inasmuch as it concerns Yahoo! Yeehah! Woopie!:
I gots somethin' ta cheer about, I does.
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
- 6,000 wds. long
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!
In Which the Author Dies and Is Ded Yay
So. Um. Bram Stoker Award Reading List. ...Eeek?
Back up back up back. The story starts here:
New Year's Eve, blogger Diane Dooley starts a thread on the Absolute Write Water Cooler forums soliciting AW authors to interview about their recent or very-soon-now publications. (The first interview is already up. Go read it! Then, go read Lavender Ironside's The Sekhmet Bed.) So I sidle in and I'm all, "Just novelists, or would you be interested in hearing from authors with sorta-recent short story releases?" You know, blinking innocently and giving my most winning grin. Or the internet equivalent thereof.
She very kindly shoots me a private message to talk about that. In the course of which, she asks me, "Weren't you just long-listed for the Stoker?"
*Blink blink blink* I -- what? No no no no. Surely not. Surely we must be thinking of someone else here. I thank her for the kind spot of confusion, but I concede that Blood and Other Cravings has indeed received some nice reviews, some of them making flattering mention of my story. (Also, one of those stories -- Margo Lanagan's "Mulberry Boys" -- is going into The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Four. Ellen just announced the table of contents today.)
Oh, by the way, since we're talking about reviews, and since I was reading a lively discussion about Amazon.com reviews and the tragic tendency to commit the ABM: This evening I decided, what the heck. I toddled on over to Amazon.com, looked up Blood and Other Cravings, and I read the reviews. Then I nodded to myself. "All right," says I, "I've got that out of my system and need never do it again." It's not like I've been avoiding reading the reviews of the anthology. It's not even like any reviews, including those at Amazon, have been less than mildly favorable. It's just that Amazon.com makes it so easy to give into temptation and snap off a quick reply that it's best for an author to just never go there. I hope that when I have a novel of my own out, I remember this decision and stick to it.
Anyway, Dooley wrote me back, saying as how she did make a slight oopsie. In fact it was the Bram Stoker Award Reading List she saw me on. (The list was just released Monday.)
My response was basically to drop my jaw and fall over on the floor, temporarily dead. When I picked myself back up, I communicated this to Dooley, along with my appreciation for letting me know.
So, this reading list is not, N O T not, a long list for the awards. Nor is it the guaranteed source of all of the 2011 Stoker nominees. What it is, is a way for the Horror Writers Association to draw attention to what they feel is some of the best horror fiction of the year. Yes, this is partially for the benefit of those who do select Stoker nominees ("You might find these worthy of your consideration"), but it's also for the benefit of the general public ("Go read this stuff! It's good stuff!").
Out of the 85 titles listed in the short fiction catgory, seven of them are from Blood and Other Cravings. And one of those seven titles is "First Breath."
It's an honor.
...And now it would appear I've a lot of horror reading to do.
2011 Means 10 For 10
- 50,306 wds. long
Woo. NaNoWrimo 2011, done and won. Hooray!
Catch is, I'm still not sure what I've written. But that's OK. That's something I can figure out later.
Certain the different short stories that made up each chapter started to come together. Tonight, I was no longer sure what to do with that convergence point... so I went back and continued each of the four individual stories I'd begun before.
Like, where did Hank go when he put the tea cozy on his head and vanished from Earth -- and why wasn't he too worried about this?
Nevertheless, he was a lot less worried than he might have been under the circumstances. For one thing, this wasn't his first time traveling unconventionally. Well, unconventionally from the point of view of someone like Linda and her neighbors. For another, he did have a good idea of what it was he'd put on his head. He remembered visiting the world where it had originated. Or, rather, where the design had originated. The beings that made them weren't big on crochet. They preferred a cloth-making craft that a human would find mostly reminiscent of weaving, and they used a sticky, self-spun fiber that humans would consider akin to spider silk.
Which told him that someone on Earth, or at the very least someone Human, had copied Harbinger technology. This was not comforting to Hank at all. His current position in a gray-red limbo was less disturbing to him than the idea of someone who crocheted having the know-how to make a Harbinger Transport Device. And to decorate it with the constellations familiar to the Harbinger sector -- well, that just screamed smugness, didn't it? (Smugness doesn't "scream," silly. Forget it.) That betokened an engineer who was smugly sure no one would ever catch on to what they were doing.
And Linda just bought it? In some antique store somewhere?
That's the odd thing, Francis -- it's not there anymore.
Oh. One of those. Great. As if there weren't enough troublemakers bouncing around the galaxy.
I suspect Hank is a Time Lord. Dang it. Next time I write Doctor Who fanfic, could I at least know that's what I'm doing before I do it? Stupid bait-and-switch Muse.
Anyway. There's also Maggie and her computer. I still haven't decided what her computer does. It functions impossibly and it does something rather horrible. I just don't know what yet.
Still, I managed at least to follow her away from the shop for a few miles.
Maggie didn't take her new purchase home immediately. She felt terribly possessive of it. It was her secret! So instead of heading back to her house where her little brother would barge into her room -- wasn't that supposed to stop happening once you got out of high school? Only if you also got out of your parents' home, it would appear -- where her parents would want to exchange tales of the day, where she'd get questions about this machine that was hers, all hers! Or, worse, where she'd get waylaid on her way to trying out her new computer. The moment would be lost in a fog of "How was your day" and "have you got homework" and "will you be joining us for dinner tonight."
Besides, she also felt vaguely embarrassed. The shop keeper had charged her a dollar. One hundred pennies. That was all. Maggie had a strange sick clawing feeling in her gut about it. On the surface, it was dread that someone would confront her with having all but stolen the little miraculous computer.
Underneath, where she didn't want to look but still couldn't help but know it was there, she dreaded that the monetary price was only a tiny fraction of what she'd paid.
I'm not sure I want to talk about what happened next with Cathy after the joint started jumping. Or what happened to her boyfriend after Martha-possessed-by-the-Vampire-Dress got her claws in him. FIRST DRAFT FIRST DRAFT SHUT UP oh, well. Here's a fairly harmless excerpt.
More memory flowed back. The shop. That old consignment shop -- but that was a dream, too, right? There hadn't been a shop in that location for years. So where did this memory come from?
"Meet me @ Mimi's."
"What u doin there? Drag queen."
"Get u a prezzie. Or not. Up 2 U."
"Shut up. BRT."
He'd hit SEND. He'd walked into the shop. He knew he'd walked into the shop that didn't exist. Also, he was lying fully clothed on the ground in what appeared to be a filthy alley in one of those big inner cities you see in movies. Gotham. God help him, he was passed out in an alley in Gotham City. He hoped Batman was on his way.
Which just leaves Lucille and her cousin Bitsy. I didn't do anything with them tonight, though. I finished Bitsy's part of the story Monday. It looks sort of final for her, right now.
The whole thing is starkly unfinished, but it's at a point where I can take a step back and think about it as a whole. Which I suppose I'll do very soon now.
But not tonight. Tonight I get to relax. I get to take a break from life for the rest of the night, 'cause I done did it, so I did. Hooray for another successful National Novel Writing Month!
And wait oh hey! I also have a better title for the novel now! Which -- yep -- does in fact change the URL of my novel info page at NaNoWriMo.org. Awkward! Guess I'd better go back a few entries and fix the previous link where the title was still "Selling Dreams and Stealing Hearts." (Dumb title. Why'd I ever call it that? Sheesh.)