The Blackbird Is Involved in What I Know
2990 words long
so you make new happy memories to override the old ones that hurt
"Blackbird" came home yesterday with rejection note in hand. I sent it back out on its way again today. That's what you do. It's going to be hard to place, I know--not only is it a story with a writer protagonist, but it's a story whose writer protagonist has supernatural writing block, seriously, how pathetic is that?--but someone's gonna love this little story. So it's back out there fighting the good fight as we speak.
Meanwhile, it is that time of year again. Winter solstice is in two weeks. I picked up the fruitcake ingredients today, and I'm planning to have the Yule Log All-Nighter this time around. I haven't done it since we moved into the new place, so this'll be the first one in three years as well as the first one at the current address. I guess I'd better make sure I have batteries for all the Rock Band instruments and review how to set it up for All Play mode.
My relationship with fruitcake turned weird last year. Every year, I bake a fruitcake, and about half of it gets sliced up and mailed to friends and family, or shared around locally, while I eat most of the other half for breakfast every day until it's gone. Which generally takes 'til mid-January. But last year not everyone on my mailing list got a piece. I was too slow. I had fallen behind in other tasks, so getting fruitcake to the post office was just one more thing. And then I got injured, which seriously reduced my spoon supply. And then, probably because I also wasn't re-boozing the cheesecloth often enough, or generously enough, or something, the last quarter of the cake began to mold. Like, bread mold, that kind of mold. I have never had fruitcake mold on me before. Talk about embarrassing.
So I never got a slice out to my mother-in-law. And she was the best mother-in-law in the world, and then, without any warning, right about the time I was discovering the mold on the fruitcake, she died. And now I have this guilt-cloud hovering over the very idea of fruitcake because these were my reactions to the news:
- Shit, was she worried? Did she think I had forgotten her? I'll never know! And I'll never be able to tell her "I'm sorry, I just got behind on things and fell out of touch, but I still love you," and that sucks, and
- Shit, my husband and my sister-in-law are grieving the loss of their mother, and I'm sitting here feeling guilty about failing to send her fruitcake? Seriously? Way to make it all about you, Niki.
So there's feeling guilty, and then there's feeling guilty about feeling guilty, and underneath all that guilt is the just plain shock and sadness of very suddenly losing someone who was, in a very real sense, my second mom. And what with all of that, fruitcake now occupies a kind of painful place in my brain.
But I am going to make this year's fruitcake, dammit. Only I'll keep the cheesecloth well-boozed this time, and I'll get through the mailing list promptly. And everything will be fine and not painful at all, and fruitcake will go back to being a thing of comfort and joy (and booze).
And even though it's more of a Samhain thing than a Solstice thing, I'll set aside a piece for Mom Sorsha on Solstice night.
Love you. Miss you. Never gonna forget you.
just a minite ago it was last week where did the time go
I saw this great tweet this morning about how A NEW EVIL ARISES but it is MONDAY so EVIL HAS A HARD TIME GETTING OUT OF BED. It was funnier in the original, but the paraphrase will do. This goes double for the first Monday back from a week of productive and mildly adventurous out-of-town introverting.
The challenge is always to continue in ordinary life the good work practices I found room to practice during my getaway. There is less room in ordinary life for good work practices. Ordinary life has household bills and cleaning and other chores and also a 4:45 appointment and my shift on the monthly roller derby training calendar at 6:30. But I am happy to say I rose to the challenge. If I did not get to revisions on "White Noise" before having to leave the house at 4:20 PM, that's probably because I took the time to mildly polish up "The Blackbird Is Involved in What I Know" before sending it out to a pro-paying literary magazine. Can't complain.
The remainder of my mountain adventures were quiet but rewarding, and they were as follows:
Saturday morning I set my alarm so I could be at Taquería No Se Hagan Bolas right at menudo o'clock. Word is they make the best menudo for miles around, but you have to be there early, because once they run out, it's gone. So I got there shortly after they opened and, yea, I acquired menudo.
