! Now, to get this "writing" thing up to the "possibly making a living off it" speed...
Speaking of which, got my doubly-signed copy of the contract for the publication of "Lambing Season" back in the mail this week. Hooray!
Vague Announcements of a Woot-like Flavor
...And of a woolen texture. First publication rights to "Lambing Season" have been sold, and for pro rates, please the Gods that things proceed as expected and hoped-for between now and the first half of 2013. Also as contracted; I mailed back two signed copies of the significant document to the editor in question this morning.
More details will be revealed when prudent and neighborly.
Two pro sales! This may actually not be a fluke! Oh my.
Assembling Fiction and Other Stories (Also, Loons)
First off: A new review of Blood and Other Cravings has hit the internet this week. Reviewer Deirdre Murphy at Science Fiction and Other ODDysseys made me grin like a loon three paragraphs into the review. (Do loons, in fact, grin? They're birds. They have beaks. How do you grin with a beak?) LIKE A LOON, I SAID! DOWN WITH LOGIC! UP WITH GRINNING!
(There are many loons at this website. They are damn well grinning.)
Secondly: New story. Not the phone story. The other new story, the one I intend to submit to The First Line tomorrow. The due date is tomorrow, so I have to submit it tomorrow.
Is it done yet? Is even a single draft of it done yet? Well... no. Not unless you count the freewriting babble draft I did, using the appropriate first line as a prompt, at the laundromat back in mid-June.
But I have been assembling it. In my head.
So one of those beginning writer rules -- that is, the rules you're told to follow when you begin to write, which you continue to follow until you discover what your own personal rules are -- is "Thinking About Writing Isn't Writing." But staring at the word processor screen, moving a block of text from one place in the partial draft to another, editing the segue sentence yet again, then staring at the screen some more... that isn't writing either.
So I took a walk. Walks always help.
Walking the three miles home from downtown Boulder, I reexamined the pieces of scenes -- scenelets, if you will -- that make up this story. The story follows a structure that's sort of like this:
- Right now
- Teaser flashback
- Continue from right now
- More from the flashback
- Either back to present time, or else the rest of the flashback, I'm not sure
- Lather, rinse, repeat
- Finish up story in present time
You can probably figure out where I keep getting bogged down. And when I get bogged down in the structure, I start to wallow in details that don't really belong in the story. So the pacing gets bogged down too.
So during my walk I imagined writing each scenelet onto index cards. Not all of the text; just the first couple sentences and the last, in order to give myself an idea of where the segues are. This story is going to be all about the segues. Like, "This bit ends with the first mention of the umbrella. So the next bit begins with a flashback to the outerspace salesmen giving him the umbrella."
Yes, I said outerspace salesmen. Also, the umbrella is pink with silver letters that can only be read from very high up, and the silver letters say "KICK ME." The snow isn't really snow. It's outerspace gluey tar stuff that causes the end of the world as we know it. WHAT IS MY BRAIN.
(I suspect The First Line does not get a heck of a lot of science fantasy apocalyptic humor. But they do welcome all genres. Who knows? Maybe everyone is writing stories about space glue snow apocalypses.)
So now I'm home, and my feet hurt. In addition to new skating blisters from Sunday, I have sandal blisters. Blisters on top of blisters. Ow. (Next time I think "Oh, I'll only be walking a few blocks. I'll be busing home. Sandals are fine," it will trigger an autohypnotic safety mechanism that will not allow me out the house until I've wised up and put my running shoes on.) But I also have a story written on index cards in my head. The structure now makes sense. And in mulling over the structure on my walk home, I discovered that the protagonist is an entirely different character than I'd thought. The things I now know about him are the key to getting both structure and pacing deboggified. Hooray for deboggification!
And tomorrow morning early, I shall wake up and transfer the story from mental index cards to WP51 file to paper. And there shall be a proofreading and a "final" revision. And lo, it shall be good.
Or at least it shall be submitted.
Then I'll be free to revise the phone story.
A Review and a Change of Pace, with More to Come
Hullo all. So, I owe you a big fat blog post about last week's fantastic writing retreat, a status update on where things are writing-wise since then, and also a general State of the Derby. But since you're not going to get all that tonight, have another review of Blood and Other Cravings.
Incidentally, I should note that although Shia and I pronounce our last names the same, my family spells it right. (You may commence to imagine my nose in the air to deliver this speech in a haughty *sniff*. But also imagine me grinning like an idiot, 'cause those were some very nice things that reviewer had to say.)
- 1,400 wds. long
Well, that was easy. Apparently I just had the entire Manuscript class set not to pull certain data from the database unless I was in my staging directory. In other words, at some point in the past I clearly didn't want to deal with things, so I applied brute force.
The criteria for having an excerpt page and for showing notes about a given manuscript are now more intelligent. If I'm in staging, I get to see 'em. If I'm not, they only show up if the database entry includes a TRUE value for the brand-spankin-new "shownotes" field. Woot.
The upshot is, if you click on the title of the story in the little blue box here, you'll get the usual list of blog entries to do with that story. But you should also see a small description of the story and a link to read more. Click that link, and you'll get to read maybe the full story, or maybe an excerpt, maybe some just notes about writing it and where it got published.
In the case of "Last Week's Rhododendron," it'll be all of the above (or everything but the publication credit, until I fill in the publication credit. Which I'll do later on tonight. My brain hurts now). Enjoy!