you can read the thing and listen to it too
- 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long
Today is the happy day! My story, "Survival, After", is now live on the website of Apex Magazine. The issue it's in debuted some weeks ago for subscribers to read in its entirety, but today my story became available for all and sundry, subscriber or not. You can read it here.
You can also listen to it at that link, too! Or via the page for Apex Podcast Episode #80. I'm thrilled beyond words not only for KT Bryski's brilliant production of the episode, but also for her giving me the opportunity to read the story. This is my first time doing fiction narration outside of my own Friday Fictionette Project--reading fiction on someone else's podcast, how about that?!--and I'm so grateful to be given the chance.
In other writing news, my most-reprinted story and first professional sale, "First Breath," will be reprinted again! But not for a little while yet. I've signed the contract, but the magazine has a lead time of a good handful of episodes. I'll give you more details as we get closer to release date.
And in writing process news.... this week is weird. Last week was weirder. The week before last sucked. Over the years, I have constructed this huge, detail-oriented edifice of rituals and routines in the service of Getting The Work Done, and it has, for the most part, worked--but sometimes, depending on how much avoidance and/or executive dysfunction I'm suffering, that edifice turns into a barrier. Like, "Oh, shit, it's almost 10 AM. I should be writing. But I'm going to have to do nothing BUT write, no distractions, for twenty-five minutes at a time, which sounds like an AWFUL act of penance. And also I need to set up my timesheet, and also before I can get to the Overdue Thing I have to do the Daily Things That Come First, with all the rest of the rigmarole and hoops to jump through, and--hey, how about I just play this stupid clicky game for another half hour? And another half hour after that..." And that's how the whole day goes, for days at a time. And that's what week before last was like.
Don't get me wrong--like I said, the edifice of routine and ritual usually works. It's structure, and I need structure. Without structure, my day tends to float away from me. But sometimes structure is itself the thing that avoidance accretes to, like barnacles on a sunken ship's hull. And when that happens, I can do one of two things: I can try to muscle through somehow, or I can say "to hell with timesheets! To hell with the daily order of operations!" and just, y'know, open the file of the Overdue Thing and start doing it, self-discipline optional.
So my timesheet is still on timeout. The order of operations has returned, sort of, but it's an informal checklist rather than a clock-scheduled list of tasks. And I'm allowed to just drift between the task at hand and the stupid clicky game if I want. Look, when some of the avoidance arises, stupid as it sounds, from "oh, no, getting started on the next writing task means putting away the mindless clicky game for twenty-five whole minutes," it's amazing how much of that avoidance simply evaporates if I give myself permission to keep messing with the mindless clicky game while doing the writing task. Write a few sentences, click a few things, write a few sentences more. Like that.
Like as not, the way it turns out, once I start the writing task, the writing accrues sufficient momentum of its own to make me totally forget about the mindless clicky game after all.
Brains! How do they even brain?! I dun geddit, y'all. But whatever. We work with what we've got, or we don't work at all. And the work has to get done somehow. So here we are.
And now it's time for another bowl of the crock-pot posole that's been happily simmering away since noon, and that has been on my mind ever since tonight's roller derby practice started. I tell you what, you want that happy warm emotional hug of "Somebody loves me!" when you walk in the door after a long and tiring day, you want to get yourself a crock-pot and a recipe for something long-simmering and hearty. It's a really lovely feeling.
needs must when the leftovers squawk and the freezer is so full it squeals
If there is a theme to this food-bloggity post, it is Creative Ways to Use Up Foodstuffs That Need Using Up. For instance, I'm a member of the 63rd St. Farm CSA, and I bought the chicken and pork add-ons to add on to my half-share of veggies. And by some accident I cannot account for, I signed up for the large pork add-on rather than the small. And now our household is the site of a perpetual battle to preserve and/or reclaim space in the freezer. And just when I'm getting ahead of things, this week Thursday is the date of the second meat pick-up. And it's not like I naturally cook meat meals every day! I'm 1. married to a vegetarian, and 2. lazy! This sort of thing requires planning!
So. Ways to use up frozen meat. Also other random leftovers cluttering up the kitchen and nearing the end of their shelf-life. CREATIVE THINKING.