There's this one Yelp reviewer who docked them a star (thus giving them only 4 out of a possible 5) precisely because they run out of menudo by noon "while customers continue to request it all afternoon. How about making a 2nd pot?" I wondered whether this reviewer also docks stars off great donut shops because they, too, run out of product by noon. My friend, this meal is not something you just whip up another pot of if you're running low. To give y'all an idea--and this will sound delicious to fans of bone stock, and gross to everyone else--after my leftovers had cooled in the fridge (maybe 10 ounces left of the initial huge portion; a good menudo is too rich for me to finish in one sitting), they were no longer liquid but rather gelatinous, indicating thorough integration of the collagen from the bones used to make the stock. That takes hours to achieve--this article suggests overnight.
Anyway, it was delicious and I got to eat it two mornings in a row and I am docking that reviewer a star for unreasonable expectations.
Saturday afternoon I took a trip into Edwards to visit the Bookworm on the Riverwalk. After that, I went back across the river to spend some quality beer-and-Puzzle-Pirates time at Crazy Mountain Brewery. Pictured above is my favorite of the beers I tried there--and I tried the whole flight, even the IPAs and ESBs I knew I wouldn't care for. The winner is a stout. I know it doesn't look like one. They warn you it doesn't look like one. But, hell, if you can have black IPAs (when the P stands for "pale"), why not a golden stout? It was delicious.
Sunday morning I checked out of the resort. My original plan was to hang around to watch the Saints game at Bob's Place. Then I thought, I'm going to have an ice chest with things inside that should stay cold, I should just get that stuff home and put it in the fridge. Also I expect the traffic heading east on I-70 on a Sunday afternoon is worse after 2:30 than it is before 10:00. So instead I set my alarm a little earlier and got out of town by 9:00, got home by 11:30, unpacked the car, refrigerated the ice chest's contents, and headed over to the 28th Street Tavern.
This turned out to be the right choice. The bar wasn't too crowded, I had a great view of the game and a place to plug in my laptop, and John, whom I hadn't seen all week and whom I missed dearly, was able to join me midway through the third quarter about the time that things got really entertaining.
The Saints won. I'm not really sure what else to say. It was a very weird game.
So that was the rest of my Avon weekend and the beginning of my reintegration into ordinary life. Hi.
STANDBY for drabble debut
Tomorrow we will return you to your regularly scheduled whining about the revision process. Today, we take a break for the happy dance.
About three months ago, I started writing drabbles so I could submit some to the all drabble, all the time market SpeckLit. For about two weeks or so, that's what I did during the half hour that I normally allotted to freewriting. It was a lot like freewriting--I used a prompt (usually the previous day's string-of-ten) to come up with an idea, and I ran with that idea for 25 minutes. Only difference was, I added a bit of whittling down and polishing up, so that when I was done I had a fresh new 100-word short story.
After those few weeks, I had a portfolio of eight that I was pleased with, and I submitted them.
Early this morning, the editor responded to my submission with an offer to publish two of them in the upcoming third quarter of the year, and a contract for me to sign should my answer be Yes. Why, yes!
When I know more--like, precisely when they'll go up, for instance, and whether the editor would prefer me not announce the titles before SpeckLit does--I will tell you more.
I do love acceptance letters. I love them all the more when they have the compassionate timing to arrive alongside rejection letters (yesterday I crossed another potential market for "Blackbird" off my list, and I intend to send it on a looooooong journey tomorrow). I love them any time they choose to pay me a visit. They should visit me more often.
(I wouldn't have whined very much. Today's revision session was actually rather enjoyable.)
back in the slush with you
Dear universe: My complaints about not having submitted anything last week were not, I repeat, not meant as a request that a manuscript I had out in slush get rejected so that I could submit it again. Sheesh! Work with me here, OK?
