2850 words long
Days 3-5: In which we arrive, share some good news, and make plans to depart once more
So remember when I said that my first pro sale, "First Breath," would be on the Tales To Terrify podcast this year sometime only I had no idea when? Well, it's up now! It went up on October 12 in Episode 350, and you can listen to it here.
I had the weirdest reluctance to listen to it. Well, maybe not so weird. Maybe it's related to the way I have to leave the room if someone is reading something of mine; if I stay there, I'll be on pins and needles, trying to read reactions into every shift or sigh--"They yawned. Are they bored? They keep recrossing their legs, are they uncomfortable? Do they think I'm a freak because I thought up stuff like that and put it in a story?" I guess I had similar discomfort with the idea of hearing someone else read my story out loud. In my gut I was sure that, hearing it, I'd finally see what an awful, stupid, shameful thing I'd written and put out into the world--
Stop that, I told myself; you know perfectly well that a prestigious editor already thought this was worth putting in an anthology. And this is a Hugo-nominated podcast; its editor clearly has good taste--and he chose to run your story. Your story has not suddenly become awful. Press play.
I listened to the episode on my drive out of Avon Sunday morning. My story comes first, narrated by Michelle Kane, and she does a good job. I mean, I have quibbles, as I expect I would no matter who read it because it's my baby and they're not me; but they're only quibbles, and not worth going into. Most importantly, I was gently crying by the end, so, go her, and go me.
Thing about that story is, I keep forgetting it's a horror story, and, moreover, a vampire story, or at least it has a sort of vampirism at its heart. I didn't write it with vampires or the horror genre in mind. But it's clear the vampire aspect was a factor in the choice of story to pair it with: Victoria Glad's "Each Man Kills," originally published in Weird Tales in 1951. Now, there's a vampire story, one springing from under the cape of Dracula himself.
Anyway. I hope you get a chance to wander over and take a listen.
Time now for the NaNoWriMo Rebel report, covering today and the weekend we just left behind us. The short story is, I'm still at 100% on my self-challenge. Here are the details.
Morning Pages: (Weekdays only.) Did them today, but lollygagged on my way there. It was like I couldn't bear to admit it was Monday. Used them mostly to make sense of my vague sense of dread about all the things I had to get done today: it's my first full day back in Boulder, but also my last full day in Boulder before I leave again, so we're back in travel prep stress mode. It helped to write down the specific things I had to do, make a concrete list of them, and make a plan to hit each one. It made the scary big cloud of dread into an achievable agenda.
Freewriting: I'm happy to report that I did this faithfully each day of the weekend as well as today. But I'll admit that on Saturday and Sunday I put it off until almost the end of the night. Saturday I actually played Puzzle Pirates again--my crew on the Cerulean Ocean was defending an island, and I wanted to help. After four rounds, I pulled myself away and got to work. I had to put off all my writing work until evening today, too, but for a better reason--I had to prioritize some travel prep errands first.
Over the weekend I began using the 50 Creative Writing Prompts at NowNovel.com. This is a series of exercises for focused writing practice. They feel a little like classroom assignments. They remind me of working my way through Ursula K. LeGuin's Steering the Craft, which was also full of classroom-like exercises for focused writing practice. I did exercise 1 on Saturday and exercise 2 on Sunday.
Today's writing prompt came from Chuck Wendig's series of flash fiction challenges; I've been working my way backwards through his archive, doing one a week. Here's the one I did today.
Fictionette Development: Pretty much part of the same writing session as freewriting over the past three days. Each session was kind of small, in keeping with the philosophy of "at least do a little." By the end of Sunday I had finished the Monday Muse post and set it for scheduled release--I love it when I can do that, it means I am perfectly on schedule--and today I babbled to myself on the page about what the piece due Friday will look like.
Commercial Fiction Production/Revision: (Weekdays only.) More babbling. Made a list of questions that would have to be answered as I expanded the original flash piece into a full-length story. May have encountered some answers along the way. Will have to sleep on it.
Submission Procedures: (Weekdays only.) So, about Friday. You know how I said it was late and I wasn't going to do anything more than just think about where to send "Survival, After" next? Well, turns out, I figured out where to send it next--and discovered that they'd be closing to submissions Saturday afternoon. So I sent them the story then and there. Go me!
Today was just for record-keeping. Logged that "First Breath" was now published at Tales To Terrify; logged that the place I sent "Survival, After" had sent an acknowledgement of the submission. Pretty much left it at that.
