One Story, Two People
2600 words long
The one about the "magic walkie-talkie pens".
physically distant but not socially
The pandemic with its attendant Stay-at-Home/Shelter-in-Place orders--and yes, my residence has received separate orders from the City of Boulder, Boulder County, and now the State of Colorado over the course of three days--has, oddly enough, made what I do more social, not less. Writers are reaching out to each other in a conscious effort to stay connected in the face of quarantine and isolation, canceled conventions, and more.
Me, I've been attending Cat Rambo's co-writing sessions.
Cat Rambo is an author, a writing teacher, and a member and former president of SFWA. Her novelette Carpe Glitter is a Nebula finalist this year--SFWA members, vote now! Don't wait! The voting period ends March 31! And her Patreon is here.
She's been hosting co-writing sessions, open to Patrons supporting her at as little as $1 per month. (That tier also gets you access to her Discord server, which is a seriously good community for these troubled times, or any time at all.) She's been doing it for a while now, once a week Wednesday mornings, but I only discovered the joy of them for myself a few weeks ago. When the social distancing measures began to be recommended and the stay-at-home orders came down, she'd already begun hosting a weekend session. Now the schedule's up to darn near daily.
So what's a co-writing session? It's a virtual write-in, basically. Just before time, Cat posts a link to her Patreon and to Discord, which participants use to join her Zoom room. That's video-conferencing software--it downloads and installs itself the first time you use it--but you don't strictly need a web cam to participate. You don't even need a working microphone; there's a chat bar. Sessions will run about an hour and a half. At the beginning of each half-hour, participants introduce themselves and tell the group what they're working on. Then everyone mutes their microphones and gets to work. At the end of the half hour, everyone shares how they're doing. Then lather, rinse, repeat, until it's time to say goodbye.
I cannot begin to tell you what a boon this has been for my workday. Well. I can begin, anyway. When I have an unscheduled day ahead of me, no appointments, no out-of-the-house obligations, nothing on my agenda but writing, I typically... don't, at least not as much as I should. It's so easy to put off getting started. Then once I've completed a task--say, a 25-minute session of freewriting to a prompt--it's so easy to let my 5-minute break become a 10-minute break become a couple hours. Next thing I know, I'm out of time. But these co-writing sessions have increased my accountability to a schedule. If the schedule says Wednesday 8:30 to 10:00 Pacific, I've got to be at my computer and ready to work by 9:30 Mountain. When the half-hour ends, a new one's coming right up, so I have to get right back to work if I want to stay in sync with the group. If I've told them that I'm going to draft this week's Friday Fictionette, I'm not going to futz about in dread and avoidance for the next half hour--however could I show my face at next check-in if I did? And if, as very very rarely happens, Cat hosts two of these in a day (just once, that I know of, and only because of a scheduling snafu), why, I'm going to make darn sure I'm ready to begin my afternoon shift in time for the afternoon session!
I'm not joining in on these every day. But the days I do only reinforce the habit of timely and purposeful work. I've made my aspirational five hours per day more days than not, of late...
...and it's still not enough! I have so much I still didn't get to today! It's maddening! So I have to figure out which part of tomorrow's regularly scheduled routine daily tasks get bumped for the extra-special one-time assignments. Gah. Life!
But that is, as we say, a dilemma devoutly to be wished-for. I mean, I'm going to have this week's Friday Fictionette uploaded a whole day early! For the first time since I started this dang project (in August 2014!), I will have a buffer. A buffer of one single day, mind you, but that's how it starts. Also this month has seen several new poems written and two pieces of flash fiction made ready to submit to paying markets. PRODUCTIVITY! It isn't the be-all end all, but it feels pretty damn good.
Anthology News Recap!
Remember that tomorrow, March 26, Atthis Arts, publisher of forthcoming anthology Community of Magic Pens (which includes my story "One Story, Two People"), will be hosting an AMA ("Ask Me Anything") on Reddit Fantasy. The link should go up around 10 Mountain/Noon Eastern. I'll be participating in some small way, still to be determined. Join us!
Additionally, another of the anthology authors, Ether Nepenthes, has begun tweeting their way down the table of contents: one capsule review of a story daily--spoiler-free!--right up until the May 4 release day. Thread starts here.
(Hey, look--three days of daily blog posts! PRODUCTIVITY!)
magic pen: anthology updates and signal boosting, part ? of ???
