the needle on the compass in my head points toward sheer terror
- 5,975 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 4,400 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 3,330 words (if poetry, lines) long
"It's For You" came home for the weekend with its tail between its legs, asking to crash on the couch. I did what I could for it: Gave it a shoulder to cry on, ordered us pizza, poured us some local microbrew stout, queued up some cheesy '80s movies to watch together. Then today I gave it a rousing pep talk and sent it back out into the world. "Keep trying," I told it. "Keep trying 'til Hell won't have you. And then keep trying some more." It took a deep breath, narrowed its eyes, and said, "OK." Off it marched, with purpose and new determination. One of these days it'll come home with a big smile, waving a contract in its hand. Until then, I'm good for giving it repeated pep talks and career advice. Also a kick in the rear end, because I kind of want my metaphorical couch to myself.
Meanwhile, "Caroline's Wake" is still out on only its second slush trip ever. It sent me a very encouraging post card!
As for what short story I'll work on next, I've decided it'll be "A Wish for Captain Hook"--the one wherein the island of Neverland locates itself in the middle of Lake Pontchartrain. I originally wrote it for the pirate-themed issue of Shimmer that John Joseph Adams guest-edited, whose submission window was in early 2007. Since failing to win its way onto that TOC, it's been workshopped once... then tucked away into a corner and forgot about. I suppose it's time to pull it out, brush off the dust, and revise it for a serious round of submissions.
Just thinking about it gives me a case of the hives and heebie-jeebies. Nervous. "I don't have to work on 'Hook' next," I told myself. "What about 'The Interfaith Intercessional Fellowship,' that one? The one with the potato salad and the prayer circle?" And that's when I decided that, no, it really had to be "Hook" next. Because "Hook" scares me enough to make me want to slither away, and I should always move toward the thing that scares me.
It took a little more thinking to figure out why it scared me.
Part of the fear comes from knowing that the end needs to be entirely rewritten. The note it currently ends on says very clearly, as though these words were actually typed on the page, "The author did not know how to end this story and hopes you'll understand. Please accept this weaksauce Lady Or Tiger punchline instead, with our compliments." And, well, the last two stories I finished and sent out the door have demonstrated that I have a painful time getting the endings right.
But the bulk of the fear comes from insecurity about my legitimacy, my right to write this story. "Hook" isn't just a story about a little boy who wants to run away to Neverland. "Hook" is a Hurricane Katrina story, the only one I've written so far. And I wasn't even in the state during Katrina and its aftermath. Also my family came through fairly well. There were losses, certainly. Dad's pediatrics office on Robert E. Lee Blvd. was totaled, and his practice had to relocate to the Children's Hospital building in Metairie. The roof did leak for a short while, and some non-critical household belongings were destroyed. While the family was gone, persons unknown scavenged their generator, some fuel, and all of Dad's frozen and slowly thawing venison--which items may well have made the difference for the thieves between surviving and not. Who knows? But the house wasn't flooded. It still stood. Mom and Dad kept it and live in it to this day. The family stayed together. Dad's job survived. As these things go, the LeBoeuf family did pretty OK.
So I'm not entirely sure I get to write a Katrina story, you know? Coming from someone who mostly watched the crisis from afar, it might come across as, I dunno, exploitative, like I'm using other people's tragedy to give my characters some unearned poignancy.
...which is almost word-for-word my exact explanation for why Season 2 of Heroes made me so angry. You know what I mean, right? The part where the little girl says, "Half the people in this county still live in FEMA trailers," thus proving that no one involved in making the show ever bothered to watch real live news footage of the Katrina aftermath nor even opened a map of the affected area. Because if they had, they would know that there are no counties in Louisiana. So, having complained vociferously about how that show exploited the disaster for emotional impact while failing to give the first little damn about the real life people affected, now I'm afraid of coming across the same way. This is like projection, only in reverse.
But my job is to move toward the scary thing. Write it anyway. And to realize that, yes, I too lived through Katrina, I too was affected, and the way I was affected by it can inform the story. And it already has. There are elements in there that are absolutely drawn from my experience, second-hand though much of it is. Like, the way the back-to-school timing of the storm and flood diminished the school-aged population of the greater New Orleans area well into 2006--families who evacuated in August sent their kids to the schools whose districts they wound up in come September, and many of them stayed to finish out the scholastic year. (This affected my immediate family by way of Dad's dramatically decreased patient roster.) Like the way some families, like my parents' next-door neighbors, just never came back at all.