Blogging: (Weekdays only.) And there you go.
Tomorrow's work day will be prioritized according to what must be done before I get on the train, which is to say, while I can still access the internet. So Tuesday's blog post should show up sometime in the afternoon rather than stupid-o-clock at night. At least I won't have to stress about getting in my daily 444 on 4thewords.com; since I have continued writing this post well after midnight (its date stamp notwithstanding), I've extended my streak through Tuesday the 6th already. That's a relief. However, I'm currently battling a 24-hour 3,000-word monster, and I'm not finishing that sucker tonight. Guess I'll have to blog it to death from Denver Union Station tomorrow afternoon.
the rest of the story about the other story sale; also the whole story about this solstice
Regular readers of this blog will remember me making happy yet vague noises recently about having sold two stories for reprint. I was finally able to share more information about one of them Tuesday night, the publisher having given me permission that day to do so. Well, the publisher buying the other one got back to me today; therefore, this announcement:
"First Breath," originally published in Ellen Datlow's Blood and Other Cravings anthology, will be podcast in 2018 by the audio horror fiction magazine Tales to Terrify. Tales to Terrify is part of the District of Wonders Podcast Network, including also Far-Fetched Fables and the Hugo Award winning StarShipSofa. If you take a listen to any of those podcasts, I think you'll agree that the prospect of hearing my story produced by one of them next year is very exciting.
I don't know exactly when in 2018; the podcast schedule is not yet set. Once I know, I'll pass the happy knowledge on.
In local news, we're planning to hold our semi-traditional Winter Solstice Yule Log Vigil and All-Night Open House between the hours of sunset on Wednesday, December 20 (when we set the yule log on fire) and sunrise on Thursday, December 21 (when I and anyone else still around and awake will briefly cheer for the victory of the Sun after the passing of the longest night before finally falling asleep). If you are reading this and you'll be around, come on over for as long or as little as you'd like. No need to RSVP. Ping me for the address if you don't already know it.
In terms of clock time, Google tells me that sunset on the 20th will be at 4:39 PM, and that sunrise on Solstice morning will be at 7:20 AM. When I make the Facebook event page tomorrow, that's how I'll fill in the blanks for start and end times.
Considering what I've got for a yule log this year, I suspect it won't last the whole night through. But we've got plenty of other firewood to burn, so it's cool. Don't worry, Sun! We won't let the fire go out! We're here to help you get home!
I will cook some collection of yummy seasonally festive things. Potluck offerings of food and drink happily accepted but not required. The board game collection will be available. Fibercrafts will likely happen; feel free to bring yours and spin/knit/crochet along. If folks want to have a story-telling/read-aloud thing happen, that would be seasonally appropriate too. I will warm up the Rock Band set and place it at everyone's disposal. I'll have a Solstice music playlist for back-up tunes. There might even be roller derby footage watching. I mean, consider the likely majority demographic.
What there won't be is a lot of writing. I mean, not from me. Not regular workday writing. I expect I'll do enough to keep up my 4thewords streak, but for the most part Wednesday and Thursday will be holidays for me. Besides, there's no way I'm going to get a full work day in and also prepare for the party and/or sleep off the all-nighter. (Which isn't to say that, should a bunch of writers come over who were inspired to hold an impromptu write-in, I'd say no. I would definitely not say no to that.)
In some previous years, I've held out an open offer to drive carpool to Drumming Up the Sun at Red Rocks. I am emphatically not offering that this time around. I'm trying to ease my way back into this after taking a couple years off. It wouldn't do to bite off more than I could chew. But if you want to take in the most spectacular sunrise you're likely to see all year in company of a couple hundred Denver-area Pagans, that's going to be happening Thursday morning. You'll want to get to Red Rocks at least a half-hour before sunrise if you're doing that.
And that's the news, and I am outta here.
no crashy-burny for THIS fictionette; also, how the sausage gets made
The bad news is, yes I got sick again. Or discovered I'm still sick, and that Thursday was just a day off from being sick because the universe is merciful or because it likes a good joke or maybe just because I took a 12-hour Sudafed at exactly the right time, I don't know. Today was gross sniffly coughing sneezing bleaaarrrrrgh.
The good news is, I got all my work done anyway. So there. Take that, sick! You ain't the boss of me!
Seriously, though, 100% not kidding, today was probably a more powerful rebuttal to Jerk Brain than it would have been had I felt perfectly fine. It's evidence that my ability to Be A Writer™ is not dependent on the stars being aligned just right. It is something that, in all but the most exceptionally terrible cases, is always within reach. That's really empowering.
