Thursday, December 11, 2014

Short Fiction in 2014

I've not had a lot published this year, but as the SF/F awards season starts to gear up, I thought I would share what I've had published this year.

Vessels for Destruction - Nature Magazine: Futures (Feb 6, 2014)

The Collections Agent - Stupefying Stories (Feb 14, 2014) [Now as an ebook reprint]

The Spider Thief and the Sorcerer - Crowded Magazine (May 15, 2014)

Legacy - Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls (October 31, 2014)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Momentum (11.13.14)

For several years I've been a bit of a NaNoWriMo rebel, taking the month as an added incentive to revise existing projects rather than tackle new ones. It's not because I don't like working on new material, but there are priorities to consider.

Last year I was working on revisions to the Steampunk Novel. This year I started the month finishing up a novella I'd started in September. (Finished on Monday at 34k! Woot!) Now I'm focusing on the first draft of a new novel I'm hoping to finish before Christmas.

I've always found that moving between projects is a little challenging. Usually there's a period of down time in which I try and figure out what to work on next. (Like every other writer under the sun, my list of possible projects is ridiculous. I could write for years just finishing up all the ideas I have today.) There's also a shift in creative energy as I transition between that final dig to finish something up to the wilder and (usually) more optimistic period of figuring out what exactly I'm doing with the new project. And, any time I'm not writing every day it's always harder to pick it back up again (the same as it is with breaking and reestablishing any routine).

This time I knew what I wanted to work on and I was fairly settled into a writing routine; the biggest challenge would be finding the energy to start a new project right on the heels of the last.

But this time, I had a plan. On November 1st, I started working on the new project before I had finished the last one. I didn't write a lot or every day (I had a novella to finish, after all), but I dipped my toes into the new project and let myself start getting a feel for the characters before it was the only thing on my plate.

It was interesting. I've worked multiple projects before, but not with as much... intention, I think is the best way to describe it. This time the goal was to get comfortable with the Space Opera before I finished up the SuperSecretProject. It wasn't to get an arseload of words on the page. My one purpose was to introduce myself to the characters.

Boy, what an introduction. I had a plot in mind and I noodled around sketching out the opening and, as I did, I started to see things about my MC. I started to see things about the way she interacted with the secondary characters and how they interacted with her. And before I knew it I had 12k words and a surprisingly clear vision for the book.

It's still a hot mess, because it's in that stage where every novel is a hot mess. (You know that stage, when the plot still has a few holes and subplots are just a scene or two here and there.) But I do seem to have taken the momentum from the last project (the SuperSecretProject) and transferred it to the new one. Which is kind of amazing considering how different the two are. (Like night and day.)

But there you go. Words on the page, every day. And that's always a good thing.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ups and Downs (Update 11.5.14)

It's November and that means that the NaNoWriMo hashtag is trending on Twitter and writers of every stripe are hunkered down working on banging out a minimum of 1667 words a day.

Of course, for some November is an awkward month to try and hit 50k in 30 days. The end of the month has the opening of the holiday season. For folks in school there are exams and the impending end of the year crush of papers and projects. But, many of us take up the challenge even knowing that we won't likely make the goal because life. 

I first participated in the National Novel Writing Month in 2008. It was a spur of the moment thing. Although I had heard of NaNo before, I had always missed it by a few weeks (or been months too early). As it was, I thought I had missed it again and was delighted to realize it was NOT in October but November. I had a rough plot and no idea how to write something that long, but I plunged in anyway and produced the really awful first draft of what would eventually take shape as the Steampunk Novel and I wrote more than 50k words in the space of a month. It was a huge achievement.

The following year I did it again. (That year produced the really awful first draft of what is slowly taking shape as the Magicpunk Novel.) And I haven't repeated it since. 

The first year I failed to meet the NaNo goal (2010) I was pretty bummed. I couldn't figure out what had gone wrong. Had I lost my mojo? Maybe I was running out of good ideas. Maybe I had plateaued. Or I was only destined to write two books ever. (And lousy ones at that.) 

After I wallowed for a bit, I had a revelation. Nothing had gone wrong. I hadn't lost my motivation or my mojo or run out of ideas. It was just a different year and different circumstances and although I had written a lot, I hadn't written as much as the previous years because life. 