The other day I saw the twitter thread about Grape jelly meatballs, which sounded... pretty good, actually. But then I thought, "Hey, what if I used instead that basalmic onion jam in the weird jar that worked so well with that Martha Stewart recipe for filled chicken breasts last month?"
So last night went something like this:
Sweet and Sour Meatballs a la Braswells, with Sambal Oelek
First, because using frozen meatballs bought special for the occasion would have defeated the entire purpose, which was to use up two pounds of ground meat product that was taking up precious space in the freezer, I made some meatballs. I followed this recipe more or less, making the following substitutions:
- The pound of ground pork was actually breakfast sausage, that being what I had.
- The breadcrumbs were plain, not Italian-style.
- I left out the Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese.
- I added three garlic scapes, about a teaspoon minced fresh ginger, and all but the last couple inches of two green onions.
48 meatballs, 400 degrees, 18 minutes. Go.
Next, I made some sauce. Vaguely inspired by the recipe featured in the Twitter thread linked above, I pulled out my ginormous heirloom cast iron gumbo pot, which does double duty as a dutch oven, and dumped into it...
- 1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
- A generous pour (2 tbls?) sambal oelek
- A less generous splash (1 tbl, maybe) of Chinese cooking wine
- And that 11 oz. jar of Braswell's onion jam.
Stir gently to break up the chunks of jam. Medium-high heat on the stovetop until bubbly, then reduce to a simmer. (Why not the crock-pot? Because I was hungry and did not want to wait 3-4 hours.)
Right about now, the meatballs were done in the oven. I pulled them out, dumped them into the sauce, put the lid on, and set a 25-minute timer. With 10 minutes left on the clock, I took a look and decided the sauce was too soupy, so I took the lid off and raised the heat in hopes of it cooking down/thickening up. And added another 10 minutes to the timer.
Around 3 minutes left to go I gave it a stir and discovered the meatballs were sticking to the bottom of the pan and getting charcoal edges, so I took them off the heat and gently stirred everything free and called it done.
They're really good. The sambal oelek made them pretty darn spicy; you could use less if you wanted. The jam made them sweet and sour. The meatballs held their shape well, but they were very soft and tender. I served a heaping helping of them hot with the sauce over some leftover mixed rice, chopping up those last couple inches of green onions for garnish.
Today I had about six of the leftover meatballs, cold and broken up into chunks, on top of the bibim-naengmyeon (cold Korean noodle bowl) I'd already been planning on making, what with needing to use up those pears left over from an attempt at Korean short ribs the other week, and having brought a couple cucumbers home from the grocery to facilitate this. It's all about using up the leftovers.
And that is how you do it, if you're me.
it's release day and i'm all hype
Hello, the blog! Have I got some news for you! Today is July 6, and July 6 is release day for Apex Magazine #124. Check out that gorgeous cover art. Check out those contributor names! (How did I end up in such astounding company?)
So the way Apex does it is, the whole issue is available for purchase and to subscribers now. But if you wait long enough, the whole issue will be free on the website. My story, "Survival, After", will be released on August 3. Meanwhile, the first story that's been released on the website is "Eilam Is Forever" by Beth Dawkins. It is, in part, a story about things going spectacularly wrong on a generation ship. It's also, very poignantly, a story about loneliness. You should go read it right now. Go on. This blog post will still be here when you get back.
Excited yet? Need more hype? Author Leah Ning has livetweeted her way through the whole issue, and her mini-reviews are super hype. (I'm so very, very thrilled by what she said about my story! Hearts and flowers and rainbows!)
If after reading that thread you just! can't! wait! for the stories to all trickle their way onto the website, you can buy the issue, subscribe, or become a Patron to get instant access in varying shapes and sizes.
Also, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Apex Magazine's Kickstarter, launching on July 19, that will help support their continued existence through 2022 and, hopefully, beyond. Visit that link to be notified when the campaign goes live.
So that's what I've got for you today. Tomorrow I may have a certain amount of whining to do about my extremely inefficient writing process. But today I got nothing to make but happy noises. Hooray!
views of both the re- and the inter- variety
- 45 words (if poetry, lines) long
Hey y'all! It's been a FULL week, a week very much full of things--most of them good! if ultimately tiring!--but I think I can sneak half an hour to blog about some fun stuff surrounding my latest poetry publication.