The short story is much smaller in focus than that, but it's deeply colored by the shadows of those huge background movements. One of my jobs during the rewrite will be to make those shadows more apparent, more stark and compelling. And maybe something about the larger movements of the time will help inform the rewriting of the ending, too.
So that's the answer to that question. What will I work on next? "A Wish for Captain Hook." That's what. And may Gods and Muses have mercy on me, Their humble pen.
(runs away temporarily to hide)
arranging metaphorical furniture a month in advance
- 7,077 words (if poetry, lines) long
It did not take me until 5 AM to get "Snowflakes" ready for submission Friday night/Saturday morning. (Thank goodness.) It only took me until 2 AM. I continue to ask myself, why do I do this to myself? But that's not the important question. The important question is, which of my many remaining unfinished short stories shall I work on this week?
For the answer, tune in tomorrow!
September inches closer. Today and yesterday, my very brief task toward launching the Friday Fictionettes project (oooh! It has a name now!) was to choose the story-like objects which will provide the raw material for the first two Patron-locked offerings of September. Meanwhile, the first freebie is ready to go. My intent is to do everything a month in advance. That way I have a huge margin of error before I fall behind my promised schedule.
If I can get this month-in-advance process down cold, that'll be a huge step toward "implementing important changes in my time management strategy which lead to a much healthier relationship with writing and with deadlines."
Meanwhile, waking up in a hotel in Louisville meant a half hour drive to the farm this morning rather than the fifteen minutes it usually takes from home. Only it was longer than that, because I had to stop by home anyway and pick up necessary things. Watered the plants, too. And our home was at that time in stasis between stages of repair, the abatement procedure done and the restoration not yet begun. Most of the large furniture was shoved, stacked, and stowed in a sort of cube formation roughly in the kitchen and dining area. To get at the kitchen sink, I had to sidestep an upended sofa, step on the edge of the coffee table, and step over the back of the futon, sometimes with a full watering can in tow. To get into the refrigerator, I had to shove aside a bookshelf that was standing right up against the fridge door. To get a shirt out of the bedroom closet, I had to wedge myself behind a trio of bed components, all leaning upright against where the door would be if that closet still had a door. In any case, that's the state the house was in at 6:45 this morning. Given that the restorations began at around 9 and I haven't been back since, I have no idea what configuration the furniture is in now.
By comparison, the farm was very simple. Rake up loose beet leaves, hoe the beds in preparation for sowing cover crop, pick all the purple string beans, pick the best of the green string beans. No climbing over furniture involved. And now I have about a half pound of fresh-picked string beans in the fridge. (The hotel fridge, not the fridge I needed to wrestle with a bookshelf to get into.) Given my propensity for snacking on them raw, I predict that none of them will see the hot side of a stove.
I have been awake since just before six, and I am feeling it. Time for bed. Niki out.
no sleep til pago pago
- 7,733 words (if poetry, lines) long
It's 11:30 PM. Do you know where your story is? "Well. Um. It's almost done. I got to the end! But... it could be so much better than it is. It certainly could stand to lose a few hundred words." Well, Niki, you had better hurry up. You only have until 5 AM Mountain Time.
Well, that's a relief. I'm going to get this story submitted, in whatever shape it's in when I finally just crash for the night. But it's also kind of disappointing. Every deadline I latch onto, I think, "This time, it'll be different. I'll finish with time to spare." But no, as the deadline gets closer and closer, it becomes clear that once again I'm going to pull it off by the skin of my teeth, if at all.
I do not have a healthy relationship with deadlines.
Some people theorize that people like me get a sort of existential thrill out of creating artificial crises. Putting off work until the last minute before a drop-dead deadline injects a bit of excitement into our lives, they say. It makes us feel important. It gives us the adrenalized oomph we need to finally get shit done.
That may be true for some people, I don't know. It's not true for me. Though the imminent deadline does jolt me into action, it's less excitement and more dread that does the trick. Dread of letting yet another deadline go by without me. Dread of adding to my collection of regrets.