- Sent "First Breath" off on a new quest for reprint publication
- Published this week's Friday Fictionette
- Set up a Scrivener project for converting an old draft into a new piece of flash fiction
And also freewriting, Morning Pages, this blog entry, Fictionette Artifact catch-up, yadda yadda yadda. ALL THE THINGS.
The Friday Fictionette for July 21 is "Falling Toward the Light" (for Patrons: full-length ebook, audiobook), which is mostly about the hazards of having a rift in the space-time continuum open up while excavating for new building construction in downtown Loveland. It's also partly, possibly, between the lines, about the effects of the above on economics and politics at the hyperlocal level.
When keeping up with Friday Fictionettes was threatening to take over my entire writing life, I was beginning to question their viability as a continuing side project. I was sick of having nothing writing-wise to blog about except them. But now that I'm more or less caught up and reliably on time with the weekly releases (excluding, of course, the Fictionette Artifacts--I am almost ready to mail the ones from March), and now that I'm regularly working on writing and selling short fiction again, I'm going to designate Fridays and only Fridays for blogging about Friday Fictionettes. To everyone's relief, mine especially.
And now that they've been reliably on time for a few weeks, I feel like I can speak to the weekly routine of making them happen. So! Here is my Process, in case you are wondering.
Saturday: Tomorrow's Saturday! Yay. It is the Saturday preceding the July Week 4 release. So I'll take a look at what I wrote during my freewriting sessions during the fourth week of June and choose one of those pieces to develop into the Friday Fictionette for July 28. I'll copy it from the Daily Writing scriv to the Friday Fictionettes scriv, then set up its folder with all the relevant templates. That's pretty much it. It's the weekend, and I just valiantly published the previous release, so I get to take it easy.
Sunday: NOTHING. I started giving myself this day off from even the most minimal writing tasks after I was forced to recognize I wasn't doing them. Something about starting the day with a three- or even six-hour roller derby practice. I've still been optimistic enough to set up writing dates with friends on Sunday afternoons, though.
Monday: Back to work. Once in a while, I'm fortunate enough to have produced a pretty good first draft during the original freewriting session. Most of the time, I'm not, and the output will be this rambling exploratory babble. So I'll spend Monday's fictionette-prep session just creating a very wordy outline. It's mostly about structure: Start here, then this happens, then that, then the other, then finally end with this.
Tuesday through Thursday: Write the dang thing. Using the outline as a sort of fill-in-the-blank, using the weave-and-dodge strategy to keep from getting stuck, trying not to waste any of my daily 25-minute fictionette-prep session on staring into space or doing too much internet research. This is the hard part but it's getting easier.
Friday: Publish the sucker. Come up with a title and an author's note if I haven't already. Ditto cover art. Sometimes I have all the foresight and I create the cover from my own photography or drawings, but usually I do a last minute search for public domain or creative commons attribution/share-alike commercial-OK licensed imagery. Export the Fictionette as PDF and epub, convert epub to mobi, record the audiobook and convert to mp3, and post to Patreon. If by this time it is not stupidly late o'clock, do the excerpts for Patreon, Wattpad, and my blog too; otherwise, do those over the weekend. (I try not to have to leave them for the weekend.) It sounds like a lot, but everything after creating the cover art is pretty mechanical by now. It only takes forever if I didn't finish the actual writing by Thursday.
And that is how the sausage gets made. The end.
See you tomorrow for the weekend YPP report! Or, if that's not relevant to your interests, skip it and I'll see you Monday.
outmoded, inconvenient, messy, elegant, satisfying
Pictured here is my second-hand typewriter, a Sears Tower which appears to be identical to the 1950s-era portable Smith-Corona Sterling. I bought it from a co-worker back in the late '90s. Then, upon my lamenting that it had features I'd no idea how to use, I was sent a copy of the Sterling's owners' manual by a Usenet acquaintance who guessed my typewriter was largely the same as his. (This was before it was trivial to find PDFs of owners' manuals of just about everything online--though, admittedly, I haven't found the exact document my friend sent me. This is the closest match I've located. My typewriter doesn't have those CL and SET buttons on the right.) That gift empowered me to use the ingenious Page Gage (sic) feature to get consistent bottom margins every time. It's a seriously clever thing.