As y'all know, I have a story coming out in the forthcoming anthology from Atthis Arts, Community of Magic Pens. Here's the description:
An eclectic, multi-genre collection of original stories about the power of communication, the magic of writing instruments, and the strength of community, curated to inspire wonder, hope, and joy.
There's not much more I can add to that except that I'm excited to be part of it. I really, really am. Proofing is just about done, I've ordered my author copies--this thing is really happening, y'all. *Squeeeee!*
The book ships in May, but you can preorder it now. Follow the link above, then click "Preorder on Backerkit." Through that page you can preorder the paperback, the ebook, or the limited edition hardcover. (That last will only be available through the end of March.)
As you can imagine, small presses don't have huge profit margins, and now, thanks to the COVID-19 situation, all the in-person events they were counting on to help boost sales have been canceled. So, to steal a spiel from another writer acquaintance of mine, "Buy early! Buy often! Buy two or three--they make lovely gifts!"
Through that page you can also download--for free!--a lovely poster displaying the title of the anthology in multiple languages, each of them spoken by one of more of the authors of the stories therein.
Another piece of anthology-related news I wanted to share is that Atthis Arts will be hosting an AMA over on Reddit Fantasy on Thursday, March 26. That's this Thusday, this week! Author and editor E. D. E. Bell will there along with various of the other anthology authors to take your questions and chat with you over the course of the event. (I'll be hanging out as well, though I expect to do much more listening than talking. Er, reading than typing. You know what I mean.) What I'm hearing is that things will get started around noon Eastern, but festivities will continue for several hours thereafter, so I guess don't stress overly about punctuality.
The other thing I know, but don't have many details on, is that there is a book blogger organizing a series of interviews with the anthology's authors, and I'm busy working my way through the interview questions as we speak. There are a lot of them! Which means the finished posts will be hella fascinating and fun. I don't have a link for you yet, but it's early days; I'm hearing this one won't launch until after the book does. So for now you can just pencil it onto your internet-surfing schedule in the vague area of early May.
And that's where All Things Anthology are right now, as far as I know!
a day in the life under the new normal
When it's been more than a month since my last blog post, writing a new one seems daunting. I feel irrationally obligated to include Every Single Thing That's Happened Since Then, and because that's obviously not feasible nor even possible, the tendency is to just not. And then another day goes by, a day full of More Things to Blog, and the endless spiral descends further.
So today I'm just going to say Hi! and more or less report on the doings of the day.
Today I woke up in the office, which has become my bedroom since coming home from the Berthoud Inn on March 16. That weekend, I'd gone out to a couple bars (in Berthoud), and John had hosted his annual gaming miniconvention (which was why I was holed up in Berthoud), so we've been sorta quasi-isolating ourselves from each other since then to keep what social exposure we'd had as much to ourselves as possible. We joke that the boundary between his space and my space runs right down the center of the kitchen table, where we sit on opposite sides in the evenings to play Spiral Knights. But of course we both use the kitchen. We even cook together sometimes; we made pad thai together Saturday night, for example. So there's only so much we can do. But we're doing it.
First thing I did upon waking up was call to cancel today's appointment at Cafe of Life and tomorrow's at North Boulder Physical Therapy. I guess I'd been kidding myself until recently, or just not thinking about it, but I thought about it over the weekend and realized that these, too, were non-essential as far as medical appointments go. I have my homework, I have my exercises, I can keep myself from losing ground on what both professionals constantly remind me are marathons rather than sprints. It's fine. We'll reconnect after the curve flattens out somewhat.
So then I made myself tea and got to work. Work looked a lot like work on any weekday. Morning Pages followed by breakfast, tooth-brushing, pill-taking, and catching up on news of the day. Freewriting to a prompt. Work on this week's Friday Fictionette offering (have I mentioned my release schedule is back to normal? Yeah! I done caught up). Work on the next very belated Fictionette Artifact for my exceedingly patient $5/month subscribers (obviously still catching up on that). Break for lunch and some admin duties. Then a solid session of Submission Procedures, because it's Monday. Logged the rejection letters my poetry and fiction got over the past week. Resubmitted my latest flash fiction piece. Did a final proofread on my story in the Community of Magic Pens anthology (which I will talk about a whole bunch tomorrow, so stay tuned).