Meanwhile, there's stress. I don't need more stress.
I'm not so much looking for sympathy or solutions as I am just griping. I'm also sort of leaving this post here like a bookmark to which I can point from some future time and say, "That was the last deadline I let beat me over the head with stress and angst. The next day, I began implementing important changes in my time management strategy, which lead to a much healthier relationship with writing and with deadlines."
At least, I hope I can say that. I'm going to try really hard to enable Future Me to do so.
another damn story character knocking at the door
- 7,303 words (if poetry, lines) long
I can't really complain about our accommodations. The hotel bed is super cozy. The desk in the window is comfortable and wide and well wired up, and there are AC outlets everywhere you look. And they feed you a complimentary hot breakfast every morning. That's complimentary as in "for free, no extra charge, all you gotta do is get down here before 9:00 and not mind that we're running a TV at you nonstop" and hot as in "scrambled eggs, a potato side, a meat side, and one more thing that's kinda fancy, I dunno, today it was egg sausage cheese muffins, tomorrow it might be quiche lorraine. Oh, and there's a waffle maker."
But there's something weird about our refrigerator.
Since construction on our home was going to take the better part of two weeks, we reserved an extended stay suite. The bedroom is separate from the living room, and there's a functional kitchenette. In the kitchenette is a full-sized refrigerator. And I really don't want to complain--see, when we first checked in, the fridge turned out to make a terrible high-pitched whining noise constantly. I mentioned this to the front desk, and they had maintenance out lickety-split to replace our unit with a better one. The maintenance worker was surprised we even had that old unit in the room at all; it was apparently outdated, small, lacked an ice maker. The one he replaced it with was slightly larger, equipped with an ice maker, and pretty much silent. No whine, just the usual background hum of large appliances.
Or so we thought. Until late in the night, we thought we heard someone knocking on the door. Tap-tap-tap-tap, tap-tap, tap tap tap. But no one was there. Several hours later, we heard it again. It sounded so very like the way housekeeping knock on the door during the day, tap-tap-tap-tap with a key-card against the wood.
It's the ice maker. The ice maker is making knocking noises. We have no idea why. I shifted the bar to the OFF position, and still it happens every few hours or so. Tap-tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap.
Don't get me wrong--it's nowhere near as bad as the whine of the previous unit. I'm certainly not going to bug anyone about replacing it. Now that I know what it is, I can ignore it, or listen with amusement, depending on my mood. But it's just weird. It's like a prank punch-line. "Hey, is your refrigerator running? Better catch it!" "Hey, is that your refrigerator knocking? Well, let it in already!"
Other than that, things are fairly peachy.
On the writing front:
The Patreon page is coming along, but as I hammer it out, I have second thoughts about what I'm going to be promising. Like, I watch myself type, "On each of the first four Fridays of the month, I'll..." and I think, am I insane? Why am I committing myself to another weekly obligation? I think it's just nerves, though. After all, the thing I'm thinking of doing is hardly unreasonable. I've been doing it anyway for months now anyway, just not where everyone could see.
The short story is not yet finished, but it is almost there. I don't need to go back and fiddle with the rest of the story any more. It's all in place. All the set-up is complete and right and as smooth as I can make it. Tomorrow, the ending is happening. At the very least, whatever shape the story is in by the time I have to go to derby, that's the shape in which it'll hit the slush. And I'm not feeling panicky about that, so I suppose it's acceptable.
And I've been keeping up fairly well with the CTC29 challenges--mainly because I already have time in four of the seven days of the week carved out for just such prompt-inspired timed writing. The last couple of days have been doozilicious, though. Yesterday, I read, "Write the first five pages of a story or novel such that they..." and I thought, That isn't a writing exercise. There is nothing "exercise" about it. That's a whole new story I'm supposed to start here. And then I thought, Yes. And? and I got to work on it. An engaging character in an interesting dilemma came out of it, as often happens. I hope I get the chance and the inspiration to go back and finish the story. If I don't, well, I have plenty of others to choose from, what with this daily timed writing exercise thing I'm doing.