Five years ago, this typewriter was instrumental in drafting the first recognizable version of "First Breath." This week it'll be key in fulfilling some long overdue Patreon pledge rewards. I owe two, soon to be three "fictionettes in your mailbox" to my $5+ tier patron. This is where, at the end of the month, I type out one of the month's fictionettes, correct some of the typos with white-out, watercolor and scribble and sketch on it, and send it off with my thanks.
At the moment, I am offering this thank-you to the first ten $5+ patrons. That may have been overly optimistic. I am thinking of lowering that maximum to five. A thousand words feels a lot longer on a typewriter than on a laptop. Accordingly, I find myself sometimes revising on the fly and cutting out phrases that no longer seem absolutely necessary. Or rearranging phrases because I got ahead of myself and I am not going back to correct it.
Also, mastering the Dvorak keyboard layout seems to have come at the expense of being able to touch-type in Qwerty. So I do a lot of looking up and looking down between the computer screen and the typewriter keys and the typewriter output, and losing my place in the original document, and shit there went the 1-inch marker on the Page Gage about two lines ago, I guess the bottom margin is going to be a little smaller than planned...
I'm not really complaining. I'm just griping. The difference is, complaints are meant to be actionable but griping is only recreational. I don't seriously want not to do this. I'm enjoying the exercise--reacquainting myself with the typewriter, producing a literary artifact, enjoying the messy elegance of the results (it's not the most precise instrument, this Tower), and creating a physical object as a token of my appreciation. And sending it in the mail! Having an excuse to mail physical letters is wonderful. It's inconvenient and outmoded and I love it. I'm in love with the written word in all its forms. Look, I do my morning pages with a fountain pen. Of course I love the typewriter and the U.S. Post.
Anyway, I intend to finish the May mailable tonight and maybe produce tomorrow the one that was due at the end of June. That'll will put me back on track in time to type up the July mailable at the end of the month. Huzzah! Getting caught up is the best!
and it's no wonder i sleep so late so often
As if I don't have enough to work on already, I got up this morning in a terrible excitement about two brand new story ideas, straight out of dreams. That's a gift. That's a precious, unlooked-for gift--the dreams themselves, handing me the kernels of new stories on a silver platter, but also the excitement. Excitement about a new story--it's been way too long since I've felt that. That's absolutely a gift.
It's also very much a mixed blessing when I'm trying to get other things done. Thanks awfully, subconscious!
In one dream, all the statues had come to life, humans alongside animals both fantastical and mundane passing through the city as animate marble, cement, iron. As the bus I was riding on passed through a neighborhood full of old oaks, we saw a big old house whose decorative copper-verdigris fence was waking up. Green deer were untangling themselves from the knot the artist had worked them into, and were picking their way over and around their fellows out onto the sidewalk. Suddenly the neighborhood was full of deer, centaurs, and men and women on horseback, all the color of copper verdigris. "Look," I said to John, who was sitting next to me on the bus, "it's the perfect color for them."
In another dream, an owl I thought I'd shot dead in a careless and much-regretted moment turned out to be alive after all, but the relief of that turned into horror when it changed shape to reveal itself a nefarious spirit in disguise, to whom we both would be in thrall until it finished feeding off of us and we died.
"I had these wonderful mythopoetic dreams this morning," I said to John, "one of them a pure delight and the other a fantastic horror movie. I can't wait to make them into stories. All I have to do is excise all the Daffy Duck bits and give them more of a narrative shape."
"Daffy Duck bits" are the parts of the dream that are too banal or just too silly for the story the dream inspires. My calling them that comes from the dream that gave rise to the short story "First Breath." The dream's main plot repeated itself, as dream elements often do. The first time, I was in a crowd of people in a large cave, and someone pointed out to me a figure in a grey hooded robe. "Don't let her touch you," I was told. "You mustn't let her touch you." Or what? Or she'd become me, and I'd become nothing at all. I ran and ran through the caves, the hooded figure getting closer all the time... Then the chase scene started over, but with an oblivious and sputtering Daffy Duck in my place, comically falling hip-deep into a hole and asking the hooded, robed figure to pull him out.
As you might expect, Daffy Duck appears nowhere in any draft of the story, let alone the version published in Blood and Other Cravings. Similarly, there's some utterly ridiculous things in my dreams from this morning. Some of the verdigris centaurs were cobbled together backwards, such that their human halves face their horse's asses. And when we attempted to lock the owl-demon out of our house, it ran pipes up through the floor, spewing a noxiously yellow sleepy gas into the house to knock us out so it could gain entrance. Which we knew because the gas left a yellow stain wash up and down my legs. Also there was frozen corn defrosting in the oven that happened to be built into the back wall of our bedroom... See? Daffy Duck bits.