Y'all remember that my poem "Apotheosis" was reprinted* in The Future Fire #57? (*Original publication here.) I know I at least blogged that it was going to be reprinted, and then, when the issue came out, I did at least post briefly about it on social media. Right? (Yes. I kind of suck at self-promotion. We know this.) Right.
Well, since then, TFF have been posting mini-interviews with that issue's contributors on Facebook and rebroadcasting the links on Twitter. It's been lots of fun! Here's the mini-interview with me, and here is the mini-interview with Toeken, who created the gorgeous illustration that accompanies my poem.
Meanwhile, Charles Payseur has reviewed TFF #57 (alongside a truly ginormous amount of other material also reviewed in that self-same blog post, because Charles Payseur is quite possibly the hardest-working reviewer in SFF, and it is only right and just that Quick Sip Reviews is a finalist for the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Fanzine) and, as always, he has lovely and insightful things to say about the whole table of contents. If someone were to ask me what my poem is about, I'd be hard-pressed not to just point them to Payseur's review. "That," I'd say. "What he said. It's about that."
Now. There still remains some workable time in the day, and I have a new short story--the one I mention in my mini-interview--that I'm trying to feel my way into. Guess I'd better go work on that.
in which i help you catch me in reruns
- 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 983 words (if poetry, lines) long
Heyyyy! Two blog posts in two days--spiffy. And I'm doing this even though I'm already over my five hours of writing and writing-related tasks for the day, and 4thewords.com is telling me that I've surpassed 8,000 words. It's cool. Like I said yesterday, shit-ton of overdue things. On which I am making progress. Which takes time. So.
One of the overdue things is telling you about my recent appearance on The Story Hour! That happened on May 5. I didn't manage to get a blog post out to let y'all know (other than the heads-up wayyyyyy back in January announcing that it was going to happen), but I did holler about it on Facebook and Twitter, so I didn't neglect my own PR entirely.
Anyway, when I volunteered for it back in January, I decided on which stories I was going to read--mostly based on their adding up quite neatly to no more than 30 minutes--and sat back and waited for the calendar to cycle. I'd chosen two stories, one short ("One Story, Two People"), and one very short ("The Soup Witch's Funeral Dinner"), and, knowing that they were both tear-jerkers, I intended to practice a lot in hopes of inuring myself somewhat to the feels. And then suddenly it was April 30 and I hadn't practiced hardly at all, and, well, panic.
I did manage to sneak a little practice in during that last week, and a good thing too, because in addition to the danger of crying over my own fiction, there were also voicing challenges. I'm pretty OK at giving characters distinct voices, but in "One Story, Two People" the two titular people appear at every stage of their lives from ten-year-old children to women in their 60s. So each of their voices, in addition to being distinct from each other, needs to sort of age as the story progresses. I'd love to hear what a real trained narrator could do with that story. I did my best.
And I only cried a little at the very, very end. So I guess that little bit of practice paid off.
ANYWAY. If you missed the reading live, you can go back any old time you've got an hour to spare and watch the video on Facebook. (No Facebook account necessary to view it.) I read during the second half-hour. But don't skip ahead--Lora Gray reads during the first half-hour, and you do not want to miss that. The three stories they chose to share were amazing and wonderful, full of family and transformation and identity and power both overt and quiet, lots of heart, unexpected gentleness, and rich detail you can lose yourself in. I do hope you check them out and become as much of a fan of their writing as I have.
And I hope you consider becoming a Story Hour regular, like I have. I started listening earlier in the year, feeling that if I was going to be a featured artist, I should also be a regular audience member. Karaoke and open mike etiquette, right? Be the audience you want to see. And now The Story Hour has become an integral part of my Wednesday nights. Sometimes I'll work on a hands-on project while I listen--Postcards to Voters tonight, cross-stitch or crochet or knitting other nights, and, hey, maybe I should spin, when did I last pull out the spinning wheel?--and sometimes I'll just kick back with a drink and a handful of treats in case Holland drops by. It's just such a nice way to end the evening.
And now the evening is indeed ended, more or less--and I need to sneak in some of my PT exercises before bed. Off I go!