So "Blackbird" will not be in C.C. Finlay's guest-edited issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Like all non-acceptance outcomes, this is sad. I sigh a wistful sigh. (Wait for it... *sigh* ...OK.)
However! The rejection letter was personal (like almost all rejection letters for this particular issue of F&SF, do not expect this with other issues of F&SF), and described the story in glowing terms. Which means an editor of renown has had the opportunity to link my name to a pleasant prose-reading experience. This is a thing, isn't it? This is definitely a thing. Always look on the bright side.
The problem with this story is, the protagonist is a writer. The plot involves writing. That's kind of not a good thing for commercial viability. The plot also involves a demon, and quite possibly the End Of The World (again), but these elements simply don't outweigh the writing element, it would seem. I've had two rejection letters now that say, basically, "Writers will dig it, but non-writers will not, and among our readership non-writers outnumber the writers like woah." The other rejection letters didn't say that, but since they also didn't say much beyond some form of "did not suit our needs at this time," I can't be sure they weren't thinking it.
Damn it, I am not going to rewrite this story to be about a sculptor who can't let the clay dry or the demon gets out. Besides, that trick wouldn't fool anyone. "Isn't this just writing in disguise?" Yes. That's exactly what it would be.
I have begun to feel foolish for continuing to shop this story around.
After that first rejection that mentioned the problem of writers writing about writing, I got in a conversation with other writers. One of 'em said to me, "So sell it to a literary journal. They love that kind of thing." I lamented, "But literary journals will insist that the demon is merely metaphorical!" And yet, and yet... they had a point.
Today, while logging the rejection at The Submission Grinder (currently in BETA)*, I remembered that conversation. And so, after clicking the handy and benevolent "Find a new home for this story," which kindly and effortlessly produces a market search form pre-filled with your story's details, I tweaked the menus to look for literary/mainstream markets.
Scanning the results, I noticed Glimmer Train.
Glimmer Train? But don't they change reading fees?
Yes. Except for three non-contiguous month-long fee-free submission periods per year. One of which happens to be January.
Well, hell. I dug up my old password to their online submission system (which, it turns out, I last utilized to submit them a story ten years ago), logged in, and shipped "Blackbird" right back out.
Never let a manuscript sleep over, so they say. Well, I didn't. And there you go.
*Sort of a Duotrope replacement for those who don't want to pay for a subscription to Duotrope, and who think Duotrope could have been more useful than it was when it was free. Designed by a web programmer who's a writer, and who's willing and eager to bring writers' dreams of a Duotrope that's more useful than Duotrope to life.(back)
micromanaging the soup
- 3,258 words (if poetry, lines) long
"Right Door" is on its way to a new slush pile, one that's reprint friendly. Which makes two submissions this week, hurrah! The other was "Blackbird."
Neither of these are strangers to the field. And while it feels good to keep 'em out in the slush ("'til Hell won't have it," as Jim D. Macdonald is wont to say), I miss the thrill of sending a story out for the very first time.
I am inching closer to being able to do just that with "It's For You," but when I say "inching" I do mean it.
You know, I love the freedom of National Novel Writing Month. I love my daily 25 minutes of freewriting, too. I love writing rough draft. I get to transmit thought to page at the rate of 90wpm without worrying about perfection or even competence. It needn't be good so long as it's story.
Revision is a whole 'nother matter. I look at the previous version, I begin to type the new version, and immediately my brain freezes up under a blinking red banner that says THIS HAD BETTER BE RIGHT.
And it doesn't help that, after compiling the recent batch of critiques, I realize that this piece wants a lot more than discrete fixes to discrete bits. I wouldn't say it needs an overhaul, but the fixes it does need are sort of all-encompassing. The flavor needs adjusting. The ingredients need to be better integrate. It's like making soup, OK, but I can't just twist the grinder over the pot and then stir. I have to place each grain of ground pepper individually.