Regardless, so much of both stories is already there, fully formed, in the dream. Not an occurrence I can plan for. All I can do is be grateful when it happens. I certainly can't complain, except maybe a little about the timing.
Dreams are awesome! They're what make sleep worth it!
he ain't heavy, he just wants new reading material
One of the real treats of my visits back home is getting to hang out with my brother. As kids, we were your classic case of sibling rivalry: nothing in common, irritated by each other's very existence, fighting tooth and nail all the time. As adults, we've become friends.
There's a part of me can't quite believe it. Habits die hard, after all, and my childhood relationship with my brother lasted from roughly age 6, the age I was when he was born, to age 18, when I went away to college. I haven't yet firmed up the habit of our adult friendship, since I'm only home two or three times a year for about a week at a time. And I usually see him for about four or five hours during each visit, tops. Most of that occurs during that one evening during each visit that I set aside to linger late with a beer or two and my laptop at the bar where he works. (It doesn't hurt that he catches my tab while I'm there.) So hanging out with him isn't just enjoyable. It's also a reaffirmation that, yes, we hang out. We're friends now.
Now, certain wags--most of them family members or other people who have known us since our tooth-and-nail days--will say that the reason we're friends now is we're no longer living together. Then these wags will laugh a big knowing laugh, winking and nudging, inviting me to admit that if my brother and I were housemates now we'd be at each other's throats within the week. These wags are, to put it bluntly, wrong.
Well. I shouldn't be too quick to state too firmly what would or wouldn't happen. It is given to no one to know what would have happen, as a certain fictitious Lion taught me many years ago. But I can at least state that I know myself better than many of these wags do. A lot better than one might expect. A lot of times, it seems the people who were adults while I was a child didn't actually begin to know me until I grew up. It's not just that adult-me isn't child-me. It's that many adults don't take a child seriously when she says, "This is who I am." They often assume that the child doesn't know shit, being a child and all, so they dismiss the child's claims to self-knowledge. So the adult ends up knowing very well the imaginary version of the child in their head, but often doesn't know the child at all. They express great admiration for the competent adult the child grows into, but they don't see how the seeds of that adult were there all along.
I'm reminded of this every time my mother asks me, "Hey, do you remember that time when you were little and you said...?" And she'll laugh. And I'll remember that time, and I'll bite my tongue and burn inwardly with old indignation, because I do remember that time. I remember exactly what was going on in my head when I said it. I remember how frustrating it was that Mom saw it as entertainment, a cute kid creating a cute anecdote for her to tell, while I was trying to put together a sincere expression of who I was, what I believed, what I needed emotionally. And now Mom's asking me to join with her in finding the memory a cute anecdote, because grown-up me must surely agree with her that child-me was tiresomely precocious but sometimes hella entertaining, right?
Anyway. That my brother and I are friends now has less to do with absence making the heart grow fonder, and more to do with time making grown-ups of us both. We are both more tolerant of other people's differences--heck, if we weren't, my marriage would never work. We're also both more easy to tolerate, having learned better how to make room for others in our worlds. And we've found things in common. We share stories of concerts we've gone to, drinks we've enjoyed, video games we've played, friends we've made and sometimes lost along the way.
And then there's the way siblings sometimes develop a sort of gently conspiratorial relationship as they grow up. They have better perspective now on the family that raised them, and, having gone through that experience as equals, they can compare notes. They start to get into cahoots with each other about it. They help each other understand the past, and they help each other keep an eye on the present as their parents grow older too. At least, so it was with my Mom and her siblings. So it is with me and my brother.
There are ways in which I can talk with Mom and Dad now that I couldn't then, but there are ways my brother and I can talk in which I'll never be able to talk with Mom and Dad. They will never entirely get out of the habit of seeing me as less mature, less wise in the ways of the world, less likely to have insights that are new to them and yet still true. Less likely, should our opinions differ, for them to see my opinions as valid, or me as having a right to them. To some extent, they will always feel responsible for my current outlook on life, and so every place where my worldview differs is a place where they are in conflict: Look how independent she turned out to be! ...and look how I failed to instill my values.
This isn't a conflict my brother's going to have with me. He was never responsible for me.