The Friday Fictionette Round-up for March 2021. Also bunny zooms.
- 1,067 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,033 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,008 words (if poetry, lines) long
Huh. So, the last time I blogged here, it was to say "Sorry, PT robbed me of productivity, but here's the latest Friday Fictionette round-up at least." Welp, same message, different month.
Physical therapy robbed me of less productivity today, though, because I've been scheduling my appointments for early afternoon rather than morning. Which means that, if I manage to get up on time, I can get a good two to three hours of writing in before the rest of my day's oomph gets used up in soft tissue manipulation, deep stretches, and strength-building exercises. That "if" there is doing a lot of work; I have not of late been very good at getting up on time. However, this week, the demolition phase of my neighborhood's Recoat Everyone's Back Patio Decks project started. When jackhammer-like noises in the service of stripping the old coating off the deck starts up at 8:20 in the morning, well, I ain't sleeping late, am I?
I still have a shit-ton of things that I need to do like yesterday, and knowing that can be paralyzing. If I'm working on one of those things, I'm not working on any of the ten others. Anxiety! Avoidance! Nothing getting done at all! So even though it's nearing 10:30 PM, I'm posting this post because, dang it, I'm going to do something.
Thus, without any further ado, the March 2021 Fictionette Round-up.
The fictionette freebie for the month is "A Separate World," so you can follow the links above and view the HTML version, listen to the audio version, and/or download any of the three ebook versions, regardless of whether you're a subscriber.
I'm trying to get better about announcing each fictionette on Twitter and Facebook when each goes up, but I remain kinda reluctant to do that while I'm still a good 5 to 6 weeks behind schedule. I get all ashamed of it and stuff. I need to get over it. Also I mean to mention each release in a blog post here, but that would require actually blogging regularly again.
I'm gonna try to! I have things to tell you and more things coming down the pipeline! And between the morning construction and the early morning bunny zooms, I'm starting my work day On Time and having plenty of time to do All The Things--at least on the days when I don't get wiped out around 1:00 or 1:45 with physical therapy.
"Bunny zooms" does not refer to lagomorph teleconferencing, though Holland has done his share of appearing on Zoom. (Most notoriously, when I tune in to The Story Hour or join some friends for long-distance karaoke, I'm usually sitting on the floor with my back to the sofa, and Holland will jump up and beg treats over my shoulder.) No, I'm talking about when a rabbit's tiny body just can't contain a sudden excess of energy and joy, causing the beastie to run all over the house just as fast as it possibly can. Holland woke me up an hour before the construction did by starting his zoom flight path from on top of the actual bed. There's a bit of a kick when he takes off.
Ah, yes. Last blog post, almost a month ago, I was wistful hoping Holland would start jumping up on the bed now that he's been allowed free range of the bedroom. Not long after that, I carried him onto the bed and fed him treats until he forgave me for picking him up. And that was it. That was all it took. The association was firmly implanted: "On top of the bed is where yummy things happen." We've taken to keeping a little cup of grape-juice-soaked "pick-up sticks" on the headboard so that when he hops up to visit we can show him some hospitality. He won't stick around to cuddle or kick back--I think it feels too exposed an area for a wary prey animal such as himself--but when he shows up he is very determined that he is owed a treat. If one is not forthcoming, he will search them out.
And that's the latest. Hopefully more tomorrow.
The Friday Fictionette Round-up for February 2021
Today isn't happening. There comes a time when I have to admit that today, as a productive writing work day, isn't happening. That time probably should have been somewhat sooner than ten-thirty at night, but here we are. But I said I was gonna do the Friday Fictionette round-up for February 2021, drat it all, and I'm gonna. So here we go.
February 5, 2021: "The Talk of the Town" (ebook, audio) In which one might say, "Be careful what you wish for," but really, how was he to know? "Perhaps something can be arranged. It's been a mammoth's age since I've attended a really good party."
February 12, 2021: "Out of His Heart, There Grew a Rose" (ebook, audio) In which the brambly variants growing on top of a couple of graves is the beginning and not the end of the story. Thorn had suffered all his life from a sense that the world was broken.
"Stranger at the Gates" is the Fictionette Freebie for February 2021, so you can download it in whatever format you like for free.