Sometimes I worry about all the stories I start which I will never in my lifetime finish. I read The Neverending Story, y'all. I know what happens to people who don't finish all their stories. Generally the worry is followed swiftly by the thought, "That's silly. Having more story ideas than you'll ever need, that's not irresponsible. That's wealth." Nevertheless, the worry sits there at the back of my head, muttering, "Yeah, well, you just try telling AURYN that, see how well that excuse'll go over."
the exit may as well have been labeled Temptation Drive
Today was as unproductive as I expected, for all the reasons I feared. My plan was to drive from the airport straight up to Longmont, order a pot of tea at Cafe Luna, and write everything. But on the drive back from the airport I got hit with a wave of I'm Tired And Also I Have a Headache In My Neck. (This is a thing that happens to me.) And look! How convenient, there's an exit for Dillon Road off the tollway, and, well, I could stick to the plan, turn north on 96th Street, and continue onto Highway 42 and then take 95th Street all the way into Longmont, exactly as planned. Or I could just follow Dillon Road until I get to the turn for my hotel, and maybe take a nap. Not a long nap. Just for an hour. Just enough for the headache/neck-ache thing to go away, and for me to feel less like I'm melting. That's all. Just a short little recovery nap.
It was a long nap, of course.
The good news is, John and friends have arrived safely in Indianapolis, and they're preparing to enjoy the heck out of Gen Con Indy 2014. I am looking forward to a weekend full of entertaining con tweeting. And... that's all the news I've got.
I'm now going to declare today over with for all productive purposes and go to bed early. Tomorrow's report will a lot more interesting. Or at least a lot longer.
speaking of fool archetypes, there was this raccoon
- 7,208 words (if poetry, lines) long
Hello, world. I am just back from watching Guardians of the Galaxy! It was a lot of fun. It was even more fun because of watching it at the Cinebarre, which is the new dinner-and-a-movie joint in Boulder County. Cinebarre's website says it's the Boulder location, but it's actually in Louisville where the Colony Square Cinema used to be. John and I decided that, compared to other dinner cinemas, it's not quite up to the standard of the Alamo Drafthouse, but there's a lot to be said for not having to drive an hour in terrible, soul-crushing traffic to get there. I always have a headache by the time we get home from the Alamo. The combination of beer and eye-strain and the hot drive there and the long drive back, it does a number on me.
By contrast, we walked to Cinabarre from our hotel. It was a lovely walk, especially on our way back. The sun had gone to bed, the night air was cool, and the waning gibbous moon was rising all orange and dramatic ahead of us. I still got a bit of a headache though. Even without the drive, beer and eyestrain remain. But it was a fun movie, and look! You still get a blog post outta me.
On the short story front, I'm still pecking away at the ending--and I only have until the 15th to finish this thing if I want to give it the chance I have in mind for it, so let's hurry up there, Muse, OK?--but I uncovered a whole new angle on an important flashback, so that's something. Also, today's CTC29 prompt got me thinking about the third-wheel character, Katie of the "he's totally into you, don't deny it" foolishness, in a different way. The assignment was to write a scene in which a Fool archetype utters some unexpected wisdom or otherwise shakes up the main character's perceptions. As things stand, Katie is a little shallow and immature. And she can be that, but she can't be just that. I think I need to let her show a little Foolish wisdom of her own, maybe notice something that the main character is missing and say something thoughtless and insightful about it. Look, I don't know what precisely. But it'll have that basic shape, if that makes any sense.
(As though this story didn't already have enough problems to fix by Friday. Like an entire missing ending.)
On the Patreon front, I'm working away on its text and details. I've mentioned a couple of times a plan to launch the page on September 1, yes? Well, I've created the first of the story-like objects that will launch with it. (To be fair, its rough draft was already written before I chose it as the launch date offering. That's the whole point. But about this, more later.) Preparing it turned out to be a much easier task than writing the page's main text. "Tell your patrons why they should pledge to you," the text field says. And my brain goes, "Well, if you put it that way..." Then it sort of wibbles uselessly in a corner. My brain is much less threatened by the text field's subtitle instructions, "Talk about what you do and how you'll be using your Patrons' support to keep creating interesting content."