If anything, I'm the one who's a little guilty, now and again, of perceiving him through a limiting filter. He was five and a half years younger than me. I made a childhood career of dismissing him, underestimating him, feeling superior to him, and avoiding him. Sometimes I slip up and do to him what Mom does to me: "Hey, do you remember when you were, like, four, and you said...? Wasn't that hysterical?"
And so today I'm constantly in awe of the grown-up he turned into. I really shouldn't be. That grown-up was there all along, the same way I was there all along. It's oak trees and acorns, isn't it?
In any case, the things he remembers about child-me constantly surprise me. When the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie came out in 2005, my brother suggested we go together, because he remembered me reading him the books when he was young. When I played him the video of Lindsey Stirling performing the theme from the Legend of Zelda,he said, "I remember that was the first video game you really got into. You were writing down every single room in every single dungeon, every single square, every place where a monster came out--you were obsessed!" I had forgotten all those graph paper charts until then. The deep satisfaction of mapping my way through the first Legend of Zelda game--the first Nintendo game where you could save your progress, that's why the cartridge was gold--came back to me anew.
So anyway, it's Sunday, April the 6th, and I'm hanging out at the bar. We're having one of those long, rambling, segmented conversations that takes place in between and around his customers and friends. And--I forget how we got here--he says, "That reminds me. Why don't I have a copy of the book with your story in it?"
My brother wanted a copy of my first pro sale. Just... sit with that for a moment.
I can't even begin to adequately express how proud that made me feel. I mean, proud like a child bringing home her class project to show her parents. Look, Mom, Dad, look what I did! My brother--my little brother--wanted to look at what I did. Asked to take a look, unprompted.
It was like being the Grinch on Christmas morning. My heart grew three sizes, just like that. And I didn't even know it had room to grow.
Anyway, my brother texted me today to let me know that the copy of Blood and Other Cravings that I mailed him has arrived safely. I told him to be on the lookout for the print copy of Nameless #3 that I ordered for him, too. "Will do," sez he.
Um. Pardon me. I think there's something in my eye.
mother may i
- 443 wds. long
- 3,329 wds. long
If last week moved slowly, still it finished up where it needed to be. "Other Theories of Relativity" and "It's For You," both much transformed from the previous drafts, both went out into the wide world. And then, just for grins, so did "First Breath" in hopes of seeing it in reprint.
This is my second time sending it out as a reprint. The first time, I had the unmitigated chutzpah to suggest it might be appropriate for the VanderMeer's feminist spec fic anthology.
About which, I hasten to add, there is nothing wrong. An author needs unmitigated chutzpah to believe her writing worth others' reading at all. And this was a story that at least one editor had judged worthy to pay pro money for and press between hardback covers in a table of contents alongside some pretty awesome authors, so its quality wasn't in question.
However, I had some moments of crawling insecurity about it. One the one hand, the VanderMeers' anthology was to survey feminist speculative fiction from the 1970s onward; did I really think this little story could stand up in that kind of company?
Obviously, the proper answer to that question was, "Don't deny the editors a chance to decide for themselves. Send it in."
But on the other hand, there was the much more devastating insecurity having to do with not having published nor even finished another story since then. Did I think that having made this one sale, I was done? Was I just going to try to milk those 2,900 words or so for all I could get out of them and call it a career?
Well, no, of course not. But all those demons of the family Imposter Syndrome were jeering at me about it. Or shaking their heads sadly. Or just asking, in a tone of grave concern, whether I thought I had the right to try to reprint this story when I hadn't sold any new ones since.
So I sent it anyway. And it was not chosen for the anthology. And that was fine and good and about how these things generally go. (What was chosen? I do not know. A brief search has not turned up news on the anthology. I presume it's still in production.)
Flash forward to yesterday, when I sent it out again. Whole different story.
For one thing, far less pressure: The market I submitted it to is quite respected, but it's just another market. It isn't trying to be a piece of literary history. So that made things easier.
What made it even easier was knowing that it was one of seven pieces I had out in the slush. Seven! Two reprint submissions, one unpublished story on its eighth trip out, and four stories that were Brand Spanking New, Never Before Submitted, Never Before Seen By Editorial Eye, Setting Foot In Slush For the First Time! Seven. And by the end of the week I'll have sent two more reprint submissions out.
That's more stuff simultaneously in slush than I've had since, oh, 2006 or so. I think that's a dandy measure of the success of my new day-to-day work routine.