So the reason today didn't happen--it's not really a good enough reason, but it's the only reason I've got--is that the day started off with a physical therapy appointment that left me exhausted enough to go back to bed, where I stayed for entirely too long. After that, I never found the momentum to get back up to speed. I'm not happy about that and would like to do better.
However, I did contribute to bunny-proofing the bedroom sufficiently to let Holland be a little more free-range. He's been zooming around all this unaccustomed new space and poking his nose into strange corners. Imagine, if you will, a rabbit sticking his nose into a corner that's full of cobwebs. Imagine the state of his whiskers. Now imagine him cleaning those whiskers off with his front paws. Adorable.
I really want to tempt him up on top the bed with me. I have treats for him and everything. I don't expect him to make the jump from the floor, although I'm sure he's capable of it. Instead, I've moved his three-story cardboard house right up against the foot of the bed. All he has to do is climb up onto the top of the cardboard house and hop over to the bed from there. But the most he's done so far is stick his head up over the parapet, look at me, then sink down again. Ah, well. He'll get there eventually.
Here's hoping that tomorrow happens. It ought to. I can't see why it shouldn't.
the latest Friday Fictionette: "A Separate World"
The Friday Fictionette nominally scheduled for March 12, 2021 (I've been running behind a bit) is "A Separate World", in which the divide is very stark.
The Friday Fictionette project is a short-short story subscription service powered by Patreon. See more by pledging at the $1/month level for varying ebook formats or the $3/month level for all that and audio too (I do the narration, if that helps). Or just wait for the end of the month for one of the previous four Fictionettes to go free, free as the birds in the sky!
I'm going to try to get better about announcing these when they go out. That way I don't have to do the ginormous end-of-month round-up. (I do still owe y'all a round-up for February 2021, though. Next post, I think.)
Anyway. All for now, more tomorrow.
looking for empowerment in an out-of-control world
So, my brain's a mess. It's a mess for a lot of reasons. At least one of them has made the national news--though I am fortunate to be only indirectly affected, which is to say, I live in Boulder, so it hit close to home, but I wasn't in or near the store at the time, and the only person who was there with whom I am acquainted got out unharmed. (Physically, at least. "Shaken up" doesn't begin to describe their state of mind.) So... I've been able to slowly piece my brain back together over the course of the week, enough to at least pretend to be an adult.
Part the brain-mess is more personal; I've had several medical appointments this week and they haven't yielded the uniform lack of news I'd been expected. There were several small unpleasant surprises I won't go into here. There was also one big discovery that has simultaneously shaken my concept of self and also explains quite a lot, which is this: my hips are out to get me. They have been plotting against me all my life, but the signs of their scheming only became impossible to ignore this week. (Honestly, the thing where my adductors were screaming at the end of roller derby practice late in 2019 was probably related. But I was led to believe by an unfortunately dismissive physical therapist that I just needed to do more leg lifts.)
Anyway. You know how we say "temporarily able-bodied"? Yeah, well, the end of that temporary period is suddenly looking a lot more real and tangible. It's still a ways off, but to keep it that way as much as possible I've got a new prescription to pick up and a new series of physical therapy to begin. (Not with the unfortunately dismissive PT, thank you very much. I want someone who'll take my aspirations to remain competitively athletic seriously, and not tell me, "Well, you are getting older, you have to realize it's normal to start losing some of your physical ability and mobility range..." The orthopedist I saw yesterday was very much not about that; nor, he assured me, are any of the PTs at the center he referred me to. He also told me to stop calling myself "an older athlete.")
Anyway, so, this week has been a mess and my brain has been a mess. Just as I started piecing my thoughts back together and wrestling myself through the motions, I had the ortho consult Wednesday and got super despondent about this whole deteriorating hips thing. Today's been OK. Slow, but OK. Still, it was important to remember that "write every day" isn't an ironclad rule, and for many of us isn't even a healthy aspiration.
My brain is also spattered with guilt over having submitted nothing whatsoever to Nightmare Magazine. After that defiant declaration last week, too! (That's the problem with keeping an actually writing blog for the sake of accountability. Sometimes I tell the world "I will do X!" and then I have to come back and tell the world, "I, er, didn't do X after all.")