As exciting and fun as that sounds, I'm only allowing myself some 25 minutes a day to work on it, at least until "Snowflakes" is safely in the mail. Because priorities!
Tomorrow has both a drive to the airport and roller derby practice in it. On top of that, it's a Wednesday, which means volunteer reading for AINC. I have no idea how I'll manage to also get a solid day of writing in. Probably the first step is a solid night's sleep. Which starts... now. Er. Good night?
here is some paint and a brush and also a corner
You know who's been missing from this blog parade of Patreon accounts? My husband, that's who. He's the first person I heard about Patreon from, and his insights have been key in helping me understand how it all works and how, arguably, it should work--but I haven't even bothered to link you to his page on Patreon yet.
That is a serious oversight that must be corrected immediately. Thus: John LeBoeuf-Little is creating games!
This is probably why I overlooked him last week. I was doing Google searches for
short story site:patreon.com and also following links from fellow Codexians' blogs--basically, I was only looking at what other writers are doing with Patreon. In my defense, the internet is vast; if one doesn't narrow one's search terms, one drowns in the results. I narrowed mine to "people doing stuff like what I'm thinking of doing," but I forgot that there are different axes of similarity.
Anyway. What John's doing with his Patreon account combines many elements of what we've seen before: Extra content offered at certain funding milestones, influence over creative direction offered to supporters, physical gifts mailed to a limited number of Patrons at the highest pledge tier. (I note here the reminder that "I'll mail you something" can be more complicated or expensive depending on where "you" is, in John's caution that "If you're international... you'll definitely be getting something very flat and very light.")
What I find interesting here though is the variation one can bring to the per-creation pledge scheme. Thinking back to Clarkesworld, I find in their use of the per-creation rather than per-month structure an echo of the traditional magazine subscription offer, something like "At $12 per year, you pay only $3 per issue instead of the newsstand price of $4.99." It's a different way of thinking about the monetary support. And although a pledge of $3 per issue has the same effect on a Patron's budget as a pledge of $3 per month (Clarkesworld publishes new issues monthly), it creates a slightly different creator-audience relationship--at least in the participants' minds. Which, arguably, is where a relationship is defined.
To put it another way: Think of a charity race. Why do we pledge a certain amount of cents per mile rather than a lump sum? It's not like there's any question of how many miles the runner will run. The race course is predefined. Maybe the cents-per-mile structure gives supporters a sense of vicarious participation, like they're running the race alongside of the runner they're supporting. Maybe it's because thinking of it that way makes it feel as though the charity doesn't get the donation until the runner finishes the race, giving supporters double the reason to cheer at the finish line. The emotional connection to Clarkesworld's monthly issues may be similar: Each new edition is like that moment when the runner crosses the finish line, an event for which each contribution acts as celebration and applause.
But of course the pragmatic effect of the per-creation pledge structure is to make support more like a purchase, in that the Patrons don't pay until they receive an item. That's not a factor in the case of Clarkesworld, which has been coming out every month without fail for over seven years now. But it's definitely a factor when you're a game designer who also has a demanding day job, a big trip to Gen Con coming up, and also a house that's about to get its interior rebuilt. (I may have mentioned. The reconstruction project started this morning. Tonight's blog post comes to you from a hotel in Louisville with relatively reasonable extended stay rates.) When you know your schedule is unpredictable and stressy, it's wise to avoid overcommitting. John has exercised this wisdom both by using the per-creation pledge model and by explicitly stating that new creations will only be made available once per month at the maximum, and more likely much less frequently than that.
By the way, aren't those avocado-skin boats lovely?
Anyway, this wise caution on John's part makes me wonder whether I'm in danger of overcommitting myself. True, I'm not going to Gen Con, and I'm not currently beholden to anyone else's paycheck or timeclock. But I do have roller derby. I'm skating in a home bout on August 30th. And I've recently rejoined the league's committee system as a member of the committee that's responsible for making that bout happen. Also, did I mention the house construction situation? And the way John stressing out stresses me out, and me stressing out stresses him out, and so on around the merry-go-round?
So how can I consider promising Patrons three or four short-shorts a month, or an audio release once a month, or that things will come out of my typewriter and into anyone's physical mailbox?