It is a bit unsettling how very little my work and social routine have changed under pandemic lock-down. Under normal circumstances, I can quite easily go days without seeing anyone but my husband and my roller derby teammates. I'm seeing more of John since he's working from home every day rather than some days; I'm seeing my derby friends online for virtual workouts rather than in person for practice. That's pretty much all that's different; otherwise, it's life as usual for this hermit. And, well, wow. I already identified as an introvert, but I guess I didn't realize how much of an introvert I was until I realized how little this sort of social isolation bothers me--and how much social isolation I was already performing by choice before it became the medically necessary and socially responsible thing to do. I feel like maybe I should be a little bothered by that. But I'm not, not really.
Both John and myself continue symptom-free. But of course I get paranoid every time I blow my nose first thing in the morning or have a small wet coughing fit shortly after a meal. Which I've done, and had, every morning and after every meal for years. Is it still hypochondria when the microbes really are out to get you?
I'm powering through the main storyline quests on 4thewords.com, the system that turns writing goals into RPG-style battles. I'm currently in the Gansu Watering Hole chapter. Before I began writing this blog post, I fired up a battle against the Red Witch: 4,000 words in 1,000 minutes. Woo! With my attack and defense stats, it's actually 3,254 words in 1,200 minutes. I have until tomorrow at 1:30 PM to make the required word count. Sounds entirely plausible; by then I should have done tomorrow's freewriting and Fictionette work. Not to mention I'll have finished this blog post.
The sun's out, it's vaguely warm, and the sidewalks have dried off since the most recent blizzard, so I went skating. I did about two miles going "around the block", which is to say, all the way to the dead end of my street, then onto the path that follows the southbound highway, turn the corner to follow the westbound highway, then hit the creek path that cuts through the neighborhood and puts me back onto my street. There was also an early detour to a neighborhood park for footwork/individual skate skill practice on the cement basketball court.
Lunch was leftover peanut stew with bacon and okra, a variation on the recipe discussed here. I'd gone to the grocery Friday--that and Boulder Food Rescue combined are the one weekly out-of-the-house errand I'm still running; food delivery to those in need is more important now than ever, and while I'm at the donor grocery, I might as well get my own groceries too--and acquired ingredients for the peanut stew, the aforementioned pad thai, and an attempt at Dragon & Phoenix. In the absence of occasional meals at restaurants, I'm cooking my favorite restaurant meals at home. I got the okra, oyster sauce, stir-fry noodles, and various happy-making snacks for me at the Asian Seafood Market on my way home; they are still open too, and they are wonderful. Neither they nor Sprouts had fresh garlic, but I've got a small supply in addition to a bunch of minced roasted garlic in a jar in the fridge. We'll get by.
And now I'm back in the office writing this blog post. John's at the kitchen table finishing up his own day's work. We'll meet up soon for another dive into the Clockworks (I just made myself Mercurial Mail and I can't wait to level it up!). And that, more or less, is the status report for Monday, March 23, 2020.
Please stay safe and healthy, everyone, and treat yourself well.
i show you a thing! two things! only one might make you go eww!
Work on the Magic Pens anthology is progressing. Author bios are getting finalized, and final story edits are due back in the next couple of days. My story got the benefit of a couple more pairs of eyes, and I'm thrilled with all the care and attention that this editorial team is bringing to the project. I'm also thrilled to see who else is in the table of contents with me; the Codex online writers' group is well represented.
And the cover art is finalized! I get to share it with you!
If you want to get a head start on ordering your copy, the preorders page is here. Note that the limited editions are only guaranteed available through March. Mid-May is what I'm hearing for shipping (of any edition).
Because you have come to expect foodie content on this blog, and I am loathe to disappoint, BEHOLD: How I learned to
love tolerate liverwurst.
Look. I picked some up thinking, "Hey, look! Liverwurst! I've never had liverwurst. I wonder if I'll like it?" because that's how I approach food. I sliced off some and spread it on toast and lo, I did not like it. The ingredient list said "pork, pork liver, spices," but as far as my mouth was concerned, it was just liver paste. I may have actually gagged.
But I didn't want to throw the rest away. I hate wasting food. So I found these sandwich recipes. I like the cream cheese and cucumber one best; it has enough bright, crisp flavors in it to
balance out mask the liver muddiness. And, as a bonus, there's literary content.
(I was also open to frying slices of liverwurst in bacon fat along with a bunch of chopped collard greens, as I remember actually liking a charbroiled liver and collards dish I got at the French Quarter Fest some years back. I had no fresh collard greens in the house at the same time as the liverwurst, however. Maybe next time. If there is a next time.)