Now, it can't be overstated that my little fearing monsters' concerns that maybe I hadn't yet earned the right to try to reprint "First Breath" yet were--there's no way to say this gently--total bullshit. Well-intentioned bullshit, true, but bullshit none the less. You earn the right to reprint a story by having the rights of a previously published story of yours revert to you. Simple as that. There's no additional mechanism required and no further permission that you need.
But having what feels like a shit-ton of other writing out on editors' desks really helps.
Yes, this has been an "I feel like a writer!" blog post. Yes, I'm still doing those from time to time. Kinda pathetic, I know. Hey, we get our affirmation where we can, right? And the best kind of affirmation is the kind we can make on our own. Behold: I am a self-affirmation-making machine, my friends. A veritable one-woman factory cranking out the stuff.
Which will no doubt comfort me later on in the week when I'm trying to individually position grains of salt and pepper on the soup of the next short story in the revision queue.
Things That Got Done Last Week
So today was kinda worthless on the writing front. This was mostly because Sunday was roller derby from early morning 'til night, and Monday was a pretty awesomely productive but exhausting volunteering-at-the-farm morning, so Tuesday was "I get to sleep in and be worthless guilt-free for once" day.
(You'd think that leaving the farm at lunch and napping in the afternoon would count towards the sleep-in-and-be-worthless-guilt-free requirement. Except the nap in the afternoon is never long enough nor uninterrupted. And it's never guilt-free. I can't entirely forget that the guys who work on the farm as their actual jobs not only start two hours earlier than I do in the mornings, they also don't get the afternoons off. So I'm a lazy wimp who if I really wanted to be helpful would stay until sundown just like everyone else... I never said the voices in my head were helpful or rational, but they're there and they're loud.)
I think that weekends, rather than always occurring on Saturday and Sunday, should be invoked as needed. I'm declaring Tuesday to have been my honorary Saturday.
Meanwhile, last week I Got Stuff Done.
I did indeed submit the one about the space glue snow apocalypse (now with Brand! New! Title!) to The First Line on deadline day. It required a stupid amount of wrestling with Microsoft Word over formatting styles it insisted on applying to my imported WordPerfect 5.1 DOS document. How did it know to apply "Normal (Web)" to all my paragraphs? I do not know. I mean, yes, I composed the story in HTML code and copied the web output into Word, I'll admit to that, but then I saved as WP51, opened it in WP51, and resaved it in WP51. WP51 format doesn't save Word or RTF formatting styles. To my knowledge, WordPerfect doesn't even know about formatting styles until you get into the WYSIWYG versions for Windows and Mac. Version 5.1 is a DOS program. Plus, look -- if you hit F11 to "Reveal Codes," you can see there's absolutely nothing but the usual hard line break plus tab at every new paragraph. Look! This file is clean! So when I then freshly boot up Word to open this WP51 document, how can Word still detect the former presence of HMTL paragraph tags? How? HOW?! THIS IS NOT HOW THINGS ARE SUPPOSED TO WORK!!!
Yeah, I'm a little bitter about this. Also about the way I couldn't change the style of the biography paragraph at the end without changing the style of the entire manuscript. WTF, Word?
Thereafter followed a lot of cursing and brute-forcing and frustration, but eventually everything looked acceptable and I sent the dang thing off. Immediately enough to possibly be an auto-reply, I got an email confirming receipt of my submission. So I guess that was a success.
I also finally got my butt in gear and submitted "First Breath" to a reprint anthology on almost the last day of their reading period. Go me. And frankly I'll be shocked if they accept it. I'm not anywhere near certain that it's a good fit for the anthology, or, if it is a good fit, whether it's good enough.
But I keep reminding myself of two things. First, this is a story that was already published at professional rates. Clearly it's "good enough" for some value of the term. Secondly, even if I'm not certain it's a good fit, I'm not certain that it isn't, which puts the dilemma squarely in the category of Don't Reject Yourself; There Are Editors To Do That For You.
So I sent it.
Next on my plate is "It's For You," a.k.a. the one about the phone that isn't there. My plan is to get that revised over the next few days and submitted over the weekend. Because the next few days are not about sleeping in and being worthless. They are about Getting Stuff Done. DO NOT SCOFF AT MY OPTIMISM BECAUSE IT IS INVINCIBLE.
Stop poking it with pointy sticks! Do not test the invincibility!
NO, REALLY. INVINCIBLE.
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.
Spit That Out RIGHT NOW.