I think in this case the difference is that I don't have a day job--or, rather, that writing is my day job. Which is rather the reason I'm setting up a Patreon account in the first place. The potential for regular monthly paychecks, however small, reinforces the day job mindset. Also, the creations I plan to share (ooh, she's actually "planning" now!) will arise naturally from actually doing my day job. The bulk of the work required, that of writing the very short story-like thing, is already getting done four or more times a week. All that remains is to convert one of the resulting very short story-like objects each week into, essentially, a blog post. And then I need only convert one of those four monthly posts into a five-minute audio recording. And then it would only take maybe two hours once a month to make a few typewritten copies for mailing. And then...
Well. I could "and then" myself into a real corner.
Again, it's wise not to overcommit. More and more, my thought is to only offer a couple of things at launch (i.e. on September 1), then evaluate the work load and interest level several months down the road to see if there's even potential demand for another monthly task, let alone room in my working month to add one.
Less haste, more speed, as a certain tortoise once told a certain little girl. Therein lies wisdom.
maybe i could even try that wax seal thing again
- 5,975 words (if poetry, lines) long
Short story updates and more Patreon goodness! Short story updates first, because they're short.
First: "Impact of Snowflakes" is not yet done, drat and blast. However, I hope to fix that Monday. Monday is usually Farm Day, but next week I am obliged to stay home from the farm and meet the construction techs at my door and give them a key and then run away and hide in a hotel room in Louisville until construction is over. ("Loo-iss-ville" because this is Colorado, not Kentucky. I was oddly unable to convince the Marriott reservationist of this. Not that I haven't made place-name pronunciation mistakes of my own, but when corrected by a local I don't tend to come right back and try to correct them the way this reservationist did me.) So once I'm safely stowed in my temporary home, along with any last-minute objects and plants that need to be rescued from the construction zone, I can hopefully devote hours and hours and hours to finishing the damn story. All the hours the story requires to get DONE.
Second: "Caroline's Wake" will, regrettably, not appear in the Athena's Daughters II table of contents. Alas. After a suitable period of mourning (i.e. one day), it has been sent out again into the world, having first been relieved of some of its typos. (O the typo-embarrassment. O the facepalm. All die.)
And that's that. Now, on to the fun stuff: Sandra Tayler is creating books and a blog!
Sandra Tayler is the author of the children's books Hold on to Your Horses and The Strength of Wild Horses, the blog "One Cobble at a Time," and the Cobble Stones compilation volumes. (She's also another fellow Codexian. Yes, there is a theme here.) If you like stuff like that, funds from Patreon help her create more stuff like that. Therefore you should support her on Patreon.
Tayler is using the monthly pledge structure, and she's defined two pledge levels. Patrons at the $1/month level get access to Patron-only material, "which will include sneak peeks, coupon codes, and other fun things." Patrons at the $2.50/month level get, in addition to Patron-only material, a hand-signed thank you card once a year.
Very simple, engagingly personal. Also, tangible. I love the idea of mailing things, really mailing things that you can hold in your hand. From about third grade through the middle of college, I always had pen-pals. Some of them I met on the then-fledgling internet, with whom I exchanged cassette tapes because those could not be sent by email. (This was way before it got easy to exchange MP3s.) Some were people I met at summer camp before email was readily available. Some of them were people I saw every day in school, but with whom I nevertheless cherished this additional and poignantly intimate communication channel. When I sent them letters, I would practice my best handwriting, use pens of different colors, and draw things in the margins. I put Rush lyrics on the backs of the envelopes. I doodled more weird things in the corners of the front of the envelope. I even experimented with wax seals, although I'm sure they mostly cracked off by the time the envelopes reached their destination.
The age of electronic communications is wonderfully convenient and freeing. I'm glad to be a freelance author in a time when most professional markets take submissions via email or even via web form; it's a tremendous savings on postage and time. But when the only things I put in the actual physical mailbox are utility bills, something seems lost.
See also: Catherynne M. Valente's Omikuji Project. For five years (2008-2012), Valente mailed short stories to her subscribers every month. "Real paper, wax seal, with a little note about life and work and the weather in Maine, signed by her," as Kellen Sparver says in his Patreon-launching blog post. How cool is that?