I have been thinking about that again these past few weeks. I had a soft deadline to turn in a project mid-October. I got very close and then ran out of steam. 

Of course, I also went through a major move with my family that consumed more time and energy than I thought I had to spend. I also turned in major revisions on a novel in January. And wrote a different novel and revised it over the spring and summer. Then started the SuperSecret novella in September. 

I was being productive and writing even with a very tight schedule and plenty of life difficulties in the mix. (Seven weeks without running water, four rounds of bronchitis in six months, and multiple court dates being just a small part of the life stress I've faced this year.) Failing to meet a self-imposed deadline was disappointing, but it didn't signal Failure. It was life. 

So, as I tackle another November and another novel project I can only remind myself that everyone has ups and downs. And there are times when you have to make that deadline (and I've done that a few times too), but you cannot blame yourself for all the things that happen because life. You can only buckle down and try. 

Some days this just means turning on the computer and hammering out a single line between eating dinner and putting the six year old to bed. Some days this means ignoring the urge to watch crappy TV and instead beat out a few chapters on that project you aren't certain is any good at all. 

But whether life is grabbing you by the short and curlies or everything is coming up roses, you can only buckle down and try. And, at the end of most days, you will have words. Some better than others, but the bad ones can always be fixed. 

As long as you try.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Publication and Wordage (Update 10.31.14)

First, a little publication news. I have a story available on QuarterReads. It's neat little site that has a collection of short fiction, each story is available to read for the low price of twenty-five cents. Mine can be found here: Call-Center

You can expect some of my other short stuff to be available there before too long. Once I get a chance to submit it and everything. 

Also, as I announced last week, Beast Within 4: Gears and Growls is available today! It contains my short story "Legacy" as part of an anthology of stories examining shapeshifters in a steampunk world, edited by Jennifer Brozek. You can purchase a copy here: Beast Within 4: Gears and Growls

This is one of my first stories actually published in print so I'm even more excited than usual about it's release. (And it's a really cool story. And I got to share the ToC with Ken Liu and Folly Blaine.) 

In writing news, I am still working to finish up the SuperSecretProject before NaNoWriMo begins. (Not that it's going to happen, but you know, words is words.) I am very close to the end and it's killer. And disturbing. I love this little book so much it's hard not to talk about it in more detail, but I can't because reasons. 

Once the SuperSecretProject is done (by which I mean the first draft is safely in the hands of The Agent for further review), I will be starting on a new project for the duration of the year. The goal is to knock out a bunch of it during the National Novel Writing Month. Not so much because I have to participate in NaNo, but it is a good excuse to stay on target with the daily wordcount. 

The new project is a Space Opera with a complex set of character that are simply terrifying me because I am very much afraid I will screw them up. But, my best stories tend to be those I fear I won't do justice to. So, come tomorrow, I will be running full tilt into the writing breach to try and finish my third project this year. Or, at least, get a good start on it before January. 

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Busy (10.22.14)

There's been a long silence here. Between this time last month and now, there's been a lot of real life chaos that has made updating the blog a minor priority.

Good news: Things are finally settling down somewhat. 
And, I'm nearly finished with the Super-Secret Project I've been working on. This means I'll have finished two new books this year and I'm set to start a third in November. (Space Opera of appropriately epic proportions and emotional complexity that I'm still trying to wrap my head around.)

AND, The Beast Within 4: Gears and Growls is scheduled to come out on October 31st. Just in time for Halloween. And check out this amazing cover! 

This anthology not only contains stories by Ken Liu and Folly Blaine, but also my own - Legacy. It's a dark little thing full of weird tech, skin-changers and voodoo. I'm so excited it's finally going to be available; links to buy will go up once they're live. 

In the meantime, more words are on the horizon. As always.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Packing (9.23.14)

Today I started digging into the packing up of All The Things. (There was a little panic involved. Because reasons. Actually, because there are only seven days left in the month and any negotiation about our current living situation has been curtailed.)

Some of the things I started packing was my small collection of books. And looking at the things I have held onto made me think about what an impact those books have had on me. Books that make me sigh or smile or ache when I find them in the big tubby in the closet. (I grew up in a house with a shit-ton of books, but current living situation doesn't allow me to collect without limits and even those I can keep are in storage conditions.)

There was/is a meme going around about the 10 books you've read that stuck with you.
This is not that.
Because reasons. (Ahem. No one tagged me and I don't know how many books are going to be on this list or even if I can tell you why.)