And that is all.
this is what a successful day looks like
- 51,730 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 3,258 words (if poetry, lines) long
As far as implementing my Diabolically Cunning New Workday Plan goes, today has been a success. (We will not speak of yesterday.) Today I did all the things, and then some. Not in any particular order, nor with any particular speed or urgency, but I did them. So there.
What helped a lot was, I set up a to-do list template in a new Open Office spreadsheet. For each writing task, I logged start time, end time, and duration. Then, at the bottom, just because productivity tracking is fun, I added up each task's duration to determine how many hours I'd spent writing or performing writing-related tasks. Today's total was about 6 hours, which made me feel very accomplished.
Oh, by the way, speaking of productivity tracking, check out how science fiction author Jamie Todd Rubin does it. And here is how he works. Neat, huh? Now I no longer feel alone in usefully overthinking things. Although I'm beginning to feel defensive about my video game time.
I separated it out into sections:
- Woke Up At: If I log this, I'll probably stop sleeping in, just out of sheer embarrassment. So far, so good: today it was 8:30 AM. The category should more usefully be Morning Pages with time stats logged just like for the other tasks. The start time is functionally the same as the Woke Up At time, or ought to be. Morning pages takes me about half an hour immediately upon waking up, but can go to an hour and a half if I put them off until later. Just-woke-up-brain spends less time going "What now? What do I write now?" Just-woke-up-brain just freakin' writes.
- Fiction: The four tasks here are Freewriting, Short Fiction, Novel, and Submission Procedures. I spent about an hour and a half on annotating the recently critiqued draft of "It's For You" in a new Scrivener project, and about a half hour on everything else. That means it did in fact take a full half hour to submit "Blackbird" to a new market, and another full half hour to take Iron Wheels through Step One of the Snowflake Method. (Step One: "Write a single sentence synopsis of your novel." To be fair, Randy Ingermanson suggests a full hour for this.) Spending only 3 hours on fiction is admittedly on the brief side, but that won't stop me patting myself on the back. (pat pat pat)
- Content Writing: Boulder Writing Examiner, Puzzle Pirates Examiner, Demand Media Studios. Didn't do any of 'em today. Not too worried about it. I'll see about easing content writing back into my life after I'm reliably getting fiction done every day.
- Other: Here's where I logged the time spent reading and critiquing those manuscripts slated for tonight's writing group, and the time spent attending said writing group. I feel a lot better about the brevity of today's "Fiction" category knowing that most days I'll have at least two and a half more hours to spend there.
- Blogging: That would be this. Hi!
So here's Tuesday's Breathtakingly Obvious Epiphany: Going to writing group counts as writing. Right? It is not a biweekly obligation that gets in the way of writing. It is part of the writing. It is a thing that writers in fact do.
I'm very fortunate to be in a group again, and to have friends who pushed beyond "Wouldn't it be great if we got together and formed a writing group?" until it actually happened. There's six of us, all of us in Boulder or Gunbarrel. We write on a wide spectrum from speculative fiction to mainstream/literary, serious and satire, prose and poetry both. Everyone has really insightful things to say, and our critiquing styles seem to mesh well.
I'm embarrassed to admit that they critiqued "It's For You" back in September, and I'm only now working on the revision. I'm even more embarrassed to admit that the 4-month delay is an improvement. The draft my current group critiqued was revised from the first draft based on feedback from the Denver-Area Codex Writing Retreat in July 2012.
Fie on embarrassment. Improvements! Improvements are good! Today has been a success. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Procrastination. Writer's Block. Kindness.
It's a sunny afternoon in Boulder. I'm at Aspen Leaf Frozen Yogurt, sitting at a counter that faces out the window into the parking lot. Cars roll by. Past the lot, Table Mesa Boulevard makes its final stretch west into the foothills and the neighborhood where I envision "Heroes to Believe in" taking place. (And how long has it been since that's been in the slush? Note to self...)
Things are peaceful. I am currently allowing myself what Havi Brooks calls "Island Time." Havi Brooks is an amazing inspiring blogger and you should read her stuff now. Or, well, whenever you get around to it really. No pressure. Your call.