Could I do something like that? I think, perhaps, yes, at least on a small scale. Also, I have this typewriter.
I've begun actually putting together my Patreon page, filling out the blanks, defining the milestones in terms of what X amount of money pays for, defining the pledge tiers in terms of what Patrons will get. Nothing's in stone yet--the stuff I put into the page today may be totally rewritten tomorrow--but I'm having fun with the possibilities.
I'm thinking of launching the page on September 1.
activate the program and run behind the scenes
Got a good hour in on the story today, despite my Wednesday exploding with a certain percentage of leftover Tuesday. But in between boxing things up and talking to insurance agents, I did manage to check in with "Snowflakes." Sad thing is, I've gone back to the beginning again. It still doesn't feel like wasted effort--I'm smoothing out more lumps and seeding a bit more foreshadowing--but I'm so sick of not having finished!
My main difficulty with the ending is how to portray Ashley's emotional reaction to The Big Reveal. It's tricky. First she gets news to which the natural reaction should be shock and grief. A breath later, she gets a revelation that provokes righteous indignant anger. This is a complex moment which is hard to faithfully render. It's too easy to let one thing overwhelm the other. If the anger overwhelms the grief, she looks callous. But the grief and shock can't overwhelm the anger, either. That was a huge problem with the previous draft: She was pretty much robbed of her agency, both in the present and retroactively over the course of her entire life, and she was fine with this. That's not her. What's more, that's not any character I ever want to write--especially, for obviously reasons, when they're women.
I'm leaning towards a partial solution of having the anger not so much overwhelm the grief and shock as redirect them. But finding the words is tricky.
Another change I'm making is that, unlike in the previous draft, where Josh tells her, "I chose you" (Ew. No), in this draft he says, "I recognized you." Which will additionally help to keep readers from attributing too much of the story to Josh's choices, I hope. There was a lot of confusion expressed on this account in critiques of the previous draft.
Gah. One reason I keep this blog is, I like sharing peeks behind the scenes. But it's tricky with short stories. There's "a backstage pass" and then there's "total spoiler before it's even in print! Nice going, stupid." Novels run the same risk, I suppose, but they have bigger backstages. You've got more room to explore, examine the costumes and the props, without prematurely running into a dramatic reveal or important plot twist.
Speaking of novels and peeks behind the scenes, here's another of my Codex colleagues on Patreon: William Hertling is creating science fiction novels.
William Hertling is the author of the Singularity series, comprising Avogadro Corp., A.I. Apocalypse, and The Last Firewall. He is currently at work on the fourth book in the series as well as an entirely separate stand-alone novel. He's using Patreon via the per-month model in order to raise funds towards the cost of producing a novel, like copyediting, cover design, layout, proof-reading, and also writing the darn thing.
I'm intrigued by the way Hertling fits the whole "backstage pass" idea into his pledge tiers rewards. The exclusive material offered as a thank-you to Patrons who pledge $1.50 a month (I was wrong--apparently pledges needn't be in whole dollar amounts) includes the occasional bonus unused scene, or bits of worldbuilding that never made it onto the page (I assume that's what "descriptions of future technology" means). That's really neat.
I would love to do something like that. But, again, it strikes me as easier to do with a larger work, be it a novel or a series of shorts in a shared world. When I'm working more persistently on Iron Wheels I could totally see myself creating bonus material out of all the thousands of words I spend talking to myself on the page about exactly how my Land of Faerie works, about other changeling/baby swaps and other jobs that Old Mack has been assigned over the centuries. But there's less potential for that when what I'm working on is a 6,000-word short about a summer solstice snowpocalypse. What little I can do in that arena, I already do right here at tiresome length, free for the world to read. See above. Still, it's something to think about.
Something else to think about: Should at least twenty Patrons pledge at the $10/month level, Hertling's gift to those Patrons will be a special bonus book, just for them, full of surprises. Maybe an anthology of short fiction, maybe a parallel work to the Singularity novels taking place in an alternate universe or featuring an alternate ending. "Whatever the final form," he writes, "it will be fun and unique, handcrafted for my biggest supporters as a thank you."