I'd like to say it was because I looked soberly at my progress thus far and said to myself, "Self, if you're going to submit something to the Big Leagues, you need to be happy with where it's at, and you ain't happy about where these two pieces are at yet." I probably would have come to that conclusion, had I sat down to work on them Saturday. But I did not. I sat down to work on them Sunday afternoon instead, and discovered the point was moot because the submission period had closed at 12:01 AM.
Lesson learned: If you're going to work right up to the moment of deadline, it's vitally important to know when that moment is.
And, well, that's pretty much all I came here to say. This week has sucked on every level, and I am not feeling very accomplished. BUT. I have gotten some writing accomplished this week. It's not nothing. I am going to focus on that.
Also I have my first physical therapy appointment tomorrow morning bright and early, and that's almost sure to cheer me up. I mean, injuries both acute and chronic suck, but having an active role to play in the healing (or, in this case, the slowing of the inevitable deterioration) can feel remarkably empowering. So I'm looking forward to that.
the work goes slowly but nevertheless it goes
- 2,810 words (if poetry, lines) long
Food content in today's blog post is going to be minimal because I'm in the middle of revisions, and revisions are hard, and I'm going to whine about that.
Also there isn't much to say about the food, beyond that 1. if you're going to substitute oysters for shrimp in this recipe, you probably need to account for the oysters being rather smaller than your average prawn to begin with and then shrinking as you fry them. Which is not to say they weren't delicious. I would happily eat a meal of nothing but those oysters in that fry prep and sauce, noodles optional. But that would be rather labor intensive what with the shucking and all, and I have kimchi plans for the rest of these oysters.
AND ALSO 2. if you are going to put the oyster brine into the dish, you have to subtract an equivalent amount of liquid from the recipe, or else you get a slightly soupier result. Unless you just cook it longer, in which case you might end up with overcooked noodles. One or the other. (Next time I think I'd sub the brine for the 2 tbl water in the cornstarch slurry.)
It was tasty, though. I ate it all. And that's all I have to say about that.
So. Revisions! I'm simultaneously revising two things, a poem and a short story, both of which I want to submit to Nightmare Magazine before their current open submission window closes on Sunday. And the work is going remarkably slowly.
In the case of the poem, it's mainly that I've got an image I am telling a very short story about in verse... and that's pretty much all I know. The rest is the problem of UNLIMITED CHOICE, and I'm having the darndest time deciding anything concrete. So I keep throwing words and phrases at the page, hoping that something will stick. There's a lot of uncertainty here. Today's session felt a bit more successful to the extent that I reduced the amount of uncertainty more than in previous sessions. Hooray. But sometimes poems come easily and sometimes they just suck, and this poem is definitely not an example of the former.
As for the story--ye gods, this story. It's got a major pacing problem. The tension tightens and tightens like a good horror story do, and then all of a sudden we end up at the end without having hit the anticipated turning-point-of-no-return. I've suspected it will take a new scene to fix it, but without any clue what that scene will look like or where it should go. So I've been putting that decision off, or, to put it more generously, laying the groundwork for making that decision, by doing line-level edits to the rest of the story. And it's working! I have a much better idea of what the new scene will look like! It will look like several new scenes.
Did I mention this thing needs to be submitted by Sunday? Argh.
I console myself with the indisputable fact that I have managed to find time and energy for revision sessions four whole days in a row. Four! And each of those sessions has brought non-trivial improvements to the story. So while it's easy to think I've spent all this week circling around the real problem without actually landing--because I'm a writer, right, and writers are by and large very good at talking smack about ourselves, and devaluing our own accomplishments, and catastrophizing about what we perceive as our failures--in truth, I really have been making progress.
But progress is happening so slowly.
Look, I'm going to submit something by Sunday, OK? One poem, one story. But I might keep revising them afterward, right? Because odds are they're going to get rejected so I can submit them again. That's not self-smack-talk! That's just sheer numeric probability, given how prestigious the market is, how few open slots they've got, and the skill and talent and artistry of the authors competing for those slots. Hell, even if I am fortunate enough to make a sale here, there will likely be a revisions phase. So basically, what I'm saying is, deadlines happen but the work continues.
For how long? Until I've decided it's enough, dang it. At which point, back to the reprint rewrite. Woo.