It's been a Day Full of Stuff, which followed a Partial Week Full of Stuff, a Partial Week being all that's left when you're freshly back in town after a weekend at Gen Con. You know how it goes. First, the train is supposed to get back into Denver early on Monday morning, the better to leap back into Life As Usual. But what with the flooding in Nebraska reducing the BNSF to a single railway over which everyone proceeds single file, we didn't actually pull into the station until about 1:00 PM. And the Flat Niki Stage of Recovery stretched into Tuesday. So.
The Amazing Diaper Cat, Null, got a room to himself and his undiapered butt, so my job Wednesday was to Wash All The Things. This involved many journeys up and down the stairs so as to catch the washer at just the right time to toss in a quarter cup of Simple Solution Oxy Formula, which really does make the cat piss stench go away but is not optimized for use by the laundry load. I washed two loads and called it good.
Also, it's been hot enough in our house that guests need to sign a waiver indemnifying us against liability for their heat stroke, so it also fell to me to investigate replacing our air conditioner wall unit. Made the call Tuesday, met the HomeSmart representatives Wednesday, will have a new unit in the wall Friday. After more than a decade of this inefficient, dying, energy-sucking and stingy-with-the-cool-air refrigeration unit, we will have a new A/C box in the wall. I'm not sure I'll be able to take responsibility for whatever crazy impulsive things my unmitigated joy prompts me to do.
Today, Null went to the vet for Acupuncture Experiment #4. After this, we have to make the call: has it being doing him any good? Well... Maybe? He seems to be walking better and dripping less. He goes without a diaper again, because we find "helping" him at the litter box every few hours seems to erase most accident potential. He sleeps on the bed without leaving wet spots. But is any of this due to the acupuncture, or was it already the case if we'd shucked off the diaper sooner? Is he really walking better, or am I talking myself into seeing it? I... don't know. I'll be keeping an eye out for him.
Also, I made phone calls and decisions. Saturday, our old table and our old TV will find new homes at, respectively, Joyful Furniture and Ares Thrift. In the spirit of getting rid of unused things, I cleaned out my stationery drawer of empty or near-empty ink bottles.
So. As stated above: A Partial Week Full of Stuff. But have I been writing?
Well. I've been doing my Examiner posts and thinking really hard about getting back to other long-deferred writing tasks. I filed "Blackbird"'s latest rejection letter and decided where I'll send it next, which I'll do... tomorrow. And, figuratively out of breath from all the other stuff I've been doing, I've been smacking myself with guilt for not getting more done.
Did I mention Havi Brooks?
In my Internet travels, which get more ecclectic the deeper my avoidance cycle dips, I came across a link to Havi's "Bite Me, National Anti-Procrastination Day." I clicked it, thinking I'd read a screed about having One Big Day A Year defeats the purpose because us marathon procrastinators will use it as an excuse to put things off until said Day.
No. That is not what I read.
What I read was some of the wisest, kindest, most compassionate writing on the subject of procrastination. Just... beautiful stuff. Stuff that made the part of me that's sick of getting kicked by the other part of me feel acknowledged, spoken to, valued. And in was more than that -- when Havi writes from her own experience of procrastination and the effects that well-meaning but ineffective advice can have, it's like reading my own diary. If I kept a diary. If I was anywhere near as self-aware.
Or what about this charming quote on procrastination from another “expert” who wants to terrify you into taking action?
"Understand that this enemy is working diligently, 24 hours a day, to prevent any forward progress, so you must work even more diligently at eradicating it from your life."
Lovely. Thanks. Now I totally want to go get a bunch of stuff done. Oh, no I don’t. I want to curl up in a ball and cry.
I work with people who have these issues. People who have big, wonderful things to do in the world and are really, really scared sometimes to put it out there. Or even to talk about putting it out there.
I love these people with all my heart. They’re smart, creative and just generally awesome.