Now, when John and I talked about Patreon and its possibilities the other day, he put a lot of emphasis on using it to help create and deepen a connection between the creator and the supporters. "If, as an artist, all you're doing is selling a product," he said, "you're wasting your time. You should be building a relationship." This strikes me as exactly the sort of thing he was talking about. I'd love to be able to do something like that. Not, perhaps, to the scale of an entire book, considering how slow I am at putting out the ones I already want to write. But certainly something shorter might be possible. Flash fiction written to prompts of supporters' choosing, maybe. Again, stuff for me to think about.
I intend to keep highlighting Patreon pages this week as a sort of show-and-tell, sharing my discoveries as I explore and get excited about what's already being done. I hope you will visit their pages and consider supporting these authors. That would be cool. They're friends of mine, after all, so I want to see them do well. But, more importantly to y'all-out-there, they write some pretty amazing stuff that more people ought to read. I hope you'll take a look-see and then, if you like what you see, get your friends to take a look as well.
some positive uses for the Anvil of Guilt
- 7,164 words (if poetry, lines) long
My goal for this week is to finish "The Impact of Snowflakes." Not necessarily finish-and-submit, but finish. Finish the new ending, for the love of little orange cheez-its! Stop circling in and just land this sorry lawn-mower of a plane!
And today I made absolutely no progress toward that goal. Today I was running errands both in person and on the telephone, most of them to do with the catastrophe-related restorations on our home that will start Monday the 11th. These errands stole most of my morning time, and, indirectly, by way of exhausting me utterly, most of my afternoon too. Essentially, the less said about weeding the garden, the better.
But I remain optimistic. Tomorrow is a whole new day. So are Thursday and Friday. With their help, I feel sure I'll get where I want to go.
Meanwhile, I am have been giving more thought to this Patreon-enabled short story subscription service I've been brainstorming. I've also been having a look around at what other authors are doing with their Patreon pages. I'd like to share a few of them with you this week.
Kellan Sparver is a colleague of mine whom I met via Codex, an online community of neo-pro genre writers. He's just launched his page recently. What he's doing with it highlights one of Patreon's patronage models, that of pledging a certain amount of money per creation. It works like this: You pledge, say, five dollars per story. Then, when he posts a story--for example, the SF short "Hitchhiker"--you're automatically charged for it at the end of the month. (Note: Patreon allows you to specify a maximum monthly amount--a budget, if you will--to protect you in case of sudden and expected prolificness on the part of the creators you're supporting. Details here, under "For Patrons.")
The pledge form is pre-filled with a suggested amount of $3 per story, but you are welcome to pledge as much or as little as you like, in, I think, whole dollar amounts. (Currently it looks like Sparver's Patrons are pledging an average of $5 per story.) Below that, Sparver defines a couple of "milestone goals" to give Patrons a bit of context. Should the total of all pledges reach $25 per story, he'll be earning an equivalent amount to what he would if he sold each piece to a "token" or "for the love" market. Should he reach $200 per story, that's like selling a 3500-word story for pro rates, as defined by SFWA as 6 cents per word.
Another example of per-creation pledges is the Patreon page of Clarkesworld Magazine. As an alternative to subscribing at a fixed rate, you can pledge your preferred amount per issue. Clarkesworld pledges in return to include extra stories in each issue depending on having reached certain milestone goals. Clarkesworld's page also defines several tiers of individual support that will earn Patrons rewards both tangible and intangible--access to downloadable electronic copies of the magazine, having print copies mailed to you, having your name included in the annual anthology's list of "Clarkesworld Citizens."
For me, the upside to the per-creation model is not tying myself to a production schedule. If something went terribly wrong for me one month, I wouldn't have the added stress of knowing that I was failing to give my supporters the stories they'd paid for. No story means no one gets charged. Simple. (Although John would probably say that's the wrong way to think about this. "Patreon isn't about selling a product," he told me the other day. "It's about giving people a way to support your art, and thanking them for that support.") But the upside is also a downside--it wouldn't hold me to a production schedule. Not that a production schedule is impossible on the per-creation model--again, see Clarkesworld. But I'm not sure I trust myself to stick to a schedule without hanging the Anvil of Guilt over my head.
Anyway, thoughts are still coming and going. These are some of them. There will be more thoughts tomorrow.