And that's what I've got for you today!
within range of the smell of the violets that grow atop Mt. Overdue
- 996 words (if poetry, lines) long
I released another overdue Friday Fictionette the other day! The January 24 offering is "Listening," the aforementioned Momo fanfiction piece. It turned out not to be nearly the act of character assassination I feared. It's just that she's a grown-up and so are all her friends, and grown-up problems are complicated and don't always have good solutions. The ebook, available at the $1/month subscription tier, is here; the audiobook for the $3 monthly sub tier is here.
Meanwhile, the text of the Friday Fictionette that was due last week, February 7, is done and ready for production tomorrow morning. Which in theory means the February 14 offering could be ready to release on February 14. Not making any promises, mind you; Friday afternoons remain difficult and low-energy. But if it doesn't go live on February 14, it'll show up not long after. And then I'll be back on schedule: one release every first through fourth Friday, requiring only 25 minutes of work per day for me to keep up.
Then I will be able to do so much short story revision! Three two-hour sessions of short story revision per week! Luxury! There's so much I want to do. I want to expand the creepy doll flash piece, for one thing; I just got a personal rejection from a big-name magazine on it, and that feedback has finally convinced me that the story needs another scene or two to make it feel less rushed and railroaded. And I was halfway through rewriting the potato salad story towards the end of December when I laid it aside because A. it wasn't going to make GALACTIC STEW's deadline, and B. right about then I began the aggressive push to get the Friday Fictionette project back on schedule. I'm eager to return to the potato salad story, not least because I originally wrote it something like six years ago and it's time, y'all, it's more than time I sent that sucker out. I've got at least a couple "science fantasy" style pieces released as part of the Friday Fictionette project that, with a bit of expansion, might be good candidates to submit to Escape Pod, especially considering how warmly the Escape Artists podcasts encourage Patreon reprints. (See also.) And I'm just finishing up the final week of a rapid-fire flash fiction contest, which means I have four new flash-length stories ready for revision attention.
All those short stories, waiting for my loving attention! Not long now, friends! I'll be with you soooooooon!
In news of imminent publication, I just turned in my biography paragraph for Community of Magic Pens, and the latest estimated release date I'm hearing for that anthology is mid-May. Pencil it onto your calendars, y'all.
on the benefits of high pressure fiction practice; also a recipe
- 983 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 100 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,021 words (if poetry, lines) long
Hey, I just posted another overdue Friday Fictionette yesterday! It was the release scheduled for January 17. It's called "The Huntsman's Assignment" (ebook, audiobook) which, yes, is a reference to the dude who gets sent out to kill Snow White and bring back her heart in a box. It isn't a Snow White retelling, but the assignment remains. Look, it comes with a content note for suggested harm to children. Best go in knowing that.
Now I'm working on the January 24 release in hopes to push it live tomorrow night. It's looking like Momo fan fiction. You know Momo? The lesser-known children's novel by Michael Ende, author of The Neverending Story? The little girl who listens, and the Men in Grey who convince everyone to "save time"? Ok, so, the Jan 24 story-like object is about her, but all grown up and living in a complicated world, and, well, apologies in advance, but I'm about to commit mild character assassination.
I do not always write grim cynical things! OK, the drabble forthcoming at Daily Science Fiction is pretty cynical. But the stories forthcoming at Cast of Wonders and Community of Magic Pens are sweet! Bittersweet, maybe. But they are guaranteed to contain a significant portion of your daily recommended intake of hope and heart! Promise! But... sometimes the grim stuff comes out. You're not surprised, right? I also write horror. You know this.
On a related note, I'm realizing yet another benefit I'm getting from the Friday Fictionette project: behind schedule as I am, I'm still getting a lot of practice at producing presentable story drafts in a very short amounts of time. The Magic Pens story has my Friday Fictionette practice to thank for its existence. Mostly written all in a single evening, but still polished enough to submit and sell? That's not something I could have done without some five years' practice writing four short-shorts a month.
So the project is stressing me out some as I scramble to get back on top of the release schedule, but my writing skills are improving in all sorts of ways because of it. And of course now I have this huge stable of reprintable flash fiction, which has led to two paid publications to date. So. Conclusion? Worth it.