Includes: A stunning review of Blood and Other Cravings with the best one-liner describing my story that I've seen so far. Getting to that in a few paragraphs. Hold on.
So, roller derby. It eats your life right up. It's a sport that involves a lot of practice, a lot of camaraderie that develops into full-blown sisterhood in no time at all, and a side-helping of obsession. Also major and minor injuries that remind you all day long where you got 'em (at derby) and what those injuries won't let you do (derby).
(Note: No major injuries yet. But you can add to the previous entry's list a sore, sometime-swollen knee that's being infuriatingly slow to recover its last tiny bit of functionality since taking a bad fall a week ago Monday. Not from a tomahawk stop this time. It happened during a practice scrimmage. I was blocking. I think I got sandwiched. Anyway, I blame that knee for my inability to perform a decent two-knee fall lately.)
End of February, I tested up from Phase 1 to Phase 2 practice with the Boulder County Bombers. This past Friday night, I went through WFTDA minimum skills assessments (results: I'm this close, but no candy cigarette just yet. Next month for sure!). The weeks in between, I went to practice three times a
dayweek, finally bought derby-quality skates (though I'll always love my first pair), practiced a little on my own just to get used to the new skates, studied for the written WFTDA rules test, and, because that isn't enough, also helped distribute fliers for BCB's March 2012 New Recruit Night, which I then helped host.
And I haven't been writing at all. Or nearly not, anyway.
One of the BCB skaters, upon hearing me gripe about this today, said, "Do you know, since this league began nine months ago, I haven't managed to write a single word?"
This made me somewhat scared, no lie. This despite knowing how very much this particular skater does for the league compared to me. I mean, I'm only a member of one committee.
On the other hand, Ellen Datlow forwarded a link to this gorgeous review of Blood and Other Cravings tonight. It's not just a review. It's a complete short story in and of itself. Along the way it imbues the anthology with an almost magic realism sensibility:
Datlow has adroitly blended the traditional with the extrapolative in her selection of stories, suggesting that just as vampires and other blood-suckers may perhaps best be interpreted as metaphors for desperation, so otherwise ordinary-seeming human lives may equally become metaphors.
See what I mean? Or maybe not? Maybe it's just my own weird filters that connect this idea -- that of vampire-as-metaphor causing the reader to thereafter see the metaphor capability of ordinary lives -- with the idea that in magic realism the presence of an element of the fantastic transforms the mundane into another kind of fantastic.
I'm also wildly appreciative of the one-liner Collings uses to describe "First Breath":
A creature of mist whose desperate craving for a physical body does not take into account that most terrifying of human emotions... love.
I'm too new at this Getting Published thing to go splitting the world into "readers that get me" and "readers that don't get me." Besides, I suspect such divisions smack of Golden World Syndrome. To the extent that I have readers, my readers have the experience of my stories that they do have; I don't get to say which is right or wrong. It's their experience. But I think it's safe to say this reviewer falls strongly in the "gets me" category -- or, more accurately, what he gets from the story matches well with what I intended to put in. And then he gets a shade more out of it than I think I realized I'd put in, pleasantly surprising me with what he found. And then he manages to convey all that in a single sentence.
I hope the other authors whose stories he references here are as well pleased.
(Oh, I could quibble about how that sentence implies that the creature is unique and deviant in her craving, rather than being quite normal for her species in having a particular need at a particular time in her life. But that would be silly of me. Besides, I'm too won over by the way the sentence ends.)
So this is very self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing of me, fixating on the one sentence in the review that pertains to Me! Me! Me! ... but then this is my blog. I get to do that.
But seriously, go read the whole review. It is a tiny work of art with the scintillating facets of a jewel. And now "jellybean" is my favorite replacement for "vanilla" now when describing a thing that is boring in its ordinariness (a practice unfair both to the so-called "ordinary" and the much maligned yet highly magical vanilla bean). For instance, "There was a lot more to AnomalyCon 2012 than jellybeans. A lot more."
So. Derby's been eating my writing, but this timely and lovely review puts me in a mind to tickle Derby's tummy until Derby damn well regurgitates. (And then I will put Derby on a healthy diet of "not everything in sight, OK? Like, not my fountain pens or my printer ink. You can eat some of my Spiral Knights time and all my TV-watching time and maybe some of my knitting-and-spinning time. But not my copy of WordPerfect 5.1! And not my novel revision! I need that!")
But most likely this will happen on Tuesday. Monday is booked. With... other things. One of which is roller derby.