And then these so-called experts show up with their war-mongering and guilt-mongering and an entire day devoted to telling my people how much they suck. And it’s all so well-intentioned!
But it doesn’t help them. It makes them feel worse. They withdraw and retreat deeper into the stuff (guilt, criticism and self-loathing) that’s most harmful for them.
I’m here trying to help people who are traumatized by shoulds learn how to motivate themselves with love and attention. And this stuff freaks them out.
What about all the people who totally need help and aren’t getting it because they’re scared? Because they think it might make them feel guilty and horrible about themselves. Because they think they’ve tried what’s out there and know for a fact that nothing can help.
Well, I hope that everyone knows that not all methods involve kicking yourself and hating yourself. Because ohhhhhhh, that’s just got to hurt.
It does. It hurts a lot. Gods, it's good to read someone who gets that.
See, about half of any given Morning Pages session reads like this: "Here is stuff I gotta do today. [LONG LIST] And I'm gonna do it! Every bit of it! Except there's so much I didn't do yesterday. And I'm afraid if I don't do it today it means I'm worthless. I need to stop beating myself up. Why does even writing a to-do list feel like beating myself up?" And so forth and so on and variations on a theme.
So I just started devouring Havi's blog yesteday. Well, I collected all the Favorite Post type links into Scrapbook so I could read them offline at my leisure. I have another train trip coming up (anyone else going to World Con / Renovation?) and I could use the reading material.
Today I started dipping into it while between tasks. My fingers hurt and I was sick of being vertical, so I took the laptop with me for a lie-down and I read...
Is it scary to talk to your fear? To even acknowledge its shadowy presence in the room? Absolutely. I'm sorry. Hug.
And, Gods help me, I just wept.
Maybe I'm just a sap. I dunno. But reading this stuff has alternately got me energized and allowed me a measure of peace. It also makes me wish I could drop everything along with an extra $600 and run away to Portland for one of Havi's "Rallies," because, dude, blanket forts. I'm not quite ready to order her Procrastination Dissolve-o-Matic, mostly because I've been spending a lot of money this summer already and I'm rather behind on my money-making endeavors, but I would be really tempted if the eBook were available singly. So I continue reading bits and pieces in my breaks-between tasks, and I'm not going to pressure myself to OMG GET JUST ONE MORE THING DONE TONIGHT! but instead I'm going to eat the last few spoonfuls of my frozen yogurt with cookie dough and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and I'm going to watch the light change across the windshields of a hundred parked cars, and I'm going to give John a big smile when he arrives to pick me up and we head to the pizza place for dinner and Spiral Knights. And I'm going to have fun.
And tomorrow I'm going to get things done because each thing is a joy to accomplish, not because I feel guilty.
Well. That's the theory. It'll take practice to put it into practice.
You know, I don't actually like frozen yogurt. Under the freeze, it's still yogurt. It's still got that sour tang that sets my tongue on edge. But I tried it, and I had a wonderful afternoon here. Isn't that weird?
John's here. Gotta go. Hugs!
Recent Writing-Related Things I Have Done...
- 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long
...roughly in order of actual writing-related relevance.
Firstly. Had the pleasure of seeing myself referred to, for the first time, in a Real Review of Actually Published Stuff, as a "newcomer." Like one's first lumpy handspun yarn, this is to be cherished. Only about 100 times more so. Again, I can't think of better company in which "First Breath" could see the light of print. This is amazing.
Relevant to this: Blood and Other Cravings is slated for release on September 13 of this year. It's available now for pre-order at all your favorite online and brick-and-mortar localities. I've presented here a link to do so at IndieBound.org, who help you place orders at your neighborhood independent bookstore if you're fortunate enough to have one.