All right. Time for a recipe. Let's talk West African Peanut Stew
I've been making a lot of this lately. And eating a lot of it, too. I could probably eat it three meals a day for three weeks and not get bored. It's hearty, nutritionally dense, and full of complex flavor and texture. It's super easy to make, and it's a great excuse to haul out Mawmaw's big iron gumbo pot.
(Gods I love that pot. Me and that pot, we talk chicken fricassee, we talk mushroom bourguignon, and we definitely talk gumbo. But, yeah, we've been talking peanut stew a lot.)
From looking around the internet, I can see this recipe from Budget Bytes is only one variation on a wider theme; the Wikipedia entry for peanut soup led me to a couple that look really interesting. But the Budget Bytes recipe is convenient, as it's not particularly time consuming or difficult to prepare, and its ingredients are all readily accessible at any bog-standard mainstream U.S. grocery store. I don't have to plan too hard about it. All I gotta do is pick up some sweet potato and a bunch of collards on my regular Friday grocery run. Maybe a can of tomato paste too, since I don't have much on hand all that often. It's also vegan and gluten free, which means I can make it for pretty much anyone I know who isn't allergic to peanuts. And as long as they like things like sweet potatoes and collard greens, I guess.
My vegetarian husband doesn't care too much for sweet potatoes and collard greens, which means 1. more for me, and 2. I can carnivore it up if I want. Last time I made it, I added bacon. I cooked three big slices of bacon until the grease covered the bottom of that iron pot. Then I took the bacon out, chopped it up, and set it aside to be added back in along with the broth, peanut butter, and tomato paste. So basically I substituted bacon grease for olive oil, because I fear no cholesterol (thanks, genetics!). But the other adjustment I made was to throw the chopped-up collard greens in to sautée with the sweet potato chunks, because I'm less interested in collards boiled in soup than I am in collards fried in bacon grease and then boiled in soup.
Meanwhile, I'm making the brown rice in the multicooker. This last time I actually used the BROWN RICE function, not the PRESSURE function. I still don't know how the two functions differ, but it worked just fine. 2 cups brown rice to 2-3/4 cups water, set the timer for 22 minutes, turn it off when it beeps and allow it to sit 20 minutes longer before releasing the pressure. Definitely turn it off; leaving the multicooker to KEEP WARM for too long resulted in burnt, dried-out rice that one time I made that mistake.
Also, don't mistake the BROWN function for the BROWN RICE function. "Why? Why are you beeping at me? What is your emergency? ...Oh. RIGHT. Got it."
It took me maybe three days, maybe less, to get through all of it. Now I am ready to make more. And tomorrow is Friday! Friday is grocery day! How convenient!
there will be book
I signed a contract today! You know what that means? DETAILS! Here are all the joyous details. Almost all, anyway. Everything I know thus far. Which is this:
My brand new short story, "One Story, Two People," will be included in Community of Magic Pens, a forthcoming anthology from Atthis Arts. It will be a multi-genre celebration of "the joy, power, community, and diversity of writing"--and it's going to be fun! You can preorder copies in hardback, ebook, or in special commemorative limited editions, right now! Shipping is estimated to be sometime in May. (I don't know the precise release date yet.)
So I already told the tale of how this story got written, how I stayed home from roller derby practice on Deadline Day, January 15th, to make sure it got written and submitted in time. What I haven't mentioned is how, after I got the story drafted and more or less in its final form, when I gave it one final line-editing pass, and I got to the end, the damn thing made me cry. John got home around about then, and I had to reassure him: "It's OK! These are good tears. These are 'I wrote a story and it appears to have emotional weight' tears." Except, between y'all and me, I cry at any damn thing. It's true. I am so known for it, I don't even bother to be embarrassed about it anymore. So I'm never actually sure how useful "Author cried during revisions Y/N" is as a metric for whether my story's any good.
But it did get accepted, so there's that. And in the acceptance letter, the editor talked about the story in terms that made me think that maybe I'm not the only one who got a bit weepy at the end...? So, not sure whether it's a metric, but it's a data point. We can correlate it with the more salient data point, "Story got published Y/N" and see if there's supporting evidence for the hypothesis.
As of right now, my story has been through an initial round of line edits with the editor. It may get tweaked just a titch more, since I took her recommendation that we give it to a particular other editor on the team for a look-through. In any case, the contract is signed and THIS THING IS HAPPENING. Excitement! Happy dance! Whee!
Now get over to the publisher's website and check it out!