But here are some of what I have chosen to keep. In no particular order.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I actually have three Bradbury books - Something Wicked, From the Dust Returned and Somewhere A Band is Playing. I've read a lot more of his short stories and novels, but these are the three I love so much that they have to stay in my collection.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It is an amazing book in which everything and absolutely nothing happens in the space of 24 hours. 

The Trial Begins by Abram Tertz/Andrei Sinyavsky. I do not remember exactly how I found this book, but the short novel that makes up the first half is lovely and surreal. 

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. Classic. I love the style of it. It's also the only one of his novels I've actually read. 

Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith/Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger. Another book I love for the style of the words on the page. 

Julius Ceaser by William Shakespeare. Because Shakespeare. 

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney. It's pretty fantastic. I read Heaney in college for a class. Also read some other translations of Beowulf before, but this one is just fantastic. 

The Children of Men by P.D. James. This one makes me hurt to read it, but I love it anyway. 

There are others, but these are the ones that I dust off before putting them in a new box and promise myself I'll read them again soon. Soon. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nerves (9.21.14)

I have an old neck injury that sometimes causes problems. What with RL stress this year, it's been flaring up with a vengeance. The past few weeks I've had pinched-nerve headaches every day. (Not always all day, but for several hours out of every day and some days the pain never stopped.) This morning it got really bad - nausea, tingling on the left side of my face, sparkles in my vision - it wasn't fun. Fortunately, because I know more or less where the problem is, I was able to do some careful stretching and take some aspirin (because I have heavier stuff, but it knocks me on my ass) and eventually get to a point where I could move around without feeling like I would puke all over everything.

Now, feeling a little wobbly and exhausted, I'm trying to catch up on All The Things.

This week I've been working on a super-secret project. AKA: Something written under a different pen name. There are reasons. The primary one being a higher percentage of scenes in which the characters get naked than in what I've written before.

I don't censor myself much so the stories I write which have sex (or violence or swearing or trolls or housecats, etc) can be no-holds barred. This doesn't mean that every novel I write will have rampant sex (or violence or swearing or trolls or housecats, etc). I write what's necessary for the story. Sometimes that's a character winding up partially paralyzed. Sometimes it's a pair of characters getting naked repeatedly.

Anyway. I got a fair chunk written on this super-secret thing and I really like it. It's not likely to be a novel, but should be a solid little novella by the time I get the last 5-6 scenes written.

But, the really interesting thing, is finding that disassociating myself from the content a little does seem to let my imagination run a little further. I am not second-guessing the plot nearly as much as usual. Maybe it's just a better plot. (It involves zombies. Out west. I doubt it's a better plot, but you never know.) I suspect, that knowing that my "real name" won't be on the cover has let me write with less criticism.

And that's interesting. Because, like I said before, I don't censor much. I do maintain a general awareness of the marketability of a story. When in doubt I might ask for second opinions on whether it's going too far. (When I was writing "Legacy" for the upcoming The Beast Within 4: Gears and Growls I emailed the editor to say "Hey. I think one of my characters is going to eat a piece of one of the other characters. Is that going to be too much?") But I try not to cut my creativity off at the knees by deciding ahead of time that I shouldn't write something.

I mean, within reason. A splatter-punk book featuring all the people in my life I feel have done wrong by me is a bad idea.

And it's safe to say I've written a few bad stories. Ideas that just didn't work on the page or wound up being some sort of message-driven wankery. (You know we all get that way sometimes, but those stories are best shelved, trunked or burned with fire.) But I try really hard to put everything down on the paper and then decide where the bones of a story lie and what's just fat.

But I still worry about certain things. I hesitate to confirm choices I know are right for the character. (Does anyone really need to know this character is gay? Is this character really that desperate?) I gloss over flaws or emotionally wrenching scenes because deep down I worry that it will be too much. And also because I worry that my word skillz (yes, with a zee) are just not up to the task.

Removing myself a step from the equation seems to have alleviated some of that fear. It could be temporary. Or a side-effect of the stress. Or maybe it's just the beginning of a growth spurt wherein I realize that I'm not writing for people who will judge me for what I choose to put down on the page, but for those who will appreciate the grit that comes with the territory of telling a story that feels real. And more naked scenes.