Secondly, I've finally put "Blackbird" back into the slush. I'm slightly unnerved by Apex Magazine's insistence that submissions be done through HeyPublisher.com, referred to hereafter as "HP". (This should be unambiguous since I am not going to discuss boy wizards nor printer manufacturers in this post.) I can't submit a cover letter unless it's part of the manuscript; alas that I didn't think to prepend one. I can, however, enter a bio that will be attached to every darn thing I submit via HP -- which just feels weird. Also, in order to submit, I had to upload my manuscript to HP, which is worrisome even considering HP's reassuring privacy clause. Still, Apex specifically want dark fantasy, which this is, and Apex pay pro rates, which option I should like to exhaust before moving down the publishing hierarchy.
I'd have tried Strange Horizons first, but they have a list of horror tropes they really would not like to see again, at least not unless the manuscript is effin' fantastic, and I see "Blackbird" in at least three of those listed items. Which, despite SH wanting to see "stories that have some literary depth but aren't boring; styles that are unusual yet readable; structures that balance inventiveness with traditional narrative," is daunting. So... well, maybe later. Maybe a few rejection letters down the road.
Thirdly and similarly, I'm looking for other places that might like to reprint "Right Door, Wrong Time." Brain Harvest seems like a good fit. When I took a look Saturday, the most recent story was Helena Bell's "Please Return My Son Who Is In Your Custody," which, wow. Chills and shivers and a few uneasy giggles. I still need to read the latest since then, Simon Kewin's "Terahertz." The first few paragraphs tantalize me with their efficient worldbuilding.
Nextly, I've begun play-testing Glitch. Glitch is a very strange, and strangely compelling, MMO. You play the part of a figment of the Gods' (called "Giants") imagination. You learn skills, you do stuff. You interact with other people. You help build the world. Play-test opens again tomorrow, so I hear. What does this have to do with writing? Well, it's a reason why I might not be getting a lot of writing done. (Stupid online game addictions. I can has them. In multiples.) If you also are playing, I'm "vortexae".
And lastly (for this post at least), I am baking pound cake. I had this quart jar of whipping cream that self-soured, and pound cake calls for sour cream. So there.
And what does that have to do with writing? You ask a writer who's ready for dessert.
Actually, I can loop that back into writing. When I get done baking it, if the timing works out I shall take it over to our neighbors' place to share. John's over there with Kit and Austin of Transneptune Games, play-testing Becoming Heroes with some friends. Becoming Heroes is available for ordering right now this minute! Nothing "pre" about that. And if you go to Gen Con Indy this year, you can visit Transneptune Games at their vendor booth and buy it there from the team that made it happen.
I'm really proud of these guys and of the book they've produced, and not just because one of them's my husband. And not just because one of the copy-editors was me. (Gods help me, I'm a copy-editor.) And not just because Alison McCarthy's illustrations are stunning. And not just because the game draws on such a multifarious palette of literary influences. I'm proud of them and this book for all these things, plus because creating a new game and putting it out there for public consumption is an amazing feat to take from concept to fulfillment. And it's something John has always wanted to do, for as long as I've known him, so I'm especially pleased for him on that account.
And it's a dang good game, too. The team has put a lot of thought into it -- heck, they put a lot of thought into games as a category. You should read their blog. You won't take RPG mechanics or RPG terminology for granted ever again, that's for sure.
So Transneptune Games sold their first copies of Becoming Heroes about the same time I saw that Publisher's Weekly review of Blood and Other Cravings, which parallelism really amuses me. Hooray!
And that's the list of Things What I Wanted To Tell You What With Not Blogging Reliably Of Late. Which hopefully will improve in the near future.
Notes From the Front Line
That's not "front line" as in battlefield. That's "front line" like "front of house," the place in the dining establishment where staff interface with customers. (Although back in my days working the university cafeteria, there always seemed to be a certain parallel between the two senses of the phrase.) The back of house is where the stories get cooked up; the front is where they get offered for sale. I was going to use the battlefield metaphor, but I couldn't decide whether my latest rejected stories had come back with their shields or on them. Then I decided war was not the answer. Go with the restaurant metaphor: two potential diners decided the current menu was not to their liking.
"Door" is still looking for a place to get reprinted. PodCastle says short-shorts have been hard to sell. And "Blackbird" has garnered its second rejection letter; it's not quite right for Weird Tales. So there you go. I'd think of new places to send them, but it's rather late tonight and my brain is mush.
I have about enough energy to say this much on the subject of rejection letters:
This newfangled world of electronic submissions makes it hard sometimes to tell whether a rejection is a form letter or a personal note. Compose a sentence by hand or paste it in; the pixels look the same. And, more importantly, Dear Writer, however the sentences got into the letter, they were most likely chosen for you to receive. Don't read anything into a rejection letter that isn't there -- that way lies madness -- but take seriously those things that are. If the rejection letter compliments your story, then by all means enjoy the warm fuzzy glow. And if the phrase "try us again with something else" is included, take them at their word.
The world is full of disappointment and discouragement. If something even remotely looks like encouragement, take it as such.
So. End of Deep Thoughts. Now: Thinking about what next to try Weird Tales with, and where next to try "Blackbird." And also, where Writing The Next Thing is concerned, what the Next Thing might be.
These are good thoughts to feed to a sleepy brain. A well-fed sleepy brain means a helpful dreamy brain.
The Business End of This Writing Thing
So I didn't actually announce that "Blackbird" didn't actually sell, right? "Blackbird" got the most adorable form rejection letter ever. Of course, invite-only anthologies mean that "form rejection" takes on a different meaning. It's not like an ongoing quarterly magazine with its dreaded "Did not meet our needs at this time." In this case, a limited amount of people were getting it, all at once, and it was written specifically for this instance, and it was hand-pasted into the body of individual replies to individual submission emails. So. That said, the copy that got pasted was adorable. It also made me grin and look forward to submitting to this editor's next anthology.
Today, I failed to get any new work done on the fiction queue, but I did manage to update my manuscript submissions database. This meant grabbing dates from various emails, and also doing more than a few direct database inserts and lookups via PHPMyAdmin because I never got around to building certain of the key web forms that would make it simple. Yeah, I write my own PHP/MySQL widgets (this blog, for instance -- there's a reason it doesn't look like Wordpress or Typepad). They aren't very well-written widgets. I bought an O'Reilly book that's supposed to help me write better widgets, but first I have to read the book. Meanwhile, I can add a new market or a new manuscript from my Super Sekret Website (Memberz Only), but if I want to juxtapose them interestingly, I have to clamber backstage and futz with the tables directly. For now. Until I get off my butt and fix things.
So. The Feb 15 email submission of "Blackbird" got logged along with the Mar 11 rejection letter in the Correspondence Log table, right after I added the entry for the anthology in the Markets table and the entry for the submission itself (defined as "intersection of this manuscript and that market) in the Submissions table. My table relations, let me show you them! Then I had to go back and add the rejection letter for "Lambing Season" from another anthology last year. Then I clicked "Show stuff in slush," knowing full well I had nothing in slush; when something came up, I had to locate and correct the orphaned Correspondence Log entry.
All of which left me with, like I said, absolutely zero in the slush. We had to fix that.
"Blackbird" has been kicked off the couch with instructions to "get off your lazy bum and get a job or something, I dunno, you can buy your own damn canned herring, these are mine. Especially the herring in cabernet sauce, you try taking those and you pull back a stump, my lad." So the story took the hint and slushed its happy ass out the door.
And then I logged the submission, both here and over at Duotrope, because for once I was submitting not to an anthology but to a magazine, so I could actually pull the market's name out of Duotrope's search engine.
Tomorrow I may be very ambitious and show a couple more manuscripts the slush treatment. Also, I may actually get some work done toward something else being submittable.
Only, I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but, what's up with 70% of all surveyed pro markets, and some semi-pro too, being closed until May? I mean, I knew the industry was smaller than it looked, but damn. Them's some serious cahoots there, y'all.